The Anonymous Widower

£100m Station Revamp Could Double Local Train Services

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

This is the opening paragraph.

Officials behind plans for a £100m-plus transformation of Darlington’s Bank Top Station have confirmed it will remain the only one on the East Coast Mainline without a platform specifically for the London to Scotland service.

Darlington station has made various appearances in my life, all of which have been pleasurable ones.

I went several times to ICI’s Wilton site on Teesside in the 1970s, when the route to London was worked by the iconic Class 55 locomotives or Deltics.

I wrote about one memorable trip home from Darlington in The Thunder of Three-Thousand Three-Hundred Horses.

Over the years, I also seem to have had several clients for my computing skills in the area, including the use of my data analysis software; Daisy at Cummins Engines in the town.

And lately, it’s been for football at Middlesbrough to see Ipswich play, where I’ve changed trains. Sometimes, Town even won.

The improvements planned for the station are two-fold.

Improvement Of Local Services

This paragraph from Wikipedia, sums up the local train services on the Tees Valley Line between Saltburn and Bishop Auckland via Darlington, Middlesbrough and Redcar.

Northern run their Tees Valley line trains twice hourly to Middlesbrough, Redcar and Saltburn (hourly on Sundays), whilst the Bishop Auckland branch has a service every hour (including Sundays). The company also operates two Sundays-only direct trains to/from Stockton and Hartlepool.

If ever a route needed improvement it is this one.

This paragraph from the Northern Echo article, outlines the plans for Darlington station.

The meeting was also told the overhaul, which will see new platforms, a new station building, parking and an interchange for passengers, alongside other improvements, would also double capacity on Tees Valley and Bishop Auckland lines, meaning four trains an hour on the former and two trains an hour on the latter.

I also believe that the route is a shoe-in for zero-carbon services; hydrogen or battery electric.

Hydrogen Trains On Teesside

In Fuelling The Change On Teesside Rails, I discuss using hydrogen powered trains for the lines in the area and they could certainly provide services on more than just the Tees Valley Line.

The hydrogen powered trains would probably be this Alstom Breeze.

They would appear to be in pole position to change the image of Teesside’s trains.

Battery Electric Trains On Teesside

But I suspect. that an Anglo-Japanese partnership, based in the North-East could have other ideas.

  • Hitachi have a train factory at Newton Aycliffe on the Tees Valley Line.
  • Hyperdrive Innovation design and produce battery packs for transport and mobile applications in Sunderland.

The two companies have launched the Regional Battery Train, which is described in this Hitachi infographic.

Note than 90 kilometres is 56 miles, so the train has a very useful range.

Hitachi have talked about fitting batteries to their express trains to serve places like Middlesbrough, Redcar and Sunderland with zero-carbon electric services.

But their technology can also be fitted to their Class 385 trains and I’m sure that Scotland will order some battery-equipped Class 385 trains to expand their vigorous electric train network.

Both Scotland and Teesside will need to charge their battery trains.

Example distances on Teesside include.

  • Darlington and Saltburn – 28 miles
  • Darlington and Whitby – 47 miles
  • Darlington and Bishop Auckland – 12 miles

The last route would be possible on a full battery, but the first two would need a quick battery top-up before return.

So there will need to be strategically-placed battery chargers around the North-East of England. These could include.

  • Hexham
  • Nunthorpe
  • Redcar or Saltburn – This would also be used by TransPennine Express’s Class 802 trains, if they were to be fitted with batteries.
  • Whitby

If Grand Central did the right thing and ran battery electric between London and Sunderland, there would probably be a need for a battery charger at Sunderland.

It appears that Adrian Shooter of Vivarail has just announced a One-Size-Fits-All Fast Charge system, that has been given interim approval by Network Rail.

I discuss this charger in Vivarail’s Plans For Zero-Emission Trains, which is based on a video on the Modern Railways web site.

There is more about Vivarail’s plans in the November 2020 Print Edition of the magazine, where this is said on page 69.

‘Network Rail has granted interim approval for the fast charge system and wants it to be the UK’s standard battery charging system’ says Mr. Shooter. ‘We believe it could have worldwide implications.’

I believe that Hitachi and Hyperdrive Innovation, with a little bit of help from friends in Seaham, can build a battery-electric train network in the North-East.

The Choice Between Hydrogen And Battery Electric

Consider.

  • The hydrogen trains would need a refuelling system.
  • The battery electric trains would need a charging structure, which could also be used by other battery electric services to and from the North-East.
  • No new electrification or other infrastructure would be needed.
  • If a depot is needed for the battery electric trains, they could probably use the site at Lackenby, that has been identified as a base for the hydrogen trains.

Which train would I choose?

I think the decision will come down to politics, money and to a certain extent design, capacity and fuel.

  • The Japanese have just signed a post-Brexit trade deal and France or rather the EU hasn’t.
  • The best leasing deal might count for a lot.
  • Vivarail have stated that batteries for a battery electric train, could be leased on a per mile basis.
  • The Hitachi train will be a new one and the Alstom train will be a conversion of a thirty year old British Rail train.
  • The Hitachi train may well have a higher passenger capacity, as there is no need for the large hydrogen tank.
  • Some people will worry about sharing the train with a large hydrogen tank.
  • The green credentials of both trains is not a deal-breaker, but will provoke discussion.

I feel that as this is a passenger train, that I’m leaning towards a battery electric train built on the route.

An Avoiding Line Through Darlington

The Northern Echo also says this about track changes at the station.

A meeting of Darlington Borough Council’s communities and local services scrutiny committee was told a bus lane-style route off the mainline at the station would enable operators to run more high-speed services.

Councillors heard that the proposed track changes would enable very fast approaches to Darlington and allow other trains to pass as East Coast Mainline passengers boarded.

Some councillors seem to be unhappy about some trains passing through the station without stopping.

Are their fears justified?

This Google Map shows Darlington station.

Note.

  1. The station has two long platforms and two South-facing bay platforms.
  2. There is plenty of space.
  3. There already appear to be a pair of electrified avoiding lines on the Eastern side of the station.

Wikipedia also says this about how Darlington station will be changed by High Speed Two.

The new high speed rail project in the UK, High Speed 2, is planned to run through Darlington once Phase 2b is complete and will run on the existing East Coast Main Line from York and Newcastle. Darlington Station will have two new platforms built for the HS2 trains on the Main Line, as the station is built just off the ECML to allow for freight services to pass through.

This would appear to suggest that the two current avoiding lines will be turned into high speed platforms.

Current High Speed Services At Darlington

The current high speed services at Darlington are as follows.

  • LNER – two trains per hour (tph) – London Kings Cross and Edinburgh
  • Cross Country – one tph – Plymouth and Edinburgh or Glasgow
  • Cross Country – one tph – Southampton and Newcastle
  • TransPennine Express – one tph – Liverpool and Edinburgh
  • TransPennine Express – one tph – Manchester Airport and Newcastle

Northbound, this gives eight tph to Newcastle and four tph to Edinburgh

East Coast Trains

East Coast Trains‘s services are not planned to stop at Darlington.

High Speed Two Trains

Darlington is planned to be served by these High Speed Two trains.

  • 1 tph – Birmingham Curzon Street and Newcastle via East Midlands Hub, York and Durham
  • 1 tph – London Euston and Newcastle via Old Oak Common and York.

Both will be 200 metre High Speed Two Classic-Compatible trains

Northbound, this gives ten tph to Newcastle and four tph to Edinburgh.

As the Eastern Leg of High Speed Two has some spare capacity, I suspect there could be other services through Darlington.

Improvements To The East Coast Main Line

If you look at the East Coast Main Line between Doncaster and Newcastle, the route is a mixture of two and four-track railway.

  • Between Doncaster and York, there are two tracks
  • Between York and Northallerton, there are four tracks
  • Between Northallerton and Darlington, there are two tracks
  • North of Darlington, the route is mainly two tracks.

I have flown my virtual helicopter along much of the route and I can say this about it.

  • Much of the route is through agricultural land, and where absolutely necessary extra tracks could possibly be added.
  • The track is more-or-less straight for large sections of the route.
  • Routes through some towns and cities, are tightly hemmed in by houses.

I also believe that the following developments will happen to the whole of the East Coast Main Line before High Speed Two opens.

  • Full ERTMS in-cab digital signalling will be used on all trains on the route.
  • The trains will be driven automatically, with the driver watching everything. Just like a pilot in an airliner!
  • All the Hitachi Class 80x trains used by operators on the route, will be able to operate at up to 140 mph, once this signalling and some other improvements have been completed.
  • All level crossings will have been removed.
  • High Speed Two is being built using slab track, as I stated in HS2 Slab Track Contract Awarded. I suspect some sections of the East Coast Main Line, that are used by High Speed Two services, will be upgraded with slab track to increase performance and reduce lifetime costs.

Much of the East Coast Main Line could become a 140 mph high speed line, as against High Speed Two, which will be a 225 mph high speed line.

This will mean that all high speed trains will approach Darlington and most other stations on the route, at 140 mph.

Trains will take around a minute to decelerate from or accelerate to 140 mph and if the station stop took a minute, the trains will be up to speed again in just three minutes. In this time, the train would have travelled two-and-a-half miles.

Conclusion

I think that this will happen.

  • The Tees Valley Line trains will be greatly improved by this project.
  • Trains will generally run at up to 140 mph on the East Coast Main Line, under full digital control, like a slower High Speed Two.
  • There will be two high speed platforms to the East of the current station, where most if not all of the High Speed Two, LNER and other fast services will stop.
  • There could be up to 15 tph on the high speed lines.

With full step-free access between the high speed and the local platforms in the current station, this will be a great improvement.

October 25, 2020 - Posted by | Computing, Hydrogen, Sport, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. That’s interesting what you say about NR wanting Vivarail’s charging system to be the standard. Could be a nice little earner! I would assume it would be easier to install than OLE, though whether they would install that in Darlington as well as the existing OLE? It’s also true what AS says that, even if a station stop is not long enough for a full charge, on services with lots of stops it just needs to be enough to get you to the next station.

    It’s also interesting that Vivarail are proposing leasing batteries. The Chinese EV manufacturer NIO offers battery-as-a-service, which is similar. That also includes battery replacement. https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=nio+battery+swap+station shows this in use. Faster than recharging, and the car-owner doesn’t have to worry about battery decay, as they can simply get a new one. The Chinese are far ahead of anyone else in EV deployment.

    Battery range is improving rapidly. Vivarail are claiming up to 100 miles with their latest module, and the trucks/lorries that are starting to appear have considerably more https://cleantechnica.com/2020/10/24/sandy-munro-compares-hummer-ev-tesla-cybertruck-rivian-r1t/. This is certain to improve in the next few years, and I would not be at all surprised if in 10 years time we find having an extra hydrogen tank to get a train to remote parts is no longer needed.

    Comment by Peter Robins | October 25, 2020 | Reply

  2. […] High Speed Two is coming to Darlington and I wrote about that in £100m Station Revamp Could Double Local Train Services. […]

    Pingback by Darlington Station – 28th October 2020 « The Anonymous Widower | October 30, 2020 | Reply


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