The Anonymous Widower

Northern Powerhouse Rail – Significant Upgrades And Journey Time Improvements To The Hope Valley Route Between Manchester And Sheffield

In this article on Transport for the North, which is entitled Northern Powerhouse Rail Progress As Recommendations Made To Government, one of the recommendations proposed for Northern Powerhouse Rail is significant upgrades and journey time improvements to the Hope Valley Line between Manchester and Sheffield.

I shall look at a few of the possibilities for the route.

Northern Powerhouse Rail’s Objective For The Route

Wikipedia, other sources and my calculations say this about the trains between Manchester and Sheffield.

  • The distance between the two stations is 42.6 miles
  • The current service takes 49 to 57 minutes and has a frequency of two trains per hour (tph)
  • This gives an average speed of 52.2 mph for the fastest journey.
  • The proposed service with Northern Powerhouse Rail will take 40 minutes and have a frequency of four tph.
  • This gives an average speed of 63.9 mph for the journey.

This last figure of 63.9 mph, indicates to me that a 100 mph train will be able to meet Northern Powerhouse Rail’s objective.

Current Trains On The Hope Valley Line

In July this year, I went along the Hope Valley Line between Manchester Piccadilly and Dore and Totley stations, which I wrote about in Along The Hope Valley Line – 13th July 2020.

My train was a pair of refurbished Class 150 trains.

These trains can handled the current timetable but they have an operating speed of only 75 mph.

Looking at Real Time Trains for last week, it now appears that Northern are using new three-car Class 195 trains.

These are much better.

  • They are 100 mph trains with much better acceleration.
  • The train was still running the timetable for the slower trains.

With thirteen stops, I suspect that these new trains could be under fifty minutes between Manchester and Sheffield.

Will The Hope Valley Line Be Electrified?

Consider.

  • Currently, the Hope Valley Line is electrified between Manchester Piccadilly and Hazel Grove stations.
  • In the future, the line is likely to be electrified between Sheffield and Dore & Totley stations, in conjunction with rebuilding the Midland Main Line, to the North of Clay Cross North junction for High Speed Two.
  • After the electrification at the Eastern end, just over thirty miles will be without electrification.
  • The Hope Valley Line has an operating speed of 90 mph.

This Hitachi infographic shows the specification of the Hitachi Regional Battery train.

As these are a 100 mph train with a range of 90 km or 56 miles on battery power, these trains could work Manchester and Sheffield in the required time of forty minutes. provided they could be charged at the Sheffield end of the route.

TransPennine’s Class 802 trains can be fitted with batteries to become Regional Battery Trains, so it would appear that TransPennine’s services on this route could go zero-carbon.

In addition Northern, who are the other passenger operator on the route are working with CAF on battery electric trains, as I wrote about in Northern’s Battery Plans,

I don’t believe there are pressing reasons to electrify the Hope Valley Line to allow passenger trains to meet Northern Powerhouse Rail’s objective.

Will Operating Speed On The Hope Valley Line Be Increased?

Under Plans in the Wikipedia entry for the Hope Valley Line, this is said.

Network Rail, in partnership with South Yorkshire ITA, will redouble the track between Dore Station Junction and Dore West Junction, at an estimated cost of £15 million. This costing is based on four additional vehicles in traffic to deliver the option, however, this will depend on vehicle allocation through the DfT rolling stock plan. This work will be programmed, subject to funding, in conjunction with signalling renewals in the Dore/Totley Tunnel area.

Other proposals include a 3,600 feet (1,100 m) loop in the Bamford area, in order to fit in an all-day (07:00–19:00) hourly Manchester–Sheffield via New Mills Central stopping service, by extending an existing Manchester–New Mills Central service. Planning permission for this was granted in February 2018, but delays mean that this will now not be completed until 2023.

These changes to allow three fast trains, a stopping train and freight trains each hour were also supported in a Transport for the North investment report in 2019, together with “further interventions” for the Northern Powerhouse Rail programme.

It would also probably be a good idea, to increase the operating speed of the line to 100 mph where possible.

Effect On Passenger Services

100 mph trains on a track with an operating speed of 100 mph, could show some impressive timings.

On the Great Eastern Main Line, which is a very busy 100 mph double-track railway, 100 mph trains, achieve a 77 mph average for 90 minutes over the 115 miles, between London Liverpool Street and Norwich with a single stop.

A one-stop Manchester and Sheffield service at this speed would take just 33.2 minutes.

The stopping trains would be more of a challenge to get under forty minutes, but at least if they were battery electric trains, they’d have the better acceleration and deceleration of the electric trains.

  • Fifty minutes would be a realistic time.
  • Ten minutes turnround time at each end, would be ideal for charging the batteries and give an efficient two hour round trip.

Efficient timetabling could create a very comprehensive service for the Hope Valley Line.

Freight Trains On The Hope Valley Line

Under Freight in the Wikipedia entry for the Hope Valley Line, this is said.

Over a million tons of cement a year is taken away by rail from Earle’s Sidings at Hope.

That is a very large number of freight trains, all of which are currently hauled by diesel locomotives.

  • Looking at Real Time Trains, there are nearly always two freight trains in every hour of the day.
  • If you look at the routes, they go to a myriad number of destinations.
  • Following the routes between Dore Junction and the quarries to the South of the Hope Valley Line, there are several tunnels.
  • There are numerous quarries in a cluster, all served by their own rail lines.

Electrifying the delivery of the cement and limestone from the quarries would be a large and very expensive operation.

This Google Map shows Earle’s Sidings at Hope.

Perhaps a half-way house solution would be to use diesel to haul trains between the quarries and Earle’s sidings, where the locomotive is changed for an electric one?

  • But that would then mean that all routes from between the Peak District quarries and their destinations would need to be fully-electrified.
  • It should be noted that that the problem of zero-carbon trains, also exists at port and rail freight interchanges, where safe operation with 25 KVAC overhead wires everywhere can be a nightmare.
  • It is also a big problem, all over the world.

Perhaps, what is needed is a self-powered zero-carbon locomotive with sufficient power to haul the heaviest trains?

I believe such a locomotive is possible and in The Mathematics Of A Hydrogen-Powered Freight Locomotive, I explored the feasibility of such a locomotive, which was based on a Stadler Class 68 locomotive.

The zero-carbon locomotive, that is eventually developed, may be very different to my proposal, but the commercial opportunities for such a locomotive are so large, that I’m sure the world’s best locomotive designers are working on developing powerful locomotives for all applications.

Conclusion

Northern Powerhouse Rail’s ambition for Manchester and Sheffield via the Hope Valley Line is simply stated as four tph in forty minutes. But this may be something like.

  • Three fast tph in forty minutes.
  • One stopping tph in perhaps fifty minutes.
  • One freight tph in each direction to and from the quarries that lie to the South of the line.

I didn’t realise how close that the line is to that objective, once the following is done.

  • Introduce 100 mph passenger trains on the route.
  • Improve the track as has been planned for some years.

Note that all the passenger trains, that now run the route; Class 185, 195 and 802 trains, are all 100 mph trains, although they are diesel-powered.

With a length of just under 43 miles, the route is also ideal for battery electric trains to work the passenger services, be the trains be from Hitachi, CAF or another manufacturer, after High Speed Two electrifies the Midland Main Line to the North of Clay Cross North Junction, in preparation for high speed services between London and Sheffield.

I would recommend, that one of High Speed Two’s first Northern projects, should be to upgrade the Midland Main Line between Clay Cross North junction and Sheffield station to the standard that will be required for High Speed Two.

I would also recommend, that the Government sponsor the development of a hydrogen electric locomotive with this specification.

  • Ability to use 25 KVAC overhead or 750 VDC electrification
  • 110 mph operating speed on electrification.
  • Ability to use hydrogen.
  • 100 mph operating speed on hydrogen.
  • 200 mile range on hydrogen.

A locomotive with this specification would go a long way to decarbonise rail freight in the UK and would have a big worldwide market.

 

 

 

 

 

November 23, 2020 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Battery Life: The Race To Find A Storage Solution For A Green Energy Future

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

It is a long article, that gives a good review of the technologies available to store energy from wind and solar power.

It gives a lot more details and an image of the Siemens Gamesa hot rock energy storage system in Hamburg.

  • It uses a thousand tonnes of volcanic rock.
  • It can store 130 MWh of electricity.

The system has apparently been designed to re-use the turbines from closing coal-fired power stations, which is an innovative idea.

 

November 23, 2020 Posted by | Energy Storage | , , , | Leave a comment

Shell Process To Make Blue Hydrogen Production Affordable

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

Shell Catalysts and Technologies is launching the Shell Blue Hydrogen Process, which integrates proven technologies to increase significantly the affordability of greenfield projects for “blue” hydrogen production from natural gas along with carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS).

Note.

  1. Grey hydrogen is generally defined as hydrogen produced from natural gas, by a process like steam-reforming.
  2. Blue hydrogen is generally defined as hydrogen produced from natural gas, where the carbon is captured and stored, instead of being released into the atmosphere.
  3. Green hydrogen is hydrogen produced by electrolysis using renewable energy.
  4. Shell are claiming, that with carbon dioxide costing $25-35/tonne, that their process is more economic than grey or green hydrogen.
  5. Steam reforming also needs steam, but this new process actually generates steam as a by-product, which further improves the economics, as integrated chemical plants use a lot of steam.
  6. Shell are reporting capturing 99% of the carbon.
  7. It looks like savings of between 10 and 25 % are possible.

Shell have made a big technological breakthrough, as it will allow natural gas to be converted direct to hydrogen without contributing to global warming.

 

November 22, 2020 Posted by | Hydrogen | , | Leave a comment

Northern Powerhouse Rail – A New Line Between Manchester And Leeds Via The Centre Of Bradford

In this article on Transport for the North, which is entitled Northern Powerhouse Rail Progress As Recommendations Made To Government, one of the recommendations proposed for Northern Powerhouse Rail is a new rail line between Manchester and Leeds via the centre of Bradford.

I shall look at a few of the possibilities for various sections of the route.

Current And Proposed Timings Between Manchester And Leeds

These are the current typical timings between Manchester Victoria and Leeds stations.

  • 55 minutes for 43 miles, which is an average speed of 47 mph.

With Northern Powerhouse Rail, a time of 25 minutes is the objective, which is an average speed of 103.2 mph.

  • As my helicopter flies it is just 35.7 miles, so a 25 minutes journey time would require an average speed of 85.7 mph.

It is obvious that a new much straighter line is needed with an operating speed of at least 100 mph.

One of the best 100 mph lines in the UK  is the Great Eastern Main Line between Liverpool Street and Norwich.

  • It is generally only double-track.
  • The fastest services take 90 minutes for the 115 miles, which is an average speed of 77 mph.
  • It is a busy line with lots of suburban services closer to London and freight trains to and from Felixstowe.

But even a line built to the standard of the Great Eastern Main Line wouldn’t be good enough for Northern Powerhouse Rail’s objective of 25 minutes.

The mathematics tell me, that a new line is needed, built as straight as possible between Manchester and Leeds.

High Speed Two’s Approach To Manchester

This map clipped from High Speed Two’s interactive map, shows the route of High Speed Two as it approaches Manchester Piccadilly station.

The colours of High Speed Two indicate the type of construction.

  • Black is a bored tunnel. Only in the South East corner, where it continues to Manchester Airport.
  • Purple is a tunnel portal.
  • Brown is a track between retaining walls. Used through Manchester Interchange or Airport station.
  • Red is a viaduct.
  • Orange is a box structure

This Google Map shows a similar area.

Are High Speed Two serious about demolishing a large area of Manchester to the North and East of Manchester Piccadilly station?

  • It will cause massive disruption all over the centre of Manchester.
  • How many businesses will be ruined by this plan?
  • How many residents are there in the area?
  • How will trains from the new platforms at Piccadilly station continue to Bradford, Huddersfield, Leeds and Sheffield?
  • Mrs. Merton could have said “Let’s all have a reverse!” And she’d have been joking!
  • You can’t go through the new platforms, as that would mean demolishing most of Manchester City Centre.

What High Speed Two are proposing is complete and utter rubbish!

In Whither HS2 And HS3?, which I wrote in May 2015, I said this.

I do think though that our designs for HS2 are rather dated and don’t take things that are happening or have happened into account.

Crossrail in London has shown that putting a large twin rail tunnel under a major city, is not the problem it once was. Crossrail have also been very innovative in creating stations with the minimum disturbance to existing infrastructure. As an example, the new Whitechapel station for Crossrail has also used a technique called uphill excavation, where you create escalator and lift shafts upwards from the tunnels, rather than traditionally from the surface, which is much more disruptive.

These techniques can revolutionise the construction of HS2.

Take cities like Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield, which have developed and are continually developing extensive local rail, tram and bus networks. So why are we in Birmingham still talking about creating an HS2 station at Curzon Street? Surely, we just dig a very deep pair of HS2 tunnels under the city and then uphill excavate into not only New Street, but Moor Street and Snow Hill as well. The tunnels would be only made as long as necessary, although the underground station could be very large. But it probably wouldn’t be much bigger than the enormous double-ended Liverpool Street/Moorgate station being created for Crossrail.

The great advantage of this method of construction is that you can continue to develop your network of local trains, trams and other transport links, untroubled by the construction of the new station deep below. Anybody, who thinks this is not possible, should spend half-an-hour walking around Whitechapel station, where the Hammersmith and City, District and East London Lines are passing untroubled over the giant hole and through the building site for the new station.

To some the example of Crossrail in London, would not be a good one, as Crossrail is years late. But the tunnelling under London and the excavations for the stations have gone well and were delivered on time.

In the related post, I went on to propose a double-ended underground station in Manchester with connections to both Piccadilly and Victoria stations. It could even have other connections to locations in the City Centre like Piccadilly Gardens.

There’s certainly space for a stylish entrance at the busy tram and bus interchange.

By applying the lessons learned in the building of Crossrail and other projects like Stuttgart 21, which I wrote about in Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof, I’m sure that a massive underground station in Manchester could be built successfully, on time and on budget.

I am not alone in thinking this way. In The Rival Plans For Piccadilly Station, That Architects Say Will ‘Save Millions’, I write about a plan from world-class architects Weston Williamson, who designed the superb new London Bridge station.

This visualisation from Weston Williamson, shows their proposed station.

Note.

  1. In the visualisation, you are observing the station from the East.
  2. The existing railway lines into Piccadilly station are shown in red.
  3. Stockport and Manchester Airport are to the left, which is to the South.
  4. Note the dreaded Castlefield Corridor in red going off into the distance to Oxford Road and Deansgate stations.
  5. The new high speed lines are shown in blue.
  6. To the left they go to Manchester Airport and then on to London, Birmingham and the South, Warrington and Liverpool and Wigan, Preston, Blackpool, Barrow-in-Furness, the North and Scotland.
  7. To the right, they go to Huddersfield, Bradford, Leeds, Hull and the North East, and Sheffield, Doncaster and the East.
  8. Between it looks like  a low-level High Speed station with at least four tracks and six platforms.
  9. The Manchester Mretrolink is shown in yellow.
  10. The potential for over-site development is immense. If the Station Square Tower was residential, the penthouses would be some of the most desirable places to live in the North.

This station would enable improvements to rail services in the North and Scotland.

  • It would be a through station, to allow East to West services, like Liverpool and Hull.
  • Fewer services would have to reverse.
  • All services using the underground station, that went to the West would serve Manchester Airport.
  • TransPennine services like Liverpool and Edinburgh and Liverpool and Scarborough, would use the station and also call at Manchester Airport.
  • TransPennine services like Glasgow and Manchester Airport could be extended to Leeds and Hull.
  • TransPennine services would not need to use the overcrowded Castlefield Corridor.
  • All existing services to the main section of the existing Piccadilly station, could continue operation as now, during the construction and operation of the underground station. Some would eventually be replaced by high speed services using the underground station.

Manchester Airport would have one of the best train services of any airport in the world. It would certainly be on a par with Schiphol.

Careful alignment of the tunnels under Manchester, could also ease the building of the new line between Manchester and Leeds.

Huddersfield And Westtown (Dewsbury)

The only part of an upgraded TransPennine route between Manchester and Leeds, that is in the planning and design phase and visible to the public, is the upgrade between Huddersfield to Westtown (Dewsbury), which is described on this page of the Network Rail web site. This is the introductory paragraph.

We’re proposing an upgrade to a section of railway between Huddersfield and Westtown (Dewsbury) to deliver passenger benefits along the TransPennine railway.

Network Rail provide this very useful map.

This article on Rail Technology Magazine is entitled Network Rail Reveals Detailed £2.9bn Upgrade Plans For TransPennine Route, which gives the major details of the upgrade.

  • Improvement between Huddersfield and Westtown
  • Grade separation or a tunnel at Ravensthorpe
  • Rebuilding and electrification of eight miles of track.
  • Possible doubling the number of tracks from two to four.
  • Improved stations at Huddersfield, Deighton, Mirfield and Ravensthorpe.

This project would be a major improvement to the Huddersfield Line, but I have one problem with this project. – It doesn’t go anywhere near Bradford.

This Google Map shows Bradford, Leeds, Brighouse and Dewsbury.

Note.

  1. Bradford is in the North-West corner of the map, with the red arrow marking Bradford Royal Infirmary.
  2. Leeds is in the North-East corner of the map.
  3. Brighouse is in the South-West corner  of the map.
  4. The red arrow at the bottom of the map marks Dewsbury and District Hospital, with the towns of Morley and Dewsbury to the East.

The route Network rail are improving goes South-Westerly from Leeds and through both Morley and Leeds, before turning to the West and then going South to Huddersfield.

I am left with the conclusion, that Network Rail’s plans may do wonders for travel between Leeds and Huddersfield, but they don’t do anything for Bradford.

But the plans will have positive effects on travellers between Leeds and Manchester.

Eight Miles Of Electrification

Eight miles of electrification may not seem much, but to a Hitachi Regional Battery train, travelling at speed it is a few minutes to add some charge to the batteries, especially if the train stops at Dewsbury and/or Huddersfield stations.

This Hitachi infographic gives the specification for the Hitachi Regional Battery train.

Note.

  1. It has a range of 90 km or 56 miles on battery power.
  2. It can travel at up to 100 mph on battery power.
  3. TransPennine’s Class 802 trains can be converted to Regional Battery trains, by simply swapping the diesel engines for battery packs.

If these trains fully-charged their batteries on the eight miles of electrification, they could do the following.

  • Going East they could easily reach Leeds, which is under ten miles from Dewsbury station. At a pinch they could even reach York, which is thirty-five miles from Dewsbury.
  • Going West they could reach Manchester, which is twenty-six miles from Huddersfield station. At a pinch, they could just about reach Liverpool, which is fifty-seven miles from Huddersfield.

Note that North of York and West of Manchester are both fully electrified.

This eight miles of electrification would enable the following.

  • Several of TransPennine Express services run by Class 802 trains to become all-electric services.
  • Other operators like Northern could use battery electric trains for stopping services along the route.
  • It might even enable some freight trains to run through the area, with hybrid power.

It looks to me, that Network Rail have chosen this section to electrify, so that it gives a lot of benefit to battery electric trains.

Will Services Be Faster Between Huddersfield And Leeds?

I estimate the the straightened track, the better acceleration of electric trains and other improvements would save up to perhaps ten minutes.

Timings between Manchester and Leeds, would probably be around 45 minutes, which is nowhere near Northern Powerhouse Rail’s objective of 25 minutes

The Problem Of Bradford

Bradford has two central stations; Bradford Interchange and Bradford Forster Square. which have no connection between them.

This Google Map shows the two stations.

It is an area crowded with buildings between the two stations.

There is a Wikipedia entry called Bradford Crossrail, where this is said about the reasons for the two stations.

These stations were built in the nineteenth century by different railway companies with an individual, rather than a comprehensive plan for rail development in the city.

The Wikipedia entry also says this about Northern Powerhouse Rail and the city.

The Northern Powerhouse Rail project has also mooted a project to link Leeds and Manchester with a through route at Bradford. Whilst this would either involve a bypass line south of the city and a parkway station at Low Moor or a new route tunnelling through the city centre, neither option mentions connecting the lines from both north and south of the city together.

I will look at the two solutions to connect Northern Powerhouse Rail to the City.

Low Moor Station

The diagram shows the connections between Bradford Interchange, Bradford Low Moor, Huddersfield and Leeds stations.

It would appear that if a connection were to be made between Low Moor and New Pudsey stations. that could be a solution.

This Google Map shows where the lines to Huddersfield and Leeds join outside Bradford Interchange station.

Note,

  1. Bradford Interchange station is to the North.
  2. Bradford Low Moor station is to the South.
  3. New Pudsey station is to the East.

I suspect it would be possible to create a curve that allowed trains to go between  Bradford Low Moor and New Pudsey stations, but I doubt it would be a fast route.

A Bradford Tunnel

This would be the bold option, where all sorts of routes could be possible.

  • It could go under the City Centre in such a way, that it had pedestrian connections to both current stations and important places with a large number of visitors.
  • It could connect to Huddersfield in the West and Leeds in the East.
  • It might even loop under the City Centre, as the Wirral Line does under Liverpool.

A tunnel under the City, would be my preferred solution.

A Tunnel Between Manchester And Leeds

So far, various people or organisations have advocated the following tunnels on the route.

  • High Speed Two are proposing a tunnel between Manchester Airport and Manchester City Centre.
  • Weston Williamson are proposing a Manchester High Speed station underneath Manchester Piccadilly station.
  • A tunnel has been proposed to connect to Bradford City Centre.

I feel strongly, that a tunnel can be built under the Pennines to link Manchester and Leeds.

Rail Tunnels through the Pennines have been dug before, notably at Standedge, Totley and Woodhead.

I answered the question in detail in Will HS2 And Northern Powerhouse Rail Go For The Big Bore? and this was the conclusion of that post.

I believe that my naïve analysis in this post shows that a TransPennine tunnel is possible.

But I believe that the right tunnel could have one big advantage.

Suppose it was built to handle the following.

    • A capacity of eighteen tph, which is the same as High Speed Two.
    • An operating speed of 140 mph or more. The Gotthard Base Tunnel has a maximum operating speed of 160 mph.
    • High Speed Two’s Full-Size trains.
    • The largest freight trains

It would be future proofed for longer than anybody could envisage.

There are also other smaller advantages.

    • It would by-pass a lot of difficult areas.
    • It would cause very little aural and visual disruption.
    • IIf it were designed with care, it would not affect the flora and fauna.
    • As with the Swiss tunnel, it could be dug level, which would save energy and allow trains to run faster.
    • It could be running twelve tph between Leeds and Manchester Airport via Bradford, Huddersfield and Manchester Piccadilly.
    • Existing surface railways at the Eastern end could serve Cleethorpes, Darlington, Doncaster, Edinburgh, Hull, Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Scarborough, Sheffield and York
    • Existing surface railways at the Western end could serve Barrow, Blackpool, Carlisle, Chester, Glasgow, Liverpool. North Wales, Preston and Wigan.

It would be more like Thameslink for the North turned on its side, rather than Crossrail for the North.

Would such a TransPennine tunnel be realisable?

Consider.

  • 3D design software has improved tremendously over the last decade.
  • The Swiss have shown that these long tunnels can be built through solid rock.
  • There is plenty of space to put the tunnel.
  • It doesn’t have to be one continuous tunnel.
  • It might be possible to built it as a base tunnel, which would be low down and level between two valleys on either side of the Pennines.

I think there could be a lot of flexibility on how the tunnel would be designed and built.

Conclusion

A Manchester and Leeds tunnel via Bradford, could be one of the boldest projects ever undertaken in the UK.

I believe that we have the capabilities to build it.

 

November 22, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

First Class 484 Arrives On The Isle Of Wight

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

The title says it all, but the article contains links to interesting pictures and video of the solution to getting a two-car Class 484 train onto an island.

November 21, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 2 Comments

Northern Powerhouse Rail – A New Line Between Liverpool And Manchester Via The Centre Of Warrington

In this article on Transport for the North, which is entitled Northern Powerhouse Rail Progress As Recommendations Made To Government, one of the recommendations proposed for Northern Powerhouse Rail is a new rail line between Liverpool and Manchester via the centre of Warrington.

I shall look at a few of the possibilities for various sections of the line starting at the Manchester end.

High Speed Two And Northern Powerhouse Rail Between Warrington/Lymm And Manchester Airport

This map clipped from High Speed Two’s interactive map, shows the route of High Speed Two in the area between Lymm and Manchester Airport.

Note.

  1. High Speed Two is shown in orange
  2. The blue dot is Manchester Interchange station at Manchester Airport.
  3. High Speed Two goes North to Wigan North Western station.
  4. High Speed Two goes South to Crewe station.
  5. High Speed Two goes East to Manchester and the East.
  6. The East-West Motorway is the M56 with Junction 7/8 in the middle of the map and Junction 9 with the M6, at the Western edge of the map.

This enlarged map shows High Speed Two between Manchester Airport and Junction 7/8 of the M56.

 

The colours of High Speed Two indicate the type of construction.

  • Black is a bored tunnel. Only in the North East corner, where it continues to Manchester.
  • Brown is a track between retaining walls. Used through Manchester Interchange or Airport station.
  • Red is a viaduct.
  • Yellow is a cutting.

This Google Map shows a similar area.

High Speed Two’s tracks will be on the South side of the Motorway and will be shared with Northern Powerhouse Rail.

  • There is likely to be up to twelve trains per hour (tph) in both directions.
  • I would think, that with modern signalling that the trains would be running at 140 mph or more.
  • Between Manchester Airport and Warrington could be a line as between St. Pancras and Ebbsfleet on High Speed One.

This map clipped from High Speed Two’s interactive map, shows the M56 and High Speed Two around Junction 7/8 of the M56.

The colours are as before.

  • The obvious way to build a new rail line between Manchester and Warrington, would surely be to create a rail junction just South of the Motorway junction.
  • A line to Warrington could run along the South side of the Motorway.
  • I also believe that there should be a connection between the High Speed Two lines to Manchester and Wigan North Western, to allow high speed services between Manchester and Barrow, Blackpool, Preston, Windermere and Scotland.

Building the rail junctions around the Motorway junctions would be a good idea for environmental and visual reasons.

Northern Powerhouse Rail would then continue to Junction 9 of the M56 Motorway.

This Google Map, shows the M56 around Junction 9 with the M6.

Note.

  1. The M56 running East-West.
  2. The M6 running North-South.
  3. Lymm services to the North-West of the junction.
  4. Lymm is to the North-East and Warrington is to the North-West of the junction.

Would it be possible for to run South of the M56 and then turn North to run along the Western side of the M6 towards Warrington?

I very much feel, that with modern 3D software, an engineer with expertise in extreme knitting could thread a double-track line through to take a North-Western route towards Warrington.

The Bridge Across The Mersey

If you look at maps of the area, there is a big problem of water between Junction 9 of the M56 and Warrington town centre, with its two stations of Warrington Bank Quay and Warrington Central, both of which have services to Liverpool Lime Street station.

The problem is the Manchester Ship Canal.

I then noticed a bridge to the South East of the town centre, which is shown in this Google Map.

It may look like it has got more than a touch of the dreaded iron moths, but it certainly looks like it was once a double track rail line.

The bridge was on the Warrington and Altrincham Junction Railway, which did what you would expect from the name.

This Google Map shows the track of the railway either side of the bridge.

Note the bridge in the centre of the map and the green scar of the former railway running East-West across the map.

To the East the green scar of the railway can be picked out all the way to M6.

Note.

  1. The bridge is at the West over the Manchester Ship Canal.
  2. The green scar of the Warrington and Altrincham Junction Railway can be followed all the way to the M6,
  3. I think the track is now a footpath, as it is marked on the map with a dotted white line.

I would be interested to know, if it could take a modern double track railway.

This Google Map shows an enlarged view of where the green scar of the Warrington and Altrincham Junction Railway goes under the M6.

Note the dotted white line marking the railway, towards the top of the map.

Would it be possible to design a track layout, where Northern Powerhouse Rail came up the Western side of the M6 and was able to connect to Warrington?

I certainly believe it’s a possibility.

Warrington Bank Quay Station

To the West of the bridge over the Manchester Ship Canal, the Warrington and Altrincham Junction Railway ran through low-level platforms at Warrington Bank Quay station.

This Google Map shows Warrington Bank Quay station.

This picture shows a freight train passing under Warrington Bank Quay station.

Note.

  1. There are four North-South platforms on the West Coast Main Line.
  2. The Warrington and Altrincham Junction Railway passes East-West under the four main platforms.
  3. Low levels platforms used to handle passengers on the East-West lines.
  4. I was looking to the East in the picture.
  5. The tracks continue to the West on the route of the former St. Helens Railway, which is now a freight route.
  6. The map shows the tracks curving sharply round one of the meanders of the River Mersey.

Warrington Bank Quay station is on a congested and tight site, but by using some of the spare railway land, I feel it could rebuilt to be an excellent station for Warrington.

Warrington Bank Quay Station As An Interchange

Warrington Bank Quay station could be an excellent and efficient interchange between High Speed Two and Northern Powerhouse Rail.

There are also local services from the station, which could be useful for some travellers.

Between Warrington Bank Quay Station And Widnes

This Google Map shows the Mersey estuary between Warrington Bank Quay station and Widnes.

Note.

  1. Warrington is in the North-East corner of the map, with Warrington Bank Quay station shown by a red station symbol.
  2. The new Mersey Gateway bridge is in the South-West corner of the map.
  3. The River Mersey meanders between the bridge and Warrington.
  4. Fiddlers Ferry power station can be picked out in the nearest meander of the Mersey to the bridge.
  5. The dark straight line below the river is the Manchester Ship Canal.
  6. There is currently a freight line on the North bank of the river.

This Google Map shows Fiddlers Ferry power station, with the railway between the now-decommissioned power station and the River Mersey.

Note.

  1. Fiddlers Ferry will become an employment site.
  2. It could even be a good place for a depot for Northern Powerhouse Rail.
  3. I think there’s scope to increase the operating speed of the railway along the Mersey.

Could it even be an electrified high speed line with a 125 mph operating speed?

Between Widnes And Liverpool Lime Street

The trains coming from Warrington could join the Liverpool Branch of the West Coast Main Line at Ditton East Junction.

The route between Ditton East Junction and Liverpool Lime Street has the following characteristics.

  • It has four tracks.
  • It is 10.6 miles long.
  • Avanti West Coast’s expresses typically take twelve minutes for the trip without stopping.
  • The stations on the route; Liverpool South Parkway; West Allerton, Mossley Hill and Edge Hill, all have one platform per line.
  • It is fully electrified.
  • Lime Street station has recently been updated with longer platforms and a higher capacity approach to the station.
  • Some local services have already been moved to Merseyrail’s Northern Line.
  • Stopping services on the route have their own platforms.

I believe that with the installation of full digital signalling and a degree of automatic train control, as far as Crewe and Warrington Bank Quay stations, that the following services could be handled.

  • Six tph – Northern Powerhouse Rail – Liverpool and Manchester Airport and Manchester Piccadilly
  • One tph – East Midlands Railway – Liverpool and Nottingham
  • Three tph – High Speed Two – Liverpool and London Euston
  • One tph – High Speed Two – Liverpool and Birmingham Curzon Street
  • Two tph – London North Western – Liverpool and Birmingham and London Euston

Note.

  1. This is only 13 tph.
  2. Avanti West Coast services would be replaced by High Speed Two.
  3. TransPennine Express services would be replaced by Northern Powerhouse Rail
  4. The Liverpool and Nottingham service may or may not go via Ditton East junction.

If the capacity on this branch could be raised to 15 tph, that would be only be a train every four minutes, or half the frequency, that will eventually be operational on Crossrail and Thameslink. It would also be less than the 18 tph frequency of High Speed Two.

Conclusion

This simple exercise has proven to me, that a high speed line could be built between Manchester Airport and Liverpool Lime Street station.

  • Several sections of the route could have an operating speed of 125 mph or more.
  • By running the tracks along the M56 and M6, visual and aural intrusion could be minimised.
  • The line along the Mersey through Warrington could be a valuable part of the route.
  • West of Warrington, much of the infrastructure needed, appears to be in place and it would only need to be upgraded.

There was a large and extremely pleasant surprise at the Liverpool end.

The approach to Liverpool Lime Street is two fast and two slow lines, and I believe, that this section of the route could handle up to say 15 fast trains and six stopping trains per hour, with full digital signalling.

Unlike London and Manchester, I doubt that Liverpool will need a tunnel to access the City Centre.

I also believe that after its refurbishment of the last couple of years, Lime Street could be substantially ready for High Speed Two and Northern Powerhouse Rail.

 

 

November 20, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Queensland Establishes Minister For Hydrogen

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

This sounds like a good idea and every civilised country should have one!

It’s also good to see Queensland up in front.

They must have got their act together, since I the day I left Alice Springs in Northern Territories for Mount Isa in Queensland, when I was flying round Australia in a Piper Arrow with C.

As Australian states all seemed to be in different time zones, I said to an Air Traffic Controller, “By the way, what time is it in Queensland?”

He quickly replied. “They’re thirty minutes ahead! And twenty-five years behind!”

November 20, 2020 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Northern Powerhouse Rail Progress As Recommendations Made To Government

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Transport for the North.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Northern leaders have agreed an initial preferred way forward for a new railway network that will transform the region’s economy.

And these are the rail improvements proposed.

  • A new line to be constructed from Liverpool to Manchester via the centre of Warrington
  • A new line to be constructed from Manchester to Leeds via the centre of Bradford
  • Significant upgrades and journey time improvements to the Hope Valley route between Manchester and Sheffield
  • Connecting Sheffield to HS2 and on to Leeds
  • Significant upgrades and electrification of the rail lines from Leeds and Sheffield to Hull
  • Significant upgrades of the East Coast Mainline from Leeds to Newcastle (via York and Darlington) and restoration of the Leamside line

No more detail is given, but the list is followed by this paragraph.

The move comes ahead of the much-anticipated publication of a new report that will set out long-term investment plans for rail upgrades in the North. The Government’s Integrated Rail Plan – due to be published by the end of this year – is expected to recommend how investment in rail projects like Northern Powerhouse Rail, HS2 Phase 2b, and the TransPennine Route Upgrade (a separate project) will be delivered.

I am waiting for the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan with interest.

November 20, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Is Sizewell The Ideal Site For A Fleet Of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors?

As someone who spent forty years in project management, the Small Modular Nuclear Reactor or SMR could be a project manager’s dream.

Suppose you were putting a fleet of SMRs alongside Sizewell B.

This Google Map shows the current Sizewell site.

Sizewell A power station, with Sizewell B to its North, is on the coast.

This second Google Map shows the power stations to an enlarged scale.

Note the white dome in the middle of Sizewell B.

Sizewell A

Sizewell A power station was shut down at the end of 2006 and is still being decommissioned, according to this extract from Wikipedia.

The power station was shut down on 31 December 2006. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) is responsible for placing contracts for the decommissioning of Sizewell A, at a budgeted cost of £1.2 billion. Defuelling and removal of most buildings is expected to take until 2034, followed by a care and maintenance phase from 2034 to 2092. Demolition of reactor buildings and final site clearance is planned for 2088 to 2098.

Only a few of those, reading this post, will be around to see the final end of Sizewell A.

Note that the size of the Sizewell A site is 245 acres.

It appears to me, that if any power station will be able to be built on the cleared site of Sizewell A, until the late 2080s or 2090s.

Sizewell B

Sizewell B power station opened in 1995 and was originally planned to close in 2035. The owner; EDF Energy, has applied for a twenty-year extension to 2055.

Sizewell C

Sizewell C power station is currently under discussion.

  • It will be built by the French, with the help of Chinese money.
  • It will have an output of 3260 MW or 3.26 GW.
  • It will cost £18 billion.
  • It will take twelve years to build.

This Google Map shows Sizewell B and the are to the North.

I would assume it will be built in this area.

 

A Fleet Of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors

These are my thoughts on building a fleet of SMRs at Sizewell instead of the proposed Sizewell C.

Land Use

In Rolls-Royce signs MoU With Exelon For Compact Nuclear Power Stations, I gave these details of the Rolls-Royce design of SMR.

  • A Rolls-Royce SMR has an output of 440 MW.
  • The target cost is £1.8 billion for the fifth unit built
  • Each SMR will occupy 10 acres.
  • Eight SMRs would need to be built to match the output of Hinckley Point C, which will occupy 430 acres.

It looks on a simple calculation, that even if the SMRs needed fifteen acres, the amount of land needed would be a lot less.

Connection To The National Grid

The transmission line to the National Grid is already in place.

This Google Map shows the sub-station, which is to the South-West of Sizewell A.

From Sizewell, there is a massive twin overhead line to Ipswich.

This Google Map shows the overhead line as it crosses Junction 53 of the A14 to the West of Ipswich.

The pylons are in the centre of the map, with the wires going across.

The line has been built for a massive amount of nuclear power at Sizewell.

The Sizewell Railhead

This Google Map shows the railhead at Sizewell.

It can also be picked out in the South West corner of the first map.

  • The railhead is used to take out spent fuel for processing.
  • In the past, it brought in construction materials.
  • Wikipedia suggests if the Sizewell C is built, the might be a new railhead closer to the site.
  • If a fleet of SMRs were to be built, as the modules are transportable by truck, surely they could be move in by rail to avoid the roads in the area.
  • I am an advocate of reinstating the railway from Saxmundham to Aldeburgh, as this would be a way of doubling the frequency on the Southern section of the East Suffolk Line between Saxmundham and Ipswich stations.

I hope that whatever is built at Sizewell, that the rail lines in the area is developed to ease construction, get workers to the site and improve rail services on the East Suffolk Line.

Building A Fleet Of SMRs

One of the disadvantages of a large nuclear power station, is that you can’t get any power from the system until it is complete.

This of course applies to each of the individual units, but because they are smaller and created from a series of modules built in a factory, construction of each member of the fleet should be much quicker.

  • Rolls-Royce are aiming for a construction time of 500 days, from the fifth unit off the production line.
  • That would mean, that from Day 501, it could be producing power and earning money to pay for its siblings.
  • If the eight units were built in series, that would take eleven years to build a fleet of eight.

But as anybody, who has built anything even as humble as a garden shed knows, you build anything in a series of tasks, starting with the foundations.

I suspect that if a fleet were being built, that construction and assembly would overlap, so the total construction time could be reduced.

That’s one of the reasons, I said that building a fleet could be a project manager’s dream.

I suspect that if the project management was top-class, then a build time for a fleet of eight reactors could be nine years or less.

Resources are often a big problem in large projects.

But in a phased program, with the eight units assembled in turn over a number of years, I think things could be a lot easier.

Financing A Fleet Of SMRs

I think that this could be a big advantage of a fleet of SMRs over a large conventional large nuclear power station.

Consider

  • I said earlier, that as each unit was completed, it could be producing power and earning money to pay for its siblings.
  • Hinckley Point C is budgeted to cost £18 billion.
  • Eight Rolls-Royce SMRs could cost only £14.4 billion.

I very much feel that, as you would get a cash-flow from Day 500 and the fleet costs less, that the fleet of smaller stations is easier to finance.

Safety

SMRs will be built to the same safety standards as all the other UK reactors.

In this section on Wikipedia this is said about the Rolls-Royce SMR.

Rolls-Royce is preparing a close-coupled three-loop PWR design, sometimes called the UK SMR.

PWRs or pressurised water reactors are the most common nuclear reactors in the world and their regulation and safety is well-understood.

This is from the History section of their Wikipedia entry.

Several hundred PWRs are used for marine propulsion in aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and ice breakers. In the US, they were originally designed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory for use as a nuclear submarine power plant with a fully operational submarine power plant located at the Idaho National Laboratory. Follow-on work was conducted by Westinghouse Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory.

Rolls-Royce have a long history of building PWRs, and Rolls-Royce PWRs have been installed in all the Royal Navy’s nuclear submarines except the first. The Royal Navy’s second nuclear submarine; HMS Valiant, which entered service in 1966, was the first to be powered by a Rolls-Royce PWR.

How much of the design and experience of the nuclear submarine powerplant is carried over into the design of the Rolls-Royce SMR?

I don’t know much about the safety of nuclear power plants, but I would expect that if there was a very serious accident in a small reactor, it would be less serious than a similar accident in a large one.

Also, as the reactors in a fleet would probably be independent of each other, it is unlikely that a fault in one reactor should affect its siblings.

Local Reaction

I lived in the area, when Sizewell B was built and I also went over Sizewell A, whilst it was working.

From personal experience, I believe that many in Suffolk would welcome a fleet of SMRs.

  • Sizewell B brought a lot of employment to the area.
  • House prices rose!
  • Both Sizewell A and B have been well-run incident-free plants

Like me, some would doubt the wisdom of having a Chinese-funded Sizewell C.

Conclusion

Big nuclear has been out-performed by Rolls-Royce

November 19, 2020 Posted by | Energy, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Can The UK Have A Capacity To Create Five GW Of Green Hydrogen

This article in The Times today is entitled Net Zero By 2050: Bold Aims Are An Example To Other Nations.

It is an analysis of the Government’s plans for a greener future.

This is a paragraph.

Only a few small-scale green hydrogen plants exist globally, and so five gigawatts of low-carbon hydrogen generation by 2030 is a bold commitment. For context, BP recently announced that it was building its first full-scale green hydrogen facility, in Germany — with a 50-megawatt capacity.

I don’t think from the tone, that the writer thinks it is possible.

Onn the other hand I do believe it is possible.

ITM Power

ITM Power are the experts in electrolysis and have the largest electrolyser factory in the world, which is capable of supplying 1 GW of electrolyser capacity per annum.

It would appear they can supply the required five GW of electrolyser capacity in time for 2030.

The Herne Bay Electrolyser

Ryse Hydrogen are building the Herne Bay electrolyser.

  • It will consume 23 MW of solar and wind power.
  • It will produce ten tonnes of hydrogen per day.
  • The hydrogen it produces will be mainly for hydrogen buses in London.
  • Delivery of the hydrogen will be by truck.

To produce five gigawatts of hydrogen would require nearly 220 electrolysers the size of Herne Bay.

ITM Power and Ørsted: Wind Turbine Electrolyser Integration

But ITM Power are working on a project with Ørsted , where wind turbines and hydrogen electrolysers are co-located, at sea to produce the hydrogen offshore.

ITM Power talks about the project in this press release on their web site.

This is the introductory paragraph.

ITM Power, the energy storage and clean fuel company, is pleased to share details of a short project sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), in late 2019, entitled ‘Hydrogen supply competition’, ITM Power and Ørsted proposed the following: an electrolyser placed at the wind turbine e.g. in the tower or very near it, directly electrically connected to the DC link in the wind turbine, with appropriate power flow control and water supplied to it. This may represent a better design concept for bulk hydrogen production as opposed to, for instance, remotely located electrolysers at a terminal or platform, away from the wind turbine generator, due to reduced costs and energy losses.

The proposed concept is also described.

  • A marine environment capable electrolyser
  • ‘Type IV’ wind turbine generators and their ‘DC link’ have the potential to power the electrolyser directly
  • This enables fewer power conversion steps and thereby reduces both energy losses and electrolyser footprint
  •  Readily abundant cooling capacity via the sea water
  •  Energy in the form of Hydrogen gas supplied to shore by pipe rather than via electricity
  •  Connecting one electrolyser with one turbine wind generator
  •  Other avoided costs of this concept include permitting, a single process unit deployment

Note.

  1. I can’t find a Type IV wind turbine generator, but the largest that Ørsted have installed are about 8 MW.
  2. This size would require 750 turbines to provide the UK’s five gigawatts of hydrogen.
  3. 12 MW turbines are under development.

The Hornsea wind farm is being developed by Ørsted

  • Hornsea 1 has a capacity of 1.2 GW and was completed in 2020.
  • Hornsea 2 will have a capacity of 1.8 GW and will be completed in 2022.
  • Hornsea 3 will have a capacity of 2.4 GW and will be completed in 2025.
  • Hornsea 4 will have a yet-to-be-determined capacity and could be completed in 2027.

This wind farm will probably supply over 6 GW on its own, when the wind is blowing.

Bringing The Hydrogen Ashore

This has been done since the 1960s in UK waters and it will be very traditional projects for the UK’s engineers.

  • Some of the existing pipes could be repurposed.
  • Worked out gas fields could probably be used to store the hydrogen or carbon dioxide captured from gas- or coal-fired power stations.

I’m fairly sure that by the use of valves and clever control systems, the pipes linking everything together could be used by different gases.

Conclusion

Producing 5 GW of green hydrogen per year by 2030 is possible.

 

 

November 19, 2020 Posted by | Hydrogen | , , , , | 6 Comments