A mainline rail line in West London will take part in a trial later this year, replacing its existing fleet of diesel trains with former London Underground trains that have been converted to run on batteries.
The trials will take place on the Greenford branch line, which is operated by GWR and mainly runs between Greenford and West Ealing. The line is currently served by a 2-car Class 165 Networker diesel passenger trains, and as the line is unlikely to be electrified any time soon, to reduce pollution, GWR is looking to test battery trains instead.
Last year, GWR started looking for a supplier for the trial to prove the capability of a battery-powered train, supported by fast charging equipment, and has now signed a deal with Vivarail, a company that converts former District line trains to work on mainline services.
This happens to means that during the trial, Greenford station, which is on the Central line, will also be served by ex-District line trains.
This trial will also be Vivarail’s for its trackside fast-charging equipment in an operational setting. It is hoped that the project will demonstrate that the equipment works safely and reliably in a ‘real-world’ environment.
The use of batteries for extended operation has typically been constrained by their range and meant widespread implementation has, until now, not been feasible. To deal with this, Fast Charge equipment will be installed at West Ealing Station later this year and tested with Vivarail’s battery-only Class 230 train, which has a range of up to 62 miles on battery power, recharging in 10 minutes using the Fast Charge system in off-network tests.
The short 12-minute shuttle trips gives a half-hourly service including turn-around times at each end, which would also be used for fast-charging the batteries in the train in the platform bay at West Ealing. A half-hourly service between current first and last trains on the Greenford branch is 33 round trips, a total distance of 165 miles (264km) per day. To keep the service running through the day without running out of juice, when the train arrives at a station it connects automatically to the Fast Charge and the batteries receive a charge while the train is prepared for its next journey.
The trials will start later this year — so train nerds assemble, as former London Underground District line trains are returning to London.
The trial is supported by £2.15m funding from the Department for Transport’s Rail Network Enhancement Pipeline (RNEP). Development of the Fast Charge technology also received funding from Innovate UK.