Fire damages Vivarail DMU

PROTOTYPE Vivarail DMU No. 230001 has been damaged after a fire broke out on December 30.

The fire occurred during a test run from Tyseley steam depot – where the DMU is being based – to Nuneaton via Leamington Spa and Coventry. The train had ten staff on board.

Warwickshire Fire & Rescue service reported they’d received a call at 13.12 to attend the train which had come to a halt at the site of the new Kenilworth station where there is adequate access for the emergency services. Less than 15mins later RM contributor Fraser Pithie who lives in the town was on site and reported the fire, which had not been extinguished, was under the trailing vehicle.

All Vivarail staff, and West Coast Railway staff who were also involved in the tests, had evacuated safely. Vivarail tweeted: “There is a problem on the test train, all staff are safe and procedures worked as expected.”

The Viviarail train is based on former London Underground District line D78 stock which have been stripped and refitted internally, while power comes from Ford 3.2litre diesel engines driving an alternator that power the original traction motors through a new control system. The testing of the unit had been ongoing for some weeks following certification, the intention being to hand the unit over to London Midland to use on the self-contained Nuneaton-Coventry diagram. At present, that passenger trial has been postponed, says Vivarail.

Clearly, Vivarail will need some time to investigate the cause of the fire before making any further decisions.

Adrian Shooter, chairman of Vivarail, said: “It was a fire in one of the engine modules on a test train. We don’t know why it occurred but obviously when we get the train back we will be taking it to pieces and assessing it.”

Vivarail has a large supply of these units, and their pioneering conversion was seen as a way of providing improved trains – certainly over Pacers – on rural routes while cutting leasing costs by upto two thirds. Hopefully this aspiration can still be achieved and this incident is no more than a minor setback.

The RAIB is expected to be involved the any subsequent investigation.  Exclusive picture by FRASER PITHIE