The first battery-powered passenger train to run on Britain's tracks in over 50 years completes a five-week trial in a bid to prove the viability of more eco-friendly alternatives to diesel-powered locomotives. Mia Reakes went aboard.
The tagline says it all. This Independently Powered Electric Multiple Unit is being tested out over five weeks on a ten-mile track just outside London. The train draws power from overhead lines. It then lowers its pantograph and can run on its batteries instead. It's the first battery-operated passenger trains to run on the UK rail network for over fifty years. Now this might look like your average commuter train, but we're powering through the British countryside on the juice of 95,000 of these - which make this train considerably smoother and quieter, but more importantly cleaner and greener than its diesel counterpart. Network rail has committed to reducing its environmental impact and running costs by 20 per cent over the next five years. It's been moving away from noisy, polluting diesel engines towards electrification. But batteries go one step further. (SOUNDBITE) (English) JAMES AMBROSE, PRINCIPAL ENGINEER FOR NETWORK RAIL, SAYING: "If we haven't got to electrify all the lines that we needed to, so you save money where you don't have to electrify going through bridges, tunnels, viaducts; where it's very expensive to actually do the civils work. So that's a big saving, not only just on the man power but actually infrastructure and running costs as well." For those commuting to and from work every day, the biggest draw of a battery-operated train has nothing to do with its green credentials. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CHARLES TWORT, HEAD OF PRODUCT ARCHITECTURE FOR BOMBARDIER TRANSPORTATION, SAYING: "Sometimes the electricity from the overhead lines can go down, whereas this train's got the available store of it and can move it to the next stations, so you can alight, you can get home, it can even maybe get you all the home to the terminal station... And it also means that we can then get off those lines and get to other places we couldn't have gone before whereby we had to have an overhead line." Next, Network Rail will produce a plan of which UK routes could benefit. Trains like this one could be coming to a station near you.