Class 319 to go bi-mode


Porterbrook Leasing and Northern are to introduce bi-mode Class 319 ‘Flex’ EMUs to widen their sphere of use and help replace the unloved ‘Pacer’ DMU fleet.

Porterbrook announced on December 22, that it has committed to deliver to Northern a variant of a Class 319 EMU that is able to operate over both electrified and non-electrified routes.

Unit No. 319427 arrived at Brush Traction in Loughborough at the end of November, where it will be fitted with diesel engines to become the testbed for this new bi-mode train.

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The Class 319 ‘Flex’ concept will convert the electric-only units into bi-mode trains by fitting two diesel-powered alternators, one under each of the driving trailer cars. The alternators will provide power to the existing traction and auxiliary equipment to allow the EMU to operate without an overhead or third-rail supply.

The systems will provide power through the train’s existing cabling to avoid any significant changes and thus create a unit capable of operating from a number of different power sources whilst maintaining full capabilities on electrified routes. So far, no details have been released of the planned diesel engine.

The concept of minimal alterations means the cost of conversion can be kept low. The design also has provision to cater for a range of operations, either as an alternative to existing DMUs or offering more performance if required through the fitment of additional batteries for non-electrified operations.

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Northern is taking a total of 20 Class 319 EMUs, which have been made surplus by the arrival of the new Class 700 for Thameslink duties. The Class 319s are being refreshed by Knorr-Bremse at Wolverton Works prior to being moved to Allerton depot. The first units began work on the Liverpool-Wigan/Manchester corridor in May 2015, prompting the inevitable criticism of the north receiving ‘hand-me-down’ trains from the south.

The ‘Flex’ project – which has the support of Rail North representing local authorities in the north of England – has the benefit of allowing Class 319 units to work beyond the electrified network onto routes operated by ‘Pacer’ units. Another possible route is on the Windermere branch, which is currently operated by Class 185 units.

The first bi-mode Class 319 is scheduled to start operation in spring 2018. Porterbrook says this type of train could also appeal to other operators wishing to replace ageing diesel multiple units.

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