The Anonymous Widower

Running Electric Trains Across The Forth Bridge

Search for something like Electrification of the Forth Bridge and you find a lot of speculation and no one who.believes it can be done easily.

A ScotRail conductor said very firmly that it wouldn’t be done.

I think that in addition to the engineering problems of electrifying the Forth railway bridge, there will probably be a lot of opposition from the heritage lobby!

I also think, that if you could solve the engineering oroblems, they will.cost a lot and mean closing the bridge for at least several.months.

Bi-Mode Trains

Virgin are proposing to use Class 800 trains, which are bi-mode and will use diesel power on the bridge. These trains will have no problems crossing the bridge.

They will probably even be quieter than the current InterCity 125s, that will be continued to be used by ScotRail.

Trains With Energy Storage

The bridge is not very long at 2.5 km. and an electric train with onboard energy storage could prossibly cross the bridge, if the tracks were electrified as far as the approaches.

So do I think it is possible that a train with onboard energy storage could cross the Forth Bridge?

The Energy Storage Could Be Full Before Crossing

If the overhead electrification reached to perhaps five hundred metres from the bridge, then the onboard storage would be full.

The train would lower the pantograph and then raise it again, when under the wires on the other side.

The Maximum Speed On The Bridge Is 50 mph

This must help.

The Bridge Deck Appears Level

This must help.

Any Train Manufacturer Who Creates A Train With Onboard Energy Storage Will Gain A Worldwide Reputation

There is a lot of scepticism about trains with onboard energy storage or batteries and this would dismiss it for ever, once the crossing was shown on world-wide television with headlines like.

Battery Train Crosses Forth Rail Bridge Carrying Three Hundred Passengers

I believe that any train manufacturer, who felt they could achieve this feat would be willing to have a go, as the rewards would be immense!

Scotland Would Have A Unique Tourist Attraction

Although, I wouldn’t think it would be unique for long, as other countries would do the same to solve transport problems.

But nothing would ever be as iconic as the Forth Bridge!

I also doubt Scotland and ScoRail would say No!

Could A Class 385 Train Cross The Bridge On Stored Power?

In Hitachi Class 385 Trains, Batteries And Charging Stations, I discussed whether batteries or energy storage could be put into a Class 385 train.

I said this after giving details of Hitachi’s battery trains in Japan.

So will Scotrail’s new Class 385 trains have a battery capability?

Probably not initially!

But Hitachi have obviously been doing a lot of research into battery trains and the JR Kyushu is the first practical application.

Scotland’s rail system outside Edinburgh and Glasgow is not electrified, but it is well-known that Scotland’s Government would like more electrified services and also links to places like Leven and St. Andrews.

Both of these places, and there are probably others as well, are a few miles from a main line, that is very likely to be electrified.

So could we see a battery train charged as the JR Kyushu train on a main line, serving these branch lines on battery power?

I feel that the chance of this happening is very high.

So I feel it is highly likely, that if some form of stored power was fitted to Class 385 trains, that they would be able to bridge the gap between electrification systems North and South of the Forth Bridge.

Electrification Of The Fife Circle Line

Electrification of the Fife Circle Line would be the simplest way to improve the local rail service from North of the Forth Bridge to Edinburgh.

This shows a map of the line North from Edinburgh Gateway station.

It would need the electrification from Haymarket station through Edinburgh Gateway station to be completed South of the Bridge to an appropriate point on the bridge approach.

North of the Bridge, the circle could be electrified from an appropriate point on the bridge approach, all round the circle to Markinch station.

Running The Fife Circle Service With Class 385 Trains With Onboard Energy Storage

A belt and braces approach might see North Queensferry and Dalmeny stations being the changeover point from overhead to onboard power, so that with any problems, the train is safely in a station, rather than stuck on the bridge.

Currently, the two routes between Glenrothes With Thornton and Edinburgh stations take the following times.

  • Via Kirkaldy – 59 minutes with ten stops.
  • Via Dunfermline – 62 minutes with eleven stops.

This means a train doing a round trip from Edinburgh takes just over two hours with twenty-one stops.

The Class 385 trains will have the following characteristics compared to the current diesel trains on the route.

  • They will be faster.
  • They will accelerate better and have smoother regenerative braking.
  • They  will  have a much shorter dwell time at stations.

It would not be unreasonable to assume that the new electric trains could be several minutes under two hours for the round trip.

Trains that didn’t reverse could also go straight round the circle with the driver only changing ends at Edinburgh.

Currently, the route has three trains per hour (tph), so to run this level of service would require six trains.

Running four tph would need an extra two trains and if two tph used each direction, all stations would have a two tph service.

The trains would only need the ability to run between Dalmeny and North Queensferry stations on onboard storage.

Bi-Mode Trains Between Edinburgh And Aberdeen

Virgin Trains East Coast and possibly other operators wlll  be running bi-mode Class 800 trains between Edinburgh and Markinch stations.

They will have to use diesel power where there is no electrification, but if the Fife Circle Line were to be electrified, they could use it, to run the trains more efficiently.

Onward From The Fife Circle

The Fife Circle Line could be a bridgehead to extend electrified services to the North.

Consider these distances.

  • Markinch to St. Andrews  – 20.7 miles
  • Markinch to Dundee – 25.1 miles
  • Markinch to Perth – 22.7 miles
  • Glenrothes to Leven – 7.1 miles

All of these destinations could be reached by a combination of short lengths of electrification and trains with onboard energy storage.

Scotrail’s Extra Ten Class 385 Trains

Scotrail have an extra ten Class 385 trains on option, if the franchise is extended by 7 to 10 years and the trains would enter service in 2023.

Could these trains be to run an electrified Fife Circle Line service and perhaps running to Leven?


Scotrail have some ambitious plans for Scotland’s railways and I wonder, if they include using Class 385 trains with onboard energy storage to get electric trains across the Forth Bridge.

September 12, 2017 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , ,


  1. The bridge is steel and presumably its dimensions are either known or can be measured. Consequently all the supports for the catenaries etc. could be prefabricated off site and screwed on in a matter of weeks rather than months.

    OTOH if there is not enough clearance, there is little scope to lower the track!

    Comment by Mark Clayton | September 13, 2017 | Reply

    • I think you’re right about the clearance!

      Comment by AnonW | September 13, 2017 | Reply

  2. […] Dunfermline certainly needs an electrified rail line from Edinburgh, as I talked about in Running Electric Trains Across The Forth Bridge. […]

    Pingback by Dunfermline « The Anonymous Widower | September 20, 2017 | Reply

  3. Extreme speculation if ever there was.

    Perhaps best left to an engineer to comment on clearance. And yes, the heritage lobby might object, but the bridge is still operational infrastructure. They wired the Royal Border Bridge despite objections.

    Comment by Janet | April 29, 2018 | Reply

    • I wasn’t speculating, just laying out what is possible with modern technology.

      One thing in favour of battery power, is that from photographs, the bridge appears to be reasonably level. So with electrification to the approaches of the bridge, bttery power would surely be able to take the train over the bridge, as there would be no gradient to overcome.

      The bridge would also be an iconic route for any manufacturer, who decided to develop the route using hydrogen powered trains.

      Comment by AnonW | April 29, 2018 | Reply

  4. Aesthetically more simple steelwork would simply disappear into the overall appearance of the bridge quickly. Just look at the approach spans with their triangular supports and imagine similar supports, but thinner, ABOVE the deck. These would soon simply be absorbed into the consciousnesses of any onlookers.

    Comment by John Gilbert | November 8, 2019 | Reply

    • The Heritage Taliban wouldn’t like it!

      Comment by AnonW | November 8, 2019 | Reply

  5. Are there genuine Headroom Issues on the Forth Bridge that’d physically preclude the installation of o’head wires? To an extent, I can “seee where Heritage Bodies are ‘coming from'”. Yet, such wasteful ‘red tape’ needs to be ‘cut’ or, at least, a compromise drawn.

    Comment by Andrew McIntyre | August 2, 2020 | Reply

  6. I am an Electrical and Control Engineer by training and feel, that we should use designs that minimise problems.

    For instance, I have been seriously delayed on a journey between Ipswich and London, because the local low-life stole the wires overnight. This problem is getting fairly serious in France, according to a friend.

    As the recent despicable case involving the death of PC Harper illustrated, there are criminals, who stop at nothing to go thieving.

    So perhaps, every electric train, should be designed with a battery capability, to perhaps take a train ten miles or so.

    That would solve a lot of the aesthetic problems on places like the Forth Bridge and also a problem, that drivers hate.

    It’s five in the morning on a cold winter’s day, and you’re driving the six o’clock out of Hexham. Bombardier’s Aventras and I suspect other modern trains have an auto-wake-up facility, so they can be warmed ready for the driver. All the driver does is arrive and be met by a warmed up train.

    Comment by AnonW | August 2, 2020 | Reply

  7. As well as relying on the Stored Power capabilities of Electric Rolling Stock tocross Scotland’s Forth Bridge, would retrofitting all electric R/S with ‘third-rail’ pick-ups necrssary be economically unviable?

    Comment by Andy McIntyre | October 17, 2021 | Reply

    • They would just need some means to charge the battery. A pantograph would do. It’s just that there are some good third rail solutions to charge trains.

      Comment by AnonW | October 17, 2021 | Reply

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