Passengers on two key rail lines in Cheshire West and Chester can expect to see a fleet of new trains.
The trains, originally Tube trains on London’s District line, are being transformed by Stratford on Avon based Vivarail for the new Wales and Borders franchise to be run by rail operator KeolisAmey.
This includes the Chester – Crewe and Wrexham – Bidston lines.
Vivarail says the trains will demonstrate KeolisAmey’s commitment to providing new, high quality rolling stock to passengers.
Adrian Shooter, chief operating officer at Vivarail, said the company was ‘proud to be supplying the first of the new trains’ and continued: “We know that KeolisAmey want to bring the best new trains to their passengers so our interior layout has been designed to do exactly that.
“As well as the wide and spacious carriages the trains will have a universal access toilet, wifi, air conditioning, USB ports and 3-pin sockets. There will be a range of seating layouts and plenty of space for bikes and luggage.
“With KeolisAmey we have been determined to give passengers the very best travelling experience and the trains they deserve are modern, comfortable, reliable and environmentally-friendly.”
In conjunction with design firm Creactive Vivarail says it has worked on a livery design that will be seen across the whole fleet.
“Our aim has always been to provide innovative solutions for operators and to that end I’m delighted to announce that our trains will be built as battery/diesel hybrids to cut down on emissions and make use of the exciting new technology we have developed over the past two years,” he added.
“As the UK’s leading battery train manufacturer we know that emission-free trains are the future and we will continue to spearhead that development.
“With this hybrid fleet we will deliver a train that is clean, green and reliable making use of GPS systems to cut out the engines in stations and environmentally-sensitive areas.
“Our trains will come into service in summer 2019 and will form the flagship fleet for Wales and Borders and I look forward to taking the first journey in North Wales next year.”
Colin Lea, mobilisation director at KeolisAmey Wales Cymru, believes there will be a ‘step change’ in passenger comfort and service quality by introducing the units.
He points out they are fitted with the latest passenger comfort features such as power supply at all seats, high-speed wifi, air-cooling, bike spaces and a brand new seating layout reflecting the needs of the passengers on the routes.
Mr Lea added: “In addition these innovative hybrid trains fitted with state of the art monitoring systems will provide a significant change in performance and reliability helping KeolisAmey to deliver a more reliable service for its customers.”
A spokesperson explained that each end car in the trains will have batteries with diesels in the centre.
The diesel engines will charge the batteries which then power the train and so it uses less fuel, typically 20% on a stopping service, because some of the braking energy is sent by the motors to charge the battery.
A further advantage, said to be key for the Wrexham-Bidston line, is that due to the power supply from the batteries, the train can accelerate more quickly than a diesel which would not have enough power.
Design and build of the three car trains is already underway with final testing and commissioning in early 2019.
Welcoming confirmation that as part of the franchise train services serving Neston on the Wrexham - Bidston line are to double in frequency to two trains per hour apart from the new rolling stock, Ellesmere Port and Neston MP Justin Madders (Lab), who has been campaigning for improvements to the service since he was elected, has hailed the news as a ‘huge boost for the town’.
Mr Madders had set up a petition and worked alongside local borough councillors Louise Gittins and Andy Williams, Neston Town Council and the Wrexham Bidston Rail Users’ Association to call for the improvements.
He also had a key role in establishing the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Mersey Dee to improve links between the cross-border areas of North Wales, the Wirral and Cheshire West and Chester.
He said: “This is fantastic news for Neston and something that we have wanted to see for many years. These improvements simply would not be happening were it not for the efforts of campaigners.
“If the new provider gets the timetabling right we should see a reliable route established for Neston residents to take advantage of employment and leisure opportunities in Liverpool and across North Wales.
“This is also a huge step in the right direction for the long-term aspiration of electrification for the line which I will continue to make the case for. I will also push for a direct link to Liverpool.”