New Government policy designed to encourage greener transport systems is expected to benefit Black Country-based Parry People Movers.
The company, based in Cradley Heath, supplies lightweight rail and tram vehicles. It has been boosted recently with the announcement that its railcars will run services on the Stourbridge Town branch line from 2008, under the new regional franchise awarded to Govia by the Department for Transport.
The Government's new White Paper and accompanying Rail Technical Strategy, published on July 24, give official recognition of the need for high-efficiency, lightweight, hybrid technology in future rail development.
This is an approach pioneered by the company since its formation in 1991.
It now expects that the supply of two PPM 60 vehicles to the London Midland franchise will increase revenue by as much as £750,000 starting in the current financial year.
The PPM railcars will provide all passenger services on the branch - the first conversion of a route to "lightweight rail" technology. It is hoped this will stimulate interest in the concept both in the UK and overseas.
PPM's rail vehicles are the first in service to feature lightweight construction, a hybrid power supply and a patented energy storage system which enables the vehicle to recover kinetic energy as it brakes and then re-use it to accelerate away from stops - a system known as regenerative braking.
Experimental passenger operation in 2006 revealed an 80 per cent cut in carbon dioxide emissions compared to conventional diesel trains, a 45 per cent reduction in operating costs, and considerable reductions in noise and pollutants.
The base technology, which uses propane gas as fuel, can also be adapted to use other energy sources including biofuels and hydrogen if these are preferred.
The Government's Rail Technical Strategy makes frequent reference to the need for carbon reduction by the use of hybrid technology, regenerative braking and lightweight vehicles, and to the potential for biofuel and hydrogen for powering rail systems.
PPM chairman John Parry said: "We welcome the views contained in the recently published Government White Paper and Rail Technical Strategy that recognise the substantial need for all future rail transport to be efficient, lightweight and environmentallyfriendly in performance.
"For many years, PPM has championed the merits of hybrid technology as the most efficient concept for the future development of rail transport. It is a thorough vindication to see Government policy now echoing these sentiments."
In the light of this, he said the firm was looking forward to the future with new confidence.
As PPM's rail vehicles remove the need for an electrical power supply, they offer excellent environmental performance and energy efficiency at lower costs than conventional technology.
Its technology can be used equally on railways and on urban tramways, and PPM's vehicles are fully compliant with accessibility regulations.
Twelve PPM vehicles have been built, ranging in capacity from two to 50 passengers and between them they have carried over 100,000 passengers.
PPM vehicles have operated in Bristol, Brighton, Barking, Swansea, Birmingham, Oswestry and elsewhere. Its PPM 50 Lightweight Railcar No 999 900 has run on the Chasewater Railway, the Great Central Railway, the Severn Valley Railway and the Wensleydale Railway since it was built in 2001.
From December 11, 2005, to December 17, 2006, this railcar operated more than 4,000 passenger services between Stourbridge Junction and Stourbridge Town stations on Sundays, run by Pre Metro Operations.