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D Trains: STORM visit Test Track


On 20th August I had been invited to visit the Long Marston Railway Test track to view the D Train concept being developed by Vivarail.   There is a shortage of dmu vehicles and trains in Britain and building new is not just extremely expensive but a long winded process as well.   Vivarail which comprises a number of Railway professionals of impeccable engineering backgrounds has come up with a more affordable solution which will be available in a matter of months.

A large fleet of London Underground trains, known as D trains, is now being replaced.   The D trains have an all aluminium body so have not been affected by corrosion and they are virtually as good as they were when new..    New state-of-the-art bogies by ADTranz were fitted some 8 years ago.   On London Underground they are of course electrics.

The conversion will see the installation of two “pods” per power car, each pod containing a Ford diesel engine and generating set which will drive the train via the existing electric motors.   For maintenance purposes, a pod can be exchanged in a matter of a quarter of an hour.

The interiors of the coaches will be reworked and a wide variety of seating layouts to suit local conditions will be offered.   Toilets including disabled access will be installed as well.

I know some people have criticised the project on the basis that here in the north we deserve to get some brand new trains for once.   But to quote an old Lancashire saying: “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face”.

With a top speed of 60 mph they aren’t going to be suitable for many (indeed most) routes both in the north and elsewhere.   But some idea of the possibilities can be gained from the artist’s impressions in their booklet and the promotional DVD where the destination blinds shown include: Leeds, Morecambe, Preston, Norwich, Yarmouth, Peterborough, Lowestoft, Huddersfield, Sheffield and Greenford.

We rode around the test track in the first vehicle capable of movement under its own power where some stretches are deliberately left rough in order to test the riding of vehicles on less than perfect track.   The ride up to 30 mph (the maximum so far permitted on the test vehicle) was smooth and quiet.   The seats are nicely padded, the view out of the picture windows is superb.

Line testing of a full unit is expected to start early in 2016.

Provided the costings are correct and the reliability as expected, I have to say that in my view these D trains should be a very welcome replacement for Pacers in rural areas and on lightly used branches.

The level of investment shows that Vivarail really are serious.

Richard S Greenwood Chair STORM

21 August 2015

Contact Information


Meeting Place: Woolworths Social Club
Gipsy Lane
OL11 3HA

Meeting times


2nd Tuesday in Feb, April, June, August, Oct and December,in The Blue Pits Inn, 842 Manchester Road, Castleton, Rochdale, OL11 2SP