Vivarail trial start date delayed from October to February
The Vivarail Class 230 train will now not begin its trial runs on the Coventry to Nuneaton (NUCKLE) line until next February because of problems with the approval process.
The innovative three-car D Train is built from upcycled bodyshells and bogies from London Underground rolling stock, and seats 300 passengers. The train is due to be operated by London Midland on the NUCKLE line, replacing a single car Class 153 train.
A report for a meeting of the West Midlands Combined Authority Transport Delivery Committee notes that the trial operation of the train was originally due to begin in October 2016 and run for 12 months.
However, it admitted: “The D Train has not been used for mainline services and the approval process has proved more challenging than originally envisaged despite the committed efforts of all the parties involved.”
Vivarail has now begun mainline testing of its prototype train, but no trial date has been agreed.
Transport for the West Midlands (TfWM), which oversaw the project, has now established a Programme Partnership Board, with representatives from all the partner organisations, to understand the reasons for the delay and oversee the working groups responsible for train production, train approvals and contracts and communications.
Despite assurances that the project would begin in December, the partnership board has now settled on trialling the train for transport to an event at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena on 5 February, followed by the Wasps v Gloucester Rugby Match on 26 February.
The project will aim to begin the main trial on 27 February. The report notes that even meeting this target will depend on securing third-party approvals from Network Rail and the Office of Rail and Road by 12 December.
Other milestones that must be met include completing the prototype three-car train by the second week in December and beginning crew training, which will take two months, by the end of the month.
The trial will run for less than eight months, instead of a year as already intended, because the current London Midland franchise will expire on 14 October.
Whether the trial can be extended depends on a decision by the new franchise operator, who will be announced in June 2017.
London Midland and West Midlands Trains are the only companies bidding after MTR dropped out.
The report also describes the key objectives of the D Train trial as: supporting the additional patronage generated by Coventry and Warwickshire County Councils two new stations at Coventry Arena and Bermuda Park; supporting Vivarail in addressing the national shortage of diesel rolling stock by proving the D Train concept and providing local jobs; and providing an option for future West Midlands franchise bidders to use the D Train.
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