The Anonymous Widower

Cambridgeshire Company’s Self-Charging Trains Project Wins Government Funds

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

These four paragraphs outline what the company is developing and how they received government funding.

Echion Technologies, based in Sawston near Cambridge, is creating train batteries that can charge from overheard wires, the Department for Transport said.

The trains would be able to use the batteries on unelectrified track.

The project was among the winners of the government’s First of a Kind competition.

The competition aims to award funding to projects that could transform the future of transport.

I have a few thoughts.

The Description In The First Of A Kind 2022 Winners Document

In this document, this is said.

Project No: 10039100

Project title: UBER – Ultra-high power Battery for low Emission Rail
Project grant: £59,917

Public description: Project UBER (Ultra-high power Battery for low Emission Rail), aims to demonstrate for the first time, Echion’s XNO(tm) battery chemistry as the preferred battery technology for certain classes of battery electric trains. It targets Theme 1 of this competition.

Specifically, UBER aims to demonstrate the suitability of XNO(tm) for passenger trains that can be powered by the AC overhead electrification and charge a battery from the overhead wire (or another form of ‘standard’ trackside power — e.g. 3rd rail), to then run in battery-only mode on unelectrified section of a route. An example of such a train is the Revolution Very Light Rail (Revolution VLR) developed by Transport Design International (TDI), who is a partner in UBER.

Applying The Echion Technologies Batteries To Electric Trains


  • The BBC article is accompanied by a picture of a Class 717 train, which like the Class 700 train is dual voltage.
  • Southeastern have thirty similar Class 707 trains, which are third-rail, although according to Wikipedia, were tested as dual-voltage trains.
  • Most modern trains, like these Desiro City units made by Siemens, have a mix of motored and trailer cars, with one or more pantograph cars  between the two driver cars.
  • Because power is needed in all cars, there will be an electrical bus from one end of the train to distribute power.
  • All trains in the family appear to have at least one trailer car, which will also be connected to the electrical bus.

With a family of trains like the Desiro City, Alstom’s Aventra, CAF’s Civity, Hitachi’s AT-200 or AT-300 or Stadler’s FLIRTs, train manufacturers assemble various cars, interiors and electrical gubbins together, to get the train performance and capability.

I would expect that the battery would be placed, where there is space and the most likely place is under the trailer car.

In some ways, it would work like the battery in a laptop computer, where operation is as follows.

  • If there is external power, the computer runs on that power and the battery is also charged, if it is not fully-charged.
  • If there is no external power, the computer runs on battery power, until the battery goes flat.

With a battery-electric train, operation is similar, with an important addition.

  • If there is external power, the train runs on that power and the battery is also charged, if it is not fully-charged.
  • If there is no external power, the train runs on battery power, until the battery goes flat.
  • Desiro City and many other electric trains have regenerative braking and under braking, the electricity generated is is stored in the battery, if it is not fully-charged.

It could be considered by some, that regenerative braking is self-charging. But unfortunately, regenerative braking doesn’t recover all energy during braking. But it can be up to 70-80 % efficient.

Connecting The Echion Technologies Battery To The Train

The battery will have to be connected to the electrical bus, that runs the full length of the train.

As a Control Engineer, I suspect there will be a sophisticated control system, that will switch the battery between various modes and control the pantograph and third-rail shoes.

Perhaps, Echion Technologies have developed an all-purpose controller that could fit all trains?


November 16, 2022 Posted by | Energy, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

UK’s First 100mph Battery-Diesel Hybrid Train Enters Passenger Service

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

These are the first three paragraphs.

The UK’s first 100mph battery-diesel hybrid train is entering passenger service to cut carbon emissions and boost air quality.

It was developed by adding a powerful battery to a 20-year-old diesel train to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 25%, according to owner Porterbrook.

The firm added that the two-carriage train, named HybridFLEX, also provides a 75% decrease in noise and a 70% decrease in nitrogen oxide.

The battery-diesel hybrid transmission is from MTU, who are a Rolls-Royce company and they go further with this press release which is entitled World Premiere: MTU Hybrid PowerPack From Rolls-Royce Enters Passenger Service.

This is the first paragraph.

Rolls-Royce, Porterbrook and Chiltern Railways are making rail history together with a climate-friendly world premiere: A hybrid diesel-battery-electric train that reduces CO2 emissions by up to 25% entered passenger service in the UK today for the first time. The so-called HybridFLEX train is powered by two mtu Hybrid PowerPacks and is operated by Chiltern Railways on the route between London Marylebone and Aylesbury. Together with the leasing company Porterbrook and Chiltern Railways, Rolls-Royce has converted a Class 168 DMU into the HybridFLEX train. The partners are proving that existing rail vehicles can be used in a climate-friendly way without the need to install complex and expensive new infrastructure. It is the world’s first regular passenger operation with mtu Hybrid PowerPacks, of which 13 have already been ordered.

This is significant for the railways of the UK.

The train that has been converted is a Class 168 train, which itself had been converted from a Class 170 train, when it transferred to Chiltern Railways in 2016.

