The Anonymous Widower

Battery Electric Class 800 Trains Between London Paddington And Bristol Temple Mead Stations

Hitachi have changed the rules on electrification, by the announcement of the development of battery electric trains in collaboration with Hyperdrive Innovation, which I wrote about in Hyperdrive Innovation And Hitachi Rail To Develop Battery Tech For Trains.

The proposed train is described in this Hitachi infographic.

It will have a range on battery power of 90 km or 56 miles.

Currently, services between London Paddington and Bristol Temple Meads stations are as follows.

  • The frequency is two trains per hour (tph)
  • Services call at Reading, Didcot Parkway (1tph), Swindon, Chippenham and Bath Spa.
  • Services use the electrification between London Paddington and Chippenham.
  • Services use diesel power between Chippenham and Bristol Temple Meads.
  • Chippenham and Bristol Temple Meads are 24.5 miles apart.

It looks to me that a well-driven Class 800 train with Hyperdrive Innovation’s clever batteries replacing some or all of the diesel engines could run between Chippenham and Bristol Temple Meads stations and back without using a drop of diesel.

It might be a bit tight, but it would certainly be possible, if there were more electrification between Bath Spa and Chippenham stations.

  • From this article on the BBC, which is entitled Box Tunnel Reopens After Network Rail Electrification Work, it appears that a lot of the pre-electrification work has been completed.
  • This would reduce the distance without wires to perhaps 18-20 miles.

As the Class 800 trains have agile pantographs, I’m sure that it will be possible for battery electric Class 800 trains to run between London Paddington and Bristol Temple Meads stations.

Electrification At Bristol Temple Meads Station

This will surely happen and with full electrification, the following will be possible.

  • Trains would be able to recharge before returning to Chippenham.
  • Trains would be able to extend the service using battery power to Weston-super-Mare, which is only twenty miles away.
  • Trains would be able to use the power whilst waiting in the station.

It appears that trains that run between London Paddington and Bristol Temple Meads station, use a selection of platforms in Bristol.

Would it be sensible to reduce the number of platforms used and electrify them first, so that battery electric trains could charge their batteries?

Could A Battery Electric Train Run Between Bristol Temple Means And Taunton Stations?


  • These two stations are 46 miles apart via Weston-super-Mare, so if there was charging at Taunton, this service might be possible.
  • The direct route is a couple of miles shorter.
  • A train with full batteries at Taunton, would reach well past Exeter.

Could a battery-electric service be of use in creating Great Western Railway’s timetable, as in the Peak services are extended to Weston-super-Mare and Taunton stations?

It would certainly be lower carbon. than a current journey.

Would The Railway Through Bath Need To Be Electrified?

This would depend on three main factors.

  • There is a certain amount of opposition to electrification in the centre of Bath.
  • Can all passenger trains through the city be made zero-carbon without electrification?
  • Can all freight trains through the city be made zero-carbon without electrification?

I would feel that all passenger trains could be run by appropriate trains, but freight would be a problem under existing technology.

I wouldn’t be surprised, if no electrification was ever erected through Bath!

July 23, 2020 - Posted by | Transport | , , , , ,


  1. I thought much of the enabling works through Bath had already been completed, and with a fairly low line speed on the tortuous alignment and all trains stopping a lightweight low visual impact system of supports and catenary could be devised, maybe even with Georgian style finials! I’m all for batteries replacing some or all of the diesel genny rafts on the current Hitachi bi-mode fleets as you have suggested in another article about the MML but I would prefer the wires to be completed through from Chippenham to Bristol eventually. I see bi-modes and batteries allowing a flexible progressive rolling program of wiring rather than permanently providing an alternative. Peripheries of the current and final wired network could be exceptions of course, and any intermediate sections where wires will always be extraordinarily difficult or expensive, or while temporarily awaiting other major infrastructure work to enable wiring more economically. With the work already carried out, I don’t consider Bath to be in the too difficult in perpetuity category, however, although discontinuous techniques might allow time for positive inclusive engagement with the community to persuade them of the benefits.

    Comment by Mark Townend | July 30, 2020 | Reply

  2. There is something else I realised today on my trip to Westbury.

    Routes like Chippenham and Bristol and Reading and Taunton, which are currently run on diesel are run at 100 mph. The Class 800 and 802 trains with battery capability are designed for 90-100 mph operation, so the battery electric trains have similar performance to the current diesel electric.

    As the diesel engines weigh about six tonnes or so, we could be talking about sizeable batteries, which as batteries get more efficient, will only get bigger.

    I have a strong feeling, that there will never be electrification through Bath.

    Although, as an Electrical Engineer, I do feel that if we applied modern Control Engineering and power electronics to third-rail, it could be made ultra-safe and very efficient.

    Comment by AnonW | July 30, 2020 | Reply

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