The Anonymous Widower

Roger Ford On Bombardier’s Aventra Problems

It has been well-publicised that Bombardier are having problems getting their new Class 710 trains working reliably for service on the Gospel Oak to Barking Lines.

In the February 2019 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article written by the well-respected Roger Ford, which is entitled Train Makers Face ‘Year Of Truth’.

Roger makes a succession of important points about Bombardier and Aventras in particular.

Class 345 Trains

Roger says this.

While reliability continues to be poor, software issues have been largely down to signalling interfaces at the western end of Crossrail.

Production appears to have been paused at 57, with perhaps 37 accepted.

Class 345 Trains And Class 710 Trains Use Different Software

Roger says this.

For the Class 345s, Transport for London specified an evolution of the Class 378 ‘last generation’ software. However the units for London Overground and Greater Anglia, and the other Aventra contracts for delivery beyond 2019, are true next generation trains with a new ‘family tree’ of software.

So it would appear that Class 345 and Class 710 software problems could be unrelated!

My experience of putting together large complicated software systems over forty years, leads me to add these two statements.

  • If the base hardware has been thoroughly tested and put together in a professional manner, it will be very rare for the software to not work on one set of hardware and work perfectly on several dozen other sets.
  • You can’t do too much testing; both of the hardware and the software, both on test systems and in real-life scenarios.

I don’t know anything of the computer hardware structure and its connectivity on Aventras, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot has been lifted straight out of the aerospace industry, in which Bombardier has a substantial presence. Borrowing proven techniques and hardware will hopefully reduce the risk.

The major risk will be the software that is totally new and unique to the Aventra.

So to me, it is not surprising that the complicated signalling on Crossrail, has been the major trouble on the Class 345 trains.

In this article on Rail Magazine, which is entitled Gospel Oak-Barking Fleet Plan Remains Unclear, this is a paragraph.

London Overground was due to put new Bombardier Class 710 electric multiple units into traffic on the route from March 2018, with a full rollout by May. However, problems with the Train Control Management System (TCMS) has so far prevented this.

I suspect that the TCMS is totally new and unique and has a level of complexity much higher than what is used in the Class 345 train.

  • It will have the ability to test all the trains sub-systems on a continuous basis.
  • The TCMS  will be an important part of the train testing process, which is why I have listed it first.
  • The TCMS will control 25 KVAC overhead and 750 VDC third rail power collection.
  • It will control the energy storage, that is reputedly fitted to the train.
  • It will handle regenerative braking using the energy storage.
  • Electricity usage will be optimised.
  • It will control all the displays and systems throughout the train.
  • It will interface to the signalling system.
  • It will communicate train status and faults back to the depot.

I also suspect that every Aventra will have the same TCMS, which will probably be compatible with the proposed 125 mph bi-mode Aventra.

This is not a new concept, as in the 1980s, Boeing 757 and 767 aircraft had identical cockpits, flight control systems and a common rating for pilots.

The Aventra has been described as a computer-on-wheels. Could it also be described as an aircraft-on-rails?

When I was growing up, all new trains, aircraft and vehicles were generally fully described with detailed cutaway drawing in a comic called Eagle.

Bombardier have seemed to be very reluctant to give details about what lies under the skin of an Aventra. Could it be very different to all other trains?

There is one big disadvantage about having a common TCMS, in that, it requires a very high quality of software design, programming and testing and that any lateness in the software delays the whole project.

Class 710 Trains For The Gospel Oak To Barking

Roger says this about the delayed Class 710 trains for the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.

According to,Bombardier, delivery of the Class 710 fleet is now due to be completed by the end of 2019. Given that the original date was September 2018, this is 15 months late. But with large numbers of Class 710 vehicles in storage, it also seems unduly pessimistic.

Roger does not have a reputation for looking on the bright side of life, so when he says that the schedule is unduly pessimistic, I give that a high chance of being right.

Surely, when the final approved version of the TCMS software is delivered, all of those trains in storage can be woken up, tested by the TCMS software then go through a pre-delivery check with the appropriate level of trouble-free running.

It’s a bit like having a new PC on your desk. You can’t really use it, until the software you need to do your job is installed. But as the software will be designed for your PC and has already been fully tested, it is unlikely to be a traumatic operation.

It appears to me, that the more comprehensive the TCMS software, the quicker it will be to take a train from manufacture to ready for service.

Class 720 Trains For Greater Anglia

Bombardier are already building the Class 720 trains for Greater Anglia.

Are these just being checked and tested before being put into store?

As with the Class 710 trains, will they be woken up using the same final fully tested version of the TCMS software?

I would be very surprised if the software on the two trains used different versions of the software.

When I was writing Artemis, we had two versions; one for single users and another for multiple users.

The software for both was identical and it worked on two different operating systems.

That is one of the advantages you get with well-written software.

Hence my belief that all Aventras have a common TCMS software.

Building Aventras

The article says that Bombardier are gearing up to have six Aventra production lines in Derby, which would mean they can turn out 24 vehicles a week.

That is a high production rate, which would mean that the 222 vehicles for the London Overground could be built in under ten weeks.

Bombardier must be expecting a lot of orders!

 

 

January 27, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Severn Toll Change

The title of this post is the same as that of a short article in the February 2019 Edition of Modern Railways.

This is the first paragraph.

There are concerns that the removal of toll charges on the M4 Severn Crossings on 17 December could result in a loss of rail freight traffic to road. The toll, for westbund vehicles only, was £16.70 per Heavy Goods Vehicle last year. It had been reduced from £20 in January 2018, when VAT ceased to be levied because the motorway bridges had passed from private to public ownership.

It now appears that it is now cheaper to get wine from Felixstowe to a warehouse in Avonmouth, by using a train to Cardiff and then using trucks, than by using a train to Bristol and a shorter truck journey.

Surely, the longer journeys by both diesel truck and probably diesel train, creates more carbon dioxide.

Obviously, the UK and Welsh Governments didn’t assess the carbon emission consequences of abolishing the tolls on the Severn Bridges.

I also wonder, if more people will now drive between South Wales and England, because of the incentive of a toll-free crossing, which will further increase carbon-dioxide emissions.

 

January 27, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 2 Comments

Network Rail Are Treating Norwich And Ipswich Fans With Contempt

Over the last few years, I have gone to perhaps half-a-dozen Ipswich-Norwich Derbies.

Last season, I didn’t get to either match, as Network Rail, thought that these days were ideal to do engineering work on the Great Eastern Main Line.

As if, there hasn’t been enough in the time since I’ve moved to London in 2010.

Normally, I would have bought a ticket for the match on February 10th in Norwich at 12:00 in the morning.

But I have just looked up the train times to get there for a match start at that time on a Sunday.

The only service leaves Liverpool Street at 07:08 and arrives in Norwich at 10:12! It also involves an hour on a bus. I would probably arrive back home at around seven in the evening.

I have other things to do, like getting something to eat and as a coeliac, I can’t just pop into the average take-away, unless I wanted to spend another three hours sitting on the toilet.

Why is there no liaison between Network Rail and the two football clubs, so that essential work is done on less important days?

To make things worse, on Saturday the 2nd, they’re getting the buses out again. So that’s another match I’ll miss!

This season it has been easier to watch Away matches than Home ones.

When are Network Rail going to stop treating regular travellers with such downright contempt?

January 27, 2019 Posted by | Sport, Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Rail Operations Group Gets Serious About Thunderbirds Etc.

The February 2019 Edition of Modern Railways has an article entitled Class 93 Tri-Oomph!, which has been written by Ian Walmsley.
This is the first paragraph.

Rail Operations Group has become known for the efficient haulage of EMUs around the country using very clever tranlation devices built into Europhenix converted Class 37 kicos. As I described in the March 2016 issue (“Lost in translation”) it looked at tens of millions of pounds worth of EMUs being dragged around unbraked, thought ‘this can’t be right’, and proceeded to make 50-year-old locomotives operate with state-of-the-art computer kit.

Rail Operations Group (ROG) had employed classicdisruptive innovation to create a new market, that was to everybody’s benefit.

As Ian reports, the company has grown a lot in the last few years and now does a lot more than just move new trains around.

  • Old trains are also moved.
  • Old trains are also stored safely.
  • Operations are all planned as a consultancy.

The company is already planning their next operational niche.

A Move Into Logistics

ROG is moving into logistics.

Ian talks about the inefficiency and polluting distribution system using trucks, that add to traffic congestion.
He talks about rail being a better way and then says this.

The difference with ROG is that the company is going to invest in two Class 769 (bi-mode 319s’) converted for parcel use, and while these are not my favourite trains, parcels are a lot less fussy than me about how long they take to get to top speed.
Using 769s’ means that your hubs can be almost anywhere; not necessarily on a 25 KVAC electrified siding, just close to a road system interchange area.

So what happens, if they don’t get a customer? The Class 769 trains will be delivered with seats, so they could be sub-leased for passenger use.

I wrote The Go-Anywhere Express Parcel And Pallet Carrier (HSPT) in May 2017, where I discussed the uses for this type of parcel carrier. This was my conclusion.

There is definitely a market for a HSPT.
If it does come about, it will be yet another tribute to the magnificent Mark 3 design!

As to the secondary use of these trains as passenger trains, there is nothing wrong with that. After all, we’ve all had our fill of the dreaded Rail Replacement Buses.

In Gospel Oak-Barking Fleet Plan Remains Unclear, I talked about the problems caused by late delivery of the new Class 710 trains.

The problem would have been eased, if two Class 769 trains in good condition could have been called up at a couple of days notice.

Surely, there are other applications.

  • I suspect that given the number of level-crossing accidents in the UK, they will find a lot of use.
  • I don’t think Porterbrook will mind, if ROG effectively offered a try-before-buy service to train operators.
  • There must also be a market for pop-up rail services to large sporting and cultural events.

Again, it appears ROG have found a niche and have invested in it.

Before leaving the subject of Class 769 trains, I must mention Brexit.

Could the trains find a use in a no-deal Brexit-world moving high-value freight from ports and airports to inland distribution centres?

Thoughts On The Class 93 Locomotive

These are some thoughts from the article.

Available Power

Ian starts by saying this about the operation of the Class 93 locomotive.

Apart from the obvious electric (4,000kW) and diesel (900kW), the third mode is a Lithium Titanate Oxide (LTO) battery (400kW), which can be used in conjunction with the diesel to give a power boost up to 1,300kW or 1,743hp in old money.
The extra oomph from the battery takes you from a Class 33 to a Class 37 in old locos but with minimal losses, and you don’t need full power for very long on most non-electrified routes.

I suspect there’s a clever control system, that optimises the use of the battery.

The Ultimate Thunderbird

The locomotive appears to have a unique feature of a variable height coupler, which enables it to haul rolling stock with all the five standard heights of coupler, that exist on UK railways.

How did this madness occur?

But as the locomotive can deal with them all, Ian argues that the Class 93 locomotive could be the ultimate Thunderbird or rescue locomotive.

Moving Trains In The Future

Ian argues that ROC’s collection of locomotives used for moving new and replaced trains is getting older and will soon be difficult to service.

The Class 93 locomotives would be ideal for this role.

But Ian sees this very much as a fallback position, if the locomotives do not find innovative new uses.

Ian finishes with this paragraph.

When we first saw Dr. Beeching’s new Freightliners(now ‘intermodal’) in the 1960s, they did 75 mph. They still do, but there are some really smart looking 100 mph flats available. Remember the path-ology. There are plenty of cross-country runs where a Class 37 equivalent is fine for the diesel bits, then pan up and 4,000kW is yours. Come on. Not excited by this? You must be in the wrong job.

As an example some freight trains go between Felixstowe and Birmingham, Liverpool or Manchester using the North London Line.

They are hauled all the way by a Class 66 diesel.

Put the containers on the smart looking 100 mph flats with a Class 93 locomotive on the front and the following happens.

  • The locomotive uses diesel between Felixstowe and Ipswich, with possibly some battery boost.
  • The locomotive uses electric power for most of the journey.
  • The locomotive might use diesel power at the destination for a short distance.
  • On the double-track 100 mph Great Eastern Main Line, the operating speed will not be far off the new Class 745 and Class 720 trains.
  • On the North London Line, the train will pass through some of the smartest parts of North London with lower levels of noise, vibration and pollution.
  • On the West Coast Main Line, the train will be able to mix it with the new Class 730 trains on the slow lines.

Greater Anglia have the trains to run more services between London and Ipswich.

How many more could they squeeze in, if all freight trains had a similar performance to their express services?

Consider now, freight trains taking the cross-country route from Felixstowe to the North and Midlands via Peterborough.

  • With track improvements at Haughley and doubling of the line between Kennett and Ely, I suspect that timings on the flat lands of East Anglia using hybrid power would be approaching those of Class 66 locomotive-hauled stock.
  • With a faster cruise on the East Coast Main Line, would the trains take the direct route on the slow lines, rather than the diversion through Lincoln?

The Class 93 locomotive could be the ultimate Felixstowe Flyer.

Could it also be the freight locomotive that passenger train operators want reight operators to use, as it keeps freight trains out of the way of passenger ones?

January 27, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment