The Anonymous Widower

We Should All Think Radically!

In the August 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, Ian Walmsley, who is a writer, that I respect, thinks radically about how to upgrade or replace the High Speed Trains  on the Midland Main Line.

He has a lot of experience in the rail industry and his views in this issue, are probably worth the price of the magazine alone.

He feels the InterCity 125s should be replaced as you can only make-do-and-mend for so long and he proposes replacing them with a modern equivalent, which would initially be two diesel locomotives topping and tailing a rake of new coaches, and then if electrification happens, the diesels are replaced with electric units.

Ian’s article comes a few days after this article in Rail Technology Magazine, entitled New bi-mode fleet a requirement for East Midlands as consultation opens, was published.

This is the first paragraph.

The DfT has this week launched its public consultation on the new East Midlands franchise, including specifications for a new bi-mode fleet of intercity trains, whilst at the same time revealing that plans to electrify the Midland Main Line north of Kettering have been abandoned.

There is going to have to be a lot of radical thinking to get a solution for that.

To make the replacement harder, Ian indicates various problems, which I won’t disclose here.

But I do think Ian’s idea is sound and it could be the solution to the problem of running modern 125 mph trains from St. Pancras to Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield.

So How Feasible Is Ian’s Plan?

Maths and physics don’t change. so I suspect that the calculations done by Terry Miller and his team in the 19670s, which led to the iconic InterCity 125 are still valid.

Locomotive Haulage

The power output of each Class 43 power car is 2,250 hp, so to propel an appropriate number of new carriages, you still need a locomotive at each end of the train.

The most modern diesel locomotive in the UK is the Stadler-built Class 68 locomotive, which has a power voutput of 3,800 hp, but a top speed of only 100 mph. The only 125 mph diesel locomotive in the UK is the Class 67 locomotive. To complicate matters, there is also the Stadler-built Class 88 locomotive, which is a 100 mph electro-diesel locomotive, but this locomotive is more a powerful electric locomotive with a sensible-sized last-mile diesel engine.

Ian suggests, that as the Class 68 is a few tonnes lighter than the Class 67, that a 125 mph Class 68/2 locomotive would be possible.

I don’t disagree, but given the quality of railway engineering coming out of companies like Bombardier, CAF and Stadler, that someone will do better.

We should also consider that the UK will need more than a few new freight locomotives in the next few years, as they do seem to be scratching around for motive power, as this picture shows.

These two Class 86 locomotives date from the mid-1960s. But they do have around 3,600 hp each and a top speed of around 100-110 mph.

I even saw this interesting combination at Shenfield.

The Class 90 and Class 66 locomotives appear to be double-heading the heavy freight train. The Class 90, of which several will become available soon from Greater Anglia are 5,000 hp units with a top speed of 110 mph, whereas the ubiquitous Class 66 has only 3,300 hp and 75 mph.

With more and more long freight trains appearing on increasingly busy main lines, these freight trains must be becoming unwelcome to the companies running passenger trains and also to those, who live alongside the lines.

So is there another desperate need for a powerful locomotive to pull express freight trains at maximum length and weight around the country?

Some main freight routes like these are electrified with 25 KVAC overhead wires or will be soon.

  • East Coast Main Line
  • West Coast Main Line
  • Greast Eastern Main Line
  • Great Western Main Line
  • North London Line
  • Gospel Oak to Barking Line

But others are not.

  • London to Southampton
  • Felixstowe to Peterborough and The Midlands
  • Peterborough to Doncaster via Lincoln
  • Trans-Pennine Routes

And that’s just for starters.

I think it becomes obvious, why Direct Rail Services and Stadler came up with the Class 88 locomotive. The 5,300 hp available under the wires is more than adequate for the heaviest express intermodel freight train and the 1,000 hp under diesel can probably move the train into and out of the docks.

But this amount of diesel power is probably inadequate for hauling a heavy  freight train at 100 mph.

A New Electro-Diesel Locomotive

So could we see a new electro-diesel locomotive with the following characteristics?

  • The ability of a pair to top-and-tail an express passenger train on both diesel and 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The ability to haul the heaviest intermodal freight trains at up to 100 mph  on both diesel and 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The ability to switch between modes at line speed.
  • Regenerative braking underboth elkectricity and diesel.

In a few years time the diesel might be replaced by hydrogen or some other exotic fuel.

Electrification South Of Bedford

It might appear that these locomotives if working the Midland Main Line could switch to electric power South of Bedford or in the near future; Kettering, but the electrification is limited to 100 mph and there is no planned upgrade. This is a familiar story for anybody like me who uses the Great Eastern Main Line, where the inadequate electrification has had to be upgraded over the last couple of years to allow faster services.

The Coaches

The coaches are the least of the problems for Ian’s proposals.

This article on Rail Technology Magazine is entitled First bodyshell completed by CAF for new TPE fleet.

This is the first paragraph.

Pictures of the first bodyshell for new rolling stock to be used by TransPennine Express (TPE) have been unveiled as the operator looks to introduce 13 five-car Mark 5A Coaches – being built by Spanish company CAF – as part of its brand-new fleet.

The Mark 5A coaches, being built by CAF are designed for 125 mph!  So all that is needed is to specify the interior!

As the Spanish train manufacturer has just announced the building of a factory at Llanwern in South Wales, that might be an ideal place to build the coaches needed.

Beating The PRM Deadline In 2020

The Mark 5A coaches for TransPennine Express are scheduled for delivery in 2018-2019, so I suspect the coaches for the Midland Main Line could start to be delivered after the TransPennine Express and Caledonian Sleeper orders are complete.

The locomotives might be move problematical, but if they are a derivative of an existing type, then surely this wouldn’t delay fleet introduction.

I suspect that a certain amount of testing can be done in parallel too!

So having some trains in service by the PRM eadline of 2020 could certainly be possible.

Conclusion

Ian Walmsley’s proposal for the next Midland Main Line franchise is possible.

July 29, 2017 - Posted by | Travel | , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. ““The next operator will be required to deliver modern, fast and efficient trains,” Grayling also said. “This includes a brand-new fleet of bi-mode intercity trains from 2022, delivering more seats and comfort for long-distance passengers.””

    2022? That’s two years after the PRM-TSI obligations become active, and to the best of my understanding the Paxman VP185 engines that power the Class 43 locomotives in the Intercity 125 sets are so obsolescent that critical parts have had to be ordered as bespoke items.

    To me it appears increasingly necessary for interventions to be made before the new holder of the new franchise is confirmed in 2019. The Intercity 125/HST sets either need 2020 compliance work to begin immediately, or to have replacement confirmed.

    Comment by Ben H | July 30, 2017 | Reply

  2. Read the full article if you can.

    I haven’t finished writing this post yet and I have a plan to meet the deadline.

    Comment by AnonW | July 30, 2017 | Reply


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