The Anonymous Widower

Vivarail And Hitachi Seem To Be Following Similar Philosophies

This press release on the Vivarail web site, is entitled Battery Trains And Decarbonisation Of The National Network.

This is the two paragraphs.

Vivarail welcomes the recent announcements regarding new technologies for rail, and the growing understanding that battery trains will be a key part of the decarbonisation agenda.

Battery trains have been much misunderstood until now – the assumption has been that they can’t run very far and take ages to recharge.  Neither of these are true! Vivarail’s trains:

To disprove the assumptions, they then make these points.

  • Have a range of up to 100 miles between charges
  • Recharge in only 10 minutes

They also make this mission statement.

Vivarail’s battery train, Fast Charge and power storage system is a complete package that can drop into place with minimal cost and effort to deliver a totally emission-free independently powered train, ideally designed for metro shuttles, branch lines and discrete routes across the country.

They add these points.

  • Batteries can be charged from 750 VDC third-rail or 25 KVAC overhead electrification or hydrogen fuel cells.
  • A daily range of 650 miles can be achieved on hydrogen.
  • Vivarail seem very positive about hydrogen.
  • The company uses modern high-performance lithium Ion pouch batteries from Intilion.
  • It also appears that Vivarail are happy to install their traction package on other trains.

The press release finishes with this paragraph.

The rail industry needs to move now to hit its own decarbonisation targets and assist with the national effort.  Battery trains are the quick win to achieve that.

Following on from Hitachi’s announcement on Monday, that I wrote about in Hyperdrive Innovation And Hitachi Rail To Develop Battery Tech For Trains, it does appear that battery trains will be arriving soon in a station near you!

July 8, 2020 - Posted by | Transport | , , , , ,


  1. Vivarail trains were reported to be proposed to be introduced on the Borderlands Line between Wrexham and Bidston. They were to be diesel hybrids, so unable to proceed into the central Liverpool and Birkenhead stations and tunnels. So no change in service, just newer trains.

    If these trains were to be battery-electric having a 100 mile range with a 10 minutes changing time, then they can enter Liverpool’s city underground loop, charging from the 3rd rail.

    However, Merseyrail specified the new class 777 for their own requirements, which one was to negotiate the tight Liverpool loop curves reducing line wear. Hence the 777s are shorter than the 508s they replace. The Vivarail trains are long being old LU D-stock trains.

    So, if Borderlands Line trains are allowed to run into Liverpool’s loop (they are not Merseyrail trains, so politics may enter), will they be allowed to run around the loop as they will give extra wear to the lines? They could just terminate at Liverpool James Street’s unused platform 2 not running around the loop. If so it would be a shame as three other city stations are missed, but at least the Wrexham trains would reach Liverpool’s centre.

    Comment by John | July 8, 2020 | Reply

  2. Borderlands trains on test. Battery trains with 60 miles range, 10 mins recharge time, and onboard diesel chargers.

    Comment by John | July 9, 2020 | Reply

  3. one thing that’s missing from the press release is the max speed of the traction package. The 230s are limited to 60mph, which is low by modern standards, and to my mind makes them uncompetitive for most routes, even if they are cheap. That’s probably a limitation of the old D-Stock, though, rather than the traction. Hitachi’s obvious confidence that batteries can power trains of the speed of the AT-300s means that all current train fleets can be so run, the only limitation being the range of the batteries – something that will probably improve over time.

    On the Bidston-Wrexhem line, having everyone change at Bidston is not user-friendly and makes no sense, so once Merseyrail’s battery trains are proven, I’d imagine they’ll be used all the way to Wrexham, perhaps some kind of joint venture with TfW. The same applies to Chester-Crewe, where 230s are also supposed to be operating soon. They’re in operation on Bedford-Bletchley, but that’s a temporary measure until phase 2 of East-West Rail is up and running.

    So I’m not sure what the market for 230s is, and it may well be a smart move for Vivarail to move into more general refurbishment, with leasing cos would be the obvious way.

    Comment by Peter Robins | July 9, 2020 | Reply

    • I’ve met Adrian Shooter and he is a likeable and intelligent guy, with a vision, who is also judging on his past record, living firmly in the real world.

      The speed of the 230s does limit their application, but for routes like Bedford and Bletchley they are ideal. And there are a lot of railways like that in the UK.

      I believe that their big strength is their Fast Charge system, which uses third-rail technology. Some reports have said it is fully-patented, so it could even be a nice little earner for installation alongside battery trains from other manufacturers like Bombardier, CAF and Hitachi.

      Hitachi have proven third-rail technology for their trains and have shown with the deal with Hyperdrive, that when they want technology, they’ll deal with smaller British companies to get it. If someone told me, that Hitachi and Vivarail had been talking, I wouldn’t be surprised.

      I also think, that Adrian Shooter and Vivarail see themselves as evangelists for battery-electric trains and as one of their backers is from the US, that they see the US, as a big market for their ideas, if not their actual trains.

      Comment by AnonW | July 9, 2020 | Reply

      • well, don’t get me wrong: I’m not disparaging Vivarail at all – I’m a fan. But I’m not sure there are that many lines for 230s to run on. They mention ‘metro shuttles, branch lines’, but metro services – like Merseyrail and Tyne & Wear – are going to run battery versions of their normal trains. Windermere would be a classic branch line, but why would you run a shuttle on that when you can run through services to Manchester, Liverpool or wherever? The same applies to similar branches in that area, like Heysham or Blackpool S. With batteries in your mainline trains, you can connect up places like Barrow, Blackburn, Burnley. Bedford-Bletchley is just a branch line atm, but it’s basically a connecting line between 2 electrified main lines. Having a battery widens your options. Given a chord at Bletchley, you could run Leicester-MK, or even a circular route Leicester-Coventry-MK-Bedford-Leicester, partly using OLE and partly battery.

        You could certainly put one of Vivarail’s chargers at Wrexham or on 3rd-rail lines in the SE. Given one at Salisbury, for example, you can probably run Wloo-Sal trains or the Sal-Soton loop on battery. Likewise, Uckfield. But elsewhere, you’ll surely use OLE where it exists. And I’m not sure 10 mins is all that fast. Talent 3, for example, claims 7-10 mins recharge. I expect there are trade-offs here: the faster the recharge, the shorter the battery lifetime.

        Comment by Peter Robins | July 9, 2020

    • 60mph on the Borderlands Line is fine. Only a few sections where they can go over 60mph, and then only for a short time. They are stoppers. 😉

      It is the versatility of the Vivarail trains that make them attractive for many urban applications.

      Comment by John | July 9, 2020 | Reply

  4. Some of the proposed Beeching Reversals using heritage lines are classics for Class 230 trains running on batteries. If you use 15-25 KVAC overhead, I’ve been told, by an engineer working on charging, that single-digit minute times are possible.

    Vivarail’s Fast Charge has the advantages, that it’s easy to install, can be powered by a bank of trickle-charged lead-acid batteries and it is electrically dead without a train connected.

    Comment by AnonW | July 9, 2020 | Reply

    • “Vivarail’s Fast Charge has the advantages, that it’s easy to install, can be powered by a bank of trickle-charged lead-acid batteries and it is electrically dead without a train connected.”

      I assume a 3rd rail along the platform at Wrexham Central will be installed, together with associated batteries and charging equipment. The onboard gensets are get me home additions.

      Comment by John | July 9, 2020 | Reply

  5. A Vivarail test train will run on the Borderlands Line on Sunday for the first time in TfW livery. Wrexham General to Merseyrail’s Birkenhead North. The hybrid trains, so I believe, will have three cars. The two end cars with batteries with the middle car a diesel genset slung under. The train can be all battery or all battery-electric by removing the centre genset car. I do not kn ow if the train will have a 3rd rail pickup/charger. Maybe it does, and that is why it is going to Birkenhead North (Bidston’s platforms are 3rd rail).

    Install the 3rd rail pickup, then they can enter the Liverpool & Birkenhead underground sections. These train will preclude Merseyrail class 777s running on the Borderland’s line, which looks like the operation of the line will remain with the Welsh. It is a matter of politics whether the Vivarail trains will reach Liverpool’s centre over Merseyrail tracks, either by terminating at James St or running around the loop.

    Comment by John | July 9, 2020 | Reply

    • There’s also the matter of running trains with diesel in the tunnel.

      The Class 777 trains have also been designed with a gap filler between train and platform, so they would be second class in the tunnel.

      Comment by AnonW | July 9, 2020 | Reply

    • that’s interesting, John. I hadn’t heard that snippet. According to “The train is powered by 2 batteries on each driving car with 4 gensets on the middle car to charge the batteries and as a secondary source of traction.” Interesting that they see it that way, as batteries with a diesel backup rather than the other way round. As this journey is just a test run, possibly the unit is going to the depot at Birk N?

      TfW runs the stations on the line, even the Wirral ones, and they’re hoping to get funding for a new one at Deeside Industrial Park. They’re planning on doubling frequency to 2tph from next year, so I assume this is May timetable change to allow time for full testing, driver training etc. None of the info from TfW I’ve seen indicates they’re planning on running services into Liverpool.

      Comment by Peter Robins | July 9, 2020 | Reply

      • “There is an intention to extend Wrexham to Bidston into Liverpool with newly-rebuilt bimodal trains and from 2022, ”

        Take that as you wish.

        B’head Nth MTD has diesel tanks for the maintenance trains?

        Only a newspaper report but the words “failsafe” are used. So it looks like they will be run mainly on charged up batteries at Wrexham and Bidston.

        I can’t see a 3rd rail pickup. But still only a test train.

        Comment by John | July 9, 2020

      • actually, having the diesel as backup makes sense: these are electric motors, powered by batteries, with extra oomph provided by the diesel when needed. What this also means is that, assuming Vivarail’s claims about the ease of swapping the power modules are correct, the diesel could at some point be replaced by hydrogen, where the extra oomph would be provided by H instead of diesel.

        Acc to the D-Stock were built by Metro-Cammell in Washbrook Heath

        Comment by Peter Robins | July 9, 2020

      • TfW does run all the stations on the Borderlands Line, except Bidston. But the stations inside Meseytravel’s area come under them. These stations on the Borderlands line (and elsewhere in Merseytravel’s area) have the Merseyrail colours and signage. Odd? Yep. Ticketing is supposed to be seamless on Borderlands and Merseyrail.

        If these trains are a success then the few stations proposed on the edge of Birkenehead may be built.

        Comment by John | July 9, 2020

  6. The Class 230 can be all battery-electric by removing the centre diesel genset car then replacing it with a battery car, or just having two cars. I did mention that. I deduct that the battery set on each car is good for 30 miles. Three of them, 90 miles, within the 10 minutes recharge time.

    It is most certain that the trains can enter Liverpool on batteries with no diesel onboard, so no technical hurdles. Politics will decide that.

    Stadler specialise in electric trains. If diesel needs to be involved there is invariably a short gap filler. I am unaware of any genset gap fillers for 777s on Merseyrail.

    Comment by John | July 9, 2020 | Reply

    • I mean a gap filler between train and platform, as per Greater Anglia. The 777s will have those!

      Comment by AnonW | July 9, 2020 | Reply

      • Got you. 🙂

        Comment by John | July 9, 2020

  7. I’ve just looked up the widths of the various trains. 150s, 508s and 777s are all 2.82 metres, but a 230 is 2.85.

    Could that be significant in a tight tunnel?

    Comment by AnonW | July 9, 2020 | Reply

    • They can always terminate at James St, not entering the loop tunnel.

      Comment by John | July 9, 2020 | Reply

  8. I believe the D-stock trains were built at Cammell Laird’s shipyard in Birkenhead. Made by Metro-Cammell. So may they are going home to Birkenhead. I heard they were easily moved around the yard using the massive cranes, something a normal train building plant would not have, and love to have.

    Comment by John | July 9, 2020 | Reply

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