The Anonymous Widower

Battery Electrostars And The Uckfield Branch

In Rounding Up The Class 170 Trains, I said this, which is based on a quote from an article in the October 2019 Edition of Modern Railways.

Are Battery Electrostars On The Way?

The article finishes with this paragraph about the Class 171 trains, that will come from Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and be converted back to Class 170 trains.

GTR currently uses the ‘171s’ on the non-electrified Marshlink and Uckfield lines, and the release of these sets to EMR is contingent on their replacement with converted Electrostar EMUs with bi-mode battery capability, removing these diesel islands of operation from the otherwise all-electric GTR fleet.

So are these battery Electrostars finally on their way?

The article got several comments, which said that some five-car Electrostars were to be converted and they would probably be Class 376 trains, that would be used.

The comments also said that Network Rail were working on using short lengths of third-rail to charge the train batteries.

That sounds like Vivarail’s system to me, that I wrote about in Vivarail Unveils Fast Charging System For Class 230 Battery Trains.

Southern’s Current Diesel Fleet

I will start by looking at Southern’s current diesel fleet that works London Bridge and Uckfield stations and the Marshlink Line.

Currently, Southern has a diesel fleet of Class 171 trains.

  • 12 x two-car trains
  • 8 x four-car trains.

According to Modern Railways, the following trains will transfer to EMR Regional in September 2021.

  • 10 x two car
  • 6 x three-car, which will be created by moving a few cars in the four-car trains.

It looks as if after the transfer Southern will be left with eight driver-cars and ten intermediate cars.

This would give them four four-car trains and two spare intermediate cars. I’m sure that someone will have a need for the intermediate cars to lengthen a two-car Class 170 train because of capacity issues.

The Marshlink Line Service

The service on the Marshlink Line is an hourly service between Ashford International and Eastbourne stations.

  • It is run by Class 171 diesel trains.
  • Trains were four-cars most times I’ve used it.
  • Journey times are around one hour and twenty-minutes.
  • A round trip takes three hours.
  • It would appear that three four-car trains are needed to run the service.

So if there is a spare train, four trains would be ideal, After all the transfers, this is the remaining number of Class 171 trains, that would be left with Southern.

If they wanyted to get rid of the diesel trains, then they could replace the trains on the Marshlink Line with four four-car battery bi-mode Electrostars!

Network Rail’s Plan For The Uckfield Branch

This document on the Network Rail web site from 2016, is entitled Delivering A Better Railway
For A Better Britain – Route Specifications 2016 – South East.

In the document, this is said about the the route between Hurst Green and Uckfield.

The key issue presently is overcrowding on the shorter length services that operate on the route during and close to the peak hours. As the route is operated by Class 171 diesel units, there is only a small fleet available to the TOC to deploy on the route. As a result some peak and shoulder peak services are not able to operate at the maximum length the route is capable of (8-car).

Electrification schemes in the North West will displace rolling stock to strengthen existing peak services to 8-car and eventually of 10-car operation during CP5, so associated platform lengthening is currently being developed, this will also be compatible with 12-car 20m vehicle trains.

Electrification is still an aspiration for this route or use of battery-powered trains (currently under development) if they are deemed successful.

Signalling is controlled by Oxted Signal Box but during CP5 this will be transferred to Three Bridges ROC.

The key point is that the platforms have been lengthened for 240-metre long trains, which will also allow ten-car Class 171 trains, which have 23 metre vehicles.

The Uckfield Branch Service

The service on the Uckfield Branch is an hourly service between London Bridge and Uckfield stations.

  • It is currently run by Class 171 diesel trains.
  • The platforms on the route can accept ten-car trains with 23 m vehicles or twelve-car trains with 20 metre vehicles.
  • A round trip takes three hours.
  • It would appear that three ten- or twelve-car trains are needed to run the service.

So if we add in a spare and perhaps an extra train for the rush hour, it would appear that around half-a-dozen ten- or twelve-car battery bi-mode trains will be needed for the service.

  • As a ten-car train would be two five-car trains, twelve five-car trains would be needed.
  • As a twelve-car train would be three four-car trains, eighteen four-car trains would be needed.

Interestingly, Southern have three trains that could be candidates for conversion to battery bi-modes in their fleet.

  • One hundred and fifty-two four-car Class 377 trains.
  • Thirty-four five car Class 377 trains.
  • Twenty-nine four-car Class 387 trains.

All trains were built for longer commuter journeys,

Which Electrostars Will Be Converted To Battery Operation For The Uckfield Service?

Obviously, the trains must be four- or five-cars and suitable for conversion to battery bi-mode trains, but I feel they must have other features.

  • Toilets
  • First Class seats.
  • Plenty of tables.
  • Wi-fi and plug sockets.
  • Comfortable interiors.
  • End gangways, to ensure staff and passengers can move around the train if required.

I’ll now look at the various fleets of Electrostars.

Class 357 Trains

The Class 357 trains can probably be discounted, as I suspect c2c need them and they are not third rail.

Class 375 Trains

The Class 375 trains can probably be discounted, as I suspect Southeastern need them.

But if the new Southeastern franchise should decide on a complete fleet replacement, as the trains are dual-voltage, they might be very useful if fitted with a battery capability.

Class 376 Trains

The Class 376 trains can probably be discounted, as I suspect Southeastern need them.

The trains are also third-rail only and lack toilets, so would probably need a rebuilt interior.

Class 377 Trains

The Class 377 trains are a possibility as Soiuthern has a large fleet of both four- and five-car trains.

But they would be losing the Class 171 trains, so would probably need to bring in some new trains to have a large enough fleet.

Class 378 Trains

The Class 378 trains can probably be discounted, as London Overground need them.

Class 379 Trains

The Class 379 trains are surely a possibility, as Greater Anglia will be releasing them before the end of 2020.

Consider.

  • There have no new home to go to.
  • I am suspicious that that NXEA overpaid for these trains and Macquarie are sitting on a very good deal, that will cost Grester Anglia a lot to cancel!
  • They appeared to me to be a shoe-in for Corby services, so perhaps they lost out to the Class 360 trains on cost.
  • They are only 100 mph trains, whereas others are 110 mph trains.
  • They would need to be fitted with third-rail shoes.
  • The trains are coming up to nine years old and probably need a refresh.
  • They have an interior aimed at airport passengers.

If I was Macquarie, I’d convert these into go-anywhere battery bi-modes for use in small fleets by operators.

But, Porterbrook’s battery-bi-mode conversion of a Class 350 train may be available at a lower price.

Class 387 Trains

The Class 387 trains are surely a serious possibility, for the following reasons.

  • Govia already has fifty-six of these trains on lease and in service.
  • c2c has six trains, that could come off lease in 2021.
  • The trains are dual voltage
  • The trains are 110 mph trains.
  • They can run as twelve-car walk-through trains.
  • Many of the trains are leased from Porterbrook.

I’ve felt for some time, that these trains would make excellent battery bi-modes.

But they are a good fit for Southern, as surely one could be scrounged from their Great Northern fleet to create a prototype for test.

I would feel that having the required number of trains for the Uckfield Branch can be achieved by September 2021, when the Class 171 trains will be sent to the Midlands.

There is also a backstop, in that there are nineteen Class 365 trains in store, which were replaced by Class 387 trains on Great Northern services. If there is a shortage of Class 387 trains during the conversion, surely some of these Class 365 trains could stand in, just as they did successfully in Scotland recently.

My Choice

I would convert Class 387 trains.

  • There are quite a few Class 387 trains, that could be converted.
  • Southern already have fifty-six Class 387 trains.
  • There are enough to convert eighteen for Uckfield and four for the Marshlink
  • It could be possible to deliver the full fleet before the Class 171 trains leave.
  • If during conversion of the trains, they are short of stock, Southern can hire in some Class 365 trains.

It looks to be a low-risk project.

It will also have collateral benefits.

  • The hourly London Bridge and Uckfield service will be raised to maximum capacity without any new infrastructure, except the trains and a number of battery chargers.
  • Diesel will be eliminated in London Bridge station making the station electric trains only.
  • Diesel will be eliminated between London Bridge and Uckfield stations.
  • Efficient regenerative braking to battery would be available on the complete route.
  • A ten-car diesel service between East Croydon and London Bridge will be replaced by a twelve-car electric service. stations.

In addition, if the diesel trains on the Marshlink Line were to be replaced by battery bi-modes, Southern would be a diesel-free franchise.

What About New Trains?

It’s all about the money and whether the new trains could be delivered in time.

I would suspect that Bombardier, CAF, Stadler and others are making competitive proposals to Southern, but would they be more affordable and timely, than a conversion of Class 387 trains?

But could they be as competitive if Bombadier and Porterbrook co-operated to convert some of Porterbrook’s Class 387 trains, that are already leased to Great Northern?

You don’t usually move house if you need a new boiler, you replace the boiler!

What About Hydrogen Trains?

The Alstom Breeze based on a Class 321 train is scheduled to first come into service in 2022. This is too late, as the Class 171 trains are scheduled to leave in September 2021.

Hydrogen trains would need a hydrogen filling station.

Kinetic Energy Of Class 387 Trains

I will calculate the kinetic energy of a four-car Class 387 train.

I will assume the following.

  • Empty train weight – 174.81 tonnes – Read from the side of the train.
  • Seats – 223
  • Standees – 60 – Estimated from the seats/standing ratio of a Class 720 train.
  • Total passengers – 283
  • Each passenger weighs 90 Kg, with baggage, bikes and buggies.
  • This gives a passenger weight of 25.47 tonnes and a train weight of 200.28 tonnes

Using Omni’s Kinetic Energy calculator, gives the following kinetic energies.

  • 40 mph – 8.89 kWh
  • 50 mph – 13.9 kWh
  • 60 mph – 20.0 kWh
  • 70 mph – 27.2 kWh
  • 80 mph – 35.6 kWh
  • 90 mph – 45.0 kWh
  • 100 mph – 55.6 kWh
  • 110 mph – 67.3 kWh

These figures are for a full train, but even so many will think they are low, when you think that 60 kWh batteries are used in hybrid buses.

A Trip To Uckfield

I took a trip to Uckfield today and these are my observations.

  • The maximum operating speed of the train was no more than 70 mph.
  • For much of the journey the train trundled along at around 40-50 mph.
  • The route is reasonably flat with only gentle gradients.
  • I hardly noticed the diesel engine under the floor of my car.
  • Obviously in the Peak, the engines will have to work harder.

It was a very good demonstration of five Turbostars working in unison.

I can understand why East Midlands Railway are using Class 170 trains, as their standard train for EMR Regional.

Modelling the Route

I have built a mathematical model of the route between Hurst Green and Uckfield using Excel.

Input parameters are.

  • Cruise Energy Consumption in kWh per vehicle mile. I assumed 3 kWh per vehicle mile
  • Cruise Kinetic Energy in kWh. I assumed a 70 mph cruise and used 20 kWh
  • Regeneration Energy Loss as a ratio. I assumed 0.15.

These parameters showed that a battery of between 290 kWh and 350 kWh would be needed, that was full at Hurst Green and was recharged at Uckfield.

Note that Vivarail are talking about putting 424 kWh under 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.

I don’t think putting 350 kWh of batteries under a four-car Class 387 train would be impossible.

I have also created an Excel model for the second route between Ashford and Ore stations.

This shows that a battery of about 300 kWh on the train should cover the route.

It might appear strange that the longer Marshlink route needs a smaller battery, but this is because it leaves both ends of the route with a full battery.

These two links give access to the two Excel models that I have used. Feel free to  access and criticise them.

AshfordOre

HurstGreenUckfield

It does appear, that on both these routes, if a train starts with full batteries, the energy in the battery is reduced in these ways as it travels along the route.

  • There is an energy use to power the train along the line which is proportional to the vehicle-miles.
  • Energy is needed to accelerate the train to line speed after each stop.
  • Energy is needed to operate stop-related functions like opening and closing the doors.

But there will also be energy recovered from regenerative braking from line speed, although this won’t cover the subsequent acceleration.

I suspect with better understanding and better data, Bombardier can create a simple formula for battery size needed based on the following.

  • The length of the route.
  • The number of stations.
  • The line speed
  • The gradient and speed profile of the route
  • The kinetic energy of the train at various loadings and speeds
  • The amount of energy needed for each vehicle mile
  • The efficiency of the regenerative braking

It is not the most difficult of calculations and I was doing lots of them in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Charging The Train At Uckfield

This picture shows the long platform at Uckfield station.

The platform has been built to accept a twelve-car electric train and if traditional third rail electrification were to be installed, this could be used to charge the batteries.

I would use a Vivarail-style system, which I described fully in Vivarail Unveils Fast Charging System For Class 230 Battery Trains.

As trains take a few minutes at Uckfield to turnback, I’m sure enough time can be arranged in the timetable to charge the batteries with enough power to get back to the electrification at Hurst Green.

The train would switch the charging system on and off by automatically connecting and disconnecting.

 

 

 

September 30, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Thalys-Eurostar Merger Planned Under Green Speed Initiative

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

This is the first paragraph.

SNCF, SNCB and the Patina Rail investment vehicle announced on September 27 their intention to combine the Eurostar and Thalys high speed rail operations, reporting that outline proposals were being presented to their respective boards.

Eurostar runs or has ambition to run these services.

  • London and Paris Nord via Calais and Lille
  • London and Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy
  • London and Bordeaux via Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy and Tours
  • London and Amsterdam via Calais, Lille, Brussels, Antwerp, Ritterdam and Schipol Airport
  • London and Frankfurt via Calais, Lille, Brussels, Liege, Aachen and Cologne.
  • In Winter services run to skiing resorts.
  • In Summer services run to the sun.

Thalys runs these services.

  • Paris Nord and Amsterdam via Brussels, Antwerp, Ritterdam and Schipol Airport
  • Paris Nord and Cologne via Brussels, Liege and Aachen.
  • Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy and Amsterdam via Brussels, Antwerp, Ritterdam and Schipol Airport
  • In Winter services run to skiing resorts.
  • In Summer services run to the sun.

Eurostar and Thalys seem to have a good fit of routes.

  • Both have two Northern terminals; Amsterdam and Cologne or Frankfurt.
  • Both serve Schipol Airport
  • Both serve Brussels Midi, which is in the city centre.
  • Both serve Paris Nord, which is a large well-connected station just to the North of the city centre.
  • Both serve Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy, which is in Disneyland Paris, has a connect to Charles de Gaulle airport and is a major hub for French TGV services.
  • Both have winter and summer holiday services.

You could almost consider the combined networks to be the following.

  • A high-frequency Paris and Brussels service.
  • Northern branches to Amsterdam and Cologne or Frankfurt.
  • A branch to London via Lille, Calais and the Channel Tunnel.
  • A Southern branch to Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy for Disneyland Paris, Charles de Gaulle airport and onward travel to much of France.

It’s all very simple really and as they say Simple is Efficient.

A few thoughts.

London And Amsterdam Services

As an example, suppose you are going from London to Amsterdam at the present time..

  • There are three direct services taking around four hours.
  • There are four services with a change at Brusseks Midi to Thalys taking ten minutes short of five hours.

You could  catch a direct train, but sometimes, you might have to change at Brussels Midi.

There is no problem with immigration control, as that has been done in London.

Going from Amsterdam to London, services are as follows.

  • There seems to be eight daily services, taking ten minutes short of five hours.
  • They also seem to be very heavily booked.

There is no problem with immigration control, as that is done in a forty-five minute stopover in Brussels.

Experienced travellers, and some following a more relaxed schedule, might appreciate the stopover in Brussels, but most travellers would prefer a direct service through Brussels.

I suspect too that Eurostar or the future joint operator would prefer direct services.

  • It would increase capacity between Brussels and Amsterdam via Antwerp, Rotterdam and Schipol Airport.
  • It would increase domestic capacity.
  • The organisation of the trains and onboard staff would surely be easier.

The only problem, is doing the immigration control on the journey to London.

Solutions have been suggested, where Amsterdam and London services are two half trains; one for domestic passengers and one for those going to London, but I’m sure there is a solution out there.

London And Cologne Or Frankfurt Services

The same rules will apply.

Going out will be easy, but coming back will probably need a change of train at Brussels.

Was There A German Solution?

Some years ago, I remember reading that Deurche Bahn were intending to run services from Amsterdam and Cologne to London, where the two trains divided and combined at Brussels.

Using current Thalys and Eurostar times and assuming a fifteen minute stop at Brussels, would probably have meant these times.

  • London to Amsterdam – four hours and thirty minutes.
  • London to Cologne – four hours and twenty minutes.
  • London to Frankfurt- five hours and forty minutes.

Note.

  1. Amsterdam and Cologne services are fairly similar times, which must improve the utilisation of the trains.
  2. Like Amsterdam, the station in Cologne is in the heart of the historic city.
  3. You can get a train to virtually anywhere in Germany from Cologne. But note that Berlin will be a six-hour journey.

As the London to Amsterdam service has been successful, I’m sure London to Cologne would attract passengers.

Were the Germans going to organise Amsterdam and Cologne services, like this?

  • Each service could be a double-train, which could be joined and split quickly, as some operators do.
  • This train would meet all the Channel Tunnel regulations.
  • Going out from London, the double-train would arrive in Brussels and split with one train going to Amsterdam and the other to Cologne.
  • Going into London,, the two trains would join at Brussels and be just another Brussels to London service.

But as with the Amsterdam service, the major problem is immigration control.

There is also the problem of utilising the spare capacity North of Brussels for inbound services to London, which could increase the cash-flow generated by the services.

Or were the Germans thinking in a more innovative manner?

I do wonder if using double trains from Amsterdam and Cologne, with one train for London and the other for Paris or Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy could have been in the German’s minds.

With some creative joining amd splitting in a long platform at Brussels Midi, could it be made to work?

If Eurostar and Thalys were two parts of the same operator, I suspect that it is more likely that a service pattern will be found, that delivers the following.

  • More direct services between London and Amsterdam and Cologne.
  • Extra capacity between Amsterdam and Cologne and Paris and Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy.
  • More efficient utilisation of trains and oboard staff.

It would surely attract more passengers.

Brussels Midi

Brussels Midi station can be considered to be a prototype for the ideal station on both the main network and the London branch.

It will have to do the following.

  • Handle through services between Landon and Amsterdam and London and Cologne or Frankfurt.
  • Terminate some services between London and Brussels.
  • Allow local passengers to use through services to and from London to access other stations on the route.
  • Handle through services between Paris or Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy and Amsterdam and Paris or Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy and Cologne or Frankfurt.
  • Allow Passengers to and from London to use the other services.
  • Handle immigration for passengers to and from London.
  • Allow a passenger from London to connect to any onward services at the station.
  • Allow a passenger to London to arrive on any train and after checking through immigration catch the train to London.
  • The station has full UK Border Control.

It’s complicated, but I suspect that it’s more of an architectural and train design problem than anything else.

Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy

If Brussels Midi can be made to work efficiently, the same thing can be organised at Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy.

  • It is very close to Disneyland Paris.
  • It has good connection to Charles-de-Gaulle Airport
  • There are ten TGV services to other parts of France.
  • There are two Oiugo low cost high-speed services to other parts of France.
  • There are also some international services.
  • The station has full UK Border Control.

Could the plan be to develop this hub close to the airport, with train services to destinations in Belgium, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, Switzerland, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom?

London To Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy

Eurostar already has direct services between London and Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy.

  • Some services going to destinations further South use this route.
  • London to Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy takes two hours forty-nine minutes.

Will the proposed London and Bordeaux service stop at Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy?

  • This would give Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy, will all its connections and attractions another service.
  • If the service stopped at Lille Europe, this would double the High Speed service between Lille and Bordeaux.

Could it be that the London and Bordeaux service will also improve internal French High Speed services?

If SNCF control Eurostar, Thalys and the French TGVs, this must give scope for the services to compliment each other and run economically.

The UK Immigration Control Problem

I can see UK Immigration Control being centred on the following stations.

  • Brussels Midi
  • Lille Europe
  • Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy
  • Paris Nord

These would work as they do now.

Outbound services are not a problem, as it is all handled in London. I have travelled from London to Amsterdam a couple of times and notice how seats vacated in Brussels are used by other passengers between Brussels and The Netherlands.

I believe that it would be possible to develop an efficient system to handle incoming passengers to the UK.

Consider the following.

  • Passengers to and from the UK could be asked for passport details when checking in on-line.
  • Passengers for the UK would use an automatic passport gate, as is common at airports and on Eurostar.
  • Passengers for the UK would sit in a separate part of the train, isolated from the domestic passengers, except in an emergency.
  • If a train stopped at say Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy and Lille Europe, UK Border Force could check passengers on the train between these two stations.

These and other ideas can surely be developed.into a system that would satisfy the most xenophobic of polticians and their supporters.

Conclusion

This proposed merger could be good for High Speed rail in Europe and the UK.

The French government also hopes it could be good for France.

 

 

 

September 30, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 6 Comments

Doha’s Disgrace

The World Athletics Championships in Doha is being ruined by the lack of crowds.

It should also be remembered that this may be partly due to the political situation between Qatar and its neighbours, which mean there are no flights, to allow those in the Emirates to come over to watch the action.

Those who decided to give Doha these championships, should hang their heads in shame and open their affairs to Fraud Squads around the world.

Will we be seeing empty stadiums at the ridiculous World Cup in Qatar?

Some of the athletes seem to have been affected by the heat and withdrawn from events, so will we see some footballers decide not to go to the World Cup?

September 30, 2019 Posted by | Sport | , | 4 Comments