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Recycling London Underground Trains for Marston Vale. Could this be a first?

D Train Prototype ()"D-Trains for Bedford to Bletchley" was the headline that caught my eye.
VivaRail has signed an agreement with West Midlands Rail Ltd to supply three new Class 230 'D-Trains' for use on the Marston Vale Line between Bedford and Bletchley. This is the first order for Class 230 trains, which are rebuilt London Underground District line stock. The trains should enter service in December 2018. D-Trains are designed to accept power modules that can be diesel, battery or, in the future, hydrogen fuel cells. The first battery vehicle will be ready this spring.

Vivarail's CEO, Adrian Shooter, stated: "This is a big day for Vivarail. We have invested considerable time and money to bring our innovative D-Train to this point and we are delighted to be working with West Midlands Trains to introduce them into passenger service. As a West Midlands based company it will be extremely gratifying to see our trains running on local lines and we look forward to passenger feedback. Our trains will be built to the high standards West Midlands Trains has committed to and will provide the flagship service for the region."

West Midlands Trains' customer service director, Andrew Conroy, explained that the Class 230 would be "ideal" for the Bedford to Bletchley route.

"We are investing in almost £700m of new trains for our passengers," he stated. "The class 230s will be the first of over 400 extra carriages we are adding to our network. D Train Test Train ()

"I am sure our passengers will welcome the new look and feel of the carriages and the extra space and when the new trains come on stream in December we will also be adding extra early morning and late night services on the Marston Vale Line, Monday to Saturday."

So is it a first? Actually not. There's a well developed second-hand trade in refurbished or adapted locomotives and occasionally multiple unit sets. For example, in 1966 six 4-car sets and six 3-car sets of London Underground stock built in 1923 were converted for use on the Isle of Wight Line and again in 1989 nine 2-car sets of 1938 London Underground vintage stock was modified, refurbished and also put to use on the Isle of Wight.

However this latest scheme is larger than previous recycling ventures and the company carrying out the work, VivaRail is offering several different versions for different types of passenfger use and with different modes of propulsion.

75 Class D78 London Underground 3-car units are being acquired. Sometimes called the "D-Trains" the series of variants is now dignified with a British Rail class designation of Class 230.

The trains will be built using the aluminium bodyshell of the D-stock trains and the present bogies that were manufactured by Bombardier less than ten years ago. Expertly inspection and independent assessment of both the bodyshell and bogies has shown them to have over 25 years of active service.

By re-using quality parts in this way Vivarail will save waste, energy, money and time and they are claiming that they are creating trains that start their lives almost carbon neutral. Recycling like this means the trains will be significantly cheaper to acquire, will have lower operating and maintainance costs and can be in service in a fraction of the time of a traditional new-build.

The Class 230 trains can be offered as diesel (DMU), electric, battery or battery hybrid multiple units with minimal changes to the base specification.

Work has now begun to build a new test train for a specific customer, but with a full range of advanced systems it will also showcase what is possible and demonstrate practicality on a variety of lines. It can simulate an EMU with on-board energy storage using lithium batteries and is designed to operate where continuous electrification is undesirable or expensive. Such battery powered trains are capable of running all day with Automatic Charging Points installed at each end of the line.

The Class 230 is designed to make simplicity of operation a key feature. When running on battery-only mode the driver merely brings the train to a stand at the stop board where a third-rail pick-up shoe automatically engages with a 2-pole supply and charging begins. When running as a DMU modular motor units can be quickly removed and replaced using a standard fork-lift so that servicing or maintenance of the of the diesel engines can take place at a nearby depot without the need to take the train out of service. This could be useful in restoring rail services to currently unused branch lines.

It is not known which type of propulsion has been selected by West Midlands Rail.