The Anonymous Widower

Is Crossrail Having An Affect On Train Purchases In The South East?

Crossrail and Crossrail 2 are designed to take-over suburban lines out of London.

Crossrail’s Trains

Crossrail has chosen to use Class 345 trains, which are Aventras built by Bombardier in Derby.

I would suspect that if Crossrail 2 is built, it will use the same trains, as a unified fleet must be easier and more affordable to manage.

Crossrail’s Suburban Routes

It is worth looking at the routes these services will take over and their future train fleets.

Great Eastern Main Line To Shenfield

The slow lines of the Great Eastern Main Line have been taken over by Crossrail to provide a service to their terminus at Shenfield.

Greater Anglia have chosen to replace their assorted suburban fleet with Class 720 trains, which are also Aventras.

This must be a sensible move, as there is likely to be a certain amount of platform sharing between Crossrail and Greater Anglia between Liverpool Street and Shenfield.

Wheelchair ramps would be the same, or would level access from platform to train be provided.

These pictures show Class 345 trains at Liverpool Street and Stratford stations.

The step is not bad, but it is less than some on the London Overground. However, a few well-placed Harrington Humps would probably make entry and exit a lot easier.

It also must help, if Crossrail extends its route past Shenfield to perhaps Beaulieu, Chelmsford or Southend Victoria. Platforms updated for Greater Anglia’s Class 720 trains, would surely fit Crossrail’s Class 345 trains.

I also don’t think there are any platform length issues, although my research says that ten-car Class 720 trains are longer than nine-car Class 345 trains.

Great Western Main Line To Heathrow and Reading

The slow lines of the Great Western Main Line have been taken over by Crossrail to provide a service to their termini at Heathrow and Reading.

Great Western Railway (GWR) were forced to use Class 387 trains, due to electrification delays on the Great Western Main Line and late deliveries of Class 700 trains for Thameslink.

This is all a bit of a dog’s breakfast and I think there’ll be a bit of a sort-out, with perhaps..

  • Electrification to Basingstoke, Newbury and Oxford.
  • Crossrail with an increased frequency, serving all stations between London and Reading.
  • Bedwyn and Oxford would be served by GWR’s five-car Class 800 trains, which would be at 125 mph between Eddington and Reading.

There could be some rather nice Class 387 trains going cheap?

But the result would be the slow lines would be Crossrail-only!

West Coast Main Line To Milton Keynes

This is a possible extension to Crossrail, from the mega hub at Old Oak Common station.

The current local operators on the West Coast Main Line are London Overground and West Midlands Trains.

Both operators have ordered new Aventras for these routes out of London.

London Overground is even replacing modern Class 378 trains with new Class 710 trains on the Watford DC Line.

Suburban Services Out Of Waterloo

If Crossrail 2 gets built, then some of these services will be taken over.

South Western Railway (SWR) have already ordered Class 701 trains for these routes.

This would appear to be a sensible move, as any improvements to platforms and stations made by SWR, will be compatible with Crossrail 2.

West Anglia Main Line To Broxbourne

If Crossrail 2 gets built, then some of these services along the West Anglia Main Line, will be taken over.

Greater Anglia have already ordered Class 720 trains for these routes.

This would appear to be another sensible move, as any improvements made by Greater Anglia, will be compatible with Crossrail 2.

Even after Crossrail 2 opens, Greater Anglia services will still be using the West Anglia Main Line, so there should be no compatibility problems.

North Kent Line To Abbey Wood, Ebbsfleet and Gravesend

The Mayor of London, several London Boroughs and other groups are pushing to extend Crossrail to Ebbsfleet.

Currently, there is a mixture of trains on the North Kent Line,


  • .In a few years time, there will be a new franchise holder.
  • It is likely that a lot of trains will be replaced.
  • It is likely that Crossrail and existing North Kent services will share a two-track railway.

It strikes me that there is a high chance that these replacement trains will be Aventras, as this will create a more efficient railway.

How Compatible Are Class 700 Trains With Aventras?

This question has to be asked, as the two different classes of trains will share routes and platforms.

  • Along the North Kent Line if Crossrail is extended.
  • Around the Cambridge area, where Thameslink and Greater Anglia share platforms.

I would assume that they must be very compatible, as the railway press isn’t saying anything to the contrary.

Surely, in a sensible world, both Thameslink and Crossrail would have used the same class of train!


It looks like there are advantages to having a line run by one family of trains.

  • All trains will fit all platforms.
  • Platform procedures will be similar for passengers and staff.
  • Aventras can be fitted with the latest signalling and control systems.

Will these shared characteristics result in extra capacity?

March 5, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , | 1 Comment

Stadler Publish More Details On Greater Anglia’s Flirts

These pictures are on several web sites and show more details on how Stadler is creating Greater Anglia’s Class 745 trains.

If you compare the first and third pictures, it would appear that the cab is a separate construction, probably made out of a variety of materials like steel, aluminium and glass reinforced plastic.

The body could be similar to that of a Bombardier Electrostar or Aventra and made of three aluminium sections welded together.

The cross-section seems simpler than that of an Aventra, which as this picture shows is double-skinned with ribs.

Are the sides and roof of Stadler Flirts extruded or fabricated?

But then Bombardier designed the Aventra bodies  to be made in large numbers, close to the production line, whereas Stadler build the bodies in Hungary.

January 30, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts On A Hydrogen-Powered Bi-Mode High Speed Train

My stockbroker and pension fund manager keeps contacting me about hydrogen power. There seems to be a lot of money chasing few good investments.

What I find surprising is that two of the leading fuel cell companies are Canadian; Ballard and Hydrogenics, with one supplying Alstom with fuel cells for their hydrogen powered train.

Bombardier at Derby, who are another Canadian company, have been very quiet on hydrogen.

These are my thoughts.

The Aventra Is A Plug-And-Play Train

I believe that the control system on an Aventra looks at the train and determines what cars make up the train. Hitachi certainly do this with their A-trains like Class 800 trains and I suspect that the control systems of most modern trains can do it, as it allows trains to be lengthened and shortened as required.

Electric Multiple  Units Have An Electrical Power Bus

I believe that most electric multiple units have an electrical power bus that connects all cars to the electrical supply from the pantograph or third rail shoes.

On a Btoitish Rail-era Class 319 train, which has DC traction motors, this is 750 VDC, but on modern trains, which generally have AC traction motors, it is probably something more appropriate.

The Design Trend In Electrical Multiple Units Is To Have More Powered Axles

Bombardier are certainly going this route with the new Class 345 trains for Crossrail.

I found this snippet on the Internet which gives the formation of the new Class 345 trains.

When operating as nine-car trains, the Class 345 trains will have two Driving Motor Standard Opens (DMSO), two Pantograph Motor Standard Opens (PMSO), four Motor Standard Opens (MSO) and one Trailer Standard Open (TSO). They will be formed as DMSO+PMSO+MSO+MSO+TSO+MSO+MSO+PMSO+DMSO.

So as both PMSO cars are there, I would assume that the current seven-car trains are two MSO cars or an MSO and a TSO car short of a full-train.

The power cars/total cars ratio will be as follow.

  • Seven-car train – 0.86
  • Nine-car train – 0.89

In The Formation Of A Class 707 Train, I showed that the ratio for Class 707 trains is just 0.40, whereas Greater Anglia’s siomilar five-car Class 720 train appears to have five cars with motors.

Could this increase in the number of powered axles mean the following?

  • Better acceleration for the same electrical power.
  • More, but smaller and lighter traction motors.
  • Less wheel-slip in some rail conditions.
  • Each axle could be controlled individually, to minimise wheel-slip, which leads to extra maintenance costs.
  • Smoother regenerative braking, as effectively every axle is braked without the use of inefficient friction brakes.
  • If batteries are used for regenerative braking, then one smaller battery can be fitted to each car with motors.

But the extra traction motors could cost more.

Only Bombardier seem to have gone all the way. Perhaps, they have found that modern manufacturing methods can produce more affordable traction motors.

One consequence of distributed power, is that each car will have a high electrical load, so there will be a need for a sophisticated electrical power bus going to every can on the train.

A Car With A Diesel-Powered Electricity Generator

I have ridden in the cab of a Class 43 locomotive.  Admittedly, it was one that had been modified with a new diesel engine, I was surprised how quiet 2,250 hp can be, just a few feet away.

Obviously, the sound-proofing was of the highest quality.

This picture shows a Stadler train, which has a diesel-powered car in the middle of the train.

Greater Anglia’s new Class 755 trains will use this technique.

Intriguingly, British Rail designed the record-braking Class 442 train, with all the electrical equipment and traction motors in the middle car of a five-car set.

I suspect because of the design of an Aventra, Bombardier could put a diesel engine in one the middle cars to create a bi-mode Aventra.

Bombardier have said in this article on Christian Wolmar’s web site, that they are working on a 125 mph bi-mode Aventra.

In the Class 172 train, each car has a 360 kW diesel engine, so a five car 125 mph bi-mode train could need a substantial amount of power.

A Car With A Hydrogen-Powered Electricity Generator

In Alstom’s Coradia iLint, the hydrogen tanks and generators are mounted on the roof, thus taking advantage of the larger Continental loading gauge.  Wikipedia says this about the train.

The Coradia iLint is a version of the Coradia Lint 54 powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. Announced at InnoTrans 2016, the new model will be the world’s first production hydrogen-powered trainset. The Coradia iLint will be able to reach 140 kilometres per hour (87 mph) and travel 600–800 kilometres (370–500 mi) on a full tank of hydrogen. The first Coradia iLint is expected to enter service in December 2017 on the Buxtehude-Bremervörde-Bremerhaven-Cuxhaven line in Lower Saxony, Germany.

In the UK, there isn’t the space, but I believe that a car could be built with a hydrogen tank and the appropriate size of hydrogen-powered electricity generator.

Bear in mind, that a hydrogen power system will be is a lot quieter and vibrate less, that a diesel one.

The Plug-and-Play nature of an Aventra or other modern trains, would mean that after the train software has been modified, it could detect that the train has a car with a hydrogen-powered electricity generator.

The car would deliver its electricity, when it is require, through the electrical bus.

The train’s computer system would control the generator, so that the level of power needed to move the train was available.


Batteries are an integral part of Alstom’s Coradia iLint as this promotional video shows.

I believe that Bombardier make extensive use of batteries in the Aventra for regenerative braking, running for short distances without electrification and electrification failure.

Why Do I Think A Hydrogen-Powered High Speed Train Is Possible?

By High Speed Train, I mean one that can travel at 200 kph or 125 mph.

Most energy is needed to accelerate the train, not to maintain the high cruising speed.

So if you take a train running along a line with only a few stops, that is fairly level with no long climbs, there will be a minimal power requirement, except where accelerating from a stop.

Energy requirement can be reduced by the following.

  1. Design the line as straight as possible.
  2. Remove as many gradients as possible.
  3. Have separate tracks for stopping and high-speed traffic.
  4. Install a modern signalling system, so that trains run efficiently.
  5. Remove flat junctions and level crossings
  6. Have a very efficient train with low rolling resistance and good aerodynamics.
  7. Have as few stops as possible.

Network Rail seem to be improving the tracks all over the UK to this standard and Point 6 is satisfied by modern trains like Aventras.

Point 7 depends on getting the timetable right.

Adding all these factors together and you can see why I believe a hydrogen-powered High Speed Train is a possibility.


The great advantage of developing a hydrogen-powered train, is that a lot of the initial testing can be done in a lab, as all you need to develop is a power module, that can fit in the train, that can generate the required number of kilowatts.

Independently, the train company would need to develop an electric train capable of 125 mph running.


Hydrogen-powered High Speed Trains could run on several lines in the UK.

Midland Main Line

The Midland Main Line is the obvious line for a hydrogen-powered High Speed Train.

  • A lot of the route is already capable of 125 mph running.
  • Large sections are three or four tracks.,
  • The Southern section from Bedford to St. Pancras is electrified, so hydrogen power would only be needed North of Bedford.
  • The new East Midlands Franchise will streamline the intermediate stops.
  • Parts of the line go through the World Heritage Site of the Derwent Valley and would be difficult to electrify. Quiet hydrogen-powered trains would be acceptable to all.
  • Selective electrification could be applied at Derby, Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield, to charge batteries and accelerate trains.

There is a lot of work going on =North of Bedford as far as Kettering and Corby.

  • The Corby branch is being made double track.
  • Bedford to Glendon Junction, where trains to Corby leave the Midland Main Line, will  become four tracks.
  • Tracks will be electrified to Kettering and Corby.
  • 125 mph running will be possible as far as Glendon Junction and Corby.

Will the two fast lines be electrified between Kettering and Glendon Junction?

This would enable trains going North from Kettering to accelerate to 125 mph using the electrification, rather than hydrogen or battery power.

The electrification would catapult them the nearly thirty miles to Leicester at 125 mph, with speed maintained by using small amounts of hydrogen or battery power.

Coming South, the train would get to 125 mph leaving Leicester, either using a short length of electrification through the station or by use of the onboard power.

Small amounts of hydrogen or battery power would keep the train at 125 mph, until it could connect to the electrification at Glendon Junction.

I’m assuming that the signalling can keep the fast lines free of slow traffic. But even if they are slowed by a crossing train, regenerative braking using the battery will enable speed to be recovered quickly.

This article on Rail Technology Magazine is entitled DfT Deal Means East Midlands HS2 Station Could Open Early.

East Midlands Hub station would obviously be electrified for HS2 services from Birmingham and London.

So perhaps a few miles of electrification could be added to the Midland Main Line to get trains to operating speed, after a stop at the station.

In addition, could selective electrification be applied at other stations like Derby, East Midlands Parkway, Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield.

It could be a bit like a game of 125 mph Pass-the-Parcel.

Trains could be at 125 mph for most of the way from St. Pancras to Sheffield, giving a journey time somewhere in the region of ninety minutes.

North Wales Coast Line

I’ve never travelled on the North Wales Coast Line.

  • It is around ninety miles long.
  • It has an operating speed of 90 mph
  • As it’s a coastal line, I suspect that the route is fairly level.
  • No-one would complain about the noise reduction of a hydrogen-powered train.
  • Virgin’s Class 221 trains take about a hundred minutes from Holyhead to Chester with six stops.

It is a route, where a bi-mode train could probably save some minutes, as they could use the electrification South of Crewe.

Alstom have already set up a base in Widnes and are interested in demonstrating hydrogen trains between Chester and Liverpool via the Halton Curve when it reopens.

But a train with a slightly better performance to the Coradia iLint could be ideal for Liverpool to Chester and along the North Wales Coast.

Basingstoke To Exeter

The West Of England Line goes from Waterloo to Exeter and has the following characteristics.

  • The Waterloo to Basingstoke section is forty-eight miles long and electrified.
  • The Basingstoke to Exeter section is 124 miles long and not-electrified.
  • The route is fairly level.
  • The operating speed is 90 mph.
  • The route is served by 90 mph Class 159 trains.

This is one of those lines, where a bi-mode train would be ideal.

The route might be suitable for a hydrogen-powered train.

Ashford To Southampton

Between Ashford and Southampton, there is only one section that is not electrified and that is the Marshlink Line, which is just 26 miles long.

Other Routes

I suspect there are other routes, but I do think gentle lines without too many gradients are probably the best lines for hydrogen-powered trains.

Other Trains

As Hitachi’s IEP and Stadler Flirts have similar electrical layouts and design, a similar technique involving hydrogen poower could probably be used.

January 19, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

The Future Of London To Oakham And Melton Mowbray Rail Services

The bids for the future East Midlands Franchise are expected in April 2018, with the new franchise starting in April 2019.

A Statement From The Department for Transport

In the consultation about the Future of the East Midlands Franchise, this is said in a paragraph entitled Oakham and Melton Mowbray.

A consequence of operating electric trains between London and
Corby could be the loss of direct services between London and
Oakham and Melton Mowbray as there are no plans to electrify
beyond Corby on this route.

Can the Department for Transport really believe that this is a viable idea?

Efficient Train Operation

As I understand it, one of the reasons for the Oakham and Melton Mowbray service to London at six in the morning from Derby, is so they can get their trains positioned for an efficient service to London.

A Useful Diversion Route

The route from London to Derby via Oakham and Melton Mowbray also gives a useful diversion route, if there is engineering works at Leicester. These will happen, at some time in the next few years, as plans to work on the station and possible electrification could happen.

Track Improvements Between London And Kettering And Corby

  • The London to Kettering section is being upgraded.
  • Double-track to Corby.
  • Four-track between London and Kettering.
  • As much 125 mph operating speed as possible.

There may also be other track improvements to come.

Bi-Mode Trains

The new franchise will be using 125 mph bi-mode trains, to decrease the times between London and the Midlands and Yorkshire, without the need for more electrification.

Class 800 trains must be in the pole position, but Bombardier wouldn’t want another company’s products to be speeding past their factory gate, so I suspect we can expect them to offer a 125 mph bi-mode Aventra. In Is A Bi-Mode Aventra A Silly Idea?, I linked to  this article on Christian Wolmar’s web site which is entitled Bombardier’s Survival Was The Right Kind Of Politics, where this is said in the article.

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.

Note the statement that Bombardier could build an Aventra that could do 125 mph running on diesel.

Could Class 387 Or Class 379 Trains Run Between London And Corby?

Once the route between Corby and London is fully electrified could the route be run by high-end Electrostars like Class 387 or Class 379 trains?

In theory, the answer is yes, but there is one major problem!

The Class 387 trains are 110 mph trains, but the Class 379 trains are only 100 mph trains.

They are just too slow.

Currently, London to Corby takes seventy minutes with a 125 mph Class 222 train.

These trains run on diesel, but after the track improvements between Corby and London, that will allow more 125 mph running, I would expect that the new franchise holder will be able to run these trains on the route in under an hour.

The trains may even be able to do a London to Corby round trip in under two hours, which would mean that the route would need less trains for the current level of service.

In addition to being too slow for the Corby route, the Electrostars would cause timetabling problems between Kettering and London, where they would be sharing the 125 mph Midland Main Line with a succession to 125 mph trains going between London and the North.

A Possible Solution

In my view the solution is obvious.

The current 125 mph diesel fleet, must be replaced by a 125 mph bi-mode fleet.

This would give the following advantages.

  • Faster or at least no slower journey times between London and the North, without any electrification North of Kettering and Corby.
  • 125 mph electric running between London and Kettering/Corby.
  • Efficient 125 mph running between London and Bedford, where possible.
  • The ability to use the route from Corby to Derby via Oakham and Melton Mowbray for passenger services or diversions.
  • Surely, the maintenance of a unified fleet is more affordable.

But that is not everything, as modern trains have other advantages.

Take for instance, Hitachi’s Class 800 trains, which have the ability to split and join in less than a couple of minutes at a station.

Some Corby services start or finish at Derby and stop North of Corby at Oakham, Melton Mowbray and East Midlands Parkway.

One possibility could be that some services could start in London as two five-car trains, running as a ten-car train.

  • The combined train would run fast to Corby.
  • At Corby the trains would split.
  • The front train would continue to Derby with stops at Oakham, Melton Mowbray and East Midlands Parkway.
  • The rear train would return to London.
  • Some trains would join up with a train from Derby before returning to London.

The London to Corby service would be two trains per hour, with an hourly train going on to Derby.

Looking at timings, I reckon that the round trip between Corby and Derby could be done in three hours, so it would fit neatly with a half-hourly service between London and Corby that took two hours for the round trip.

This is just speculation, but Class 395 trains have been doing the splitting and joining at Ashford for years.


If the new franchise holder goes for the conservative solution of Class 800 trains, I believe that it would be possible to run an hourly service from Derby to London with stops at Corby, Oakham, Melton Mowbray and East Midlands Parkway.






January 8, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Legal & General To Invest £350m in UK Rail Infrastructure

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

Wikipedia says this about Legal & General.

The company offers a wide range of products for individuals and corporate businesses. Its investment management is the UK’s largest investment manager of UK pension fund assets and has a growing US business, based in Chicago, Illinois.

So in a few years time, your pension might own a couple of nuts and bolts on a train.

January 5, 2018 Posted by | Finance, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Big On The Inside And The Same Size On The Outside

This morning, I took a ride in one of London Overground’s Class 378 trains to Shoreditch High Street station, so that I could have Leon’s version of a Full English Breakfast and a real mug of tea, in their restaurant in Spitalfields. And all for £5.25!

Afterwards, I walked the short distance to Liverpool Street station and took one of Crossrail’s new Class 345 trains to Stratford station.

As the Class 345 train was more or less empty, I was able to take these pictures of the inside.

Several design features are noticeable.

  • The wide flat floor
  • The walk-through design of the train.
  • The wide aisle in the centre.
  • The seats cantilevered from the side of the train.
  • The heating under the seats.
  • The spacious lobbies.
  • The large windows.
  • The way the body sides bulge outwards to create more width at just below shoulder height.

The design seems to create more room for passengers and because of the wide aisle and large windows, the room might even look more spacious than it actually is.

It is certainly a more pleasing train to ride in, than the Class 378 train, I rode ealier, which is very much one of the better trains from the previous generation.

Later I rode on one of Thameslink’s Class 700 trains.

  • The lobbies are wide.
  • Seats obscure the view, as they are not aligned with the windows.
  • The heating takes up space along the side of the train.

But as the sides of the train don’t seem to be so curved, the aisle between the seats seems to be narrower. A lady wheeling a case between the seats would have hit people, if anybody had been sitting in the seats.

I should ride in a full Aventra in the Peak and see if my everybody appears to have more space. I did later!

On the 19th of December, I rode from Romford to Liverpool Street in an Aventra during the morning Peak.

  • The train was perhaps three-quarters full.
  • For some parts of the journey, all seats were taken, but the standees didn’t seem to have too much trouble standing in the smooth-riding train.
  • Only a few were strap-hanging and several were using the backs of seats for support.

It did seem to be a better experuience than other commuter trains.

Others ideas and consequences have emerged in recent months.

Aventras Have Underfloor Heating

The Greater Anglia Class 720 trains have underfloor heating as I detailed in Aventras Have Underfloor Heating.

Underfloor heating would appear to release space for passengers. Especially when it is coupled with seats cantilevered from the sides of the train.

Aventras Have No Doors Between Cars

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

There will be no doors separating vehicles.

There is just a wide lobby, where the cars are joined together.

This shows the join in a Class 345 train.

Regularly in busy times on London Overground’s Class 378 trains or London Underground’s S Stock, similar areas are full with people.hanging on to the vertical handles or wheelie cases.

It’s a design that seems to work well and again it makes more space available for passengers.

Aventras Can Have 2+3 Seating

This picture shows the inside of Greater Anglia’s Aventra mockup.

Could the 2+3 seating be wider and more comfortable, as Aventras seem to be wider inside at shoulder height, due to the innovative body design?

Note the power sockets in the front of the seats.

Aventra Car Length And Number of Cars Is Flexible

The first two fleets of Aventras ordered had different length cars and different number of cars.

Orders have now been placed for trains with twenty and twenty-two metre length cars and three, four, five, seven, nine and ten cars.

It also seems that it is very simple to change train length by adding and removing cars as required.

Greater Anglia

Greater Anglia have stated that they are ordering ten-car Aventras with similar train lengths to twelve-car sets of their current rolling stock.

Lengths and passenger capacity are given as follows in Wikipedia.

  • Ten-car Class 720 – 243 metres – 1,145 seats
  • Twelve-car Class 321 – 239.4 metres – 927 seats
  • Twelve-car Class 360 – 244.08 metres – 840 seats

This looks like an over thirty percent increase in seats in a train around the same length, with the following advantages

  • Little if any expensive platform extensions. Especially at Liverpool Street station.
  • Trains will fit existing depots and sidings.
  • Nearly all trains will be fixed formations.

The only disadvantage is that Greater Anglia won’t be providing any First Class seats. Judging by the lack of complaints, few seem to be bothered.

But being less complicated, it would probably be a more affordable train to run and maintain.

In this Greater Anglia example, another factor helps.

The Aventra will only have two cabs, whereas three Class 321 or Class 360 trains will have six.So the length released by four cabs is available for passengers.


It would appear that the c2c order, where ten-car Aventras replace twelve-car Electrostars, is another application of the same philosophy, that was used by Greater Anglia.

This is an extract from c2c’s Press Release.

The Aventra is one of the fastest-selling trains in the UK rail industry, and these new trains will be manufactured at Bombardier’s factory in Derby. Each new train, which will operate in a fixed set of 10-carriages, will include over 900 seats, plus air-conditioning, wifi, plug sockets and three toilets onboard. Each new carriage is larger and contains more seats than on c2c’s current trains, so each 10-carriage new train provides capacity for 15% more passengers onboard compared to a current 12-carriage c2c train.

So three x four-car trains working as a twelve-car train are replaced by one ten-car train, just as with Greater Anglia. Note the claimed fifteen percent capacity increase!

West Midlands Trains

West Midlands Trains have ordered three sets of Aventras.

  1. 16 x five-car 110 mph trains for long-distance services.
  2. 29 x five-car 110 mph trains for electrified suburban services.
  3. 36 x three car 90 mph trains for Redditch to Lichfield Trent Valley.


  • Fleet 1 will probably be used to augment the Class 350 trains in pairs on long distance services.
  • Could these work in pairs that split and join en route to save paths into Euston?
  • Fleet 3 will be direct replacements for the Class 323 trains and will probably work in pairs.
  • Would a five-car train have a similar capacity to two three-car trains working as a pair?
  • Would some of the five-car trains in Fleet 2 be fitted with diesel powere-packs or batteries, so they could run services on lines without electrification?

West Midlands Trains must have a plan, or there will be a large number of trains sitting in sidings.


It looks to me like Bombardier have designed a train, where more passengers can be accommodated, without sacrificing passenger comfort.

December 18, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 2 Comments

What Will Happen To The Class 379 Trains?

Greater Anglia’s fleet of thirty Class 379 trains are being replaced by by a brand new fleet of Class 745 Stadler FLIRT EMUs which will be fixed 12-car trains on Stansted Express services and Class 720 Bombardier Aventra EMUs on Cambridge services.

These trains have a high specification.

  • Four-car trainsets.
  • Ability to work as four, eight and twelve-car trains.
  • 2+2 seating in Standard Class.
  • 2+1 seating in First Class.
  • Plenty of luggage space.
  • Wi-fi and power sockets.
  • Full compliance with all Persons of Reduced Mobility rules.
  • 100 mph capability.
  • Regenerative braking.

I also suspect the following is true about the trains.

  • The ability to run on 750 VDC third rail electrification could be added reasonably easily.
  • Lithium-ion batteries to give a limited range, can be fitted.
  • The top speed could be upgraded to the 110 mph of the closely-related Class 387 trains.
  • The trains have end gangways and could be certified to run through the core route of Thameslink, like the Class 387 trains.

So they would appear to be a very useful train.

So what will happen to the trains?

This is my speculative list of possible uses.

Continued Use By Greater Anglia

In some ways it’s strange that these reasonable new trains are being replaced on Stansted and Cambridge services.

They are being replaced by Stadler Class 745 trains, which like the Class 379 trains are 100 mph trains.

In the next decade or so, the West Anglia Main Line is to be upgraded with extra tracks and services will be faster.

So are performance upgrades available for the Class 745 trains, which will deliver these improved services?

If Stadler are late with their delivery of the Class 745 trains, the  Class 379 trains will continue to be used on Stansted and Cambridge services.

This is discussed in this article in Rail Magazine, which is entitled Contingency Plans In Place For Greater Anglia’s Main Line Fleet.

But surely, this would only delay their cascade to other operators.

According to Wikipedia, all of the replacement Class 745 trains, are scheduled to enter service in 2019, which should mean that the Class 379 trains should be available for cascade to other operators, sometime in 2020.

St. Pancras to Corby

Under Future in the Wikipedia entry for Corby station, this is said.

It is planned that a half-hourly London St Pancras to Corby service will operate from December 2019 using new Class 387 trains, once the Midland Main Line has been electrified beyond Bedford as part of the Electric Spine project. Network Rail has also announced that it plans to re-double the currently singled Glendon Junction to Corby section as part of this scheme.

In the December 2017 Edition of Modern Railways there is an article, which is entitled Wires To Corby Now in 2020.

This is the first paragraph.

Carillion is to deliver electrification of the Midland Main Line to Corby, but electric services will not start until December 2020, a year later than previously envisaged.

The article also states the following.

  • A fourth track is to be installed between Bedford and Kettering.
  • Track and wires are to be updated so that new 125 mph bi-mode trains can run between St. Pancras and Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield.
  • Improvements to the current electrification South of Bedford.

Everything should be completed, so that the new bi-mode trains could enter service from 2022.

It should be noted that Wikipedia says this about the Future of the East Midlands Trains franchise.

The franchise is due to end in August 2019. The Invitation to Tender is due to be issued in April 2018, which will detail what improvements bidders for the franchise must make. The contract will then be awarded in April 2019.

This could give the following project schedule on the Midland Main Line.

  • April 2019 – Award of new East Midlands franchise.
  • August 2019 – New East Midlands franchise starts.
  • December 2020 – Electric services to Corby start.
  • December 2022 – Bi-mode services to Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield start.

These dates would fit well with the retirement of the Class 379 trains by Greater Anglia in 2020.

Current timings between Corby and London are 71 minutes with four stops. I don’t think it would be unreasonable to assume that the improved track and new trains would be designed so that the timings between Corby and London would be reduced to under an hour, with a round trip of two hours.

If this can be achieved, then just four trains of an appropriate length will be needed to meet the required two tph timetable.

  • Four-car services would need four trains.
  • Eight-car services would need eight trains.
  • Twelve-car services would need twelve trains.

It might not be possible to run eight and twelve car services due to platform length restrictions.

If the two hour round trip could be achieved by an existing Class 387 or an uprated Class 379 trains, then either of these trains would be a shoe-in for the route.

Otherwise we’ll be seeing something faster like a Class 801 train.

But if services are to start in 2020, there would be a problem to manufacture the trains in the available time, as the contract will only have been awarded in April 2019.

I think that St. Pancras to Corby is a possibility for Class 379 trains, which may need to be uprated to 110 mph. On the other hand, Class 387 trains wouldn’t need to be uprated.

West Midlands Trains, who have a similar need, have ordered 110 mph Aventras.

  • So perhaps the new East Midlands franchise will do the same.
  • This would be more likely, if Bombardier come up with the rumoured 125 mph bi-mode Aventra.
  • Or they could buy a mixture of Class 800 and 801 trains.

I don’t think the Class 379 trains will work St. Pancras to Corby.

Battery Services

A Class 379 train was used for the BEMU trial, where a battery was fitted to the train and it ran for a couple of months between Manningtree and Harwich, using overhead power one way and battery power to return.

Was this class of train chosen, as it was one of the easiest to fit with a battery? After all it was one of the later Electrostars.

This article on the Railway Gazette from July 2007 is entitled Hybrid Technology Enters The Real World. It describes the experimental conversion of a Class 43 power-car from a High Speed Train into a battery-assisted diesel-electric power-car.

A second article in the Railway Gazette from October 2010 is entitled First New Stansted Express Train Rolls Out. It describes the Class 379 train in detail. This is an extract.

Although part of the Electrostar family, the Class 379 incorporates a number of technical changes from the original design developed in the late 1990s, making use of technologies which would be used on the Aventra next-generation Electrostar which Bombardier is proposing for the major Thameslink fleet renewal contract.

The body structure has been revised to meet European crashworthiness requirements. The window spacing has changed, with the glass bolted rather than glued in place to enable faster repairs. The couplers are from Dellner, and the gangways from Hübner. Top speed is 160 km/h, and the 25 kV 50 Hz trains will use regenerative braking at all times.

The last statement about regenerative braking is the most interesting.

To my knowledge electric trains that use regenerative braking had never run on the West Anglia Main Line before and that to handle the return currents with 25 KVAC needs special and more expensive transformers. The obvious way to handle regenerative braking at all times without using the electrification is to put an appropriately sized battery on the train.

If Bombardier have done this on the Class 379 train, then it might be a lot easier to fit a large battery to power the train. This would explain why the trains were chosen for the trial rather than a train from a more numerous variant.

The result was a trial of  which few, if any,negative reports can be found.

The result was a trial of  which few, if any,negative reports can be found.

Class 379 Train Performance On Batteries

Little has been said about the performance of the train.

However, in this document on the Network Rail web site, which is entitled Kent Area Route Study, this is said.

In 2015, industry partners worked together to investigate
battery-electric traction and this culminated with a
practical demonstration of the Independently Powered
Electric Multiple Unit IPEMU concept on the Harwich
Branch line in Anglia Route. At the industry launch event,
the train manufacturers explained that battery
technology is being developed to enable trains to run
further, at line speeds, on battery power, indeed, some
tram lines use this technology in the city centres and many
London buses are completely electric powered.

The IPEMU project looked at the feasibility of battery power
on the Marshlink service and found that battery was
sufficient for the train to run from Brighton to Ashford
International and back but there was insufficient charge to
return to Ashford International on a second round trip. A
solution to this could be that the unit arrives from Ashford
International at Brighton and forms a service to Seaford and
back before returning to Ashford International with a
charged battery.

The IPEMU demonstration train was a Class 379, a similar
type to the Class 377 units currently operated by Southern, it
was found that the best use of the battery power was to
restrict the acceleration rate to that of a modern diesel
multiple unit, such as a Class 171 (the current unit type
operating the line) when in battery mode and normal
acceleration on electrified lines.

|Ashford to Brighton is 62 miles, so a round trip would be 124 miles.

The document doesn’t say anything about how many stops were made in the tests, but I’m sure that Bombardier, Greater Anglia and Network Rail have all the data to convert a Class 379 into a viable IPEMU or Independently Powered Electric Multiple Unit.

As to how long it takes to charge the battery, there is an interesting insight in this article from Rail Magazine, which is entitled Battery-Powered Electrostar Enters Traffic. This is said.

It is fitted with six battery rafts, and uses Lithium Ion Magnesium Phosphate battery technology. The IPEMU can hold a charge for 60 miles and requires two hours of charging for every hour running. The batteries charge from the overhead wires when the pantograph is raised, and from regenerative braking.

The two-one ratio between charging and running could be an interesting factor in choice of routes.

What About The Aventra?

I quoted from this article in the Railway Gazette from October 2010 earlier.  This is said.

Although part of the Electrostar family, the Class 379 incorporates a number of technical changes from the original design developed in the late 1990s, making use of technologies which would be used on the Aventra next-generation Electrostar.

So would it be a reasonable assumption to assume, that if batteries can be fitted to a Class 379 train, then they could also be fitted to an Aventra?

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.

But it does look that both battery variants of both Class 379 trains and Aventras are possible.

Routes For Battery Trains

What important lines could be run by either a Class 379 train or an Aventra with an appropriate battery capability?

I will refer to these trains as IPEMUs in the remainder of this post.

I feel that one condition should apply to all routes run by IPEMUs.

The 2:1 charging time to running time on battery ratio must be satisfied.

East Coastway And Marshlink Lines

As Network Rail are prepared to write the three paragraphs in the Kent Area Route Study, that I quoted earlier, then the East Coastway and Marshlink Lines, which connect Brighton and Ashford International stations, must be high on the list to be run by IPEMUs.


  • All the route, except for about twenty-four miles of the Marshlink Line is electrified.
  • Brighton and Ashford International stations are electrified.
  • Some sections have an operating speed of up to 90 mph.
  • Brighton to Hastings takes 66 minutes
  • Ashford International to Hastings takes 40 minutes
  • There is a roughly fifteen minute turnround at the two end stations.

The last three points, when added together, show that in each round trip, the train has access to third-rail power for 162 minutes and runs on batteries for 80 minutes.

Does that mean the 2:1 charging to running ratio is satisfied?

I would also feel that if third-rail were to be installed at Rye station, then in perhaps a two minute stop, some extra charge could be taken on board. The third-rail would only need to be switched on, when a train was connected.

It looks to me, that even the 2015 test train could have run this route, with just shoe gear to use the third-rail electrification. Perhaps it did do a few test runs! Or at least simulated ones!

After all, with a pantograph ready to be raised to rescue a train with a flat battery, they could have run it up and down the test route of the Mayflower Line  at a quiet time and see how far the train went with a full battery!

Currently, many of the train services along the South Coast are run by a fleet of Class 313 trains, with the following characteristics.

  • There are a total of nineteen trains.
  • They were built in the late 1970s.
  • They are only three cars, which is inadequate at times.
  • They are 75 mph trains.
  • They don’t have toilets.
  • The trains are used on both the East Coastway and West Coastway Lines.

Replacing the trains with an appropriate number of Class 379 trains or Aventras would most certainly be welcomed by passengers, staff and the train companies.

  • Diesel passenger trains could be removed from the route.
  • There could be direct services between Ashford International and Southampton via Brighton.
  • One type of train would be providing most services along the South Coast.
  • There would be a 33% increase in train capacity.
  • Services would be a few minutes quicker.
  • For Brighton’s home matches, it might be possible to provide eight-car trains.
  • The forty-year-old Class 313 trains would be scrapped.

The service could even be extended on the fully-electrified line to Bournemouth to create a South Coast Seaside Special.

London Bridge To Uckfield

I looked at Chris Gibb’s recommendation for this line in Will Innovative Electrification Be Used On The Uckfield Line?

These actions were recommended.

  • Electrification of the branch using 25 KVAC overhead.
  • Electrification of tunnels with overhead conductor rail.
  • Dual-voltage trains.
  • Stabling sidings at Crowborough.

How would this be affected if IPEMUs were to be used?

The simplest way to run IPEMUs would be to install third-rail at Uckfield to charge the train.

Current timings on the route are as follows.

  • London Bridge to Hurst Green – electrified – 32 minutes
  • Hurst Green to Uckfield – non-electrified – 41 minutes
  • Turnaround at London Bridge – 16 minutes
  • Turnaround at Uckfield – 11 minutes

Hurst Green station is the limit of the current electrification.

Adding these times together, show that in each round trip, the train has access to third-rail power for 91 minutes and needs to on batteries for 82 minutes.

It looks like the 2:1 charging to running ratio is not met.

To meet that, as the round trip is three hours, that means that there probably needs to be two hours on electrification and an hour on batteries.

So this means that at least eleven minutes of the journey between Hurst Green and Uckfield station needs to be electrified, to obtain the 2:1 ratio.

It takes about this time to go between Crowborough and Uckfield stations.

  • Crowborough will have the new sidings, which will have to be electrified.
  • The spare land for the sidings would appear to be to the South of Crowborough station in an area of builders yards and industrial premises.
  • Crowborough Tunnel is on the route and is nearly a kilometre long.
  • The route is double-track from Crowborough station through Crowborough Tunnel and perhaps for another kilometre to a viaduct over a valley.
  • The viaduct and the remainder of the line to Uckfield is single track.
  • The single track section appears to have space to put the gantries for overhead electrification on the bed of the original second track.

If you apply Chris Gibb’s original recommendation of 25 KVAC, then electrification between Crowborough and Uckfield station, might just be enough to allow IPEMUs to work the line.

  • The sidings at Crowborough would be electrified.
  • About half of the electrification will be single-track.
  • Crowborough Tunnel would use overhead rails.
  • Power could probably be fed from Crowborough.
  • The regenerative braking would be handled by the batteries on the trains.
  • Changeover between overhead power and batteries would be in Crowborough station.
  • Buxted and Uckfield stations wouldn’t be complicated to electrify, as they are single-platform stations.

I very much feel that running IPEMUs between London Bridge and Uckfield is possible.

Preston to Windermere

The Windermere Branch Line is not electrified and Northern are proposing to use Class 769 bi-mode trains on services to Windermere station.

Current timings on the line are as follows.

  • Windermere to Oxenholme Lake District – non-electrified – 20 minutes
  • Oxenholme Lake District to Preston – electrified – 40 minutes

If you add in perhaps ten minutes charging during a turnaround at Preston, the timings are just within the 2:1 charging ratio.

So services from Windermere to at least Preston would appear to be possible using an IPEMU.

These trains might be ideal for the Windermere to Manchester Airport service. However, the Class 379 trains are only 100 mph units, which might be too slow for the West Coast Main Line.

The IPEMU’s green credentials would be welcome in the Lakes!

The Harrogate Line

This is said under Services in the Wikipedia entry for Harrogate station, which is served by the Harrogate Line from Leeds.

The Monday to Saturday daytime service is generally a half-hourly to Leeds (southbound) calling at all stations and to Knaresborough (eastbound) on the Harrogate Line with an hourly service onwards to York also calling at all stations en route.

Services double in frequency at peak time to Leeds, resulting in 4 trains per hour (tph) with 1tph running fast to Horsforth. There are 4 tph in the opposite direction between 16:29 and 18:00 from Leeds with one running fast from Horsforth to Harrogate.

Evenings and Sundays an hourly service operates from Leeds through Harrogate towards Knaresborough and York (some early morning trains to Leeds start from here and terminate here from Leeds in the late evening).

Proposals have been made to create a station between Harrogate and Starbeck at Bilton, whilst the new Northern franchise operator Arriva Rail North plans to improve service frequencies towards Leeds to 4 tph from 7am to 7pm once the new franchise agreement starts in April 2016.

I believe that the easiest way to achieve this level of service would be to electrify between Leeds and Harrogate.

  • IPEMUs might be able to go between Harrogate and York on battery power.
  • Leeds and York are both fully electrified stations.
  • If a link was built to Leeds-Bradford Airport, it could be worked on battery power and the link could be built without electrification.
  • The electrification could be fed with power from Leeds.
  • There is also the two-mile long Bramhope Tunnel.

Full electrification between Leeds and Harrogate would allow Virgin’s Class 801 trains to reach Harrogate.

I’m fairly certain that there’s a scheme in there that with minimal electrification would enable IPEMUsy to reach both a new station at Leeds-Bradford Airport and York.


These routes show that it is possible to use IPEMUs to run services on partially-electrified routes.

As I said earlier, the 2:1 ratio of charging to running time could be important.

Airport Services

Class 379 trains were built to provide fast, comfortable and suitable services between London Liverpool Street and Stansted Airport.

Because of this, the Class 379 trains have a First Class section and lots of space for large bags.

Surely, these trains could be found a use to provide high-class services to an Airport or a station on a high-speed International line.

But there are only a limited number of UK airports served by an electrified railway.

Most of these airports already have well-developed networks of airport services, but Class 379 trains could provide an upgrade in standard.

In addition, the following airports, may be served by an electrified heavy rail railway.

All except Doncaster Sheffield would need new electrification. For that airport, a proposal to divert the East Coast Main Line exists.

Possibilities for airport services using IPEMUs, based on Class 379 trains with a battery capability would include.

Ashford International

The completion of the Ashford Spurs project at Ashford International station will surely create more travellers between Southampton, Portsmouth and Brighton to Ashford, as not every Continental traveller will prefer to go via London.

Class 379 IPEMUs,with a battery capability to handle the Marshlink Line would be ideal for a service along the South Coast, possibly going as far West as Bournemouth.


Birmingham Airport is well connected by rail.

I think that as train companies serving the Airport, have new trains on order, I doubt we’ll see many Class 379 trains serving the Airport.


Various routes have been proposed for the Bristol Airport Rail Link.

In my view, the routes, which are short could be served by light rail, tram-train or heavy rail.

As the proposed city terminus at Bristol Temple Meads station would be electrified and the route is not a long one, I’m pretty sure that a Class 379 IPEMU could work the route.

But light rail or tram-train may be a better option.


Gatwick Airport station is well served by trains on the Brighton Main Line, running to and from Brighton, Clapham Junction, East Croydon, London Bridge, St. Pancras and Victoria, to name just a few.

Gatwick also has an hourly service to Reading via the North Downs Line, which is only partly electrified.

In my view, the North Downs route would be a classic one for running using Class 379 IPEMUs.

  • The Class 379 trains were built for an Airport service.
  • Four cars would be an adequate capacity.
  • No infrastructure work would be needed. But operating speed increases would probably be welcomed.
  • Third-rail shoes could be easily added.
  • Several sections of the route are electrified.
  • Gatwick Airport and Reading stations are electrified.

Currently, trains take just over an hour between Reading and Gatwick Airport.

Would the faster Class 379 IPEMUs bring the round trip comfortably under two hours?

If this were possible, it would mean two trains would be needed for the hourly service and four trains for a half-hourly service.

There may be other possibilities for the use of Class 379 trains to and from Gatwick Airport.

  • Luton Airport keep agitating for a better service. So would a direct link to Gatwick using Class 379 trains be worthwhile?
  • Class 379 IPEMUs  could provide a Gatwick to Heathrow service using Thameslink and the Dudding Hill Line.
  • Class 379 IPEMUs could provide a Gatwick to Ashford International service for connection to Eurostar.

I also feel that, as the trains are closely-related to the Class 387/2 trains used on Gatwick Express, using the Class 379 trains on Gatwick services would be a good operational move.

Also, if Class 379 IPEMUs were to be used to create a South Coast Express, as I indicated earlier, two sub-fleets would be close together.


Earlier I said that the Harrogate Line could be a route for IPEMUs, where services could run to York, if the Leeds to Harrogate section was electrified.

A spur without electrification could be built to Leeds-Bradford Airport.

Based on current timings, I estimate that a Bradford Interchange to Leeds-Bradford Airport service via Leeds station would enable a two-hour round trip.

An hourly service would need two trains, with a half-hourly service needing four trains.


Manchester Airport is well connected by rail and although the Class 379 trains would be a quality upgrade on the current trains, I think that as Northern and TransPennine have new trains on order, I doubt we’ll see many Class 379 trains serving the Airport.


Looking at these notes, it seems to me that the trains will find a use.

Some things stand out.

  • As the trains are only capable of 100 mph, they may not be suitable for doing longer distances on electrified main lines, unless they are uprated to the 110 mph operating speed of the Class 387 trains.
  • The main line where they would be most useful would probably be the East and West Coastway Lines along the South Coast.
  • Converting some into IPEMUs would probably be useful along the Marshlink and Uckfield Lines, in providing services to Gatwick and in a few other places.

I also feel, that Aventras and other trains could probably be designed specifically for a lot of the routes, where Class 379 trains, with or without batteries, could be used.








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

Could Bombardier Build A Hydrogen-Powered Aventra?

In Is A Bi-Mode Aventra A Silly Idea?, I looked at putting a diesel power-pack in  a Class 720 train, which are Aventras, that have been ordered by Greater Anglia. I said this.

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.

I also suggested that a hydrogen power-pack could be used.

After writing Is Hydrogen A Viable Fuel For Rail Applications?, I feel that a similar hydrogen power pack from Ballard could be used.

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

Regenerative Braking On A Dual-Voltage Train

Yesterday, I found this document on the Railway People website, which is entitled Regenerative Braking On The Third Rail DC Network.

Although, the document dates from 2008, it is very informative.

Regenerative Braking On 25 KVAC Trains

The document says this.

For AC stock, incoming power from the National Grid at high voltage is stepped down by a transformer. The AC power is transmitted via OHL to the trains. When the train uses regenerative braking, the motor is used as a generator, so braking the axle and producing electrical energy. The generated power is then smoothed and conditioned by the train control system, stepped up by a transformer and returned to the outside world. Just about 100% of regenerated power is put back into the UK power system.

But I have read somewhere, that you need a 25 KVAC overhead electrification system with more expensive transformers to handle the returned electricity.

Regenerative Braking On 750 VDC Trains

The document says this.

After being imported from the National Grid, the power is stepped down and then AC power is rectified to DC before being transmitted via the 3rd rail. Regenerated Power can not be inverted, so a local load is required. The power has to be used within the railway network. It cannot be exported.

So the electricity, is usually turned into heat, i there is no train nearby.

The Solution That Was Applied

The document then explains what happened.

So, until such time as ATOC started to lobby for a change, regenerative DC braking was going nowhere. But when they did start, they soon got the backing of the DfT and Network Rail. It takes a real combined effort of all organisations to challenge the limiting assumptions.

In parallel, there were rolling stock developments. The point at which all the issues started to drop away was when the Infrastructure Engineers and Bombardier, helped out by some translating consultants (Booz & Company), started to understand that new trains are really quite clever beasts. These trains do understand what voltage the 3rd rail is at, and are able, without the need to use any complicated switch gear – just using software, to decide when to regenerate into the 3rd rail or alternatively, use the rheostatic resistors that are on the train.

Effectively, the trains can sense from the voltage if the extensive third-rail network can accept any more electricity and the train behaves accordingly.

As most of the electric units with regenerative braking at the time were Bombardier Electrostars, it probably wasn’t the most difficult of tasks to update most of the trains.

Some of the Class 455 trains have recently been updated. So these are now probably compatible with the power network. Do the new traction motors and associated systems use regenerative braking?

This document on the Vossloh-Kiepe web site is entitled Vossloh Kiepe enters Production Phase for SWTs Class 455 EMU Re-Tractioning at Eastleigh Depot and describes the updating of the trains. This is said.

The new IGBT Traction System provides a regenerative braking facility that uses the traction motors as generators when the train is braking. The electrical energy generated is fed back into the 750 V third rail DC supply and offsets the electrical demands of other trains on the same network. Tests have shown that the energy consumption can be reduced by between 10 per cent and 30 per cent, depending on conditions. With the increasing cost of energy, regenerative braking will have a massive positive cost impact on the long-term viability of these trains. If the supply is non-receptive to the regenerated power, the generated power is dissipated by the rheostatic brake.

So thirty-five year old British Rail trains now have a modern energy-saving traction system.

Has The Solution Worked On The Third-Rail Network?

The Railway People document goes on to outline how they solved various issues and judging by how little there is about regenerative braking on the third-rail network, I think we can assume it works well.

One Train, Two Systems

If you have a train that has to work on both the 25 KVAC and 750 VDC networks, as Thameslink and Southeastern Highspeed trains do, the trains must be able to handle regenerative braking on both networks.

So is there a better way, than having a separate system for each voltage?

In Do Class 800/801/802 Trains Use Batteries For Regenerative Braking?, I investigated how Hitachi’s new Class 800 trains handle regenerative braking.

A document on Hitachi’s web site provides this schematic of the traction system.

Note BC which is described as battery charger.

The regenerative braking energy from the traction motors could be distributed as follows.

  • To provide power for the train’s  services through the auxiliary power supply.
  • To charge a battery.
  • It could be returned to the overhead wires.

Hitachi’s system illustrates how using a battery to handle regenerative braking could be a very efficient way of running a train.

Hitachi’s diagram also includes a generator unit or diesel power-pack, so it could obviously fit a 750 VDC supply in addition to the 25 KVAC system on the Class 800 train.

So we have now have one train, with three power sources all handled by one system.

What Has Happened Since?

As the Hitachi document dates from 2014, I suspect Hitachi have moved on.

Siemens have produced the Class 700 train for Thameslink, which is described in this Siemens data sheet.

Regenerative braking is only mentioned in this sentence.

These new trains raise energy efficiency to new levels. But energy efficiency does not stop at regenerative braking.

This is just a bland marketing statement.

Bombardier are building the first batches of their new Aventra train, with some Class 345 trains in service and Class 710 trains about to enter testing.

Nothing has been said about how the trains handle regenerative braking.

But given that Bombardier have been experimenting with battery power for some time, I wouldn’t be surprised to see batteries involved.

They call their battery technology Primove and it has its own web site.

There is also this data sheet on the Bombardier web site.

Class 387 Trains

There is another train built by Bombardier, that is worth investigating.

The Class 387 train was the last and probably most advanced Electrostar.

  • The trains have been built as dual-voltage trains.
  • The trains have regenerative braking that works on both electrification types.
  • They were built at around the time Bombardier were creating the Class 379 BEMU demonstrator.
  • The trains use a sophisticated propulsion converter system called MITRAC, which is also used in their battery trams.

On my visit to Abbey Wood station, that I wrote about in Abbey Wood Station Opens, I got talking to a Gatwick Express driver about trains, planes and stations, as one does.

From what he said, I got the impression that the Class 387/2 trains, as used on Gatwick Express, have batteries and use them to keep the train and passengers comfortable, in case of an electrification failure.

So do these trains use a battery to handle the regenerative braking?

How Big Would Batteries Need To Be On A Train For Regenerative Braking?

I asked this question in a post with the same name in November 2016 and came to this conclusion.

I have a feeling that using batteries to handle regenerative braking on a train could be a very affordable proposition.

As time goes on, with the development of energy storage technology, the concept can only get more affordable.

Bombardier make a Primove battery with a capacity of 50 kWh, which is 180 mega-Joules.

So the braking energy of what mass of train could be stored in one of these batteries?

I got these figures.

  • 100 mph – 180.14 tonnes.
  • 110 mph – 148.88 tonnes.

What is the mass of a Class 387 train?

This is not available on the Internet but the mass of each car of a similar Class 378 train averages out at 32 tonnes.

Consider these points.

  • A Class 387/2 train, has 219 seats, so if we assume each passenger and baggage weighs eighty kilograms, that adds up to 17.5 tonnes.
  • As the Class 387 trains have a maximum speed of 100  mph on third-rail electrification, it would appear that a Primove 50 kWh battery could handle the braking energy.
  • A Primove 50 battery with its controller weighs 827 Kg. according to the data sheet.

It all looks like using one of Bombardier’s Primove 50 batteries on a Class 387 train to handle the regenerative braking should be possible.

But would Bombardier’s MITRAC be able to use that battery power to drive the train in the most efficient manner? I suspect so!

If the traction layout is as I have outlined, it is not very different to the one published by Hitachi in 2014 on their web site for the Class 800 train.


Hitachi have got their traction layout right, as it can handle any number of power sources.



October 26, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 2 Comments

Will Crossrail Go Up The West Coast Main Line?

This report on the BBC from August 2014, is entitled Crossrail Extension To Hertfordshire Being Considered.

This is the opening paragraph.

Proposals to extend Crossrail to Hertfordshire are being considered by the government, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has announced.

But then in August 2016, the proposal was cancelled as being poor value for money.

The Wikipedia entry for Crossrail has a section called To the West Coast Main Line, under Extensions.

This is said.

Network Rail’s July 2011 London & South East Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS) recommended diverting West Coast Main Line (WCML) services from stations between London and Milton Keynes Central away from Euston, to Crossrail via Old Oak Common, to free up capacity at Euston for High Speed 2. This would provide a direct service from the WCML to the Shenfield, Canary Wharf and Abbey Wood, release London Underground capacity at Euston, make better use of Crossrail’s capacity west of Paddington, and improve access to Heathrow Airport from the north. Under this scheme, all Crossrail trains would continue west of Paddington, instead of some of them terminating there. They would serve Heathrow Airport (10 tph), stations to Maidenhead and Reading (6 tph), and stations to Milton Keynes Central (8 tph)

That sounds all very sensible. So why was the scheme cancelled?

I will look at various factors to see if I can get an idea!

Current Local Services To Milton Keynes

London Midland currently runs five trains per hour (tph) between Euston and Milton Keynes Central stations using Class 350 trains capable of 110 mph.

The new operator; West Midlands Trains will replace these trains with 110 mph Aventras.

Note that both these trains have to be capable of running at 110 mph, as this is necessary for efficient operation of the West Coast Main Line.

Crossrail Local Services To Milton Keynes

Crossrail’s Class 345 trains are only capable of 90 mph running, but then again, West Midlans Trains will have Aventras capable of 110 mph.

So for a start, the current Crossrail trains would be unable to work services to Milton Keynes in an efficient manner.

I would estimate around twenty trains  would have to be updated for 110 mph running to provide eight tph.

An Upgrade Of Milton Keynes Central Station

With a fast eight tph running to and from Central London, the nature of the train services at Milton Keynes would change dramatically.

How many of Virgin’s passengers to and from the North would prefer to change to a local train at Milton Keynes, rather than lug heavy baggage on the Underground?

HS2 would have an unexpected competitor.

ERTMS On The West Coast Main Line

Would ERTMS need to be installed on the West Coast Main Line to accommodate al these trains?

This will probably happen soon anyway, but Crossrail to Milton Keynes could bring it forward.

Connecting Crossrail To The West Coast Main Line

Look at this map from, which shows the lines in the Old Oak Common area.


  • The West Coast Main Line is the multi-track railway towards the top of the map.
  • The Great Western Main Line is the multi-track railway towards the bottom of the map.
  • The Slow Lines on both main lines are on the Northern side of the tracks.
  • The Old Oak Common station will be on the Great Western Main Line, just to the West of the North Pole Depot.

This all means that a flyover or a tunnel must be built to connect the two pairs of Slow Lines. It’s not simple!

This Google Map of the area illustrates the problem.


  • The Great Western Main Line going across the bottom of the map.
  • The North Pole Depot alongside the Great Western Main Line.
  • The Dudding Hill Line and the West London Line at the Western side of the map.
  • Crossrail’s newly-built depot is the large grey rectangular building.
  • There’s also some housing to the North-West of Crossrail’s Depot

I doubt that a flyover could pass over all that.

But a tunnel starting at the surely soon-to-be-redundant Heathrow Express Depot , that turned North-West would be a possibility.

A tunnel could emerge to the North-West of Harlesden station.

This Google Map shows that area.


  • The silver building in the top-left corner is the Princess Royal Distribution Centre.
  • The West Coast Main Line runs diagonally across the map.
  • The Dudding Hill Line runs up the Eastern side of the map.

I suspect that space for a tunnel portal can be found.

  • Twin tunnels would probably be bored.
  • I estimate that they, would need to be just over two kilometres long.
  • I suspect too, that they could be build without an additional ventilation shaft in the middle.

Looking at these maps, I’m very much of the opinion, that boring a tunnelled solution, would be possible, but what would be the cost?

The Lee Tunnel in East London is about twice as long and larger in diameter. From the cost of that tunnel, which was opened in 2016, I feel that the two tunnels could be built for just under a billion pounds.

A Tunnel-Free Solution

This Google Map shows Old Oak Common between the Great Western Main Line and the West Coast Main Line.

The Crossrail station would be at the bottom just above the North Pole Depot.

I wonder if a line could go through or behind the Heathrow Express site and then follow the North London Line behind the Crossrail Depot to Willesden High Level Junction.

This Google Map shows Willesden High Level Junction and the tracks of the London Overground as they pass over the West Coast Main Line.

I suspect modern three-dimensional design and structural analysis can create a connecting viaduct.

I doubt the track will be much more than a kilometre long and I suspect with the right signallinmg and a degree of Sutomatic Train Control, eight tph each way could be handled on a single track.


It looks like updating the Class 345 trains, ERTMS and building a tunnel under Old Oak Common could be a sizeable bill.

Have cost estimates been such, that the project was not deemed to be value for money?

October 23, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 3 Comments