Battery operated trains could be coming to the Uckfield Line.
They would replace some, or all, of the current fleet of Class 171 Turbostars.
There is an agreement in place, through franchising arrangements, for 12 of the Uckfield 171s to be transferred to East Midlands Railway at some stage next year.
However, Uckfield will NOT be left with fewer trains, this website can confirm.
A spokesperson for GTR, the parent company of train operator Southern, told us: “The rolling stock leasing company is in discussions with GTR and the Department for Transport about potential replacements for the Class 171s.
“A range of proposals is currently under consideration and we are unable to offer any additional information at this stage.
“We will retain the Class 171 fleet until a suitable replacement has been identified and made available.”
So far, no details have been officially announced of the replacements.
Yesterday (January 22), however, it was announced that an electric multiple unit was to be equipped with batteries for testing and this may be a clue to what will happen.
The Rail Business UK website said this could lead to the end of diesel traction on the Uckfield to Oxted route.
Switch from battery to 3rd rail electric
It would mean the London services from Uckfield and Buxted would be operated with battery power as far as Hurst Green where 3rd rail electricity supply is available for the ‘bi-mode’ train to continue its journey to London.
At the moment, it is said, battery operated trains have a range of about 50 miles – Hurst Green to Uckfield and back is 50 miles – meaning that trains might have to recharge batteries while waiting at Uckfield.
How this would be done is not known, although there have been suggestions a short stretch of 3rd rail electricity supply could be installed.
The first of the 171 class arrived on the Uckfield Line in 2003 with the fleet being completed in 2005. They gave a direct service to London Bridge station.
Further rolling stock was added when Southern took on some trains operated by ScotRail which were converted to be compatible with the existing rolling stock.
It enabled longer trains to be run, up to ten carriages, after platforms were lengthened.
The “Scottish’ trains took time to bed in and were plagued with a number of technical faults, although they now work seamlessly with the original stock.
The Class 171 Turbostars are regarded as ‘comfortable’ by regulars commuters when compared to more modern trains, such as those used by Thameslink.
The 171s replaced ageing, noisy ‘Thumpers’ and have been credited with transforming the fortunes of the Uckfield Line and featured in an industry case study.
East Midlands Railway (EMR) runs services to Leicester, Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield from St Pancras International, as well as cross-country routes in the region.