The Anonymous Widower

Wales’ Inaugural Hybrid Train Service Launches On The Borderlands Line

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

These are the first two paragraphs.

Today marks a historic day for the Welsh rail sector, seeing the introduction of the first battery-hybrid trains used in regular passenger service on the Borderlands Line between Wrexham and Bidston, as announced by Transport for Wales (TfW).

The inaugural service for the Class 230 trains left Wrexham Central at 07:31, following months of testing and crew training.

Unfortunately, it didn’t go very well, as some trains were late and there were several rail replacement buses and cancellations.

I’m afraid, Vivarail’s ambitious project is starting to look like a heroic failure.

Could Stadler Rescue The Borderlands Line?

Perhaps the solution for the Borderlands Line, which is only 27.5 miles each way, is to ask Stadler for an estimate to extend Merseyrail’s Class 777 trains to Wrexham Central station.

  • Trains would use battery power between Bidston and Wrexham.
  • Passengers would not need to change trains to go between Liverpool and Wrexham.
  • Trains would go round the rail loop under Liverpool, where they would charge their batteries.
  • There may need to be some form of charging in Wrexham.

I’m sure the good people Merseyside and North Wales wouldn’t object, but the politicians in Cardiff might!

The UK-Wide Need For Self-Powered Trains


  • The UK needs a substantial number of two-, three- and four-car self-powered trains.
  • A proportion of these trains will run on partially-electrified routes.
  • 100 mph trains would be preferable.
  • Some routes would need trains capable of using third-rail electrification.

They are also needed urgently.

Will Mark 3’s Save The Day?


  • The only Mark 3 electric multiple units still running or in a state good enough to be converted are the thirty-four three-car Class 320 trains and perhaps fifty four-car Class 321 trains.
  • Class 317 and Class 318 trains are probably too old to convert.
  • A Class 319 train is a very inferior train from a passengers point of view to the Class 321 Renatus.

As some of these like the thirty Class 321 Renatus have been refurbished and given AC transmissions, it might be a good idea to build a few prototypes and try them out on various routes to assess their quality, reliability and performance.

But this route would only give about eighty three- and four-car trains.

It wouldn’t supply any two-car trains.

Sadly, the twenty-four two-car Class 456 trains, which could have been converted have all been recently scrapped.

Are There Any Other Trains That Can Be Converted?

There are several fleets of modern trains, that might be available.

  • Four-car Class 350 trains
  • Four-car Class 360 trains
  • Four-car Class 379 trains
  • Four-car Class 386 trains

There may also be some three- and four-car Bombardier Electrostars.

Again, there is a shortage of two-car trains, except for thirty-nine Class 466 trains.

  • They are Networkers.
  • They were built in the 1990s.
  • They were refurbished ten years ago.
  • They are third-rail trains.
  • They are not in bad condition.
  • Their operating speed is only 75 mph.

But they would probably be a hard train to convert and would only be a stopgap.


I am led to the conclusion, that there is a large gap in the UK rail network for a two-car train with this specification.

  • Battery-electric operation.
  • 100 mph operation
  • Battery range of at least eighty miles.
  • Quality interior.
  • Ability to run on 25 KVAC  overhead and/or 750 VDC third-rail electrification.
  • Ability to add a third-car in the middle to create a three-car train.

Effectively, they would be a replacement for the Class 170 diesel trains.


April 3, 2023 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. AIUI, there’s only 1 train operating at the moment (another got graffitied). According to a post on RailUKForums, the cancellation was because of late running, not a fault on the train. I think we have to wait for a while before judging success/failure. is TfW’s tweet.

    Comment by Peter Robins | April 3, 2023 | Reply

  2. Real Time Trains indicates that!

    My initial post was what you read. I’m still writing more.

    Graffiting trains should be a much more serious offence. You don’t see it on Merseyrail or only rarely on the London Underground and Overground, so it can be controlled.

    Perhaps, the Liverpool University students’ method that stopped attacks on students in the early 1960s should be applied.

    Perpetrators when caught were left in their underpants on the East Lancs Road, with enough money for the bus fare home.

    Comment by AnonW | April 3, 2023 | Reply

  3. TfW have got real issues with shortage of trains as many of the Class 175’s have been taken out of use due to several having fires recently so several routes has been bustitued. Wrexham to Bidiston was one of them but as the 230’s were allegedly ready to go it was seen as a way of getting a rail service reinstated. Service ran several round trips until mid afternoon when it was pulled. Couldn’t keep time which is absolutely correctly on this route as there is naff all turnaround time either end so it just got later and later. Lets see if they send it again tomorrow.

    Comment by Nicholas Lewis | April 3, 2023 | Reply

  4. RTT currently has both 230008 and 230010 running today, so we will see. is a photo of 230006 at Birkenhead with graffiti.

    Comment by Peter Robins | April 4, 2023 | Reply

  5. TfW’s press release is at though I’m a bit confused as to the numbers given on the photos. I’d thought that TfW had bought 230006-10. 06 has graffiti, 08/10 are scheduled for operation, but not sure what the status is with the other 2 trains.

    Comment by Peter Robins | April 4, 2023 | Reply

  6. Railway Gazette have just published an update on the 175s A large number of them are apparently parked at Holyhead.

    It seems that 230008 failed this am before it even got going. 230010 is still running, but seems to be unable to make up time to run the scheduled service. As Nicholas says, there’s no turnaround time at the endpoints to help there.

    Comment by Peter Robins | April 4, 2023 | Reply

  7. There’s some interesting info in

    “A number of former Vivarail employees on short-term contracts are supporting the fleet at Stadler’s Birkenhead depot where the units are maintained alongside the Merseyrail fleet.”

    “Testing has confirmed that should the engines all shut down, a fully charged train can exceed the target distance range of between 65 and 80 km as planned by Vivarail during development of the design. This means that in most cases a train could complete its journey before returning to the depot.”

    Comment by Peter Robins | April 5, 2023 | Reply

    • Thanks!

      Comment by AnonW | April 5, 2023 | Reply

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