Rolling stock

06.01.17

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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Comments

Huguenot   06/01/2017 at 10:46

That's the end of the electrification programme, then. Don't expect any wires east of Manchester, north of Kettering or west of Bristol.

Jimbo   06/01/2017 at 12:39

Electrification is the better solution overall, but National Rail have made such a mess of the Great Western electrification programme, it is inevitable that a more cost effective solution needs to be found. Assuming this works well, it is a neat solution. Of course, in a few years when bi-modes have become normal, the question is whether existing ageing electrification is worth renewing. The ECML electrification is 30 years old now and not ageing well, so will they retrofit the ECML IEP's to make them bi-mode and de-electrify parts of the ECML as it will be cheaper than renewing it ?

DS   06/01/2017 at 16:56

One limitation to the usefulness of bi-modes is the finite quantity of affordable oil remainingg in the ground. The move to electrification was supposed to be a hedge against dwindling supplies.

Raylec   06/01/2017 at 17:44

So we go back to Diesel -Electric! This set up is inefficient, and uses oil which we are trying to avoid. If you must use diesel engine,then use this to drive the wheels. An Alternator is extra weight,addition of motors more weight,and then all the loses in between,such logic!

Andrew Gwilt   06/01/2017 at 19:29

Suppose it is a brilliant idea but could cost a lot to fit a diesel engine onto a electric multiple unit train and could also operate on non-electrified routes across the North of England. Which seems a good idea anyway.

Simon Drake   06/01/2017 at 22:32

The idea is reasonable but it MUST use proper engines, not like the Ford Transit ones on the Class 230. Something like the MTUs on 170s or Cummins QSK derated to 600hp. Two of the Cummins would provide the same power as the overhead supply.

Mikeb   06/01/2017 at 22:47

Good idea, as it will allow Northern to eliminate some running of DMUs under the wires, such as Manchester Piccadilly - Buxton and, within a few years, Manchester Victoria - Southport via Bolton. There is a rumour that the first units are already being converted and therefore, the hourly service between Liverpool and- Blackpool North could also be restored prior to completion of the electrification from Preston.

J Webster   07/01/2017 at 09:25

Go anywhere train? Isn't that a DMU? New technology? Putting a Diesel engine in an electric train is hardly new! Seems like one step forward, two steps back. Looks like some electrication projects are under threat such as Manchester-Leeds, Preston-Blackpool and Wigan-Bolton.

Matthew Read   08/01/2017 at 21:59

I hope they end up on the lines in Devon and Cornwall because I go there every summer.

Pwt   10/01/2017 at 10:31

Matthew, I think that you are missing the point. The idea of the so-called bi-mode conversions as I understand is to allow the trains concerned to work beyond the limits of the overhead wire, taking into account the progression of the various electrification schemes in the North West. It would be pointless having a train carting around heavy transformers, rectifiers and control systems on West Country branch lines if such systems are never likely to be required or used.

Matthew Read   11/01/2017 at 23:10

True I just love the units and it would be nice to see them get a new life maybe Blackpool-Colne?

Bob Rainbow   18/01/2017 at 22:02

What power will the diesel engines have relative to the electric-powered trains? I fear vastly under-powered Diesel propulsion, very slow on the hills of the far-flung braches the Diesel is likely to be needed on.

Lee   19/01/2017 at 10:32

Maybe I am missing the point, but what is the purpose of strapping a couple of diesel engines to a 4-car EMU that is intended to replace 2x 2-car DMU's? No extra capacity, still using diesel powered trains that are less environmentally friendly than the EMU's in their original form. It is concerning that TOC's and others are seriously looking into this. Why has none of the Northern and Transpennine orders for new rolling stock included bi-modes, its all DMU's and EMU's? I find it amazing the Government and the 'North Powerhouse' wind-bags keep banging on about delivering HS2 infrastructure and associated purpose-built electric rolling stock to serve the North yet none of them can manage to electrify 40 miles of existing railway on-time and on budget. At this rate will HS2 end up being operated by DMU's with a pantograph strapped on them or third rail EMU's with a diesel engine?

Pedro   23/01/2017 at 00:08

Bearing in mind these units are 27 years old, it seems like a big investment for a "stopgap" solution, so it leads me to think that either (1) the promised north western electrification is being scaled back, or (2) the promised new stock isn't happening at it's promised level. Either way the NW continues to have poor and decaying infrastructure and stock for the foreseeable future.

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