The Anonymous Widower

Is This Organisation Behind The Aventra Manufacture?

In An Interesting Snippet From The Engineer, I said this about the manufacture of the Aventra trains in Derby.

Looking at what we know about assembly in Derby, which I reported on in How Long Will It Take Bombardier To Fulfil Their Aventra Orders?, I know or have surmised the following.

  • Bombardier are aiming for a production rate of 25 carriage a month.
  • The sides of the trains are one piece aluminium extrusions.
  • Sub-assemblies designed with suppliers feature in the design.

In addition, there has been a complete rethinking of everything about the design, manufacture and operation of the train.

The aluminium extrusions that appear to make up the sides of the train are revolutionary, with inner and outer skins and strengthening ribs between, probably being extruded in one pass, giving the following advantages.

  • High strength
  • Light weight
  • Thin train sides for greater interior width.
  • Simple, fast, affordable manufacture.

What helps is that train sides and roofs are simple shapes with a constant cross-section. Cars have much more fancy shapes.

It got me thinking about where the technology to create these aluminium extrusion was developed.

Bombardier are a Canadian company based in Quebec and Canada is the third largest produce of aluminium.

So I did a quick Internet search for “aluminium extrusion research canada”!

I found this page entitled Aluminium Technology Centre on the National Research Council Canada web site. This is said.

NRC ATC provides technological solutions for its clients in the aluminium transformation sector by offering direct access to cutting-edge scientific infrastructure and expertise in assembly process development and aluminium forming. The main aluminium transformation technologies available include adhesive assembly, various welding techniques (laser welding, friction stir welding and robotic arc welding), semisolid casting, forming and extrusion, as well as techniques for evaluating mechanical resistance, environmental sustainability, and metallurgical and chemical characterization.

The large-scale laboratory, measuring nearly 1200 m2, contains oversized equipment: two robotic welding cells connected to a 10-kW laser, a friction stir welding machine, a 1000-ton forming press, and a 650-ton injection molding press.

The Aluminium Technology Centre is based in Quebec.

Bombardier has recently designed the CSeries airliner, which is causing an immense row with the protectionists in the Badlands, the other side of the border.

But airliners have many complicated aluminium components, so is this Aluminium Technology Centre, a key part in driving the cost of the CSeries down?

It should be noted that extensive use is made of aluminium-lithium alloy is used in the CSeries, to save weight.

So have all of these advanced methods of using and forming aluminium been shared with Derby?

It would appear that they have!

Reading about the CSeries, it would appear that have been as radical about thinking about the design of this airliner, as Derby has been about the Aventra.

Conclusion

Could Belfast’s problem have been caused by the same technology that is giving strength to Derby?

September 28, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

An Interesting Snippet From The Engineer

The Engineer is a magazine that reports on engineering and has done since 1856.

This article is entitled What’s Driving The UK’s Rail Renaissance?.

It is a worthwhile read.

This is a snippet from the section which talks about the Bombardier Aventra.

The “building blocks” of Aventra are being used for commuter train bids in India, South America and Australia.

I would take this to mean, that Bombardier have designed the train and its sub-assemblies, so that it can be put together locally.

Looking at what we know about assembly in Derby, which I reported on in How Long Will It Take Bombardier To Fulfil Their Aventra Orders?, I know or have surmised the following.

  • Bombardier are aiming for a production rate of 25 carriage a month.
  • The sides of the trains are one piece aluminium extrusions.
  • Sub-assemblies designed with suppliers feature in the design.

In addition, there has been a complete rethinking of everything about the design, manufacture and operation of the train.

The aluminium extrusions that appear to make up the sides of the train are revolutionary, with inner and outer skins and strengthening ribs between, probably being extruded in one pass, giving the following advantages.

  • High strength
  • Light weight
  • Thin train sides for greater interior width.
  • Simple, fast, affordable manufacture.

What helps is that train sides and roofs are simple shapes with a constant cross-section. Cars have much more fancy shapes.

See Wikipedia for more on extrusion.

But could it mean, that to set up a factory in say Australia, you only need to export the extruders and the handling rigs to create the body-shells for the locally-assembled trains.

Once the body-shells have been assembled, you just fit the components. Some might be manufactured locally, but other complicatedpartts like bogies, which Bombardier design in the UK, but make in Sweden, would probably be imported.

Hitachi by contrast, build the body-shells in Japan and send them by ship to their factories in Europe. How inefficient and costly is that?

Australia would get new modern trains, that were assembled locally, at a timely rate.

 

September 28, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 1 Comment

Details In A Class 345 Train Interior

These pictures were taken of internal details of a Class 345 train.

Various thoughts.

Cantilevered Seats

The bays of four-seats are cantilevered to the sides of the train, which means the space underneath the seat is available for luggage and well-behaved dogs.

Heating

It would appear that the heating is under the Metro-style seating.

As I said in Aventras Have Under Floor Heating, it would appear that the Greater Anglia Aventras do have under-floor heating, so perhaps this is a customer-chosen option, more suited to longer-distance routes.

The Lobbies

East car in the Class 345 train, has three sets of doors and lobbies.

Note how each lobby has a central handrail and two vertical handrails in each corner. One of these is just behind the door and you can grab it from outside.

Metro-Style Seating

I have not travelled in the Peak, so I don’t know how the seats perform with a full load, but this type of seating works well in the Overground’s Class 378 trains.

Note how the Class 378 seats have wider armrests and are not so open underneath. That vertical handrail in front of the seats can get in the way too!

The Class 378 trains were introduced in 2009, so the differences are probably down to eight years of design and advanced manufacturing.

Armrests

The armrests have received praise in some reports and they appear to work.

Note how in the metro-style seating the armrests have two levels.

Conclusion

As the first Aventra to enter service, it is a very good effort.

Certainly finding criticism of these interiors is difficult.

If you’re in London and want to go to the Olympic Park or the Eastfield Shopping Centre at Stratford, why not forsake the Jubilee and Central Lines of the Underground and take one of these new trains from Liverpool Street.

There are four trains in service at the present time, but by the end of the year, there will be eleven, so there is an improving chance you’ll get a ride in the best commuter train, in which I’ve ever ridden.

 

September 20, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 3 Comments

Aventras Have Under Floor Heating

I have under floor heating in my house, so why shouldn’t trains.

In this article on Global Rail News, which is entitled First look around Greater Anglia’s Bombardier Aventra mock-up, this is said.

Instead of body-side heaters encroaching on leg room, under-floor heating has been used, seats are cantilevered too to save on space and there will be no doors separating vehicles.

These pictures show the heating in various trains.

 

Note.

No wonder the Class 345 trains give an impression of width.

September 14, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 5 Comments

Do Bombardier Aventras Have Remote Wake-Up?

Remote wake-up is detailed in this snippet from an article in the Derby Telegraph, which appears to have since been deleted.

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.

So could we see a train parked up at night in the sidings at the end of the line, after forming the last train from London? The train would then call home and report any problems, which would be sorted if needed, by perhaps a local or mobile servicing team. In the morning, the driver would turn up and find that the train was warm and ready to form the first train of the day up to London.

Since I found this in 2016, I’ve told several drivers and all had stories about cold trains in their least favourite places.

September 10, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 11 Comments

Thoughts On Highspeed to Hastings

Since I wrote Kent On The Cusp Of Change – Highspeed To Hastings, a couple of months ago, several things have happened.

And Now There Are Three!

Trenitalia has pulled out of bidding for the new Southeastern franchise as reported in this article in the International Rail Journal.

This leaves just three bidders.

  • A joint venture of Abellio, East Japan Railway Company and Mitsui
  • Govia
  • Stagecoach

The same joint venture were recently awarded the West Midlands franchise.

The new franchise will be awarded in August 2018, with services starting in December 2018.

Electrification Has Been Abandoned

Major electrification schemes have been abandoned, so I suspect it will be even more unlikely that Ashford to Hastings will be electrified.

The Aventras Are Coming

Class 345 trains have started to appear on Crossrail and it is my opinion that they are a fine train.

In An Exciting New Aventra, I laid out the philosophy of the new trains and in How Long Will It Take Bombardier To Fulfil Their Aventra Orders?, I discussed how Bombardier will build the trains, at a rate of twenty-five carriages a month.

The rate comes from this article in The Guardian, which is entitled Full speed ahead for train builders as minister pulls plug on electrification, where 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.

The New South Eastern Franchise

So do we have any clues as to what the new South Eastern franchise will be doing?

South Western Railway

South Western Railway‘s routes have a similar pattern to those of the South Eastern franchise, with an intense suburban network and longer distance services.

You could also argue that Greater Anglia isn’t much different.

Both these other franchises have are replacing their suburban trains with new 100 mph trains with all the trimming like wi-fi and toilets.

Both have chosen a mix of five and ten-car Aventras.

This would appear to give the following advantages.

  • The 100 mph trains with excellent acceleration and smooth regenerative braking help to make services faster and more frequent.
  • A near identical fleet will help maintenance and crew training.
  • It is easier to get the train-platform interface better, if only one class of train calls at a station.
  • Platform compatibility with Crossrail and Crossrail 2.

I suspect that the new South Eastern franchise will think on similar lines.

The Networkers Must Be Going

Southeastern currently has a total of 674 Networker carriages, most of which will surely be moved on by the new franchise holder.

I believe that these trains with their 75 mph speed and average performance, is not high enough for efficient timetabling of services and that consequently the new franchise holder will probably replace these trains with 100 mph units.

One choice would be to use a mix of new five and ten-car Aventras as chosen by Greater Anglia and South Western Railway. Replacing Networker carriages with the same number of Aventra carriages would take around six months of production at Bombardier.

The Aventras must be high on the list of new trains, as some of the new trains, may have to use the same platforms as Crossrail, if the line is extended from Abbey Wood station.

The Extra High Speed Trains

To serve Hastings and increase the number of Highspeed services, the new franchise holder, will have to obtain some more trains that can use High Speed 1.

Some of these trains will need the ability to travel on the Marshlink Line between Ashford and Hastings.

Consider.

  • It probably wouldn’t be a good idea to have two different types of trains working to Ashford on High Speed 1.
  • Class 800 trains, which are closely related to the Class 395 trains have onboard diesel power and might have energy storage to handle regenerative braking.
  • Class 395 trains are getting towards ten years old and are approaching the need for a refresh.
  • Hitachi have built trains with onboard energy storage in Japan.
  • Diesel fuel might not be allowed in the tunnels of High Speed 1.
  • Hitachi would probably be very disappointed to not get this order.

More Class 395 trains fitted with either onboard energy storage must be the favourite.

Conclusion

Kent will get Aventras to improve suburban services and more Class 395 trains with batteries for Highspeed services.

 

September 7, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Is A Bi-Mode Aventra A Silly Idea?

In How Long Will It Take Bombardier To Fulfil Their Aventra Orders?, when discussing the new West Midlands Trains franchise, that has recently been awarded, 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-ion 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 well, but London and other cities have hydrogen-powered buses.

The picture is from 2013, so the technology has probably moved on. This Fuel Cell Bus section in Wikipedia gives the up-to-date picture.

Automatic Power Source Selection

Effectively, the ideal bi-mode train will be a tri-mode and will have the following power sources.

  • Traditional electrification.
  • On board diesel or hydrogen power.
  • Energy storage, charged from the electrification or from regenerative braking.

The power source would be chosen automatically to minimise the use of both diesel/hydrogen power and electric power from the 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 or hydrogen power pack.

Intermittent And Selective Electrification

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 or expensive hydrogen.

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.

The 125 mph Bi-Mode Aventra

This article on Christian Wolmar’s web site is entitled Bombardier’s Survival Was The Right Kind Of Politics. This is said.

Bombardier is not resting on its laurels. Interestingly, the company has been watching the problems over electrification and the fact that more of Hitachi’s new trains will now be bi-mode because the wires have not been put up in time. McKeon has a team looking at whether Bombardier will go into the bi-mode market: ‘The Hitachi bi-mode trains can only go 110 mph when using diesel. Based on Aventra designs, we could build one that went 125 mph. This would help Network Rail as it would not have to electrify everywhere.’ He cites East Midlands, CrossCountry and Wales as potential users of this technology.

So Bombardier don’t think it is silly. Especially, the statement that Bombardier could build an Aventra that could do 125 mph running on diesel.

Applying, what we know about the power in the bi-mode Class 800 and Class 769 trains, which have three and two diesel power-packs respectively, I suspect that to create a five-car Aventra, that is capable of 125 mph on diesel, would need the following.

  • At least three diesel power-packs.
  • Regenerative braking using onboard energy storage.
  • Automatic pantograph deployment.
  • Automatic power source selection.

The light weight of the Aventra would be a big help.

It is my belief that energy storage is key, for the following reasons.

  • Stored energy from braking at a station from 125 mph, would be used to get the train back to operating speed, without using a large amount of diesel power.
  • Braking and acceleration back to operating speed, perhaps after being slowed by another train, might not need the diesel engines to be started.
  • Starting a journey with an optimum amount of power in the battery might make getting to operating speed easier.

It would be a rough engineering challenge, but one I believe is possible.

Consider the routes mentioned.

East Midlands

Consider.

  • 125 mph running would certainly be needed on this route.
  • Battery power could be used to boost the trains to 125 mph.
  • Electrification will be available between St. Pancras and Kettering.
  • Electrification might be impossible between Derby and Sheffield because the Derwent Valley is a World Heritage Site.

Some form of charging might be needed at Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield.

A bi-mode train would be ideal for Norwich to Liverpool, although there’s not a great deal of electrification.

Cross Country

CrossCountry use several electrified lines on their various routes..

  • York to Edinburgh
  • Birmingham New Street to Manchester Piccadilly
  • Bournemouth to Basingstoke
  • Stansted Airport to Ely

Note that parts of some of these routes allow125 mph and Bournemouth to asingstoke is electrified using third-rail.

A dual voltage, 125 mph bi-mode train would probably fit CrossCountry’s routes well.

Wales

Except for the South Wales Main Line, there’s little electrification in Wales, but a 125 mph bi-mode train could be used on the following several partially-electrified routes.

  • Carmarthen to Manchester Piccadilly.
  • Holyhead to Manchester Piccadilly
  • Holyhead to Liverpool via the Halton Curve.
  • Birmingham to Shrewsbury.
  • Swansea to Newport

Currently most of these services are served by 100 mph  Class 175 trains.  If nothing else, they would probably be more spacious, faster and fuel-efficient.

Conclusion

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

It would be a sophisticated train with the following characteristics.

  • Electric drive
  • Regenerative braking.
  • 25 KVAC overhead and 750 VDC third rail capability.
  • Automatic pantograph deployment.
  • Onboard energy storage.
  • Automatic power source selection.
  • Diesel or hydrogen power-pack
  • 125 mph capability.

The first four are probably already in service in the Class 345 train.

.

August 21, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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 | , , , , , | 4 Comments

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