The Anonymous Widower

LNER Seeks 10 More Bi-Modes

The title of this post, is the same as that of an article in the December 2020 Edition of Modern Railways.

This is the opening paragraph.

LNER has launched the procurement of at least 10 new trains to supplement its Azuma fleet on East Coast Main Line services.

Some other points from the article.

  • It appears that LNER would like to eliminate diesel traction if possible.
  • On-board energy storage is mentioned.
  • No form of power appears to be ruled out, including hydrogen.
  • LNER have all 65 of their Azumas in service.

The last paragraph is very informative.

Infrastructure upgrades are due to prompt a timetable recast in May 2022 (delayed from December 2021) from which point LNER will operate 6.5 trains per hour, out of Kings Cross, compared to five today. As an interim measure, LNER is retaining seven rakes of Mk 4 coaches hauled by 12 Class 91 locomotives to supplement the Azuma fleet and support its timetable ambitions until the new trains are delivered.

These are my thoughts.

More Azumas?

Surely, It would require a very innovative train at perhaps a rock-bottom price from another manufacturer, for LNER to not acquire extra Azumas.

Classic-Compatible Trains For High Speed Two

Consider.

  • Alstom, Bombardier, CAF, Hitachi, Siemens and Talgo are involved in the competition to design Classic-Compatible trains for High Speed Two.
  • As the York and Edinburgh section of the East Coast Main Line will eventually be upgraded and used by High Speed Two services,
  • Also in the December 2020 Edition of Modern Railways, is an article entitled 140 mph Plan For ECML North of York, which details improvements proposed by Northern Powerhouse Rail to improve services between Leeds and Edinburgh.

Would there be advantages to High Speed Two, LNER and Network Rail and Northern Powerhouse Rail, to have some commonality between the  High Speed Two, LNER and Northern Powerhouse Rail fleets?

Hopefully, the various government-controlled companies are talking.

A Flagship Train For Aberdeen And Inverness

The InterCity 225s, which consist of a Class 91 locomotive and a rake of nine Mark 4 coaches, have given thirty years of top-quality service on the East Coast Main Line and appear to be being asked to handle services until the new trains are delivered.

  • Full-length InterCity 225s are 245 metres long and have 406 Standard and 129 First seats or a total of 535 seats.
  • Nine-car Azumas are 234 metres long and have 510 Standard and 101 First seats or a total of 611 seats.
  • Two five-car Azumas working as a pair are 260 metres long and have 604 seats. They can also be handled on most platforms, that are used by LNER.
  • The power of a Class 91 locomotive is 4.83 MW.
  • A Class 91 locomotive is 19.4 metres long and weighs 81.5 tonnes.
  • Both Azumas and InterCity 225s can maintain 125 mph with ease on the East Coast Main Line and both will be able to reach 140 mph with in-cab signalling.

There would appear to be nothing wrong with locomotive-hauled high speed services, in terms of capacity and performance.

In The Mathematics Of A Hydrogen-Powered Freight Locomotive, I laid out my thoughts on a high-powered railway locomotive fuelled by hydrogen, that used one or possibly two Rolls-Royce gas-turbine engines to generate electricity for traction.

With all the work done, by the companies bidding for Classic-Compatible trains for High Speed Two, into very high speed trains, I believe that at least one company could build a locomotive with this specification.

  • 140 mph operation on 25 KVAC overhead electrification. As I said, that was done by British Rail almost forty years ago.
  • Ability to use full digital in-cab signalling. This is on its way and already working in some applications.
  • 110 mph operation on hydrogen. Hitachi are planning 100 mph battery trains, so it should be possible.
  • 400 mile range on one filling of hydrogen. This is working in Germany.
  • Ability to be upgraded to higher speeds on electric power, should the East Coast Main Line be upgraded for higher speeds in the future. The train manufacturers are probably ahead of track designers with this one.

Such a locomotive would be key to building a train with this specification.

  • Sub-four hour time between London and Edinburgh.
  • Sub-seven hour time between London and Aberdeen, which has 130 miles without wires.
  • Sub-eight hour time between London and Inverness, which has 146 miles without wires.
  • Hydrogen would be used, where there is no electrification.
  • Zero-carbon at all times.
  • A maximum length of 260 metres, which I estimate could give a passenger capacity of around 640 seats.
  • The last coach would include a driving van trailer.
  • They would not need the ability to split and join, except for the purpose of rescue, as there is no platform on the route, that could accommodate the resulting 520 metre long pair of trains.

I estimate that a fleet of around seven trains would be needed to run the current Aberdeen and Inverness services.

A few extra thoughts.

  • Could they have an up-market more spacious interior, as their main competition to the North of Scotland, would be the budget airlines?
  • Could they be slightly longer, with some platform work at Kings Cross and other stations?
  • Add a few extra trains to the order, so that extra services between London and Edinburgh could be added to the timetable.
  • Could the driving van trailer incorporate an observation car?
  • Hydrogen refuelling shouldn’t be a problem in Scotland, as the country is developing a hydrogen economy.
  • Hydrogen refuelling wouldn’t be needed in England, as they’d be using the electrification.
  • As an alternative to hydrogen, sustainable aviation fuel could be used.

I suspect that Talgo, would be very happy to tender.

  • They are developing hydrogen-powered trains as I wrote in Talgo: Our Hydrogen Train Will Be Ready In 2023.
  • They are building a factory in Scotland, close to the Forth Bridge.
  • Because of the factory, Talgo probably have the ear of the Scottish Government, who would probably welcome a Scottish-built train.
  • A shorter version of these trains without the hydrogen, could be the design for a High Speed Two Classic-Compatible train, for which Talgo, are on the short list of suppliers.

What better way, would there be to sell your hydrogen-powered high speed trains, than to give prospective clients a ride up from London to the factory in the luxury version?

A New Elizabethan

I can remember The Elizabethan, which was a steam-hauled non-stop express between London and Edinburgh between 1953 and 1961.

  • The steam-hauled train took six-hours-and-a-half.
  • It used to be the longest non-stop railway service in the world.
  • Today, the service could be run by the current or refurbished Azumas or perhaps a new flagship train, built for the service.
  • It could be easily under four hours.

It could be an interesting concept, to increase capacity between London and Edinburgh.

Splitting And Joining

Some of LNER’s philosophy to serve places like Harrogate, Huddersfield and Middlesbrough, depends on the ability to split and join trains.

A pair of Azumas could leave London and go to Leeds, where they would split, with one train going to Harrogate and the other going to Huddersfield.

When returning to London, the two trains would join at Leeds.

The big advantage of splitting and joining, is that it increases the capacity on the main line, as services can be arranged, so that every path always carries a full-length train. I would expect that LNER would prefer never to run a single five-car Azuma into Kings Cross.

Currently LNER have these paths to and from Kings Cross.

  • 2 tph between London Kings Cross and Leeds
  • 1 tph between London Kings Cross and Lincoln and East Yorkshire
  • 2 tph between London Kings Cross and Edinburgh

Note.

  1. LNER have already started to extend services from Leeds, so will we see splitting and joining being used on one tph at Leeds to provide services to several destinations, throughout the day.
  2. Splitting and joining at Edinburgh is surely another possibility, to serve Stirling and Glasgow, with the same train.
  3. Splitting and joining at York could serve destinations like Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Redcar, Scarborough and Sunderland.
  4. In A Trip To Grantham Station – 4th November 2020, I advocated splitting at Grantham station to serve both Nottingham and Lincoln.

There are a lot of possibilities for splitting and joining.

As LNER has a fleet of twenty-two five-car Azumas, if the new trains are needed to split and join on certain services, this might mean more five-car Azumas are a better buy.

What Will Happen To Nine Car Azumas?

Hitachi have launched the Regional Battery Train concept, the specification of which is given in this Hitachi infographic.

The diesel engines in LNER’s Class 800 trains will be able to be replaced with batteries, making them all-electric trains.

  • Destinations like Cleethorpes, Dundee, Grimsby, Harrogate, Huddersfield, Hull, Lincoln, Middlesbrough Nottingham, Perth, Redcar, Scarborough, Sheffield and Sunderland will be within range of battery electric Azumas.
  • Some destinations would need the ability to charge the train before it returned, but I can see lots of places getting an appropriate service, even if it was just one or two trains per day.
  • Unfortunately, Aberdeen and Inverness would be too far for battery electric Azumas, so services will still need to be run by nine-car bi-mode Azumas.

Five-car battery electric Azumas working in pairs from London could be the key to increasing LNER services.

I can see that LNER may end up with too many nine-car Azumas, if nine-car trains are replaced by pairs of five-car trains to serve two destinations by splitting and joining.

Would it be possible to shorten nine-car Azumas to five-car trains?

These are the formations of the two trains.

  • nine-car: DPTS-MS-MS-TS-MS-TS-MC-MF-DPTF
  • five-car: DPTS-MS-MS-MC-DPTF

It is known, that the trains have a computer, that does a quick check on start-up to determine, what cars are present and correct in the train.

  • This means that if LNER needed twelve-car trains for say London and Edinburgh, they could create a sub-fleet by just buying the requisite number of extra TS (Trailer Standard) and MS (Motor Standard) cars and coupling them up.
  • This feature also means that operators running fleets of five-car Hitachi trains, like TransPennine Express and Hull Trains can increase capacity by just purchasing the extra cars.
  • It would also allow, cars to be shuffled to create viable trains, after say several cars were damaged by vandalism.

All trains these days seem to have this very operator-friendly feature.

With LNER’s trains, I suspect that all cars of the same type are identical.

This would mean, that a nine-car train can be converted to a five-car by removing two TS (Trailer Standard), one MS (Motor Standard) and one MF (Motor First) cars.

The four cars, that have been removed could be reconfigured to form the middle three cars of a new five-car train, which would be completed by adding new DPTS (Driver Pantograph Trailer Standard) and DPTF (Driver Pantograph Trailer First) cars.

An Increase In Paths From 5 To 6.5

This will certainly allow LNER to run more services.

The odd half path could be easy to explain.

  • Hull is a city, that is on the up.
  • I suspect that it could support a five-car direct service from London with a frequency of one tph.
  • But Hull Trains are also running a successful service on the route.

Perhaps a fair solution, would be to allow both LNER and Hull Trains to run a one train per two hour (tp2h) service.

If LNER didn’t want to use the path to just run a five-car train to Hull, there are several possibilities for a split and join.

  • With a Cleethorpes, Lincoln or Nottingham service at Grantham.
  • With a Cleethorpes or Lincoln service at Newark.
  • With a Cleethorpes, Middlesbrough, Sheffield or Sunderland service at Doncaster.

I can only see splitting and joining increasing, which surely means an Azuma order is more likely.

As someone, who spent a working life, writing software to schedule projects, I can’t resist speculating on what to do with the extra whole path, that LNER will be allocated, when the infrastructure allows.

  • Many travellers wouldn’t mind LNER providing more seats between the English and Scottish capitals.
  • Many would like an alternative to flying.
  • Others would like a faster service.
  • Leeds and York will soon be a route, that LNER’s Azumas will be able to use without diesel, because of extra electrification and Azumas with traction batteries.

This leads me to believe that LNER could use the extra path for a third London and Edinburgh service in every hour, that ran via Leeds.

  • Additionally, it might stop at stations like Peterborough, York, Darlington or Newcastle.
  • It could also provide a non-stop London and Leeds service.
  • Some services could go non-stop between London and Edinburgh.
  • The direct London and Edinburgh service would be under four hours.
  • Going via Leeds would add under an hour.

It would be run by a nine-car all-electric Azumas, of which there will be unlikely to be a shortage.

How Many Azumas Could Be Fitted With Batteries Instead Of Diesel Engines?

The Wikipedia entry for the Class 800 train, has a section called Powertrain, where this is said.

