Prototype battery-powered train begins test programme

Britain's first battery-powered train is being put through its paces in a series of on-track trials – a move that could ultimately lead to a fleet of battery-powered trains running on Britain's rail network. The trains could be used to replace the current diesel-powered fleet of trains currently used on lines that are not economically viable to electrify.

The project is trialling at a test track in Derby using the Abellio Greater Anglia Class 379 unit that is normally electricity drawn from overhead power lines. The tests will culminate in a series of high-speed tests at the Rail Innovation and Development Centre in Nottinghamshire later this year.

James Ambrose, a senior engineer at Network Rail, said: "Although we've retrofitted the Abellio Greater Anglia Class 379 unit with lithium iron magnesium batteries, we continue to test other possible solutions so we can gather as much information and comparison data as possible for future development."

Network Rail has retrofitted its first battery-powered train using six battery rafts. The battery rafts fitted to the Class 379 unit contain a battery box, isolation switch, power distribution control panel, battery charging inverter, batteries and battery monitoring system, all mounted within a bespoke, purpose-built rig.

The creation follows the successful testing of several types of battery technologies, including lithium iron magnesium and hot sodium nickel salt last year.

Data gathered during the tests will be used to compare the performance between full battery and hybrid diesel/battery trains.

Any future independently powered electric train would most likely be designed as a new train and not an adapted.

Justin Cunningham

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