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Always ahead of the game

The two new battery-electric light rail vehicles for the Southend Pier Railway entered service in Spring 2022. Courtesy of Severn Lamb

Patrick Lamb, Managing Director of Severn Lamb, describes the process of creating bespoke vehicles for some of the more unusual light rail projects.

Regardless of the business you are in, it is important to keep up with the times. For our projects and our clients, this means providing the most efficient, affordable, environmentally-conscious and passenger-friendly vehicles – often to tight constraints.

Under the skin, even our most heritage or ‘retro’-styled vehicles are cutting-edge in terms of drive systems and digital technology. Initially this involved a transition from steam power to diesel-hydraulic variants, and then to more eco-friendly and efficient Euro 5 and 6-certified powerplants. But time waits for no man, and as new technologies became available we were at the forefront of incorporating non-fossil fuel alternatives to meet clients’ requirements.

The past ten years have therefore seen a lot of research and development into perfecting our battery-electric drive system, with almost all our current projects now utilising a ‘clean engine’ power solution.

The light and spacious interior is  both comfortable and easy to maintain. Courtesy of Severn Lamb

Most recently this is reflected in the two new battery-electric Ultra-Light Rail trains we were commissioned to design and build for the Southend Pier Railway in the UK.

This project is one which is near and dear to our hearts, because we delivered the pier’s previous trains back in 1986. The two recently de-commissioned diesel cars have stood the test of time, providing excellent service since their inauguration by HRH Princess Anne on 2 May 1986. But when the time came for their replacement, Southend Pier initiated a public tender for the design and manufacture of two new eco-friendly pier trains in line with its efforts to become carbon neutral.

Powering these 54m-long, 2.3m-wide trains is a self-contained Li-ion drive system integrated into the carriages’ chassis. An overnight charge allows for a full day of passenger service with no requirement for external rail-based or overhead electrification.

Many of the other features of these new 21st Century railcars are a ‘first’ for trains of this size and scale: powered automated doors; programmable internal and external LED lighting; and remote diagnostic systems. All this and more are integrated into the tightly-packaged trains which were officially launched in a ceremony by HRH Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall on 1 March. Honouring previous tradition, the trains have been named with the first honouring long-serving local MP Sir David Amess.

In a very different project, Severn Lamb recently designed and built four bespoke battery-electric double-deck trams for Cairo. Courtesy of Severn Lamb

Careful and considerate design

To comply with the unique constraints of a 19th Century pier railway, careful consideration has been given to vehicle dimensions and weight limits. As such, the bodyshell and overall construction are aluminium with GRP sections, coated with a paint finish and sealant to offer maximum protection from the saline environment. The eye-catching final design and livery were chosen through public consultation.

Up to 200 passengers per train are treated to the very latest amenities, including USB charging sockets, location-based GPS audio and visual multimedia experiences, and bright, spacious carriages. Further innovation comes in the form of a remote diagnostic system which allows operators to monitor the trains’ key systems and troubleshoot any potential issues before they require removal from service.

> This sponsored feature first appeared in TAUT 1013 (May 2022)