D-Train project derailed as partners pull out of trial
The future of the D-Train on the Coventry to Nuneaton (NUCKLE) line is in doubt after local partners pulled out of the project.
The three-car Class 230 train, built by Vivarail from upcycled parts of London Underground trains, was originally promised as an innovative solution to pressure on London Midland services on the busy route, which suffers from overcrowding on the one carriage train that calls at the Ricoh Arena, Bedworth and Bermuda Park stations.
However, the D-Train suffered an engine fire during a test run on 30 December, requiring an investigation in partnership with the RAIB.
In response, Coventry City Council, Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, London Midland, Warwickshire County Council and the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) have jointly announced that they will no longer be able to support the project.
A WMCA spokesperson told RTM that the issue was one of timing.
The fire investigation means that Vivarail will not be able to begin the eight-month trial of the Class 230 in February as planned, the last date possible before a new operator takes over the West Midlands franchise in October.
“There’s no way that they can get the trial up and running by the end of February,” the spokesperson said. “We’ve got no choice but to stop it.” However, they added that WMCA could still be interested in the D-Train “going forward”.
In December, RTM revealed that the Class 230 project was already in doubt, with delays preventing the original plan of beginning a year-long trial in October.
In a statement, the Class 230 partners said: “We have been working with Vivarail on this innovative but technically challenging project to try and find a solution to the UK-wide shortage of diesel trains.
“Our goal throughout has been to provide passengers with an enhanced service on the Coventry to Nuneaton line and this remains the case. That’s why it is so unfortunate that this fire and the subsequent investigation has led to a suspension of the trial that had been due to start in February.
“This delay means there is no longer enough time to run and evaluate a pilot service using these trains before the next local rail franchise starts in October. It is for this reason we have little choice but to reluctantly withdraw from the trial.”
The partners added that they would continue discussions with suppliers of diesel trains, including Vivarail, to try to resolve the impact of the rolling stock shortage on capacity and service operation.
Vivarail told RTM: “We entirely understand the position of our partners in relation to the trial, especially with regard to the franchise timings. We are very grateful to all the partners for the support they have given, and continue to give, us as a local company.”
The company said it will publish an interim report into the causes of the fire early next week. “It is business as usual at our end and we are confident in the future of the Class 230,” Vivarail concluded.
Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become an RTM columnist? If so, click here.