The Anonymous Widower

Vivarail Targets Overseas Markets

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Rail Magazine.

This is an extract from the article.

Shooter told RAIL: “We are at the moment putting together a bid for an operator – not in this country – where the routes would be up to 500 miles long, to be provided totally with battery trains using this device.

“This bid we are putting together contemplates trains that are running for several hours – 60 to 70 miles between charging stations, but possibly going twice that far in emergency if the charging station should go down.”

By this device I suspect they mean their Fast Charge device, which is described in this press release from Vivarail.

This extract describes how it works.

The concept is simple – at the terminus 4 short sections of 3rd and 4th rail are installed and connected to the electronic control unit and the battery bank. Whilst the train is in service the battery bank trickle charges itself from the national grid – the benefit of this is that there is a continuous low-level draw such as an EMU would use rather than a one-off huge demand for power.

The train pulls into the station as normal and the shoegear connects with the sections of charging rail.  The driver need do nothing other than stop in the correct place as per normal and the rail is not live until the train is in place.

That’s it!

That sounds simple to me.

Where Would This Possible Order Be From?

I have ridden in a Vivarail battery train, as I wrote in Battery Class 230 Train Demonstration At Bo’ness And Kinneil Railway.

I have also ridden the diesel variant, as I wrote in A First Ride In A Revenue-Earning Class 230 Train.

I very much feel, I can list a few of the good qualities of the trains.

Big Windows

The big windows give a good view, so I wonder if the trains would work well on a railway noted for its scenery.


I have ridden in two battery trains.

The other was Bombardier’s Class 379 BEMU, that I wrote about in Is The Battery Electric Multiple Unit (BEMU) A Big Innovation In Train Design?.

Both were extremely quiet.

No Infrastructure Required

Except for the charging stations, no infrastructure is required.

Sturdy Engineering

Although the trains were only originally built for the London Underground, they are sturdily-built trains, as they used to share tracks with full-size trains.

I suspect, they are certified to share tracks with freight trains, as they do on the Marston Vale Line.

A Range Of Interiors And Customer Facilities

Although the trains tend to use the old London Underground seat frames, they have a range of interiors, which seem to be well-designed and comfortable.

I have been on Class 230 trains, with tables, a single toilet, onboard Wi-Fi, and electrical charging points.


The trains are probably as near to zero-carbon, as any! Especially, if all the Fast Charge stations are powered by renewable electricity.

Remote Servicing

The trains have been designed for remote servicing.


All of these qualities lead me to think, that an ideal line in the UK could be the Far North Line, between Inverness and Wick and Thurso.

Although the train ticks a lot of boxes, it could well be too slow, It is also only a 160 mile route and not five-hundred

But there must be quite a few long, scenic lines in countries, where a passenger service needs to be added to a freight line, that perhaps serves a remote mining town.

Sweden and Norway are surely possibilities, but Finland is ruled out because it is Russian gauge.

Could the trains end up in parts of Africa, Canada and the United States?

Who knows?

September 3, 2020 - Posted by | Energy Storage, Transport/Travel | , , , , , ,


  1. The US Railroad Development Corporation is a backer of VivaRail so potentially US. Whilst more suitable for Africa im not so sure and there electricity infrastructure to support charging in remoter areas.

    Thing is it shows we are well into being able to deliver battery driven solutions on any route and its about time Dept of Transport just told them to build 3-4 units and find a line to run a trial on for 2 years. Trouble is these lines will be up N’orth and HMG has made rod for its own back in not given them cast offs anymore despite thee trains are better inside than some of the newer builds.

    Comment by Nicholas Lewis | September 3, 2020 | Reply

    • One thing we are good at in this country is refurbishing trains. Just look at the inside of the Class 456 trains being run by SWR. There are 24 of them and they would make superb two-car battery trains, if they were paired with Vivarail’s Fast Charge system. There’s even a few coaches from Class 321 trains to make them into three car units.

      One of the reasons, I mentioned Africa, is that their basic engineering in out of the way places is often good. It has to be. A friend of a friend, was actually recruited in the 1970s, by a country in Africa, to help them repair all the steam engines in the sidings to replace worn-out and ailed Russian and Chinese diesels.

      Comment by AnonW | September 3, 2020 | Reply

  2. I have long thought that one UK application that would make sense is the Marylebone – Aylesbury via Harrow on the Hill service, the intermediate electrified section lending itself to full recharge on each trip. ? stabling facility at Aylesbury with overnight charging.

    Comment by Fenline scouser | September 3, 2020 | Reply

  3. there’s a recent “advertisement feature” in Rail This states that the 1st battery train will be dispatched to the US, and mentions various lines in GB where they could be used.

    I think all the manufacturers are frustrated by the lack of any coherent plan in this country – unlike most of our continental neighbours which are issuing firm orders for battery trains to run as standard, not just a trial. The DfT seem to be obsessed with diesel bi-modes, but they make little sense in the long-term if the objective is zero-carbon.

    Comment by Peter Robins | September 3, 2020 | Reply

  4. […] post was suggested by Fenline Scouser in a comment to Vivarail Targets Overseas Markets, where they […]

    Pingback by Running Battery Electric Trains Between London Marylebone And Aylesbury « The Anonymous Widower | September 4, 2020 | Reply

  5. reports that 230s will now only be used on Bidston-Wrexham, not Conwy Valley or Ctr-Crewe. Presumably that means that TfW will run their new CAFs on these.

    Comment by Peter Robins | September 8, 2020 | Reply

  6. there’s a very interesting presentation by Adrian Shooter at

    Comment by Peter Robins | October 2, 2020 | Reply

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