The Anonymous Widower

Cambridgeshire Company’s Self-Charging Trains Project Wins Government Funds

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

These four paragraphs outline what the company is developing and how they received government funding.

Echion Technologies, based in Sawston near Cambridge, is creating train batteries that can charge from overheard wires, the Department for Transport said.

The trains would be able to use the batteries on unelectrified track.

The project was among the winners of the government’s First of a Kind competition.

The competition aims to award funding to projects that could transform the future of transport.

I have a few thoughts.

The Description In The First Of A Kind 2022 Winners Document

In this document, this is said.

Project No: 10039100

Project title: UBER – Ultra-high power Battery for low Emission Rail
Lead organisation: ECHION TECHNOLOGIES LTD
Project grant: £59,917

Public description: Project UBER (Ultra-high power Battery for low Emission Rail), aims to demonstrate for the first time, Echion’s XNO(tm) battery chemistry as the preferred battery technology for certain classes of battery electric trains. It targets Theme 1 of this competition.

Specifically, UBER aims to demonstrate the suitability of XNO(tm) for passenger trains that can be powered by the AC overhead electrification and charge a battery from the overhead wire (or another form of ‘standard’ trackside power — e.g. 3rd rail), to then run in battery-only mode on unelectrified section of a route. An example of such a train is the Revolution Very Light Rail (Revolution VLR) developed by Transport Design International (TDI), who is a partner in UBER.

Applying The Echion Technologies Batteries To Electric Trains

Consider.

  • The BBC article is accompanied by a picture of a Class 717 train, which like the Class 700 train is dual voltage.
  • Southeastern have thirty similar Class 707 trains, which are third-rail, although according to Wikipedia, were tested as dual-voltage trains.
  • Most modern trains, like these Desiro City units made by Siemens, have a mix of motored and trailer cars, with one or more pantograph cars  between the two driver cars.
  • Because power is needed in all cars, there will be an electrical bus from one end of the train to distribute power.
  • All trains in the family appear to have at least one trailer car, which will also be connected to the electrical bus.

With a family of trains like the Desiro City, Alstom’s Aventra, CAF’s Civity, Hitachi’s AT-200 or AT-300 or Stadler’s FLIRTs, train manufacturers assemble various cars, interiors and electrical gubbins together, to get the train performance and capability.

I would expect that the battery would be placed, where there is space and the most likely place is under the trailer car.

In some ways, it would work like the battery in a laptop computer, where operation is as follows.

  • If there is external power, the computer runs on that power and the battery is also charged, if it is not fully-charged.
  • If there is no external power, the computer runs on battery power, until the battery goes flat.

With a battery-electric train, operation is similar, with an important addition.

  • If there is external power, the train runs on that power and the battery is also charged, if it is not fully-charged.
  • If there is no external power, the train runs on battery power, until the battery goes flat.
  • Desiro City and many other electric trains have regenerative braking and under braking, the electricity generated is is stored in the battery, if it is not fully-charged.

It could be considered by some, that regenerative braking is self-charging. But unfortunately, regenerative braking doesn’t recover all energy during braking. But it can be up to 70-80 % efficient.

Connecting The Echion Technologies Battery To The Train

The battery will have to be connected to the electrical bus, that runs the full length of the train.

As a Control Engineer, I suspect there will be a sophisticated control system, that will switch the battery between various modes and control the pantograph and third-rail shoes.

Perhaps, Echion Technologies have developed an all-purpose controller that could fit all trains?

 

November 16, 2022 Posted by | Energy, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Are Alstom Going To Build All FLEXX Eco Bogies For The UK In Crewe?

The Zefiro 300 is a high speed train, that was built by a consortium of Bombardier and Hitachi Rail in Italy.

This is said in the Wikipedia entry for the Zefiro 300.

An evolution of the Italian version of the Zefiro 300 was also offered by Bombardier (joined with Hitachi Rail) for High Speed 2 commercial tender.

Note that the Zefiro 300 uses FLEXX Eco bogies.

Aventras also use these bogies, as do some other Bombardier trains in the UK, like Class 172 trains.

In The Value of Research, I said this about FLEXX Eco bogies.

Sad though, that although design is still in the UK, the bogies are now made in Germany. Here‘s the brochure.

The brochure link doesn’t work anymore.

Conclusion

I think it would not be a bad commercial and operational decision by Alstom to build and maintain all FLEXX Eco bogies for the UK in one factory at Crewe.

December 10, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

HS2 Ltd Awards Landmark Rolling Stock Contracts To Hitachi-Alstom Joint Venture

The title of this post, is the same as that of this press release from High Speed Two.

The press release gives two major bullet points.

  • Major boost for UK train-building as HS2’s state-of-the-art fleet of 225mph (360km/h) high speed trains will be built by Alstom and Hitachi Rail at their factories in County Durham, Derby and Crewe
  • Landmark contract set to support 2,500 jobs across the UK and boost the economy by over £157m each year

The press release then gives a link to this video clip.

The video doesn’t appear to show much.

These are my thoughts.

The Train Specification

This document on the Government web site is the Train Technical Specification for High Speed Two Classic-Compatible Trains.

The Bare Bones Of The Contract

These three paragraphs in the press release outline the contract.

HS2 Ltd today confirmed that a Hitachi/Alstom JV has been awarded the contracts to build Britain’s next generation of high speed trains at their factories in Derby and County Durham in a major deal set to support 2,500 jobs across the UK.

The landmark contracts – worth around £2bn – will see the JV design, build and maintain a fleet of 54 state-of-the-art high speed trains that will operate on HS2 – the new high-speed railway being built between London, the West Midlands and Crewe.

Capable of speeds of up to 225mph (360km/h), the fully electric trains will also run on the existing network to places such as Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester and the North West. Building on the latest technology from the Japanese Shinkansen ‘bullet train’ and European high-speed network, they will be some of the fastest, quietest and most energy efficient high-speed trains operating anywhere in the world.

The third paragraph is probably the most significant, with the last few words standing out.

They will be some of the fastest, quietest and most energy efficient high-speed trains operating anywhere in the world.

That is a high bar and let’s hope the joint venture achieves it.

The Fastest Trains?

In Wikipedia’s section on High Speed Rail, this is said.

China has the fastest conventional high-speed rail in regular operation, with the Beijing–Shanghai high-speed railway reaching up to 350 km/h (217 mph).

It may not be the fastest, when it opens, but the Hitachi/Alstom JV train will certainly put the wind up the Chinese.

The Quietest Trains?

In Class 345 Trains Really Are Quiet!, which I wrote in May 2017, I said this.

This morning I was sitting waiting on Platform 8 at Stratford station.

Platform 8 is separated from Platform 9 by just two tracks, so you notice a train, when it goes through Platform 9 at speed.

Usually, the trains that go through Platform 9 at speed towards Liverpool Street station are Class 321 trains or rakes of Mark 3 coaches oulled by a Class 90 locomotives.

Today, a new Class 345 train went through and the level of noise was extremely low compared to other trains.

Bombardier have applied world class aviation aerodynamics to these trains. Particularly in the areas of body shape, door design, car-to-car interfaces, bogies and pantographs.

Remember too, that low noise means less wasted energy and greater energy efficiency.

I have since confirmed the quietness of Aventras many times.

I know the Aventra is only a suburban trundler, but have the JV applied all the knowledge that makes an Aventra such a quiet train to their new high speed train.

One of the best ways to cut noise on a vehicle or train, is to make sure all the components are as quiet as possible.

On a train, a surprising amount of high-frequency noise comes from the pantograph.

This article from Rail Technology Magazine is entitled HS2 Ltd Awards Hitachi-Alstom JV Landmark Rolling Stock Contracts. This is said about the pantograph.

The new trains will utilise a pioneering low noise pantograph, the arm which collects power from the overhead wires developed by Hitachi Rail. The technology was first developed in Japan and will make the new HS2 trains quieter than comparable high speed trains.

There’s nothing wrong with that logic.

The Most Energy Efficient Trains?

There are several clues to the energy efficiency of these trains.

The Rail Technology Magazine article also says this.

Regenerative braking to boost energy efficiency.

Nothing is said about whether the energy is returned to the track in any of the articles on the train.

But in the specification for the train, in Section 7.3 Braking, this is said.

The Unit shall be capable of achieving this deceleration for any payload up to Normal
Payload (HDL) without regenerating to the 25kV power supply.

So what does the train do with the energy?

It must be stored on the train and reused to accelerate the train or provide hotel power, which means the train must have integrated battery storage.

This would contribute to the train’s energy efficiency.

Other factors, that would contribute are a lighter weight and good aerodynamics.

 

 

 

Relationship To The Zefiro 300

The Zefiro 300 is a high speed train, that was built by a consortium of Bombardier and Hitachi Rail in Italy.

This is said in the Wikipedia entry for the Zefiro 300.

An evolution of the Italian version of the Zefiro 300 was also offered by Bombardier (joined with Hitachi Rail) for High Speed 2 commercial tender.

Note.

  1. The Zefiro 300 uses FLEXX Eco bogies.
  2. The Zefiro 300 is a 300 kph train.
  3. The Zefiro 300  is called a Frecciarossa 1000 in Italy.

There is also a Zefiro 380 in China, which is a 380 kph train.

I’ve ridden one of these trains and describe it in Riding The Frecciarossa.

I think the High Speed Two trains will have level boarding.

Bogies

The bogies are one of the most important parts of the train. Like the Zefiro 300, will the train have FLEXX Eco bogies?

This article on Global Railway Review is entitled FLEXX Eco: The Leading Lightweight Passenger Bogie Design and it gives details on the bogie and its history.

Some of the concepts were developed at British Rail Research and some were applied to the bogies of the legendary British Rail Mark 3 and Mark 4 coaches, which ride better than some of today’s trains.

The Rail Technology Magazine article says this about the bogies.

Further supporting the UK rail supply chain, all of the bogies for the new trains will be assembled and maintained at Alstom’s facility in Crewe – which is the first time since 2004 that both jobs have been done in the UK.

It sounds sensible to have one factory to assemble and maintain the bogies.

Will this factory also supply the bogies for Aventras, which are also FLEXX Eco?

Assembly

The press release says this about assembly.

  • The first stages including vehicle body assembly and initial fit-out will be done at Hitachi Rail’s facility at Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.
  • The second stage of fit out and testing will be done at Alstom’s Litchurch Lane factory in Derby.

Conclusion

I find it interesting, how improvements in one area help another.

The JV has worked hard to perfect this design.

 

 

December 9, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , | 21 Comments

CAF To Acquire Alstom’s Coradia Polyvalent Platform

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

It looks like the EC’s conditions of Alstom’s takeover of Bombardier are as follows.

  • Coradia Polyvalent platform goes to CAF.
  • French Reichshoffen production site to CAF.
  • Talent3 platform to CAF.
  • Rights to the IP involved in the Hitachi/Bombardier joint venture to develop high speed trains goes to Hitachi.

It is interesting that there is no mention of the Aventra. But then in Alstom And Eversholt Rail Sign An Agreement For The UK’s First Ever Brand-New Hydrogen Train Fleet, I talked about Alstom’s new hydrogen-powered train based on the Aventra.

Perhaps, the Aventra was the stand-out design in Bombardier’s portfolio?

After all Alstom have already designed a hydrogen-powered train based on the platform

November 25, 2021 Posted by | Design, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Alstom And Eversholt Rail Sign An Agreement For The UK’s First Ever Brand-New Hydrogen Train Fleet

The title of this post, is the same as that of this press release from Alstom.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Alstom, Britain’s leading train manufacturer and maintenance provider, and Eversholt Rail, leading British train owner and financier, have today announced a Memorandum of Understanding aimed at delivering the UK’s first ever brand-new hydrogen train fleet.

The two companies have agreed to work together, sharing technical and commercial information necessary for Alstom to design, build, commission and support a fleet of ten three-car hydrogen multiple units (HMUs). These will be built by Alstom in Britain. The new HMU fleet will be based on the latest evolution of the Alstom Aventra platform and the intention is that final contracts for the fleet will be signed in early 2022.

This is an Alstom visualisation of the train.

The first thing I notice is that the train doesn’t have the same aerodynamic nose as this current Class 710 train, which is one of the London Overground’s Aventras.

 

Note how the lights, coupler position and the front-end structure are all different.

These are my further thoughts on the design.

The Aventra’s Traction System

In 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. The intention is that every car will be powered although trailer cars will be available.

Unlike today’s commuter trains, AVENTRA will also shut down fully at night. It will be ‘woken up’ by remote control before the driver arrives for the first shift

This was published over ten years ago, so I suspect Bombardier (or now Alstom) have refined the concept.

Bombardier have not announced that any of their trains have energy storage, but I have my suspicions, that both the Class 345 and Class 710 Aventra trains use super-capacitors or lithium-ion batteries, as part of their traction system design.

  • I was told by a Bombardier driver-trainer that the Class 345 trains have an emergency power supply. When I said “Batteries?”, He gave a knowing smile.
  • From the feel of riding on Class 710 trains, as a Control Engineer, I suspect there is a battery or supercapacitor in the drive system to give a smoother ride.

I also feel that the Aventra has been designed, so that it can accept power from a large variety of sources, which charge the battery, that ultimately drives the train.

The Formation Of A Three-Car Aventra

The only three-car Aventra is the Class 730/0 train.

I have not seen one of one of these trains in the metal and the formation can’t be found on the Internet. But Wikipedia does show the pantograph on the middle car.

In The Formation Of A Class 710 Train, I said this.

Here is the formation of the train.

DMS+PMS(W)+MS1+DMS

The plates on the individual cars are as follows.

DMS – Driving Motored Standard

    • Weight – 43.5 tonnes
    • Length – 21.45 metres
    • Width 2.78 metres
    • Seats – 43

The two DMS cars would appear to be identical.

PMS (W) -Pantograph Motored Standard

    • Weight – 38.5 tonnes
    • Length – 19.99 metres
    • Width 2.78 metres
    • Seats – 51

The (W) signifies a wheelchair space.

MS1 – Motored Standard

    • Weight – 32.3 tonnes
    • Length – 19.99 metres
    • Width 2.78 metres
    • Seats – 52

It is similar in size to the PMS car, but has an extra seat.

So could the formation of a three-car Aventra be?

DMS+PMS(W)+DMS

I have just removed the MS1 car.

This would mean that a three-car Aventra has the following dimensions and capacity.

  • Weight – 125.5 tonnes
  • Length – 62.89 metres
  • Seats – 137

There will probably be a difference between these figures and those of a three-car Class 730 train, as those trains have end-gangways.

Could All The Hydrogen Gubbins Fit Underneath The Train?

These pictures show the space underneath a Class 710 train.

If you also look at Alstom’s visualisation of their Hydrogen Aventra on this post, there would appear to be lots of space under the train.

It should also be noted  that Birmingham University’s engineers have managed to put all of the hydrogen gubbins underneath the floor of Porterbrook’s Class 799 train.

Looking at my pictures, you can see the following.

  • The two DMS (Driving Motored Standard) cars have large boxes underneath
  • The MS1(Motored Standard) car is fairly clear underneath. But this will probably not be there in a three-car train.
  • The PMS (Pantograph Motored Standard) car has some space underneath.

If more space needs to be created, I suspect that the cars can be lengthened, between the bogies. The Class 710 trains have twenty metre intermediate cars, whereas some versions have twenty-four metre cars.

I believe that Aventras have been designed, so that various power sources could be installed under the floor.

When the Aventra was designed, over ten years ago, these could have included.

  • A diesel generator and all the fuel tanks and cooling systems.
  • A battery or other energy storage system.

Since then two other suitable power sources have been developed.

  • Rolls-Royce, Honeywell and others have developed small and powerful gas-turbine generators.
  • Ballard Power Systems and others have developed hydrogen fuel cell generators.

If you look at the proportions of the Alstom hydrogen train and the pictures of Class 710 trains, I feel that the Alstom train could have the longer twenty-four metre cars.

It may be a tight fit compared to creating the Alstom Coradia iLint hydrogen train, but I would feel it is possible to install a fuel cell or cells, the required cooling and the hydrogen tanks, having seen cutaway drawings of hydrogen-powered double-deck buses on the Wrightbus web site.

Interestingly, the Alstom press release doesn’t mention fuel cells, so could the train be powered by a small gas turbine?

I think it is unlikely, but it is technically feasible.

Does The Alstom Hydrogen Aventra Have Longer Cars?

I have been looking at pictures of Aventras on Wikipedia and in my own archive.

It appears that only Aventras with twenty-four metre carriages have five windows between the pair of double-doors in the intermediate carriages.

This picture shows the PMS car from a Class 710 train.

The PMS car is to the right and has four windows between the doors.

This is the side view of one of Greater Anglia’s Class 720 trains.

It has twenty-four metre intermediate cars and five windows.

It looks to me that the Alstom Hydrogen Aventra will have twenty-four metre cars.

This will give an extra four x 2.78 metres space under the train compared to a Class 710 train.

It would also appear that the Aventras with twenty-four metre cars also have an extra window in the driving cars, between the doors.

Does the four metre stretch make it possible to position tubular hydrogen tanks across the train to store a practical amount of hydrogen?

Is The Alstom Hydrogen Train Based On A Three-Car Class 730/0 Train?

I have just found this video of a three-car Class 730/0 under test.

And guess what! It has five windows between the doors.

But then it is a train with twenty-four metre cars.

It looks to me, that Alstom have looked at the current Aventra range and decided that the three-car Class 730/0 could be the one to convert into a useful train powered by hydrogen.

So if it is a Class 730/0 train with hydrogen gubbins under the floor, what other characteristics would carry over.

  • I suspect Aventras are agnostic about power and so long as they get the right quantity of volts, amps and watts, the train will roll along happily.
  • But it means that the train can probably use 25 KVAC overhead electrification, 750 VDC third-rail electrification, hydrogen or battery power.
  • I wouldn’t be surprised if if could use 15 KVAC and 3KVDC overhead electrification for operation in other countries, with perhaps a change of power electronics or transformer.
  • The interior layout of the trains can probably be the same as that of the Class 730/0 trains.
  • The Class 730/0 trains have an operating speed of 90 mph and this could be good enough for hydrogen.

This could be a very capable train, that could find a lot of applications.

Could The Proposed Alstom Hydrogen Aventra Be Considered To Be A Class 730/0 Train With A Hydrogen Extender?

It appears that the only difference between the two trains is that the proposed Alstom Hydrogen Aventra has a hydrogen propulsion system, that can be used when the electrification runs out.

The hydrogen fuel cell will convert hydrogen into electricity, which will either be used immediately or stored in a battery on the train.

The Class 730/0 trains have already been ordered to run services on Birmingham’s electrified Cross-City Line.

There are plans to expand the line in the future and I do wonder if the proposed Alstom Hydrogen Aventras could be the ideal trains for extending the network.

How Does The Alstom Hydrogen Aventra Compare With The Class 600 Breeze Train?

The Class 600 train, which is based on the British Rail-era Class 321 train seems to have gone cold.

If it was a boxing match, it would have been stopped after the fourth round, if not before.

This Alstom visualisation shows the Class 600 train, which is also known as the Breeze.

I have a feeling that Alstom have done their marketing and everybody has said that the Class 600 train wouldn’t stand up to a modern train.

  • When you consider that each end of the train is a hydrogen tank, I wonder if possible passenger and driver reaction has not been overwhelmingly positive.
  • The project was announced in January 2021 and in the intervening time, hydrogen technology has improved at a fast pace.
  • There could even be a battery-electric version of the proposed Alstom Hydrogen Aventra.
  • The modern train could possibly be lengthened to a four or five car train.

It does strike me, that if Alstom are going to succeed with hydrogen trains, that to carry on with the Class 600 train without an order into the future is not a good idea.

How Does The Alstom Hydrogen Aventra Compare With The Alstom Coradia iLint?

The Alstom Coradia iLint is the world’s first hydrogen train.

It is successfully in service in Germany.

These are some characteristics of the Coradia iLint from the Internet.

  • Seats – 180
  • Length – 54.27 metres
  • Width – 2.75 metres
  • Height – 4.31 metres
  • Operating Speed – 87 mph
  • Range – 370-500 miles
  • Electrification Use – No

The same figures for the Alstom Hydrogen Aventra are as follows.

  • Seats – 164
  • Length – 72 metres
  • Width – 2.78 metres
  • Height – 3.76 metres
  • Operating Speed – 90 mph
  • Range – Unknown
  • Electrification Use – Unknown, but I would expect it is possible.

Note.

  1. I have taken figures for the Alstom Hydrogen Aventra from the Class 730/0 train and other Aventras.
  2. The number of seats is my best estimate from using the seat density of a Class 710 train in a 24 metre long car.
  3. The width and height seem to be standard for most Aventras.
  4. Alstom have said nothing about the range on hydrogen.
  5. I am surprised that the Aventra is the wider train.

But what surprises me most, is how similar the two specifications are. Had the designer of the original Lint hoped to sell some in the UK?

What Is The Range Of The Alstom Hydrogen Aventra?

When they launched the Breeze, Alstom were talking about a range of a thousand kilometres or just over 620 miles.

I have talked to someone, who manages a large bus fleet and they feel with a hydrogen bus, you need a long range, as you might have to position the bus before it does a full day’s work.

Would similar positioning mean a hydrogen train needs a long range?

I suspect it would in some applications, but if the train could use electrification, as I suspect the Alstom Hydrogen Aventra can, this must help with positioning and reduce the range needed and the amount of hydrogen used.

Would Alstom aim to make the range similar to the Coradia iLint? It’s probably a fair assumption.

Could the Alstom Hydrogen Aventra Be Extended To Four Or Five Cars?

I don’t see why not, as Aventras are designed to be lengthened or shortened, by just adding or removing cars, just like their predecessors the Electrostars were.

I can certainly see routes, where a longer Alstom Hydrogen Aventra could be needed and if Alstom have also decided that such a train could be needed, they will surely have investigated how to lengthen the train.

Applications In The UK

These are links to a few thoughts on applications of the trains in the UK.

There are probably a lot more and I will add to this list.

Applications Elsewhere

If the Coradia iLint has problems, they are these.

  • It can’t use overhead electrification, where it exists
  • It has a noisy mechanical transmission, as it is a converted diesel multiple unit design.

The Alstom Hydrogen Aventra can probably be modified to use electrification of any flavour and I can’t see why the train would be more noisy that say a Class 710 train.

I suspect Alstom will be putting the train forward for partially-electrified networks in countries other than the UK.

Conclusion

This modern hydrogen train from Alstom is what is needed.

It might also gain an initial order for Birmingham’s Cross-City Line, as it is a hydrogen version of the line’s Class 730/0 trains.

But having a hydrogen and an electric version, that are identical except for the hydrogen extender, could mean that the trains would be ideal for a partially-electrified network.

There could even be a compatible battery-electric version.

All trains would be identical to the passenger and probably the driver too. This would mean that mixed fleets could be run by an operator, with hydrogen or battery versions used on lines without electrification as appropriate.

 

 

 

 

November 11, 2021 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Aerodynamic Research Facilities Enhanced

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

The University of Birmingham’s Transient Aerodynamic Investigation facility at Derby’s Rail Technology Centre business park has reopened following a £1·5m renovation.

It is certainly the start of a must-read article.

It is interesting, that Bombardier have been a user of the facility. As I have said before, the Aventra seems to have good aerodynamics, so was this facilty used to improve them?

March 16, 2020 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Design A Hydrogen Aventra

This article on Rail News is entitled Alstom Moves Ahead With Bombardier Takeover.

This is a paragraph in the report, which is dated the eighteenth of last month.

n a statement issued last night, Alstom said it had ‘signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Bombardier Inc. and Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec in view of the acquisition of Bombardier Transportation. Post-transaction, Alstom will have a backlog of around €75bn and revenues around €15.5bn. The price for the acquisition of 100 per cent of Bombardier Transportation shares will be €5.8bn to €6.2bn, which will be paid via a mix of cash and new Alstom shares.’

That sounds pretty definite to me.

In the UK, Alstom will take over a company with the following projects.

  • A large order book for building Aventras in the Litchurch Lane factory at Derby.
  • Several support projects for existing train fleets.
  • A joint design project with Hitachi to bid for the trains for High Speed Two. Alstom are also bidding for High Speed Two, as are CAF, Siemens and Talgo.
  • Design and build the cars for the Cairo monorail.
  • Bombardier have been offering train operating companies a bi-mode Aventra.

There are also rumours, that Bombardier are in the running for a large order for Southeastern.

What are Bombardier’s strengths in the UK?

  • The Aventra is without doubt an excellent train, but with some software teething troubles.
  • The company has the ability to turn out finished trains at a formidable rate.
  • The company can make the carriage bodies in a high-tech plant.
  • Could the bodies be built in a larger size?
  • Or even a smaller size for a country like Australia, New Zealand, Nigeria or South Africa that uses a narrow gauge?
  • The company has the ability to design complete trains to the UK’s smaller standards.
  • The company can make trains in both European-sizes in Europe and UK-sizes in Derby.
  • The company builds bogies for other train manufacturing companies.

On the other hand, Bombardier has the following weaknesses.

  • It doesn’t make any diesel-powered trains, although it has successfully trialled battery-powered trains.
  • It has dismissed hydrogen-powered trains.
  • But above all the finances of the parent company are a basket case.

It appears to me that Alstom might bring much needed technology and finance to Bombardier UK. In return, they will acquire a modern design, that can be used in the UK and other countries, that use a smaller loading gauge.

Obviously, if the takeover goes through, more information should be forthcoming in the near to mid future.

The Future For Hydrogen Trains In The UK

I would suspect, that Alstom have designed a train in the Class 321 Breeze, that fits their view of what will work well in the UK train market.

  • It is a sixty metre long train, for a couple, where most platforms are at least eighty metres long.
  • It has a capacity similar to that of a modern two-car diesel multiple unit.
  • The Renatus version of the Class 321 train has a modern and reliable AC-based traction package. Or that’s what a Greater Anglia driver told me!
  • Eversholt Rail Group have already devised a good interior.
  • I said I was impressed with the interior of the train in A Class 321 Renatus.
  • The train can operate at 100 mph on a suitably electrified line, when running using the electrification.
  • Adding an extra trailer car or two could be a simple way of increasing capacity.

I should say, that I think it will be a quieter train, than the Coradia iLint, which has a rather noisy mechanical transmission.

I feel that a Class 321 Breeze train could be a good seller to routes that will not be electrified, either because of difficulty, expence or politics.

With a 100 mph operating speed on electrification and perhaps 90 mph on hydrogen power, it may have enough performance to work a lot of routes fast, profitably and reliably.

I think, that the Alston Class 321 Breeze will prove whether there is a market for hydrogen-powered trains in the UK.

I would think, that use of these trains could be a big application.

Replacement Of Two-And Three-Car Diesel Multiple Units

There are a lot of these still in service in the UK, which include.

All of these are currently running services all over Great Britain and I have ignored those trains run by Chiltern Railways as they will logically be replaced by a dedicated batch of new trains, with possible full- or part-electrification of the route. Or they could be custom-designed hydrogen trains.

As there are only 105 Class 321 trains that can be converted, some other trains will be needed.

I suppose classes of trains like Class 365 trains and others can be converted, but there must come a point, when it will be better to build new hydrogen trains from scratch.

Components For Hydrogen Trains

This article on Rail Business is entitled Breeze Hydrogen Multiple-Unit Order Expected Soon.

It says this about the design of the Alstom Breeze train.

The converted HMUs would have three roof-mounted banks of fuel cells on each of the two driving vehicles, producing around 50% more power than the iLint. Two passenger seating bays and one door vestibule behind each cab would be replaced by storage tanks. The fuel cells would feed underfloor battery packs which would also store regenerated braking energy. The current DC traction package on the centre car would be replaced by new AC drives and a sophisticated energy management system. Despite the loss of some seating space, each set of three 20 m vehicles would provide slightly more capacity than a two-car DMU with 23 m cars which it would typically replace.

The following components will be needed for hydrogen trains.

One Or More Hydrogen Tanks

This picture shows the proposed design of the  Alstom Class 321 Breeze.

Note how half the side of the front car of the train is blocked in because it is full of the hydrogen tank. As this Driver Car is twenty metres long, each hydrogen tank must be almost seven metres long. If it was one larger tank, then it could be longer and perhaps up to fourteen metres long.

Batteries

As the Rail Business article said, that the batteries are underfloor, I wouldn’t be surprised to see all cars having a battery pack.

I favour this layout, as if cars all are motored, it must cut the length of cabling and reduce electrical losses.

Effectively, it creates a train with the following.

  • Faster acceleration
  • Smooth, fast deceleration.
  • Efficient braking
  • Low energy losses.

It should also add up to a train with good weight distribution and high efficiency.

Hydrogen Fuel Cells

In the Class 321 Breeze, Alstom are quoted as having three banks of fuel cell on the roof of each driver car.

This would distribute the power derived from hydrogen to both ends of the train

Hydrogen For Hydrogen Trains

Alstom’s Coradia iLint trains do not have a custom-design of hydrogen system, but over the last few years green hydrogen systems have started to be supplied by companies including ITM Power from Rotherham. Recently, they have supplied the hydrogen system for the hydrogen-powered Van Hool  Exqui-City tram-buses in Pau in France. A similar system could be used to refuel a fleet of Breeze trains.

It looks like we have a limited number of hydrogen-powered trains and their fuel could be made available, but not enough to replace all of the UK’s small diesel trains, if we rely on Class 321 Breeze trains.

So there will be a need to build some more.

My Design Of Hydrogen Train

I would start with the Aventra design.

  • It is very much Plug-and-Play, where different types of cars can be connected together.
  • Cars can be any convenient length.
  • Some Aventras, like the Class 345 trains for Crossrail are even two half-trains.
  • There are various styles of interior.
  • The Aventra appears to be a very efficient train, with good aerodynamics and a very modern traction system with regenerative braking.
  • Driver, pantograph, trailer and motor cars and third-rail equipment are available.
  • Battery cars have probably been designed.
  • For good performance, Aventras tend to have a high proportion of motored cars.
  • Aventras have been designed, so that power components can be distributed around the train, so that as much space as possible is available for passengers.

This picture shows a four-car Class 710 train, which is an Aventra.

In the next sub-sections I will fill out the design.

Train Layout

Perhaps, a hydrogen-powered train could be five cars and consist of these cars.

  • Driver Motor Car
  • Trailer or Motor Car
  • Hydrogen Tank Car
  • Trailer or Motor Car
  • Driver Motor Car

Equipment would be arranged as followed.

  • I would put the hydrogen tank in the middle car. Stadler have been very successful in putting a power car in the middle and it could be the ideal car for some of the important equipment.
  • As I said earlier, I would put batteries under all cars.
  • Regenerative braking and electrification would be used to charge the batteries.
  • I think, I would put the hydrogen fuel cells in Alstom’s position on the rear part of the roof of the driver cars.
  • There would also be a need to add a pantograph, so that could go on any convenient car!
  • I do wonder, if the middle-car could be developed into a mini-locomotive with a walkway through, like the PowerCar in a Stadler Class 755 train.

There’s certainly a lot of possibilities on how to layout the various components.

Passenger Capacity

The five-car hydrogen-powered Aventra, I have detailed is effectively a four-car Aventra like a Class 710 train, with a fifth hydrogen tank car in the middle.

So the passenger capacity will be the same as a four-car Aventra.

The Class 710 trains have longitudinal seating, as these pictures of the interior show.

They have a capacity of 189 sitting and 489 standing passengers or a total capacity of 678.

Greater Anglia’s Class 720 trains have transverse seating and a five-car train holds 540 sitting and 145 standing passengers.

Multiplying by 0.8 to adjust for the hydrogen car and the capacity would be 432 sitting and116 standing passengers or a total capacity of 548.

Seats in various UK four-car electric multiple units are as follows.

  • Class 319 – 319
  • Class 321 – 309
  • Class 375 – 236
  • Class 379 – 209
  • Class 380 – 265
  • Class 385 – 273
  • Class 450 – 264

It would appear that a five-car hydrogen-powered Aventra, with one car taken up by a hydrogen tank and other electrical equipment can carry a more than adequate number of passengers.

Extra Passenger Capacity

Suppose to eliminate diesel on a route, a five-car Class 802 train were to be replaced with a six-car hydrogen-powered Aventra, which contained five passenger cars

  • The capacity of the Class 802 train is 326 seats, which still compares well with the five-car hydrogen-powered Aventra.
  • The extra car would increase the passenger capacity.

As Aventras are of a Plug-and-Play design, extra cars would be added as needed.

Maximum Length

Aventras tend to have lots of powered axles, as this improves accelerations and braking, so I suspect that trains with four or five cars on either side of the hydrogen car would be possible.

Nine-car trains could be ideal for replacing trains like Class 800 bi-mode trains to reduce the number of diesel trains. The Class 800 trains would then be converted to Class 801 electric trains or a new battery/electric version.

A Walkway Through The Hydrogen Car

These pictures show the walkway through the PowerCar in a Stadler Class 755 train.

I’m sure that an elegant design of walkway can be created.

In-Cab Digital Signalling

It goes without saying, that the train would be capable of being fitted with in-cab digital signalling.

Performance On Electrification

Bombardier have stated that they have a design for a 125 mph bi-mode Aventra. They might even have designed the trains to achieve 140 mph running on routes with full in-cab digital signalling.

These electrified lines are likely to be able to support 140 mph running with full in-cab digital signalling.

  • East Coast Main Line
  • Great Western Main Line
  • Midland Main Line
  • West Coast Main Line

As these hydrogen-powered Aventras may need to run on these high speed electrified lines, I would design the trains so that they could achieve the design speed of these lines, when using the electrification.

This would enable the trains to keep out of the way of the numerous 140 mph electric expresses.

Performance On Batteries And Hydrogen

Hydrogen-powered trains are essentially battery-electric trains, which have the ability to top up the batteries using hydrogen power.

I would suspect that a well-designed hydrogen/battery/electric train should have the same maximum speed on all modes of power, subject to the capabilities of the track and having sufficient power in the batteries to accelerate as required.

The Complete Package

As Hydrogen filling stations from companies like ITM Power and others, that can refuel hydrogen-powered trains are a reality, I’m certain, that it would be possible to create a package solution for a railway company that needed the complete solution.

Different Gauges

If you take a country like Malawi, Malawi Railways looks to need improvement.

They have a three-foot six-inch gauge railway, so could a package of narrower hydrogen-powered Aventras and a solar-powered hydrogen-generator be put together to improve Malawi’s railways?

In When Do Mark 2 Coaches Accept The Inevitable?, I discuss how British Rail Mark 2 coaches were converted from UK loading gauge to one that would work with New Zealand’s 1067 mm. gauge.

So I suspect that a design related to trains built for the UK could be modified for running on the narrow gauge lines of Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

Conclusion

I think it would be possible to design a hydrogen/battery/electric train based on an Aventra with the following characteristics.

  • Up to eleven cars
  • A hydrogen car with a hydrogen tank in the middle of the train.
  • Ability to use 25 KVAC overhead or 750 VDC third-rail electrification.
  • In-cab digital signalling
  • 140 mph running where the route allows.
  • Regenerative braking to batteries.
  • Sufficient range on hydrogen power.
  • Sophisticated computer control, that swaps mode automatically.

The train would be possible to run the following routes, if configured appropriately.

  • Kings Cross and Aberdeen
  • Kings Cross and Inverness
  • Kings Cross and Cleethorpes via Lincoln and Grimsby
  • Kings Cross and Redcar via Middlesbrough
  • Kings Cross and Norwich via Cambridge
  • Paddington and Penzance
  • Paddington and Swansea
  • Waterloo and Exeter via Basingstoke

Some routes might need a section of fill-in electrification, but most routes should be possible with a hydrogen fill-up at both ends.

 

 

 

March 9, 2020 Posted by | Business, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Lightweight Trains And No Taboos In French Secondary Line Rescue Package

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Railway Gazette International.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Development of lightweight rolling stock is one of several proposals put forward by the government to try and ensure the survival of much of the remaining network of secondary lines, many of which carry very limited traffic.

This problem of secondary lines exists in other countries, like Germany, Italy and to a certain extent the UK.

I will argue that Vivarail, with their Class 230 train are following a similar plan to that proposed for France.

  • Lightweight well-proven design.
  • Battery-powered.
  • Modern interior.
  • Designed for short branch lines and secondary routes.

Will Vivarail be talking to the French? Probably not, as using old London Underground stock in rural France would see a large clash of national egos.

But the philosophy could be transplanted across the Channel.

Perhaps some smaller British designs like an Aventra could also be used on French rural routes, that are electrified?

 

March 5, 2020 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , | 2 Comments

National Trust Looks At Car Ban In Lake District

The title of this post is the same as that as that of this article in yesterday’s Sunday Times.

The secondary headline sums up the article.

Nearly 20m visitors a year are ‘loving the national park to death’, and officials are looking at excluding drivers.

So what is to be done?

Can The Railways Help?

In 2015, I spent Three Days in Preston and explored the area by train.

These problems were apparent on the trains and at the stations.

  • The capacity, quality and frequency of the trains to Windermere is pitiful.
  • The capacity, quality and frequency of the trains along the Cumbrian Coast Line is inadequate.
  • Bus information and interchanges could be better.
  • Getting a train to Penrith North Lakes station was difficult.

The only line with an acceptable train service is the West Coast Main Line.

Everything else needs major improvements.

These are some random thoughts.

Could Carlisle Become The Rail Tourism Centre For The Borderlands And The Lakes?

These rail lines and services are already or will be connected to Carlisle Citadel station, within the next few years.

  • Virgin services on the West Coast Main Line between London and the South and Glasgow and Edinburgh in Central Scotland.
  • TransPennine Express services on the West Coast Main Line between Liverpool and Manchester in the South and Glasgow.
  • Possible Grand Union services on the West Coast Main Line between London and Stirling for the North of Scotland.
  • High Speed Two services between London and the South and Glasgow and Edinburgh in Central Scotland.
  • ScotRail services on the Glasgow South Western Line between Carlisle and Glasgow via Dumfries and Kilmarnock.
  • ScotRail services on an extended Borders Railway between Carlisle and Edinburgh via Hawick and Galashiels.
  • Northern services on the Tyne Valley Line between Carlisle and Newcastle via Hexham and the Metro Centre.
  • Northern services on the Settle and Carlisle Line between Carlisle and Leeds.
  • Northern services on the Cumbrian Coast Line between Carlisle and Carnforth via Workington, Whitehaven and Barrow.

Carlisle sits at the centre of a network of some of the most scenic rail lines, anywhere in the world.

Rail services in the area with the exception of the through services, provided by Virgin and TransPennine Express are probably considered by their operators to be a pain.

  • They are generally not used by commuters.
  • There are regular operational problems like floods and landslips.
  • They are overcrowded at some times of the year and need expensive new rolling stock.
  • Rail tourists from aboard probably complain like mad.

But above all the services probably lose money hand over fist.

What Is The Ideal Train For Scenic Routes?

Two possible trains for scenic routes are now in service in the UK.

The Scottish Solution – Inter7City

ScotRail are now introducing four- and five-car InterCity 125 trains on routes between the seven cities in Scotland.

They will probably do a good job and they have the following.

  • Large windows to enjoy the views.
  • Many seats have tables.
  • An on-board buffet and trolley service.
  • Wi-fi and power sockets for phones and laptops.
  • The trains should be reliable, as there is a vast knowledge base about running these trains.
  • The trains can be easily lengthened, by adding extra cars.
  • The trains were 125 mph trains and are probably slower in this application.

But the trains are forty years old and have two enormous diesel engines on each end.

The Swiss Solution – Class 755 train

Greater Anglia are introducing three- and four-car Class 755 trains on rural routes in East Anglia.

They appear to be doing a good job with high passenger satisfaction and they have the following.

  • Large windows to enjoy the views.
  • A number of seats have tables.
  • Space for bicycles.
  • Wi-fi and power sockets for phones and laptops.
  • The trains have level access between train and platform.
  • Hopefully, the trains will be reliable, as they are brand new and Stadler has been making similar trains for over ten years.
  • The trains can use 25 KVAC overhead electrification, where it is available.
  • The trains can work in multiple formations.
  • The trains can be easily lengthened, by adding extra cars.
  • The trains are 100 mph trains.

But the trains still have a diesel power-pack in the middle for operation independently.

In future, these trains will be used to run new services between London and Lowestoft, which is a distance of 118 miles of which 59 miles is electrified.

Similar trains will be fitted with batteries for the South Wales Metro.

Could a train be built with the best of all the features?

I believe the Class 755 train is a pretty good start, but it would have the following extra features.

  • Ability to run at up to 125 mph on 25 KVAC overhead or 750 VDC third rail, where the track allows.
  • A well-designed buffet.
  • 50 mile battery range.
  • A stand-by generator.
  • The ability to fast-charge the battery at a station stop.

I also think that Hitachi could make a five-car AT-300 train and Bombardier could make an Aventra, that met this specification.

What would a fleet of battery-electric trains do for the rail lines around Carlisle?

  • Hopefully, they would become a tourist attraction in their own right and encourage visitors to corm by train.
  • Frequencies would be at least two trains per hour on all routes.

This could be a starting point for making the area easier to access.

Should Stations Around The Lakes Be Developed With Bus Interchanges?

I’ve seen the bus interchange at Windermere station, but are other stations around the Lakes as well provided with comprehensive bus routes?

The objective surely should be that if a family wanted to have a day out in the Lakes from their home in Liverpool or Manchester, they should be able to get a train to a convenient station and a bus to their final destination.

Surely, if there is a sensible alternative, then visitors might use it.

Could The Cockermouth, Keswick and Penrith Railway Be Reopened?

The Cockermouth, Keswick and Penrith Railway was finally closed in the 1970s and according to Wikipedia, the track-bed has been used for roads and other developments.

I doubt that the railway could be reopened, but a modern light rail route would probably be a very valuable tourist asset.

But Would Good Train And Bus Routes Cut The Traffic In The Lakes?

I doubt it!

If someone has spent £40,000 or more on an expensive car, they feel they have bought the right to drive it anywhere they want!

The Dutch once talked about road pricing for every vehicle and that government lost the next election.

Conclusion

Traffic congestion in the Lakes, is a problem that threatens other areas, where tourists want to go.

So will as the National Trust are suggesting have to ban cars to restore some sanity?

I suspect so!

But it won’t be popular!

 

 

November 11, 2019 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

HS2 Way Out In Front In Tunnel Design For High-Speed Rail

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

The article describes how Arup and Birmingham University are using physical and computer modelling to obtain the ultimate profiles of both tunnel portal and train nose to both increase train performance and reduce train noise as the trains enter tunnels.

They are even using a huge shed at the former British Rail Research Centre in Derby!

The biggest problem, is that there are aerodynamic effects, as the trains enter the tunnels at very high speeds, which result in what are inevitably called sonic booms, that disturb the local residents.

Because the new trains and tunnel portals are being developed together, there must be a greater chance, they will meet the objectives.

Collateral Benefits

Get the design right and there will be other benefits.

Lower Power In The Cruise

In How Much Power Is Needed To Run A Train At 125 mph?, I said this.

I have found this on this page on the RailUKForums web site.

A 130m Electric IEP Unit on a journey from Kings Cross to Newcastle under the conditions defined in Annex B shall consume no more than 4600kWh.

This is a Class 801 train.

  • It has five cars.
  • Kings Cross to Newcastle is 268.6 miles.
  • Most of this journey will be at 125 mph.
  • The trains have regenerative braking.
  • I don’t know how many stops are included

This gives a usage figure of 3.42 kWh per vehicle mile.

This figure is not exceptional and I suspect that good design of the train’s nose will reduce it, especially as the design speed of High Speed Two will be 360 kph or 224 mph.

Reduced Noise

Stand on a Crossrail platform at say Southall or West Drayton stations and listen to the Class 801 trains passing.

They are only doing about 100 mph and they are certainly not quiet! Noise comes from a variety of sources including aerodynamics, overhead wires and running gear.

Could the nose and profile of high speed trains also be designed to minimise noise, when cruising at high speeds?

Reduced Pantograph Noise

Travelling at up to 360 kph, pantograph noise could be a serious problem.

The only way to cut it down, would be to lower the pantograph in sensitive areas and run the train on battery power.

But if the trains energy consumption could be cut to a much lower level, it might be possible for the cruise to be maintained on battery power alone.

Consider a journey between Euston and Birmingham.

  • The train would accelerate away from Euston and go in a tunnel to Old Oak Common.
  • Batteries could be charged whilst waiting at Euston and in the run to Old Oak Common.
  • Accelerating away from Old Oak Common would bring the train to 360 kph as fast as possible.
  • It would now cruise virtually all the way to Birmingham Interchange at 360 kph.
  • At the appropriate moment the pantograph would be lowered and the train would use the kinetic energy to coast into Birmingham Interchange.
  • There would probably be enough energy in the batteries to take the train into Birmingham Curzon Street station after the stop at Birmingham Interchange.

One technology that will massively improve is the raising and lowering of the pantograph at speed.

So could we see much of the long non-stop intermediate section being run on batteries with the pantograph down. If power is needed, it would raise to power the train directly. If the raising and lowering was efficient, then it might be able to use the pantograph only in tunnels.

Could It Be Possible To Dispence With Wires Outside Of Tunnels?

Probably not on the first phase of High Speed Two, but consider.

  • High Speed Two is designed to have a lot of tunnels.
  • Arup and Birmingham may come up with even better aerodynamic designs.
  • Pantograph raising and lowering will get faster and extremely reliable.
  • Battery technology will hold more electricity for a given weight and volume.
  • Dispensing with visible wires could reduce the problems of getting planning permissions.
  • Noise and visible intrision will be reduced.

I believe there will come a time, when high speed railways could be built without visible overhead electrification.

The only places, where electrification would be used would be in tunnels and stations.

Are There Any Other Applications Of This Research?

These are a few thoughts.

Hitachi Trains For The Midland Main Line

I’m suspicious, that the research or similar research elsewhere, might have already produced a very handy result!

In an article in the October 2019 Edition of Modern Railways, which is entitled EMR Kicks Off New Era, more details of the new Hitachi bi-mode trains for East Midlands Railway (EMR) are given.

This is said.

The first train is required to be available for testing in December 2021 with service entry between April and December 2022.

The EMR bi-modes will be able to run at 125 mph in diesel mode, matching Meridian performance in a step-up from the capabilities of the existing Class 80x units in service with other franchises. They will have 24 metre vehicles (rather than 26 metres), a slightly different nose to the ‘800s’ and ‘802s’, and will have four diesel engines rather than three.

Could the new nose have been designed partly in Birmingham?

Consider.

  • Hitachi’s bi-modes for EMR InterCity could be running at up to 225 kph in a few years.
  • The Midland Main Line between Derby and Chesterfield goes through a number of tunnels in a World Heritage Site.
  • Hitachi have collaborated with UK research teams before, including on the Hyabusa.
  • Hitachi and Bombardier are submitting a joint bid for High Speed Two trains, which is based in Birmingham.

It should be noted that when the Tōkaidō Shinkansen opened in 1964 between Tokyo and Osaka average speed was 210 kph.

So are Hitachi aiming to provide EMR InterCity with almost Shinkansen speeds on a typical UK main line?

Arup and Birmingham University, certainly have the capability to design the perfect nose for such a project.

Aventras

Did the research team also help Bombardier with the aerodynamics of the Aventra?

I’m pretty certain, that somebody did, as these trains seem to have a very low noise signature, as they go past.

Talgo

Tsalgo are building a research centre at Chesterfield.

Will they be tapping in to all the rail research in the Midlands?

Conclusion

It looks to me, that there is some world-class research going on in Birmingham and we’ll all benefit!

October 4, 2019 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment