Chiltern Train at platform at Bicester North Train Station - Hero RF

UK’s first battery-diesel hybrid train enters passenger service

Image credit: Michelle Bridges/Dreamstime

The UK’s first 100mph battery-diesel hybrid train is entering passenger service as part of ongoing efforts to cut carbon emissions and boost air quality.

According to its owner Porterbrook, the train was developed by adding a powerful battery to a 20-year-old diesel train to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 25 per cent.

The firm added that the two-carriage train, named HybridFLEX, also provides a 75 per cent decrease in noise and a 70 per cent decrease in nitrogen oxide.

The Government has pledged to remove all diesel-only trains from UK railways by 2040.

Chiltern Railways will introduce the train on its 40-mile route between London Marylebone and Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, from today (10 February). There are also plans to use it between the capital and Oxford in the coming months.

“Chiltern Railways is determined to operate a railway that is as sustainable and environmentally friendly as possible,” said its managing director Richard Allan. “We have worked hard with our partners to fit a powerful battery power pack underneath a 20-year-old diesel train to make the train cleaner, quieter and quicker.”

Meanwhile, Porterbrook chief executive Mary Grant said the entry into service of HybridFLEX is “a significant first step” in demonstrating how the trains can slash emissions and boost air quality across the rail network.

The HybridFLEX train in Chiltern Railways livery.

The HybridFLEX train in Chiltern Railways livery.

Image credit: Porterbrook

Warren East, chief executive of Rolls-Royce, which produced the battery, described the project as “groundbreaking”.

He said: “In this critical decade of climate action, today’s entry into service of the HybridFLEX train shows what we can achieve through technological innovation and agile collaboration.

“This smart piece of engineering enables the acceleration of the UK Government's ambition to remove all diesel-only trains from the network by 2040, making rail journeys quieter, cleaner and faster.”

Sarah Mukherjee MBE, chief executive of the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment said: “This project, which sees a diesel train retrofitted with an advanced battery pack to enable it to operate as a diesel/electric hybrid, marks an important step in our journey to transition the UK economy to net zero.

“We’re thrilled that Rolls Royce – one of our corporate partners – have played such a key role in this ground-breaking project which provides an excellent example of how we can transform economic activities which have traditionally been fossil-fuelled, into more climate-friendly ones.”

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