The Anonymous Widower

Routes For Bombardier’s 125 Mph Bi-Mode Aventra

This article in Rail Magazine, is entitled Bombardier Bi-Mode Aventra To Feature Battery Power.

A few points from the article.

  • Development has already started.
  • Battery power could be used for Last-Mile applications.
  • The bi-mode would have a maximum speed of 125 mph under both electric and diesel power.
  • The trains will be built at Derby.
  • Bombardier’s spokesman said that the ambience will be better, than other bi-modes.
  • Export of trains is a possibility.

Bombardier’s spokesman also said, that they have offered the train to three new franchises. East Midlands, West Coast Partnership and CrossCountry.

These are my thoughts on these franchises.

Bi-Mode And Pure Electric

I’m pretty certain that if you want to create a 125 mph bi-mode train, you start with a 125 mph electric train, if you want a high degree of commonality between the two trains.

Hitachi have a whole family of Class 800 trains, each of which has a different specification for the diesel power. Even the pure-electric Class 801 trains, has one diesel engine for emergencies.

An electric train with batteries could be very efficient, if the batteries were used to handle regenerative braking and boost the trains, where more power is required.

East Midlands

It is no surprise that Bombardier are talking to the groups, that are bidding to become the new franchise holder for the East Nidlands, when it is awarded in April 2019.

They wouldn’t want to see another company’s product roaring past the factory.

The proposed bi-mode Aventra will probably have been designed very much with the Midland Main Line in mind.

  • The Midland Main Line will be electrified from St. Pancras to Kettering and Corby.
  • Will the fast lines be electrified to Glendon Junction, where the Corby Branch joins the Midland Main Line?
  • The route between St. Pancras and Glendon Junction is being upgraded to four tracks, with as much 125 mph running as possible.
  • The non-stop nature of Midland Main Line services South of Kettering could be significant.
  • North of Kettering, there is currently no electrification.
  • The development of Toton station for HS2 is being accelerated and there could be an island of electrification here, by the mid-2020s.
  • If HS2 shares the Midland Main Line corridor between Toton and Sheffield, this section could be electrified by the late-2020s.

Over the next decade, there will be more electrification and a greater proportion of the route, where 125 mph running will be possible.

There has been a bit of controversy, that the number of stops the franchise will make at Bedford and Luton is being reduced after May this year.

The reason given is that it will enable faster services to Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield.

North To Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield

Consider a bi-mode train with batteries going North.

  • Between St. Pancras and Kettering, it will be at 125 mph for as long as possible.
  • The train will also ensure that at Kettering, it has the batteries brim full, sfter charging from the electrification.
  • After a stop at Kettering station, if the electrification reached to Glendon Junction, the acceleration would all be electrically-powered.
  • Whether it stopped at Kettering or not, the train would pass Glendon Junction at line speed with full batteries.

It’s almost as if the electrification is being used as a catapult to speed the train North.

South From Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield

Being as electrically efficient coming South would be a lot more difficult.

  • I suspect that train batteries will be charged at Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield, so they start their journey South with full batteries.
  • Using a full battery and assistance from the onboard generator, trains would be accelerated away from the terminii.
  • The trains computer would select automatically, whether to use battery or onboard generator power and would harvest all the power from regenerative braking.
  • At each stop on the journey, energy would be lost, as regenerative braking systems do not are only between seventy and ninety percent efficient.
  • Once at Glendon Junction, the train would raise the pantograph and switch to getting power from the overhead wires.

It’s all about a well-programmed computer on the train, which knows the route, the timetable and battery state so it can switch power sources appropriately.

Electrification

On the other hand, electrification around Toton could make everything easier and more efficient.

With electrification, every little helps.

  • Modern trains can raise and lower pantographs, quickly and automatically.
  • Faster journeys.
  • Lower carbon emissions.
  • Less noise and vibration from diesel generators.

Everyone’s a winner.

Oakham To Kettering

The Oakham-Kettering Line to Corby station is being electrified, double-tracked and I suspect speed limits will be raised.

Speed limits are also being raised and track improvements are being done, South of Glendon Junction.

Currently, services take seventy minutes. With the 125 mph Aventras on the route, they will not need to use the onboard generator, but surely the journey time could be reduced to under an hour, which would attract passengers and need less trains to run a two trains per hour (tph) service.

The Oakham Problem

Oakham station is in the middle of the town, as this Google Map shows.

The Department for transport would like to see more services to the town and the next station of Melton Mowbray.

But the line through the station is busy with freight trains and there is a level crossing in the middle of the town.

125 mph bi-mode trains, won’t help with the problem of Oakham.

Joining And Splitting Of Trains

There is also the possibility of joining and splitting trains.

Hitachi’s Class 800 trains can do this and I’m sure bi-mode Aventras will be able to do this automatically.

There is only four platforms available for trains on the Midland Main Line at St. Pancras and regularly two trains occupy one platform.

The ability to run a pair of bi-mode trains, that joined and split could be a great asset.

Liverpool To Norwich

This long route is an important one for those, who live near its stations. It is usually served by one or two Class 158 trains, which are often very crowded.

The route is partially electrified.

  • Liverpool to Hunts Cross
  • Manchester Oxford Road to Stockport
  • Grantham to Peterborough
  • Around Ely
  • Around Norwich

So there should be plenty of places to raise the pantograph and charge the batteries.

It is a typical long-distance route for the UK and I’m sure it would benefit from 125 mph bi-mode Aventras.

West Coast Partnership

Bids for the West Coast Partnership, which will run services on the West Coast Main Line and HS2, will be submitted by July 2018. The winning bidder will be announced in May 2019 and take over services two months later.

A modern 125 mph bi-mode would be an ideal replacement for the current twenty Class 221 trains, that work on the West Coast Main Line.

These Class 221 trains are.

  • Diesel powered.
  • Five-cars long.
  • Built in 2001-2002 by Bombardier.
  • 125 mph capable.
  • Some services are run by splitting and joining trains.

But most importantly, most services are run substantially under wires.

New 125 mph bi-mode trains would certainly improve services.

  • Several of the current services operated by Class 221 trains,  would become electric ones.
  • How much faster would they be able to run a service between London Euston and Holyhead?
  • They would also be able to run new services to places like Barrow. Blackburn and Huddersfield.
  • Five cars could be a convenient train size for the operator.

But above all, they would offer a better passenger experience, with less noise and vibration from the diesel engines.

The longest section of running using onboard power of a bi-mode Aventra will be along the North Wales Coast Line to Holyhead.

  • The line has an 90 mph operating speed.
  • The line is 85 miles long.
  • The gradients won’t be too challenging, as the line runs along the coast.
  • Services stop up to half-a-dozen times on the route.
  • From London to Crewe is electrified.
  • The section between Crewe and Chester may be electrified.

It looks to be an ideal route for a 125 mph bi-mode Aventra.

As the route appears to not be as challenging as the Midland Main Line, could this route, be the ideal test route for a hydrogen fuel-cell powered Aventra.

West Coast Partnership may well have plans to use 125 mph bi-mode trains as feeder services for HS2’s hubs at Birmingham and Crewe.

I could certainly see West Coast Partnership ordering a mixed fleet of 125 mph Aventras, some of which would be bi-modes and some pure electric.

CrossCountry

CrossCountry has a diverse portfolio of routes, which have every characteristic possible.

  • Some are lines with a 125 mph operating speed.
  • Some are electrified with 25 KVAC overhead wires.
  • Some are electrified with 750 VDC third-rail.
  • Some are not electrified.

A bi-mode train with these characteristics would fit well.

  • 125 mph capability on both electric and diesel power.
  • Battery power for short branch lines.
  • Modern passenger facilities.
  • Five-cars.
  • Ability to work in pairs.

They could actually go for a homogeneous fleet, if they felt so inclined.

That would be a substantial fleet of upwards of fifty five-car trains.

The new CrossCountry franchise will be awarded in August 2019 and start in December 2019.

Other Routes

If the 125 bi-mode Aventra with batteries is built, there could be other routes.

Borders Railway

Why would you run a 125 mph bi-mode Aventra on the 90 mph Borders Railway?

  • The Borders Railway will be extended to Carlisle, which will mean, that both ends will be electrified for a few miles.
  • This will mean that bi-mode trains with batteries could charge their batteries at both ends of the line.
  • If traffic increases, extra cars can be added.
  • The trains would be able to use the West Coast Main Line to link the Lake District to Edinburgh.
  • They could be given a tourism-friendly interior, to go with the large windows common to all Aventras.

The trains would help to develop tourism in the South of Scotland and the North of England.

East West Rail

The East West Rail between Oxford and Cambridge is going to built without electrification.

  • But that doesn’t mean that it should be built with an operating speed in the region of 90 mph!
  • The legendary InterCity 125s have been running on lines without electrification at 125 mph since the late 1970s, so it isn’t an unknown practice.

So if the line were to be built for high speed across some of the flattest parts of England, why not unleash the 125 mph bi-mode Aventras?

They could serve Ipswich, Norwich and Yarmouth in the East using their onboard generators.

They could serve Bournemouth, Bristol, Reading and Southampton, if the trains had a dual-voltage capability.

They could use electrification at Bedford, Bletchley, Cambridge and Reading to charge the batteries.

 

Settle-Carlisle Line

Surely, if the 125 mph bi-mode Aventras are suitable for the Borders Railway, then it should be able to work the Settle-Carlisle Line.

  • Both ends of the line are electrified, so batteries could be charged.
  • The line needs more and better services.

But the main reason, is that there will be a high-class scenic route between Edinburgh and Leeds.

I estimate that a London to Edinburgh service via Leeds, Settle, Carlisle and the Borders Railway would take six and a half hours, using a 125 mph bi-mode Aventra.

Some tourists love that sort of trip.

Waterloo To Exeter

The West of England Line has the following characteristics.

  • It runs between Basingstoke and Exeter.
  • It is a hundred and twenty miles long.
  • It has a 90 mph operating speed.
  • The line is not electrified.
  • It is connected to the electrified South Western Main Line to Waterloo.
  • The route is electrified between Waterloo and Basingstoke.
  • Direct trains take three hours twenty-three minutes between Waterloo and Exeter, with fourteen stops between Basingstoke and Exeter.
  • The trains used on the route are twenty-five year-old Class 159 trains.

Would a 125 mph bi-mode Aventra improve the passenger service between Waterloo and Exeter?

  • The Aventras are built for fast dwell times at stations, so there could be time saving with all those stops.
  • The Aventras could use the third-rail electrification between Waterloo and Basingstoke.
  • There may be places, where the operating speed can be increased and the faster Aventras would take advantage.
  • The trains could have a passenger-friendly interior and features designed for the route.

The real benefits for South Western Railway and their passengers would come, if the trains could do Waterloo to Exeter in three hours.

Routes For A Pure-Electric Version

There are several routes in the UK, where the following apply.

  • Some long-distance trains are run by 125 mph trains.
  • The route is fully- or substantially-electrified.
  • A proportion of the route allows 125 mph running.
  • Sections of the route is only double-track.

Routes satisfying the criteria include.

  • The West Coast Main Line
  • The East Coast Main Line
  • The Great Western Main Line
  • The Midland Main Line

On these routes, I believe it would be advantageous, if all passenger trains were capable of operating at 125 mph.

This is cause if all trains were running at 125 mph, they could be more closely spaced, thus increasing capacity.

Digital signalling would probably be needed.

There are several train services,, that use the electrified  125 mph sections of these routes.

Birmingham/Liverpool/Manchester To Edinburgh/Glasgow

TransPennine Express, are replacing their current Siemens 110 mph Class 350 trains on this service, with new CAF  125 mph Class 397 trains.

 

Euston To The West Midlands, Liverpool And Preston

West Midland Trains are replacing some of their current Siemens 110 mph Class 350 trains with new Aventras.

Information is scarce at the moment, but could some of these new Aventras be 125 mph units for working on the West Coast Main Line?

Leeds/York To Edinbugh

TransPennine Express run trains on this route.

St. Panvras To Corby

The Corby Branch is being upgraded.

  • Double-track
  • 125 mph running
  • Electrification

The section of the Midland Main Line between St. Pancras and Glendon Junction is also being upgraded to allow as much 125 mph running as possible.

If 125 mph bi-mode trains are to be used from St. Pancras to Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield, then surely, it would be logical to use a pure-electric version of the train between St. Pancras and Corby?

Various documents and web pages say, that the St. Pancras to Corby services are going to be worked by 110 mph Class 387 trains. Surely, faster 125 mph trains, which had been designed for the route would be better for passengers and the train operating company.

From my experience of scheduling, the section of the Midland Main Line between St. Pancras and Bedford, must be a nightmare to timetable successfully.

  • There are two train operating companies using the route, who go a hundred miles in different directions.
  • The Class 700 trains used by Thameslink are only 100 mph trains, so probably can’t use the fast lines too often, as if they do, they’ll delay the expresses..
  • Regular passengers object to any change in stopping patterns or journey times.
  • Passengers liked to get on express services at Bedford, but they now don’t stop.
  • Passengers don’t like the Class 700 trains.
  • Luton Airport wants more services.

My experience, says that something radical must be done.

Consider.

  • Plans are for two tph between St. Pancras and Corby.
  • How many passengers would complain if they ended up in the St. Pancras Thameslink platforms, rather than the high-level ones? They’re both equally badly connected to the Underground, buses and taxis.
  • There will be four tph between Bedford and London all day on Thameslink, with an extra four tph in the Peak.
  • Some or all of these services will call at both Luton and Gatwick Airports.
  • Looking at the two semi-fast services. which both run at tw trph, they seem to stop virtually everywhere.

I think it would be possible for the two tph St. Pancras to Corby services to become express services between Corby, Gatwick Airport and Brighton.

  • The services would only stop at Kettering, Bedford, Luton, Luton Airport Parkway, St. Albans, West Hampstead Thameslink, St. Pancras Thameslink, Farringdon, City Thameslink, Blackfriars, London Bridge and East Croydon.
  • The services would use the 125 mph fast lines North of St. Pancras, as much as possible.
  • Corby services would always call at St. Pancras Thameslink.
  • The trains would be designed for both Airport services and long-distance commuting.
  • The trains would be maximum length.

Obviously, this is my rough idea, but something like it might satisfy the stakeholders, more than what is proposed.

I think there are also other services, which are fully electrified, which could be upgraded, so that they would be suitable for or need 125 mph electric trains.

Kings Cross To King’s Lynn

I wrote about this route in Call For ETCS On King’s Lynn Route.

Portsmouth Direct Line

Under Topography Of The Line in the Wikipedia enter for the Portsmouth Direct Line, this is said.

The central part of the route, from Guildford to Havant, runs through relatively thinly populated country. The line was designed on the “undulating principle”; that is, successive relatively steep gradients were accepted to reduce construction cost. In the days of steam operation this made the route difficult for enginemen.

But with.

  • A second man in the cab, in the shape of the train’s computer, juggling the power.
  • Regenerative braking to the batteries saving energy for reuse when needed.
  • Bags of grunt from the traction motors.

The pure electric version of the 125 mph Aventra might just have the beating of the topography.

South Western Railway plan to introduce an older train from Litchurch Lane in Derby on this route, in the shape of the last of the Mark 3s, the Class 442 train or the Wessex Electrics, which were built in the 1980s.

It will be interesting to see how a 125 mph pure electric Aventra compares to something made in the same works, thirty years earlier.

Waterloo To Southampton, Bournemouth and Weymouth

The South Western Main Line goes to Southampton Central, Bournemouth and Weymouth.

  • It is a 100 mph line
  • It is fully-electrified.

Would a 125 mph pure-electric Aventra be able to put the hammer down?

I’m sure Network Rail can improve the line to a maximum safe line-speed.

Conclusion

If Bombardier build a 125 mph bi-mode Aventra with batteries, there is a large market. Especially, if there is a sibling, which is pure electric.

April 1, 2018 - Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. […] I deal with them and other possiblilities in Routes For Bombardier’s 125 Mph Bi-Mode Aventra. […]

    Pingback by Bombardier Bi-Mode Aventra To Feature Battery Power « The Anonymous Widower | April 2, 2018 | Reply

  2. Appropriate for April 1st. Wishful thinking but not based on fact or physics. The proposal is for ‘last mile’ batteries which could be usefully used to recycle braking energy to boost acceleration. However, the power available from current batteries is not likely to achieve anything like the same benefits as better operating, timetabling & reliability. Having travelled on a HHD-EUS train to CRE with a noisy diesel under the floor & starting with 20 passengers, I suggest that such trains should terminate at CRE & not clutter up the WCML.

    Comment by Realist | April 3, 2018 | Reply

  3. I appreciate why you’s cynaical. I would have been until three years ago, when I rode in Bombardier’s prototype battery train between Manningtree and Harwich. I sat with one of their engineers on the train and he told me things only now I’m starting to believe.

    Christain Wolmar wrote about 125 mph bi-mode Aventras a year ago and they are now starting to happen, with Bombardier saying they will.

    Did Chris Grayling cancel electrification because Bombardier proved to him thst they could build a 125 mph bi-mode

    After all, Hitachi’s bi-modes can do somewhere around 110 mph on diesel, although the figure seems to have been removed from Wikipeda.

    Comment by AnonW | April 3, 2018 | Reply


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