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Major railway breaks nationwide record with 'industry-leading' technology: 'Achieving these distances gives us great confidence'

The train could expand to more than 80 other railways covering roughly 2,000 miles of rail.

The train could expand to more than 80 other railways covering roughly 2,000 miles of rail.

Photo Credit: Great Western Railway

The UK just took a major step toward mass transit powered by clean energy when a major railway set a new nationwide record.

In its third year of trials testing the feasibility of battery-electric rail, the Great Western Railway's (GWR) first electric train completed its longest journey on a single charge, traveling 86 miles. The train made multiple stops along the way, according to Electrek, simulating real-world use.

But the impressive trial simulations didn't stop there. More recently, the train made a 70-mile journey while only using 45% of its capacity. According to engineers onboard, it could have traveled for over 120 miles before recharging.

As for any concerns over long delays for recharging when transporting commuters, thanks to FastCharge technology the GWR bought from Vivarail in early 2023, the battery only needs to recharge for three and a half minutes before heading to its next destination.

The GWR said it will test the technology in a real-world setting this spring. If successful in transitioning to electric-battery trains, the GWR will reduce its harmful carbon pollution by 1,700 tons a year. 

After purchasing the FastCharge technology last year, GWR engineering director Simon Green said, "This work is a key part of our commitment to reduce the carbon emissions of our train fleet with a view to removing all diesel-only traction from the network by 2040, in line with the Government's Transport Decarbonization Plan."

If the FastCharge technology proves successful, GWR said it could expand to more than 80 other railways covering roughly 2,000 miles of rail in the UK. This would go a long way in helping the UK reach its goal of net zero by 2050.

These steps will help the UK catch up to Italy and Spain, which have already made strides in moving mass transit toward cleaner forms of energy. 

"Achieving these distances gives us great confidence as we press forward with this industry-leading FastCharge Technology," Green said, per Electrek. "It's also worth noting that in reaching 86 miles on Wednesday, the train was operating in a real-world environment at speeds of up to 60 mph, stopping and starting over a hilly route, with elevation changes of up to [nearly 220 yards]."

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