Lithium ion batteries to be fitted to Birmingham’s trams
Birmingham is to be the first city in the UK to use cutting edge battery technology on its trams. The initiative means that overhead power lines can be dispensed with in architecturally sensitive areas of the city, and where their installation would require extensive preparatory engineering work.

The West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority has given the go-ahead for a plan to fit the latest generation of lithium ion batteries to Centro’s fleet of 21 Midland Metro Urbos 3 trams. Once installed on the tram roofs, the batteries can be recharged by the overhead lines along other parts of the route.

Catenary-free running had previously been ruled out because the supercapacitors used for on-board energy storage on similar CAF-built trams on networks in Zaragoza, Seville and Cadiz in Spain, were not deemed powerful enough for the steep hills of Birmingham’s Pinfold Street. New developments in lithium ion battery technology now make them robust enough to handle the gradients.

Four tram extension projects are earmarked for catenary-free sections: Birmingham Centenary Square, Birmingham-Edgbaston, Birmingham Eastside and Wolverhampton city centre.

No overhead cables are to be installed around the 182-year-old Town Hall in Victoria Square for Metro line extension to Centenary Square, and significant savings will be made by avoiding the need for extensive infrastructure work to roads, bridges and buildings for overhead lines.

Catenary-free operation, meanwhile, is expected to save a further £650,000.

Cllr John McNicholas, chairman of the ITA’s delivery committee, said: “The application of battery technology on this scale in the West Midlands will be a historic first for the UK light rail industry and the modern era of British tramways.”

The new Gatwick Express trains begin entering service
Gatwick Express trains begin entering serviceThe first of a fleet of 27 new Electrostar trains has entered service on the Gatwick Express, carrying passengers between London Victoria and Gatwick Airport. The trains, which were manufactured by Bombardier at their Derby plant, will replace the current 30-year old train fleet.

The new £145m fleet comprises 108 carriages and comes equipped with power sockets throughout, on-train Wi-Fi and over-seat lighting. The 2×2 seating offers more leg room and under-seat storage capacity, and will include more First Class seats.

Designed with two double sliding doors per carriage, passengers are able to get on and off the train more easily, reducing boarding and alighting times, and reducing amount of time the train is kept at stations.

Gatwick Express passenger services director, Angie Doll said: “The new fleet will replace 30-year old trains which are not designed for today’s airport passenger, and will transform the travelling experience.”

Further improvements are planned for the Gatwick Express service including a new rail station, more trains, and an improved network. The aim is to double capacity at Gatwick by 2020, and ultimately to nearly treble it by 2035.