HomeRail NewsVivarail, an ode to innovation

Vivarail, an ode to innovation

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In late November it was announced that Vivarail, manufacturer of battery and hybrid trains, had filed a Notice of Intention to appoint administrators. A notice posted on social media read:

Established in 2013 by Adrian Shooter CBE, Vivarail has spent the last nine years investigating, trialling, developing, and testing battery technology for rail. Its work has included the development of its own patented Fast Charge system.

Steve McBride, Managing Director said: “The board and I have worked incredibly hard to secure new investment in recent months, and although we have been encouraged by the level of interest, time is now against us to allow potential investors to step in. Combined with slow market conditions and delays in reaching certain key commercial arrangements we have had no choice but to file a notice of intention to appoint administrators with the courts.”

The company’s management, board of directors, and advisors are working hard to find a solution, consulting with customers and other stakeholders to try and drive the business forwards. However, if they are unable to deliver a rescue package, the company will enter administration.

This has all come about because the company decided in early 2022 to make progress without further funding from its ‘sole investment partner’.

Sadly, this notice was followed on 1 December by another message from Vivarail’s managing director confirming that he had handed the keys of the business to Grant Thornton, the appointed administrator.

In the meantime, we record and celebrate what Vivarail has achieved. Since 2013. It has:

Modified its D stock to comply with the level crossing collision requirements of EN 15227. These trains have a separate body on a strong underframe with crashworthiness appropriate for metro standards of the mid-1970s.

Developed quickly removeable diesel generator rafts based on automotive diesel engines first employed on three two-car units refurbished for London Northwestern Railway’s Marston Vale line. Unusually, after a fire in one of these rafts it published its own internal investigation report – a lesson in transparency.

Demonstrated a battery powered version at Rail Live in 2018 using some batteries upcycled from the Class 379 demonstration.

Made available a D stock vehicle for SET Ltd to experiment with steerable bogies based on wheel mounted bogies.

Developed a diesel-battery hybrid system again based on the interchangeable raft system, delivering five three-car units to Transport for Wales for use on the Wrexham to Bidston line. These have been delayed by Covid and what was described as ‘a thermal event’.

Delivered five two-car third-rail DC units to the SWR’s Island line on the Isle of Wight. These are fitted with three phase AC drives.

Shipped two two-car battery powered units to the USA for Henry Posner III’s Railway Development Corporation to demonstrate the concept of ‘pop-up metro’ on existing lightly used freight lines.

Demonstrated a three-car battery powered unit at COP26 which carried delegates on demonstration runs from Glasgow Central to Barrhead. In the run up to the event there was a demonstration run over the iconic Forth Bridge.

Developed a patented fast charging system using two short conductor sections mounted in the four foot which are only energised when the train is over them and the shoes are in contact.

Developed plans to trial the COP26 unit in passenger service operation on the West Ealing – Greenford line in early 2023. This unit and its fast-charging system was recently unveiled at Bletchley depot.

Refurbished all these trains to a high standard blending original D stock features such as longitudinal seats together with features never seen on these trains such as universal access toilets, inter-car gangways, transverse, high backed seats, and air conditioning.

Having travelled on both the Marston Vale and Cop26 units, your writer was consistently amazed at the quality of the completed units. Even the diesel versions were reasonably quiet and the ride on secondary lines was perfectly acceptable. In addition, delivering universal toilets on trains never intended to have toilets at all was a great achievement.

For the sake of all the people who have contributed to Vivarail’s technical developments, Rail Engineer hopes that there will be some good news soon.

Rail Engineer is the leading independent quality monthly magazine for engineers, project managers, directors and leading rail executive decision makers. Head to www.railsubs.com to make a free subscription to RailEngineer magazine or one of its sister publications.


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