Will Tube trains be coming to Suffolk?

The prototype converted Tube train currently on trial.

The prototype converted Tube train currently on trial. - Credit: Archant

With rail services on rural lines across the region suffering from a lack of units, a novel solution could be heading to two Suffolk branch lines – former Tube trains.

A new company, Vivarail, has bought more than 200 former District Line Tube trains, dating from the 1970s, and has converted a prototype into a modern diesel unit that could be run on short rural and urban lines across the country.

The D-Train would not be suitable for long-distance routes of more than an hour – but could be used on shorter routes such as the Ipswich to Felixstowe line or the Sudbury branch from Marks Tey.

A spokeswoman for Vivarail said the company was hoping to talk to bidders for the new Anglia rail franchise that is due to start next October in the hope of supplying units for the region.

There is a national shortage of diesel units which has meant Abellio Greater Anglia has been struggling to cover for broken-down trains when they have more than one breaking down.

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The D-Train is seen as a potential solution on a number of routes across the country – and is currently being tested on the Cotswold line close to Vivarail’s base near Stratford on Avon.

Company spokeswoman Alice Gillman said the company hoped to speak to the bidders for the new franchise because the D-Trains would be cheaper and could be made ready much more quickly than a traditional electric unit.

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She said: “We could make up to 75 three-car trains and an order would take us a year to fulfil, meaning new trains could come on stream relatively quickly.

“Although the train is based on a bodyshell of a Tube train, it is only that and the bogies which are 10 years old that would be carried over. Everything else is new.

“And because the bodyshell is aluminium there is no rust. They are essentially brand new trains and will be available in a reasonable time. ”

No new trains can be ordered until the franchise bidding process is complete and none of the bidders – Abellio/Stagecoach, National Express, or First Group – are able to comment on their plans until their formal bids are lodged with the Department for Transport.

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