The Anonymous Widower

How Will Virgin Trains East Coast Use Class 800/801 Trains?

The following two sections give Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC) current and future fleets.

Current Fleet

VTEC have a current fleet comprising the following locomotives and coaches.

The Class 43 locomotives and the Mark 3 coaches are formed into InterCity 125 trains.

  • Two locomotives and nine coaches per set.
  • 125 mph capability
  • Diesel-powered

Which gives thirteen diesel trains.

The Class 91 locomotives and Mark 4 coaches are formed into InterCity 225 trains.

  • One locomotive, one driving van trailer and nine coaches per set.
  • 140 mph capability
  • Electric-powered.
  • Ability to run London to Edinburgh in under four hours.

Which gives thirty-one electric trains.

Adding the two figures together gives a total of forty-four nine-car trains.

Future Fleet

VTEC’s  future fleet will include.

Adding these together counting the five-car trains as half gives fifty-four nine-car trains.

Or ten more nine-car trains!

In addition six to eight InterCity225 trains could be retained in service to run limited stop trains between London and Edinburgh.

This increase in capacity can only me good for passengers, with more services and destinations.

Questions About Class 800/801 Trains

What is the capacity of a nine-car Class 800/801 train?

I can’t find this on the Internet and I suspect it hasn’t been decided.

Wikipedia gives the capacity of an InterCity 225 train as 406 Standard and 129 First Class seats.

It should also be noted that the car length in a Class 800/801 is twenty-six metres, as opposed to the twenty-three metres of the InterCity 225.

I would hope good design can make excellent use of this space.

Will two Class 800/801 trains be able to work as a pair?

I suspect the answer to this is yes, as the closely-related Class 395 trains regularly do this.

The most common use would be to run two five-car trains as a ten-car set.

This would be a 260 metre long train, which is perhaps fifteen metres longer than an InterCity 225 train.

Some lengthening of platforms may be necessary, but it probably isn’t a major problem.

Will coupling and uncoupling of a pair of Class 800/801 trains be automatic?

In The Impressive Coupling And Uncoupling Of Class 395 Trains, I linked to videos of the closely-related Class 395 trains, doing just this in under a minute.

I would be very surprised if two Class 800/801 trains couldn’t do the same.

Will a Class 800 train and a Class 801 train be able to work as a pair?

There may be circumstances, where this is needed on electrified lines, so I would be very surprised if this is not possible.

At what station will a Class 800/801 train be able to call?

The nine-car trains are 234 metres long and a pair of five car trains will be 260 metres long, so platform length will mean they can’t call at a lot of smaller stations.

But a five-car train will be only 130 metres long, which will be shorter than a pair of four-car multiple-units working together, which are regularly seen on the UK’s rail network.

So the five-car trains will probably be able to serve a surprising number of stations.

Will Class 800/801 trains have a faster turn-round time?

If you look at the times of trains between London and Leeds, this things happen.

  • A few minutes after a train leaves the platform at Leeds and Kings Cross, the next incoming service arrives.
  • It then waits in the station for nearly half-an-hour before going back.

Effectively, an hour must be added to each Out and Back journey between London and Leeds.

This time will enable.

  • Passengers to unload and load.
  • Train to be prepared.
  • Crew to be changed if required.

Any delay of a few minutes can hopefully be recovered.

Train preparation time will probably be better with the Class 800/801 trains, as hopefully automation and better design will speed the process.

But cutting this thirty minutes  substantially would probably require passengers to be marched around like the Brigade of Guards, which is of course not possible.

Hopefully, the new trains will be designed, so that ingress and egress for all passengers will be easier and faster but at some stations like Leeds, the station layout is more of a bottleneck than the train.

A few minutes reduction in turn-round time might be possible, but nothing that would mean a train doesn’t occupy a platform for half-an-hour.

How long will A Class 801 train take between London and Edinburgh?

Currently the fastest journey time using an InterCity 225 is around four hours and twenty minutes, but they have done it in under four hours in test runs.

For marketing reasons, I suspect that VTEC would like to dip under four hours with the fastest trains.

As the Class 800/801 trains have a similar 140 mph performance to the InterCity 225, I suspect that four hours will also be possible.

But the big difference will be that the Class 800/801 trains will probably have faster stop times at any intermediate stations.

So I suspect that the average journey time between London and Edinburgh will drop.

How Will VTEC Use Class 800/801 Trains?

Returning to my original question, I’ll now attempt to answer it in the next few sections.

London-Edinburgh Services

I think we can assume the following.

  • There will be at least two trains per hour (tph)
  • Trains will usually be nine-car trains.
  • Class 800 trains will not normally use diesel power on the route.
  • Some trains could be  two five-car trains running as a pair.
  • A proportion of trains will do the trip in under four hours.
  • Intermediate stops as now will be optimised to the passenger traffic.
  • Intermediate stops will be faster.

I also think, that the InterCity 225 sets will be improved, so they can match the times of the Class 800/801 trains.

I think that once improved signalling on the East Coast Main Line is working and allowing running faster than 125 mph, we could be seeing trains being able to go from London to Edinburgh and back in under nine hours, assuming a thirty minute turn-round at both ends of the route.

This would mean that a dedicated London to Edinburgh fleet of just eighteen trains would be required to run a two tph service. Three tph would need another nine trains.

Speed up the trains so, that a round trip can be done in eight hours and sixteen trains are needed for the two tph service, with eight more trains needed to up the service to three tph.

Under Future in the Wikipedia entry for Virgin Trains East Coast, this is said.

If VTEC’s application to operate extra limited stops services to Edinburgh is successful, it is proposing to operate these by retaining six to eight InterCity 225 sets.

Interesting! So will some or all hours see a third train between London and Edinburgh.

Are the thirty-year-old InterCity 225 trains, showing the same survival instincts of their ten-year-older predecessors; the InterCity 125s?

London-Aberdeen And London-Inverness Services

Currently times on these routes from London are as follows.

  • London-Aberdeen – seven hours and four minutes – three trains per day
  • London-Inverness- eight hours and four minutes – one train per day

So what times could a Class 800 achieve on these routes?

Times North of Edinburgh with an InterCity 125 are as follows.

  • Edinburgh to Aberdeen takes two hours and thirty-six minutes – Fastest ScotRail takes two hours sixteen minutes.
  • Edinburgh to Inverness takes three hours and thirty-one minutes – Fastest ScotRail takes three hours nineteen minutes.

I suspect that a Class 800 train running on diesel power could match the InterCity 125 times and approach the ScotRail times.

But as they would be running on electric power to and from London in four hours, times could be as follows.

  • London-Aberdeen – six hours and sixteen minutes
  • London-Inverness – seven hours and nineteen minutes

So over half-an-hour could be saved on both routes.

Currently trains leave London at these times.

  • 10:00 – Aberdeen
  • 12:00 – Inverness
  • 14:00 – Aberdeen
  • 16:00 – Aberdeen

Note that there is probably no 18:00 train, as that would arrive in Aberdeen at 0110.

That is probably too late, but a well-driven Class 800 train, might get to Aberdeen around 00:30, which could be acceptable.

There is also the possibility of running a pair of five-car Class 800 trains to |Edinburgh, where they split with one train going to Aberdeen and the other to Inverness.

If the 16:00 train were to split, the Inverness portion would finish its journey before midnight.

A schedule like this from London could be possible.

  • 10:00 – Aberdeen and Inverness
  • 12:00 – Inverness
  • 14:00 – Aberdeen and Inverness
  • 16:00 – Aberdeen and Inverness
  • 18:00 – Aberdeen

Both Northern cities would get four trains per day from London, because of two factors.

  • The ability to run on electric power between London and Edinburgh, which knocks time off that section of the route.
  • The ability to split and join trains at Edinburgh, which saves paths on the East Coast Main Line.

It should be noted that any electrification North from Edinburgh will help.

Stirling to Edinburgh and Glasgow could be electrified by 2019 or 2020.

  • Trains would run to the South of Stirling on electric power.
  • Any splitting going North and joining going South would take place at Stirling.
  • Trains would still stop at Edinburgh to load and unload passengers.
  • Crew change currently takes place at Edinburgh, but that could happen at Stirling.

With a well-executed stop at Stirling, electric power between Stirling and Edinburgh and a few other improvements could we see the following?

  • London-Aberdeen – six hours
  • London-Inverness – seven hours

It would certainly please VTEC’s Marketing Department.

Services To St. Andrews

The Open Championship was last held at St. Andrews in 2015, so by the next time it is held at the Home of Golf, it is likely that a station will have been built for the town.

This new station must be able to accept Class 800/801 trains, which during a major event might need to run to the area.

This reasoning must apply to lots of places either on or within fifty miles of the East Coast Main Line.

London-Leeds Services

Leeds is generally served by 2 tph from London in around two hours ten minutes.

These are usually nine-car InterCity 225 trains, with a couple of InterCity 125 trains, that go to places like Harrogate, which are not electrified.

As the speed limits on the East Coast Main Line are increased as trains are fitted with in-can signalling, I suspect that VTEC’s Marketing Department will be pushing for times between London and Leeds to be under two hours.

I can’t believe that VTEC will not extend services from Leeds by making use of five-car trains running to Leeds as a pair, where they would divide and join.

I am assuming that Class 800/801 trains can join as well as the closely-related Class 395 trains, which do so it in under a minute.

Places that could be served include.

  • Bradford
  • Harrogate
  • Horsforth
  • Huddersfield
  • Ilkley
  • Keighley
  • Shipley
  • Skipton

Note.

  1. Some stations like Harrogate and Horsforth are not electrified, so would need Class 800 electro-diesel trains.
  2. Five-car trains could serve a lot of stations on the Leeds-Bradford Metro network, thus opening up the possibility of services to places like Headingley for the cricket and rugby and Saltaire for the culture.
  3. Could a five-car Class 800 electro-diesel train run over the Settle and Carlisle Line to Carlisle and Scotland?
  4. Extending some services from Leeds may mean that platform space is released at the station.

I think that the possibilities to extend services from Leeds using the five-car Class 800/801 trains are large.

London-Edinburgh Via Leeds

 

On the West Coast Main Line, some Scottish services from London, go via Birmingham and Wolverhampton.

So if there was a fully electrified route from Leeds to York, then some Scottish trains could go via Leeds.

At present, I don’t think this is possible with an electric train, as part of the route from Leeds to York is not electrified.

The electrification should be well underway by now, but there is no sign of it.

Other Extended Services

What can be done at Leeds can surely be done at other places.

If the two trains can couple and uncouple within a minute, that means that a pair of trains can arrive in a station and go through the following sequence.

  • 00:00 -A joined pair of Class 800/801 trains arrive in the station and load and unload passengers.
  • 00:03 – Close the train doors
  • 00:04 – Start the automatic decoupling process.
  • 00:05 – The first train leaves the platform.
  • 00:08 – After three minutes the second train leaves the platform.

I believe that the stop could be under ten minutes and the trains would be a safe three minutes apart, as they left the station.

So where could trains be split?

  • Newark or Peterborough for Lincoln and Nottingham
  • Doncaster for Hull and Sheffield
  • York for Scarborough and Harrogate
  • York for Middlesbrough and Sunderland
  • Newcastle for Ashington and Sunderland

Note.

  1. Trains could go in a loop to serve several stations.
  2. Sunderland could be on such a loop.
  3. As trains would only be five cars, they could stop at most stations in need of a service.
  4. Stations like Peterborough, Doncaster, York and Newcastle with more than one through platform in each direction would probably be preferred stations for split and join.
  5. No electrification is needed away from the East Coast Main Line.

Obviously, passenger needs and traffic patterns will decide, where the trains split and join.

Conclusions

The big conclusion will be that more places will receive long distance services to London and the places in between.

But these trains will really put the squeeze on smaller operators like Hull Trains and Grand Central Trains, as VTEC will be serving their station.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 26, 2017 - Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , ,

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