The Anonymous Widower

Electrifying Tunnels For Bi-Mode Trains

In TransPennine Electrification And Piccadilly Upgrade Now Also In Doubt, I came across two long tunnels, that would need to be wired, if the Huddersfield Line were to be electrified.

So here’s a list of long railway tunnels that aren’t electrified.


  1. Standedge and Morley are both on the Huddersfield Line.
  2. Totley, Disley and Cowburn are all on the Hope Valley Line.

Over the last few years, we have electrified or designed the electrification for several long tunnels including those for Crossrail and the Severn and Box Tunnels.


  • Crossrail and the Severn Tunnel use a rail attached to the roof of the tunnel.
  • Overhead rail is becoming an increasingly common way to electrify a tunnel with 25 KVAC overhead.
  • Crossrail developed a specialist machine to install the brackets for the overhead rails.
  • Bi-mode trains like the Class 800, Class 755 and Class 769 train, have sophisticated GPS-controlled pantographs, that can go up and down automatically.
  • Bi-mode trains will increasingly have energy storage.
  • A train travelling at 160 kph (100 mph) will take forty-five seconds to pass through a 2,000 metres tunnel.
  • No-one is going to object to the visual intrusion of electrification in a tunnel.

As some of these long tunnels will need refurbishment in the next few years, would it be worthwhile to fit them with at least the mountings for an overhead rail during the refurbishment.

I wouldn’t think it would be unreasonable to have a four-car bi-mode train with energy storage that gave a range of perhaps fifteen miles.

I don’t think it is unreasonable to suspect that both Hitachi and Bombardier have such a train in the Design Office.

Suppose one was shuttling between Manchester Piccadilly and Sheffield along the Hope Valley Line.

  • The route is electrified from Piccadilly to Guide Bridge
  • The two tunnels; Totley and Cowburn are a total of 5.6 miles long.
  • Both tunnels are on a gradient, so electrification might speed up services.
  • If Totley were electrified, it would fully charge the train, as it passed through.

I am pretty certain, that if the tunnels were electrified, Manchester to Sheffield would have a fully electric route.


July 26, 2017 - Posted by | Transport | , ,


  1. The first use of electrification of railways was because use of steam engines in deep long tunnels was impractical e.g. deep underground tube lines and Pennsylvania Railroad tunnels under New York at beginning of 20th century. It would be ironic if tunnel electrification would be considered to replace diesel traction use in tunnels in the 21rst century.
    Bi-mode trains were first considered a stop gap measure for where electrification was not economical and also where diesel trains are now running considerable distances
    on electrified lines. It will be interesting to see how the first generation of bi-mode trains perform now electrification plans are being cancelled. I am not convinced
    it will be a satisfactory long term solution for not electrifying the originally targeted main lines. The plan should be to continue electrification in smaller stages so that
    bi-mode operation will slowly be eliminated on all main lines.

    Comment by Richard Evans | July 26, 2017 | Reply

    • The interesting thing is that all these bi-modes are in fact tri-modes, with all of them seeming to have batteries as well.

      As a control engineer by training, I suspect that some very sophisticated control systems have been designed.

      It’s going to be very interesting to sit over the engine in one of Hitachi’s bi-modes and see how much it runs.

      There’s some very advanced thinking going on.

      Just read some of hitachi’s web site.

      I’ve also got a document given to me by Porterbrook, which discloses their thinking on Bi-mode trains.

      Comment by AnonW | July 26, 2017 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.