The government together with the rail industry have recently announced another significant investment in the development of a new generation of very light hybrid trains. Graeme Paton, the transport correspondent of the Times wrote an informative article on this subject on Saturday February 11.
These small trains are half the weight and cost of the heavy rail equivalent and run on a combination of batteries and the most efficient diesel engines. They could be just what our local line is looking for.
The conventional wisdom in railway circles is that electrification for the approximately 8,000 miles of non-electrified rail network is the only answer to provide fast and reliable services. However the infrastructure to supply power is expensive and ugly. Do we really want more substations, pylons and wires littering the landscape around Rye?
The first prototype mini train will be built later this year but it will not be an easy ride to get them introduced. The strikes over driver-only-operated trains suggest that there is a real mistrust of new technology. The industry may resist these technological advances on the grounds of alleged risks but eventually they may have to accept that the best form of transport for the rural non-electrified network is hybrid light rail – with or without a driver.
Photo of mini train from http://www.tdi.uk.com