Batteries included: Prototype battery-powered train carries passengers for first time: Pantograph on battery-powered train (IPEMU) descending

Tuesday 13 Jan 2015

Batteries included: Prototype battery-powered train carries passengers for first time

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The first battery-powered train to run on Britain’s rail network in more than half a century carries its first passengers this week. This marks an important milestone in the project to demonstrate the viability of an eco-friendly battery-powered train for the twenty-first century.

The new train contributes to Network Rail’s commitment to reduce its environmental impact, improve sustainability and reduce the cost of running the railway by 20 per cent over the next five years. It could ultimately lead to a fleet of battery-powered trains running on Britain’s rail network which are quieter and more efficient than diesel-powered trains, making them better for passengers and the environment.

Network Rail and its industry partners – including Bombardier, Abellio Greater Anglia, and the Rail Executive arm of the Department for Transport (‎which is co-funding the project through the FutureRailway innovation programme) – recognise the potential for battery-powered trains to bridge gaps between electrified parts of the network and to run on branch lines where it would be too expensive to install overhead electrification.”

Following its successful retrofitting and trials at test tracks in Derby and Leicestershire last year by Bombardier, the modified Class 379 Electrostar battery-powered train – also known as an Independently Powered Electric Multiple Unit (IPEMU) – will run in weekday timetable service for five weeks between Harwich International and Manningtree stations in Essex.

Network Rail Principal Engineer James Ambrose said: “We’ve made terrific progress with this project so far and seeing the battery-powered train in timetabled service is a huge step forward.

“After months of engineering and testing, the train is running just as we would like it. We’ll be using this five-week period to gather data on how it handles during passenger service – most travellers will recognise how quiet and smooth the ride is compared to a diesel-powered train.”

James continued: “We are always looking for ways to reduce the cost of running the railway and make it greener too. This project has the potential to contribute significantly towards both those goals.”

Rail Minister Claire Perry said: “This is a major milestone in this innovative project, and further proof of our commitment to deliver a world-class rail network fit for the 21st century.

“These trains potentially offer a real alternative where diesel or electrified services aren’t suitable, and I look forward to seeing the results of the trials.”

Notes to editors

Photos and videos: Photos of the newly liveried battery-powered train (IPEMU) can be found in the Network Rail newsroom. Videos can be shared from our YouTube account.

Background: Battery locomotives have been used on railways for around 100 years, including in munitions factories during World War 1 to avoid the risk of explosion from sparks emitted by steam locomotives. London Underground currently has a fleet of battery locomotives used on engineering trains when the power is switched off for track maintenance and improvement work.

The IPEMU will operate as part of Abellio Greater Anglia’s fleet between Harwich International and Manningtree from Monday 12 January until Friday 13 February.

The partners working on the IPEMU project are:

  • Network Rail
  • The Rail Executive arm of the Department for Transport
  • FutureRailway
  • Abellio Greater Anglia
  • Bombardier

Data gathered during the experiment will be used to help the wider rail industry determine what form a future IPEMU will take, be it a straight battery unit or hybrid.

Any future IPEMU would most likely be designed as a new train and not an adapted unit, to minimise energy consumption, but this project will also provide useful information for retrofit.

About FutureRailway:
FutureRailway is the delivery team working on behalf of the cross-industry Technical Strategy Leadership Group (TSLG) to implement the Rail Technical Strategy. As such, FutureRailway is supported by the whole rail industry and its supply chain, and operates as a collaboration between RSSB and Network Rail. It incorporates the activities of the former Enabling Innovation Team which was set up by the rail industry to accelerate the uptake of innovation. The mission is to offer support to practical cross-industry demonstrator projects, but also seeking out innovative ideas and proposals from across the industry. The approach is to: understand the challenges that industry faces; connect potential innovators with these challenges; and, where necessary with potential funding. The team is hosted by RSSB, and reports into TSLG, and is supported by the Rail Delivery Group, RSSB’s Board as well as the Department for Transport.


About RSSB: RSSB help the industry understand risk, guide standards, manage research, development and innovation and collaborate to improve. The rail industry in Britain is made up of many different organisations, but they all form a system and share a common purpose, to move people and freight safely and efficiently by rail. RSSB bring all parts of this system together to support shared decisions, products and services, to help industry drive out unnecessary cost, improve business performance and develop long-term strategy.RSSB is run by the industry, for the industry, with member companies from across the mainline system. The demand for their services comes from the industry itself, and from the involvement of cross-industry groups. For more information go to

About Bombardier Transportation: Bombardier Transportation, a global leader in rail technology, offers the broadest portfolio in the rail industry and delivers innovative products and services that set new standards in sustainable mobility. BOMBARDIER ECO4 technologies – built on the four cornerstones of energy, efficiency, economy and ecology – conserve energy, protect the environment and help to improve total train performance for operators and passengers. Bombardier Transportation is headquartered in Berlin, Germany, and has a very diverse customer base with products or services in more than 60 countries. It has an installed base of over 100,000 vehicles worldwide.

About Abellio Greater Anglia: The Abellio Greater Anglia franchise began operating on 5 February 2012. It provides intercity, commuter and rural services throughout the East of England, including the Harwich branch line on which the IPEMU trial is taking place. Abellio Greater Anglia employs 3,000 staff and operates over 1,900 train services per day. It services 167 stations and carries over two million passengers a week.

About Rail Innovation and Development Centre: Open to the wider industry, the Rail Innovation and Development Centre provides facilities for engineers and operators to experiment and develop new ways of maintaining, renewing and enhancing the railway. Activities include trialling and developing new rail vehicles, plant and machinery, infrastructure systems, and components. New operational practices are tested in controlled conditions, and engineers are trained to develop and improve their skills in a realistic and safe environment. Located in Nottinghamshire, our Rail Innovation and Development Centre is maintained to the standards of the rest of the network and is therefore fully representative of our national railway infrastructure.

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