The Anonymous Widower

Merseyrail’s Battery Intentions

In New Merseyrail Fleet A Platform For Future Innovations, I quoted from  this article on the Rail Technology Magazine web site.

The article mainly is an interview with David Powell, who is programme director of rolling stock at Merseytravel.

This is a direct quote from the article.

We will be exploring, with Stadler, what the options are for having the trains becoming self-powered. This isn’t the bi-modes that lots of other people are talking about in the industry; this is on-board electrical storage.

The Wikipedia entry for Merseyrail links to this document, which puts a lot more flesh on Merseyrail’s intentions for battery trains.

It outlines strategies for the following routes.

Ellesmere Port And Helsby

The document says this.

There is a reasonable business case for extending the Merseyrail service through to Helsby.
However this is likely to be best served by the use of Merseyrail battery powered enabled
services. This will be tested on the new units in 2020.

According to Wikipedia, the sixth Class 777 train to be delivered will be fitted with batteries.

Currently, the service between Liverpool Central and Ellesmere Port stations is as follows.

  • A train every thirty minutes.
  • Trains take eighty-five minutes to do the round trip from Ellesmere Port round the Wirral Loop under Liverpool and back to Ellesmere Port.
  • There are thirty-one stops on the route.
  • There is a five minute turnround at Ellesmere Port station.

Two trains are needed to run the service.

The Current Class 507/508 trains and the future Class 777 trains both have the same operating speed, but there are performance differences.

  • The British Rail trains have 656 kW of power per train, whereas every new Stadler train will have 2,100 kW. The speed may be the same, but the acceleration will be much greater if needed and and the regenerative braking should be powerful and smoothly controlled.
  • Loading and unloading of passengers with their increasing levels of extras will be much faster due to the hollistic design of the trains and the platforms.

It would not be unrealistic to see around a minute saved at every stop.

The extended service between Ellesmere Port and Helsby stations is not much extra distance and time.

  • Just over five miles each way.
  • About thirteen minutes each way , based on existing services on the route.

So if the terminus were to be moved to Helsby, when the new trains are in service, the time savings between Ellesmere Port and Liverpool should cover the extra distance.

It should also be noted about Helsby station.

  • It has four platforms and could probably handle four trains per hour (tph).
  • A platform with a charging station could be created.
  • It has a wide selection of services including Chester, Llandudno, Manchester and Warrington.

To my mind, Liverpool to Helsby would be an ideal route for a battery electric train.

Ormskirk-Preston Enhancements

The document says this.

This incorporates both electrification from Ormskirk through to Preston and the potential
reintroduction one or both of the Burscough Curves. In view of the deferral of electrification
proposals, and the relative low ranking of the electrification proposal in the Northern Sparks
report, it is unlikely that the electrification proposal is expected to be taken forward in the
near future. In addition to this, the business case for extending electrification to Burscough,
and the introduction of the southern Burscough Curve, is poor. The potential use of battery
powered Merseyrail units may improve the business case for both proposals. This will be
reviewed after the Merseyrail units have been tested for battery operation in 2020.

Currently, the service between Ormskirk and Preston stations is as follows.

  • A train every hour.
  • Trains take around thirty minutes to go between the two terminal stations.
  • The route is fifteen and a half miles long.
  • There are three stops on the route.
  • There is a long turnround in a bay platform at Preston station.

At the present time, the service seems rather erratic, with some services replaced by buses and long connection times at Ormskirk.

The service between Liverpool Central and Ormskirk stations takes thirty-five minutes with eleven stops and is generally every fifteen minutes, with a half-hourly service in the evening and at weekends.

If a Class 777 train could use battery power, I estimate it could run between Liverpool Central and Preston stations within an hour.

This would surely open up the possibility of a new service between Liverpool and Preston.

  • It would take only a few minutes longer than the fifty-one minutes of a direct train between Liverpool Lime Street and Preston stations.
  • It would connect a lot of stations to West Coast Main Line at Preston.
  • It would link the major sporting venues of Aintree, Anfield and Goodison or Everton’s new ground to the North.
  • At the Southern end, it could connect to Liverpool Airport.

The Class 777 trains would need to be able to do about thirty miles on battery power and if required, the technology exists to either top up the batteries at Preston or use a pantograph to access the overhead wires of the West Coast Main Line.

At the present time, the Ormskirk Branch Line between Ormskirk and Preston stations is only single track and probably needs resignalling, but I suspect that a four tph service could be run between Liverpool and Ormskirk, with two tph extended to Preston.

Extra track work, North of Ormskirk and the reinstatement of the Burscough curves would allow.

  • Four tph between Liverpool and Preston via Ormskirk.
  • A service between Liverpool and Southport via Ormskirk.
  • A service between Preston and Southport.

There is even the possibility of extending Liverpool and Preston services to Blackpool South station, if they used the overhead electrification through Preston to charge the batteries.

Borderlands Development

The document says this.

While the aspiration is to fully electrify the line, and incorporate it into the Merseyrail
network, this is very much a long term aspiration. In the interim period the aim is to develop
the line through the introduction of an improved diesel service. Merseytravel will work
closely with relevant cross-border organisations such as Growth Track 360 to bring this
about. There are a number of new station proposals for the line, the principal being a new
station close to the Deeside Industrial Park, which would improve the ability of the
workforce to access the site via public transport.

The Borderlands Line provides a service between Liverpool and Wrexham Central station with a change at Bidston station.

  • The twenty-seven miles between Wrexham Central and Bidston are not electrified.
  • The line is double-track throughout.
  • There are twelve stations on the line.
  • The service is hourly, but probably needs to be at least half-hourly.
  • The service takes about an hour between Wrexham and Bidston stations.

Using Class 777 trains on the route, using battery power between Bidston and Wrexham Central stations would enable.

  • A direct service, that terminated in the Wirral Loop under Liverpool.
  • An increased capacity at Bidston station.
  • A faster service.

I estimate that a time of perhaps seventy to eighty minutes between Liverpool Central and Wrexham Central stations will be possible.

There would be very little infrastructure work, except for new stations and the possible ability to top up batteries at Wrexham Central.

I suspect that political problems, rather than any railway ones will be larger.

Bootle Branch Electrification

The document says this.

A long term proposal which will need to be considered alongside the developing freight
strategy for the region and the expansion of the Port of Liverpool. The proposal envisages
the introduction of passenger services which will operate from the Bootle Branch into Lime
Street. An initial study is required to understand fully the freight requirements for the line
and what the realistic potential for operating passenger services over the line is.

The Bootle Branch is known as the Canada Dock Branch in Wikipedia.

Class 777 trains with a battery capability and the ability to use the overhead electrification into Liverpool Lime Street would be able to serve this route, without the need for electrification.

Obviously, if for freight efficiency, the route was electrified, the trains could use it as needed.

North Mersey Branch

The document says this.

A long term proposal; this envisages a new service operating from Ormskirk via Bootle into
Liverpool. It was reviewed as part of the Merseyrail Route Utilisation Strategy in 2009 which
identified a poor business case.

I can’t identify the actual route, but there are various rail alignments into and through the Docks.

Skelmersdale

The document says this.

Merseytravel is currently working with Lancashire County Council and Network Rail to
develop the Merseyrail network from Kirkby through to Skelmersdale. This work is expected
to be completed in 2019. Further development work will be required before this project is
implemented. While 3rd rail electrification is being considered currently, alternatives will be
considered later in the development process. A new station at Headbolt Lane to serve the
Northwood area of Kirkby is an integral part of this proposal. The potential to extend the
network further through to Wigan will need to be developed separately.

I wrote about this plan in Merseyrail To Skelmersdale – How To Plan A New Rail-Link.

Conclusion

It is a comprehensive expansion strategy, where much of the work to create the various extensions is performed by adding equipment to the trains in factories or depots, rather than by the disruptive installation of electrification.

It looks very much like a case of Have Swiss Train Will Travel.

But then, I think the London Overground is using a similar strategy to expand in partnership with Bombardier.

Other networks like the Tyne & Wear Metro and those in cities like Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow and Leeds will be using similar philosophies.

Cardiff has already decided and Stadler are building the trains for the South Wales Metro.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 21, 2018 - Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , ,

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