Video: Revolutionary battery powered Electrostar train comes to Essex branch line

The battery train on trial between Harwich and Manningtree.

The battery train on trial between Harwich and Manningtree. - Credit: Archant

A revolutionary new train is being tested on the Mayflower line between Manningtree and Harwich over the next five weeks.

To most passengers it looks like just another electric unit, but the “Electrostar” on trial has a special ability – as well as collecting power from overhead it can also run on battery power.

It is the first time the unit has carried passengers since being converted, it has been running on test tracks in the midlands until now.

If the tests are successful, battery trains could ultimately be used to form through services to places like Bury St Edmunds, Sudbury, Felixstowe or Lowestoft from London – they would collect power normally and recharge batteries while running under wires but could complete their journey on non-electrified lines.

The trial is being overseen by Network Rail. Principal Engineer James Ambrose said: “We’ve made terrific progress with this project so far and seeing the battery-powered train in timetabled service is a huge step forward.

“After months of engineering and testing, the train is running just as we would like it. We’ll be using this five-week period to gather data on how it handles during passenger service – most travellers will recognise how quiet and smooth the ride is compared to a diesel-powered train.”

He added: “We are always looking for ways to reduce the cost of running the railway and make it greener too. This project has the potential to contribute significantly towards both those goals.”

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The train is currently running under wires so if the batteries run out of power it can pick up electricity from above – but it may run on non-electrified lines in the future.