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  • Writer's pictureNikki Latham

Battery Only Trains Move A Step Closer With GWR

GWR (Great Western Railway) has signed a deal with Vivarail to trial their new battery-charging technology on its network. The trial is supported by National Rail, and although serves are area, they are being trialled on the Greenford branch line first.

It's hoped during this trial that the equipment shows it works safely and reliably in a real environment. The batteries in the past have always limited the range and meant that testing could only start now. Fast Charge equipment will be installed at West Ealing station and tested with the Class 230 train, that was showcased at COP26 last year.

The battery has a range of 62 miles, with recharging in just 10 minutes using the Fast Charge, meaning it can be charged while waiting for its next journey. The trial is being 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.

GWR Managing Director Mark Hopwood said:

“This is a really exciting development and underlines our commitment to reduce the carbon emissions of our train fleet with a view to removing all diesel-only traction from the network by 2040, in line with the Government’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan. “We’re looking forward to working with our rail industry colleagues over the coming months to be able to rigorously test this battery train and charger on the Greenford branch line.”

Vivarail Managing Director Steve McBride said:

“Spearheading new green technology for rail is Vivarail’s forte, so I am delighted we are working with Great Western Railway on this demonstration of battery traction and automatic fast charging. The Greenford to West Ealing line will now lead the UK in bringing in new, emission-free battery electric trains combined with our world-leading charging system.

“Battery technology has been identified as a key part of the network’s solution to reach Net Zero and it is the ability of our charging system that provides the key to replacing diesel trains. “I believe it will mark a step-change in showing the innovation within our industry. The support from GWR, Network Rail and the DfT to get this under way has been phenomenal.”

Network Rail’s Regional Managing Director for Wales and Western, Michelle Handforth, said:

“We are really excited for this new battery-powered trial to start and it highlights our commitment to providing a more environmentally-friendly way to travel. “It builds on the success of electrification of the Great Western Mainline which has hugely reduced the number of journeys being made in diesel-only traction.

“We’re now looking forward to the challenge of getting the Greenford branch line ready for this new trial, which is another significant step forward for rail travel.” The rail industry launched their "We Mean Green" campaign last year, designed to encourage more people and businesses to choose greener train travel. This would be a great step in the right direction to reduce carbon emissions as part of this campaign.

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