The Anonymous Widower

Reinstatement Of The Abbey Line Between St Albans Abbey And Watford Junction

This is one of the successful bids in the First Round of the Restoring Your Railway Fund.

Over the years on this blog, I have written several times about the Abbey Line, which is one of those lines, that despite very few improvements or modernisation has continued to give good and faithful service.

Objectives Of The Upgrade

Any railway upgrade must meet a series of objectives.

I would suggest the following objectives for the Abbey Line.

  • A minimum of two trains per hour (tph)
  • High quality reliable trains.
  • Step-free stations.
  • Zero-carbon operation.
  • A solution that will last at least until 2050.

It should also have an acceptable benefit-cost ratio.

Last Year’s Consultants Report

Last year, consultants reported on the Abbey Line. In the June 2019 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article, which is entitled Abbey Line Passing Loop Proposed, which discusses the proposed solution. This paragraph outlines the core idea in the proposal.

A study undertaken by The Railway Consultancy for ABFLY, the Abbey Line Users’ Group, suggests the platform at Bricket Wood be lengthened such that trains stop at different ends of a single platform, similar to the solution adopted at Penryn on the branch line between Truro and Falmouth, which would help to minimise costs. Infrastructure costs of a loop have been estimated at up to £10million, with the additional costs of running more services adding up to a further £1 million.

I did a detailed analysis of the proposals in Abbey Line Passing Loop Proposed.

This was my conclusion.

There are certainly, several affordable ways to improve the Abbey Line.

My preferred solution would be to go for the Penryn solution, using a fleet of Class 319 trains.

So how does this solution fit the objectives, I set down earlier?

A Minimum Of Two Trains Per Hour

This objective will be met.

High-Quality Reliable Trains

The current Class 319 trains on the route are in excellent condition, despite their age!

A fleet of three would probably do a good job, but a new electric train built specifically for the route could do better.

Class 710 trains, like those used by the London Overground, would offer advantages over the existing trains.

  • They have a higher capacity.
  • They have a faster acceleration, so this might help in increasing the frequency of the service.
  • There could be a battery version, which might mean that the loop would be without electrification.
  • They are walk-through trains, which might offer loading and unloading advantages in short platforms.

But they would cost more!

Step-Free Stations

All stations are fully-accessible and as no modifications are proposed to the stations, they will stay that way.

Zero-Carbon Operation

Provided the electricity for the route and the trains is produced by renewable electricity, the operation will be zero-carbon.

A Solution That Will Last Until 2050

The UK is committed  by law, to be carbon-neutral by 2050.

For that reason any solution must last until that date.

This solution should last, as trains, electrification and signalling should be replaceable with new, at any time.

Conclusion

This project could be shovel ready, if Network Rail have done their track and signalling design.

 

May 24, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 8 Comments

Class 319 Train Used In GB Railfreight Parcel Test At London Euston

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

GB Railfreight has used a Class 319 train during a successful trial of former commuter trains for express parcel delivery services.

Other points from the article.

  • Standard roll-cages can be loaded and offloaded at most major stations.
  • A substantial amount of cargo can be carried.
  • GBRf is talking to the Government about deliveries to hospitals.

It should be noted that the Class 325 trains that are used to move goods for Royal Mail are based on Class 319 trains.

  • Both trains are based on the legendary Mark 3 coach.
  • There are sixteen of these Royal Mail trains.
  • Each train is four cars.
  • Each car can hold up to twelve tonnes.
  • They are capable of 100 mph like the Class 319 trains.
  • Class 319 trains are being converted into bi-mode Class 769 trains for use by Rail Operations Group as parcel trains.

As there are still at least fifty Class 319 trains still available for modification, will it mean a more will be converted into parcels trains?

April 27, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is There Nothing A Class 319 Train Can’t Do?

If a train every goes into orbit round the world, it will be highly-likely that it will be a Class 319 train!

Electric Trains In North-West England

The fleet of eighty-six trains entered service in 1987 on Thameslink  and now twenty-seven are plying their trade on the electrified routes around the North-West of England.

  • You don’t hear many complaints about them being called London’s cast-offs.
  • Passengers fill them up in Blackpool, Liverpool, Manchester and Preston.
  • They still do 100 mph where possible.
  • They seem to be reliable.
  • They are not the most attractive of trains.

But handsome is as handsome does!

Drivers have told me, that although the suspension may be a bit soft for the bumpy route across Chat Moss, the trains do have superb brakes.

Bi-Mode Class 769 Trains

Nearly thirty of the trains are being converted into bi-mode Class 769 trains for working partially-electrifired routes and although these are running late, they should be in service this year.

Rail Operations Group

Two Class 769 trains have been ordered to be fast logistics trains by Rail Operations Group.

Wikipedia says the trains will be used to transport mail.

But if you read the history of the Rail Operations Group, they make the assets sweat and I’ve read the trains will still have seats, so they might do some other rail operations.

The Hydrogen-Powered Class 799 Train 

And now comes the Class 799 train!

This is a demonstrator to prove the concept of conversion to hydrogen power.

The fact that the train now has it’s own number must be of some significance.

Alstom are converting Class 321 trains into Class 321 Breeze trains.

  • The conversion will reduce passenger capacity, due to the large hydrogen tank
  • It will have a 1,000 km range.
  • It will have regenerative breaking.
  • It will have a new AC traction package
  • It will probably have the interior of a Class 321 Renatus train.

The conversion will obviously build on Alstom’s experience with the Alstom Coradia iLint train and Eversholt’s experience with the Renatus.

When it comes to the Class 799 train, the following will apply.

  • Porterbrook have all the experience of creating the bi-mode and dual-voltage Class 769 train.
  • Birmingham University’s Birmingham Centre For Railway Research And Education (BCRRE) are providing the expertise to design and convert the Class 319 train to hydrogen power.
  • I also wouldn’t be surprised to find out, that the BCRRE has applied some very extensive mathematical modelling to find out the performance of a hydrogen-powered Class 319 train or HydroFLEX train.
  • The conversion could be based closely on Class 769 experience and sub-systems,

Could the main purpose be to demonstrate the technology and ascertain the views of train operators and passengers on hydrogen power?

The most important question, is whether the Class 799 train, will have the same passenger capacity as the original Class 319 train?

If it does, then BCRRE must have found a way to store the hydrogen in the roof or under the floor.

It should be noted, that it was only in September 2018, that the contract to develop the Class 799 train was signed and yet less than a year later BCRRE and Porterbrook will be demonstrating the train at a trade show.

This short development time, must mean that there is not enough time to modify the structure of the train to fit a large hydrphen tank inside, as Alstom are proposing.

A smaller hydrogen tank could be placed in one of three places.

  • Underneath the train.
  • On the roof.
  • Inside the train, if it is small enough to fit through the train’s doors.

Note.

  1. I doubt that anybody would put the tank inside the train for perceived safety reasons from passengers.
  2. On the roof, would require substantial structural modifications. Is there enough time?

So how do you reduce the size of the hydrogen tank and still store enough hydrogen in it to give the train a useful range?

In Better Storage Might Give Hydrogen The Edge As Renewable Car Fuel, I indicated technology from Lancaster University, that could store four times as much hydrogen in a given size of tank.

This reduced tank size would make the following possible.

  • The hydrogen tank, the fuel cell and the batteries could be located underneath the four-cars of the Class 319 train.
  • The seating capacity of the Class 799 train could be the same as that of a Class 319 train.

Clever electronics would link everything together.

If BCRRE succeed in their development and produce a working hydrogen-powered Class 799 train, how would the technology be used?

Personally, I don’t think we’ll see too many hydrogen-powered Class 799 trains, running passengers on the UK network.

  • The trains are based on a thirty-year-old train.
  • The interiors are rather utilitarian and would need a lot of improvement, to satisfy what passengers expect.
  • Their market can probably be filled in the short-term by more Class 769 trains.

But I do believe that the technology could be applied to more modern trains.

A Hydrogen-Powered Electrostar

Porterbrook own at least twenty four-car Electrostar trains, which have been built in recent years.

Six Class 387 trains, currently used by c2c, may come off lease in the next few years.

Could these trains be converted into a train with the following specification?

  • Modern train interior, with lots of tables and everything passengers want.
  • No reduction in passenger capacity.
  • 110 mph operating speed using electrification.
  • Useful speed and range on hydrogen power.
  • ERTMS capability, which Porterbrook are fitting to the Class 387 trains to be used by Heathrow Express.

It should be born in mind, that a closely-related Class 379 train proved the concept of a UK battery train.

  • The train was converted by Bombardier.
  • It ran successfully for three months between Manningtree and Harwich.
  • The interior of the train was untouched.

But what was impressive was that the train was converted to battery operation and back to normal operation in a very short time.

This leads me to think, that adding new power sources to an Electrostar, is not a complicated rebuild of the train’s electrical system.

If the smaller hydrogen tank, fuel cell and batteries can be fitted under a Class 319 train, I suspect that fitting them under an Electrostar will be no more difficult.

I believe that once the technology is proven with the Class 799 train, then there is no reason, why later Electrostars couldn’t be converted to hydrogen power.

  • Class 387 trains from c2c, Great Northern and Great Western Railway.
  • Class 379 trains, that will be released from Greater Anglia by new Class 745 trains.
  • Class 377 trains from Southeastern could be released by the new franchise holder.

In addition, some Class 378 trains on the London Overground could be converted for service on the proposed West London Orbital Railway.

A Hydrogen-Powered Aventra

If the Electrostar can be converted, I don’t see why an Aventra couldn’t be fitted with a similar system.

Conclusion

A smaller hydrogen tank, holding hydrogen at a high-density would enable trains to be converted without major structural modifications or reducing the passenger capacity.

The development of a more efficient method of hydrogen storage, would open up the possibilities for the conversion of trains to electric-hydrogen hybrid trains.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 13, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

42 Technology To Showcase Adaptable Carriage On Innovation Hub Train

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Cambridge Network,

This page on the 42 Technology web site, is the original press release.

These are the first two paragraphs.

42 Technology has installed its innovative Adaptable Carriage seating system into a real train carriage for the first time as part of its Innovate UK ‘First of a Kind’ project.

The system has been installed on Porterbrook’s Innovation Hub which will be launched next week at Rail Live 2019 (19-20 June) at Quinton Rail Technology Centre, the dedicated rail testing and trialling site near Stratford-upon-Avon.

Porterbrook’s Innovation Hub is a Class 319 train, that is made available for innovators.

Like 42 Technology, an innovator might have ideas for how to design the inside of a train, or someone might want to run an innovative freight service and wants to design the containers.

At the lowest level, the Innovation Hub, gives innovators, the chance to see inside a real train.

This article on the BBC is entitled Pacer trains ‘could be used as village halls’.

Surely, the leasing companies, who own these trains should park one at a convenient site and allow interested parties and the wider public to look at it.

Who knows what will happen? There are some crazy people with even crazier ideas out there! But successful innovation is liberally sprinkled with people, who were three-quarters of the way to the funny farm.

 

June 13, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Infrastructure Delays Force Northern To Soldier On With Pacers

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

This is the first paragraph.

Forty-six Pacers remained in traffic with Northern at the start of January, after they were supposed to have been sent off-lease.

Northern are saying they are still in service because of delays in the delivery of the electrification through Bolton, which would have allowed the replacement of Pacers with electric trains.

The situation has not been helped by the late delivery of eight Class 769 trains, which could be running partially-electrified routes.

The Class 331 trains should also be arriving this year.

As there are also some more Class 319 trains in store, it does look like Northern’s blaming of the late electrification is on the mark.

 

 

 

 

January 22, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Class 769 Flex In Action

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

The article describes a ride in a Class 769 train, which is under test on the Grand Central Railway.

The article is very comprehensive, so if you want information on the progress of these trains, you ought to read the article.

One overall impression, I received, was that the train is a lot quieter, than the author expected.

This was the last sentence.

That said, based on the Flex experience, this writer would rather travel on a Class 769 than on a Class 150.

I can’t wait to have a ride, when they enter service in the New Year.

The article also gives a summary of Porterbrook’s various FLEX projects, which are taking redundant, but very serviceable electric-trains and converting them into self-powered trains needed on the UK rail network.

The article also says this about the future of the Class 319 trains.

There are 86 Class 319 four-car units, all of which were made redundant from the Thameslink route. Porterbrook has been successful in placing approximately 45 units for further use – 32 for Northern (eight of which will be converted to Flex specification) and 13 units with West Midlands Trains. In addition, there are Flex orders for five units for Wales, 19 units for Great Western Railway and one for the University of Birmingham (the HydroFLEX). This makes a grand total of 71 of the 86 units, leaving 15 still to find new homes.

I believe that Porterbrook’s reaction to finding that they had a fleet of trains for some of which, there were no obvious uses has been admirable. But also very pragmatic and hopefully financially rewarding in the long-term.

Looking back to the days of British Rail, these trains would probably have been sent to the scrapyard.

 

December 21, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

Ballard Receives Order From Porterbrook for Fuel Cell Module to Power UK HydroFLEX Train

The title of this post is the same as this article on Cision.

The article says that the copy has been provided by Ballard.

This is the first paragraph.

VANCOUVER and DERBY, U.K., Dec. 13, 2018 /CNW/ – Ballard Power Systems (NASDAQ: BLDP; TSX: BLDP) today announced that it has received a purchase order from Porterbrook Leasing Company Limited (“Porterbrook”; http://www.porterbrook.co.uk), a leading participant in the rail leasing market, for an FCveloCity®-HD fuel cell module and related support to power a HydroFLEX train in the U.K.

The article says this about the HydroFLEX train.

The HydroFLEX will be the U.K.’s first fully sized hydrogen demonstrator train. It will showcase how hydrogen can be used to power a train that retains the ability to operate across existing electric routes, on either 3rd rail or 25kV overhead power. Testing and demonstration runs are planned for the summer of 2019 at RailLive, which will take place at Long Marston in Warwickshire.

That sounds like it could be a date for my diary.

Strictly A Demonstrator

In this article on Rail Engineer, which is entitled Hydroflex – The Next Iteration Of The Flex Concept,there is a section entitled Strictly A Demonstrator, from which this was taken.

In response to Rail Engineer’s questions, BCRRE said that the demonstrator version focuses on delivering an electric/hydrogen bi-mode to UK gauge.

So the HydroFLEX is more about research., which I believe is a good route.

  • My feelings on seeing the Alstom Coradia iLint in Germany, was that they had launched too early!
  • Getting a University to run a demonstrator might show up the smaller problems associated with a complex project.
  • Birmingham University may also have access to better mathematics and computing.
  • The interior of the train can be used for test equipment and hydrogen tanks.

I also suspect that a well-designed demonstrator could help with the repurposing of Porterbrook’s extensive fleet, by doing appropriate research.

The Fuel Cell

The Ballard fuel cell is a HD variant of their  FCveloCity family.

This page on the Ballard web site is the data sheet.

  • The fuel cells come in three sizes 60, 85 and 100 kW
  • The largest fuel cell would appear to be around 1.2 m x 1 m x 0.5 m and weigh around 400 Kg.
  • The fuel cell has an associated cooling subsystem, that can provide heat for the train.

It would appear that mounting the fuel cell under the train floor would be a feasible proposition. I would assume that the cell would be placed under one of the driver cars.

If you search the Internet, you’ll find there is a lot of fuel cell companies out there innovating like crazy and fighting for market share.

I don’t think there will be any problem with the fuel cell in the HydroFLEX train.

The Electrical System

The electrical system of the Class 319 train is simple.

  • There is a 750 VDC busbar, which connects to all four cars.
  • The busbar is fed by the 25 KVAC overhead or 750 VDC third-rail electrification.
  • One of the middle cars has the pantograph and the other has four 247.5 kW traction motors, which power the whole train.
  • There is no regenerative braking capability.
  • The two driver cars are only differentiated, by the seats installe by the operator.

It looks to me that this was a sensible piece of 1980s engineering by British Rail to create a low-cost dual-voltage train.

I do wonder, if the originator of this system is still hale and hearty. I suspect they are, as they certainly know how to design for a long life.

When Porterbrook commissioned the Class 769 train, the two diesel generators under the driver cars were connected into this busbar.

They didn’t add any energy storage to the train, although as I said in Brush Traction Signs Contract With Skeleton Technologies For Modules For Class 769 Trains, they have added SkelStart capacitors to start the diesel generators.

Effectively, the Class 769 train is an electric or diesel train, just like the Class 319 train is an overhead or third-rail electrificsation train.

Will the fuel cell of the HydroFLEX train be connected to the electrical system of the train in the same way?

Or will energy storage, be added to the drive train?

In a more advanced design, batteries or capacitors could be in the motored car.

  • They would be charged from the busbar.
  • They would power the traction motors.

If the traction motors, were to be changed to modern ones, that could perform regenerative braking, then this energy could be used to recharge the battery.

The Fuel Tank

I suspect as the train is for research, that a standard off-the-shelf hydrogen tank will be used.

This page on the Fuel Cells And Hydrogen Joint Undertaking, is entitled Improved Hydrogen Tanks For Fuel Cell Cars Of The Future.

This is the first paragraph.

The EU funded COPERNIC project, supported by the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU), succeeded in improving the quality of materials and design of hydrogen storage tanks for cars. It also made the manufacturing of these tanks more cost efficient, helping to make hydrogen cars a more viable and competitive option.

I think it is highly likely, that a well-designed hydrogen tank, could probably share the space under the driver car with the fuel cell.

If it can’t then as it’s a research project a few seats can be taken out.

 

 

 

December 16, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

UK Hydrogen Train Demonstrator To Be Tested In 2019

The title of this post, is the same as that on this article on Railway Gazette.

This is the first two paragraphs.

A memorandum of understanding for the development of a hydrogen fuel cell demonstrator train was signed by leasing company Porterbrook and the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Railway Research & Education at InnoTrans on September 19.

Porterbrook is to provide an ex-Thameslink Class 319 25 kV 50 Hz/750 V DC third rail electric multiple-unit for the Hydro Flex project. The partners expect it to be equipped with a fuel cell system and ready for demonstration runs in mid-2019. It would retain the ability to use electrical power.

Action is certainly happening in the development of low-emission trains and it appears, that the train leasing companies are taking an active lead.

 

 

September 21, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

A Very Smart Class 319 Train

On my trip to Bricket Wood station yesterday, I travelled from Watford Junction station in a very smart Class 319 train.

These pictures show the train.

It certainly shows how Mark 3-based stock has the ability to scrub up well!

West Midlands Trains have nine of these Class 319 trains, which are mainly used for peak hour services on the West Coast Main Line.

One gets used on the Abbey Line.

The current arrangement probably works reasonably well from the train operators point of view.

However, passengers probably need a regular half-hourly service, which would need two trains and a passing loop at Bricket Wood station.

These trains are going to be replaced with new five-car Class 730 trains in 2020-21.

Will these new trains be used on the Abbey Line?

If the passing loop is installed at Bricket Wood, then two trains might be able to provide a half-hourly service. Although, having seen Bricket Wood station yesterday, a passing loop with electrification and a second platform would be a more expensive .option.

I discuss the various options in Could Modern Technology And Developments Improve the Abbey Line?.

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

Bricket Wood Station – 25th June 2018

These pictures show Bricket Wood station on the Abbey Line.

It was a tidy clean station served by a very smart Class 319 train.

Wikipedia says the following about the future of the station.

Installation of Oyster card readers on the stations along the branch is a possibility, although there are other ticketing options too.

Restoration of the crossing loop is being considered by the local authorities and Network Rail, which would facilitate trains running every 30 minutes.

Both actions would appear to be sensible. In Could Modern Technology And Developments Improve the Abbey Line?, I discuss how by using trains with batteries and a loop without electrification, may be an alternative way to install a passing loop.

I suspect that the station is long enough for a six-car train.

June 25, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment