The Anonymous Widower

Power From Renewables Surges To High As Emissions Fall

This was the headline on a story in the Business section of The Times today.

Apparently nearly a quarter of the UK’s electricity was generated from renewables last year.

In 2014 it was 19.1%, but last year it was 24.7%.

It all goes to show, that we should think long and hard about building any massive power stations; nuclear, coal or whatever.

I have decided that now is the time to put solar panels on my roof.

April 1, 2016 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

Musical Trains On TransPennine Express

The moving on of the inadequate Class 185 trains on TransPennine Express (TPE) seems to have started with this article in Rail News entitled Hitachi scoops 95-car TPE train deal. This is said.

  • TPE have signed a deal for the delivery of nineteen five-car Class 802 trains for delivery from 2019.
  • The trains will normally run at 125 mph, but will have a 140 mph capability, subject to track and signalling.
  • The Class 802 trains will have 161 more seats than the Class 185 trains.
  • A second fleet of twenty-five trains will be ordered by TPE for delivery in 2018.

It’s also said that TPE will retain about half of the existing Class 185 trains.

In Future Fleet in the TransPennineExpress Wikipedia entry, this is listed as their future fleet.

  1. Thirteen sets of five-car Intercity carriages for TransPennine routes with a top speed of 125 mph, with deliveries, starting in 2017.
  2. Twelve sets of five-car EMUs for Scottish routes with a top speed of 125 mph, with deliveries, starting in 2018.
  3. Nineteen sets of five-car Class 802 trains for TransPennine routes, with deliveries, starting in 2019.

The third fleet of nineteen trains have been ordered and I feel pretty sure, Hitachi will deliver them on time from Newton Aycliffe.

But what types of trains will be delivered for the first and second requirements?

Class 387 Trains

Twenty-nine Class 387 trains have been built and there are another twenty-eight on order.

  • A proportion of the trains will be going to Great Western Railway (GWR), which is a sister company to TPE, to run Thames Valley services out of Paddington.
  • Because of the late delivery of the Great Western Electrification, some could end up sitting in sidings.
  • They are only a four car train, but as some Electrostars come in five car sets, I suspect that they can be lengthened to the required five cars.
  • They are only a 110 mph train, but then so are the Class 350 trains, currently working Manchester Airport to Glasgow services for TPE.

Although Class 387 trains don’t quite meet TPE’s speed requirement, they could provide a valuable interim service, whilst awaiting the delivery of the new trains.

Class 387 Trains With An IPEMU Capability

A Class 379 train was used for the prototype IPEMU or Independently Powered Electric Multiple Unit, which was successfully demonstrated in public service early in 2015.

This train has a range of upwards of fifty miles using on-board energy storage, charged on the main line from the overhead electrification.

The Class 379 and 387 trains are both Electrostars and are closely related, so it is very likely, that a Class 387 IPEMU can and will be developed.

A Class 387 IPEMU could be able to serve the following routes.

  • Liverpool to Newcastle via Manchester and Leeds.
  • Manchester Airport to Blackpool, Barrow and Windermere.
  • Blackpool and Preston to Leeds via the Calder Valley Line.
  • Manchester to Chester.
  • Manchester to Sheffield via the Hope Valley Line.

I also think, that as experience of the trains is accumulated, other routes would become possible.

Class 802 Trains

The Class 802 trains are the ones ordered for the major part of services across the Pennines, but they have a major problem. It would be unlikely, that Hitachi could deliver the trains until after the rest of the trains have been delivered starting in 2019.

Aventra Trains

The Aventra is Bombardier’s successor to the Electrostar.

  • It is designed as a modular train, that comes in a range of lengths. So far four car Class 710 trains and nine car Class 345 trains have been ordered.
  • Modern Railways disclosed in the April 2016 Edition, that a 125 mph version of the new Aventra train is coming.
  • It has been designed to be a very efficient train.
  • According to Modern Railways, the trains are designed to be able to handle both commuter and longer-distance services.
  • All Aventras are wired so that on-board energy storage can be fitted.
  • As it will be a more efficient train than the Electrostar, range using on-board energy storage would probably be longer.

So it would appear that a 125 mph five-car Aventra, that can extend routes and bridge electrification gaps will be available.


The two requirements  for TPE will now be examined.

The First Requirement

The first requirement for thirteen trains for TransPennine routes could be met by.

  1. Shortened five-car formations of InterCity 125s released by delivery of Class 800 trains to Great Western Railway (GWR) and Virgin Trains East Coast.
  2. Five-car Class 221 trains released by Virgin Trains.
  3. Five-car Class 222 trains released by East Midlands Trains.
  4. Five-car Class 387 trains with an IPEMU capability.
  5. Five-car Aventras with an IPEMU capability.
  6. Lengthening the existing Class 185 trains by adding two new cars.
  7. More Class 802 trains.

Option 1 – Every train operating company will be after these and there is a lot of work to do. But they would do the job.

Options 2 and 3 – What trains could be used to release the Class 221 and Class 222 trains?

Option 4 – Five-car Class 387 trains can be created. But would 110 mph trains be fast enough and would the IPEMU capability allow TPE to run the routes they require?

