The Anonymous Widower

Could Battery-Electric Hitachi Trains Work Chiltern Railways’s Services?

Before I answer this question, I will lay out a few specifications and the current status.

Hitachi’s Proposed Battery Electric Train

Based on information in an article in Issue 898 of Rail Magazine, which is entitled Sparking A Revolution, the specification of Hitachi’s proposed battery-electric train is given as follows.

  • Based on Class 800-802/804 trains or Class 385 trains.
  • Range of 55-65 miles.
  • Operating speed of 90-100 mph
  • Recharge in ten minutes when static.
  • A battery life of 8-10 years.
  • Battery-only power for stations and urban areas.

For this post, I will assume that the train is four or five cars long.

Chiltern Railways’ Main Line Services

These are Chiltern Railways services that run on the Chiltern Main Line.

London Marylebone And Gerrards Cross

  • The service runs at a frequency of one train per hour (tph)
  • Intermediate stations are Wembley Stadium, Sudbury & Harrow Road, Sudbury Hill Harrow, Northolt Park, West Ruislip, Denham and Denham Golf Club

The service is nineteen miles long and takes thirty minutes.

It should be possible to run this service with trains charged at one end of the route.

London Marylebone And High Wycombe

  • The service runs at a frequency of one tph
  • Intermediate stations are Wembley Stadium,  South Ruislip, Gerrards Cross and Beaconsfield
  • Some services terminate in a bay platform 1 at High Wycombe station.

The service is twenty-eight miles long and takes forty-two minutes.

It should be possible to run this service with trains charged at one end of the route.

London Marylebone And Aylesbury Via High Wycombe

  • The service runs at a frequency of one tph
  • Intermediate stations are Gerrards Cross, Seer Green and Jordans, Beaconsfield, High Wycombe, Saunderton, Princes Risborough, Monks Risborough and Little Kimble
  • This service usually terminates in Platform 1 at Aylesbury station.

The service is 43.5 miles long and takes sixty-six minutes.

It should be possible to run this service with trains charged at both ends of the route.

London Marylebone And Banbury (And Stratford-upon-Avon)

  • The service runs at a frequency of one tph
  • Intermediate stations for the Banbury service are Denham Golf Club, Gerrards Cross, Beaconsfield, High Wycombe, Princes Risborough, Haddenham & Thame Parkway, Bicester North and Kings Sutton.
  • Intermediate stations for the Stratford-upon-Avon service are Denham Golf Club, Gerrards Cross, Beaconsfield, High Wycombe, Princes Risborough, Haddenham & Thame Parkway, Bicester North and Kings Sutton, Banbury, Leamington Spa, Warwick, Hatton, Claverdon, Bearley, Wilmcote and Stratford-upon-Avon Parkway.

The Banbury service is 69 miles long and takes one hour and forty-five minutes.

The Stratford-upon-Avon service is 104 miles long and takes two hours and twenty-two minutes.

Running these two services will need a bit of ingenuity.

Leamington Spa And Birmingham Moor Street

  • The service runs at a frequency of one train per two hours (tp2h)
  • Intermediate stations for the service are Warwick, Hatton, Lapworth, Dorridge and Solihull.

The service is 23 miles long and takes forty-one minutes.

It should be possible to run this service with trains charged at one end of the route.

London Marylebone And Birmingham Moor Street

  • The service runs at a frequency of one tph
  • Intermediate stations for the service are High Wycombe, Banbury, Leamington Spa, Warwick Parkway and Solihull.

The service is 112 miles long and takes one hour and forty-four minutes.

It should be possible to run this service with trains charged at both ends of the route and also fully charged somewhere in the middle.

Distances from London Marylebone of the various stations are.

  • High Wycombe – 28 miles
  • Bicester North – 55 miles
  • Banbury – 69 miles
  • Leamington Spa – 89 miles
  • Warwick – 91 miles
  • Warwick Parkway – 92 miles
  • Solihull – 105 miles

Consider.

  • It looks like a fully-charged train from London Marylebone could reach Bicester North, but not Banbury, with a 55-65 mile battery range.
  • Travelling South, Bicester North could be reached with a fully-charged train from Birmingham Moor Street.

But it would appear to be too marginal to run a reliable service.

London Marylebone And Birmingham Snow Hill

  • The service runs at a frequency of one tph
  • Intermediate stations for the service are Bicester North, Banbury, Leamington Spa, Warwick, Warwick Parkway, Dorridge, Solihull and Birmingham Moor Street

The service is 112 miles long and takes two hours and a minute.

It should be possible to run this service with trains charged at both ends of the route and also fully charged somewhere in the middle.

London Marylebone And Kidderminster

Some services between London Marylebone and Birmingham Snow Hill are extended to Kidderminster.

The distance between Kidderminster and Birmingham Snow Hill is twenty miles and the service takes forty-two minutes.

London Marylebone And Oxford

  • The service runs at a frequency of two tph
  • Intermediate stations for the service are High Wycombe, Haddenham & Thame Parkway, Bicester Village, Islip and, Oxford Parkway.
  • The service runs into dedicated platforms at Oxford station.

The service is 67 miles long and takes one hour and nine minutes.

It should be possible to run this service with trains charged at both ends of the route and some supplementary charging somewhere in the middle.

Chiltern’s Aylesbury Line Services

These are Chiltern Railway‘s services that run on the London And Aylesbury Line (Amersham Line).

London Marylebone And Aylesbury (And Aylesbury Vale Parkway) via Amersham

  • The service runs at a frequency of two tph
  • Intermediate stations are Harrow-on-the-Hill, Rickmansworth, Chorleywood, Chalfont & Latimer, Amersham, Great Missenden, Wendover and Stoke Mandeville.
  • It appears that there is sufficient time at Aylesbury Vale Parkway in the turnround to charge the train using a Fast Charge system.

The Aylesbury service is 39 miles long and takes one hour.

The Aylesbury Vale Parkway service is 41 miles long and takes one hour and twelve minutes.

It should be possible to run both services with trains charged at both ends of the route.

 

Chiltern Railways’ Future Train Needs

Chiltern Railways will need to add to or replace some or all of their fleet in the near future for various reasons.

Decarbonisation

Chiltern are probably the passenger train operating company, with the lowest proportion of zero-carbon trains. It scores zero for zero-carbon!

Government policy of an extinction date of 2040 was first mentioned by Jo Johnson, when he was Rail Minister in February 2018.

As new trains generally last between thirty and forty years and take about five years to design and deliver, trains ordered tomorrow, will probably still be running in 2055, which is fifteen years after Jo Johnson’s diesel extinction date.

I feel that, all trains we order now, should be one of the following.

  • All-electric
  • Battery-electric
  • Hydrogen-electric
  • Diesel electric trains, that can be converted to zero-carbon, by the replacement of the diesel power, with an appropriate zero-carbon source.

Hitachi seem to be designing an AT-300 diesel-electric train for Avanti West Coast, where the diesel engines can be replaced with batteries, according to an article in the January 2020 Edition of Modern Railways.

Pollution And Noise In And Around Marylebone Station

This Google Map shows the area around Marylebone station.

Cinsider.

  • Marylebone station is in the South-East corner of the map.
  • The station is surrounded by some of the most expensive real estate in London.
  • A lot of Chiltern’s trains do not meet the latest regulations for diesel trains.
  • Blackfriars, Cannon Street, Charing Cross, Euston, Fenchurch Street, Kings Cross, Liverpool Street, London Bridge, Paddington, St. Pancras, Victoria and Waterloo stations are diesel-free or have plans to do so.

Will the residents, the Greater London Council and the Government do something about improving Chiltern’s pollution and noise?

New trains would be a necessary part of the solution.

New And Extended Services

Consider.

  • Chiltern plan to extend the Aylesbury Parkway service to Milton Keynes in connection with East West Rail. This service would appear to be planned to run via High Wycombe and Princes Risborough.
  • There has also been proposals for a new Chiltern terminus at Old Oak Common in West London to connect to Crossrail, High Speed Two and the London Overground.
  • Chiltern could run a service between Oxford and Birmingham Moor Street.
  • With the demise of the Croxley Rail Link around Watford, Chiltern could be part of a revived solution.
  • In Issue 899 of Rail Magazine in an article entitled Calls For Major Enhancement To Oxford And Didcot Route, it states that there will be three tph between Oxford and Marylebone, two of which will start from a new station at Cowley.

Chiltern certainly have been an expansionist railway in the past.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Chiltern ordering new trains.

As I said earlier, I suspect they wouldn’t want to order some new short-life diesel trains.

125 mph Running

Consider.

  • The West Coast Main Line has an operating speed of 125 mph.
  • East West Rail is being built for an operating speed of 125 mph.
  • Some parts of the Chiltern Main Line could be electrified and upgraded to 125 mph operation.

For these reasons, some of Chiltern’s new fleet must be capable of modification, so it can run at 125 mph, where it is possible.

100 mph Trains

Around half of Chiltern’s fleet are 100 mph trains, but the other half, made up of Class 165 trains only have a 75 mph operating speed.

Running a fleet, where all trains have a similar performance, must give operational and capacity improvements.

Increasing Capacity

Chiltern’s Main Line service to Birmingham is run using six Mark 3 carriages between a Class 68 locomotive and a driving van trailer.

These trains are 177.3 metres long and hold 444 passengers.

These trains are equivalent in length to a seven-car Hitachi Class AT-300 train, which I estimate would hold just over 500 passengers.

Changing some trains for a more modern design, could increase the passenger capacity, but without increasing the train length.

Aventi West Coast And High Speed Two

Chiltern’s services to Birmingham will come under increasing pressure from Avanti West Coast‘s revamped all-electric fleet, which within ten years should be augmented by High Speed Two.

It will be difficult selling the joys of comfortable diesel trains against the environmental benefits of all-electric zero-carbon faster trains.

Great Western Railway And Possible Electrification To Oxford

Chiltern’s services to Oxford will also come under increasing pressure from Great Western Railway’s services to Oxford.

  • When Crossrail opens, Paddington will be a much better terminal than Marylebone.
  • Crossrail will offer lots of new connections from Reading.
  • Great Western Railway could run their own battery-electric trains to Oxford.
  • Great Western Railway will be faster between London and Oxford at 38 minutes to Chiltern’s 65 minutes.

Will new trains be needed on the route to retain passengers?

Will Chiltern Have Two Separate Fleets?

Currently, Chiltern Railways have what is effectively  two separate fleets.

  • A Chiltern Main Line fleet comprised of five sets of six Mark 3 coaches, a Class 68 locomotive and a driving van trailer.
  • A secondary fleet of thirty-four assorted diesel multiple units of various ages and lengths, which do everything else.

But would this be their fleet, if they went for a full renewal to fully-decarbonise?

Would they acquire more Main Line sets to work the services to Birmingham, Kidderminster and perhaps some other Midlands destinations?

Do the Oxford services require more capacity for both Oxford and Bicester Village and would more Main Line sets be a solution?

What destinations will be served and what trains will be needed to work services from new destinations like Milton Keynes and Old Oak Common?

I can see Chiltern acquiring two fleets of battery-electric trains.

  • Chiltern Main Line trains based on Hitachi AT-300 trains with between five and seven cars.
  • Suburban trains for shorter journeys, based on Hitachi Class 385 trains with perhaps four cars.

Both would be fairly similar under the skin.

Conclusion On Chiltern Railways’ Future Trains

I am very much drawn to the conclusion, that Chiltern will have to introduce a new fleet of zero-carbon trains.

Electrification would be a possibility, but have we got enough resources to carry out the work, at the same time as High Speed Two is being built?

Hydrogen might be a possibility, but it would probably lead to a loss of capacity on the trains.

Battery-electric trains might not be a solution, but I suspect they could be the best way to increase Chiltern’s fleet and decarbonise at the same time.

  • Hitachi’s basic train design is used by several train operating companies and appears to be well received, by Train operating companies, staff and passengers.
  • Hitachi appear to be well-advanced with a battery-electric version.
  • Hitachi seem to have sold the concept of battery-electric AT-300 trains to Avanti West Coast to replace their diesel-electric Class 221 trains.

The sale of trains to Avanti West Coast appears to be very significant, in that Hitachi will be delivering a diesel-electric fleet, that will then be converted to battery-electric.

I like this approach.

  • Routes can be converted gradually and the trains fully tested as diesel-electric.
  • Electrification and/or charging stations can be added, to the rail network.
  • As routes are ready, the trains can be converted to battery-electric.

It would appear to be a low-risk approach, that could ensure conversion of the fleet does not involve too much disruption to passengers.

Possible Electrification That Might Help Chiltern Railways

These lines are or could be electrified in the near future.

Amersham Line Between Harrow-on-the-Hill and Amersham Stations

The only electrified line on the Chiltern Railways network is the section of the Amersham Line between Harrow-on-the-Hill and Amersham stations.

  • It is electrified using London Underground’s system.
  • It is fourteen miles long and trains take twenty-two minutes.
  • London Marylebone and Harrow-on-the-Hill is a distance of only nine miles
  • Aylesbury and Amersham is a distance of only fifteen miles.

Could this be of use in powering Children Railways’ trains?

The maths certainly look promising, as if nothing else it means the maximum range of one of Hitachi’s proposed battery-electric trains is fourteen miles further, which may enable Chiltern’s proposed service between London Marylebone and Milton Keynes to reach the 25 KVAC electrification at Bletchley.

But if the new trains were to use the London Underground electrification, they would have to be dual-voltage units.

As Hitachi have already built dual-voltage Class 395 trains for the UK, I don’t think, that this will be a problem.

Dorridge/Whitlock’s End And Worcestershire via Birmingham Snow Hill

In the February 2020 Edition of Modern Railways, there is a feature, which is entitled West Midlands Builds For The Future.

This is said about electrification on the Snow Hill Lines.

Remodelling Leamington is just one of the aspirations WMRE has for upgrading the Great Western’s Southern approach to Birmingham, which serves a number of affluent suburbs, with growing passenger numbers. “Electrification of the Snow Hill Lines commuter network is something which we are keen to explore.’ says Mr. Rackliff.

As well as reducing global carbon emissions, yhis would also help reduce air pollution in central Birmingham and local population centres. ‘From a local perspective, we’d initially want to see electrification of the core network between Dorridge/Whitlock’s End and Worcestershire via Birmingham Snow Hill as a minimum, but from a national perspective it would make sense to electrify the Chiltern Main Line all the way to Marylebone.’

Note the following distances from Dorridge.

  • Leamington Spa – 13 miles
  • Banbury – 33 miles
  • Bicester North – 47 miles
  • High Wycombe – 74 miles

It looks as if, electrification of the Snow Hill Lines would allow trains to travel from Bicester or Banbury to Birmingham Moor Street, Birmingham Snow Hill or Kidderminster.

Reading And Nuneaton via Didcot, Oxford, Banbury, Leamington Spa And Coventry

This route, which is used by CrossCountry services and freight trains, has been mentioned in the past, as a route that may be electrified.

Note the following distances from Didcot.

  • Oxford – 10 miles
  • Ayhno Junction – 27 miles
  • Banbury 32 miles
  • Leamington Spa – 52 miles
  • Coventry – 62 miles
  • Nuneaton – 72 miles

Electrifying this route would link together the following lines.

Note that Aynho Junction is only 36 miles from High Wycombe and 64 miles from London Marylebone.

Fast Charging At Terminal Stations

Chiltern Railways use the following terminal stations.

  • Aylesbury station, where a bay platform is used.
  • Aylesbury Parkway station
  • Banbury station, where a bay platform is used.
  • Birmingham Moor Street station, where all bay platforms are used.
  • Birmingham Show Hill station
  • High Wycombe station, where a bay platform is used.
  • Kidderminster station
  • London Marylebone station, where all platforms are used.
  • Oxford station, where two North-facing bay platforms are used.
  • Stratford-upon-Avon station

I suspect that something like Viviarail’s Fast-Charge system, based on well-proven third-rail technology could be used.

  • This system uses a bank of batteries to transfer power to the train’s batteries.
  • The transfer is performed using modified high-quality third-rail electrification technology.
  • Battery-to-battery transfer is fast, due to the low-impedance of batteries.
  • The system will be able to connect automatically, without driver action.
  • The third-rail is only switched on, when a train is present.
  • The battery bank will be trickle-charged from any convenient power source.

Could the battery bank be installed under the track in the platform to save space?

If Network Rail and Chiltern Railways would prefer a solution based on 25 KVAC technology, I’m sure that Furrer and Frey or another electrification company have a solution.

Installing charging in a platform at a station, would obviously close the platform for a couple of months, but even converting all six platforms at Marylebone station wouldn’t be an impossible task.

Possible Electrification Between London Marylebone And Harrow-on-the-Hill

Consider.

  • All trains to Aylesbury have to travel between London Marylebone and Harrow-on-the-Hill stations, which is nine miles of track without electrification. It takes about twelve minutes.
  • Trains via High Wycombe use this section of track as far as Neasden South Junction, which is give miles and typically takes seven minutes.
  • Leaving Marylebone, these trains are accelerating, so will need more power.

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the lines around Neasden.

Note.

  1. The Chiltern Railways tracks are shown in black.
  2. Two tracks continue to the North-West to Harrow-on-the-Hill and Aylesbury.
  3. Two tracks continue to the West to Wembley Stdium station and High Wycombe.
  4. Two tracks continue South-East into Marylebone station, running non-stop.
  5. The Jubilee Line tracks in the middle are shown in silver,
  6. The Metropolitan Line tracks are shown in mauve.

These pictures were taken of the two Chiltern tracks from a Jubilee Line train running between West Hampstead and Wembley Park stations.

Note, that the tracks have no electrification and there is plenty of space.

I feel that to accelerate the trains out of Marylebone and make sure that the batteries are fully charged, that these tracks should be electrified.

There is space on this section for 25 KVAC overhead, but would it be better to use an electrified rail system?

  • As you approach Marylebone there are several tunnels, which might make installation of overhead wires difficult and disruptive.
  • There are London Underground tracks and their third and fourth rail electrification everywhere.
  • Between Harrow-on-the Hill and Amersham stations, Chiltern and Metropolitan Line trains share the same track, which is electrified to London Underground standards and used for traction power by the Metropolitan Line trains.
  • Trains connect and disconnect to third-rail electrification, without any complication and have been doing it for over a hundred years.

On the other hand, there are arguments against third-rail systems like safety and electrical inefficiency.

Running Chiltern’s Routes Using A Battery-Electric Train

I will now take each route in order and look at how battery-electric trains could run the route.

London Marylebone And Oxford

Consider.

  • This route is 67 miles.
  • An out and back trip is 134 miles.
  • The route is probably too long for the proposed Hitachi battery-electric train, without some intermediate charging.
  • Trains currently wait in the bay platforms at Oxford for up to thirty minutes, which is more than enough time to fully-charge the train for return to Marylebone.

When I outlined this route, I said this.

It should be possible to run this service with trains charged at both ends of the route and some supplementary charging somewhere in the middle.

I’m discussing this route first, as it has the complication of needing some form of intermediate charging.

The obvious place for some intermediate charging would be High Wycombe station.

  • It is 28 miles from Marylebone
  • It is 38 miles from Oxford
  • Trains seem to stop for a couple of minutes at High Wycombe.

As trains would only need to pick up a half-charge at the station, would it be possible for a train passing through High Wycombe to be able to use a Fast-Charge system, to give the battery a boost?

As a Control and Electrical Engineer by training, I think that this is more than possible.

It leads me to believe that with Fast Charging systems at Marylebone, Oxford and High Wycombe, Hitachi’s proposed battery-electric trains can run a reliable service between Marylebone and Oxford.

London Marylebone And Gerrards Cross

Consider.

  • This route is just nineteen miles.
  • An out and back trip is thirty-eight miles.
  • Trains appear to use a reversing siding to change tracks to return to London. They wait in the siding for up to thirty minutes, which is more than enough time to fully-charge the train for return to Marylebone.

I am fairly sure, that this route could be run by trains charged at Marylebone station only.

However, if charging is needed at Gerrards Cross, there is plenty of time, for this to be performed in the reversing siding.

It might even be reversed with all charging taking place at Gerrards Cross, so that fast turnrounds can be performed in Marylebone station.

London Marylebone And High Wycombe

Consider.

  • This route is just twenty-eight miles.
  • An out and back trip is fifty-six miles.
  • Trains wait in the bay platform for up to thirty minutes, which is more than enough time to fully-charge the train for return to Marylebone.

Everything said for the Gerrards Cross service would apply to the High Wycombe service.

London Marylebone And Banbury

Consider.

  • This route is 69 miles.
  • An out and back trip is 138 miles.
  • The route is probably too long for the proposed Hitachi battery-electric train, without some intermediate charging.
  • Trains wait in platform 4 at Banbury for around thirty minutes, which is more than enough time to fully-charge the train for return to Marylebone.
  • Trains call at High Wycombe station.

As with the Marylebone and Oxford route, this route will need some intermediate charging and as with the Oxford service, High Wycombe is the obvious choice,

High Wycombe is only 41 miles from Banbury, which is well within range of Hitachi’s proposed battery-electric train.

London Marylebone And Stratford-upon-Avon

Consider.

  • This route is 104 miles.
  • An out and back trip is 208 miles.
  • The distance between Stratford-upon-Avon and Banbury is 35 miles.
  • The route is probably too long for the proposed Hitachi battery-electric train, without some intermediate charging.
  • Trains wait in Platform 1 at Stratford-upon-Avon for over thirty minutes, which is more than enough time to fully-charge the train for return to Marylebone.
  • Trains call at Banbury station, where they wait for several minutes.
  • Trains call at High Wycombe station.

As with the Marylebone and Oxford and Marylebone and Banbury routes, this route will need some intermediate charging and as with the Oxford and Banbury services, High Wycombe is the obvious choice,

But this route could also use the Fast Charging system at Banbury.

London Marylebone And Birmingham Moor Street

Consider.

  • This route is 112 miles.
  • An out and back trip is 224 miles.
  • The distance between Birmingham Moor Street and Banbury is 43 miles.
  • The route is probably too long for the proposed Hitachi battery-electric train, without some intermediate charging.
  • Trains wait in the bay platform at Birmingham Moor Street for thirteen minutes, which is more than enough time to fully-charge the train for return to Marylebone.
  • Trains call at Banbury and High Wycombe stations.

As with the Marylebone and Stratford-upon-Avon route, this route will need some intermediate charging and as with the Stratford-upon-Avon service, High Wycombe and Banbury are the obvious choice,

London Marylebone And Birmingham Snow Hill

Consider.

  • This route is 112 miles.
  • An out and back trip is 224 miles.
  • The distance between Birmingham Snow Hill and Banbury is 43 miles.
  • The route is probably too long for the proposed Hitachi battery-electric train, without some intermediate charging.
  • Trains wait in the bay platform at Birmingham Snow Hill for ten minutes, which is more than enough time to fully-charge the train for return to Marylebone.
  • Trains call at Banbury and High Wycombe stations.

As with the Marylebone and Stratford-upon-Avon route, this route will need some intermediate charging and as with the Stratford-upon-Avon service, High Wycombe and Banbury are the obvious choice,

London Marylebone And Kidderminster

Consider.

  • This route is 132 miles.
  • An out and back trip is 264 miles.
  • The distance between Kidderminster and Banbury is 63 miles.
  • The route is probably too long for the proposed Hitachi battery-electric train, without some intermediate charging.
  • Trains call at Banbury and High Wycombe stations.

As with the Marylebone and Stratford-upon-Avon and Birmingham routes, this route will need some intermediate charging and as with the Stratford-upon-Avon and Birmingham services, High Wycombe and Banbury are the obvious choice,

London Marylebone And Aylesbury Via High Wycombe

Consider.

  • The route is 43.5 miles
  • An out and back trip is 87 miles.
  • The route is probably short enough for the proposed Hitachi battery-electric train, to run the route without intermediate charging.
  • This service usually terminates in Platform 1 at Aylesbury station, where trains wait for up to thirteen minutes, which is more than enough time to fully-charge the train for return to Marylebone.
  • The train will also be fully-charged at Marylebone.

It looks that this route could be easily handled with charging at both ends of the route, but if there has been a charging error, the train can obviously make a pit-stop at High Wycombe to give the battery a top-up.

London Marylebone And Aylesbury Via Amersham

Consider.

  • The route is 39 miles
  • An out and back trip is 78 miles.
  • The route is probably short enough for the proposed Hitachi battery-electric train, to run the route without intermediate charging.
  • This service usually terminates in Platform 3 at Aylesbury station, where trains wait for up to twenty minutes, which is more than enough time to fully-charge the train for return to Marylebone.
  • The train will also be fully-charged at Marylebone.

It looks that this route could be easily handled with charging at both ends of the route, but if there has been a charging error, the train can obviously make a pit-stop at High Wycombe to give the battery a top-up.

London Marylebone And Aylesbury Vale Parkway Via Amersham

Consider.

  • The route is 41 miles
  • An out and back trip is 82 miles.
  • The route is probably short enough for the proposed Hitachi battery-electric train, to run the route without intermediate charging.
  • This service usually terminates in Platform 1 at Aylesbury Vale Parkway station, where trains wait for up to nine minutes, which is more than enough time to fully-charge the train for return to Marylebone.
  • The train will also be fully-charged at Marylebone.

It looks that this route could be easily handled with charging at both ends of the route, but if there has been a charging error, the train can obviously make a pit-stop at Aylesbury to give the battery a top-up.

Leamington Spa And Birmingham Moor Street

Consider.

  • The route is 23 miles
  • An out and back trip is 46 miles.
  • This service usually terminates in a bay platform at Birmingham Moor Street station, where trains wait for up to twenty minutes, which is more than enough time to fully-charge the train for return to Leamington Spa.

I am fairly sure, that this route could be run by trains charged at Bitmingham Moor Street station only.

New And Extended Services

These services are planned or have been mentioned as possibilities.

London Marylebone And Milton Keynes Via High Wycombe, Princes Risborough, Aylesbury And Aylesbury Vale Parkway

This is the new service that Chiltern will start running in the next few years.

Consider.

  • I estimate the distance between Aylesbury Vale Parkway and Bletchley, where 25 KVAC overhead electrification starts is 18 miles, with Milton Keynes a further three miles.
  • The distance between Marylebone and Bletchley via High Wycombe would be 63.5 miles.
  • The route is probably short enough for the proposed Hitachi battery-electric train, to run the route without intermediate charging.
  • Charging would normally be in Milton Keynes and Marylebone, with a certain amount of charging from the 25 KVAC between Bletchley and Milton Keynes.

It looks that this route could be handled with charging at both ends of the route, but if there has been a charging error, the train can obviously make a pit-stop at High Wycombe or Aylesbury to give the battery a top-up.

Birmingham Moor Street And Oxford

Consider.

  • Birmingham Moor Street station could have more South-facing bay platforms.
  • Birmingham Moor Street station is only a short walk from the new High Speed Two station at Birmingham Curzon Street.
  • Oxford station has two North-facing bay platforms.
  • Oxford station and Aynho Junction is only twenty miles and well within battery range, if High Wycombe and Banbury is electrified.
  • Banbury and Oxford currently takes 23 minutes.
  • Banbury and Birmingham Moor Street currently takes 44 minutes

It looks like a Birmingham Moor Street and Oxford service would take one hour and seven minutes.

London Marylebone And The Cowley Branch

This proposed service is probably about four to five miles further on from Oxford station.

There may be problems with how the track is laid out, but with a charging station at the end of the branch, I doubt that distance would be a problem.

Croxley Rail Link Proposal

I said this earlier.

With the demise of the Croxley Rail Link around Watford, Chiltern could be part of a revived solution.

The original plan died a long time ago, but could there be a simpler Chiltern-based solution?

  • Rebuild the railway between Croxley and Watford High Street stations.
  • Build new stations at Watford Vicarage Road and Cassiobridge.
  • A single track link would be more affordable could certainly handle two tph and possibly four.
  • Chiltern would run a two tph service between Watford Junction and Aylesbury stations.
  • The service would call at Watford High Street, Watford Vicarage Road, Cassiobridge, Croxley, Rickmansworth, Chorleywood, Chalfont & Latimer, Amersham, Great Missenden, Wendover and Stoke Mandeville.

I’m sure a more comprehensive scheme than the original one can be devised.

Important Stations

These are some of the more important stations and a few notes.

Aylesbury

As Chiltern develops the network in the next few years, these services could run to and/or through Aylesbury station.

  • One tph – London Marylebone and Aylesbury via High Wycombe
  • One tph – London Marylebone and Aylesbury via Amersham
  • One tph – London Marylebone and Aylesbury Vale Parkway via Amersham
  • One tph – London Marylebone and Milton Keynes via High Wycombe and Aylesbury Vale Parkway (new service)

I could also see a two tph service between Watford Junction and Aylesbury via Amersham.

Summing all this up means that two tph go via High Wycombe and four tph go via Amersham.

This Google Map shows Aylesbury station.

Note.

  1. Platforms are numbered 1 to 3 from South to North.
  2. Trains going South via High Wycombe call in Platforms 1 or 2.
  3. Trains going South via Amersham call in Platforms 2 and 3
  4. Trains going North call in Platforms 2 and 3.

These pictures show the station.

It is a spacious station, with step-free access and I feel that it could handle more services.

Banbury

I am sure that Banbury station, will be an important charging point for Chiltern’s battery-electric trains going North of Banbury.

This Google Map shows the layout of the recently-refurbished Banbury station.

Note.

  1. Platforms are numbered 1 to 4 from West to East.
  2. Trains going North call in Platforms 1 or 2.
  3. Trains going South call in Platforms 3 or 4.
  4. The Marylebone and London service usually turns back in Platform 4 after waiting there for over half-an-hour.
  5. Northbound Stratford-upon-Avon services generally use Platform 1, but most others generally use Playform 2.
  6. Southbound Stratford-upon-Avon services generally use Platform 4, but most others generally use Playform 3.

It looks to me, that Banbury station could handle the charging of trains as they pass through, as all of Chiltern’s services that serve destinations to the North of Banbury, stop at the station.

Hitachi are saying, that one of their proposed battery-electric trains needs ten minutes to be fully-charged.

So there may need to be some adjustment to the time-table to lengthen the stops at Banbury, to give ten minutes of charging time.

Alternatively, a few miles of electrification could be centred on Banbury, perhaps between Aynho Junction and Leamington Spa, which is a distance of twenty-six miles, which takes one of Chiltern’s trains around twenty-three minutes.

This would surely give enough time to fully-charge the batteries, but would also benefit CrossCountry, if they should go the battery-electric route.

I have followed the route between Aynho Junction and Leamington Spa in my helicopter and it would appear to be a fairly straight and uncomplicated route. I would say, it is about as difficult to electrify, as the Midland Main Line between Bedford and Kettering/Corby, which appears to have been one of Hetwork Rail’s better electrification projects, which should be delivered on time and has been installed without too much disruption to trains and passengers.

High Wycombe

It looks to me, that High Wycombe station will be an important charging point for Chiltern’s battery-electric trains going North to Oxford and Banbury.

Unlike Banbury, High Wycombe has not seen many changes over the years.

This Google Map shows High Wycombe station.

Note.

  1. Platforms are numbered 1 to 3 from South to North.
  2. Platform 1 is a bay platform that faces London.
  3. Platform 2 is the Westbound platform.
  4. Platform 3 is the Eastbound platform.
  5. High Wycombe has five tph in both directions, with an upgrade to six tph possible, after two tph run to the Cowley Branch.

The frequency of the trains through High Wycombe station could probably be handled by a Fast Charging system, but it would be tight to fit all current five services into an hour. It would appear to preclude any extra services going through High Wycombe, as there just isn’t enough time in an hour.

For this reason, I think that High Wycombe station needs full electrification, so that all passing trains can top up their batteries.

This gives the interesting possibility, that a train leaving High Wycombe for London with a full battery, would probably have enough charge in the battery to travel the 28 miles to London Marylebone and return. The train could always have a top-up at Marylebone.

So how far would the electrfication, through High Wycombe run?

Given that for operational reasons, it is probably best that pantographs are raised and lowered in stations, it is probably best if the various routes were electrified to the next station.

  • The Chiltern Main Line route would be electrified as far as Banbury station, where all trains stop. The distance would be 41 miles.
  • The Oxford route would be electrified as far as Bicester Village station, where all trains stop. The distance would be less than two miles from the Chiltern Main Line
  • The Aylesbury route would be electrified as far as Princes Risborough station, where all trains stop. This would be included in the Chiltern Main Line electrification.

It looks to me, that just 43 miles of double-track electrification would enable Hitachi’s proposed battery-electric trains to reach all parts of the Chiltern network.

Distances of the various destinations from the electrification are as follows.

  • Birmingham Moor Street – 43 miles
  • Birmingham Snow Hill – 43 miles
  • Kidderminster – 63 miles
  • Marylebone – 28 miles
  • Milton Keynes – 27 miles
  • Oxford – 38 miles
  • Oxford – Cowley – 43 miles
  • Stratford-upon-Avon  35 miles

Only Kidderminster could be tricky, but not if the Snow Hill Lines are electrified through Birmingham.

Electrification of the Chiltern Main Line between High Wycombe and Banbury with a number of Fast Charging systems in selected stations, would be my preferred option of enabling Hitachi’s proposed battery-electric trains to work the Chiltern network.

These pictures show High Wycombe station.

It does appear that the bridge at the Western end of the station my need to be modified, so that overhead wires can be threaded underneath.

Conclusion

Quite unexpectedly, I am pleasantly surprised.

Chiltern Railways’ current network can be run by Hitachi’s proposed battery-electric AT-300 trains.

  • Fast charging systems will be needed at Aylesbury, Aylesbury Vale Parkway, Banbury, Birmingham Moor Street, Birmingham Snow Hill, Gerrards Cross, High Wycombe, Kidderminster, Marylebone, Milton Keynes and Oxford.
  • Banbury and High Wycombe will need to be able to top-up trains as they pass through.
  • No large scale electrification will be needed. Although any new electrification will be greatly accepted!

As I indicated earlier, I would electrify the core part of the Chiltern Main Line route between High Wycombe and Banbury.

It would probably be a good idea to electrify a few miles at the Southern end of the line, where it runs into Marylebone station.

  • Marylebone and Harrow-on-the-Hill.
  • Marylebone and West Ruislip
  • Old Oak Common and West Ruislip.

I would use third-rail electrification to be compatible with London Underground and because of the automatic connection and disconnection.

But most surprisingly, there are already generous turnround times at most terminal stations, which give enough time to charge the trains.

It’s almost, as if Chiltern are preparing for battery-electric trains.

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 21, 2020 - Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. Hitachi have circa 15-20 battery trains (BEC819) operating in Japan for a number of years but they are limited to 30km branch lines but do achieve sub 10m recharges. They report cold weather increases charging time (chemistry issue) and that air conditioning load is a big power demand that needs to be factored in. These are standard EMU designs with the battery (360kwh) added to the trailer car and just need cabling up to the existing DC link of the traction inverter. So this is perfectly doable with any existing EMU in the UK fleet and the only real issue is whether its 3rd rail or OHL powered. The industry through RSSB/RDG should be working with ORR to get the basic principles, standards and H&S issues of the recharging connection sorted out as a matter of urgency.

    Looking at RSSB lead in this area they produced a report for DofT RAIL INDUSTRY DECARBONISATION TASKFORCE

    https://www.rssb.co.uk/-/media/Project/RSSB/Platform/Documents/Public/Public-content/Research-and-Technology/railindustrydecarbonisationtaskforceinitialreporttotherailministerjanuary202019pdf

    which didn’t give a lot of support to battery trains seeing them as short hop only. The report and its technical support report T1145 from RSSB didnt even reference the Japanese trains in there case studies. They get hung up about energy density and volume compared to hydrogen and diesel and in reality i suspect they were trying to sell OLE extension which is obviously essential over big parts of the network still. However, as i said previously on another of your blogs, the ability to fast charge is the game changer here and Vivarail have worked that out. Sadly the 230 is seen as a mickey mouse project by most people and unfortunately its poor showing on Bletchley to Bedford and heavy delay for TfW use isn’t helping there credibility despite the quality of what they achieved with the interior of the trains.

    Hitachi best bet is probably to get a 385 converted as the Scottish are signed up to getting on with decarbonising not talking about.

    Comment by Nicholas Lewis | February 23, 2020 | Reply

    • I rode the 379 train, with the luxury of sitting next to the Bombardier engineer watching the train on a laptop. Hitachi’s figures fit with what I was told. I do suspect that Bombardier haven’t released a UK battery train, as because of the troubles in the aerospace division, there’s no money for trains. This could also explain Bombardier’s troubles with the Aventra. No money, so no decent software people The engineer, that I spoke to, was confident they had a winner. Stadler on the other hand, who are well-funded have sold a fleet of battery trains to Scheswig Holstein.
      The future’s green! The future’s battery!
      At the moment I’m riding Chiltern to Aylesbury and I think battery operation on the route is even better, than I wrote in this article.
      I also wonder, if Vivarail have done a deal with Hitachi, as without doubt, Vivarail have found the best ways to charge batteries.
      No OLE and it can be powered by local renewables. It can also be made 100% safe from all those idiots, who trespass on the lines.

      Comment by AnonW | February 23, 2020 | Reply


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