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

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.

Consider.

  • 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.

Consider.

  • 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 | Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cardiff To Gloucester And Cheltenham In A Class 769 Train

As the time gets nearer for the entry of the Class 769 train into service at the end of the year, speculation is mounting about how the trains will be used.

In the August 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article, which is entitled Class 769s For Wales.

After discussing how the trains will be used to deputise for the current Class 150 trains so that they can be made compliant with the Persons of Reduced Mobility regulations, the article goes on to say this.

None of the electrical equipment will be removed from ‘769s’ destined for Wales. After completion of Great Western Electrification to Cardiff, they could operate electrically from Cardiff to Severn Tunnel Junction, where they would switch to diesel operation for the rest of the route to Gloucester and Cheltenham.

The fastest direct trains take one hour fifteen minutes for the journey, so a round trip could be a few minutes under three hours, so that an hourly service would need three trains.

 

July 27, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Battery EMUs For Merseyrail

The title of this post is the same as an article in the August 2017 Edition of Modern Railways.

This is the first paragraph.

Two of the new EMUs Stadler will build for the Merseyrail network will be fitted with batteries.

This is also said.

The initial benefits of the trial will be the energy recycling properties of the batteries, but with a larger battery the option could be to run the units away from the electrified Merseyrail network using battery power.

Other reports suggest that battery power could move the trains in depots.

Another report in the same edition of Modern Railways is entitled Class 769s For Wales.

It discusses the use of Class 769 trains on the Borderlands Line.

This is said.

Would safety regulations permit Class 769s, or other third-rail EMUs retrofitted with diesel engines, to operate the Wrexhm-Bidston Line and continue in the Mersey tunnels to Liverpool?

It is an interesting concept, which according to the magazine, studies have predicted would fuel large growth in passenger numbers, if the change of trains at Bidston were eliminated.

I suspect this is a problem, where Formula One designers may have a serious input.

Conclusion

It is encouraging to see in these two articles signs of radical but in my view totally sound thinking.

July 27, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Crossrail 2: City Mayors Criticise Government Backing

This is the headline on an article on the BBC.

This is the first three paragraphs.

Two city mayors have criticised the government’s decision to back Crossrail 2, days after it scrapped rail electrification plans in Wales, the Midlands and the north of England.
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said there would be “widespread anger” at the decision to back the railway line, which will run through London.
Liverpool City Region’s mayor said there needed to be “balanced spending”.

I can understand the anger, especially in Manchester, where the electrification is running a couple of years late.

The Picc-Vic Tunnel

Manchester was unlucky, in that of the three Northern tunnel projects of the seventies; Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle, the Picc-Vic tunnel was the one that was cancelled by Harold Wilson. Birmingham and London both got cross-city rail tunnels with the same name; Snow Hill.

Perhaps, Manchester should have renamed Piccadilly Gardens!

Liverpool’s tunnel of the same period has recently been rebuilt and Merseyrail have just ordered a new fleet of Stadler trains to improve and expand their commuter network.

Newcastle’s tunnel helped to create the Tyne and Wear Metro, which is in the process of ordering new trains and expanding.

What would have happened to Manchester, if British Rail’s plans had been allowed to proceed?

All Manchester got was the Metrolink, which compared to tram systems in Birmingham, Blackpool, Croydon, Edinburgh and Nottingham is rather second-rate, despite being the largest.

The Ordsall Chord

Let’s hope that the Ordsall Chord works as it says on the tin. Wikipedia says this about the chord’s operation.

The Ordsall Chord will provide a direct link between Piccadilly and Victoria stations, allowing trains from Manchester Victoria and the east to continue to Piccadilly. Following completion of the chord, four trains per hour will travel between Manchester Airport/Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria in each direction, and associated reorganisation of train paths and retimetabling will provide eight trains per hour from Manchester Victoria towards the west via Chat Moss, and six trains per hour from Manchester Piccadilly towards either Chat Moss or Bolton and Preston (trains from both Victoria and Piccadilly stations to the west and north west (Chat Moss, Liverpool, Bolton, Preston, etc.) do not actually pass over the Ordsall Chord, both ends of which lead eastwards, but travel over pre-existing track).

But as British Rail said in the 1970s, surely a properly designed tunnel under Manchester with up to three stations in the City Centre  would have been better, than the Ordsall Chord.

But what’s done is done and anyway, if the Picc-Vic tunnel had been started in 2016, as was the Ordsall Chord, it probably wouldn’t have been finished until 2026.

Where Are The Trains?

Northern and TransPennine Express are renewing their train fleets, but Manchester’s new electrified lines will need new trains from the end of this year.

The elderly Class 319 trains have stepped up to the plate, like the troopers they have always been. They would have arrived earlier, had the new Class 700 trains arrived on time.

Where Is The Electrification?

The UK and not just the North, has a particular problem and that is, that a lot of our railway lines run through quality countryside, some of which is spectacular.

So imagine trying to electrify the following lines with overhead wires.

  • Manchester to Buxton
  • Ipswich to Lowestoft
  • Ashford to Hastings
  • Settle to Carlisle
  • Preston to Leeds via Hebden Bridge

The Heritage lobby and their lawyers would tie nNetwork Rail in knots for decades.

On a practical level, from the stories I’ve heard about the electrification of the Gospel Oak to Barking Line near where I live, there are myriad problems with installing electrification in this country.

A lot seems to be down to the fact that British Rail and their predecessors weren’t good at keeping records.

The Class 319 Flex Train

I was once told by an engineer who worked on the InterCity 125, of a mythical pub in Derby, where Rolls-Royce and British Rail engineers met to talk about their problems. Could it be that Derby-based Porterbrook and Northern have tapped this network and came up with the bi-mode Class 769 train, which is a modification to a Class 319 train and must surely be the ultimate manifestation of British Rail’s legendary Mark 3 coach.

But the Class 769 train has been well received, as other orders have been forthcoming.

Surely, the planners could see the demand for this one coming, so where is the four-car suburban bi-mode?

Northern have ordered eight of these bi-mode and it will be interesting to see how they are used.

If nothing else, the Class 769 train has already proved that there is a need for a quality four-car bi-mode train.

Bi-Mode Trains And Bottlenecks

I would assume that the Ordsall Chord has a modern signalling system and that the number of trains that could use the chord could be as high as sixteen trains per hour, which is the current capacity of the Thames Tunnel on the East London Line.

The chord may be able to handle all the trains, which would allow services on both sides of Manchester to be run Crossrail-style as back-to-back services.

As a simple example perhaps Manchester to Buxton and Manchester to Clitheroe could be combined into a Buxton to Clitheroe service run by Class 319 Flex trains, which uses electricity from Hazel Grove to Bolton and diesel engines to climb to the two end stations.

Routes like this will surely release much-needed platform space in Manchester Piccadilly station.

But the two island platforms at Manchester Piccadilly will be a bottleneck.

I can see this happening across the Pennines at other stations.

Bi-mode trains will provide the train capacity, but are the stations up to it?

The Long Term Solution

Class 769 trains are not a long term solution. In my view they are a superb development solution.

If we assume that electrification is ruled out for the near future, this will inevitably lead to more bi-mode trains.

Purists will say no, as they will want electrification and nothing less.

But then we have no experience of a modern bi-mode train.

The first bi-mode to come into service will probably be a Class 800 train built by Hitachi.

In Do Class 800/801/802 Trains Use Batteries For Regenerative Braking?, I answered the question I posed and I now believe that these trains can store energy.

So will the bi-mode of the future not be an electric train with an onboard diesel engine, but a sophisticated design, that can obtain its motive power from multiple sources, thus reducing noise, vibration and carbon footprint?

There are at least two other companies who will join this fight.

  • CAF have lots of orders with both Northern and TransPennine Express and they will not want to lose them. So I think it is reasonable to expect something radical from the Spanish company with a proven record in innovation.
  • Bombardier have designed the Aventra to have onboard energy storage and I would be very surprised if they haven’t thought about how to squeeze in a small diesel generator.

Will Alstom, Stadler and Siemens sit idly by, whilst other companies carve up the UK market? I doubt it.

The new bi-mode trains will provide the capacity, but other things must be done.

  • Stations must be improved to cater for the extra passengers.
  • Track and signalling must be improved to allow higher speeds.
  • As electrification was done on the cheap in the past, there are some lengths of electrification, that must be done.
  • HS2 must go on at full speed.
  • Ticketing must be made as easy as London and the South East.
  • Planning of a High Speed line across the North should be seriously started.

It will be interesting to see what develops.

Conclusion

I would spend the money on new trains, better stations and improving the passenger experience.

Electrification would come later, when there is a proven need.

But I wouldn’t rule out the train-makers creating a wholly different game.

 

July 25, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 4 Comments

Wales Orders Some Golden Oldies

This article on Global Rail News is entitled Arriva Trains Wales Invests In Bi-mode Class 319s.

These four paragraphs define the deal and why.

The Welsh Government and Arriva Trains Wales are investing in five Class 319 Flex bi-mode trains.

Due to arrive next year, the four-car trains will be leased from Porterbrook thanks to £1.9 million from the Welsh Government and £1 million from Arriva Trains Wales.

Arriva Trains Wales said the trains would likely be deployed on commuter services into Cardiff.

Introducing the 319s will allow Arriva Trains Wales to carry out work needed on its Class 150 and 158 vehicles to ensure they meet new accessibility standards.

This looks to me to be a sensible way to provide cover and also increase the size of the fleet.

Consider.

  • The Class 769 train, to give the Class 319 Flex train it, its new official TOPS name, has been designed around the Manchester to Buxton route.
  • Manchester to Buxton is as stiff as any route in the Cardiff Valley Lines.
  • The trains can do 100 mph on 25 KVAC overhead electrification, so would be ideal for any partially-electrified routes.
  • According to this article on the BBC, electrification reaches Cardiff in December 2018.
  • The trains can do around 90 mph on diesel.
  • Range is ten Manchester-Buxton round trips on a full tankfull.
  • Modern Railways has reported the trains can change between diesel and electric modes on the move.
  • Drivers have told me, that the brakes on Class 319 trains are superb. Will that be needed on descents into Cardiff?

In Riding In A Clean Class 319/4 Train, I describe a recent ride in one of the better examples, that could be converted for Wales.

The trains may be thirty-years-old, but they are based on Mark 3 coaches, as are the InterCity 125, so like certain actors and singers, they seem to keep on performing.

How Would The Bi-Mode Trains Be Used?

Arriva Trains Wales has the following trains currently working the Cardiff Valley Lines or that need to be converted to meet the latest regulations..

The Pacers can in part be ignored, as I suspect they’ll be going to the scrapyard, when the next franchise starts. But Arriva Trains Wales will need fifteen four-car trains to replace them, if they hit the cut-off date in the regulations.

The Class 158 trains were given a full refurbishment in 2010-2, as described like this in Wikipedia.

A complete refurbishment programme to provide the Class 158s with full ‘as new’ interiors took place between December 2010 and October 2012. Funded by the Welsh Assembly Government at a cost of £7.5m, work completed includes interior and exterior repainting, along with replacement of seating, wall coverings, carpets, lighting, luggage racks and toilet fittings. A passenger information system has been fitted, while selected seats have gained at-seat power sockets for mobile phones and laptops. Until this refurbishment, the fleet had seen only minor attention to its interior since a refit by Wales & West in the late 1990s, as well as having been only partially repainted into Arriva colours externally

So will these Class 158 trains need much more than attention to detail and a very good clean? As most seem to be based away from Cardiff, I don’t think we’ll see many Class 769 trains standing in for Class 158 trains. Unless of course Arriva Trains Wales wanted to see how a Class 769 train performs on a longer route.

The Class 150 trains are a totally different matter. In What Train Is This?, I rode in a superbly refurbished Class 150 train, that if standing in for a Class 172 train wouldn’t bring many complaints.

Much of the time on the Cardiff Valleys Lines, the Pacers and the Class 150 trains seem to be running as pairs to make four-car trains.

So five Class 769 trains mean that ten Class 150 trains can be released for updating.

It is worth comparing a Class 769 train with two Class 150 trains working as a pair.

  • A Class 769 train, based on a Class 319/4 has a capacity of 50 First Class and 255 Standard Class seats.
  • A Class 150 train has a capacity of 147 seats or 294 for a pair.
  • The Class 769 train has a top speed of 100 mph on 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The Class 769 train has a top speed of just over 90 mph on diesel.
  • The Class 150 train has a top speed of 75 mph.
  • The Class 769 train has a higher power/weight ratio than the Class 150 train.

It would appear that a pair of Class 150 trains and a Class 769 train can be considered equivalent and with the right number of trains, the two types of train could work the Cardiff Valley Lines.

But the bi-mode Class 769 train has the advantage that it is faster and can run on 25 KVAC overhead wires.

On some routes the Class 769 train may actually reduce the number of trains needed.

Cardiff Central To Ebbw Vale Town

This route between Cardiff Central and Ebbw Vale Town stations uses the South Wales Main Line and the Ebbw Valley Railway.

If you look at the timetable, the trains take up to a few minutes over the hour, which must be an inconvenient time to use trains efficiently.

But eighteen minutes of the route are between Cardiff Central and Pye Corner stations, has perhaps fifteen minutes or so on the South Wales Main Line, with four tracks and an operating speed of 90 mph.

Given the superior power and speed, I suspect that the Class 769 trains can do a round trip in under two hours, even if they had to run on diesel on the South Wales Main Line.

This would mean only two trains would be needed to work an hourly service. Class 769  trains would be four coaches, as one size fits all!

Penarth To Rhymney

This route between Penarth and Rhymney stations uses the Rhymney Line.

If you look at the timetable, journeys both ways take around an hour and 16-20 minutes.

I think that three trains would be needed to work an hourly service.

Two factors slow the trains.

  • There are eighteen stops along the route.
  • From Bargoed to Rhymney, the line is only single track.

This extract is from the Wikipedia entry for the Rhymney Line.

In March 2007 the latest in a series of infrastructure improvements on the Valley Lines was announced, included lengthening of platforms between Rhymney and Penarth to allow Class 150 units to operate in multiples of 3 (6 cars). However, this is postponed indefinitely due to the sub-lease by the Department for Transport, to First Great Western, of the units that would have allowed this extra capacity.

Would four-car Class 769 trains be an adequate substitute for the planned three Class 150 trains working in multiple as a six-car?

If they were, this would mean that three trains would certainly work an hourly service with a substantial increase in capacity.

I wonder what times, well-driven Class 769 trains, with their hill-climbing abilities could do for the service on this line.

Bridgend/Barry Island/Cardiff Central To Merthyr Tydfil/Aberdate

These services are run in what appears to be an intricate diagram.

But as the Class 769 trains are faster and more capable than anything else running the routes, they should be able to deputise.

Could This Interim Pattern Emerge?

These routes could be run by Class 769 trains.

  • Cardiff Central to Ebbw Vale Town
  • Penarth to Rhymney

Conveniently, the two routes would need five trains.

By the end of 2018, it is predicted that the South Wales Main Line will be electrified, which would mean they could use electric power for some of the routes.

There might be small amounts of add-on electrification to ease changeover of mode.

  • South Wales Main Line to Pye Corner
  • Cardiff Central to Penarth

It might even be sensible to electrify the Vale of Glamorgan Line to give a second electrified route from Cardiff Central to Bridgend and serve Cardiff Airport.

Electrification of the lines in Cardiff would probably be much simpler than on some of the steep valley lines, but it would allow more Class 769 trains or similar to work the Cardiff Valley Lines efficiently.

But I did say this would only be an interim plan until perhaps 2020.

So Where Do CAF Come In?

CAF bring several things to this party.

  • By 2020, CAF will have a fully functioning factory a few miles down the line at Llanwern, just to the East of Newport.
  • CAF build trams, trains and tram-trains of all sizes and speeds.
  • CAF are one of the world leaders in the application of energy storage to rail vehicles.
  • CAF are not afraid to experiment or do Research and Development.
  • CAF have a modular train concept called Civity, which in their data sheet claim is all things to everybody.

I believe that CAF can come up with a train with the following characteristics.

  • Electric or diesel power.
  • On-board energy storage.
  • Regenerative braking.
  • Lots of powered-axles.
  • Four-cars
  • 100 mph on electric power
  • 90 mph on diesel power.

It looks very much like a modern Class 769 train with added battery power.

In fact the Class 769 trains will do all the specification development and route proving for CAF’s engineers.

So Where Do Porterbrook Come In?

Someone will have to finance the new trains for South Wales and they must be in prime position.

Similar systems can also be developed in other UK cities using Class 769 trains.

Conclusion

I have a feeling, that Network Rail have looked at electrifying the Cardiff Valley Lines and decided that it will be very difficult. Various commentators have suggested using trams.

What I have proposed is using bi-mode trains designed specifically for the Cardiff Valley Lines, that use electric power on and around the South Wales Main Line, diesel power to climb the hills and gravity and a bit of storage or diesel to come down.

I think that the purchase of five Class 769 trains will lead to an innovative solution from CAF to creating a world-class rail system in South Wales.

 

 

July 18, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 3 Comments

Exploring The Derwent Valley Line

The Derwent Valley Line links Derby with Matlock and because it forms the Southern part of Peak Main Line discussed in Connecting The Powerhouses and it was a fine day, I had to go and take a look.

I actually did three trips along sections of the line.

The middle trip was in a totally acceptable two-car Class 158 train, but the other journeys were in jam-packed single-car Class 153 trains.

In the time I was in Derbyshire, I saw three different types of trains working the line and I get the impression, that East Midlands Trains have difficulty putting together a service to both the passengers and their own satisfaction.

Their Regional Routes, which are worked by Sprinters, look to be a collection, that need to be reorganised and probably be worked by more, better and more suitable trains.

Looking at the Derwent Valley Route, which runs trains from Matlock to Newark Castle via Derby and Nottingham, you get the following typical timings.

  • Matlock to Derby – 34 minutes
  • Derby to Nottingham – 30 minutes
  • Nottingham to Newark – 37 minutes

Which makes a total  of one hour 41 minutes or a round trip of three and a half hours.

In this schedule these things should be noted.

  1. There are several mines of running on the Midland Main Line, where my Class 153 attained a respectable 70 mph.
  2. The train takes a 2 minute break at |Derby and an eight minutes one at Nottingham.
  3. The other stops are scheduled for a minute or less.
  4. I saw lots of buggies, children and a couple of wheelchairs, which delayed train boarding.

This all adds up to a round trip of three and a half hours, which is exceeding inconvenient for running an hourly service.

I suspect that any train operator prefers a dedicated number of identical trains to run a service, as East Midlands Trains have on their London services.

But this Derby-Nottingham version of Crossrail has all the structure and organisation of a relegated football teams back four.

Looking at the hour starting at nine o’clock this morning there are just three services between Derby and Nottingham.

  • 09:08 – Birmingham New Street to Nottingham
  • 09:13 – Matlock to Newark Castle
  • 09:40 – Cardiff Central to Nottingham

If this is typical, it is pitiful for a thirty minute journey between two large, important cities. Especially, in the rush-hour.

Suppose the service was doubled between Matlock and Newark Castle.

  • This would give four trains per hour between Derby and Nottingham.
  • It would give a two trains per hour service to all those stations along the route.
  • It would attract many more passengers to that poor Class 153 train.

