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Battery-powered train to be developed

Work is to begin on a prototype battery-powered train to use on lines which have not yet been electrified, Network Rail has announced.

Funding from Network Rail, the EIT and the DfT will see two different forms of battery tested to identify how an Independently Powered Electric Multiple Unit (IPEMU) could work.

Working with Bombardier and Greater Anglia, a Class 379 train will be fitted with lithium phosphate and hot sodium nickel salt batteries and tested at the Old Dalby facility before running on an electrified branch line on the Anglia route, with the pantograph down.

Battery-powered trains could be used to bridge gaps in otherwise electrified railways, or bring the benefits of electric rolling stock to non-electrified routes, charging at terminal stations. The programme will be complete by the end of 2014.

Network Rail’s director of network strategy and planning, Richard Eccles, said: “We see this project as an important element of our strategy of increasing the electrification of the rail network, delivering improved sustainability whilst reducing the burden on the taxpayer. If we can create an energy storage capability for trains, electric traction can be introduced to more parts of the network without the need to necessarily extend the electrification infrastructure.

“As the principle funder and delivery manager, we have done a great deal of feasibility work before reaching this stage, both to define the outputs we seek from the trial and to build confidence in the project across the industry. We are working with our partners to drive this innovation forward.”

David Clarke, director of the Enabling Innovation Team, hosted by the RSSB, said: “Energy storage on trains is a typical example of a development that’s good for passengers, taxpayers and the long term future of the railway but where it is difficult for individual businesses to make the business case to invest in the technology. To help prove the business case we are funding up to 30% of the technology demonstration.

“We see the IPEMU project as a good example of something that will work according to the R&D but no one will invest in without seeing a full scale demonstrator. By supporting this programme we are helping to take innovation out of the lab and de-risk its potential introduction onto the railway.”

Bombardier said: “We are very enthusiastic to be collaborating in this ground breaking project with Network Rail. This project is an innovative development to provide an integrated battery system as a power source for the well proven Electrostar train. Bombardier recognises the potential benefits that this technology could bring to the rail industry and the travelling public.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at [email protected]


Nonsuchmike   24/08/2013 at 11:55

Sounds great. Or is it yet another excuse not to commit money to electrifying lines that desperately need electrifying?

Ricp   24/08/2013 at 16:31

A Derby Lightweight DMU was built in the 50s, except instead of bunging a couple of big AEC Routemaster bus engines under the floor, they equipped it for Battery Electric power. It is preserved at one of the Scottish rail centres, but my understanding is that this modified 379 is to cover gaps in the wiring, not serious use for main line services. It is no substitute for proper wires! PS What has a rail-weld joint got to do with battery power?

Ricp3l   26/08/2013 at 21:35

I wonder how far it would go between say Colchester and Sudbury, and back of course! How fast would it go and how long would it take to recharge the batteries? If Bombardier were serious, they should build a 2 car set, with both batteries and a pan, or at the longest a 3-car set, and see if it were a runner. Yes Sudbury as the Test-bed!

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