The Anonymous Widower

Are Disposable Nappies A Wasted Resource?

I stated my views on disposable nappies in this post called Disposable Nappies, where this was the first sentence.

From a scientifically green point of view, in many places I’m against using disposable nappies, as they clog sewers, end up in landfill and I’ve even seen them in litter bins in parks. We used real nappies for all our three children in the seventies, washing them ourselves in a machine for the first and then using a nappy service for the last two.

But dirty nappies contain a lot of the ingredients, that can be used to make hydrocarbons.

This article from the Sunday Times in 2018 is entitled Syngas, The New Jet Fuel — Stinky Nappies And Coffee Cups.

These are the first two paragraphs of The Times article.

With their packed cabins and recycled air, long-haul passenger jets are the last place where you would want to encounter the whiff of a dirty nappy.

However, old nappies are to be used — along with other non-recyclable waste such as meal packaging and takeaway coffee cups — to power British Airways planes.

Syngas is a mixture of hydrogen, carbon monoxide and some carbon dioxide. Some countries without access to petroleum or diesel created syngas and then used the Fischer–Tropsch process to create the fuels they needed. The process doesn’t have a good reputation as the two main countries to use the process were Germany under the Nazis and South Africa during apartheid.

Why is the use of this process being revived to produce aviation biofuel or sustainable aviation fuel for British Airways?

According to Wikipedia, it can save between 20 and 98 % of carbon emissions compared to conventional jet fuel.

The same process can also make biodiesel for buses, trains and trucks

It’s certainly an area, where a lot of research is going on! Just type “syngas nappies” or “syngas diapers” into Google and you’ll get a lot of serious hits.

By my front door I have a well-designed blue bin.

This is for my food waste bin, which is collected once a week.

This page on the Hackney web site is entitled Food Waste Recycling, and this is said about where the food waste goes.

Food waste from households in Hackney is sent to an anaerobic digestion facility in south east England, where it’s turned into renewable energy to power homes and biofertiliser to be spread on local farmland to grow crops.

A similar bin of an appropriate size could be used for nappies.

The nappies would go to an appropriate recycling site, instead of down the toilet or into landfill.



July 4, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

United Airlines Eyes A Supersonic Future With Deal To Buy Boom’s Overture Jets

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

Some may feel that the future of supersonic aviation is about as rosy, as an empty glass of tap water.


  • A flight across the Atlantic in three-and-a-half hours, as is promised by the Boom Overture, is below the four-hour travel limit, where average people start to get anxious about being banged up!
  • Not for nothing do UK train companies want to get London and Edinburgh services below, the magic four-hour time.
  • Technology will get better to reduce the noise and carbon emissions of all aircraft and not just supersonic ones!

I don’t put it outside the genius of engineers to by 2050, be able to create a supersonic, almost noise-free aircraft.

I do have a few thoughts about the Boom Overture.

A Comparison With Concorde

These are comparisons of the Boom Overture to Concorde.

  • Engines – Three as opposed to four.
  • Length – Similar
  • Wingspan – 71 % of Concorde
  • Passengers – 75 % of Concorde

It’s almost as if the Boom Overture is a three-quarter scale model of Concorde.

The Wing/Airframe

When I left Liverpool University in 1968, I wasn’t totally sure, what I wanted to do. So I visited a lot of engineering and aerospace companies including both BAC and Hawker Siddeley. Including my own University, I must have visited about four or five large wind tunnels in that period and every one had a Concorde-like model for the wind tunnel.

Every company had their own ideas on what a supersonic wing, should look like.

And surprise-surprise they were all very similar!

Take the advertising off Formula One cars and paint them all silver and very few could tell them apart.

Aerodynamics defines the shape so strongly, they all look the same.

It’s the same with supersonic aircraft and I’m not surprised that wing planform of the Boom Overture appears to be similar to Concorde, but narrower.

Perhaps the more dart-like shape significantly reduces the drag? It should be noted that drag is proportional to cross-sectional area.

In Concorde’s Wikipedia entry there is a section called Development, which explains how the Royal Aircraft Establishment developed the slender delta wing planform, used by Concorde and now likely to be used by Boom.

Although, it would be different inside the wing, as Concorde was mainly made from metal and the Overture is a composite aircraft.

Perhaps composite construction helps with creating the perfect aerodynamic shape. I don’t have any experience of composites, but they surely mean more aerodynamic shapes and they are regularly used for airframes.

This page on the Heritage Concorde web site gives details of the airframe production materials.

I suspect that Concorde was a nightmare to build, but that the challenge helped develop a large number of machining and fabrication techniques.

The Fuselage

As I said earlier, the length of the plane is similar to Concorde, but the wingspan is 29 % smaller and the number of passengers is around 25 % less.

But if you look at the picture of the aircraft in the Times article, where it is emerging from the hangar, it’s almost as if the fuselage has a square cross section than Concorde.

I wonder about this square cross section. I remember an interview on the radio with Barnes Wallis, where he talked about his latest idea for a fast supersonic aircraft capable of flying between the UK and Australia.

This paragraph is from Barnes Wallis’s Wikipedia entry.

In the late 1950s, Wallis gave a lecture entitled “The strength of England” at Eton College, and continued to deliver versions of the talk into the early 1970s, presenting technology and automation as a way to restore Britain’s dominance. He advocated nuclear-powered cargo submarines as a means of making Britain immune to future embargoes, and to make it a global trading power. He complained of the loss of aircraft design to the US, and suggested that Britain could dominate air travel by developing a small supersonic airliner capable of short take-off and landing.

It sounds to me that he would have been a Brexiteer.

Could this supersonic airliner, be what I heard him talking about?

I distinctly remember that he was advocating a fuselage with a square cross section for supersonic flight.

  • It would have given more space inside for passengers.
  • Concorde was a bit pokey with small windows!
  • The picture in The Times of the interior of the Boom Overture is certainly spacious.

Have Boom, been looking through Barnes Wallis’s ideas?

One quote I heard Barnes Wallis say, in an interview with Chris Brasher was this.

There is no greater thrill in life, than proving something is impossible and then showing how it can be done.

Boom may not have been able to develop a small supersonic airliner capable of short take-off and landing, but it does sound, they’ve developed a smaller supersonic airliner capable of shorter take-off and landing.

The Engines

In the Boom Overture’s Wikipedia entry there is a section called Engines, where this is the last sentence.

In July 2020, the company announced that it had entered into an agreement with Rolls-Royce to collaborate on engine development.

As Rolls-Royce built the engines for Concorde, they probably have some experience locked away.

The design of the Olympus 593 engines for Concorde wasn’t simple.

  • The engines were based on an Olympus engine used in aircraft like the Avro Vulcan and the TSR-2.
  • The engines were fitted with afterburners, as the extra thrust was needed for take-off.
  • According to Wikipedia the engines had a high thermal efficiency in supersonic cruise.
  • According to Wikipedia, there was an engine without afterburning for a longer range Concorde under development.

Over the years, there have been various proposals for supersonic aircraft, in military, commercial and business fields, so I suspect Rolls-Royce have done significant work in powering supersonic flight.

But then other engine companies would have gone down similar routes!

Rolls-Royce though probably have all the data on the engine ideas for Concorde that failed.

I wouldn’t be surprised, if one of the major aero-engine companies has a solution to the powerplant for the Boom Overture, based on the chase for supersonic speeds forty and fifty years ago.

But Rolls-Royce because of the Concorde experience could be closer to a successful development.

So I think signing with Rolls-Royce could be a very sensible move.

The Afterburners

The Wikipedia entry for the Boom Overture says this about afterburners.

Boom wants to use moderate bypass turbofans without afterburners, unlike Concorde’s Rolls-Royce/Snecma Olympus.

Could that be one piece of complication, that improvements in technology has eliminated?

The Engine Intakes

The Wikipedia entry for the Olympus 593 engines has a section called Intakes.

They were thought to be clever in the 1960s, but they just look complicated to me, with all my extra experience.

The intakes seem to have used very comprehensive digital control systems, but these days controls like these will be even more comprehensive and a lot more sophisticated, as computing has moved on.

I very much feel that if the Boom Overture needed sophisticated variable-geometry engine intakes like Concorde, we have the knowledge to create them and the computer expertise to make them act as needed.

The Exhaust Nozzle

The Wikipedia entry for the Olympus 593 engines has a section called Exhaust Nozzle.

These too are complicated and a lot of what I said for the intakes, would apply to the nozzles.

The Fuel

The Wikipedia entry for the Boom Overture says

The aircraft is intended to run on Sustainable Aviation Fuel.

It is likely, that Sustainable Aviation Fuel will be used for commercial aviation until there is a significant move to hydrogen.

  • In the UK, a company called Altalto is building a large plant to make the fuel at Immingham from household and industrial waste.
  • One idea being pursued by some companies is to create the fuel from used disposable nappies.
  • Wikipedia indicates that the fuel could cut CO2 emissions by between 20-98%.
  • Altalto is backed by British Airways and Velocys, who are a spin-out from Oxford University.

There is certainly a lot of money and technology being thrown behind Sustainable Aviation Fuel to make it a net-zero alternative for the powering of aircraft.

The Noise

This Youtube video shows Concorde’s last take-off from New York.

It was certainly a noisy aircraft.

  • Concorde’s engines had afterburners.
  • It also needed a long take-off run, so it made more noise on the ground.
  • It used to take off with a high angle of attack with the nose high.

All of these factors would have increased real and perceived noise levels.

I feel that if the Boom Overture is going to have significantly lower noise levels than Concorde, then its design will need to be radically different.

The lack of afterburners will make some difference.

It carries only about 75 % of the passengers of Concorde.

It is roughly, the same length as Concorde, but the wingspan is nearly thirty percent smaller.

To be continued…



June 6, 2021 Posted by | Design, Hydrogen, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

IAG To Operate 10 Per Cent Of Flights With Sustainable Aviation Fuel By 2030

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

These are the first two paragraphs.

International Airlines Group has announced a commitment to operate 10 per cent of its flights with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) by 2030.

The owner of Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia and Vueling says it will purchase one million tonnes of sustainable jet fuel per year, enabling it to cut its annual emissions by two million tonnes by 2030.

It is a welcome development.

My feeling is that although a lot of greens, think that sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is a cop-out, it is the only way we have to cut aviation’s carbon emissions in the short-term.

  • It would not need any expensive modifications to aircraft.
  • SAF can also be delivered to airports using existing infrastructure like pipelines or rail tankers.
  • SAF can be made from household and industrial waste, disposable nappies and other materials like scrap wood and unwanted clothes, most of which will otherwise end up in landfill.

I also think that SAF could be a way to decarbonise existing rail locomotives by replacing the diesel engines with gas turbines.

So will IAG commitment give a boost to the production of SAF? I certainly hope it does, as we’ll all benefit.

Hydrogen-Powered Aircraft

This infographic from Airbus shows three of their proposed designs for hydrogen-powered aircraft.

Discover the three zero-emission concept aircraft known as ZEROe in this infographic. These turbofan, turboprop, and blended-wing-body configurations are all hydrogen hybrid aircraft.

Two of the designs; the ZEROe Turboprop and ZEROe Turbofan appear to have been designed by re-engineering current technology and designs.

The one I like is the Turbofan, which I feel is based on the airframe of the current A 320 neo.

  • Much of the wing, cockpit and fuselage appear very similar to that of the A 320 neo
  • There is a hydrogen tank in the rear fuselage.
  • The engines are probably modern turbofans, adjusted to run on hydrogen.
  • Range and passenger capacity are very similar to the current aircraft.
  • The ZEROe Turbofan would fit current airport infrastructure like tugs and terminals.
  • Aircrew would need little retraining between current A 320s and ZEROe Turbofans.

There might even be the possibility of being able to convert an A 320 neo into a ZEROe Turbofan!

But there is a flaw in my reasoning.

IAG have placed a large order for Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. Wikipedia says this in the entry for IAG.

In June 2019, IAG signed a letter of intent to purchase 200 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft even though at the time of the signing the 737 MAX was still grounded worldwide following the two fatal crashes likely caused by the design of the MCAS system. Aviation analysts have questioned IAG’s leadership in making such an order when the 737 MAX design is still being rectified. IAG CEO Willie Walsh, shrugged off the plane’s uncertain future. “We’re partnering with the Boeing brand”, he said. “That’s the brand that I’m doing business with. That’s the brand that I’ve worked with for years. And it’s a brand that I trust”

Could Boeing have offered a 737 MAX, that can be converted to hydrogen?

I certainly feel that both a 737 MAX and an A 320 neo can be converted to hydrogen.

  • The visualisations from Airbus of the A 320 neo and the ZEROe Turbofan are remarkably similar.
  • The 737 MAX is a traditional aluminium aircraft, so may be easier to convert.
  • As Boeing probably need a winner more urgently than Airbus, perhaps they can deliver a hydrogen-powered aircraft around the middle of the decade.
  • Both aircraft are a bit like Lego and can be shortened or lengthened as required.
  • Perhaps one or other of the planemakers have come up with a technique for storing environmentally-friendly liquid ammonia in the wings.
  • See Could Current Airliners Be Fuelled With Ammonia?

As my mother used to say. “It’ll all come out in the wash!”

But I do feel by 2030, we’ll be seeing zero-carbon airlines on short-haul routes. So IAG’s aim of getting ten percent of planes powered by SAF by 2030, is probably a stop-gap that will continue with older planes for some years.




April 23, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

High-Speed Low-Carbon Transport Between Great Britain And Ireland


  • According to Statista, there were 13,160,000 passengers between the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic in 2019.
  • In 2019, Dublin Airport handled 32,907,673 passengers.
  • The six busiest routes from Dublin were Heathrow, Stansted, Amsterdam, Manchester, Birmingham and Stansted.
  • In 2018, Belfast International Airport handled 6,269,025 passengers.
  • The four busiest routes from Belfast International Airport were Stansted, Gatwick. Liverpool and Manchester, with the busiest route to Europe to Alicante.
  • In 2018, Belfast City Airport handled 2,445,529 passengers.
  • The four busiest routes from Belfast City Airport were Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham and London City.


  1. The busiest routes at each airport are shown in descending order.
  2. There is a lot of air passengers between the two islands.
  3. Much of the traffic is geared towards London’s four main airports.
  4. Manchester and Liverpool get their fair share.

Decarbonisation of the air routes between the two islands will not be a trivial operation.

But technology is on the side of decarbonisation.

Class 805 Trains

Avanti West Coast have ordered thirteen bi-mode Class 805 trains, which will replace the diesel Class 221 trains currently working between London Euston and Holyhead.

  • They will run at 125 mph between Euston and Crewe using electric power.
  • If full in-cab digital signalling were to be installed on the electrified portion of the route, they may be able to run at 140 mph in places under the wires.
  • They will use diesel power on the North Wales Coast Line to reach Holyhead.
  • According to an article in Modern Railways, the Class 805 trains could be fitted with batteries.

I wouldn’t be surprised that when they are delivered, they are a version of the Hitachi’s Intercity Tri-Mode  Battery Train, the specification of which is shown in this Hitachi infographic.


  1. I suspect that the batteries will be used to handle regenerative braking on lines without electrification, which will save diesel fuel and carbon emissions.
  2. The trains accelerate faster, than those they replace.
  3. The claimed fuel and carbon saving is twenty percent.

It is intended that these trains will be introduced next year.

I believe that, these trains will speed up services between London Euston and Holyhead.

  • Currently, services take just over three-and-a-half hours.
  • There should be time savings on the electrification between London Euston and Crewe.
  • The operating speed on the North Wales Coast Line is 90 mph. This might be increased in sections.
  • Some extra electrification could be added, between say Crewe and Chester and possibly through Llandudno Junction.
  • I estimate that on the full journey, the trains could reduce emissions by up to sixty percent compared to the current diesel trains.

I think that a time of three hours could be achievable with the Class 805 trains.

New trains and a three hour journey time should attract more passengers to the route.


In Holyhead Hydrogen Hub Planned For Wales, I wrote about how the Port of Holyhead was becoming a hydrogen hub, in common with several other ports around the UK including Felixstowe, Harwich, Liverpool and Portsmouth.

Holyhead and the others could host zero-carbon hydrogen-powered ferries.

But this extract from the Wikipedia hints at work needed to be done to create a fast interchange  between trains and ferries.

There is access to the port via a building shared with Holyhead railway station, which is served by the North Wales Coast Line to Chester and London Euston. The walk between trains and ferry check in is less than two minutes, but longer from the remote platform 1, used by Avanti West Coast services.

This Google Map shows the Port of Holyhead.

I think there is a lot of potential to create an excellent interchange.

HSC Francisco

I am using the high-speed craft Francisco as an example of the way these ships are progressing.

  • Power comes from two gas-turbine engines, that run on liquified natural gas.
  • It can carry 1024 passengers and 150 cars.
  • It has a top speed of 58 knots or 67 mph. Not bad for a ship with a tonnage of over 7000.

This ship is in service between Buenos Aires and Montevideo.


  1. A craft like this could be designed to run on zero-carbon  liquid hydrogen or liquid ammonia.
  2. A high speed craft already runs between Dublin and Holyhead taking one hour and forty-nine minutes for the sixty-seven miles.

Other routes for a specially designed high speed craft might be.

  • Barrow and Belfast – 113 miles
  • Heysham and Belfast – 127 miles
  • Holyhead and Belfast – 103 miles
  • Liverpool and Belfast – 145 miles
  • Stranraer and Larne – 31 miles

Belfast looks a bit far from England, but Holyhead and Belfast could be a possibility.

London And Dublin Via Holyhead

I believe this route is definitely a possibility.

  • In a few years, with a few improvements on the route, I suspect that London Euston and Holyhead could be fairly close to three hours.
  • With faster bi-mode trains, Manchester Airport and Holyhead would be under three hours.
  • I would estimate, that a high speed craft built for the route could be under two hours between Holyhead and Dublin.

It certainly looks like London Euston and Dublin and Manchester Airport and Dublin would be under five hours.

In A Glimpse Of 2035, I imagined what it would be like to be on the first train between London and Dublin via the proposed fixed link between Scotland and Northern Ireland.

  • I felt that five-and-a-half hours was achievable for that journey.
  • The journey would have used High Speed Two to Wigan North Western.
  • I also stated that with improvements, London and Belfast could be three hours and Dublin would be an hour more.

So five hours between London Euston and Dublin using current technology without massive improvements and new lines could be small change well spent.

London And Belfast Via Holyhead

At 103 miles the ferry leg may be too long for even the fastest of the high speed craft, but if say the craft could do Holyhead and Belfast in two-and-a-half hours, it might just be a viable route.

  • It might also be possible to run the ferries to a harbour like Warrenpoint, which would be eighty-six miles.
  • An estimate based on the current high speed craft to Dublin, indicates a time of around two hours and twenty minutes.

It could be viable, if there was a fast connection between Warrenpoint and Belfast.


Once the new trains are running between London Euston and Holyhead, I would expect that an Irish entrepreneur will be looking to develop a fast train and ferry service between England and Wales, and the island of Ireland.

It could be sold, as the Greenest Way To Ireland.

Class 807 Trains

Avanti West Coast have ordered ten electric Class 807 trains, which will replace some of the diesel Class 221 trains.

  • They will run at 125 mph between Euston and Liverpool on the fully-electrified route.
  • If full in-cab digital signalling were to be installed on the route, they may be able to run at 140 mph in places.
  • These trains appear to be the first of the second generation of Hitachi trains and they seem to be built for speed and a sparking performance,
  • These trains will run at a frequency of two trains per hour (tph) between London and Liverpool Lime Street.
  • Alternate trains will stop at Liverpool South Parkway station.

In Will Avanti West Coast’s New Trains Be Able To Achieve London Euston and Liverpool Lime Street In Two Hours?, I came to the conclusion, that a two-hour journey time was possible, when the new Class 807 trains have entered service.

London And Belfast Via Liverpool And A Ferry


  • An hour on the train to and from London will be saved compared to Holyhead.
  • The ferry terminal is in Birkenhead on the other side of the Mersey and change between Lime Street station and the ferry could take much longer than at Holyhead.
  • Birkenhead and Belfast is twice the distance of Holyhead and Dublin, so even a high speed craft would take three hours.

This Google Map shows the Ferry Terminal and the Birkenhead waterfront.


  1. The Ferry Terminal is indicated by the red arrow at the top of the map.
  2. There are rows of trucks waiting for the ferries.
  3. In the South East corner of the map, the terminal of the Mersey Ferry sticks out into the River
  4. Hamilton Square station is in-line with the Mersey Ferry at the bottom of the map and indicated with the usual red symbol.
  5. There is a courtesy bus from Hamilton Square station to the Ferry Terminal for Ireland.

There is a fourteen tph service between Hamilton Square and Liverpool Lime Street station.

This route may be possible, but the interchange could be slow and the ferry leg is challenging.

I don’t think the route would be viable unless a much faster ferry is developed. Does the military have some high speed craft under development?


London and Belfast via Liverpool and a ferry is probably a trip for enthusiasts or those needing to spend a day in Liverpool en route.

Other Ferry Routes

There are other ferry routes.

Heysham And Barrow-in-Furness

,These two ports might be possible, but neither has a good rail connection to London and the South of England.

They are both rail connected, but not to the standard of the connections at Holyhead and Liverpool.


The Cairnryan route could probably be improved to be an excellent low-carbon route to Glasgow and Central Scotland.

Low-Carbon Flight Between The Islands Of Great Britain And Ireland

I think we’ll gradually see a progression to zero-carbon flight over the next few years.

Sustainable Aviation Fuel

Obviously zero-carbon would be better, but until zero-carbon aircraft are developed, there is always sustainable aviation fuel.

This can be produced from various carbon sources like biowaste or even household rubbish and disposable nappies.

British Airways are involved in a project called Altalto.

  • Altalto are building a plant at Immingham to turn household rubbish into sustainable aviation fuel.
  • This fuel can be used in jet airliners with very little modification of the aircraft.

I wrote about Altalto in Grant Shapps Announcement On Friday.

Smaller Low-Carbon Airliners

The first low- and zero-carbon airliners to be developed will be smaller with less range, than Boeing 737s and Airbus A 320s. These three are examples of three under development.

I feel that a nineteen seater aircraft with a range of 500 miles will be the first specially designed low- or zero-carbon airliner to be developed.

I believe these aircraft will offer advantages.

  • Some routes will only need refuelling at one end.
  • Lower noise and pollution.
  • Some will have the ability to work from short runways.
  • Some will be hybrid electric running on sustainable aviation fuel.

They may enable passenger services to some smaller airports.

Air Routes Between The Islands Of Great Britain And Ireland

These are distances from Belfast City Airport.

  • Aberdeen – 228 miles
  • Amsterdam – 557 miles
  • Birmingham – 226 miles
  • Blackpool – 128 miles
  • Cardiff – 246 miles
  • Edinburgh – 135 miles
  • Gatwick – 337 miles
  • Glasgow – 103 miles
  • Heathrow – 312 miles
  • Jersey – 406 miles
  • Kirkwall – 320 miles
  • Leeds – 177 miles
  • Liverpool – 151 miles
  • London City – 326 miles
  • Manchester – 170 miles
  • Newcastle – 168 miles
  • Southampton – 315 miles
  • Southend – 344 miles
  • Stansted – 292 miles
  • Sumburgh – 401 miles


  1. Some airports on this list do not currently have flights from Belfast City Airport.
  2. I have included Amsterdam for comparison.
  3. Distances to Belfast International Airport, which is a few miles to the West of Belfast City Airport are within a few miles of these distances.

It would appear that much of Great Britain is within 500 miles of Belfast City Airport.

These are distances from Dublin Airport.

  • Aberdeen – 305 miles
  • Amsterdam – 465 miles
  • Birmingham – 199 miles
  • Blackpool – 133 miles
  • Cardiff – 185 miles
  • Edinburgh – 208 miles
  • Gatwick – 300 miles
  • Heathrow – 278 miles
  • Jersey – 339 miles
  • Kirkwall – 402 miles
  • Leeds – 190 miles
  • Liverpool – 140 miles
  • London City – 296 miles
  • Manchester – 163 miles
  • Newcastle – 214 miles
  • Southampton – 268 miles
  • Southend – 319 miles
  • Stansted – 315 miles
  • Sumburgh – 483 miles


  1. Some airports on this list do not currently have flights from Dublin Airport.
  2. I have included Amsterdam for comparison.

It would appear that much of Great Britain is within 500 miles of Dublin Airport.

I will add a few long routes, that someone  might want to fly.

  • Cork and Aberdeen – 447 miles
  • Derry and Manston – 435 miles
  • Manston and Glasgow – 392 miles
  • Newquay and Aberdeen – 480 miles
  • Norwich and Stornaway – 486 miles.

I doubt there are many possible air services in the UK and Ireland that are longer than 500 miles.

I have a few general thoughts about low- and zero-carbon air services in and around the islands of Great Britain and Ireland.

  • The likely five hundred mile range of the first generation of low- and zero-carbon airliners fits the size of the these islands well.
  • These aircraft seem to have a cruising speed of between 200 and 250 mph, so flight times will not be unduly long.
  • Airports would need to have extra facilities to refuel or recharge these airliners.
  • Because of their size, there will need to be more flights on busy routes.
  • Routes which are less heavily used may well be developed, as low- or zero-carbon could be good for marketing the route.

I suspect they could be ideal for the development of new routes and even new eco-friendly airports.


I have come to the conclusion, that smaller low- or zero-carbon are a good fit for the islands of Great Britain and Ireland.

But then Flybe and Loganair have shown that you can make money flying smaller planes around these islands with the right planes, airports, strategy and management.

Hydrogen-Powered Planes From Airbus

Hydrogen-powered zero-carbon aircraft could be the future and Airbus have put down a marker as to the way they are thinking.

Airbus have proposed three different ZEROe designs, which are shown in this infographic.

The turboprop and the turbofan will be the type of designs, that could be used around Great Britain and Ireland.

The ZEROe Turboprop

This is Airbus’s summary of the design for the ZEROe Turboprop.

Two hybrid hydrogen turboprop engines, which drive the six bladed propellers, provide thrust. The liquid hydrogen storage and distribution system is located behind the rear pressure bulkhead.

This screen capture taken from the video, shows the plane.

It certainly is a layout that has been used successfully, by many conventionally-powered aircraft in the past. The De Havilland Canada Dash 8 and ATR 72 are still in production.

I don’t think the turboprop engines, that run on hydrogen will be a problem.

If you look at the Lockheed-Martin C 130J Super Hercules, you will see it is powered by four Rolls-Royce AE 2100D3 turboprop engines, that drive 6-bladed Dowty R391 composite constant-speed fully-feathering reversible-pitch propellers.

These Rolls-Royce engines are a development of an Allison design, but they also form the heart of Rolls-Royce’s 2.5 MW Generator, that I wrote about in Our Sustainability Journey. The generator was developed for use in Airbus’s electric flight research program.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find the following.

  • , The propulsion system for this aircraft is under test with hydrogen at Derby and Toulouse.
  • Dowty are testing propellers suitable for the aircraft.
  • Serious research is ongoing to store enough liquid hydrogen in a small tank that fits the design.

Why develop something new, when Rolls-Royce, Dowty and Lockheed have done all the basic design and testing?

This screen capture taken from the video, shows the front view of the plane.

From clues in the picture, I estimate that the fuselage diameter is around four metres. Which is not surprising, as the Airbus A320 has a height of 4.14 metres and a with of 3.95 metres. But it’s certainly larger than the fuselage of an ATR-72.

So is the ZEROe Turboprop based on a shortened Airbus A 320 fuselage?

  • The ATR 72 has a capacity of 70 passengers.
  • The ZEROe Turboprop has a capacity of less than a hundred passengers.
  • An Airbus A320 has six-abreast seating.
  • Could the ZEROe Turboprop have sixteen rows of seats, as there are sixteen windows in front of the wing?
  • With the seat pitch of an Airbus A 320, which is 81 centimetres, this means just under thirteen metres for the passengers.
  • There could be space for a sizeable hydrogen tank in the rear part of the fuselage.
  • The plane might even be able to use the latest A 320 cockpit.

It looks to me, that Airbus have designed a larger ATR 72 based on an A 320 fuselage.

I don’t feel there are any great technical challenges in building this aircraft.

  • The engines appear to be conventional and could even have been more-or-less fully developed.
  • The fuselage could be a development of an existing design.
  • The wings and tail-plane are not large and given the company’s experience with large composite structures, they shouldn’t be too challenging.
  • The hydrogen storage and distributing system will have to be designed, but as hydrogen is being used in increasing numbers of applications, I doubt the expertise will be difficult to find.
  • The avionics and other important systems could probably be borrowed from other Airbus products.

Given that the much larger and more complicated Airbus A380 was launched in 2000 and first flew in 2005, I think that a prototype of this aircraft could fly around the middle of this decade.

It may seem small at less than a hundred seats, but it does have a range of greater than a 1000 nautical miles or 1150 miles.


  • It compares closely in passenger capacity, speed and range, with the De Havilland Canada Dash 8/400 and the ATR 72/600.
  • The ATR 72 is part-produced by Airbus.
  • The aircraft is forty percent slower than an Airbus A 320.
  • It looks like it could be designed to have a Short-Takeoff-And Landing (STOL) capability.

I can see the aircraft replacing Dash 8s, ATR 72s and similar aircraft all over the world. There are between 2000 and 3000 operational airliners in this segment.

The ZEROe Turbofan

This is Airbus’s summary of the design.

Two hybrid hydrogen turbofan engines provide thrust. The liquid hydrogen storage and distribution system is located behind the rear pressure bulkhead.

This screen capture taken from the video, shows the plane.


This screen capture taken from the video, shows the front view of the plane.

The aircraft doesn’t look very different different to an Airbus A320 and appears to be fairly conventional. It does appear to have the characteristic tall winglets of the A 320 neo.

I don’t think the turbofan engines, that run on hydrogen will be a problem.

These could be standard turbofan engines modified to run on hydrogen, fuelled from a liquid hydrogen tank behind the rear pressure bulkhead of the fuselage.

If you want to learn more about gas turbine engines and hydrogen, read this article on the General Electric web site, which is entitled The Hydrogen Generation: These Gas Turbines Can Run On The Most Abundant Element In the Universe,

These are my thoughts of the marketing objectives of the ZEROe Turbofan.

  • The cruising speed and the number of passengers are surprisingly close, so has this aircraft been designed as an A 320 or Boeing 737 replacement?
  •  I suspect too, that it has been designed to be used at any airport, that could handle an Airbus A 320 or Boeing 737.
  • It would be able to fly point-to-point flights between most pairs of European or North American cities.

It would certainly fit the zero-carbon shorter range airliner market!

In fact it would more than fit the market, it would define it!

I very much believe that Airbus’s proposed zero-carbon hydrogen-powered designs and others like them will start to define aviation on routes of up to perhaps 3000 miles, from perhaps 2035.

  • The A 320 neo was launched in December 2010 and entered service in January 2016.  That was just five years and a month.
  • I suspect that a lot of components like the fuselage sections, cockpit, avionics, wings, landing gear, tailplane and cabin interior could be the same in a A 320 neo and a ZEROe Turbofan.
  • Flying surfaces and aerodynamics could be very similar in an A 320 neo and a ZEROe Turbofan
  • There could even be commonality between the ZEROe Turboprop and the ZEROe Turbofan, with respect to fuselage sections, cockpit, avionics and cabin interior.

There also must be the possibility, that if a ZEROe Turbofan is a hydrogen-powered A 320 neo, that this would enable the certification process to be simplified.

It might even be possible to remanufacture a A 320 neo into a ZEROe Turbofan. This would surely open up all sorts of marketing strategies.

My project management, flying and engineering knowledge says that if they launched the ZEROe Turbofan this year, it could be in service by the end of the decade on selected routes.


Both the ZEROe Turboprop and ZEROe Turbofan are genuine zero-carbon aircraft, which fit into two well-defined market segments.

I believe that these two aircraft and others like them from perhaps Boeing and Bombardier could be the future of aviation between say 500 and 3000 miles.

With the exception of the provision of hydrogen refuelling at airports, there will be no need for any airport infrastructure.

I also wouldn’t be surprised that the thinking Airbus appear to have applied to creating the ZEROe Turbofan from the successful A 320 neo, could be applied to perhaps create a hydrogen-powered A 350.

I feel that Airbus haven’t fulling disclosed their thinking.  But then no company would, when it reinvents itself.

T also think that short-haul air routes will increasing come under pressure.

The green lobby  would like airlines to decarbonise.

Governments will legislate that airlines must decarbonise.

The rail industry will increasingly look to attract customers away from the airlines, by providing more competitive times and emphasising their green credentials.

Aircraft manufacturers will come under pressure to deliver zero-carbon airliners as soon as they can.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see a prototype ZEROe Turbofan or Boeing’s equivalent fly as early as 2024.

Short Term Solutions

As I said earlier, one solution is to use existing aircraft with Sustainable Aviation Fuel.

But many believe this is greenwash and rather a cop out.

So we must do better!

I don’t believe that the smaller zero- and low-carbon aircraft with a range of up to 500 miles and a capacity of around 19 seats, will be able to handle all the passengers needing to fly between and around the islands of Great Britain and Ireland.

  • A Boeing 737 or Airbus A 320 has a capacity of around two hundred passengers, which would require ten times the number of flights, aircraft and pilots.
  • Airports would need expansion on the airside and the terminals to handle the extra planes.
  • Air Traffic Control would need to be expanded to handle the extra planes.

But the smaller planes would be ideal for the thinner secondary routes.

So I tend to think, that the greens will have to lump it, as Sustainable Aviation Fuel will increasingly be the only viable solution.

This will increase the need for Airbus or Boeing to develop a viable A 320 or 737-sized aircraft as soon as possible.

Air Bridges

I said earlier, that I believe using ferries between Ireland and Holyhead and new bi-mode Class 805 trains between London Euston and Holyhead could be a competitor to airlines.

  • The ferries would be high speed craft capable of Holyhead and Ireland in around 90-100 minutes.
  • The ferries would be zero-carbon.
  • The trains would have a sixty percent reduction in carbon emissions compared to current trains on the route.

If we can skim across the water in a zero-carbon high speed craft, are there any reasons we can’t cross the water in a low- or zero-carbon aircraft.

In the next few sub-sections, I’ll suggest a few air bridges.


Glasgow Airport could be an ideal airport for a  low or zero-carbon air bridge to Northern Ireland.

  • A rail link could eventually be built.
  • There is a reasonable amount of traffic.
  • The distance to Belfast City Airport is only 103 miles.

As the airport serves islands and other places that could be ideal low- and zero-carbon routes, I could see Glasgow becoming a hub for battery and hydrogen-powered aircraft.


Heathrow must prepare itself for an uncertain future.

It will be some years before a third runway is both needed and will have been constructed.

I believe the following will happen.

  • Smaller up to nineteen seat low- or zero-carbon airliners will be in service by 2025.
  • From around 2024, Heathrow will get requests to refuel or charge low- or zero-carbon airliners.
  • Low- or-zero- carbon A 320-size airliners will be in service by 2030.
  • Most ground equipment at Heathrow like tugs and fuel bowsers will be zero-carbon.

If I were Boris or Prime Minister, I would say that Heathrow could have its third runway with the following conditions.

  • All aircraft using the third runway must be zero-carbon
  • All air-side vehicles must be zero-carbon.
  • All vehicles bringing passengers on the last mile to the airport must be zero-carbon.
  • All aircraft using the airport that are not zero-carbon must use sustainable aviation fuel.

I suspect that the conditions would be met by a large margin.

When an airport knows it is effectively going to be closed, it will make sure it survives.


Liverpool Airport could be an ideal airport for a  low or zero-carbon air bridge to the island of Ireland.

  • There is a nearby Liverpool South Parkway station, with frequent services to both the local area and places further away.
  • An improved London train service starts in 2022 or 2023.
  • There would need to be a people mover between the station and the airport.
  • The airport can probably have piped hydrogen from across the Mersey.
  • There is already significant traffic to and from the island of Ireland.
  • Flight times Between Liverpool and Dublin and Belfast would be under an hour.

I also feel that Liverpool could develop lots of other low- and zero-carbon routes to perhaps Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Norwich, Southampton and the Isle of Man.

I could even see Liverpool having a Turn-Up-And-Go shuttle service to Dublin and Belfast, with small zero-carbon planes running every fifteen minutes or so.


I wouldn’t rule out Manston as a low- and zero-carbon airport for flights to the Benelux countries and Northern France and parts of Germany.

These are a few distances from Manston Airport.

  • Amsterdam – 160 miles
  • Brussels – 134 miles
  • Cologne – 253 miles
  • Dusseldorf – 234 miles
  • Frankfurt – 328 miles
  • Geneva – 414 miles
  • Hamburg – 396 miles
  • Le Touquet – 59 miles
  • Lille – 49 miles
  • Luxembourg – 243 miles
  • Ostend – 66 miles
  • Strasbourg – 339 miles

Manston’s position on the tip of Kent gives it an advantage and I think low- and zero-carbon services could reach Cologne, Frankfurt, Geneva, Hamburg and Strasbourg.

The airport also has other advantages.

  • A big electrolyser to produce hydrogen is being built at Herne Bay.
  • The area is rich in wind and solar energy.
  • I suspect the airspace to the East of the airport isn’t very busy and short hops to the Continent could be easy to slot in.

There is a new station being built at Thanet Parkway, which is on the Ashford and Ramsgate Line, which has regular services to London, including some services on High Speed One.

This Google Map shows the location of the airport and the station.


  1. The runway of Manston Airport.
  2. The Ashford and Ramsgate Line running across the South-East corner of the map.
  3. The station could be built to the West of the village of Cliffsend, which is indicated by the red arrow.
  4. I’m sure, a people mover or a zero-carbon bus could be built to connect the station and the airport.

There would need to be improvements in the frequency of services to and from London, but I’m sure Manston Airport could become an ideal airport for low- and zero-carbon aircraft serving the near Continent.


Southampton Airport could be the ideal design for an airport to serve an air bridge.

  • The Southampton Airport Parkway station is connected to the terminal.
  • The station has numerous rail services, including a fast service to and from London.
  • The airport is expanding and could make sure all works are compatible with a low- and zero-carbon future.

Southampton is not ideally placed for services to Ireland, but with low- and zero-carbon aircraft it could be ideal for running services to the Channel Islands and Western France.

Other Airports

I suspect other airports will go the low- and zero-carbon route.


I started this post, with the intention of writing about writing about low- and zero-carbon transport between the islands of Great Britain and Ireland.

But it has grown.

I have now come to the conclusion that there are several low- and zero-carbon routes that could be developed.

The most promising would appear to be.

  • London Euston and Belfast by new Class 805 train to Holyhead and then zero-carbon high speed ferry.
  • London Euston and Dublin by new Class 805 train to Holyhead and then zero-carbon high speed ferry.
  • Glasgow and Belfast by train to Cairnryan and then zero-carbon high speed ferry.
  • Point-to-point air routes using new small nineteen seat low- or zero-carbon airliners with a range of 500 miles.
  • London Euston and Belfast by new Class 807 train to Liverpool Airport and then smaller low- or zero-carbon airliner.
  • London Euston and Dublin by new Class 807 train to Liverpool Airport and then and then smaller low- or zero-carbon airliner.
  • Other air bridges will develop.

But I am fairly certain by the end of the decade, there will be A320-size airlines powered by hydrogen taking us to Ireland and Western Europe.

I believe that the survival and ultimate prospering of Airbus and Boeing depends on the development of a range of zero-carbon airliners.

For this reason alone, they will succeed.

April 22, 2021 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Is This A Case Of The Sh1t Hitting The Turbofan?

The title of this post was inspired by this article on Nonwovens Industry, which is entitled British Airways to Use Fuel Sourced From Recycled Diapers.

This is the first paraph.

British Airways will likely soon have part of its fleet fueled by trash. The company has entered into a partnership to build facilities that convert household waste into renewable jet fuel. The first stage of the partnership is a feasability stage with final investment planned for 2019. If the first stage is successful, part of BA’s fleet will fly using the fuel.

Admittedly, this is old news and the plant is now being built by Altalto at Immingham.

But it does get rid of one of the problems of the modern world; disposable nappies.


March 27, 2021 Posted by | Energy, Transport/Travel | , , , , | 4 Comments

British Airways Invests In LanzaJet; SAF Offtake Agreement

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Green Car Congress.

This is the first paragraph.

British Airways will power future flights with sustainable aviation fuel produced from sustainably-sourced ethanol, as part of a new partnership with sustainable jet fuel company LanzaJet. British Airways will invest in LanzaJet’s first commercial-scale Freedom Pines Fuels facility in Georgia and acquire cleaner burning sustainable aviation fuel from the plant.

Other points from the article.

  • Flights using the sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) could start in 2022.
  • LanzaJet have their own process that can use inputs like wheat straw and recycled pollution.
  • This agreement would be in addition to BA’s partnership with Velocys in the Altalto plant at Immingham.
  • British Airways also appear to have set themselves a target of being carbon net-zero by 2050.

The article is certainly on any list of must-reads.

February 14, 2021 Posted by | Energy, Transport/Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shell Withdraws From Waste To Jet Fuel Plant Project

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

Oil giant Shell has withdrawn from the joint development agreement for a proposed facility for the conversion of waste into aviation fuel.

It would appear that the Altalto project will continue and has no likelihood of folding in the near future.

I like the idea behind Altalto, which will take household and industrial waste and turn it into sustainable aviation fuel and biodiesel.

But I also like Shell’s Blue Hydrogen Process, which takes methane and effectively removes the carbon to create carbon-neutral hydrogen.


I feel the world is a big enough place for both technologies.

January 20, 2021 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport/Travel, World | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Drax, Velocys Help Launch Coalition For Negative Emissions

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

U.K.-based companies Drax Group and Velocys are among 11 organizations that have launched the Coalition for Negative Emissions, which aims to achieve a sustainable and resilient recovery from COVID-19 by developing pioneering projects that can remove carbon dioxide and other pollutants from the atmosphere.

This paragraph details the companies and organisations involved.

In addition to Drax and Velocys, members of the coalition include Carbon Engineering, Carbon Removal Centre, CBI, Carbon Capture and Storage Association, Climeworks, Energy U.K., Heathrow, International Airlines Group, and the U.K. National Farmers Union.

They have sent a letter to the Government, which can be downloaded from the Drax website.


I have an open mind about biomass and products such as aviation biofuel and techniques such as carbon capture.

Keeping the wheels of commerce turning, needs a sustainable way to fly and ideas such as producing aviation biofuel from household and industrial waste, could enable sustainable transport in the short term.

Carbon capture is very difficult in a lot of processes, but I feel that in some, such as a modern gas-turbine powered station, if they are designed in an innovative manner, they an be made to deliver a pure stream of the gas. A pure gas must be easier to handle, than one contaminated with all sorts of unknowns, as you might get from burning some sources of coal.

I am pleased that the National Farmers Union is involved as using pure carbon dioxide, as a growth promoter for greenhouse crops is a proven use for carbon dioxide.

Overall, I am optimistic about the formation of the Coalition for Negative Emissions.


October 14, 2020 Posted by | Energy | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Humber Highlighted As Prime Location For Sustainable Aviation Fuel Cluster

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

Points to note from the article.

  • Development of a waste-to-aviation biofuel plant on Humberside could be a £219 million annual boost to the economy and create 1500 jobs.
  • There is a pipeline to Heathrow from the Humber.
  • Velocys is backed by British Airways and Shell, and the UK government.
  • Not bad for an Oxford University spin-off of an updated process that produced diesel for the Nazis and apartheid South Africa.
  • Other potential sustainable aviation fuel clusters have been identified including Teesside, the North West, South Wales, Hampshire, St Fergus and Grangemouth.

Velocys is a share to watch!

Other Thoughts

I feel the following could happen.

  • Velocys will make a large hole in the need for landfill capacity.
  • Other old chemical and refinery processes will be updated using new catalyst technology, from universities like Oxford.

But will British Airways be accused of rubbish flights in the tabloids?


October 13, 2020 Posted by | Energy, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Concept Of Electrification Islands

Consider how Imperial Airways and BOAC used to fly long routes to places like Sydney, Hong Kong and Cape Town before the days of long distance jet airliners. They used to fly from airport to airport, picking up fuel and supplies on the way.

If you want to know more about the details, read what is my favourite travel book, Beyond The Blue Horizon by Alexander Frater.

He followed the Imperial Airways route to Sydney, on what was reputed to be the most complicated ticket, that British Airways ever issued.

But can the concept of flying a short range airliner over a long distance refuelling as necessary, be applied to running a battery electric train by charging the batteries on a series of electrification islands?

In Ipswich And Peterborough In A Battery Train, I described how an Ipswich and Peterborough service could be run by a battery-equipped Class 755 train.

The Ipswich and Peterborough route is 82.5 miles long and it can be split as follows.

  • Ipswich and Haughley Junction – 13.8 miles – Electrified
  • Haughley Junction and Ely – 38.2 miles – Not Electrified
  • Ely and Peterborough – 30.5 miles – Not Electrified

Legs two and three, should be within the capability of a battery-equipped Class 755 train. No definite figure has been given, but in the July 2018 Edition of Modern Railways, this was said about the similar Class 756 trains, ordered for the South Wales Metro.

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

Perhaps, what is needed is to create an electrification island at Ely, that can be used to charge the batteries.

An Electrification Island At Ely

This map from Wikipedia shows the complicated railways at Ely,


  1. Ely station is fully electrified.
  2. The line to Cambridge,Kings Cross, Liverpool Street and Stansted Airport is fully electrified. Greater Anglia’s Class 755 trains between Norwich and Stansted Airport, change between diesel and electrification at Ely.
  3. The line to Kings Lynn is fully electrified.
  4. The lines to Bury St. Edmunds, Norwich and Peterborough are not electrified.
  5. Ely is a city of 20,000 inhabitants, so I suspect it must have a robust electricity supply.
  6. Freight trains take about five minutes to pass between Ely West and Ely Dock Junctions.
  7. Ely West and Ely Dock Junctions are 2.5 miles apart.
  8. There appears to be an avoiding line South-East of Ely station, where I’ve seen trains from Felixstowe to Peterborough sometimes wait for a few minutes before proceeding.
  9. There is also a lot of space at March station, where a passing loop with a charging station could be built.

I believe it would be possibly to do the following at Ely.

  • Electrify the West Curve and the South-East avoiding line.
  • Electrify the Bury St. Edmunds, Norwich and Peterborough lines for perhaps five miles.
  • If required, put a high capacity charging station on the avoiding line.

There would be plenty of electrification to charge the trains.

An alternative plan might be to electrify between March station and the new Soham station, which has been planned to open in 2021.

  • This would be around eighteen miles of electrification.
  • This would certainly be enough electrification to fully-charge passing freight and passenger trains.
  • Soham to Ely could be doubled.
  • The extra electrification would mean the two unelectrified sections of the Ipswich and Peterborough route; Haughley Junction-Soham and March-Peterborough would be well within range of a battery-electric train.
  • The proposed service between Cambridge and Wisbech would only have the twelve miles of the Bramley Line between March and Wisbech to run on battery power.

It might also be possible to put in an extra curve to make Ely Dock Junction, a full triangular junction. This would allow the new Soham station to have direct services to both Cambridge and Cambridge North stations, without a reverse at Ely station.

Other Possible Electrification Islands

I’ll break these down by regions and train operators.

East Anglia (Greater Anglia)

Greater Anglia only runs trains on diesel to the North of Cambridge and Ipswich, which are both fully electrified, as is Norwich.

I would consider Cambridge, Ely, Ipswich and Norwich to be electrification islands.

  • All have a good connection to the electrification power supply, as they handle main line electric trains.
  • All or most platforms at the stations are electrified to charge trains.
  • There are electrified sidings at Cambridge and Norwich and possibly at Ipswich.

Lowestoft and Yarmouth might be fitted with charging systems to make sure a fault doesn’t strand a train.

In Battery Power Lined Up For ‘755s’, I talked about a report in Rail Magazine, which said that the Class 755 trains will get a battery fitted at the first overhaul.

I wouldn’t be surprised, that in a couple of years, Greater Anglia announces the end of diesel power on some or all of their services.

East Coast Main Line (LNER and Others)

Hitachi AT-300 Trains On The East Coast Main Line

The East Coast Main Line (ECML), is increasingly becoming a railway where the vast majority of services are run by versions of Hitachi AT-300 trains.

Classes 800, 802 and 803 are bi-modes and can probably have some or all of their diesel engines replaced by batteries.

In Sparking A Revolution, I gave this specification for a Hitachi battery-electric train.

  • Range – 55-65 miles
  • Performance – 90-100 mph
  • Recharge – 10 minutes when static
  • Routes – Suburban near electrified lines
  • Battery Life – 8-10 years

I will use these figures from Hitachi in this post.

Electrification Islands On The East Coast Main Line

There are several large and smaller stations along the ECML, that can act as electrification islands to support either local services or long-distance services from London.



  • Cleethorpes station would need a decent electricity supply. Offshore wind?
  • Doncaster is 52 miles away.
  • Lincoln is 37 miles away.
  • Newark is 63 miles away.
  • Scunthorpe is 29 miles away.

If you can get battery-electric trains to Cleethorpes, you also serve Grimsby Town station, which is three miles closer to the ECML.

With electrification islands at Lincoln and Scunthorpe and Hitachi AT-300 trains with a battery range of at least sixty miles, electric trains could be run to Cleethorpes and Grimsby.

Would that improve the economy of the area?


Darlington station is on the electrified ECML, so it must have a top class electricity supply.

  • Bishop Auckland is 12 miles away.
  • Middlesbrough is 15 miles away.
  • Nunthorpe is 20 miles away.
  • Saltburn is 27 miles away.
  • Whitby is 47 miles away.

Darlington could support battery-electric operation of the Tees Valley Line, if the route doesn’t go for hydrogen. Note that hydrogen would probably also handle services from Middlesbrough to Newcastle, Nunthorpe and Whitby with ease.

Note my views on the definitive hydrogen train, which will be a battery-electric-hydrogen hybrid train, able to use power from a variety of sources.


Doncaster station is on the electrified ECML, so it must have a top class electricity supply.

  • Cleethorpes is 52 miles away.
  • Hull is 40 miles away.
  • Scunthorpe is 25 miles away.
  • Sheffield is 19 miles away.

Doncaster could certainly support some battery-electric services.


Grantham station is on the electrified ECML, so it must have a top class electricity supply.

  • Nottingham is 22 miles away.
  • Sleaford is 18 miles away.
  • Nottingham and Skegness services seem to take about four minutes to reverse in the station.

The Nottingham and Skegness service could take advantage of the driver changing ends to top up the battery.



  • Hull is a city of nearly 300,000 people, so it must have a decent electricity supply.
  • Hull station is under forty miles from the electrification of the ECML.
  • Doncaster is 40 miles away.
  • Scarborough is 54 miles away.
  • York is 52 miles away, with about 20 miles electrified.

I would certainly suspect that with an electrification island at Hull, the Hitachi AT-300 trains of Hull Trains and LNER could certainly run fully electric services to the city, if they were fitted with batteries.

With an electrification island at Scarborough, could Hull Trains and LNER services be extended to Scarborough?


Leeds station is already an electrification island, as it is fully electrified.

  • It also has electrified services to Bradford, Ilkley and Skipton.
  • Leeds and Huddersfield will be electrified in the next few years.

Harrogate is 18 miles away, so a return journey is within range of a Hitachi AT-300 train with a battery, that is charged on the ECML.



  • Lincoln station would need a decent electricity supply.
  • Cleethorpes is 37 miles away.
  • Doncaster is 40 miles away.
  • Newark is 16 miles away, so a return journey is within range of a Hitachi AT-300 train with a battery, that is charged on the ECML.
  • Nottingham is 34 miles away and Leicester is 61 miles away.
  • Peterborough is 57 miles away.
  • Sleaford is 21 miles away.

With an electrification island at Lincoln, the following should be possible.

  • Electric services between Cleethorpes and Lincoln using battery-electric trains.
  • Electric services between Doncaster and Lincoln using battery-electric trains.
  • Electric services between Nottingham/Leicester and Lincoln using battery-electric trains. Electrify the Midland Main Line (MML) and this is easy.
  • Electric services between Peterborough and Lincoln using battery-electric trains. It may need an electrification island at Sleaford.
  • Electric services between London Kings Cross and Grimsby/Cleethorpes using Hitachi AT-300 trains with a battery, that is charged on the ECML and at Lincoln.

The London Kings Cross and Lincoln services could top up their batteries if required if they were run using Hitachi AT-300 trains with a battery

Surely, if Class 755 trains are good enough for Norfolk and Suffolk and both franchises are run by Abellio, then battery versions of these trains would be ideal for running services from Lincoln to Cleethorpes/Grimsby, Doncaster, Newark, Nottingham, Peterborough and Skegness.


If required an electrification island could be placed at Middlesbrough station.

  • Darlington is 15 miles away.
  • Newcastle is 47 miles away.
  • Saltburn is 13 miles away.
  • Whitby is 35 miles away.

This area might opt for hydrogen, but I believe battery-electric trains could also work the routes through Middlesbrough and Darlington. Note my views on the definitive hydrogen train, which will be a battery-electric-hydrogen hybrid train, able to use power from a variety of sources.



  • Newark North Gate station is on the electrified ECML, so it must have a top class electricity supply.
  • Cleethorpes is 63 miles away.
  • Grimsby is 60 miles away.
  • Lincoln is 16 miles away.
  • Nottingham is 17 miles away.

With an electrification island at Cleethorpes/Grimsby, battery-electric services could be extended to either town. They would need to use the electrification island at Lincoln station to top-up the battery.


Newcastle station is on the electrified ECML, so it must have a top class electricity supply.

  • Carlisle is 61 miles away.
  • Middlesbrough is 47 miles away.
  • Nunthorpe is 52 miles away.

Newcastle could surely support local services using battery-electric trains. They could be dual-voltage, so they can use Tyne and Wear Metro electrification.


Peterborough station is on the electrified ECML, so it must have a top class electricity supply.

  • Ely is 31 miles away.
  • Leicester is 52 miles away, with Birmingham another 40 miles further.
  • Lincoln is 57 miles away.
  • Sleaford is 35 miles away.

It might even be possible for Hitachi AT-300 trains with a battery to be able to run between Stansted Airport and Birmingham for CrossCountry.

  • Stansted and Ely – 38 miles – Electrified
  • Ely and Peterborough – 30.5 miles – Not Electrified
  • Through Peterborough – 6 miles – Electrified (ECML)
  • Peterborough and Leicester – 52 miles – Not Electrified
  • Leicester and Nuneaton – 19 miles – Not Electrified
  • Through Nuneaton – 3 miles – Electrified (WCML)
  • Nuneaton and Birmingham – 21 miles – Not Electrified


  1. Trains would charge when running under electrification and also during station stops in Cambridge, Ely, Peterborough  Leicester and Nuneaton.
  2. Trains would automatically raise and lower their pantographs as required.
  3. There may be scope to add sections of extra electrification.
  4. For example, electrification of the MML could add as much as eight miles of electrification, through Leicester.

As much as forty percent of the route between Birmingham and Stansted could be electrified.

Sandy/St. Neots

It is planned that the East West Railway (EWR) and the ECML will cross at an interchange station somewhere in this area.


Both stations are on the electrified ECML, so must have a top class electricity supply.

  • Bedford is 10 miles away.
  • The electrification South of Cambridge is about 20 miles away.

It would surely be possible to create an electrification island, where the two major routes cross at Sandy/St. Neots.



  • Scarborough station would need a decent electricity supply.
  • Hull is 54 miles away.
  • York is 42 miles away.

With charging facilities at Scarborough battery-electric trains could be run to the seaside resort.

  • I also think it would be possible to run a direct service between London Kings Cross and Scarborough using Hitachi AT-300 trains with batteries, either via York or Hull.
  • TransPennine’s Hitachi trains could also read Scarborough from York, if fitted with batteries.

Would battery-electric trains between Hull, Scarborough and York attract more users of the services?


If required an electrified island could be placed at Sleaford station.

  • Sleaford would need a decent electricity supply.
  • The station is where the Nottingham and Skegness and Peterborough and Lincoln routes cross.
  • Grantham on the ECML is 18 miles away.
  • Lincoln is 21 miles away.
  • Nottingham is 40 miles away.
  • Peterborough is 35 miles away.
  • Skegness is 40 miles away.

Services through Sleaford would be run as follows.

As Lincoln and Peterborough are likely to both have the ability to charge trains, the Peterborough and Lincoln route can probably be run using a battery-electric train, that also charges during the stop at Sleaford.

To run the Nottingham and Skegness route, there will need to be a charging facility or an electrification island at Skegness, as forty miles is to far from an out and back from Sleaford on battery power. The section between Sleaford and Nottingham is easier, as there is a reverse at the fully-electrified Grantham station, where the trains could top-up their batteries.


York station is already an electrification island, as it is fully electrified.

  • Harrogate is 20 miles away, with Leeds another 18 miles further.
  • Hull is 52 miles away, with about 20 miles electrified.
  • Scarborough is 42 miles away.

It would appear that battery-electric trains could work the routes between Doncaster, Harrogate, Hull, Leeds, Scarborough and York.

Midland Main Line (East Midlands Railway)

Hitachi AT-300 Trains On The Midland Main Line

The Midland Main Line (MML) is a mixture of electrified and non-electrified sections. East Midlands Railway have chosen Hitachi Class 810 trains to cope with the mixed infrastructure.

  • There will be thirty-three five car trains.
  • They will have four diesel engines instead of three in the Class 800 trains.
  • They will have a redesigned nose.

Are East Midlands Railway ordering a dual-purpose design?

In the January 2020 Edition of Modern Railways, this is said about the bi-mode Hitachi Class AT-300 trains for Avanti West Coast.

Hitachi told Modern Railways it was unable to confirm the rating of the diesel engines on the bi-modes, but said these would be replaceable by batteries in future if specified.


  • Both fleets of trains are for delivery in 2022.
  • Ease of manufacture would surely mean, that Hitachi would want the two fleets to be substantially the same.
  • A train with four engines could be needed to cruise at 125 mph on diesel.
  • Four engine slots would mean that, if you were replacing some engines with batteries, you’d have more flexibility.

Hitachi seem to be playing an inscrutable game.

This section entitled Powertrain in the Wikipedia entry for the Class 800 train, says this about the powertrain for Class 800/801/802 trains.

Despite being underfloor, the generator units (GU) have diesel engines of V12 formation. The Class 801 has one GU for a five to nine-car set. These provide emergency power for limited traction and auxiliaries if the power supply from the overhead line fails. The Class 800 and Class 802 bi-mode has three GU per five-car set and five GU per nine-car set. A five-car set has a GU situated under vehicles 2/3/4 and a nine-car set has a GU situated under vehicles 2/3/5/7/8.

Hitachi must have found a way to arrange four GUs under a Class 810 train.

  • They could be using slightly smaller engines. Smaller engines could be fitted to curb overheating.
  • The engines might be in pairs under vehicles 2 and 4, possibly sharing utilities like fuel tanks and cooling systems.

But as the vehicles are two metres shorter, it wouldn’t be a shoe-in.

When the trains are to be upgraded to battery electric trains, an appropriate number of GUs would be replaced by batteries.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that both Avanti West Coast and East Midlands Railway will have trains that can be converted from five-car bi-mode trains into battery-electric trains, with a range of between 55 and 65 miles.

  • As a control engineer, I believe that a battery could be made to be plug compatible with a GU.
  • An extra battery could be placed under vehicle 3, in the spare engine position.

I reckon that Hitachi’s quote of a sixty-five mile range would at 3 kWh per vehicle-mile need about one MWh of batteries.

That is 200 kWh per vehicle, so I feel it should be possible.

Electrification Of The Midland Main Line

Current plans for electrified sections of the MML are as follows.

  • London St. Pancras and Corby – 79.5 miles – Opening December 2020
  • London St. Pancras and Market Harborough – 83 miles – Opening December 2020
  • Clay Cross North Junction and Sheffield – 15.5 miles – To be built in conjunction with High Speed Two

The gap between Market Harborough and Clay Cross North Junction is about 66 miles.

Electrification Islands On The Midland Main Line

As with the ECML, there are several large and smaller stations along the MML, that can act as electrification islands to support either local services or long-distance services from London.

I will deal with the electrification islands, starting in London.


In Looking At The East West Railway Between Bedford And Cambridge, I came to the conclusion, that the East West Railway (EWR) and the MML, would share electrified tracks through Bedford station.

  • There are also rumours of electrification of the East West Railway, which I wrote about in EWR Targets Short-Term Fleet Ahead Of Possible Electrification, after an article in Rail Magazine with the same title.
  • But even so Bedford and Cambridge are only thirty miles apart, which is well within the capability of a battery-electric train.
  • Continuing to the West on the EWR, it is under twenty miles to the electrification at Bletchley on the West Coast Main Line (WCML).

It looks to be that battery-electric trains running on the EWR would be able to charge their batteries as they pass through Bedford.

  • It does appear to me, that the EWR chose a route through Bedford that would make this feasible.
  • It would also be relatively easy to electrify the EWR to the East and/or West of Bedford to increase the time using electrification, to fully charge the trains.
  • As Cambridge and Bletchley are around fifty miles apart, this journey between two fully-electrified stations, would be possible for a battery-electric train, especially, if it were able to take a sip of electricity in the possible stops at Bedford and Sandy or St. Neots.

If in the end, it is decided to electrify the EWR, Bedford would surely be a location, with enough power to feed the electrification.


Leicester station is an important station on the MML.

But it would be a difficult station to electrify because of a bridge with limited clearance.

In Discontinuous Electrification Through Leicester Station, I discussed how the following.

  • Discontinuous electrification through Leicester station.
  • Electrification between Leicester and Derby stations.
  • Electrifying the High Speed Two route between Clay Cross Junction and Sheffield.

Would allow Hitachi Class 810 trains, equipped with batteries to run between London and Sheffield on electric power alone.


East Midlands Parkway

East Midlands Parkway station is nineteen miles North of Leicester station.

This Google Map shows its unique position.

Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station is the eighteenth highest emitter of CO2 in Europe and will surely be closed soon.

But then, a power station, will have a good connection to the National Grid, ensuring there could be plenty of power for electrification, even after the current power station is long gone, as it will surely be replaced by another power station or energy storage.

East Midlands Parkway station is also well-connected.

  • Clay Cross North Junction is 31 miles away.
  • Derby is 10 miles away.
  • Leicester is 18 miles away.
  • Nottingham is 8 miles away.
  • Sheffield is 47 miles away.

It should be possible to reach all these places on battery-power from East Midlands Parkway.

Electrification Between Leicester And East Midlands Parkway

The more I look at this stretch of the MML, the more I feel that this eighteen mile stretch should be electrified to create what could become a linear electrification island.


  • It is a 125 mph multi-track railway across fairly flat countryside.
  • Connecting electrification to the grid is often a problem, but Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station is adjacent to East Midlands Parkway station.
  • The section is only eighteen miles long, but this is surely long enough to fully-charge a battery train speeding to and from the capital.
  • There are only four intermediate stations; Syston, Sileby, Barrow-on-Soar and Loughborough.
  • The engineering for gauge clearance and electrification, looks to be no more difficult, than it will be between Kettering and Market Harborough.
  • Between Leicester and Market Harborough stations is only sixteen miles.
  • Between East Midlands Parkway and Nottingham is only eight miles, so it would be possible for Nottingham services to run without a charge at Nottingham station.
  • Between East Midlands Parkway and Derby is only ten miles, so it would be possible for Derby services to run without a charge at Derby station.
  • Between East Midlands Parkway and the shared electrified section with High Speed Two at Clay Cross North Junction is thirty-one miles, so it would be possible for Sheffield services to be run without using diesel, once the shared electrification is complete between Clay Cross North Junction and Sheffield.
  • Battery-electric trains between East Midlands Parkway and Clay Cross North Junction could also use the Erewash Valley Line through Ikeston, Langley Mill and Alfreton.
  • There would be no need to electrify through the World Heritage Site of the Derwent Valley Mills that lies between Derby and Clay Cross North Junction, as trains will be speeding through on battery power. Electrifying through this section, might be too much for some people.
  • If the trains can’t switch between battery and overhead electrification power, the changeover can be in Leicester and East Midlands Parkway stations. However, I believe that Hitachi’s AT-300 trains can do the changeover at line speed.

The electrification could also be used by other services.

  • Between Corby and Syston North Junction is only thirty-six miles, so it would be possible to run electric services between London St. Pancras and Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield via Corby, if the main route were to be blocked by engineering work.
  • Between Peterborough and Syston East Junction is forty-seven miles, so it should be possible to run CrossCountry’s Stansted Airport and Birmingham service using battery-electric trains. If the train could leave Leicester with a full battery, both Birmingham New Street and Peterborough should be within range.
  • East Midlands Railway’s Lincoln and Leicester service run for a distance of sixty-one miles via East Midlands Parkway, Nottingham and Newark stations. Electrification between Leicester and East Midlands Parkway, would mean there was just forty-two miles to do on battery power. An electrification island at Lincoln would charge the train for return.

Battery-electric trains with a range of between 55 and 65 miles would really open up the East Midlands to electric services if between Leicester and East Midlands Parkway were to be electrified.

London And Sheffield In A Battery-Electric Class 810 Train

This is speculation on my part, but I think this could be how trains run London to Sheffield before 2030.

  • London to Market Harborough – 83 miles – Using electrification
  • Switch to battery power at line speed.
  • Market Harborough to Leicester – 16 miles – Using battery power
  • Switch to electrification in Leicester station
  • Leicester to East Midlands Parkway – 19 miles – Using electrification
  • Switch to battery power at line speed.
  • East Midlands Parkway to Clay Cross North Junction – 31 miles – Using battery power
  • Switch to electrification at line speed.
  • Clay Cross North Junction to Sheffield – 15.5 miles – Using electrification


  1. 118 miles would be run using electrification and 47 miles using battery power.
  2. Battery power has been used to avoid the tricky electrification at Leicester station and along the Derwent Valley.

I don’t believe any of the engineering will be any more difficult, than what has been achieved on the MML in the last year or so.



  • Nottingham station would probably have access to a reliable electricity supply, as Nottingham is a large city of over 300,000 people.
  • Nottingham station has a comprehensive network of local services.
  • Nottingham station has an excellent connection to Nottingham Express Transit.
  • Birmingham New Street is 57 miles away, via Derby and Burton.
  • Burton-on-Trent is 27 miles away.
  • Derby is 16 miles away.
  • Grantham is 23 miles away.
  • Lincoln is 34 miles away.
  • Matlock is 33 miles away.
  • Newark is 17 miles away.
  • Sheffield is 40 miles away.
  • Worksop is 32 miles away.
  • Most of these local services are run by East Midlands Railway, with some services run by Northern and CrossCountry.
  • Some services run back-to-back through Nottingham.

I feel very strongly that if charging is provided in Nottingham, when trains turnback or pass through the station, that many of the local services can be run by battery-electric trains.

Previously, I have shown, that if between Leicester and East Midlands Parkway is electrified, then services between London and Nottingham, can be run by battery-electric trains.

There is also a fall-back position at Nottingham, as the local services could be run by hydrogen-powered trains.


Sheffield station would at first glance appear to be very similar to Nottingham.

  • Sheffield station would probably have access to a reliable electricity supply, as Sheffield is a large urban area of 700,000 people.
  • Sheffield station has a comprehensive network of local services.
  • Sheffield station has an excellent connection to the Sheffield Supertram.

But it looks like Sheffield station will see the benefits of electrification the Northern section of the MML from Clay Cross North Junction.

  • The 15.5 miles of electrification will be shared with the Sheffield spur of High Speed Two.
  • Currently, trains take sixteen minutes between Sheffield and Clay Cross North Junction.
  • Electrification and an improved high-speed track will allow faster running, better acceleration and a small saving of time.
  • A Sheffield train will be charged going to and from Sheffield, so will leave Clay Cross North Junction for Derby and the South with full batteries.
  • There must also be opportunities for local trains running between Sheffield and Class Cross Junction North to use the electrification and be run by battery-electric trains.

Current destinations include.

  • Derby is 36 miles away.
  • Doncaster is 19 miles away.
  • Huddersfield is 36 miles away.
  • Leeds is 45 miles away.
  • Lincoln is 49 miles away.
  • Manchester Piccadilly is 42 miles away.
  • Nottingham is 40.5 miles away.


  1. Doncaster, Leeds and Manchester Piccadilly stations are fully electrified.
  2. Work on electrifying Huddersfield and Leeds will start in a year or so, so Huddersfield will be electrified.
  3. I am firly sure that Lincoln and Nottingham will have enough electrification to recharge and turn trains.
  4. Some routes are partially electrified.

As with Nottingham, I am fairly sure, that local services at Sheffield could be run by battery-electric trains. And the same fall-back of hydrogen-powered trains, would also apply.

Sheffield And Manchester Piccadilly In A Battery-Electric Train


  • Once Sheffield and Clay Cross North Junction is electrified in conjunction with High Speed Two, at least five miles of the Hope Valley Line at the Sheffield end will be electrified.
  • It may be prudent to electrify through Totley Tunnel to increase the electrification at Sheffield to ten miles.
  • The route via Stockport is 43 miles long of which nine miles at the Manchester End is electrified.
  • The route via Marple is 42 miles long of which two miles at the Manchester End is electrified.

There would appear to be no problems with running the TransPennine Express service between Manchester Airport and Cleethorpes using battery-electric trains, as from Hazel Grove to Manchester Airport is fully electrified and in the East, they can charge the batteries at Sheffield, Doncaster and a future electrification island at Cleethorpes.

The Northern service between Manchester Piccadilly and Sheffield could be run using battery-electric trains with some more electrification at the Manchester End or an extended turnback in Manchester Piccadilly.

Transport for Manchester has plans to run improve services at their end of the Hope Valley Line, with tram-trains possible to Glossop and Hadfield.

It would probably be worthwhile to look at the Hope Valley Line to make sure, it has enough future capacity. I would suspect the following could be likely.

  • More electrification.
  • More stations.
  • Battery-electric trains or tram-trains from Manchester to Glossop, Hadfield, New Mills Central, Rose Hill Marple and Sheffield.

I would suspect one solution would be to use more of Merseyrail’s new dual-voltage Class 777 trains, which have a battery capability.

Sheffield And Nottingham In A Battery-Electric Train


  • Once Sheffield and Clay Cross North Junction is electrified in conjunction with High Speed Two, 15.5 miles of the route will be electrified.
  • The total length of the route is 40.5 miles.
  • There are intermediate stops at Dronfield, Chesterfield, Alfreton, Langley Mill and Ilkeston.
  • Currently, journeys seem to take around 53 minutes.

I think it would be likely that the battery would need to be topped up at Nottingham, but I think a passenger-friendly timetable can be developed.

West Coast Main Line (Avanti West Coast)

Hitachi AT-300 Trains On The West Coast Main Line

The West Coast Main Line (WCML) is a mainly electrified and with some non-electrified extended routes. Avanti West Coast have chosen Hitachi AT-300 trains to cope with infrastructure.

  • There will be ten seven-car electric trains.
  • There will be thirteen five-car bi-mode trains.

As these trains will be delivered after East Midlands Railway’s Class 810 trains and East Coast Trains’ Class 803 trains, the following questions must be asked.

  • Will the trains have the redesigned nose of the Class 810 trains?
  • Will the bi-mode trains have four diesel engines (Class 810 trains) or three ( Class 800 trains)?
  • Will the electric trains ordered by First Group companies; Avanti West Coast and East Coast Trains be similar, except for the length?

I would expect Hitachi will want the trains to be as similar as possible for ease of manufacture.

Electrification Islands On The West Coast Main Line

As with the ECML and the MML, there are a couple of large and smaller stations along the WCML, that can act as electrification islands to support either local services or long-distance services from London.

I will deal with the electrification islands, starting in London.

Watford Junction

Watford Junction station is already an electrification island, as it is fully electrified.

Services around Watford Junction have possibilities to be expanded and improved using battery-electric trains.

Milton Keynes

Milton Keynes Central station is already an electrification island, as it is fully electrified.

  • East West Railway services will call at Bletchley and not Milton Keynes.
  • There may be a connection between East West Rail and High Speed Two at Calvert station, which is 15 miles away.
  • Milton Keynes will get a service from Aylesbury, which is 22 miles away.

There may be possibilities to link Watford Junction and Milton Keynes via Aylesbury using battery-electric trains to give both places a connection to High Speed Two at a new Calvert station.







April 8, 2020 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments