The Anonymous Widower

Automated Shuttle Trains With A Train Captain

There are various short routes on the UK rail network, where shuttle trains work a frequency of perhaps two or three trains per hour (tph), that is generally felt by passengers and train operators to be inadequate.

Examples include the following.

Could the frequency on these lines be increased using automation?

The Automated Docklands Light Railway

The Docklands Light Railway is not a simple railway, but it is fully automated.

  • Trains are driverless
  • A Train Captain is responsible for patrolling the train, checking tickets, making announcements and controlling the doors.
  • The Train Captain can take control of the train if required.

It is a system that seems to have worked well for many years.

An Automated Shuttle With A Train Captain

Could a similar principle be applied to a shuttle train?

As an example, I’ll use the Bromley North Line.

Consider.

  • The line is two miles long and trains take five minutes each way.
  • The current frequency is three tph.
  • There are problems at Grove Park station with connections in the Peak.
  • The route is double-track.
  • The current service is operated by a single train, manned only by a driver.

It would appear if the Bromley North Line could be run at four tph, this would be a welcome improvement.

One of the problems of driver-operated shuttle services like this, is that at each end of the route, the driver must change ends, which takes a couple of valuable minutes.

To operate a frequency of four tph, the round-trip must be performed in fifteen minutes.

  • Each leg takes five minutes.
  • There are four stops in a round trip; one at Grove Park, one at Bromley North and two at Sundridge Park.

I believe that a single automated train, with a Train Captain on board to look after safety, open and close the doors and start the train after each stop, should be able to handle the much-needed four tph on the Bromley North Line.

How Would The Automation Work?

Many years ago, a Central Line driver explained to me how the original automation of the Victoria Line worked.

  • A train would arrive in the station and stop in the correct place automatically with high precision.
  • The doors would be opened.
  • After passengers had unloaded and loaded, the doors would be closed.

When the doors were closed and everything was safe, the driver would push a button to ask the automation to take the train to the next station.

Automation has moved on since the 1960s, and I believe that some form of on-train automation would be able to handle a simple shuttle.

  • Only one track would probably be need to used to remove the complication of points.
  • Only one train would be used for the shuttle, as this increases safety.
  • Sensors would determine the exact position of the train.
  • CCTV cameras, including ones looking forwards and backwards,  would be relayed to the Train Captain and their Control Station in the middle of the train.
  • The Train Captain would have an Emergency Stop Button.

If something goes wrong or the train is  being taken to and from the depot, the Train Captain would go to the forward cab, switch off the automation and drive the train in the normal manner.

I am sure, that it would not only be a very safe system, but if it made full use of the capabilities of modern trains, it would speed up services sufficiently, so that frequencies could be increased.

What Trains Would Be Suitable?

I think that the choice of trains would be wide, but I think they must have the following characteristics.

  • An ability to perform a station stop and restart quickly.
  • Fast acceleration and deceleration.
  • Level access between platform and train.
  • Walk-through interior, to help the Train Captain perform their duties.
  • Lots of wide double doors and large lobbies.

All these characteristics would enable the train to save time on the route.

Power would be anything that could be used on the route. For the Bromley North Line, that would be either third-rail electrification or battery power.

Battery power, though on this route, would have a problem.

If the train is running an intense shuttle service, with stops taking a minute or even less, the train never stops long enough to charge the batteries. As the route is electrified with 750 VDC using third-rail, this would need to be used on the Bromley North Line.

Although, I have used the word train in this section, I suspect trams, tram-trains or light rail vehicles could be used.

All vehicles would retain their driving cabs for the following reasons.

  • If there is a problem, the Train Captain can drive the train, as happens on the Docklands Light Railway.
  • If the train needs to be positioned to and from a depot, the train could be driven manually.

I also feel that for these reasons, the Train Captain would be a fully qualified driver.

Examples of vehicles that could be used, if appropriate automation were to be fitted include.

Class 399 Tram-Train

Class399 tram-trains are working successfully in Sheffield and they have been ordered for the South Wales Metro, where they will run under both overhead and battery power.

As an Electrical Engineer, I believe that it would not be the most difficult piece of engineering to fit these tram-trains with the ability to run under third-rail power.

The tram-trains would have similar capacities, cross-section and performance to the current Class 466 trains.

The only modifications that would be needed to the route, would be to adjust the platforms used by the tram-train to give level access between tram-train and platform.

A Three-Car Aventra Or Similar

Three-car Class 730 Aventra trains,  have been ordered by West Midlands Railway and Aventras have also been ordered to run using third-rail power.

As with the Class 399 tram-train, these trains could probably work the route successfully, subject to suitable platform modification.

How Fast Could Stops Be Performed?

I have timed stops on the London Overground and the London Tramlink rarely do you find a time from brakes on to brakes off in excess of a minute, without a red signal being involved.

I have measured some London Overground stops are at  thirty seconds some  London Tramlink stops at twenty seconds.

If a shuttle had the track to itself and the train was a modern design, I could see maximum timings on the Bromley North Line as follows.

  • Bromley North – One minute
  • Sundridge Park – Thirty seconds
  • Grove Park – One minute

Surely, with station stop times like these and perhaps faster running than the current 30 mph, the goal of four tph could be comfortably achieved.

What Happens With Delays?

Suppose, an incident occurs, and the train is delayed.

After the incident is successfully sorted, the train could just carry on or wait until it was on schedule for the next train.

Within a few minutes, the train would be running to time.

Some Other Selected Routes

Over the next few days, I will be adding calculations for other routes.

Brentford Branch Line

Greenford Branch Line

Marlow Branch Line

Romford And Upminster

Slough And Windsor & Eton Central

Extra routes will be added here.

Conclusion

On the Bromley North Line, selective automation should be able to enable a four tph service using one train or tramtrain.

February 19, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Charging For Single Use Plastic. Aluminium And Glass Drinks Containers

I’m all for this, but I feel we should look at how the empties are returned and refunds are obtained.

The Norwegians seem to have solved this by means of expensive machines, which give vouchers back.

But there must be something simpler.

A few of my thoughts.

Marking Chargeable Containers

All containers for which a deposit is made, should be clearly marked with symbol, which says that it is worth something to return.

Returning To Shops

Obviously, people will want to do this, but I suspect a lot of smaller shops will ask shoppers to take the empties elsewhere.

They might install a machine, but many shops couldn’t afford the expense.

Collecting For Charity Or Local Causes

Suppose, you had a simple steel bin with holes in the top, like those we had in Suffolk for bottles.

Anything that had the correct symbol could be put in the bin.

These bins would then be collected and sorted automatically at a large plant.

By weighing each bin and knowing its location and owner, it would be possible to apportion the refunds to the charity.

National charities might put recycling bins in car parks or prominent places.

But supposing, your area has a run down children’s playground, that everybody wants to improve.

A recycling bin is placed by the playground and everybody is asked to use it for bottles and other containers. All proceeds would go to the playground fund, with a collateral benefit, that the area of the playground wasn’t strewn with empty bottles.

Automatic Sorting Of Containers

If you have a large plant sorting the containers, it can do a better job, than the most expensive machine on the street.

  • It would be able to sort plastic, glass and aluminium containers.
  • I suspect technology exists to remove labels
  • Glass would probably be washed and crushed.
  • It could also sort out ordinary rubbish like fast food wrapping and boxes, newspapers and disposable nappies.
  • Any washing water would be collected and reused.

The plant would calculate the various combination of materials and if the weight of the rubbish would known, could calculate the return.

Extending The System

There must be other containers, that are also recyclable. In my cupboard, I have a large glass mayonnaise jar, which would probably be recyclable if washed and the top is removed.

So perhaps the system could accept this bottle without its top. It would be washed and crushed, so it could be used instead of quarried aggregate.

Conclusion

There are much better ways to handle the charge on a drink container.

I would reckon, that some of the biggest recycling organisations in the UK are working on a solution, that benefits us all and is as widespread as possible.

March 28, 2018 Posted by | Food, World | , , | 5 Comments

British Steel Secures Major Contract From Deutsche Bahn

The title of this post is the same as this article on Global Rail News.

I thought the article had a touch of Coals-to-Newcastle about it.

But read the article and there are a lot of things coming together to enable the order.

  • British Steel have spent a seven-figure-sum at Scunthorpe, to make the longer rails, that the Germans use.
  • Deutsche Bahn are Europe’s largest purchaser of rail.
  • The initial order is for 20,000 tonnes of rail.
  • Rails can be delivered in 120 metre lengths through the Channel Tunnel.

I should say, that I’ve read in the past, that Scunthorpe makes a quality product.

I found this video on the British Steel web site.

It all brings back memories of the time, I spent as a sixteen-year-old putting automation on heavy machines use to roll non-ferrous metals.

I doubt you get work experience like that these days!

March 15, 2018 Posted by | World | , , , , | 3 Comments

Self-Driving Trains Will Run Every 2½ Minutes On Main Lines

This is the title of an article in today’s copy of The Times.

The main line in question is the Thameslink route though central London.

Some will cynically groan and mutter that this will be another excuse for labour troubles.

However, this is said in the article.

Aslef, the train drivers’ union, has supported the use of the system if a driver is retained on all services. It cautions, though, against the use of the technology on other parts of the Victorian network outside central London.

If you look at the titmetable between St. Pancras and Blackfriars station from 09:00 to 10:00 on a Monday morning, then nine trains will pass along the route.

After the 2½ minute headway is introduced, this will be increased to twenty-four trains per hour (tph).

I think that just on the number of trains per hour, this would mean a substantial increase of train crew. If the factor were to be 24/9, that would be a near 170% increase in train crew.

Surely, Aslef won’t find that unacceptable!

If this use of modern signalling technology should work according to specification, surely we will be seeing it on other busy sections of the UK rail network. It is already gong to be used on Crossrail, but there are other places, where it would probably be beneficial.

  • Between Wimbledon and Waterloo.
  • On the Ordsall Chord in Manchester.
  • Between Edinburgh and Glasgow.
  • Between Shenfield and Liverpool Street.
  • East London Line between Dalston Junction and Surrey Quays

Note that money has already been allocated by Chris Gtayling to do a study to see if Transpennine services would benefit from this type of modern signalling.

Not all of these routes will be operating at twenty-four tph, however some will surely see a great improvement in services.

The East London Line

The East London Line will be running twenty tph from 2020.

Sir Marc Brunel and his famous son;  Isambard would be astonished at the capacity of their Thames Tunnel, that was started in the 1820s and opened in 1843.

The Ordsall Chord

The Ordsall Chord will connect Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Oxford Road, Deansgate, Salford Central and Manchester Victoria stations with a high capacity double-track railway through the centre of Manchester. But it is also entangled with other routes in the area.

  • Manchester Victoria to Bolton via Salford Central and Salford Crescent.
  • Manchester Victoria to Liverpool via Salford Central and Chat Moss.
  • Manchester Airport and Manchester Piccadilly to Bolton via Manchester Oxford Road, Deansgate and Salford |Crescent.
  • Manchester Airport and Manchester Piccadilly to Liverpool via Manchester Oxford Road, Deansgate and Chat Moss
  • Manchester Airport and Manchester Piccadilly to Warrington via Manchester Oxford Road and Deansgate

Probably the highest frequency will be between Deansgate and Manchester Piccadilly, where according to Wikipedia, the following services will run.

  • Four tph between Manchester Airport and Manchester Victoria via Manchester Piccadilly.
  • Six tph between Manchester Piccadilly and Chat Moss or Bolton and Preston.

But that is for starters and if Thameslink is anything to go by, trains on one side of Manchester and Salford will be linked to trains on the other side of the conurbation to release platform space at both Manchester Victoria and Manchester Piccadilly stations.

Just as automatic train control has increased the capacity of Thameslink, it will increase the capacity through Manchester.

Shenfield To Liverpool Street

Crossrail will take over the slow lines and these will probably be subject to automatic train control to handle up to sixteen tph between Stratford and Gidea Park stations.

In addition Greater Anglia have expansion plans and it looks like they’s be running at least twelve tph on the fast lines, almost all of which won’t stop between Stratford and Shenfield.

