A trial of battery-powered passenger trains on a shuttle service in West London could start next year, replacing the diesel trains used on the line at the moment.

Great Western Railway (GWR) is seeking a supplier for the trial to prove the capability of a battery-powered train, supported by fast charging equipment, on the West Ealing to Greenford service. That 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.

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.

If an agreement is signed, then the trial of the new trains will last around a year, starting April 2022, with possible extensions to March 2025.

There are a number of battery-powered trains suppliers, but a curious twist could be if Vivarail wins the contract — as their trains are based on decommissioned District line trains. If that happens, then Greenford station, which is on the Central line, would also be served by ex-District line trains.

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13 comments
  1. Bob McIntyre says:

    I agree, it would be nice and ironic but unfortunately Vivarail have done themselves no favours with the shambles on the Isle of Wight where “software issues” have delayed the introduction of new services by at least three months. Neither does their replacement dmu version of the stock seem to be running trials between Bidston and Wrexham where it is supposed to take over in September.

    Perhaps an opportunity for Parry People Movers or the Very Light Rail Innovation Centre from Dudley to show what they can do rather than buy in something from Italy or Japan?

  2. Thom Jordan says:

    Could the line not be upgraded and run normal electric trains after all demand on the service can only increase as new residential villages are springing up on format light industrial sites eg.
    the old NCR/ Bechsams sites

    • Anders says:

      Unfortunately the huge costs of proper electrification and the threshold that has to be reached to make it financially viable is incredibly high (I write as someone who has worked in developing fairly small scale rail investment projects). Battery powered trains are at least a way of getting some environmental benefits in the short term, whilst still hoping full electrification will happen later.

  3. West Ealing resident says:

    Excited to hear this. The current West Ealing Greenford train is nearly always 95% empty yet belches out vast amounts of diesel fumes daily. Seems like a wonderful opportunity to use battery power and great that GWR are doing so.

  4. Chris says:

    Why not run green S-Class straight thru to Greenford? Would take very little to accomplish. If we don’t get 20 minute service, its not worth doing.

    • ianVisits says:

      Don’t comment here – contact GWR with your costings and benefits showing how it would be better.

    • Alistair James Twiname says:

      I wonder if part of the reason is very much to test a battery train. if it’s proved to work then in the future running some hybrid “battery for the tricky bits to electrify” projects could be substantially cheaper than full electrification.

      It’s the pinch points like bridges that make it really expensive if you can prove that you can run a decent service with 160 miles of battery power per day that’s really good to know.

  5. Chris says:

    The line should be a part of the TFL family.

  6. c says:

    It might see some increase in use as a Crossrail feeder, but unlikely to change too much, without some big house-building projects.

    Once it was slated for Chiltern but that, if it happens, would be to bays at OOC – so this may as well be a green little feeder – branded alongside Crossrail for visibility (as the other TV and Romford branches could be) to encourage more feeding/use once Crossrail is online.

    Probably as far as you vcan take it. But yes, if no wires, batteries could maybe work for the others in time too (Romford being wired)

  7. Jennifer says:

    Where else would I read a niche but important story than on Ian Visits!? This is very enlightening – thank you! I’m a West Ealing resident and have never taken that little branch line though I used to take it into Paddington a couple years ago during the morning rush hour before TFL took over. What a nightmare that was! But now I just look on at the little 2 car carriage always parked waiting to head to Greenford. If they do bring in the rechargeable trains, I’ll look forward to taking a little journey just to try it out.

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