In my view, there is only one solution to this problem and that is a high-class stopping service between Matlock and Newark Castle.

  • Two trains per hour.
  • At least two cars in every train.
  • Speeding up of the service so trains can do the round trip in three hours.
  • Step-free access between train and platform at all stations to speed station stops.

This service would require six trains, which is a problem as East Midlands Trains haven’t got the rolling stock.

It would also mean that a train would have go from Ambergate Junction, where the Derwent Valley Line leaves the Midland Main Line to Matlock and back in under thirty minutes.

As a typical train takes fourteen minutes between Ambergate and Matlock stations, with a bit of judicious sorting of the train-platform interface to speed stops, I’m certain that this would be possible.

So where do East Midlands Trains get six suitable trains of at least two carriages?

  • The route could be electrified. Impossible!
  • They acquire some cascaded diesel unit like London Overground’s Class 172 trains.
  • They acquire six Class 319 Flex trains.

The last one is probably the most realistic, as they are four-car trains with an operating speed of over 90 mph on diesel.

But why would it need the capability to run on 25 KVAC overhead electrification, as there is none near Derby or Nottingham, except on Bombardier’s test track?

So is this one of the reasons, why as  I wrote in The Class 319 Flex Units To Be Class 769, Porterbrook are seriously looking at converting Class 455 trains into Flex trains?

After all both Porterbrook and East Midlands Trains are based in Derby.

The Matlock to Newark Castle route would be transformed.

  • Two trains per hour.
  • Four cars with quality interiors.
  • Easier access for all passengers, through wide double doors.
  • There could even be modified to give more space for bikes, buggies and wheelchairs.

It would be a real case of Back To The Future, as the Class 455 trains are nearly ten years older than the Class 153 trains.

 

 

 

 

May 31, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 2 Comments

Connecting The Powerhouses

This is the title of an article in the June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, written by Colin Boocock.

It talks about a proposal to reopen the Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midland Junction Railway or Peak Main Line, which formed part of the Midland Railway route from London to Manchester.

The three main objectives of the reopening are probably as follows.

  • Decrease journey times between Manchester and Derby/Nottingham
  • Provide a better route for limestone trains from around Millers Dale to Derby and the South.
  • Provide better access to the Peak District with its natural and man-made attractions

I would add better connectivity to both Manchester Airport and HS2.

From Derby To Manchester By Rail Today

There are two current routes via Stoke or Sheffield.

The route via Sheffield is the busier and decreasing journey times would be difficult, but the Stoke route is electrified from Stoke and bi-mode trains could probably do Derby to Manchester in an hour and fifteen minutes.

Reopening The Peak Main Line

The next three sections describe the current states of the three sections of the Peak Main Line, as it goes directly across the Peak District from Chinley on the Hope Valley Line to Derby.

From Derby To Matlock

This Southern section of the Peak Main Line is the Derwent Valley Line and it is served by an hourly passenger service.

From Chinley to Millers Dale

The Northern section of the Peak Main Line runs from Chinley station on the Hope Valley Line to the site of Millers Dale station, which is a few miles east of Buxton.

The main use of this section is to get stone and quarry products out of the Peak District to markets in the Midlands and the South.

The stone trains go North to the Hope Valley Line, before turning East to Sheffield and then South down the Midland Main Line.

The Missing Link From Millers Dale To Matlock

This important fourteen mile section of Peak Main Line was closed in 1968, by the non-driving Transport Minister Barbara Castle. She obviously didn’t like trains either!

The Author’s Thoughts On The Link

The track bed of the Peak Main Line is still intact and the author of the article suggests that there could be two ways of rebuilding the railway.

  • As a 75 mph single-track railway sharing the track-bed with the Monsai Trail.
  • As a 90 mph double-track railway, after moving the Monsai Trail to a more picturesque route.

Four or five, reopened or new stations could be built with passing loops to enable the minimum service frequency to be achieved, which the author suggests should be the following in both directions in every hour.

  • One fast passenger train
  • One stopping passenger train.
  • One freight train; full or empty.

But there are possible problems.

  • The A6 has to be crossed.
  • One local landowner didn’t allow consultants access to the line for an inspection.
  • Severn Trent Water are digging a large pipe into the track-bed.
  • Peak Rail have plans to extend their heritage line to Bakewell. Could both groups co-exist?

It sounds to me that everybody should find a good hostelry and thrash out a comprehensive co-operation agreement on the backs of engineering envelopes, fuelled by some excellent real ale.

A Connection To Buxton

The author says this.

A future connection over the existing railway from North of Millers Dale to Buxton would add a tourist town with 10,000 inhabitants to the market mix.

I feel Buxton may become more important in the next few years.

The Cost Of Building The Link

The author suggests that the cost of rebuilding the Peak Main Line could be between £137million and £170million, based on a consultants’ report and the cost of reinstating the Borders Railway.

Would Building The Link Be Value For Money?

The author finishes a section called Value For Money like this.

These figures suggest the Peak main line reopening may be at least as cost-effective, perhaps considerably more so, than the Borders Railway. And that ignores any benefits to the economy of the local community around that 14 miles of railway, which comprises almost 30,000 people (excluding Buxton’s 10,000).

I’ll go along with that for now!

Factors Driving The Traffic

The author suggests that three factors will drive the traffic on a rebuilt Peak Main Line.

  • General connectivity between the East Midlands and Stockport/Manchester.
  • Stone trains to the Midlands and the South.
  • A combination of local travel and tourism.

The author also suggests that the hourly service on the Derwent Valley Line linking Matlock to Derby and Nottingham is inadequate.

The Buxton Affect

I would add a fourth factor; the Class 319 Flex trains providing an improved service between Manchester and Buxton.

  • Four-car trains
  • A frequency of two trains per hour.
  • Acceptable timings, even when crush loaded.

Northern have said they are likely to run back-to-back services across Manchester using the Ordsall Chord, which would be more efficient and save platform space in Manchester.

Because Manchester to Clitheroe is another uphill slog, I would link Clitheroe and Buxton services, thus creating a commuter railway that linked two major tourism areas. Certain services would continue at the Northern end to Hellifield for the recently rebuilt, Settle and Carlisle Railway.

In Why Not Buxton To Hellifield?, I wrote about this cross-Manchester link.

Whatever Northern do between Manchester and Buxton, it will be better than at present and traffic on a reopened Peak Main Line to Matlock must feel the benefit.

Stone Traffic

This Google Map shows the area between Buxton and Millers Dale.

Note Buxton in the South-West corner of the map and all the white areas to the North-East of the town, with Millers Dale at The East of the map.

The white areas are not snow in winter, but massive limestone quarries.

The Peak Main Line passes between and around the quarries, so stone trains could take the most efficient route, to either the North or South.

In the same Edition of Modern Railways as the article, is another article about rail freight, this is said.

Aggregates traffic, negligible in 1970, is now a quarter of the total, as sand and gravel supplies in London and the South East have been exhausted  and the capital satisfies ite voracious demand for building materials from further afield.

Things have changed since 1968.

I don’t think it likely that the number of stone trains from Derbyshire to the South will decrease..

Perhaps, the big aggregate and quarrying companies would like to make a contribution to the reinstatement of the Peak Main Line.

The Derwent Valley Line

This is taken from Colin Boocock’s article.

There is already the hourly commuter service linking Matlock with Derby and Nottingham, which is buoyant at certain times of the working day, and the two car trains are busy in the tourist season. The Peak District National Park is a very popular area for walkers and tourists in general.

A picture in the article shows a single-car Class 153 train working the line. If this is typical it is totally inadequate.

From the point of view of balance on the existing line, with Buxton getting spacious four-car Class 319 Flex trains from Manchester, surely Matlock needs something bigger from Derby and Nottingham.

Given the excellent cycling and walking route between Matlock and Buxton, a four-car train should have plenty of space for bicycles and rucksacks.

Perhaps, Porterbrook could come up with a special four-car Flex tourist train, based on a Class 455 train.

With good trains at both ends of the line, the tourism potential of the route could be better assessed.

Exploring The Derwent Valley Line, gives pictures and more details on my thoughts about the Derwent Valley Line.

HS2

You may think that HS2 is irrelevant to a reopened railway across the Peak District. But when it opens HS2 will be a fast alternative route between the East Midlands and Manchester.

This document on the HS2 web site gives the following HS2 times.

  • East Midlands Hub to Birmingham  – 19 minutes
  • Birmingham to Manchester – 41 minutes.

Admittedly, these times will not be available until HS2 to the East Midlands and Manchester is fully open

But from 2032, East Midlands Hub to Birmingham will be open and a couple of years before that HS2 will reach Crewe, thus giving a Birmingham to Manchester time somewhere around fifty minutes, by using HS2 to Crewe and then running at 200 kph into Manchester.

So will this make the need for the Peak Main Line unnecessary?

I very much doubt it.

Suppose a family who lived in Nottingham were going to Manchester to see their favourite band, football team or just for a day out.

How many would be tempted to take the fast route one way and the slow scenic route without a change on the other?

Colin Boocock calculates that Nottingham to Manchester will take one hour forty-three minutes via the Peak Main Line from when it is opened.

HS2 may be faster than that at around an hour with a change, so it will be a case of paying the money and making the choice.

But if the Peak Main Line is reopened, this will mean that Matlock, Buxton and all the intermediate places will be given a faster route to London as East Midlands Hub to Euston will be just sixty-eight minutes.

The Peak Main Line will become a valuable feeder line for HS2.

HS2 could also open up more paths on the Midland Main Line for freight, so could we see more stone trains going South.

Manchester Airport

Manchester Airport is an ambitious player in the transport game.

  • The Ordsall Chord will give is much better connections to the North, Yorkshire and the North East of England and Scotland.
  • Rail improvements around Chester and Liverpool will give it better access to Cheshire, Shropshire and North Wales.
  • HS2 will give improve its connections to the West Midlands and the South.

I believe that just as Gatwick Airport has become an important rail hub, that the same thing will happen to Maanchester Airport.

The main connections that Manchester Airport lacks are decent links to Sheffield and the East Midlands.

This diagram shows the rail lines between Manchester and the Airport.

The Hope Valley Line from Sheffield, feeds into Stockport to go to Central Manchester.

The Peak Main Line can join the Hope Valley Line either via the Buxton Line at Hazel Grove or as the stone trains currently do at Chinley.

At the present time, there is no direct connection from the Hope Valley Line to Manchester Airport.

But if one were needed, I’m certain that it could be arranged.

I believe it is possible to connect the Mid-Cheshire Line that goes from Stockport to Navigation Road and Altrincham, to the Styal Line, which is the main route to the Airport. This would be done at a new junction North of Gatley station.

This Google Map shows the area where the railway lines cross.

Gatley station is at the South-West corner of the map and the Styal Line runs Northwards past the motorway junction between the M60 and the A34.

The Mid-Cheshire Line runs across the map South of the motorway junction and the Alexandra Hospital.

This connection could be done in one of several ways.

  • Trains could reverse at Stockport station.
  • Trains could stop at Stockport station and travellers would simply walk across the platform to connect to trains to and from the Airport.
  • It might even be possible to connect the Hope Valley Line directly to the Mid Cheshire Line.

The last option would be my preferred one, as if it could be built, it would give Sheffield very good access to Manchester Airport.

This Google Map shows the junction South of Stockport, where three lines divide.

The Mid-Cheshire Line goes to the West, the West Coast Main Line goes to the South and the Hope Valley Line  goes to the East.

It would be tight and probably require some demolition to get a direct connection across the junction from East to West, but it would give superb access between Sheffield and the East Midlands and Manchester Airport.

There would be two routes to Manchester from the Hope Valley Line

  • Direct via Stockport
  • Indirect via Manchester Airport, where the train would reverse.

Services could even be arranged to call simultaneously at an enlarged Hazel Grove station, to give travellers the maximum flexibility.

A reopened Peak Main Line will surely be on Manchester Airport’s wish list.

Chatsworth House

Chatsworth House is one of the UK’s favourite country houses and it lies under four miles from the sites of the former stations;Hassop and Rowsley on the Peak Main Line.

Reading the excellent How To Find Us page on the Chatsworth website, I get the impression they make it easy to get to the house, by all sorts of routes.

So , I would suspect they would welcome one or both of the stations, if they reopened.

Recently, I visited Hassop station and found they had lots of bicycles for hire.

Peak Rail

I can’t leave this post without mentioning Peak Rail, the heritage rail company with ambitions to connect Matlock to Buxton via Bakewell.

In Travelling Along Peak Rail, I describe my trip between Matlock and Rowsley South stations.

What impressed me was their professionalism, in both the route and the way they ran the trains.

I suspect that given time and enough money they will achieve their ambitions.

But what if the big beasts of Derbyshire County Council, Northern, East Midlands Trains, Network Rail and possibly Manchester Airport want the route for themselves?

My view is that this is a tourist area and if co-operation could enable a heritage service between Matlock and Buxton, this would bring visitors and their money to the area.

I think too, that some of the engineering challenges will need the money that some big beasts might bring!

I can envisage a time, when passengers will have two trains per hour to and from Derby.

  • One train might terminate at Matlock and allow passengers to connect to a heritage service going North.
  • The other train would continue through as a stopping train to Manchester.

This is just one of a long list of endless possibilities.

 

Conclusion

It’s very difficult to find a reason not to reopen the Peak Main Line

 

 

 

 

 

May 30, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 3 Comments

What Will Happen To The Class 319, Class 455, Class 321 And Cl;ass 317 Trains?

When I go to Walthamstow to have supper with my son, I regularly travel from Hackney Downs station in one of London Overground’s Class 317 trains.

For a metro train, some are unusual in that they still have the First Class compartment and spacious 2 + 2 seating in the rest of the train. Also, as some at one time used to work the Stansted Express service, they have multi-lingual safety instructions and luggage racks.

Like the Class 319, Class 321 and Class 455 trains, they are going to be replaced by new trains by their current operators.

So what will happen to the various trains.

The Class 319 Flex Train

Porterbrook, the ROSCO, who own the Class 319 and Class 455 trains have developed the Flex concept that can transform these classes into much-needed four-car bi-mode trains. We should be seeing Class 319 Flex trains under test by the end of the year.

As the Class 319 Flex train has now been given its own TOPS-number of 769, the powers-that-be must think it is a viable concept.

In Metro Development With Flex Trains, I describe how I believe Northern are going to use the Class 319 Flex trains in the North West in the Liverpool, Manchester and Preston triangle, to develop a world-class Metro network.

The Class 455 Flex Train

The applications of a Class 455 Flex train would probably be less than that of a Class 319 Flex train, as the trains are 75 mph third rail trains, as opposed to 100 mph dual-voltage units.

The Class 319 and its Flex version will travel on say the West Coast Main Line with ease, but the slower Class 455 train would be a rolling roadblock.

But because they have a high-quality 2 + 2 interior, they could find applications as much-needed four-car diesel multiple units.

The interiors are certainly some of the best on short distance suburban trains and I would rate them better than some stock delivered in the lst couple of years.

The Class 455 Flex Train And Pacer Replacement

Class 455 Flex trains would make a superb replacement for the dreaded Pacers.

  • Class 455 trains were built to withstand the impact of a 24-tonne cement mixer truck falling from the sky. Try repeating the Oxshott accident with a Pacer.
  • The Class 455 interior is comfortable and South Western Railway‘s fleet was fully refurbished around 2003.
  • The Class 455 Flex train will have at least the performance of a Pacer.
  • The Class 455 trains meet all the latest Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations.
  • Could the Class 455 Flex train be given the same hill-climbing capability of a Class 319 Flex train?
  • The Class 455 train is four-cars as opposed to the two-cars of a Pacer.

Ironically, the Pacers are a few years younger than the Class 455 trains. But then class is permanent! Or should that be Mark 3 coaches are permanent?

I think that Porterbrook are looking at converting the Class 455 trains for several reasons.

  • They own ninety-one Class 455 trains, that will be released by South Western Railway.
  • The quality interiors probably just need good cleaning and cosmetic repairs.
  • The costs and rate of conversion are now well-known.
  • The Pacers need to be replaced quickly.

It should be noted that the number of Pacers in service are as follows.

  • Class 142 – Arriva Trains Wales – 15
  • Class 142 – Northern – 79
  • Class 143 – Arriva Trains Wales – 15
  • Cl;ass 143 – Great Western Railway – 8
  • Class 144 – Northern – 23

The only replacements on order are Northern’s 25 x two-car and 30 x three-car Class 195 trains.

That means that 140 two-car Pacers are being replaced by the same number of vehicles.

So there is a short term need for some quality trains. If all the Cl;ass 455 trains were converted that would add another ninety-one quality trains that could be used to replace Pacers.

The Welsh and Great Western Pacers are used far from any 25 KVAC electrification, so the inability to use electrification on a Class 455 Flex will be irrelevant. But both Wales and the West Country have lines with challenging gradients.

So if the Class 455 Flex train was designed to be able to handle the Manchester to Buxton test route, the trains could handle the Cardiff Valley Lines and the challenging lines in Devon.

Currently, the Class 455 trains have a very red interior, which would surely go down well in the Principality.

The 100 mph Bi-Mode Train

The rumoured large response to Porterbrook’s proposal for the 100 mph four-car bi-mode Class 319 Flex train, says to me, that there is a market for a train, with the following characteristics.

  • 100 mph operating speed on electricity.
  • Over 90 mph operating speed on diesel power.
  • Four-car

Both the Class 321 and Class 317 trains could be modified to fit this specification.

Class 321 Flex Trains

Greater Anglia have around a hundred of these trains, which will be replaced by brand-new Aventras in the next couple of years.

  • They were built in the late 1980s.
  • They have a 2 + 3 interior.
  • Class 321 trains can be modified for dual voltage.
  • Thirty are being upgraded under the Renatus project, which involves new air conditioning and heating, seating and Wi-Fi.
  • A new traction package with new AC traction motors and regenerative braking has been designed.
  • They are owned by Eversholt Rail Group.
  • The trains are probably very similar electrically to the Class 319 trains,

If needed, there must be scope to convert some of these trains to bi-mode using similar engineering to the Class 319 Flex trains.

I haven’t ridden in a Class 321 Renatus, but pictures on the web, indicate the train could have a high-class interior.

It would appear that with the Renatus treatment, the Class 321 trains could be transformed into a high class train.

The market would decide, if some were converted into bi-mode Flex variants.

Class 317 Flex Trains

Greater Anglia and London Overground have around seventy of these trains, which will be replaced by brand-new Aventras in the next couple of years.

  • They were built in the early 1980s.
  • They have a 2 + 2 interior, to a variety of standards, but mostly in generally good condition.
  • Some have First Class compartments.
  • Some were built for the Stansted Express and have luggage racks.
  • All are 25 KVAC units.
  • They are owned by Angel Trains.
  • Plans exist for the fitting of a new traction package if required.

As with the Class 321 trains, there must be scope to convert some of these trains to bi-mode using similar engineering to the Class 319 Flex trains.

The Future

The four main train types , that I have have listed are all slightly different.

  • Class 317 is a 100 mph, 25 KVAC overhead only, good 2 + 2 interior
  • Class 319 is a 100 mph, dual-voltage train, average 2 + 3 interior
  • Class 321 is a 100 mph, dual-voltage train, average 2 + 3 interior
  • Class 455 is a 75 mph, 750 VDC third-rail only, good 2 + 2 interior

There are also smaller numbers of other types that could also be converted.

Different train types will be better suited to different markets.

I’ll list some of the markets in the next few sections.

Route Extensions

This is probably the simplest application of a Flex train.

Consider the new Bromsgrove station at the Western end of the Cross-City Line in Birmingham.

From May 2018, the station will have been electrified and new electrified services will start across Birmingham from Bromsgrove.

West from Bromsgrove it is under twenty miles to Worcester, which is getting a new station at Worcestershire Parkway.

Bromsgrove to Worcestershire Parkway would be well within range of a Flex train.

How many simple extensions to electric services could be created with a few Flex trains?

There could be quite a few and some might even be extensions to third-rail networks using Class 455 Flex trains.

Metro Development

In Metro Development With Flex Trains, I discuss how Northern are developing the Northern Electric network in the Liverpool, Manchester and Preston triangle, using a mixed fleet of electric and bi-mode Flex version of the Class 319 trains.

Various places in the UK have plans for Metros and where there is some electrification a mixed fleet of electric and bi-mode trains could be used to develop the metro.

The mixed fleet of electric and bi-mode Flex trains gives the train operator advantages.

  • Passengers have a similar customer experience across the fleet.
  • The Flex trains can go anywhere on the network.
  • The electric trains can only work electrified lines, but as more electrification is added, they can take advantage.
  • Flex trains can deputise for electric ones.
  • If there is a problem with the electrification, the Flex trains can still get through.
  • Drivers and other staff don’t have two very dissimilar train types to deal with.
  • Maintenance must be simplified.

I feel that Class 319, Class 321 and Class 317 trains could all be offered in both electric and bi-mode Flex versions.

Several of the possible places where a Metro needs to be developed like Hull, Leeds, Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Sheffield and Stoke-on-Trent are in Northern territory, so for preference, Northern would probably use Class 319 trains, especially as they have the ability to cruise safely at near 100 mph on the West and East Coast Main Lines.

But there is only so many Class 319 trains, so I suspect Northern will have to look at other types.

A city that could benefit from the Flex approach is Leeds.

  • There is a mix of electrified and non-electrified local lines from Leeds station.
  • Some important local routes like Leeds to York and Sheffield are not fully electrified, but could be worked by a Flex train.
  • Northern use five Class 322 trains in the Leeds area. These are very similar to Class 321 trains.
  • Northern need some more stock for the electrified lines from the City and have brought in some Class 321 trains.
  • Leeds station seems to me to have a platform capacity problem.

I feel that a few Class 321 Flex trains and some reorganisation of services so some ran back-to-back through Leeds station could be beneficial.

One point about a mixed fleet of electric and bi-mode Flex trains must be raised.

Suppose an operator is thinking of using a mixed fleet to create a local Metro around a City and that calculations say that to work the required service would need six electric and four bi-mode trains.

Would the operator perhaps buy five trains of each type and use one bi-mode as an electric train most of the time?

But surely, this would be inefficient as the bi-mode would be dragging its diesel power packs around all day.

But the bi-mode trains have an advantage, in that they can still operate if the electrification has failed.

They might also be able to rescue a stalled train and drag it back to the depot.

Diesel Multiple Unit And Pacer Replacement

The Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations are going to kill off a lot of diesel multiple units and especially the Pacers.

Operators with Pacers are going to need to act quickly and as I showed earlier in The Class 455 Flex Train And Pacer Replacement, a  Class 455 Flex train would be a very able replacement.

  • Similar performance.
  • Four cars instead of two.
  • The unmatched ride of the Mark 3 coach.
  • Modern, comfortable high-quality interior.
  • Full compliance with the accessibility regulations.

For operators with lots of Class 150 and Class 156 trains, which need to be refurbished, a Class 455 Flex train would be a very able deputy.

In some places, where two Class 150 trains work as a pair, replacing them with a single Class 455 Flex train, may give operational and capacity advantages.

The High Speed Parcel or Pallet Train

In The Go-Anywhere Express Parcel And Pallet Carrier, I proposed using Class 321 trains as HSPTs of High Speed Parcel or Pallet Trains. In the manner of all Mark 3-based trains, they would undoubtedly make an excellent fist of this job.

Both electric and bi-mode Flex versions could be used to give a go-anywhere fleet.

I suggested using Class 321 trains, as some of them have very basic interiors, so conversion would be less costly to parcel carriers than acceptable passenger trains.

Conclusion

The train refurbishing companies are going to be busy.

The real beauty of this approach, is that what trains get created will depend on what is needed and how much train operators are prepared to pay.

But there are also plenty of trains for most applications.

Cats are supposed to have nine lives, but that is nothing compared to a Mark 3 coach.

 

 

May 30, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Metro Development With Flex Trains

The June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways gave a few more details of the Class 319 Flex trains, that are being created for Northern.

  • The trains now have their own TOPS-number of 769, which must be a seal of approval.
  • Northern have ordered eight Class 319 Flex trains as part of or in addition to a fleet of thirty-two Class 319 trains.
  • These eight trains will be delivered by the end of May 2018.
  • A Class 319 Flex train can be produced every two weeks.

It is also likely, that by the end of this year, Network Rail will have completed the following.

  • The Ordsall Chord connecting Manchester Victoria and Piccadilly stations.
  • Electrification between Manchester and Preston.
  • Electrification from Preston to Blackpool North station.
  • Electrification from Manchester Victoria to Stalybridge.

This will mean electric trains like the Class 319 train and bi-mode trains like the Class 319 Flex train, can go between Hazel Grove, Manchester Airport and Stockport to Blackpool North, Liverpool Lime Street, Manchester Victoria, Preston and Wigan North Western.

The Class 319 Flex trains using their diesel power will also be able to extend the electric network to Blackburn, Blackpool South, Burnley Manchester Road, Clitheroe, Southport, Stalybridge, Wigan Wallgate and Windermere, without any additional electrification.

There will be benefits for passengers.

  • The Class 319 trains and Class 319 Flex trains will be faster and journey times will be shorter.
  • Services run by elderly two-car trains will now be run by refurbished four-car trains.
  • Most journeys across Manchester will be continuous or with a single same-platform change at a convenient station.

How will various routes be affected?

Cross-Manchester Travel

Cross-City lines revolutionise city travel and the Ordsall Chord will do the same for Manchester.

This map from Wikipedia shows the location of the Ordsall Chord and how it is connected to exotic places like  Bolton, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester Airport, Stockport and Warrington.

Mancunians will have to learn how to use the link, but they won’t take long to do that!

You may be lucky and your journey will be available from your local station.

But if it requires a change, you will probably take a train to the central core stations of Victoria, Deansgate, Oxford Road or Piccadilly and change for your ultimate destination.

  • For many changes, you will just get off one train, wait on the platform for a few minutes and then board another train.
  • Some stations will be better interchanges than others.
  • Platforms 13 and 14 at Piccadilly may be crowded, but they are at least an island platform allowing a change of direction.
  • Platforms at Deansgate and Oxford Road may need widening.
  • Other stations like Salford Crescent and Salford Central will also get used as interchanges.

If there is one problem with the Ordsall Chord, it is the name.

Perhaps it should be called the Mancunian Chord?

Collateral Benefits Of The Ordsall Chord

The nearest railway line in concept to the Ordsall Chord is probably Thameslink in London.

  • As Thameslink has developed, it has not only provided a high-capacity North-South route across London, but it has also taken the pressure from main line stations like London Bridge, St. Pancras and Victoria, by allowing travellers to change to their long distance trains further out.
  • Thmeslink has also been a major factor in improving services to Gatwick Airport.
  • Gatwick Airport is building on its position to be a major rail hub South of London.

Over the years Thameslink has developed and some think in a few years time, Thameslink will be at least, if not more important than Crossrail.

Two things will definitely happen, when the Ordsall Chord opens.

As with Thameslink in London, Northern and Southern routes into the Manchester, will be linked back-to-back, to free up platforms in terminal stations.

Frequencies and capacity on many routes will increase. Stations, that have had a two-car diesel train twice an hour since the days of steam ended, will find they get a four-car electric or bi-mode train at a doubled frequency.

But long-term the Ordsall Chord will have major effects.

  • Towns and areas like Blackburn, Blackpool, Burnley, Chester, Hudderfield, Kirkby, Southport, Warrington and Wigan will have frequent train services to and from the whole of Manchester City Centre and will benefit accordingly.
  • Increased frequencies to Leeds and Liverpool will be easier to arrange.
  • Many travellers going to and from Birmingham, London and the South will change at Stockport rather than Piccadilly.
  • Few trains will reverse direction in Piccadilly.
  • Just as Gatwick Airport has been envigorated by Thameslink, Manchester Airport will become a major rail hub.
  • Will Preston develop into Manchester’s hub station for travellers going North or to Scotland.
  • Access to the tourist areas of North Lancashire, the Peak District and Yorkshire will be improved.

The Ordsall Chord will have such major effects on Manchester, that I could see HS2 plans being changed.

Buxton To Manchester And Clitheroe To Manchester

I will treat these routes together, as I believe they are a natural fit, where back-to-back operation will be beeficial.

  • Both routes are uphill away from Manchester.
  • Both routes need better and faster trains.
  • Both routes need more capacity.
  • Class 319 Flex trains could work both routes without any infrastructure work.

Could Buxton to Clitheroe, with perhaps a two-hourly extension to Hellifield for the Settle and Carlisle Railway create a very valuable tourism asset for the North-West?

In Why Not Buxton To Hellifield?, I looked at the possibilities about running  a direct back-to-back service across Manchester.

I said this.

In some ways the interesting one is the round trip from Buxton to Clitheroe, which allowing ten minutes for each turnround at Clitheroe and Buxton means that the round trip is under four hours.

This means that an hourly Buxton to Clitheroe service would need four trains and two trains per hour would need eight trains.

As the routes to Blackburn and Clitheroe in the North and Hazel Grove and Buxton in the South are very busy, four-car Class 319 Flex trains will be very welcome.

Windermere

Improving the service to Windermere station on the Windermere Branch is a complex problem.

I have been doing some analysis in Is Electrification Of The Windermere Branch Line Really Necessary?

I came to this conclusion.

I think that updating Oxenholme station with a fourth platform and using more powerful trains, would allow the frequency of trains on the Windermere Branch to be increased to one train every thirty minutes.

No electrification of the branchwould be needed.

We will know the answer, when Northern run a Class 319 Flex train in trials to Windermere.

I will not speculate on the timetable, but I’m sure Northern know about how the ideal timetable should look.

Manchester Airport to Huddersfield Via Stalybridge

Electrification to Stalybridge station is running late.

But no matter, as Class 319 Flex trains could fill in for their electric sisters.

Further Routes To The Core

Because they are bi-mode trains, the limitations of which routes can be served using Class 319 Flex trains, will be limited more by the availability of trains than anything else.

Signalling and operational procedures through the core will need to be improved, but a twin-track railway like that can take a frequency of sixteen to twenty tph over the Irwell.

After all, the East London Line has handled those frequencies in a tunnel built by Brunel’s father in the mid-1800s since 2010.

Adding New Routes

I don’t know the rail lines in Manchester at all, but so long as the track and need is there, Class 319 Fle trains can serve any route.

In the June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, they are reporting on a plan to reopen six miles of disused railway between Irlam in Salford and Timperley in Trafford.

From the visualisation in the magazine, it looks a spectacular railway, that could provide a direct route between the West of the City and Althincham, Stockport and Manchester Airport.

Adding More Trains

I feel that Manchester will need more trains in a couple of years.

But just as Liverpool found no trouble with funding new custom-built trains for their network, when the time comes for Manchester to increase the fleet size, the city shouldn’t have a problem! Brexit permitting!

At least, if the Ordsall Chord routes are successful, they will define the specification of the new trains.

The simplest plan would see some new four-car electric units added to the fleet to release Class 319 trains for conversion to more Class 319 Flex trains.

Some of these trains could be specially designed airport trains for connecting Manchester Airport to Blackpool, Huddersfield, Liverpool and other places.

At some time in the future, all of the Class 319 trains and Class 319 Flex trains will be replaced, but will they finally see the scrapyard or will they be sent to do missionary work in places like Aberdeen, Bristol, Derby, Exeter, Lincoln, Sheffield, Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle and other places.

Conclusion

The Class 319 Flex train may have been designed by Porterbrook and Northern to fill an enormous hole left by Network Rail’s non-performance on electrification, but like its famous predecessor, the InterCity 125 which filled the gap left by the non-performance of the Advanced Passenger Train, I feel it will set new standards in train travel. But this time on predominately urban rather than InterCity routes.

I also feel strongly, that te flexible methods being used in Manchester to develop the rail services could be used elsewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 29, 2017 Posted by | Travel, Uncategorized | , , , | 1 Comment