The Anonymous Widower

What Is Happening To The Greenford Branch?

It appears to me, that the Greenford Branch Line has been quietly shunted into a siding, as it has been some months since any statements of any worth have come from the Department of Transport, Transport for London, Great Western Raiiway or Network Rail.

The line now gets a two trains per hour  shuttle service between Greenford and West Ealing stations. Trains that use the branch line to don’t go to Paddington any more.

West Ealing station is being rebuilt and looks like it won’t be complete for a couple of years.

This article on City AM is entitled Ealing Council seeks ‘urgent clarity’ over five delayed Crossrail stations as Network Rail retenders contracts to save money, which says a lot and may even explain, why nothing has been decided about the future of this branch line.

Current Speculation And Rumours

Various reports and forums outline solutions that suggest or include the following.

  • It is probably not the easiest line operationally, as the train has to be stabled some distance away.
  • Four trains per hour.
  • Transfer of the line to the Overground.
  • Run a shuttle from High Wycombe to West Ealing.
  • Use London Overground’s Class 172 trains, when the Gospel Oak to Barking Line is electrified.

But there are a few problems.

  • The incomplete West Ealing station.
  • The platform at Greenford is rather short.
  • Electrification would be difficult.

I hope all the silence is because the DfT, TfL, GWR, Network Rail and perhaps a train manufacturer are working hard to create an innovative solution for short branch lines like the Greenford Branch.

London’s Other Branches

London has two other short branch lines, that currently carry passengers.

Both are electrified and are run by a four-car shuttle using a bog-standard electric multiple unit.

But I doubt, they are some of most profitable routes in London.

In one forum, it was suggested that London Overground might use the Romford to Upminster Line for driving training on the new Class 710 trains.

In addition, there is the Brentford Branch Line, which has been proposed for reopening.

The Marlow Branch Line

I’m including the Marlow Branch Line, as according to the August 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, Network Rail have devised an innovative track layout for Bourne End station, that will allow trains to pass in the station and thus allow at least a two trains per hour service all day.

Modern Railways says  this about financing the new track layout at Bourne End.

The LEP has allocated £1.5million to the infrastructure change needed to accommodate this proposal and GWR is seeking to close the funding gap on it.

There is also an informative diagram.

This Google Map shows Bourne End station.

 

Note how a two-car Class 165 train is parked in the station with lots of space. These trains have two 23 metre long cars, so it would appear that a three-car train with possibly shorter length cars could be accommodated.

I wonder what is the maximum length train that the design team are working with.

Two three-car trains per hour would be a tripling of capacity over the current single two-car train per hour at present.

This innovative proposal certainly looks like one, that has a high chance of realisation.

Other Branch Lines

The UK probably has several short branch lines, with a similar profile to the Bromley North, Greenford and Marlow Lines, where often the service is inadequate or expensive and difficult to provide.

A Train For Branch Lines

Would it be possible to create a train using existing stock, that was ideal for these lines?

Vivarail with their Class 230 train have attempted to do this.

  • Two or three cars.
  • Diesel-electric or battery power.
  • Designed to be serviced remotely.

It may turn out to be a high-class and reliable train, but there may be operational and marketing disadvantages, due to the train’s London Underground history.

But it is certainly a possibility.

Otherwise it is probably necessary to carry on as before with a two-car diesel multiple unit.

But at least, London Overground will be releasing eight Class 172 trains in Spring 2018.

The Unconventional Solution

Although two or three-car diesel multiple units will serve these branches well, I just wonder whether applying the same thinking that led to the Class 319 Flex train could produce a much better solution.

In their brochure for the train, Porterbrook state that they are thinking of adding a battery option to the train. The electrical layout of the Class 319 train leads me to believe it is certainly possible.

These branch lines are not arduous, so why not do the following.

  • Replace one diesel power-pack of the Class 319 Flex train with a battery pack.
  • Remove the trailer car to create a three-car train.
  • Give the trains a good refurbished interior.

Note.

  1. A three-car train would probably not be a 100 mph train.
  2. A three-car Class 319 Flex train would only be fourteen metres longer than a two-car Class 165 train.
  3. Several similar four-car Class 321 trains have been converted to three-car Class 320 trains.
  4. Being able to run on electrified lines would ease operation, open up new services and charge the batteries.

I feel that having both diesel and battery power for working away from electrified lines would give the trains a high degree of reliability.

These trains could certainly work the Brentford, Greenford, Marlow and Windsor Branches.

