Hybrid-powered train on test in Derbyshire

HybridFLEX at Wirksworth.

The first hybrid-powered passenger train in Britain is under test at the Ecclesborne Valley Railway in Wirksworth, Derbyshire.

The Chiltern Railways Class 168 train has been fitted with a Rolls Royce MTU hybrid drive that will cut noise emissions in stations and deliver zero emissions when operating under battery power.

Dubbed ‘HybridFLEX’ the battery-diesel train is currently undertaking a programme of tests between Duffield and Wirksworth prior to being returned to Chiltern in the summer. Conducting these trials on a heritage railway means that they can be carried out at their own pace, without disrupting services on the main line railway.

Witnessing the trials: (left to right): Richard Allan, managing director, Chiltern Railways; Helen Simpson, innovation and projects director, Porterbrook; David Eaton, senior manager – marine, rail and defence, MTU; and Stephen McGurk, chief portfolio officer, Porterbrook.

Data suggests potential reductions of 20% in fuel consumption and around 70% in NOx emissions on Chiltern services between London and Birmingham. In addition to improved air quality and reduced noise, HybridFLEX units are also expected to deliver journey time and route capacity improvements, as the combination of diesel and electric power will offer enhanced acceleration capabilities.

Richard Allan, Chiltern.

Chiltern Railways’ managing director Richard Allan and engineering and safety director Ian Hyde recently visited the Ecclesborne Valley Railway, along with senior managers from Porterbrook, for a test run. He said: “Chiltern has a fantastic track record of innovating and investing in new routes, stations, and trains over a 20-year franchise that is now in its final few months.

“Looking ahead, we have some major challenges and opportunities, not least in supporting the decarbonisation of the railway from our current position as an all-diesel operator with an average fleet age of 25 years.

“We need investment to modernise and this exciting use of new technology in an older train is a potentially very significant opportunity.”

Stephen McGurk, Porterbrook.

Stephen McGurk, Porterbrook’s chief portfolio officer, added: “We are very excited about this technology which has the potential to transform air quality and sound levels at major stations and in urban areas.

“I would like to thank our Chiltern Railways customer for working with us on the introduction of HybridFLEX to Britain’s railway.” 

The Rolls Royce MTU hybrid drives are also expected to produce maintenance savings through reduced ‘wear and tear’ on consumables, such as brake pads and discs.

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