The Anonymous Widower

No-Frills Mini Trains Offer Route To Reopening Lines That Beeching Shut

That long title appeared in The Times today above a picture of a stylish single-carriage lightweight train.

This page on the Warwick University web site is entitled Revolution Very Light Rail Project, describes the project on which the Times article is based.

This is said.

The main objective of the project is to reduce the weight and cost of a railcar by half in order to facilitate low cost connectivity of suburban and rural areas. The Radical Train will demonstrate unique self-powered bogies (with integral hybrid propulsion and kinetic energy recovery system) combined with a modular, lightweight body-shell utilising advanced materials. WMG will be transferring expertise in lightweighting technology from the automotive sector into this project. Automotive lightweighting solutions are already employing advanced materials including ultra-high strength steels and fibre-reinforced polymer composites.

Other points from The Times include.

  • 18m. long, but could be 12m. or 9m.
  • 3.8 litre Cummins diesel hybrid engines. Routemaster buses have 4.5 litre Cummins engines
  • Speed of up to 70 mph.
  • Lithium-titanate battery similar to a Routemaster bus.
  • Target price of £500,000

The Times also says that the prototype could be running in 18 months.

So how feasible is what the article says?

The Short Branch Or Connecting Line

The most obvious application is the short branch or connecting line, which is worked by either a single train or perhaps a small number of small trains.

On their web site, Warwick University have an image of the train at St. Erth station, ready to depart on the St. Ives Branch. I wrote about this branch in St. Erth Station And The St. Ives Branch.

St. Erth Station

You have to admire the group in picking a station of character for their web site.

But it would also make a good test site for the train.

  • St. Erth station has two platforms.
  • The line is single track throughout.
  • There is a two trains per hour (tph) service run by a single Class 150 train.
  • The route has a high level of baggage.
  • The Class 150 train takes 14-15 minutes for each journey.
  • A well-designed modern train could save a few minutes.

But above all Cornwall has better weather than many places.

This line probably gets very busy in the Summer and I also suspect that Great Western Railway would like to run four tph on the branch.

They could probably do this with a passing loop around halfway and two trains with a better station calling performance than the Class 150 train. ERTMS, which would probably be fitted to the trains, would ease the problems of signalling on the line.

There are several branch lines in the UK, which are currently run by a single train and perhaps 1-2 tph, that could benefit with a 4 tph service, which these trains could provide.

In A Look At New Station Projects and also in The Times article, there are some branch line projects that may be suitable.

Most of these lines are reopened lines that were closed in the Beeching era.

Are The Trains Big Enough?

At eighteen metres long, I reckon that the capacity of a single unit is slightly less than a twenty-three metre long Class 153 train. An estimate gives somewhere between 50-55 passengers.

But pictures in The Times and on the Warwick University web site show a standard railway coupling, which can be used for the following.

  • Creating longer trains of two or more units working together.
  • Allowing one train to rescue another.
  • Allowing a train to be rescued by a compatible train.

So it would seem that creation of a train with a capacity of around 100 passengers by linking two units together is probably in the specification.

Working With Other Trains

The Times article says that the lightweight design means they can probably only run on captive lines with no other heavy trains.

But it also says that this will change with ultra-safe digital signalling, that enforced separation between trains.

By the time, these trains enter service, ERTMS will have been proven to be safe on UK railways.

I also suspect that the trains will use the most modern automotive industry structures. Pacers they are not!

The Longer Distance Service

A typical longer distance service would be one shown in The Times, which is to run a service between Newcastle station and a new Ashington station in the North East.

  • Most if not all of the track is intact.
  • Stations would need to be rebuilt or built from scratch.
  • To work the desired frequency of two tph would probably need two units.
  • Digital signalling would be needed, as there are freight trains on the same lines.

More details of the route are given on the South East Northumberland Rail User Group web site.

Running Under The Zwickau Model Into A Town Centre

These trains could almost have been designed to run as trams, as the diesel multiple units of the Vogtlansbahn do in Zwickau town centre.

Arrival At Zwickau Zentrum Tram/Train Stop

The picture shows one of the trains at the terminus of Zwickau Zentrum, after arriving at the town centre terminus from the Hauptbahnhof over a tram-style track under tram tram-style rules.

  • Note the tram-style infrastucture with a simple stop and track laid into the roadway.
  • The driver has large windows to keep a good look-out.
  • Horns and other warning devices are fitted.
  • Note the orange warning lights.
  • The train travels at a slow safe speed.
  • The stations or are they stops have no footbridges. Pedestrians and cyclists can cross the track, as they need.

I think that Warwick’s vehicles could travel like this to provide route extensions into a city or town centre of perhaps to an attraction like a theme park.

Have track! Will travel!

Conclusion

I think that Warwick have come up with a fresh design, that shows a lot of innovation and flexibility.

Not only is it affordable to build, but also probably can work with lower-cost infrastructure.

I look forward to seeing the prototype in action.

 

 

 

February 11, 2017 - Posted by | Travel | , , , ,

4 Comments »

  1. We have had these in Manchester for about five years now and they only cost about a quarter of a million pounds each (cheaper in bulk): –

    http://www.alexander-dennis.com/products/enviro400h/

    Comment by Mark Clayton | February 11, 2017 | Reply

    • But buses are not as efficient as trains, due to the properties of steel wheels on rails.

      There’s an awful lot of good technology out there!

      Comment by AnonW | February 11, 2017 | Reply

  2. […] In No-Frills Mini Trains Offer Route To Reopening Lines That Beeching Shut, one of the lines mentioned in the original Times article that might be suitable for reopening is the Blyth and Tyne Line between Newcastle station and a new Ashington station in the North East. […]

    Pingback by Reopening Newcastle To Ashington « The Anonymous Widower | February 17, 2017 | Reply

  3. […] as I wrote in No-Frills Mini Trains Offer Route To Reopening Lines That Beeching Shut, engineers won’t give up in providing solutions for difficult to serve […]

    Pingback by The Tarka Line « The Anonymous Widower | April 11, 2017 | Reply


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