Many years ago I was responsible for the renaming of a Virgin Pendolino. I recall the train was named ‘Virgin Hope’, but whilst having a regular meeting with my opposite number at Alstom, Helen Connolly, we were discussing how to mark the occasion of the first Pendolino to travel a million miles.
Several Pendolinos were monitored. 390022 was the one that had travelled the furthest, but the view was that a more memorable name than Virgin Hope was needed. The discussion centred around how we could involve staff and passengers and what else we could do to raise the profile of the Pendolino train.
So, we looked at educational opportunities and blue sky thinking came up with the name ‘Penny the Pendolino’. So now we had a name. The nameplates were fitted at Wembley depot without any ceremony. This created a mystery as to why the train had been renamed.
The next stage was to calculate when the train would hit the magical million miles. By working with train and fleet planners this was fairly simple.
The stage was set, the train would work a Glasgow-London morning service, hitting the one million miles on the journey. A party atmosphere was planned with a celebration cake for all passengers along with a commemorative certificate. The train would then roll into London’s Euston station with staff from Virgin and Alston holding a banner on the platform.
All planned, but then disaster. A few days before the planned run, the southbound cab of 390022 was struck by an object hanging off the overhead line south of Rugby. The windscreen would need replacing.
Worse still the incident had damaged some cab wiring and windscreen surround. Despite the best efforts of the Alstom team, there was insufficient time after the windscreen surround had been repairs to fit a new windscreen and allow the bonding to set. The planned activity had to be cancelled.
Following repairs 390022 was put back into service and recorded its one millionth mile on 8th January 2008 as it headed the 17:15 from Euston to Glasgow. At the end of November this year 390122 (it now has 11 coaches) has covered 3,471,364 miles and could hit the three-and-a-half million mile mark by the end of this year. ‘Penny’ remains the leading Pendolino for the highest mileage.
So that is how ‘Penny’ got her name without a formal naming event.
Steven Knight is a Transport Specialist who has over 40 years experience in the bus and rail industries as well as in specialist transport journalism. He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Journalists.