The Anonymous Widower

Where Are The Battery Trains?

I was asked this question last week and it is just as much a puzzle to me, as it is to the person, who asked the question.

There doesn’t appear to be much hard news and in the May 2016 Edition of Modern Railways, IPEMUs to give them Network Rail’s preferred name or battery trains, as some will call them, there was only one reference to trains powered by the technology.

There was an article entitled Bi-Modes To Bexhill?, which contained the sentence.

Also under consideration is replacement of Class 170 DMUs by bi-mode or battery trains on the Marshlink route.

In several posts here, I believe I have shown how IPEMU technology can improve the UK rail network and from numerous on-line sources, I have come to the conclusion that the mathematical and operational reasons behind the trains are sound.

But I come to the following possible reasons, for the non-appearance of the battery trains.

The Technology Doesn’t Work

Although, this could be the reason, I find it unlikely, given that the IPEMU is just a slightly bigger application, than say a hybrid bus or a plug-in electric car.

There have been some problems with buses and cars, but nothing so serious to prompt wholesale withdrawal from service.

It should also be pointed out, that because of the physics of steel-wheel-on-steel-rail, IPEMUs have an advantage over their rubber-tyred cousins.

The Batteries Don’t Work

Some might question the batteries, but battery technology is moving on apace and Bombardier are reportedly testing four different battery systems in Mannheim.

Installing IPEMU Technology On A Class 387 Train Has Issues

The most likely train to be given an IPEMU capability is a Class 387 train.

It is closely related to the Class 379 train, that was used successfully as a public test train.

As two of the possible applications of an IPEMU; Uckfield Branch and the Marshlink Line, are in the territory of Southern, who are an operator of Class 387 trains, I don’t think obtaining a train for a prototype should be a problem.

But one problem that might have arisen is that all of the Class 387 trains in service can’t be given an IPEMU capability, as there is a major modification needed to install the on-board energy storage.

In which case, are we waiting for the first of Porterbrook’s new build of twenty to be manufactured?

There could of course be other technical issues that must be solved.

  • I have seen nothing about how two or three IPEMUs would be coupled together to make longer trains. This will be very important to some operators.
  • Control of the pantograph, so if possible it deploys automatically.
  • The choice of battery.

I think it could be the last, as the one thing Bombardier, don’t want is a train with not quite enough range and unreliable energy storage.

Are Bombardier Going For KERS?

I think we could see something truly mind-blowing in train on-board energy storage in the future.

My money would be on a flywheel-based system similar to KERS, as is used in Formula One and that has been successfully tested in hybrid buses.

The company behind all this technology is called Torotrak. who are based in Leyland in Lancashire. I wrote about the company recently in Low Emission Buses On Hold. In the post I quote, the company as saying this.

Beyond this, Torotrak said its KERS off-highway technology has gained significant traction and said it has seen strong interest in its V-Charge technology from carmakers.

What do they mean by off-highway technology?

So will we be seeing the Formula One train?

I have no idea, but I have made a small investment in Torotrak shares. So at least, I’ve put my money where my mouth is!

Certainly, waiting for train-based KERS, would explain the delay!

The Trains Are Too Expensive

This must always be a possibility and there might be a problem, in that using IPEMUs may be more expensive for the operator, but produce a large saving for the owner of the infrastructure.

So places, where there is a strong connection between the tracks and trains, like London, Merseyside and perhaps Chiltern, may be more enthusiastic about IPEMUs. Merseyrail  have been quoted, that they are thinking about IPEMUs!

There Are Issues With Class 700 Trains

Class 700 trains certainly haven’t started running on Thameslink and the May 2016 Edition of Modern Railways reported that although, there are issues, they are nearing resolution.

Once these trains are starting to be delivered, the current electric trains on the route Class 319, 377 and 387 trains can start to be released.

Only the two Electrostars; 377 and 387 trains could be converted to IPEMUs.

So is the knock-on from the non-introduction of the Class 700 trains, meaning that operators are fighting over the Class 387 trains, as I pointed out in Are The TOCs Auguing Over The Class 387 Trains?

Once a supply of Class 387 trains are available, will we see some given an IPEMU capability?

Southern’s Labour Relations Problems Are Getting In The Way

Southern seem to be going to have a summer of discontent, with all sorts of labour relations problems.

So could this be another factor holding up the release of the Class 387 trains?

Is Everybody Waiting For Sir Richard?

If you have a Class 387 IPEMU, that could run at 110 mph on main lines and then could perhaps do sixty miles on batteries, the routes that might be possible include.

  • Euston to Blackpool
  • Euston to Chester
  • Euston to Huddersfield
  • Kings Cross to Harrogate
  • Kings Cross to Hull
  • Kings Cross to Lincoln
  • Kings Cross to Middlesbrough

In A High Speed Train With An IPEMU-Capability, I showed that extensions to fast routes might have applications for a fast IPEMU.

All the routes named come into the category of high speed routes with extensions and all are in Virgin Territory, so are we waiting for the Great Publicist to unveil the Green Formula One Train?

At least he would solve the problem of what to call the trains. Batteries are something in a mobile device not a train!


I think that probably the non-appearance is down to a mixture of issues, with technical ones and a shortage of Class 387 trains most prominent.

I do think though, that we shall be seeing IPEMUs working on the UK rail network within a year.


  • Network Rail are doing extensive work to create a fast double-track railway line between St. Pancras and Corby.
  • The Uckfield Branch has been upgraded for twelve-car trains. Would they do that, just to run strings of Class 170 DMUs?
  • The Marshlink Line is being upgraded.
  • The new East Anglian franchise specified extra points would be given to those who used new technology.
  • IPEMUs could run Euston to Blackpool, Euston to Chester, Birmingham New Street to Rugeley and many other routes tomorrow.

I think we’re waiting for a technical issue to be solved.

It’s either batteries or multiple running of trains, which would certainly be needed for some services.

April 24, 2016 - Posted by | Transport | , , ,


  1. Very interesting analysis of the IPEMU project. I was beginning to wonder if this new development was ever going to progress beyond the trial stage. I live in Harrogate and a bi-mode train would be ideal in overcoming the engineering problems and associated costs related to electrification of the line between Leeds and York. That would cause serious disruption to services whilst Arthington tunnel was having catenary’s fitted.
    I did write to my local MP and transport minister Andrew Jones about the bi-mode option but his response was the usual political obfuscation.

    Comment by Mark Campey | January 3, 2017 | Reply

  2. I think it will all be clear by May. The new trains for Crossrail will be running between Livvy Street and Shenfield and I think these use batteries for emergency power to get out of the tunnels in the case of complete power failure.

    Did you read this post?

    Engineering is the science of the possible, whilst politics is the fantasy of the impossible!

    Comment by AnonW | January 4, 2017 | Reply

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