The Anonymous Widower

Brompton’s Electric Bicycle

Brompton were promoting their new electric bicycle at Kings Cross.

It looks a neat front wheel drive, pedal-assisted design.

At nearly £3,000, it would only be a bike for a serious commuter. Although, I suspect many will buy one to potter around their local area.

What I found interesting was that the battery weighs three kilograms and has a capacity of 0.3 kWh.

This energy density is very much in line with the most efficient, large traction batteries in road vehicles, trains and trams.


August 17, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , | 1 Comment

Did The Queen Ever Ride In This Train?

These pictures show the British Rail BEMU, which was an experimental two-car battery electric multiple unit, that ran on the Deeside Railway between Aberdeen and Ballater stations, in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

It is now parked at the Royal Deeside Railway awaiting restoration.

As the bodywork is aluminium, it struck me that it wouldn’t be an impossible restoration project.

Someone, I spoke to, said the biggest problem and probably expense were the batteries.

Perhaps, they could use some recycled batteries from electric buses or other vehicles, which some companies are going to use as house storage batteries.

A Memory From A Lady

I travelled to the Royal Deeside Railway on a bus and sat up front on the top deck. Next to me was a lady, who was perhaps in her seventies like me, who remembered using the train several times.

From what she said, it appeared to work reliably for a number of years.

Did Her Majesty Ever Use The Train?

No-one at the Royal Deeside Railway has any proof, that the Queen ever rode in the train.

But they are pretty sure, that the Queen Mother used the train. Apparently, she liked the steady speed as it proceeded through the countryside.


With the current developments in battery transport, I feel that this prototype might well be worth restoring to operation condition.

August 13, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

A Railway That Needs Electric Trains But Doesn’t Need Full Electrification

This article on Rail Magazine is entitled ScotRail Targets Further Electrification Schemes.

This is the first paragraph.

The five years from 2019 could feature more wiring in Scotland, with ScotRail Alliance Managing Director Alex Hynes telling RAIL: “I’d love to see more electrification – Stirling to Perth, East Kilbride and the Edinburgh South Suburban.”

In this post, I will look at electrification of the Busby Railway to East Kilbride station.

  • The station is 11.5 miles from Glasgow Central station.
  • The station has an altitude of 504 feet.
  • It is a single platform station.
  • The route to Glasgow is double-track, except for the last section from Busby station, which is single track, with a passing loop at Hairmyres station.
  • A two trains per hour (tph) service is provided between Glasgow Central and East Kilbride using two two-car diesel Class 156 trains.

This picture shows East Kilbride station.

Nothing complicated at this station and it comfortably handles two tph.

In the UK, there are several stations where four tph are handled using a single platform.

Transport for Wales also intend to run four tph to several single-platform stations including Rhymney, which is high in the valleys.

I suspect that with modern signalling and driver aids, Glasgow’s drivers would be capable of running four tph between Glasgow Central and East Kilbride stations.

Judging by my trip on the route, there is certainly a need for more capacity, as if every seat is taken at two in the afternoon, two-car trains running at a frequency of two tph is just not enough.

So surely running new four-car electric trains to the current timetable, would be the standard solution for this route?


Look at these pictures of the route..

It wouldn’t be a nightmare to electrify, but because of the stone bridges and the steel footbridges, it would be expensive and very disruptive.

The following should also be noted.

  • The railway has never gone further than East Kilbride station.
  • There is no freight on the line, except for that needed for maintenance.

I am very much drawn to the conclusion, that to electrify the whole route would use money that would probably be better spent on improving step-free access at some of the stations.

Electric Trains To East Kilbride Without Full Electrification

Before I detail the solutions, I shall look at the energy required to raise a train from Glasgow to East Kilbride station.


  • A four-car electric train like a Class 321 train weighs 138 tonnes.
  • This train has 309 seats, so could probably accommodate 400 passengers.
  • Assuming each weighs 90 kg with buggies, baggage, bicycles and bagpipes, this gives a train fully-loaded train weight of 174 tonnes.

Using Omni’s Potential Energy Calculator, it would take 73 kWh of energy to raise the train to the 504 feet altitude of East Kilbride station.

It should also be noted that Glasgow Central station and the approaches to the station are fully electrified almost as far as Crossmyloof station.

What solutions are available to have as-new electric trains running between Glasgow Central and East Kilbride station?

The Rhymney Line Solution

The Rhymney Line runs between Cardiff Central and Rhymney stations.

In the design of the new South Wales Metro, the highest section of this line between Ystrad Mynach and Rhymney stations will be run on battery power.

  • This section is about eleven miles long.
  • It is a mixture of single and double-track.
  • The height difference is 410 feet.

This is very similar in severity to the Busby Railway.

Transport for Wales are proposing to use Tri-Mode Stadler Flirt trains on this route.

These trains would be able to handle the East Kilbride route without any modification to the track or electrification.

It would just mean.

  • Trains identical to those on the South Wales Metro.
  • Building and delivering the trains.
  • Training the drivers and other staff.

There would be other advantages.

  • Stadler trains seem to be one of the best for step-free access, with automatic gap fillers between platform and train.
  • They are 100 mph trains.
  • They are ready for modern signalling.
  • They can change mode at line speed.

These trains which will be Class 755 trains in Abellio Greater Anglia service, have a central power-pack, that can incorporate diesel or battery power to supplement power from the electrification.

Good engineering design would probably mean.

  • The four slots in the power pack, can be fitted with a diesel engine, battery or perhaps even a hydrogen fuel cell to give a power profile tailored to the route.
  • The battery would weigh a similar amount to the Deutz diesel engine, which would give a battery capacity of perhaps 100-120 kWh.
  • There is an intelligent computer system controlling the power and braking systems.
  • The trains come in various lengths from three-cars upwards.

This is a summary of the Stadler multi-mode trains ordered for the UK.

  • Abellio Greater Anglia – Electric/Diesel – 14 x three-cars – Two Deutz diesel engines
  • Abellio Greater Anglia – Electric/Diesel – 24 x four-cars  – Four Deutz diesel engines
  • Trains for Wales – Electric/Diesel – 11 x four-cars  – Four (?) Deutz diesel engines
  • Trains for Wales – Electric/Diesel/Batteries – 7 x three-cars – One Deutz diesel engine and three batteries (?)
  • Trains for Wales – Electric/Diesel/Batteries – 17 x four-cars – One Deutz diesel engine and three batteries

I’m sure Abellio Greater Anglia won’t leave Abellio ScotRail, short of operational information.

In addition, they might be ideal for other routes in the Glasgow area.

They would use the electrification, when close to Glasgow.

I can’t see any reason, why another version of the Tri-Mode Stadler Flirt won’t be able to run services between Glasgow Central and East Kilbride stations.

The Battery Solution

Transport for Wales intend to run their Tri-Mode Stadler Flirts on battery from Ystrad Mynach to Rhymney. I can’t see any reason why a well-designed battery train can’t do the similar climb to East Kilbride station.

Of the major train manufacturers, only Stadler seem to have declared their hand with the Rhymney Line proposal.

  • Bombardier have run prototypes in the UK and Germany, but are very protective with solid information.
  • CAF have run battery trams and will introduce them to the UK in the next year or so.
  • Hitachi use batteries in their trains and have run battery trains in Japan.

Also, consider that between Glasgow Central and Pollokshields East stations is electrified and extending this electrification to say Busby Junction. where the Busby Railway leaves the Glasgow South Western Line, would have the following benefits.

  • The distance to run on batteries would be reduced by about three miles.
  • There would be more electrification to ensure that train batteries were full before the climb to East Kilbride.
  • If bi-mode trains were to run to Kilmarnock, Dumfries and Carlisle, they would have more electrified line to use.

This short section of electrification would certainly improve the mathematics of running battery trains to East Kilbride.

As Busby Junction to Kilmarnock is around twenty miles, it might even make it possible to run battery trains between Glasgow Central and Kilmarnock stations.

I have no doubts that, a battery train can be built to handle services between Glasgow Central and East Kilbride.

The Hydrogen Solution

I tend to think of trains powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, as battery trains with an environmentally-friendly onboard power source.

The Busby Line route is ideal for battery trains, especially, if there is a few miles of new electrification at the Glasgow Central end of the route.

Alstom’s proposed hydrogen-powered Class 321 train, could also be ideal for this route.

Four-car trains with a decent interior, would certainly solve the overcrowding on the route.

In A Class 321 Renatus, a comment was put, that says that the hydrogen-powered Class 321 trains will share the Renatus interior.

I’d suspected that would be the case, as why would the train’s owners; Eversholt Rail Group, design two different interiors for the same purpose?

The train would be able to leave Glasgow Central station with a full battery and with the help of electricity from the hydogen fuel cell, it would be able to climb to East Kilbride.

Coming down, the train would be partly powered by the battery, but mainly by gravity. Energy generated by the regenerative braking would be stored in the battery.

Alstom will be building a mathematical model of the train and its performance on various routes, so they will know the energy flows, when the train is working.

I said earlier that the following routes would be ideal for Stadler’s bi-mode trains.

  • The Glasgow South Western Line to Kilmarknock, Dumfries and Carlisle.
  • The Ayrshire Coast Line to Ayr and Stranraer.
  • The West Highland Line to Oban and Mallaig.

I feel the same logic applies to Alstom’s hydrogen trains.


All three solutions, I outlined in this post, could be possible.

The solutions have several things in common.

  • All will be fully tested elsewhere on the UK rail network.
  • None need any electrification between Busby Junction and East Kilbride.
  • All would benefit from a few extra miles of electrification between Busby Junction and Glasgow Central station.
  • All solutions are backed by respected train building companies.

I think there will be a very keen contest to see who supplies the trains for this and other related routes from Glasgow.










August 12, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

What Is The Battery Size On A Tri-Mode Stadler Flirt?

The power-pack in the middle of a Tri-Mode Stadler Flirt, would appear to have four slots, each of which could take.

  • A V8 16-litre Deutz diesel that can produce 478 kW and weighs 1.3 tonnes.
  • A battery of about 120 kWh, which would probably weigh about 1.2 tonnes.

Would future versions of these trains accept a hydrogen fuel cell?

Note that, I estimated the battery size, by using typical battery energy densities for a battery of similar weight and physical size to the diesel engine.

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

Would Electrically-Driven Trains Benefit From Batteries To Handle Regenerative Braking?

There are two basic types of electrically-driven trains.

Electric trains, which include electrical multiple units and trains hauled by electric locomotives like the InterCity 225.

Diesel-electric trains, with include multiple units like Voyagers and the InterCity 125.

Regenerative Braking

In an electrically-driven train, the traction motors can be turned into generators to slow the train, by turning the train’s kinetic energy into electricity.

Many electric trains can do this and the generated electricity is returned through the electrification system, so that it can power other trains nearby.

This all sounds fine and dandy, but there is the disadvantage that all the electrification system must be able to handle the reverse currents, which increases the capital cost of the electrification.

Batteries For Regenerative Braking

Fitting batteries to a train, to handle the electricity that is generated by regenerative braking is an alternative.

A Station Stop

Suppose a four-car train that weighs 200 tonnes is travelling at 125 mph and needs to stop at a station.

My example train would according to Omni’s Kinetic Energy Calculator would have a kinetic energy of 86.7 kWh.

To put that amount of energy into context, the traction battery in a New Routemaster bus is 55 kWh.

So if a battery of this size was put into each car, there is more than enough capacity to store the energy of the train, when it stops at a station.

When the train leaves the station, a proportion of this energy can be used to accelerate the train back to 125 mph.

As regenerative braking is perhaps only eighty percent efficient at present, additional energy will need to be provided.

But even with btoday’s primitive batteries and less-than-efficient traction motors, there are still substantial energy savings to be had.

Hitachi Class 800/801/802 Trains

In Do Class 800/801/802 Trains Use Batteries For Regenerative Braking?, I looked at the question in the title.

I found this document on the Hitachi Rail web site, which is entitled Development of Class 800/801 High-speed Rolling Stock for UK Intercity Express Programme.

It was written in 2013 and I suspect every train designer has read it, as it gives a deep insight into the design of the trains.

The document provides this schematic of the traction system.


  1. BC which is described as battery charger.
  2. The battery size is not disclosed.
  3. The APS supplies the hotel power for the train in two different voltages.
  4. Can the APS with the battery supply power to the Drive Converter?

After a lot of reasoning, I came to this conclusion.

I will be very surprised if Class 800/801/802 trains don’t have batteries.

Looking at the schematic of the electrical system, the energy captured will at least be used for hotel power on the train.

Hitachi have not said, if the batteries on the Class 800/801/802 trains can be used for traction purposes.

Storing the regenerative energy in a battery can be used for one of two purposes.

Hotel Power

Hitachi’s Class 800 trains certainly use the electricity in the battery to power the hotel functions of the train like air-conditioning, doors, lights, power-sockets, toilets and wi-fi.

In a diesel-electric train, this could give benefits.

  • The engines generally won’t need to run in a station to provide hotel power.
  • Less fuel will need to be expended to provide hotel power.
  • If say the train has to halt perhaps because of a signalling or track fault, hotel power can be provided without running the engines.
  • If batteries are supplying the hotel power, the train may have more power for traction.

Overall, the diesel-electric train would be more efficient and would emit less carbon dioxide and pollutants.

Traction Power

There is no engineering reason, why the energy in the battery can’t be used to actually move the train.

But to implement it, could be complicated and expensive on an existing train.

Some Worked Examples

I’ll look at a few examples.

InterCity 125

The iconic InterCity 125s are unique, in that they are impossible to scrap. Just as they seem to approaching the end of their life, a devious engineer or marketing man comes up with a plan to keep them running.


As I write this, Great Western Railway and Abellio ScotRail are testing short-formation InterCity 125s and training drivers for services in the South West of England and Scotland. Both train operating companies appreciate the marketing advantages of Terry Miller‘s world-famous train, that was built as a stop-gap, after the failure of the Advanced Passenger Train.

So what size of battery would need to be fitted to each locomotive to handle the braking energy of a short-formation InterCity 125 with four passenger cars?


  • Each Class 43 locomotive weighs 70.25 tonnes.
  • Each Mark 3 coach weighs 33.60 tonnes.
  • An eight car InterCity 125 can carry about 500 passengers.
  • I will assume that a four-car InterCity 125 can carry 250 passengers.
  • If each passenger weighs 90 Kg with all their bikes, buggies and baggage, that adds up to 22.50 tonnes.

This gives a total train weight of 297.40 tonnes.

Calculating the kinetic energy using Omni’s Kinetic Energy Calculator for various speeds gives.

  • 50 mph – 20.6 kWh
  • 75 mph – 46.4 kWh
  • 90 mph – 66.9 kWh
  • 100 mph – 82.5 kWh

A fifty kWh battery in each locomotive would be able to handle the braking energy of the train.

The only problem, is that Class 43 locomotives have DC traction motors, no regenerative braking and air brakes.

But if any operator or rolling stock owner were bonkers enough to fit a new traction system, a diesel/electric/battery Class 43 locomotive is possible for a four-car InterCity 125.

This page on the Hitachi web site is entitled V-TRAIN 2.

Hitachi used a Class 43 power car to prove that diesel/electric/battery trains were feasible, before getting the order for the Class 800 trains.

So fitting batteries to Class 43 locomotives has been done before!

The simplest thing to do would be to use the batteries to provide hotel power for the train.

Class 375 Train

In this exercise, I shall consider a Class 375/6 train, with the following characteristics.

  • Four cars
  • Three cars are motored.
  • Regenerative braking
  • A weight of 173.6 tonnes.
  • A capacity of 236 seated passengers
  • An operating speed of 100 mph.

I will now go through my standard train kinetic energy calculation.

  • I will assume three hundred passengers including standees.
  • If each passenger weighs 90 Kg with all their bikes, buggies and baggage, that adds up to 27 tonnes.

This gives a total train weight of 200.60 tonnes.

Calculating the kinetic energy using Omni’s Kinetic Energy Calculator for various speeds gives.

  • 50 mph – 13.9 kWh
  • 80 mph – 35.6 kWh
  • 100 mph – 55.7 kWh

It would appear that adding batteries to a Class 375 train would not involve large capacity batteries, especially if one was added to each of the three cars with motors.

As a Control Engineer by training, blending battery and electrification power could run the train more efficiently.

Probably naively on my part, I suspect that using batteries on Class 375 trains to handle regenerative braking, would be one of the easier installations.

Other Electrostars

All Electrostars are fairly similar, so if Class 375 trains could be updated, then I wouldn’t be surprised if all could.

InterCity 225

It looks like InterCity 225 trains will be used between London and Blackpool by Alliance Rail Holdings.

Other commentators have suggested that shortened sets run on the Midland Main Line between a diesel locomotive and a Driving Van Trailer (DVT) or two Class 43 locomotives.

I shall do the energy calculation for a five-car InterCity 225.

  • A Class 91 locomotive weighs 81.5 tonnes.
  • A Mark 4 coach weighs between 40 and 43.5 tonnes.
  • A nine-car InterCity 225 seats 535 passengers.
  • I will assume that a five-car InterCity 225 will seat around 300 passengers.
  • I will assume each passenger weighs 90 Kg. with all their baggage, bikes and buggies.
  • A DVT weighs 42.7 tonnes.

For a current nine-car train this gives the following.

  • The empty train weight is almost exactly 500 tonnes.
  • The passengers weigh 48 tonnes.
  • This gives a total weight of 548 tonnes.

At 125 mph, the nine-car InterCity 225 has a kinetic energy of 238 kWh.

For a proposed five-car train this gives the following.

  • The empty train weight is almost exactly 333 tonnes.
  • The passengers weigh 27 tonnes.
  • This gives a total weight of 360 tonnes.

At 125 mph, the five-car InterCity 225 has a kinetic energy of 156 kWh.

Reduce the speed to 110 mph and the kinetic energy drops to 121 kWh.

I suspect that using current technologies, there is not enough space in a Class 91 locomotive for the batteries.

Perhaps a short section of the coach next to the engine could be converted to hold a large enough battery.

Five Mark 4 Coaches And Two Class 43 Locomotives

This has been suggested in Modern Railways by Ian Walmsley and I wrote about it in Midland Mark 4.


  • A Class 43 locomotive weighs 70.25 tonnes.
  • A Mark 4 coach weighs between 40 and 43.5 tonnes.
  • A nine-car InterCity 225 seats 535 passengers.
  • I will assume that a five-car InterCity 225 will seat around 300 passengers.

This gives the following.

  • The empty train weight is 349 tonnes
  • The passengers weigh 27 tonnes
  • The train weight is 376 tonnes.

At 125 mph this train would have a kinetic energy of 163 kWh.

I’m sure that it would be possible to put a 100 kWh battery in the space behind the engine of a Class 43 locomotive, so I suspect that all the engineering solutions exist to create a train with the following characteristics.

  • Two Class 43 locomotives with new traction motors to enable regenerative braking and a 100 kWh battery.
  • Five Mark 4 coaches meeting all the regulations.
  • The batteries would provide hotel power for the train.
  • 125 mph operating speed.

It may be a fantasy, as the economics might not stack up.

Five Mark 4 Coaches, A Driving Van Trailer And A Stadler UKLight Locomotive

I wrote about this combination in Five Mark 4 Coaches, A Driving Van Trailer And A Stadler UKLight Locomotive.

I came to this conclusion.

Using the Mark 4 coaches or new Mark 5A coaches with a new 125 mph diesel/electric/battery hybrid Stadler UKLight locomotive could create an efficient tri-mode train for the UK rail network.

The concept would have lots of worldwide applications in countries that like the UK, are  only partially electrified.

The concept or something like it, has possibilities.


In the July 2018 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article entitled Bi-Mode Aventra Details Revealed.

A lot of the article takes the form of reporting an interview with Des McKeon, who is Bombardier’s Commercial |Director and Global Head of Regional and Intercity.

This is a paragraph.

He also confirmed Bombardier is examining the option of fitting batteries to Voyager DEMUs for use in stations.

The Voyager family of trains has three members.

The trains are diesel-electric and I explore the possibility of using batteries in these trains in Have Bombardier Got A Cunning Plan For Voyagers?.

I felt is was a good plan.


In answer to the question, that I posed in the title of this post, I feel that handling regenerative braking in batteries on the train could be of benefit.












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

I’ve Been Published In Rail Magazine

Over the years, I’ve had various articles published in newspapers and magazines.

Recently, I wrote, what I intended to be a letter to Rail Magazine. They obviously liked it, as they asked me to expand it, so they could publish it as a article, under the title of Battery Benefits.

If you read this blog regularly, you will notice that I sometimes calculate the kinetic energy of a train.

I say this in the article.

I have never seen a published figure for the kinetic energy of a train!

So I laid out a calculation for a Class 345 train and the benefits of using an appropriately sized battery in electric trains in general.

I have the article as a Word Document, if anybody can’t get a hold of the magazine, which was published on July 4th.

August 4, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , | 4 Comments

Northern’s Latest Class 319 Trains

I took these pictures of the interior of a couple of Northern’s latest Class 319 trains.

The train companies certainly seem to be improving their refurbishments, as these posts show.

Personally, I hope I stick around long enough to get a ride in the following trains, that are in the line for substantial rebuilding.

And of course, I want a ride in one of Great Western Railway or ScotRail’s short-formation InterCity 125.

Will We See Any Other Substantial Rebuilds?

It would be unfair not to ask this question.

I think it would be reasonable to say that if refurbishment of the quality that has been applied to Class 319 and Class 321 trains, then train owners and their engineers could probably bring the Networkers and Voyagers, up to scratch.

If nothing else, batteries could be fitted to harness the braking energy and use if for hotel power on the train.

Bombardier have hinted, they will be doing this to Voyagers and I wrote about it in Have Bombardier Got A Cunning Plan For Voyagers?

August 2, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 2 Comments

Grayling Confirms Electrification Will Form Part Of £3bn TransPennine Upgrade

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

his is a key section of the article.

But now, in a letter to the Railway Industry Association (RIA), Grayling has finally confirmed that the TransPennine upgrade will be a “rolling programme of enhancements,” including both major civil engineering projects and electrification.

He wrote: “The key to delivering improved journey times on what is a very circuitous route through the Pennines involves rebuilding and relaying most of the track bed from Manchester to York.

“We are awaiting Network Rail’s final project plan, but we have instructed them to prioritise those elements which bring the quickest passenger benefits. This will include things like straightening lengths of track to improve line speed.”

If nothing else Chris Grayling’s comments appear to have been measured ones and not a quick response to ht out to shout down the various groups for whom nothing short of full electrification is an acceptable  solution.

The Routes Across The Pennines

There are three main routes across the Southern section of the Pennines. From North to South they are.

The Calder Valley Line from Manchester Victoria and Preston in the West to Leeds, Selby and York in the East via Hebden Bridge, Halifax and Bradford.

The Huddersfield Line from Manchester Airport, Piccadilly and Victoria in the West to Leeds, Hull and York in the East via Stalybridge, Huddersfield and Dewsbury.

The Hope Valley Line from Manchester Piccadilly in the West to Sheffield in the East.


  1. The three routes are much of a muchness with operating speeds in the region of 70-90 mph.
  2. There are good connections in the West with Blackpool, Chester, Liverpool and the West Coast Main Line.
  3. There are good connections in the East with Hull, Newcastle, York and the East Coast Main Line.
  4. Some connecting routes like the East and West Coast Main Lines are electrified 125 mph routes, but others like the connections to Chester, Hull and Scarborough are slower diesel routes.
  5. Some electrified routes like Liverpool to Manchester via Chat Moss, although they are electrified need speed improvements.
  6. The four major cities served by the three cross-Pennine routes; Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield all Have sizeable local tram or rail services.

If all these routes could be improved, they would create a core network of cross-Pennine routes.

There is also two other secondary routes that could be improved or created as diversion routes, whilst work is carried out on the main routes.

  • A conductor pointed out to me, that passenger trains can go between Blackburn and Leeds via the Ribble Valley Line and Skipton with a reverse at Hellifield station.
  • And then there’s the reopening of the route between Sklipton and Colne, which appears to be top of a lot of politicians and train companies lists.

Surely, these could be used to provide extra capacity if one of the Calder Valley or Huddersfield Lines was closed for improvement.

Some suggestions, I’ve seen about the Skipton to Colne Line, even say it could be used for freight.

I believe that with some measure of careful planning, the number of train paths across the Pennines can be increased, to an extend that would ease the improvement of the three main routes.

The Project Has A High Degree Of Difficulty and Complexity

The biggest upgrades of a UK railway in my time has been the electrification of these three main lines from London.

So how did Network Rail mess up on the Great Western, when British Rail completed the other lines without massive amounts of trouble?

Various reasons have been put forward, but I believe it has a lot ot do with the change of attitudes on the public’s behalf and new regulations in the intervening forty years.

As an example consider the electrification of the Grade II* Listed Digswell Viaduct in the 1970s. British Rail just did it and I don’t even know, if there were any objections.

Today, the Heritage lobby and various other pressure groups, would have had a field day. In the 1970s, most people accepted that the Government and Bitish Rail knew best.

Forty years ago, passengers accepted the disruption caused by works on the railways. Now they don’t and there are millions more regular travellers to complain.

Upgrading the main routes across the North have a lot of problems that will rear their ugly heads as the routes are upgraded.

  • Many of the routes are double-track lines hemmed in by cuttings, villages and towns.
  • There are large numbers of bridges, viaducts and level crossings on the routes.
  • Many of the routes have speed limits around 80 mph.
  • How good is the documentation of the routes?
  • Sitting in the middle of the routes is the Grade I Listed Huddersfield station and the Grade II Listed Hebden Bridge station.

To see the problem of these lines take the following trains.

  • Blackburn to Hebden Bridge
  • Hebden Bridge to Leeds
  • Leeds to Huddersfield
  • Huddersfield to Manchester Airport.

Take a break at the three intermediate stations.

  • Hebden Bridge station  is a gem of a Victorian station.
  • Leeds is a modern station overflowing with passengers.
  • Huddersfield station is one of the North’s great buildings.

In addition, note the number of arched stone bridges, that are probably not high enough for electrification.

To upgrade and electrify these lines is not the simpler project of say electrifying the Midland Main Line, where much of the route is in flat open country.

Throw Every Possible Proven Technique At The TransPennine Improvement

If ever there was a project, where one method doesn’t fit all, then this is that project.

Every sub-project of the work must be done in the best way for that sub-project.

Decisions must also be taken early, about factors that will influence the overall project.

I believe that Crossrail and the new South Wales Metro were designed using an holistic approach.

  • New trains have been designed in conjunction with the route.
  • Electrification has been simplified by innovations, like batteries on the trains.
  • Trains and platforms will fit each other.
  • Station design has evolved for efficient train operation.
  • Signalling will be digital to allow higher frequencies.

Because of the complexity and importance of the overall TransPennine project, only the best solutions will do!

Some will definitely not be invented here!

A few of my thoughts follow!

A Rolling Programme Of Improvements

This would be a good idea, as improvements can be done in what is the best order for all the stakeholders.

For instance there might be a bridge that will need to be replaced because it is too low and/or structurally, it is approaching the end of its life.

  • But it will cause massive disruption to replace.
  • On the other hand once replaced it might cut perhaps ten minutes from journeys passing through, as the track can be straightened.

Perhaps it will be better to bite the bullet and get this project done early? In the past, I feel Network Rail has often delayed tackling difficult projects. But if they did a good on-time job, it might help to convince people, that they mean what they say in future.

Improving The Tracks

I said earlier, that Chris Grayling wrote this.

The key to delivering improved journey times on what is a very circuitous route through the Pennines involves rebuilding and relaying most of the track bed from Manchester to York.

No building, no matter how humble or grand can be built without sound foundations.

What Chris Grayling said would be a good way to start the project.

It would give the following benefits.

  • Operating speeds might be raised in places.
  • Important loops and crossovers, that have been needed for decades could be added.
  • Structures like bridges, past their useful life could be replaced.
  • Some level crossings could be removed.

If it were done thoroughly, passengers would see reduced journey times.

The new rolling stock that is already on order for the route would be able to work the various TransPennine routes when they are delivered.

At the end of the work, Network Rail would also have a fully-surveyed railway in tip-top condition.


It is my belief that to electrify a new or well-surveyed rebuilt existing railway, is much easier than electrifying an existing route.

If parts of the improved route are to be electrified, it would be like electrifying a new railway.

These points should be noted.

  • Old mine workings and other Victorian horrors were found, when trying to electrify through Bolton.
  • On the Gospel Oak to Barking Line in North London, they found an undocumented sewer.
  • To sort out the electrification between Preston and Blackpool, Network Rail shut the route and rebuilt the railway before electrifying it.

A similar approach to Preston and Blackpool might help on sections of the main TransPennine routes.

It may be a more expensive process with all the surveying and rebuilding, but it would appear to a more safety-first approach.

The Stone Bridges And Discontinuous Electrification

I’d be very interested to know how many of those bridges could be handled using discontinuous electrification.

The wires go through the bridge in the normal way, but the section under the bridge that possibly could be a safety hazard, is earthed so that there is a dead section of wire.

The section is insulated from the 25 KVAC wires on either side by something like a ceramic rod, so that the trains’ pantographs can ride through easily under the bridge.

The disadvantage is the trains need batteries for power, where there is none coming from the overhead wire.

The technique has already been earmarked for the electrification of the South Wales Metro.

Tunnel Electrification

Crossrail and the Severn Tunnel do not use conventional electrification. A rail is fixed in the roof and the pantograph runs on the rail.

The TransPennine routes have numerous tunnels and I believe that many could be electrified in this way.

It might even be possible to automate the process, as it was in the Crossrail tunnels. But they were modern concrete tunnels, not Victorian ones with uneven surfaces.

On the other hand there are a lot of old tunnels in the UK, that need to be electrified.

Viaduct Electrification

This picture shows Bank Top Viaduct in Burnley

I can’t understand why, viaducts like these aren’t electrified using a third-rail.

  • Third rail electrification works for most applications as well as overhead.
  • Working on overhead electrification on a viaduct, is not a job for some.
  • There is no visual intrusion with third rail.
  • The power could only be switched on, when a train is connected.

On the other hand dual-voltage trains, that could switch quickly between systems at line speed would be needed.

Station Electrification

I also think that third-rail electrification can be used in stations where overhead electrification would be difficult or intrusive.

Battery,Bi-Mode And Hydrogen Trains

Train manufacturers are not stupid and want to increase their profits.

  • Alstom are developing fleets of hydrogen trains.
  • Bombardier are developing 125 mph bi-mode trains with batteries.
  • CAF are developing battery and bi-mode trains.
  • Stadler are developing trains with batteries and/or diesel power.

I suspect all these companies and others, see more trains can be sold, if innovative trains can run without the necessity of full electrification.

I also suspect many rail operators would prefer to spend money on shiny new trains, than on disruptive and ugly electrification.

Remember too, that batteries will improve.


I can see several techniques that could be applied to make electrification of some parts of the TransPennine routes.


July 25, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 3 Comments

Class 230 Trains On The Conwy Valley Line

I suspect to some people, the use of Class 230 trains, which are rebuilt London Underground D78 Stock on the Conwy Valley Line is a challenge to far.

Class 230 Trains

I wrote about these trains in First D-Train With Transport for Wales In March 2019, where I stated that the train formation will be.

  • DM – Driving Motor with battery
  • T – Trailer with four generators
  • DM – Driving Motor with battery

As the trains will have regenerative braking, this will be used to help charge the batteries.

Note that batteries and traction motors are only in the Driving Motor cars.

The Conwy Valley Line

The route of the single-track Conwy Valley Line can be summsarised as follows.

  • From Llandudno to Llanrwst it is a fairly level route alongside the River Conwy.
  • From Llanwrst the line climbs to a 240 metre summit in the Ffestiniog tunnel, with gradients as steep as 1-in-47.
  • From the summit, the train descends into Blaenau Ffestiniog with gradients as steep as 1-in-43.

It has some of the characteristics of a roller-coaster.

Class 230 Trains On The Conwy Valley Line

Provided the trains can handle the gradients either side of the summit, they can just roll down the other side. During the descent, the regenerative braking will charge the batteries.

This will have the following effects.

  • Trains on the downhill sections will not need to use their diesel engines.
  • Trains waiting in Blaenau Ffestiniog station, won’t need to use their diesel engines until they start back to Llandudno.
  • I suspect some Northbound services, trains would be able to reach Llandudno without using their diesel engines.

Gravity is being used as an energy store to create an efficient railway!

Energy Of A Class 230 Train On The Conwy Valley Line

I am curious to know how much energy is needed to get a fully-loaded train up the hill from Llandudno to Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Consider the following.

  • A D78 Driving Motor car weighs 27.5 tonnes
  • A D78 Trailer car weighs 19 tonnes
  • Wikipedia says “For the Country layout, each D-train unit is to be a three-car formation, which would accommodate 163 seats along with a total capacity of 291.”
  • I assume each passenger weighs 90 Kg with baggage, buggies and bicycles.
  • I think it is fair to say that each generator and battery weighs about a tonne.
  • The summit of the line in the Ffestiniog Tunnel is 240 metres above sea level.
  • I will assume that the coastal end of the route is at sea level.

This means that the empty train weighs eighty tonnes and a full load of passengers weighs twenty-six tonnes.

Using Omni’s Potential Energy Calculator, this gives a potential energy for the train of seventy kWh, at the summit with a full load of passengers.

This figure means that if two 55 kWh batteries from a New Routemaster bus were used on the train and they were fully-charged, then they could power the train to the summit and on to Blaenau Ffestiniog.

It should be noted that Vivarail talk about using 106 kWh battery rafts on the Class 230 train.

A Few Questions

I have these questions.

Are These Class 230 Trains Serial Hybrids?

I ask this question, as it could be key to making the operation of the trains more efficient on this line.

The train would always be powered directly from the batteries.

  • The diesel engines would cut in to charge the batteries, when the battery charge level got to a certain low level.
  • The diesel engines would cut out, when the battery charge level, got to a certain high level.

As the train has four generator sets, an appropriate number could be used as required.

A well-trained driver or an intelligent control system could make these trains very efficient.

In this article on RAIL Magazine, this is stated.

Shooter told RAIL that the trains will save around 20% on fuel consumption.

Adrian Shooter is Chairman of Vivarail, who are creating the Class 230 trains.

Possible Electrification Of The Ffestiniog Tunnel

The Class 230 trains are created from London Underground D78 Stock and I suspect it would be possible for the Class 230 trains to be powered by third-rail electrification.

The Ffestiniog Tunnel is the summit of the Conwy Valley Line.

  • It is a single-track.
  • It is 3.5 kilometres long.
  • One end of the tunnel is close to Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Would it be a sensible idea to electrify the tunnel either fully or partially, to top up the batteries?


  • The third-rail electrification would be no intrusion in the landscape.
  • The electrification could only be switched on when a train is present.
  • I don’t think supplying power would be difficult.
  • There could be less need to run on diesel.

The electrification could even be extended to wards Blaenau Ffestiniog station, so that trains leaving the station could have electrical power to climb to the summit.

Will The Class 230 Trains Attract Passengers?

I think that the Class 230 trains have several passenger-friendly features.

  • All new interiors.
  • Ten percent more seats and almost twice the capacity.
  • Lots of space for bicycles
  • Large windows
  • Wi-fi and power sockets
  • Accessible toilet

Hopefully, there will also be step-free access between train and platform.

This package of improvements should encourage more to travel.

I also suspect, that having a decent train with a novelty appeal that connects to the Ffestiniog Railway will tap a new market of travellers.


I have no doubt, that Class 230 trains will be able to provide a successful service on the Conwy Valley Line.





July 24, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Will Greater Anglia Fit Batteries To Their Class 755 Trains?

Greater Anglia have ordered the following Class 755 trains.

  • 14 x three-car trains with two diesel engines in the power-pack
  • 24 x four-car trains with four diesel engines in the power-pack

The power-pack would appear to have four slots, each of which could take.

  • A V8 16-litre Deutz diesel that can produce 478 kW and weighs 1.3 tonnes.
  • A battery of about 120 kWh, which would probably weigh about 1.2 tonnes.

I estimated the battery size , by using typical battery energy densities for a battery of similar weight to the diesel engine.

The KeolisAmey Wales Tri-Mode Flirts

The Tri-Mode Flirts ordered by KeolisAmey Wales can use either electric, diesel or battery power.

From the pictures it appears that these trains have the same basic structure as the Class 755 trains.

In the July 2018 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article entitled KeolisAmey Wins Welsh Franchise.

This is said about the Stadler Tri-Mode Flirts on the South Wales Metro.

The units will be able to run for 40 miles between charging, thanks to their three large batteries.

So does this mean that these Flirts have just one Deutz diesel engine of 478 kW and three batteries in the four slots of the power-pack?

These trains will run between Penarth and Rhymney stations.

  • I estimate about half the route will be electrified.
  • Penarth to the electrification at Cardiff is under ten miles.
  • The trains will work on battery power from Ystrad Mynach to Rhymney, which is ten miles up the hill.
  • Coming down from Rhymney, Newton’s friend will give assistance.

This seems a challenging task, but it must be possible, even after an important rugby match in Cardiff.

I think it is true to say, that these Tri-Mode Flirts are no wimps.

Greater Anglia’s Flirts And Batteries

Four-Car Flirts

The four-car Class 755 trains don’t have a spare slot, as they have four engines.

I also suspect the four-car trains will tend to serve the longer routes or those with more passengers.

  • Colchester and Peterborough
  • Stansted Airport and Norwich
  • Ipswich and Cambridge
  • Lowestoft and London via Ipswich
  • Norwich and Lowestoft
  • Norwich and Great Yarmouth


  • These routes are partially-electrified.
  • These routes don’t have challenging terrain.
  • Except for Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth, all end stations are electrified.
  • A short length of electrification could be installed at Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth stations.

I wonder if one of the diesel engines were to be replaced with a battery, by capturing and reusing the regenerative braking energy, this could improve the economics of running the services.

In Tri-Mode Stadler Flirts, I estimated the following.

  • A four-car Tri-Mode Flirt will weigh around 150 tonnes.
  • I will assume 250 passengers at 90 Kg. each with all their baggage, which gives a weight of 22.5 tonnes.
  • This gives a total rain weight  of 172.5 tonnes.
  • The train is running at 100 mph.

This gives a kinetic energy of 48 kWh.

This would mean that a single 120 kWh battery could easily handle the regenerative braking and use the energy for the following purposes.

  • Hotel power, which includes the power to run passenger and train systems.
  • Traction power on sections, where low noise is important.
  • Traction power, if there is overhead electrification failure.
  • Short movements in depots and sidings.

I think that once Stadler have got their Tri-Mode Flirts working, that replacing one diesel with a battery in four-car Class 755 trains may be a sensible decision.

Lowestoft And London Via Ipswich

When the Class 755 trains are running services, there will be four direct trains per day from Lowestoft to London via Ipswich.

I will assume the following.

  • There will also be four trains in both directions.
  • An hourly service operates between Lowestoft and Ipswich
  • Lowestoft to Ipswich will take the current 90 minutes.
  • Greater Anglia will meet their promise of Ipswich to London in 60 minutes.
  • The first train currently leaves Lowestoft just after five in the morning.
  • The last train currently arrives at Lowestoft just before midnight.

For one train to do four round trips between five in the morning and midnight would need a round trip of around four hours and thirty minutes, which would mean that a time of around seventy minutes is needed between Ipswich and Lowestoft.

That is extraordinarily challenging.

But I think that could be Greater Anglia’s ultimate aim.

  • There must be savings of a minute or two at each of the nine stations between Ipswich and Lowestoft.
  • Some trains could be limited stop.
  • The current maximum speed on the East Suffolk Line is just 55 mph and could probably be increased in places.
  • The 100 mph Class 755 trains are quicker and probably accelerate and stop faster, than the current 75 mph Class 150 trains.
  • Trains turn at Liverpool Street in under five minutes.

If it can be done, then the four trains per day between Lowestoft and London can be run with just one train.

Would batteries help the achievement of this aim?

They might do! But they would certainly improve the electrical efficiency and cut the amount of running of the diesel engines.

Three-Car Flirts

The three-car Class 755 trains have two spare slots, as they have two engines.

I would expect that the three-car trains would be used on the shorter routes and those with less passengers.

  • Colchester Town and Sudbury
  • Ipswich and Felixstowe
  • Norwich and Sheringham via Cromer

To my mind the first two routes stand out for battery operation.

Ipswich and Felixstowe

Consider the following about the service between Ipswich and Felixstowe stations.

  • The Felixstowe Branch is just over twelve miles long.
  • There is one train per hour (tph) each way.
  • It takes the current trains abut 26-29 minutes to do the journey.
  • Currently, one train can provide the service.

In The New Trimley Freight Loop And Trimley Station, I talk about how a 1.4 km loop is being built to allow more freight trains to use the branch.

I also feel that there could be a second path in each hour for passenger trains, which would help reliability

But it also might make it possible to run a two tph service with two trains.

I also think, that if it was felt worthwhile, that this route could be run on battery power, charging at Ipswich and possibly with a short length of electrification in Felixstowe.

The advantages would be

  • Diesel-free running.
  • Less noise.
  • The environmentally friendly trains may attract new passengers.

As with the trains on the South Wales Metro, they’d probably have one diesel engine and three large batteries.

Knowing the bicycle-friendly contours of the centre of Ipswich and Felixstowe as I do, the trains would probably need adequate capacity for bikes.

Colchester Town And Sudbury

I am sure that this new route between Colchester Town and Sudbury stations has been designed for a battery train.


  • A direct run between Colchester Town and Sudbury would probably take 45 minutes.
  • Over half the route would be electrified.
  • The Gainsborough Line is just eleven miles long.
  • A silent battery train would be ideal for the rural route.

A Class 755 train could leave the Great Eastern Main Line at Marks Tey with full batteries, go both ways on the branch and then return to Colchester Town using the electrification.

Norwich And Sheringham Via Cromer

At thirty miles, the Bittern Line is probably too long for running totally on batteries.

But one battery handling regenerative braking would make the train more environmentally friendly.


Batteries would make the Class 755 trains more economical and environmentally-friendly to run, but with the exception of the Felixstowe and Sudbury branches, I suspect that the routes are too long for pure battery power.

I do believe that Greater Anglia knew about Stadler’s concept for fitting batteries on Class 755 trains before they ordered the trains.

As this opens up possibilities for the future and the ability to be more environmentally-friendly and fiscally efficient, I suspect it was a factor in their decision to buy the trains.







July 18, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment