Vivarail to supply three D-Trains to West Midlands Trains

Vivarail has today announced that it has entered an agreement with West Midlands trains to build three new Class 230 D-Trains for the Marston Vale Line between Bedford and Bletchley.

West Midlands Trains is the first franchise to have made an order for the rolling stock, which are expected to get on track for operation in 2018.

The news follows a number of months where there was little word about the innovative battery-powered rolling stock, before the company announced in February that the first production train had entered its final build stage.

Vivarail’s CEO, Adrian Shooter, stated: “This is a big day for Vivarail. We have invested considerable time and money to bring our innovative D-Train to this point and we are delighted to be working with West Midlands Trains to introduce them into passenger service. 

“As a West Midlands based company it will be extremely gratifying to see our trains running on local lines and we look forward to passenger feedback. Our trains will be built to the high standards West Midlands Trains has committed to and will provide the flagship service for the region.

“We congratulate the team at West Midlands Trains on their successful bid and look forward to working with them over the coming months.”

The first test run of the trains was completed all the way back in March 2017, following the rolling stock hitting a number of serious obstacles.

West Midlands Trains’ customer service director, Andrew Conroy, explained that the Class 230 would be “ideal” for the Bedford to Bletchley route.

“We are investing in almost £700m of new trains for our passengers,” he stated. “The class 230s will be the first of over 400 extra carriages we are adding to our network.

“I am sure our passengers will welcome the new look and feel of the carriages and the extra space.

“When the new trains come on stream in December we will also be adding extra early morning and late night services on the Marston Vale line Monday to Saturday.”


Huguenot   01/03/2018 at 11:52

Well done, Vivarail, for persisting in the face of several setbacks. We look forward to the new service. What I want to know is, will the batteries be recharged at the end of each run? If the D-trains are fitted with pantographs, this would be possible during the layovers at both Bedford and Bletchley stations where the platforms are electrified.

Andrew Gwilt   01/03/2018 at 12:36

Are you sure that 3 Class 230’s is enough to cover the Bletchley-Bedford Marston Vale Line. What about using them on Coventry-Leamington Spa & Coventry-Nuneaton lines. Or will WM Trains inherit more Class 230’s to operate on other lines such as Birmingham New St-Telford Central and Birmingham Moor St/Snow Hill-Dorridge and Whitlocks End.

P   01/03/2018 at 12:49

This article mentions the battery-powered option but provides no source telling us whether Marston Vale is getting the battery only, diesel only or hybrid version of the 230. Battery is a fair bet, but it doesn't seem to have been actually announced as such by either party. It may be yet to be decided.

James Miller   01/03/2018 at 14:28

A few months before these trains were replaced, I took a ride on one from Barking to Upminster. With their more-than-adequate ride and large windows, with a properly-designed interior, these trains will make superb rural trundlers on routes needing up to perhaps four trains per hour. They will certainly be a lot better and probably more affordable than two elderly diesels and a short rake of Mark 2 coaches.

Ryan   01/03/2018 at 17:02

Andrew, is who sure? WMT have a number of CAF diesels on order for the Birmingham routes, and they will be inheriting the LO 172s - despite your incessant bleating that all eight will be operating the Greenford branch.

Jimbo   01/03/2018 at 21:49

@Andrew Gwilt - How many Class 230's do you think is needed to operate the hourly Bedford to Bletchley service? As the service takes 43 minutes, the answer is 2, but they are probably getting 3 because this is still an experimental train and so they will have one spare. As for other services, how about you make sure they work properly before using anymore of them - it is going to take the rest of the year to build these 3 and probably another 2 years to iron out the bugs. As for the rest of your comment, no-one knows what you are dribbling on about. "Inherit 230's" - who from? there aren't any to inherit, they have to buy them from Vivarail. WMT have also just bought new units to operate the services you mention. The 230 is not some magical new train that can operate anywhere - it is designed as a cheap branch line train, so stop trying to find uses for them on mainlines to which they are not designed for.

Jimbo   01/03/2018 at 21:59

@P - As the battery hybrid version of the 230 is still being built, it seems unlikely it would be finished and tested in time to build at least 2 more for the Marston Vale. It seems more likely that these will be the pure diesel versions, at least for now. One of the design aspirations for Vivarail is to make the power units on the 230's modular and easily upgradeable, so my guess would be that these will diesel initially, but upgraded to hybrid at a later date, and pure battery at a later date still. Vivarail need this project to work flawlessly, particularly after the fire in their first trial runs, so expect a fairly conservative rollout of the new technology, allowing them to build up experience and iron out the problems.

Andrew Gwilt   01/03/2018 at 23:29

@Jimbo. Perhaps you are right. @Ryan. If London Overground were to operate the Greenford Line. Then they could transfer couple Class 172’s to operate between West Ealing-Greenford.

Chrism   02/03/2018 at 03:41

Andrew, you have spent several years wibbling on about putting 230s on every single line you can imagine, yet incredibly you can't see that the Greenford branch is the ideal route for these trains, especially if battery operated. DC power supplies at Greenford, AC at West Ealing. Maximum line speed 45 mph, a return trip is only 5 miles. You have already been told that the Overground are going to release the 172s, so why keep banging about that fleet? They would be totally wasted on the Greenford branch, just as the 90mph 165s are.

Lutz   02/03/2018 at 11:07

We could do with a list of lines where this product would be of use. :)

Demarci   02/03/2018 at 12:03

It would be interesting to see how the battery powered D-Train performs in actual service and whether there is sufficient time to recharge the battery between services. When Vivarail demonstrated it at RailLive last year, they advised that the battery they were using had be loaned from the IPEMU. Although in the press the IPEMU was praised as a success, I understand from some sources there were issues relating to the recharge of the battery between services. If anyone in the industry that works on either hybrid or battery power trains, I would be interested in your feedback.

Smsm1   02/03/2018 at 12:06

See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SnNaMPR-e1I for information about the Class 230 including a ride on it and interviews with staff by Geoff Marshall.

Eric   02/03/2018 at 12:08

DC charging at Greenford would be the preferred option. No pantograph or transformer to add weight and complications. Conductor rails from Greenford South Junction to the bay, new DC circuit breaker in Greenford Substation adjacent to the junction. The conductor rails would help an ailing battery to get the train up the gradient into the platform.

Nick Biskinis   02/03/2018 at 12:11

James is right: the D Stock trains were actually very pleasant and modern trains which, despite their age, could certainly have continued on the District Line for another twenty years. Their only main drawback for the Tube was single leaf doors and they are certainly much better trains than Pacers or indeed more recent stock. So they will be very good for many branch lines. I wonder if there is export potential: the Athens Metro Line 1 has elderly and very run down trains that could be replaced with the D-train if available at a competitive price

Mark Hare   02/03/2018 at 12:31

Are Vivarail leasing these units to WMT as a ROSCO or are they building them then selling them outright? Surely more money can be made in the long term leasing these trains to TOCs...

Paul K   02/03/2018 at 12:35

In reply to Lutz, given the relatively low costs of these units they would appear to be ideal to test the various traction/hybrid concepts and also to pioneer new services such as on preserved lines where there is a network connection. Swanage - Wareham and Alresford - Alton - Farnham spring to mind.

Anne   02/03/2018 at 12:52

We already have horrific bus body DMUs in the North now it looks like we're getting old LU units converted to DMUs as well. What about the Government edict to phase out diesel.? Sorry, I must have missed the phrase 'except in the North'. Must we always have other peoples castoffs?

James Miller   02/03/2018 at 13:24

Vivarail have disclosed that the battery D-train will have four batteries totalling 106 kWh and with a ten minute charge they will have a range of 50 miles. These batteries will be of the size of hybrid cars, so reliable ones will surely be available at a competitive price. I wouldn't bet against the Marston Vale line being run on batteries. Modern power engineering will enable the trains to be charged using 25 KVAC at either end of the line. They could also serve Milton Keynes and go to Wolverton for stabling if required. There must be a few retired Metro-Cammell engineers laughing like drains into their beer!

Thames Valley Traveller   02/03/2018 at 13:31

I am appalled to see the moans from those who only want new build stock, do not want to see good use of scarce financial resources. The former D class sets will have been very well modernised to their new role. It will cost local councils and authorities far less. As for the much now abused Pacers, many rural lines would have closed without the low cost units when the were first introduced. It is a Tribute to Leyland/BREL they have lasted so long. Stop winging about ex London. The new GWR 387s - good to look at, but GWR keep issuing notices about their failures and seats are like planks of wood!

Mark Hare   02/03/2018 at 16:24

@Anne - I would hardly call Bedford-Bletchley 'the North'... Also, as others have said these 'modular' units can run on various power supplies, and if initially supplied in diesel form may be modified in the future to battery operation.

Geordie   02/03/2018 at 16:54

Can anyone tell me if these trains could be used on the Wrexham Bidston line and thence on the Merseyrail underground system to Liverpool, thus obviating the need for passengers to Liverpool to change at Bidston?

Walace58   02/03/2018 at 17:24

LU trains do not only go north! They go to the Isle of Wight needed due to restricted height in the tunnel at Ryde Esplanade, on the Islandline. Trouble now so old they cannot find a economic replacement due to conversion costs.

Walace58   02/03/2018 at 17:25

LU trains do not only go north! They go to the Isle of Wight needed due to restricted height in the tunnel at Ryde Esplanade, on the Islandline. Trouble now so old they cannot find a economic replacement due to conversion costs.

Walace58   02/03/2018 at 17:28

Here on RTM 23 Feb article said the production train now tested and available is better powered with a lithium power pack and train can be recharged via 3rd rail and OHL

Walace58   02/03/2018 at 17:31

Here on RTM 23 Feb article said the production train now tested and available is better powered with a lithium power pack and train can be recharged via 3rd rail and OvHL

Walace58   02/03/2018 at 17:33

Here on RTM 23 Feb article said the production train now tested and available is better powered with a lithium power pack and train can be recharged via 3rd rail and OvHL

Pedr Jarvis   02/03/2018 at 17:35

Geordie, Wrexham-Liverpool, what a good idea! Another possibility is Llandudno - Blaenau Ffestiniog, where a solitary railcar trundles up and down the valley, alternating with a bus. But the bus company is in trouble and it seems the buses are for sale. Improving the branch line summer service in a holiday area is likely to reap mild rewards. As to another comment, there is plenty of siding storage space both at Bletchley and at Bedford.

Andrew Gwilt   03/03/2018 at 13:43

@Chrism. Ok I was wrong.

John Grant   03/03/2018 at 15:34

"I would hardly call Bedford-Bletchley 'the North'" -- I wouldn't call it the West Midlands either.

Andrew JG   04/03/2018 at 02:14

The Class 230's that are replacing the older Diesel units including the Class 142 and Class 143 Pacers might operate on some services. These are a selection of lines/services that the Class 230's could operate on. If its declared that they will be used on those services. Eastern England & South Midlands: Marston Vale Line (Bletchley-Bedford) London & The Southeast: Marshlink Line (Brighton-Ashford International) North Downs Line (Reading-Gatwick Airport via Redhill/Reading-Redhill) Slough-Windsor Line (Slough-Windsor & Eton Central) Marlow Branch Line (Maidenhead-Marlow (via Bourne End)) Regatta Line aka Henley Branch Line (Twyford-Henley-on-Thames) West Midlands and Cotswolds: Coventry–Leamington (including Kenilworth) Coventry-Nuneaton Whitlocks End-Kidderminster Dorridge-Kidderminster Leamington Spa-Stratford-Upon-Avon East Midlands: Lincoln Central-Peterborough Doncaster-Lincoln Central Newark North Gate-Grimsby Town & Cleethorpes Mansfield Woodhouse-Nottingham Matlock-Newark Castle Barton Line (Barton-upon-Humber-Cleethorpes) Southwest England & The Westcountry: Riviera Line (Exeter-Paignton) Avocet Line (Exeter-Exmouth) Tarka Line (Exeter-Barnstaple) Atlantic Coast Line (Par-Newquay) Looe Valley Line (Liskeard-Looe) St Ives Bay Line (St Erth-St Ives) Tamar Valley Line (Plymouth-Gunnislake) North of England (Northwest and Northeast England): York-Scarborough Cumbrian Coast Line (Carlisle-Barrow-In-Furness) Furness Line (Carnforth-Barrow-In-Furness) Windermere Branch Line (Oxenholme Lake District-Windermere) Harrogate Line (York-Harrogate-Leeds) South Wales (Cardiff and Welsh Valleys): Butetown Branch Line aka Cardiff Bay Line (Cardiff Queen St.-Cardiff Bay) City Line (Cardiff Queen St.-Radyr) Coryton Line (Cardiff Central-Coryton) Vale of Glamorgan Line (Cardiff Central-Bridgend) Merthyr Lines (Cardiff Central-Merthyr Tydfil and Cardiff Central-Aberdare) Rhondda Line (Cardiff Central-Treherbert) Rhymney Line (Cardiff Central-Rhymney) Ebbw Valley Railway (Cardiff Central-Ebbw Vale Town) North Wales and Merseyside: Conwy Valley Line (Llandudno-Llandudno Junction-Blaenau Ffestiniog) North Wales Coast Line (Holyhead-Crewe/Chester) Wrexham General-Wrexham Central shuttle Borderline Line (Wrexham Central/Wrexham General-Bidston)

Pwt   04/03/2018 at 12:25

The D78 stock was first introduced into service in 1980 therefore making them older than the virtually all main line rolling stock in service today. Whilst accepting that DTrain concept includes heavy refurbishment, they are still comparatively old trains. I would imagine that the 60mph max speed may cause a bit of a pathing handicap when operating along maIn lines (such as Exeter - Paignton quoted above). Probably ok when confined to branch lines.

Mark Hare   05/03/2018 at 12:08

Many thanks to Andrew JG for providing such a comprehensive list of possible routes that the Class 230s might be suitable for. Andrew - as you've clearly spent so much time researching this, why don't you contact Adrian Shooter direct and advise him of the best way to proceed. I'm sure he will value your contribution immensely.

Andrew Gwilt   06/03/2018 at 02:30

Ok probably I will contact Adrian Shooter. Mark Hare.

Gabriel Oak   06/03/2018 at 07:51

Essentially these trains are simply somebody's good idea looking for a use........

J, Leicester   06/03/2018 at 09:34

Anne, your comment reads like that of an RMT shill. Besides the long-since debunked claim that the 230s are mere "cast-offs", there's no prospect of Northern taking any on, unless the seemingly abortive 769 Flex project collapses and leaves a stock gap for the franchise. As you would well know, Northern is in the process of ordering multiple class 195s and 331s to replace its 14X fleet... or would you prefer your beloved Pacers to remain ad nauseum? It just strikes me as ranting for ranting's sake - it is however promising that your views, which were the prevailing voice when the project first started, now seem marginalised with the industry wishing VivaRail well and looking forward to seeing how their product performs. Oh, and let's never mind that the Marston Vale is hardly "the North" - I'm a "Midlander" and it's 50 miles south of me!

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