The Anonymous Widower

Would It Have Been Better To Scrap HSTs, Abandon Class 769 Trains And Use Stadler Bi-Mode Flirts Instead?

I have ridden for several hours in Greater Anglia'[s new Class 755 trains and they seem to make good trains for scenic rural lines.

From December 16th, we’ll be seeing them work between Stansted and Norwich, which will show their mettle as true bi-modes working a partially-electrified route.

By mid-next year they will be working the following partially-electrified routes.

  • Liverpool Street and Lowestoft
  • Colchester and Peterborough
  • Norwich and Stansted
  • Ipswich and Cambridge
  • Sudbury and Colchester Town

I think that about forty percent of these routes are electrified and they also include a lot of 100 mph lines.

ScotRail

These Greater Anglia routes are not unlike some of the ScotRail Inter7City routes, which are to be run by shorterned four- and five-car HSTs.

Both trains have been late because of training and other issues, but delivery of the HSTs seems to have got stuck round various remanufacturing problems at Wabtec.

Would ScotRail have done better to follow their sister company Greater Anglia and buy some Class 755 trains to their specification?

Consider the advantages of the Inter7City over the Class 755 train.

  • Nostalgia
  • Well-known engineering
  • Comfortable

They could have been obtained at an affordable price.

But they do come with disadvantages.

  • Forty years old
  • Two big diesel engines
  • They are rather dark and dingy inside.

The Class 755 trains also have the following advantages.

  • They would help to remove diesel power from Edinburgh, Glasgow Queen Street and Stirling stations.
  • They have large picture windows ideal for looking at lakes and mountains.
  • Some seats are raised for a better view.
  • They are genuine 100 mph trains, which could be uprated to 125 mph, so would be ideal for incursions on the fast routes to England.
  • They’re probably ready to fit ERTMS.
  • They come in various lengths.
  • They are able to be modified for battery-electric operation.
  • I suspect hydrogen operation will be possible in the future.

But the biggest advantage is that they could extend Scotland’s electric network by using the bi-mode capability.

Think.

  • Fife Circle
  • Borders Railway
  • West Kilbride
  • Perth
  • West Highland Line

I think Scotland could really get to love these trains.

Great Western Railway

I could see a case for running shortened HSTs in the far South West, where GWR call them Castles, mainly on nostalgia and tourism grounds, but Class 755 trains would surely be better running the following partially-electrified services.

  • Henley and Paddington
  • Oxford and Gatwick via Reading
  • Oxford and Paddington
  • Cardiff and Taunton
  • Cardiff and Portsmouth Harbour

Often, they would be replacing Class 156 or Class 769 trains.

  • Some would need to be fitted with third-rail equipment.
  • The Gatwick services could be given an airport interior.
  • I suspect a 125 mph capability is available.
  • The Class 769 trains seem to be late in arriving.

I have no doubt in my mind, that the new Stadler trains are much better than the refurbished British Rail trains.

Transport For Wales

Transport for Wales have ordered a selection of bi-mode and tri-mode Flirts.

They must have good reasons for buying a selection of trains, rather than buying more Flirts.

Probably cost!

All these routes could be run using bi-mode Flirts

  • Cardiff and Holyhead
  • Birmingham International and Holyhead
  • Manchester Airport and Llandudno
  • Crewe and Chester
  • Chester and Liverpool Lime Street
  • Milford Haven and Manchester Piccadilly
  • Birmingham International and Aberystwyth via Shrewsbury
  • Birmingham International and Pwllheli via Shrewsbury
  • Heart of Wales Line
  • Conwy Valley Line

Some of these routes are partially electrified and use lines with a 125 mph operating speed.

Answering The Question In The Title

I very much feel that bi-mode Flirts would be better trains than shortened HSTs and Class 769 trains.

  • They are new trains.
  • They can use electrification, where it is present.
  • The appear to be capable of uprating to 125 mph.
  • They have good viewing for scenic routes because of large windows and some raised seats.
  • They are comfortable with a good ride.
  • They are able to be modified for battery-electric operation.
  • I suspect hydrogen operation will be possible in the future.

I  suspect their one downside is cost.

Conclusion

Bi-mode and tri-mode Flirts and other similar trains will proliferate and within ten years we’ll have seen the last of pure diesel trains in the UK.

I suspect that most of the shortened HSTs will have gone by 2030.

 

December 2, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Will Abellio East Midlands Railway Go Flirting?

Abellio take over the East Midlands franchise in a few days and it will be renamed to East Midlands Railway.

It has already disclosed that it will have three divisions.

  • EMR Intercity for long distance services from London St Pancras
  • EMR Regional for local services
  • EMR Electrics for the London St Pancras to Corby service

It has also confirmed it has ordered thirty-three AT-300 trains for EMR Intercity.

Wikipedia also shows, that the following trains will be transferred to East Midlands Railway.

The first three fleets will come from Abellio-run franchises and the last will be released fairly soon, as Hull Trains new fleet is arriving.

Looking at the EMR Regional fleet it will comprise.

Consider.

  • Many probably feel that the Class 153 trains are inadequate.
  • Except for the Class 170 trains, these trains are around thirty years old.
  • Some of the Class 156 trains, which will be transferred from Greater Anglia, are currently being replaced with brand-new Class 755 trains.
  • Abellio are going through extensive fleet replacement exercises in ScotRail, Greater Anglia and West Midlands Trains.

The EMR Regional routes, that they will run are a mixed bunch.

This page on the Department for Transport web site is an interactive map of the Abellio’s promises for East Midlands Railway.

Digging out the blurb for each route shows the following.

Norwich – Nottingham – Derby

Crewe – Derby – Nottingham

Matlock – Derby – Nottingham

Nottingham – Lincoln – Grimsby

Nottingham – Worksop

Nottingham – Skegness

Leicester – Nottingham

Peterborough – Lincoln – Doncaster

Barton-On-Humber – Cleethorpes

Lincoln – London

London – Oakham – Melton Mowbray

London- Leeds – York

 

Newark North Gate – Lincoln

I have come to a few conclusions.

The Fleet Is Not Being Expanded Enough To Retire The Class 153 Trains

Consider.

  • There are twenty-one Class 153 trains.
  • Five Class 170 trains and nine Class 156 trains are being added to the fleet.

Surely, this means that some Class 153 trains will be retained.

Perhaps, the remaining Class 153  trains, will be reorganised into two-car trains to increase capacity.

Extended Services Will Be Run Using New Bi-Mode AT-300 Trains

Services to Leeds and York, Oakham and Melton Mowbray and Lincoln would appear to be run by the new AT-300 trains that have been ordeed from Hitachi.

I’ve no problem with that,but there are three developments that may effect passenger numbers.

  • There is a lot of housing development in the Corby, Oakham and Melton Mowbray area.
  • There is a very large renewable energy sector developing in North Lincolnshire.
  • Sheffield are proposing to add new stations between Sheffield and Leeds, at Rotherham and Barnsley Dearne Valley.

Does the proposed service pattern take this fully into account?

In a way it doesn’t matter, as the worst that could happen, is that East Midlands Railway will need to increase the fleet size by a small number of trains.

Hopefully, they’ll just need to get Hitachi to build the trains!

Most Regional Services Will Be Run By Refurbished Modern Trains

Most services will be run by refurbished modern trains with the following features.

  • More reliable service
  • Improved comfort
  • Passenger information system
  • Free on-board wi-fi
  • At-seat power sockets
  • USB points
  • Air-conditioning
  • Tables at all seats
  • Increased luggage space

Can East Midlands Railway Refurbish Their Augmented Fleet To Meet Their Required Standards?

Consider.

  • The Class 170 trains are relatively recent and were built to a high standard, so can probably meet EMR’s standard.
  • The Class 158 trains are thirty years old and were built to a high standard, so they might be able to be upgraded to EMR’s standard.
  • The Class 156 trains are thirty years old and noisy and old-fashioned, so will need a lot of work to bring them up to EMR’s standard.
  • The Class 153 trains are thirty years old and only one car, so would probably be best retired or reduced to an auxiliary role like a bicycle car.
  • Only the Class 170 and Class 158 trains can be high standard trains.
  • All trains are diesel and only the Class 170 trains are possibly planned to be upgraded to more economical diesel hybrid trains

One additional option might be to refurbish some of the Class 222 trains, when they are replaced by the new Hitachi AT-300 trains on main line services, so they were suitable for the longer regional routes.

Will East Midlands Railway Replace The Fleet?

In their three other franchises in the UK; Greater Anglia, ScotRail and West Midlands Trains, Abellio have opted for replacement of all or a substantial part of the fleet.

So will the same action be taken at East Midlands Railway?

The company could do a lot worse, than invest in a fleet of Class 755 trains like Greater Anglia.

  • They could be a mix of lengths, so each route could have a train with capacity for the traffic.
  • The trains may be capable of 125 mph running on the Midland Main Line and the East Coast Main Line.
  • The interiors meet the company’s requirements.
  • The trains could use electrification , where it exists.
  • The trains could be fast enough to cover for the AT-300 trains.
  • Abellio Greater Anglia will soon have a large knowledge base for the trains.

The clincher could be, that as electrification increases, the trains could fit batteries and generate less carbon.

Conclusion

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Abellio East Midlands Railway buy a fleet of Class 755 trains for their EMR Regional services.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 7, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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