The Anonymous Widower

A Railway That Needs Electric Trains But Doesn’t Need Full Electrification

This article on Rail Magazine is entitled ScotRail Targets Further Electrification Schemes.

This is the first paragraph.

The five years from 2019 could feature more wiring in Scotland, with ScotRail Alliance Managing Director Alex Hynes telling RAIL: “I’d love to see more electrification – Stirling to Perth, East Kilbride and the Edinburgh South Suburban.”

In this post, I will look at electrification of the Busby Railway to East Kilbride station.

  • The station is 11.5 miles from Glasgow Central station.
  • The station has an altitude of 504 feet.
  • It is a single platform station.
  • The route to Glasgow is double-track, except for the last section from Busby station, which is single track, with a passing loop at Hairmyres station.
  • A two trains per hour (tph) service is provided between Glasgow Central and East Kilbride using two two-car diesel Class 156 trains.

This picture shows East Kilbride station.

Nothing complicated at this station and it comfortably handles two tph.

In the UK, there are several stations where four tph are handled using a single platform.

Transport for Wales also intend to run four tph to several single-platform stations including Rhymney, which is high in the valleys.

I suspect that with modern signalling and driver aids, Glasgow’s drivers would be capable of running four tph between Glasgow Central and East Kilbride stations.

Judging by my trip on the route, there is certainly a need for more capacity, as if every seat is taken at two in the afternoon, two-car trains running at a frequency of two tph is just not enough.

So surely running new four-car electric trains to the current timetable, would be the standard solution for this route?

But!

Look at these pictures of the route..

It wouldn’t be a nightmare to electrify, but because of the stone bridges and the steel footbridges, it would be expensive and very disruptive.

The following should also be noted.

  • The railway has never gone further than East Kilbride station.
  • There is no freight on the line, except for that needed for maintenance.

I am very much drawn to the conclusion, that to electrify the whole route would use money that would probably be better spent on improving step-free access at some of the stations.

Electric Trains To East Kilbride Without Full Electrification

Before I detail the solutions, I shall look at the energy required to raise a train from Glasgow to East Kilbride station.

Consider.

  • A four-car electric train like a Class 321 train weighs 138 tonnes.
  • This train has 309 seats, so could probably accommodate 400 passengers.
  • Assuming each weighs 90 kg with buggies, baggage, bicycles and bagpipes, this gives a train fully-loaded train weight of 174 tonnes.

Using Omni’s Potential Energy Calculator, it would take 73 kWh of energy to raise the train to the 504 feet altitude of East Kilbride station.

It should also be noted that Glasgow Central station and the approaches to the station are fully electrified almost as far as Crossmyloof station.

What solutions are available to have as-new electric trains running between Glasgow Central and East Kilbride station?

The Rhymney Line Solution

The Rhymney Line runs between Cardiff Central and Rhymney stations.

In the design of the new South Wales Metro, the highest section of this line between Ystrad Mynach and Rhymney stations will be run on battery power.

  • This section is about eleven miles long.
  • It is a mixture of single and double-track.
  • The height difference is 410 feet.

This is very similar in severity to the Busby Railway.

Transport for Wales are proposing to use Tri-Mode Stadler Flirt trains on this route.

These trains would be able to handle the East Kilbride route without any modification to the track or electrification.

It would just mean.

  • Trains identical to those on the South Wales Metro.
  • Building and delivering the trains.
  • Training the drivers and other staff.

There would be other advantages.

  • Stadler trains seem to be one of the best for step-free access, with automatic gap fillers between platform and train.
  • They are 100 mph trains.
  • They are ready for modern signalling.
  • They can change mode at line speed.

These trains which will be Class 755 trains in Abellio Greater Anglia service, have a central power-pack, that can incorporate diesel or battery power to supplement power from the electrification.

Good engineering design would probably mean.

  • The four slots in the power pack, can be fitted with a diesel engine, battery or perhaps even a hydrogen fuel cell to give a power profile tailored to the route.
  • The battery would weigh a similar amount to the Deutz diesel engine, which would give a battery capacity of perhaps 100-120 kWh.
  • There is an intelligent computer system controlling the power and braking systems.
  • The trains come in various lengths from three-cars upwards.

This is a summary of the Stadler multi-mode trains ordered for the UK.

  • Abellio Greater Anglia – Electric/Diesel – 14 x three-cars – Two Deutz diesel engines
  • Abellio Greater Anglia – Electric/Diesel – 24 x four-cars  – Four Deutz diesel engines
  • Trains for Wales – Electric/Diesel – 11 x four-cars  – Four (?) Deutz diesel engines
  • Trains for Wales – Electric/Diesel/Batteries – 7 x three-cars – One Deutz diesel engine and three batteries (?)
  • Trains for Wales – Electric/Diesel/Batteries – 17 x four-cars – One Deutz diesel engine and three batteries

I’m sure Abellio Greater Anglia won’t leave Abellio ScotRail, short of operational information.

In addition, they might be ideal for other routes in the Glasgow area.

They would use the electrification, when close to Glasgow.

I can’t see any reason, why another version of the Tri-Mode Stadler Flirt won’t be able to run services between Glasgow Central and East Kilbride stations.

The Battery Solution

Transport for Wales intend to run their Tri-Mode Stadler Flirts on battery from Ystrad Mynach to Rhymney. I can’t see any reason why a well-designed battery train can’t do the similar climb to East Kilbride station.

Of the major train manufacturers, only Stadler seem to have declared their hand with the Rhymney Line proposal.

  • Bombardier have run prototypes in the UK and Germany, but are very protective with solid information.
  • CAF have run battery trams and will introduce them to the UK in the next year or so.
  • Hitachi use batteries in their trains and have run battery trains in Japan.

Also, consider that between Glasgow Central and Pollokshields East stations is electrified and extending this electrification to say Busby Junction. where the Busby Railway leaves the Glasgow South Western Line, would have the following benefits.

  • The distance to run on batteries would be reduced by about three miles.
  • There would be more electrification to ensure that train batteries were full before the climb to East Kilbride.
  • If bi-mode trains were to run to Kilmarnock, Dumfries and Carlisle, they would have more electrified line to use.

This short section of electrification would certainly improve the mathematics of running battery trains to East Kilbride.

As Busby Junction to Kilmarnock is around twenty miles, it might even make it possible to run battery trains between Glasgow Central and Kilmarnock stations.

I have no doubts that, a battery train can be built to handle services between Glasgow Central and East Kilbride.

The Hydrogen Solution

I tend to think of trains powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, as battery trains with an environmentally-friendly onboard power source.

The Busby Line route is ideal for battery trains, especially, if there is a few miles of new electrification at the Glasgow Central end of the route.

Alstom’s proposed hydrogen-powered Class 321 train, could also be ideal for this route.

Four-car trains with a decent interior, would certainly solve the overcrowding on the route.

In A Class 321 Renatus, a comment was put, that says that the hydrogen-powered Class 321 trains will share the Renatus interior.

I’d suspected that would be the case, as why would the train’s owners; Eversholt Rail Group, design two different interiors for the same purpose?

The train would be able to leave Glasgow Central station with a full battery and with the help of electricity from the hydogen fuel cell, it would be able to climb to East Kilbride.

Coming down, the train would be partly powered by the battery, but mainly by gravity. Energy generated by the regenerative braking would be stored in the battery.

Alstom will be building a mathematical model of the train and its performance on various routes, so they will know the energy flows, when the train is working.

I said earlier that the following routes would be ideal for Stadler’s bi-mode trains.

  • The Glasgow South Western Line to Kilmarknock, Dumfries and Carlisle.
  • The Ayrshire Coast Line to Ayr and Stranraer.
  • The West Highland Line to Oban and Mallaig.

I feel the same logic applies to Alstom’s hydrogen trains.

Conclusion

All three solutions, I outlined in this post, could be possible.

The solutions have several things in common.

  • All will be fully tested elsewhere on the UK rail network.
  • None need any electrification between Busby Junction and East Kilbride.
  • All would benefit from a few extra miles of electrification between Busby Junction and Glasgow Central station.
  • All solutions are backed by respected train building companies.

I think there will be a very keen contest to see who supplies the trains for this and other related routes from Glasgow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 12, 2018 - Posted by | Travel | , , , ,

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