Rolling stock

01.12.16

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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Comments

Neil Palmer   01/12/2016 at 15:12

So one of the supposed benefits of recycling the "D" trains (that they technically already had mainline approval) seems to be untrue. Yet again time & money wasted due to the interminable red tape, which seem to be the only "industry" the UK is any good at these days.

LT1980   01/12/2016 at 23:31

There was always going to be a challenge for VivaRail with the D-Train, red tape or no red tape - which has openly been reported in the past. The initial prototype was already running later during it's conversion than anticipated and therefore the Network Rail acceptance tests are now running late - yes the D Train operated on Network Rail in Underground days - but the modifications means it needs to be re-accepted as a new unit - which at the publication of this article, the testing has now started. It must be remembered that it was originally mooted for D-Train to be used on the Oakehampton route as part of the GWR Direct Award. During this trial, the D Train unit will not directly replace the Class 153 unit when the trial starts, in fact the Class 153 unit will be still rostered to run on the COV-NUN line during the trial and will act as a standby in case of D-Train failure. The COV-NUN service is operated out of the Coventry depot of LM, and releasing crews for any traction training at any train depot nationwide has to be carefully planned in line with day-to-day operational release and crew availability. With D-Train this is a NEW train in the eyes of industry and there’s no traction conversions available. Ultimately D-Train, will prove a savior to lines where it just cannot be justified to tie sprinter rolling stock up for critical strengthening elsewhere – if the option between D-Train or 142 Pacer on some route – I suspect D-Train would be the better option.

Noam   02/12/2016 at 09:41

It seems awfully risky to run the trial on a busy day, even with a 153 on standby. What if the unit sits down on the job with 300 sports fans on board?

Simon   02/12/2016 at 14:43

Even in London there is a branchline service where one of these trains would prove beneficial (Greenford shuttle). In the meantime though, it is just as well that I have not yet bought my train ticket from London to sample this train.

Andrew Gwilt   02/12/2016 at 19:34

There has also been plans to use the Class 230's to be used on rural local lines in the East of England but Abellio are ordering brand new Bi-Mode Stadler Flirt trains to replace the older rolling stocks from 2019. Some Class 230's could be used on other London Midland routes and short distance journeys across West Midlands. If the rest of the former London Underground D78 vehicles may not be able to be converted. It's more likely that they are going to be scrapped.

Mark Bott   02/12/2016 at 20:32

I am looking forward to being able to go for a ride on a Class 230. Much was made of the good condition of the bogies when the D78 stock trains were withdrawn. It will be interesting to see how they behave under mainline conditions. As I expect that if they are successful a ready market should exist for lower cost reliable DMU vehicles

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