A new generation of more efficient, quieter and greener trains could be coming to Britain’s railway lines, driven by a new hybrid power system built by Rolls-Royce.
The company – best known for its aircraft engines but which also has creates engines used on land and at sea – is developing a combined diesel-electric system that also incorporates batteries.
The system also utilises regenerative braking systems first seen in Formula 1 cars. These store energy in the batteries that is created by slowing down, and which would otherwise be wasted.
MTU, which comes under Rolls’ power systems division, has been testing the new design on a Siemens train for four years in Germany, in partnership with rail operator Deutsche Bahn.
The new system has been found to be 25pc more fuel-efficient than current trains and much quieter.
Rolls believes that its hybrid system could help Britain regain the leading role the country once held at the forefront of rail technology, and said its sees the UK as a “key” market.
Dr Ingo Wintruff, head of the MTU’s rail business, said: “Historically, many parts of the world have looked to the UK for leadership in the application of rail technology. The UK has the potential to seize the initiative again with the next generation of super-quiet, green trains.”
As well as being more environmentally friendly, Rolls said the system will mean less disturbance for people who live near commuter rail lines that are not electrified, as the new trains will be able to run on internal batteries, rather than diesel engines.
Although other companies have researched similar hybrid powertrains, Rolls believes it is closest to bringing a working product to market and will be launching its new product to the industry at the Railtex international exhibition in Birmingham on Tuesday.
Mr Wintruff added: “People may be familiar with the idea of hybrid power when they see buses and cars on their local streets, but the concept could be transformational for non or partly-electrified railways in Britain.
“If we can persuade UK train operators, rolling stock operating companies and manufacturers of the benefits of our new hybrid powerpacks, the UK could be one of the first – if not the first – country to start using these energy-efficient trains.”