The Anonymous Widower

The High Speed Metro Train

According to the Wikipedia entry for High-Speed Rail, the European Union Directive 96/48/EC, Annex 1 defines high-speed rail in terms of

  • Infrastructure: track built specially for high-speed travel or specially upgraded for high-speed travel
  • Minimum Speed Limit: Minimum speed of 250 km/h (155 mph) on lines specially built for high speed and of order 200 km/h (124 mph) on existing lines which have been specially upgraded. This must apply to at least one section of the line. Rolling stock must have a minimum speed of at least 200 km/h (124 mph) to be considered high speed.
  • Operating conditions: Rolling stock must be designed alongside its infrastructure for complete compatibility, safety and quality of service.

In the UK, we have several types of High Speed Train, which are capable of 200 kph on upgraded lines like the East Coast Main Line, with perhaps the most famous being the legendary InterCity 125.

An InterCity 125 Passes Through Sydney Gardens

An InterCity 125 Passes Through Sydney Gardens

If there were classic trains, like there are classic cars, then Terry Miller‘s development would be a classic.

Not only does it hold world records for being the fastest diesel-powered train, but some features of the design, like the wonderfully smooth-riding Mark 3 coaches have been used to create many other trains, which range from the traditional locomotive-hauled rakes of Chiltern Railways and Abellio Greater Anglia, and the Class 442 trains, which hold the speed record for third-rail electric trains, down to hundreds of multiple units like the Class 455 trains, one of which survived the Oxshott Rail Incident.

So it would appear that one common design of train, can adapt to various different applications.

But then Miller and his team got the basic structure and design right! I once read a story about how a few years ago, structural engineers at Salford University applied modern finite-analysis techniques to a Mark 3 coach designed without computers in the 1970s. They were amazed at how good it was. When you read what happened at Oxshott, the quality of the structure is not surprising.

On 5 November 2010, at approximately 3:30pm, a cement mixer lorry fell off a bridge crossing over the railway line close to Oxshott railway station, and landed on carriages of a passing train. No-one was killed. Witnesses stated that the rear of the lorry crashed through the parapet of the bridge and dragged the whole vehicle over the side of the bridge. The eight-carriage train, operated by South West Trains, was working the 1505 Guildford to London Waterloo. The train was formed of two Class 455 electric multiple units. The lorry, loaded with concrete and weighing 24 tonnes, landed on the sixth carriage, severely crushing the end of the roof. Further damage was sustained to the fifth and sixth, seventh and eighth carriages, with the latter being derailed at its trailing bogie, although the train remained upright. British Transport Police reported that six people on board the train sustained minor injuries whilst the driver of the lorry had sustained more serious injuries. This was later revised to two serious and five minor injuries. The Class 455 electric multiple unit involved has since been fully repaired using a rebuilt carriage from a Class 210 diesel multiple unit and returned to service in July 2013

Will we ever see a train, as good and versatile as a Mark 3, where the same design of vehicle is is as happy at 200 kph from St. Pancras to Sheffield as it is trundling its way from Liverpool Street to Chingford?

I would have thought, it would have been unlikely, that anybody could come up with a one-size-fits-all design, but after reading Ian Walmsley’s article in the April 2015 Edition of Modern Railways, about Bombardier’s new Aventra train for Crossrail, I’m not so sure

Ian  writes enthusiastically about Bombardier’s new train, where under Potential he starts with this sentence.

As a platform, the design will be offered in various guises for future contracts up to 125 mph.

He then goes on to say this about a possible future order for Aventras.

But the interesting one to me is East Midlands Trains electrics. As a 125 mph unit it could cope well with Corby commuters  and the ‘Master Cutler’ crowd – It’s all about the interior.

Ian is talking about a train, that is equally at home, running at over a hundred miles per hour on InterCity routes, or trundling through suburbs bringing commuters to work.

This is a genuine bi-mode train.

  • InterCity – Up to 200 kph on fast lines.
  • Metro – Appropriate speed with great efficiency on commuter or metro routes.

Consider the various features and benefits.

An Identical Fleet

The advantages of an identical fleet that can work all lines and services for an operator must be immense!

Ryanair, Easyjet and all those budget airlines with homogeneous fleets can’t be wrong!

A Universal High-Class Interior

Bombardier’s Class 387/1 trains are almost there, with most seats having a table. Just like Chiltern’s Mark 3s or the original InterCity 125s.

You might not get the passenger density, but you get punters rolling up.

Features on what I call the High Speed Metro would include.

  • 2+2 seating.
  • Most seats with tables.
  • Seats aligned to windows.
  • Wi-fi
  • Electronic Seat Reservations
  • Full step-free access and compliance with all disabled regulations.
  • No ghastly pink interiors!

All except electronic seat reservations, would be in both InterCity and Metro configurations.

Ability To Have An IPEMU Capability

I believe that if you have one train, that can act in both InterCity and Metro configurations, that you need the extra features that an IPEMU or on-board energy storage capability would bring on some or all of the fleet.

On-board energy storage would be similar to buying a car with a higher performance, but with a more more efficient and less polluting engine.

  • IPEMUs would help break the need of having to design a train for a specific route.
  • IPEMUs would have the ability to add branches to a company’s InterCity network. Think Liverpool Street to Lowestoft!
  • Regenerative braking becomes available for all electrified routes and improves efficiency. Think Merseyrail and other intensive Metros!
  • Discontinuous electrification would be possible. Think Ipswich to Cambridge!
  • New branches without electrification would be possible. Think Barking Riverside!
  • No electrification, where it gets habitually nicked.
  • Heritage, difficult or areas with stroppy natives could be left without electrification. Think Bath, Dawlish or Severn Tunnel!
  • Less wiring in depots.
  • Unwired level crossings and stations. Think health and safety!
  • Trains would use less electricity.
  • Trains have a get-to-the-next-station capability and essential power for charging passengers’ phones and devices, when electrification fails.

Obviously, the amount of on-board energy storage on the trains would be provided appropriately.

Automated Pantograph Up And Down on IPEMUs

If IPEMUs were working routes, where the electrification was discontinuous, the trains would need an automated system to raise and lower the pantograph accordingly.

This would also be done at line speed.

As we landed men on the moon in the 1960s, surely we can land a pantograph on an overhead wire in the 2010s.

Dual Voltage Capability

As required by the routes, this will sometimes be fitted.

An Interesting Statistic

In this article in Rail Magazine about the Great Eastern Main Line, it says that better signalling, faster trains and track improvements would increase the number of train between Liverpool Street and Chelmsford from the current twenty-four trains per hour to thirty-two!

Compare that with the frequency of nine trains per hour through High Wycombe on the Chiltern Main Line.

Both are double track main lines, but the Great Eastern Main Line is electrified.

How much of the capacity difference, is down to the faster stopping and starting of electric trains?

Note that the work-horses of both lines are 160 kph trains.

Pick-Up-and-Dash And Dash-And-Drop-Off Services

Because the High Speed Metro is equally at home running a local service as on a high speed line, it could work in ways impossible for a normal train.

Suppose the first service from Lowestoft to Ipswich in the morning was run by an IPEMU working in Metro mode, using the on-board energy storage, to run the route as efficiently as possible. Once at Ipswich on the Great Eastern Main Line, with all the passengers on the branch for the capital, it would dash for London in InterCity mode. Going back in the evening, the process would reverse and passengers would be dropped off on the branch.

The train could even overnight in Lowestoft, whilst plugged into a charging system.

This may not be a practical idea for other reasons, but a train with a unique schizophrenic character will get used in innovative ways.

East Midlands Trains

We can assume that East Midlands Trains could be one of the first customers, as Ian Walmsley mentioned them specifically.

  • They have both 200 kph InterCity and slower commuter routes.
  • They have heritage issues in the Derwent Valley.
  • The Midland Main Line is being electrified.
  • I believe that electrification could be discontinuous to both save money and accelerate installation.
  • I have a feeling that an IPEMU could serve Corby from where the wires run out at Bedford, with just a few extra miles of wires.
  • IPEMUs could work branches without electrification to Luton and East Midland Airports.
  • Some branch line services in the East of the franchise could be run by IPEMUs.
  • There is scope for extending services past Corby, Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield using IPEMUs.
  • Long-distance cross-country services like Norwich-Liverpool might be within the range of an IPEMU in a few years.

It will be interesting to see what decision the company makes.


Abellio Greater Anglia

Abellio Greater Anglia were involved in the IPEMU trials, so it is likely, that they will have plans for trains with an IPEMUs.

  • They have some long routes, where a proportion is not electrified. Think Liverpool Street to Lowestoft!
  • The ageing London-Ipswich-Norwich trains must be replaced. IPEMUs could reach Yarmouth going via Cambridge.
  • They have some routes with discontinuous electrification. Think Ipswich to Cambridge!
  • They have several branch lines, that could be served by IPEMUs. Think Marks Tey to Sudbury!
  • Speed is always important and the track is being upgraded. Think Norwich in Ninety!

It will make a change if East Anglia gets some new trains, rather than somebody else’s scrapyard specials!

A new Aventra IPEMU running to Felixstowe would probably be the first new train on the branch since the 1950s.

Virgin Trains, Grand Central, Hull Trains Etc.

I’m putting these operators together, as all could use Aventras on services to the North.

  • Nearly all services would be run at high speeds of up to 200 kph.
  • Some or all would have an IPEMU-capability to serve places away from the electrified network. Think Blackpool, Huddersfield and Lincoln!
  • Pick-up-and-dash and other innovative services would be possible. Think Sunderland to London!

One of the great advantages of these trains, would be that as the electrification network in the North expanded, more and more places could be reached from London and the South by electric trains without a change.

Chiltern Trains

In Could A Chiltern Metro Be Created? and A Trip To Aylesbury Vale Parkway, I showed how the High Speed Metro train could provide electric train services on all or most of Chiltern‘s services.

Electrification could be discontinuous.

  • Marylebone to Neasden. Or perhaps West Ruislip and Harrow-on-the-Hill!
  • A section in the middle perhaps between Banbury and Leamington Spa.
  • The Snow Hill Lines into Birmingham.
  • Shared sections with the East West Rail Link.

The gaps would be bridged by using the trains on-board energy storage.

High Speed Metro trains would give Chiltern other advantages.

  • High Speed Metro trains and especially the IPEMUs are expansionist and high class. They suit Chiltern’s character.
  • Chiltern could end up as almost a one electric train class railway.
  • Chiltern would meet their objective of London to Birmingham in ninety minutes.
  • The train’s performance would enable innovative timetabling to make maximum use of the limited platforms and paths on the Chiltern Main Line.

I would be very surprised if Chiltern didn’t go the High Speed Metro route.


I think Bombardier are going to sell quite a few Aventras.

Would a train operator like to see another company using new 200 kph metro trains, say from London to Norwich or Leicester, whilst they run 140 kph trains with a dated interior to say Bournemouth, Warwick or Hastings?

Bombardier have created the train equivalent of a high-performance saloon car, beloved of those that commute long distances by car.

April 9, 2016 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | ,

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