Carriages could ease crowding on Valley Lines.
Byline: Robin Turner Reporter email@example.com
SPECIALIST public transport firm Vivarail has released photographs of refurbished London Underground trains which could help reduce overcrowding on Britain's congested train network. Arriva Trains Wales (ATW) has been sent details of the London Underground rolling stock idea by Vivarail, the small company which has bought up scores of surplus coaches and started converting them from electric to diesel power.
The trains could provide welcome relief for some passengers as early as next spring - years before the electrification of the Valley Lines brings in a new fleet of trains in South Wales.
However, although Vivarail has sent details of its rolling stock to ATW, a spokeswoman for the company said: "There has been no talks between ATW and Vivarail. It is for the Welsh Government to decide on the future rolling stock strategy for Wales."
At a transport conference in Cardiff earlier this year, ATW managing director Ian Bullock said Vivarail had spotted that no new diesel trains had been ordered in Britain for several years.
"We're reaching a point where we really do need some additional trains," he said.
Vivarail spokesman Alice Gillman says the firm's engineers believe the refurbished rolling stock would be suitable for lines in Wales. But she said at the moment there had been "no follow up" from the Welsh Government or ATW.
A Welsh Government spokesman said: "Ministers have made it clear that any rolling stock used on the next Wales and Borders Franchise and Metro should be of a higher standard. It is up to ATW to manage capacity requirements for the current franchise."
Vivarail's trains used to run on the District Line, connecting areas such as Richmond, Putney and Wimbledon to Kensington, Paddington and Westminster.
It is fitting several Ford diesel engines, as used in Transit vans, to each train. The trains were built in the early 1980s and modernised 10 years ago.
Vivarail, run by former Chiltern Railways engineers, has enough carriages to make 75 three-car diesel trains to help with the country's lack of rolling stock. One train has been refurbished. It will take about six months for each order to be fulfilled.
The carriages are dismantled, put back together and fitted with diesel engines and a number are currently on a testing site in the Warwickshire countryside - complete with its own circular track.
Critics question their safety and the fact they are second-hand - but some passenger groups have come round to the idea as a stop-gap. These supporters argue they could help to tackle overcrowding on our trains.
Adrian Shooter, who runs Vivarail, said: "Our trains are around half the price of a brand new train.
But the cost is only part of the story. The trains we are selling are extremely good value for money and clearly the government is ultimately looking for the best possible value for money.
"They are trains designed to be suitable for the commuter of today and tomorrow rather than of yesterday."
The interior of the train
A transformed London Underground train which could be operating on the Valley Lines