The Anonymous Widower

Liverpool’s Vision For Rail

This document on the Liverpool City Region web site is entitled Metro Mayor’s Vision Of A Merseyrail for All Takes Vital Step Forward With Successful Trial Of New Battery-Powered Trains.

It makes these points in the first part of the document.

  • Game-changing technology paves way for Merseyrail network expansion across the Liverpool City Region and beyond
  • Merseyrail services could reach as far as Wrexham and Preston
  • City Region is at the forefront of the introduction of pioneering energy efficient technology.

The new battery-powered trains would certainly go a long way to  enable, these objectives.

Battery-powered trains would need a range of 26.9 miles to go between Bidston and Wrexham stations.

Battery-powered trains would need a range of 15.3 miles to go between Ormskirk and Preston stations.

This link is to the North Cheshire Rail User Group’s Newsletter for Spring 2021.

This is said about battery range of the new Class 777 trains.

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.

I suspect they will also have regenerative braking to batteries, which will increase the range and allow Bidston and Wrexham stations to be achieved without charge.

It certainly sounds like Preston and Wrexham and all the intermediate stations,  will be added to the Merseyrail network.

As to the third point above about the introduction of pioneering energy efficient technology, I suspect this is mainly regenerative braking to batteries and replacement of elderly worn-out power supply equipment.

There is more in the Liverpool City Region document.

Expanding Merseyrail

This is said.

The game-changing technology could allow the Merseyrail network to extend across all six city region boroughs to places like Rainhill in St Helens, Woodchurch on the Wirral and Widnes in Halton.

It could also allow the new fleet to operate as far afield as Skelmersdale, Wrexham, Warrington and Runcorn.

Note.

  1. A 25 KVAC capability could well be needed.
  2. Chargers could be needed at some of these stations. I suspect Stadler have a Swiss manufacturer in mind.

In the run-up to May’s elections, the Mayor pledged to deliver ‘Merseyrail for All, a commitment to connecting under-served communities to the Merseyrail network.

New Stations

Initially the battery-powered trains, which are considerably greener, using up to 30% less energy than the existing fleet, are set to run on services to a planned new station at Headbolt Lane, Kirkby.

The wider Merseyrail for All programme could ensure every community is well served by an integrated public transport network and new and refurbished train stations are also high on the agenda.

They could include:

  • The Baltic Triangle in Liverpool
  • Carr Mill in St Helens
  • Woodchurch on the Wirral

Note.

Tram-Trains And Trackless Trams

The document says this.

Tram-Train technology and trackless trams will also be looked at as potential means of extending the Merseyrail network into hard-to-reach places. The technology could benefit areas such as Liverpool John Lennon Airport and Speke, Kirkby Town Centre, Southport Town Centre, Wirral Waters and the Knowledge Quarter.

Tram-trains built by Stadler in Valencia are already running in Sheffield and in the next few years they should be deployed on the South Wales Metro.

They were built by Stadler, who are building Merseyrail’s new Class 777 trains, so I suspect they’ll go together like peaches and cream.

The Belgian firm; Van Hool have a product called Exquicity. This video shows them working in Pau in France.

These tram buses run on rubber types and are powered by hydrogen.

Similar buses running in Belfast are diesel-electric.

Could these be what the document refers to as trackless trams?

Battery Train Trials

The article finishes with this summary of the battery train trials. This is said.

Under the battery trials, financed by the Transforming Cities Fund, one of the new class 777 trains fitted with the battery technology was tested on the Northern line.

The batteries exceeded expectations with the trains travelling up to 20 miles per run without the need for re-charging.

The battery trains would remove the need for the third ‘electric’ rail, enabling the trains to travel beyond the existing network without major track investment.

The units passed all tests during four weeks of trials on the City Region’s rail network in May and June.

The Combined Authority and partners are still assessing the full impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the programme and will provide more information regarding the roll out as soon as it has been agreed.

It looks to me, if all these plans get implemented successfully, Liverpool City Region will have one of the best public transport systems of any similar-sized cities in the world.

The Full Plan As A Map

This article on the BBC is entitled Battery-Powered Trains Part Of Merseyrail Expansion Plan.

The article contains this map.

There is no key or explanation, but it appears that the pink lines are new routes, where Merseyrail will run trains.

Before I discuss each of the possible routes, I will discuss two big factors, that will affect a lot of my thinking.

The West Coast Main Line

Avanti West Coast have the following stops in trains per hour (tph)  at these stations on the West Coast Main Line as its trains pass the East of Merseyside.

  • Crewe – At least 5 tph
  • Warrington Bank Quay – At least 2 tph
  • Preston – At least 1 tph

These frequencies are in addition to these direct trains.

  • 1 tph to Liverpool Lime Street, which will rise to 2 tph in the December 2022, with a call at Liverpool South Parkway station.
  • Occasional services to Chester throughout the day.

Passengers do not have to go via Liverpool Lime Street to travel to London.

In addition. there are useful services run by TransPennine Express to Scotland, that call at Preston.

In Future; High Speed Two

This will call at Crewe, Liverpool Lime Street, Liverpool South Parkway, Preston and Warrington.

Northern Trains

Northern Trains were in all sorts of troubles and the service is now run directly by the Government’s Operator of Last Resort. I suspect that any reasonable offer to takeover over a service will be looked at favourably.

I will now look at Merseyrail’s new routes.

Ormskirk And Southport Via The Burscough Curve

Consider.

  • This has been a long term aspiration of Merseyrail.
  • A curve between Burscough Bridge and Burscough Junction will have to be rebuilt on a former alignment.
  • Southport and Ormskirk are about 13 miles apart.
  • Southport and Ormskirk have third-rail electrified lines to Liverpool and the South.

It would be an ideal route for battery-electric trains with a range of 20 miles.

What would it do for passengers?

  • It gives those living near five stations a direct link to Liverpool.
  • It gives Southport a town of over 91,000 people more capacity to the city of Liverpool for jobs, leisure and shopping.
  • Will it open up more opportunities for new housing in villages like Burscough?

It will certainly give Merseyrail operational advantages to Southport.

Ormskirk And Preston

Consider.

  • This has been a long term aspiration of Merseyrail.
  • This would be a takeover by Merseyrail of the existing Northern Trains service.
  • Preston and Ormskirk are about 15.3 miles and 32 minutes apart.
  • Omskirk has 750 VDC third-rail electrification and Preston has 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The Class 777 trains have been built so they can be updated to dual voltage.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • It gives those living near the Ormskirk and Preston Line a direct link to Liverpool.
  • It creates a direct link in modern electric trains between North Liverpool and Preston, for onward travel on West Coast Main Line services and High Speed 2 in the future.
  • The journey time could be reduced to under thirty minutes.

As football is so important to the Liverpool economy, would a time around forty-five minutes between Preston and Sandhills station tempt football supporters going to Anfield and Goodison Park to use the train and then perhaps a trackless tram to the stadium?

This Google map shows the location of Anfield, Goodison Park and Sandhills station.

Note.

  1. Anfield is in the bottom-right corner of the map and is marked by a red arrow.
  2. Goodison is in the top-right corner of the map, slightly to the West of Anfield.
  3. Sandhills station is in the bottom-left corner of the map.

Both stadia are around a mile and a half from the station.

Ormskirk And Preston

Once the Ormskirk and Southport and Ormskirk and Preston services are up and running, it would surely be possible to run a Southport and Preston service.

  • There would be a reverse at Ormskirk.
  • The two sections of Ormskirk and Southport and Ormskirk and Preston would both need battery power.
  • Whilst the driver changed ends at Ormskirk, the train would be recharged using a fast and efficient charger.
  • Times between Southport and Preston would be under an hour.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • It gives those living in Southport, a direct link to Preston.
  • It creates a direct link in modern electric trains between Southport and Preston, for onward travel on West Coast Main Line services and High Speed 2 in the future.

This service could be very valuable for passengers, but I suspect the route could be implemented with minimal infrastructure changes at Ormskirk station.

Ormskirk Station

This picture shows Ormskirk’s single platform from the Merseyrail end.

Note.

  1. The Liverpool train in the foreground.
  2. The Preston train in the background.
  3. The solid barrier between the trains.

 

I wonder if the following would be possible with the barrier removed.

  • The long platform would be treated as one platform divided into two.
  • Perhaps they will be the Liverpool and Preston/Southport platform,
  • Trains that will leave the station for Liverpool will stop in the Liverpool platform.
  • Trains that will leave the station for Preston or Southport will stop in the Preston/Southport platform.
  • Through trains between Liverpool and Preston or Southport would be possible.
  • A train between Preston and Southport could reverse in the Preston/Southport platform, whilst trains for Liverpool used the Liverpool platform.

It looks like it’s an efficient layout borrowed from somewhere else. and Stadler have probably seen it before.

Headbolt Lane Station

In Headbolt Lane Station Fly-Through, I described the new Headbolt Lane station.

This screen capture is from the video in that post,

Note.

  1. Two platforms going away from the camera and one platform and what looks to be a siding going towards the camera.
  2. There appears to be no direct connection between the two different sets of tracks.

Until proven wrong, I believe that the camera is looking towards Liverpool, as it would mean that Liverpool services had two platforms. But they currently make do with one at Kirkby.

There is a walk through between the tracks, which

  • Enables passengers to access the second platform.
  • Allows passengers to enter the station from the other side.
  • Allows non-passengers to cross the tracks on the level.
  • Avoids the need to build a bridge.

It is certainly an innovative design.

If occasional trains need to go through, could there be a lift-out section of the walk-through?

But as there are buffer stops on the tracks in the three platforms, that are either side of the walk-through, I suspect it will never happen, as it’s too much hassle.

In the Wikipedia entry for Headbolt Lane station this is said.

The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority announced in July 2021 that a trial of a battery electric multiple unit (BEMU) version of the new Class 777 will serve the new station, when it opens. This will not require all of the line extension to Headbolt Lane to be electrified.

Merseyrail would appear to have neatly side-stepped, the Office of Road and Rail’s policy of no more third-rail electrification.

But I’m sure Merseyrail could put an approved train-charging system in the station.

  • They would need one if a Class 777 train arrived with a flat battery.
  • They would need one to charge trains on the Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale service, if the service were to be run by battery-electric trains.
  • They would need one to charge trains on the Headbolt Lane and Wigan Wallgate service, if the service were to be run by battery-electric trains.

The system could be based on a short length of overhead wire and a slim pantograph or a system like Railbaar from Furrer and Frey.

But does it give any clues as to the orientation of the station in the video?

  • As there are three platforms and a siding, that meet at Headbolt Lane station, all could be fitted with chargers. to make sure the services are reliable.
  • Liverpool services could be handled at either end, as it only needs one platform.
  • Skelmersdale and Wigan services could probably share a platform, but they would be better surely using two platforms.
  • The siding could be created into a platform for extra services to be added to the Merseyrail network

So there is no pressing reason, why the station cannot be North or South of the railway.

I suspect road layout and land use issues will eventually decide, the orientation of the station.

Headbolt Lane And Skelmersdale

Consider.

  • This has been a long term aspiration of Merseyrail and Lancashire County Council.
  • Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale are just a few miles apart.
  • Direct running between Liverpool and Skelmersdale will not be possible, but it will be step-free change between trains.

The Wikipedia entry for Headbolt Lane station seems to indicate a proposed extension of the Northern Line with the next stop being the existing Rainford station. This would surely not add greatly to costs and bring Merseyrail to more fare-paying customers.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • Skelmersdale is a town of nearly 39,000 and is said to be one of the largest towns in England without a rail connection.
  • At Headbolt Lane passengers will be able to change for Liverpool or Manchester.

A lot of passengers will have received a modern train service.

Headbolt Lane And Wigan

Consider.

  • This service is currently run by Northern trains.
  • Kirkby and Wigan Wallgate stations are just over twelve miles apart.
  • Someone, who should know told me that by the time High Speed Two starts running through Wigan at a frequency of two tph, the two Wigan stations will have been combined.
  • Headbolt Lane station could be the drop-off point for those needing to go to Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London on both the current West Coast Main Line and the future High Speed Two.

What better way to start that journey than on one of Merseyrail’s battery-electric Class 777 trains.

What would it do for passengers?

With modern battery-electric trains linking Headbolt Lane station to the combined Wigan station complex, this route could be the zero-carbon route between large parts of Liverpool and cantres of tourism and employment along and to the East of the M6 and the West Coast Main Line.

Liverpool South Parkway And Warrington Central

Consider.

  • This would be takeover of part of the current Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Oxford Road service.
  • The map shows the service going at least as far as Warrington Central station.
  • Stations between Hunts Cross and Warrington Central include Halewood, Hough Green, Widnes, Sankey and the new Warrington West stations.

Distances are as follows.

  • Liverpool South Parkway and Liverpool Lime Street – 5.5 miles
  • Liverpool South Parkway and Warrington Central – 12.7 miles
  • Liverpool South Parkway and Trafford Park – 25.4 miles
  • Liverpool South Parkway and Manchester Oxford Road – 28.7 miles

The following sections of the route have 25 KVAC overhead electrification.

  • Liverpool South Parkway and Liverpool Lime Street
  • East of Trafford Park.

With a bit more electrification at either end, the whole route should be in range of a battery-electric Class 777 train.

Or the Class 777 trains could be fitted with bigger batteries!

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • This is a route that has needed decent trains for years and has finally got new Class 195 trains.
  • But, in addition, the battery-electric Class 555 trains would decarbonise the route.

The major problem, though is not infrastructure or trains, but surely Andy Burnham, who is the outspoken Mayor of Greater Manchester could object to Merseyrail invading his patch.

Merseyrail’s Cheshire Ambitions

This is a section of the map shown on the BBC article, showing Cheshire.

It looks like there could be as many as three routes.

  • Chester and Crewe
  • Chester and Runcorn East
  • Ellesmere Port and Runcorn East

I’ll now cover the routes in detail.

Chester And Crewe

Consider.

  • This would be a takeover by Merseyrail of the existing Trains for Wales service.
  • Chester And Crewe are about 21,2 miles and 25 minutes apart.
  • Chester has 750 VDC third-rail electrification and Crewe has 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The Class 777 trains have been built so they can be updated to dual voltage.
  • There are proposals, that Beeston Castle and Tarporley station be re-opened.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • If trains will run between Crewe and Liverpool, this creates a second route between the two major stations.
  • It creates a direct link in modern electric trains between The Wirral and Crewe, for onward travel on West Coast Main Line services and High Speed 2 in the future.
  • The journey time could be reduced by enough to increase service frequency on the route.

I This would be a very useful extension of the Merseyrail network.

Chester And Runcorn East

Consider.

  • This would be a takeover by Merseyrail of the existing Trains for Wales service.
  • Chester And Runcorn East are about 13.1 miles apart.
  • Two stations and five miles further on is Warrington Bank Quay station.
  • Chester has 750 VDC third-rail electrification and Warrington Bank Quay has 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The Class 777 trains have been built so they can be updated to dual voltage.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • It would enable a Merseyrail circular route from Liverpool Lime Street to Chester via Edge Hill, Wavertree Technology Park, Broad Green, Roby, Huyton, Whiston, Rainhill, Lea Green, St Helens Junction, Warrington Bank Quay, Frodsham, Runcorn East and Helsby.
  • After Chester, it could take the Wirral Line back to Liverpool to make it a true Mersey Circular service.

Would a Mersey Circular service be a good idea?

Ellesmere Port And Runcorn East

Consider.

  • This been a long term aspiration of Merseyrail.
  • This would be a takeover by Merseyrail of the infrequent Northern Rail service.
  • Ellesmere Port And Runcorn East are about 10.8 miles apart.
  • Two stations and five miles further on is Warrington Bank Quay station.
  • Ellesmere Port has 750 VDC third-rail electrification and Warrington Bank Quay has 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The Class 777 trains have been built so they can be updated to dual voltage.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • It would certainly improve rail transport along the South Bank of the Mersey from Ellesmere Port to Warrington Bank Quay or Runcorn East depending on the Eastern terminus.
  • If the terminal were to be Warrington Bank Quay that would sort out the charging.
  • It could create a direct link in modern electric trains between Ellesmere Port and Warrington Bank Quay, for onward travel on West Coast Main Line services and High Speed 2 in the future.

I feel that an Ellesmere Port and Warrington Bank Quay service would be good for the area.

The Borderlands Line

I’ve left the Borderlands Line to last, as I feel it will be a lot more than commuter and leisure line between Liverpool and Wrexham.

  • It crosses the border between England and Wales
  • The line is 26.9 miles of double track, with a single-track extension of under two miles between the two Wrexham stations.
  • It has over twenty stations with more planned in both countries
  • It crosses a couple of rivers on long steel bridges.
  • It brings commuters to Liverpool and takes workers to the high-tech factories of companies like Airbus and Toyota on Deeside.
  • It connects to a lot of golf courses, one of which is the Open Championship course  at Royal Liverpool.
  • Once in Wales it has two connections to the North Wales Coast Line, which runs between Chester and holyhead.

It is no ordinary railway and is ripe for improvement to bridge passengers to employment sites and leisure areas along its route.

The line has one big problem in that passengers need to change trains at Bidston between Liverpool and Wrexham stations.

  • Between Bidston and Liverpool the Merseyrail electric trains to and from  Hoylake are used and they turn in the Liverpool Loop under Liverpool City Centre calling at four stations before returning.
  • Between Bidston and Wrexham, diesel multiple units are useds.

It is a route design straight out of the 1970s of men with minds without imagination. Even British Rail were designing battery-electric trains in the 1950s, which I wrote about in Did The Queen Ever Ride In This Train?.

Merseyrail intend to right the wrongs of the past using battery-electric Class 777 trains.

  • As electric versions of these trains will be used on the Liverpool and Hoylake service, there would be no need to change trains at Bidston if the Liverpool and Wrexham trains were just a battery-electric version of the same train.
  • The Wrexham trains would drive round the Liverpool Loop tunnel as hundreds of trains do every day.
  • The trains would be charged on the existing third-rail electrification at the Liverpool end.
  • I’m fairly certain that a frequency of two tph would be possible on the route, if the Liverpool Loop tunnel signalling could cope,
  • Trains would need to be charged at the Wexham end of the route and I’m sure Stadler have a solution.

It would be an efficient and cost effective way to decarbonise a tricky but useful branch line.

Conclusion

Stadler are playing their full orchestra of ideas on Merseyrail.

When completed, it will be one of the best metros of any urban areas up to a million people in the world.

This metro could do for Liverpool, what the Beatles did for the city in the 1960s.

July 15, 2021 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

Three Hydrogen Double Decker Buses Set For Dublin

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on H2 View.

This article is different to other hydrogen bus stories.

These buses are being used on a Dublin commuter service; 105X between Dublin and Ratoath.

  • The shortest distance is 16 miles by the M2 Motorway.
  • The current service between Ratoath and O’Connell Street takes around an hour, but doesn’t appear to use the Motorway.
  • There seem to be three services into Dublin in the morning and three services out in the evening.

Could it be, that if this service is run on the Motorway with a faster hydrogen bus, allowed to go faster than the 65 kph limit for buses in Ireland, that would knock significant time from the journey?

My rough estimate says that times of the order of under forty minutes are possible.

Conclusion

Hydrogen buses have been chosen for this route for various reasons.

  • One overnight refuelling will last all day.
  • No time will be wasted during the day in charging batteries.
  • The bus probably carries a large fuel reserve to cope with traffic delays.
  • As the buses are the latest design with lots of modern features, they could attract passengers.
  • The buses are probably certified for higher speeds than older buses.
  • The three commuter services will each be hydrogen buses, but if there is a minor failure, I suspect a diesel bus can substitute.
  • Surely, if the buses did the journey faster, extra services could be phased in throughout the day.

I think we could be seeing hydrogen buses on commuter routes into our major towns and cities.

The Dublin purchase of hydrogen buses for one specific route could be significant.

I shall be watching it with interest.

 

July 15, 2021 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

MAN And Highview Power Sign World-First LAES Project Contract

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

This first paragraph fills out the title and explains the acronyms.

A contract has been signed between the two companies for MAN Energy Solutions (MAN) to provide Highview Power’s (Highview) CRYOBattery facility with its liquid-air energy-storage (LAES) turbomachinery solution.

This contract may apply to only the 50MW/250MWh system at Carrington, near Manchester, but if this system is successful, as Highview have sold nearly a dozen systems worldwide and MAN most certainly has a worldwide support network, it is probably not a small deal for a company like MAN.

Last night, I had a drink with a friend who is the Operations Director for one of London’s largest bus companies. His company is looking seriously at  batteries to ease charging of electric buses.

As MAN Energy Solutions are part of the Volkswagen Group could MAN’s interest in Highview’s technology be partly driven by Volkswagen’s need to provide a charging solution for all of the fleets of battery buses, cars, trucks and vans, that they hope to sell in the next few years.

It must surely help in the selling of thousands of electric vans to a company like Amazon, if you can sell them a charging solution, that includes a large eco-friendly battery, that can be fitted into the average site.

July 15, 2021 Posted by | Energy Storage, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

United Airlines To Buy 100, 19-seat Electric Planes from Heart Aerospace

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

This is the first paragraph.

United Airlines said on Tuesday it would buy 100 19-seat ES-19 electric planes from Swedish start-up Heart Aerospace, as the U.S. carrier eyes battery-powered aircraft for regional routes.

It looks fairly conventional, except that you don’t find many four-engined propeller driven aircraft these days.

This page on the Heart Aerospace web site, gives more details of the company and its plane.

I suggest you read the FAQ, as the last five sections give details on the use of the planes, as short-haul airliners and island hoppers.

What’s A Typical Route That The ES-19 Will Fly In 2026?

In answer to this question, the FAQ says this.

Our early adopter market will be very short flights where there is high demand. This will include island-hopping and flying over mountainous terrain, where the flight distance is significantly less than the road routes available.

I can certainly see these planes and other 19-seaters  island hopping and on cross-country routes all over the British Isles.

Other 19-seater Aircraft You May Have Flown

I have only flow in one and that was an Embraer Bandeirante from Norwich to Stavanger.

Others will have flown in a De Havilland Canada Twin Otter or the Britten-Norman Trilander.

Conclusion

This well-backed Swedish design could be a very widely-used airliner, if it meets the ambitious in-service date of 2026.

There are other designs being developed including the more unusual Faradair Aerospace BEHA.

Unlike the ES-19 it is not fully electric, but is powered by a small Honeywell gas turbine running on sustainable aviation fuel.

But the ES-19 looks the best yet!

 

N

July 15, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment