The modified Class 379 Electrostar train – also known as an Independently Powered Electric Multiple Unit (IPEMU) – is part of a project to roll out a fleet of quieter, more efficient battery-powered trains.

The project, co-funded by the Department for Transport (DfT), contributes to Network Rail’s commitment to improve sustainability, reduce its environmental impact and reduce the cost of running the railway by 20% over the next five years.

Rail Minister Claire Perry said: “This is a major milestone in this innovative project, and further proof of our commitment to deliver a world-class rail network fit 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.”

Bridging gaps

Network Rail has highlighted the potential for battery-powered trains to bridge gaps between electrified parts of the network and run on branch lines where it would be too expensive to install overhead electrification.

Following successful trials at test tracks in Leicestershire last year, the battery-powered train will run in weekday timetable service for five weeks between Harwich International and Manningtree stations in Essex.

“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 Network Rail principal engineer James Ambrose.

“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.

“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.”

VIDEO: Batteries included: Battery powered train project

Chevrolet Bolt EV

In related transport news, this week saw the introduction of the Chevrolet Bolt Electirc Vehicle (EV) concept designed to offer more than 200 miles range per charge.

Priced at approximately $30,000 per model, the Bolt is made from lightweight materials such as aluminium, magnesium and carbon fibre to drive down weight and helping maximise range.

General Motors chief executive Mary Barra said: “We have made tremendous strides in technologies that make it easier and more affordable for Chevrolet customers to integrate an all-electric vehicle in their daily lives.

“The Bolt EV concept demonstrates General Motors’ commitment to electrification and the capabilities of our advanced EV technology.”

Planes, trains and automobiles: Six sustainable transport systems

Lois Vallely

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