The Anonymous Widower

Around The Fife Circle Line

Although, I’ve been to Scotland many times, I’d never knowingly been over the Forth Bridge in good light.

So I went all the way round the Fife Circle Line and took these pictures.

The route was fairly busy and I very much feel that the three-car Class 170 train could at times be rather small for the route.

The Fife Circle Line

This map from Wikipedia shows the stations on the Fife Circle Line.

Consider.

The route is double-track.

  • The distance from Dalmeny to Glenrothes with Thornton station via Comdenbeath is 22.3 miles
  • The distance from Dalmeny to Glenrothes with Thornton station via Kirkcaldy is 21.4 miles
  • The train I was on waited a couple of minutes at Glenrothes with Thornton station before turning to Edinburgh.

In addition my pictures show the following.

  • Many of the bridges are high- enough to allow electrification.
  • On the East side of the Circle, there are some old stone bridges that would need to be raised for electrification.
  • Some of the stations are step-free with ramps.

Overall, it is a typically-Scottish neat-and-tidy line, that needs some improvement, like longer electric trains and some improved stations with step-free access.

Electrification Of The Fife Circle Line

In my view, there are two major obstacles to full-electrification of the Fife Circle Line.

The Forth Rail Bridge

I feel that engineers could electrify the Forth Rail Bridge without too much difficulty.

But that is not the problem.

  • The bridge is on the main route between Edinburgh and Aberdeen and North East Scotland and electrification would cause major disruption during the installation.
  • There is also the Heritage Lobby, who would probably be totally against major changes to a World Heritage Site.

For these reasons, I don’t think that the Forth Bridge will be electrified.

The Stone Bridges On The Eastern Side Of The Circle

There are nearly a dozen stone arch bridges on the route through Kirkcaldy and raising these for electrification would cause major disruption to one of Scorland’s main rail routes.

Third-Rail Electrification Of The Fife Circle Line

In my view, this would be an option to get round the problems of disruption and the Forth Rail Bridge.

But, third-rail electrifrication is still-considered a method non-grata, despite being used successfully for over a hundred years in Merseyside and South of London.

I do wonder, if Brexit will make it easier to install third-rail systems.

Certainly, Hitachi who would probably make most of the electric trains that would use the Forth Rail Bridge and the Fife Circle Line have the technology for third-rail trains, which they used on the Class 395 trains for HighSpeed commuter services to Kent.

I do wonder, if Brexit will make it easier to install third-rail systems.

Battery-Electric Trains On The Fife Circle Line

In Hitachi Plans To Run ScotRail Class 385 EMUs Beyond The Wires, I discussed Hitachi’s plan to fit batteries to Class 385 trains, so they could run on unelectrified lines.

The Fife Circle Line would be an ideal route for battery-electric trains.

This map shows the rail lines to the South of the Forth Rail Bridge.

Note.

  1. An unelectrified line, through South Gyle and Edinburgh Gateway stations, connects the Forth Bridge to the main electrifield Edinburgh and Glasgow Line through Edinburgh Park station.
  2. There is also another unelectrified line, that connects the Forth Rail Bridge to Linlithgow, Falkirk and Glasgow.
  3. Shown in yellow is a proposed chord, which would create another route between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Electrification as far as Dalmeny station, which is between the Forth Bridge and the proposed chord would enable LNER’s bi-mode Class 800 trains to use electric power for a few extra miles.

As I said earlier, the distance between Dalmeny and Glenrothes with Thorntonh station is under twenty-five miles using either the Western or Eastern side of the Fife Circle Line.

  • Twenty-five miles is well within range of a battery-electric train, that has charged the battery using the electrification between Edinburgh and Dalmeny.
  • Most quoted ranges for battery-electric trains are in the order of sixty miles, so a well-designed train could probably do a complete round trip from Dalmeny station.
  • A charging point could be provided at Glenrothes with Thorton station to top up the batteries, whilst the train waits to return, if that were deemed necessary.

In my view, the Fife Circle Line is an ideal route for battery-electric trains. Especially, as the only new infrastructure required is as follows.

  • Electrification to Dalmeny station, which may be under consideration anyway.
  • Provision of a charging station at Glenrothes with Thornton station.

It is undoubtedly, the lowest cost way to provide new electric trains on the Fife Circle Line.

How Big Would The Batteries Need To Be?

I use a figure of three kWh per vehicle mile for the energy consumption of an electric multiple unit running on a typical route. My reasoning for this figure is given in How Much Power Is Needed To Run A Train At 125 mph?.

On that basis a three-car Class 385 train would need a battery capacity of 3x3x50 or 450 kWh to do a complete trip around the Fife Circle Line.

Note that Vivarail are talking about putting 424 kWh in a three-car Class 230 train.

This page on the Vivarail web site is entitled Battery Train Update.

This is a paragraph.

Battery trains are not new but battery technology is – and Vivarail is leading the way in new and innovative ways to bring them into service. 230002 has a total of 4 battery rafts each with a capacity of 106 kWh and requires an 8 minute charge at each end of the journey. With a 10 minute charge this range is extended to 50 miles and battery technology is developing all the time so these distances will increase.

So it looks like Vivarail manage to put 212 kWh under each car of their two-car train.

Surely, Hitachi have the technology to put 450 kWh in a three-car Class 385 train.

Trains On The Levenmouth Rail Link

In Scottish Government Approve £75m Levenmouth Rail Link, I talked about using Class 385 trains with batteries on the Levenmouth Rail Link.

The same Class 385 trains with batteies could do both routes.

Extension To The Borders Railway

There has been suggestions, that Borders Railway and Fife Circle Line trains run back-to-back across Edinburgh.

It is just over thirty miles between Newcraighall, where the electrification from Edinburgh ends, and Tweedbank.

With a charging station at Tweedbank, Class 385 trains with batteries could run both routes.

Conclusion

It appears that running battery-electric Class 385 trains on the Fife Circle Line and the Levenmouth Rail Link is a feasible option.

It would also be superb publicity for the company, who supplied the trains, if videos were shown of the trains on the Forth Rail Bridge.

August 21, 2019 - Posted by | Transport | , , , ,

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