The Anonymous Widower

Raw Material For Southern’s Battery Trains

Porterbrook and Southern are proposing to convert a number of Class 377/3 trains to battery operation for the Uckfield Branch and the Marshlink Line, as I wrote about in Electroflex Battery EMU Plan To End Southern Diesel Operation.

This morning I took a ride in a ten-car Class 377 train formed by two three-car Class 377/3 units and one Class 377/4.

I will split my observations into various sections.

First Class

There is a small First Class section.

Is this really needed in a three-car train, considering that some franchises are going for one-class trains?

Gangways

On the Uckfield Branch and the Marshlink Line, I suspect that trains will work in multiple formations, so the gangway will be useful to allow passengers to pass between individual trains.

Interior

The interior is reasonably modern, as the trains were originally built in 2001-2002 and they meet all of the persons of reduced mobility legislation.

Multiple Working

The train I rode on consisted of three Class 377 Trains working together, so it would appear that six, nine and twelve car trains may be possible.

Tables And Cup-Holders

I would prefer full-size tables and perhaps these could be fitted, during the conversion, like they are in some Class 377 trains.

If not tables, then how about some cup-holders?

Universal Access Toilet

A universal-access toilet is fitted in the middle car.

Wi-Fi

Wi-fi appears to be fitted.

25 KVAC Operation

Although the trains are currently configured for operation on 750 VDC trird-rail electrification, these trains can be converted to run on 25 KVAC overhead electrification.

This would obviously mean that if the trains were no longer needed in Sussex, they could run anywhere else, where there is electrification.

Conclusion

They are a well-equipped train.

It would appear that very little will need to be done to the interior of the train in the conversion.

First may be downgraded to standard and I would fit full tables.

The operator would do what they wanted.

 

January 27, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who Needs Wires?

I went to Birmingham today to look at the recently-opened  extension of the West Midlands Metro, which runs from outside Birmingham New Street station to Birmingham Library on battery power.

Note.

  1. Pavements, tram stop furniture and other details need to be finished.
  2. There no wires between near to New Street station and the Birmingham Library tram stop.
  3. The route is double-track.
  4. The stops all have two platforms.
  5. The route will be extended past Birmingham Library and on to new stops at Brinfleyplace, Five Ways and Edgbaston,
  6. The last three pictures show the pantograph being lowered outside New Street station.

These are my thoughts on other areas.

Battery Installation

The batteries appear to be on the roof of the two end sections of the trams.

They don’t appear to be very large, so it looks to me that CAF have taken great trouble with the design.

After all, the batteries were fitted to the trams by maintenance staff at West Midlands Metro, after one tram was converted in Spain.

Battery Operation

I observed the following.

  • Birmingham Library tram stop doesn’t appear to have a charging station.
  • Trams running towards Birmingham Library tram stop, drop the pantopgraph at New Street station.
  • Although I didn’t see it, trams going in the other direction, probably raise the pantograh at New Street station.
  • I would assume that trams leave New Street station for Birmingham Library,  with full batteries, that have been charged on the way from Wolverhampton.
  • Trams appear to have no problem climbing from New Street station to the Town Hall tram stop.
  • If required trams could coast down the hill to New Street station.

The operation on battery power appears to be very simple.

Note that there are three other tram systems, that use these CAF Urbos 3 trams, that use batteries; Granada, Luxembourg and Seville.

There will surely be others, judging by the quality I saw in Birmingham.

Noise On Battery Power

Like other battery-powered vehicles, that I’ve ridden, they seem to be very quiet, when running on batteries. I suspect, that with the pantograph safely down in its hole, a lot of clanking and screeching doesn’t happen.

The Location Of The Temporary Terminus

The Birmingham Library tram stop makes an excellent temporary terminus.

  • It is at the top of the hill, so will surely attract passengers, not wanting to walk all the way up.
  • It is not far from the library, conference hall, conference centre and the restaurants on Brindleyplace.
  • The tracks can be easily extended to Edgbaston.
  • There is a crossover to allow trams to be turned back in either platform.
  • There are also no need for wires at the tram stop.

I also think, that if there are no wires on the extension from Birmingham Library tram stop, that the building of the extension could be much simpler.

The New Extension Opened Early

I’m fairly certain, that the newly-opened section of track is completely without wires.

  • Did this simplify testing and allow the extension to open a few days early, once staff training had been completed?
  • It certainly allows revenue to be collected earlier.
  • Have the battery modifications to the trams been designed so that the full extension can be handled on battery power?
  • Does this mean that the route can be built and tested in sections, by just laying the track and testing it?

If this is the plan, it is rather elegant and could save construction costs and testing time.

Extending The Edinburgh Tram

Is a similar construction plan to be used on the Edinburgh trams for their extension?

The trams are all built by CAF, which must help..

Conclusion

Birmingham must now have one of the best City Centre tram in the world.

  • The batteries are charged on the long run between Birmingham and Wolverhampton.
  • The changeover between battery and overhead power happens at a busy stop, so doesn’t delay the tram.
  • There is sufficient power to climb the hill from New Street station to Birmingham Library.

It’s a much better system than the MetroCentro in Seville, which was also built by CAF. But that is now twelve years old and is only about as long as Birmingham’s current section without wires.

These pictures show the charging system in Seville from my post called Seville’s Elegant Trams.

Seville’s trams have to charge the battery at every stop and I suspect the technology could be used in the West Midlands if needed.

Are we also seeing an innovative construction method for a tram system?

  • An electrified core is built first.
  • Battery trains can be tested on an electrified line with the pantograph down.
  • The initial line is then extended, as required at the ends using plain track and battery operation.
  • The extension is done gradually in sections to allow full testing.

It should be possible to save construction time and project cost.

December 13, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Plans To Reopen The Brentford To Southall Railway

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

I have posted on the Brentford Branch Line several times previously and Ian says this about Hounslow Council’s thinking.

The council has been working on a scheme for some years to resurrect the line, with a new station built in Brentford and passenger services restored to Southall. A key factor for the plans is that Southall will then be on the Elizabeth line, which they hope will drive a lot more traffic on the spur down to Brentford.

In order to part-fund the 4-mile railway, Hounslow Council has now agreed to undertake a full business case to look at introducing a Workplace Parking Levy (WPL) within the Great West Corridor (GWC).

In my trips to document the updating of Syon Lane station with a new step-free footbridge, I have talked to several people, who would find a rail link to Southall useful.

Ian also says this about the latest situation.

As part of the proposal, the council has also commissioned Network Rail to begin a detailed study (known as ‘GRIP 4’) on building the new train link from Brentford to Southall, following encouraging early studies into the feasibility of such a link.

At least, this will give the Hounslow a list of all the problems and a cost estimate.

A few of my thoughts.

What Should Be The Frequency Of The Service?

The current truncated Brentford Branch Line is mainly single track, but from my helicopter, it appears that there would be space to add an additional track for as much of the route as required.

Preferably, there should be a service on the branch of at least two trains per hour (tph). Although, ideally four tph is much better, as it attracts passengers in large numbers.

It should be noted that from December 2019, there will be four tph on Crossrail calling at at Southall station all day. Connections should surely be well-arranged.

Four tph would be possible between two single platforms at Southall and Brentford, but would require selective doubling or passing loops to accommodate the service and the freight trains going to Brentford.

This Google Map shows the various sites clustered around the branch.

The branch runs from the North-West to the South-East across the map.

  • The Great West Road is a couple of hundred metres to the South.
  • To the East of the branch, there are a collection of waste and scrap metal transfer sites, aggregate and concrete sites and others that hide away in big cities.
  • To the West is the massive Sky Studios complex.

I do wonder, if Sky would like a station? If they did, this would surely mean that a four tph service would be required.

What Is The Future Of The Industrial Site?

Because of London’s thirst for land for housing and office developments, sites like this inevitably get developed.

With its position between the River Brent and parkland, and the Brentford Branch Line, I believe that if new sites can be found for the various tenants, that this site could be a high quality housing development.

An intermediate station would surely be required.

Could An Intermediate Station Serve Both The Brentford Branch Line And The Piccadilly Line?

This Google Map shows where the two lines cross.

 

Note.

  1. The Northern tip of the industrial site is just visible.
  2. The Brentford Branch Line has three tracks under the Piccadilly Line,
  3. There is no pedestrian bridge over the River Brent.

I think it would be possible, if the industrial site were to be developed for housing or perhaps a hotel, for a simple interchange station to be built here.

  • There would be an island platform on the Brentford Branch Line.
  • There would be two side platforms on the Piccadilly Line,
  • There would be lifts and stairs between the three platforms.
  • There could be a second entrance on the Eastern bank of the River Brent.

I feel that a decent architect could make this a very nice place to live. After all, it’s only six intermediate stops between Boston Manor and Heathrow.

What Should Be The Terminus Of The Branch?

I believe that the branch should terminate as close to the River as is possible.

  • There is a lot of new housing being constructed in Brentford.
  • I believe that Thames Clippers will eventually extend their river-boat services to Brentford and Kew.

But the problem would be that this would need an expensive bridge over the Great West Road.

These pictures show the Great West Road, where the current Brentford Branch Line finishes.

The tracks finish about a hundred metres North of the road, as shown on this Google Map.

The rusty footbridge over the busy road can be clearly seen.

Initially, I believe that the passenger service should terminate at the Great West Road.

If I was designing the station, I would build it much like the Deptford Bridge DLR station.

  • It would be on a bridge above the Great West Road.
  • It would be suspended from step-free towers on either side of the road.
  • Would it only need to be a single platform station?
  • The pavements on either side of the Great West Road would be improved to create a better walking environment.
  • If possible a walking and cycling route to Brentford and the River would be provided.
  • The design would leave provision to extend the railway South.

I also think, that it could be designed to enhance the collection of Art Deco and modern buildings in the area.

Could The Service Go Further Than The Great West Road?

This Google Map shows the former route of Brentford Branch Line, from just North of the Great West Road to the centre of Brentford.

Note.

  1. The former route is very green on the map.
  2. The Hounslow Loop Line crossing parallel and a few hundred metres South of the Great West Road.
  3. The only building on the route is some retail sheds between the Great West Road and the Hounslow Loop Line.
  4. To the \east of the Brentford Branch Line is a large and semi-derilict bus garage.

I’m sure that the railway could be extended through this area, as it is developed with housing and offices or parkland.

Could The Service Go Further Than Southall?

There is a section in the Wikipedia entry for the Brentford Branch Line, which is entitled Proposed Reopening, where this is said.

In April 2017, it was proposed that the line could reopen to allow a new link between Southall to Hounslow and possibly down to the planned Old Oak Common station with a new station in Brentford called Brentford Golden Mile.  The proposals suggest the service could be operated by Great Western Railway and could be open by 2020 with a new service from Southall to Hounslow and possible later to Old Oak Common

It sounds a good idea, but it would mean trains would surely have to reverse direction and cross over to the North side.

It must be better to provide full step-free access at Southall station, which should be finished fairly soon.

Crossrail will also be providing at least four tph to and from Old Oak Common.

How Many Trains Would Be Needed?

I am pretty sure, that several train types could do a Southall and Brentford round trip in under thirty minutes.

This would mean the following.

  • For a two tph service, one train would be needed.
  • For a four tph service, two trains would be needed.

I suspect too, that a spare train would be added to the fleet.

Would The Branch Be Electrified?

I doubt it!

  • The branch is only four miles long.
  • A 100 kWh battery would probably provide enough power for a four-car train.
  • It is unlikely electric haulage will be needed for the freight trains o the branch.
  • There is 25 KVAC electrification at the Southall end of the branch to charge trains with batteries.
  • The branch is probably short enough to not need a charging point at Brentford.

In my mind, it is a classic route to run using battery power.

What Trains Could Be Used?

I feel the trains need to have the following specification.

  • Abiility to use 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • A out and back battery range of at least eight miles.
  • Three or four cars.
  • 60 mph operating speed.

There are several proposed trains that meet this specification.

Class 710 Train

The Class 710 train would be an obvious choice, if London Overground were to run the service.

But it would need the 25 KVAC electrification be added to Platform 5 at Southall station.

Class 230 Train

The Class 230 train could be a lower cost option and would only require one of Vivarail’s clever charging systems at Southall.

Class 387 Train

A modified Class 387 train would surely be a choice, If Great Western Railway were to run the service.

But as with the Class 710 train, it would need Platform 5 at Southall station to be electrified.

Class 399 Tram-Train

A Class 399 tram-train to the South Wales Metro specification is also a possibility.

But as with the Class 710 train, it would need Platform 5 at Southall station to be electrified.

However, the lighter weight vehicle with a tight turning circle might allow the route to be extended further South.

Conclusion

I am led to these conclusions.

  • Battery power is capable of working the Brentford Branch Line.
  • At least two tph is needed between Southall and Brentford.
  • The operator will choose the trains.

IBut as they are a lower-cost and simpler option, this route could be run by Class 230 trains.

 

 

September 22, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Trams Tested On New Section Of West Midlands Metro

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on the South Wales Argus.

I don’t understand why test running of the battery trams on the West Midlands Metro has been reported in South Wales.

But it does report, that the UK’s first battery trams could be running in December.

August 31, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment