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.

  • Figures for the Class 313 train, which is similar to the Class 507/508 trains show a top speed of 75 mph and an acceleration of 0.67 m/s².
  • Figures for the Class 777 train show a top speed of 75 mph and an acceleration of 1.1 m/s².

These figures mean that a Class 507 train will get to 75 mph in 125 seconds, whereas the new Stadler trains will take just 76 seconds.

In addition, 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 on the new Stadler trains.

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

I think this level of improvement could be expected, with all the modern trains in the UK.

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 the 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.

Thoughts On Battery Size And Range

Thjis article on Railway Gazette is entitled Battery Trial Planned For New EMU Fleet.

This is the first paragraph.

The sixth of the 52 four-car 750 V DC third rail electric multiple-units which Stadler is to supply for Merseyrail services around Liverpool is to be fitted with a 5 tonne battery to test the business case for energy storage. While all the EMUs will be equipped for regenerative braking, this is not seen as optimal on the Merseyrail network.

I find the last part of this paragraph difficult.

Does it mean the trains can use regenerative braking, but that it is not worth using?

This media release on the Stadler web site is entitled Stadler Signs Contract To Build And Maintain 52 Metro Trains For
Liverpool City Region.

This is a sentence.

The units will also be equipped with batteries that allow independent movement of the units in the workshop and depot areas.

Out of curiosity, what will be the kinetic energy of the four-car trains at the full speed of 75 mph

  • The train weight is given as 99 tonnes in Wikipedia.
  • The passenger capacity is 484, with a weight of 90 Kg each.
  • This gives a train weight of 142.56 tonnes.

Putting these figures into Omni’s Kinetic Energy Calculator gives a kinetic energy of 22.3 kWh.

I feel that this fairly low amount of energy could be held in a 60 kWh battery, that would probably come from a hybrid bus and weigh about 600 Kg.

I would be very surprised if Stadler are not using a smaller battery to do the following.

  • Handle regenerative braking.
  • Independent movement in the workshop and depot areas.
  • Train power in sidings and platforms.

It could also handle, train rescue to a safe evacuation point, in the event of power failure. I suspect that like Crossrail in London, Merseyrail would be very happy to have an independent recovery system in the tunnels under Liverpool, Birkenhead and the River Mersey.

In How Much Power Is Needed To Run A Train At 125 mph?, I estimated that using 3 kWh per vehicle mile is not a bad estimate for the energy use of an electric train running at speeds in excess of 100 mph.

Using this figure would give  a range on a 60 kWh battery of at least five miles, which would move the train out of the tunnels if the power failed.

But we’re talking about a modern lightweight train running on probably newly relaid track and my 3 kWh per vehicle mile could be a little on the high side.

Stadler are talking of fitting the sixth train with a fifty five battery, which would probably have a capacity of around 500 kWh.

Using various consumption figures, the range would be as follows.

  • 3 kWh per vehicle mile – 42 miles
  • 2 kWh per vehicle mile – 62 miles
  • 1 kWh per vehicle mile – 125 miles

Stadler and their battery supplier are probably working on.

  • A train that uses less electricity.
  • More efficient regenerativer braking.
  • A more intelligent train control system.
  • Increased energy density in the battery.
  • Efficient charging systems.
  • A plug-in battery pack that can be added and removed in minutes.

As a Control and Electrical Engineer, I wouldn’t be surprised to see that the control, electrical and software system of trains with and without the five tonne battery are identical and some just have a larger amount of energy storage.

Range on battery power can only increase!

Consider the lengths of some of the routes discussed earlier.

  • Ellesmere Port and Helsby – 5 miles
  • Ormskirk and Preston – 16 miles
  • Bidston and Wrexham Central – 27  miles

Only the last route might need a charging station at the remote terminal.

My Own Speculation On Routes

I think there could be other routes that could easily be run by Class 777 trains running on battery power.

Onward From Hunts Cross

The current service between Hunts Cross and Manchester Oxford Road stations is only two tph, using rather suspect rolling stock.

  • Under Merseyrail and London Overground rules, it should be at least four tph to give travellers a Turn-Up-And-Go service.
  • The stations are of variable quality, but are being improved and will soon be joined by a new station at Warrington Wrst.
  • There is a lot of new developments along the route.
  • The service terminates in a convenient bay-platform at Manchester Oxford Road station.
  • The service calls at Deansgale station for the Manchester Metrolink.

The route could be developed into a City-Centre-to-City-Centre and commuter route for both Liverpool and Manchester.

So could this route be run by Class 777 trains using battery power?

Consider.

  • Hunts Cross and Manchester Oxford Road are just twenty-seven miles apart.
  • The last couple of miles to Oxford Road is electrified with 25 KVAC overhead wires.
  • Hunts Cross is electrified with 750 VDC third-rail.

It will be a Liverpool and Manchester Railway for the Twenty-First Century

I think it is one of those problems, where the engineering is easy, but the politics will be very difficult.

Onward From Headbolt Lane

The current service between Liverpool and Kirkby, which will be extended to the new station at Headbolt Lane, is a a Turn-Up-And-Go service of four tph. But the onward service to Wigan and Manchester is just a very inadequate hourly-service.

Consider.

  • Headbolt Lane and Wigan are just twelve miles apart.
  • Plans are being developed to create a proper transport interchange at Wigan for the arrival of High Speed Two.
  • Wigan North Western is electrified with 25 KVAC overhead wires.
  • Kirkby is and Headbolt Lane will be electrified with 750 VDC third-rail.

It would appear to be very possible to extend Class 777 trains from Kirkby to Wigan using battery power.

More Trains For Merseyrail

This is a paragraph from the Stadler media release about Merseyrail’s new trains.

The new four-car trains will all be in service by 2021, with the first unit arriving for testing by the middle of 2019.
The value of the manufacture and maintenance contracts for the 52 trains is up to £700m and Merseytravel
also has the option to procure an additional 60 units of rolling stock.

If the options are taken up, this would more than double the size of the Merseyrail’s fleet.

But where will these trains connect to Liverpool City Centre?

Helsby, Preston, Skelmersdale, Wrexham Central and the other routes in Liverpool will all need more trains, but nothing like sixty trains.

So will we see Wigan and Warrington added to Merseyrail’s destinations? And what about Manchester?

Never say no to Liverpool and their Swiss co-conspirators!

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 of battery trams, tram-trains and trains.

Cardiff has already disclosed their plans and Stadler are building the trains for the South Wales Metro.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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