Rossendale Free Press
‘Upcycled’ tube trains could get Valley on line
ANEW fleet of light trains to connect Rossendale travellers with tram and train networks in Manchester could use some old parts from ‘recently retired’ London Underground trains.
Last week, Rossendale council was given the goahead to create a strategic outline business case for a new rail link, with £100,000 funding from Lancashire County Council and up to £50,000 from the Department for Transport.
The borough council will put £16,000 towards the business case project which will aim to show the benefits of the proposed links against its costs.
Rossendale’s cabinet were this week due to be asked to authorise the funding agreement and note a refreshed update on the rail link’s plans for the potential City-Valley Link shuttle.
The blueprint proposes a small fleet of battery-powered Vivarail class 230 trains using ‘upcycled’ body shells and bogey sets taken from old London Underground District Line trains. A bogey is the chassis or framework underneath a railway carriage which carries the wheel sets and suspension.
The Isle of Wight uses retired London Underground trains and recently reopened after a £26million upgrade.
In Rossendale, passenger experience on the new electric trains would be equivalent to brand new trains because the carriages would be refitted and redesigned, say the plans due to be discussed by the cabinet on Wednesday evening.
The electric trains would run along the existing Rawtenstall, Ramsbottom and Bury line but with three new stations at Ewood Bridge, Stubbins and Buckley Wells - which would also be a Metrolink tram interchange.
The overall aim is to offer regular commuter services from Rossendale into Bury, enabling forward travel into Manchester while also allowing the East Lancs Railway to run its heritage train services.
Statistics say more than half of Valley residents work outside the borough, with 9,000 travelling into Manchester daily. New light rail and Metrolink tram connections could remove between one and three million car journeys annually.
Battery-powered light trains are seen as a ‘high quality solution’ because they offer good acceleration and would minimise the need for railway infrastructure upgrades on the existing East Lancs rail line which has a number of limitations.
Rossendale council leader Coun Alyson Barnes has welcomed the funding for the business case and said new train-tram links would boost the area’s economy. But she also emphasised much work was still to be done.
Rossendale lost its mainstream railway services after the Beeching cuts of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Today, the East Lancs Railway runs a limited number of heritage trains between Bury, Rawtenstall and Heywood. Weekends and holidays are the peak times for it, and it also has aspirations to extend towards Manchester’s Castlefield area.
The City-Valley Link plan for Rossendale’s cabinet states: “Infrastructure and signalling are expensive to upgrade and changes are difficult to reverse.
“Where new trains are being procured, capacity improvement can be achieved through inherent speed and acceleration improvements. ‘Agile’ trains are a preferable means of increasing capacity over complex infrastructure upgrades, where possible.
“Infrastructure maintenance costs will increase with a more intense service and the time available for repairs will decrease.
“Design, installation and maintenance of complex infrastructure or signalling must be considered in context of staff and skills available.”