The Anonymous Widower

Can Mark 3 Coaches Come To The Rescue?

The Mark 3 coach is one of the mainstays of UK railways.

  • Chiltern Railways use thirty one coaches on Birmingham and Oxford services from Marylebone.
  • CrossCountry have thirty-eight coaches as part of InterCity 125s.
  • East Midlands Trains have over a hundred as part of InterCity 125s
  • Greater Anglia use one hundred and thirty coaches between Liverpool Street and Norwich.
  • Great Western Railway have over four-hundred and fifty coaches as past of InterCity 125s.
  • Virgin Trains East Coast have over a hundred coaches as part of InterCity 125s.

It should be said, that some are in better condition than others and very few meet the latest access regulations.

But even the table hides a few strength and problems.

Chiltern Trains

Chiltern Trains run their Mark 3 sets with a driving van trailer (DVT) and a Class 68 locomotive on some Birmingham and Oxford services.

  • Marylebone to Birmingham Moor Street is a two trains per hour (tph) service and the journey takes ten minutes under two hours.
  • Marylebone to Oxford is a two tph service and the journey takes a few minutes over an hour.

The Birmingham service needs eight trains for a 2 tph service.

The Oxford service would need six trains for a 2 tph service, but if the journey could be under the hour, there could be a reduction in the number of trains needed.

If Chiltern decided to run a 2 tph service between Oxford and Birmingham, as I suggested in Where Next For Chiltern?, this would need another four trains.

This leads me to say.

  • As Chiltern only have six sets of Mark 3 coaches, they will have to use Class 168 trains for some of the services.
  • Probably by clever timetabling, they would  need at least a dozen trains to run a quality two tph service on both routes.
  • They would probably like all their services to Birmingham and Oxford to share a common train type, for operational and marketing reasons.

So where do Chiltern find another probably ten trains?

  • The Class 68 locomotives would have to be hired.
  • There are up to a dozen DVTs in storage at Long Marston according to Wikipedia, so creating some for the trains, might be a reasonably predictable refurbishment.

But where do they find the sixty coaches needed?

This article from Rail Magazine in June 2012, is entitled Making the Mk 3s even better, describes Chiltern’s methods.

This is an extract.

Economics dictate that it is cheaper to rebuild the Mk 3s than to order brand new DMUs. Indeed, because of track access and fuel costs, if a LHCS formation is more than five coaches (as they are in Chiltern’s case), then the costs favour locomotive-hauled trains. 

The freedom to be able to do this is also a factor for Chiltern. The franchise is owned by Deutsche Bahn, which also owns the coaches. This means that vehicles can be tailored to exactly what the operator wants, rather than thinking about the re-sale value. No expensive engineering will be needed, again because this is what Chiltern wants.

Note the trains are in the same ownership as Chiltern; Deutsche Bahn.

As a passenger, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

The product looks, feels and tastes good!

Greater Anglia

Greater Anglia could be a good source of quality Mark 3 coaches.

  • Greater Anglia have 130 of them, which are leased from Porterbrook.
  • The trainsare due to be replaced by new Flirt electric multiple units during 2019/2020.
  • The trains have recently been refurbished and have been fitted with wi-fi and retention toilets.

The problem is that they are still slam-door stock and don’t meet the latest access regulations.

But this is not a great problem, as Chiltern have form in updating Mark 3 coaches to meet the latest standards.

Greater Anglia are also replacing fifteen sets of carriages with just 10 electric multiple units, which will provide Norwich in ninety minutes at 3 tph, as opposed to the current service of Norwich in two hours at just 2 tph.

Incidentally, just eight trains are needed to provide the current service, so Greater Anglia could have a few spares.

So it looks to me, that immediately each Flirt is in service, there will be a Mark 3 set sitting in Crown Point ready to go on its next task.

But as just ten Flirts will be replacing fifteen Mark 3 sets, it looks to me, Chiltern might be able to raid Greater Anglia’s stock of spare trains earlier than has so far been thought.

Suppose three trains could be released, this would release twenty-four refurbished coaches and three DVTs.

If another DVT could be sources from Long Marston, then there would be another four rakes of coaches for refurbishment to Chiltern’s standards.

One of the great advantages of modifying the Greater Anglia coaches, is that they have all been refurbished to a high standard, so I suspect that all the mechanicals and structure of the coaches are in virtually in as-new condition.

This page on the Greater Anglia web site, gives full details of the refurbishment.

This is said.

The significant refresh will see all of the train operator’s MkIII fleet enhanced, with improvements throughout for both First Class and Standard carriages including, plug points; new LED lighting; new carpets; new tables; new seat covers; upgraded environmentally-friendly controlled emission toilets with new floors and new taps; re-painting of the carriage interior saloon and vestibule panels, walls and ceilings.

It also appears that Greater Anglia set up a special work-shop in Crown Point TMD to do the update.

Could Greater Anglia have stolen a copy of Chiltern’s rule-book? More likely, they used the same consultant.

After a recent trip in one of these coaches with a friend, I wrote The Power Of Three! To say she was impressed, could be an understatement!

Chiltern just need to fit the new doors and their own interiors.

The Various InterCity 125 Coaches.

There are several ideas as to what to do with the various High Speed Trains formed from two Class 43 locomotives and an appropriate number of Mark 3 coaches.

This according to Wikipedia is Abellio’s Scotrail’s plan.

Abellio ScotRail will also introduce 9 four-car (2+4) and 17 five-car (2+5) refurbished High Speed Trains by December 2018 on longer-distance services between Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness. Scotrail will receive the first locomotives and carriages late 2017, with the refurbishment program taking place at Brush Loughborough (power cars) and Wabtec Doncaster (carriages) between late 2017 and May 2019.

There have been rumours that Great Western Railway will do something similar with a few more trains.

As the InterCity 125s will each be shortened by a few coaches this will release more coaches for use by other operators.

Lots Of Mark 3 Rakes Of Coaches

There are probably enough Mark 3 coaches in excellent condition and DVTs, that can be refurbished, to create perhaps another twenty-five rakes of between five-car and eight-car Mark 3 coaches, tailored to an individual customer’s need.

All of the design work has been done and proven by Chiltern or their contractors.

Obviously, you wouldn’t fit the doors and do the final parts of the refurbishment, until you actually had a customer, but it looks to me, that Porterbrook, who own the Greater Anglia Mark 3 coaches, seem to be doing a bit of speculation. Obviously, they have a plan in there to make money, as ROSCOs don’t do charity!

There is also this article from Rail Magazine, which is entitled Refurbished Mk 3s for Tornado.

It describes how, a rake of Greater Anglia’s Mark 3 coaches, will be acquired to be used with the new-build steam locomotive 60163 Tornado. One would even be fitted with a water tank to extend the range of the engine. Surely, a Mark 3 can handle that sort of weight.

Porterbrook have done well in the last few months out of a speculative order for Class 387 trains, that helped tide some train companies through rolling-stock shortages.

So have they seen a market niche to create an affordable train for longer routes based on Mark 3 coaches hauled by a Class 68 locomotive or perhaps a Class 88 electro-diesel locomotive.

Consider.

  • It would meet all the access and environmental regulations.
  • It would probably be quieter than a shortened InterCity 125.
  • According to the Rail Magazine article, track access charges are affordable.
  • As Chiltern and Greater Anglia are showing, it would deliver a superb customer experience.
  • Chiltern like the package and could be a customer or do something similar themselves.
  • It would be ideal for some of CrossCountry’s long routes like Aberdeen to Plymouth.
  • It would be ideal for an open-access operator, developing a new route.
  • Virgin West Coast might like it for Euston to Holyhead.
  • With a faster version of the Class 88 locomotive, it might have a maximum speed in excess of 100 mph.

It would do anything a Class 800 train can do, at probably a more affordable purchase price, lower track access charges and  an earlier delivery date.

Conclusion

Their is something behind Porterbrook’s decision to refurbish Greater Anglia’s Mark 3 coaches, when  they knew there was a good chance they would be replaced by new trains, as the clapped Class 90 locomotives certainly couldn’t do London to Norwich in ninety minutes, as mandated in the new East Anglian franchise.

