The Anonymous Widower

Thoughts On East Coast Trains

According to an article and a picture, the second new Class 803 train for Open Access Operator; East Coast Trains, has arrived in the UK to be fitted out at Newton Aycliffe.

These are my thoughts on the service.

The Trains

The Class 803 trains are similar to the other Hitachi A-trains running in the UK, but with two big differences.

  • They will have a one class interior and they will be fitted with a battery, instead of a diesel engine.
  • The battery is not for traction and is to provide hotel power in stations and in the event of a dewiring. The latter has been surprisingly common on the East Coast Main Line in recent years.

Normally, these five-car trains are fitted with a single MTU 12V 1600 R80L diesel engine, which is described in this datasheet on the MTU web site.

The mass of the engine is given as 6750 Kg, when it is ready to run.

It would seem logical to replace the diesel engine with a battery of the same weight. I’ll use seven tonnes, as the fuel tank won’t be needed either.

This page on the Clean Energy institute at the University of Washington is entitled Lithium-Ion Battery.

This is a sentence from the page.

Compared to the other high-quality rechargeable battery technologies (nickel-cadmium or nickel-metal-hydride), Li-ion batteries have a number of advantages. They have one of the highest energy densities of any battery technology today (100-265 Wh/kg or 250-670 Wh/L).

Using these figures, a seven-tonne battery would be between 700 and 1855 kWh in capacity.

Incidentally, the power output of an MTU 12V 1600 R80L is 700 kW.

In Sparking A Revolution I gave Hitachi’s possible specification of a battery-electric train.

  • Range – 55-65 miles
  • Performance – 90-100 mph
  • Recharge – 10 minutes when static
  • Routes – Suburban near electrified lines
  • Battery Life – 8-10 years

These figures are credited to Hitachi.

Doing a quick calculation, it would appear that.

  • A 700 kWh battery could supply the same power as the diesel engine for an hour.
  • A 1855 kWh battery could supply the same power as the diesel engine for two hours and thirty-nine minutes.

I am drawn to the conclusion, that although Hitachi say the battery is not for traction purposes in a Class 803 train, that a battery the same weight as the current diesel engine, would be a very adequate replacement.

If say, you put a 300-500 kWh battery in a Class 803 train, it would probable give enough hotel power until the train was able to move again. but it would also reduce the weight of the train and thus improve the acceleration in normal running.

A Battery Module

I wouldn’t be surprised if Hitachi are developing a battery module, that can replace the MTU 12V 1600 R80L diesel engine.

  • The module would be used for both traction and hotel services on the train.
  • It would be charged from the electrification or by regenerative braking.
  • It would act as emergency power.
  • To the driver and the train’s computer, it would have similar performance to the diesel engine.

The diesel engine and the battery module would be plug-compatible and could be exchanged as required.

I can do a quick calculation for a 1000 kWh battery, which would weigh under four tonnes.

  • A 1000 kWh battery would provide 700 kW for 86 minutes.
  • At 90 mph, the train would travel for 129 miles.
  • At 100 mph, the train would travel for 143 miles.

That would be a very handy extended range.

As East Coast Trains will only run on a fully-electrified route, they have no need for the traction capability.

  • But it would fit well with the routes of Avanti West Coast, East Midlands Railway, Great Western Railway, Hull Trains, LNER and TransPennine Express.
  • All except East Midlands Railway and LNER, share part or full ownership with East Coast Trains.

It does look to me, that Hitachi is using East Coast Trains and their fully electrified route to give the battery module for the trains, a thorough work-out, on a route, where it will not normally be needed.

The Proposed Service

From various sources we know the following.

  • There will be five trains per day in both directions between London Kings Cross and Edinburgh. – See Wikipedia
  • East Coast Trains have ordered five trains. – See Wikipedia.
  • There will be stops at Stevenage, Durham, Newcastle and Morpeth. – See Wikipedia
  • The first Northbound service will arrive in Edinburgh before 10:00. – See Rail Advent.
  • Fares will be low-cost at around £25 – See Wikipedia.

It is also likely that East Coast Trains will want a journey time of under four hours, which is being planned for the route anyway under the L2E4  project.

As the record time between London and Edinburgh was set in 1991 by an InterCity 225 train at a minute under three-and-a-half hours, could a time of around three hours and forty-five minutes be possible, including the turnaround of the train?

10:00 Arrival In Edinburgh

This is obviously a good idea, but with a four hour journey time, it would mean leaving London before six.

  • Perhaps to make the most of clear tracks in the morning the train would leave early.
  • Currently, the first two trains from Kings Cross are the 06:15 to Edinburgh, which arrives at 11:08 and the 06:33 to Leeds.
  • How early could the train leave?

I suspect that the first train to Edinburgh would leave Kings Cross around 05:30 and arrive in Edinburgh and be ready to return before 10:00.

10:00 Arrival In London

If arriving in Edinburgh before ten is a good idea, then surely arriving in London by the same time is worthwhile.

  • Currently, the first train from Edinburgh to London is the 05:48, which arrives at 10:40.

As with the Northbound service, I suspect the first train to Kings Cross would leave Edinburgh around 05:30 and arrive in Kings Cross and be ready to return before 10:00.

Five Services Per Day

If the first Edinburgh and  Kings Cross services left at 05:30 and after unloading and loading, were ready to return before 10:00, that would be the first service.

The simplest way to handle the rest of the day would be to split the time into four and run the trains continuously.

Suppose, the last train got to its destination at one in the morning, that would mean that fifteen hours were available for four trains or three hours and forty-five minutes for each trip between London and Edinburgh and the turnaround.

The train starting from Kings Cross would run the following services.

  • Kings Cross to Edinburgh – Leaves 05:30 – Arrives before 10:00
  • Edinburgh to Kings Cross – Leaves 10:00
  • Kings Cross to Edinburgh – Leaves 13:45
  • Edinburgh to Kings Cross- Leaves 17:30
  • Kings Cross to Edinburgh – Leaves 21:15 – Arrives 01:00 on the next day.

The train starting from Edinburgh would run the following services.

  • Edinburgh to Kings Cross – Leaves 05:30 – Arrives before 10:00
  • Kings Cross to Edinburgh – Leaves 10:00
  • Edinburgh to Kings Cross – Leaves 13:45
  • Kings Cross to Edinburgh – Leaves 17:30
  • Edinburgh to Kings Cross – Leaves 21:15 – Arrives 01:00 on the next day.

There would be two very tired trains at the end of every day, that would be looking forward to some well-deserved tender loving care.

This has been my best guess at what the timetable will be! But!

  • Travellers can catch an early train, do a full days work in the other capital and return at the end of the day.
  • There are three services during the day; one each in the morning, the afternoon and the early evening, for those who want affordable, slightly less frenetic travelling.
  • I suspect the intermediate stops have been chosen with care.
  • Improvements at Stevenage station could make the station, the preferred interchange for many between East Coast, LNER and local services for Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and North London. Car parking is probably easier than Kings Cross!
  • Is Durham station an alternative station on the other side of the Tyne from Newcastle, with better parking?
  • Could Durham City Centre be the terminal of a Leamside Line extension of the Tyne and Wear Metro?
  • Newcastle station is very well-connected to all over the North East.
  • Morpeth station could attract a large number of travellers from over the Border. It also looks to have space to expand the parking!

It looks a well-designed route and timetable.

How Many Trains Would Be Needed?


  • Each train could be two five-car trains working together as a ten-car train.
  • This would maximise the use of paths on the East Coast Main Line.
  • Four trains would be needed for the full five trains per day ten-car service.

As there is going to be a fleet of five trains, the fifth train would either be in maintenance or waiting to enter the action as a substitute.

Improving Efficiency

It looks to me, that the efficiency of this service could be improved by good old-fashioned time and motion study.

  • Will  drivers use stepping-up to speed the reverse of trains?
  • Would cleaning teams board at Morpeth and Stevenage stations and clean the train on the last leg?
  • Will the buffet be designed for fast replenishment?
  • Will drivers be given all possible aids to go faster?

Every little will help!


I like this system and the competition will keep LNER on its toes!

Would a similar system work on the West Coast Main Line?

  • Grand Union have proposed a service between Euston and Stirling stations.
  • There will be stops at Milton Keynes Central, Nuneaton, Crewe, Preston, Carlisle, Lockerbie, Motherwell, Whifflet, Greenfaulds and Larbert.
  • Trains will be InterCity 225s.

The service could start in 2021.












June 3, 2020 - Posted by | Transport | , , , , ,


  1. […] The East Coast Trains fleet on the East Coast Main Line, will have to work hard to maintain a demanding schedule, as I outlined in Thoughts On East Coast Trains. […]

    Pingback by Could Some of Hitachi’s Existing Trains In The UK Be Converted To Battery-Electric Trains? « The Anonymous Widower | June 8, 2020 | Reply

  2. […] that in Thoughts On East Coast Trains, I said this service would stop at Durham, as that was said in Wikipedia at the […]

    Pingback by Beeching Reversal – Ferryhill Station Reopening « The Anonymous Widower | December 13, 2020 | Reply

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