The Anonymous Widower

A New Name For The Ordsall Chord

I must admit that as a Londoner and someone, who doesn’t know Manchester well, Ordsall Chord doesn’t have a name that suggests Manchester, its history and the many good things about the City.

After the tragic event of last week, surely, the locally-built massive steel bridge across the Irwell, should be dedicated to those who died and were hurt and given a name to reflect on Manchester’s past and present.

I would suggest something simple like the Mancunian Chord.

 

May 29, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | 4 Comments

Metro Development With Flex Trains

The June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways gave a few more details of the Class 319 Flex trains, that are being created for Northern.

  • The trains now have their own TOPS-number of 769, which must be a seal of approval.
  • Northern have ordered eight Class 319 Flex trains as part of or in addition to a fleet of thirty-two Class 319 trains.
  • These eight trains will be delivered by the end of May 2018.
  • A Class 319 Flex train can be produced every two weeks.

It is also likely, that by the end of this year, Network Rail will have completed the following.

  • The Ordsall Chord connecting Manchester Victoria and Piccadilly stations.
  • Electrification between Manchester and Preston.
  • Electrification from Preston to Blackpool North station.
  • Electrification from Manchester Victoria to Stalybridge.

This will mean electric trains like the Class 319 train and bi-mode trains like the Class 319 Flex train, can go between Hazel Grove, Manchester Airport and Stockport to Blackpool North, Liverpool Lime Street, Manchester Victoria, Preston and Wigan North Western.

The Class 319 Flex trains using their diesel power will also be able to extend the electric network to Blackburn, Blackpool South, Burnley Manchester Road, Clitheroe, Southport, Stalybridge, Wigan Wallgate and Windermere, without any additional electrification.

There will be benefits for passengers.

  • The Class 319 trains and Class 319 Flex trains will be faster and journey times will be shorter.
  • Services run by elderly two-car trains will now be run by refurbished four-car trains.
  • Most journeys across Manchester will be continuous or with a single same-platform change at a convenient station.

How will various routes be affected?

Cross-Manchester Travel

Cross-City lines revolutionise city travel and the Ordsall Chord will do the same for Manchester.

This map from Wikipedia shows the location of the Ordsall Chord and how it is connected to exotic places like  Bolton, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester Airport, Stockport and Warrington.

Mancunians will have to learn how to use the link, but they won’t take long to do that!

You may be lucky and your journey will be available from your local station.

But if it requires a change, you will probably take a train to the central core stations of Victoria, Deansgate, Oxford Road or Piccadilly and change for your ultimate destination.

  • For many changes, you will just get off one train, wait on the platform for a few minutes and then board another train.
  • Some stations will be better interchanges than others.
  • Platforms 13 and 14 at Piccadilly may be crowded, but they are at least an island platform allowing a change of direction.
  • Platforms at Deansgate and Oxford Road may need widening.
  • Other stations like Salford Crescent and Salford Central will also get used as interchanges.

If there is one problem with the Ordsall Chord, it is the name.

Perhaps it should be called the Mancunian Chord?

Collateral Benefits Of The Ordsall Chord

The nearest railway line in concept to the Ordsall Chord is probably Thameslink in London.

  • As Thameslink has developed, it has not only provided a high-capacity North-South route across London, but it has also taken the pressure from main line stations like London Bridge, St. Pancras and Victoria, by allowing travellers to change to their long distance trains further out.
  • Thmeslink has also been a major factor in improving services to Gatwick Airport.
  • Gatwick Airport is building on its position to be a major rail hub South of London.

Over the years Thameslink has developed and some think in a few years time, Thameslink will be at least, if not more important than Crossrail.

Two things will definitely happen, when the Ordsall Chord opens.

As with Thameslink in London, Northern and Southern routes into the Manchester, will be linked back-to-back, to free up platforms in terminal stations.

Frequencies and capacity on many routes will increase. Stations, that have had a two-car diesel train twice an hour since the days of steam ended, will find they get a four-car electric or bi-mode train at a doubled frequency.

But long-term the Ordsall Chord will have major effects.

  • Towns and areas like Blackburn, Blackpool, Burnley, Chester, Hudderfield, Kirkby, Southport, Warrington and Wigan will have frequent train services to and from the whole of Manchester City Centre and will benefit accordingly.
  • Increased frequencies to Leeds and Liverpool will be easier to arrange.
  • Many travellers going to and from Birmingham, London and the South will change at Stockport rather than Piccadilly.
  • Few trains will reverse direction in Piccadilly.
  • Just as Gatwick Airport has been envigorated by Thameslink, Manchester Airport will become a major rail hub.
  • Will Preston develop into Manchester’s hub station for travellers going North or to Scotland.
  • Access to the tourist areas of North Lancashire, the Peak District and Yorkshire will be improved.

The Ordsall Chord will have such major effects on Manchester, that I could see HS2 plans being changed.

Buxton To Manchester And Clitheroe To Manchester

I will treat these routes together, as I believe they are a natural fit, where back-to-back operation will be beeficial.

  • Both routes are uphill away from Manchester.
  • Both routes need better and faster trains.
  • Both routes need more capacity.
  • Class 319 Flex trains could work both routes without any infrastructure work.

Could Buxton to Clitheroe, with perhaps a two-hourly extension to Hellifield for the Settle and Carlisle Railway create a very valuable tourism asset for the North-West?

In Why Not Buxton To Hellifield?, I looked at the possibilities about running  a direct back-to-back service across Manchester.

I said this.

In some ways the interesting one is the round trip from Buxton to Clitheroe, which allowing ten minutes for each turnround at Clitheroe and Buxton means that the round trip is under four hours.

This means that an hourly Buxton to Clitheroe service would need four trains and two trains per hour would need eight trains.

As the routes to Blackburn and Clitheroe in the North and Hazel Grove and Buxton in the South are very busy, four-car Class 319 Flex trains will be very welcome.

Windermere

Improving the service to Windermere station on the Windermere Branch is a complex problem.

I have been doing some analysis in Is Electrification Of The Windermere Branch Line Really Necessary?

I came to this conclusion.

I think that updating Oxenholme station with a fourth platform and using more powerful trains, would allow the frequency of trains on the Windermere Branch to be increased to one train every thirty minutes.

No electrification of the branchwould be needed.

We will know the answer, when Northern run a Class 319 Flex train in trials to Windermere.

I will not speculate on the timetable, but I’m sure Northern know about how the ideal timetable should look.

Manchester Airport to Huddersfield Via Stalybridge

Electrification to Stalybridge station is running late.

But no matter, as Class 319 Flex trains could fill in for their electric sisters.

Further Routes To The Core

Because they are bi-mode trains, the limitations of which routes can be served using Class 319 Flex trains, will be limited more by the availability of trains than anything else.

Signalling and operational procedures through the core will need to be improved, but a twin-track railway like that can take a frequency of sixteen to twenty tph over the Irwell.

After all, the East London Line has handled those frequencies in a tunnel built by Brunel’s father in the mid-1800s since 2010.

Adding More Trains

I feel that Manchester will need more trains in a couple of years.

But just as Liverpool found no trouble with funding new custom-built trains for their network, when the time comes for Manchester to increase the fleet size, the city shouldn’t have a problem! Brexit permitting!

At least, if the Ordsall Chord routes are successful, they will define the specification of the new trains.

The simplest plan would see some new four-car electric units added to the fleet to release Class 319 trains for conversion to more Class 319 Flex trains.

Some of these trains could be specially designed airport trains for connecting Manchester Airport to Blackpool, Huddersfield, Liverpool and other places.

At some time in the future, all of the Class 319 trains and Class 319 Flex trains will be replaced, but will they finally see the scrapyard or will they be sent to do missionary work in places like Aberdeen, Bristol, Derby, Exeter, Lincoln, Sheffield, Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle and other places.

Conclusion

The Class 319 Flex train may have been designed by Porterbrook and Northern to fill an enormous hole left by Network Rail’s non-performance on electrification, but like its famous predecessor, the InterCity 125 which filled the gap left by the non-performance of the Advanced Passenger Train, I feel it will set new standards in train travel. But this time on predominately urban rather than InterCity routes.

I also feel strongly, that te flexible methods being used in Manchester to develop the rail services could be used elsewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 29, 2017 Posted by | Travel, Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Is Electrification Of The Windermere Branch Line Really Necessary?

In the June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article, which is entitled Windermere Could Pioneer Bridge Lifts.

This is the first paragraph.

An innovative method for increasing clearances for the installation of overhead electric lines could be used for the first time on the Windermere line.

On the Windermere Branch Line, four masonry bridges will need to be raised.

I wrote about the technique in Levitation Magic.

Improving the service to Windermere station on the Windermere Branch is a complex problem.

Currently,  the service to Oxenholme station is roughly hourly and seems to take between 17-22 minutes each way. So a round trip to Oxenholme must take about forty minutes.

The service is not clock-face and I believe that in an ideal world, it should be two trains per hour (tph) What would services every thirty minutes do for tourism to the area?

The extract from the Wikipedia entry for the Windermere Branch explains the operation of the branch.

There are no passing loops or sidings anywhere on the route (all the stations bar Oxenholme have just one operational platform) and it is operated under “One Train Working with Train Staff” regulations with only one train allowed on the line at any time. Entry to and exit from the branch is controlled by the signalling centre at Carlisle and before a service can proceed beyond the branch platform at Oxenholme, the driver must collect the train staff from a cabinet on the platform, which is electrically released by the Carlisle signaller. Once the train has made its journey to the terminus and back again, the staff must be returned to the cabinet before the train can either leave for the south or make another return trip along the single line.

As only one train is allowed on the line at any one time, it means that a train needs to be able to go from Oxenholme and back in under thirty minutes for a two tph service.

  • The branch line is ten miles long.
  • There are two intermediate stops on the line.
  • There are three level crossings on the line.
  • Currently, there is a time allowance of 5-6 minutes to turn the train at Windermere.
  • Passengers on this type of line don’t travel light and stops will be slow.

In the title of this post, I asked if electrification was really necessary.

Reasons for electrifying a line are many and varied.

  • Increased line speed.
  • Reducing carbon emissions – Compared to other lines, this is probably less important if the trains meet the latest emission standards.
  • Overall efficiency of the railway.
  • Difficult terrain.
  • Political reasons – The line is in Tim Farron’s constituency.
  • Heavy freight use – There is little.
  • Express trains – There are none.

On the other hand, there are various lobbies against the visual intrusion of electrification in parts of the country.

  • Electrification might help on the Winderemere Branch, but the scheduled train times from Oxenholme to Windermere are very slow, when you compare the branch to others of a similar length.
  • The average speed on the generally flat Felixstowe Branch Line is 45 mph including stops, whereas the average on the Windermere Branch is just 30 mph.
  • Is this just the terrain, where Oxenholme is sixty metres higher than Windermere?
  • And how do the level crossings affect train speeds and times?

So perhaps the alternative solution to electrification, for a better service, is a train with more grunt, that’s designed for climbing gradients with a full passenger load.

Incidentally, the downhill journey seems to be a minute or two slower, so the train had better have good brakes.

The Windermere Branch And The Class 319 Flex Train

The Class 319 Flex train has been designed around the very stiff Manchester to Buxton Line.

So it certainly has bags of grunt and drivers tell me, that the brakes on a Class 319 train are superb.

It is an electro-diesel train and it will be interesting to see, how these trains perform on the Windermere Branch Line.

I can’t believe that Northern won’t try their new toys out on the route, especially as they can mix it with the fast boys on the West Coast Main Line.

But there are other things that can be done to decrease the journey times on this line.

  • Make the train-platform interface as step-free as possible.
  • Increase the number of staff on station platforms to speed loading and unloading.
  • Make sure passengers in wheelchairs can get on and off easily.
  • Remove the level crossings.
  • Install a modern signalling system.
  • Install the best information systems on both trains and stations.

I also wonder if a train with a driver in each cab can save a couple of minutes in the reverse at Windermere.

In the arguments over Driver Only Operation, this method of operating a shuttle train seems to have been forgotten.

If you look at the power and weight of trains that might work the Windermere Branch, some are pretty asthmatic, but as the Class 319 Flex train was designed for this type of line, it has more installed power than most.

The Class 319 Flex train may be a 100 mph train using electricity, but it is also capable of over 90 mph on diesel power, so it is no slowcoach.

Oxenholme Station

In the end it might still be necessary to install a passing loop, which with a modern signalling system, would allow trains to pass.

There would appear to be problems with platform length at Oxenholme station, so why not do the following?

  • Squeeze a Platform 4 into the station, so there are separate platforms for trains going to and from Windermere.
  • Lengthen Platforms 3 and 4, so eight-car trains can access the branch.
  • Eight-car platforms would make it easier for one four-car Class 319 Flex train to rescue another train that had failed.
  • Improve the subway with lifts to all platforms.
  • Install a safe signalling system, that handles the trains efficiently.

This picture shows Platform 3 at Oxenholme station with a train for Windermere.

Another track and platform would be built to the right of the train.

Conclusion

I think that updating Oxenholme station with a fourth platform and using more powerful trains, would allow the frequency of trains on the Windermere Branch to be increased  to one train every thirty minutes.

No electrification of the branch wuld be needed.

We will know the answer, when Northern run a Class 319 Flex train in trials to Windermere.

May 28, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | 1 Comment

The Go-Anywhere Express Parcel And Pallet Carrier

In the June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways there is an article entitled Freight, Not All Doom And Gloom, which talks about high-value parcel carriers. The article says this.

Think about all those 1980s units that are soon to be made redundant, especially the ones with wide doorways. You could forklift in pallets and move them by hand trolley inside the vehicle (forklift tines would not fit an HST’s doors).

A Class 150 parcels unit, anyone?

There are other reasons for not using a High Speed Train.

  • ScotRail and Great Western Railway have better uses for the trains moving passengers around in style.
  • Their 125 mph capability and large windows might come in handy for heritage tourism.
  • They are diesel trains and some might not like to hear them thundering through the countryside in the middle of the night.

As to the Class 150 train, it has a few disadvantages.

  • It is only two-cars.
  • It has a 75 mph operating speed.
  • It is diesel-powered, which probably means regular refuelling.

But also like all Mark 3-based stock it scrubs up well as I wrote in What Train Is This?

I would refurbish the whole fleet and use them on short branch lines to provide a quality service, where a two or four-car train was all that was needed.

So what would be the specification of an ideal Go-Anywhere Express Parcel and Pallet Carrier?

I was going to call it a GAEPPC in this post, but that’s rather a mouthful, so I’ll call it a High Speed Parcel Train or High Speed Pallet Train, which in recognition of its more famous big brother will be called a HSPT.

For the specification, it might be a good idea to start with the Class 325 train. This is the first paragraph of the train’s Wikipedia entry.

The British Rail Class 325 is a 4-car dual-voltage 25 kV alternating current (AC) or 750 V direct current (DC) electric multiple unit (EMU) train used for postal train services. While the Class 325 bears a resemblance to the Networker series of DMUs and EMUs, they are based on the Class 319 EMU. The Class 325 was British Rail’s newest unit to take over parcels workings on electrified lines.

The requirement might have changed since the 1990s, but the basic specification would be similar.

  • Four-cars
  • 100 mph operating speed.
  • 25 KVAC overhead or 750 VDC third rail operation.
  • The ability to run as four-, eight- and twelve-car trains.
  • It would be available in a range of colours and not just red!

In addition, it would need wide doors for pallets.

It would also be nice, if the HSPT could run on lines without electrification.

Look at this picture of a Class 321 train.

Would a standard size 1200 x 1000 pallet go through this door?

This morning, I measured the door on a Class 378 train and it was about 1700 mm. wide. So yes!

Once inside the systems used in aircraft could be used to arrange the pallets.

Consider, these facts about Class 321 trains.

  • They are four-car electric multiple units, that can also run as eight and twelve car units.
  • They can operate at 100 mph.
  • They are dual voltage units, if required.
  • There are 117 of the trains, of which over a hundred will be released by Greater Anglia and will need a new caring owner.
  • The interior may be wide enough to put two standard pallets side-by-side.
  • They are based on Mark 3 steel carriages, so are built to take punishment.

In Could There Be A Class 321 Flex Train?, I speculated as to whether these trains could be fitted with underfloor diesel engines as in the Class 319 Flex train. After the news reports in the June 2017 Edition of Modern railways, which I reported on in The Class 319 Flex Units To Be Class 769, I’m now convinced that converting other types of train like Class 455 and Class 321 trains is feasible and that the train refurbishing companies are going to be extremely busy.

I have a feeling that Class 319 trains will not be converted to HSPTs, as they seem to be very much in demand to carry more valuable cargo – Namely fare-paying passengers!

But fit diesel engines under a Class 321 train and I think it would make a HSPT, that could travel on nearly every mile of the UK rail network and quite a few miles on heritage railways too!

A Freight Terminal For An HSPT

As the Class 321 train has been designed for passengers, it lines up reasonably well with most of the station platforms in the UK.

So at its simplest a freight terminal for a HSPT could just be a station platform, where a fork lift truck could lift pallets in and out.The freight handling facilities would be designed appropriately.

Supermarket Deliveries

I also think, that if a HSPT were available, it could attract the attention of the big supermarket groups.

In The LaMiLo Project, I described how goods were brought into Euston station in the middle of the night for onward delivery.

If it cuts costs, the supermarket groups will use this method to get goods from their central warehouses to perhaps the centres of our largest cities.

Get the design right and I suspect the supermarkets’ large delivery trolley will just roll between the train and the last-mile truck, which ideally would be a zero-emission vehicle.

In some of the larger out-of-town superstores, the train could even stop alongside the store and goods and trolleys could be wheeled in and out.

This Google Map shows Morrisons at Ipswich.

The store lies alongside the Great Eastern Main Line.

Surely, the ultimate would be if the goods were to be transported on the trains in driverless electric trolleys, which when the doors were opened, automatically came out of the trains and into the store.

Supermarket groups like to emphasise their green credentials.

Surely, doing daily deliveries to major stores by train, wouldn’t annoy anybody. |Except perhaps Donald Trump, but he’s an aberration on the upward march of scientifically-correct living.

Just-In-Time Deliveries

To take Toyota as an example, in the UK, cars are built near Derby, and The engines are built near Shotton in North Wales.

Reasons for the two separate sites are probably down to availability of the right workforce and Government subsidy.

I’m not sure, but I suspect currently in Toyota’s case, engines are moved across the country by truck, but if there was a HSPT, with a capacity of around a hundred and fifty standard pallets would manufacturing companies use them to move goods from one factory to another?

It should be said in Toyota’s case the rail lines at both Derby and Shotton are not electrified, but if the train could run on its own diesel power, it wouldn’t matter.

Refrigerated Deliveries

There probably wouldn’t be much demand now, but in the future bringing Scottish meat and seafood to London might make a refrigerated HSPT viable.

