The Anonymous Widower

Coronavirus: Protein Treatment Trial ‘A Breakthrough’

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

These are the first three paragraphs of the article.

The preliminary results of a clinical trial suggest a new treatment for Covid-19 reduces the number of patients needing intensive care, according to the UK company that developed it.

The treatment from Southampton-based biotech Synairgen uses a protein called interferon beta which the body produces when it gets a viral infection.

The protein is inhaled directly into the lungs of patients with coronavirus, using a nebuliser, in the hope that it will stimulate an immune response.

I first heard of Synairgen about five months ago, when I read about the company in the Sunday Times. It was only a few words, but it did say, that they were developing an inhaled beta interferon for use by Covid-19 patients or those with lung problems.

I should say, that I know about inhaled pharmaceuticals. Not because, I’ve ever used any, but because I funded the development of a very successful metered-dose inhaler for asthma drugs.

Two inventors; Stephen Dunne and Terry Weston came to me looking for finance to complete the development of an aerosol value, that instead of using CFCs or HCFCs as a propellant, used purified air. In fact it was pure nitrogen, but the average user of a deodorant or fly-spray doesn’t know that nitrogen is a constituent of air and thinks it’s posionous.

We formed a company called Dunne Miller Weston or DMW.

It was a technical success and the company’s MP; John Gummer, took details of the breakthrough to the conference that resulted in the Montreal Protocol.

The device and the associated patents were sold to Johnson & Johnson.

The two inventors had other ideas and one was for a metered dose inhaler for asthma drugs.

I remember that they were able to get a grant from Glaxo to prove the concept of the device.

Because, the full development would need more money, we now had a fourth partner; Mike.

I remember going with Mike to see Glaxo and we were unable to reach agreement on how Glaxo would contribute to the full development. They tended to give out these grants and I got the impression, that ours was one of the first to get a positive result and they didn’t know how to handle it.

But, it didn’t matter, as we were able to raise the funding from elsewhere and develop a successful device.

This was sold to Boehringer Ingelheim for a lot of money and all investors were very satisfied. Their product name is Respimat.

Glaxo carried on using an HCFC device.

I earned a reasonable about of money from my investment, but I also learned a lot about pharmaceuticals.

  • At the time, New Zealand had the highest level of asthma inhaler use in the world.
  • Pharmaceutical companies are very conservative.
  • Doctors tend to give out inhalers like toys.
  • Naked flames are a big cause of asthma.

But the most important knowledge I acquired was over a drink with an engineer in a pharmaceutical company, that the fine spray we obtained with our device would have lots of medical applications, including delivery of insulin for diabetics. We’d already had very good feedback, from test users in Germany.

Some other applications are stored in my brain. One could be a very big seller in the modern world!

So when I saw the report in The Sunday Times, I bought a few shares in Synairgen.

I have been well-rewarded today!



July 20, 2020 Posted by | Business, Health | , | 2 Comments

Beeching Reversal – Reopening Stratford-upon-Avon And Honeybourne-Worcester/Oxford (SWO) Railway Line

This is one of the Beeching Reversal projects that the Government and Network Rail are proposing to reverse some of the Beeching cuts.

I covered this route in RSC Urges GWR To Provide Stratford Improvements and came to these conclusions.

There are three ways to improve rail access to Stratford-upon-Avon.

    • The relatively easy and quick, enhancement of the rail services in Warwickshire.
    • Provide better one-change routes using Chiltern Railways.
    • The more difficult re-connection of Stratford to the Cotswold Line at Honeybourne.

As the last project will take years to implement, I feel, it is important that services to Stratford from Birmingham, Coventry, Leamington Spa and the West Midlands are substantially increased.

I also believe that the responsibility of providing a local service between Leamigton Spa and Stratford should be given to West Midlands Trains.

The Case To Reconnect Stratford-on-Avon and Honeybourne Stations

In Where Is London Midland Going?, I wrote this section in July 2017.

The North Warwickshire Line

The North Warwickshire Line links Birmingham with Stratford-on-Avon and has an alternative name of the Shakespeare Line.

Plans exist to extend this line South to Honeybourne station on the Cotswold Line.

Under Possible Future Development in the Wikipedia entry for the Warwickshire Line, this is said.

The Shakespeare Line Promotion Group is promoting a scheme to reopen the 9 miles (14 km) of line south of Stratford to Honeybourne where it would link to the Cotswold Line. Called the “Avon Rail Link”, the scheme (supported as a freight diversionary route by DB Schenker) would make Stratford-upon-Avon station a through station once again with improved connections to the South, and would open up the possibility of direct services to Oxford and Worcester via Evesham. The scheme faces local opposition. However, there is a good business case for Stratford-Cotswolds link.

I think we’ll see something in the new franchise about developing this line, as there is a lot of potential for a train operator.

    • Direct services between Stratford-on-Avon and Oxford, where there is a connection to Bicester Village. Tourists would love that!
    • Connection of the housing development at Long Marston to Birmingham.
    • Could Stratford-on-Avon or Honeybourne become the terminus of a service from Leamington, Coventry and Nuneaton?

It would also give DB Schenker, their freight diversion.

But we didn’t see anything in the new franchise and the project has turned up in the list of Beeching Reversal projects.

The Route Into Stratford-Upon-Avon

This Google Map shows Stratford-upon-Avon station.


  1. The station is well-appointed with step-free access and three platforms.
  2. The bridge at the Southern end of the station to allow the railway to go South, appears to be intact.

This second Google Map shows the area of the town from the station to the racecourse.


  1. Stratford-upon-Avon station at the top of the map.
  2. Stratford Racecourse at the bottom of the map.

The road curving between the station and the racecourse is the track of the former Stratford to Honeybourne railway.

My first reaction, when I saw this was that those, who want to rebuild this railway can’t be serious.

  • Would you want one of DB Schenker’s noisy, smelly and polluting Class 66 locomotives running past your house?
  • Would you want the line to be electrified, so they could use electric locomotives on this short stretch of railway? If so would DB Schenker be happy to change locomotives twice?

I have looked at new railways entering towns and cities all over the UK and Europe and feel there is only two possible solutions for Southern access to Stratford-upon-Avon station.

  • A single-track passenger-only railway run by battery electric trains.
  • A tunnel, which would probably be single-bore for cost reasons.

South of Stratford, the route is easier and it can be picked out on Google Maps until it reaches the Cotswold Line to the East of Honeybourne station.

This Google Map shows Honeybourne station and the junction.


  1. The Cotswold Line running NW-SE across the map.
  2. The large triangular junction that connected the line to Stratford-upon-Avon station, which is to the North-East.
  3. Another track going South from the junction, can be picked out. This leads to the heritage Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway at Broadway station, with onward connections to Cheltenham Racecourse.

Honeybourne station could be an important rail hub.

Honeybourne Station And Battery Electric Trains


  • Hereford and Honeybourne stations are 48 miles apart.
  • Didcot East Junction, where trains switch to and from the Great Western Main Line electrification and Honeybourne stations are 48 miles apart.
  • Trains to Hereford pass through Great Malvern, Worcestershire Parkway and Worcester Foregate Street.
  • Stratford-up-on-Avon and Honeybourne stations would be less than thirty miles apart, if the two stations were to be reconnected by rail.
  • Hitachi’s proposed battery electric trains will have a range of 56 miles on battery power.

If the means to charge battery electric trains were provided in the Honeybourne area, the following services could be run by battery electric trains.

  • London Paddington and Worcestershire Parkway, Worcester Foregate Street, Great Malvern and Hereford.
  • Honeybourne and Stratford-upon-Avon

The charging could be performed, by a ten minute stop at Honeybourne station or a section of electrified line centred on the station.

The two stations either side of Honeybourne are Evesham and Moreton-in-Marsh.

  • They are fifteen miles apart.
  • Trains take eighteen minutes between the stations.
  • This would be enough time to charge the batteries.
  • Trains could pan-up and pan-down in the two stations.

I believe modern low-visibility overhead electrification could be used.

See Prototype Overhead Line Structure Revealed for more details on these gantries.

An Oxford And Stratford-upon-Avon Service

My estimates for the timings of the two sections of the route are as follows.

  • Stratford-upon-Avon and Honeybourne – 20 minutes
  • Honeybourne and Oxford – 46 minutes

Perhaps not the best for an efficient services, but I’m sure something could be arranged.


This will be a difficult project to get built.

If it is built, I suspect, it will be a passenger-only route using battery trains.



July 20, 2020 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Gore Street Energy Welcomes Green Light For Larger Battery Projects In England And Wales

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Proactive Investors.

These are the introductory paragraphs..

Gore Street Energy Fund has welcomed legal changes to allow battery projects larger than 50MW in England and 350MW in Wales.

The new legislation removes energy storage, except pumped hydro, from the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects regime in England and Wales, said the fund.

This will allow larger projects to receive planning permission without government approval.

I can see why they are pleased, as it removes a level of bureaucracy.

I suspect companies like Highview Power will also be pleased as 50 MW is at the lower end of their battery range.

July 20, 2020 Posted by | Energy Storage | , | Leave a comment

The Future Of West Midlands Trains’s Class 350 Trains

Currently, West Midlands Trains have four sub-fleets of Class 350 trains.

  • Class 350/1 – 30 trains – Leased from Angel Trains
  • Class 350/2 – 37 trains – Leased from Porterbrook
  • Class 350/3 – 10 trains – Leased from Angel Trains
  • Class 350/4 – 10 trains –  Leased from Angel Trains


  1. All are 110 mph trains
  2. The trains are capable of being modified for 750 VDC third-rail electrification.

Under Future the Wikipedia entry for Class 350 trains says this.

West Midlands Trains announced that they would be replacing all 37 of their 350/2 units for Class 350/4 units cascaded from TransPennine Express and brand new Class 730 units which both can travel up to speeds of 110 mph.

In October 2018, Porterbrook announced it was considering converting its fleet of 350/2s to Battery electric multiple units for potential future cascades to non-electrified routes.

As West Midlands Trains have ordered 45 Class 730 trains for express services, it looks like they will be expanding services on the West Coast Main Line and around the West Midlands.

But it does appear that as many as thirty-seven trains will be returned to Porterbrook.

Class 350 Trains With Batteries

I believe that if fitted with batteries, these trains would meet or be very near to Hitachi’s specification, which is given in this infographic from Hitachi.


Note that 90 kilometres is 56 miles.

Could West Midlands Trains Run Any Services With Class 350 Trains With Batteries?

I think there are some possibilities

  • Birmingham New Street and Shrewsbury – 30 miles without electrification between Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton – Charging facility needed at Shrewsbury.
  • Birmingham New Street and Hereford via Worcester – 41 miles without electrification between Hereford and Bromsgrove – Charging facility needed at Hereford.
  • Leamington Spa and Nuneaton via Coventry – 19 miles without electrification – Charging on existing electrification at Coventry and Nuneaton.
  • The proposed direct Wolverhampton and Walsall service, that i wrote about in Green Light For Revived West Midlands Passenger Service.

There may also be some services added because of the development of the Midlands Rail Hub and extensions to London services,

Who Has Shown Interest In These Trains?

I can’t remember any reports in the media, about any train operator wanting to lease these trains; either without or with batteries.


It does all seem a bit strange to me.

  • As a passenger, I see nothing wrong with these trains.
  • They are less than twenty years old.
  • They are 110 mph trains.
  • They have 2+2 interiors, with lots of tables.
  • They could be fitted with batteries if required.

But then, all of those things could be said about Greater Anglia’s Class 379 trains.


July 20, 2020 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments