The Anonymous Widower

Basingstoke To Exeter By Electric Train

In Where Are The Battery Trains? – Part 2, I suggested that short lengths of electrification could be used, so that trains with an IPEMU capability could work a longer route.

I suggested that the West of England Main Line might be handled this way between Basingstoke and Exeter.

The distances from London of the main stations in this part of the line are.

  • Basingstoke – 47.76
  • Salisbury – 83.48
  • Yeovil Junction – 122.60
  • Exeter St. Davids – 172.15

Each section would be capable of being run by an IPEMU with a more-or-less fully charged battery.

So if the train could be charged sufficiently at Salisbury, Yeovil Junction and Exeter St. Davids, the line could be worked by electric trains. Intriguingly, eight minutes is shown for the stop at Salisbury on the 07:10 train from Waterloo to Exeter.

It has been regularly said in the last few years, that there will be no new third-rail electrification, but as it looks like Network Rail have electrified some short sections and platforms like the bay platform at Oxted station. So I don’t think a few short lengths of third-rail electrification would be a problem.

To me, as an Electrical Engineer, creating a charging station is one of those problems, that should have an affordable and practical solution.

You have to remember that many of the stations on this line are simple ones with the two tracks, having a platform on either side. So to electrify a station to charge an IPEMUs batteries, there would just need to be two third-rail lines between the tracks at the station. Stations could probably be electrified very easily with little disruption.

Electrification At Kidbrooke Station


The picture shows some very typical third-rail electrification at Kidbrooke station. Note the gap in the third rail, which I assume is for staff or emergency services personnel to cross the track in emergencies. Third rail like this, could be put into all stopping stations.

The West of England Line has a 90 mph speed limit, so a train stopping at a station would charge the batteries with all the train’s kinetic energy as it stopped and the electrification would just be needed to top up the batteries and get the train moving again.

What would also help, is that later four-car Electrostars have eight contact shoes to give better electricity pick up when there are gaps in the third-rail, as you can see in the picture above. So the train would be able to draw electricity from the time the first shoe made contact to the time the last shoe lost contact.

The electrification would also be simple from the electrical point of view, as because the train would be handling the regenerative braking, all the rail would need to be able to do was supply sufficient 750 VDC, whilst the train required it.

If the West of England Line can be electrified, it has three further benefits.

  • Salisbury is also on the Wessex Main Line, that I wrote about in Cardiff to Southampton By Electric Train. So if IPEMUs were to work the Cardiff to Southampton route, they could top-up at Salisbury.
  • Yeovil Junction is on the Heart of Wessex Line and as the Weymouth end is electrified and the Bristol end will be in a few years, this line must be another that could be served by IPEMUs.
  • If Exeter had the ability to fast-charge IPEMUs, then the various branch lines in the area could be given electric trains.

Just when new third-rail electrification has been declared a blind alley, has it found an important niche market?

If the only electrification in the area was third-rail, then there wouldn’t even be a need to build new trains, as a few of the extremely numerous 100 mph-capable Class 377 trains, built in the last few years, could be refurbished and given an IPEMU capability. These could also be converted to dual-voltage, so they could serve Bristol, when that area is electrified.

In my view the second and third routes are the more interesting, as these lines are sold to passengers as a picturesque journey through beautiful countryside. So imagine it with quiet new electric trains instead of noisy and smelly 1980s diesels.

I can’t believe that someone isn’t looking seriously at a plan like this to bring electric trains to Wessex.

April 28, 2016 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] In Basingstoke To Exeter By Electric Train, I started to work through, how short lengths of third-rail electrification could be used to power an electric train with an IPEMU-capability. […]

    Pingback by Discontinuous Electrification Using IPEMUs « The Anonymous Widower | June 30, 2018 | Reply

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