The Anonymous Widower

Would A Lower Cost Rail Link To Skelmersdale Be Possible?

In the Wikipedia entry for Skelmersdale railway station, there is a section called Reopening Proposals, where this is said.

Skelmersdale has been described as the largest town in North-West England that doesn’t have a railway station, although Leigh, Greater Manchester, which also has no station is larger.

This section called 2022, gives the latest status of the proposals to connect Skelmersdale to the UK rail network.

Government reinforces that the station proposals are being considered. Rosie Cooper calls for the new Rail Minister to visit Skelmersdale, in order to aid the DfT’s decision. However, the Department for Transport announced in July 2022 that it was rejecting the Strategic Outline Business Case, throwing the scheme into doubt. The DfT instead suggested that better bus links with the Kirkby–Wigan rail line would be a cheaper way of improving connectivity for Skelmersdale.

This Google Map shows the town of Skelmersdale.

Skelmersdale is a town with an extensive road network, with good links to the M58 motorway.

I would suspect, that those who don’t have access to a car or some other form of personal transport, are second-class citizens.

According to Wikipedia, in the latest statement from the DfT, this was said.

The DfT instead suggested that better bus links with the Kirkby–Wigan rail line would be a cheaper way of improving connectivity for Skelmersdale.

I would simplify the DfT statement by removing the word bus. All transport links should be improved.

Consider.

  • By the end of 2023, there will be five stations between Kirkby and Wigan; Headbolt Lane, Rainford, Upholland, Orrell and Pemberton.
  • Upholland station is the nearest to Skelmersdale.
  • Headbolt Lane station is being built with approximately 300 car parking spaces.
  • Rainford station has ten car parking spaces.
  • Upholland station has no car parking.
  • Orrell station has no car parking.
  • Pemberton station has no car parking.
  • From Google Maps it doesn’t look promising to add parking at Rainford, Upholland, Orrell and Pemberton stations.
  • Only Headbolt Lane station will have bicycle parking.
  • Headbolt Lane station will have direct rail access to Liverpool.
  • Headbolt Lane, Rainford, Upholland, Orrell and Pemberton stations will have direct rail access to Wigan and Manchester.
  • Headbolt Lane station will be built with provision for buses.
  • Skelmersdale bus station is at the main shopping centre in the centre of the town.

After Headbolt station opens in 2023, I would do the following.

  • Provide a high-capacity bus service between Headbolt Lane station and Skelmersdale.
  • Provide secure bicycle parking at Rainford, Upholland, Orrell and Pemberton stations.
  • Investigate a bus service between Upholland station and Skelmersdale.
  • Monitor all passenger movements in the area, to see whether a rail link is needed.

Once Headbolt Lane station and the new services settle down, it should be possible to make a good estimate of the number of passengers who would use the rail link.

These are my thoughts on a lower-cost service to a new Skelmersdale station.

The Current Plan For A Branch To Skelmersdale

This map from OpenRailwayMap shows the proposed future railway between Skelmersdale and the Wigan and Kirkby Line.

Note.

  1. The new branch to Skelmersdale is shown dotted.
  2. The Northern end of the branch is in the Concourse shopping centre in Skelmersdale.
  3. The branch goes under the M 58 Motorway.
  4. The branch joins the Wigan and Kirkby Line in a triangular junction.
  5. Rainford station is to the West of the junction.
  6. Upholland station is to the East of the junction.

It could be a complete solution.

Will There Be A Direct Service Between Skelmersdale And Liverpool?

I feel the design of Headbolt Lane station precludes this, as there doesn’t appear to be a line through Headbolt Lane station, as all three platforms are terminal platforms, with two serving Liverpool and one serving Wigan and Manchester.

Passengers would need to change at Headbolt Lane station, if travelling between Skelmersdale And Liverpool.

Will There Be A Direct Service Between Skelmersdale And Manchester?

This would appear to be possible.

Could The Original Route Be Used?

The original Skelmersdale Branch ran between Rainford and Ormskirk, with a station on the West side of Skelmersdale.

This Google Map shows the route.

Note.

  1. Skelmersdale town centre and the Concourse shopping centre are in the North-East corner of the map.
  2. The M 58 motoway runs across the top of the map.
  3. The dark green scar of the Skelmersdale branch runs down the West side of the map.
  4. Just below, where the motorway and the old railway cross, there is a large landfill.
  5. Rainford station on the Wigan and Kirkby Line is towards the bottom of the map.

I wonder, if a lower-cost track layout could be slotted in partially using the route of the old railway.

  • It would be mainly single track.
  • The branch would only connect to Headbolt Lane station.
  • A passing loop would be needed to run two trains per hour (tph).
  • It might be possible to slot a single-track through to the centre of Skelmersdale.

Would it be an alternative, if a Park-And-Ride station were built near or on top of the landfill?

What Would Be The Train Service?

Southport station has the following services.

  • Four tph to and from Liverpool
  • Two tph to and from Wigan Wallgate and Manchester

I think reasons of fairness would dictate that Skelmersdale has a two tph service to both Liverpool and Manchester.

It is also worth looking at the services through Wigan Wallgate station.

  • 1 tph – between Southport and Alderley Edge via Westhoughton and Manchester Piccadilly
  • 1 tph – between Southport and Stalybridge via Westhoughton and Manchester Victoria
  • 1 tph – between Kirkby and Blackburn via Atherton and Manchester Victoria

The third service does not run on Sundays. This is surely an omission in the timetable, that should be rectified.

Wigan Wallgate And Skelmersdale Via Headbolt Lane

As I said earlier Headbolt Lane station is a station with three terminal platforms, two of which will have trains to and from Liverpool and the other will have trains to and from Wigan Wallgate and Manchester.

If Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale stations are connected by a route using the original branch, it would be possible to run a service between Wigan Wallgate and Skelmersdale stations with a reverse at Headbolt Lane station.

Note.

  1. The Kirkby and Wigan Wallgate Line is double-track and all stations have two platforms.
  2. A passing loop on the Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale section would probably be needed for two tph.
  3. Passengers between Skelmersdale and Liverpool would change at Headbolt Lane station.
  4. There would be no changes to services between Liverpool and Headbolt Lane stations and they would remain at 4 tph.
  5. Preferably, Wigan Wallgate and Skelmersdale would operate at two tph.
  6. All stations between Wigan Wallgate and Headbolt Lane would get two tph to Manchester.
  7. I estimate that Wigan Wallgate to Skelmersdale is less than twenty miles.
  8. In Bolton-Wigan £78m Rail Electrification Project Announced, I indicate that Wigan Wallgate station will be electrified.

The service to Manchester could either be direct or with a change at Wigan Wallgate to a Southport service.

A Shuttle Train Between Wigan Wallgate And Skelmersdale Via Headbolt Lane

This may be an alternative to running the Skelmersdale service all the way to Manchester.

  • Services would terminate in the bay Platform 3 at Wigan Wallgate station.
  • Passengers to and from Manchester would catch a Southport train.
  • The frequency of the shuttle train would be two tph.

Using a shuttle would need less trains.

Rolling Stock

The Wikipedia entry for the Kirkby branch line, shows the service being run by a Class 150 train, which are diesel-powered.

Services on the Manchester and Southport Line are run by a variety of diesel multiple units and all Class 769 trains.

If the platforms at Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale are built to handle four-car trains, then Northern have any number of diesel multiple units and the Class 769 trains, which could run the service.

But there is also the possibility of using battery-electric multiple units, like the Class 321 BEMU train, that I wrote about in Eversholt Rail And Vivarail To Develop Class 321 BEMU.

  • The distance between Wigan Wallgate and Skelmersdale is probably about twenty miles.
  • Charging would be needed at Skelmersdale station.
  • Wigan Wallgate would need an electrified route to Manchester.
  • It also appears that the Class 321 BEMU, which will have a 30 minute range could handle the Wigan Wallgate and Southport leg on batteries.
  • If a battery-electric shuttle train is used between Wigan Wallgate and Skelmersdale, it would be charged at both ends of the route.

It appears to me, that if Network Rail electrify between Wigan Wallgate and Manchester, then services between Manchester and Kirkby, Skelmersdale and Southport could be run by Class 321 BEMU trains, which with their Renatus interiors will not be British Rail trains rescued from the scrapyard.

It will also mean passengers between Liverpool and Skelmersdale will be using two smart trains.

Conclusion

Consider.

  • New track should be the minimum possible between Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale stations.
  • Network Rail must electrify between Manchester and Wigan Wallgate.
  • Class 321 BEMU trains should be used between Manchester and Headbolt Lane, Skelmersdale and Southport.

I believe that there is an affordable solution to the provision of electric train services to Skelmersdale somewhere in my ramblings.

 

 

August 26, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eversholt Rail And Vivarail To Develop Class 321 BEMU

The title of this post, is the same as that of this press release from Eversholt Rail.

These three paragraphs introduce the project.

Eversholt Rail and Vivarail have signed an agreement aimed at developing battery power – and range extension – to the Class 321 ‘Renatus’ fleet.

The 30 unit ‘Renatus’ fleet is a product of £65m investment in AC traction, air conditioning and upgraded interior. Completed in 2019, it provides a high-quality passenger experience, proven reliability in intensive operations and is widely compatible on the UK network. This fleet is currently operating on the Greater Anglia network until the introduction of their new trains is completed.

Eversholt Rail and Vivarail are committed to supporting the UK Government’s ambition to decarbonise its rail sector by 2050, and the Scottish Government’s objective of doing so by 2035. This proven and reliable fleet is an excellent fit in terms of characteristics, fleet size and availability for conversion to a Battery Electric Multiple Unit (BEMU). Vivarail, as the designers and manufacturers of the UK’s only battery and hybrid trains currently in passenger service are well positioned to progress this development.

This paragraph talks about the design objectives.

We will be working together to develop a design to integrate battery technology to provide between 20 to 30 miles of self-propulsion. Enabling the fleet to operate on non-electrified or partly electrified routes would offer the opportunity to increase the range of modern, low-carbon options to accommodate passenger demand; to enable fleet cascades; to improve the passenger experience; and to bring air quality and decarbonisation benefits to local areas.

I have a few thoughts on what I have read so far.

Vivarail’s Technology

In Battery Class 230 Train Demonstration At Bo’ness And Kinneil Railway, I talked about a ride in the battery version of Vivarail’s Class 230 train.

The train impressed me, as it did others that day.

I know that the train is late on being introduced on the Borderlands Line in Wales, but then all bi-mode or tri-mode trains seem to be having software problems.

In D-Train Order For Marston Vale Confirmed, I talked about the technicalities of Vivarail’s battery train.

Battery Prototype

The article also gives more details of the battery prototype.

  • The train has four battery rafts, each with a capacity of 106 kWh
  • Range is up to fifty miles with a ten minute charge at each end of the journey.
  • Range will increase as battery technology improves.
  • The train is charged using a patented automatic charging point.
  • The batteries will have a seven-year lifespan, backed by a full warranty.
  • Battery rafts would appear to be interchangeable with the diesel generators.
  • Hydrogen power will be used within the next few years.

The specification seems comprehensive and it would appear there is a high degree of innovative automation and well-thought-out electrical engineering.

Train Energy Consumption

The train has the following characteristics.

  • Two cars
  • 424 kWh of battery capacity.
  • 50 mile range

This gives a consumption 4.24 kWh/per car/per mile.

In an article in the October 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, which is entitled Celling England By The Pound, Ian Walmsley says this in relation to trains running on the Uckfield Branch, which is probably not much more taxing than the Marston Vale Line.

A modern EMU needs between 3 and 5 kWh per vehicle mile for this sort of service.

I am surprised that the Class 230 train lies in the 3-5 kWh range, but then I’m not sure of the weights of the two trains.

I estimate two-car units to weigh as follows.

  • Class 230 train plus batteries – Around 50 tonnes.
  • Electrostar – Around 90 tonnes
  • Aventra – Around 80 tonnes

I shall get some better figures, when I actually see the trains, as the weight is on the side.

Note.

I should say, that I have met some of Vivarail’s designers and I have been impressed.

They were also very complimentary about the D78 Stock, where it appears no expense was spared by Transport for London to keep them up to scratch.

I will apply Ian Walmsley’s rule in the extract to the Class 321 train.

  • Four cars
  • Thirty miles
  • As the Class 321 Renatus has a modern traction system, I’ll assume it is efficient and uses 3 kWh per vehicle mile for a gentle short branch line.
  • These figures would need a 360 kWh battery.

If the consumption was 5 kWh per vehicle mile, it would be a 600 kWh battery.

Under Train Space

There is plenty of space under a Class 321 train, as these pictures show.

My design would see a battery under each car, if that were possible to even out the weight.

The Renatus Interior

These pictures show the Renatus train and interior.

Not bad for a train approaching its mid-thirties.

Will The Train Have Third-Rail Shoe Gear?

I have read the technical documents for Porterbrook’s Class 769 train, which this is based on the Class 319 train.

In the Wikipedia entry for the Class 319 train, this is said,

Class 321 passenger units and Class 325 postal units were developed from the Class 319 design, using similar traction equipment and the same steel body design, with revised cab designs. The 325 units used a Networker style cab design.

It looks like except for cosmetic differences in the drivers cab, the Class 319, Class 321 and Class 325 trains are identical under the skin.

Does this mean that like the Class 319 train, Class 321 trains can be fitted with third-rail shoes?

It should be noted, that if the trains can be fitted with third-rail shoes, then Vivarail’s Fast Charge system can be used to charge the train.

Could Other Trains Be Converted?

It certainly looks like in addition to the Class 321 trains, both the Class 319 and Class 325 trains can be converted to battery-electric power.

These three trains are all members of British Rail’s Mark 3 family, which were designed before computers were used in structural design to be able to withstand the force of a twenty-four tonne cement truck falling on them from a bridge. On the 5th of November 2010, this nightmare scenario happened in the Oxshott Rail Accident and no-one was killed.

So to avoid the scrapyard, trains based on the Mark 3 coach, like the Class 320, Class 322, Class 455 and Class 456 trains will be happy to sign up to the Eversholt Rail and Vivarail conversion process.

  • The Class 320 trains are three-cars, so would offer another type of train.
  • The Class 322 trains are four-cars, were built for the Stanstead Express.
  • The Class 455 trains are four-cars with third-rail gear, so would offer another type of train.
  • The Class 456 trains are two-cars with third-rail gear, so would offer another type of train.

In SWR Says Farewell To ‘456’s, I talk about converting the two-car Class 456 trains after Mark Hopwood, who is now a big cheese at Great Western Railway, suggested the conversion to create a useful two-car battery-electric train.

If you doubt, the quality of the bodies and interiors of these trains from another era, I suggest you go to Liverpool Street station and take a ride in one of Greater Anglia’s Class 321 Renatus trains.

As there are six classes that could be converted, various different types of train can be converted to suit an operator’s needs.

Main Line Speed

Most of these trains are 100 mph trains, with drivers telling me, that they have superb brakes to handle stopping from that speed.

However, Class 455 and Class 456 trains are only 75 mph trains, with some of the Class 320 trains being only 90 mph trains.

Accidents And Incidents

As far as I can tell, none of these trains has had a serious accident, that has resulted in the death of a passenger.

Even the Oxshott Rail Accident only resulted in two serious and five minor injuries, with one of the serious injuries being the driver of the cement truck.

It is a remarkable safety record.

 

Possible Routes

I will do these on a company-by-company basis, as all companies needs are different.

c2c

c2c is an all-electric company.

I doubt there is a possibility of the company needing any battery-electric trains.

Chiltern Railways

Chiltern Railways is an all-diesel company.

They effectively have three different types of motive power and the solutions for each will be different.

  • Six Class 68 locomotives haul Chiltern’s flagship main line services. As there are thirty-four of these modern locomotives in operation in the UK, I would suspect their manufacturer; Stadler will come up with a zero-carbon solution for application to these locomotives. I suspect they will become hydrogen-powered.
  • Workhorses are 28 Class 168 trains totalling eighty-five carriages. One has been converted to hybrid operation by Rolls-Royce mtu and I suspect that Rolls-Royce mtu have a plan to make all these trains zero-carbon by 2030.
  • There are also 39 Class 165 trains, which are diesel Networkers, dating from the 1990s.

I suspect that as the Networkers are the oldest in the fleet, these might be replaced with new rolling stock or some cascaded Turbostars.

I also wonder, whether Chiltern’s owner; Deutsche Bahn is watching the development of the Rolls-Royce mtu solution as it could be very applicable in Germany.

Govia Thameslink Railway

Govia Thameslink Railway is an all-electric railway except for two services, where diesel multiple units are used.

  • Eastbourne and Ashford International – 25.4 miles one-way – Charge at Eastbourne and Ashford International using existing electrification or a charger.
  • London Bridge and Uckfield – 25 miles one way – Charge at Hurst Green and Uckfield using existing electrification or a charger.

Note.

  1. The trains would need a third-rail capability.
  2. The company also has a fleet of nineteen forty-year-old Class 313 trains, which are used on Coastway services.
  3. The Class 321 BEMUs could take over all Coastway services between Ashford International and Portsmouth, which would probably make things easier for the operator, with respect to staff training.

The addition of a fleet of Class 321 BEMUs or similar would surely be a sensible move to improve Govia Thameslink Railway services.

Great Western Railway

This article on Railway Gazette is entitled GWR Seeks Input To Decarbonisation Plan.

This is the first four paragraphs.

Great Western Railway is to undertake a market engagement exercise to support its development of a decarbonisation plan including a move away from diesel traction.

The operator is seeking industry input to inform the creation of a Future Fleet & Depot Proposal, setting out ‘affordable’ options for decarbonisation whilst improving and aligning services to future customer needs.

This could include automated rapid battery charging and innovative approaches to energy supply.

The Future Fleet & Depot Proposal will be submitted to the Department for Transport. If accepted by DfT, GWR would then begin procurement of rolling stock and supporting infrastructure. It envisages that this could get underway in September 2024.

It looks a good plan.

In Converting Class 456 Trains Into Two-Car Battery Electric Trains, I opened the post with this quote from Mark Hopwood who at the time was the interim Managing Director of South Western Railway and in Special Train Offers A Strong Case For Reopening Fawley Line, I quote him as saying the following about the trains for the Fawley Branch Line.

However, SWR’s Mark Hopwood favours a much bolder plan. “We’d have to take a decision, once we knew the line was going ahead. But my personal belief is that we should be looking for a modern environmentally-friendly train that can use third-rail electricity between Southampton and Totton and maybe operate on batteries down the branch line.”

Pressed on whether that would mean Vivarail-converted former-London Underground stock, Hopwood ads. “It could be. Or it could be a conversion of our own Class 456, which will be replaced by new rolling stock very shortly. But I don’t think this is the time to use old diesels.

Mark Hopwood is so right about using old diesels and he has moved on to be Managing Director of Great Western Railway.

Could Mr. Hopwood be a driving force behind the decarbonisation of the Great Western Railway?

These trains will be possibilities for battery-electric trains.

  • Newbury and Bedwyn – Four cars – 13.3 miles one way – Charge at Newbury using existing electrification
  • West Ealing and Greenford – Two cars – 2.5 miles one-way – Charge at West Ealing
  • Slough and Windsor & Eton Central – Four cars – 2.8 miles one-way – Charge at Slough using existing electrification
  • Maidenhead and Marlow – Two cars – 7.1 miles one way – Charge at Maidenhead using existing electrification – Four car trains could run between Bourne End and Paddington
  • Twyford and Henley-on-Thames – Four cars – 4.6 miles one-way – Charge at Twyford using extended existing electrification – Trains could run to Paddington
  • Reading and Gatwick Airport – Four cars – 17.4 and 12.1 mile sections without electrification – Charge on existing third-rail electrification
  • Reading and Redhill – Four cars – 17.4 and 12.1 mile sections without electrification – Charge on existing third-rail electrification
  • Reading and Basingstoke – Four cars – 13.6 miles one-way – Charge at Reading using existing electrification
  • Didcot Parkway and Oxford – Four cars – 10.3 miles one-way – Charge at Didcot Parkway using existing electrification
  • Didcot Parkway and Banbury – Four cars – 33 miles one-way – Charge at Didcot Parkway using existing electrification – Charger or electrification needed at Banbury
  • Cardiff Central and Portsmouth Harbour – Probably needs electrification in the Bristol area.
  • Cardiff Central and Taunton – Probably needs electrification in the Bristol area.
  • Weston-super-Mare and Severn Beach – Two/Four cars – 45 miles one-way – Charge at Bristol Temple Meads, Weston-super-Mare and Severn Beach
  • Bristol Temple Meads and Avonmouth – Two/Four cars – 16.6 miles one-way – Charge at Bristol Temple Meads and Avonmouth
  • Bristol Temple Meads and Filton Abbey Wood – Four cars – 4.4 miles one-way – Charge at Bristol Temple Meads
  • Great Malvern and Westbury – Probably needs electrification in the Bristol area.
  • Gloucester and Weymouth – Probably needs electrification in the Bristol area.
  • Swindon and Westbury – Two/Four cars  32.5 miles one-way – Charge at Swindon and Westbury
  • Exmouth and Paignton – Four cars – 39.5 miles one-way – Charge at Exeter St. Davids, Exmouth and Paignton
  • Exeter Central and Barnstaple – Two/Four cars – 39.6 miles one-way – Charge at Exeter St. Davids and Barnstaple
  • Exeter Central and Okehampton – Two/Four cars – 25.6 miles one-way – Charge at Exeter St. Davids and Okehampton
  • Plymouth and Gunnislake – Two cars – 14.6 miles one-way – Charge at Plymouth and Gunnislake
  • Liskeard to Looe – Two cars – 8.3 miles one-way – Charge at Liskeard
  • Par and Newquay – Two cars – 20.8 miles one-way – Charge at Par and Newquay
  • Truro and Falmouth Docks – 11.8 miles one-way – Charge at Truro
  • St Erth and St Ives – 4.2 miles one-way – Charge at St. Erth

Note.

  1. Many of the charging stations could be standard systems that are available from companies like Furrer+Frey and Vivarail.
  2. Or alternatively, a short length of 25 KVAC overhead electrification could be erected.
  3. I suspect major stations like Bristol Temple Meads, Exeter St. Davids and Plymouth will be electrified.
  4. There probably needs to be more electrification in the Bristol area.
  5. Mark Hopwood’s nose, that said two-car trains will be needed, is probably right.
  6. Some of the trains would need a third-rail capability.

I suspect that with appropriate charging or electrification nearly all of Great Western Railways services can be run using battery-electric trains.

It does appear that Eversholt Rail Group and Vivarail have got the specification of the trains very close to the ideal, with respect to Great Western Railway’s needs.

Southeastern

Southeastern is a fully-decarbonised train operating company, with respect to passenger services.

But it wants to reopen the Hoo Branch, which will need some self-powered trains. I wrote about this in Effort To Contain Costs For Hoo Reopening.

The Class 321 BEMU would surely be a possibility to extend London and Gravesend services, by a distance of about a dozen miles to a new station at Hoo.

These trains would need a third-rail capability.

 

 

August 17, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments