Rolls Royce plans to replace UK trains with electric alternative

Famed British manufacturer Rolls Royce has signed a deal to test electric-hybrid trains on UK railways. The deal with UK firm Porterbrook could see hundreds of diesel trains converted to be less polluting.


“We expect hybrid technology to grow at above the current growth rates of diesel,” said Andreas Schell, CEO of Rolls-Royce Power Systems.

Rolls-Royce’s Power Systems unit, which sells engines used on ships, yachts, trains, trucks, mining and nuclear power stations, is one of the fastest growing parts of the company, and its boss said hybrid technology is behind that.

The Power Systems business is expected to post low double-digit revenue growth this year and is a bright spot in a company grappling with the negative headlines and cost of fixing a problem with its Trent 1000 aero-engines.

Diesel trains can be fitted with Rolls-Royce Hybrid PowerPacks to turn them into hybrid trains that can also run on battery power, reducing carbon emissions and making them cheaper to run for operators while also making them much quieter when, for example, they approach stations.

The hybrid initiative comes as Britain seeks to phase out diesel-only trains by 2040. Adding the powerpacks to trains allows railway networks to be partially electrified without the need for expensive overhead infrastructure.

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers says that 42 percent of Britain’s rail network is currently electrified, which means that the country lags behind electrification rates in other European nations.

Last year the British government scrapped electrification projects in some parts of the country, saying it would look to hybrid technology trains instead.

Rolls-Royce also said it has signed a test deal with Ireland’s Iarnrod Eireann, which could see up to 234 of its powerpacks fitted across the Irish rail network.

“We’re going into serious production now. No more R&D projects, no more demonstrators. Serious production,” Schell said.

Rolls-Royce and Porterbrook said in a statement that after initial trials on two trains in 2020, Porterbrook aims to offer the hybrid conversion to a range of its rail company customers who operate Turbostar trains, of which it has 182 on lease across the country.

Rolls Royce is also exploring the use of electric-hybrid propulsion for ships, with a 2016 concept revealing a new type of cargo ship.


The remote-controlled cargo shipped would be cheaper to run and would have more space for cargo, according to the manufacturer.

When it was announced two years ago at the Autonomous Ship Technology Symposium, Rolls Royce said it could be a reality as soon as 2020.

Article by The Independent

Peter Brock