The Anonymous Widower

Could Electric Trains Run On Long Scenic And Rural Routes?

In the UK we have some spectacular scenic rail routes and several long rural lines.

Basingstoke And Exeter

The West of England Main Line is an important rail route.

The section without electrification between Basingstoke and Exeter St. Davids stations has the following characteristics.

  • It is just over one hundred and twenty miles long.
  • There are thirteen intermediate stations, where the expresses call.
  • The average distance between stations is around nine miles.
  • The longest stretch between stations is the sixteen miles between Basingstoke and Andover stations.
  • The average speed of trains on the line is around forty-four mph.

There is high quality 750 VDC third-rail electrification at the London end of the route.

Cumbrian Coast Line

The Cumbrian Coast Line  encircles the Lake District on the West.

The section without electrification between Carnforth and Carlisle stations has the following characteristics.

  • It is around a hundred and fourteen miles long.
  • There are twenty-nine intermediate stations.
  • The average distance between stations is around four miles.
  • The longest stretch between stations is the thirteen miles between Millom and Silecroft stations.
  • The average speed of trains on the line is around thirty-five mph.

There is also high standard 25 KVAC electrification at both ends of the line.

Far North Line

The Far North Line is one of the most iconic rail routes in the UK.

The line has the following characteristics.

  • It is one-hundred-and-seventy-four miles long.
  • There are twenty-three intermediate stations.
  • The average distance between stations is around seven miles.
  • The longest stretch between stations is the thirteen miles between Georgemas Junction and Wick stations.
  • The average speed of trains on the line is around forty mph.

The line is without electrification and there is none nearby.

Glasgow To Oban

The West Highland Line is one of the most iconic rail routes in the UK.

The line is without electrification from Craigendoran Junction, which is two miles South of Helensburgh Upper station  and the section to the North of the junction, has the following characteristics.

  • It is seventy-eight miles long.
  • There are ten intermediate stations.
  • The average distance between stations is around eight miles.
  • The longest stretch between stations is the twelve miles between Tyndrum Lower and Dalmally stations.
  • The average speed of trains on the line is around thirty-three mph.

From Glasgow Queen Street to Craigendoran Junction is electrified with 25 KVAC overhead wires.

Glasgow To Mallaig

This is a second branch of the West Highland Line, which runs between Crianlarich and Mallaig stations.

  • It is one hundred and five miles long.
  • There are eighteen intermediate stations.
  • The average distance between stations is around five miles.
  • The longest stretch between stations is the twelve miles between Bridge Of Orchy and Rannoch stations.
  • The average speed of trains on the line is around twenty-five mph.

Heart Of Wales Line

The Heart of Wales Line is one of the most iconic rail routes in the UK.

The line is without electrification and the section between Swansea and Shrewsbury stations, has the following characteristics.

  • It is just over one hundred and twenty miles long.
  • There are thirty-one intermediate stations.
  • The average distance between stations is around four miles.
  • The longest stretch between stations is the thirteen miles between Shrewsbury and Church Stretton stations.
  • The average speed of trains on the line is just under forty mph.

There is also no electrification at either end of the line.

Settle And Carlisle

The Settle and Carlisle Line is one of the most iconic rail routes in the UK.

The section without electrification between Skipton and Carlisle stations has the following characteristics.

  • It is just over eighty miles long.
  • There are thirteen intermediate stations.
  • The average distance between stations is around six miles.
  • The longest stretch between stations is the sixteen miles between Gargrave and Hellifield stations.
  • The average speed of trains on the line is around forty mph.

There is also high standard 25 KVAC electrification at both ends of the line.

Tyne Valley Line

The Tyne Valley Line is an important route between Carlisle and Newcastle stations.

The line is without electrification has the following characteristics.

  • It is just over sixty miles long.
  • There are ten intermediate stations.
  • The average distance between stations is around six miles.
  • The longest stretch between stations is the sixteen miles between Carlisle and Haltwhistle stations.
  • The average speed of trains on the line is around mph.

There is also high standard 25 KVAC electrification at both ends of the line.

A Pattern Emerges

The routes seem to fit a pattern, with very similar characteristics.

Important Local Transport Links

All of these routes are probably important local transport links, that get children to school, many people to large towns for shopping and entertainment and passengers of all ages to see their friends and relatives.

Many would have been closed but for strong local opposition several decades ago.

Because of the overall rise in passengers in recent years, they are now relatively safe for a couple of decades.

Iconic Routes And Tourist Attractions

Several of these routes are some of the most iconic rail routes in the UK, Europe or even the world and are tourist attractions in their own right.

Some of these routes are also, very important in getting tourists to out-of-the-way-places.

Lots Of Stations Every Few Miles

The average distance between stations on all lines seems to be under ten miles in all cases.

This surprised me, but then all these lines were probably built over a hundred years ago to connect people to the expanding railway network.

The longest stretch between two stations appears to be sixteen miles.

Diesel Hauled

All trains seem to be powered by diesel.

This is surely very inappropriate considering that some of the routes go through some of our most peaceful and unspoilt countryside.

Inadequate Trains

Most services are run by trains, that are just too small.

I know to put a four-car train on, probably doubles the cost, but regularly as I explore these lines, I find that these two-car trains are crammed-full.

I once inadvertently took a two-car Class 150 train, that was on its way to Glastonbury for the Festival. There was no space for anything else and as I didn’t want to wait an hour for the next train, I just about got on.

Passengers need to be encouraged to take trains to rural events, rather than discouraged.

An Electric Train Service For Scenic And Rural Routes

What would be the characteristics of the ideal train for these routes?

A Four-Car Electric Train

Without doubt, the trains need to be four-car electric trains with the British Rail standard length of around eighty metres.

Dual Voltage

To broaden the applications, the trains should obviously be capable of running on both 25 KVAC overhead and 750 VDC third-rail electrification.

100 mph Capability

The trains should have at least a 100 mph capability, so they can run on main lines and not hold up other traffic.

No Large Scale Electrification

Unless there is another reason, like a freight terminal, quarry, mine or port, that needs the electrification, using these trains must be possible without any large scale electrification.

Battery, Diesel Or Hydrogen Power

Obviously, some form of power will be needed to power the trains.

Diesel is an obvious no-no but possibly could only be used in a small way as emergency power to get the trains to the next station, if the main power source failed.

I have not seen any calculations about the weight, size and power of hydrogen powered trains, although there have been some professional videos.

But what worries me about a hydrogen-powered train is that it still needs some sizeable batteries.

So do calculations indicate that a hydrogen-powered train is both a realisable train and that it can be produced at an acceptable cost?

Who knows? Until, I see the maths published in a respected publication, I will reserve my judgement.

Do Bombardier know anything?

In the July 2018 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article entitled Bi-Mode Aventra Details Revealed.

A lot of the article takes the form of reporting an interview with Des McKeon, who is Bombardier’s Commercial Director and Global Head of Regional and Intercity.

This is a paragraph.

However, Mr McKeon said his view was that diesel engines ‘will be required for many years’ as other power sources do not yet have the required power or efficiency to support inter-city operation at high-speeds.

As Bombardier have recently launched the Talent 3 train with batteries that I wrote about in Bombardier Introduces Talent 3 Battery-Operated Train, I would suspect that if anybody knows the merits of hydrogen and battery power, it is Mr. McKeon.

So it looks like we’re left with battery power.

What could be a problem is that looking at all the example routes is that there is a need to be able to do station-to-station legs upwards of thirteen-sixteen miles.

So I will say that the train must be able to do twenty miles on battery power.

How Much Battery Capacity Should Be Provided On Each Train?

In Issue 864 of Rail Magazine, there is an article entitled Scotland High Among Vivarail’s Targets for Class 230 D-Trains, where this is said.

Vivarail’s two-car battery units contains four 100 kWh lithium-ion battery rafts, each weighing 1.2 tonnes.

If 200 kWh can be placed under the floor of each car of a rebuilt London Underground D78 Stock, then I think it is reasonable that up to 200 kWh can be placed under the floor of each car of the proposed train.

As it would be required that the train didn’t regularly run out of electricity, then I wouldn’t be surprised to see upwards of 800 kWh of battery installed in the train.

n an article in the October 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, which is entitled Celling England By The Pound, Ian Walmsley says this in relation to trains running on the Uckfield Branch, which is not very challenging.

A modern EMU needs between 3 and 5 kWh per vehicle mile for this sort of service.

So if we are aiming for a twenty mile range from a four-car train with an 800 kWh battery, this means that any energy consumption better than 10 kWh will achieve the required range.

Regular Charging At Each Station Stop

In the previous section, I showed that the proposed train with a full battery could handle a twenty mile leg between stations.

But surely, this means that at every stop, the electricity used on the previous leg must be replenished.

In Porterbrook Makes Case For Battery/Electric Bi-Mode Conversion, I calculated the kinetic energy of a four-car Class 350 train, with a full load of passengers, travelling at ninety mph, as 47.1 kWh.

So if the train is travelling at a line speed of ninety mph and it is fitted with regenerative braking with an efficiency of eighty percent, 9.4 kWh of energy will be needed for the train to regain line speed.

There will also be an energy consumption of between 3 kWh and 5 kWh per vehicle per mile.

For the proposed four-car train on a twenty mile trip, this will be between 240 and 400 kWh.

This will mean that between 240 and 400 kWh will need to be transferred to the train during a station stop, which will take one minute at most.

I covered en-route charging fully in Charging Battery/Electric Trains En-Route.

I came to this conclusion.

I believe it is possible to design a charging system using proven third-rail technology and batteries or supercapacitors to transfer at least 200 kWh into a train’s batteries at each stop.

This means that a substantial top up can be given to the train’s batteries at stations equipped with a fast charging system.

New Or Refurbished Trains?

New trains designed to meet the specification, could obviously be used.

But there are a several fleets of modern trains, which are due to be replaced. These trains will be looking for new homes and could be updated to the required battery/electric specification.

  • Greater Anglia – 30 x Class 379 trains.
  • Greater Anglia – 26 x Class 360 trains.
  • London North Western Railway – 77 x Class 350 trains.
  • TransPennine Express – 10 x Class 350 trains

In Porterbrook Makes Case For Battery/Electric Bi-Mode Conversion, I describe Porterbrook’s plans to convert a number of Class 350 trains to battery/electric trains.

These Class 350 Battery/FLEX trains should meet the specification needed to serve the scenic and rural routes.

Conclusion

I am led to the conclusion, that it will be possible to design a battery/electric train and charging system, that could introduce electric trains to scenic and rural routes all over the UK, with the exception of Northern Ireland.

But even on the island of Ireland, for use both North and South of the border, new trains could be designed and built, that would work on similar principles.

I should also say, that Porterbrook with their Class 350 Battery/FLEX train seem to have specfied a train that is needed. Pair it with the right charging system and there will be few no-go areas in mainland UK.

November 2, 2018 - Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. “-London North Western Railway – 77 x Class 350 trains.
    -TransPennine Express – 10 x Class 350 trains”

    All TPE 350’s will be lease by West Midlands Trains, and they will release 37 (the 350/2 series) and keep the remaining 50 350s (350/1, 350/3, 350/4).
    This 37 – if modified to bi mode – could replace all the 158s (10) and 159s (30) of Southwestern Railway (2 and 3 car units) and would also be likely to be compatible with their 450s.

    Comment by Daniel Altmann | November 9, 2018 | Reply


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