The Anonymous Widower

Affordable Electrification

In First Great Western’s Pragmatic Large And Little Solution To The Problems Of Great Western Electrification, I put forward a theory that First Great Western were thinking pragmatically and using new innovative trains to provide services on their network.

The Large And Little Approach

I called it a Large (Class 800 train or similar) and Little (IPEMU) approach. In the related article I was assuming that the IPEMU or Independently Powered Electrical Multiple Unit was based on a Class 387 train, but as Electrostars are being succeeded by Aventras, the IPEMU could equally well be based on the newer design.

So how will these trains affect electrification in other parts of the country?

Also in the September 2015 Edition Modern Railways are three articles, where a Class 800 or an IPEMU could be the solution.

  1. Hull Trains are reported looking for a bi-mode fleet to run their Hull services, as they would bridge the unelectrified seventy miles of line between Selby and Hull. Their specification seems to have been written for the Class 800 train.
  2. Services to Blackpool have also been approved, which if the electrification is not ready in time, is a route that could be handled by a Class 800 or an IPEMU.
  3. Roger Ford is also talking about Open Access Hotting Up. Some of the routes would be ideal for either a Class 800 or an IPEMU, as lots of places without a decent service to London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow or other large cities, are thirty or so miles off a main electrified line. Places like Yarmouth, Lowestoft, Sudbury, Cromer, Lincoln, Skegness, Wisbech, Windermere, Chester and Burnley come to mind.

Part-Time Electric Trains

Both the Class 800 trains and an IPEMU, are effectively part-time electric trains.

The Class 800 is an electric train with an on-board diesel engine for use, where there are no overhead wires. It will thus be able to go between London and the South West in a few year’s time, by using electric power between London and Newbury and diesel power eldsewhere. As more and more of the line is electrified, more of the journey will be done under electric power.

The IPEMU uses an on-board battery, charged when working under the overhead wires to effectively serve the same purpose as the diesel engines of the Class 800, and provide power on sections of the line without overhead wires.

Common to both types of train will be a sophisticated control system, that puts the pantograph up and down depending on whether the train is running under electrified wires.

So as more and more overhead wires are installed, the trains become much more full-time electric trains.

When a Class 800 is no longer needed to use its diesel engines, they can be removed to convert the train into an all-electric Class 801 train.

With the IPEMU, you just remove the batteries.

So one of the big advantages of these two trains, is that you never end up with a surplus of trains, that are no use anywhere else on the network.

We’re always going to have a need for 200 kph high-speed electric trains for long-distance services and four-car electric trains will find plenty of work all over the network.

Thoughts On IPEMU Trains

I also think, that as the years pass, IPEMU technology will get better and much more efficient with a longer range when running on the batteries. Drivers and computerised train management systems will also learn how to coax the maximum range out of the trains.

Also with Bombardier switching production to the new lighter and more efficient Aventra train, which according to this article on Global Rail News, is designed so that lithium-iron batteries can added as required. This is said.

AVENTRA can run on both 25kV AC and 750V DC power – the high-efficiency transformers being another area where a heavier component was chosen because, in the long term, it’s cheaper to run. Pairs of cars will run off a common power bus with a converter on one car powering both. The other car can be fitted with power storage devices such as super-capacitors or Lithium-Iron batteries if required.

The prototype train based on a Class 379 train, weighs in at forty tonne a car, as against the planned weight of thirty-five tonne for an Aventra. The article also says this.

Bombardier’s EBI Drive 50 Driver Assistance System enables drivers to achieve an economical driving style and energy savings of up to 15%. Regenerative dynamic braking saves yet more, as does the use of ‘intelligent’ air conditioning and a ‘Smart Stabling’ system to shut unused vehicles down when out of service but come back online quickly when required.

So what sort of range will an Aventra set up to run as an IPEMU, have on batteries, bearing in mind that the heavier and less-efficient prototype can do sixty miles. But does it really matter what the train can do on batteries, if you can provide short lengths of overhead wire and have intelligent systems on the train to put the pantograph up and down accordingly.

I believe that there is probably an opportunity to create the ultimate Aventra IPEMU within a few years.

This could enable services like.

  1. London to Yarmouth via Cambridge, Thetford and Norwich
  2. London to Salisbury and Exeter
  3. Ipswich to Cambridge and Peterborough
  4. Manchester to Sheffield
  5. Newcastle to Carlisle

In my list, there would seem to be a large number of routes in East Anglia. But then Anglia Greater Anglia were part of the trials of the Class 379 IPEMU test train.

Aventra And Aventra IPEMU Compared

If what I gleaned on my tip in the Class 379 IPEMU at Manningtree is true, the performance difference between the two trains will be minimal.

I also believe that from a passenger’s view, the trains will be identical.

The big difference comes, when you convert a line for the two trains.

Suppose you want to run either train on say a branch line like Felixstowe, which is a dozen miles off an electrified line with a station at the end.

Obviously, you would need to modify stations, track, bridges and tunnels accordingly, so they fitted the new trains and any freight traffic on the route. You would probably make enough space, for overhead wires, even if you were not fitting them at this time.

If the line was only going to be served by the IPEMU variant and there was to be no other electric traffic, the wires would not need to be installed.

Once the line was complete with signalling and fully inspected and certified, the trains would be able to run.

If the trains to be used were to be the IPEMU variant, you would be running test services on the line long before you would with conventional trains.

In how many places would the use of these trains provide a modern service without the expense and time-scale of full electrification, which seems to be riddled with all sorts of cost-elevating problems?

Case Study 1 – Edinburgh To Inverness

I’m including this as it is a journey I have done in the cab of an InterCity 125. I took a video.

The journey takes three hours thirty three minutes with stops along the way.

At present only a small amount of the route close to Edinburgh is electrified, but by 2018, the line will be electrified as far as Dunblane.

When the new Class 800 trains are delivered, these trains will run this route from London, as my train had done.

As there is now so little electrification between Edinburgh and Inverness, these trains will probably take the same time on introduction, but as more electrification is commissioned, the time through the Highlands will drop.

They will at least get up from London to Edinburgh in a faster time, than they do now, as they will take full advantage of the fully electrified route.

Other very long routes would probably benefit from the use of Class 800 trains.

  1. Aberdeen to Penzance
  2. Bournemouth to Manchester
  3. Liverpool to Norwich
  4. Cardiff to Manchester
  5. London Euston to Holyhead

Many like London to Holyhead have long stretches of electrified line.

One great advantage, is that if say the route gets electrified in the future, you can use Class 801 electric trains, to give passengers the same or better level of service.

Case Study 2 – Carlisle To Newcastle

I have listed that IPEMU trains would be able to run between Carlisle to Newcastle.

So I will look at this line as a case study.

I don’t know the Tyne Valley Line well, but it is about sixty miles long and has electrified lines at both ends. Traditional electrification may require a lot of bridge and station reconstruction to accommodate the overhead wires, whereas an IPEMU could use the line without any modifications to infrastructure, as it can use any line that the current Class 156 trains on the line can. There would of course be a need to make sure that at both ends of the line, there was sufficient electrification to fully charge the train for its return journey.

So the cost of replacing diesel trains on this line with modern electric ones, would be solely the cost of the new trains, and perhaps the cost of a small amount of electrification in the stations and the stabling sidings at each end of the line.

In this case, I suspect Network Rail would breathe a big sigh of relief, if they didn’t have to electrify this line, with all its logistical and possibly environmental problems.

How many lines in the UK, could be given new electric passenger trains in this way?

Infrastructure Problems

Much of the infrastructure problems delaying and increasing the costs of electrification is dealing with inadequate Victorian infrastructure like the flying buttesses at Chorley and Farnworth Tunnel.

Some of these infrastructure problems have to be fixed as they are in danger of collapse and others offer inadequate clearance for modern freight trains.

I also heard from drivers in Liverpool, that they notice the quality of the land as they drive the Class 319 trains over Chat Moss. It caused Stephenson a lot of trouble and also didn’t help in the erection of the overhead wires between Liverpool and Manchester.

So perhaps we should adopt a pragmatic approach to putting up the overhead wires.

For instance, if IPEMU trains had been a standard UK train, when the electrification between Liverpool and Manchester was designed, would engineers have decided not to electrify across Chat Moss, as the batteries could be used?

Visual Intrusion Of Electrification

I think too, we shouldn’t underestimate the lack of visual intrusion if say a picturesque branch line was to be served by an IPEMU rather than by a traditional electric train. The Windermere branch and some lines in South Wales may well be better served by a more visually acceptable IPEMU.

Case Study 3 – The Windermere Branch

So will we see the electrification on the ten mile long, Windermere branch cut back and IPEMU serving this branch? According to this government document, the project will cost sixteen million pounds. Buying trains is often quoted at a million pounds a carriage, so would the budget be better spent on buying two or three  IPEMU for First TransPennine?

There are other reasons, why this could happen.

  1. First TransPennine is owned by the same company as First Great Western and they have the same problems over electrification as their West Country cousins. So will we see the same pragmatism in both companies?
  2. There would be no infrastructure work required at all on the branch and the electric trains could serve any desired point to the south like Preston, Liverpool, Manchester and Crewe.
  3. This area is very special to a lot of people and it only wants someone with deep pockets and no sense, who objects to electrification to cause Network Rail to blow the whole budget on legal fees. Replacing one diesel train with a quieter battery train probably doesn’t cause these problems.
  4. Remember too, that working from the overhead line, the Class 387 is an 110 mph train, that could mix it with the Class 390 Pendolinos on the West Coast Main Line.
  5. Network Rail probably don’t want to do the electrification of the Windermere branch, as it will consume resources that could be better deployed elsewhere.

So if I was in charge, I wouldn’t electrify the Windermere branch, but use IPEMU trains. Windermere would get smart new electric trains and Network Rail would have one less job to do.

The Big Beast Enters The Jungle

Sir Peter Hendy has now been made the Chairman of Network Rail.

In my view, he is an excellent choice and he will make a difference to the perceived shambles that is Network Rail’s record on electrification.

