The Anonymous Widower

A First Ride In One Of LNER’s New Azumas

The Azuma is the name given by LNER‘s new Class 800 trains.

I rode in one today from Peterborough to Kings Cross after deliberately doing the trip the other way in an InterCity 125.

I took these pictures.

These are my thoughts.

The Brand-Name

The Azuma brand-name is one of those names, that was either thought-up for a fee of several million pounds by a specialist agency or it was thought up by a few serious real-ale drinkers in a comfortable pub, in front of a roaring fire or a blazing sun.

  • It is actually Japanese for East, so I doubt it will be controversial.
  • It is catchy and if say Simon Calder said that he liked the new Azuma, it might result in extra ticket sales.
  • It will differentiate LNER from their competitors running differently-liveried examples of the same Class 800 train.
  • Does it suggest speed in English, with the zoom in the middle?

LNER obviously like it, as Wikipedia says they retained the name, which was devised by the previous franchise holder; Virgin Trains East Coast.

Thinking through the history of the East Coast Main Line, I can only remember one class of locomotives or trains, that got a name; the Class 55 locomotive or Deltic. For those of my generation, Deltics are often iconic. In The Thunder of Three-Thousand Three-Hundred Horses, I describe a memorable trip behind a Deltic.

The Livery

The livery is distinctly cheeky, with an eye suggested around the front side-window!

The eye certainly stands out, which could be a good way to get extra seat sales.

It also appears that the livery has changed from the original Virgin East Coast design.

I like it!

The Interior

The interior is simple, practical and bright with some innovative touches.

  • I was in Standard and there were a reasonable number of good-sized tables, which is always welcome.
  • The seats seemed better than those fitted to the Class 800 trains on Great Western Railway (GWR).
  • The electronic seat registration status displays were clear and understandable.
  • I didn’t use the wi-fi or the charging points, but others were using them and one guy said they worked fine.
  • Our ticket collector had a moan and I suspect there are a few problems that will be corrected as necessary.

But then trains always get a lot better after their first major update.

Comparison With Great Western Railway’s Version

The general consensus between two other passengers and myself, was that the seats in the Azuma were more comfortable, than those of GWR’s Class 800 trains.

A Three Class Train

Like some other services in the UK, the Azuma is effectively a three-class train.

  • First Class
  • Standard Class with a table.
  • Bog Standard Class

I find it interesting that East Midlands Railway are promising that all seats will have tables, which already happens on some services on Chiltern Railways.

I wonder if LNER’s competitors; East Coast Trains, Grand Central and Hull Trains will offer more tables.

As a regular user of Chiltern Railways, I can see more tables being added to all main line services.

Performance

As the pictures show, I followed the train speed with the Speedview app on my phone.

After accelerating away from Peterborough 125 mph was held to Stevenage and then after slowing for the twin-track section over the Digswell Viaduct, the train maintained 100 mph for most opf the way until Kings Cross.

I think we will see improved performance onf the East Coast Main Line, with speeds increasing and journey times decreasing.

  • There are plans to add extra tracks between Huntingdon and Peterborough.
  • The flyunder at Werrington will be completed.
  • There are plans for improvements to the North at Newark, Doncaster and York.
  • Digital signalling will allow 140 mph running of Azumas and other Class 800 trains.
  • It has been suggested that capacity on the route would improve with 125 mph trains running to Kings Lynn.

If all operators were running Class 800 trains, this would surely increase capacity.

Splitting And Joining

This document on the Hitachi web site is entitled Development of Class 800/801 High-Speed Rolling Stock For UK Intercity Express Programme.

This is a sentence from the document.

It also incorporates an automatic coupling system that shortens the time taken to couple or uncouple trains while stopped at a station.

Their Kentish cousins have been at it for several years.

LNER have not disclosed how they will use splitting and joining, but there are possibilities, where two five-car trains leave London as a ten-car train and then split en route to serve two destinations.

  • London to Aberdeen and Inverness, splitting, at Edinburgh.
  • London to Harrogate or Skipton and Middlesborough, splitting at Leeds.
  • London to Lincoln and Hull, splitting at Newark.

Trains would join at the same stations, when returning South.

The splitting and joining has advantages over the current fixed-length InterCity 125 and InterCity 225.

  • A five-car Azuma, only needs a 130 metre long platform. So services to destinations like Lincoln, Middlesbrough, Scarborough and Sunderland without a long platform become possible without expensive platform extensions.
  • Train paths on the East Coast Main Line are being used more efficiently, as in some cases two destinations are served by one service into Kings Cross.

There are some disadvantages.

  • Travellers must make sure they get into the correct part of the train.
  • There is probably more staff on the train, as both five-car trains need a full crew.
  • Returning South, trains must keep to time precisely to the joining station, to avoid delaying another service.
  • All possible calling points on the East Coast Main Line, must be able to handle ten-car trains But as these are less than twenty metres longer than an InterCity 225, lengthening shouldn’t be a major exercise.

It’s probably best to consider the two five-car trains as separate services, which happened to be coupled together on the Southern section of the East Coast Main Line.

It should also be noted that several stations like Kings Cross, Doncaster, York and others have entrances in the middle of the platform, which is convenient for either the front or rear train.

Bicycles, Surf Boards And Oversized Luggage

I don’t think you get many surfboards on London to Leeds services, but a member of LNER’s staff told me, that during the recent Tour de Yorkshire, there were a lot of passengers with bicycles. This could be a problem on the Azuma,, as the nine-car train has only four spaces, with a five-car just two.

With the conversion of Scottish services to Azumas, I can see that luggage could be a problem.

I took this picture at Edinburgh, where this luggage is about to be swallowed by the locomotive of an InterCity 125.

I can see a time, when there will be a need to add another car to some nine-car trains, to make sure all the bicycles, surf boards and oversized luggage can be accommodated on the train.

  • Are LNER cutting themselves off from upmarket golf tours, where passengers travel between London and Gleneagles in First Class luxury?
  • GWR have a similar problem on South West England services and I think, it will get more serious in the next few years, as more people take up cycling and surfing.
  • It appears GWR have resorted to banning surf-boards.
  • ScotRail have opted to convert redundant single-car Class 153 trains, into multi-purpose additional carriages to enhance services on the West Highland Line.

I can also see a problem on the London to Inverness services. In Promoting The Highland Main Line, I wrote about the efforts of the Highland Main Line Community Rail Partnership to encourage more visitors to their iconic line and the surrounding area.

Many of the visitors that are attracted to the area, might come with bicycles, golf bags, climbing equipment and other oversized baggage.

So could we see an extra multi-purpose car added to some Azumas working between London and Scotland?

  • The Class 800 trains can be lengthened to as long as twelve cars.
  • Manufacturing of extra cars in the next few years, should be relatively easy.
  • Adding extra cars is a simple cut-and-paste, with the train software ascertaining the train formation.
  • Most platforms are probably long enough for at least ten-car trains.
  • A ten-car Class 800 formation is only fifteen metres longer than a nine-car InterCity 225.
  • There may be opportunities to carry high-value, urgent or perishable freight.

Obviously, the train operators’ needs to satisfy their markets and their finances will decide if extra cars are worth adding.

But I think, that we’ll see some ten-car Azumas on the London and Aerdeen, Edinburgh and Inverness routes.

Conclusion

The train appears to meet the specification, but as regards bulky luggage, it could be that the specification is lacking.

 

 

 

May 16, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 1 Comment

London Overground Timetable Changes After Delay In New Trains

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the Watford Observer.

This is the first paragraph.

Passengers could face some difficult journeys to work over the next few months after a delay in delivering new electric trains.

The late delivery of Class 710 trains have struck again.

Instead of four trains per hour from May 19th, the service will stay as three trains per hour on an unusual 15, 15, 30 time interval.

Probably more annoying than a disaster.

May 16, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , | Leave a comment

Breeze Hydrogen Multiple-Unit Order Expected Soon

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Railway Gazette.

This is the first paragraph.

Alstom Transport is hopeful of confirming an order before the end of this year for its Breeze hydrogen multiple-unit trains being developed in partnership with leasing company Eversholt Rail, suggesting that the first trains could enter service ‘as early as 2022’.

It then goes out to fill out some of the thinking behind the Alstom Breeze hydrogen-powered train.

The Breeze Is A Stop-Gap

Alstom are quoted as indicating the Breeze is an interim solution, until the next generation of train is available.

But after a ride to Southend recently in a Class 321 Renatus, I’m sure that the ride and passenger acceptance will be of a high standard.

And that’s what counts. Hydrogen is only the train’s personal power supply.

Alstom Are Not Building A Suburban Trundler

The Alstom Coradia iLint is not an exciting train.

  • It has a cruising speed of 87 mph.
  • It has a range of 370-500 miles.
  • It has a noisy mechanical transmission.
  • It always runs on hydrogen-power.
  • The prototypes have covered 100,000 km.

In my view, it is very much a first generation compromise design.

The article says more about the Alstom Breeze.

  • It has a slightly faster cruising speed of 90 mph
  • The Breeze will have 50% more power than the iLint. Does this mean better acceleration and/or a longer and heavier train?
  • It will have a 1,000 km range.
  • It will have regenerative breaking.
  • It will have a new AC traction package, as does a Class 321 Renatus. So will the two systems be the same?

I am also fairly sure, the train will be able to use electrification of both 25 KVAC overhead and 750 VDC third-rail, as Class 321 trains can now!

Train Capacity

This is said about train capacity.

Despite the loss of some seating space, each set of three 20 m vehicles would provide slightly more capacity than a two-car DMU with 23 m cars which it would typically replace.

The Class 172/0 trains, that are two-car 23 metre diesel multiple units, have 124 seats.

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.

So was my seat estimate fairly good? I also think, that as the Breeze has been designed with bags of grunt, I suspect that the basic train could be increased in size by adding extra trailer cars.

After all, the legendary Class 442 train is a five-car train, with a power-car in the middle. South Western Railway, think they are worth pulling out of the scrapyard and refurbishing to run expresses between Waterloo and Portsmouth.

I am fairly certain, that Alstom can create a five-car Class 321 Breeze with the following characteristics.

A capacity of about three hundred seats.

  • A near-100 mph top speed.
  • A 1000 km range on hydrogen.
  • The ability to use 25 KVAC overhead and/or 750 VDC third rail electrification.
  • The ability to run two trains as a ten-car train.

It would be ideal for the following routes.

  • Liverpool and North Wales via Chester
  • Norwich and Derby
  • Newcastle and Carlisle
  • Preston and Carlisle via Barrow
  • Cardiff and the South Coast of England
  • Borders Railway
  • Southampton and Ashford
  • Waterloo and Exeter

All of these routes have partial electrification, which would reduce the amount of hydrogen needed to be carried around.

Now that is an interesting multi-variable calculation!

Hydrogen Infrastructure

Alstom seem to be developing infrastructure solutions to supply hydrogen for fleets of ten or more trains, which could be shared with other applications. The obvious one could be where a train depot and a fleet of buses share a facility in say a large city like Exeter, which has an extensive diesel train network.

The article also says this about the source of hydrogen.

Ideally, the trains would use ‘green’ hydrogen manufactured by electrolysis using surplus renewable energy rather than ‘brown’ hydrogen from steam methane reforming.

I agree wholeheartedly with that!

Delivery In 2022?

Consider what has already been achieved in other projects.

  • Alstom have proved they can generate enough electricity to power a practical train.
  • Eversholt have proved that you can turn Class 321 trains into comfortable and efficient 100 mph Class 321 Renatus trains for routes up to a hundred miles.
  • Several classes of Mark 3-based electrical multiple units have been re-engined with AC traction, including the Class 321 Renatus.
  • Engineers all over the UK have modified Mark 3-based coaches and multiple units to create better and more-efficient trains.

Helping delivery of the project, is a legacy of drawings and philosophy from British Rail Engineering.

If Alstom say 2022, I believe that that could be a feasible date.

Conclusion

The ghost of British Rail Engineering is certainly a benign one allowing all sorts of worthwhile development paths.

May 16, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment