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Brighton's Volk's Railway to go solar
9:38am Tuesday 2nd October 2012 in News
Solar trees could help power the world’s oldest electric railway.
But Brighton and Hove City Council plans to spend about £1.5 million on a raft of changes to boost tourism and ensure its long-term future.
This includes planting a “solar forest” of five trees in Madeira Drive to catch the sun and generate enough energy to power the train all year round.
Chris English, of the Volk’s Electric Railway Association, said: “We very much welcome this exciting new initiative which is in the spirit of Magnus Volk, a man who would undoubtedly be developing such environmentally sound ideas if he lived in this century.
“When completed, the increased operation will surely raise the profile of not only the railway, but also the whole of the Madeira Drive area.”
However, historians have described it as a “harebrained scheme” and asked why the changes are needed.
Local historian David Rowland said: “I know this current council has been doing some strange things but why do they want to alter something which has been in existence for more than 100 years?
“I should think Mr Volk would be turning in his grave at the thought.”
The railway was opened in 1883 by Magnus Volk, the engineer and original owner of the line.
It passed into control of the council in 1940 and currently operates only from Easter to September.
The new proposal, which would allow it to open all year round, includes plans for an all-weather train.
It also features a new train shed with solar panels on the roof and a public viewing gallery.
The Argus understands the scheme would see electricity produced to power the railway, with any excess feeding into the National Grid.
In turn, on overcast days the railway would take energy from the National Grid.
The council believes the scheme would save it £6,000 a year in electricity bills.
The cost is £1.5 million although the local authority claims only £245,000 would come from the council, with the rest met by grants.
A planning application was submitted yesterday with a decision due in November.
If the plans are approved, the work will be carried out during the winter season of 2013 and completed by Easter 2014.
Council leader Jason Kitcat said: “If we are successful it will be the perfect example of what Brighton can do.
“It’s a massively exciting scheme.”