Option 5 – 125 mph Aventras with on-board energy storage, could probably do the job. But will they be available for delivery in 2017? I doubt it!

Option 6 – I doubt Siemens would like to lengthen Class 185 trains, but as an interim they could run as six car trains. But until the Class 802 trains arrive, they’re needed across the Pennines.

Option 7 – Not probably a possibility for delivery in 2017, unless Hitachi find how to 3D-Print trains at a rate of one a day.

TPE Needs More Capacity Now

The big problem, is that TPE needs extra capacity across the Pennines now! It should also be noted that the Ordsall Chord could open in December 2017, which will create a need for more trains.

TPE could decide to just muddle through until 2017, but I think they would like some extra capacity, otherwise all the euphoria of the new franchise, will be flushed down the toilet

The only trains that could be running across the Pennines, before the end of 2016, are Class 387 trains with an IPEMU capability. In fact, they could probably be running in time for the May 2016 timetable change.

I have believed for some time, that they could work the routes across the Pennines between Leeds and Manchester.

If TPE did go down this interim route, then it would be likely that the thirteen new trains ordered for this route would be 125 mph Aventras with an IPEMU capability.

Bombardier would love that if it turned out to be successful, as publicity of using batteries to extend the range of a 125 mph train must open up some very lucrative markets all over the world.

The Second Requirement

The second requirement used on the Scottish routes could be.

  1. Class 350 trains until new trains are delivered.
  2. Class 387 trains to add capacity to or replace the existing fleet.
  3. Class 802 trains
  4. 125 mph Aventra trains

All except the Class 350 trains could be five car trains and the Class 802 trains and the Aventras are 125 mph trains or faster.

140 mph Running

One complication is that at some time in the 2020s, the East Coast Main Line and West Coast Main Line will be able to accept 140 mph running. So the Scottish services, may end up bein worked by Class 802 trains.

Airport Expresses

An intriguing possibility is to use Class 387/2 trains as used on Gatwick Express on some services.

  • TPE services call at Manchester Airport and Liverpool South Parkway for Liverpool Airport.
  • The Class 387/2 trains have an interior designed for airport passengers.
  • The trains could be delivered as five car trains.
  • The trains could have an IPEMU capability.

Manchester and Liverpool Airports are very ambitious and probably would like connections to places such as Chester, Nottingham and North Wales.


There are a large number of possibilities and a massive need for an interim solution, which will probably use some of the available Class 387 trains, with or without an IPEMU capability.

The final solution will come down to a choice between.

  • Thirteen Class 802 trains with a bi-mode capability and twelve Class 802 EMUs
  • Twenty-five Aventras, of which at least thirteen would have an IPEMU capability.

I might find the Class 185 trains inadequate, but as new trains arrive, inevitably some of the diesel multiple units will be cascaded to other operators.

I think there’ll come a time, when TPE has just Class 802 trains and/or Aventras, with some trains having a bi-mode or IPEMU capability.

When there is electrification between Leeds and Manchester and if Aventra IPEMUs were handling the parts of the network without electrification, then TPE could rightly claim that they were running an all-electric fleet, which must give a green edge to their marketing.

Some bi-mode Class 802 trains could be converted to EMUs and hopefully would be able to cruise to across the Pennines at over 125 mph and to Scotland at 140 mph on the flagship routes.

  • Liverpool to Edinburgh via Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle.
  • Liverpool and Manchester to Glasgow via the West Coast Main Line.

It will be an interesting decision, as to which trains are chosen for the extra twenty-five trains.

The only certainty is that TPE will get a very good price.




April 1, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Death Of Traditional Steel Making

If we’re being serious about making steel using the traditional methods of blast furnaces, converters and lots of energy, it’s not a very green process and it contributes to pollution and global warning.

We have a serious oversupply of steel in the world and this page lists production by countries.

In 2014, the world produced 1670 million tonnes of steel, of which we produced just twelve.

Looking at the production levels, there are quite a few countries that produce produce small numbers of million tonnes of steel like we do.

As China produced 822 million tonnes of steel in 2014, how many of these countries will be forced out of steel making in the next few years?

What will save steel making in a lot of countries is improvements in technology.

The parts of the steel industry, that seem to be the most profitable are the downstream uses of the metal, like making rails for railways. In this country, we have a reputation for using steel in innovative ways, but few of these uses need steel made in Britain, although they may need a quality steel to start with.

But that quality steel can come from anywhere with the knowledge to produce it.

China will acquire that knowledge, just as the Japanese did in the 1950s and 1960s.

It is interesting to look at iron ore by country in 2014. Out of a world product total of 3.22 million tonnes, we see.

  • China – 1.5 million
  • Australia – 0.66 million
  • Brazil – 0.32 million
  • India – 0.15 million
  • Russia – 0.1 million

So does this partly explain China’s massive production of steel?

I think Australia and Brazil are the two most important countries on this list. Both have large amounts of energy and because they are ambitious intelligent countries, as the steel-making technology develops, will we see them increasingly becoming makers of quality steel?

I don’t know, but it says to me, that even producing quality steel in a niche market won’t be profitable for long.

The money and employment is in using quality steel, not in making it.

It may be a hard unpopular view, but we should let the rest of the world fight over supplying us with quality steel. If we want security of supply, I’m sure the Aussies would provide it.

As to the steel-making areas like Teesside and South Wales, we have to move on.

The Future On Teesside

In fact Teesside seems to be doing that, if a BBC report this week wasn’t truly negative.

What puzzles me about Teesside, is that there is little mention in the media about York Potash. This is from Wikipedia.

The project intends to mine the world’s largest deposit of polyhalite – a naturally occurring mineral – located on the Yorkshire coast.

The mine site is located outside the village of Sneatonthorpe, between Whitby and Scarborough in North Yorkshire. The project plans to construct two 1,500 m (4,900 ft) shafts to reach the mineral seam which includes a mineable area of around 25,200 hectares (62,000 acres).

To minimise the amount of visible infrastructure within the North York Moors National Park, a protected area, the polyhalite will then be transported 37 kilometres (23.0 miles) in an underground tunnel to the company’s processing plant at Teesside. After granulation and drying, the finished product – marketed by Sirius Minerals as POLY4 – will be exported from the nearby harbour facilities.

Could it be that, this project appears to not be very green and in the minds of many is creating a giant hole in the North York Moors National Park?

My view is that the UK needs more big projects like York Potash, that earn billions of pounds from exports, create thousands of jobs and don’t despoil the environment.

The Future In South Wales

So what have we got for South Wales and Port Talbot in particular?

Nothing as big as York Potash, but there are plans for the world’s first tidal lagoon power station in Swansea Bay Wikipedia says this about the Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay.

It is planned to be the first of six tidal lagoon power plants to be constructed in the United Kingdom, and one of four planned to be built in Wales. The tidal lagoon would have a capacity of 320 MW.

The project was named as part of the UK government’s 2014 National Infrastructure Plan and was granted planning permission by theDepartment for Energy and Climate Change in June 2015. Power production is expected to begin in 2019. The operational life time of the artificial lagoon is 120 years, effects of global warming have been included in the planning. It is also to be constructed to withstand 500-year-storms and to function as a coastline protection against storms and floods.

So what are we waiting for?

The economics depend very much on the strike price for electricity generated and the Government seems reluctant to set one. I do wonder if they have got themselves tied in knots with trying to build a white elephant at Hinckley Point, that they can’t think of anything else.


  • I’m not against nuclear power, but Hinckley Point C is so expensive and its strike price is so high, that it will be a millstone around the necks of energy users for decades.
  • If we want to go nuclear, there are smaller and proven reactor systems available.
  • Electricity generation is going more distributed with the growth of solar panels, local heat and power systems and other technology.
  • Large energy users are changing technology to cut use.
  • The tidal lagoon technology gives protection against storms and floods.
  • Tidal lagoons could be the twenty-first century equivalent of the nineteenth-century seaside pier.
  • If the technology and economics of the tidal lagoon work, it will produce carbon-free electricity for at least 120 years.
  • There are other places, where tidal lagoons could be built.

You could bet your life on the Dutch building a tidal lagoon, but they don’t have the tides.

Rather than back a doomed steelworks, the Government should back the unique energy project of the Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay.

If the energy economics don’t work out, you still get the coastal protection and leisure facilities.

A Metro For Teesside

The Tees Valley Metro has been in planning mode for some years and I can’t understand why it hasn’t happened yet.

All that seems to have happened is the opening in 2014 of James Cook University Hospital station, which I wrote about in James Cook Station – The Reinvention Of The Halt. The station certainly seems to be attracting a level of use, typical of a station of its type.

I also wrote about the metro in The Creation Of The Tees Valley Metro.

A Metro For South Wales

The Welsh are also keen to create a South Wales Metro for some time. I wrote about my observations on the trains in the area in The Welsh Could Be Having A Lot Of Fun Playing Trains In The Cardiff Valleys.

This project should be beaten into action as soon as possible.

It is interesting to take a look at a Google Map of the coast between Swansea and Port Talbot.

Swansea To Port Talbot

Swansea To Port Talbot

I don’t know the area well, but I know many people, who have enjoyed leisure time spent all along the South Wales Coast.

Perhaps, if the steelworks were to be closed, it could be treated to a Barcelona solution, where their steelworks was closed and the area turned into beaches and parks, which formed part of the Olympics in 1992.

The Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay would be generally sitting in the western part of the bay.

I believe that a comprehensive South Wales Metro, could go a long way to creating more jobs, than will be inevitably lost at Port Talbot.


Steel production is virtually dead in the UK and we must move on.

If we can find an innovative project to replace steel making, we should back it and as with York Potash, it doesn’t necessarily mean billions of public money.

But decent infrastructure and local rail, tram and bus systems can go a long way to creating the jobs needed everywhere.

In both the examples of Teesside and South Wales, surely if nothin else, a decent metro would give a boost to tourism.

April 1, 2016 Posted by | Transport, World | , , , , , , | 3 Comments