I suppose that Abellio could have been keen to upgrade the coaches, as the interiors were very much on the tatty side and the upgraded coaches would hold the fort until the Flirts arrived, without too much grief.

On the other hand, if the Great Western Electrification gets later and Abellio ScotRail lose their source of shortened InterCity 125s, locomotive-hauled Mark 3s to a high standard would be a very acceptable and affordable alternative.

I must also ask this question.

Could Greater Anglia’s Mark 3 coaches have been refurbished, so that to fulfil Scotrail’s requirements, all that needs to be done is the following?

  • Fit doors that are compliant with the access regulations.
  • Shuffle the coaches to the length and First and Standard Class capacities required.
  • Give the rake of coaches a Scotrail livery.
  • Couple a Class 68 or Class 88 locomotive on one requisite end.

I suspect the negotiation would be quite convivial, as both Greater Anglia and Scotrail are owned by Abellio.

The only problem would be that Scotrail need 9 four-car and 17 five-car trains and there may not be enough DVTs. However, some sets could be to the original plan of shortened InterCity 125s.

Scotrail certainly have a Plan B, if the Great Western Electrification gets even more pear-shaped.

Appendix – Posted on December 24th, 2016

In the January 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, under a heading of Pennine Pretendolino, there is a picture of a Class 68 locomotive hauling, the jokily named spare rake of Mark 3 coaches to Laira depot for attention, so that it can be used for driver training purposes by TransPennine Express, prior to the arrival pg the new Mark 5A coaches from CAF.

The Pretendolino is described under rolling stock on the Virgin Trains entry in Wikipedia. This is said.

Following the loss of a Class 390 Pendolino in the Grayrigg derailment, a Mark 3 set with a Driving Van Trailer was leased with a Class 90 hired from English Welsh & Scottish as required. In 2008 Virgin looked at leasing two Class 180[49] but decided to retain the Mark 3 set. Nicknamed the Pretendolino, this received re-upholstered seating, power points, wi-fi and a full external re-paint at Wabtec, Doncaster in 2009.[50] Virgin used this set with a Class 90 locomotive hired from Freightliner on a Euston to Crewe (via Birmingham) service on Fridays only until December 2012. From 9 December 2013 it was utilised to operate a London Euston -Birmingham New Street train on Thursdays and Fridays only, until its withdrawal in October 2014. The Mk.III set was also occasionally hired out as a private charter train. It was used in the filming of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and can be seen at King’s Cross station at the end of the film. It is currently in use as a ‘hot spare’ with Abellio Greater Anglia

Like most of its siblings, it is showing a very strong survival instinct and keeping well away from the scrapyard.

Over the last year or so, I’ve ridden to and from Ipswich in the train several times, as it has been filling in whilst, the operator was updating their own Msrk 3 coaches.

 

 

 

December 13, 2016 - Posted by | Travel | , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. You’d think it’s simple but…

    #1 since that RTM article, leasing costs for new diesels have dropped and they are much more affordable, hence why Abellio could afford a total fleet replacement, so refurbished Mk3s may not be as competitive as they were 4 years ago against new diesels

    #2 you say as your conclusion that “all of the design work has been done and proven by Chiltern”, but I’ve heard that they were much more difficult and expensive than planned, hence for Scotrail’s refurbishment they’re using a different method entirely for their 2020 mods, so it might not be as simple as first thought.

    Comment by jeff | December 13, 2016 | Reply

  2. With respect to #1, I think there’s been so much thinking on train design, that anything is possible.

    One of my customers was Cummins engines and they have specialised in niche markets, so if you have an unusual space to fit a diesel they can often oblige. Class 800s have Cummins diesel engines appropriate to the route.

    But the most interesting possibility is the Aventra. hey split the heavy components between two cars to get a better weight balance. They have reserved a space for perhaps a battery. But it could easily fit a small diesel engine.

    With respect to #2, it may not be that simple, but it’s been done and if the coaches are well-surveyed then it should be possible.

    The first time is always the most difficult.

    Comment by AnonW | December 13, 2016 | Reply


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