Published: 26th July 2016
London Underground introduced new trains on its widened lines in 1978 known as ‘D78 Stock’ and these have been largely withdrawn from service over the last few years. But rather than going for scrap, a company purchased the fleet and set about converting them for main line use on branch lines bringing huge cost savings to the railways while maintaining the strict safety regime.
That company is Vivarail and they have announced that the prototype Class 230, (AKA as D-Train) as the new train has been designated, will start passenger operations by the end of the year. The three-car train will be leased to a consortium led by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and operated by franchise holders London Midland for an initial period of 12 months on the Coventry to Nuneaton line.
Adrian Shooter, CEO of Vivarail, said “I’m delighted that the Class 230 will soon be running on the mainline carrying passengers. We will be supplying a train of the highest quality with three carriages fitted out in a range of designs which will allow us to get valuable feedback on what passengers actually want. The two driving cars will retain their original ‘crowd-busting’ layout whilst the middle car will showcase different seating and table arrangements. Our aim is to gain direct thoughts from the public about what suits their needs which we will be important in discussions with future operators.
“Throughout this lease period the Vivarail team will be maintaining and analysing the train, which will provide data for us to use to develop our technical expertise as we move into full production.
“Working with the team led by WMCA is an added bonus for us; we are proud to be based in the West Midlands and to see our train running on a ‘local’ route is exceptionally pleasing. We look forward to serving the people of Coventry and Warwickshire throughout this trial period!”
Cllr Roger Lawrence, transport lead on WMCA, said: “The use of the D Train is an innovative proposition which could help us get around the UK shortage of suitable diesel trains to run on this line.
“It should enable more carriages to be provided sooner than would otherwise have been the case and we would encourage passengers to give their feedback once the pilot scheme is up and running.”
The line serves the Ricoh Arena sports ground and the usual rail service does not call at the new station there because of crowd safety issues. Can the prototype train be used on match days? Councillor David Welsh, Deputy Cabinet Member for Jobs and Regeneration, said, “I’m delighted that we have been able to work with local partners to trial this new train. Anything we can do to boost the number of people that can travel to the Ricoh by train has got to be good news.
“The trains are a really innovative solution to the shortage of diesel trains across the UK and this is a really good example of local people feeling the benefits of the city being part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA). I’m also delighted that we have been able to work with a local company to find what looks like a very smart solution to the lack of rolling stock.”
The Class 230 has been designed as a cost-effective conversion for main line use which is literally designed to help resolve over-crowding on the rail network. It costs far less than buying a new train where each carriage costs around a million pounds. This train costs considerably less to buy or lease and operate saving around a third of the current costs.
The train is equipped with a novel set of engine modules enabling the train to be maintained without being in a depot and each driving car has a pair of independent Gensets ensuring the train can operate at near full power in the event of one engine failing. The train is constantly remotely monitored in real-time so any remedial work is known about earlier than currently.
These re-engineered trains should help increase passenger numbers on the line with the extra seats and retain the corrosion-free aluminium body shell but are in essence a new train fitted with modern wheelsets and an automotive-industry diesel engines, safety upgrades and new electronics to produce an “as new” diesel train for use on the national rail network.
The current service is operated by a one carriage train described locally as woefully inadequate. The Ricoh Arena is home to Wasps rugby team and Coventry City football club so the extra capacity of the three coach train will be welcomed by fans.
The Class 230 project has been underway for a couple of years and the trial has been made possible by London Midland, Warwickshire County Council, the West Midlands Combined Authority, the Department for Transport, the Coventry & Warwickshire Local Enterprise partnership and Vivarail working together.
Transport for West Midlands, the transport arm of the new WMCA, and the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership are sharing the cost of leasing the prototype three car train.
London Midland passenger services director, Tom Joyner said "This is an innovative pilot approach to try and improve train capacity on the Coventry to Nuneaton line. London Midland has been working hard with Coventry City Council and Transport for West Midlands to make this possible and we will be doing all we can help them make a success of this trial."