The Anonymous Widower

Mule Trains Between Liverpool And Norwich

I have done two trips to Liverpool in the last week.

On Saturday, I saw this collection of one-car Class 153 trains with a two-car Class 156 train thrown in.

They were forming one of East Midlands Railway‘s Liverpool and Norwich services.

And then yesterday, I had to travel between Liverpool and Sheffield and this was the collection of trains that took me.

So what was it like?

It started badly, with the driver announcing that because of the late arrival due to an undisclosed problem with the incoming train, that we would be leaving ten minutes after the planned departure time of 1551. He also indicated that our late departure meant that we would be stuck behind one of Northern’s services.

In the end, despite the gloomy faces of passengers we left twelve minutes late at 1603.

It was a bit like one of those classic films, where an ancient train escapes in the nick of time, with a lot of important and assorted passengers.

The asthmatic Cummins diesels under the train could be heard straining.

  • But the driver was at the top of his game and the train was running smoothly towards Manchester at close to 75 mph, which is the maximum speed of a Class 153 train.
  • At Manchester Piccadilly, the driver had pulled back two minutes.
  • There were obviously, no problems on the Dove Valley Line and the driver pulled back another minute before Sheffield, to arrive nine minutes late.

Looking at Real Time Trains, the train ran well until March (The place, not the month!), but there was some form of delay there and sadly it was thirty-four minutes late into Norwich.

The Train Was Clean

I should say there was nothing wrong with the train except for its design and age. It was also as clean as you can get one of these trains. The toilet, that I used was better than many I’ve used on trains and worked as it should.

Customer Service

East Midlands Railway had loaded a trolley and a steward and in the two hours I was on the train, he came through twice. The only problem for me, that he had no card machine, but I did find a fiver in my briefcase.

At least it was very drinkable. Even, if I hate those plastic tubs of milk, as they are difficult to open with one good hand.

Where Did Two Cars Go?

I had been fairly certain, that we had started with six cars, but we only arrived in Sheffield with four Class 153 trains.

I suspect that the trouble that delayed the train, concerned two cars and these were left on the naughty step or the end of Platform 6 in Liverpool Lime Street station.

Being Fair To East Midlands Railway

This service used to be run by a four-car formation of two-car Class 158 trains, but these have been causing trouble lately and they will be replaced by Class 170 trains cascaded from other operators.

But because of late arrivals of new trains the much better Class 170 trains haven’t arrived yet.

The driver, steward and other staff did a good job and I feel that the steward enjoyed it. No-one was abusive and stories were just exchanged, as we climbed across the Pennines in what by Sheffield was a very crowded train.

Class 153 trains may have been built as a stop-gap for short branch lines, but you couldn’t fault their performance.

Unless of course, one caused the delay at March, by expiring in a cloud of blue smoke.

Other Observations

These are other observations.

Scheduled Journey Times

On my journey the scheduled times were

  • Liverpool and Manchester Oxford Road – forty-seven minutes.
  • Liverpool and Sheffield – one hour and forty-eight minutes.
  • Liverpool and Nottingham – two hour and forty minutes.
  • Liverpool and Norwich – Five hours and twenty-seven minutes

The train considering the configuration, nearly achieved them.

It’s probably the motoring equivalent of doing the journey in a Morris Minor!

The Nine Stops Were Executed Perfectly

There were nine stops on my journey and eight took less than a minute, with Sheffield taking four, as the driver and crew changed.

A modern train like a Class 755 train, with fast acceleration and level boarding could probably save up to three minutes a time on each stop.

The Route Is A Genuine 75 mph Railway In Good Condition

I was checking the speed of the train on parts of the route and the driver had his motley crew at a steady 75 mph for long periods.

  • The train was riding well, indicating to me, that both trains and track were in reasonably good condition.
  • Note that 75 mph is the maximum speed of a Class 153 train.
  • The train recovered three minutes on the late departure from Liverpool.

I can see a faster train and improvements to the route, some of which are underway, could reduce the journey time by a few minutes.

Could Merseyrail’s New Class 777 Trains Work To The Bay Platform At Oxford Road?

Merseyrail’s new Class 777 trains will have the following performance.

  • A possible range of perhaps 40-50 miles on battery power.
  • An operating speed of 75 mph.
  • An acceleration rate of 1.1 m/sec², which is faster than a Class 153 or Class 170 train.
  • Fast stops due to regenerative braking, fast acceleration and level boarding.

As Liverpool Lime Street to Oxford Road is thirty four miles of which nine is electrified, I suspect that these new trains could extend Merseyrail’s Northern Line service from Hunts Cross to Manchester Oxford Road.

  • Two trains per hour (tph), but I’m sure four tph would transform the area.
  • I doubt any track modifications would be needed.

But would Liverpool and Manchester be able to sort out the local politics?

The Future Of The Liverpool And Norwich Service

This service will probably be spilt into two services.

  • Liverpool Lime Street and Derby, which could be run by TransPennine Express or Northern Trains.
  • Derby and Norwich, which would be run by East Midlands Railway.

As to the trains to be used, consider the following.

The Liverpool and Derby leg would probably need six trains, with the same number needed for Derby and Norwich, or twelve in total.

Currently, eleven or twelve is needed for the longer service.

Sections of the route like through Manchester and between Grantham and Peterborough are electrified.

There are even sections of route, where 125 mph running is possible.

Run reliably to an hourly frequency, I think that this service could attract passengers, especially, as it would serve Derby and extra stops like Ilkeston and Warrington West could be added.

This leads to the following trains being possibilities.

Class 802 trains – 125 mph bi-mode train of which TransPennine Express have 19 trains.

Class 185 trains – 100 mph diesel train of which TransPennine Express have 51 trains.

Class 804 trains – 125 mph bi-mode train of which East Midlands Railway have ordered 33 trains.

Class 755 trains – 100 mph diesel train of which Greater Anglia have 38 trains, which are based at Norwich.

Alstom Breeze hydrogen trains could be ideal for Liverpool and Derby.

Note.

  1. Greater Anglia and East Midlands Railway are both subsidiaries of Abellio.
  2. Developments of Class 755 trains could include battery and hydrogen versions.
  3. I suspect that 125 mph trains may be required for both legs, to maximise capacity on the East Coast Main Line and Midland Main Line.

January 29, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Did Someone Try To Steal The Electrification?

I arrived at Ipswich station to come back to London at 09:30 this morning and finally arrived home at 15:00. The journey had taken at least four times longer than it should.

This article on Railnews, which has a subtitle of Overhead Line Damage Disrupts Great Eastern, explains the problem.

The wires between Colchester and Marks Tey stations were damaged at around four in the morning and trains didn’t run again until about 1700.

This is a paragraph that adds more details.

overhead line damage was discovered between Colchester and Marks Tey. Network Rail workers reported shortly before 04.45 that overhead line equipment was tripping, and a train driver reported ‘visible damage’ to the power lines.

I eventually came home by this route.

  • I took a train to Class 153 train to Cambridge.
  • Another electric train took me to to Tottenham Hale,.
  • It was then two buses home.

It was a completely wasted day.

What puzzles me is that the damage to the wires appears to have happened, when no trains were running. So that seems to indicate they either just fell down for no apparent reason or someone was up to no good.

Years ago, I did some work for British Rail and they talked about all sorts of groups getting up to all sorts f tricks to steal copper. signalling cable.

The crooks would even repeatedly cut fibre optic signalling cables, in the hope it would be replaced by copper, so they could nick that!

I shall await the report of what happened yesterday with interest!

Greater Anglia Were Short Of Trains

I took this picture, when I arrived at Ipswich.

It shows the Ipswich to Cambridge service that gives a good connection to the train from London. For several years, it has been a smart three-car Class 170 train. This is a rwo-car Class 156 train.

  • Greater Anglia were also apologising for the connecting Lowestoft service being just a one car; Class 153 train.
  • It appeared to me, that Greater Anglia has sent nearly all of their Class 170 trains to Wales.
  • And yet again, Greater Anglia are looking after their Norwich customers and heaping all the inadequate rolling stock on Ipswich.
  • Are the new Class 755 trains and their drivers ready?

It looks to me, to be a management cock-up.

Train For Cambridge Anybody?

This was my train to Cambridge.

As I said, it was normally a three-car Class 170 train, but this is an inadequate Class 153 train, which went they ran between Ipswich and Cambridge generally ran in pairs.

Gerald Fiennes and Delia Smith at Dullingham

At least I only had to wait ten minutes at Cambridge for my Tottenham Hale train.

Greater Anglia’s Response

The staff at Ipswich did their best, but there did seem to be a biit of bad leadership from somewhere as at one point, it was announced that a London train would be running and I don’t think it did.

To make matters worse, as we ran into Cambridge, we passed two brand new Class 755 trains in the sidings. Are they parked their ready to start the service?

This article on the East Anglian Daily Times is entitled We’re Completely Stuck – it’s A Joke’ – Rail Passengers’ Anger At Train Chaos.

It shows a large degree of management failure.

Planning For The Future

The electrification on the Great Eastern Main Line appears to be notoriously unreliable.

Network Rail must get it better! But they don’t seem to be doing a good job, as I have had pain getting to Ipswich for six years, whilst they are updating the wires!

I believe that the best insurance for the train services would be to do the following, as soon as possible.

  • Increase services on the Ipswich and Cambridge route to two trains per hour (tph) using four-car Class 755 trains. One would be direct and the other would have a change at Ely.
  • Increase services on the Norwich and Cambridge route to two tph using four-car Class 755 trains. One would be direct and the other would have a change at Ely.
  • Start running the London and Lowestoft service using four-car Class 755 trains.
  • Make sure that, it is possible to run routes with pairs of Class 755 trains.
  • Ensure, that Class 755 trains can run London and Norwich via Cambridge.

As an example yesterday, a six-car Class 755 formation formed of two three-car trains shuttling between Ipswich and Cambridge, would probably have solved the problem.

But I do think that East Anglia’s rail problems might be best served by running a new direct service between London Kings Cross and Norwich.

As I have said several times, the Kings Cross and Cambridge and/or Kings Lynn service needs to be upgraded to 140 mph trains to make the most of the 140 mph running on the Southern section of the East Coast Main Line.

So why not run the following services?

  • Hourly between Kings Cross and Kings Lynn via Cambridge.
  • Hourly between Kings Cross and Norwich via Cambridge.

The trains could be Hitachi AT-300 trains with a battery capability sufficient to take the train North of Ely.

Conclusion

Did someone try to steal the electrification?

I will await the answer as to what happened with interest.

October 26, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Industry Urged To Decide On Alternative Technology

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

This is the first paragraph.

The rail industry needs to decide on the right approach to alternative technology as soon as possible, to ensure the industry can continue to reduce emissions.

Speaking to the All-Party Parliamentary Rail Group, Anthony Perratt of the RSSB, outlined how there was a huge opportunity to replace ageing Sprinter trains with new units powered by alternative energy sources like batteries and hydrogen.

The Size Of The Opportunity

Sprinter trains in service of stored in the UK include.

These add up to 516 trains, with a total of 1035 cars.

In the Wikipedia entry for the Class 710 train, this is said.

TfL announced that it had placed a £260m order for 45 four-car Bombardier Aventra EMUs.

This works out at nearly £1,500,000 for each car of a modern train.

This means that replacement of the Sprinters, with new independently-powered trains, would be project of the order of £1.5billion.

That is a market, that would be very much desired by a train builder.

Battery, Diesel Or Hydrogen Power?

Diesel power is probably not a good idea, if it can be avoided.

The following points about hydrogen- and battery-powered trains should be noted.

  • Most hydrogen-powered trains are battery-powered trains, with a hydrogen fuel-cell to recharge the batteries.
  • Battery technology is improving fast.
  • Systems to rapidly charge batteries will be available in a couple of years.
  • Battery-powered trains can use existing electrification to charge the batteries.
  • Hydrogen-powered trains may need a large tank for the hydrogen, which limits passenger capacity.
  • Hydrogen-powered trains need a refuelling structure, which may be more difficult to install, than a charging system for battery trains.

I feel that innovative engineers will be able to find ways to enable battery-powered trains on routes that need independently powered trains.

Conclusion

I don’t think, that we’ll see many long-term applications of hydrogen-powered trains in the UK.

 

 

 

July 23, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

ScotRail Finds A Use For The Unloved Class 153 Trains

Class 153 trains are the unloved members of British Rail’s Sprinter family. I occasionally use one on excursions to Felixstowe, but they are cramped, noisy and slow.

As the pictures show, some are not in bad condition and to be fair, some train operators have tried hard to provide a better level of service.

Greater Anglia still has five Class 153 trains in service and the fact that they will be replaced by three-car Class 755 trains by the end of 2020. You don’t increase capacity by that amount, unless the current one-car trains are overcrowded or you know that there is a lot of untapped demand on the route.

If on the Felixstowe Branch, a doubling of capacity would have been sufficient, then surely a refurbished two-car Class 150, 156 or 170 train, would have been a more than adequate replacement.

Currently, there are seventy of these trains in service and many of them, like those in East Anglia are being replaced with new or refurbished trains.

Greater Anglia’s five units are going to Wales, where they will join another eight on rural lines in West Wales. Nothing has ben said about how they will be used, but they could be used singly, in pairs or in multiple with Class 15x or Class 17x trains.

So they could be useful to the Welsh in providing extra capacity.

In the November 2018 Edition of Modern Railways, Alex Hynes of ScotRail talks about how a number of Class 153 trains will be used to add bicycle space to trains on some of Scotland’s scenic routes. Alex Hynes is quoted as saying.

The interior format is yet to be fixed, but is likely to include a large amount of space given over to bicycles. Bike tourism is a growing area and the aim would be to allay fears about whether or not you’d get your bike on a train by providing plenty of space. Part of the vehicle might be given over to a lounge car layout to make the most of the magnificent views on these routes.

Transport Scotland sees the scenic routes as a key part of the rural economy for the part they play in stimulating tourism.

Our inspiration is to get “158s” on the West Highland route.

So it looks like ScotRail could be running Class 158/Class 153 pairs to provide increased capacity on the West Highland Line.

Wikipedia says this about the use of the Class 153 trains on the West Highland Line.

These single car units are to be completely adapted to accommodate bikes, skis and other outdoor equipment.

They will be attached to the Class 156s either as centre cars, or as extra coaches at either end.

If ScotRail’s scheme is a success, I suspect more of the Class 153 trains could end up doing the same task, in Wales, the South West and North of England.

It should also be noted, with respect to bicycle tourism, that ScotRail’s shortened HSTs will hopefully retain their bicycle swallowing abilities in the back ends of the power cars, thus enabling bicycle tourists to do the longer Scottish journeys with ease.

My one worry about bicycle tourism in Scotland and Wales is not concerned with trains internally, but with getting there from other parts of the UK with a heavily-loaded bicycle.

With the replacement of the HSTs and InterCity 225 from the London to Edinburgh and London to Wales and the West routes, will the new Class 800 trains have enough bicycle capacity? The bicycle storage on these trains look to be a good design for a racing bicycle, but some of the heavily-loaded bicycle tourists I’ve seen in Suffolk, would find them inadequate.

This article in The Guardian is entitled New High-Speed Trains Go Slow On Provision For Cyclists.

The article is critical.

I wonder what provision has been made for bicycles on the new rolling stock for the Caledonian Sleeper?

 

 

October 26, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 2 Comments

Porterbrook Targets OffLease DMU Class 153s As ‘Capacity-Busters’

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in Issue 851 of Rail Magazine.

I wrote about my visit to the new Kenilworth station in Kenilworth Station – 1st May 2018.

I travelled between Coventry and Kenilworth stations in a well-turned out Class 153 train.

The pictures show it is no scrapyard special.

As the article says, Porterbrook own thirteen of these trains and they are looking at ways of using them profitably for a few more years.

The article suggests these uses.

  • Reforming them as two-car Class 155 trains, which is how they were built.
  • Inserting them into other DMUs.
  • Converting them to luggage/cycle-carrying vehicles.

When I was at Oxenholme Lake District station on Monday, a Class 153 train, was being used to convert two-car Class 156 train into a three-car train, to increase capacity on the Windermere Branch Line.

Many of the Class 153 trains are due to be replaced in the next few years and as there are seventy in total, there will need to be a lot of good ideas.

Route Development

For a start, there is the job the single Class 153 train is doing at Kenilworth, which is route testing and development.

  • Drivers are being trained on the route.
  • Systems are being tested.
  • Passengers have a train service, they can use.

On the Kenilworth route, it doesn’t matter if it is too small a train, as in a couple of months a ten-year-old Class 172 train should be available to double the capacity.

Stand-In Trains

East Anglia has a problem with trains being severely damaged in level-crossing accidents.

Pairs of Class 153 trains could be used as stand-in trains on many branch lines.

Network Rail Uses

Don’t underestimate the uses that Network Rail will find for the trains!

Conclusion

I think that some of the uses will  e very innovative.

 

May 8, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , | 2 Comments