I think this means that all Bombardier Turbostars in Classes 168, 170, 171 and 172 can probably be fitted with MTU Hybrid PowerPacks.

That is the following numbers of trains and cars.

  • Class 168 – 28 trains – 86 cars
  • Class 170 – 139 trains – 372 cars
  • Class 171 – 20 trains – 56 cars
  • Class 172 – 39 trains – 93 cars


  1. This totals to 226 trains and 607 cars.
  2. As each car has an engine, this will be an order of 607 PowerPacks, if all trains were to be converted.

This could certainly help to meet the Government’s aim of getting rid of all diesel only trains by 2040.

Can The CAF Civities Be Converted?

There are three Classes of CAF Civity diesel multiple units; 195, 196 and 197, all of which have Rolls-Royce MTU engines.

Could these be converted to hybrid operation by the swapping of the current diesel engines for MTU Hybrid PowerPacks?

I would suspect they could, as the CAF Civity trains might have been designed after MTU disclosed plans of the MTU Hybrid PowerPack to train builders prior to its announcement in September 2018.


MTU Hybrid PowerPacks could go a long way to eliminating diesel-only trains on UK railways. They could even run the diesels on Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) to lower their carbon-footprint further.


February 10, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

CAF Selected For Major Battery Train Order

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

This is the first paragraph.

CAF has been named as preferred bidder for what it says is the largest order to date for battery trains. This covers the supply and maintenance of more than 60 electric multiple-units which will be able to operate on non-electrified sections of the Niederrhein-Münsterland network.

On reading the rest of the article, it sounds like the trains are to a high standard, with all the features one could expect.

As in Bolton-Wigan £78m Rail Electrification Project Announced, I predicted that CAF could sell a number of battery-electric trains to Northern in the UK, it looks like CAF could be building a substantial number of battery-electric trains.

There could even be the possibility of some of the German trains being assembled in the CAF factory in Newport, as the logistics might be easier.


September 2, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | 7 Comments

What A Waste Of Space!

This picture shows two two-car Class 170 trains working together as a four-car unit.

Look at how much space is wasted in the length of this train, by the two middle cabs!

If these Class 170 trains were to be replaced with a four-car train, this would surely increase the capacity of the train, as there would be more space to put seats!

It should be noted that West Midlands Trains have ordered some four-car CAF Civity trains.


December 29, 2017 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Bombardier and CAF To Make 413 Carriages For New West Midlands Franchise

The title of this post is the same as this article on Global Rail News.

This is said.

Future operator West Midlands Trains has made a £680 million order with Bombardier and CAF for 413 carriages.

Bombardier will manufacture 36 three-car and 45 five-car Aventra trains at its Derby site, while CAF will produce 12 two-car and 14 four-car Civity trains. In total, 107 new trains will be delivered.

The electric three-car Aventras will operate on metro services, the electric five-car units for outer suburban and long distance, while CAF’s DMUs will run on dedicated services to the towns and cities around Birmingham.

These are my thoughts on the various parts of the order.

The Three-Car Aventras

The thirty-six three-car Aventras will probably replace the twenty-six Class 323 trains, which lack wi-fi and other passenger-friendly features.

It should also be noted that the Aventra has a slightly unusual and innovative electrical layout.

This article in Global Rail News from 2011, which is entitled Bombardier’s AVENTRA – A new era in train performance, gives some details of the Aventra’s electrical systems. This is said.

AVENTRA can run on both 25kV AC and 750V DC power – the high-efficiency transformers being another area where a heavier component was chosen because, in the long term, it’s cheaper to run. Pairs of cars will run off a common power bus with a converter on one car powering both. The other car can be fitted with power storage devices such as super-capacitors or Lithium-ion batteries if required.

This was published six years ago, so I suspect Bombardier have refined the concept, which is probably more to do with spreading weight around the train for better dynamics than anything else!

Obviously for West Midlands Trains, there is no need for 750 VDC, but will there still be a pair of power cars?

So it looks like there may be a reorganisation of the electrical system in the trains.

A few other points.

  • I am surprised that some of the trains aren’t six-cars, as every other set of new trains seem to be single and double lengths.
  • According to Wikipedia, the trains will have end gangways.
  • The trains are air-conditioned and have free wi-fi and power sockets.

Hopefully, the full specification and Tops-number will be disclosed soon.

Are Batteries An Inherent Part Of The Operation Of Three Car Aventras?

Suppose each car in the train was a self-contained power car.

  • Each car could also have  a 75 kWh battery, which is the size of one on a New Routemaster hybrid bus.
  • Regenerative braking would be efficient as it would use the battery in the same car.
  • Batteries can be topped up using the 25 KVAC overhead wires.
  • Passenger services like power-points would be powered from the battery.

If we assume that each car needs 5 kW to do a mile, this would give the train a range away from the wires of 15 miles.

Would it be possible for trains to run on the Camp Hill Line and the proposed Camp Hill Chords into Birmingham Moor Street station solely using battery power?

