Photos of old London Underground carriages show way trains might massively change

By Staff

A former London Underground train is being used to trial new rapid-charging railway services. Great Western Railway (GWR) is conducting a year-long pilot of the technology on the two-and-a-half-mile Greenford branch line in the west of the capital.

The pilot involves batteries fitted to a former District line train that are topped up during four-minute turnarounds at West Ealing station. Officials say that this is quick enough for trains to run to the usual timetable, with batteries having more than a third of their power left at the end of each day before they are recharged in a depot overnight.

The power banks are given juice by a trackside battery bank that is trickle charged from the National Grid. This means there are no spikes in demand on the power grid and the usual large electrical infrastructure is not required.

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Therefore, the system is designed to be much cheaper and simpler than installing electric overhead wires or third rails. GWR hopes fare-paying passengers will be able to travel on the battery-powered train during the programme as it also operates its usual service on the Greenford line.

Bosses say the trial is 12 months long to enable the train to be used in different environmental conditions that will put different demands on the batteries. In the winter, for example, heaters will be used and in summer when air conditioning will be turned on.

GWR managing director, Mark Hopwood, said the technology will be a ‘vital’ part of the industry’s efforts to phase out diesel-only services by 2040. He told the PA news agency: “In an environment where people are buying electric cars and electric buses are coming out, if we’re still running branch lines with diesel trains that are pumping fumes into the air that’s not going to add to our credibility around rail being environmentally-friendly.”

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