The Anonymous Widower

Tender Set To Be Issued For East West Rail Rolling Stock

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

Brief details of the fleet include.

  • Eleven trains.
  • Self-propelled.
  • Three cars.

Services are due to commence in 2024, serving Oxford, Aylesbury, Milton Keynes and Bedford.

Here are a few of my thoughts.

Are Three Car Trains Long Enough?

New train services in the UK, especially those on new or reopened routes, seem to suffer from London Overground Syndrome.

I define it as follows.

This benign disease, which is probably a modern version of the Victorian railway mania, was first identified in East London in 2011, when it was found that the newly-refurbished East London Line and North London Line were inadequate due to high passenger satisfaction and much increased usage. It has now spread across other parts of the capital, despite various eradication programs.

The Borders Railway certainly suffered and the London Overground is still adding extra services on the original routes.

Three-car trains may be enough for the initial service, but provision must be made  for running longer trains.

  • The trains that are purchased must be capable of lengthening.
  • Platforms must be built for longer trains.

So often we don’t future-proof new rail routes.

What Performance Is Needed?

I’ll ask this question first, as it may affect the choice of train.

The trains will certainly be at least capable of 100 mph operation.

But I wouldn’t be surprised if they were capable of 110 mph or even 125 mph, as this would surely make it easier for trains to go walkabout on the Great Western, Midland and West Coast Main Lines.

Faster East West trains might also get more services out of the fleet.

Appropriate acceleration and braking would be needed.

Conservative Or Innovative?

Will we get more of the same or will some of the responders to the tender offer trains based on innovative designs?

I would hope that as the line will eventually connect Oxford and Cambridge via Milton Keynes, the trains will take over the flavour of the route and be more innovative.

The Route

The eventual full route of the East West Rail Link will serve these sections.

  • Reading and Ocford – 25 miles – Partially-electrified
  • Oxford and Milton Keynes – 43 miles – Not electrified
  • Milton Keynes and Bedford – 20 miles – Partially-electrified
  • Bedford and Sandy – 10 miles – Not electrified
  • Sandy and Cambridge – 25 miles – Partially-electrified.

Note.

  1. The distances are approximate.
  2. With the exception of Oxford, all the major stations will be served by electric trains on other routes.

It is rather a mixture created out of existing and abandoned routes.

Could Battery Trains Run On The East West Rail Link?

Consider.

  • All the major stations except Oxford have electrification.
  • Sections of the route are electrified.
  • The route is not very challenging.
  • The longest section without electrification is around forty miles.

All this leads me to believe that a battery-electric train with a range of forty miles could handle the route, if there was the means to charge the train at Oxford.

Possibly the easiest way to achieve the charging station at Oxford station, would be to electrify between Didcot Junction and Oxford stations.

In How Much Power Is Needed To Run A Train At 125 mph?, I showed that to run at 125 mph, a train needs around three kWh per vehicle mile.

This would mean that to run between Oxford and Milron Keynes stations, would need a maximum power of around 40*3*3 kWh or 360 kWh.

This is only a 120 kWh battery in each car.

I am fairly certain, that a well-designed battery train could run on the East West Rail Link.

The Usual Suspects

There are several train companies, who could be offering existing trains or their developments.

Alstom

Alstom don’t have a current design of train for the UK, but they are heavily into the development of trains powered by hydrogen.

By 2024, I suspect they will be offering a purpose-built hydrogen-powered train for the UK.

Also, by that time, I think it will be likely, that many buses in cities will be powered by zero-carbon hydrogen and the availability of this fuel would be much better than it is today.

An East West Rail Link running hydrogen-powered trains would go a long way to answer the electrification lobby.

Bombardier

Bombardier are developing a 125 mph bi-mode Aventra with batteries, that they are proposing for various franchises in the UK, including the Midland Main Line.

I believe that by rearranging the components of this train, they could develop a train that would be very suitable for the East West Rail Link.

  • Three cars
  • At least 100 mph operating speed
  • In service by 2024 or earlier.

It could be a bi-mode train with batteries, or if battery and the associated charging technology has improved, it could be a battery-electric train.

The latter would certainly fulfil the flavour of the route.

Bombardier’s Aventra would also have the advantages of an electrical version and the ability to add more cars.

CAF

CAF have recently introduced the Class 195 traincaf in the UK.

But would a diesel train be acceptable on a flagship route?

On the other hand CAF have been delivering battery-powered trams for several years and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the company, offer an innovative battery-electric train for the East West Rail Link.

Hitachi

Hitachi don’t make self-powered trains in the UK.

But in Hitachi Plans To Run ScotRail Class 385 EMUs Beyond The Wires, I wrote about the company’s plans to use batteries as range extenders on their Class 385 trains.

I suspect that by 2024, these trains will be running in Scotland and they will probably be high-quality reliable trains.

So could these trains be able to run between Reading and Cambridge using battery power, topped up at the various sections of electrification along the route.

Hitachi’s development regime is cautious, professional and well-funded, so I suspect they could offer a version of the Class 385 train, for delivery in 2024.

Hitachi would also have the advantages of an electrical version and the ability to add more cars.

Siemens

Siemens have a large number of modern electrical multiple units in the UK, but none are self-powered, except the diesel Class 185 train.

Siemens will have a factory in the UK to built London Underground trains by 2024.

But eleven trains could be an expensive order to fulfil, if it required a new self-powered train design.

Stadler

Stadler are an innovative company and their Class 755 train will shortly be starting passenger service in East Anglia.

  • It is three-cars, which is extendable if required.
  • It has a 100 mph operating speed.
  • It is a bi-mode; diesel and electric train.
  • Trains for Wales have ordered a diesel/electric/battery version.
  • There are rumours of hydrogen-powered versions.

Stadler could certainly deliver some of these trains by 2024.

Summing Up

I would suspect that the front runners are Bombardier, Hitachi and Stadler, with CAF in fourth place.

  • All could probably develop a zero-emission train for the route using battery technology.
  • Stadler will have trains in service this year, and I suspect Bombardier and Hitachi will be running trains by 2022.

I think we could be seeing some very good trains on the route.

 

 

 

 

July 13, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

My First Ride In A Class 331 Train

After yesterday’s post; My First Ride In A Class 195 Train, today, I took a ride in that train’s electric sister; the Class 331 train, between Leeds and Doncaster stations.

These are some pictures.

These are my views on various aspects of the train.

Noise, Vibration And Harshness

The electric trains, I travel in most are London Overground’s and TfL Rail’s various classes; 315, 317, 345, 378 and 710.

These Class 331 trains seemed to have a smooth ride, but a noisier transmission compared to say the Class 378 train or the Class 710 train.

To check, the day after I rode the Class 331 train, I rode the Gospel Oak to Barking Line, sampling both Class 378 and Class 710 trains.

It was no surprise that noise levels in the Class 710 train were lowest, but the Class 331 train was noisier than the Class 378 train.

Interior Design

The interior design is the same as that of the Class 195 train and my same comments apply.

  • It is inferior to that of a Class 385 train.
  • The seats are not aligned with the windows.
  • There are lots of tables, which I like.

I also noted that the information display wasn’t working. Was this just teething troubles?

Entrance And Exit

As expected, this was the same as the Class 195 train.

Conclusion

The Class 331 train like its sibling; the Class 195 train, has a few design faults, that hopefully will be rectified in the next few months.

July 6, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

My First Ride In A Class 195 Train

Today, I rode the ten o’clock Virgin to Manchester Piccadilly station.

I then waited for one of the new Class 195 trains going South to Manchester Aurport station.

These pictures show the Class 195 train.

These are my views on various aspects of the train.

Noise, Vibration And Harshness

The Class 195 train is a diesel multiple unit, with an MTU engine and a ZF Ecolife transmission.

Wikipedia describes the transmission as is a 6 speed transmission for city buses. It also lists these features.

  • Boosted operating economy, longer service life, and higher temperature resistance for operation with Euro 5 (1st generation) and Euro 6 (2nd generation) compatible engines.
  • An integral retarder,
  • Longer operational intervals between oil changes.
  • Higher torque capacity.

It looks like ZF have created a sophisticated and very efficient gearbox for diesel buses and trains.

During today, I rode also rode in Class 156 and Class 175 trains, that are also diesel powered.

I would put the noise, vibration and harshness of the diesel engine and the transmission of the Class 195 trains, as worse than that of the Class 175 train and better than than that of the Class 156 train.

I am surprised that the Class 195 train doesn’t use a hybrid electric transmission, which are starting to be developed by MTU and will be retrofitted into various diesel multiple units like Porterbrook’s Class 170 trains, as I talked about in Rolls-Royce And Porterbrook Launch First Hybrid Rail Project In The UK With MTU Hybrid PowerPacks.

I said this in the linked post.

As I understand it, the current hydraulic traction system will be replaced by an electric one with a battery, that will enable.

  • Regenerative braking using a battery.
  • Battery electric power in urban areas, stations and depots.
  • Lower noise levels
  • Lower maintenance costs.

This should also reduce diesel fuel consumption and carbon emissions.

As the Class 195 train has a similar electric cousin; the Class 331 train, I would have felt that it would be possible to fit the Class 195 trains with an MTU Hybrid PowerPack or similar.

This should reduce, what to me, are unacceptable noise levels.

As the MTU Hybrid PowerPack has been developed, at the same time as the Class 195 train, which uses a traditional MTU engine, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Class 195 train has been designed to be retrofitted with the more efficient MTU Hybrid PowerPack.

Interior Design

The designj of the interior is disappointing in some of the details and I would rate it inferior to the Class 385 trains, built for ScotRail by Hitachi.

The most annoying aspect is that the seats and windows are not aligned, as they are in Hitachi’s design.

This picture taken in a Chiltern Railways Mark 3 carriage, shows the alignment done in a better manner.

 

But I believe, that it can be done better still.

Entrance And Exit

As the pictures show, there is a big gap and a high step getting into the train. I know that the platform at Manchester Piccadilly is not easy, but the gap was still large on the straight platform at Manchester Airport.

With any new train, a passenger in a wheelchair, should be able to push themselves into and out of the train.

They certainly can’t in a Class 195 train.

Conclusion

I was rather disappointed with the Class 195 train.

Good points were the number of tables and build quality.

Bad points were the noise, vibration and harshness, execution of the interior design and entry and exit.

Compared to the Class 385 train, which I would score at 8/10, the Class 195 train, is no better than 6/10.

In some ways though, my biggest disappointment, is that they didn’t get the smaller points of the design right first time!

 

 

July 5, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Japanese Car Rental Firms Discover New Trend Of Renting Vehicles For A Nap Or Quiet Lunch

The title of this post is the same as that of this story on The World News.

It was flagged up first on BBC Breakfast.

But is it any difference to my behaviour?

I generally get up, do all my daily chores and have a bath.

Then, I’ll go out about nine and take an Overground train or a bus to somewhere quiet for breakfast.

I will sometimes go as far as Richmond for breakfast in Leon.

And if the weather is hot like is it is now, I might even just sit on an air-conditioned train and read my paper or watch the news on my phone, stopping where I fancy for a coffee or a drink.

All I need to ensure, is that at some point, I stop off at a Marks and Spencer to get the food I need for supper.

Courtesy of my Freedom Pass, all this travel costs me a big fat zilch.

I call it Freedoming.

Today, though I’m roaming a bit further; Manchester. Hopefully, I’ll get a ride in one of the new Class 195 trains to Manchester Airport.

 

July 5, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Comparing Class 195 And Class 769 Trains

This may seen a strange comparison to do.

  • In the blue corner is an upgraded forty-year-old four-car bi-mode Class 769 train from British Rail via Brush at Louthborough.
  • In the red corner is a new three-car diesel Class 195 train from CAF.

So how do they compare?

Seats

  • The Class 769 train shows 255 Standard Class and 12 First Seats in an example layout in the brochure.
  • The Class 195 train has 204 seats according to Wikipedia.

The seats per car in both trains are almost identical.

Diesel Power

  • The Class 769 train has two 390 kW diesel engines and electric transmission.
  • The Class 195 train has three 390 kW diesel engines and a ZF Ecolife six-speed transmission.

So it would appear that the Class 195 train is more powerful, but Class 769 train has an electric transmission, which doesn’t need to change gear.

I look forward to riding in both trains.

Operating Speed

  • The Class 769 train has a 100 mph operating speed on electricity and has been designed for 91 mph on diesel power.
  • The Class 195 train has a 100 mph operating speed.

The proof of the pudding will be in the timetables and journey times.

Conclusion

The two trains are fairly evenly matched for a lot of routes.

March 9, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Northern Connect Between Chester And Leeds To Start In May

This article on the BBC is entitled New Rail Services Aim To Ease Overcrowding.

This is an extract.

Northern will be adding direct services between Chester and Leeds.

I think this will be the proposed Northern Connect service.

  • The route is via Warrington Bank Quay, Manchester Victoria, Rochdale, Halifax and Bradford Interchange stations.
  • Only the twenty-two miles between Warrington Bank Quay and Manchester Victoria stations is electrified.
  • Wikipedia says that the service will be run using a Class 195 train.

Looking at the current timetable, these times are achieved.

  • Chester and Newton-le-Willows – 38 minutes
  • Newton-le-Willows and Manchester Victoria – 18 minutes
  • Manchester Victoria and Leeds – 75 minutes

This totals up to two hours and eleven minutes.

The Class 195 train is a 100 mph diesel multiple unit and may knock a few minutes from this time.

On my trip to Wigan last month, I heard a rumour from a driver, that the Chester and Leeds service would be run by Class 769 trains.

  • These trains could use electrification between Warrington Bank Quay and Manchester Victoria stations.
  • They would be slightly slower, than the new Spanish trains on diesel.

It will be interesting to see, which trains Northern use for the service.

March 8, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 20 Comments

Between Hebden Bridge And Burnley Manchester Road Stations In The Snow

I took these pictures from a train between Hebden Bridge and Burnley Manchester Road stations on the Calder Valley Line.

I believe that the area has some of the most scenic rail lines in the UK.

Electrification

It runs between the hills with lots of bridges and viaducts.

There are four tunnels; Weasel Hall , Castle Hill , Horsfall and Millwood on this section of the route.

It would not be an easy line to electrify with 25 KVAC overhead wires, from an engineering, political or environmental point of view.

This is a route though that needs to be improved.

I travelled on a Class 158 train, which are a 90 mph diesel multiple unit. But it was struggling to do 40 mph in the conditions.

Conclusion

Electrification may be an ideal, but Network Rail should first improve the line, so that the current trains and the future 100 mph Class 195 trains can realise their full potential.

 

December 12, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Northern Opens £23m Blackburn Depot As Part Of Great North Rail Project

The title of this post is the same as this article in Rail Technology Magazine. This is said.

Northern and Network Rail have spent £23m on a new train maintenance depot in Blackburn, opened by rail minister Paul Maynard last week.

The facility has been built with a range of modern equipment and will be used to maintain as many as 30 diesel trains.

In addition to the new King Street Depot, Northern will also open a new operations building opposite Blackburn station. The two facilities are part of NR’s Great North Rail Project, which is expected to invest more than £1bn in improvements by 2022.

It certainly looks like Network Rail and Northern are preparing well for more services in the North West.

I took this picture as I passed on my way to Manchester Victoria, soon after I left Blackburn station.

This Google Map shows the location of the depot with respect to Blackburn station.

Note.

  • Blackburn station is in the North-East corner of the map.
  • Burnley is to the North-East and Preston to the South West.
  • The traincare depot was being built, when this map was taken and is to the right of the red arrow on the map.

 

From the picture, it would appear that trains have to go into and out of the depot in the Blackburn direction.

But if most trains start and finish their journeys at the station, that probably isn’t a problem.

Good points include.

  • At least though the depot is probably within walking distance of the busy station and trains won’t have to go long distances to be services and refuelled.
  • There would appear to be plenty of space.
  • The depot is ready for Northern‘s new Class 195 diesel multiple units.

Will the depot be used to refuel thew Class 769 trains, if they work through Blackburn?

November 26, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Riding The Penistone Line

The Penistone Line from Sheffield to Barnsley, Penistone and Huddersfield was the line originally selected for the tram-train trial.

I wrote about the tram-train trials in The Penistone Line And Rotherham Tram-Train Trials.

Sheffield To Penistone

I took these pictures between Sheffield and Penistone

Note.

  1. Barnsley Interchange is a combined train and bus station, that does the town proud.
  2. There are several level crossings, including one in the middle of Barnsley.
  3. Some stations are rather basic.
  4. The Class 144 train, I rode is totally inadequate for the line.

The line certainly needs improvement to stations and trains.

Penistone Station

Penistone station is an unusual station, in that it is a two-platform station without any form of bridge, subway or controlled level crossing.

Note that to cross the line, passengers just walk across on a uncontrolled pedestrian crossing.

This Google Map shows the layout of the station.

It certainly has a lot of space and possibilities.

Wikipedia says this about services to the station.

On Monday to Saturday, trains operate every hour in each direction towards Huddersfield and Sheffield via Barnsley. On Sundays, these run every two hours each way.

There are proposals by Alliance Rail to run a 4 trains-per-day service between Huddersfield and London Kings Cross, via Worksop, Sheffield and Penistone, giving Penistone a direct train to London 4 times a day.

So Alliance Rail, think the station has possibilities too!

Conclusion

Tram-trains like the Class 399 tram-train could easily climb the hill to Penistone to provide a perhaps two trains per hour service to Sheffield.

But the line would need to be electrified or hybrid diesel  tram-trains, as in Chemnitz will need to be used.

So perhaps Northern‘s plan for the Northern Connect service, which would use more powerful Class 195 diesel multiple units, might be better suited to the Penistone Line.

 

October 13, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment