The Anonymous Widower

800009 – John Charles

On my way to Wales on Tuesday, I travelled in the Class 800 train, that is numbered 800009 and named after the great Welsh footballer; John Charles at one end.

I actually saw him play for Leeds in a match against Spurs at White Hart Lane. Leeds played in a blue kit in those days and I am fairly sure John Charles played up front.

I suspect, it likely, that it must have been the  1956-57 season as it would be the only season where Leeds were in the First Division, before John Charles left in 1957 to go to Juventus.

I wonder how many people, who saw John Charles play, have actually ridden in the train named after him?

It was good to see that Great Western Railway have also put his Italian nickname; Il Gigante Buono on the train.

 

June 11, 2021 Posted by | Sport, Transport | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

My First Ride In A Class 769 Train

I went to Cardiff today and had my first ride in a Class 769 train. These pictures summarise my ride on the train between Cardiff Central and Bargoed stations.

So what was it like?

Noise And Vibration

Going up to Bargoed, I deliberately sat as near over the top of the engine as I could.

There was a bit of a whine, but not as much as in a new Class 195 train.

For those, who commuted on Class 319 trains for years on Thameslink, they probably wouldn’t notice much difference.

Performance

For a 100 mph electric train built for running between the flat lands of Bedfordshire and the South Coast over the hillocks of the Downs, the train climbed to Bengoed, which has an altitude of around a thousand feet with a purpose.

But then I have a Porterbrook brochure for these trains and the power source was sized, such that the train would be able to climb the stiffest routes in the UK.

The Interior

It looked to me like the Thameslink interior with new sea covers and plugs to charge a mobile phone.

They could certainly be upgraded a bit further to the standard of the Class 319 trains on the Abbey Line, that I wrote about in A Very Smart Class 319 Train.

A Job To Do

Trains for Wales has acquired these trains for extra capacity, whilst they refurbish their Class 150, 153 and 160 trains.

It looks to me, that they will do this job more than adequately.

Future Uses

I suspect Porterbrook hope that these trains will find uses around the UK, as they have spent a lot of time, effort and money to bring these trains into service.

But there are around eighty of the Class 319 trains in service or in store, from which the Class 769 trains are converted.

So they could find uses in several niche applications.

Short Term Fleets

This is effectively, the Trains for Wales application, where extra trains are provided, so that a fleet refurbishment can be performed.

  • They would surely, have been a better replacement fleet for Greater Anglia, than the three Mark 2 coaches and a pair of diesel locomotives, that they used after a series of level crossing accidents.
  • They could also be used to increase capacity for some major events like the Open Golf or a pop festival.
  • Uniquely, they can stand in for both a 100 mph electric train or a 90 mph diesel train.
  • They can even be fitted with third-rail shoes.
  • They are the right size at four cars.
  • They fit most UK platforms.
  • They can be run in formations of up to twelve cars.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Porterbrook or someone on their behalf, keep a fleet of trains on standby to handle short term needs.

Route Development And Testing

There has been a lot of pressure to open up new routes in recent years and these trains would be ideal to try out routes and test new electrification.

Tri-Mode Services

Great Western Railway have a particular problem with their service between Reading and Gatwick, in that it has some third-rail electrification. As they might like to extend this service to Oxford, an ideal train would be dual-voltage and self-powered.

This extract is from the Great Western Railway section in the Wikipedia entry for the Class 769 train.

Although initially planned for use in London and the Thames Valley whilst twelve Class 387 units are modified for Heathrow Express services, the future plan for these units will be operating on services between Oxford, Reading and Gatwick Airport, which would mean operating on unelectrified, 25 kV AC OHLE and 750 V DC third-rail routes. To enable this, Great Western Railway’s allocation of Class 769 units will retain their dual-voltage capability in addition to being fitted with diesel power units. The units will also receive an internal refurbishment and be fitted with air cooling.

I suspect, that they’ll also be used on the Henley, Marlow and Windsor branches, which have some operational problems.

  • The branches are not electrified.
  • Some branches run occasional services to Paddington.
  • The Windsor branch probably needs more capacity.

The Marlow branch could be difficult, but I suspect that, there’s a solution somewhere.

Luxury Bi-Modes

Greater Anglia felt they needed luxury bi-modes for East Anglia and they bought Class 755 trains, which are probably a lot more expensive, as they are brand-new and from Stadler of Switzerland.

Surprisingly, the Class 319 trains have a higher passenger capacity.

But both trains could do a similar task, where the route is partially electrified.

As I said earlier about the GWR units.

The units will also receive an internal refurbishment and be fitted with air cooling.

Porterbrook’s brochure for the Class 769 train talks about using them between Manchester and Buxton.

Surely, this route could do with a Northern version of a GWR interior.

I also think a service should link Hellifield and Buxton. as I wrote about in Why Not Buxton To Hellifield?

That would show what Class 769 trains could do!

It would also connect the Peak District to the hills North of Lancashire.

I might also be, that the standby-fleet should also be the luxury variant of the train. Surely, supporters going to the Open at some of the inaccessible venues could afford pay to pay extra for a comfy train.

Express Freight And Parcels Services

Rail Operations Group would appear to have placed the second-largest order for Class 769 trains, which they will use to launch a high-speed parcels service called Orion.

This extract is from the Rail Operations Group section in the Wikipedia entry for the Class 769 train.

Orion is aiming to launch its first trial service conveying parcels and light freight in April 2021, with the Midlands to Mossend now likely to be the debut flow. The company is to use converted Class 319s for the service and is now planning for a fleet of 19 four-car units – nine Class 319s and 10 Class 769s. Arlington Fleet Services at Eastleigh is modifying the interiors of the units to accommodate roller cages for parcels, with the aim of operating primarily under electric power but with the 769s using their diesel engines to act as tractor units for the 319s on non-electrified stretches. The first 769 bi-mode, No 769501, has undergone its Flex conversion at Brush in Loughborough and is due to be outshopped from Arlington at Eastleigh in March following its interior modification.

In Did These Strawberries Have Road- Or Rail-Miles?, I talked about strawberries going between Scotland and London.

Surely, the movement of high-quality food could be one of the cargoes for Orion.

It wouldn’t be the first such traffic, as Class 43 power cars of the InterCity 125s used to carry flowers and fish up to London from Cornwall.

There’s a lot of space in the back of a Class 43 power car.

I certainly feel there are possibilities for using Class 769 trains as high speed parcels transport.

It should be noted that Class 325 trains already run high speed parcel services up and down the country on behalf of Royal Mail. These trains may look like later British Rail trains, but they are in fact based on Class 319 trains.

 

So I doubt, there’ll be any worries that the trains can’t handle the required services after conversion.

Conclusion

It looks to me that Porterbrooks plan to convert numbers of their Class 319 trains into Class 769 trains will find several ready markets.

It could be argued that more carbon savings could be achieved by perhaps a new battery-electric or hydrogen-electric train. But these will take years to develop!

These trains are a good short-term solution, that will help define their zero-carbon successors.

 

 

 

 

June 9, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

ORR Rejects Grand Union’s London Paddington To Cardiff Train Service Bid

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

I wrote about this service in Grand Union Seeks ’91s’ To Cardiff and this was my conclusion.

I like this proposal.

    • The important Paddington and Cardiff route gets a fifty percent increase in train frequency.
    • There could be genuine competition on the route.
    • Grand Union would be using five of the thirty InterCity225 sets, which are in good condition, judging by my recent journeys.
    • Could we see a customer service and catering war between the two operators?

If Grand Union Railway runs to Cardiff, I’ll give it a go.

I can see a revised proposal being successful.

February 11, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 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 | Transport | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts On Trains Between Cardiff And Swansea

I decided to write this post, when, I read this article on Rail Magazine, which is entitled Cardiff-Swansea wires ‘not sensible’.

This is the first paragraph.

Electrifying the railway between Cardiff and Swansea was not a sensible thing to do, according to Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling.

Some would argue that Chris Grayling holds a controversial view!

The Current Route

Before, proposing anything, I’ll list what we have today.

The Tracks

I have flown my virtual helicopter along the route and nearly all the route is double track, with sections of triple and quadruple track in places.

This Google Map shows a typical section of the line.

Note.

  • There are two well-spaced tracks.
  • The tracks are not straight, but gently curve.
  • There appears to be a lot of green space on either side.

The line appears to be similar to this most of the way.

I may be wrong, but I don’t think much of the line would be that difficult to electrify, from an engineering point of view.

The signalling and operating speed are described under Infrastructure in the Wikipedia entry for the South Wales Main Line.

The signalling is modern and this is said about operating speed between Cardiff and Swansea.

90 mph (145 km/h) from Newport to east of Bridgend; 75 mph (120 km/h) from east of Bridgend to Swansea Loop North junction (with a small section of 100 mph (160 km/h) track through Pyle station); and 40 mph (65 km/h) from Swansea Loop North Junction to Swansea.

It is not a high speed line, although I suspect that things could be improved.

The Stations

These are the stations between Cardiff and Swansea.

  • Pontyclun – Two platforms – 300,000 passengers – Reopened in 1992
  • Llanharan – Two platforms – 200,000 passengers – Reopened in 2007
  • Pencoed – Two platforms – 200,000 passengers – Reopened in 1992
  • Bridgend – Two platforms – 1,500.00 passengers – Opened in 1850
  • Pyle – Two platforms – 100,000 passengers – Opened in 1850
  • Port Talbot Parkway – Two platforms – 500,000 passengers – Opened in 1850
  • Baglan – Two platforms – 24,000 passengers – Opened in 1996
  • Briton Ferry – Two platforms – 40,000 passengers – Reopened in 1994
  • Neath – Two platforms – 800,000 passengers – Opened in 1850
  • Skewen – Two platforms – 40,000 passengers – Reopened in 1994
  • Llansamlet – Two platforms – 40,000 passengers – Opened in 1994

Note that the passenger figure is the number of passengers given for the past year, rounded to a sensible value.

It should also be noted, that not one of the stations has a layout that allows a fast train to bypass a slow one stopped in the station.

The Trains

Current trains on the route include.

Some parts of the route are also used by freight trains.

As much of the route has a operating speed of less than 100 mph, the operating speed of the two 100 mph trains is determined by the track, not the train.

The Services

There appears to be a fast service between Cardiff and Swansea.

  • It runs with a frequency of three trains per hour (tph)
  • Trains stop at Bridgend, Port Talbot Parkway and Neath.
  • Two services are run by Great Western Railway and one by Arriva Trains Wales
  • Timings are not clock-face by any means.

In an ideal world the frequency of this fast service would be four or more tph.

There is also a slow train, which appears to be once every two hours at the other stations.

It surely should be at least one tph.

Why are the services so limited?

Improving The Route

A new franchise for Wales will be announced and I wouldn’t be surprised to see improvements promised for the route between Cardiff and Swansea.

How could the capacity of the line be increased?

Raising The Operating Speed

I quoted this extract from Wikipedia, about operating speed between Cardiff and Swansea, earlier

90 mph (145 km/h) from Newport to east of Bridgend; 75 mph (120 km/h) from east of Bridgend to Swansea Loop North junction (with a small section of 100 mph (160 km/h) track through Pyle station); and 40 mph (65 km/h) from Swansea Loop North Junction to Swansea.

So except for around Pyle station, the operating speed is below and sometimes well below 100 mph.

Improving the operating speed to as high as possible will reduce the timings between Cardiff and Swansea.

Elimination Of Slower Trains

There is no point in raising the operating speed, if trains that cannot cruise at the improved speed are still running on the line.

Modern Trains With A Fast Dwell Time

Modern trains like Class 800 trains, Desiros and Aventras are designed to be able to stop from line speed, load and unload passengers and regain line speed as fast as possible.

Off the current trains working on the line, only Class 800 trains are in this category.

Step-Free Access Between Platform And Train

All stations between Cardiff and Swansea should be made step-free between platform and train.

This will help the trains keep to the timetable.

Allow Faster Trains To Overtake Slower Ones

Timetabling is probably made difficult, in that there is nowhere where a fast train can overtake a slower one.

Often this is done in a station, where whilst the slow train sits in the station, the fast train goes straight through.

Rebuilding Some Stations

It might be prudent to rebuild some stations, for better step-free access and allow trains to pass.

Are there any plans for new ones?

Electrification

None of these improvements need or affect any future electrification of the route.

But these improvements don’t need it!

In fact, it might be quite the reverse in that some of the improvements like improving the track may need to be done before electrification!

The Next Generation Of Bi-Mode Trains

In Bombardier Bi-Mode Aventra To Feature Battery Power, I discussed Bombardier’s proposed 125 mph bi-mode Aventra.

The information came from this article in Rail Magazine.

A few points from the article.

  • Development has already started.
  • Battery power could be used for Last-Mile applications.
  • The bi-mode would have a maximum speed of 125 mph under both electric and diesel power.
  • The trains will be built at Derby.
  • Bombardier’s spokesman said that the ambience will be better, than other bi-modes.

If Bombardier are doing this, what are Alstom , CAF, Hitachi, Siemens and Stadler doing.

And I haven’t mentioned hydrogen power!

Conclusion

Put all this together and I’m sure this could be the reasoning behind  Chris Grayling’s statement that electrifying between Cardiff and Swansea is not sensible.

I am coming round to the belief that it might be better spending the electrification money on improving the line between Cardiff and Swansea, so that something like the following is possible.

  • Four fast tph between Cardiff and Swansea.
  • Two slow tph between Cardiff and Port Talbot Parkway stopping at all stations.
  • Two slow tph between Port Talbot Parkway and Swansea stopping at all stations.

Or whatever is needed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 24, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

Cardiff To Gloucester And Cheltenham In A Class 769 Train

As the time gets nearer for the entry of the Class 769 train into service at the end of the year, speculation is mounting about how the trains will be used.

In the August 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article, which is entitled Class 769s For Wales.

After discussing how the trains will be used to deputise for the current Class 150 trains so that they can be made compliant with the Persons of Reduced Mobility regulations, the article goes on to say this.

None of the electrical equipment will be removed from ‘769s’ destined for Wales. After completion of Great Western Electrification to Cardiff, they could operate electrically from Cardiff to Severn Tunnel Junction, where they would switch to diesel operation for the rest of the route to Gloucester and Cheltenham.

The fastest direct trains take one hour fifteen minutes for the journey, so a round trip could be a few minutes under three hours, so that an hourly service would need three trains.

 

July 27, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

|Aberthaw Resumes Cement Dispatch

This is the title of another article in the January 2017 Edition of Modern Railways.

I wasn’t sure where Aberthaw was, so I looked it up on the Internet and this Google Map shows Aberthaw Cement Works, Cardiff International Airport and the Vale of Glamorgan Railway, that links Cardiff Central station in the East to Bridgend in the West.

aberthaw

Note.

  • The red arrow indicates the cement works.
  • The Airport terminal is on the North side of the long runway,.
  • Rhoose Cardiff International Airport railway station is on the other side of the runway and connected to the Airport by a sguttle bus.
  • The line was closed by Beeching to passenger traffic in 1964, but was reopened in 2005.

Could Cardiff Airport benefit from the same sort of train-train link, that has been proposed for Glasgow that I wrote about in The Glasgow Airport Rail Link Will Be A Tram-Train?

But the map does illustrate the benefit of rail access to the cement works.

  • The works is close the Vale of Glamorgan Line.
  • Trains from the cement works can go East to places that need the product, including surprisingly, the South West of England.
  • The rail link could cut the number of truck movements by 25%.

This would seem to be an ideal use for rail freight.

Are we doing enough to develop similar links, from other large factories all over the UK?

As the line is supposed to be electrified in a few years, could it be that a proper review of the line should be done first, to see whether any other projects should be done at the same time.

The reason I say this, is that the history of the line is much the same as that of the Grand Old Duke of York and his soldiers.

 

December 24, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Cardiff To Southampton By Electric Train

When I was waiting on Bath Spa station to return to London, a Class 158 train from Cardiff stopped at the station, on its way to Brighton via Southampton.

The train travels the full length of the Wessex Main Line from Bristol Temple Meads to Southampton, using the soon-to-be-electrified South Wales Main Line and the electrified West Coastway Line to complete the full route.

I wondered how much of the route will be electrified, once Cardiff to Bristol is hopefully electrified in the next few years. The current date for wires to Cardiff is December 2018.

I would estimate the length of the non-electrified section between Southampton and Bath is about sixty to sixty-five miles.

So it would appear that, the line could be within range for a Class 387 train or a new Aventra, with an IPEMU capability.

Obviously, Great Western Railway could also run a five-car Class 800 train on the route, using the on-board diesels to bridge the gap.

One way or other by 2020, Cardiff to Southampton will be run by electric trains, with a much increased capacity.

 

April 28, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 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 | Transport, World | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Trip To Cardiff

Yesterday, I went to Cardiff to see Ipswich lose to Cardiff City.

These are some pictures I took on the way.

I think it is true to say that the electrification is being put up by snails and there seems to be little progress since I wrote Passing Didcot Power Station twelve months ago.

Note the following.

A lot of the work, that is this side of Bristol, is a total disaster.

March 13, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment