An innovative new type of diesel train designed by a Warwickshire engineering company looks set to be trialled on the line between Coventry and Nuneaton later this year.
If successful, the pilot scheme using re-engineered London underground carriages could also boost the number of people that can travel to the Ricoh and provide extra seats for commuters travelling from the new “NUCKLE” Bermuda Park and Coventry Arena stations.
A deal between Coventry City Council, Warwickshire County Council, West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) and London Midland means that Vivarail Ltd’s prototype Class 230 could be running on the line and serving events including football and rugby games at the Ricoh by Christmas.
The proposal could mean three times as many commuters would be able to use the regular hourly train service. More people would also be able to travel by train to the Ricoh for sporting and other events. The train, which would be operated by London Midland, would initially run as a trial for 12 months to test performance, passenger experience and running costs.
The Class 230 is built using underground carriage’s corrosion-free aluminium body shell, electric motors and modern wheelsets and adds automotive-industry diesel engines, safety improvements and new electronics to produce an “as new” diesel train that can be used on the national rail network . The train, which will shortly be approved for mainline use, will provide a high-quality, comfortable ride for passengers on all types of journey.
Talking about the possibility of the prototype train being used to serve the Ricoh, Councillor David Welsh, Deputy Cabinet Member for Jobs and Regeneration at Coventry City Council said, “I’m delighted that we have been able to work with local partners to trial this new train. Anything we can do to boost the number of people that can travel to the Ricoh by train has got to be good news.
"We all know that the NUCKLE project aimed to link people to jobs – but local people want the option to leave their car at home and travel to the Ricoh by train. The current single carriage train once an hour is woefully inadequate to serve events – and it’s not what we wanted for the city. The new Class 230 will boost the event day service and make it a credible and reliable option.
"As soon as possible we will be talking to both Wasps and Coventry City Football Club to encourage them to join us is making this happen.
“The trains are a really innovative solution to the shortage of diesel trains across the UK and this is a really good example of local people feeling the benefits of the city being part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).
"This trial would not have been possible without all of partners. I'd like to thank London Midland, Warwickshire County Council, the Combined Authority, the Department for Transport, the Coventry & Warwickshire Local Enterprise partnership and Vivarail for helping us to make this possible."
Transport for West Midlands, the transport arm of the new WMCA, and the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership are sharing the cost of leasing the prototype three car train.
Cllr Peter Butlin, Warwickshire County Council, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Transport and Planning said, “We are pleased to be involved in this pilot as it means there will be more capacity during the morning and afternoon peaks which is good news for passengers. We are pleased to be supporting a local Warwickshire company that can help deliver a solution. Let's hope the trial proves successful and that this train can provide a long term solution for the Nuneaton to Coventry rail line.”
Cllr Roger Lawrence, transport lead on WMCA, said: “It’s been frustrating to see our plans to improve passenger services on this line hampered by the UK’s chronic shortage of suitable diesel trains.
“With the two new NUCKLE stations now built and open, the use of the Class 230 should enable additional carriages to be provided sooner than expected which is good news for passengers.”
Jonathan Browning, chairman of Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, added: “Improving transport links between the north and south of Warwickshire as well as Coventry is one of the CWLEP’s priorities to drive growth in the local economy.
“The rail link between Nuneaton, the Ricoh Arena, and Coventry is an important route which needs to me maximised to benefit residents, businesses and attract visitors to the area.
“We are pleased to be working alongside our local partners to explore the opportunity to increase services on the route through this trial.”
London Midland passenger services director, Tom Joyner said "This is an innovative pilot approach to try and improve train capacity on the Coventry to Nuneaton line. London Midland has been working hard with Coventry City Council and Transport for West Midlands to make this possible and we will be doing all we can help them make a success of this trial."
Adrian Shooter, CEO of Vivarail, said: “Vivarail is delighted to be working in this partnership to bring our new train into service this year. We are proud to be a local company and to have created new jobs in the area, so it is exceptionally pleasing that the first passengers to ride on our trains will be from Coventry and Warwickshire.”