Porterbrook and Northern to develop bi-mode Class 319s
A number of Northern’s Class 319 electric trains will be converted to bi-mode operation thanks to a new unit from leasing company Porterbrook.
The Class 319 Flex will be fitted onto eight of Northern’s 32 four-car Class 319 fleet, with a view to completing the first units by spring 2018. It will then be made available to other operators.
It was developed in partnership with Arriva, which took over the Northern franchise last April, and Rail North.
Zena Dent, projects & technical director for Porterbrook, said the Class 319 Flex was “highly innovative” and would be the first rolling stock function to “provide operators with a ‘go anywhere’ train”.
The Flex allows trains to convert between electric and diesel operation by installing a diesel powered alternator under each of the two driving trailer cars.
The alternators provide power to the existing traction and auxiliary equipment so that the EMU can operate on tracks without an overhead or 3rd rail supply of power.
The systems will provide power through the train’s DC bus, avoiding significant changes to the existing equipment.
The conversion comes as the future of UK rail electrification is in doubt, with projects on the Great Western Main Line, the TransPennine Line and the Midland Main Line all facing major delays following the Hendy Review.
Concept design work has now finished, and developers Wabtec/Bush have started working on the detailed design phase of the project.
David Hoggarth, director of Rail North, which has supported the project, said the Class 319 Flex would “contribute to the transformation of rail services currently underway in the north of England”.
Rob Warnes, performance and planning director for Northern, added: “We are really proud to be involved in this pioneering development.
“Bi-mode trains will bring the benefits of railway modernisation, to more customers, more quickly. This technology opens up new opportunities to spread the benefits of electrification to non-electrified routes, delivering more capacity and bringing exciting innovation to the North’s railways.”
Northern’s Class 319s went into operation on the electrified route between Manchester Airport and Liverpool Lime Street in 2015.
Arriva promised an expanded and modernised fleet for Northern as part of the franchise transfer, which includes 43 new EMUs and 55 new DMUs CAF-built DMUs. But the Class 319s will remain part of the fleet once these come into operation.
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