Thursday, 22 June 2017

RailLive 2017: Part 1 - D-Train review

My journey to RailLive this year started at 6:15am, took 4 hours and involved 4 changes of train just to get to small village called Honeybourne in Worcestershire, from there I would would catch the prototype D-train to RailLive. It was a long journey but ultimately worthwhile as I would be among the first passengers to ride VivaRail's prototype train.

D-Train waiting at a temporary platform built especially for RailLive at Honeybourne station. 
(click to enlarge)


The D-Train or class 230 was the brainchild of Adrian Shooter who saw an opportunity to use rolling stock that was coming out of service and would have eventually been scrapped and instead give the stock a new lease of life, whilst at the same time providing much needed DMU (diesel multiple unit) rolling stock which the UK rail network is desperately short of.

In November 2014 Vivarail chaired by Mr Shooter purchased 150 driving motor cars and 300 carriages of London underground D78 stock which has since been replace by new S stock built by Bombardier. The idea being to combine these carriages to form 2 and 3 car trains, at the same time each of the drive motor cars would be fitted with diesel engines, converting them into self propelled DMUs.

When the project was first announced it faced heavy criticism from the media who labelled the trains as "London cast offs". It was to be expected with some of the trains dating back to 1978, it was never going to be popular idea with the mainstream media, who would need some convincing.

However from the moment I heard about this project I was a supporter, I'm a big believer in recycling (or in this case upcycling) and the UK was and still is facing a nation shortage of DMU rolling stock, a problem that will only get worse come 2020 when new rail vehicle accessibility standards come into force.

D-Train at the temporary platform at Long Marston

Technical information

The new class 230 units will come in either 2 or 3 car formations, each set fitted with 4 Ford Duratorq engines producing 200hp each, giving a power output of 400bhp per driving motor car. 

The 5 cylinder, 3.2 litre Duratorq engines which comply with IIIB emissions standards are fitted to commercial vehicles and Ford Ranger pickup trucks. By being "off the shelf" this helps to reduce costs and means the engines have a proven track record.

Each engine is married to a generator and placed into a cradle to form a powerpack. Each powerpack can be lifted in and out of place for maintenance, this helps to reduce maintenance cost and means the engines and generators can me maintained without the need for large depots or heavy lift facilities. 

The power output of 800ph per unit far outperforms a class 150 which only produces 572hp, in addition a 2 car class 150 weighs 70 tonnes, whilst a 2 car class 230 with its aluminium body weighs around 60 tonnes.


Since I wrote this article Vivarail have secured funding from the Government's accelerating innovation in rail competition, which aims to "support growth in national and international rail markets". The grant is in recognition of the developments the company has made in developing battery technology

VivaRail state that they are "on track to be the first UK manufacturer to build production battery trains." Which the company say are capable of operating for up to 120km between charge.

VivaRail hopes to produce the first fully certified battery train end of this year [2017].

For me information you can read VivaRail's press release here

The two powerpacks underneath each driving motor vehicle. 


Each train is to be treated as an empty shell with train operating companies able to specify interiors which suits the particular needs of the routes which they will serve. The interiors will feature modem amenities like disable access toilets, charging points and wifi, and to the public will be no different to a brand new train. 

The prototype that was used on the shuttle between Honeybourne and RailLive had a number of seating configurations to show what is possible. 

Interior layouts, regional on the left high capacity commuter on the right


As a supporter of the projected since its inception you would expect a glowing report and yes that it was I am going to give this train. From a passenger perspective and having travelled on 6 production DMUs on that day alone I can honestly say you would not know you were on a train dating back to the 70s.

As someone who has been involved in campaigning for this train to provide a service on the line local to me, I can say that without doubt it would be far superior to the class 150s which currently serve on the line. 

The class 230 even with 2 engines per driving car was quiet and the acceleration was smooth. And even with the engines revving up to 3000 rpm under acceleration the sound was quieter and more refined than the tappety sounding engines fitted to 15Xs and even newer 170s and 185s.

Only slight niggles, perhaps the interior looked a bit bland, but its is only prototype and each train operating company is free specify any interior they wish. Also I could see daylight trough some of the door seals, but again this is a prototype and that could easily be fixed. 

Over all I am impressed with what has been achieved in such a short space of time and would be happy to be a regular passenger on this train.

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  1. Brilliant write up 😊

    At 60mph maximum would be ideal for the Brigg Line.

    Would like EMT to purchase these to solve a chronic stock shortage

    1. Indeed. East Midlands Trains need a lot more stock: their regional trains in Lincolnshire are frequently grossly overcrowded.

  2. Not sure which service you caught I had planned cycling from Stratford as a 3-train link (departing GLC 04.28 and relying on the LAN-WVH arrival in time for the 08.37 WVH-BHM gave me 6 minutes to ride to BMO (it was actually 4!) for the Stratford train, and alight at Parkway where the train stands for 7 minutes. Then it was to be a return ride to Honeybourne, later revised to heading back for the 19.15 BHM-GLC via Worcester on the 16.05 departure from Quinton platform.

    The great thing I thought was the simple and basic running gear and components which could probably be maintained for a 'local' line with a shared bus or truck workshop and very simple apron with weather protection.

    When can the unit get on to the Great Central to get the miles in? Could easily offer a standby commuter service between Loughborough and Leicester (North) or Loughborough and Nottingham (South) connecting with local buses or public bike hire (especially for Leicester, as the former GC wayleave is effectively a green corridor between Birstall and Abbey Park.