He has certainly got proven qualities that will help him in his new job.

  1. Anybody who can work with Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone and not get fired, must have the knack of dealing with politicians.
  2. In the creation of Crossrail and the London Overground, he seems to have got on well with train companies and Network Rail, despite some of them having to give way on decisions, that meant they lost revenue and profits.
  3. From what I’ve heard from workers and engineers, project management in Transport for London is pretty good and projects regularly come in on time and under budget.
  4. On the Over/Underground innovative infrastructure solutions like the Circle Line becoming a spiral and the Clapham Kiss are encouraged.

The way a company or organisation behaves starts at the top.


I like tram-trains and I’ve seen them working successfully all over Germany. In their simplest form, they allow trams on a self-contained tram network like Croydon, Manchester or Sheffield to transfer onto the heavy rail network and run as trains to another town or city. The tram-train trial in Sheffield, where Class 399 tram-trains will run between Cathedral and Rotherham Parkgate, is fairly simple, but some tram-train networks in Germany like Kassel and Karlsruhe stretch for over a hundred miles.

There is no reason, why extensive tram-train networks could not be developed in some UK cities and towns. How about?

  • Birmingham
  • Blackpool
  • Cardiff
  • Edinburgh
  • Nottingham
  • Sheffield

Obviously the trial in Sheffield must be successful.

If a city has a modern tramway, I feel that to use it as a base for tram-trains, has many advantages.

  • Affordable electrification on rural and secondary routes
  • Increasing the number of trams running through city centres and on parts of the network needing an increase in capacity.
  • Tramway running to difficult to reach local attractions and locations
  • Relieving capacity problems in stations by putting some lines on a much better-routed tramway, like say through a Shopping Centre, past a sports ground or along the coast.
  • In some places in Germany, tram-trains have even released the main station for redevelopment for other uses.
  • Also in Germany, I have a feeling that tram-trains have been used to link two separate tram networks by using a connecting heavy rail route. Think Manchester and Sheffield along the Hope Valley Line.

In addition, we could even make a particular type of tram-train a standard and develop methods of standardised tramway construction.

But would say Yarmouth accept the same system as Blackpool? Or Liverpool the same one as Manchester?

Tramway construction in this country has a bad reputation, as systems like Birmingham, Nottingham, Sheffield and Edinburgh have been delivered late and have caused excessive grief during construction. It is worth comparing these unhappy experiences with the current progress of the Wimbledon Line Enhancement Programme on the London Tramlink. It is a tricky project to provide a new terminal platform within Wimbledon station. Work started on July 13th this year and the new platform is scheduled to open in October.

We must get our project management of tramway construction and enhancement right!

Case Study 4 – Tram-Trains In Blackpool

Blackpool Tramway used to be much larger and is one that could be grown by the use of tram-trains.

This report on the BBC, talks about Balfour Beatty withdrawal from the project to electrify the lines around the North-West, which includes Blackpool.

Modern Railways in September is also reporting that the Liverpool to Blackpool North service will be split to allow Class 319 electric trains to work the southern part of the route.

Let’s hope this hiatus results in a sensible solution for Blackpool.

Included in the report of the North of England Electrification Task Force is a proposal in Tier Two to electrify Burnley to Colne  and Kirkham to Blackpool South.

These two routes meet at Preston, so why not use a tram-train to connect Colne to Blackpool. The line is mainly single-track and around Burnley, there are some massive viaducts, which probably would be expensive to electrify to main line standards.

So electrifying this route to allow tram-trains to serve it, would probably be more affordable. The route would be as follows.

  • Colne to Rose Grove – Single-line tramway
  • Rose Grove to Kirkham via Preston – Double track electrified heavy rail
  • Kirkham to Blackpool South – Single-line tramway
  • At Blackpool South the tram-train would join the Blackpool tramway.

There would also be possibilities to use tram-trains on the former Fleetwood Branch to link the town to Preston.

In the long term, I believe that tram-trains emanating from Blackpool and Preston could make use of some of the disused or rather badly-served rail lines in the area.

Could the Ormskirk to Preston Line be served by tram-trains working from Blackpool, thus improving connection between Preston and Blackpool and the area of Lancashire north of Liverpool and around Southport?

Around the turn of the Century, Blackpool was a decaying resort living on former glories, with a rather quaint tram going up the coast, no direct rail service to London and only a fleet of decrepit trains taking visitors and residents to Preston and beyond.

Now fifteen years later, it has a modern tramway, that compares well with any in the world and it is due to get electrified services to Preston, the rest of the North West and London, if the electrification project can be rescued.

Adding tram-trains into the town to increase connectivity can only be good for Blackpool, Preston and the Greater North West. They would also have the benefit of taking two lines off the list of lines to be electrified.

Power Stations

If we look at the IPEMUs, they will have a range of at least 60 miles. So suppose an IPEMU wanted to go from perhaps fifty miles one side of an electrified station like Crewe to fifty miles the other side. Could the train sit at the platform at Crewe, whilst passengers are unloaded and loaded with its pantograph up to charge the battery for the next part of the journey? Or perhaps its journey could be arranged so that for a short distance, the train ran along an electrified line?

