The Anonymous Widower

Will Hitachi ABB Power Grids Technology Be Used At Headbolt Lane Station?

Today, I was sent a link to the North Cheshire Rail User Group’s Newsletter for Spring 2021.

Current Progress on Merseyrail’s Class 777 Trains

This is said in the newsletter about the progress of the new Class 777 trains.

At a recent meeting of the Liverpool City Region rail user groups hosted by Liam Robinson, Chair of
Merseytravel, a short presentation was given detailing progress in bringing the new Class 777 Stadler fleet into
operation. NCRUG has been keeping a keen watch on the introduction of this new fleet; later model Class 777’s
have the ability to leave the 3rd rail and operate under battery power for 20 miles or more with a full load thus
permitting expansion of the Merseyrail network beyond its current limits.

Particularly of interest in our patch is the Ellesmere Port to Helsby line, although at one point in the meeting I
did raise the concept of ultimately having a complete Merseyrail service circling the Mersey Estuary on a metro
styled basis Ambitious certainly, but unrealistic as a long-term goal? There would be considerable work required
at Liverpool south Parkway to connect the Merseyrail line to the network, however the terrain is suitably flat and
the trains will be capable. This obvious evolution of the network did seem to take the meeting by surprise.

Unfortunately the much anticipated introduction of the Class 777’s has been delayed for a number of factors,
not least of all the pandemic but border issues and storage also play a part. Trails are taking place on the Kirby
and Ormskirk lines, and full introduction might not be until as late as next year. The Liverpool City Region has a
clearly defined set of (deliverable) objectives for development of the rail network and the expansion has been
prioritised with a line to Skelmersdale being top of the list and the first step of that being a new station at Headbolt
Lane, Kirby – plans are already well developed for this. It is expected to be this line where proof of concept trails
will be conducted for the battery powered 777’s, although Merseyrail does have authorisation to use Ellesmere
Port–Helsby on account of the low traffic movements on that line! Network expansion is being considered to
Widnes via Hunts Cross and possibly as far as Warrington, but when the question of Ellesmere Port–Helsby
was raised, the route, although under consideration, was not high on the priority list. I suspect it will be at least
several years away and I’m sure the delayed introduction of the type will not only come as a disappointment for
NCRUG but also the Community Rail Partnership and CWaC Council, who have funded a basic feasibility study
into possible demand. Therefore we are left with the Northern Trains service for the foreseeable future – 3 return
trains daily on the current schedule.

After reading this extract, I am puzzled. The original priority was to use the battery capabilities of the new Class 777 trains to extend the Ellesmere Port service to Helsby.

  • Ellesmere Port and Helsby stations are 5.2 miles apart.
  • Ellesmere Port has a two trains per hour (tph) service to Birkenhead and Liverpool.
  • Ellesmere Port and Helsby stations are linked by a three trains per day (tpd) service.

Helsby station has comprehensive connections to Chester, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Warrington Bank Quay station.

Two tph between Ellesmere Port and Helsby stations would certainly improve train services in the area and probably explains the disappointment shown by the writer of the newsletter.

So why have Merseyrail switched the emphasis to battery trains to Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale from Ellesmere Port and Helsby?

Headbolt Lane Station

Headbolt Lane station is a station of an unusual design, which I wrote about in Headbolt Lane Station Fly-Through.

  • Two platforms appear to face West towards Liverpool.
  • One platform appears to face East towards Wigan and Manchester.
  • The platforms meet head-on and a walkway runs between them to allow passengers to access all platforms.
  • There appears to be provision for a fourth platform to serve Skelmersdale. which is to the East of Headbolt Lane.

I think the design means that access to all platforms is level, passengers can enter from both sides of the railway and the station doesn’t need an expensive bridge.

Between Kirkby And Headbolt Lane Stations

Headbolt Lane and Kirkby stations are a couple of miles apart at most. So were Merseyrail hoping to extend the third-rail electrification to Headbolt Lane station, but the Office of Rail and Road has more or less said that no more third-rail electrification is allowed. See ORR’s Policy On Third Rail DC Electrification Systems.

So are Merseyrail having to use battery power between Kirkby and Headbolt Lane stations?

If they are then they have the trains.

As according to the extract from the Cheshire Rail User Group’s Newsletter, the Class 777 trains have a range of twenty miles on battery power, then this should be no problem.

The Skelmersdale Shuttle

The design of Headbolt Lane station does mean that there will be no through running between Liverpool and Skelmersdale.

So it looks to me, that to allow full step-free access to all platforms, the Skelmersdale service will be a battery-electric shuttle train.

  • It could also be the only train on a single-track between Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale, which would simplify signalling and operation.
  • Two tph could be possible with a single train.
  • The train would be charged in either termini using an appropriate charging system.

How many other simple branch lines could be run that way or built new?

Headbolt Lane And Manchester Victoria Via Wigan Wallgate

Consider.

  • The distance between Headbolt Lane and Manchester Victoria stations is just under thirty miles, which is well within range of the average battery-electric trains currently under development.
  • As the current Kirkby and Manchester Victoria stations is run by Northern Trains and they are likely to be acquiring some Class 331 trains with a battery capability, these will surely be an ideal train.
  • The train would be charged in the East-facing platform at Headbolt Lane station using an appropriate charging system.

Headbolt Lane station would be a diesel-free station. As incidentally, so would Kirkby and Skelmersdale stations.

Charging Trains At Headbolt Lane Station

It would appear that both East-facing platforms at Headbolt Lane station will need to charge these trains.

  • A Class 777 train with a third-rail capability and the ability in the future to access overhead electrification.
  • A Class 331 train with no third-rail capability and the ability to access overhead electrification.

Class 777 trains from Liverpool would hopefully have enough power in their batteries to return to Kirkby.

It would appear that a short length of 25 KVAC overhead electrification in both platforms would be ideal for charging trains to and from Manchester and Skelmersdale.

If one of Hitachi ABB Power Grids’s containerised overhead electrification power systems could handle both platforms, it would surely be ideal.

A crossover to allow Manchester and Skelmersdale trains to use either East-facing platform, might be desirable, as it could improve reliability.

Conclusion

It looks like Hitachi ABB Power Grids can provide a sensible solution to handling battery-electric trains at Headbolt Lane station. Or for that matter at any station, where battery-electric trains interface with the UK rail network.

July 10, 2021 - Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. “Office of Roads and Rail has said that no more third-rail electrification is allowed.”

    What is the logic behind that? For a start it is less obtrusive than OLE and catenary strung up.

    Comment by Maurice Reed | July 10, 2021 | Reply

  2. I agree with you, but it does seem that it is not. It kills people.

    When was the last time, new third-rail electrification was installed in this country?

    Comment by AnonW | July 10, 2021 | Reply


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