Despite being underfloor, the generator units (GU) have diesel engines of V12 formation. The Class 801 has one GU for a five to nine-car set. These provide emergency power for limited traction and auxiliaries if the power supply from the overhead line fails. The Class 800 and Class 802 bi-mode has three GU per five-car set and five GU per nine-car set. A five-car set has a GU situated under vehicles 2/3/4 and a nine-car set has a GU situated under vehicles 2/3/5/7/8.

Consider.

  • Class 807 trains for Aventi West Coast will have no batteries or diesel engines. Does this save weight?
  • Class 803 trains for East Coast Trains will only have a small battery for emergency hotel power, in case of catenary failure. Does this save weight?
  • Saving weight should improve acceleration and deceleration, which could reduce journey times.
  • Removal of diesel engines would reduce the trains carbon footprint.
  • Removal of diesel engines could reduce maintenance costs.
  • Diesel engines are only needed for services that run North of Edinburgh. Other sections without electrification are probably within battery range or could be easily made so.
  • It appears every Motor car (MC, MF and MS) can be fitted with a diesel engine, although in Class 801 trains, only one is fitted. Does that mean that every Motor car in the future, could have a battery?

I think this could lead to the following.

  • The Class 801 trains are fitted with sufficient batteries to enable handling of expected emergencies. These could be similar to those in the Class 803 trains.
  • Enough nine-car Class 800 trains would be kept with diesel engines to work the Aberdeen and Inverness services. These routes at 130 and 146 miles without wires are too long for battery trains, without a succession of chargers along the routes.
  • If a third Edinburgh service were to be introduced, could some of the remainder of the nine-car Class 800 trains be converted to Class 801 trains, by removing the diesel engines?
  • I would expect most of the five-car thirty-six Class 800 trains would be fitted with batteries to run services to destinations, that can be reached on battery power. In a few years time, these will probably mean splitting and joining at Edinburgh, Leeds and other places.
  • Could we even see the twelve five-car Class 801 trains converted to battery electric Class 800 trains, which would surely give maximum flexibility about their use?

If the software on the trains, is as intelligent as it could be and can accept cars with diesel engines, batteries or no extra power, then LNER will have an enormous amount of flexibility, to configure the trains as they need.

I could even see a nine-car Class 800 train with a mix of batteries and diesel engines, that can be used as range extenders, reaching further towards Aberdeen and Inverness.

Consider a five-car Class 800 train with two batteries and a single diesel engine!

  • If I assume that Hitachi’s specification for the Regional Battery Train, is for a five-car train with three diesel engines replaced with battery packs, then a two battery pack train could have a range of 60 km or 37 miles.
  • If the route wasn’t very challenging, and the computer made judicious use of the diesel engine, could the train’s range be extended to beyond the ninety kilometres of the three-battery pack train.
  • The diesel engine could also be used to charge the batteries, before returning to the electrification of the main line.

In Vivarail’s Plans For Zero-Emission Trains, I talked about Adrian Shooter and his concept of a Pop-Up Metro, run for perhaps a year, to test if a Metro service would be viable, instead of spending the money on consultants.

The two-battery pack/one diesel Class 800 train, could run a Pop-Up London Service to test the need for a London service. All it would need is a convenient platform long enough to take a 130 metre long Class 800 train.

Possible destinations to test could include Cleethorpes, Dundee, Glenrothes-with-Thornton, Grimsby, Nottingham, Norwich, Perth, Redcar, Sheffield and Sunderland

Conclusion

There is a lot of scope to develop LNER’s services.

I think it is likely that the order will go to Hitachi.

But as I indicated, I do believe that there is scope for a manufacturer to design a zero-carbon train, that was able to serve the Aberdeen and Inverness.

  • I suspect a fleet of ten trains would be sufficient.
  • Trains would use the 25 KVAC overhead electrification, where it exists and hydrogen or battery power North of the wires.

The trains would also be capable of being upgraded to high speeds, should the East Coast Main Line be turned into a High Speed Line.

I also think, that whatever trains are bought, there will be a large upgrading of the existing Hitachi fleet, which will add batteries to a lot of trains.

November 25, 2020 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments