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Just as soon as the HST deliveries had been completed in 1982 a number of changes were made to the way the fleet was utilised. Instead of being seen as simply another train fleet the InterCity sector of BR, under the guidance of Director Cyril Bleasdale, started to see their new HSTs as a valuable business asset from which the best possible utilisation should be extracted. This change of thinking coincided with an economic slowdown, increased competition from road coaches following deregulation and the subsequent reduction in demand for long distance travel. The InterCity services from St. Pancras to the East Midlands and Yorkshire had missed out on getting their own fleet of HSTs although the fleet of aged locomotive hauled trains were in need of replacement.
Partly due to the falling demand for services and partly due to improved utilisation, 5 HST sets were released from the Western Region fleet, whilst three sets were released from the Cross Country fleet by the retention of some locomotive hauled operation on the NE-SW route. Allocations were shuffled within the WR based fleets so that 253019-027 (43038-055) and 253056-058 (43193-198) could be reallocated to Leeds Neville Hill during October 1982. Two spare sets were resourced from the ECML fleet so that a total of 10 sets could be provided to operate a near full HST service on the Midland Main Line. No depot facilities were provided for the Midland Main Line services, instead they ran empty to/from Bounds Green at the London end of the route and empty between Sheffield and Leeds Neville Hill at the northern end of the line. As depot facilities and spare resources were shared with the ECML fleet the entire 'Eastern' fleet simply became regarded as a common user between both lines, and this situation prevailed until privatisation loomed in 1993. The full Midland Main Line HST service commenced in May 1983 after the resignalling of almost the entire route, and electrification of the line between St. Pancras and Bedford had been completed.
The ECML HSTs were ordered and built on the strength of operating an hourly fast service between Edinburgh and London, but a purely Edinburgh to London service would lead to poor utilisation as arrivals wouldn't be received from London until after 1130 and sets reaching Edinburgh after 1730 would be unable to form another productive journey back to London. This lead to the concept of running beyond Edinburgh in marginal time, so rather than standing on the depot in Edinburgh between 1800 and 1100 the set could be used to run through to Aberdeen and form a morning Aberdeen to London service which would take up one of the departure 'slots' from Edinburgh. From the start of HST operation on the ECML there had been a modest operation of HSTs through to Aberdeen in marginal time where a small maintenance shed had been built to allow light overnight servicing to take place. The use of marginal time running later allowed the introduction of a HST service from Glasgow Queen St which conveniently provided for the Glasgow to Edinburgh line commuter market before running through to Kings Cross, whilst at the other end of the route one of the later Kings Cross starting sets would run empty to Peterborough to form a busy commuter run before starting its normal booked work.
In the summer of 1984 the use of HST sets in marginal time was taken one step further by the introduction of an experimental through service to Inverness which was formed by extending the 1200 from Kings Cross to Edinburgh. The morning service left Inverness early enough to form the 1130 Edinburgh to Kings Cross. The new service was a success and became a permanent all-year round feature of the timetable and continues to this day in the hands of GNER.
When the Cross Country HST service was first operated the new fleet replaced locomotive hauled trains on most of the key services along the North East to South West route corridor. The early 1980's Cross Country service ran hourly in each direction, with a sporadic service provided along the North West to Thames Valley/South Coast axis, entirely using locomotive hauled stock. The intention was that passengers would change trains at Birmingham New St if they wished to travel between two points not served directly, this was unpopular amongst many of the mostly leisure travellers along the route, e.g. family groups or the elderly. The hourly service was becoming unviable in the face of falling demand, so a revised service was implemented which saw two HSTs operating daily between the South West and Manchester, and one between the South West and Liverpool with all operation north of Birmingham being 'under the wires'. Fleet reshuffles saw the Manchester services become locomotive hauled but the daily HST service to Liverpool was retained until 1994.
HST domination of the ECML was to be short lived as June 1984 saw the announcement that finance had been approved to electrify the route and provide a new fleet of trains at a cost of £306m. Because the services had been so radically transformed by HSTs just a few years earlier, the principal driving force behind the project was the desire to cascade the valuable HSTs to other services allowing the withdrawal of older and more costly to operate stock. At one stage it was intended that the displaced HSTs would pass to the 'Secondary InterCity Network' and see use on services such as Edinburgh - Glasgow and North Trans-Pennine. However, the former services were part of the Provincial Sector who were moving to a Sprinter operated railway. Network SouthEast (NSE) also showed an interest in sets for the Waterloo - Exeter route in a shortened 2+6 formation; however NSE were also moving to multiple unit operation. In reality, by 1988 InterCity had begun to realise that the HST was a unique asset. Dr. John Prideaux, Sector Director of InterCity described the HST as 'an outstanding achievement, fully equal of TGV' and from then on it was evident the displaced sets would be staying with InterCity.
The transfer of the first main route between London and Leeds to electric traction was planned for April 1989, the electrification itself ran well ahead of schedule and the new Class 91 locomotives would start being delivered in early 1988. The new Mk 4 carriages were going to be delivered later than planned so InterCity came up with the innovative solution of replacing one power car of eight HST sets with a Class 91 so the start of the Kings Cross to Leeds electric service could be brought forward to Spring 1988. The other power car on each of these sets was converted to become a 'surrogate DVT' (Driving Van Trailer), these power cars were fitted with TDM equipment and other controls to allow the Class 91 to be controlled remotely from the modified HST power car. As the Class 91's train supply was of the older DC ETH type (and thus incompatible with HST Mk 3 stock) the DVT Class 43 would continue to provide power to the train's auxiliaries, leaving the Class 91 to provide all the traction power. The HST power cars were visually altered by the fitting of conventional drawgear and buffers in place of the lower nosecone fairing. Internally a new bank of switches was provided on the cab desk and the TDM equipment was accommodated in a cabinet in the luggage van area. Eight HST trailer sets were modified by the fitting of buffers and a drop-head buckeye at the guards compartment end of the TGS coach, this meant that the Class 91 would always be attached at the standard class end of the train whilst the modified power car would be attached at the first class end.
The first two power car conversions (on 43123/014) were carried out at the Derby Engineering Development Unit, whilst the other six (43013/065/067/068/080/084) were converted by the diesel repair shop at Stratford. Initial trials took place on the West Coast main line during November 1987 in order to prove the operation of the TDM equipment using 43014/123.
Operation of the Class 91/'surrogate DVT' formation on Kings Cross to Leeds service commenced in March 1988 and after a few weeks of operation it was found that the power cars were suffering from spending all their time idling on just 1000rpm, and their traction power was reinstated creating 8000+hp formations capable of quite brisk performances! As the deliveries and commissioning of Mk 4 sets took place the later in 1988 the DVT modified power cars were released back into normal duties.