The Anonymous Widower

Wales Orders Some Golden Oldies

This article on Global Rail News is entitled Arriva Trains Wales Invests In Bi-mode Class 319s.

These four paragraphs define the deal and why.

The Welsh Government and Arriva Trains Wales are investing in five Class 319 Flex bi-mode trains.

Due to arrive next year, the four-car trains will be leased from Porterbrook thanks to £1.9 million from the Welsh Government and £1 million from Arriva Trains Wales.

Arriva Trains Wales said the trains would likely be deployed on commuter services into Cardiff.

Introducing the 319s will allow Arriva Trains Wales to carry out work needed on its Class 150 and 158 vehicles to ensure they meet new accessibility standards.

This looks to me to be a sensible way to provide cover and also increase the size of the fleet.

Consider.

  • The Class 769 train, to give the Class 319 Flex train it, its new official TOPS name, has been designed around the Manchester to Buxton route.
  • Manchester to Buxton is as stiff as any route in the Cardiff Valley Lines.
  • The trains can do 100 mph on 25 KVAC overhead electrification, so would be ideal for any partially-electrified routes.
  • According to this article on the BBC, electrification reaches Cardiff in December 2018.
  • The trains can do around 90 mph on diesel.
  • Range is ten Manchester-Buxton round trips on a full tankfull.
  • Modern Railways has reported the trains can change between diesel and electric modes on the move.
  • Drivers have told me, that the brakes on Class 319 trains are superb. Will that be needed on descents into Cardiff?

In Riding In A Clean Class 319/4 Train, I describe a recent ride in one of the better examples, that could be converted for Wales.

The trains may be thirty-years-old, but they are based on Mark 3 coaches, as are the InterCity 125, so like certain actors and singers, they seem to keep on performing.

How Would The Bi-Mode Trains Be Used?

Arriva Trains Wales has the following trains currently working the Cardiff Valley Lines or that need to be converted to meet the latest regulations..

The Pacers can in part be ignored, as I suspect they’ll be going to the scrapyard, when the next franchise starts. But Arriva Trains Wales will need fifteen four-car trains to replace them, if they hit the cut-off date in the regulations.

The Class 158 trains were given a full refurbishment in 2010-2, as described like this in Wikipedia.

A complete refurbishment programme to provide the Class 158s with full ‘as new’ interiors took place between December 2010 and October 2012. Funded by the Welsh Assembly Government at a cost of £7.5m, work completed includes interior and exterior repainting, along with replacement of seating, wall coverings, carpets, lighting, luggage racks and toilet fittings. A passenger information system has been fitted, while selected seats have gained at-seat power sockets for mobile phones and laptops. Until this refurbishment, the fleet had seen only minor attention to its interior since a refit by Wales & West in the late 1990s, as well as having been only partially repainted into Arriva colours externally

So will these Class 158 trains need much more than attention to detail and a very good clean? As most seem to be based away from Cardiff, I don’t think we’ll see many Class 769 trains standing in for Class 158 trains. Unless of course Arriva Trains Wales wanted to see how a Class 769 train performs on a longer route.

The Class 150 trains are a totally different matter. In What Train Is This?, I rode in a superbly refurbished Class 150 train, that if standing in for a Class 172 train wouldn’t bring many complaints.

Much of the time on the Cardiff Valleys Lines, the Pacers and the Class 150 trains seem to be running as pairs to make four-car trains.

So five Class 769 trains mean that ten Class 150 trains can be released for updating.

It is worth comparing a Class 769 train with two Class 150 trains working as a pair.

  • A Class 769 train, based on a Class 319/4 has a capacity of 50 First Class and 255 Standard Class seats.
  • A Class 150 train has a capacity of 147 seats or 294 for a pair.
  • The Class 769 train has a top speed of 100 mph on 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The Class 769 train has a top speed of just over 90 mph on diesel.
  • The Class 150 train has a top speed of 75 mph.
  • The Class 769 train has a higher power/weight ratio than the Class 150 train.

It would appear that a pair of Class 150 trains and a Class 769 train can be considered equivalent and with the right number of trains, the two types of train could work the Cardiff Valley Lines.

But the bi-mode Class 769 train has the advantage that it is faster and can run on 25 KVAC overhead wires.

On some routes the Class 769 train may actually reduce the number of trains needed.

Cardiff Central To Ebbw Vale Town

This route between Cardiff Central and Ebbw Vale Town stations uses the South Wales Main Line and the Ebbw Valley Railway.

If you look at the timetable, the trains take up to a few minutes over the hour, which must be an inconvenient time to use trains efficiently.

But eighteen minutes of the route are between Cardiff Central and Pye Corner stations, has perhaps fifteen minutes or so on the South Wales Main Line, with four tracks and an operating speed of 90 mph.

Given the superior power and speed, I suspect that the Class 769 trains can do a round trip in under two hours, even if they had to run on diesel on the South Wales Main Line.

This would mean only two trains would be needed to work an hourly service. Class 769  trains would be four coaches, as one size fits all!

Penarth To Rhymney

This route between Penarth and Rhymney stations uses the Rhymney Line.

If you look at the timetable, journeys both ways take around an hour and 16-20 minutes.

I think that three trains would be needed to work an hourly service.

Two factors slow the trains.

  • There are eighteen stops along the route.
  • From Bargoed to Rhymney, the line is only single track.

This extract is from the Wikipedia entry for the Rhymney Line.

In March 2007 the latest in a series of infrastructure improvements on the Valley Lines was announced, included lengthening of platforms between Rhymney and Penarth to allow Class 150 units to operate in multiples of 3 (6 cars). However, this is postponed indefinitely due to the sub-lease by the Department for Transport, to First Great Western, of the units that would have allowed this extra capacity.

Would four-car Class 769 trains be an adequate substitute for the planned three Class 150 trains working in multiple as a six-car?

If they were, this would mean that three trains would certainly work an hourly service with a substantial increase in capacity.

I wonder what times, well-driven Class 769 trains, with their hill-climbing abilities could do for the service on this line.

Bridgend/Barry Island/Cardiff Central To Merthyr Tydfil/Aberdate

These services are run in what appears to be an intricate diagram.

But as the Class 769 trains are faster and more capable than anything else running the routes, they should be able to deputise.

Could This Interim Pattern Emerge?

These routes could be run by Class 769 trains.

  • Cardiff Central to Ebbw Vale Town
  • Penarth to Rhymney

Conveniently, the two routes would need five trains.

By the end of 2018, it is predicted that the South Wales Main Line will be electrified, which would mean they could use electric power for some of the routes.

There might be small amounts of add-on electrification to ease changeover of mode.

  • South Wales Main Line to Pye Corner
  • Cardiff Central to Penarth

It might even be sensible to electrify the Vale of Glamorgan Line to give a second electrified route from Cardiff Central to Bridgend and serve Cardiff Airport.

Electrification of the lines in Cardiff would probably be much simpler than on some of the steep valley lines, but it would allow more Class 769 trains or similar to work the Cardiff Valley Lines efficiently.

But I did say this would only be an interim plan until perhaps 2020.

So Where Do CAF Come In?

CAF bring several things to this party.

  • By 2020, CAF will have a fully functioning factory a few miles down the line at Llanwern, just to the East of Newport.
  • CAF build trams, trains and tram-trains of all sizes and speeds.
  • CAF are one of the world leaders in the application of energy storage to rail vehicles.
  • CAF are not afraid to experiment or do Research and Development.
  • CAF have a modular train concept called Civity, which in their data sheet claim is all things to everybody.

I believe that CAF can come up with a train with the following characteristics.

  • Electric or diesel power.
  • On-board energy storage.
  • Regenerative braking.
  • Lots of powered-axles.
  • Four-cars
  • 100 mph on electric power
  • 90 mph on diesel power.

It looks very much like a modern Class 769 train with added battery power.

In fact the Class 769 trains will do all the specification development and route proving for CAF’s engineers.

So Where Do Porterbrook Come In?

Someone will have to finance the new trains for South Wales and they must be in prime position.

Similar systems can also be developed in other UK cities using Class 769 trains.

Conclusion

I have a feeling, that Network Rail have looked at electrifying the Cardiff Valley Lines and decided that it will be very difficult. Various commentators have suggested using trams.

What I have proposed is using bi-mode trains designed specifically for the Cardiff Valley Lines, that use electric power on and around the South Wales Main Line, diesel power to climb the hills and gravity and a bit of storage or diesel to come down.

I think that the purchase of five Class 769 trains will lead to an innovative solution from CAF to creating a world-class rail system in South Wales.

 

 

July 18, 2017 - Posted by | Travel | , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. Excellent article and I hope your predictions are correct. My only worry is that Mark 3 carriages (which the 319s are based on) aren’t cleared for passage on the Cardiff- Merthy/Aberdare/Treherbert routes. That may not be too great a disadvantage because as you say, five 769s could be rostered for use entirely on the Ebbw Vale and Rhymney services.

    Comment by Gareth Jones | July 19, 2017 | Reply

    • I would assume it’s a clearance issue, as some of those lines have taken heavy freight in the past. Do the Class 150s work those routes or is it just Pacers?

      Although the Mark 3-based 150s do go to Merthyr, as this post showed.

      https://anonw.com/2014/10/22/let-down-by-a-class-150/

      Clearances can be fixed and will need to be for any overhead wires.

      Don’t knock the Class 150s, as if they do them up to that one I found in Devon, they’re on the same standard as a 158. It was also climbing from Exeter to Barnstaple like a goo-un!

      Comment by AnonW | July 19, 2017 | Reply


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