The Anonymous Widower

Cardiff Queen Street Station

Cardiff Queen Street station is the first station to be refurbished for the proposed South Wales Metro.

Note.

  1. The station is fully step-free.
  2. The platforms are wide, which helps interchange or waiting for your destination. See Canada Water on the Overground and St. Pancras on Thameslink.
  3. Currently, to get to Cardiff Bay station, you need to catch a five trains per hour (tph) shuttle train from Platform 1.

The service pattern is fairly-straight-forward, with the following lines passing though the station from South to North.

It is said, that to build anything, you need good foundations.

These services through Cardiff Queen Street station, seem to be a good foundation for the South Wales Metro.

The current proposed services through the station after the Metro is completed are.

  • 2 tph – Coryton Line between Penarth and Coryton stations via Cardiff Central – Tri-Mode Stadler Flirts
  • 2 tph – Cynon Line between The Flourish and Aberdare stations.. – Stadler Citylink Metro Vehicles
  • 2 tph – Rhondda Line between Cardiff Queen Street and Treherbert stations – Stadler Citylink Metro Vehicles
  • 2 tph – Rhondda Line between The Flourish and Treherbert stations – Stadler Citylink Metro Vehicles
  • 2 tph – Rhymney Line between Barry Island and Rhymney stations via Cardiff Central – Tri-Mode Stadler Floirts
  • 2 tph – Rhymney Line between Bridgend and Rhymney stations via Cardiff Central – Tri-Mode Stadler Flirts
  • 2 tph – Rhymney Line between Penarth and Caerphilly stations via Cardiff Central – Tri-Mode Stadler Flirts
  • 2 tph – Taff Line between The Flourish and Merthyr Tydfil stations – Stadler Citylink Metro Vehicles
  • 2 tph – Cynon and Taff Lines between Aberdate and Merthyr Tydfil stations via the City Line and Cardiff Central – Stadler Citylink Metro Vehicles.

Summarising services gives these figures.

  • 6 tph – To and from The Flourish – Stadler Citylink Metro Vehicles
  • 10 tph – To and from Cardiff Central – Tri-Mode Stadler Flirts
  • 2 tph – To and from Cardiff Central – Stadler Citylink Metro Vehicles

This Google Map shows Cardiff Queen Street station.

Note.

  1. The bay platform, which is numbered 1, is in the South East corner of the station. is used for services to Cardiff Bay station.
  2. There is no North-facing bay platform.
  3. Northbound trains for Aberdare, Merthyr Tydfil and Treherbert share Platform 5.
  4. Northbound trains for Bargoed, Coryton and Rhymney share Platform 4.
  5. Sounthbound trains use Platforms 2 and 3.

I believe that this layout will be changed  in the creation of the South Wales Metro.

In an ideal world passengers should have a same-platform or cross-platform interchange between services going in the same direction.

If services going in the same direction shared the same platform, this would meet sixteen tph using two platforms, as two tph will terminate at Cardiff Queen Street station.

Canada Water station on the East London Line of the London Underground in a couple of years will be handling twenty tph.

  • The platforms are wide with escalators, lifts and stairs.
  • Four Southern destinations and Two Northern destinations are served.
  • All services are run by Class 378 trains.
  • Access between train and platform is step free and wheel-chairs and buggies can be pushed across.
  • The East London Line has modern signalling.

If Crossrail and Thameslink will be able to handle twenty-four tph with digital signalling, I believe a solution can be found so that sixteen tph can pass through Cardiff Queen Street station.

Having seen wide platforms in operation at stations like Canonbury, London Bridge and Whitechapel, I feel an ideal layout at Queen Street station would be to use Platform 3 for all Southbound services and Platform 4 for all Northbound services, with as  wide a platform as possible in between.

Consider.

  • Passengers from Rymney and Coryton needing to go to The Flourish, would get off the train and get a Citylink for The Flourish.
  • Passengers between The Flourish and Cardiff Central would just have to walk across the platform at Queen Street station to change trains.
  • Passengers needing a train to Rhoose Airport could choose to change at Queen Street station.

Most waits at Queen Street station would be in a few minutes.

Although, passengers would wait longer for Barry Island, Bridgend and Rhoose Airport.

There is still the problem about what to do with the two tph that from Treherbert that terminate at Queen Street station.

  1. They could use Platform 2 or 5.
  2. They could use a new bay platform in the North end of Pltform 3/4.
  3. They could go through Queen Street station to terminate at The Flourish
  4. They could go through Queen Street and Central stations to terminate elsewhere.

Option 1 would have problems.

  • Every thirty minutes a Citylink would have to cross the busy lines to the North of Queen Street station.
  • Passengers wouldn’t always use the same platform for the Rhondda Line.
  • Passengers wouldn’t have an easy interchange at Queen Street station.

Option 2 would be better.

  • The track layout would be similar.
  • Rhondda Line passengers would only have the inconvenience of sometimes walking along the platform.

.Even if this option was not used to turn trains, I suspect it could be built, as it would also be useful for service recovery purposes.

I like Option 3, although it will have the following consequences.

  • ,The Flourish would need to be able to handle eight tph on the two proposed platforms.
  • Queen Street station would need to be able to handle eighteen tph in both directions.

I suspect that both problems are solvable.

The problem with Option 4 is where do you turn the two extra trains?

I suspect that the Citylink vehicles can only use the City Line after Cardiff Central.

Would it be a good idea or not to run four tph on this route?

I don’t know! But a personable young station man at Queen Street station, said that handling the football can be a problem.

So perhaps more trains going to Ninian Park station might be a good idea.

I write about it in detail in The South Wales Metro and Big Events.

Conclusion

Cardiff Queen Street station has the possibility to be a World Class Metro interchange.

 

 

 

June 10, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Can Discontinuous Electrification Be Handled?

On the proposed South Wales Metro, it is proposed to use discontinuous electrification to avoid rebuilding a lot of bridges and other structures.

This document on the KeolisAmey web site details their plans for the new Wales and Borders Franchise.

The document states this about the electrification.

Discontinuous overhead line electrification to 25 KVAC with permanently earthed sections around restricted structures, saving 55 interventions e.g. rebuilding bridges/no need for wire in Caerphilly tunnel.

So how are these interventions avoided?

The Karlsruhe Solution

On the Karlsruhe Stadbahn, similar Citylink vehicles to those proposed for Cardiff need to work on both the main line 15 KVAC used in Germany and the 750 VDC used by Karlsruhe trams.

To isolate the two voltages, a ceramic rod is placed in the catenary. The vehicle’s pantograph just rides across the voltage boundary and the vehicle’s electrical system uses whatever voltage is present.

Bridges On The South Wales Metro

These pictures show some of the types of bridges on the Cardiff Valleys Lines.

They are a real assortment.

  • Some station footbridges from the Victorian era with nice castings and decoration, but no much-needed step-free access.
  • Some quality brick and stone arch bridges.
  • British Rail-era steel bridges, with no architectural merit
  • Some modern road bridges in steel and concrete.

I also saw sizeable pipelines over the railway, which would need to be raised.

The greatest number were simple steel bridges like the one at Caerphilly station, designed to get pedestrians and cyclists, who were not using the railway, from one side of the tracks to the other.

I suspect the simplest way would be to erect two standard gantries at a safe distance of a few metres either side of the structure.

Between the two gantries would be an conductor, like this one. that I photographed in the Berlin Hauphtbahnhof.

It would be earthed, so that it offered no danger to life. There could even be extra supports under the bridge.

At each end, it would be connected to the 25 KVAC using a ceramic rod or other insulating device.

The vehicle’s pantograph would then ride from one side of the bridge to the other on its own track without being lowered.

Anything electrified at 25 KVAC would be kept at a very safe distance from the bridge.

In the earthed section, when the vehicle would be receiving no power, the vehicle would automatically switch to battery power. There would be no driver action required, except to monitor it was all working as it should.

As on the South Wales Metro, it appears that all vehicles using the lines proposed to be electrified will have their own onboard batteries, there shouldn’t be any problem.

In some ways, this discontinuous operation is a bit like using your laptop connected to the mains. When say the cleaner pulls out the plug to put in the vacuum cleaner, your laptop switches automatically to the battery.

The Caerphilly Tunnel

The Caerphilly tunnel is over a mile long. This picture shows the tunnel entrance.

It would probably be possible to electrify using a rail in the roof, but why bother if the trains running through the tunnel could go from one end to the other on their own battery power?

Trains could lower the pantograph before entry and then raise it again, when under the electrification at the other end.

This could be performed automatically using a GPS-based system.

I have also had an e-mail, which said this.

As I understand Caerphilly will have a natural bar in it but be much closer to the train roof than would be allowed with a live one.

Now there’s an idea!

A composite or earthed metal rail would be fixed to the roof of the tunnel, so that the pantograph could run smoothly from one electrified section on one side of the tunnel to the electrification on the other side, using battery power all the way.

Cost Savings

In Novel Solution Cuts Cardiff Bridge Wiring Cost, I talked about another method applied in South Wales to avoid rebuilding a bridge.

At this bridge, traditional electrification methods were used, but the need to demolish the bridge was avoided by using advanced insulation and protection measures.

This was my final statement.

Network Rail reckon that the solution will save about £10 million on this bridge alone, as it avoids the need for an expensive rebuild of the bridge.

The savings on this bridge will be higher as it is a large bridge over several tracks, but even saving a million on each bridge in the South Wales Metro is £55 million, which will probably be enough to build much of the infrastructure to extend to The Flourish, which would appear to not need expensive viaducts or electrification.

Should Downhill Tracks Be Left Without Electrification?

I think this may be possible on the South Wales Metro, as vehicles coming down the hills could use gravity and small amounts of battery power.

Regenerative braking would also be continuously charging the batteries.

It would certainly be simpler, than having to constantly swap between overhead and battery power on the descent, where the electrification was discontinuous.

As the lines are going to have a more intensive service, there will be additions of a second track in places to allow trains to pass.

Any electrification that could be removed from the project would be beneficial in terms of building and operational costs.

Other Routes

This post has used the South Wales Metro as an example, but I don’t see any reason, why the discontinous method and that used on the Cardiff Bridge can’t be applied to other bridges and structures over the lines on other routes in the country.

I suspect, that if they’d been used on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line, electric trains would have been running months ago!

Conclusion

Look what you get with thinking, when you have a Bonfire of the Boxes!

 

June 7, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Every Pair Of Pictures Tell A Story

This picture on the Rail Technology Magazine website shows a Greater Anglia Class 755 train.

And this picture on the Global Rail News website shows one of the new trains for Transport for Wales.

It is captioned “A Tri-mode unit on the Rhymney Line”.

On another report it is captioned “How a KeolisAmey tram-train will look”.

All trains look very similar and I’m pretty certain that Wales will be getting some Class 755 trains.

Class 755 Trains

Class 755 trains will have the following characteristics.

  • 100 mph operating speed.
  • Able to work on 25 KVAC overhead electrification
  • Able to work using an onboard diesel power-pack.
  • Three or more passenger cars.
  • Ability to be lengthened by adding extra cars as required.
  • Lots of power.

They would be ideal replacements for the current Class 175 trains, as the performance would appear to be similar.

They would also be ideal for services on the following routes.

When running around Birmingham, Cardiff, Crewe, Liverpool and Manchester, they would be able to use the electrification.

So are Keolis/Amey going for a predominantly uniform fleet of perhaps three-car and four-car Class 755 trains outside of the Cardiff Valley Lines, just as Greater Anglia used these trains on their routes without electrification North of Cambridge and Ipswich?

The Borderlands Line

The interesting route is the Borderlands Line between Wrexham Central and Bidston stations.

Currently, to get to and from Liverpool, there is a need to change trains at Bidston.

Merseyrail‘s new Class 777 trains are being built by Stadler.

  • They will link Bidston station to Liverpool, where they will call at several stations in a single-track loop tunnel.
  • The trains have been designed to work under battery power.
  • Both classes of train are likely to be very similar under the skin.

So to eliminate the time-wasting change of train at Bidston station, I wonder if Stadler have designed the Class 755 and Class 777 trains, so that they can both run in the loop tunnel.

The additions needed to the Welsh Class 755 trains, over the Greater Anglian versions would be.

  • Ability to use Merseyrail’s third rail electrification.
  • Clearance to run in the tunnel with diesel onboard.
  • Ability to evacuate passengers in the tunnel, in an emergency.

As Merseyrail have recently rebuilt the tunnel for the new Class 777 trains, I suspect that Stadler can design a Class 755 train, that would be able to avoid the change of train at Bidston.

I’ll Wait For More Information

It would seem prudent to wait for more information.

 

June 4, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Discontinuous Electrification For Valley Lines?

The title of this post, is the same as that of an article in the May 2018 Edition of Modern Railways.

The Valley Lines in question are the Cardiff Valley Lines, that fan out from Cardiff Central and Cardiff Queen Street stations in various directions.

  • Some of the lines into the valleys are quite steep.
  • The lines in the Cardiff area seem to be typical coastal lines and fairly flat.
  • The lines are a mixture of single and double track.
  • There are various plans to extend some of the branches.

According to the article, it would appear that the current diesel system would be replaced with a system, with these characteristics.

  • Light rail vehicles
  • Discontinuous electrification
  • Use of stored energy.
  • Street running is expected to be in the specification for the vehicles to be used, to allow extension in the Cardiff Bay area and perhaps other places.

The proposal would save costs against full electrification and heavy rail.

My observations follow.

Batteries

Batteries will be an integral part of the design of the new rail vehicles.

Powering The Trains

The article states that battery power will be used to power the trains on sections that are difficult to electrify, like the mile-long Caerphilly Tunnel.

Battery power could also be used on level and downhill sections of track up to a few miles, but I suspect on steep uphill sections, electrification will be needed.

Handling Regenerative Braking

I believe that regenerative braking will be employed on the rail vehicles and the energy generated will be stored in the batteries.

The main advantage of this is that it simplifies the power supply to the electrification, as it only has to handle power going to the train.

This less complex electrical system, saves construction costs.

Recovering The Train’s Potential Energy

A train travelling from Cardiff to one of the terminal stations at the heads of the valleys, will need to acquire an amount of potential energy, based on the train’s mass and the height involved. This will be provided by the train’s traction system powered by the electrification and the energy in the batteries.

Coming down the hill, the regenerative braking will control the speed of the train and store any energy generated in the batteries.

This will save on the cost of energy to operate the system.

Charging The Batteries

The batteries will be charged from both the overhead electrification and the regenerative braking.

Extensive simulations of the route on computers would be able to calculate the following, for a wide range of scenarios.

  • The size of the batteries.
  • The power of the traction motors.
  • Where the electrification needs to be installed.
  • The maximum power output of the electrification system.

These calculations could also lead to an energy-saving operating philosophy, that could be programmed into the train’s computer system.

I suspect the worst case scenario, would be a train full of the heaviest Welshmen after an important rugby match at the Millennium Stadium.

Electrification

My thoughts on how various sections of track would be electrified follow.

Tracks With A Significant Uphill Gradient

These would need to be electrified, as I doubt battery power on the steepest gradients, would be enough to take a fully-loaded train to the top of the hill.

Electrification would be lighter-weight 750 VDC overhead wires.

The picture shows some of the overhead wires in Birmingham, that are used by the Midland Metro’s Urbos 3 trams.

Tracks With A Downhill Gradient

These would not need to be electrified, as Newton’s friend gravity would do most of the work.

However, as batteries will be fitted, these can have three important functions on downhill stretches of track.

  • Give the tram a nudge if needed.
  • Restart the train after a stop at a station.
  • Store any energy created by regenerative braking.

Note that we could have the unusual situation on a double-track section of line, where the uphill track was electrified and the downhill track was left without electrification.

Level Tracks

These would not need to be electrified, as battery power would be used to propel the train.

Selected Stations

Some stations could need to be electrified to ensure that the service was reliable. These might include terminal stations or those with tricky gradients on either side.

Tracks With 25 KVAC Electrification

Some of the tracks used by the trains on the Cardiff Valley Lines should be electrified with 25 KVAC, by the end of December 2018.

Class 399 tram-trains, that are used in Sheffield can use either 750 VDC and 25 KVAC overhead electrification.

it would probably be a good idea, if the new vehicles on the Cardiff Valley  Lines could also use both voltages.

Automatic Pantographs

The pantographs on the vehicles would be raised and lowered automatically to access the electrification. This could even be GPS-controlled and able to be carried out at line speed.

Tram-Trains?

I very much feel, that tram-trains could be used to advantage.

  • Some of the Valley Lines are also used by freight trains, so couldn’t be converted to trams-only.
  • Tram-trains like the Class 399 tram-train, under test in Sheffield can work on both  750 VDC and 25 KVAC overhead wires.
  • Tram-trains can use conventional railway signalling.
  • Tram-trains could work on the South Wales Main Line to Newport.
  • Modern tram-trains like the Class 399 tram-train have performance, that is about the same as a Class 142 train, which is a Pacer, that works the Cardiff Valley Lines, in large numbers.
  • Tram-trains could run on the streets as trams, as they do in Sheffield.

Several manufacturers make tram-trains, which I believe could be suitablefor the Cardiff Valley Lines.

Stadler’s Class 399 Tram-Trains

Nothing is said about the vehicles, that would be used, but I think they need the following characteristics.

  • Ability to climb the steepest section of the routes using 750 VDC overhead electrification.
  • Ability to store energy.
  • Regenerative braking to charge the batteries coming down the hills into Cardiff.
  • A similar capacity to a Class 150 train, which is around 150 seats.
  • It would be a bonus if they could use 25 KVAC overhead electrification, which will be available on part of some of the routes.
  • Ability to raise and lower the pantograph quickly and automatically.
  • Ability to run on the National Rail network.
  • Ability to run on the street.

This specification is virtually the same as a Class 399 tram-train with the following additions.

  • More seats and possibly an extra car.
  • Batteries.

Class 399 tram-trains are a UK version of the Stadler Citylink tram-train. The German version is used in Karlsruhe to climb into the hills surrounding the city, on routes that are as challenging as the Cardiff Valley Lines.

So I have no worries about a version of the Class 399 train handling the Cardiff Valley Lines.

I certainly believe after my experience in Karlsruhe, and looking at other Citylink variants, that Stadler can come up with a tram-train for Cardiff based on the Class 399 tram-train.

And Then There’s CAF!

CAF have provided the Urbos 3 trams for Edinburgh Trams and the Midland Metro.

These are modern trams, that will be doing  the following in a few years in the Midlands.

This sounds like a tram-train with stored energy.

Wikipedia also lists a version of the Urbos family, called an Urbos TT, which is described like this.

The Urbos TT series is built with tram-train technology, connecting existing heavy rail infrastructure directly to urban tramway systems.

This document on the CAF web site, gives more details of Urbos variants, including the Urbos TT.

Looking at the modular nature of the design, you could have a custom-built tram-train tailored to the rail network.

But surely, the major factor with CAF, is that they have recently opened a factory at Newport.

If CAF get the order for the Cardiff Valley Lines, they could do a substantial part of the train building in a factory connected directly to the lines.

Converting The Valley Lines

I think that there are advantages and cost savings to be had, by good design in this area.

Could The Rail Vehicles Be Designed To Fit The Existing Platforms?

The first thing to do would be to design, build and fully test the rail vehicles.

Could the tram-trains be built, so that they fitted all the existing platforms?

  • Class 150 trains are 2.82 metres wide.
  • Urbos 3 trams on the Midland Metro are 2.65 wide.

If the tram-trains could run without platform modifications, this would be a big cost saving and still allow diesel units to use the lines, at the same time.

Testing The Trains

If the tram-trains were being given a 25 KVAC  capability, they could even be tested on the quadruple-track the South Wales Main Line after the line is electrified through Newport.

Electrifying The Lines

It could be that the only sections of the valley lines that will need electrification, are the steep lines  into the hills, as all other sections could use stored power or the 25 KVAC, where it exists.

  • It would probably be possible to put up the simpler 750 VDC overhead lines during weekend and perhaps longer possessions.
  • The electrification could be designed so that it doesn’t interfere with existing services.
  • The lines would be converted one at a time.
  • ,Note that  tram-trains  could share track and platform with the current diesel trains working the lines.

If CAF were to get the order surely the Ebbw Valley Line, which could be connected easily to the factory would be the first to be converted.

Conclusion

Obviously, the devil will be in the detail, but it does look like a viable plan will emerge.

I think that if CAF get the order, that they could be big winners.

The Cardiff Valley Lines could demonstrate the following.

  • Running on main lines with 25 KVAC electrification.
  • Running on 750 VDC electrification.
  • Running on batteries.
  • Running on lines with steep hills.
  • Street running.
  • Sharing tracks with freight trains and other passenger services.
  • The tram-trains could also connect to Cardiff Airport.

It is a world-class demonstration and test track for innovative tram-trains, designed to cope with challenging rail networks.

With a factory close by at Newport, the selling of the tram-trains to other operators would be a salesman’s dream.

I think there’s more to CAF coming to Newport, than was apparent, when the deal for the factory was signed.

 

 

 

 

 

May 5, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

First Qatar Airways Flight From Doha Lands In Cardiff

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

The story is also reported in the Business section of The Times under a title of Direction Of Travel Brings Qatar Airways To Cardiff Airport.

This is the first paragraph from the latter article.

Trade winds from the Middle East have brought a whiff of what a successful Brexit might look like: a 300-seat, state-of-the-art Qatar Airways jetliner carrying a full business-class cabin and several tonnes of freight that has travelled from the 35C of Persian Gulf heat to 10C of Welsh drizzle.

To some it might seem to be a surprising new route.

As a former private pilot, who knew many of the UK’s airports pretty well, Cardiff Airport has many advantages.

  • It has a long runway.
  • It is not very busy.
  • Air traffic control and other services are top class.
  • It has a terminal capable of handling a large number of planes.
  • British Airways have a large maintenance centre at the Airport.
  • Ground transport to Cardiff includes buses and a railway station at Rhoose Cardiff International Airport station.

It could be an airport, that just needs more airlines and passengers to take advantage of its facilities.

The two articles suggest various reasons, why Qatar are going to run a service, that will be daily by July.

  • It gives Cardiff a direct link to the world’s fastest growing hub airport at Doha.
  • Qatar have lots of investments all over the UK.
  • Doha gives direct access flights to to Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea and New Zealand, to give six examples.
  • Cardiff Airport wants to develop as a warehousing hub and Qatar Airways is big in freight.
  • The export market for Welsh food and other perishables could be transformed.
  • The Times reminds us there are nine million sheep in Wales.

The Times also has this memorable phrase.

Quite why the flights have been launched has as much to do with Welsh lamb as it does with not being Bristol.

But I think there are other reasons.

New Routes For Qatar Airways To North America

Look at Qatar Airways routes to North America.

  • They serve mostly Eastern seaboard destinations from Doha.
  • Chicago and Los Angeles are also served from Doha, but they are long flights of over sixteen hours.
  • San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver are not served.

So would Cardiff with its top-class facilities make an excellent hub for Qatar Airways?

Would a pos-Brexit UK be free to allow Qatar Airways to run services from Cardiff to selected destinations in North America?

Remember, it’s also about freight!

Improved Rail Access

This Google Map shows the Airport.

Note.

  1. Rhoose Cardiff International station is South of the Airport at the bottom of the map.
  2. The main terminal is on the North side of the Airport.
  3. The Vale of Glamorgan Line through the station and then skirts past the Eastern end of the runway on its way to Cardiff.
  4. The Vale of Glamorgan Line is double-track with sections of single-track.
  5. The Vale of Glamorgan Line was scheduled to be electrified.

It would appear that providing better passenger and freight access would not be the most challenging of problems, if they were to become needed in the future.

Improved Passenger Services

The current service at Rhoose Cardiff International station is as follows.

  • An hourly service to Bridgend.
  • An hourly service to Cardiff Central, Cardiff Queen Street and Aberdare.
  • On Sundays the service is only two-hourly.

The service needs to be improved.

It would be possible to run a service from Cardiff to Swansea along the Vale of Glamorgan Line.

  • The service would call at Rhoose Cardiff International station.
  • The service could be run by trains designed for an airport service.
  • The service would connect to all the Cardiff Valley Lines at Cardiff Central station.
  • The service could be extended at the Western end to Llanelli and Fishguard.
  • The service could be extended at the Eastern end to Newport, Bristol Parkway and Bristol Temple Meads.

If bi-mode or diesel trains were to be used no new infrastructure would be needed.

Two trains per hour are needed and may be possible, but it might be necessary to find a solution to the two single-trac sections of line.

Freight Services

After reading, the two articles, I’m convinced that both Cardiff Airport and Qatar Airways are backing the use of the airport as a freight hub.

But all freight would have to leave the airport by truck, as there is no rail connection.

Because of the closeness of the Vale of Glamorgan Line to the airport, it would be possible to create a high-quality cargo-handling facility, with rail access.

In The Go-Anywhere Express Parcel And Pallet Carrier (HSPT), I proposed using four-car Class 321 trains as parcel and pallet carriers.

  • These could serve anywhere in the UK from Cardiff Airport.
  • If from the Airport to Cardiff were to be electrified, electric freight could go fast to London and the South East.
  • Cardiff could be used as an alternative freight hub,, for an over-crowded Heathrow.

I shall be interested to see how Cardiff Airport develops a cargo terminal..

Conclusion

Qatar Airways may have more money than Croesus, but they seem to be spending it wisely, in developing a route to Cardiff.

 

 

 

 

May 3, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wales Orders Some Golden Oldies

This article on Global Rail News is entitled Arriva Trains Wales Invests In Bi-mode Class 319s.

These four paragraphs define the deal and why.

The Welsh Government and Arriva Trains Wales are investing in five Class 319 Flex bi-mode trains.

Due to arrive next year, the four-car trains will be leased from Porterbrook thanks to £1.9 million from the Welsh Government and £1 million from Arriva Trains Wales.

Arriva Trains Wales said the trains would likely be deployed on commuter services into Cardiff.

Introducing the 319s will allow Arriva Trains Wales to carry out work needed on its Class 150 and 158 vehicles to ensure they meet new accessibility standards.

This looks to me to be a sensible way to provide cover and also increase the size of the fleet.

Consider.

  • The Class 769 train, to give the Class 319 Flex train it, its new official TOPS name, has been designed around the Manchester to Buxton route.
  • Manchester to Buxton is as stiff as any route in the Cardiff Valley Lines.
  • The trains can do 100 mph on 25 KVAC overhead electrification, so would be ideal for any partially-electrified routes.
  • According to this article on the BBC, electrification reaches Cardiff in December 2018.
  • The trains can do around 90 mph on diesel.
  • Range is ten Manchester-Buxton round trips on a full tankfull.
  • Modern Railways has reported the trains can change between diesel and electric modes on the move.
  • Drivers have told me, that the brakes on Class 319 trains are superb. Will that be needed on descents into Cardiff?

In Riding In A Clean Class 319/4 Train, I describe a recent ride in one of the better examples, that could be converted for Wales.

The trains may be thirty-years-old, but they are based on Mark 3 coaches, as are the InterCity 125, so like certain actors and singers, they seem to keep on performing.

How Would The Bi-Mode Trains Be Used?

Arriva Trains Wales has the following trains currently working the Cardiff Valley Lines or that need to be converted to meet the latest regulations..

The Pacers can in part be ignored, as I suspect they’ll be going to the scrapyard, when the next franchise starts. But Arriva Trains Wales will need fifteen four-car trains to replace them, if they hit the cut-off date in the regulations.

The Class 158 trains were given a full refurbishment in 2010-2, as described like this in Wikipedia.

A complete refurbishment programme to provide the Class 158s with full ‘as new’ interiors took place between December 2010 and October 2012. Funded by the Welsh Assembly Government at a cost of £7.5m, work completed includes interior and exterior repainting, along with replacement of seating, wall coverings, carpets, lighting, luggage racks and toilet fittings. A passenger information system has been fitted, while selected seats have gained at-seat power sockets for mobile phones and laptops. Until this refurbishment, the fleet had seen only minor attention to its interior since a refit by Wales & West in the late 1990s, as well as having been only partially repainted into Arriva colours externally

So will these Class 158 trains need much more than attention to detail and a very good clean? As most seem to be based away from Cardiff, I don’t think we’ll see many Class 769 trains standing in for Class 158 trains. Unless of course Arriva Trains Wales wanted to see how a Class 769 train performs on a longer route.

The Class 150 trains are a totally different matter. In What Train Is This?, I rode in a superbly refurbished Class 150 train, that if standing in for a Class 172 train wouldn’t bring many complaints.

Much of the time on the Cardiff Valleys Lines, the Pacers and the Class 150 trains seem to be running as pairs to make four-car trains.

So five Class 769 trains mean that ten Class 150 trains can be released for updating.

It is worth comparing a Class 769 train with two Class 150 trains working as a pair.

  • A Class 769 train, based on a Class 319/4 has a capacity of 50 First Class and 255 Standard Class seats.
  • A Class 150 train has a capacity of 147 seats or 294 for a pair.
  • The Class 769 train has a top speed of 100 mph on 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The Class 769 train has a top speed of just over 90 mph on diesel.
  • The Class 150 train has a top speed of 75 mph.
  • The Class 769 train has a higher power/weight ratio than the Class 150 train.

It would appear that a pair of Class 150 trains and a Class 769 train can be considered equivalent and with the right number of trains, the two types of train could work the Cardiff Valley Lines.

But the bi-mode Class 769 train has the advantage that it is faster and can run on 25 KVAC overhead wires.

On some routes the Class 769 train may actually reduce the number of trains needed.

Cardiff Central To Ebbw Vale Town

This route between Cardiff Central and Ebbw Vale Town stations uses the South Wales Main Line and the Ebbw Valley Railway.

If you look at the timetable, the trains take up to a few minutes over the hour, which must be an inconvenient time to use trains efficiently.

But eighteen minutes of the route are between Cardiff Central and Pye Corner stations, has perhaps fifteen minutes or so on the South Wales Main Line, with four tracks and an operating speed of 90 mph.

Given the superior power and speed, I suspect that the Class 769 trains can do a round trip in under two hours, even if they had to run on diesel on the South Wales Main Line.

This would mean only two trains would be needed to work an hourly service. Class 769  trains would be four coaches, as one size fits all!

Penarth To Rhymney

This route between Penarth and Rhymney stations uses the Rhymney Line.

If you look at the timetable, journeys both ways take around an hour and 16-20 minutes.

I think that three trains would be needed to work an hourly service.

Two factors slow the trains.

  • There are eighteen stops along the route.
  • From Bargoed to Rhymney, the line is only single track.

This extract is from the Wikipedia entry for the Rhymney Line.

In March 2007 the latest in a series of infrastructure improvements on the Valley Lines was announced, included lengthening of platforms between Rhymney and Penarth to allow Class 150 units to operate in multiples of 3 (6 cars). However, this is postponed indefinitely due to the sub-lease by the Department for Transport, to First Great Western, of the units that would have allowed this extra capacity.

Would four-car Class 769 trains be an adequate substitute for the planned three Class 150 trains working in multiple as a six-car?

If they were, this would mean that three trains would certainly work an hourly service with a substantial increase in capacity.

I wonder what times, well-driven Class 769 trains, with their hill-climbing abilities could do for the service on this line.

Bridgend/Barry Island/Cardiff Central To Merthyr Tydfil/Aberdate

These services are run in what appears to be an intricate diagram.

But as the Class 769 trains are faster and more capable than anything else running the routes, they should be able to deputise.

Could This Interim Pattern Emerge?

These routes could be run by Class 769 trains.

  • Cardiff Central to Ebbw Vale Town
  • Penarth to Rhymney

Conveniently, the two routes would need five trains.

By the end of 2018, it is predicted that the South Wales Main Line will be electrified, which would mean they could use electric power for some of the routes.

There might be small amounts of add-on electrification to ease changeover of mode.

  • South Wales Main Line to Pye Corner
  • Cardiff Central to Penarth

It might even be sensible to electrify the Vale of Glamorgan Line to give a second electrified route from Cardiff Central to Bridgend and serve Cardiff Airport.

Electrification of the lines in Cardiff would probably be much simpler than on some of the steep valley lines, but it would allow more Class 769 trains or similar to work the Cardiff Valley Lines efficiently.

But I did say this would only be an interim plan until perhaps 2020.

So Where Do CAF Come In?

CAF bring several things to this party.

  • By 2020, CAF will have a fully functioning factory a few miles down the line at Llanwern, just to the East of Newport.
  • CAF build trams, trains and tram-trains of all sizes and speeds.
  • CAF are one of the world leaders in the application of energy storage to rail vehicles.
  • CAF are not afraid to experiment or do Research and Development.
  • CAF have a modular train concept called Civity, which in their data sheet claim is all things to everybody.

I believe that CAF can come up with a train with the following characteristics.

  • Electric or diesel power.
  • On-board energy storage.
  • Regenerative braking.
  • Lots of powered-axles.
  • Four-cars
  • 100 mph on electric power
  • 90 mph on diesel power.

It looks very much like a modern Class 769 train with added battery power.

In fact the Class 769 trains will do all the specification development and route proving for CAF’s engineers.

So Where Do Porterbrook Come In?

Someone will have to finance the new trains for South Wales and they must be in prime position.

Similar systems can also be developed in other UK cities using Class 769 trains.

Conclusion

I have a feeling, that Network Rail have looked at electrifying the Cardiff Valley Lines and decided that it will be very difficult. Various commentators have suggested using trams.

What I have proposed is using bi-mode trains designed specifically for the Cardiff Valley Lines, that use electric power on and around the South Wales Main Line, diesel power to climb the hills and gravity and a bit of storage or diesel to come down.

I think that the purchase of five Class 769 trains will lead to an innovative solution from CAF to creating a world-class rail system in South Wales.

 

 

July 18, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 3 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

The Class 319 Flex Train And A Railbaar

When I wrote Could There Be A Battery-Powered Class 319 Flex Train?, not much information had been published on the Railbaar, but a Railbaar could be another tool to use with a Class 319 Flex train.

This is a paragraph from the advance copy I have of Porterbrook’s brochure for the Class 319 Flex train.

By way of an example, Porterbrook determined that the most arduous route would be Manchester Piccadilly to Buxton, which has a steep gradient and multiple stops along its 25 mile route (8 miles of which is electrified). This analysis was included to give confidence that the Class 319 Flex would be comparable to existing Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) technology across a range of different routes, stopping patterns and gradients.

Elsewhere in the brochure, they say this.

A large battery option was shown to be heavy, would require a lot of space and have long recharge times.

On the other hand, they have stated that batteries could be used to augment diesel power.

Challenging Rail Lines Up Steep Gradients in the UK

Lines like the Buxton Line are not unusual in the UK. The following challenging.

  1. Bromsgrove to Barnt Green up the infamous Lickey Incline – non-stop
  2. Bolton to Blackburn up the Ribble Valley Line – 4 intermediate stops
  3. Blackburn to Clitheroe up the Ribble Valley Line – 3 intermediate stops
  4. Rose Grove to Colne up the East Lancashire Line – 5 intermediate stops
  5. Exeter St. Davids to Barnstaple up the Tarka Line – 10 intermediate stops
  6. Plymouth to Gunnislake up the Tamar Valley Line – 7 intermediate stops
  7. Cardiff Central to Aberdate up the Aberdare Branch of the Methyr Line – 13 intermediate stops
  8. Cardiff Central to Ebbw Vale Town up the Ebbw Valley Railway – 5 intermediate stops
  9. Cardiff Central to Merthyr Tydfil up the Merthyr Line – 13 intermediate stops
  10. Cardiff Central to Rhymney up the Rhymney Line – 16 intermediate stops
  11. Cardiff Central to Treherbert up the Rhondda Line – 16 intermediate stops

Our Victorian engineers never let a steep gradient get in the way of where they wanted to build a railway.

Could These Lines Be Electrified?

Only the Lickey Incline (1) is currently being electrified. This is a description of the incline from Wikipedia.

The Lickey Incline, south of Birmingham, is the steepest sustained main-line railway incline in Great Britain. The climb is a gradient of 1 in 37.7 (2.65% or 26.5‰ or 1.52°) for a continuous distance of two miles (3.2 km)

Youtube has a great deal of modern and historic video of the Lickey Incline. Some recent footage shows freight trains climbing the incline with the assistance of a banking engine at the rear.

I doubt if the two lines in Devon (5 and 6) will ever be electrified, The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England will never allow overhead wiring gantries to despoil the landscape along the routes, some of which is in a National Park.

If the Class 319 Flex train does a good job with the three Lancashire Lines around Blackburn (2,3 and 4), the decision to electrify will be pushed a decade or more into the future. I could certainly see, Bombardier, Stadler and perhaps a couple of other companies building a train based on the experience with a Class 319 Flex train, as a replacement.

Politicians will decide whether the Cardiff Valley Lines (7 to 11) are electrified, but I have a feeling that someone somewhere will have a better alternative to full traditional electrification.

The Cardiff Valley Lines

Consider these facts about the rail service on the Cardiff Valley Lines

  • The lines are a vital lifeline to those that live in the South Wales Valleys.
  • The area is not without its attraction, for those who like to be in the hills.
  • Traffic on the lines varies throughout the day.
  • Traffic up the Valleys is highest in the evening commuting Peak and after a big sporting event in Cardiff.
  • Four-car trains are needed on the route.
  • The current diesel trains are elderly and unreliable.
  • There are plans to open new lines and stations and extend some of the existing lines further to the North.

But above all jobs and business and housing developments are needed in the Valleys.

An improved rail service could benefit a large number of people and interests.

The Class 319 Flex Train

The Class 319 Flex train started operational service  thirty years ago as a 100 mph express commuter train running on the Thameslink route from Bedford to Brighton.

It may be a comparatively old train, but it has the following characteristics.

  • It is based on the legendary Mark 3 coach, as used on the InterCity 125.
  • It is four-cars.
  • It is a dual-voltage train.
  • Two rail-proven MAN diesels and an ABB alternator provide electric power away from electrification.
  • It is a 100 mph train on an electrified main line.
  • It has a speed of around 90 mph on diesel power.
  • Drivers have told me, that the brakes are superb.
  • It has a good reputation for reliability.
  • It meets all the current disabled regulations.

But about all, like all Mark 3-based stock, it scrubs up well to any desired standard. In What Train Is This?, I showed the interior of a refurburbished thirty-year-old Class 150 train. Unrefurbished examples are typical of the stock that work the challenging lines.

Use Of A Railbaar With A Class 319 Flex Train

Porterbrook have said that the train’s electrical layout with a DC busbar connecting all xars, lends itself to adding a battery, which could be charged using the diesel power.

A typical layout of the Class 319 Flex train could be as follows.

  • DTOC – A driving car with a diesel engine/alternator set underneath.
  • PMOS – A motor car with a pantograph.
  • TOSL – A trailer car with a toilet.
  • DTOS – A driving car with a diesel engine/alternator set underneath.

I suspect that the battery would go under the TOSL.

The connection points for a Railbaar would be on the uncluttered roof of this car.

Railbaar would be a good add-on for a Class 319 Flex train, working an extension or branch line from an electrified line.

Possible Class 319 Flex Train Problems

The Class 319 train has two possible problems; the body is made of steel and the braking is not regenerative.

Despite being steel, their weight at 140 tonnes is lighter than many aluminium bodied trains, but they don’t have all the equipment like air-conditioning.

On the other hand, a similar train to a Class 319, survived the Oxshott Incident, where a 24-tonne cement mixer truck fell off a bridge onto the roof of the train.

Some Class 321 trains, which are similar to the Class 319 train, have been rebuilt with regenerative braking, so if that becomes a necessity for the Class 319 Flex train, I suspect an engineering solution is possible. Especially, as there is over a hundred Class 321 trains, which will be coming off-lease soon.

The Class 319 Flex Train And The Cardiff Valley Lines

There are eighty-six Class 319 trains, so there would be no problems finding a donor train to convert into a trial train for the Cardiff Valley Lines, if the Class 319 Flex train performs successfully on the Buxton Line.

  • On the Buxton Line, trains climb 150 metres in 15 kilometres from the electrified station at Hazel Grove to Buxton.
  • On the Merthyr Line, trains climb 168 metres in about 30 kilometres from Cardiff to Merthyr Tydfil.

So it looks like Buxton is steeper, but the Merthyr Line is longer.

I suspect that a Class 319 Flex train will go into service on a trial basis in South Wales, to test performance and customer reaction.

If nothing, it will help define the specification for the trains that can work the Cardiff Valley Lines.

Energy Needed To Raise A Train To Merthyr Tydfil

I will make these assumptions.

  • Merthyr Tydfil has an altitude of 179 metres.
  • Cardiff Central station has an altitude of 11 metres.
  • The train must be raised 168 metres
  • A Class 319 train has a weight of 140 tonnes.
  • A Class 319 train has a seated capacity of 319.
  • A suitable battery would weigh about 2 tonnes.

Raising an empty  four-car train similar to a Class 319 train, from Cardiff Central to Merthyr Tydfil will require 23,856,000 Kg-m or 65  KwH of energy.

Assuming a full load of 319 passengers at 80 Kg a time and that adds another 4,287,360 Kg-m or 12 KwH of energy.

My calculations are very rough.

The passengers get out at the top, so they are not energy that will be regenerated on the way down.

An Electrification Scheme For The Cardiff Valley Lines

The Cardiff Valley Lines were built with the main purpose of bringing coal from the valleys to the port of Cardiff for distribution and export by ship.

Now passengers are much more important, with commuting , leisure and tourism prominent.

Coming down is never a problem and a battery electric train with good brakes could handle a full load of passengers with few problems.

Going up is the problem, as the evening peak or a big rugby match in Cardiff can result in a full train having to be hauled up the valleys.

Similar problems are encountered on all the lines in my list to a certain extent, but without seeing the figures, I suspect the Cardiff Valley Lines are some of the most challenging.

Porterbrook have said, that they are not against using batteries on a Class 319 Flex train as a boost on difficult climbs.

So I think that a Class 319 Flex train fitted with an appropriate-sized battery could be a starting point.

But there is one big problem with a Class 319 Flex train. The Class 319 trains do not have regenerative braking, which could be used to charge the batteries on the way down from the valleys.

However, the very similar Class 321 train is being fitted with regenerative braking, so a possible Class 321 Flex train could charge the batteries on the way down.

When the train arrived in Cardiff, it could attach to a Railbaar to make sure that when it left to climb up into the valleys, the batteries were fully charged.

I think that in all these ramblings, there will be a solution, where all the various technologies come together in a bespoke solution.

  • Four-car train.
  • Electric drive.
  • 25 KVAC overhead to work electrified routes on the South Wales Main Line, at 100 mph.
  • Onboard rail-proven diesel engines and alternators, which would be used accordingly and probably automatically!
  • Two diesel power units would be used, so that one failure wouldn’t leave a stranded train.
  • Batteries with a capacity of around 100 KwH
  • Powerful regenerative braking
  • Railbaars in Cardiff and other low-altitude terminal stations, could be used if diesel charging can’t be used.
  • Well-driven trains to an energy efficient timetable.

Obviously, any electrification of the Cardiff ends of the routes would be welcome and less diesel-power would be needed.

Conclusions

Railbaar would be a good add-on for a Class 319 Flex train, working an extension or branch line from an electrified line.

A Class 319 Flex train with a battery and regenerative braking could be very useful on challenging routes like the Cardiff Valley Lines.

With these applications,  strategically placed Railbaars could add to the resilience and efficiency of the system.

The bespoke solution, that I have outlined, is very close to the specification of a Class 319 Flex train with a battery and regenerative braking.

I can’t wait to ride a Class 319 Flex train on a proving run to Merthyr Tydfil.

 

 

 

 

 

April 12, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The South Wales Mountain Railway

South Wales might not have the reputation of beautiful mountains, of say Snowdonian, the Cairngorms or Switzerland, but some of the Valley Lines that go up to places like Merthyr Tydfil and Ebbw Vale Town stations have spectacular views.

I was looking for a possible station at a village called Nelson and found a single-track railway passing to the North of the village.

I followed the track with my helicopter up the mountain and this is a Google Map of what I found.

Merthyr Tydfil And The Ffos-y-fran Land Reclamation Scheme

Merthyr Tydfil And The Ffos-y-fran Land Reclamation Scheme

The station on the left is Merthyr Tydfil and on the right is the massive Ffos-y-fran Land Reclamation Scheme. This is opening paragraph in the Wikipedia entry.

The Ffos-y-fran Land Reclamation Scheme is a major opencast coaling operation to the north-east of Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales. Miller Argent is owned by Gwent Investments Limited, which is based in South Wales and is a privately owned family business. The scheme development is the last part of the East Merthyr Reclamation scheme, and will extract 10 million tonnes of coal over 15 years, the revenues from which will redevelop the current former industrial workings into residential and recreational use.

It is a controversial scheme and I am usually against using coal for combustion purposes, but some of these Welsh landscapes are dotted with dangerous mine workings and slag heaps, so they certainly need cleaning up.

There is a Transport section in the Wikipedia entry for the scheme. This is said.

Under agreed planning rules, the site is not allowed to transport coal from the site via road. All extract is therefore moved to the rear (East) of the site where the coal is separated and washed at the Cwmbargoed Washery. Built in 1959 on land to the north and east of the railway connection to Fochriw Colliery, the coal washery was refurbished by Celtic Energy in 1992. DB Schenker trains then move the washed coal from site to Aberthaw Power Station, along the former route of the Rhymney Railway. Joining the modern Rhymney Line just south of Ystrad Mynach railway station, the trains then travel onwards via Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan Line to Aberthaw, enabling Ffos-y-fran to supply 40% of the coal to Aberthaw power station.

It must be challenging driving a Class 66 locomotive with a train of full coal wagons down the mountain.

It was this railway I had followed up the mountain.

Before I leave Merthyr Tydfil, look at this Google Map of the town.

Merthyr Tydfil And Rhymney

Merthyr Tydfil And Rhymney

The East Merthyr Reclamation Scheme is in the middle, flanked by Merthyr Tydfil in the West and Rhymney in the East.

So if the Authorities in South Wales are thinking of building a station on this line at Nelson, are they thinking of reopening this line after the scheme has finished extracting coal, as a second rail route to Merthyr Tydfil?

Coming back down the mountain from Merthyr, the first possible station from my list of possible stations is Bedlinog.

This Google Map shows the rail line going through the village.

Bedlinog And The Railway

Bedlinog And The Railway

Note that Bedlinog already has a Railway Inn.

After Bedlinog, the next one on the list is Trelewis. This is the Google Map

Trelewis And The Railway

Trelewis And The Railway

The railway goes between the Primary School and the Kigdom Hall.

And then it’s back to where I started this quest at Nelson, of which this is the Google Map.

Nelson And The Railway

Nelson And The Railway

The railway then goes South-East to join the Rymney Line at Ystrad Mynach station.

Trains For The Route

The task of hauling empty wagons up the mountain is not to much for a Class 66 locomotive, so I suspect that a multiple unit could be designed to handle a route like this, of which there are several in the Cardiff Valley Lines.

Either electric or diesel multiple units could probably manage the climbs, if they were designed for it, but would electreifying these routes be a feasible undertaking, given the difficulties of working on these busy lines.

But train technology is moving on and with the Class 319 Flex, we are getting close to having a true tri-mode train, with diesel, electric and battery power.

The Welsh Government have said they want new trains for these routes and I suspect engineers are working on a product tailored to run these routes efficiently.

So could we see a quad-mode train for the Valleys?

  • Four-car electrical multiple unit.
  • Onboard energy storage.
  • Perhaps even a small diesel generator for the difficult bits.
  • Gravity power, which the lines have in abundance, to use with regenerative braking to charge the batteries on the descent.
  • As modern trains can deploy pantographs automatically, some selective electrification could be added as the project develops.

I would also commit the ultimate heresy and use third-rail electrification on the steep parts at the heads of the valleys.

Consider.

  • Bombardier, Siemens and others make reliable dual-voltage trains.
  • Both electrification systems have their good and bad points.
  • It must be less intrusive and disruptive to install third-rail electrification.
  • Is overhead electrification more prone to weather damage?
  • Network Rail seem to be terribly accident-prone when it comes to overhead electrification.

In the end costs and overall reliability will decide.

But I do think sometimes, that Network Rail always chooses overhead electrification, even if third rail will be more reliable, less intrusive and more affordable.

But I’m sure that all the technology has now been proven to create a very efficient modern electric train to work the Valley Lines, which have been electrified using a great deal of innovation and common sense.

February 19, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Death Of Traditional Steel Making

If we’re being serious about making steel using the traditional methods of blast furnaces, converters and lots of energy, it’s not a very green process and it contributes to pollution and global warning.

We have a serious oversupply of steel in the world and this page lists production by countries.

In 2014, the world produced 1670 million tonnes of steel, of which we produced just twelve.

Looking at the production levels, there are quite a few countries that produce produce small numbers of million tonnes of steel like we do.

As China produced 822 million tonnes of steel in 2014, how many of these countries will be forced out of steel making in the next few years?

What will save steel making in a lot of countries is improvements in technology.

The parts of the steel industry, that seem to be the most profitable are the downstream uses of the metal, like making rails for railways. In this country, we have a reputation for using steel in innovative ways, but few of these uses need steel made in Britain, although they may need a quality steel to start with.

But that quality steel can come from anywhere with the knowledge to produce it.

China will acquire that knowledge, just as the Japanese did in the 1950s and 1960s.

It is interesting to look at iron ore by country in 2014. Out of a world product total of 3.22 million tonnes, we see.

  • China – 1.5 million
  • Australia – 0.66 million
  • Brazil – 0.32 million
  • India – 0.15 million
  • Russia – 0.1 million

So does this partly explain China’s massive production of steel?

I think Australia and Brazil are the two most important countries on this list. Both have large amounts of energy and because they are ambitious intelligent countries, as the steel-making technology develops, will we see them increasingly becoming makers of quality steel?

I don’t know, but it says to me, that even producing quality steel in a niche market won’t be profitable for long.

The money and employment is in using quality steel, not in making it.

It may be a hard unpopular view, but we should let the rest of the world fight over supplying us with quality steel. If we want security of supply, I’m sure the Aussies would provide it.

As to the steel-making areas like Teesside and South Wales, we have to move on.

The Future On Teesside

In fact Teesside seems to be doing that, if a BBC report this week wasn’t truly negative.

What puzzles me about Teesside, is that there is little mention in the media about York Potash. This is from Wikipedia.

The project intends to mine the world’s largest deposit of polyhalite – a naturally occurring mineral – located on the Yorkshire coast.

The mine site is located outside the village of Sneatonthorpe, between Whitby and Scarborough in North Yorkshire. The project plans to construct two 1,500 m (4,900 ft) shafts to reach the mineral seam which includes a mineable area of around 25,200 hectares (62,000 acres).

To minimise the amount of visible infrastructure within the North York Moors National Park, a protected area, the polyhalite will then be transported 37 kilometres (23.0 miles) in an underground tunnel to the company’s processing plant at Teesside. After granulation and drying, the finished product – marketed by Sirius Minerals as POLY4 – will be exported from the nearby harbour facilities.

Could it be that, this project appears to not be very green and in the minds of many is creating a giant hole in the North York Moors National Park?

My view is that the UK needs more big projects like York Potash, that earn billions of pounds from exports, create thousands of jobs and don’t despoil the environment.

The Future In South Wales

So what have we got for South Wales and Port Talbot in particular?

Nothing as big as York Potash, but there are plans for the world’s first tidal lagoon power station in Swansea Bay Wikipedia says this about the Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay.

It is planned to be the first of six tidal lagoon power plants to be constructed in the United Kingdom, and one of four planned to be built in Wales. The tidal lagoon would have a capacity of 320 MW.

The project was named as part of the UK government’s 2014 National Infrastructure Plan and was granted planning permission by theDepartment for Energy and Climate Change in June 2015. Power production is expected to begin in 2019. The operational life time of the artificial lagoon is 120 years, effects of global warming have been included in the planning. It is also to be constructed to withstand 500-year-storms and to function as a coastline protection against storms and floods.

So what are we waiting for?

The economics depend very much on the strike price for electricity generated and the Government seems reluctant to set one. I do wonder if they have got themselves tied in knots with trying to build a white elephant at Hinckley Point, that they can’t think of anything else.

Consider.

  • I’m not against nuclear power, but Hinckley Point C is so expensive and its strike price is so high, that it will be a millstone around the necks of energy users for decades.
  • If we want to go nuclear, there are smaller and proven reactor systems available.
  • Electricity generation is going more distributed with the growth of solar panels, local heat and power systems and other technology.
  • Large energy users are changing technology to cut use.
  • The tidal lagoon technology gives protection against storms and floods.
  • Tidal lagoons could be the twenty-first century equivalent of the nineteenth-century seaside pier.
  • If the technology and economics of the tidal lagoon work, it will produce carbon-free electricity for at least 120 years.
  • There are other places, where tidal lagoons could be built.

You could bet your life on the Dutch building a tidal lagoon, but they don’t have the tides.

Rather than back a doomed steelworks, the Government should back the unique energy project of the Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay.

If the energy economics don’t work out, you still get the coastal protection and leisure facilities.

A Metro For Teesside

The Tees Valley Metro has been in planning mode for some years and I can’t understand why it hasn’t happened yet.

All that seems to have happened is the opening in 2014 of James Cook University Hospital station, which I wrote about in James Cook Station – The Reinvention Of The Halt. The station certainly seems to be attracting a level of use, typical of a station of its type.

I also wrote about the metro in The Creation Of The Tees Valley Metro.

A Metro For South Wales

The Welsh are also keen to create a South Wales Metro for some time. I wrote about my observations on the trains in the area in The Welsh Could Be Having A Lot Of Fun Playing Trains In The Cardiff Valleys.

This project should be beaten into action as soon as possible.

It is interesting to take a look at a Google Map of the coast between Swansea and Port Talbot.

Swansea To Port Talbot

Swansea To Port Talbot

I don’t know the area well, but I know many people, who have enjoyed leisure time spent all along the South Wales Coast.

Perhaps, if the steelworks were to be closed, it could be treated to a Barcelona solution, where their steelworks was closed and the area turned into beaches and parks, which formed part of the Olympics in 1992.

The Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay would be generally sitting in the western part of the bay.

I believe that a comprehensive South Wales Metro, could go a long way to creating more jobs, than will be inevitably lost at Port Talbot.

Conclusions

Steel production is virtually dead in the UK and we must move on.

If we can find an innovative project to replace steel making, we should back it and as with York Potash, it doesn’t necessarily mean billions of public money.

But decent infrastructure and local rail, tram and bus systems can go a long way to creating the jobs needed everywhere.

In both the examples of Teesside and South Wales, surely if nothin else, a decent metro would give a boost to tourism.

April 1, 2016 Posted by | Travel, World | , , , , , , | 3 Comments