The Anonymous Widower

Comparing A Class 769 Train With An Alstom Breeze

Who’d have thought that two thirty-year-old British Rail-era electrical multiple units, would be fighting in the same market for bi-mode trains to replace diesel multiple units?

Class 319 Train

Class 319 trains started life as four-car dual-voltage  electrical multiple units for Thameslink and Porterbrook are now converting them into four-car electro-diesel multiple units, which have been given the TOPS classification of Class 769 trains.

Class 321 Train

Class 321 trains started life as four-car 100 mph electrical multiple units for East Anglia and Eversholt and Alstom are now converting them into hydrogen-powered multiple units, which have been given the name of Breeze.

So how does a Class 769 compare with an Alstom Breeze?

Ability To Work Using Electrification

This article on Rail Engineer, which is all about the Class 769 train, is entitled Bi-Mode Good, Tri-Mode Better.

The title says it all about the ability to work from three different power sources.

  • 25 KVAC overhead electrification
  • 750 VDC third-rail electrification
  • Onboard power from two diesel generators.

This must have impressed Great Western Railway as they’ve ordered nineteen trains.

Nothing has been directly said, about whether an Alstom Breeze can use electrification, but as the partially-electrified Liverpool to Chester route has reportedly been chosen as a test route, I would think, that the ability to use electrification is very likely.

Operating Speed

In the Rail Engineer article, this is said about the operating speed of a Class 769 train.

Modelling has shown the gradient balancing speed on a flat gradient when powered by the diesel engines to be approximately 87 mph and the trains will retain the 100 mph capability when powered by electricity.

Alstom are claiming 87 mph on hydrogen power.

Operational Range

My brochure for a Class 769 train, says this about the operational range of the train.

Class 769 could operate the route between Manchester and Buxton and achieve timings equal to a Class 150. The Class 769 unit would have the capacity to make five return trips per day for two days before refuelling is required.

This is a total of about 540 km on a route, which climbs three hundred metres with twelve stops.

Alstom quote the Breeze as having a range of a thousand km. But over what sort of terrain!

This doesn’t appear to be an equal comparison.

So perhaps the Buxton trials should be undertaken!

Refuelling

The Class 769 train runs partially on diesel fuel, which makes the train easy to refuel.

The Alstom Breeze needs a hydrogen supply, which can either be sourced from a piped or tanked supply or a local hydrogen generator.

I believe that as Alstom are going down the hydrogen route, at least on a Europe-wide basis, that the provision of hydrogen, will not be a large problem.

Passenger Capacity

When they were built, I suspect that as both trains had a lot of 2+3 seating, that the capacity of both trains was very similar.

My brochure for a Class 769 train shows a suggested layout with 12 First Class seats, 255 Standard Class seats and a Universal Access Toilet.

In Hydrogen Trains Ready To Steam Ahead, I estimated that a three-car Alstom Breeze would have a seating capacity of around 140 seats, with the ability to perhaps take an additional 160 standees.

I also believe that longer versions of Alstom Breezes are possible, with the addition of trailer cars. I estimate capacities, which would include standees could be.

  • Four-car – 450 passengers
  • Five-car – 600 passengers

Both Class 769 trains and Alstom Breezes would appear to have sufficient capacity for typical routes.

Noise Signature

I have not heard either train in action, as neither is in service yet.

This article on Rail Engineer is entitled Class 769 In Action.

This is an extract talking about the noise and vibration of a Class 769 train.

There was no need to worry; just walking through the car park with the train alongside was a revelation. The two idling MAN diesel engines were almost purring; none of the ‘rattling’ that one is used to from older diesels and no visible exhaust either. A conversation at normal volume was easily possible, sitting on the benches outside the café just four metres away from the train.

As to the Alstom Breeze, it is likely to be a near-silent train, if my rides in battery-powered trains are anything to go by.

Carbon Footprint

The Alstom Breeze has a zero carbon footprint, whereas the Class 769 train will produce some carbon dioxide, as it’s partially diesel-powered.

The Alstom Breeze has the possibility of running using hydrogen produced by a zero carbon method, such as the electrolysis of water or brine using electricity from a renewable source such as geothermal, solar, water or wind power.

Recycling Credentials

Both trains effectively recycle existing trains, that would otherwise be scrapped or sold off to an operator in the Developing World.

Conclusion On Comparison

Both trains have their good points and both should find a niche market in the UK, as the Class 769 train already has with four orders for a total of thirty-nine trains.

The Future

In addition, the Alstom Breeze is a demonstrator for the company’s hydrogen technology in a train for a UK-sized rail network.

I would not be surprised, if the Breeze is successful, to see Alstom develop a family of trains based on the technology.

They would have the following characteristics.

  • Flexible length and capacity.
  • Modern aluminium construction.
  • Modern well-designed interiors with everything passengers, operators and staff want and need.
  • 100 mph on hydrogen and electrification
  • Efficient hydrogen generation and refuelling stations
  • Availability in various gauges.

I can also envisage a complete package being offered to railways in a country like Ireland or New Zealand, to run hydrogen-powered trains on a route that is currently not electrified.

By good design, I feel that the only difference between standard, Irish and narrow gauge versions would be a change of bogie.

The Gazelle In The Wings

Bombardier are proposing a 125 mph bi-mode Aventra, which I talked about in Bombardier Bi-Mode Aventra To Feature Battery Power.

Bombardier obviously have extensive mathematical models of the Aventra and just as this has led to a 125 mph bi-mode Aventra, I believe that if it is possible, Bombardier will propose a bi-mode train with the following characteristics.

  • Flexible length and capacity.
  • Small diesel engine and batteries
  • 100 mph on both diesel and electric power.
  • Level floor
  • Almost silent operation.

There will be plenty of applications for this bi-mode train.

It is interesting to note, that Bombardier have dismissed hydrogen as a fuel.

Could it be, that their modelling has shown, that the large tanks for hydrogen make a new-build hydrogen-powered bi-mode train an unviable proposition?

Diesel on the other hand is a much more convenient fuel.

Conclusion

It is going to be an interesting fight between, diesel and hydrogen bi-modes to determine the future of the rail industry.

It is a tribute to the much-maligned British Rail, that the first major battle between the two fuels is being fought using rebuilt thirty-year-old trains built by British Rail Egineering Limited.

Which fuel will win?

Some applications will be ideal for hydrogen and others will need diesel.

But as battery technology improves and electrification increases, it is likely that the need for hydrogen and diesel will decrease.

 

January 13, 2019 - Posted by | Transport | , , , , , ,

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