The Anonymous Widower

We Should All Think Radically!

In the August 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, Ian Walmsley, who is a writer, that I respect, thinks radically about how to upgrade or replace the High Speed Trains  on the Midland Main Line.

He has a lot of experience in the rail industry and his views in this issue, are probably worth the price of the magazine alone.

He feels the InterCity 125s should be replaced as you can only make-do-and-mend for so long and he proposes replacing them with a modern equivalent, which would initially be two diesel locomotives topping and tailing a rake of new coaches, and then if electrification happens, the diesels are replaced with electric units.

Ian’s article comes a few days after this article in Rail Technology Magazine, entitled New bi-mode fleet a requirement for East Midlands as consultation opens, was published.

This is the first paragraph.

The DfT has this week launched its public consultation on the new East Midlands franchise, including specifications for a new bi-mode fleet of intercity trains, whilst at the same time revealing that plans to electrify the Midland Main Line north of Kettering have been abandoned.

There is going to have to be a lot of radical thinking to get a solution for that.

To make the replacement harder, Ian indicates various problems, which I won’t disclose here.

But I do think Ian’s idea is sound and it could be the solution to the problem of running modern 125 mph trains from St. Pancras to Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield.

So How Feasible Is Ian’s Plan?

Maths and physics don’t change. so I suspect that the calculations done by Terry Miller and his team in the 19670s, which led to the iconic InterCity 125 are still valid.

Locomotive Haulage

The power output of each Class 43 power car is 2,250 hp, so to propel an appropriate number of new carriages, you still need a locomotive at each end of the train.

The most modern diesel locomotive in the UK is the Stadler-built Class 68 locomotive, which has a power voutput of 3,800 hp, but a top speed of only 100 mph. The only 125 mph diesel locomotive in the UK is the Class 67 locomotive. To complicate matters, there is also the Stadler-built Class 88 locomotive, which is a 100 mph electro-diesel locomotive, but this locomotive is more a powerful electric locomotive with a sensible-sized last-mile diesel engine.

Ian suggests, that as the Class 68 is a few tonnes lighter than the Class 67, that a 125 mph Class 68/2 locomotive would be possible.

I don’t disagree, but given the quality of railway engineering coming out of companies like Bombardier, CAF and Stadler, that someone will do better.

We should also consider that the UK will need more than a few new freight locomotives in the next few years, as they do seem to be scratching around for motive power, as this picture shows.

These two Class 86 locomotives date from the mid-1960s. But they do have around 3,600 hp each and a top speed of around 100-110 mph.

I even saw this interesting combination at Shenfield.

The Class 90 and Class 66 locomotives appear to be double-heading the heavy freight train. The Class 90, of which several will become available soon from Greater Anglia are 5,000 hp units with a top speed of 110 mph, whereas the ubiquitous Class 66 has only 3,300 hp and 75 mph.

With more and more long freight trains appearing on increasingly busy main lines, these freight trains must be becoming unwelcome to the companies running passenger trains and also to those, who live alongside the lines.

So is there another desperate need for a powerful locomotive to pull express freight trains at maximum length and weight around the country?

Some main freight routes like these are electrified with 25 KVAC overhead wires or will be soon.

  • East Coast Main Line
  • West Coast Main Line
  • Greast Eastern Main Line
  • Great Western Main Line
  • North London Line
  • Gospel Oak to Barking Line

But others are not.

  • London to Southampton
  • Felixstowe to Peterborough and The Midlands
  • Peterborough to Doncaster via Lincoln
  • Trans-Pennine Routes

And that’s just for starters.

I think it becomes obvious, why Direct Rail Services and Stadler came up with the Class 88 locomotive. The 5,300 hp available under the wires is more than adequate for the heaviest express intermodel freight train and the 1,000 hp under diesel can probably move the train into and out of the docks.

But this amount of diesel power is probably inadequate for hauling a heavy  freight train at 100 mph.

A New Electro-Diesel Locomotive

So could we see a new electro-diesel locomotive with the following characteristics?

  • The ability of a pair to top-and-tail an express passenger train on both diesel and 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The ability to haul the heaviest intermodal freight trains at up to 100 mph  on both diesel and 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The ability to switch between modes at line speed.
  • Regenerative braking underboth elkectricity and diesel.

In a few years time the diesel might be replaced by hydrogen or some other exotic fuel.

Electrification South Of Bedford

It might appear that these locomotives if working the Midland Main Line could switch to electric power South of Bedford or in the near future; Kettering, but the electrification is limited to 100 mph and there is no planned upgrade. This is a familiar story for anybody like me who uses the Great Eastern Main Line, where the inadequate electrification has had to be upgraded over the last couple of years to allow faster services.

The Coaches

The coaches are the least of the problems for Ian’s proposals.

This article on Rail Technology Magazine is entitled First bodyshell completed by CAF for new TPE fleet.

This is the first paragraph.

Pictures of the first bodyshell for new rolling stock to be used by TransPennine Express (TPE) have been unveiled as the operator looks to introduce 13 five-car Mark 5A Coaches – being built by Spanish company CAF – as part of its brand-new fleet.

The Mark 5A coaches, being built by CAF are designed for 125 mph!  So all that is needed is to specify the interior!

As the Spanish train manufacturer has just announced the building of a factory at Llanwern in South Wales, that might be an ideal place to build the coaches needed.

Beating The PRM Deadline In 2020

The Mark 5A coaches for TransPennine Express are scheduled for delivery in 2018-2019, so I suspect the coaches for the Midland Main Line could start to be delivered after the TransPennine Express and Caledonian Sleeper orders are complete.

The locomotives might be move problematical, but if they are a derivative of an existing type, then surely this wouldn’t delay fleet introduction.

I suspect that a certain amount of testing can be done in parallel too!

So having some trains in service by the PRM eadline of 2020 could certainly be possible.

Conclusion

Ian Walmsley’s proposal for the next Midland Main Line franchise is possible.

July 29, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 2 Comments

Does Northern See Wigan As A Class 769 Train Hub?

The Wikipedia entry for Northern, shows under their entry for eight Class 769 trains, that the routes they will cover include.

  • Liverpool to Wigan
  • Manchester to Wigan North Western via Bolton.

Wigan is a proud and friendly town and I wrote about it in Wigan On The Up.

The West Coast Main Line through Wigan North Western station is electrified and Northern run half-hourly electric services to Liverpool using Class 319 trains.

But the other station; Wigan Wallgate is not wired and is definitely Pacer territory.

Liverpool to Wigan

As Liverpool Lime Street to Wigan North Western is fully electrified, I would be very surprised if Northern would run a bi-mode Class 769 train on this route, except as a stand-in for a failed Class 319 train.

Routes to places North of Wigan North Western, like Blackpool, Lancaster and Preston will be fully-electrified, so these routes can be served by the Class 319 trains.

Northern could be thinking of running a service between Liverpool Lime Street and Blackburn/Burnley for which a Class 769 train would be ideal.

But I think more likely, is that they are thinking of using Class 769 trains on the Kirkby Branch Line, which currently links Kirkby and Wigan Wallgate stations.

Consider.

  • There is talk of running this branch as a shuttle.
  • Wigan Wallgate station already has a suitable bay platform for a shuttle.
  • The route is double-track except between Kirkby and Rainford stations.
  • Kirkby to Wigan Wallgate takes a convenient twenty-four minutes.
  • Merseyrail have a long term ambition to built a new Headbolt Lane station, as an interchange between their Northern Line and services to Wigan and Manchester.
  • Merseyrail want to serve Skelmersdale.

Could this route be the reason for the reported Battery EMUs For Merseyrail?

  1. The Class 769 trains are used between Kirkby and Wigan Wallgate stations as a shuttle.
  2. Two trains would be able to provide a two trains per hour (tph) service, without any new infrastructure.
  3. Merseyrail ascertain that their new Stadler trains can travel between Kirkby and Wigan Wallgate and back on battery power.
  4. Merseyrail determine if a fast charging station is needed in the bay platform at Wigan Wallgate for their Stadler trains.

If the Class 769 trains show the passenger traffic is there and the Stadler trains can handle the route on batteries, could we see some or all of the Merseyrail Northern Line services extended to Wigan Wallgate?

Because the Stadler trains will be fast modern trains designed to execute stops quickly, I suspect that even on the single track section of line between Kirkby and Rainford stations, they could run at the frequency of four tph, that is currently run all day between Kirkby and Liverpool Central stations.

  • This would mean that the the current four tph to Kirkby would become four tph to Wigan Wallgate.
  • The service would be run by brand-new Stadler trains.
  • The track at Kirkby would have to be relaid to allow trains to run straight through.
  • The signalling would probably need updating.
  • Means to charge the trains at Wigan Wallgate might need to be provided.
  • A new single-platform station could be built at Headbolt Lane.
  • The four stations between Kirkby and Wigan Wallgate would get four tph in both directions.

It would give The Train To Wigan Pier a whole new meaning.

Once they had done their good works in proving the route, the Class 769 trains would be posted elsewhere to do more missionary work.

Manchester to Wigan North Western via Bolton

This is the other route mentioned in Wikipedia.

Consider.

  • Bolton to Manchester will be electrified, by the end of the year.
  • The route passes through Ince, Hindley, Westhoughton and Lostock.

Class 769 trains travelling this route,  would open a second electrified route between Manchester and Preston via Wigan.

Manchester to Southport

Why was this route not mentioned?

  • Manchester to Southport is a route run mainly by Pacers to a frequency of two tph.
  • Some trains go via Bolton and some via Atherton.
  • The route via Bolton will be partly electrified by the end of the year.
  • The route via Atherton is not electrified.

I suspect that under current plans of just eight Class 769 trains, there aren’t enough to use them on this busy route.

Ideally, this route should be run with two tph going on each of the routes to Manchester from Wigan Wallgate.

The Future

Northern have ordered both diesel and electric Civity multiple units from CAF.

In Auckland Mulls Battery-Electric Train Order, I looked at how CAF had proposed battery-electric Civity trains for Auckland.

I’m sure CAF wouldn’t mind varying the order.

July 28, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Auckland Mulls Battery-Electric Train Order

The title of this post is the title of this article on the International Railway Journal.

This is the first paragraph.

Auckland Council is expected to decide next week whether to proceed with an order for 17 battery-electric multiple units, which would replace DMUs on services on suburban services to Pukekohe.

The trains are being offered by CAF and are designed to work the Southern Line between Britomart Transport Centre in Auckland and Pukekohe.

The route is in two sections.

  • From Britomart to Papakura is electrified at 25 KVAC.
  • From Papakura to Pukekohe is run by a diesel shuttle.

The diesel shuttle runs over a distance of 18.38 km.

The plan would appear to be for the new trains to run as follows.

  • To Papakura using the current electrification, charging the battery as they travelled.
  • At Papakura they would switch to battery power for the shuttle to Pukekohe.
  • On return to Papakura, they would switch back  to the electrification and return to Auckland.

This would be a distance of 36.76 km. or just under twenty-three miles.

Conclusion

I think that this proposal is very significant.

CAF have put their money where their mouth is in this proposal, as if the trains couldn’t fulfil the requirements, it would be Spanish omelettes all over the place.

From the picture in the article on the International Railway Journal, it would appear that the offered trains are a version of the Civity train, which is being supplied to Northern as Class 331 trains.

A 23 mile battery range would be handy, as it could probably handle the Windermere Branch from Oxenholme.

 

July 27, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 2 Comments

CAF Rarely Do The Obvious, But It’s Generally Sound

This article on the BBC is entitled 300 Train Building jobs Created At £30m Newport Centre.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Three hundred “highly-skilled and well paid” engineering jobs will be created when a Spanish train manufacturer opens a production factory in Newport.
Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF) is expected to open its £30m centre where Llanwern Steelworks once stood in autumn 2018.

Currently CAF are supplying the following trains and trams for the UK.

The trains alone add up to nearly five hundred vehicles.

If you look at the geography of the sea routes between the Basque Country and the United Kingdom, taking a cargo ship with a few trains to South Wales  is probably not the most difficult or indirect of voyages.

Newport too, is on the South Wales Main Line, which is well connected all over England, by lines that should be electrified and will hopefully be by 2019.

This Google Map shows the Celtic Business Park in relation to Newport and its docks.

The Celtic Business Park is part of the massive rectangular site to the North East of Newport, that is the Llanwern steelworks, which is being downsized. The South Wales Main Line passes along the North side of the site and the map clearly shows access to Newport Docks.

It raises the question that CAF may bring the trains in on their wheels in a specialist train ferry.

I know nothing about how much preparation needs to be performed on a foreign-built train, before it can run on the UK rail network, but it would be expected that just checking the five hundred vehicles must keep quite a few employees busy. I suppose too, that if certain parts of the train were sourced from the UK, that instead of sending them to Spain, they could be fitted in Newport.

It should also be remembered, that Hitachi build their body-shells in Japan and then ship them to Newton Aycliffe for fitting out.

Although, the Welsh and the Basques are two nations with strong cultural ties; rugby included, I think that Newport was chosen with another very practical reason in mind.

In the May 2016 Edition of Modern Railways, Ian Walmsley, wrote an article called Metroland Of My Fathers, which included these  paragraphs.

Back in the November 2013 issue of Modern Railways I raised the possibility of converting the Cardiff network to light rail. I was still working for Porterbrook at the time, which, like other rolling stock companies (ROSCOs), saw the Valleys as a retirement home for its old London commuter trains, so when the proposal met with the response it’s heavy rail and that’s that, I was quite happy.

The local press and BBC Wales showed more interest and now I am delighted to say that Network Rail has the Valley Lines electrification ‘on hold’ pending re-evaluation.

Consider the following.

  • Urbos trams come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
  • Trams are getting better every year at climbing hills.
  • The Urbos family includes the Urbos TT, which is a tram-train.
  • Midland Metro’s trams are being fitted with energy storage using supercapacitors
  • How much marketing advantage for other places, is gained from having Edinburgh and Cardiff on the customer list?
  • Conversion could probably be done on a line-by-line basis.
  • Provision must be made for freight trains on some lines.
  • Cardiff and the Valley Lines were resignalled in the last few years and everything is controlled from Cardiff ROC

But remember that CAF are a very research and design-oriented company.

So what is the likelihood that the Cardiff Valley Lines will be converted to light rail using a CAF product?

I would say pretty high, especially after reading this article in Global Rail News, which is entitled Engineering Firm BWB Consulting Bought By Spanish Giant CAF.

I could see a design of rail vehicle with these features.

  • The ability to work on standard rail track.
  • The ability to give level step-free access to standard height rail station platforms.
  • The ability to use modern railway signalling.
  • The ability to climb steep gradients.
  • The ability to work on both 25 KVAC and 750 VDC overhead.
  • Automatic pantograph raising and lowering.
  • Supercapacitor energy storage.
  • Regenerative braking.

I could see an energy-saving vehicle being designed, that made clever use of the gradients.

Would it be a train or a tram-train?

Increasingly, the difference is getting blurred!

 

 

 

July 13, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment