The Anonymous Widower

A Little Chord Goes A Long Way

This article in Rail Magazine is entitled Halton Curve Gets The Green Light.

I wrote about the Halton Curve in Could Tram-Trains Be Used To Advantage In Liverpool?  I said this in a section entitled Upgrading The Halton Curve

Funds have been made available to upgrade the Halton Curve, so that trains can reach Chester from Liverpool South Parkway via Runcorn.

The Halton Curve

The two blue squares indicate the two ends of the current single-track curve. The top one is where the curve leaves the Liverpool branch of the West Coast Main Line south of Runcorn station and the bottom one is where it joins the Chester to Manchester Line east of Frodsham.

The main reason for doing this would be to allow trains from Chester and North Wales better access to Liverpool Lime Street and South Parkway stations, and the John Lennon Airport.

As the Tier Two and Three electrification plans for the North as they effect Merseyside, includes full electrification of the lines around Chester, this would mean that an upgraded curve would be electrified.

There are probably good reasons to add an extra track to the curve, which would make it possible for Chester to be a new southern destination of the Northern Line.

The Rail Magazine article says this.

The Liverpool City Combined Authority has approved a range of projects aimed at improving travel across Merseyside, including reinstatement of the Halton Curve.

Also endorsed by the Welsh Government and by Cheshire West and Chester Council, bringing the line back into full use will entail an hourly direct service between Liverpool and Chester, and the extension of some services into Wales.

So just as the Todmorden Curve helped with the rail system around Burnley and the Ipswich Chord helped in Suffolk, will the Halton Curve help to develop the railways on Merseyside?

What is interesting about this decision, is that this appears to be a Liverpool decision, not one from Central Government.

Should more infrastructure decisions be devolved?

I think it’s very much a big yes!

April 27, 2016 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Where Are The Battery Trains? – Part 2

My Trip To Corby today got me thinking more about the reasons for the non-appearance of IPEMUs, that I wrote about in Where Are The Battery Trains?

I have released several software products in my time and I’ve made certain that when I do this, that the product is fully tested and up to the job.

I suspect that Bombardier are no different, except they are probably a lot more thorough!

Testing The IPEMU And The Batteries

This article in Rail Technology Magazine is entitled Bombardier enters key analysis phase of IPEMU and it goes on to describe the sort of work being done. This is said.

Engineers in Mannheim are comparing four battery types, including the Valence batteries used on the demonstrator. 

“What we’ve seen from the trial is that there is some work that we’ve still to finish on understanding the number of batteries that we apply for a particular performance,” he said. “We are looking at the packaging design in terms of how we pack the batteries together and how we monitor the overall temperature of the batteries for service. This is all to do with closing the triangle.”

I suspect most of this battery testing is being done on an off-train test rig, as if you have at least one rig for each battery type, testing can be done in parallel.

These rigs would be fairly simple affairs, where a computer with the route profile cycles the batteries through what they’d go through on an actual train, again and again.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this testing has widened, as obviously they are looking for a battery system with these characteristics.

  • Very high reliability.
  • The ability to hold as much energy as possible.
  • A size and weight, that would enable a complete battery to be under the floor of a train.
  • An acceptable cost.

Bombardier have not said, whose batteries they are testing, except that the ones they used in the prototype from Valence are on the list.

But supposing a reputable company, came to Bombardier and said, they could modify the batteries they’ve used successfully in such-and-such an application, do you think Bombardier would dismiss them out of hand?

Of course they wouldn’t!

I think that if the IPEMU gets introduced into service, that there could be a surprise in the type and manufacturer of the batteries.

Battery Choice Before Manufacture

Some battery types would inevitably be better than others and the testing would obtain a packaging design, range and cost for each design.

The big problem for the trains, is that until you decide on the type of battery to use, you can’t finalise the design of the battery pack and start manufacture.

This testing could throw also up strengths as well as problems.

The Problem Of Range

Range on batteries, is very important, as the longer it is, the more routes become possible for an IPEMU.

I was told on the Class 379 demonstrator, that a range of sixty miles was possible with that train. In this document on the Bombardier web site, this is stated about the objectives for the IPEMU.

The target is to operate a 185 tons four-car BOMBARDIER* ELECTROSTAR* train on battery up to 120 km/h for a distance of up to 50 km, which requires battery capacity in the range of up to 500 kWh. The design solution charges the batteries with the existing line converter equipment and connects the motor converters to the batteries when the 25 kVAC overhead line is not available. The lithium-ion batteries weigh less and can charge more quickly than industrial-form batteries, such as those used in automobiles.

Hard evidence of the actual range is difficult to find, although the figure of sixty miles is quoted in this section in Wikipedia.

I will now look at four longer routes, where the IPEMU may be the solution.

1. St. Pancras to Corby and Oakham

In my trip today to Corby, I saw how Network Rail are creating a fast route to the town, which it looks like will be double-track all the way to Oakham, This would include the route over the Welland Viaduct, which would be the sort of electrification, that would be difficult for engineering, aesthetic and heritage reasons.

Given that North Northamptonshire and the surrounding area, is going to see the development of several thousand houses, it would seem to me that an ideal IPEMU should be able to reach at least Oakham from St. Pancras. As Corby is about thirty-two miles and Oakham is forty-six miles from Bedford, this would mean that to provide a service would need a IPEMU with a range of sixty-four miles to reach Corby and ninety-two to reach Oakham, respectively.

So on the face of it, Corby and Oakham would be out of the range of a train fitted with the original Valence battery pack with its range of sixty miles, unless there was some electrification onwards from Bedford.

Yesterday, I saw that the piles for the electrification were going in North of Bedford. A rough calculation shows that for a sixty mile range IPEMU to reach Corby would need tjust a few miles of electrification North from Bedford. Oakham would need nearly twenty.

2. Liverpool Street to Lowestoft

Another route talking about as an IPEMU prospect is the East Suffolk Line between Ipswich and Lowestoft. This would need a train with a range of ninety-eight miles.

But as from Bedford, there could be a section of electrification at the Southern end of the line near Ipswich and perhaps some method of charging the train at Lowestoft.

3. Paddington to Bedwyn, Newbury and Oxford

Ever since I wrote Rumours Of Battery Powered Trains, which was based on an article in the September 2015 edition of Modern Railways, which was entitled Class 387s Could Be Battery Powered, I have believed that the Thames Valley could see several service run by IPEMUs.

I wrote this in a letter to a railway magazine in a letter entitled Class 387 IPEMUs to Oxford.

This sounds like an impossible dream, but if you were running Great Western Railway, you need some crumb of comfort, to cope with the arrival of Chiltern Railways at Oxford station in December 2016.

In September 2015, there was an article in Modern Railways with the headline of Class 387s Could Be Battery Powered, that described how GWR were thinking of creating some Class 387 IPEMUs.

In April 2016 the same magazine stated that electrification to Maidenhead could be ready before the end of 2016.

So that would enable Class 387 IPEMUs to reach Reading, Henley and Marlow, by doing the last few miles on batteries.

Also min the same issue of the magazine, Roger Ford also reported that the Reading to Didcot test track could be electrified by the end of the year.

As Didcot to Oxford and back, should be within the range of a Class 387 IPEMU running on batteries, I wouldn’t be surprised to see an electric service to Oxford before 2017.

I think it is true to say that this scenario is helped by every small extra morcel of range.

4. Basingstoke to Exeter

This section of the West of England Main Line is always being touted as needing electrification, but this section at nearly a hundred and thirty-five miles is certainly too long for a first-generation IPEMU.

On the other hand, selective short section of third-rail electrification, might make this route possible.


  • These four routes would give significant advantages to operators, with faster electric services to London and in the case of Oakham and Exeter, they would release high-quality diesel multiple units to provide other services.
  • As all of these routes are over sixty miles, it shows how, advances in battery design, which might bring increased capacity could increase the places where IPEMUs could provide an electric train service.

So are Bombardier’s engineers working on battery designs, that will handle as many routes as possible, that would be worthwhile to run with IPEMUs?

Other Technology

I am of the opinion that other technologies will stretch the range and applications of IPEMUs.

  • Automatic control of the pantograph up and down at line speed would surely be important.
  • Short sections of electrification in stations, where the trains stop.
  • Various aids would probably help the driver make the most of the battery capacity.
  • Improved signalling and track.

I am strongly of the opinion, that we’ll see a constant improvement in the range of an IPEMU.


I have only talked about medium length routes in the range of upwards of sixty miles.

If you add in all of short distance uses on branch lines, I think we’ll be seeing a lot of IPEMU-equipped trains in the future.

Their current non-appearance, may just be that Bombardier want to get the train absolutely right.

If they do that and the financial case stacks up, then Bombardier could see orders for a lot of new trains.


April 27, 2016 Posted by | Energy Storage, Transport/Travel | , | Leave a comment