The Anonymous Widower

Searching For What Is Going To Happen On The East London Line After The Thameslink Programme Opens

My E-Mail To Thameslink On The 14th February

On the 14th February, I sent this e-mail to the Thameslink Programme.

At present when I go to Gatwick Airport, I get an East London Line train from Dalston Junction to New Cross Gate or Norwood Junction, from where I pick up a Gatwick Train.

Can you confirm, that the current service will be equally good or even better after the Thameslink Programme is completed?


A Reply From Thameslink On The 17th February

On the 17th February, I got this reply.

Thanks for your email.


The Thameslink Programme is transforming north-south travel through London. This infrastructure and new trains investment programme will increase capacity on one of Europe’s busiest stretches of railway. For more information on the benefits of the programme, you can visit our website here, and an interactive map of our improvement sites here.


We’ve already delivered longer, 12-car trains between Brighton and Bedford, platform lengthening at several stations, track work and upgraded stations including West Hampstead, Farringdon and Blackfriars. The most complex part of the programme is now underway; this includes rebuilding London Bridge station, and laying new track and signalling equipment around the station to create a spacious and better connected transport hub.


We are linking parts of the East Coast Mainline to the Thameslink network, allowing passengers from Cambridge and Peterborough to travel to Blackfrairs and beyond, relieving congestion on the Underground.

There will also be a link with Crossrail at our hub station at Farringdon, giving access to Gatwick, Luton and Heathrow airports and St Pancras International.

Dalston Junction is managed by TfL, and so any enquries about an improved link from this station to Gatwick should be directed to

I hope this is helpful, thanks for getting in touch.

Kind regards,

Jen Pattison, Thameslink Programme


My E-Mail To Overground Info On The 17th February

So I sent off a longer e-mail to Overground Info.

If say you want to go between Dalston Junction and Purley, you will certainly have to change trains.

Currently, it takes between fifty and sixty minutes and you sometimes change at New Cross Gate and at other times the suggested change is Norwood Junction.

It’s alright for me and others who know how to use the various journey calculators or apps, but what about people like my late wife, who never ever owned a smart phone or even sent a text message.

The full simple rule for Dalston Junction to Purley, seems to be something like take a West Croydon train from Dalston Junction to Norwood Junction and then get the first train to Purley from there.

Different rules apply to different stations

Thameslink is going to bring major changes to how we go places along the East London Line and especially, if we venture into any Thameslink territory.

My simple example of Dalston Junction to Purley might get a lot more complicated, as some documents and web pages, say that Thameslink services between London Bridge and East Croydon will not stop. So how do passengers on the East London Line catch these trains to places like Purley, Gatwick and Brighton?

To get to Thameslink, those on the East London Line, will have to go to Whitechapel and get a train to Farringdon or St. Pancras

That will be a pain for anybody, whose local station is anywhere on the East London Line and very much a degradation of the current service.

Those living near Norwood Junction have already lodged a petition with the London Assembly.


My Reply From OvergroundInfo On The 19th February

On the 19th February, I got this reply.

Thank you for contacting London Overground.

I am sorry however I am unable to help with the issue you raise. They will be best addressed by Thameslink.

As a result I have passed your comments to them. I am sure that you will hear from them soon, however if you want to contact them their details are:


You certainly can’t complain about the promptness of the replies but I’m back to square one.

All I want to know, is how the millions of us in East London will get to Gatwick Airport, as conveniently as we do now!

February 19, 2016 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | 2 Comments

Serial Cooking – Lemon And Spinach Cod Gratin

This recipe is another from Lindsey Bareham in The Times.

Lindsey called it a speedy gratin, based on an idea from a reader.

I made it as one large one for two helpings for myself.

February 19, 2016 Posted by | Food | , , | 1 Comment

The IPEMU Advantage

Others question and they do rightly, my enthusiasm for the IPEMU or the battery-powered train.

This post which takes information from a variety of sources explains why I think as I do.

This document on the Network Rail web site explains the thinking of Bombardier and Network Rail.

Running Trains

Running trains is a co-operation between several parties.

  • The passengers.
  • The train operating companies like Virgin Trains, LOROL, Abellio Greater Anglia etc.
  • The train builders like Bombardier, CAF, Hitachi, Siemens etc.
  • The infrastructure provider like Network Rail, airports, property developers etc.
  • The regulators and elected bodies like Government, TfL etc.

So what advantages does an IPEMU bring to each group?

The Train Builders

Is it simply a matter of who makes the best trains, will get the greatest number of orders?

The train of the future will.

  • Be powered by electricity.
  • Have regenerative braking to capture braking energy as electricity.
  • Have a lot of power-hungry passenger features like air-conditioning, wi-fi and charging sockets.
  • Have the ability to move to a limited amount without power, in depots, when the power fails, or where there are deliberate electrification gaps.
  • Have a very sophisticated drive control and train management system, which matches train speed and acceleration to location, line, traffic, weather, passenger demand and type of power available.

In some ways regenerative braking is the most important, as it can save almost twenty per cent of the electricity used by a train.

I wouldn’t be surprised that, in a few years time, manufacturers will find it very difficult to sell a train without regenerative braking.

The electric power generated in regenerative braking can either be returned to the power supply or stored on the train.

Returning power is easy on DC systems using conductor rail, like subways, the Underground or Southern Electric, but can be expensive on 25 kVAC overhead systems.

Remember too, that when a train stops, it has to start again and will want the braking energy back.

From an engineering point of view, probably the best way to create an electric train with regenerative braking is to have onboard energy storage to capture the braking energy.

This is already done extensively in an analogous manner with hybrid road vehicles. It could even be done now with a diesel-electric train such as an Inter-City 125.

This leads to the proposition that within a few years all train manufacturers will need to make trains, with some form of battery or onboard energy storage.

The latter term is better as who knows what will be used for energy storage in the future? Batteries, KERS and super-capacitors have all been used in rail applications.


  • All of Bombardier’s new Aventra trains, have provision to plug in an energy storage device, if the customer wants one.
  • Several tram manufacturers have products which use onboard energy storage, that have already been ordered and/or delivered.
  • Road transport and increasingly buses and passenger cars are hybrid with onboard energy storage.
  • Trains with onboard energy storage can be moved without power in depots and when wires come down.
  • Bombardier have stated that their IPEMU technology is also being designed to retrofit to existing modern trains like Class 375/377/378/379/387 etc. trains.
  • The complicated mathematics of steel wheel on steel rail mean the extra weight of the onboard energy storage is not a disadvantage.

All of this goes together to make the cost of running a train more affordable.

Bombardier’s Prototype IPEMU

Bombardier must be pretty bullish about their technology, as a year ago, they allowed the public to ride on a Class 379 train, that had been modified to be a technology demonstrator.

An Outwardly Normal Class 379 Train

An Outwardly Normal Class 379 Train

I rode the train and was very impressed.

,It felt just like a standard train and I wouldn’t have known it was running on battery power except for the engineer sitting opposite, who was monitoring the train on his laptop.

Since that ride, there has been no adverse reports in the press and Bombardier have won an award for the technology.

When I am asked what are some of the most impressive experiences in my long life, riding this train certainly ranks towards the top, of those, which were not of my design or creation.

Until I came home and looked up the physics of steel wheel on steel rail, despite being an electrical engineer, I just didn’t believe that batteries could move a train.

In The Technology That Enables The Aventra IPEMU, I wrote about the physics and also what Bombardier seemed to be planing for the new Aventra train, which will have the capability of onboard energy storage.

I think it is true to say, that the unique thing Bombardier has done is to put a credible package together and demonstrate it in public.

The Train Operating Companies

Train companies gain a rather diverse set of advantages from IPEMU technology..

  • More services can be given modern electric trains.
  • Depots and sidings can be built without electrification, which saves money and makes them safer for the workforce.
  • Electrification can be cut back to where it is actually needed.
  • Regenerative braking cuts times at stops and increases service speed.
  • As trains use less electricity, costs are less.
  • IPEMU trains have a limited diversion capability, which can ease disruption.
  • The company has a greener profile.

Hopefully, the performance and profile of the company will attract more customers and hence increase profits.

The Passengers

They will gain mainly from the benefits of modern electric trains.

But IPEMUs will bring other benefits to passengers.

  • New services to new destinations.
  • Faster services on routes with lots of stops.
  • Better response when problems inevitably occur with overhead wires.

Hopefully, the lower cost of electric trains with regenerative braking may even result in lower fares.

The Regulators And Politicians

I have a feeling that the regulators will like the IPEMU, as the benefits will mean that passengers should be happier with better services, at hopefully a lower fare.

Politicians, and regulators are mainly of that ilk, that loves to leave a legacy. And they especially like to leave a legacy, which means they get voted back!

Consider the simple one or possibly two station extension of the Gospel Oak to Barking Line (GOBlin) to Barking Riverside.

  • It looks like it will sensibly be done after the main route is fully electrified.
  • Only Class 710 trains would be used on the extension.
  • These trains will be Aventras and could easily be fitted with an IPEMU capability.
  • Once it leaves the main line all infrastructure is new.

I believe that using an IPEMU on the extension would be beneficial.

  • No electrification would be needed.
  • Stations would be simpler.
  • There would be no visual intrusion of overhead gantries.
  • Train noise would be less.
  • Removing electricity would make the environment safer.
  • No one is likely to object.

But the main benefit, is that the extension can be built at a much lower cost.

How many new or improved short extensions to the main electrified rail network would IPEMU technology enable?

The politicians will come to love the concept of an IPEMU!

The Infrastructure Providers

Network Rail helped fund the original trial at Manningtree using a modified Class 379 train and you can understand why!

Electrification of lines is enormously expensive for infrastructure companies.

  • Putting up wires means raising hundreds of bridges and boring out tunnels.
  • Putting up wires seems to constantly drill through important cables.
  • Putting up wires in depots, stations and sidings can be very complicated.
  • Putting up wires raises heritage issues.
  • The Nimbys often don’t like unsightly wires.
  • A major cost is often getting the power to the wires.
  • Upgrading existing electrification for traditional regenerative braking is not a simple operation.
  • Engineers to do the work are in short supply.

So infrastructure companies will probably welcome anything that cuts the amount of new electrification and upgrade work.

One piece of technology we will see increasingly, is the ability of electric trains to deploy and retract the pantograph at line speed, as I believe the new Hitachi Class 800 trains can do.

So where will we see IPEMU technology used to cut the amount of electrification, but not the deployment of electric trains?

  • Any branch line from an electrified main line, that is currently run by a diesel multiple unit. Branch lines like Felixstowe, Henley, Marlow, Sudbury, Uckfield and Windsor are probably IPEMU-ready after some platform extension and signalling work for longer trains.
  • New extensions from an electrified line to major property developments like Barking Riverside.
  • New extensions into restricted spaces, such as airports like Glasgow and Luton.
  • Existing lines that connect two electrified main lines like Cambridge to Ipswich and Cambridge to Norwich.
  • Electrification gaps can be left in heritage areas like the Grade 2-listed Hebden Bridge station or where the Midland Main Line, runs through the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.
  • Electrification gaps can be left where the geography is just impossible to build, access or maintain the overhead wires.
  • Depots and sidings can be left without electrification.

Obviously, electrification gaps can only be left where all trains are diesel, bi-mode or have an IPEMU capability.

Relying on rumours and snippets in the media, the Internet and on blogs, I think we’ll see IPEMUs used in these places first.

  • The extension of the Gospel Oak to Barking Line to Barking Riverside.
  • Branch lines on the Great Western Railway, between London and Didcot.
  • Branch lines in East Anglia.
  • Merseyrail to Preston and Wrexham.
  • Removal of diesel trains from the Southern franchise in Sussex and Kent.

I would add the Northern City Line, but the order for new trains has gone to Siemens.

The electrification of this line from Finsbury Park to Moorgate is a mixture of third rail and overhead.

As the new trains will be the only ones working this line, a train could use an IPEMU capability South of Finsbury Park. When all the Class 313 trains have been moved on, the third rail electrification would not be needed.

As it’s a couple of years before the Class 700 trains are delivered, I just wonder if they’ll have an IPEMU capability.

According to this article in the Daily Telegraph, Siemens are certainly experimenting with the use of batteries in trains.

The Current Status

Of the major manufacturers, this is the current published status, as far as I can determine.

  • Bombardier have demonstrated their technology in public and used it in trams.
  • Bombardier are researching heavily into the best battery system at Mannheim.
  • Bombardier have also built large numbers of EMUs in recent years, that are suitable for retrofit with IPEMU technology.
  • CAF spend heavily on R & D, have used the technology in trams for some years.
  • CAF have sold that type of tram to the Midland Metro.
  • JR East, who are on the list of preferred suppliers for Merseyrail’s new trains, have working Battery Trains In Japan.
  • Siemens and Alsthom have trams running on batteries.
  • Hitachi are backing the bi-mode, but must have access to Japanese technology.

On the down-side Bombardier have well publicised financial problems.

The Future

Currently, the IPEMU technology has a range of about fifty miles on battery, which if there is no en-route charging means that it could be used on short branches up to twenty miles.

This range will grow, as engineers know how to stretch the onboard energy storage capacity.

Engineers will also learn how to use the technology to take electric trains into more and more places, that are now thought impossible.

I think that the launching of battery trams in Birmingham will alight everybody’s minds to the possibilities of battery power.



February 19, 2016 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , | Leave a comment