On this day in 1976, British Rail began its new 125mph High Speed Train (HST) service. The first London-Bristol service arrived three minutes early.The Inter-City 125 was introduced to provide a regular high speed service between Cardiff, Bristol and London. British Rail planned to extend the service to other major cities over the next two years.Powered by two diesel motors the Inter-City 125 had recorded a top speed of over 140mph in trial runs, making it the fastest diesel powered train in the world. Most other countries had developed electrically powered high-speed trains. The cost of electrification on Britain's network was considered prohibitive so the diesel-powered 125 is a new product from existing technology.
In the absence of an official ceremony by Bristol Rail to mark the occasion, few passengers were aware they were making history as the first 0805 left Paddington on time. But most travellers did appreciate some improvement in comfort. The carriages feature aircraft-like seating, with sliding doors at each end. Hot food was was served quickly from an on-board kitchen with the aid of a state-of-the-art microwave oven.
Rail bosses hoped the improved service, which had been introduced without a rise in fares, would bring more business. Increased fares over the previous two years had been linked to a fall in passenger traffic of 15 to 20%.
When the service was launched a single adult ticket between Bristol and London cost £5.
The introduction of the Inter-City 125 made significant reductions in journey times across the UK and led to a marked surge in passenger numbers.
For passenger reaction to the new service click on the video link below: