The Anonymous Widower

Tender Set To Be Issued For East West Rail Rolling Stock

The title of the this post is the same as that of this article on Rail Magazine.

Brief details of the fleet include.

  • Eleven trains.
  • Self-propelled.
  • Three cars.

Services are due to commence in 2024, serving Oxford, Aylesbury, Milton Keynes and Bedford.

Here are a few of my thoughts.

Are Three Car Trains Long Enough?

New train services in the UK, especially those on new or reopened routes, seem to suffer from London Overground Syndrome.

I define it as follows.

This benign disease, which is probably a modern version of the Victorian railway mania, was first identified in East London in 2011, when it was found that the newly-refurbished East London Line and North London Line were inadequate due to high passenger satisfaction and much increased usage. It has now spread across other parts of the capital, despite various eradication programs.

The Borders Railway certainly suffered and the London Overground is still adding extra services on the original routes.

Three-car trains may be enough for the initial service, but provision must be made  for running longer trains.

  • The trains that are purchased must be capable of lengthening.
  • Platforms must be built for longer trains.

So often we don’t future-proof new rail routes.

What Performance Is Needed?

I’ll ask this question first, as it may affect the choice of train.

The trains will certainly be at least capable of 100 mph operation.

But I wouldn’t be surprised if they were capable of 110 mph or even 125 mph, as this would surely make it easier for trains to go walkabout on the Great Western, Midland and West Coast Main Lines.

Faster East West trains might also get more services out of the fleet.

Appropriate acceleration and braking would be needed.

Conservative Or Innovative?

Will we get more of the same or will some of the responders to the tender offer trains based on innovative designs?

I would hope that as the line will eventually connect Oxford and Cambridge via Milton Keynes, the trains will take over the flavour of the route and be more innovative.

The Route

The eventual full route of the East West Rail Link will serve these sections.

  • Reading and Ocford – 25 miles – Partially-electrified
  • Oxford and Milton Keynes – 43 miles – Not electrified
  • Milton Keynes and Bedford – 20 miles – Partially-electrified
  • Bedford and Sandy – 10 miles – Not electrified
  • Sandy and Cambridge – 25 miles – Partially-electrified.

Note.

  1. The distances are approximate.
  2. With the exception of Oxford, all the major stations will be served by electric trains on other routes.

It is rather a mixture created out of existing and abandoned routes.

Could Battery Trains Run On The East West Rail Link?

Consider.

  • All the major stations except Oxford have electrification.
  • Sections of the route are electrified.
  • The route is not very challenging.
  • The longest section without electrification is around forty miles.

All this leads me to believe that a battery-electric train with a range of forty miles could handle the route, if there was the means to charge the train at Oxford.

Possibly the easiest way to achieve the charging station at Oxford station, would be to electrify between Didcot Junction and Oxford stations.

In How Much Power Is Needed To Run A Train At 125 mph?, I showed that to run at 125 mph, a train needs around three kWh per vehicle mile.

This would mean that to run between Oxford and Milron Keynes stations, would need a maximum power of around 40*3*3 kWh or 360 kWh.

This is only a 120 kWh battery in each car.

I am fairly certain, that a well-designed battery train could run on the East West Rail Link.

The Usual Suspects

There are several train companies, who could be offering existing trains or their developments.

Alstom

Alstom don’t have a current design of train for the UK, but they are heavily into the development of trains powered by hydrogen.

By 2024, I suspect they will be offering a purpose-built hydrogen-powered train for the UK.

Also, by that time, I think it will be likely, that many buses in cities will be powered by zero-carbon hydrogen and the availability of this fuel would be much better than it is today.

An East West Rail Link running hydrogen-powered trains would go a long way to answer the electrification lobby.

Bombardier

Bombardier are developing a 125 mph bi-mode Aventra with batteries, that they are proposing for various franchises in the UK, including the Midland Main Line.

I believe that by rearranging the components of this train, they could develop a train that would be very suitable for the East West Rail Link.

  • Three cars
  • At least 100 mph operating speed
  • In service by 2024 or earlier.

It could be a bi-mode train with batteries, or if battery and the associated charging technology has improved, it could be a battery-electric train.

The latter would certainly fulfil the flavour of the route.

Bombardier’s Aventra would also have the advantages of an electrical version and the ability to add more cars.

CAF

CAF have recently introduced the Class 195 traincaf in the UK.

But would a diesel train be acceptable on a flagship route?

On the other hand CAF have been delivering battery-powered trams for several years and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the company, offer an innovative battery-electric train for the East West Rail Link.

Hitachi

Hitachi don’t make self-powered trains in the UK.

But in Hitachi Plans To Run ScotRail Class 385 EMUs Beyond The Wires, I wrote about the company’s plans to use batteries as range extenders on their Class 385 trains.

I suspect that by 2024, these trains will be running in Scotland and they will probably be high-quality reliable trains.

So could these trains be able to run between Reading and Cambridge using battery power, topped up at the various sections of electrification along the route.

Hitachi’s development regime is cautious, professional and well-funded, so I suspect they could offer a version of the Class 385 train, for delivery in 2024.

Hitachi would also have the advantages of an electrical version and the ability to add more cars.

Siemens

Siemens have a large number of modern electrical multiple units in the UK, but none are self-powered, except the diesel Class 185 train.

Siemens will have a factory in the UK to built London Underground trains by 2024.

But eleven trains could be an expensive order to fulfil, if it required a new self-powered train design.

Stadler

Stadler are an innovative company and their Class 755 train will shortly be starting passenger service in East Anglia.

  • It is three-cars, which is extendable if required.
  • It has a 100 mph operating speed.
  • It is a bi-mode; diesel and electric train.
  • Trains for Wales have ordered a diesel/electric/battery version.
  • There are rumours of hydrogen-powered versions.

Stadler could certainly deliver some of these trains by 2024.

Summing Up

I would suspect that the front runners are Bombardier, Hitachi and Stadler, with CAF in fourth place.

  • All could probably develop a zero-emission train for the route using battery technology.
  • Stadler will have trains in service this year, and I suspect Bombardier and Hitachi will be running trains by 2022.

I think we could be seeing some very good trains on the route.

 

 

 

 

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

5 Comments »

  1. Hi. You include Reading in the stations to be served by East West Rail. But in recent months/years, any mention of services to Reading has disappeared from the official website. Do you have reason to be confident that the Oxford to MK/Bedford services will actually start/end from Reading from the opening of the new line, or might they just use north-facing bays at Oxford? Needless to say, I very much hope to see the services run to Reading, and I think they would be well used services. But maybe there are constraints on the line capacity between Oxford/Didcot and Reading, and/or platform/turn-around capacity at Reading?

    Comment by Reading-On-Thames | July 14, 2019 | Reply

    • If the East West Rail Link is going to make full use of the new route, I believe it will be used for a lot of other services.

      The consortium has published a lot of detail about how they will extend the line to Ipswich and Norwich.

      Despite what they don’t say about Reading, I think we’ll see a direct Cambridge and Heathrow service via Reading, when the Western access to Heathrow opens.

      I’m going to reorganise some of my posts on the Eastern end of the East West Rail Link and will put a link here, when I have done it.

      Comment by AnonW | July 15, 2019 | Reply

  2. I have added another post about the trains between Reading and East Anglia.

    https://anonw.com/2019/07/15/the-east-west-rail-link-plans-for-services-between-reading-and-east-anglia/

    I have very different views on the number and type of train required.

    Comment by AnonW | July 15, 2019 | Reply

    • thanks – just seen that. So it sounds half of the long distance services on the eventual line would be extended from Oxford to Reading?
      But what about services to MK? I still feel they’d be missing a trick not to take the opportunity to introduce a direct Reading/MK service. Judging by the lack of mention of Reading in more recent EastWestRail comms, I’d have to assume they’re currently planning the initial services will terminate at Oxford.. sadly.

      Comment by Reading-On-Thames | July 15, 2019 | Reply

      • They do give a time for the services on the line to go into MK and Bedord and reverse out. This would be easier, if the trains were automatic, with the driver having a manual override. As it’s a double reverse, the driver would be facing the same way after stops at Milton Keynes and Bedford.

        Comment by AnonW | July 15, 2019


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