Class 221

British Rail Class 221 Super Voyager
Bristol Temple Meads
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The interior of Standard Class aboard a Cross Country Bombardier Class 221 Super Voyager
In service 2002–
Manufacturer Bombardier Transportation
Family name Voyager
Constructed 2001–2002
Number built 44 trainsets
Number in service 43 trainsets
Formation 4 or 5 cars per trainset
Fleet numbers 221101–221144
Capacity 26 first class, 162 or 224 standard class per trainset
Operator CrossCountry
Virgin Trains
Car body construction Steel
Car length 23.85 m (78 ft 3 in) driving end cars
22.82 m (74 ft 10 in) other cars
Width 2.73 m (8 ft 11 in)
Doors Swing plug at vehicle ends
Articulated sections Flexible diaphragm within unit only
Maximum speed 125 mph (200 km/h)
Weight 227 t (223 long tons; 250 short tons) or 282.8 t (278.3 long tons; 311.7 short tons) per trainset
Traction system DEMU
Engine(s) Cummins QSK19 of 560 kW (750 hp) at 1800rpm[1]
Power output 560 kW (750 hp) per car
UIC classification 1A'A1'+1A'A1'+...+1A'A1'[2][3]
Braking system(s) Rheostatic and electro-pneumatic
Safety system(s) AWS, TPWS, TASS,
Coupling system Dellner[4]

The Class 221 Super Voyager is a class of British diesel-electric multiple-unit express trains built by Bombardier Transportation between 2001 and 2002, entering service on 12 April 2002.

The Class 221 are similar to the Class 220 Voyager units, but they were built with a tilting mechanism enabling up to six degrees of tilt to allow higher speeds on curved tracks. They have a maximum speed of 125 mph (200 km/h).

Currently these trains are divided between two operators, Virgin Trains (21 sets) and CrossCountry (23 sets). The sets operated by CrossCountry have now had their tilting equipment disabled to improve reliability and reduce maintenance costs.[5]


The Class 221s were produced as 5- or 4-coach sets. Each coach is equipped with a Cummins QSK19 diesel engine producing 560 kW (750 hp) at 1,800 rpm,[6] driving an electrical generator which powers two motors, each driving one (inner) axle per bogie via a cardan shaft and final drive.[3] 1,200 miles (1,900 km) can be travelled between refuellings. The coach bodies, the engines and most of the equipment of the Class 221s are the same as the Class 220s, but the bogies are very different: the Class 220 Voyager B5000 bogies have inside bearings which expose the whole of the wheel faces, while the Class 221 SuperVoyager Y36 bogies have a more traditional outside-framed bogie. Unlike the Class 220s, the Class 221s were built with a hydraulic-actuated tilting system to run at high speed around bends, though this has now been disabled on the 23 sets operated by CrossCountry.[5]

Each coach weighs between 55 and 57 tonnes, with a total train weight of 281.9 tonnes for a 5-car set (227 tonnes for a 4-car set). The trains have air-operated (pneumatic) and rheostatic brakes, with an emergency stopping distance of 350m at 60 mph (97 km/h).[6]

All Class 221 units are maintained at the dedicated Central Rivers TMD near Burton-on-Trent.

Formation and passenger facilities

There are 44 Class 221 trains, numbered 221 101 to 221 144; the first forty are five-car trains originally operated by Virgin Cross Country, and the remaining four were four-car sets, originally intended for Virgin West Coast North Wales services.

In November 2010, Virgin Trains reformed its three four-car sets into two five-car sets and a residual spare two-car set by inserting the two intermediate (non-driving) cars from 221144 into 221142 and 221143, giving 20 five-car sets (and two spare driving cars). This was aimed at providing more flexibility and consistency in operating Birmingham-Scotland and London-North Wales services.[7]

All vehicles are air-conditioned and fitted with at-seat audio entertainment systems and power sockets for laptop computers and mobile-phone charging. First-class accommodation has 2+1 seating, standard class 2+2 seating. Virgin Trains' units are fitted with CCTV.

The trains have been criticised for providing insufficient space for luggage and bicycles.[8] Also, because the units are designed to tilt, the carriages have a tapered profile that narrows towards roof level, resulting in a less spacious interior than the conventional carriages they replaced.

The formation and capacity of each unit depends on the operator.

Operator Cars per set First Class Seats Standard Class Seats Bicycle storage Formation
Virgin Trains 5 26 (84)* 236 (178)* 4 Coach A Quiet Zone, Coach D - Standard/First Dual Use Coach with Shop, Coach E First Class.[9]
CrossCountry 26 252 3 Coach A First Class, Coach F Quiet Zone, at seat catering service.[10]
CrossCountry 4 26 182 3 Coach A First Class, Coach F Quiet Zone, at seat catering service.[10]

'*' The number of seats on Virgin sets depends on the use of coach D, as it has a "Business Class" seat arrangement and can be used to provide either First or Standard class accommodation.


On their introduction in 2002, Virgin Trains was the operator of all Class 221s, which it used on Cross Country and West Coast Main Line services as well as on the North Wales coast line.

On 11 November 2007 CrossCountry obtained the Cross Country Route rail franchise; the trains were shared in a common pool between the two companies until December 2007, when 221 114 to 221 141 were transferred to CrossCountry, the remainder (221 101 to 221 113, 221 142 to 221 144) staying with Virgin West Coast. Five units, 221 114 to 221 118, were transferred back to Virgin Trains in December 2008.


CrossCountry's Class 221 trains are used alongside Class 220 units and HSTs on the routes inherited from Virgin Trains. Since these routes are not cleared for tilting operation, the company in 2008 first locked the tilting equipment out of use and shortly afterwards isolated it altogether, replacing the hydraulic rams with fixed tie-bars. This change was made to improve reliability and reduce maintenance costs.[5]

Virgin Trains

Virgin Trains uses the Class 221 units primarily from Birmingham New Street to Scotland (despite the route being electrified throughout) and from London Euston to Chester and North Wales.

The trains to and from Scotland operate as single units and alternate between Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley (in turn alternating with TransPennine Express trains to and from Manchester Airport). When longer trains are needed for some of these services during the summer, a Pendolino will run through from and to London Euston, and the Super Voyager then fills in for it on the London to West Midlands route.

The trains on the North Wales route sometimes work in pairs between London Euston and Chester and terminate variously at Chester, Holyhead, Bangor or Wrexham.

Technical problems and incidents

Units have been stopped due to waves breaking over the sea wall at Dawlish in storm conditions, inundating the resistor banks and causing the control software to shut down the whole train.[11] This problem was fixed by a software upgrade to the control software.[12]

On 8 December 2005, 221 125 suffered an exhaust fire at Starcross. Other members of the Voyager class suffered similar fires in the 2005-2006 period due to an incorrectly performed engine overhaul.[13]

On 25 September 2006, 221 136 collided with a car on the track at Moor Lane, Copmanthorpe, North Yorkshire. The 14:25 Plymouth to Edinburgh was decelerating on its approach to York station at 9pm when it collided with the car, which had crashed through a fence on to the line. Despite being derailed in the 100 mph crash, the train remained upright. Nobody on board was injured.[14]

Cross Country 'Super Voyager' 221 131 derailed between Arbroath and Montrose on Sunday 4 November 2012 blocking another line. The Police and various operators set up a £25,000 reward after it was believed that the train hit something deliberately placed on the track.


Some of the Virgin-operated Class 221 SuperVoyagers were named after famous voyagers, some fictional and some real, as follows:

221 101 Louis Blériot 221 123† Henry Hudson (de-named)
221 102 John Cabot 221 124† Charles Lindbergh (de-named)
221 103 Christopher Columbus 221 125† Henry the Navigator (de-named)
221 104 Sir John Franklin 221 126† Captain Robert Scott (de-named)
221 105 William Baffin 221 127† Wright Brothers (de-named)
221 106 Willem Barents 221 128† Captain John Smith (de-named)
221 107 Sir Martin Frobisher 221 129† George Vancouver (de-named)
221 108 Sir Ernest Shackleton 221 130† Michael Palin (de-named)
221 109 Marco Polo 221 131† Edgar Evans (de-named)
221 110 James Cook 221 132† William Speirs Bruce (de-named)
221 111 Roald Amundsen 221 133† Alexander Selkirk (de-named)
221 112 Ferdinand Magellan 221 134† Mary Kingsley (de-named)
221 113 Sir Walter Raleigh 221 135† Donald Campbell (de-named)
221 114 Sir Francis Drake (de-named) 221 136† Yuri Gagarin (de-named)
221 115 Polmadie Depot - formerly Sir Francis Chichester 221 137† Mayflower Pilgrims (de-named)
221 116 David Livingstone (de-named) 221 138† Thor Heyerdahl (de-named)
221 117 Sir Henry Morton Stanley (de-named) 221 139† Leif Eriksson (de-named)
221 118 Mungo Park (de-named) 221 140† Vasco Da Gama (de-named)
221 119† Amelia Earhart (de-named) 221 141^† Amerigo Vespucci (de-named)
221 120† Amy Johnson (de-named) 221 142‡ BOMBARDIER Voyager - formerly Matthew Flinders
221 121† Charles Darwin (de-named) 221 143‡ Auguste Picard
221 122† Doctor Who (de-named) 221 144§ 2 coaches stored - formerly BOMBARDIER Voyager and Prince Madoc

† - Refers to SuperVoyagers transferred to CrossCountry.
^ - Refers to 4 coach units.
‡ - Refers to 4 coach units converted to 5 cars.
§ - Refers to stored & disbanded units.

Fleet details

Class Operator Number of Trains Built Cars per Set Unit numbers.
Class 221 Virgin Trains 20 2001–2002 5 221101 - 221118

221142 - 221143

CrossCountry 23 5 221119 - 221140
4 221141
Stored 1 2 221144

See also


External links

  • Virgin Trains Seating Plan for Virgin Trains Super Voyagers Page 2
  • Testing the Class 221s
  • Railway Herald Issue 150 page 6 contains an image of a reconfigured Super Voyager.
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