HybridFLEX battery-diesel train enters passenger service in London, UK

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British train operating company Chiltern Railways has launched a new battery-diesel train, which will help the firm significantly cut CO2 emissions, save fuel, and reduce noise and air pollution.

The concept train is the first 100mph capable battery-diesel hybrid train to operate on the UK’s national rail network.

The train known as HybridFLEX has entered service between Aylesbury and London. It has been developed by Chiltern Railways in partnership with Porterbrook – the train owner – and industrial technology company Rolls-Royce. An old diesel train was converted into one that now runs on both diesel and battery power.

The train was retrofitted with a Rolls-Royce ‘mtu’ hybrid powerpack which pairs a diesel engine with an electric unit that can function both as a motor and as a generator. The battery system stores power that is recovered during train braking.

Thanks to the integration of the powerpack, the HybridFLEX offers a 25% reduction in CO2 emissions on every journey, when compared to the previous diesel trains. Nitrogen oxide and pollutants are also cut by 70% and 90% respectively.

Furthermore, the HybridFLEX train substantially cuts fuel usage and reduces noise by up to 75% in and around stations and urban areas. It also presents the opportunity for quicker customer journeys in the future.

HybridFLEX will initially operate between Aylesbury and London Marylebone with plans to bring the new type of train to the London to Oxford via Bicester Village route in the coming months.

Richard Allan, Chiltern Railway’s managing director, said, “Chiltern Railways is determined to operate a railway that is as sustainable and environmentally friendly as possible. We have worked hard with our partners to fit a powerful battery power pack underneath a 20-year-old diesel train to make the train cleaner, quieter and quicker. We are really proud that this concept train is now carrying customers and look forward to assessing its performance in daily service.”

Mary Grant, CEO of Porterbrook added, “The entry of our hybrid battery-diesel train HybridFLEX into passenger service is great news for Chiltern Railways and its customers. It’s a significant first step in demonstrating how improvements to this fleet can reduce emissions and improve air quality both at stations and other locations across the network. HybridFLEX is part of Porterbrook’s growing portfolio of alternative traction systems designed to help deliver a more sustainable railway.”