Train powered by batteries to carry first passengers

A battery-powered train will run on Britain’s mainline railway network for the first time in more than half a century in an attempt to reduce costs and the environmental impact.

The new eco-friendly train has been developed by Network Rail and industry partners as a possible replacement for current diesel-powered trains and it could lead to a fleet of battery-powered carriages running on the rail network.

“We’ve made terrific progress with this project so far and seeing the battery-powered train in timetabled service is a huge step forward,” said James Ambrose, Network Rail's principal engineer for the project.

The new train may help Network Rail meet its commitment to reduce its environmental impact over the next five years. Battery-powered trains would be quieter and more efficient than diesel multiple units, and could be used to bridge gaps between electrified parts of the network. They might also be suitable for less busy lines where overhead electrification would be too expensive.

“We are always looking for ways to reduce the cost of running the railway and make it greener too. This project has the potential to contribute significantly towards both those goals,” said Ambrose.

The train, also known as Independently Powered Electric Multiple Unit (IPEMU), will run weekday timetable services for more than a month in Essex between Harwich International and Manningtree.

“After months of engineering and testing, the train is running just as we would like it. We’ll be using this five-week period to gather data on how it handles during passenger service – most travellers will recognise how quiet and smooth the ride is compared to a diesel-powered train,” he added.

The partners working on the IPEMU are Network Rail, the Department for Transport Rail Executive, FutureRailway, Abellio Greater Anglia and Bombardier. Data gathered from trials of this adapted train will help the rail industry in developing future independently powered fleets.

According to undersecretary for transport Claire Perry the passenger trials are a milestone marking further proof of the government’s commitment to deliver a world-class rail network for the 21st century. “These trains potentially offer a real alternative where diesel or electrified services aren’t suitable, and I look forward to seeing the results of the trials,” she commented.

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