I think it is possible and after the battery-powered trams on the Midland Metro, it’s another case of emphasising the B in Birmingham.

The Five-Car Aventras

These will probably be vaguely similar to the other two five-car Aventras; Class 701 and Class 720.

Differences highlighted in the various articles and Wikipedia include.

  • According to Wikipedia, the trains will have end gangways.
  • The trains will be 110 mph units.

Both are firsts for Aventras.

I don’t think it will be long before a train operator buys an Aventra capable of 125 mph.

The CAF Civity Trains

The CAF Civity are a mixture of two-car and four-car units and will be used to replace some older diesel multiple units and augment some of the more modern Class 170 and Class 172 trains.

Class 230 Trains

West Midlands Trains have also ordered three Class 230 trains for the Marston Vale Line.

The route has the following characteristics.

  • It is roughly twenty-four miles long.
  • Trains take just over forty minutes for the journey between Bletchley and Bedford stations.
  • There are plans to extend the service to Milton Keynes Central station.
  • It is a diesel island in a sea of electrified lines.


Wikipedia says this about the Infrastructure.

Apart from a short length of single track at both ends, the line is double track, and is not electrified (barring short lengths at either end). It has a loading gauge of W8 and a line speed of 60 miles per hour (97 km/h). The line’s signalling centre is at Ridgmont.

I would suspect that two trains are needed to provide an hourly service, so buying three trains gives a spare, that might augment the services at busy times.

The flexibility of the Class 230 trains will give a choice of operating modes.

  • Using 25 KVAC overhead electrification at the ends.
  • Using onboard diesel power.
  • Using batteries charged at the ends of the route.

I suspect that the most efficient will be a mix of all three.

The trains are also designed for remote servicing, so they could be based in a siding at Bedford, Bletchley or Wolverton and supported by a well-designed service vehicle and a fuel bowser.


West Midlands Trains seem to have gone for a sensible Horses-for-Courses solution.

I have a feeling that their concept for the Marston Vale Line will be used elsewhere.


October 18, 2017 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Does Northern See Wigan As A Class 769 Train Hub?

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

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

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

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

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

Liverpool to Wigan

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manchester to Wigan North Western via Bolton

This is the other route mentioned in Wikipedia.


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

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

Manchester to Southport

Why was this route not mentioned?

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

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

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

The Future

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

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

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

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

Auckland Mulls Battery-Electric Train Order

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

This is the first paragraph.

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

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

The route is in two sections.

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

The diesel shuttle runs over a distance of 18.38 km.

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

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

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


I think that this proposal is very significant.

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

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

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


July 27, 2017 Posted by | Energy Storage, Transport/Travel | , , , , | 3 Comments

Thoughts And Facts About Class 319 Flex Trains From Manchester And Blackburn Into The Hills

On Thursday and Friday last week, I spent two days in the Premier Inn at Blackburn and explored the rail lines around the town with journeys all over the area that should by now have been fully electrified.

Class 319 Flex Trains

The main reasons to go was to see some Friends In The North and to see Ipswich play at Barnsley, but I also wanted to explore some of the hilly routes in Lancashire.

Porterbrook in their brochure for the Class 319 Flex trains says that the objective for the train is that it can run from Manchester Piccadilly to Buxton on the Buxton Line, under the power that is available, which is electrification only as far as Hazel Grove station.

The Routes With Hills

There are three routes from Manchester and Blackburn that climb into the hills.

The lines are not for low-powered trains and the  current Class 150 or Class 156 trains struggled on the three climbs I did.

  • Hazel Grove to Buxton in the afternoon.
  • Blackburn to Clitheroe early in the morning.
  • Bolton to Blackburn, crush-loaded in the rush hour.

Someone told me, that leaf fall can be a problem in the Autumn.

In no particular, these are my thoughts and some facts from other sources and my observations.

Blackburn Depot

A conductor told me that Northern Rail will be creating a depot and basing train crew at Blackburn.

This article in the Lancashire Telegraph is entitled Multi-million pound train depot set for Blackburn.

This is said.

Blackburn is to get a new multi-million pound train depot as the latest stage of East Lancashire’s rail revolution.

The stabling, maintenance and cleaning centre will include an office block and new connection to the existing Bolton junction where the tracks to Preston and Darwen divide.

If as I believe the Class 319 Flex trains could serve Clitheroe/Hellifield and Colne, then it could be an ideal location. Especially, if the Clitheroe/Hellifield and Buxton services were run back-to-back across Manchester.

Double Track Most Of The Way

The three lines have the following track layouts.

  • The Ribble Valley Line has a large proportion of double track, which stretches to Hellifield.
  • The Buxton Line is double-track.
  • The East Lancashire Line is single-track from Rose Grove station to Colne station.

So hopefully, if two trains per hour (tph) were to be run on these three branches, passing would be possible.


Hellifield station is where the Ribble Valley Line connects to the Settle-Carlisle Line.

A conductor told me that he’d heard that Northern would like to serve Hellifield more regularly.