The Bombardier Solution

In Will London Overground Fit On-board Energy Storage To Class 378 Trains?, I mused about this statement, after reading this article in Rail Technology Magazine entitled Bombardier enters key analysis phase of IPEMU. Marc Phillips of Bombardier is quoted as saying this in the article.

All Electrostars to some degree can be retrofitted with batteries. We are talking the newer generation EMU as well as the older generation. So, the 387s and 378s are the ones where we have re-gen braking where we can top-up the batteries and use the braking energy to charge the batteries. That gives us the best cost-benefit over operational life.

So it would seem that the Class 378 trains of the London Overground are candidates for fitting with batteries.

These trains started out with just three cars and have grown twice, by adding another motor car and a trailer car. So they are now five-car trains.

London Overground have said that they might lengthen the trains again to six cars.

I would suspect that Bombardier can play musical carriages and create, some six-car trains and a few three-car trains.

Fit batteries to the three-car trains and you have a battery-powered train for a short branch line, that starts in an electrified station.

Services on the Brentford, Greenford and Marlow branches could probably be run by these three-car battery-electric trains.

If the Class 378 train is too spartan, then there is always other Electrostars.

Just remember, that 4 + 4 = 5 + 3!

Conclusion

Don’t be surprised to see an innovative solution at Greenford.

August 10, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Do Class 800/801/802 Trains Use Batteries For Regenerative Braking?

I ask this question, because I think that it could be key to the announcements about electrification yesterday, as reported  in this article in Global Rail News, which is entitled UK Ditches Electrification Plans In Wales, The Midlands And The North.

If you look at all these Wikipedia entries for Hitachi trains being built for the UK.

You will find no reference to regenerative braking.

If you type “Class 800 regenerative braking” into Google, you will find this document on the Hitachi Rail web site, which is entitled Development of Class 800/801 High-speed Rolling Stock for UK Intercity Express Programme.

The only mention of the R-word is in this paragraph.

An RGS-compliant integrated on-train data recorder (OTDR) and juridical recording unit (JRU), and an EN-compliant energy
meter to record energy consumption and regeneration are fitted to the train.

If you search for brake in the document, you find this paragraph.

In addition to the GU, other components installed under the floor of drive cars include the traction converter, fuel tank, fire protection system, and brake system.

Note that GU stands for generator unit.

Traction System

I will start by having a detailed look at the traction system as described in the document.

The document provides this schematic of the traction system.

Note BC which is described as battery charger.

This is said in the text.

The system can select the appropriate power source from either the main transformer or the GUs. Also, the size and weight of the system were minimized by designing the power supply converter to be able to work with both power sources. To ensure that the Class 800 and 801 are able to adapt to future changes in operating practices, they both have the same traction system and the rolling stock can be operated as either class by simply adding or removing GUs. On the Class 800, which is intended to run on both electrified and non-electrified track, each traction system has its own GU. On the other hand, the Class 801 is designed only for electrified lines and has one or two GUs depending on the length of the trainset (one GU for trainsets of five to nine cars, two GUs for trainsets of 10 to 12 cars). These GUs supply emergency traction power and auxiliary power in the event of a power outage on the catenary, and as an auxiliary power supply on non-electrified lines where the Class 801 is in service and pulled by a locomotive. This allows the Class 801 to operate on lines it would otherwise not be able to use and provides a backup in the event of a catenary power outage or other problem on the ground systems as well as non-electrified routes in loco-hauled mode.

This is all very comprehensive.

But nothing is said about how regenerative brake currents from the traction motors are handled.

Any trained Control Engineer, of which I’m a life-expired example, can see all sorts of questions to ask.

  • Could it be that all regenerative brake currents are fed into the Auxiliary Power Supply and then used for hotel power and to charge the battery?
  • Is the generator unit switched on and off by a sophisticated control system, that uses GPS, train velocity, train weight battery level etc.
  • We know battery power can move the train in emergency, but is battery power used to help start the train?
  • How big is that mysterious battery?

In 2010, I wrote Edinburgh to Inverness in the Cab of an HST, after taking a memorable trip.

One memory of that trip is of the skill of the driver as he adjusted the twin throttles of the power cars and used the brakes, as the train travelled up hill and down dale.

This line will be Class 800 territory and I suspect that it will be worked by two five car units working as a ten-car train.

As I think that each five-car unit will have three generator units, does this mean that the driver will have six throttles?

Control Engineering has moved on in the forty years since the InterCity 125 entered service and I suspect that like an Airline Pilot, the driver of a Class 800 train, will have little control about how power is delivered. Except probably in a supervisory role.

So on routes like the Highland Main Line, the Class 800 will come into its own, using the generator units and stored energy as appropriate.

Obviously, the less the generator unit is used the better, as this minimises noise and vibration, and cuts carbon emissions.

Other features in the train design have been disclosed.

All Class 801 Trains Have At Least One Generator Unit

All Class 801 trains have at least one GU (generator unit), so it can obviously provide hotel power and probably enough power to limp to the next station, in case of overhead line failure.

Third Rail Class 800/801 Trains Are Possible

The layout of the traction system surely makes a third rail  or even a dual-voltage version of the trains possible.

After all, their cousin; the Class 395 train is a dual voltage train.

Locomotive Haulage Is Possible

As I said, the specification is comprehensive.

The document is also forthcoming in other areas.

Train Configuration

This is said.

Trains have a unit configuration of up to 12 cars, including the ability to add or remove standardised intermediate cars and the generator units (GUs)
(generators with diesel engines) needed to operate commercial services on non-electrified lines.

So if say GWR wanted an eleven-car train, it would be possible.

Automatic Coupling And Uncoupling

This is said.

Because the coupling or uncoupling of cars in a trainset occurs during commercial service at an intermediate station, the automatic coupling device is able to perform this operation in less than 2 minutes.

This is definitely in line with Class 395 train performance.

Automatic Train Identification Function

This is said.

To simplify the rearrangement and management of train configurations, functions are provided for identifying the train (Class 800/801), for automatically determining the cars in the trainset and its total length, and for coupling and uncoupling up to 12 cars in
normal and 24 cars in rescue or emergency mode.

I suspect most modern trains can do this.

One Twelve-Car Train Can Rescue Another

See the previous extract.

Flexible Interior Layout

This is said.

The rolling stock is designed to facilitate changes to the interior layout to accommodate changes to services or to the number of cars in the train.

I suspect that was expected.

An Interim Conclusion

In answer to the question, I posed with this post, I suspect that the answer is in the affirmative.

Extra Evidence

I also found this article on the Hitachi Rail web site, which is entitled Hybrid Propulsion with a sub-title of Energy-saving hybrid propulsion system using storage–battery technology.

This is the introductory paragraph.

As a step toward producing environmentally friendly propulsion systems, Hitachi has supplied a hybrid propulsion system that combines an engine generator, motor, and storage batteries. This system provides regenerative braking which has not been previously possible on conventional diesel-powered trains, and enables increased energy savings via regenerated energy.

They list the advantages as.

  1. 10% improvement of fuel consumption
  2. 60% reduction of the hazardous substances in engine exhaust
  3. 30db reduction of noise in stopping at the station

They also give various links that are worth reading.

All of these pages seem to have been published in 2013.

Conclusion

I will be very surprised if Class 800/801/802 trains don’t have batteries.

Will the Class 385 trains for ScotRail have similar traction system?

 

July 21, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 7 Comments

Vivarail Reveals New D-Trains Will Be Available In 2018

This is the title of an article in Rail Magazine.

I don’t know about the Class 230 train.

It could be an interesting concept, but when I read my brochure of the Class 319 Flex train, I fear it has got very strong competition.

  • The 319 Flex, is a true 100 mph bi-mode train.
  • There are 86 Class 319 trains, that could be converted.
  • The Class 319 train has proven reliability.
  • There is a large volume of knowledge about refurbishing, upgrading and converting Class 319 trains.
  • Four 319 Flex trains will be available this year.

If more trains to convert are needed, there are other classes.

May 18, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Along The Avocet Line

I took these pictures on a trip from Exeter to Exmouth and back on the Avocet Line.

These are my thoughts under various topics.

Exmouth

Exmouth reminded me of the seaside town, where I spent a fair bit of my childhood; Felixstowe.

  • They are both coastal towns.
  • Exmouth has the larger population of 34,400 to Felixstowe’s 23,000.
  • Both have adequate shopping centres, although Exmouth has a large Marks and Spencer Simply Food by the station.

I didn’t get to the beach.

The Starcross And Exmouth Ferry

There is a ferry between Starcross station and Exmouth, which seems to be well used.

Exmouth Station And The Train Service

Exmouth station was rebuilt in 1986 and it is a one-platform station with facilities and a large Marks and Spencer Simply Food.

The only problem is the trains themselves, as their frequency, which is generally two trains per hour, is acceptable.

But two Class 143 trains coupled together is inadequate, for a summer’s day when passengers have buggies, bicycles and lots of young children.

Monkerton Station

Monkerton station is a proposed new station on the Avocet Line, that would be built between Polsloe Bridge and Digby & Sowton.

The Seaside Special

Exmouth station and the Avocet Line powerfully makes the case for a Seaside Special train.

  • Four cars.
  • Independently-powered by diesel or perhaps batteries in the future.
  • A range of perhaps thirty miles.
  • Lots of space for buggies, bicycles and large suitcases.
  • Step-across access between platform and train.

I’m sure Greater Anglia and Great Western Railway, with help from other train operating companies could come up with workable specification.

Get the specification right and it might be the short distance commuter train, where a proportion of passengers want to bring bicycles.

With the current developments in train refurbishment, the new Class 319 Flex and Class 230 trains might be the place to start.

 

 

 

April 7, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Business As Usual: Vivarail Begins Testing Of New Battery Train

The title of this post is taken from this article in Rail Technology Magazine.

So it would appear that Class 230 trains are now running on batteries.

Apparently you can swap batteries for diesel power-packs.

The train certainly has a low-cost paint job!

March 22, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

Vivarail Lays Out Action Plan As Faulty Repair Work To Blame For Train Fire

The title of this post is the title of an article on the Rail Technology Magazine web site.

This is the first paragraph.

Vivarail has released its full report on the Class 230 test train fire that took place over the festive period, concluding that the cause of the fire was due to a fuel leak in one of the train’s gensets, likely caused during recent repair work.

I have no experience of diesel engine design, except what I picked up, when Cummins were a customer., where they used my software to analyse production and testing statistics.

But fuel leaks do happen and normally, they don’t cause fires.

I can remember Cummins being very strict about any leaks of sll sorts on their engines.

February 2, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

Vivarail Reveals Hybrid Train

This is the title of this article on the Rail Magazine web site.

Vivarail have said that battery-powered and diesel hybrid versions have entered development.

This is probably sensible given the way that train design seems to be going.

 

February 1, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

Modern Trains From Old

In the February 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, there  are several articles about the updating of old trains to a modern standard.

There was also an article about the revival of locomotive hauled trains called Long Live The Loco!

The Class 321 Renatus

Note the following about the Class 321 trains.

  • There are a total of 117 of the four-car trains.
  • ,The trains have a 100 mph capability.
  • Many of them are in need of a refurbishment after nearly thirty years in service.

So train leasing company; Eversholt, has come up with a plan to create thirty Class 321 Renatus for Greater Anglia as a stop-gap until their new Aventras arrive in a couple of years time.

The updated trains will feature.

  • New air-conditioning and heating systems
  • New, safer seating throughout
  • Larger vestibules for improved boarding and alighting
  • Wi-Fi enabled for passengers and operator
  • Improved space allocation for buggies, bicycles and luggage
  • Passenger power sockets throughout
  • New, energy efficient lighting
  • One PRM compliant toilet and a second controlled emission toilet on each unit
  • Complete renewal and remodelling of all interior surfaces

The trains will also be given an updated traction package, which is described on this page on the Vossloh Kiepe web site.

This is said.

In 2013, Eversholt Rail and Vossloh Kiepe embarked on the pre-series project to demonstrate modern AC traction on a Class 321 unit. The key objectives were to reduce journey time for passengers, improve reliability and maintainability, and reduce the total cost of operation through a combination of reduced energy consumption and regenerative braking.

The prototype certainly looks good in the pictures.

Eversholt is stated as believing that if the market likes these trains, then other operators could be interested and other trains might be converted.

The Class 319 Flex

I like this concept and I wrote about the Class 319 Flex in Porterbrook Launch A Tri-Mode Train.

I felt one of the first routes would to be to Windermere and Modern Railways says the same.

Northern are quoted as saying, that after the concept is proven, the trains will be made available to a wide range of operators.

Consider.

  • There are 86 of the four-car units.
  • They are 100 mph trains.
  • They are Mark 3-based, so ride well.
  • They can work on 750 VDC or 25 KVAC electrification.
  • With diesel alternators, they can go virtually anywhere.

If the trains are a success, I think we’ll be very surprised as to the routes they work.

I also think that Porterbrook could keep a small fleet ready for immediate lease for the purposes, like the following.

  • Proving the economics of new routes.
  • Blockade busting.
  • Extra capacity for special events.
  • Replacement capacity after train problems or accidents.

I suspect Porterbrook have got lots of ideas. Some of which could be quite wacky!

Bi-Modus Operandi

This is the title of an article by Ian Walmsley in the magazine, who makes the case for adding an extra coach with a pantograph to the Class 220, 221 and 222 and effectively creating a bi-mode train.

The idea is not new and I wrote about it in The Part-Time Electric Train, after a long editorial comment in Modern Railways in 2010.

If anything, the case for convcersion is even better now, as quality high-speed bi-mode trains are desperately needed.

As the article suggests, they could sort out some of the other problems with the trains.

There are quite a few suitable trains.

  • Class 220 trains – 34 trains of four cars.
  • Class 221 trains – 43 trains of a mix of four and five cars.
  • Class 222 trains – 27 trains of a mix of four, five and seven cars.

All are 125 mph trains.

The Vivarail Class 230 Train

The magazine also has an extensive report on the fire in a Class 230 train.

The report says that the definitive report will be published before the end of January, but on reading the detailed report of the damage, I think it will be some months before the rebuilt train is ready to roll.

In a post entitled Class 230 And Class 319 Flex Fight It Out, I came to this conclusion.

Vivarail will have a struggle to sell large numbers of trains, against a larger, faster, more capable train of proven reliability.

I stand by what I said.

Long Live The Loco!

This article describes the various uses of locomotive-hauled passenger trains on the UK rail network.

The title could be read another way, as it talks about the following locomotives.

Some could not be considered modern, but they perform.

The article goes on to detail how TransPennine Express will use their new Mark 5A carriages.

  • Wikipedia says each set will be composed of 1 first class car, 2 Standard class cars, 1 brake standard class car and a standard class driving trailer.
  • Sets will be able to be lengthened if required.
  • The trains will be worked push-pull between a Class 68 locomotive and a driving trailer.
  • The coaches will have a 125 mph design speed for future-proofing reasons.

It is also said, that a Class 88 locomotive is not powerful enough under diesel power to operate on the TransPennine route.

So the article speculates, that there may be a place for  a bi-mode locomotive with full diesel capability, given the success of the Hitachi bi-mode concept.

The article finishes by saying that as Chiltern and TransPennine have shown that push-pull operation is viable, could the concept become more widespread?

 

 

 

 

 

January 26, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Class 230 And Class 319 Flex Fight It Out

The Class 319 Flex train and the Class 230 train share a lot of objectives.

  • They involve re manufacturing of redundant trains.
  • They feature new interiors.
  • They feature on-board diesel power-packs.
  • They would be capable of serving short to medium routes.

Some advantages of the Class 319 Flex are.

  • The ability to work on all main lines with electrification in the UK.
  • The trains have proven fairly reliable and they are getting more so, according to Modern Railways.
  • The trains are based on Mark 3 coaches, so are as tough as teak.
  • There are a total of 86 trains of which 47 are yet to be released by Thameslink.
  • The Class 319 is already certified for main line running at 100 mph.
  • Those behind the project have very deep pockets.

As an Electrical and Control Engineer, Ifeel that fitting the power packs under a Class 319, would be easier than on a Class 230.

I also think that a modified hybrid bus power unit could be used. The diesel engine would charge a battery, which then feeds into the main electrical bus as required. The battery could also be charged from the overhead wires or third rail.

A decent control system linked to a pantograph that could raise and lower at line speed automatically, could have great fun getting from A to B, using the smallest possible amount of diesel.

But the biggest problem for the Class 230 is the fire it suffered, which is described in this article on the BBC.

Since then because of time issues with the new London Midland Franchise, the Local Authorities, who were backing the trial on the Coventry to Nuneaton Line have backed out of the project.

As this came just eight days after Porterbrook announced the Class 319 Flex, the timing couldn’t have been worse.

London Midland must be a prime target for a Class 319 Flex.

  • They already run seven Class 319 trains.
  • They need a 100 mph train for running on the West Coast Main Line.
  • The train would be ideal for extending some of their routes over perhaps a dozen miles.
  • If the trains had a hybrid transmission, Routes like NUCKLE (Nuneaton – Coventry – Kenilworth – Leamington Spa) could be handled.
  • Extra services from London to new destinations without electrification, might be possible.

There are probably other companies on Porterbrook’s list of prospects.

Conclusion

Vivarail will have a struggle to sell large numbers of trains, against a larger, faster, more capable train of proven reliability.

January 10, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 1 Comment

Prototype Class 230 Train Catches Fire

This article on the BBC is entitled Ten evacuated as Kenilworth train catches fire.

It is a blow to the project to create a Class 230 train from redundant London Underground D78 Stock. Until the cause of the fire is known, I won’t comment.

December 30, 2016 Posted by | Travel | | Leave a comment