I thin engineers will come up with innovative ideas to get power to IPEMUs.

Suppose for example, a branch line from an electrified main line was say about thirty miles long, which as the train would have to go out and back from the main line, this might be towards the range limit of an IPEMU. Perhaps by electrifying a few miles at the main line end of the branch, the branch would now be well within the range of an IPEMU. As the electric power would be taken from the main line, there would be no problems getting power to the short length of overhead wire.

Case Study 5 – London to Yarmouth Via Cambridge And Norwich

Could this route be run by an IPEMU?

The journey is effectively in four parts.

  1. London to Ely – Electrified
  2. Ely to Norwich – Not Electrified
  3. Norwich Station – Electrified
  4. Norwich to Yarmouth – Not Electrified

The longest section that is non-electrified is the section between Ely and Norwich at just over fifty miles.

Yarmouth is just twenty miles from Norwich, so it would appear that if the wait at Norwich station is sufficient to charge the battery, then a London to Yarmouth service via Cambridge, Cambridge Science Park and Ely would be a feasible service for an IPEMU. The only infrastructure needed might be to electrify some extra platforms at Norwich and the bay platforms at Cambridge.

I think that this case study shows the flexibility and capabilities of an IPEMU, AND illustrates why Abellio Greater Anglia (AGA) were very keen to help out in the trial of the Class 379 IPEMU. They knew that it was likely that a four-car IPEMU could start from London or Cambridge, stop at the new Cambridge Science Park station, Ely and Thetford and reach Norwich, where after charging batteries it would proceed to Yarmouth and return to Norwich. Most of the journey to Norwich could possibly be done at a line speed of upwards of 70 mph, thus comfortably outperforming the current diesel multiple unit in terms of time, frequency and comfort. The service could also bring Yarmouth into the electrified network and give the town a direct connection to London. AGA would be rewarded in extra passengers bringing in more revenue.

Knowing the area well, I think that if two trains an hour ran each way between Cambridge and Norwich, the locals would be very pleased.

Whilst looking at Norwich the distances of Cromer, Sheringham and Lowestoft from the city are twenty, thirty and twenty-five miles respectively. So all four major destinations on the branches from Norwich could be served by IPEMUs.

Case Study 6 – Ipswich to Cambridge and Peterborough

To be fair to Ipswich and Suffolk, I will also look at how IPEMUs could be used between Ipswich and Cambridge and Peterborough

Ipswich to Cambridge is electrified at both ends, so the IPEMU trains would just have to bridge the gap between Haughley Junction and Cambridge, which is a distance of about thirty miles. At both ends of the line they would fully charge their batteries.

Ely to Peterborough is not electrified for about thirty miles, so even if an Ipswich to Peterborough IPEMU didn’t pick up power at Ely, it could probably travel direct from Haughley to Peterborough under battery power.

The two branch lines at Ipswich to Felixstowe and Lowestoft are twelve and fifty miles long respectfully, so although Felixstowe would be easily served by an IPEMU, unless some form of charging could be provided at Lowestoft, serving Lowestoft is probably not possible.

But then Suffolk people are very resourceful and as the county is pretty flat, so I suspect they’ll find some way of getting the standard IPEMU between Ipswich and Lowestoft.

One way might be for the Lowestoft trains to actually go between Ipswich and Norwich via Lowestoft. Trains would leave Ipswich and Norwich at times, so that they arrived in Lowestoft a few minutes apart. The trains would then leave in a few minutes to the alternate start point.

An advantage of this routing, is that towns like Beccles and Halesworth, would get a direct connection to Norwich and those on the Norwich to Lowestoft Line would get a direct connection to Ipswich.

So both trains would travel a distance of seventy-five miles over some very flat countryside, which could probably be managed by an Aventra IPEMU.

If the Felixstowe branch was to be electrified, this would cut a couple of miles off the non-electrified route.

This analysis is probably totally wrong, but I suspect that Network Rail have a cunning plan to get IPEMUs from Ipswich to Lowestoft.

The only other line in East Anglia run with diesel trains is the twelve-mile long Gainsborough Line from Marks Tey to Sudbury. It therefore could be easily served using a single IPEMU, This would give the possibility of all London and local passenger services in East Anglia being served by electric trains.

Saying they were an all-electric railway, would not be a negative marketing point for AGA or their successors. But perhaps more importantly, what would it save in running and maintenance costs?

Extending Local Networks With IPEMUs

In the earlier Case Studies 5 and 6, I showed how a network of lines running electric trains could be created around Cambridge, Ely, Ipswich and Norwich, using IPEMUs.

So are there any other hubs, which have a network of local lines converge, where IPEMUs could be used to create an electric network or expand an existing one?

The following cities have networks of local lines and are on electrified major routes.

  • Birmingham
  • Edinburgh
  • Glasgow
  • Leeds
  • Liverpool
  • Manchester
  • Peterborough

In the next few years the following places should be added.

  • Bristol
  • Cardiff
  • Middlesbrough
  • Nottingham

In some places like Cardiff and Leeds, the local networks are being developed by traditional electrification,  and in others like Nottingham, tram-trains may play a big part, but could IPEMUs be used as I showed they could be in East Anglia?

Case Study 7 – Bristol

This entry in Wikipedia entitled Rail Services in the West of England gives details of all the myriad lines that exist or did exist in the Bristol area.

This page on the Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways shows a rather jolly map of railways around the city.

There have also been plans for a Greater Bristol Metro for some time, that ties all of the lines together.

Once Bristol Temple Meads station and some of the lines are electrified, it might be possible to use IPEMUs to serve some of the branch lines, as most of them are less than twenty miles long.

Electro-Diesel Freight Locomotives

Nobody except possibly the operators, love the Class 66 locomotive, which is extensively used for freight in the UK. It doesn’t meet the latest EU regulations and it’s noisy and unloved by the drivers to whom I’ve spoken.

Electrifying freight routes like Felixstowe to Nuneaton, would allow operators to send freight trains between Felixstowe and the Midlands, North and Scotland, using electric haulage all the way.

Next year, we’ll see the first of the new electro-diesel locomotives; the Class 88, which is an electric locomotive, that can use an on-board diesel engine, where there are no overhead wires.

How will these and other locomotives using similar technology affect the costs and need for electrification?

In the case of any electrified route to a port like Felixstowe or London Gateway, overhead wires in the port can present a problem, which an electro-diesel locomotive solves, as it uses the on-board diesel, anywhere near the sidings in the port.

Future Electrification

In England and Wales, there are several big electrification projects in progress in addition to the Great Western.

  • Gospel Oak to Barking Line
  • East Anglia and Freight Routes From Felixstowe
  • Trans Pennine from Liverpool to Hull
  • Midland Main Line/Electric Spine
  • Secondary and Branch Lines In The North
  • South Wales Valleys
  • Waterloo to Salisbury and Exeter
  • Ashford to Hastings and Eastbourne
  • Hurst Green and Uckfield
  • Reading to Gatwick

I’ll now discuss each in detail with respect to the pragmatic attitude that seems to be being taken by train operating companies and Network Rail.

Gospel Oak to Barking Line

The problems on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line (GOBLin) are summed up as follows.

  • Not enough passenger capacity
  • Too many environmentally-unfriendly Class 66 locomotives pulling freight trains through the area.

The line is also being extended to Barking Riverside, where given the infrastructure in the area, the new extension will be fully electrified. So the layout of the line is effectively a twelve mile or so non-electrified line connected to fully electrified lines at both ends.

As new Aventra trains are being delivered for the line, why not add batteries to the GOBlin part of the order so that these trains can run as IPEMUs, thus just leaving the problem of the freight locomotives.

The money saved could be used to improve some of the stations, with full step-free access, longer platforms,better shelters and other facilities.

Incidentally, this line would surely make a very good test track for the Aventras with batteries. If the trains were available tomorrow, they could probably start running after a few modifications to the platforms and electrification of the platform the trains use at Barking station.

The Class 66 locomotive problem will only be solved by full electrification, but an interim solution would be to use Class 88 locomotives on the GOBlin.

I think Network Rail would file abandonment of full electrification under Relieved, as electrifying this line is going to be difficult with all the viaducts and bridges and the need to run lots of replacement buses across a congested city to get passengers to work, rest and play. There is an article on the Railfuture web site, which describes how the electrification might be performed. This is a paragraph.

It is expected that NR will electrify first one half of the line and then the other half, and that whilst electrification is in progress on each half, that part of the line will be closed and the service provided by rail replacement bus. Whilst electrification is in progress LOROL will be able to run longer trains on the remaining half of the line with the existing stock, provided platform lengthening is completed early whilst work proceeds. Therefore if electrification keeps to current plans and if TfL could source electric stock (possibly temporarily, until the new stock is available) when electrification is completed, overcrowding will only be a problem for a period of a year between now and the start of electrification.

It sounds like a lesson in how to organise chaos.

Changing the trains to Aventra IPEMU would also release eight Class 172 diesel trains, for cascade to other routes all over the country on delivery of the new trains.

Obviously, the GOBlin needs to be fully electrified for freight trains, but if the passenger train problem has been solved, this could surely be done at a slower pace, without closing the line, for more than the odd day or two at weekends.

Also if all stations were made step-free before the full electrification, there would be some easier routes for passengers to use to by-pass the works.

East Anglia and Freight Routes From Felixstowe

East Anglia in general suffers from similar problems to the GOBlin of not enough quality passenger  train capacity and large numbers of freight trains, mostly going to and from the Port of Felixstowe.

The main routes are electrified from London to Ipswich, Norwich, Cambridge and Ely, but there are several large gaps in the electrification.

  • Ely to Ipswich
  • Ely to Norwich
  • Ely to Peterborough
  • Ipswich to Cambridge
  • Ipswich to Felixstowe
  • Norwich to Yarmouth

In addition, there are branch lines that need better trains or are being talked about for reopening.

  • Ipswich to Lowestoft
  • March to Wisbech
  • Marks Tey to Sudbury
  • Norwich to Cromer
  • Norwich to Lowestoft

I haven’t included it, but given the right trains would it be possible to re-open Sudbury to Cambridge via Haverhill? Perhaps, as a single track or even a tramway.

There is also a new station at Cambridge Science Park being built and I believe this needs direct services to Norwich and Ipswich.

I believe most, if not all, of the main line gaps could be bridged and the branch lines could be served by IPEMUs. These trains would also open up the possibility of direct services between London and Bury St. Edmunds, Lowestoft, Thetford, Yarmouth and perhaps a few other places. In recent memory both Lowestoft and Yarmouth had direct services to and from London.

I feel that Norwich in Ninety will require faster trains with better acceleration on the route. These would probably be nine-car Class 801 electric trains. Would perhaps, a couple of electro-diesel Class 800 trains be added, to run London to Norwich and Yarmouth via Cambridge, Ely and Thetford?

It might appear that this would remove a lot of the need for completing the electrification in East Anglia, but I believe two lines should be electrified.

The Felixstowe branch line, which serves the Port of Felixstowe should probably be electrified, so that engine changes at Ipswich are avoided for freight trains that are being hauled all the way by an electric  or electro-diesel locomotive.

The line from Peterborough to Ely should also be electrified, as this would provide a valuable electrified diversion route for the East Coast Main Line. Such a diversion would have been invaluable last Christmas, when Kings Cross was closed, due to overrunning engineering work. A twelve coach shuttle could have been run between Liverpool Street and Peterborough via Cambridge and Ely.

As I showed in Case Studies 5 and 6, all other lines in East Anglia could be run by IPEMUs.

At some point in the next couple of decades, Network Rail will tackle the biggest bottleneck on the railways of the UK; the Digswell viaduct. This will obviously need line closures and if Ely to Peterborough is electrified, a shuttle can be run bypassing the trouble.

Trans Pennine Routes from Liverpool to Hull

The routes across the Pennines are both complex and comprehensive. This map shows the current and planned electrification.

Northern Electrification Map

Northern Electrification Map

At present Network Rail is attempting to electrify the lines shown in yellow and to be frank, is not really performing on time and on budget.

In Crossrail Of The North, I said this.

Is it farther between Liverpool and Hull or from London to Norwich?

Actually, they are about the same being around two hundred kilometres for both.

But compare the train times between the two city pairs.

Liverpool to Hull takes three and a quarter hours, with at least one change, whereas London to Norwich takes five minutes under two hours.

We;re not far off now, before Network Rail publish their Norwich in Ninety plans. In this recent article in the Eastern Daily Press, this is said.

Recommendations from a task force which has been pressing for improvements – which includes £476m of infrastructure investment and new trains to be demanded in the next operator contract – were supported by chancellor George Osborne in the autumn statement.

So what are they doing about the similar problems of speeding up the myriad rail routes across the Pennines?

The problems across the Pennines are in addition to the timing problems, one of inadequate capacity in the Class 185 trains, that run on most of the long distance routes. They may have a 100 mph top speed, but these three-car trains are definitely budget trains, specified by the Treasury.

The first solution is for the operator; First TransPennine Express to do what its sister company First Great Western has done and get some trains, that can do the job that the infrastructure will allow.

These are the various routes run by First TransPennine Express.

Much of the North Transpennine Route from Liverpool to Newcastle and Hull via Manchester and Leeds, is electrified, although the Manchester to Leeds section and the three branches to Hull, Scarborough and Middlesborough are not.

The South TransPennine Route, is only electrified round Manchester, whereas on the TransPennine NorthWest Route only the branches to Blackpool, Barrow and Windermere are without electrification.

Timings are generally slow and I do hope that Network Rail are coming up with the track improvements that will speed up the journeys. They seem to have been able to find savings between London and Norwich, so can they do the same across the Pennines?

Perhaps Liverpool to Hull in Hundred would be a catchy target?

As some parts of the route are electrified, a Large and Little solution to the trains may also be appropriate.

The Large component could be a variant of the standard electro-diesel Class 800, of an appropriate size and layout. I suspect that the standard five-car train being built at Newton Aycliffe for First Great Western and Virgin Trains East Coast might be a good starting point. In the September edition of Modern Railways, there is a headline of Bi-Modes for TPE? Translated out of jargon, that is saying will TransPennine Express get Class 800 trains or similar?

Electro-diesel trains would be specified, as I can’t see the Northern Electrification being finished in the near future. But when it is finished, the diesel engines will just be removed to convert the trains to the electric Class 801.

The Little component would be the IPEMU. It would probably be needed as some of the destinations and branches may not accept the larger train.

In the Future section for the Wikiedia entry for First TransPennine Express, this is said.

In June 2014 the DfT confirmed that there will be two separate franchises in the north of England, one providing intercity rail services and a second providing local rail services. There are proposals to transfer theManchester Airport to Blackpool North, Preston and the Lancaster to Barrow-in-Furness, Oxenholme to Windermere and the York to Scarborough and Doncaster to Cleethorpes services to the Northern franchise and transfer the Nottingham to Liverpool portion of the Norwich to Liverpool service currently operated by East Midlands Trains to the TransPennine franchise.

So before I leave TransPennine Routes, I had better look at what this might mean.

It looks like the Scarborough, Cleethorpes, Windermere and Barrow branches will become part of Northern Rail.

I showed earlier that the Windermere branch would be an easy trip for an IPEMU and this could run over the electrified network from there to Manchester Victoria, Piccadilly and Airport, Liverpool and hopefully, Blackpool.

The Barrow branch would also be possible for an IPEMU as it is well under sixty miles for a return trip from Carnforth, so this would mean that one of the most scenic rail routes in the UK, wouldn’t ruin the countryside by electrification.

The Scarborough branch is forty-two miles long, so it is too long for the current predicted performance of a IPEMU. If a simple method of charging the train at Scarborough station could be developed, then this route would probably be feasible.

The Cleethorpes Branch is probably possible with an IPEMU.

So I come to the conclusion, that although electrification of the TransPennine routes, would be nice and will eventually be done, the same high-quality passenger service across the Pennines, you would get with electric trains, can be obtained with a Large and Little mixture of new Class 800 and IPEMU trains.

Midland Main Line/Electric Spine

The Midland Main Line and the closely-related Electric Spine is one project that will be electrified conventionally, although there would be scope for perhaps using a mix of Class 800 and Class 801 trains,so that new services can be added out of St. Pancras.

Once resources are released from the Great Western Main Line, I would start to electrify North from Bedford to Corby, Derby and Nottingham.

One issue in Nottingham, is where the tram-trains that have been proposed will go. As the tram-trains when they run on heavy rail line can use the standard overhead lines at 25KVAC, there could be scope for some meaningful co-operation.

Another issue was thrown in, when I wrote Ilkeston Station In A Few Year’s Time. Network Rail have a major project on the Erewash Valley Line, which has been upgraded and may become a high-speed by-pass for high speed electric trains to Chesterfield and Sheffield, as electrifying the line through Derby and the World Heritage Site of the Derwent Valley might prove a difficult project.

So I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bedford to Sheffield electrified first and electro-diesel Class 800 trains used to serve Derby and Nottingham, until those branches on the line were fully electrified.

Secondary and Branch Lines In The North

This is virtually every line that isn’t electrified north of a line from the Humber to the Mersey.

Depending on the line and its relationship to electrified lines and major centres of population, different solutions will be proposed by engineers as they look at the alternatives.

  • Full Electrification
  • Using high-quality diesel trains, like the Class 172 trains displaced from the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.
  • Running an IPEMU on the line, as I proposed earlier for between Carlisle and Newcastle.
  • Conversion to Tram or Tram-Train Operation

The engineers are going to have fun on this one, as new or refurbished modern trains running on electric power are delivered all over the North.

In the report of the North of England Electrification Task Force, the various lines were grouped into three tiers in order of priority.

Tier One included. The comment at the end, is my view of what is possible.

  • Calder Valley – Leeds to Manchester and Preston via Bradford and Brighouse – Full Electrification
  • Liverpool to Manchester via Warrington Central – Full Electrification
  • Southport/Kirkby to Salford Cresent – Full Electrification
  • Chester to Stockport – See Note 1
  • Northallerton To Middlesbrough – Full Electrification
  • Leeds to York via Harrogate – Full Electrification
  • Selby to Hull – Full Electrification
  • Sheffield (Meadowhall) to Leeds via Barnsley/Castleford – Full Electrification – See Note 4
  • Bolton to Clitheroe – Possible IPEMU
  • Sheffield to Doncaster/Wakefield Westgate (Dearne Valley) – Full Electrification – See Note 4
  • Hazel Grove to Buxton – Possible  IPEMU
  • Warrington to Chester – See Note 1

Tier Two included.

  • Manchester to Sheffield and South East Manchester Local Services – Partial Electrification with Possible IPEMU
  • York to Scarborough – See Note 3
  • Bishop Auckland/Darlington to Saltburn and Sunderland –  See Note 3
  • Barnsley to Huddersfield – IPEMU when Huddersfield and Sheffield are electrified. – See Note 4
  • Sheffield to Lincoln via Retford – Partial Electrification with Possible IPEMU – See Note 4
  • Chester to Crewe – See Note 1
  • Burnley to Colne & Kirkham to Blackpool South – Tram-Train or IPEMU
  • Knottingley to Goole – IPEMU

Tier Three included.

  • Barrow to Carnforth – IPEMU
  • Pontefract to Church Fenton
  • Hull to Scarborough –  See Note 3
  • Omskirk to Preston – Tram-Train or IPEMU
  • Carlisle to Newcastle – IPEMU
  • Skipton to Carlisle – Full Electrification or Cascaded DMUs
  • Barton on Humber – See Note 2
  • Cumbrian Coast – Full Electrification or Cascaded DMUs
  • Doncaster to Gilberdyke – See Note 2
  • Cleethorpes to Thorne (Doncaster) – See Note 2
  • Middlesbrough to Whitby – See Note 3
  • Skipton to Heysham – Possible IPEMU

The various notes are as follows.

  1. Chester is the centre of a busy network and probably needs full electrification, especially if the North Wales Line to Holyhead is electrified. Although that line could use Class 800 trains.
  2. Humberside is a mass of small railways and I wouldn’t discount a very innovative solution being found for the area.
  3. Teesside is trying to develop a Tees Valley Metro and this could be partially electrified and see use of IPEMU
  4. Routes to Sheffield might also be served using tram-trains. I would also connect Sheffield’s trams to those in Manchester and Nottingham using tram-trains running along the electrified connecting heavy rail lines.

And after the North there’s the South, the Midlands, Wales and Scotland.

South Wales Valleys

This follow-on project after the Great Western electrification to Cardiff and Swansea, will electrify the Valley Lines in South Wales. This project will probably be done in a very conventional manner, especially, as the Welsh seem to have got much of the bridges, stations and other infrastructure ready for electrification.  I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that IPEMUs running on battery power aren’t the best trains at climbing hills.

It would now appear that tram-trains are entering the plans and who’s to say if IPEMUs creep into the project somewhere.

Waterloo to Salisbury and Exeter

Waterloo to Salisbury and Exeter on the West of England Main Line is not a wholly electrified journey, as the third-rail stops at Basingstoke.

As the Class 800 train is closely related to the Class 395 train that works the high-speed commuter services out of St. Pancras, which is configured to use third-rail electricity collection, I wonder whether the solution to getting electric trains to Salisbury and Exeter is to create a third-rail variant of the Class 800.

Ashford to Hastings and Eastbourne

Electrification has been promised on the Marshlink Line to allow High Speed services from Hastings and Eastbourne to St. Pancras using HS1.

As with electrification to Salisbury and Exeter, more third-rail electrification is probably not going to be performed.

But could an electro-diesel variant of the Class 395 train be built to serve Hastings and Eastbourne.

Probably not, as the certification costs would be high for a small number of units.

But I would hope that engineers are looking at ways to bridge the gap between Ashford and Hastings. It would certainly be possible with a dual-voltage IPEMU!

Hurst Green and Uckfield

The route between Hurst Green and Uckfield on the Oxted Line is current served by Class 171 diesel trains. As the Aventra is built to a similar size as these trains, to run this line with IPEMUs would probably be just a matter of delivering the trains and driver and staff training.

If the Ashford to Hastings and Eastbourne route was also converted to electric trains, as I showed was possible in the previous section, a total of ten 2-car and six 4-car Class 171 trains would be released for service elsewhere. I think too that Southern would become an electric-only train operating company.

Reading to Gatwick

Reading to Gatwick along the North Downs Line is effectively in three sections.

  • Reading to Guildford – 19 miles
  • Guildford to Redhill – 25 miles
  • Redhill to Gatwick – 4 miles

Of the forty-eight miles of the line, just nineteen miles are electrified using third rail.

it would appear that a dual-voltage IPEMU with third-rail pickup, would give a faster electric service along the route.

It would appear that Surrey County Council would like to improve this line and perhaps with a look at stations, level crossings and speed restrictions, the service on this line could be considerably improved by using IPEMUs.

No electrification work would be necessary, although filling easy gaps in the third-rail would give more improvement.

This route looks like it has been specially designed for an IPEMU.

A dual-voltage IPEMU could also extend the route at either end.


Innovate like crazy using proven trains and methods!!!

Some things have surprised me in this analysis.

  1. The Aventra IPEMU has a specification, range and capability, that is very well-matched to lots of sections of the UK rail network, that either need electrification and/or new electric trains.
  2. A mix of Class 800 electro-diesel and Class 801 electric trains will be found working on lots of lines.
  3. A large number of high quality diesel multiple units are available for cascade. Many could go to replace the dreaded Pacers all over the country.
  4. South of the Thames is as far as passenger trains are concerned is virtually a diesel-free zone.

The first two points mean that a lot of the difficult electrification can be done in nice warm factories in Newton Aycliffe and Derby. So perhaps we might see a line improved using the following project structure.

  1. Stations, bridges and tunnels are modified to fit both the passenger and freight trains that will run on the route. If there is a chance that electrification might happen eventually, then clearances would be improved accordingly.
  2. All stations would be upgraded to the modern standards of accessibility and customer facilities. Many like the new Custom House station for Crossrail would be built in factories.
  3. The chosen trains would then be introduced on the line.
  4. Finally, the overhead wires would be erected, if that has been decided is appropriate.

The first phase of the project is the difficult one, as there is some truly horrendous Victoria infrastructure out there and much of it is Listed and infested with bats, great crested newts and other protected wildlife.

Get this sort of project structure right and there might be a chance that we’d find an affordable way to do electrification!

As improved stations are delivered early, passengers may still be being carried in dreaded Pacers, but at least they’ll have a modern, customer-friendly interface to the railway.

Hopefully, by the time that full electrification is implemented, all local problems wil have been solved and the electrification is a much easier business.






August 30, 2015 - Posted by | Transport | , , , , , ,

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