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IPEMU Prototype completes six-week passenger trials in the UK

IPEMU Prototype completes six-week passenger trials in the UK
(Photo: courtesy of Bombardier)

Network Rail and Bombardier Transportation have just completed testing Britain’s first battery-powered passenger train. The train was in regular passenger service in Essex up until mid-February 2015. The carriages are fitted with HUBER+SUHNER harnesses for power transmission.

The aim of the IPEMU (Independently Powered Electrical Multiple Units) project, funded by Network Rail and Future Railway, was to develop a prototype electric train fitted with battery technology capable of powering the train without drawing electricity from overhead lines. If successful, the technology could replace diesel stock on branch lines where electrification works would not be cost-effective.
As part of the project, Bombardier Transportation retrofitted a four-carriage Abellio Greater Anglia Class 379 Electrostar with a set of batteries. HUBER+SUHNER engineers provided support for rewiring the carriages on-site. They installed new harnesses, which are used for power transmission in the carriages, as well as cable protection components. In addition, the existing harnesses were adapted to fulfil the needs of the new application in the train's four carriages.

Responding quickly to customer needs
Developing prototypes always presents new challenges: “During the course of the project, new adaptations of the prototype were required on a regular basis,” said Bob Wormald, procurement manager at Bombardier Transportation. “This, in turn, involved additional lead time for ordering new material and the continual reworking of existing harnesses. HUBER+SUHNER has always responded quickly and delivered best-in-class quality. We are extremely pleased with their co-operation.”

Thanks to its many years of experience in the railway market, HUBER+SUHNER is able to provide customers with high-quality products that meet the strict safety standards of the rail market. Another success factor was the availability of local production. As Dene Tydeman, Global Key Account Manager at HUBER+SUHNER, said: “Thanks to our local production in the UK and close co-operation on-site, we were always able to respond very quickly to Bombardier Transportation's requirements and provide optimal project support.”

Forward-looking project
Electric trains typically use high voltage overhead cables as their energy source. Battery-powered trains could, however, run independently of the high voltage overhead cables, allowing them to bridge gaps between electrical lines, or to operate non-electrified branch lines currently served by diesel trains.
The prototype train tested its capabilities on the weekly timetabled passenger services between Harwich and Manningtree. The results of the trial will inform the Rail industry as to the potential of this method of powering the train and could, provided the results are encouraging, lead to fleets of battery-powered trains operating on the UK rail network.
HUBER+SUHNER is supporting the rest of the project as a partner, and is looking forward to receiving the results of the tests.