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Battery Trains for the Branch?

230002 at Long Marston

July, 2018

Members of the Committee were recently invited to see and ride in a battery powered Class 230 train built by Vivarail at Long Marston. The train uses the body shells and bogies from withdrawn District Line D78 trains, but the traction package and other components are new. The bogies have only been in service for ten years and are noted for their good riding characteristics. Seating and door configuration are up to the customer, and the original seating could be refurbished. Emission controlled toilets could be fitted.

The Class 230 can be powered by two battery rafts or diesel generator sets which are fitted under the coaches, or the train can operate in hybrid mode. For battery operation automatic charging units (ACUs) would be installed at each terminus and would connect to the train using a short section of conductor rail in the middle of the track, which is only energised when a train is proved to be above it. The ACU contains batteries which charge up while the train is away, and then dump their charge into the train’s batteries when the train arrives.

Vivarail managing director, Adrian Shooter, said he hoped to be able to demonstrate his train on the Thames Valley branches this Autumn. Great Western Railway would like to transfer as many Class 165/166 Turbo units as possible to strengthen services in the Bristol area and are looking at alternatives for the branches including using Class 769 Flex trains which will be converted from the ex-Thameslink Class 319s by fitting diesel generator sets under two coaches. Being four car units the Class 769s would not be suitable for the Marlow branch.

Update, July 2022

GWR, Network Rail and Vivarail have reached agreement to trial a Class 230 battery electric train on the Greenford branch. A rapid charging unit will be installed at West Ealing. The trial is sponsored by the Department for Transport.

Update January 2024

GWR is now looking to get the battery train running in the Spring of 2024. The charging rails have been installed at West Ealing.

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Last updated 31st January, 2024