The Anonymous Widower

Midland Main Line Electrification – 4th Jan 2022

I took these pictures from the train today, as I went to Leicester.

Note.

  1. We overtook the Class 360 train to Corby, just before it left the main line at Kettering North junction.
  2. Once past Kettering North junction, the Midland Main Line is only two tracks as far as Leicester station.
  3. A lot of the gantries on the two slow lines seem tall.
  4. At least twenty gantries had been installed North of the junction.

Some of the new gantries looked to be lighter than those South of the junction, but then they are only supporting electrification for two tracks, rather than four.

This Google Map shows the junction.

In this section, my train overtook the train to Corby.

  • The track going North-West goes to Leicester.
  • The track going North-East goes to Corby.
  • The track going South goes to Kettering.
  • It looks like to the West of the Midland Main Line is a large electricity sub-station.

In the tenth of my pictures you can see the three vertical poles opposite the sub-station, which can be picked out in the map.

 

January 4, 2022 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , ,

27 Comments »

  1. there’s a press release from National Grid on the power supply for this next bit of electrification https://www.nationalgrid.com/transformer-deliveries-mark-major-milestone-braybrooke-substation-project-and-midland-main-line AIUI, this is the rectangular blob shown on OSM, where the current transmission lines cross the railway https://www.openrailwaymap.org/?style=standard&lat=52.465867343879246&lon=-0.876932144165039&zoom=14 You should have been able to see that from the train. The press release states it will be “energised” by “Winter 2022”, which seems rather vague. The electrification itself isn’t scheduled for completion until end 2023. As it’s only 15km or so – i.e. 30 track km – I’m not sure why it’s taking them so long to complete.

    Comment by Peter Robins | January 4, 2022 | Reply

    • A possible reason could be good planning. The trains appear to be being delivered in 2023, so perhaps there’s no point in switching it on, if there’s no trains. Network Rail, National Grid and their engineers have also got to boost the electrification South of Bedford to accept 125 mph electric running and finish off the Stalybridge and Church Fenton schemes. So perhaps, there aren’t enough engineers. Specialist resources are always a problem.

      Comment by AnonW | January 5, 2022 | Reply

      • I would call that ‘lack of good planning’! The rail industry has been saying for years now that there needs to be a rolling electrification program, so skilled workers can be offered steady work and a longer-term career. Scotland has this, but England has no coherent plan at all. Wales has a team working on S Wales Valleys, but that’s scheduled for completion end 2023, and there’s no plan past that. Church Fenton is scheduled for completion in October, and Barking Riverside for a similar time. Work on piling has started on Stalybridge, but the only schedule I’ve seen for electrification is the IPR, which gives completion around 2027 – which seems bizarre for something which is even shorter than Mkt H.

        You’re probably right about the trains, but here too there’s a lack of any real long-term rolling-stock plan. Scotland is starting on plans to replace the ageing Sprinters with non-diesel options, but we’re still waiting for NR’s detailed decarbonisation strategy for England.

        Comment by Peter Robins | January 5, 2022

      • according to https://www.eastmidlandsrailway.co.uk/help-manage/about-us/news-press/a-new-dawn-east-midlands-railway-new-intercity-fleet-to-be-named the 1st bimodes should enter service in early 2023. If the new substation is ready for the end of this year, then it would seem sensible to have the line ready for whenever the first bimodes are available.

        Comment by Peter Robins | January 5, 2022

  2. Seeing they made a quick start on the electrification and that it’s only eleven miles of double track railway between Kettering and Market Harborough to electrify, if Network Rail get their skates on, I suspect the electrification could be in place by the end of 2023.

    Comment by AnonW | January 5, 2022 | Reply

    • the original plan was for Kettering-Nott/Shf to be electrified 2018-20; the revised version was 2020-23. The RIA thought that 100stk/yr per team was an achievable goal. The section to Mkt H is < 1/10 of the total line. So it ought to take 3-4 months at most, especially as much of the preparatory work is already complete.

      It seems the contract for the remainder is due out to tender in September https://www.constructionenquirer.com/2021/07/06/bidders-days-for-500m-midland-mainline-electrification/ so I would assume the winner will be announced next year. The IRP (p134) gives 2027-32 as when this will be carried out, but that doesn't make much sense. Put out the contract this year, and then wait for 5 years before starting work?

      Comment by Peter Robins | January 5, 2022 | Reply

      • I find the whole project poorly defined with the on-off-on again approach to MML upgrade that has been going on for over a decade. I see that apart from a Network Rail publication of 2017 we’ve had no further definition of the MML Route Specification. Given what has happened with initial plans for an eastern leg, it’s abandonment and a less than satisfactory IRP and I suppose it’s no wonder that you find cause for criticism.
        Thanks BTW for making me aware of the Openrailwaymap website, a highly valuable resource to go with the New Adlestrop Railway Map, a project that seeks to record the current network together with closed lines

        Comment by fammorris | January 5, 2022

      • one thing with MML I’m not sure of is whether electrification includes Erewash valley.

        A good feature of OpenRailwayMap is that, as it’s based on OSM data, if something’s wrong or missing, you can just go in and edit it. The ORM tiles are regenerated every night, so any changes you make are changed on the map the next day. The editor program takes a bit of getting used to, but it’s straightforward once you get the hang of it. It’s still showing the E leg of HS2. Whoever entered that should go in and edit it back out again!

        Comment by Peter Robins | January 5, 2022

      • Although I said Network Rail have not provided a further definition of the MML Route Specification, I’m much inclined to believe the Erewash Valley line will not be electrified. A lot of that is driven by the comments made about Totton and the scrapping of the eastern leg of HS2.
        Erewash provides a far less challenging route than that via Derby when it comes to electrification and high speed, but as I can now see the concept of HSR beyond the original and western legs is dead for a good generation or two. I’m afraid the cock up that was the GWR project has scared the politicians to the core, after all it was the then transport minister Patrick McClaughlin in 2013 who forced the industry to step back and reassess the future of HSR projects until it could give better value.

        Comment by fammorris | January 6, 2022

      • I’m actually not so sure that the politicians are scared – because of GWR or any other electrification programme. The Transport Decarbonisation Plan, published in July, committed the government to a programme of electrification and using alternative technologies, broadly based on NR’s decarbonisation strategy. Ministers were until recently promising that the IRP would fully implement both HS2 and NPR. The problem, as I read it, is Covid, which has seriously damaged the public purse. So the Treasury is now saying: “Sorry, chaps, we can’t afford this”. So Shapps had to hurriedly cobble together a cheaper alternative, and then try and pretend that the government’s commitments to rail, levelling up, etc were still intact. Because it was put together in haste, there are a lot of holes, and I suspect the hope is that in 5 years time or so the public finances will be in better order, and ministers can give the go-ahead for more rail investment. (Of course, in 5 years time, we’ll have different ministers.) Plus, of course, the IRP doesn’t address the needs of large chunks of the country. And HS2, with its focus on journey times to London, doesn’t help the majority of rail journeys which don’t involve London.

        The problem I see is that doing very little apart from HS2 over the next few years pushes the earliest decarbonisation date even further back. At their current rate of progress, NR’s proposed 13,000 stk of electrification will be finished around 2090. To get it done in 20 years means 650 stk a year – a tall order. Meanwhile, road decarbonisation is starting to speed up: sales of EVs and smaller vans are increasing rapidly, and will increase even further as batteries reduce in price and increase in capability. Volvo has now started mass producing electric versions of what it calls ‘heavy duty trucks’, which can manage 300-350km between charges.

        Comment by Peter Robins | January 6, 2022

  3. Much of the traffic on the Erewash Valley Line is freight and I’m of the opinion that freight locomotives in a decades time will be hydrogen-electric, as that solves so many problems of emissions and loading.

    As to passenger services, battery electric trains could probably cover between Toton and Clay Cross North junction, where it meets the MML again.

    Comment by AnonW | January 6, 2022 | Reply

  4. Replying to Peter. I think that other decisions will get done because they make companies look good, that could cut the railway modernisation bill.

    For instance, four weeks ago, Birmingham introduced hydrogen buses with their own private hydrogen supply. Hydrogen and electric buses coming as pairs or in Wrighbus’s case foursies, could make bus decarbonisation a lot easier, as buses wear out.

    Will Alstom and Eversholt price their hydrogen Aventra with a hydrogen station from ITM Power, who were used in Birmingham, so that branch lines can can be decarbonised with very little infrastructure work.

    Freight is the biggest problem and I believe that a hydrogen/electric locomotive with the power of a Class 59 is possible. Again sell them with a fuelling system and you’ll make a fortune.

    Electrification has its place but it is disruptive to install, whereas rolling stock can be designed to be both zero-carbon and run without substantial infrastructure works.

    Hydrogen and battery power are also quieter.

    Comment by AnonW | January 6, 2022 | Reply

    • well, yes, but rolling stock also needs infrastructure. And it also costs money to buy and run. The Scottish Decarbonisation Plan estimated that a battery adds some 25% to the cost of an electric train. More recently, they estimated that electric, battery-electric and hydrogen multiple units cost respectively £1.32, £1.62, and £2.46 per mile to operate. A 2020 study funded by the German government found that battery trains could be some 35% cheaper to buy and operate than hydrogen ones – which is probably why there have been few orders for hydrogen trains in Germany compared to battery ones.

      Simple there-and-back short branch lines off an electrified line, like Windsor/Henley/Marlow, ought to be no-brainers for battery operation. Other branch lines off unelectrified lines, or those which are beyond battery range need some recharging infrastructure (or perhaps you wait until batteries get longer range). Atm, hydrogen looks like the only option for long unelectrified routes, like the N of Scotland or London-Penzance, but will that still be the case in 10 or 20 years time? Granted, you probably only need hydrogen supply at the depot, or wherever the train sits for long enough to refuel. But you still need to organise the supply; and what happens if there’s a shortage? Plus it looks like atm the hydrogen tanks have to take up space which would otherwise be used for seating (the same with hydrogen planes).

      At the end of the day, if there’s a firm plan for electrification, you can plan rolling stock around it, both for the electrified track and the unelectrified track that links to it. Atm, it’s hard for anyone to plan anything.

      None of these issues is a show stopper, but I don’t think detailed planning for which type of rolling stock can run when where is a simple task.

      On the subject of freight, https://newscenter.lbl.gov/2021/11/23/big-batteries-on-wheels-can-deliver-zero-emissions-rail-while-securing-the-grid/ is an interesting study from Berkeley Lab, which estimates that a US freight train fitted with a separate battery tender could run for 150 miles without having to be recharged, at half the cost of diesel. Those are very large batteries, but if you can haul those monster US freight trains with batteries, I don’t see why you can’t do likewise with British tiddlers. BL are world leaders in battery research, so they ought to know what they’re talking about.

      Comment by Peter Robins | January 6, 2022 | Reply

      • The Americans start from the financial end, whereas we start from the technical end. In rail, this is probably because all the freight companies are private.

        I see the large numbers of Class 66 locomotives in the UK as an opportunity not a problem.

        I wrote about converting them to battery-electric locomotives with a fifty mile range in this post.

        Could Class 66 Locomotives Be Converted Into Battery-Electric Locomotives?

        Wabtec have the technology in the States and I’m sure it could be applied to a Class 66.

        Comment by AnonW | January 6, 2022

      • This subject really needs to be summarised in a table, it’s so complex and seeing the wood but for the trees makes it hard to analyse, particularly with such a rapid speed of technological evolution.
        I’ve not tried to pare the December 2020 Rail Engineer article down preferring to suggest you have a look at it
        https://www.railengineer.co.uk/hydrogen-trains-coming-soon/?amp.
        Leaving the subject of electrification to one side, both hydrogen and battery powered vehicles have their advantages and disadvantages depending on application. Environmental issues aside, compared to these new technologies which both have their obvious shortcomings, diesel offers versatility. If this is unachievable financiers of trains will find it hard to swallow.
        https://www.railengineer.co.uk/hydrogen-trains-coming-soon/?amp
        As for freight locos and a battery trailer, that’s exactly the sort of thing Hitachi did in conjunction with Brush for the diesel-battery hybrid Hayabusa HST. Why not take the existing EMD engine out of a Class 66 drop in a smaller Caterpillar unit running hydrogenated fuel principally as a generator set, install some batteries and using a complementary battery trailer create a Series Hybrid, or range extender – sorry couldn’t resist the whimsical thought.

        Comment by fammorris | January 6, 2022

      • that Rail Engineer article makes a common mistake in stating that “the energy density of hydrogen is twice that of a battery pack”. The energy density of a battery depends entirely on what it’s made from. Even within Li-ion there is variation depending on the exact configuration and materials used. If you’d have tried putting batteries in trains when, say, the Sprinters were first introduced, you couldn’t have used Li-ion because they didn’t exist. It’s highly likely the same will apply 20 or 30 years from now, when Li-ion will seem very primitive with poor performance.

        Of course, all tech has its advantages and disadvantages. If everything were perfect, researchers and engineers would be out of a job. 🙂

        Comment by Peter Robins | January 6, 2022

      • Yes I agree the comparison of energy density is peculiar, especially when you realise that the author of the piece has made no attempt to qualify the comparative installations, nor considered the configuration and type of battery used. Taking your criticism and looking at a series of other online articles they all the seem to suffer from the same problem.
        The best one can say is that the energy density of an installation involving hydrogen becomes more favourable in comparison to Li-ion batteries as the vehicle mass increases due to the increasing packaging weight of batteries and the associated control features which play a greater role.
        Perhaps MJ/kg is a bad metric.
        As for the evolution of the battery (or the fuel cell, or forms of electrostatic energy storage ), the trouble is that we’re still in that immature phase, which is not great point at which to make critical decisions on equipment that will be fitted into vehicles having a 30 – 40 year life.

        Comment by fammorris | January 7, 2022

      • indeed. But I think a basic comparison of hydrogen vs battery is missing the point. The iLint, to use the benchmark H train, has an electric motor driven from a battery, recharged by regen braking power. The fuel cells then top up the battery as needed. So effectively the H tank is a range extender. So the real question is how big a battery do you install, and how much H do you need. The more capable the battery, the less H you need, and vv. Hydrogen is light, but bulky; you can reduce the bulk by using liquid form, but that complicates things and adds to the expense. Batteries have traditionally been heavy, but they are getting increasingly lighter and smaller as the tech progresses. My guess is that in 10 years time battery range will be good enough for H to no longer be needed. I expect you’ve seen the recent announcements about the new Mercedes with a range of 1000km. Atm this is just a ‘concept car’, but 1000km would be ample for any British rail route.

        On your final para, all modern trains are designed modularly, so it should be simple to swap out a powerpack for a new one when needed. Merseyrail have done this the right way IMO. They ordered new trains with the flexibility of recharging from OLE if needed, plus the option of fitting batteries to some of them. They then ran a trial to see how the batteries perform. That established a range of 20 miles. They’re now drawing up a plan of action for extending the network, which will have to include discussions with the present operators, agreeing paths with NR etc etc Then Stadler can fit batteries to the appropriate no of units, and a catenary where needed. In Scotland, Hitachi have told Scotrail they can retrofit a small battery with 20 miles range to their EMUs quite easily (similar to the 777s). They can fit a larger battery, but that would be more complicated (and presumably take longer and cost more).

        Comment by Peter Robins | January 7, 2022

      • Peter, I’m sure you make the point generally about batteries vs hydrogen, I fully agree it is indeed not an either/or situation. I could make a guess but on the other hand I don’t know realistically just how optimistic I should be about developments in battery technology, thankfully that will be a decision to be made by others – there’s a lot riding on this particular question.
        Back in 2020 Hitachi, whilst promoting the potential of future AT200-based vehicles, spoke about batteries giving a range of 90 Kms and having a 10 year life. This solution would require continuous charging (presumably whilst running under OHL or third rail) as opposed to being charged as a result of brake regeneration or at termini. At that time it would indicate that a compromise was needed in terms of the battery energy capacity that could be installed given the available space. You highlight the fact that the Stadler Metro platform as delivered to Merseyrail can accommodate a battery package that will give a range of 20 miles and say that they can fit a larger battery. I’d be interested to know what the limitations are because in my experience of vehicles operating in Great Britain the one thing that sets them apart from their continental cousins is the restricted gauge clearances and the resulting reduction of space into which equipment can be squeezed. I’m not saying it’s impossible I’m just aware that this is one subject for the devil and the detail.
        As for modularity and the standardisation it can bring, I’m a great fan having been through torture of second generation dmus and their emu equivalents, indeed your citing of the Stadler Metro platform has given me chance to look at all of its guises from Merseyrail, Tyne and Wear Metro, Berlin S-Bahn and Valencia variants. What strikes me is the wide range of body dimensions, vehicle ends, doors, gangways, air-conditioning, and interiors and bogie designs that this ‘one platform’ elicits and I wonder how valid your interpretation of modularity applies to the installation of equipment, after all while there may be risk to their IP, suppliers (braking systems, doors, onboard electric power supplies, interchangeable bogie components such as dampers, wheel sets), man-machine and train-to-train interfaces, control and monitoring systems, coupler systems, etc) have always desired to deliver standardised packages to system integrators.
        Alan

        Comment by fammorris | January 7, 2022

      • Just came across this Railvolution article talking about the Fuel Cell Coradia iLint on rest https://www.railvolution.net/news/fuel-cell-coradia-ilint-on-test
        The weight of the battery (5 tonnes) was the first time I’ve actually seen a figure

        Comment by fammorris | January 7, 2022

      • That would be about 500kWh.

        Comment by AnonW | January 7, 2022

      • yeah, that’s a good article. I’d broadly agree with what they write.

        re your previous comment on ‘modular’, to quote https://www.hitachirail.com/products-and-solutions/rolling-stock/battery/ “Hitachi Rail’s modular design means [removing diesel engines and replace with batteries] can be done without the need to re-engineer or rebuild the train”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Rail_Class_385 under ‘History’, specifically mentions the ability to retrofit batteries to the EMUs, as opposed to replacing diesel generator units on bi-modes. Scotrail’s current plan is to partly electrify the Borders line, and to electrify the Fife loop as far as Dalmeny (just S of Forth bridge if you don’t know), and then run battery-fitted 385s on these lines, replacing the current Sprinters.

        It was Hitachi who can fit larger batteries not the Stadler 777s. I would doubt if there’s enough room for this on the 777s. The 20-mile battery is in one of the end cars. Hitachi put their generator/batteries under the floor. The iLint puts the hydrogen stuff on the roof, but as you say this won’t work on GB’s more limited gauge.

        Comment by Peter Robins | January 7, 2022

  5. The bad design feature of the iLint is that it doesn’t have a pantograph. It actually runs for some miles under the wires on the first route. With the right modularity, trains could be configured for any route.

    Comment by AnonW | January 7, 2022 | Reply

    • Trouble about the Coradia Lint is that it originates from the Bombardier/Siemens project for the BR 424 and 425 dmu about 23 years ago as a diesel powered vehicle which didn’t lend itself to conversion to emu with a Pantograph, only to the iLint fuel cell vehicle.
      Better we look to the Alstom Coradia Polyvalent Hydrogen bimode

      Comment by fammorris | January 7, 2022 | Reply

      • I think the Alstom Hydrogen Aventra will be a good train.

        I’ve just ridden the two best hydrogen-powered vehicles, I’ve so far ridden. Brum’s Wrightbus hydrogen buses on route 51 from the city centre to Perry Bar and back. Good performance, quiet and comfortable. The only problem, is Bimingham bought them with only one door, so dwell time is longer.

        Comment by AnonW | January 7, 2022

      • You’ll have an excuse then to visit Liverpool to compare their Alexander Dennis equivalents, when they receive them in a couple of months time.
        https://www.alexander-dennis.com/media/news/2021/august/liverpool-city-region-is-first-to-select-adl-s-h20-second-generation-hydrogen-bus-with-order-for-20-double-deckers/

        Comment by fammorris | January 7, 2022

      • I go to Liverpool regularly to see how the cancer research I sponsor is getting on. The 777 trains should be running shortly.

        Comment by AnonW | January 7, 2022


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