Will it be decided to add a degree of automatic train control to the new trains on this route?

About The Technology

If anybody is worried about this sort of signalling, the following should be born in mind.

  • Most airliners are flown automatically, whilst the pilots monitor everything and take control as required.
  • The Victoria Line has used a similar automatic train operation system since it opened in 1968 and currently handles thirty-six tph.
  • The original system on the Victoria Line allowed twenty-seven tph. Not bad for a 1960s system, where some of the electronics was based on valves or vacuum tubes.

Remember though, that as in an airliner, there is always somebody monitoring everything for the unexpected.

 

October 7, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , | 3 Comments

Will We Be Seeing More Railway Stations?

I didn’t put any qualification like UK or London in the title of this post, as it is a question that applies to all railways.

The post was prompted by an article in the January 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, which is entitled Funding Buds For New South Wales Stations.

The article talks of two possible stations.

  • A Cardiff Parkway station near St. Mellions.
  • A Magor Walkway station between Newport and Severn Tunnel Junction stations.

Cardiff Parkway station seems the more conventional of the two and is proposed to support a proposed new business park, with car parking and a bus station,

This article on Wales Online is entitled Plans revealed for huge new development and train station in Cardiff that could create 15,000 jobs, gives more details.

On the other hand, according to The Magor And Undy Walkway Station Website, the second station at Magor Walkway appears to be less conventional.

But the two stations do illustrate two common reasons for developing new stations.

A New Station To Support Development

Cardiff Parkway station falls into this category and there are several for this reason in the pipeline.

We will see a lot more, as having a station at a new development, has many positive effects on the project.

A New Station To Provide Better Transport Opportunities

Magor Walkway station falls into this category and others include.

There are also schemes for airport links to Glasgow, Liverpool, Leeds and Luton.

Why New Stations Don’t Get Built

Obviously, some stations don’t get built for reasons of practicality and cost.

The traffic may be there, but the proposed site is difficult, so a new station might be impossible to fit the space available.

When a re-opened station like Lea Bridge is reported to cost £11million, without car parking, new stations don’t come cheap.

So new stations need a good financial case to get built.

Another factor that is often ignored by campaigners for new stations, is the knock-on effects they will have on services through the station.

Stopping trains at a station on a single or double-track line will effectively block the line, thus slowing other traffic in the area.

But Innovation Is Making It Easier To Build New Stations

In the following sections, I shall detail some of the ideas and innovations that will make the building of stations easier.

The Rise Of The Single-Platform Station

Single-platform stations are not that common in the UK, and the first new one of this type I saw was James Cook station, which I wrote about in James Cook Station – The Reinvention Of The Halt .

Other recently built stations in this category include.

Note there is a parkway station on the list and Galashiels is a major train-bus interchange.

A good proportion of the list are also on newly opened lines.

Consider the advantages of a single-platform station.

  • There is no need for an expensive footbridge., that is part of the station.
  • Only one set of shelters, ticket machines and information displays are needed.
  • Single platform stations can be easily made long enough for the largest trains that will call.
  • Interchange to cars, buses and taxis is quick and easy.
  • Modern signalling makes bi-directional operation safe.

There may also be advantages in fitting a station into a restricted space, like shopping centres, airports, sports grounds or an historic town centre.

I think we’ll see a lot more single platform stations in the future.

The Express Stop Train

Next time, you’re on a train, notice how long it takes to perform a stop at a typical station.

It is often not a quick process.

  • Passengers have to lift children, buggies, bicycles and heavy cases over the step up or down between train and platform.
  • Passengers coming on get in the way of passengers getting off.
  • On a crowded train, that is not working under driver-only-operation (DOO) rules, the guard often has to struggle to get in position to open the doors.
  • Older trains without information systems, often mean that passengers aren’t ready to get off, so cause delays at the stop.

But look at the new trains for Merseyrail, I wrote about in Thoughts On Merseyrail’s New Trains.

  • They are designed to eliminate the gap between station and train and for passengers to step or roll across quickly.
  • They will have wide doors and probably ample lobbies, to ease entry and exit.
  • They will be information-rich trains, as are all modern trains.
  • They will be DOO, which avoids guard delays on crowded trains.
  • They will have high performance with respect to braking and acceleration.

I also wonder if braking and acceleration will be automated, so that they are fast, smooth and very safe in all weather and track conditions.

On Merseyrail, this will result in faster trains and a saving of nine minutes between Southport and Hunts Cross is quoted.

New trains on Greater Anglia, will also give substantial help in enabling a headline-grabbing Norwich in 90 and Ipswich in 60 service for all trains.

I suspect that as new trains improve their stop times, it will make it easier for a new station to be fitted into an intense schedule on a main line with extensive services.

Stations Without Electrification

Often electriofying stations is an expensive business, in planning, execution and in operation.

With the development of bi-mode and battery trains and especially ones that can switch mode automatically, I think we’ll see a lot more stations left without electrification, thus eliminating health and safety and heritage issues, whilst reducing costs.

The Station On A Train

Merseyrail’s new trains will be DOO and from the reports, it appears that all the CCTV needed for safe operation will be on the train, rather than the station.

So will this allow Merseyrail to simplify their stations, with the only CCTV needed on stations being only that for passenger and station security.

I wonder if the driver will have access to a station’s CCTV as he approaches. Being able to assess crowd density in a station on approach must be to the driver’s advantage.

Ticket Machines On A Train

Operators might even put a card-only ticket machine on the train, so the number of machines in stations can be cut to save costs.

I have seen this is in several places in Europe, but never in the UK.

Tram Style Operation Of Local Trains

There are two basic types of through platforms  in the UK, served by local or regional passenger trains.

  • Platforms where some freight and passenger trains pass through without stopping.
  • Platforms where all trains stop.

Merseyrail’s Northern Line and some of the branches of the Wirral Line would be examples of the second.

What would be the implications for station design, if say a branch line worked exclusively by one type of train ran to say a tram speed limit and the visual rules a tram driver would obey in the centre of Birmingham, Manchester or Nottingham.

Could we see new two platform stations built like say this station on the Croydon Tramlink?

Gentle Ramps To the Platforms

Passengers would just walk across the tracks to get to the other side.

I believe that Merseyrail’s new trains could work in this way.

Consider.

  • Stadler have enormous experience of trams and tram-trains.
  • Merseyrail’s new trains can be fitted with batteries, so for perhaps fifty metres either side of the station, the third rail can be removed.
  • The new trains look like trams, although they are trains.
  • There will always be a driver in the front of the train with a big horn, as the train enters the station.
  • Trains would be restricted to tram speeds in the station area.

Imagine a station on a network like Merseyrail or perhaps a branch line like the Walton-on-the-Naze Branch of the Sunshine Coast Line.

A train stopping at the station would go through the following procedure.

  • A safe distance from the station, after ascertaining, that the line in the station is clear, the driver initiates the automatic stop procedure or halts the train.
  • The train slows automatically from line speed to the tram speed perhaps fifty metres from the station.
  • The train proceeds automatically to the station at tram speed using onboard stored energy, as there is no electrification.
  • The driver would open the doors, so that passengers and their belongings can be unloaded and loaded.
  • Once everything is ready, the driver closes the doors and initiates the automatic leave sequence.
  • The train leaves the station at tram speed.
  • Once electrification starts and the train is connected, the train automatically accelerates back to line speed.

Note.

  1. The train is not at line speed anywhere near the station.
  2. The driver can take control at any time.
  3. The procedure is not very far removed from that used on the Victoria Line since 1967!

Effectively the operation of the train through the station is train-tram-train.

I wonder if Merseyrail have been thinking this way to create a tram-train link to Liverpool Airport.

Conclusion

Various innovations will mean that stations will cost less.

  • Simpler design.
  • Step-free without footbridges.
  • Less expensive features.
  • Equipment moved from station to train.

In addition, trains will find it easier to fit stops into busy timetables.

This will mean that the available station budget will go further and more stations will be built.

 

December 25, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

Thoughts On The Train Strikes

These strikes have all the qualities of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object.

The latest headline on an article on the BBC is Southern rail strike enters second day as Acas talks start.

I doubt the talks will be very productive.

Here are my thoughts about various issues.

London

I have been running around in driver-only-operated (DOO) trains for quite a few decades now. Especially, as I have always travelled frequently on the London Underground.

Wikipedia has a comprehensive section on One Man Operation in London.

This is said about the Underground.

All trains on the London Underground are single-manned.Conversion to one-man operation began in 1984 and was completed in 2000.

In some ways though the Underground, is not full DOO, in that on nearly all stations, there are staff on the station, who assist the driver to safely dispatch the trains.

Assistance From Staff

The staff on the platform are also there to assist passengers, who need help. This page on the Transport for London web site describes the role of staff.

This is said under Assistance To And From Trains.

On the Tube, TfL Rail and Overground, station staff will also accompany you to the train and help you on board and, if needed, can arrange for you to be met at your destination. Anyone can use this service, but it is particularly used by blind and visually impaired passengers and people using boarding ramps onto trains.

If you would like to use this service, ask a member of staff when you arrive at the station.

That is very much turn-up-and-go for everybody!

So what happens on Southern?

This page on the Southern web site gives full details of what they offer.

This is said.

When should I ask for help?

If you want to book ‘help’ try to call us at least one day before you travel.

That is not acceptable.

So there’s one job for the redundant guards on Southern – They could help on the platform, as they do on the London Underground and Overground.

The Gospel Oak To Barking Line

London hasn’t been without trouble though, as this from Wikipedia shows.

TFL now operates 100% of its overground network as driver-only trains. The latest conversion was announced in July 2013 on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line. The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) challenged the move, claiming passenger safety would be compromised. Transport for London replied that at the time the East London Line, already one-man operated, has one door-related incident for every 7 million passengers, while the section of the network which currently uses conductors has one door-related incident for every 4 million passengers.[10] On 16 August 2013, the RMT called a 48-hour strike over the August Bank holiday weekend. According to the RMT, the proposal set forth by Transport for London would imply Driver Only Operations on the whole of the London Overground network and make 130 guards redundant London Overground Rail Operations stated in response that they had given “the RMT assurances on employing conductors in alternative customer service roles and offering a generous voluntary redundancy package to those who want it.” According to RMT, the proposals to implement driver only operations are in response to the 12.5% reduction in Transport for London’s funding announced in Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s Comprehensive Spending Review

I certainly don’t remember that strike. So it must have been really significant!

Overground And Underground

You should always remember that when the Overground started, every train had a second man, but gradually they have been moved to the platforms.

The Overground works a different system to the Underground on doors in that the driver enables the doors for opening and they are actually opened by the passengers individually. On the Underground, the driver just opens and closes all doors.

Crossrail

It will be interesting to see, what system the new Class 345 trains for Crossrail use.

It’s an Overground train in the outer reaches and an Underground train in the centre.

The Class 345 trains also appear to be very hi-tech with various innovative features.

Automatic Train Operation

The Victoria Line in London has always run with automatic train operation (ATO). The Wikipedia entry has two entries about London.

On the London Underground, the Central, Northern, Jubilee, and Victoria lines run with ATO.

ATO was introduced on the London Underground’s Northern line in 2013 and will be introduced on the Circle, District, Hammersmith & City, and Metropolitan lines by 2022. Although ATO will be used on Crossrail and Thameslink, it has not yet been implemented on UK mainline railways

Lines like the Victoria Line, Crossrail and Thameslink, will not be completely automatic, but the driver will be an intelligent monitor to what the train is doing. It could be compared to auto-land on an aircraft, where the plane is actually controlled, by the autopilot and the pilots monitor.

As a Control Engineer, I believe we’ll be seeing large increases in the use of ATO in the UK in the next few years. Many intensively used lines could probably handle more trains, with a controlling ATO system.

Will the Unions object to ATO?

They haven’t seemed to yet, as ATO generally seems to see an increase in the number of trains, which means more staff.

More Automation On Trains

This is happening, but then this is only following the lead of more automation in planes and road vehicles.

Crossrail trains will set a new standard in automation.

This is a snippet from the an article in the Derby Telegraph

Unlike today’s commuter trains, Aventra can shut down fully at night and can be “woken up” by remote control before the driver arrives for the first shift.

I described this to a driver for Northern and a big smile came over his face.

Perhaps more contentious is the autoreverse system fitted to Crossrail trains, that I wrote about and explained fully in Crossrail Trains Will Have Auto-Reverse.

The system will work at a Crossrail terminal like Paddington or Abbey Wood.

  • The driver selects auto-reverse in the terminal platform.
  • The train then drives itself into the reversing siding.
  • The driver starts to walk back through the train towards the other cab.
  • When the train reaches the end of the reversing siding, it reverses back into the return platform.
  • By the time the driver has walked the length of the train and  installed himself in the cab, the train will have arrived in the platform and will be ready to depart.

I suspect that there will be a high-level of safety systems, with the driver probably carrying a dead man’s handle, that connects to the train by radio.

It will be interesting to see how the Unions react to such a system.

  • One of the reasons for the auto-reverse is that it is needed to get 30 trains per hour, through the tunnel.
  • Drivers will avoid a 200 metre walk.
  • No passengers will be on the train, when the driver is out of the cab.

But it will mean more staff being employed, to drive and service the extra trains and handle the extra passengers.

Conclusion

I am drawn to the conclusion, that lots of automation and driver aids are coming to the railways.

DOO is the first of many issues, where there will be a fight.

If the Unions don’t like it, they will reap the wrath of the passengers, train companies and most politicians.

 

December 15, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

The Impressive Coupling And Uncoupling Of Class 395 Trains

Class 395 trains seem to be fairly unique amongst trains running on the UK network, in that they can couple and uncouple automatically.

Under Design in the Wikipedia entry for the seven-year-old Class 395 train, this is said.

Each 6-car unit can work in multiple with another, creating 12-car trains. Coupling is automated and is designed to take less than 60 seconds.

This YouTube video, which is entitled Javelin Coupling, shows two trains coupling automatically.

And this YouTube video is called 395022 and 395009 Divide and Depart at Ashford International.

It is all very impressive.

  • This is the gold standard, against which all train couplings and uncouplings should be judged.
  • There is no trackside intervention by any staff.
  • The trains have been doing this since 2009 in the UK.

I particularly liked how the doors appeared and faired around the coupling, as the first train in the second video drove away.

 

November 16, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , | 3 Comments

Now ASLEF Joins In!

I take the headline from this article on Rail News, which is entitled Southern dispute: now ASLEF joins in.

This Southern dispute and the related one in Scotland, appear that they may continue until 2017 at least.

I used to travel up to London in the 1990s with a driver-supervisor on the Central Line. We would discuss various technical subjects and the questions of efficient operation of trains and driver only operation came up.

Nothing he said, ever gave me any hint that driver only operation was anything but totally safe, if you have good communication with those on the platform. In fact, he did give the impression, that when problems did occur, it was because communication between driver and platform staff failed. I can remember him saying that with trainees, he always impressed on them, the dangers of not checking properly before starting when platforms are long and curved, as at Bank.

My view as someone, who has seen a lot of industrial automation at work in factories and industrial plants, is that the safest way to drive a train, is let the computer do the driving and the train driver should monitor what is happening.

Effectively, that is what has happened on the Victoria Line since 1967.

It’s about time that the UK’s trains joined the twentieth century, instead of clinging to the nineteenth.

August 4, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 2 Comments

Crossrail Trains Will Have Auto-Reverse

I am a control engineer and I have worked in industrial automation on and off since I was sixteen, when I had a summer job in the electronics laboratory at Enfield Rolling Mills at Brimsdown.

One of the problems of running a railway to a high frequency, is that when you get to the terminus, the driver has to get off the train, walk to the other end and then step-up into the other cab. So a couple of minutes or so is wasted. On some lines, where drivers change over, there are delays and extra costs. It is one of the reasons, why train lines sometimes have reversing loops, like the Piccadilly Line at Heathrow and the Wirral Line underneath Liverpool.

It is also why, there has been talk of extending the Victoria Line in a large loop to a single platform at a new station under Herne Hill. I wouldn’t be surprised if when they extend the Northern Line Extension to Clapham Junction or the Bakerloo Line to Lewisham, that they use loops with single platform stations. The layout has the following advantages.

  • The driver stays in his seat and drives the train normally.
  • Stations are more affordable as they only have one platform.
  • Passengers always go to the same platform and get the first train.
  • It might be possible to dig the reversing loop with a single tunnel boring machine.

It is such a simple concept, I can’t understand why it isn’t used more.

Crossrail has a different problem in that all branches, except Heathrow, end on the surface and the Class 345 trains are two hundred metres long. So running a train every two minutes or so, means that drivers have a lot to do in the turn-round including a 200 metre walk.

The Class 345 trains are designed to incorporate auto-reverse. This extract from this article in Rail Engineer, which is entitled, Signalling Crossrail, explains the concept.

A new facility called ‘auto reverse’ is being provided at Westbourne Park (no station) for turning the 14 trains per hour in the reversing sidings. The driver selects ‘auto reverse’ on leaving Paddington station and walks back through the train, obviating the need for drivers to ‘step-up’. By the time the train gets back to Paddington (about a mile) the driver should be in the other cab ready to form the next eastbound departure.

The facility has the capability to turn round a full 30 tph service. There is just time for the driver to walk back through the train whilst in the reversing siding but doing so on departure at Paddington gives that extra time that will also help recover from perturbation.

Essentially, the driver does his walk whilst the train is travelling to the reversing siding. It must have other advantages.

  • The driver can check the train as he walks.
  • Cleaners can get on at the actual terminus and then get off again with the usual rubbish.
  • Someone who goes to sleep, just gets an extra ride into the reversing siding and out again.

It’s a very simple piece of automation, which as the extract says, enables a full 30 tph service and makes recovery from delays easier.

The only problem, I can see is that the drivers’ unions could insist that a driver is in the cab at all times.

It would appear that the system will be used by Crossrail at Abbey Wood and Paddington.

 

January 23, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 4 Comments

Squeezing Blood Out Of A Stone On The Northern Line

The Northern Line is not the most popular or glamorous line of the London Underground.

It is a line I try to avoid for various reasons.

  • It’s often too crowded.
  • I have buses, Victoria Line and the London Overground as alternatives. For example, I use Camden Road station instead of Camden Town station and walk.
  • In recent months, stations I want to use have been renewing escalators.
  • I also want to get to stations, that are on the Charing Cross branch of the line.

I also wonder, if I’m prejudiced against the Northern Line, as I spent so much of my formative years on the Piccadilly Line.

I have just read this article on London Reconnections, which is entitled Twin Peaks: Timetable Changes On The Northern Line.

I have extracted these points from the article.

  • Until mid-2014, both central sections and both northern branches of the Northern Line in the peak hours were only able to handle twenty trains per hour (tph). This compares with 30 tph on the Jubilee Line, 33 tph for the Victoria Line and 34 tph for the Central Line.
  • In June 2014, with the full introduction of automatic train operation (ATO), this was raised to 22 tph.
  • Engineers were working hard to improve the track to allow better speeds and from December 2014, the train frequency in the peak was raised to 24 tph.
  • The line is now running at 30 tph between Kennington and Morden.
  • The Off Peak service at the start of 2014 was 15-16 tph and it is now 20 tph.

All of this frequency improvement has been attained because they have got ATO working well and they’ve done a good job to allow trains to run faster on much better track.

You could say it’s all down to quality engineering. With probably the input from someone, who understands scheduling.

The article has a section entitled As Good As It Can Get For The Moment?, where this is said.

No doubt the ATO system will continue to be refined but the dramatic time reductions already achieved are unlikely to be improved on much more. Unless more available trains or speed can be coaxed of the existing fleet it is hard to see how the peak timetable can be improved until new trains arrive.

So have we got to the limit of the current lines and the 1995 Stock trains?

If you read the article, you’ll see that Transport for London are talking about peak hour services of 30 tph with new trains after the reworking of track in Summer 2020.

But given the skilful way, the frequency of this line has been ramped up over the last couple of years, I suspect, there’s more blood to come from this particular stone!

 

November 17, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment