Business as usual: Vivarail begins testing of new battery train

If you were one of the many left saddened and disappointed when Vivarail’s test train caught fire over the festive period due to a fuel leak on one of the gensets, the company has some good news: its new test car, operated as a battery train, has completed its first successful run – sending a clear message to all non-believers that the D-Train is here to stay.

As Vivarail CEO Adrian Shooter wrote in the last issue of RTM, the test train’s fire incident was the result of a perfect storm that in no way should be seen as a threat to the project’s future. He explained that a number of simple changes could be made to “mitigate against anything like this happening again in the future”.

Soon after the incident, the company began building a new test car at its Long Marston base, the first version of which would operate as a battery train. Once this concept is proved, Vivarail said it can “easily change the modules to test it in any variation”.

Not long after that issue of RTM hit desks, Shooter’s team revealed that the battery-powered demonstrator has started to undergo testing at the Quinton Rail Technology Centre. Vivarail is now gathering the data needed to analyse the train’s range and performance.

“Development of the train, powered by two battery modules, has taken place in conjunction with our trusted colleagues at Strukton and Valence, and we are all delighted with the results so far,” the company said.

“Work only began at the beginning of the year but these first successful runs show, once again, our initiative and the team’s continuing drive to innovate.”

The future of the D-Train had been thrown into doubt after local partners in the NUCKLE project pulled out of a scheme that would’ve seen the upcycled vehicle alleviate pressures on London Midland services.

But its successful return has signalled that the D-Train project is not ready to be derailed just yet. As Shooter wrote for us, there is no magic bullet that will solve every need across the network, but the Class 230 does give operators new options for their fleet – and Vivarail is confident in saying that it is still business as usual.

(Top image c. Peter Tandy)


John Grant   21/03/2017 at 11:50

Still with the LU whistle, I notice. (On the sound track of the video.)

J, Leicester   21/03/2017 at 13:11

Nice to see. Any idea what the range on these units is likely to be between charges? Battery technology seems like a logical "green" area to develop, but it's always been hamstrung by a lack of capacity, restricting production vehicles to shunters and the like.

Mark D Jameson   21/03/2017 at 18:19

Why are so many so negative? We have to recycle materials to re-use so why not the trains. The no-hope's are probably those who send their rubbish to landfill, run diesel cars, etc. At least here is an idea to reuse perfectly good bodies refitted, reworked on lines where the footfall is less and the revenue less. Very few branch lines have speeds over 40 let alone 60. Best of luck to Adrian Shooter - its about time in a difficult financial era more careful thought AND practice was given to these units. Also, if Northern line is have a new units for the Battersea extension, why not add more for use on the Piccadilly so some of their narrow door units can be sent to the Isle of wight.

SWB   21/03/2017 at 19:38

Good for Vivarail and its forward-thinking CEO. These types of innovative ideas need to be supported as much as possible. Too bad the folks at NUCKLE couldn't have seen further down the road instead of withdrawing after one incident.

Jerry Alderson   21/03/2017 at 20:19

I'm a great fan of Adrian Shooter and Vivarail. I also support using batteries where appropriate. Am I alone in sensing the irony of Rail Technology Magazine writing an article about technology that provides no insight into the technology whatsoever? J of Leicester is right to ask about battery range. My question is actually about how the batteries get charged. Is it done at either end, which presumably invovles a long layover time (problem if running late) or getting a quicky burst when it calls at stations, which would require extra infrastructure and several stations. Would it use a pantogragh, collector shoe or cable? Or, would the batteries be lifted out and replaced with fully charged ones (and then charging them up in a cabinet at a station)? The latter is a cost-effective way of doing it as minimal infrastucture would be needed, and it would be fairly quicky.

J, Leicester   22/03/2017 at 09:04

Jerry Alderson, I think the batteries are mounted in the underfloor modules in the same way as the diesel units are set up - which would make changing batteries pretty easy. That's a big selling point of the 230 - the on-the-fly maintenance. In a weird way, the fire incident has proven the point - they were able to not only run it back to Coventry Yard under its own power, but have the problem identified and new parts put in place within weeks.The turnaround in replacing the genset and getting it back out on the test track after what has been a pretty major incident is impressive. Again, the practicality of battery traction will depend entirely on their capacity. Ideally, you'd want something that could run for a number of days without recharging at a minimum - though with modular parts, you could feasibly have 2 batteries spare, one in use and one charging and change them "on-the-fly" at the end of an operating day.

Andrew Gwilt   22/03/2017 at 12:58

I still think its a brilliant idea to use batteries on the Class 230's for shorter distances and to operate on small branch lines in South Wales and in England.

Steve Rose   24/03/2017 at 14:12

If these bodies were any good to reuse then why were they not refurbished and kept in London? Why build new units to operate on tube and then try and coble together a way of making this old stock work on the rest of the network? It never seems to be explained in any of the articles.

Tarkaman   24/03/2017 at 20:45

At least one bidder is proposing to use the 230's on the Marston Vale Line :)

Bill Xpress   24/03/2017 at 20:59

Is there nothing new on the face of the earth. Don't I remember a battery twin railcar operating for some years - successfully so far as I know - between Aberdeen and Ballater?

Emily   11/04/2017 at 11:37

What about hydrogen trains? https://www.smartrailworld.com/an-asian-first-as-china-will-deliver-the-first-hydrogen-train

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