The Anonymous Widower

London To Glasgow Train Journey Record Bid Fails By Just 21 Seconds

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

These are the first three paragraphs.

An attempt to break the 36-year-old record for the fastest train journey between London and Glasgow has failed.

Avanti West Coast’s Royal Scot train arrived at Glasgow Central 21 seconds behind the record of three hours, 52 minutes and 40 seconds set by British Rail in December 1984, according to rail expert Mark Smith, who was onboard.

Mr Smith, founder of Seat61.com, wrote on Twitter that a temporary speed limit on the track in Carstairs, South Lanarkshire, “cost us 90 seconds”.

It appears to be a valiant attempt that failed by a small margin.

I have a few thoughts.

The Trains

The British Rail 1984 record was set by an Advanced Passenger Train (APT) and today’s run was by a nine-car Class 390 train.

  • The design speed of the APT was 155 mph and that of a Class 390 train is 140 mph.
  • Service speed of both trains was and is 125 mph.
  • Record speed of the APT was 162 mph and that of a Class 390 train is 145 mph.
  • Both trains employ similar tilt technology to go faster.

At a brief look the performance of these two trains is very similar.

The InterCity 225

The InterCity 225 train is the ringer in this race to the North.

  • The design speed is 140 mph.
  • The service speed is 125 mph
  • The record speed of an InterCity 225 is 161.7 mph.
  • The train doesn’t use tilting technology.
  • The train was built after the APT around 1990.
  • The train holds the record between London Kings Cross and Edinburgh at thirty seconds under three-and-a-half hours.
  • To rub things in, one of these trains, even holds the London Euston and Manchester Piccadilly record.

But there can’t be much wrong with the InterCity 225 trains as a few are being brought back into service, whilst LNER are waiting for ten new bi-mode trains to be delivered.

Hitachi Class 80x Trains

The various variants of Class 800 trains run to Edinburgh and I’m sure they will run to Glasgow.

  • The design speed is 140 mph.
  • The service speed is 125 mph

If an InterCity 225 can go between Edinburgh and London in around three-and-a-half hours, I can’t see why these trains can’t.

Especially, as Hitachi seem to be able to produce versions like the Class 803 and Class 807 trains, which appear to be lighter and more efficient, as they don’t have any diesel engines.

A Small Margin

I said earlier that it was only a small margin between the times of the APT and the Class 390 train. But why was the InterCity 225 able to run between Kings Cross and Edinburgh at thirty seconds under three-and-a-half hours?

This section in the Wikipedia entry for the Class 91 locomotive is entitled Speed Record. This is the first paragraph.

A Class 91, 91010 (now 91110), holds the British locomotive speed record at 161.7 mph (260.2 km/h), set on 17 September 1989, just south of Little Bytham on a test run down Stoke Bank with the DVT leading. Although Class 370s, Class 373s and Class 374s have run faster, all are EMUs which means that the Electra is officially the fastest locomotive in Britain. Another loco (91031, now 91131), hauling five Mk4s and a DVT on a test run, ran between London King’s Cross and Edinburgh Waverley in 3 hours, 29 minutes and 30 seconds on 26 September 1991. This is still the current record. The set covered the route in an average speed of 112.5 mph (181.1 km/h) and reached the full 140 mph (225 km/h) several times during the run.

It looks from the last sentence of this extract, that the record run of the InterCity 225 train ran up to 140 mph in places, whereas the record run of the APT and today’s run by a Class 390 train were limited to 125 mph.

The Signalling

In the Wikipedia entry for the InterCity 225 train, the following is said.

Thus, except on High Speed 1, which is equipped with cab signalling, British signalling does not allow any train, including the InterCity 225, to exceed 125 mph (201 km/h) in regular service, due to the impracticality of correctly observing lineside signals at high speed.

Note.

  1. I have regularly flown my Cessna 340 safely at altitude, with a ground speed of around two hundred miles per hour.
  2. High Speed One has an operating speed of 186 mph.
  3. Grant Schapps, who is Secretary of State for Transport has a pilot’s licence. So he would understand flight instruments and avionics.

So why hasn’t a system been developed in the thirty years since trains capable of running at 140 mph started running in the UK, to allow them to do it?

It is a ridiculous situation.

We are installing full digital ERTMS in-cab signalling on the East Coast Main Line, but surely a system based on aviation technology could be developed until ERTMS  is ready. Or we could install the same system as on High Speed One.

After all, all we need is a system, to make sure the drivers don’t misread the signals.

But then the EU says that all member nations must use ERTMS signalling.

Didn’t we just leave the EU?

Conclusion

By developing our own in-cab digital signalling we could run trains between London and Scotland in around three-and-a-half hours.

The Japanese could even have an off-the-shelf system!

ERTMS sounds like a closed shop to give work to big European companies, who have lobbied the European Commission.

June 17, 2021 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , ,

5 Comments »

  1. The Pendolino’s have a Tilt Authorisation and Speed Supervision (TASS) which prevents the trains exceeding the speed limit and this would have been operating today. at 5 km/hr above the speed limit the driver is given a warning, at 10km/hr over the train is brought to a stand. It would not have been capable of exceeding the speed limit, unlike the IC225 on its run which had no similar system active on it.

    Comment by Mike Dyson | June 17, 2021 | Reply

  2. Thanks!

    When the InterCity 225 did its record run, I suspect they added some extra safety. It could even have been extra drivers in the cab or someone on the latest mobile phone to the signallers.

    It will be interesting to see the times that the new Class 807 trains achieve to Liverpool. These trains appear to be without diesels or batteries so are they lightweight speedsters with fast acceleration?

    Are they designed for two hours between Euston and Liverpool.

    How would similar trains perform on the Glasgow route?

    Comment by AnonW | June 17, 2021 | Reply

  3. The record has stood for 36 years !!
    Set by an APT with inferior signalling and track. You know the trains Thatcher scrapped and gave to the Italians, that we buy back for billions.

    Comment by John | June 17, 2021 | Reply

  4. As far as I can tell factors missing from the appraisal are relative power to weight ratios, gearing and thus achievable rates of acceleration for the trains being compared.. The ability to regain max. permissable line speeds is what matters. Some thought also needs to be given to the integrity of the OHL — line tension, conductor wire diameter — as raised in Modern Railways..

    Comment by Thomas Carr | June 18, 2021 | Reply

  5. In no section did the 1984 APT run exceed 130mph: it also had to contend with crawling through Rugby and Lancaster as well as a lengthy signal stop south of Stafford!
    None of this was mentioned in the mainstream press and barely in the specialist press… only that the Pendolino failed “valiantly” because of a single TSR (which was, in reality, far less significant than the setbacks in the 1984 run).

    Full APT timings at https://www.apt-p.com/PGBarlow.htm

    Comment by DW | June 25, 2021 | Reply


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