The Anonymous Widower

Good Omens For Mr. Biden

This extract is from today’s diary in The Times.

The election of Joe Biden, despite the twitterhoea tantrums of the toddler in the Oval Office, continues a correlation noted four years ago by the writer Brydon Coverdale between American presidents and the sequence of Mr Men books. Donald Trump is the 45th president and the 45th Mr Man is Mr Rude, an easy fit. No 44 was Mr Cool (Barack Obama) and No 43 Mr Cheerful (George W Bush). Going back further, the all-action Teddy Roosevelt has the same number as Mr Strong and Ronald Reagan shares his with Mr Brave. Grover Cleveland, the only president to return to office after being voted out, has Mr Bounce. Now at No 46 comes Mr Good — and the correlation may continue. Coverdale writes: “I wonder if the 47th being Mr Nobody means the next president won’t be a Mr.”

I like the correlation and also the new word; twitterhoea.

It will be interesting to return to this post for the US Presidential Election in 2024.

November 10, 2020 Posted by | Computing, World | , , , , , | 3 Comments

£100m Station Revamp Could Double Local Train Services

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

This is the opening paragraph.

Officials behind plans for a £100m-plus transformation of Darlington’s Bank Top Station have confirmed it will remain the only one on the East Coast Mainline without a platform specifically for the London to Scotland service.

Darlington station has made various appearances in my life, all of which have been pleasurable ones.

I went several times to ICI’s Wilton site on Teesside in the 1970s, when the route to London was worked by the iconic Class 55 locomotives or Deltics.

I wrote about one memorable trip home from Darlington in The Thunder of Three-Thousand Three-Hundred Horses.

Over the years, I also seem to have had several clients for my computing skills in the area, including the use of my data analysis software; Daisy at Cummins Engines in the town.

And lately, it’s been for football at Middlesbrough to see Ipswich play, where I’ve changed trains. Sometimes, Town even won.

The improvements planned for the station are two-fold.

Improvement Of Local Services

This paragraph from Wikipedia, sums up the local train services on the Tees Valley Line between Saltburn and Bishop Auckland via Darlington, Middlesbrough and Redcar.

Northern run their Tees Valley line trains twice hourly to Middlesbrough, Redcar and Saltburn (hourly on Sundays), whilst the Bishop Auckland branch has a service every hour (including Sundays). The company also operates two Sundays-only direct trains to/from Stockton and Hartlepool.

If ever a route needed improvement it is this one.

This paragraph from the Northern Echo article, outlines the plans for Darlington station.

The meeting was also told the overhaul, which will see new platforms, a new station building, parking and an interchange for passengers, alongside other improvements, would also double capacity on Tees Valley and Bishop Auckland lines, meaning four trains an hour on the former and two trains an hour on the latter.

I also believe that the route is a shoe-in for zero-carbon services; hydrogen or battery electric.

Hydrogen Trains On Teesside

In Fuelling The Change On Teesside Rails, I discuss using hydrogen powered trains for the lines in the area and they could certainly provide services on more than just the Tees Valley Line.

The hydrogen powered trains would probably be this Alstom Breeze.

They would appear to be in pole position to change the image of Teesside’s trains.

Battery Electric Trains On Teesside

But I suspect. that an Anglo-Japanese partnership, based in the North-East could have other ideas.

  • Hitachi have a train factory at Newton Aycliffe on the Tees Valley Line.
  • Hyperdrive Innovation design and produce battery packs for transport and mobile applications in Sunderland.

The two companies have launched the Regional Battery Train, which is described in this Hitachi infographic.

Note than 90 kilometres is 56 miles, so the train has a very useful range.

Hitachi have talked about fitting batteries to their express trains to serve places like Middlesbrough, Redcar and Sunderland with zero-carbon electric services.

But their technology can also be fitted to their Class 385 trains and I’m sure that Scotland will order some battery-equipped Class 385 trains to expand their vigorous electric train network.

Both Scotland and Teesside will need to charge their battery trains.

Example distances on Teesside include.

  • Darlington and Saltburn – 28 miles
  • Darlington and Whitby – 47 miles
  • Darlington and Bishop Auckland – 12 miles

The last route would be possible on a full battery, but the first two would need a quick battery top-up before return.

So there will need to be strategically-placed battery chargers around the North-East of England. These could include.

  • Hexham
  • Nunthorpe
  • Redcar or Saltburn – This would also be used by TransPennine Express’s Class 802 trains, if they were to be fitted with batteries.
  • Whitby

If Grand Central did the right thing and ran battery electric between London and Sunderland, there would probably be a need for a battery charger at Sunderland.

It appears that Adrian Shooter of Vivarail has just announced a One-Size-Fits-All Fast Charge system, that has been given interim approval by Network Rail.

I discuss this charger in Vivarail’s Plans For Zero-Emission Trains, which is based on a video on the Modern Railways web site.

There is more about Vivarail’s plans in the November 2020 Print Edition of the magazine, where this is said on page 69.

‘Network Rail has granted interim approval for the fast charge system and wants it to be the UK’s standard battery charging system’ says Mr. Shooter. ‘We believe it could have worldwide implications.’

I believe that Hitachi and Hyperdrive Innovation, with a little bit of help from friends in Seaham, can build a battery-electric train network in the North-East.

The Choice Between Hydrogen And Battery Electric

Consider.

  • The hydrogen trains would need a refuelling system.
  • The battery electric trains would need a charging structure, which could also be used by other battery electric services to and from the North-East.
  • No new electrification or other infrastructure would be needed.
  • If a depot is needed for the battery electric trains, they could probably use the site at Lackenby, that has been identified as a base for the hydrogen trains.

Which train would I choose?

I think the decision will come down to politics, money and to a certain extent design, capacity and fuel.

  • The Japanese have just signed a post-Brexit trade deal and France or rather the EU hasn’t.
  • The best leasing deal might count for a lot.
  • Vivarail have stated that batteries for a battery electric train, could be leased on a per mile basis.
  • The Hitachi train will be a new one and the Alstom train will be a conversion of a thirty year old British Rail train.
  • The Hitachi train may well have a higher passenger capacity, as there is no need for the large hydrogen tank.
  • Some people will worry about sharing the train with a large hydrogen tank.
  • The green credentials of both trains is not a deal-breaker, but will provoke discussion.

I feel that as this is a passenger train, that I’m leaning towards a battery electric train built on the route.

An Avoiding Line Through Darlington

The Northern Echo also says this about track changes at the station.

A meeting of Darlington Borough Council’s communities and local services scrutiny committee was told a bus lane-style route off the mainline at the station would enable operators to run more high-speed services.

Councillors heard that the proposed track changes would enable very fast approaches to Darlington and allow other trains to pass as East Coast Mainline passengers boarded.

Some councillors seem to be unhappy about some trains passing through the station without stopping.

Are their fears justified?

This Google Map shows Darlington station.

Note.

  1. The station has two long platforms and two South-facing bay platforms.
  2. There is plenty of space.
  3. There already appear to be a pair of electrified avoiding lines on the Eastern side of the station.

Wikipedia also says this about how Darlington station will be changed by High Speed Two.

The new high speed rail project in the UK, High Speed 2, is planned to run through Darlington once Phase 2b is complete and will run on the existing East Coast Main Line from York and Newcastle. Darlington Station will have two new platforms built for the HS2 trains on the Main Line, as the station is built just off the ECML to allow for freight services to pass through.

This would appear to suggest that the two current avoiding lines will be turned into high speed platforms.

Current High Speed Services At Darlington

The current high speed services at Darlington are as follows.

  • LNER – two trains per hour (tph) – London Kings Cross and Edinburgh
  • Cross Country – one tph – Plymouth and Edinburgh or Glasgow
  • Cross Country – one tph – Southampton and Newcastle
  • TransPennine Express – one tph – Liverpool and Edinburgh
  • TransPennine Express – one tph – Manchester Airport and Newcastle

Northbound, this gives eight tph to Newcastle and four tph to Edinburgh

East Coast Trains

East Coast Trains‘s services are not planned to stop at Darlington.

High Speed Two Trains

Darlington is planned to be served by these High Speed Two trains.

  • 1 tph – Birmingham Curzon Street and Newcastle via East Midlands Hub, York and Durham
  • 1 tph – London Euston and Newcastle via Old Oak Common and York.

Both will be 200 metre High Speed Two Classic-Compatible trains

Northbound, this gives ten tph to Newcastle and four tph to Edinburgh.

As the Eastern Leg of High Speed Two has some spare capacity, I suspect there could be other services through Darlington.

Improvements To The East Coast Main Line

If you look at the East Coast Main Line between Doncaster and Newcastle, the route is a mixture of two and four-track railway.

  • Between Doncaster and York, there are two tracks
  • Between York and Northallerton, there are four tracks
  • Between Northallerton and Darlington, there are two tracks
  • North of Darlington, the route is mainly two tracks.

I have flown my virtual helicopter along much of the route and I can say this about it.

  • Much of the route is through agricultural land, and where absolutely necessary extra tracks could possibly be added.
  • The track is more-or-less straight for large sections of the route.
  • Routes through some towns and cities, are tightly hemmed in by houses.

I also believe that the following developments will happen to the whole of the East Coast Main Line before High Speed Two opens.

  • Full ERTMS in-cab digital signalling will be used on all trains on the route.
  • The trains will be driven automatically, with the driver watching everything. Just like a pilot in an airliner!
  • All the Hitachi Class 80x trains used by operators on the route, will be able to operate at up to 140 mph, once this signalling and some other improvements have been completed.
  • All level crossings will have been removed.
  • High Speed Two is being built using slab track, as I stated in HS2 Slab Track Contract Awarded. I suspect some sections of the East Coast Main Line, that are used by High Speed Two services, will be upgraded with slab track to increase performance and reduce lifetime costs.

Much of the East Coast Main Line could become a 140 mph high speed line, as against High Speed Two, which will be a 225 mph high speed line.

This will mean that all high speed trains will approach Darlington and most other stations on the route, at 140 mph.

Trains will take around a minute to decelerate from or accelerate to 140 mph and if the station stop took a minute, the trains will be up to speed again in just three minutes. In this time, the train would have travelled two-and-a-half miles.

Conclusion

I think that this will happen.

  • The Tees Valley Line trains will be greatly improved by this project.
  • Trains will generally run at up to 140 mph on the East Coast Main Line, under full digital control, like a slower High Speed Two.
  • There will be two high speed platforms to the East of the current station, where most if not all of the High Speed Two, LNER and other fast services will stop.
  • There could be up to 15 tph on the high speed lines.

With full step-free access between the high speed and the local platforms in the current station, this will be a great improvement.

October 25, 2020 Posted by | Computing, Hydrogen, Sport, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Interview: Hitachi’s Nick Hughes On Driving Innovation In Rail Propulsion

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

As with the article I discuss in Hydrogen On The Line, it is another well-written and informative article from The Engineer, where those at the sharp end of innovative rail technologies give their views.

This is the introductory paragraph.

As part of a series of articles exploring the propulsion technologies that will shape the future of key transport sectors The Engineer spoke to Hitachi Rail’s Nick Hughes about the innovations that will propel the rail sector into a low carbon future.

The Engineer asked these questions.

  1. What propulsion innovations will help power the rail sector towards net zero?
  2. Can you outline some of your organisation’s own key activities in this area?
  3. What are the key obstacles and challenges to developments in this area?
  4. What is your vision for the long-term future of propulsion in your sector?

I find the answer to the last question most interesting.

Rail is going to become increasingly digitised and integrated into other sectors involved in smart cities, mobility-as-a-service and flexible green grid. Therefore, Hitachi Rail won’t be able to stay at the forefront of innovation by its self. This is why we are focused on building partnerships with other like-minded, innovative, clean tech companies like Hyperdrive Innovation, Perpetuum and Hitachi group companies such as Hitachi ABB.

Hyperdrive Innovation is going to apply its knowledge and expertise from the automotive sector, to develop a market leading battery for Hitachi trains. Perpetuum predictive analytics improve reliability and availability of existing trains. Meanwhile, Hitachi ABB’s experience of the power sector allows our battery train solution to incorporate charging, storage and grid management. These partnerships creates an entry point into the rail market for our partners, potentially leading to future growth and jobs.

However, it is important to recognise that the established technologies of today – battery trains, discontinuous electrification and high-speed trains – are the technologies will help achieve the 2050 net zero emission target.

I would very much agree with all that is said.

 

 

October 16, 2020 Posted by | Computing, Energy, Transport | , , | 1 Comment

Getting A Flu Jab

Ten days ago, I got a text message from my GP’s surgery, asking me to make an appointment for a flu jab.

I have phoned several times since and have not got through successfully. As I also need a B12 injection and some more Warfarin, for which I might need a quick chat on the phone from my doctor, it is getting increasingly important that I get through.

Dr. Rosemary Leonard on the BBC this morning, said that there were a lot of people wanting flu jabs this year, so I may march in to Boots, as was selected in the text message.

Incidentally, why can the GP Surgery text me, but they have no simple way I can text or send them an e-mail from a form with Capcha to sort the bad from the good?

Healthcare and computing seem to have a match made in hell!

October 7, 2020 Posted by | Computing, Health | | 3 Comments

Environmentally-Friendly InterCity 125 Trains

InterCity 125 trains are not the most environmentally-friendly of beasts.

  • They do not meet the modern emission regulations.
  • They still emit a lot of carbon dioxide.
  • They is also a deadline of 2040, when UK railways will be net-carbon-free.

There might also be individuals and groups, who feel that these elderly trains with so much history, should be replaced by modern zero-carbon trains.

  • Would the same groups accept electrification with all the wires?
  • Would the train operating companies, accept battery power will long waits for charging?
  • Would hydrogen be viable on the numerous branch lines in Devon and Cornwall, with some difficult access to depots by road. Especially, if the hydrogen had to be brought from say Bristol or Southampton!

But various engineering solutions are emerging.

Biodiesel

This is probably the simplest solution and I suspect most modern engines can run on biodiesel with simple modifications. InterCity 125s have modern engines from German firm and Rolls-Royce subsidiary; MTU, so they probably have a solution in their tool-box.

Computerisation

I have never built a computer control system for anything, but I did work with the first engineers in the world, who computerised a chemical plant.

They always emphasised, if you could nudge the plant into the best area of operation, you’d have a much more efficient plant, that produced more product from the same amount of feedstock.

At about the same time, aircraft engine manufacturers were developing FADEC or Full Authority Digital Engine Control, which effectively let the engine’s control system take over the engine and do what the pilot had requested. The pilot can take back control, but if FADEC fails, the engine is dead.

But judging by the numbers of jet aircraft, that have engine failures, this scenario can’t be very common, as otherwise the tabloids would be screaming as they did recently over the 737 MAX.

Now, I don’t know whether the MTU 16V4000 R41R engines fitted to the InterCity 125, have an intelligent FADEC to improve their performance or whether they are of an older design.

If you worry about FADEC, when you fly, then read or note these points.

  •  Read the FADEC’s Wikipedia entry.
  • Your car is likely to be heavily computerised.
  • If you took a modern train or bus to the airport, that certainly will have been heavily computerised.

You could be more likely to meet someone with COVID-19 on a flight, than suffer an air-crash, depending on where you travel.

Rolls-Royce’s Staggering Development

Staggering is not my word, but that of Paul Stein, who is Rolls-Royce’s Chief Technology Officer.

He used the word in a press release, which I discuss in Our Sustainability Journey.

To electrify aviation, Rolls-Royce has developed a 2.5 MW generator, based on a small gas-turbine engine, which Paul Stein describes like this.

Amongst the many great achievements from E-Fan X has been the generator – about the same size as a beer keg – but producing a staggering 2.5 MW. That’s enough power to supply 2,500 homes and fully represents the pioneering spirit on this project.

This generator is designed for flight and the data sheet for the gas-turbine engine is available on the Internet.

  • It has a weight of under a couple of tonnes compared to the thirteen tonnes of the diesel engine and generator in a Class 68 locomotive.
  • It is also more powerful than the diesel.
  • It looks to be as frugal, if not more so!
  • Rolls-Royce haven’t said if this gas-turbine can run on aviation biofuel, but as many of Rolls-Royce’s large engines can, I would be very surprised if it couldn’t!

Rolls-Royce’s German subsidiary is a large producer of rail and maritime diesel engines, so the company has the expertise to customise the generator for rail applications.

Conclusion

I think it is possible, that the Class 43 power-cars can be re-engined to make them carbon-neutral.

September 25, 2020 Posted by | Computing, Health, Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

Flying A Hydrogen-Powered ZEROe

The ZEROe Turbofan and the ZEROe Turboprop, both have a large liquid hydrogen tank in the rear fuselage.

Will this affect the handling characteristics of the aircraft and make them difficult to fly?

The balance will probably be different as the weight of the tank with a full load of hydrogen could be significant. Think putting two bags of cement in the back of a typical hatchback car.

But all Airbuses should handle the different feel easily.

The three main flight control surfaces, by which pilots control the aircraft; ailerons, elevator and rudder are not actually controlled directly by the pilots, but by computers that are connected between the controls the pilot uses and the control surfaces themselves.

This means that control methods, which are unavailable on an aircraft with traditional controls, can be used to fly the aircraft.

So this means that any problems caused by the heavy weight in the rear of the fuselage can be solved.

 

 

September 25, 2020 Posted by | Computing, Hydrogen, Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Did WordPress Do That?

I was happily editing a post, when in the middle of typing a sentence, WordPress swapped me to the awful block editor.

How do I get rid of this load of crap?

I downloaded the classic editor plugin. How do I install it?

I thought the covids were worse, but this is much worse. All my posts are now unable to be edited.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 22, 2020 Posted by | Computing | | 8 Comments

BP And Microsoft Form Strategic Partnership To Drive Digital Energy Innovation And Advance Net Zero Goals

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

The companies intend to work together to develop new technology innovations and digital solutions to help meet their sustainability aims, including reducing energy use and carbon emissions.

I find this an interesting and possibly very important partnership.

It is an article that is well worth a read.

Conclusion

Strategic partnerships like this might be one of the moves, that will improve the world.

 

 

September 17, 2020 Posted by | Business, Computing, World | , , | Leave a comment

Google Going “Carbon Free” By 2030

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

Tech giant Google is committing to using no form of energy that emits carbon dioxide by the end of this decade, ramping up its commitment to fighting climate change.

This looks like a good thing to me, as all those servers use a lot of electricity.

There have also been similar pledges from Microsoft and Apple.

September 15, 2020 Posted by | Computing, Energy | , , , | Leave a comment

ARM: Can ‘Crown Jewel’ Of UK Technology Be Protected?

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

These are the introductory paragraphs.

The UK government is “looking at options” to protect and ensure future investment in Cambridge-based ARM Holdings, which is being bought by US tech giant Nvidia from Japan’s Softbank.

This is a much more relaxed attitude than the government took when Softbank bought the world-leading chip designer in July 2016. At that time, Softbank announced it had agreed to legally binding commitments to increase investment, headcount and preserve its headquarters in the UK.

It is not too late for the government to impose conditions, but conversations on whether to impose them or what they might be have not even started.

Some of the original founders of ARM Holdings, would appear to be not very happy.

I have followed the company for a number of years, as I was in the same class at Liverpool University with Robin Saxby, who was ARM’s first CEO.

At great surprise to myself, I made a nice sum of money by investing in the shares at the right time.

I am less unhappy, as I think two opposite outcomes would be good for the UK.

  • It all goes pear-shaped and large numbers of talented engineers in Cambridge create several children of ARM.
  • Nvidia decides that the ARM model and location is better and moves the headquarters of the group to the UK. Trump and his policies could make this likely, by picking fights with countries where Nvidia and ARM have large markets.

It will be interesting to see what happens.

 

September 14, 2020 Posted by | Business, Computing, Finance | , , , , | Leave a comment