Deliveries To And From Remote Parts Of The UK

It is very difficult to get freight between certain parts of the UK and say Birmingham, London and the South-Eastern half of England.

Perishable products from Cornwall are now sent to London in the large space in the locomotives of the High Speed Trains. Plymouth, which is in Devon, to London takes nearly four hours and I suspect that a HSPT could do it in perhaps an hour longer.

But it would go between specialist terminals at both ends of the journey, so it would be a much easier service to use for both sender and receiver.

Another article in the same June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways is entitled Caithness Sleeper Plan Set Out.

This is said in the article.

Another possibility would be to convey freight on the sleeper trains with HiTrans suggesting the ability to carry four 40-foot and two 20-foot boxes on twin wagons could provide welcome products and parcxels northwards and locally-produced food southwards.

A disadvantage of this idea would be that passengers would be required to vacate sleeping berths immediately on arrival at Edinburgh, so that containers could continue to a freight terminal.

The HSPT would go direct to a suitable terminal. In remote  places like Caithness, this would probably be the local station, which had been suitably modified, so that fork lift trucks could move pallets into and out of the train.

One-Off Deliveries

Provided a load can be put on a pallet, the train can move it, if there is a fork lift available at both ends of the route.

It would be wrong to speculate what sort of one-off deliveries are performed, as some will be truly unusual.

Disaster Relief

On the worldwide scale we don’t get serious natural disasters in the UK, but every year there are storms, floods, bridge collapses and other emergencies, where it is necessary to get supplies quickly to places that are difficult to reach by road, but easy by rail. If the supplies were to be put on pallets and loaded onto a HSPT, it might be easier to get them to where they are needed for unloading using a fork lift or even by hand.

International Deliveries

I am sure that Class 319 and Class 321 trains can be made compatible with Continental railway networks. In fact two Class 319 trains, were the first to pass through the Channel Tunnel.

Post-Brexit will we see high values transported by the trainload, as this would surely simplify the paperwork?

What value of Scotch could you get in a four-car train?

Expect Amazon to be first in the queue for International Deliveries!

Conclusion

There is definitely a market for a HSPT.

If it does come about, it will be yet another tribute to the magnificent Mark 3 coach!

 

 

 

 

May 27, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What Should We Do With Old Coal-Fired Power Station Sites?

As I indicated in The Beginning Of A New Era, the way we generate electricity is changing.

Wikipedia has a list of all the active coal-fired power stations in the UK. The section starts like this.

There are currently 9 active coal fired power stations operating in the United Kingdom which have a total generating capacity of 14.4GW. In 2016 three power stations closed at Rugeley, Ferrybridge and Longannet. In November 2015 it was announced by the UK Government that all coal fired power stations would be closed by 2025.

So what should we do with the sites?

This picture shows the power station site at Eugeley

This is a Google Map of the area.

The two stations shown on the map are Rugeley Trent Valley, which is on the the Trent Valley section of the West Coast Main Line and Rugeley Town, which is on the Chase Line.

Many of these large coal-fired  power station sites sites are rail connected, so that the coal could be brought in efficiently.

In the June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways there is an article entitled Freight, Not All Doom And Gloom, which makes this plea.

Old coal-fired power stations and Ministry of Fefence sites with ready-made rail links, could make ideal distribution parks, if they are in the right part of the country.

The author is so right, when they say elsewhere in the article,  that these rail links must be kept.

Even, if a site was given over to housing, developers will say, that a good rail link to a development, improves their profits.

The article is an interesting read about moving goods by rail and contains a few surprises.

  • Moving coal and steel is well down, but to a certain extend, these bulk loads have been replaced by the moving of aggregates.
  • The article states forty percent of the materials used in London buildings, are now brought in by rail.
  • The supermarket groups and in particular Asda and Tesco are increasingly using rail for long-distance transport.
  • Short term Treasury policy sometimes works against long term aims of moving freight from the roads and cutting carbon emissions.
  • Quality 1980s passenger stock with wide doors might make excellent parcels carriers.

The last one is an interesting point, as HSTs have only got narrow doors, whereas pallets could be fork-lifted through the wide doors of something like a Class 319 or Class 321 train.

I discuss the small parcel train in detail in The Go-Anywhere Express Parcels And Pallet Carrier.

 

May 27, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Beginning Of A New Era

These words come from a the Head of Control Room Operations at National Grid in this article on the BBC, which is entitled UK achieves solar power record as temperatures soar.

This is the first two paragraphs of the article.

A record amount of solar power was generated on Friday as Britain basked in sunshine and temperatures of up to 28C, the National Grid has said.

It said 8.7 gigawatts (GW) had been generated at lunchtime, representing 24.3% of total generation across the UK.

When I was growing up in the 1960s, solar power was seen in pictures of space satellites and probes, but I can’t ever remember anyone saying that fifty years later, the UK would be generating around a quarter of its power from the sun.