Since I first wrote this, I’ve heard that the tracki at Hellifield has been recently replaced and is in good condition.

Housing And Other Property Development

As I travelled along the lines to Clitheroe and Buxton, there was a lot of housing development along the line, at places like Clitheroe, Hazel Grove, Whalley to name just three.

The crowded trains I used in the Peak to Blackburn are going to carry even more passengers and the need for capacity with power on these lines will increase.

Tourism Issues

Buxton, Clitheroe Colne and Hellifield all have reasons for tourists and especially those that enjoy visiting the hills.

I have no figures to back it up, but I suspect leisure passengers often go loaded with children in buggies, bicycles and heavy rucksacks and cases. They certainly do in the Summer on the trains of East Anglia and that is flat.

Add in the weather forecast and the effects of new trains and at times, there could be a large increase in leisure and tourism-related travel.

If the trains connected the Settle and Carlisle Line at Hellifield to Blackburn, Manchester and perhaps Buxton, this would surely open up a tourist train route, that Doctor Beeching wouldn’t have thought was the least bit feasible.

Future Train Frequencies

Train frequencies to Manchester could possibly grow to the following.

  • Blackburn – 2 tph to Manchester Piccadilly
  • Blackburn – 2 tph to Manchester Victoria
  • Buxton – 2 tph
  • Clitheroe – 2 tph
  • Hazel Grove – 4 tph

In addition, the intersecting route from Blackpool South to Colne via Preston and Blackburn, could be running 2 tph.

I do suspect though, that 1 tph to and from Hellifield will be enough. But who knows? I could just be as wrong as Beeching.

The lines probably have a Peak problem, that is fairly unusual in the UK, but probably is common in countries with real mountains like Austria, Japan and Switzerland. One direction of Peak travel is downhill, but the other is up a very steep railway.

On train frequencies, this is said in the Wikipedia entry for the Ribble Valley Line.

A six-week engineering blockade saw the existing passing loop there extended by 1 mile (1.6 km) at each end and signalling improvements made to add capacity on the line and allow for service frequencies between Bolton & Blackburn to be doubled to two trains per hour each way throughout the day from December 2017.

Could this be why, Porterbrook are planning to deliver four refurbished Class 319 Flex trains by the end of 2017, according to their brochure?

Some powerful extra trains will probably be needed to achieve the objective of 2 tph to Blackburn and four Class 319 Flex will help.

Future Train Capacity

I did two journeys in the Peak to Blackburn; in the first I took the slower service via Todmorden and Burnley in a two-car train and in the second, I took the direct route via Bromley Cross, in a four-car formation.

The second was the most crowded, but it was Friday. It also struggled up the hill from Bolton to Blackburn.

Northern’s decision to go for a four-car Class 319 Flex train which could be used on some of these routes, is understandable.

Blackburn To Huddersfield

I travelled to Huddersfield station from Manchester Victoria and didn’t see any signs of electrification on this important route.

Returning to Blackburn from Huddersfield, my train was a direct service which travelled via Manchester Victoria, Bolton and Bromley Cross.

This would be an ideal service to run using a Class 319 Flex train, until Network Rail get their act together and electrify Manchester Victoria to Huddersfield. Even if they only get the wires as far as Stalybridge, the Class 319 Flex would be an enormous improvement compared to the asthmatic Class 156, that struggled with its full load of passengers to Blackburn.

The Calder Valley Line

The Calder Valley Line goes through very picturesque countryside between Preston and Leeds.

I think that full electrification of this line could never happen.

  • The line has large numbers of stone and brick viaducts and bridges, which would be very expensive to modify for electrification.
  • The station at Hebden Bridge is Grade II Listed.
  • There is electrification between Leeds and Bradford, which could probably be extended as far as Halifax.
  • Preston is fully electrified and affordable electrification to Blackburn or perhaps Rose Grove or Burnley Manchester Road stations should be possible.
  • Electrification to Rose Grove would mean that the service between Blackpool South and Colne could be run using electricity between Rose Grove and Kirkham and Wesham stations.

But the biggest problem would be the opposition to overhead gantries in the hills.

The distances are revealing.

  • Burnley to Halifax is just over twenty miles
  • Blackburn to Halifax is just over thirty miles.

If Halifax to Bradford wasn’t electrified then that adds another ten miles.

All distances would be within range of a modern bi-mode train, including a Class 319 Flex.

Other Destinations

From Hazel Grove, it is possible for diesel trains to access the Hope Valley Line towards Sheffield.

There must be stations on this line that are possible destinations for a Class 319 Flex train.

Chester and Windermere have also been mentioned as future destinations for the train.


Electrification has been painfully slow in the North-West, as it has in most places in the UK.

It looks like that by the end of 2017, Manchester to Preston via Bolton and the Blackpool Branch to Blackpool North station will be electrified.

The advantage of the Class 319 Flex is that it can use this electrified set of lines to run services to stations like Barrow, Blackburn, Blackpool South, Burnley, Chester, Hebden Bridge, Sellafield and Windermere, that are off the electrified network in conjunction with the Class 319 trains.

The Need For A Train To Climb The Hills

From this brief analysis and my observations, it would seem that Northern need a few four-car trains with adequate power to get up the hills at a speed, that enables an efficient timetable. As some of the routes from Manchester Piccadilly and Victoria are electrified, the ideal train would need the capability to use the wires.

If ever, there was a series of routes that need a bi-mode train, then it is these routes.

The Class 319 Flex And The CAF Civity

The Class 319 Flex has according to the brochure I’ve seen been designed to run from Manchester to Buxton with a full load of passengers in the Peak or perhaps after a City-United Derby.

But Northern have ordered new CAF Civity trains in the following versions.

This is said in the Wikipedia entry for the Class 331 trains.

In early 2016 it was confirmed that Spanish rolling stock manufacturer CAF would construct the new electric powered trains which are planned to operate in West Yorkshire to replace Class 321 and Class 322 trains and work alongside the current fleet of Class 333 units. The four-car Class 331 units will be deployed on electrified services from Manchester Piccadilly to replace the Class 323 units which are due to return to Porterbrook at the end of their current lease in 2018.

So it would appear that the Class 319 trains will continue to operate for a few years yet! Hopefully with better seats, wi-fi and a few other smaller improvements.

I think that Northern have decided that until the Class 195 trains arrive that the Class 319 Flex trains are the best short-term solution. But given the overcrowding on the routes will the future three-car trains have enough capacity?

So I suspect, if Northern go the CAF Civity route, I feel that Northern will acquire some longer diesel trains or even some dual-power Civitys.

But at least running Class 319 Flex trains on the route will effectively produce the specification for these hilly routes.



March 13, 2017 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Plans For New Rolling Stock To Replace BR DMUs

This is the title of an article on the Rail Magazine. This is said.

Diesel multiple units built in the 1980s by British Rail could be replaced in the next decade, as the Department for Transport believes there are “likely to be significant opportunities” to replace them with modern diesels.

Outlined in the Rolling Stock Perspective: Moving Britain Ahead report published on May 18, this would mean that as well as the Pacers, potentially all Class 150s, ‘153s’, ‘155s’, ‘156s’, ‘158s’ and ‘159s’ could be withdrawn. That would be 1,033 vehicles if all were replaced like-for-like.

The article is based on a Department for Transport document entitled Rolling Stock Perspective. The document says this.

Are self-powered, where required, with such trains meeting the latest emission standards and being built by a range of suppliers. New diesels are being procured as part of the Northern franchise improvements and there are likely to be significant opportunities over the next decade to replace the last remaining diesel multiple units ordered in the BR era with modern diesels that offer much more for passengers, and are designed with manufacturers and TOCs working ever more closely with Network Rail, to reduce the amounts of money needed to be spent to introduce them into service and to allow them to operate reliably and safely.

The report also says.

Good, high quality refurbishment can deliver a passenger experience comparable with new rolling stock.

So is this a feasible plan to remove the 15x trains in their present form from the network?

I will start by summing them up from a passenger perspective.

Class 150

The Class 150 train probably suffers from being too small and inadequate for a lot of the routes it serves. This alone means that they should be replaced, probably with something of at least three cars, as many are on routes, where ambitious train operating companies are endeavouring to grow traffic.

There are only so many elephants you can get in a Mini!

In 2014, I went to St. Ives and wrote St. Erth Station And The St. Ives Branch, where an immaculate Class 150 trundles the few miles along the branch.

This use sums up the class well.

  • The two-car train was totally inadequate for the route.
  • They can be cleaned up to be adequate for some purposes in their present form.
  • Step free and wheelchair access is not very good.
  • There is not enough space for bicycles.
  • Seats are not the most comfortable.

On short branch lines like the St. Ives Branch, two refurbished units coupled together, might provide the service needed, but would it be better to spend more money on either a refurbished Class  165 train or even a new train?

In A Trip Around Wiltshire, I encountered a Class 150 train. As it was Glastonbury, it was loaded over capacity with heavy baggage. At least a five-car formation of say Class 165s was needed, not a two-car Class 150.

These days the Class 150 trains are mainly used in the North, Wales and the West Country, with some in the Midlands.

I would love to know the train operating companies attitude to these trains.

They may be cheap to lease. But!

  • Running costs can’t be much less than say a three-car Class 165 train.
  • The difficult train access must mean despair for the disabled and staff.
  • Station stops are probably slower than needed, leading to late trains.
  • Passengers will be turned away by the bad experience.
  • They are not large enough for a lot of their routes.

Some like those in the North and Wales are planned for replacement and hopefully once GWR electrification is sorted and the Class 165 trains are replaced by electric ones, most of the Class 150 trains can go to appropriate retirement in the scrapyard.

Class 153

If anything sums up the cheapskate approach to the railways under successive governments it is the Class 153 train.

In my travels around Europe, I’ve never seen another single car train, excerpt on something like a mountain railway.

They may have a use, but it is certainly not running on the Nuneaton to Coventry Line.

On a lightly-used line they probably wouldn’t be as bad an experience as a Class 150 train, but they certainly wouldn’t be any good to generate traffic.

Class 156

There are 114 two-car Class 156 trains, which are certainly much better than the Class 150 and Class 153 trains.

I’ve certainly ridden some pretty comfortable Class 156 trains.

According to Wikipedia, some are being refurbished. This is said.

38 of the 114 Class 156 sets belong to leasing company Porterbrook, which announced in mid-2011 that they will be substantially refurbished at the time of their C6 overhauls. Seating layouts will be revised to provide priority seating and wheelchair spaces, and new universal toilets are to be installed, as also a passenger information system. Interior doors between vestibule and passenger saloon will be removed, and external door sounders fitted. The trains in question are as follows; 11 leased to East Midlands Trains, 9 toAbellio Greater Anglia and 18 to Northern.

I have a feeling that a lot of this class will be replaced by new or newer trains, simply because they run on the more important lines.

In the North and Scotland, electrification will directly replace some trains and others will be replaced by newer diesel multiple units cascaded from the newly electrified lines.

I believe that refurbishing these trains to a high standard could be possible, and these trains could be ideal for lightly used lines, either working singly or in a four-car formation.

But their top speed of only 75 mph probably means on some of the routes they serve, they cause problems for train operators.

Also, because they have a good range, they might well be a good train to have as cover to help solve the problems of breakdowns and extra capacity for events like Glastonbury.

Class 158 And Class 159

I am considering the Class 158 and Class 159 trains together, as it is rather a moveable feast as to which class the trains belong.

They are slightly younger than the other trains and on some routes like Waterloo to Salisbury and Exeter, they are certainly not a bad experience.

When the Government report said.

Good, high quality refurbishment can deliver a passenger experience comparable with new rolling stock.

They might have had these trains in mind.

I think though, they have qualities that make them suitable for longer routes that have to use diesel traction.

  • They are a 90 mph train.
  • They have a long range.
  • They could have plenty of tables.
  • They can accommodate a catering trolley.
  • They could be a good route-development train.
  • As they are Mark 3.5 coach based, they would certainly scrub up brilliantly.

I think the only problem could be that there are two hundred trains. But seeing the way traffic is developing in the UK, I’m sure that train operating companies could find a use for them.

I have travelled on Class 158 trains on the Settle to Carlisle Line and this is the sort of journey for which the trains are ideal. So what would happen, if routes like this were given a more frequent service with refurbished Class 158/159 trains, that perhaps had the following.

  • Good catering.
  • Lots of tables.
  • Wi-fi
  • Lots of luggage and cycle space.
  • London Bus-style wheelchair access.

I don’t think the affect on traffic would be negative.

Summing Up The Current Situation

If I look at the numbers of each type of older diesel multiple units we get.

  • Class 150 – 137 trains – 133 x two-car and 4 x three-car. – 278 coaches.
  • Class 153 – 70 trains – 70 x one-car – 70 coaches.
  • Class 156 – 114 trains – 114 x two-car – 228 coaches.
  • Class 158/159 – 200 trains – 143 x two car and 57 x three-car – 343 coaches.

Which gives a total of 919 coaches.

On the other hand, I think we can assume the following.

  • Great Western Electrification should release a mixture of thirty seven three car and twenty two-car  Class 165/166 trains.
  • The Class 150 and Class 153 trains could go to a more suitable place.
  • The Class 156 trains could possibly be refurbished to a standard to make them a good Class 150 and Class 153 replacement for some routes.
  • The Class 158/159 trains could probably be refurbished to the required high standard.

So we’re left with a deficit of about two hundred carriages, without counting good quality trains released from Scottish and Lancashire electrification.

How Could We Bridge The Gap?

At least though we have various trains and solutions available and some have been noted in the last couple of months.

The following sections detail the various solutions.

New Civity Diesel Multiple Units from CAF

Arriva Rail North surprised a lot of people with their order for a mixture of new Civity diesel and electric multiple units from CAF.

I wrote about the order in Arriva Rail North’s New Trains.

The Civity design is modular and this data sheet from CAF describes the Civity range.

Points to note.

  • Diesel, electric and bi-mode versions are available.
  • It has been designed for standard gauge.
  • There is a UK version called Civity UK.
  • Top speed is 160 kph, but 200 kph is available.
  • The list of interior options is wide.

Reading the data sheet, I get the impression that operators get standard trains with the features they want.

I don’t know the answer, but I suspect that like the Class 378 trains of the London Overground, the Civity trains can be lengthened or shortened, by adding or removing trailer cars between the two driving cars. This concept has worked so well on the Overground, I doubt that a train manufacturer wouldn’t copy it.

Thus you could have four car DMUs on a route like the Calder Valley Line. If and when the line gets electrified, you do a bit of swapping and add two electric driving cars and get four-car EMUs and two-car DMUs.

I believe the flexibility of the design, means that we’ll see more Civity trains in the UK.

New Diesel Multiple Units from Other Manufacturers

I said earlier, that there could be a total need of about two hundred carriages, but this is probably not many, unless you have a proven product ready to be built.

Given that CAF have already sold ninety-eight assorted trains to Arriva Rail North and another twelve 200 kmh-capable trains to TransPennine Express, it would be hard to sell a new design of modern diesel multiple unit into the UK. More Class 172 and Class 185 trains are probably not an option.

Rakes Of Coaches From CAF

Rakes of coaches seem to be making a comeback, as I wrote in Are Train Coaches Making A Comeback In The UK?

Fitted with a suitable and available locomotive at one end and a driving cab at the other, these could be used in some of the difficult and perhaps scenic routes.

Again CAF seem to have got the proven product, which has been sold to Caledonian Sleeper and TransPennine Express.

Have the clever Spanish designed a driving cab with bags of style and panache, for the TPE rakes? It certainly won’t be a driving van trailer knocked up from the parts bin.

One of the advantages of coaches, is that there are a lot of suitable and acceptable locomotives available. Fleet details for the Class 68 locomotive, already show a new order for seven extra units for TransPennine Express.

Anybody, who doesn’t believe that Class 68s and coaches, are a viable option, should be forced to go to Birmingham from London on Chilton and see how good upgraded 1970s-built Mark 3 coaches hauled by a modern diesel locomotive can be.

Rakes Of Refurbished Mark 3 Coaches

If buying new coaches from CAF is a viable order, why didn’t TransPennine Express, do what Chiltern have done and refurbish some of the many Mark 3 coaches.

I think it comes down to these factors.

  • Mark 3 coaches need a driving van trailer, so a five-car train is effectively seven units long if you count the locomotive and the DVT.
  • Are Mark 3 coaches coming to the end of their lives?
  • Is there a shortage of DVTs?
  • If CAF build a stylish driving cab in the end coach, the train will have an enormous wow factor!
  • The operator can get the interior layout they want.
  • Could the cost be not much different between the new and refurbished trains?

In the end the CAF route gives the operator exactly what they want.

The only thing that might happen, is that somebody copies the CAF idea and creates a short rake of Mark 3 coaches, with a driving cab in the last coach. But that is probably a more expensive option.

Chiltern Railways

Chiltern Railways could have a valuable part of play in the replacement of older diesel multiple units.

They currently run some of their Chiltern Main Line services to Birmingham and Oxford using rakes of Mark 3 coaches and Class 68 locomotives.

They currently have the following stock for this.

  • 8 Class 68 locomotives
  • 31 Mark 3 coaches
  • 6 Driving Van Trailers.

Is that enough, given that Oxford will be served later this year?

Probably not! So is Chiltern scratching around searching for coaches and DVTs to create some extra rakes of coaches?

I don’t know, but with the three stations of Bicester Village, Oxford Parkway and Oxford on the new branch, two and three-car multiple units will surely not be big enough.

I would certainly suspect that as Chiltern is an ambitious company, one of their aims is to have all services between London and Oxford and Birmingham, run by modern rakes of coaches hauled by Class 68 locomotives.

These could either be new rakes from CAF or refurbished ones of Mark 3 coaches.

The big side effect would be that Chiltern may be able;e to release some of their modern diesel multiple units.

This probably illustrates why Class 68 and other locomotives pulling rakes of coaches could be very important in improving the quality of diesel multiple units in the UK.

Playing The Joker

There is even a joker in the pack of available locomotives to pull and push the coaches.

The Class 73 locomotive dates from the 1960s, but it has some unique advantages.

  • They were built to run all over the Southern Region, including the narrow tunnels of the Hastings Line.
  • They can run on third-rail electric lines or on diesel power.
  • They seem to be reliable.
  • They are capable of 90 mph, which is the same speed as a Class 159 train.
  • There are over thirty still available.
  • Re-engineering with modern diesel engines is being undertaken, to create a Class 73/9 variant.
  • To say they scrub up well is an understatement.

Their latest application is far from their original habitat in the South, as they are now hauling the Caledonian Sleeper trains all over the Highlands, where in some places, the loading gauge is restrictive.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Class 73/9 locomotives hauling new coaches from Waterloo to Exeter.

  • This would mean that new trains could serve Salisbury and Exeter from Waterloo, without extending the electrification from Basingstoke.
  • The Class 73 locomotives would use the third-rail electrification at the London end of the route.
  • The trains would have the same top speed as the current Class 159 trains.
  • The Class 159 trains would be released for refurbishment and cascade to other routes and operators.

But the biggest advantage of this would be that South West Trains or its successor could offer a high-quality alternative service to Exeter and the wider West Country in competition with Great Western Railway’s new Class 802 bi-mode trains.

If anybody had suggested a few years ago, that you might replace a 1990s-built multiple unit with Spanish coaches hauled by a re-engineered 1960s-built locomotive, they’d have been taken away by men in white coats.

But then engineering is the science of the possible!

Battery Trains And IPEMUs

Clare Perry, who is the Rail Minister, says this in Rolling Stock Perspective about battery-powered trains and other similar developments.

Rail is already one of the most environmentally friendly forms of powered travel, but we need to go further. I want to see the industry develop and introduce uk-led innovative solutions such as battery-powered or hybrid trains which will make rail even better for the environment and reduce the industry’s operating costs.

I think we can say, that means that Government will look favourably on good innovative solutions for the replacement of diesel multiple units.

Bombardier are developing the Aventra train and trains will be wired to accept on-board energy storage, just like the demonstrator based on a Class 379 train, that I rode in January 2015.

These are now called IPEMUs or Independently Powered Electric Multiple Units. They would charge their batteries on an electrified main line, then use this power on a branch line or to perhaps bridge a section of line that was not electrified.

As a large number of diesel multiple units are used on branch lines from electrified main lines, IPEMUs could be a direct replacement without any new electrification. Some examples would be.

  • Marks Tey to Sudbury
  • Ipswich to Felixstowe
  • Ipswich to Cambridge/Ely
  • Cambridge to Norwich
  • Norwich to Yarmouth
  • Ely to Peterborough
  • Liverpool to Preston via Ormskirk
  • Oxted to Uckfield
  • Ore to Ashford

Nothing has been said about the ordering and service entry of IPEMUs, but I don’t believe that the technology will be abandoned.


The elimination of the older diesel multiple units or their conversion into modern trains of the highest standard, is not an impossible dream.

But expect some surprises!








May 25, 2016 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

TransPennine Express Buys Spanish Trains

After Arriva Rail North bought 98 Civity trains from CAF, which I wroye about in Arriva Rail North’s New Trains, it probably wasn’t much of a surprise that TransPennine Express have gone to the same source for twenty-five new trains, as is detailed in this article in Global Rail News. This is said.

The new fleet, which will be maintained by Alstom at Longsight depot, will consist of 12 five-car Civity EMUs from CAF – financed by Eversholt Rail – and 13 five-car loco-hauled intercity trains.

The announcement follows an order placed earlier this year with Hitachi for 19 bi-mode train sets. Both fleets of new trains are due to be delivered between 2018 and 2019.

If there is a surprise, it is that they are going for locomotive-hauled sets or rakes of coaches.

The 12 five-car Civity EMUs will be running between Liverpool/Manchester and Edinburgh/Glasgow. According to the CAF data sheet, there will be a 200 kph version available, so these could mix it with other operators’ Class 800 trains.

The article also says this about the locomotive-hauled rake of Mark 5 coaches.

In addition to the new CAF trains and carriages, Beacon Rail-owned Class 68 locomotives will be leased from Direct Rail Services to operate intercity services between Liverpool and Newcastle.

So it would appear that the Class 68 locomotives could work Liverpool to Newcastle before the line is fully electrified. They would also be ideal for routes to Hull and Scarborough.

I would also suspect, that as the Class 88 electro-diesel locomotive is very similar to a Class 68, that these locomotives could also work some of the services, once the route is partially electrified.

The Mark 5 coaches, are probably similar to those being built for the Caledonian Sleeper. One question that has to be asked, is why haven’t TPE opted to bring some of the legendary Mark 3 coaches up to a modern standard.

  • The concept of a quality set of coaches with a locomotive at one end has been proven to work in East Anglia, on Chiltern and on Deutsche Bahn.
  • The conversion of doors, toilets and other issues, might mean that new coaches are better value for money.
  • New coaches are probably good for at least thirty years.
  • All the basic design has been paid for in the Caledonian Sleeper order.
  • One of the five coaches in each set, could have a driving cab integrated into one end, so there would be no need for a separate driving van trailer.
  • Have CAF applied all their designs for the modular Civity train to build a train, where you just plug a suitable locomotive into one end?
  • New coaches sell seats, especially if they are designed for a good passenger experience.
  • If you want six, seven or more coaches, you could probably just slot them into the rake.

I suspect that CAF have seen a gap in the market and have produced a design for a rake of coaches, that will appeal to the UK. I think we could be seeing these coaches appearing elsewhere.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to cost, reliability, flexibility and the quality of the passenger experience.

It does look to me, that by virtue of good design and manufacturing capacity, that CAF seem to have nicked a nice order from under the noses of the big companies.

  • CAF could probably deliver coaches in 2018.
  • Suitable locomotives are already in the UK and Stadler/Vossloh would probably oblige with a few more.
  • The Class 68 locomotive doesn’t seem to generate bad reports in the media.
  • The three previous points, might mean that TPE could be running new reliable trains earlier than anybody thinks.
  • The Civity family is proven and is being built for Arriva Rail North.
  • Hitachi haven’t probably got the capacity to build more Class 800 trains early enough.
  • Bombardier haven’t built a high-speed Aventra, although they might have the capacity, but not a diesel variant.

I certainly think that TPE have got a good replacement at an affordable price for the overcrowded Class 185 trains.

May 23, 2016 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , | 2 Comments