UK: GWR Commences Fast-Charging Battery-Powered Train Trial

Great Western Railway has officially commenced its fast-charging battery-powered train trial on the Greenford branch line.

Over the past two weeks, GWR engineers have successfully tested the compatibility of the fast-charge technology with the Class 230 battery train, enabling the trial to now commence in full.

The launch of Great Western Railway’s innovative fast-charge battery trial
The launch of Great Western Railway’s innovative fast-charge battery trial

Ultimately, it is hoped that these trials will pave the way for battery-powered trains to operate across the UK’s branch lines. This will help deliver reliable services that do not emit carbon emissions, aiding the government’s target to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

GWR Managing Director Mark Hopwood, said:

“We want GWR to be at the forefront of the railway’s commitment to phase out diesel-only traction by 2040 and this demonstrates that we put our customers at the heart of everything we do.

“This is why we took on the challenge and are taking an industry-leading approach in not only battery train operation, but the development of the fast-charge system.

“It’s important to remember this work has never been done before. It’s designed to test the capability and viability of the fast-charge technology – and demonstrates Great Western Railway taking a bold and broad approach towards replacing diesel-only trains with greener units.”

The use of batteries to power electric trains removes the need for overhead electric lines, which are expensive, time-consuming to install and impact the landscape.

However, their potential has typically been limited by range, thus preventing widespread implementation. GWR’s fast-charge technology thus aims to help overcome this challenge.

This technology will enable the train to charge for just 3 ½ minutes at West Ealing before restarting its journey on the Greenford branch line.

Network Rail Industry Programme Director for the Thames Valley, Jo Grew said:

“I'm so excited to see this trial come to life, and it shows the true hard work and collaboration that has taken place between GWR, the Department for Transport and Network Rail. This is a crucial technology that if successful could pave the way for deploying across branch lines around the country, enabling the rail industry to hit our decarbonisation targets.”

Throughout these trials, the battery train will run in non-passenger service alongside scheduled passenger services. This follows previous GWR simulations on other branch lines in the Thames Valley.

These trials were previously planned under a contract with Vivarail signed in February 2022 to trial the new battery-charging technology.

After Vivarail entered administration in December 2022, GWR agreed contracts to buy intellectual property, rolling stock and equipment relating to the FastCharge technology.

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