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3 minute read - 4th June 2024

Siemens’ British-built battery trains could save £3.5bn and consign diesel trains to history

Siemens Mobility has calculated that its new battery bi-mode trains could save Britain’s railways £3.5bn and 12 million tonnes of CO2 over 35 years. The trains, which would be assembled at Siemens Mobility’s new train manufacturing facility in Goole, East Riding of Yorkshire, would be powered by overhead wires on already electrified routes, then switch to battery power where there are no wires.

That means only small sections of the routes and/or particular stations have to be electrified with overhead line equipment (OLE), making it much quicker and less disruptive to replace diesel trains compared to full electrification. This OLE can also be installed much more quickly using Siemens Mobility’s rail charging converter (RCC), which makes it possible to plug directly into the domestic grid – potentially cutting delivery times for OLE from seven years to as little as 18 months.

Siemens Mobility’s battery trains, which would be assembled in Goole, could replace ageing diesel fleets for a number of train operators across the country / Picture: Siemens Mobility

Sambit Banerjee, joint CEO for Siemens Mobility UK & Ireland, said: “Britain should never have to buy a diesel passenger train again. Our battery trains, which we’d assemble in our new Goole factory in Yorkshire, can replace Britain’s ageing diesel trains without us having to electrify hundreds of miles more track in the next few years. So, on routes from Perth to Penzance, passengers could be travelling on clean, green battery-electric trains by the early 2030s. And the best thing is that this would save the country £3.5bn over 35 years.”

A number of train operators are looking to replace their ageing diesel fleets, including Chiltern, Great Western Railway (GWR), Northern, ScotRail, TransPennine Express (TPE) and Transport for Wales (TfW), whilst East-West Rail will need to secure new trains. Siemens Mobility has conducted extensive modelling using advanced train performance simulation software to compare using battery bi-mode trains to running diesel or part-diesel powered trains.

It shows that Siemens Mobility’s battery bi-mode trains would only require 20 – 30% of a line to be electrified. These trains, utilising Lithium Titanate Oxide battery chemistry, can charge their batteries to full capacity in 20 minutes whilst moving along the electrified sections or charging whilst stopped at stations. Siemens Mobility has reviewed routes across the country and identified strategic points along these routes where discontinuous electrification OLE could be installed, powered by Siemens Mobility’s RCCs, enabling the batteries to be charged.

The Siemens Mobility rail village will employ up to 700 people and create up to 1,700 opportunities in the supply chain / Picture: Siemens Mobility

The RCCs can be installed in as little as 18 months alongside the OLE, connecting to the local power grid using an 11kV charge, instead of using the high powered 275/400kV electricity network, connections to which can take up to seven years to install on traditional electrification projects. Taking this approach across routes for the seven train operators mentioned above would save Britain’s railways £3.5bn over 35 years compared with using diesel-battery-electric tri-mode trains, as had been proposed. And it would support the government’s aim of removing diesel-only trains from Britain’s railways by 2040.

It would also reduce CO2 emissions by 12 million tonnes over that period, the equivalent of removing 80,000 cars from our roads or planting a forest across an area the size of the Isle of Man. Siemens Mobility’s first battery train fleet is already in passenger service in Germany. These highly advanced trains are running in the Ortenau region and will save 1.8 million litres of diesel per year when operating throughout the whole network.

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