I think it could be a case of you ain’t seen nothing yet!

Consider.

  • The big development will be batteries, which will mean that micro-generators will be able to store their power for later use.
  • I also suspect that the proportion of UK solar power generation will rise due to the fall in the price of solar panels and the rise in their generating efficiency.
  • There will be new forms of solar panels, like these solar slates for use on traditional buildings or in conservation areas.
  • In a few years time, all large industrial buildings like farm barns, factory units and retail sheds will be built or retro-fitted with solar roofs.

Never underestimate the ingenuity of engineers and scientists, especially if there is money to be made in an ethical way.

We will still need to generate some electricity in conventional ways to fill in the gaps, when the wind isn’t blowing, the sun isn’t shining and it’s between the tides.

There will be some nuclear and probably some gas-powered stations. The former are generally good for constant load and the latter have the advantage, that they can be brought on stream quickly. Try doing that with a large coal or bio-mass powered power station.

We also have a need for more energy storage like Dinorwig in Wales. This massive system was built in the 1970s and has a lot of advantages including.

  • It will be operational for centuries.
  • It has a very high efficiency.
  • Once built it is zero carbon.
  • It has become a tourist attraction.
  • It is an ideal partner to wind and solar power.

We need more electric mountains.

Sir Frederick Snow’s plan for barraging the River Severn with a high and low lake separated by a central spine, was designed to incorporate energy storage.

It is a tragedy, that we do not make use of the massive amounts of free power in the Severn Estuary.

 

May 27, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 1 Comment

The Level Crossing At Hampden Park Station

I was in Eastbourne today, so I went and had a look at the level crossing at Hampden Park station.

To make sense of the pictures, this is a Google Map of the station.

You can even see cars waiting by the crossing. In various places on the web it is described as one of the busiest in Europe.

As someone who is very capable at solving mathematical puzzles, which is probably why I was good at writing resource scheduling algorithms, I tend to look at this level crossing as an extreme multi-variable problem.

  • The railway objective is to get up to fourteen trains per hour (tph) through the crossing and the station with perhaps six trains stopping at the station.
  • The road objective is to keep the traffic flowing smoothly.
  • From web reports mentioning the crossing, the natives are getting restless.

It does strike me, that something must be done to reduce both road and rail traffic through the crossing.

Remote Control Of The Level Crossing

One thing that was done in February 2015 was to close the signal box at the station and move control of the crossing to the Three Bridges Regional Operations Centre.

Hopefully with time, this will result in trains going into Eastbourne passing trains coming out at the level crossing, thus reducing the number of level crossing closures.

Reducing Road Traffic

This is a Google Map of the area around the station and the level crossing.

Note how the A2280 road goes from one side of the crossing to the other in a wide semi-circle to the South.

  • Is the signage good enough to encourage drivers to use the A2280?
  • Does the A2280 have enough capacity?
  • Are any classes of vehicles banned from using the  crossing?
  • Does level crossing traffic increase when children are going to and from school?
  • Are there any cycleways?

As I was on foot and don’t live nearby, I wouldn’t know the answers to these questions.

A Turn Up And Go Service Between Hampden Park And Eastbourne

On the Birmingham, Liverpool and London principle of what constitutes a Turn-Up-And-Go service, there should be four tph in both directions on a route.

So there needs to be at least four tph in both directions that stop at both Hampden Park and Eastbourne.

Tickets To And From Eastbourne

If you buy a ticket to Liverpool, it allows you to go to any the city’s central stations.

I would also make Hampden Park an Eastbourne station, so that a ticket to Eastbourne was valid to both Eastbourne and Hapden Park stations.

Tickets Between Hampden Park And Eastbourne

I’d make this free to all those in the following categories.

  • Those having a ticket to or from Eastbourne stations.
  • Disabled passengers.
  • People who had paid something like a tenner for a yearly pass.

Yearly passes would be available for all those, who lived or worked in the area.

All monies raised on the yearly passes would go to an appropriate local charity.

Would making the short journey free, mean that many living near Hampden Park station used the train to go to Easstbourne? And would this reduce traffic on the level crossing?

A Step-Free Bridge At Hampden Park Station

What would be the effects of putting a step-free bridge with lifts, that could be used by rail passengers and those wanting to cross the rail line, when the crossing is closed?

Reducing Rail Traffic

I believe that by controlling the trains on a one-in one-out basis as I described earlier, that a few closures an hour could be avoided.

But more closures could be eliminated if the chord was reinstated that allowed trains to by-pass Eastbourne.

This Google Map shows the area North of Hampden Park station.

Three stations are shown on the map.

A triangle of rail lines or their former locations can be picked out between the station.

Note too how the A22 road passes up to the East of Hampden Park to join the A27.

This road also crosses the former track of the East Coastway Line just South of the A27 in open country.

Would it be a sensible idea to build an |Eastbourne Parkway station at this location?

Using the by-pass and stopping at Eastbourne Parkway station would have the following effects.

  • A few minutes journey time would be saved.
  • There would be two less closures of the Hampden Park level crossing.
  • Passengers from Eastbourne wanting to catch a train to the West would change at Polegate station.
  • Passengers from Eastbourne wanting to catch a train to the Wast would change at Pevensey Bay station.

I’m certain, that a good scheme can be devised, that probably would make all changes of train, ones where passengers didn’t need to change platforms.

Conclusion

I think that the number of closures of the Hampden Park level crossing could be reduced to perhaps four or five an hour, where one train went in to Eastbourne and aother came out.

I also think that drivers can be nudged, so that they don’t travel across the level crossing so often.

May 26, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 2 Comments

New Merseyrail Fleet A Platform For Future Innovations

The title of this post, is the title of this article on the Rail Technology Magazine web site.

The article mainly consists an interview with David Powell, who is programme director of rolling stock at Merseytravel.

It is very much an article worth reading, as it describes the process of choosing trains and how Merseyrail and Stadler will develop the trains during their relationship.

This is a direct quote from the article.

We will be exploring, with Stadler, what the options are for having the trains becoming self-powered. This isn’t the bi-modes that lots of other people are talking about in the industry; this is on-board electrical storage.

I am a great believer in on-board energy storage and I believe its deployment in the UK, is closer than most people think.
N

May 26, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

More Closures On The Gospel Oak To Barking Line

This article on the Islington Gazette details the further closures on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line. This is said.

The Barking to Gospel Oak Overground line will be closed for eight weekends as electrification work continues.

It had originally closed for eight months, reopening in February, but work was not finished on time due to design problems and the late delivery of some materials.

The line will be shut every Sunday from June 4 until July 23, with additional Saturday closures on July 9, 16 and 23.

Further temporary closures will be needed in the future to complete the work.

I know the electrification needs to be completed, but the engineers and planners of this job, have not exactly covered themselves in glory.

Compare this project with the one a few miles away, where Volker Fitzpatrick are rebuilding Hackney Wick station, which seems to have gone a lot smoother, despite I would suspect being a much more challenging project.

Several mistakes would appear to have been made on the electrification and I hope the companies and individuals involved will be properly names and shamed.

May 26, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

The Class 319 Flex Units To Be Class 769

This is the title of a short article in the June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways.

Giving the Class 319 Flex train, its own unique class number of 769, must say that Porterbrook, Northern, Network Rail and the Department of Transport, think that the bi-mode conversion of a Class 319 train is a viable project.

The article gives some new details about the trains.

  • Northern have ordered eight units, which will be delivered before the end of May 2018.
  • The first unit is at Wabtec’s Brush Traction facility in Louthborough.
  • Completion of the design and the first load testing is plasnned before the end of May.
  • The first unit is due to be completed with driver training underway, by the end of the year.
  • Northern will get a total of thirty-two Class 319 trains, which probably include the eight Class 769 trains.
  • Tri-mode functionality and dynamic mode changeover on the move are being considered.
  • Full production rate is a Class 769 train every two weeks.

The Class 319 Flex train has definitely moved from concept to a real train.

The article finishes by saying that Porterbrook expects further orders soon, while  it is also considering transferring the concept to other roiling stock, such as the Class 455 train.

Why Convert Class 455 Trains?

The Class 319 and Class 455 trains are very similar electrical multiple units based on Mark 3 coaches.

But there are a few differences.

  • The Class 455 is third-rail only, whereas the Class 319 is dual-voltage.
  • The Class 455 is a 75 mph train, whereas the Class 319  is a 100 mph train.
  • South West Trains’ Class 455 trains have had an extensive refurbishment and are fitted with 2+2 seating.
  • South West Trains planned to upgrade the traction package of the Class 455 trains, which would include new AC traction motors and regenerative braking. This article in Rail Magazine has full details.

A Class 455 Flex train could have the following specification.

  • The updated 2 x 2 seating.
  • The new traction package with AC traction motors and regenerative braking.
  • 75 mph operating speed on both electric and diesel.

It could be a better financial proposition for both the leasing company and the train operator.

In The Class 319 Flex Train And Third Rail Routes, I looked at various third-rail routes that could be served with a Class 319 Flex train.

Some of these routes could be served by a Class 455 Flex train, instead of the Class 319 Flex train.

The article states that Porterbrook are expecting further orders and could it be, that the company have assessed the number of bi-mode trains required and found that a large proportion of the available Class 319 trains might need to be converted.

So creating a Class 455 Flex train for use in areas with third rail electrification, might be a prudent action.

South Western Railway, will have around ninety well-maintained Class 455 trains with the refurbished interiors going spare, so there is certainly no shortage of trains to convert.

South Western Railway And Class 455 Flex Trains

South Western Railway, themselves could have some uses for the trains.

I doubt that the trains would be acceptable running long distance services from say Waterloo to Salisbury, due to being designed as short distance commuter trains and the lack of a toilet and tables.

They would be ideal for the following local services.

In some places like the Lymington Branch, they would release Class 158/159 trains to boost services on the West of England Main Line.

Merseyrail And The Class 455 Flex Trains

In the June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, Chris Stokes talks about the problems of running services between Bidston and Wrexham Central stations on the Borderlands Line. He concludes with the following.

So the operation of the route is very tight, but it appears to work quite well.

There has been talk of using battery trains on this route in place of an expensive full electrification, which would allow Merseyrail’s new Stadler trains to run the route in the following manner.

  • At least two trains per hour (tph).
  • Longer trains.
  • Calls at new stations on the route.

In an ideal world, the service would terminate at the Northern end of the line by going round the third-rail electrified Loop Line under Liverpool City Centre.

But the Class 455 train appears on a brief look to be the same size as Merseyrail’s current Class 507 trains, so it should be possible to use the Liverpool Loop.

So could a Class 455 Flex train work the route in the following manner?

  • Use diesel power between Wrexham Central and Bidston stations.
  • Use electric power from Bidston to Liverpool.
  • Join the other Wirral Line trains and terminate in the Liverpool Loop, stopping at the four stations in Central Liverpool.

As to frequency, you could run as many trains as you want, as the Borderlands Line is double-track, with the exception of a short single track section between the two Wrexham stations.

A round trip would take nearly three hours based on current timings, which would mean the following numbers of trains would be needed.

  • One tph – three trains.
  • Two tph – six trains.
  • Four tph – twelve trains.

As Merseyrail like to run four tph on the various branches, why not use this frequency on the Borderlands Line?

It would be a Turn-Up-And-Go service, that would benefit a large number of people.

Does the service have to terminate at Wrexham?

It certainly wouldn’t require any electrification or challenging engineering to open up these and other possible routes.

The Class 455 Flex train may have other uses in Liverpool.

Northern’s services in the area will probably use a few Class 319 Flex trains alongside their Class 319 trains, that already serve Liverpool Lime Street.

So where services are being extended from Merseyrail’s third-rail network, why not use some Class 319 Flex trains, as these trains have a third-rail capability from their days South of the Thames?

  • There may be an engineering or operational problem with a dual-voltage Class 319 Flex train.
  • The pantograph of a Class 319 Flex train might make the train too large for parts of Merseyrail’s third-rail network.
  • A third-rail only Class 455 Flex train may be a better financial proposition for leasing companies and train operators.

Or it could be that Porterbrook’s response to the Class 319 Flex train has been so positive, that the alternative offered by the Class 455 Flex train is welcomed.

Merseyrail’s prime route for a bi-mode Flex train would be the Canada Dock branch.

  •  There is a long term aspiration to run a passenger service.
  • The branch is not electrified but it could connect to Liverpool’s third-rail network at both ends and also to 25 KVAC at the Southern end.
  • Numerous freight trains use the route.
  • Perhaps four stations at about ten million pounds a time would need to be rebuilt.
  • Liverpool Football Ground would get a station.

Class 455 Flex trains could run a Southport, Ormskirk or Kirkby to Liverpool South Parkway service tomorrow.

A Four-Car Diesel Multiple Unit

In Who Would Want An Electric Train Powered Only By Diesel?, I discussed the fact that according to the Porterbrook brochure,

A diesel-only version of Class 319 Flex is now being delivered for one operator.

Could it be, that the updated interior of the Class 455 train, is exactly what the operator wants in a diesel train?

A Class 455 Flex train would have the following characteristics, if the third-rail equipment was removed.

  • Four cars.
  • Diesel power only.
  • 75 mph operating speed.
  • A quality 2 x 2 interior.
  • A train that meets all the present and future access and disabled regulations.

That sounds to me like a high-quality replacement train for which Direct Rail Services will provide you with two Class 68 locomotives and some elderly coaches, which probably don’t meet the latest regulations.

But also, the UK suburban diesel multiple unit fleet has quite a lot of two and three car trains, but very few four-car ones and you see lots of four-car trains made by coupling two two-car units together. So perhaps, some train operators, see these trains as an easy and affordable way to increase the number of four-car trains on their routes without any form of electrification.

As South Western Railway take over the South West Trains franchise on the 20th August 2017, perhaps some Class 455 trains would be available soon after, as they could replace them with new Class 707 trains.

I suspect that a Class 455 Flex train could be available early in 2018.

Conclusions

The Class 319 Flex train or more properly the Class 769 train looks to be a successful concept.

I’m also convinced that Porterbrook have decided the market is larger than they originally thought, so they are seriously looking at converting Class 455 trains, to make sure they have enough trains.

 

May 25, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 2 Comments