The Anonymous Widower

Is A Bi-Mode Aventra A Silly Idea?

In How Long Will It Take Bombardier To Fulfil Their Aventra Orders?, when discussing the new London Midland franchise, that has recently been awarded to West Midlands Trains, I said this about the proposed eighty new carriages for the Snow Hill Lines.

As it is unlikely that the Snow Hill Lines will be electrified in the near future, could we be seeing an Aventra bi-mode for the Snow Hill Lines?

So is the bi-mode Aventra a silly idea?

The Five-Car Aventra

It looks like the formation of a five car Aventra like a Class 720 train is something like DMSLW+MS+MS1+PMS+DMSL

The codes are as follows.

  • D – Driving
  • L – Lavatory
  • M – Motor
  • S – Standard Class
  • W – Wheelchair

So this means the following.

  • All cars are motored for fast acceleration and smooth regenerative braking.
  • As all cars are motored, there must be a heavy-duty electrical power bus running the length of the train.
  • Both driving cars have a toilet.
  • The wheelchair area and the fully-accessible toilet are probably together in one driving car.
  • The pantograph is on one of the middle three cars.

It should also be noted that the Aventra has a slightly unusual and innovative electrical layout.

This article in Global Rail News from 2011, which is entitled Bombardier’s AVENTRA – A new era in train performance, gives some details of the Aventra’s electrical systems. This is said.

AVENTRA can run on both 25kV AC and 750V DC power – the high-efficiency transformers being another area where a heavier component was chosen because, in the long term, it’s cheaper to run. Pairs of cars will run off a common power bus with a converter on one car powering both. The other car can be fitted with power storage devices such as super-capacitors or Lithium-Iron batteries if required.

This was published six years ago, so I suspect Bombardier have refined the concept

It would appear that this could be the reason, why in the document I found MS1 was used for one of the intermediate cars, as this is the car with space for the energy storage.

Do Aventras Have Batteries For Regenerative Braking?

Until I get a definitive statement from Bombardier, that they don’t, I will believe that they do for the following reasons.

But the main reason, is that as an Electrical Engineer, I believe it to be stupid and seriously bad design to not use some form of energy storage to handle the energy produced by regenerative braking.

Energy Storage In A Bi-Mode Train

If you look at the five-car Class 720 train, all axles are motored. This will give fast acceleration and smooth regenerative braking, which is just what both train operators and passengers want.

If a bi-mode train had energy storage, if say its speed was checked by a yellow signal, it would be able to regain line speed using the energy stored when it slowed down. So passengers wouldn’t have to endure the vibration of the diesel engine and the jerks as it started.

No competent engineer would ever design a modern bi-mode train without energy storage.

Where Would You Put The Power Pack On An Aventra?

Although space has been left in one of the pair of power cars for energy storage, as was stated in the Global Rail News article, I will assume it is probably not large enough for both energy storage and a power pack.

So perhaps one solution would be to fit a well-designed power pack in the third of the middle cars, which would then be connected to the power bus to drive the train and charge the battery.

This is all rather similar to the Porterbrook-inspired and Derby-designed Class 769 train, where redundant Class 319 trains are being converted to bi-modes.

Diesel Or Hydrogen Power Pack

Diesel will certainly work, but London and other cities have hydrogen-powered buses.

The picture is from 2013, so the technology has probably moved on.

Intermittent And Selective Electrification

Modern trains like an Aventra can raise and lower the pantograph automatically, so they can do this to make best use of what electrification exists to both power the train and charge the energy storage.

Techniques like these will be used to minimise the use of the diesel power pack.

So on lines like the Snow Hill Lines sections could be electrified, where the engineering is easy and affordable, to with time reduce the use of unfriendly diesel.

Strangely, one of the first places to electrify, might be the tunnels, as after the electrification of the Severn Tunnel, our engineers can probably electrify any railway tunnel.

I also don’t see why third rail electrification can’t be used in places like on top of viaducts and in well-designed station installations.

Conclusion

A five-car Aventra bi-mode is definitely not a silly idea.

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August 21, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How Long Will It Take Bombardier To Fulfil Their Aventra Orders?

I was reading this article in The Guardian, which is entitled Full speed ahead for train builders as minister pulls plug on electrification, when I found this useful nugget of information, from the General Manager of Bombardier’s Derby plant.

Building trains in an “ergonomically correct” fashion, he says, means completing and testing the carriage’s constituent parts, then assembling them, rather than wiring them up afterwards – and also takes the risk away from a production line which boasts a rate of 25 carriages per week.

It sounds like Bombardier’s engineers have been drinking and swapping ideas, with Toyota’s production engineers a few miles down the road at Burnaston.

But even so 25 carriages a week is an impressive  figure, as that is almost three Class 345 trains for Crossrail in a week.

Bombardier have not been producing at that rate until now, as if they had, there would be Aventras in sidings all over the place. In The Class 345 Trains Are More Numerous, I described how I saw four yesterday and Transport for London have said they will have they will have eleven in service by September.

But this is all consistent with not going into full production, until you are sure, that you’ve got everything right, as any prudent company would do!

The Trains On Order

Bombardier have the following orders for Aventras.

  1. Crossrail – Class 345 – 70 x nine-car – 630 cars – To be delivered in 2015-2018
  2. London Overground – Class 710 – 45 x four-car – 180 cars – To be delivered in 2017-2018
  3. Greater Anglia – Class 720 – 89 x five-car – 445 cars – To be delivered in 2018-2020
  4. Greater Anglia – Class 720 – 22 x ten-car – 220 cars – To be delivered in 2018-2020
  5. South Western Railways – Class xxx – 30 x five-car – 150 cars – To be delivered in 2019-2020
  6. South Western Railways – Class xxx – 60 x ten-car – 600 cars – – To be delivered in 2019-2020

This gives a total of 2,225 cars to be built.

The Building Schedule

Orders 1 and 2 are both directly or indirectly for Transport for London, with Wikipedia stating that the Class 710 trains for the Lea Valley  Lines are being stabled at Ilford TMD, where the current Class 345 trains are also stabled, whilst they are being tested between Liverpool Street and |Shenfield stations.

I suspect that this close relationship between the orders means that Bombardier and Transport for London have agreed a delivery schedule, that brings in trains as they are needed. There’s not much point in building Class 345 trains for Crossrail, when some won’t be needed until 2019, if there is a more urgent need for Class 710 trains for the Overground.

To improve matters for Bombardier, Orders 3 and 4 for Greater Anglia, will probably be stabled in part at Ilford TMD.

Bombardier have not only got four substantial initial orders, but because they can all be introduced into service from Ilford TMD, they must have a tremendous advantage in terms of testing, introduction into service, manpower and costs.

So it looks to me that the two London orders will be built first, followed by the Greater Anglia and then the South Western Railways.

The London orders total 810 cars, which would take 32 weeks using Bombardier’s figure of 25 cars per week in The Guardian.

But assuming they started full production on the 1st of August, that gives them seventy-two weeks until the end of 2018, which gives a equired production rate of under twelve cars a week.

Surely, given their past history of building around a couple of thousand Electrostar cars, that must be achievable. Especially, as the modular structure of the Aventra, which has been developed with suppliers, must make building quicker.

The Greater Anglia and South Western Railways orders, which total 1,415 cars, would need to be built in 2019-2020 or lets say a hundred weeks.

So the build rate would be 14 cars a week, which is well below Bombardier’s figure.

The Body Shells

It should also be stated that Bombardier make their body shells at Derby, whereas Hitachi make their’s in Japan and ship them to Newton Aycliffe. This must ease having a high production rate for Bombardier, as for this you must have timely and reliable deliveries.

The Class 345 and 710 trains seem to have different car lengths, so it would appear that their production of body shells is flexible.

Little can be discerned about the production process from the Internet, as articles like this one on Global Rail News, which is entitled Bombardier completes first Crossrail body shell, are short on production details.

If they have a capacity to produce twenty-five body shells a week, I don’t believe that this can be done without the use of sophisticated designs assisted by large amounts of automation, as used in most car and van body production.

I have found this picture of a number of Aventra car body sides on the Internet.

Note the double-skinned nature of the body sides, with reinforcing ribs inside, which must have great strength, light weight and a minimum number of components. I have read somewhere, that Bombardier are extruding aluminium for body components.

All of the holes would then be automatically cut by robots.

The joys of modern manufacturing!

Final Assembley

Modern manufacturing methods, as employed by car companies for years doesn’t mean you have to produce a sequence of identical vehicles on the line. Computer systems make sure all the components to build each car arrive at the right time.

A Class 345 train might have four or five different types of car, so similar methods would be used to speed production of the individual cars.

West Midlands Trains

Suppose Abellio, who own Greater Anglia, decided they wanted to use Aventras on their new West Midlands Trains franchise.

According to Wikipedia, the new franchise proposals include the following new trains.

  • 100 new carriages for the Cross-City Line
  • 80 new carriages for the Snow Hill Lines
  • 225 new carriages for services from London Euston
  • An indeterminate number of new carriages for the Abbey line

So how many of these could be run by Aventras?

  • The Cross-City Line is similar in nature to some of the Greater Anglia routes that will be run by Class 720 trains.
  • London Euston services could be served by an Aventra with a slightly higher top speed. Why not a 125 mph train, so it can mix it with the Pendelinos? Ian Walmsley has said in Modern Railways that a 125 mph Aventra is possible.
  • The Abbey Line could be served by an appropriate number of Class 710 trains, with whatever interior WMT want.

As it is unlikely that the Snow Hill Lines will be electrified in the near future, could we be seeing an Aventra bi-mode for these lines?

I discuss the concept of a bi-mode Aventra in Is A Bi-Mode Aventra A Silly Idea?.

The West Midlands Trains requirement totals to about 450 new carriages, which will all be pretty similar to previous orders, except in details like car length, number of cars, top speed and the interiors.

At Bombardier’s quoted production rate of 25 cars per week,l that means they would take just eighteen weeks to build them, after the design was finalised.

That sounds unbelievable!

The New South Eastern Franchise

The needs of the current South Eastern and West Midlands franchises are surprisingly similar.

  • High speed running on HS1 and the West Coast Main Line.
  • Suburban services in city networks; London and Birmingham.
  • A few short branch lines.
  • Some lines without electrification.
  • An ageing fleet without wi-fi.

So could we be seeing a mass fleet replacement with Aventras in both franchises?

Note that one of the bidders for this franchise is the same consortium of Abellio, East Japan Railway Company and Mitsui, who successfully bid for West Midlands Trains.

Abellio bought a large number of Aventras for Greater Anglia and helped develop battery power for the trains.

So could we be seeing a large number of Aventras added to the fleet for the South Eastern franchise?

Currently, the franchise runs 824 Electrostar and 674 Networker carriages.

To replace the Networkers would be 27 weeks of production at Bombardier’s rate of 25 carriages a day.

The South Eastern franchise also needs more high speed trains for HS1. I can’t believe that Bombardier couldn’t achieve a top speed of 140 mph with an Aventra. They probably will have a solution for covering the line between Ashford and Hastings. My money’s is on some form of energy storage.

Conclusion

Bombardier would not quote the capability of being able to make 25 trains per week to a newspaper like the Guardian, if they didn’t know it was possible.

But to meet the deliveries needed by the four initial customers, probably needs about half the quoted production rate, which is the sort of conservative thinking I like.

This gives Bombardier the float to sort out production problems or non-delivery of sub-assemblies outside of their control.

But it would also give them the capacity to fit in other orders. Suppose Crossrail decided to extend to Gravesend or Southend and needed another five Class 345 trains, then in theory, that is only two days production, provided the suppliers can deliver.

The UK’s railways are going to be full of Aventras.

 

 

 

August 20, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Toilets In Class 345 Trains

I visited this topic in Do Crossrail Trains Need Toilets? over two years ago, when I said this.

Surely, a much better and more affordable solution would be to update the ribbon maps in all Underground and Crossrail trains to show if the station had toilets, in the same way, they show the step free access. Some extra signs on stations showing the status and location of toilets would also be a good idea.

Incidentally on the Essex and Reading legs of Crossrail, several of the stations already have decent toilets. Getting off a train and catching the next one, to have a relaxed toilet break, is probably not a huge delay, due to the high frequency of the trains.

London has a chance to set high standards in this area, without putting toilets on any trains.

My views haven’t changed, but I do think that now the Aventra is in limited service, I can speculate further.

Walk-through Trains, First Class And Toilets

London now has five walk-through trains.

In some ways the Class 700 train is the odd train out, as it has both First Class seating and toilets.

It should also be noted that Greater Anglia’s new Class 720 trains don’t have First Class, but it appears they have toilets.

Walk-through trains are an undoubted success, as any Overground or Underground passenger will confirm, after seeing the way other passengers move around the train to both get a seat and be able to make a convenient exit.

First Class causes problems, as it blocks off this passenger circulation, unless it as one end of the train. But this means that First Class passengers might have a long walk to their seat at the wrong end of the day.

I wonder if walk-through trains encourage passengers to not use First Class, as the freedom to circulate in Standard Class makes the travel experience better.

It will be interesting to see how posh commuters from Frinton take to Greater Anglia’s new Class 720 trains.

Another problem of First Class sitting at one end of the train, is that if toilet provision is made, there must be a toilet near to First Class.

So if you don’t have First Class in a train up to perhaps ten cars, you can get away with perhaps a universal access toilet and a standard one.

From comments I get, most people seem to like the Class 395 trains or Javelins, that work the Highspeed services to Kent. These trains are six-car, with no First Class and two toilets.

So are these trains setting the standard for the Greater Anglia’s Class 720 trains?

Toilets On Class 345 Trains

The initial layout of Crossrail with terminals at Abbey Wood, Heathrow, Reading and Shenfield, has a longest journey from Reading to Shenfield of 102 minutes according to the Crossrail web site. But there are toilet facilities at Reading and Shenfield.

However, there is the possibility, that Crossrail trains may serve other terminals like Gravesend, High Wycombe, Southend and Tring.

Tring to Southend would be a journey of two hours, so a toilet is probably a necessity.

The current Class 345 trains have been designed to be nine-car units, although at present they are running as seven cars because of platform length issues at Liverpool Street.

I’ve read somewhere that Crossrail has been designed so that the trains can be increased to ten cars, if there should be a need for more capacity.

  • Platforms have been lengthened to at least two hundred metres.
  • All stations seem to have been updated for a large number of passengers.
  • Lengthening from seven to nine cars is obviously a simple matter.
  • A similar lengthening of the Class 378 trains was not a major exercise.

So surely, it would be a simple matter to slot in a car with a toilet.

So perhaps we might see an extra tenth car added to Class 345 trains, that is tailored to the route, as this ability to add and remove cars, is a feature of all Aventras.

Hitachi’s Class 800 trains also have the capability, as I suspect every well-designed train has.

The Ultimate Airport Train

Imagine a tenth car on Heathrow services.

  • Disabled toilet.
  • Ticket machine.
  • Visitor information and shop.
  • Space for large luggage.

The mind boggles!

Conclusion

If an operator wanted Aventras with a disco car, I’m sure Bombardier would oblige! At a price!

 

August 20, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Affordable Reinstatement Of The Stour Valley Railway

The Stour Valley Railway used to link Cambridge to Colchester. The section between Sudbury and Shelford stations was closed in 1967. The only portion remaining is the Gainsborough Line between Sudbury and Marks Tey stations.

So could the line be reopened in an affordable way using modern technology?

In Sudbury To Cambridge – D-Train, IPEMU Or Tram-Train?, I basked what would be the ideal rolling stock on a reopened Stour Valley Railway.

My conclusion was.

It is very much a case of who pays the money makes the choice.

Purists will want a double-track railway with fully manned stations, served by at least two-trains per hour. But they’re probably not paying!

There are plenty enough single-track, single-platform stations in the UK, that work safely and well. The Gainsborough Line, which would connect a restored Stour Valley Railway to the Great Eastern Main Line has the following characteristics, history and aspirations.

So why not extend a  railway across Suffolk, with these features.

  • Single-track throughout.
  • No traditional electrification
  • Single-platform stations.
  • Passing loops at Sudbury or Great Cornard and Haverhill.
  • In-cab wireless signalling, using ERTMS, as piloted on the Cambrian Line in Wales.
  • No level crossings.
  • No freight, except engineering trains.
  • Run under tramway rules.
  • Double-manned trains.
  • Services would be run by Aventras running on stored power.

It would be the ultimate modern railway connecting to one of the world’s most high-tech cities.

A Few Questions

These questions come to mind. If you have any others, let me know and I’ll answer them.

Could an Aventra Travel Between Marks Tey And Shelford Stations On Battery Power?

Both ends of the Stour Valley Railway connect to double-track main lines, which use 25 KVAC overhead electrification.

Current practice, always extends the electrification for a few hundred metres down a branch line and I would assume this would be done, so that a train running on stored energy, which was running short of power, could pull out onto the main line using the electrification.

Estimates of the distances of the sections of the line are as follows.

  • Marks Tey to Sudbury – 12 miles – From Gainborough Line details in Wikipedia.
  • Sudbury to Haverhill – 17 miles – From road distances
  • Haverhill to West Anglia Main Line – 14 miles – From road distances.

Which gives a total of forty-three miles.

These factors will help.

  • The terrain is not challenging.
  • The trains will be using regenerative braking at stops.
  • The trains have been optimised for low energy use.
  • The trains will enter the line with full batteries.

In An Exciting New Aventra, Bombardier are quoted as saying.

So plans were made for an Aventra that could run away from the wires, using batteries or other forms of energy storage. “We call it an independently powered EMU, but it’s effectively an EMU that you could put the pantograph down and it will run on the energy storage to a point say 50 miles away. There it can recharge by putting the pantograph back up briefly in a terminus before it comes back.

The prototype, which was based on a Class 379 train, that I rode in public service in January 2015, could happily travel along the eleven miles of the Mayflower Line. Even then the on-board engineer, that I spoke to, reckoned that longer distances were possible.

Two years on, I can’t believe that Bombardier have not achieved their objective of a train with on-board storage, that can reliably achieve a fifty mile range away from the wires.

In fact for reliable operation over fifty miles, they’d probably need a range of around seventy miles, just to make sure.

Could Charging Be Provided En Route?

Seville’s MetroCentro trams, which I described in Seville’s Elegant Trams, charge themselves at each stop.

I believe that there may be a very simple system, that could be used with Aventra trains.

The Aventras are dual-voltage trains, so could a short length of 750 VDC third rail be provided in some or all stations, which at most times is electrically dead. As is normal practice the rail would be on the side of the track away from the platform.

The sequence of operation would be as follows.

  • The train arrives in the station.
  • The second crew member gets out to supervise the passengers, as is normal practice.
  • The presence of the train, allows the third rail to be switched on.
  • The train connects using a third-rail shoe and charges the batteries.
  • When charging is complete, the third rail is switched off.
  • The second crew member checks all is ready and boards the train.
  • The train goes on its way with a full battery.

I’m sure that by careful design, a very safe system of charging the batteries can be developed.

  • The third rail can’t be switched on unless a train is in the platform.
  • The train would act as a massive safety guard for the third-rail.
  • The shoe could be on the middle car of a five-car train.
  • CCTV could monitor the third-rail at all times it is switched on.

I don’t think that all stations would have charging facilities, but just enough to ensure reliable operation of the trains.

How Would You Rescue A Failed Battery Train?

There are generally two ways, that failed trains are rescued.

  • In most cases, a second train attaches itself to the failed train and drags it out of moves it to a suitable siding out of the way.
  • Alternatively, a locomotive, often nicknamed a Thunderbird moves the train.

Would a battery train be able to shift the dead weight of a failed train?

It has been suggested to me, that Greater Anglia’s Class 755 trains, which are bi-mode will be able to rescue a Class 720 train, which are Aventras.

Now that is probably the ideal solution.

If you are using battery trains on a route, you make sure that you have some bi-mode trains working a route nearby.

How Long Would Colchester To Cambridge Take With A Battery Train?

Currently, the fastest journey by train between Colchester and Cambridge, that I can find takes two hours twenty minutes with a change at Ipswich. The Internet gives a driving time of one hour twenty-two minutes.

So how long would a journey take on the Stour Valley Railway?

The following timings are achieved by electric trains on the part of the route that is electrified.

  • Marks Tey to Colchester – 7-8 minutes
  • Shelford to Cambridge – 7 minutes

With Marks Tey to Sudbury taking twenty minutes. I will assume that a modern train like an Aventra would save a couple of minutes per stop, but then there could be an extra station at Great Cornard.

So let’s leave the timing at twenty minutes.

Scaling this time up for the forty-three miles between Marks Tey and the West Anglia Main Line from the twelve miles between Msrks Tey and Sudbury gives a time of one hour twelve minutes for the centre section of the route without electrification.

Adding everything together gives one hour twenty-seven minutes for the complete  Colchester to Cambridge journey.

I suspect a few minutes could be saved by good driving and some extra electrification at the junctions.

This all adds up to a comfortable three-hour round trip between Colchester and Cambridge.

How Many Trains Would Be Needed To Work A Colchester To Cambridge Service?

The previous section would mean that to provide an hourly service between Cambridge and Colchester would require just three trains. A half-hourly service would require six trains.

Why Not Use Bi-Mode Trains?

It could be argued that everything a Class 720 Aventra train running on battery power could be done by a Stadler Class 755 bi-mode train.

Consider.

  • The track access charges and leasing costs may favour one train or the other.
  • Tha Class 720 train is probably better suited to gliding silently through the Suffolk countryside.
  • The Class 755 train would run on diesel for most of the journey. Not very green!
  • The five-car Class 720 train may be too big.

Abellio’s accountants and the Marketing Department will decide.

Costs And Benefits

The cost of building the railway between the West Anglia Main Line and Sudbury, is a bit like the old question, as to how long is a piece of string.

Much of the route is still visible in Google Maps and it could be rebuilt as single track with single platform stations, which is the style of the Gainsborough Line.

The picture shows Newcourt station on the Avocet Line in Devon.

There were originally stations between Shelford and Sudbury at the following places.

I don’t suspect all would be needed, but none except perhaps Haverhill and a rebuilt and/or moved Sufbury would be anything more than basic.

To show the level of costs, Newcourt station cost £4 million, when it opened in 2015.

I would estimate that a total cost of the single track and the required stations would be around £100-120 million.

At least, it would be unlikely, if new trains had to be purchased.

Putting value to the benefits is more difficult, but at least they can be listed.

  • Fast growing Haverhill will gain a high-capacity public transport link to Cambridge.
  • It would give Cambridge access to the housing and industrial sites, the |City needs.
  • An efficient route would be built between Cambridge and Colchester via Sudbury and Haverhill.
  • Haverhill and Sudbury get good direct links to Colchester and Ipswich.
  • Most of the locals would be pleased, as house prices would rise!!
  • All areas along the line get links to Addenbrook’s Hospital.
  • If you can’t drive in South Suffolk, it is a beautiful prison.

As to the last point, why do you think I moved to London?

Conclusion

Reinstatement of the Stour Valley Railway  would be the ultimate modern railway for one of the world’s most high-tech cities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 13, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

An Exciting New Aventra

The title of this post is the title of an article in Rail Engineer.

It is actually dated the 31st of January 2014, so you might think it is out of date.

But surely, with the first Aventras appearing in service, now is the time to revisit.

I found the article this morning by accident and it is a fascinating read, Especially when you consider the article was written before the train had received any orders. Bombardier had actually just missed out on the Thameslink order, which resulted in the Class 700 trains.

A Blank Sheet Of Paper

The loss of the Thameslink order allowed Bombardier to start from scratch.

This paragraph indicates one of their start points.

And then we looked at it and thought we’ve also got depot engineers from Strathclyde to Surrey, all over the place, all looking after these trains in the field. How are they performing? Is there something we can do better there?

As the article says Aventra was reborn after Thameslink!

They also talked extensively to possible customers.

Suppliers

Suppliers were invited on board and given space with the design team in a new Design Office in Derby.

This paragraph described how everyone worked together.

We basically started from scratch, and in a completely different way. It isn’t engineering-led any more. It’s a joint collaboration of our depot people, our manufacturing guys, procurement and engineering.

I would describe it as a project-led structure similar to one that ICI used to use in the 1960s.

I wrote my first scheduling program to allocate the office space needed.

A Modular Approach For The Future

Each Electrostar had been different to the previous, but this sums up the Aventra philosophy.

Aventra will be a single modular product, capable of being easily modified for different applications but in each case referring back to the core design. So whether the actual class will be a 90mph metro train or a 125mph main-line express, it will have the same systems and components as its basis. In fact, Jon thinks that the distinctions are becoming blurred anyway.

They had looked forward ten years.

Away From The Wires

Aventra will be an electric train, but what happens, when the wires run out?

This was their solution.

So plans were made for an Aventra that could run away from the wires, using batteries or other forms of energy storage. “We call it an independently powered EMU, but it’s effectively an EMU that you could put the pantograph down and it will run on the energy storage to a point say 50 miles away. There it can recharge by putting the pantograph back up briefly in a terminus before it comes back.

I rode the prototype in public service in January 2015!

I was totally convinced that Bombardier’s battery trains have not even the smallest touch of Mickey Mouse!

Although the experience was magical!

Bombardier’s Iron Bird

Bombardier have borrowed the Iron Bird concept from the plane-makers.

This is an extract.

A leaf has been taken out of the aircraft designers’ handbook. They use something termed an Iron Bird – basically an aeroplane without wings – to test new systems.

Bombardier’s Iron Bird is a train without bogies. However, it does contain control systems, wiring looms and other bits of kit and it is being assembled at Derby.

I think that this shows, that they are not against borrowing other concepts from other industries.

The Most Affordable Train

The article describes how the train was designed to give the best whole life cost.

This sentence sums up the philosophy.

It’s actually about a 50/50 split between the whole life cost and the first capital cost. That makes it a bit more difficult because we’ve got be competitive on the first practical cost, but additionally we have to offer a really high availability, strong reliability, combined with much better energy consumption and less track damage.

As someone, who used to own a finance company, that leased trucks and other expensive equipment, the product described is the sort of product that leasing companies love. If the train is economical to run, if the first train operating company goes bust, you’ll still have an asset that other train operating companies will fight over.

Trains are also a predictable long-term investment, as well-built efficient trains have a thirty or forty year lifetime.

In my view the big winner of a train like this is the manufacturer, as they’ll get happy owners, train operating companies and passengers, which must lead to repeat orders.

Conclusion

I’ve never ridden a more well-designed, comfortable, smooth and quiet suburban electric train, than the Class 345 train in trial service on the Shenfield Metro, anywhere in the UK or Europe.

August 10, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 2 Comments

Bombardier On Track For Record Sale Of New Aventra Trains

The title of this post is the same as the title of this article in the Daily Telegraph.

This is the last paragraph.

Aventra trains use energy efficient measures such as regenerative braking, which collects energy generated by the trains slowing down and stores it for later use. They will also offer wifi, and USB sockets in seats.

Does that mean that the trains are fitted with energy storage or in simple terms; batteries.

August 6, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

The Automatic Splitting And Joining Of Trains

Hitachi And Automatic Splitting And Joining Of Trains

The Hitachi Class 395 train was the first train in the UK  to be able to automatically split and join in service.

In The Impressive Coupling And Uncoupling Of Class 395 Trains, I linked to this video.

Impressive isn’t it?

In Do Class 800/801/802 Trains Use Batteries For Regenerative Braking?, I quoted this comment from a public on-line Hitachi document.

Because the coupling or uncoupling of cars in a trainset occurs during commercial service at an intermediate station, the automatic coupling device is able to perform this operation in less than 2 minutes.

This is definitely in line with Class 395 train performance.

This document from the Hitachi web site talks about the design of Hitachi’s Class 385 trains for Scotland. This is said.

The lead and rear railcars have an automatic coupler at the front and walk-through gangway hoods. When train sets are coupled together, the hoods fit together as part of the automatic coupling operation to provide access between train sets, meaning that passengers and staff are able to move freely from one train set to another.

Obviously, Hitachi have got automatic splitting and joining of trains spot on!

Current Split/Join Services

There are several places in the UK network, where splitting and joining of trains is used.

  •  Southeastern Highspeed do it at Ashford.
  • Great Northern Kings Lynn do it at Cambridge.
  • Southern do it at Haywards Heath.
  • Virgin Trains do it at Crewe.
  • South West Trains do it at Southampton.

But currently only the Class 395 trains can do it automatically.

The in-service entry of the Class 800 trains will change everything, as it will make a lot more new routes possible.

Virgin Trains East Coast

Currently, Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC) run two trains per hour (tph) between Kings Cross and Leeds. In the Peak, some services are extended to Bradford Forster Square, Skipton and Harrogate, where the last route is not electrified.

Will some services to Leeds be run by two five-car Class 800/801 trains working together as a ten-car train?

  • Class 800 trains are electro-diesel which could work to Harrogate under diesel power.
  • Class 801 trains are all-electric, which could work all electrified routes from Leeds.

At Leeds the two trains could separate, with each train going to a different destination. Reading Hitachi’s published documents, the split would take under two minutes at Leeds and I don’t think there would be a restriction of a Class 800 and a Class 801 working together between Kings Cross and Leeds using the overhead electrification.

VTEC gets advantages by using this split and join approach.

  • Frequencies and train length to the eventual destinations can be adjusted to what the market will sustain.
  • Extra expensive train paths between the split/join station and London are not needed.
  • Between the split/join station and London, the train can usually run using electrification.
  • Costs are probably saved, if only a half-train is run to some destinations, as track access charges are based on weight.
  • A five-car electro-diesel could probably access more routes than a nine-car train.

This is the fleet that VTEC have ordered.

  • Class 800 – 10 x five-car
  • Class 800 – 13 x nine-car
  • Class 801 – 12 x five-car
  • Class 801 – 30 x nine-car

These Class 800 and Class 801 trains give VTEC all sorts of of possibilities.

The backbone of the service which is a half-hourly service to Edinburgh probably needs about 35 nine-car trains, some of which would be electro-diesels to work North of the electrification to Aberdeen and Inverness.

But that still leaves quite a few five-car trains available for other services.

Great Western Railway

Great Western Railway (GWR) will probably use their Class 800/801802 trains in a similar manner.

This is the fleet that GWR have ordered.

  • Class 800 – 36 x five-car
  • Class 800 – 21 x nine-car
  • Class 802 – 22 x five-car
  • Class 802 – 14 x nine-car

Note that the electro-diesel Class 802 train is similar to the Class 800, but with the engines tuned for more power and larger fuel tanks, so it can handle Devon and Cornwall routes easier.

I think that given the number of five-car trains on order and the lack of promised electrification, I think that GWR will be using splitting and joining  in some surprising places, to make sure that as many routes as possible get the new trains.

The Stadler Flirt

This article on Railway Technology describes the Stadler Flirts built for Swiss Federal Railways. This is said.

The train consists of articulated train sets, which contains light rail cars attached semi-permanently sharing a common bogie. The trains are available in two to six car combinations with two to six motorised axles. The automatic couplers, installed at both the ends of the trains, permit connection and disconnection of up to four train cars easily and quickly.

Does this mean that two trains can split and join like the Hitachi trains?

The Bombardier Aventra

The Aventra is a train that has been designed to have everything that customers might need. This is the description of the train in Wikipedia.

The train has been designed to be lighter and more efficient, with increased reliability. It will have lightweight all-welded bodies, wide gangways and doors to shorten boarding times in stations, and ERTMS. The design incorporates FlexxEco bogies which have been used in service on Voyagers and newer Turbostars. The gangway is designed to allow maximum use of the interior space and ease of movement throughout the train.

As Hitachi have published a lot of their thinking on Class 800/801 trains on the Internet, I would find it astounding that Bombardier and the other train building companies haven’t read it.

There have been four orders for the Aventras so far, which total over two thousand carriages.

Two of these orders are for mixed fleets of five-car and ten-car trains.

Are these trains and half-trains just like with the Hitachi trains?

If the answer is in the affirmative, I think it is very likely that Aventras will have the capability of splitting and joining automatically.

Greater Anglia

Greater Anglia has a complex route structure that fans out from a very busy electrified core into Liverpool Street on both their main lines.

They have ordered 89 x five-car and 22 x ten-car of Class 720 trains.

Many of their outer-suburban routes currently run twelve-car services and as their two main lines are only double-track, I can see a lot of five car trains working in pairs.

In Harlow Council Leader Jon Clempner Hopes Crossrail 2 Will Extend To Town, I suggested that Greater Anglia might use splitting and joining on the West Anglia Main Line to get four tph on the Hertford East Branch.

It may not be practical in that case, but Greater Anglia have several electrified branches.

South Western Railway

South Western Railway have a similar route structure to Greater Anglia, with a very busy electrified core into Waterloo.

They have ordered 30 x five-car and 60 x ten-car of Aventra trains.

In Waterloo Upgrade August 2017 – Virginia Water Station, I talked about used splitting and joining to provide a better service on the Waterloo to Reading Line and the Chertsey Branch.

However, I think that most services will be run by ten-car trains given the make-up of the fleet.

The five-cars could generally run on routes where the capacity only needs five-car trains or the infrastructure wouldn’t allow anything longer.

They could then split and join to maximise the capacity and use only one path from the split/join station to Waterloo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 6, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Bombardier’s Giant Spanner In The Works

On The 10:35 From Liverpool Street To Shenfield, I talked to several passengers and one thing that impressed a couple was the built-in 4G mobile-phone capability of the trains.

So much wi-fi on trains is tedious to use and the operator wants to get you to register, so they can bombard you with spam.

For this and other reasons, I rarely use wi-fi.

Now that Bombardier have fitted 4G to Crossrail’s Aventras, will every new train in the UK, be fitted with this capability?

You bet it will! Or the train won’t sell!

I actually, think that 4G capability could be a train feature that appeals to many older travellers., who I suspect generally aren’t the heaviest users of bandwidth, but also want instant access at all times.

4G all the time gives you this.

June 29, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

The 10:35 From Liverpool Street To Shenfield

I took these pictures on the untimetabled 10:35 TfL Rail service between Liverpool Street and Shenfield stations and on the return to Liverpool Street.

As you can see it is a new Class 345 train.

There were a lot of Crossrail and Transport for London staff about, talking to passengers.

These are my thoughts on various issues.

Ride Quality

This is up with the best or the legendary British Rail Mark 3 coach, which was designed in the 1960s.

One of the Crossrail staff was wearing stiletto heels close to four inches and she was walking up-and-down with no difficulty.

For someone who suffered a bad stroke, my balance is good and I had no difficulty walking along the seven-car train.

Cabin Height And Width

I don’t know how Bombardier have done it, but the cabin seems higher and wider than any other train I’ve ridden in the UK.

Next time, I ride one, I’ll take a couple of tall guys and a tape measure.

Information

The current on-train information is simple, but then as I suspect the screens are software driven, any degree of required complication can be added.

I don’t know whether it is deliberate but everything is large and easy to read. There is also no maps or exhortations about security.

Long may it stay that way!

Simple is efficient!

Seats

Not everybody was completely satisfied with the seats, but I found them much more comfortable than those in the Class 700 trains on Thameslink.

There were some good points.

  • The sets of four seats were arranged as they were in the original InterCity 125 around a large window.
  • The metro-style seating had a wide aisle in the middle, that would satisfy a basketball team.
  • An amply-proportioned  man, thought the seats comfortable.
  • Most seats had well-designed armrests.
  • There was plenty of space under the seats for airline-size carry-on baggage or a labrador.

On the other hand, there were no cupholders, tables or litter bins. But there aren’t any on the Class 378 trains or London Underground‘s S Stock.

Entry And Exit

I feel that trains should be a level step across from the platform.

This train wasn’t as good as a Class 378 train on many Overground stations, but it was better than some.

As many Crossrail stations will be one train type only there is probably scope to get this better.

I regularly see a lady in a simple wheel-chair on the Overground and I feel she would probably be able to wheel herself in and out, which she does at Dalston Junction station with ease.

It should be noted that each coach has three sets of wide double doors and a large lobby, so perhaps a mother with triplets and a baby in a buggy would find entry easier than any train on the Underground.

Walking Up And Down The Train

I found this very easy on a train that was no more than a third full, as it was an extra service to introduce the train to passengers.

There were numerous hand-holds and vertical rails in the centre of the lobbies. Unlike on some trains in France, Italy or Germany, the rails were very simple. They also borrowed heavily from the Overground’s Class 378 trains.

Wi-Fi And 4G

I didn’t try the wi-fi, as it is not something I use very often.

But I was getting a strong 4G signal all the way to and from Shenfield. Was this direct or was I picking up a booster in the train? I  suspect it was the latter at some points close to Liverpool Street.

Windows

The windows on the train are large and well-positioned.

The simple seat and window layout, seems to appeal to all classes of rail user.

A Train For Families

When Celia and I had three children under three, with two able to toddle-along (they had too!) and the youngest in his McClaren, I could imagine us taking a train from Barbican station to perhaps go shopping on Oxford Street, sitting in one of those set of four seats by that large window.

A Train For Commuters

The Class 378 trains of the Overground cram them in and the metro layout of much of the Class 345 train will accommodate large numbers of commuters.

I would question, if there are enough seats, but the proof should be apparent by the end of the year, as eleven of the current seven-car trains will be in service between Liverpool Street and Shenfield.

For the full Crossrail service, they will be lengthened to nine cars and there is a possibility of adding a tenth.

A Train For Shoppers

If say, I’d been to Eastfield at Stratford and was coming back to Moorgate heavily loaded with shopping to get a bus home, I could probably put some bags under the seat. Try that on the Underground!

A Train For The Not-So-Young

From what I saw today, I couldn’t make too many observations, as the train wasn’t crowded, but the few older travellers that I did see were smiling at the experience.

A Train For The Disabled

As I’m not disabled, I can’t comment and would love to hear from those who are.

A Train For The Tall

Compared to other trains in London, the headroom seemed to be generous, but then I didn’t see anybody who was much more than six foot.

A Train For The Airport

Class 345 trains will serve Heathrow Airport. I feel they will cope, as the metro layout of the Class 378 trains, seems to accommodate large cases well!

Comparison With A Class 700 Train

The Thameslink Class 700 trains are designed for running over a longer distance at a higher speed and they have toilets.

But for a thirty minute journey through a busy part of London, there is no doubt in my mind, as to which train I would choose.

The Class 345 train, with its large windows, more comfortable seating, space for bags, uncluttered views and the appearance of more space, is undoubtedly in my view a better designed train.

Incidentally, for every metre of a nine-car Class 345 train, 7.31 passengers can be accommodated, as opposed to 7.07 in an eight-car  Class 700 train.

I think we can put all this comparison down to Derby 1 – Krefeld 0!

Comparison With A Class 387 Train

The trains will be compared with Bombadier’s last Electrostar, the Class 387 train, which will be in service with GWR between Paddington and Reading, alongside the Class 345 train.

Passengers will be able to take whichever train they want on this route.

Will they choose the Class 387 train, with its tables, very comfortable seats and toilets or the Class 345 train?

I’d choose the Class 387 train, as I like to lay out my newspaper for reading.

No matter what happens Derby wins again.

Moving Forward On Approach To Liverpool Street

I was surprised how many people walked to the front as we approached Liverpool Street.

But were they only demonstrating the Londoners’ ducking and diving ability of getting to the right place for exit.

Regular passengers on regular routes will anticipate their stops and I will be interested to see how much passenger behaviour increases the capacity of the train.

Conclusion

This first Aventra feels like it is a very good train.

Consider how Bombardier improved the Electrostar since it was first produced in 1999.

So what will an Aventra be like in 2035?

 

June 27, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Railbaar In Rail Engineer

In January 2016, I wrote How To Charge A Battery Train, in which I described a Swiss idea called Railbaar.

This article in Rail Engineer is entitled RailBaar – Rapid Charge Station and it describes the technology in detail.

The article gives the impression, that respected Swiss company; Furrer+Frey, have a product that is ready to be rolled out.

This is said.

Furrer+Frey feels that the system could be a game changer, dramatically reducing the cost of electrification, and thus the feasibility of new electrification projects.

Read the article and see if like me, you agree with Furrer+Frey, like I do.

The Felixstowe Branch Line

I will use the twelve mile long Felixstowe Branch Line as an example, because I know the branch line well and spent some miserable days trapped in the town as a teenager because of the inadequate rail service to Ipswich.

The train service is better now, but it would be better if every thirty minutes one of Greater Anglia’s new Aventras was to shuttle along the branch.

But the line is not electrified and there is very little change it will happen.

Bombardier showed with their Class 379 BEMU trials in January 2015, that a four-car and probably a five-car version of the Avenytra could be fitted with a battery that would take the train reliably between Ipswich and Felixstowe.

But the problem with say electrifying a platform at Ipswich station and charging the train there, is that the battery needs to be sized to do two trips along the branch line.

By using a charging station like Railbaar at both ends of the line, the train would always leave the station with a full charge.

Currently, trains between Felixstowe and Ipswich take 26 minutes, so if the battery could be charged in four minutes, then a train could do a return trip in an hour.

This would mean that two trains would be needed to provide a two trains per hour service.

Sudbury And Colchester Town

Greater Anglia have indicated that they might  replace the shuttle between Sudbury and Marks Tey stations, with a direct service between Sudbury and Colchester Town stations.

They could run this service with bi-mode Stadler Flirts.

On the other hand,  the Gainsborough Line between Marks Tey and Sudbury is only eleven miles long, which is well within the range of a train running on stored energy.

It currently takes nineteen minutes for a train to go between Marks Tey and Sudbury, so a battery train would have twenty-two minutes in every hour for charging.

Operation could be as follows.

  • 10:00 Leave Colchester Town running on current electrification.
  • 10:08 Call Colchester station.
  • 10:16 Arrive Marks Tey station with a full battery, after charging it on the main line.
  • 10:35 Arrive Sudbury station after running from Marks Tey on battery power.
  • 10:40 Leave Sudbury station after charging the batteries using a Railbaar.
  • 11:59 Arrive Marks Tey station after running from Sudbury on battery power.
  • 11:02 Leave Marks Tey station, raise the pantograph and travel to Colchester.
  • 11:10 Call Colchester station.
  • 11:18 Arrive back at Colchester Town station.

Note.

  • The trains pass each other on the main line.
  • I have used the times for the current trains.
  • Only one Railbaar would be needed at Sudbury.

,Perhaps Aventras and with a faster charge at Sudbury could save a few minutes.

Aventras And Railbaar

The Aventra has a slightly unusual and innovative electrical layout.

This article in Global Rail News from 2011, which is entitled Bombardier’s AVENTRA – A new era in train performance, gives some details of the Aventra’s electrical systems. This is said.

AVENTRA can run on both 25kV AC and 750V DC power – the high-efficiency transformers being another area where a heavier component was chosen because, in the long term, it’s cheaper to run. Pairs of cars will run off a common power bus with a converter on one car powering both. The other car can be fitted with power storage devices such as super-capacitors or Lithium-Iron batteries if required.

This was published six years ago, so I suspect Bombardier have improved the concept.

So in a battery version of the Aventra would this mean that the pantograph is on the car with the high-efficiency transformer and the battery is in the second car?

So if the train is going to work with Railbaars, then the contact points on the roof of the train for the Railbaar would be on the car with the batteries.

All of the 25 KVAC and its handling is in one car and all the batteries and their charging is in another, with the only connection being the common power bus connecting everything on the train.

I suspect that with careful positioning of the Railbaar at each end of the route and an aid for the driver so that the train is positioned accurately and it would create a reliable charging system.

Obviously, there is nothing to stop, the trains charging their batteries, when they are using overhead wires or third rails.

Conclusions

So what do we know about using batteries on trains to work routes?

 

  • Bombardier showed in their trial, that a battery train can run the eleven miles of the Mayflower Line, starting with a full battery.
  • Batteries are getting more powerful and more affordable every year.
  • The Bombardier Aventra would be ideal for a Railbaar-type charging system.
  • Battery trains can charge their batteries running on electrified lines.
  • The bus version of Railbaar is in use charging electric Volvo buses at a rate of 360 kW. See the Opbrid web site.
  • The physics of steel wheel on steel rail is efficient, as George Stephenson knew.

Put this all together and I think that by the end of 2018, we’ll be seeing Aventra trains, running services on a twenty mile branch line without electrificaton.

 

 

April 11, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment