The Anonymous Widower

Rolls-Royce And Porterbrook Launch First Hybrid Rail Project In The UK With MTU Hybrid PowerPacks

The title of this post is the same as that on this Press Release from Porterbrook.

Porterbrook, Eversholt and the other train leasing companies have a problem, that can be turned into an opportunity to make money in a way, few will find unacceptable.

There are several fleets of trains in the UK, that are reasonably new and have plenty of life left in their basic structure, running gear and traction equipment.

But compared to modern rolling stock, they are like a twenty-year-old BMW, Jaguar or Mercedes. Good runners and comfortable, but not up to the standards, passengers, rail operators, rail staff and environmentalists expect.

So the train leasing companies are looking for ways to update their fleets, so that they can continue to earn money and satisfy everybody’s needs and aspirations.

Class 769 Train

Porterbrook started this innovation by taking redundant Class 319 trains and converting them into Class 769 trains, so they could be used on lines without electrification.

The picture shows one of Northern’s Class 319 trains.

Thirty-five of these trains have been ordered. So far, due to design and testing issues none have been delivered. Hopefully, as testing has now started, some will be in traffic before the end of the year.

This project could create upwards of fifty much-needed four-car bi-mode trains for running on partially-electrified routes.

Class 321 Hydrogen Train

Eversholt have also teamed up with Alstom to create a hydrogen-powered version of their Class 321 train.

This project could create around a hundred four-car 100 mph, zero-emission electric trains, for running on routes with no or only partial electrification.electrification.

The Four-Car High Speed Train

Everybody loves High Speed Trains and Scotrail and Great Western Railway  are taking a number of them and creating four-car quality trains to increase their rolling stock.

The picture shows a High Speed Train under test in Glasgow Queen Street station.

They are already running in Cornwall and they should be running in Scotland before the end of the year.

Updating The Class 170 Trains

The Press Release announces Porterbrook’s latest project and gives this picture.

There are 122 Class 170 trains on the UK rail network, which were built around twenty years ago. There are also nearly a hundred other Class 168, 171 and 172 trains with a similar design.

They are 100 mph trains, that are diesel-powered and some are used on long distances.

As a passenger, they are not a bad train, but being diesel, they are not that environmentally friendly.

The Class 172 trains, which are currently running on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line, would surely be a much better train with a smoother electric transmission, that had regenerative braking. Although, as they have a mechanical transmission, rather than the hydraulic of the other Turbostars, this might not be possible.

On the other hand, West Midlands Trains will soon have a fleet of thirty-five Class 172 trains of various sub-types, so fuel savings could be significant.

This is from the Press Release.

Rolls-Royce and Porterbrook, the UK’s largest owner of passenger rolling stock, have agreed the delivery of MTU Hybrid PowerPacks that can convert Class 168 and Class 170 ‘Turbostar’ DMUs from diesel-only to hybrid-electric operation. Hybrid technology allows for the cleaner and quieter operation of trains in stations and through urban areas.

As I understand it, the current hydraulic traction system will be replaced by an electric one with a battery, that will enable.

  • Regenerative braking using a battery.
  • Battery electric power in urban areas, stations and depots.
  • Lower noise levels
  • Lower maintenance costs.

This should also reduce diesel fuel consumption and carbon emissions.


The good Class 170 trains, are being improved and should give another twenty years of service.

How many other projects like these will surface in the next few years?


September 20, 2018 - Posted by | Energy Storage, Transport | , , , , , ,


  1. […] This involves using an MTU Hybrid PowerPack, from the same family as those, that will be used in the UK to upgrade the Class 170 trains. I talked about the latter project in Rolls-Royce And Porterbrook Launch First Hybrid Rail Project In The UK With MTU Hybrid PowerPacks. […]

    Pingback by Alpha Trains Commits To Hybrid Retrofit For Diesel Fleet « The Anonymous Widower | September 20, 2018 | Reply

  2. […] I wrote about this important upgrade in Rolls-Royce And Porterbrook Launch First Hybrid Rail Project In The UK With MTU Hybrid PowerPacks. […]

    Pingback by Scotrail Boss Pledges More Seats And Stops On Borders Railway « The Anonymous Widower | April 19, 2019 | Reply

  3. RR have just announced firm orders for 9 units in Ireland and 4 ‘initially’ for Porterbrook, for use in trials in both countries

    Comment by Peter Robins | April 20, 2019 | Reply

    • I saw that! I have feeling that if it works with the Class 170 trains all 122 will be converted.

      Comment by AnonW | April 20, 2019 | Reply

      • that would certainly be a logical step. It would be interesting to see some cost comparisons upgrade vs buying new trains, but it’s probably in Porterhouse’s interests to keep the older units going as long as possible. ISTM top priority atm should be cutting/eliminating emissions in urban areas and in stations; hybrid units like this may not be the full monty, but they should enable that.

        Can’t find any announcement from Porterbrook as to who they plan to trial this with.

        Comment by Peter Robins | April 20, 2019

    • I’ve also read that the Irish could convert a significant part of their fleet. MTU have a winner here, as there are lots of trains which are dutiable for conversion.

      Comment by AnonW | April 20, 2019 | Reply

  4. Porterbrook are a professional organisation, if they live up to some of their internal documents they have sent me for comment.

    They analyse everything and they will probably know how old a Class 170 and the others can get before they are a ;liability

    I also think that the reduction in emission and noise will make these trains good choices for operators.

    As to who gets the trial units, this could depend on whose train needs a major service, as obviously an operator doesn’t want to be short of trains. This could explain the four units, as that could be the number of trains requiring major service in the next few months. The Greater Anglia ones should be coming off lease this year, so some could be upgraded on their way from Norwich to Cardiff!

    I’ll have a full look at the numbers!

    Comment by AnonW | April 20, 2019 | Reply

  5. […] I am surprised that the Class 195 train doesn’t use a hybrid electric transmission, which are starting to be developed by MTU and will be retrofitted into various diesel multiple units like Porterbrook’s Class 170 trains, as I talked about in Rolls-Royce And Porterbrook Launch First Hybrid Rail Project In The UK With MTU Hybrid PowerPacks. […]

    Pingback by My First Ride In A Class 195 Train « The Anonymous Widower | July 5, 2019 | Reply

  6. just been looking at the submissions to the Transport Select Committee’s ‘Trains fit for the Future’ inquiry. Rolls Royce’s submission gives quite a lot of detail of these trains, and also states the trial will be on Chiltern’s lines next year (Rolls’ submission mentions Marylebone-Birmingham; Angel’s mentions Aylesbury).

    If you’ve not seen these submissions, I’d thoroughly recommend going through them. Not read them all yet, but some I have read I thought really excellent.

    Comment by Peter Robins | July 16, 2019 | Reply

    • Thanks for that!

      Comment by AnonW | July 16, 2019 | Reply

    • to confuse matters, the Decarbonisation Taskforce’s submission (submitted yesterday) states “A pilot unit (Class 165/0 on Chiltern) is due to enter service in September 2019.”

      Comment by Peter Robins | July 18, 2019 | Reply

      • I think the confusion here is that there are 2 different trials, both of which seem to be on Chiltern’s lines. Porterbrook/Rolls Royce MTU HydroFlex, converting Bombardier Turbostar 168/170s begin 2020 Chiltern to Birmingham; and Angel Trains/Magtec HyDrive Bombardier Class 165 (Network Turbos) for Chiltern to Aylesbury late 2019. The former mentions moving on to lines in Wales, and the latter to class 175s, “driving forward decarbonisation across Chiltern, the Great Western Railway and beyond”, which I don’t really understand, as only TfW currently operates 175s.

        Comment by Peter Robins | July 19, 2019

  7. […] Porterbrook are planning to fit MTU Hybrid PowerPacks to Class 170 trains, as I wrote about in Rolls-Royce And Porterbrook Launch First Hybrid Rail Project In The UK With MTU Hybrid PowerPacks. […]

    Pingback by Will We See A Phase Out Of Diesel-Mechanical And Diesel-Hydraulic Multiple Units? « The Anonymous Widower | July 17, 2019 | Reply

  8. […] engine conversion project, that uses MTU PowerPacks, underway in the UK, which I wrote about in Rolls-Royce And Porterbrook Launch First Hybrid Rail Project In The UK With MTU Hybrid PowerPacks, in September […]

    Pingback by Iarnród Éireann Orders Stage V MTU PowerPacks « The Anonymous Widower | July 27, 2020 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: