Rock Rail and ASI close latest UK rolling stock deal

Rock Rail

Rock Rail and Aberdeen Standard Investments close latest financing deal for new Avanti West Coast Intercity Trains

Rock Rail and Aberdeen Standard Investments (ASI) are delighted to announce the financing of new Hitachi intercity trains for the West Coast Partnership rail franchise. Rock Rail and ASI together led the transaction of more than £350 million. The fleet will be financed through Rock Rail West Coast plc and leased to West Coast Partnership, a joint venture between First Group and Trenitalia. First-Trenitalia will take over the franchise from 8 December 2019, operating intercity services as Avanti West Coast.

As with Rock Rail and ASI’s previous new UK rolling stock deals, senior debt is provided by institutional investors with the funder group comprising of Aviva Investors (on behalf of Aviva Life & Pensions UK and other third party clients) and Sun Life Investments.

Based on bullet train technology, the fleet consists of 135 vehicles (10 seven-carriage electric trains and 13 five-carriage electric-diesel bi-mode trains) that will enter service from 2022 across one of the UK’s busiest rail lines connecting the North-West of England, North Wales, the Midlands and London.

The trains will be quieter and greener than the diesel trains they replace and are expected to reduce CO2 emissions by 61% across the franchise.

The passenger travelling experience is set to be transformed, with numerous features including faster, free Wi-Fi throughout, advanced real time passenger information systems, at-seat wireless charging, plug sockets and USB slots, air conditioning and a brand-new catering offer. The trains will benefit from high acceleration and low dwell times along with significantly more seating capacity than their predecessors.

The units being procured will be built at Hitachi’s Newton Aycliffe factory in north-east England supporting thousands of jobs across the UK supply chain.

This is the fourth new UK rolling stock deal that has seen Rock Rail and ASI join together as equity partners. Previous deals were for the financing and provision of new rolling stock for the Great Northern routes, East Anglia and South Western franchises. All four deals combined, represent a long-term investment by pension funds and insurance companies into the UK railway industry of just under £2.5 billion.

Mark Swindell, Chief Executive Officer, Rock Rail, said: Rock Rail is delighted to be financing and leasing these world class trains which will bring a step change to the travelling experience for so many rail passengers. The long term, highly competitive funding from leading pension fund and insurance institutions enables significantly enhanced value for money to rail passengers over the life of the trains along with significant improvements in passenger, operational and environmental features.

 “We look forward to working closely with First-Trenitalia, Hitachi Rail and all our institutional investor partners to bring these trains into service and help transform rail travel across the West Coast Partnership franchise.”

Dominic Helmsley, Head of Economic Infrastructure, Aberdeen Standard Investments, said: “This represents the fourth major investment in UK rolling stock through our exclusive partnership with Rock Rail and solidifies ASI’s position as a major player in the funding of UK rolling stock. ASI’s equity funding of this core fleet of trains will help deliver a major upgrade to the services running from London Euston station both operationally and from an environmental perspective. 

This transaction aligns with our goals to deliver safe and reliable essential infrastructure to local communities and we appreciate all the parties’ involvements and efforts. We are excited to build the next chapter of West Coast Partnership franchise along with our partners.”

Sinéad Walshe, Director, Infrastructure Debt at Aviva Investors, said: “We are delighted to continue our successful partnership with Rock Rail and Aberdeen Standard Investments on the West Coast Partnership franchise. The financing of this new state-of-the-art Hitachi fleet delivers much-needed additional capacity to the West Coast mainline in an environmentally positive manner, whilst enhancing overall passenger experience. We believe it will provide our clients with a strong investment opportunity in the long-term and supports the further development of UK infrastructure.”

  Monika Comazzi, Senior Director, Project Finance at Sun Life, added: “Sun Life is pleased to provide financing for these state-of-the-art Hitachi trains on the West Coast Partnership franchise led by Rock Rail and Aberdeen Standard Investments. Sun Life is focused on sustainable investments that provide long-term returns for our clients, while making a positive difference environmentally and supporting critical community infrastructure such as transit services.”


Advisors for sponsors:

  • Clifford Chance LLP: Legal
  • DC Advisory: Financial advisor
  • Deloitte LLP: Tax
  • JCRA: Hedging advisor
  • Operis: Modelling advisory
  • Proskauer Rose LLP: Legal – Shareholder documents (Aberdeen Standard Investment)
  • SNC-Lavalin Atkins: Technical and Commercial
  • Stevens & Bolton: Legal – Shareholder documents (Rock Rail)

Advisors for funders:

  • CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang LLP: Legal
  • Deloitte LLP: Tax
  • Operis: Model auditor
  • SNC-Lavalin Atkins: Technical and Commercial
  • Willis Towers Watson: Insurance

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