The Anonymous Widower

Hydroflex Takes To The Main Line

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in the November 2020 Edition of Modern Railways.

This is the opening paragraph.

Hydroflex, the UK;s first full-size hydrogen train, made its debut on the main line on 21 September, travelling from Long Marston to Evesham and back.

This looks like a good start.

I am not surprised that the conversion was designed and built by Birmingham University.

Look at this picture of myself in front of a detector in the Large Haldron Collidor at CERN in Geneva.

Much of the detector was built in the workshops at Liverpool University.

The quality of engineering in most universities is very high, which is surely a good omen for the future.

Work in Birmingham on Hydroflex seems to be proceeding apace, with the following objectives.

  • More automation.
  • Moving the hydrogen drive train components to rafts under the driving cars.
  • Improving operating speed from the current 50 mph.

There is also this significant paragraph that quotes Helen Simpson of Porterbrook.

‘At Porterbrook we want to present a fleet of hydrogen trains as a commercial offering to operators’ Ms. Simpson adds, noting that moving equipment out of passenger saloons is an important element of this. Porterbrook will apply learning from its Class 769 electric/diesel bi-mode units, which have placed diesel engines beneath the driving vehicles. Ms. Simpson does not rule out retro-fitment on other classes of train, but notes a lot of work has been undertaken on converting 319s’.

The big difference between the Hydroflex and the Alstom Coradia iLint, is that the Hydroflex retains the capability to use overhead electrification, so the hydrogen power can be used as a range extender.

 

 

November 10, 2020 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Hydrogen-Powered Train Makes UK Maiden Journey

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

This is said in the article.

A hydrogen-powered train has travelled on Britain’s rail network for the first time.

The prototype, called the Hydroflex, made a 25-mile round trip through Warwickshire and Worcestershire, reaching speeds of up to 50 mph.

Its next phase is to move the hydrogen tanks, fuel cell and battery out of a carriage and stash them underneath the train.

The aim is for the train to start carrying paying passengers by the end of 2021.

Note that the article contains a broadcast-quality video.

There are now two hydrogen-powered trains in development in the UK.

Both the trains being converted are British Rail trains based on the Mark 3 coach design.

  • They were built originally in the 1980s and 1990s.
  • They were built for commuting over medium distances.
  • They are 100 mph trains.
  • They will keep their pantographs, so running using 25 KVAC overhead electrification.

Both trains could be fitted with quality interiors.

But from what has been disclosed the designs will be quite different.

  • The Class 799 train will be four cars, as opposed to three cars of the Class 600 train.
  • The Class 600 trains will have large hydrogen tanks inside the train, whereas the Class 799 train will have smaller ones underneath the train.
  • I would expect the Class 600 train to have a longer range between refuelling.
  • The Class 799 train will also be a tri-mode train, with the ability to use 750 VDC third-rail electrification.

As there are nearly over a hundred Class 321 trains and nearly ninety Class 319 trains, if the hydrogen conversion is successful, we could be seeing a lot of hydrogen trains on the UK rail network.

October 1, 2020 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The World’s First Bi-Mode Hydrogen-Electric Train

This news page on the University of Birmingham web site is entitled HydroFLEX Secures Funding For Hydrogen-Powered Train Design.

The page is mainly about the new funding from Innovate UK, that I wrote about in First Of A Kind Funding Awarded For 25 Rail Innovation Projects, but it also includes this significant paragraph.

As well as being the UK’s first hydrogen-powered train, HydroFLEX is also the world’s first bi-mode electric hydrogen train. It will be undergoing mainline testing on the UK railway in the next few weeks.

One of my disappointments in the design of the Alstom Coradia iLint, is that, it is designed as a hydrogen-power only train, where it could surely have had a pantograph fitted, for more efficient working.

Consider.

  • I suspect many hydrogen-powered trains will only be doing short distances, where electrification is not available, so daily distances under hydrogen power could be quite short.
  • In the UK, a smaller hydrogen tank would certainly ease the design problems caused by a large fuel tank.
  • There have been improvements in hydrogen storage in recent years.

The funding award to the project talks about raft production, so are the engineers, aiming to design a hydrogen power-pack on rafts, that could be fitted underneath the large fleets of retired electric multiple units, that are owned by Porterbrook.

Now that would be a game changer.

  • Porterbrook have thirty-seven Class 350 trains, that will be replaced in the next few years by new trains. The electric trains are less than a dozen years old and Porterbrook have been talking about fitting batteries to these trains and creating a battery/FLEX train. Would making these trains bi-mode hydrogen-electric trains be better?
  • Birmingham wants to open up new rail routes in the city on lines without electrification. What would be better than a hydrogen powered train, designed in the city’s premier university?
  • Routes from Birmingham to Burton-on-Trent, Hereford, Leicester, Shrewsbury, Stratford-on-Avon and Worcester would be prime candidates for the deployment of a fleet of bi-mode hydrogen-electric trains.
  • Birmingham have already asked ITM Power to build a hydrogen filling station in the city for hydrogen buses.

 

June 18, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

First Of A Kind Funding Awarded For 25 Rail Innovation Projects

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

The Department for Transport and Innovate UK have announced the 25 projects which are to share £9·4m of funding under the 2020 round of the First of a Kind rail industry innovation programme.

It appears to be a longer list, than I’ve seen previously awarded.

Project 1 Train Swap From Seatfrog Ops

Seatfrog is an app, that enables passengers to quickly and remotely update their seat reservation to a different service.

It already appears to be in use with Avanti West Coast, CrossCountry, GWR and LNER.

This application could have legs, as it looks a bit like eBay for First Class seats.

Project 2 Dynamic Capacity Management From Esoterix Systems Ltd

It is described as follows.

Ticketing that adjusts to travel patterns and rewards particular choices, using a monthly subscription that will help customers to save money on a large upfront fee.

Their web site doesn’t give much specific detail, as I write this.

Project 3 Next Generation Composite Poles For A 5G Enabled Railway From Hive Composites

It is descrtibed as follows.

Installation of lightweight composite poles along railways to improve wi-fi speed, consistency and connectivity.

Their web site doesn’t give more specific detail, as I write this.

Project 4 Illumin Heated Concrete Platform Coper Slabs From Sheffield Hallam University

It is described as follows.

Illuminated and heated low-energy concrete slabs for station platforms, which automatically switch on in freezing conditions to help prevent passengers from slipping on ice.

The Sheffield Hallam University doesn’t give more specific detail, as I write this.

Project 5 LAMINAR From iProov

It is described as follows.

iProov, WorldReach Software and Eurostar are to establish a walk-through ’facial biometric corridor’ at London St Pancras International to allow passengers to complete ticket checks and border exit processes without needing to come into contact with people or hardware.

There is more on the iProov web site.

I think, this could be the way to ensure safe train travel in these pandemic times.

It would certainly cut queues.

Project 6 Track-To-Train Communications To Transport for Wales From Ingram Networks

It is described as follows.

Lab-based study into cost-effective 10 Gbps+ trackside to train communications infrastructure, to be tested on an 8 km heritage railway in Leicestershire.

Their web site doesn’t give more specific detail, as I write this.

Project 7 Prototype Zero Emissions Trac Rail Transposer (TRT-e) From Unipart Rail

This is described as follows.

A zero-emissions machine which removes and replaces rails.

The Unipart Rail web site, doesn’t give more specific details as I write this

Will it be battery or hydrogen-powered?

Project 8 LoCe: Less Oil, Cleaner Exhaust From Porterbrook Leasing

This is described as follows.

£400 000 to support Porterbook, Eminox, Bosch Rexroth and DG8 in retrofitting a Bombardier Class 170 Turbostar DMUs leased to East Midlands Railway with with Eminox SCRT technology to evaluate whether this can reduce CO, particulate, hydrocarbon and NOx emissions to make mid-life diesel engines more environmentally sustainable.

There is more on Porterbrook’s web site.

Project 9 Zero Emission Rail Freight Power From Steamology Motion

This is described as follows.

Hydrogen-based steam turbine system to provide zero emission power for existing freight locomotives.

In Steam, But Not As You Know It…, I give more details of their technology.

Could Steamology Motion really be on the verge of reengining a Class 66 locomotive with a zero-carbon steam technology that uses hydrogen and oxygen as a fuel?

Project 10 Daybreak From Riding Sunbeams

This is described as follows.

A direct connection between renewable energy generation and overhead electrifcation systems.

There is more on this page on the Riding Sunbeams web site.

Project 11 Resi-Glaze From FAR-UK

This is described as follows.

Resilient glazing solution to ensure passenger safety on trains and a potential CO2 emissions saving.

I can’t find anything more about this.

Project 12 HydroFLEX Raft Production From BCRRE

This is described as follows.

£400 000 grant to support final production design and testing  by the University of Birmingham and Porterbrook of a hydrogen power pack intended to minimise the loss of passenger saloon space.

Just reading the extract, it seems that the University of Birmingham have found a solution to the big problem of hydrogen-powered trains in the UK; the small loading gauge.

Project 13 Low Environmental Impact Composite  Footbridge From Associated Utility Supplies

This is described as follows.

A footbridge made entirely from fibre reinforced polymer, which is designed to be significantly easier to install than an equivalent steel bridge to help reduce network disruption and local environmental damage.

Could their share of the £9.4 million, almost build the first footbridge?

Looking at the Associated Utility Supplies web site, amongst the wide range of equipment, that they source for various industries, where danger is ever present, there are no footbridges.

So did their expertise and that of some Network Rail engineers, all come together in a convivial meeting to produce an innovative design of footbridge?

Project 14 Integrated Optical Fibre Sensing (OptRail-PRO) From rcm2

This is described as follows.

Optic fibre sensors to monitor the condition of switches and crossings.

The rcm2 web site doesn’t give more specific details, as I write this.

Project 15 Train Axle Crack Monitoring From TAMON – Perpetuum

This is described as follows.

Using sensors and pattern-recognition technologies to identify cracks in axles, helping to reduce returns to depot.

Perpetuum seem a very capable company.

Project 16 High Speed Cryogenic Blasting For Rail Cleaning To Alleviate Low Adhesion From Sheffield University

This is described as follows.

High speed cryogenic cleaning system for tracks to prevent low adhesion and slow running of trains.

This article on the BBC, which is entitled Dry ice ‘could stop leaves on line rail delays’, explains the technology.

Dry Ice Blasting is also explained on this page on the IceTech Technologies web site.

As the dry ice is carbon dioxide, will the Green Movement object?

The Wikipedia entry for dry ice blasting says this about its environmental effects.

Dry ice blasting is an environmentally responsible cleaning method. Dry ice is made of reclaimed carbon dioxide that is produced from other industrial processes, and is an approved media by the EPA, FDA and USDA. It also reduces or eliminates employee exposure to the use of chemical cleaning agents.

Compared to other media blasting methods, dry ice blasting does not create secondary waste or chemical residues as dry ice sublimates, or converts back to a gaseous state, when it hits the surface that is being cleaned. Dry ice blasting does not require clean-up of a blasting medium. The waste products, which includes just the dislodged media, can be swept up, vacuumed or washed away depending on the containment.

It appears it could be one of those processes, that when it replaces a traditional method, has more benefits than disadvantages.

Project 17 InnoTamp From Fugro

This is described as follows.

Data gathering to ensure the maintenance of optimum rail alignment.

The project is described on this page of the  Fugro web site.

Prokject 18 Thermal Radiometry For The Remote Condition Monitoring Of Railway Vehicles From Rail Innovations

This is described as follows.

Using thermal radiometry camera technology to measure temperatures of mechanical systems on moving trains, sending automatic alarms in the event of over heating.

I can’t find any more information on this project.

Project 19 Minimising Disruption Of Overhead Line Renewals Via Novel Headspan Assemblies From Associated Utility Supplies

This is described as follows.

Span wire clamping system to enable rapid, low-cost overhead line equipment headspan renewals with minimum network disruption.

This is a second project from the same company.

Project 20 Trainserv Software User Trial And Preparation For Commercialisation From Cogitaire

This is described as follows.

Integrating multiple sources of real-time data for use by rail workers to help them improve services and respond to incidents.

Cogitare seem a very capable company.

Project 21 Cleartrak On-Train Testing From Garrandale

This is described as follows.

Innovative and efficient system for processing toilet waste, reducing cost and maintenance requirements.

Ptoject 22 IRIS: Information System For Railway Station Staff From Liverpool John Moores University

This is described as follows.

An information system for frontline station staff to enhance communication and enable them to help passengers in making travel decisions and planning more effectively.

Another project from a University.

Project 23 Railway Optical Detection & Obstructions – Tunnel & Station Monitoring From Vortex IoT

This is described as follows.

Sensors and data analysis tools to detect and identify intrusion and obstructions on the track, and send real-time situational alerts to the rail control centre to prompt further investigation. 

This page on the Vortex IoT web site shows some of the technology they will use.

Project 24 Improving Resilience Through A Surface Water Flooding Decision Support System from IBA Consulting

This is described as follows.

This project seeks to develop a first of a kind surface water flood forecasting and early warning system for Network Rail using technology and data to map the surface water flood likelihood in real time, ahead of the event and forecast rainfall intensity.

I can’t find the company or this project.

Project 25 Improved Railway Operations Through Train-Mounted Water Addition From CoCatalyst

This is described as follows.

Spraying a small amount of water from the train when slippery rails are detected to improve traction and braking, and prevent subsequent services from being affected.

There’s a detailed description on this page on the Water=Trak web site.

This looks to be a simple idea, that may be significant, to stop wheel slippage.

Conclusion

The ideas are more numerous than usual and they are a very wide-ranging bunch.

In Grants To Support Low-Carbon Technology Demonstrators, which were a similar group in 2019, that were also funded by Innovate UK, there were only five projects.

I also feel, some could have significant export opportunities.

 

 

June 18, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 11 Comments

Universities Study Options For Battery Traction To Replace Diesel

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

A three-month study of the extent to which battery-powered trains could replace diesel traction in Germany is being undertaken through a collaboration between rolling stock financing company Rock Rail, Technische Universität Dresden and the UK’s University of Birmingham.

In some ways, two Universities and one rolling stock leasing company are strange bedfellows for a study of trains in Germany.

But then Rock Rail are a very successful and surprisingly innovative company, who appear to know their trains. This sentence, is taken from the home page of their web site.

Rock Rail works closely with the franchise train operators and manufacturers to ensure a collaborative approach to design, manufacture and acceptance of the new state of the art trains on time and to budget.

They have certainly been involved in several large fleet orders in the last few years.

I have a feeling that this study will lead to sensible and workable conclusions, that may well have lessons for the UK.

June 5, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

BCRRE Recognised for its HydroFLEX Work

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on H2-View.

This is the introductory paragraph.

The Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) at the University of Birmingham has been recognised in the Guardian University Awards 2020 for its work in the UK’s first hydrogen powered train, HydroFLEX.

From my monitoring of the various hydrogen developments and their prominence, it appears that all questions are being explored and that hydrogen will have an extensive future on both rail and the road.

March 17, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

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 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rail Research At Birmingham University

In Issue 898 of Rail Magazine, there is an article entitled Full Steam Ahead, which discusses the the work at the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research an Education (BCRRE).

Amongst many subjects three are mentioned where I have a big interest.

Aerodynamics

The article says this.

Aerodynamics is also an important area for research, as any reduction in drag and air resistance due to structures will improve the energy efficiency of rail vehicles.

I very much agree with this approach.

I also feel that due to their low noise profiles as they pass by, that Bombardier have applied aerodynamic knowledge, perhaps from their aircraft engineers, to the design of the new Aventra.

Hydrogen Supplies For Hydrogen-Powered Trains

The article says this.

Funding has also been secured from Innovate UK to create a company that can provide the necessary infrastructure needed to support hydrogen trains, including fuelling stations and hydrogen generation facilities.

This sounds very similar to the systems that ITM Power ae deploying for Shell to fuel hydrogen buses, cars and other vehicles.

I hope that there is not too much duplication going on.

Working With Michigan State University And Stadler To Bring Hydrogen Trains To California

Co-operation is always good and especially in rail projects, where the number of trains involved is fairly small.

A Quote From Dr. Stuart Hillmansen of BCRRE

This quote is in the article.

Is is possible to completely decarbonise, by using electrolysis that is powered using renewable energy to create the fuel.

I completely agree with that!

Conclusion

I would hope that the BCRRE develops into a one step shop for the solution of rail related problems.

It does seem that by putting various areas of expertise together, they could be a go-to institution for those that want to built a hydrogen-powered rail service.

February 16, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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 | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Rail Testing Scheme Launched For Small Businesses

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

This is the first two paragraphs.

Businesses in the West Midlands are being offered subsidised access to test and trial facilities as a way to boost railway innovation.

The University of Birmingham has joined forces with Quinton Rail Technology Centre (QRTC) to offer access to the UK’s only privately owned and independent outdoor rail testing and trialling site.

There would appear to be one major condition, companies must be signed up to the DIGI-RAIL program at the Uiversity of Birmingham.

I think this concept is an excellent idea, as often finding a way to test a new product, is the most difficult part of the development process.

But why restrict the process to rail developments?

I have had friends in Cambridge, who have been involved in medical developments.

Finding a route to test their product, often means finding an overseas partner, as much of the NHS and its research partners almost have a policy to exclude, ideas that they didn’t think of.

As someone, who helped fund the successful development of a metered-dose inhaler for asthma drugs, I can honestly say, we would have been greatly helped by a far-sighted agency attached to a reputable University.

 

September 25, 2019 Posted by | Health, Transport | , , | 2 Comments