The Anonymous Widower

Very Light Rail Research On Track

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

It details the progress on very light rail, which is defined as a vehicle with a weight of less than one tonne per linear metre.

It is a thorough article and very much a must-read.

It also details thirty-five rail routes in the UK and several cities, where the technology could be employed.

Some of the routes mentioned include, ones that I’ve covered on this blog, including.

  • Cromer – Sheringham – Part of Greater Anglia
  • Saxmundham – Aldeburgh – Part of Greater Anglia
  • Coventry – Nuneaton – Part of West Midlands
  • Liskeard – Looe – Part of Great Western
  • Plymouth – Tavistock – Part of Great Western
  • St Erth – St Ives – Part of Great Western
  • Henley-on-Thames – Twyford – Part of Great Western
  • Maidenhead – Marlow – Part of Great Western
  • Slough – Windsor & Eton Central – Part of Great Western
  • Truro – Falmouth- Part of Great Western
  • Watford – St Albans Abbey – Part of London Midland
  • Ashington – Blyth
  • Fleetwood – Poulton-le-Fylde

Note.

  1. On reading the full list, I wondered why Greenfood – West Ealing and Southall – Brentford weren’t included, but it’s probably because freight uses the lines.
  2. I particularly like the inclusion of Saxmundham – Aldeburgh and Watford Junction – St. Albans Abbey.

You can understand why the rail leasing company; Eversholt, has got involved, as they must see quite a few possible sales.

There is more information on the concept call Revolution on this page on the Transport Design International web site.

Some points that can be gleaned from this page.

  • One picture shows a coupler on the front of the vehicle. So can they work in multiple?
  • Vehicles will have low axle weights (around 4 tonnes),
  • Self-powered vehicles, with energy recovery and storage systems as standard,
  • Reduced infrastructure costs for installation, operation and maintenance.

The consortium is also aiming for a sub million pound price tag.

Conclusion

It is a bold plan, which is backed by some large companies and organisations with deep pockets.

 

 

 

January 31, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Digital Displacement Project On Track To Reduce Rail Emissions

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

This is the introduction paragraph.

With challenging targets to radically reduce railway CO2 emissions, Artemis Intelligent Power is looking at the potential of Digital Displacement® hydraulics as a novel route to lower emissions for freight locomotives, shunters and on-track plant.

Artemis Intelligent Power are an Edinburgh-based company, who are owned by Misubishi and claim they are global leaders in digital displacement technology.

The company has a section on their technology on their web site.

Effectively, they have designed a very efficient computer controlled hydraulic pump. When used in an application, there is often a fuel saving of several percent.

 

January 31, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Tyne And Wear Metro: Swiss Firm Stadler To Build New Fleet

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

Swiss firm Stadler has won a £362m contract to build a new fleet of trains for the Tyne and Wear Metro.

And this is one of Stadler’s visualisations of the trains for the Tyne and Wear Metro (T & W).

Compare this with a Stadler picture of a Class 777 train, that will soon be appearing on Merseyrail in Liverpool.

They would appear to be two very similar trains.

  • The same headlights and stylised M on the front.
  • One pair of double passenger doors in the first car.
  • Both new trains are articulated with four sections.
  • Train widths are Merseyrail Old – 2.82 metres, T & W Old – 2.65 metres and Merseyrail New – 2.82 metres.
  • The Merseyrail trains have a 75 mph operating speed and the T & W trains have one of only 50 mph.

The T & W trains have a pantograph and overhead electrification and the Merseyrail trains use third-rail electrification.

More Details On The Tyne And Wear Trains

This page on the NEXUS web site is entitled Nexus Unveils £362m New Tyne And Wear Metro Trains.

This is two paragraphs.

The new trains will cut Metro’s high voltage power consumption by 30% while providing 15 times better reliability than the current fleet. Metro’s 36 million passengers will benefit from modern features including wifi, charging points, air conditioning and a step-change in accessibility.

Among new features will be an automatic sliding step at every door of the new trains, making travel easier for Metro’s 50,000 wheelchair passengers as well as people with children’s buggies, luggage or bicycles.

The size of the energy saving, indicates that the trains will probably be using regenerative braking.

As it has been disclosed that the new Merseyrail trains will have a small battery for depot movements, will this also be used to handle the regenerative braking.

More details of the trains will be disclosed in the coming months.

Merseyrail And The Tyne And Wear Metro Are Similar

I have ridden Merseyrail many times and the Tyne and Wear Metro perhaps five times and it is surprising how similar the two systems are.

  • They are partly in tunnel.
  • There are a range of stations, including both ancient and modern, simple and complex.
  • Merseyrail is powered by 750 VDC third rail electrification and T & W by 1500 VDC overhead electrification. The power electronics on the two fleets, won’t be that different.
  • Both operators have ambitions to use 25 KVAC overhead electrification to extend services.
  • Both operators have ambitions to extend services on lines, that currently have no electrification. Merseyrail want to go to Preston, Skelmersdale, Warrington and Wrexham and T & W want to go to Blyth and Ashington.

It is no surprise to me, that Merseyrail and T & W have chosen to use two versions of the same Stadler train.

Expansion Of The Networks

Both networks are ambitious  and it appears to me, that they have ordered a train, that could be used to expand their networks.

Merseyrail

Merseyrail have proposed these expansions at various times.

  • Extension of the Northern Line from Ormskirk to Preston
  • Extension of the Northern Line from Hunts Cross to Warrington
  • Incorporation of the Borderlands Line from Bidston to Wrexham into the Wirral Line as a new branch.
  • A new branch of the Northern Line to Skelmersdale via the new station at Headbolt Lane.
  • Passenger services on the Canada Dock Branch.

Merseyrail now have the trains to handle this expansion.

  • They may need to purchase a few extra trains.
  • Some charging points or electrification may be needed.

Note that Bidston and Wrexham is less than thirty miles of unelectrified line, so I suspect that the new trains can handle this range.

Other places within a similar range include.

  • Preston from Ormskirk
  • Wigan Wallgate from Kirkby
  • Manchester Oxford Road from Hunts Cross, via Warrington Central.
  • Chester from Liverpool Lime Street via Runcorn, Frodsham and Helsby.

The four terminal stations all have existing bay platforms.

Tyne And Wear Metro

The Tyne And Wear Metro have proposed these expansions at various times.

  • Sunderland city centre to Doxford Park
  • South Shields to Sunderland
  • Washington, either via the disused Leamside line or a new route

But as the Government is funding a study into linking Blyth and Ashington to Newcastle, which I wrote about in £500m Fund To Restore Beeching Rail Cuts Goes Ahead Amid Criticism, I wouldn’t be surprised that this route is developed.

A lot of my comments about expanding the Merseyrail network, can be applied to the T & W.

  • They may need to purchase a few extra trains.
  • Some charging points or electrification may be needed.

None of the proposed extensions seem particularly long and places like Blyth, Ashington and Washington should be able to be reached on battery power.

Tram-Train Operation

The Wikipedia entry for Merseyrail has a section called tram-trains.

Two possible routes are indicated.

  • Liverpool Lime Street to John Lennon Airport, using street-running from Liverpool South Parkway.
  • Kings Dock to Edge Hill

I have heard others mentioned.

The Wikipedia entry for the Tyne and Wear Metro also mentions street-running.

Stadler have extensive experience of trams and tram-trains and built the Class 399 tram-trains for the Sheffield Supertram.

Stadler also provided the trains for the unique tram-train system in the German town of Zwickau, where diesel multiples units share the tram tracks to access the town centre.

The picture shows the train at its stop in the centre.

I’m sure Stadler know how to enable street-running with the UK’s smaller trains.

Stadler’s trains, trams and tram trains also seem to have a high degree of articulation and seem to be able to take tight corners with ease.

The picture was taken inside a Class 399 tram-train, as it traversed the tight curve under the M1 motorway, where the tram and the train sections of the route to Rotherham join.

Looking at the pictures of the Class 777 trains, I feel they could be able to take tighter curves than most trains.

The Dead Elephant In The Room

Several local services on Merseyside and in the North East are run by Northern, which is now being taken over the Government.

The Department for Transport, hasn’t disclosed any plans yet, but it is likely that some routes could be handed to Merseyrail and the T & W.

There is a loose precedent for this happening. In North-East London the poorly performing Lea Valley Lines from Liverpool Street to Chingford, Cheshunt and Enfield Town were moved from Greater Anglia to London Overground in 2015. No-one feels they should be returned and there are rumours that more services in the area will move to the London Overground.

So what services could be moved?

Merseyrail

These diesel services could surely be moved to Merseyrail.

  • Omrskirk and Preston – 16 miles
  • Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Oxford Road via Warrington Central – 27 miles

The distances are the length of track without electrification.

It could also be argued that Greater Manchester would get its share of the Northern routes, but I can envisage Class 777 trains or similar running the following routes.

  • Southport and Manchester Victoria – 27 miles
  • Kirkby and Manchester Victoria – 28 miles

As before, the distances are the length of track without electrification, but these could be reduced considerably with electrification from Salford Crescent to Wigan Wallgate.

It should be noted that Greater Manchester has ambitions to run tram-trains to Wigan Wallgate via various routes.

The demise of Northern probably allows these routes to be taken over by Greater Manchester.

  • Manchester Piccadilly and Buxton – 16 miles
  • Manchester Piccadilly and Hadfield/Glossop – Electrified
  • Manchester Victoria and Blackburn – 14 miles
  • Manchester Victoria and Clitheroe – 24 miles
  • Manchester Victoria and Rochdale – 11 miles
  • Manchester Victoria and Stalybridge – 8 miles
  • Manchester Victoria and Wigan Wallgate – 10 miles

Again, the distances are the length of track without electrification.

Buxton and Clitheroe could be difficult because of the gradients involved, but as in South Wales, bi-modes might be the solution if the routes were run back-to-back.

This simple analysis shows how Northern’s demise will ask questions all over the North.

Tyne And Wear Metro

These diesel services could surely be moved to the T & W.

  • Newcastle and Morpeth – Electrified
  • Newcastle and Chathill- Electrified

I also think, that these services could be restructured, if the Blyth and Ashington routes are developed for the T & W.

The trains could also reach to Hexham, which is just 22 miles from electrification.

Middlesbrough is probably too far, as the station is thirty five miles from the electrification at Sunderland.

But electrification of the Durham Coast Line would allow the T & W Metro to serve the new station at Howden and reach Middlesbrough and possibly Nunthorpe.

Conclusion

I can see both Merseyrail and the Tyne and Wear Metro significantly extending their networks in the next few years.

The new trains, with their batteries and dual-voltage capability are built for expansion.

Tram-train or street running will help.

Several important new areas are within battery range.

I can also see other cities using similar Stadler technology to create local Metros.

Manchester, Middlesbrough, Preston and Sheffield come to mind.

Using similar technology would surely allow joint services and sharing of knowledge and designs to enable cost savings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 31, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments