The Anonymous Widower

Battery-Electric Class 331 Trains On The Radar

In the June 2021 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article which is entitled Northern Looks To The Future.

This is a paragraph.

Also on the radar is the creation of hybrid Class 331 EMUs fitted with batteries. A proposal has been developed by CAF and owner Eversholt Rail to augment three-car ‘331s’ with a fourth vehicle containing batteries, which would see batteries also fitted to the existing centre car. The Manchester to Windermere route has been touted as a possible location for deployment, with trains switching to battery power on the non-electrified branch from Oxenholme, although the line’s user group still favours electrification of the branch.

I have a few thoughts.

Electrification at Oxenholme

In Surprising Electrification At Oxenholme, I detailed the electrification at Oxenholme station in May 2018.

Consider.

  • Platform 3 used by the Windermere trains is fully electrified.
  • The crossover South of the station used by trains going between the Windermere Branch Line and the West Coast Main Line is fully electrified.
  • The electrification continues for perhaps a hundred metres along the Windermere branch.

I am fairly certain, that this electrification has been designed so that a bi-mode or battery-electric train can perform a reliable power changeover in Platform 3 at Oxenholme station.

What Will Be The Range Of A Four-Car Battery-Electric Class 331 Train?

This is very much a case of how long is a piece of string.

At least we know from the extract above that the train is designed to do a return trip between Oxenholme and Windermere stations, which is a distance of 20.4 miles and a six minute turnround.

We should also note that Hitachi are claiming a range of 56 miles for their Regional Battery Train, which is described in this Hitachi infographic.

As the Class 331 with batteries will compete with the Hitachi Reional Battery Train, I would suspect that the range on easy level ground would be at least fifty miles at a speed of over 80 mph, if not 100 mph.

A Selection Of Possible Routes

These are a selection of other Northern routes where the battery-electric Class 331 trains might be used.

Manchester Airport and Barrow-in-Furness

Consider.

  • This is a sibling route to the Manchester Airport and Windermere route and currently has eleven services to Windermere’s four.
  • This is a 103.7 mile route.
  • All but 28.1 miles is electrified.

Battery-electric Class 331 trains with a charge at Barrow-in-Furness should be able to handle this route.

Lancaster and Barrow-in-Furness

Consider.

  • This is a 34.8 mile route
  • All but 28.1 miles is electrified.
  • Lancaster is a fully electrified station.

Battery-electric Class 331 trains with a charge at Barrow-in-Furness should be able to handle this route.

Carlisle and Barrow-in-Furness

This is the 85.7 mile route of the Cumbrian Coast Line of which none is electrified.

Consider.

  • Carnforth is a fully-electrified station.
  • Barrow-in-Furness station could be electrified.
  • It is a fairly level route along the coast.
  • I suspect that electricity supplies are available at Barrow-in-Furness, Sellafield, Whitehaven and Workington to power electrification.
  • Carlisle is a fully-electrified station.
  • Barrow-in-Furness and Sellafield are only 35 miles apart.
  • CAF have produced trams for Birmingham and Seville, that work with discontinuous electrification.
  • There are parts of the route, where there would be those, who would object to the erection of electrification gantries.

I feel it would be possible to electrify the Cumbrian Coast Line using battery-electric Class 331 trains, with a range of at least fifty miles and some short sections of new electrification.

Surely, a battery-electric train along the Cumbrian Coast by the Lake District would be the ideal train for the area

Lancaster and Morecambe

Consider.

  • This is a 4 mile route.
  • None is electrified.
  • Heysham is another four miles past Morecambe.
  • Lancaster is a fully-electrified station.

This route might have been built for battery-electric trains.

This route might be possible with no extra infrastructure.

York and Blackpool North

Consider.

  • This is a 105.5 mile route.
  • In a few years about 62 miles will be without electrification.
  • It goes through the picturesque Calder Valley.

As with the Cumbrian Coast Line, I believe that this service could be run using battery-electric Class 331 trains, with a range of at least fifty miles and some short sections of new electrification.

Preston and Colne

Consider.

  • This is a 29 mile route.
  • None is electrified.
  • It is steeply uphill to Colne.

Battery-electric Class 331 trains with a charge at Colne should be able to handle this route.

Alternatively, they could use Newton’s friend to return down the hill.

This route might be possible with no extra infrastructure.

As with York and Blackpool North, this route would benefit with electrification between Preston and Blackburn.

Preston and Blackpool South

Consider.

  • This is a 20 mile route.
  • 7.7 miles is electrified.

Battery-electric Class 331 trains  should be able to handle this route.

This route might be possible with no extra infrastructure.

In an ideal world, Preston and Blackburn would be electrified and trains would run between Colne and Blackpool South, as they used to do.

Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Airport

Consider.

  • This is a 45.5 mile route,
  • 26.5 miles is not electrified.
  • It is fully electrified at both ends.

Battery-electric Class 331 trains  should be able to handle this route.

This route might be possible with no extra infrastructure.

Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Oxford Road

Consider.

  • This is a 34.2 mile route.
  • 26.5 miles is not electrified.
  • It is fully electrified at both ends.

Battery-electric Class 331 trains  should be able to handle this route.

This route might be possible with no extra infrastructure.

Southport and Alderley Edge

  • This is a 52 mile route,
  • 27 miles is not electrified.
  • It is fully electrified at the Southern end.
  • There is third rail electrification at Southport.

Battery-electric Class 331 trains with a charge at Southport should be able to handle this route.

Could some Class 331 be fitted with third-rail equipment to charge on Merseyrail’s third-rail electrification?

Manchester Piccadilly and Chester

Consider.

  • This is a 45 mile route.
  • 38 miles is not electrified.
  • It is fully electrified at Manchester end.
  • There is third rail electrification at Chester.

Battery-electric Class 331 trains with a charge at Chester should be able to handle this route.

Could some Class 331 be fitted with third-rail equipment to charge on Merseyrail’s third-rail electrification?

Manchester Piccadilly and Buxton

Consider.

  • This is a 25.5 mile route.
  • 17.8 miles is not electrified.
  • It is steeply uphill to Buxton.

Battery-electric Class 331 trains with a charge at Buxton should be able to handle this route.

Alternatively, they could use Newton’s friend to return down the hill.

This route might be possible with no extra infrastructure.

Manchester Piccadilly and Rose Hill Marple

Consider.

  • This is a 13.3 mile route.
  • 8.3 miles is not electrified.
  • It is fully electrified at Manchester end.

Battery-electric Class 331 trains should be able to handle this route.

This route might be possible with no extra infrastructure.

Manchester Piccadilly and New Mills Central

Consider.

  • This is a 13 mile route.
  • Only 2 miles is electrified.
  • It is fully electrified at Manchester end.

Battery-electric Class 331 trains should be able to handle this route.

This route might be possible with no extra infrastructure.

Manchester Piccadilly and Sheffield

Consider.

  • This is a 42 mile route.
  • Only 2 miles is electrified.
  • It is fully electrified at Manchester end.
  • It is a scenic route.

Battery-electric Class 331 trains with a fifty mile range and a charge at Sheffield should be able to handle this route.

Southport and Stalybridge

  • This is a 45 mile route.
  • 27 miles is not electrified.
  • It will be fully electrified at the Southern end, when electrification between Manchester Victoria and Stalybridge is completed.
  • There is third rail electrification at Southport.

Battery-electric Class 331 trains with a charge at Southport should be able to handle this route.

Could some Class 331 be fitted with third-rail equipment to charge on Merseyrail’s third-rail electrification?

Manchester Victoria And Kirkby

  • The Kirkby end of this route will change to the new Headbolt Lane station in a couple of years.
  • This is a 30 mile route.
  • 28 miles is not electrified.
  • It is fully electrified at the Southern end.
  • There is third rail electrification at Kirkby or Headbolt Lane.

Battery-electric Class 331 trains with a charge at Kirkby or Headbolt Lane should be able to handle this route.

Could some Class 331 be fitted with third-rail equipment to charge on Merseyrail’s third-rail electrification?

I would hope that the new Headbolt Lane station is being designed with battery-electric trains from Manchester in mind!

Rochdale And Clitheroe

Consider.

  • This is a 44.7 mile route.
  • There is 10.7 miles of electrification between Bolton and Manchester Victoria.
  • The Clitheroe end of the route has 23.7 miles of line without electrification.
  • The Rochdale end of the route has 10.4 miles of line without electrification.
  • It is steeply uphill to Clitheroe.

Battery-electric Class 331 trains should be able to handle the Rochdale end, but could struggle with the climb to Clitheroe.

But it appears that all services needing to climb the hills to Colne and Clitheroe now stop in Platform 2, which is different to Wikipedia, which says that services to Clitheroe stop in Platform 1.

  • With charging in platform 2 and a fifty-mile range battery-electric Class 331 trains could reach Clitheroe (9.8 miles), Colne (17 miles), and possibly Leeds (50 miles).
  • With charging in platform 4 and a fifty-mile range battery-electric Class 331 trains could reach Bolton (14 miles) and Preston (12 miles)
  • Would a fully-charged train leaving Blackburn be able to go via Todmorden and reach the electrification at Manchester Victoria, which is a distance of 39.4 miles?

Note.

If necessary a few well-planned extra miles of electrification would ensure reliable battery-electric services  in East Lancashire centred on Blackburn.

The closely-related Blackburn and Rochdale and Blackburn and Wigan Wallgate services would fit in well with an electrified Blackburn station, that could fully charge trains.

I certainly believe that electrifying Preston and Blackburn could give extra benefits.

  • Battery-electric trains between Blackpool and Liverpool in the West and Colne, Hebden Bridge, Bradford, Leeds and York in the East.
  • Direct electric services from Euston to Blackburn and Burnley.
  • Fast freight paths across the Pennines.

In addition, it would probably allow battery-electric trains to run to Leeds via a reinstated Skipton and Colne link.

Wigan And Leeds

Consider.

  • The route can terminate at either Wigan North Western or Wigan Wallgate station.
  • This is a 68.2 mile route using Wigan North Western.
  • Wigan North Western is a fully-electrified station.
  • The 16 miles between Wigan North Western and Salford Crescent stations is not electrified.
  • The 5 miles between Salford Crescent and Manchester Victoria stations is electrified.
  • The 37.2 miles between Manchester Victoria and Mirfield stations is not electrified.
  • The 12.2 miles between Mirfield and Leeds will be electrified in the next few years.
  • Leeds is a fully-electrified station.

Battery-electric Class 331 trains with a fifty mile range should be able to handle this route.

Chester And Leeds

Consider.

  • This is a 89.7 mile route.
  • There is third rail electrification at Chester.
  • The 18.1 miles between Chester and Warrington Bank Quay stations is not electrified.
  • The 21.8 miles between Warrington Bank Quay and Manchester Victoria stations is electrified.
  • The 40.3 miles between Manchester Victoria and Bradford Interchange stations is not electrified.
  • The 9.4 miles between Bradford Interchange and Leeds stations is not electrified.
  • Leeds is a fully-electrified station.
  • There seems to be generous turnround times at Chester and Leeds.

It looks to me that the trains are going to need a full battery charge at Bradford Interchange or perhaps Leeds and Bradford Interchange needs to be fully electrified.

I also feel that it would help if the electrification through Manchester Victoria were to be extended towards Rochdale.

But I don’t think it will be impossible for battery-electric Class 331 trains to work the route between Leeds and Chester with some new electrification and/or charging at Bradford Interchange.

Manchester Victoria And Leeds

Consider.

  • This is a shortened version of the Chester and Leeds route.
  • This is a 49.8 mile route.
  • Manchester Victoria is a fully-electrified station.
  • The 40.3 miles between Manchester Victoria and Bradford Interchange stations is not electrified.
  • The 9.4 miles between Bradford Interchange and Leeds stations is not electrified.
  • Leeds is a fully-electrified station.

My comments would be similar to the Chester and Leeds route.

Leeds And York Via Harrogate And Knaresborough

Consider.

  • This is a 38.8 mile route.
  • Leeds is a fully-electrified station.
  • The Harrogate Line is not electrified.
  • York is a fully-electrified station.

Battery-electric Class 331 trains with a fifty mile range should be able to handle this route.

There are two other services on the Harrogate Line.

  • Leeds and Harrogate – 18.3 miles
  • Leeds and Knaresborough – 22.1 miles

I have a feeling that a fleet of battery-electric trains could electrify all services on the Harrogate Line with no extra infrastructure.

Summing Up The Possible Routes

I have assumed that the proposed battery-electric Class 331 train has a range of around fifty miles, which is not unlike that for the Hitachi Regional Battery Train.

It would appear that many of Northern’s routes can be run by a train with this range including some that are around a hundred miles.

There are also routes like the Harrogate Line, which would accept a battery-electric Class 331 train tomorrow, if it were available.

Will A  Mix Of Four-Car Electric And Battery-Electric Trains Be Better Than A Mix Of Four-Car And Three-Car Electric Trains?

If the technology is right, I suspect that a four-car battery-electric Class 331 train will be able to substitute for one without batteries on a route that doesn’t need battery power.

This must surely have advantages when trains are in maintenance or otherwise unavailable, as nothing annoys passengers more than an overcrowded train.

Conclusion

The Modern Railways article also says this.

More widely, Northern has previously stated ambitions to acquire more trains, and work was underway last year to identify what this requirement might be.

From my simple analysis on some of their routes, I would look to acquire some four-car battery-electric Class 331 trains, once they have been oroven to work.

May 23, 2021 - Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , ,

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