The Anonymous Widower

A Visualisation Of An Alstom Breeze Hydrogen-Powered Train

I have found a visualisation of an Alstom Breeze hydrogen-powered train on Twitter.

Click To View!!

January 15, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , | Leave a comment

Comparing A Class 769 Train With An Alstom Breeze

Who’d have thought that two thirty-year-old British Rail-era electrical multiple units, would be fighting in the same market for bi-mode trains to replace diesel multiple units?

Class 319 Train

Class 319 trains started life as four-car dual-voltage  electrical multiple units for Thameslink and Porterbrook are now converting them into four-car electro-diesel multiple units, which have been given the TOPS classification of Class 769 trains.

Class 321 Train

Class 321 trains started life as four-car 100 mph electrical multiple units for East Anglia and Eversholt and Alstom are now converting them into hydrogen-powered multiple units, which have been given the name of Breeze.

So how does a Class 769 compare with an Alstom Breeze?

Ability To Work Using Electrification

This article on Rail Engineer, which is all about the Class 769 train, is entitled Bi-Mode Good, Tri-Mode Better.

The title says it all about the ability to work from three different power sources.

  • 25 KVAC overhead electrification
  • 750 VDC third-rail electrification
  • Onboard power from two diesel generators.

This must have impressed Great Western Railway as they’ve ordered nineteen trains.

Nothing has been directly said, about whether an Alstom Breeze can use electrification, but as the partially-electrified Liverpool to Chester route has reportedly been chosen as a test route, I would think, that the ability to use electrification is very likely.

Operating Speed

In the Rail Engineer article, this is said about the operating speed of a Class 769 train.

Modelling has shown the gradient balancing speed on a flat gradient when powered by the diesel engines to be approximately 87 mph and the trains will retain the 100 mph capability when powered by electricity.

Alstom are claiming 87 mph on hydrogen power.

Operational Range

My brochure for a Class 769 train, says this about the operational range of the train.

Class 769 could operate the route between Manchester and Buxton and achieve timings equal to a Class 150. The Class 769 unit would have the capacity to make five return trips per day for two days before refuelling is required.

This is a total of about 540 km on a route, which climbs three hundred metres with twelve stops.

Alstom quote the Breeze as having a range of a thousand km. But over what sort of terrain!

This doesn’t appear to be an equal comparison.

So perhaps the Buxton trials should be undertaken!

Refuelling

The Class 769 train runs partially on diesel fuel, which makes the train easy to refuel.

The Alstom Breeze needs a hydrogen supply, which can either be sourced from a piped or tanked supply or a local hydrogen generator.

I believe that as Alstom are going down the hydrogen route, at least on a Europe-wide basis, that the provision of hydrogen, will not be a large problem.

Passenger Capacity

When they were built, I suspect that as both trains had a lot of 2+3 seating, that the capacity of both trains was very similar.

My brochure for a Class 769 train shows a suggested layout with 12 First Class seats, 255 Standard Class seats and a Universal Access Toilet.

In Hydrogen Trains Ready To Steam Ahead, I estimated that a three-car Alstom Breeze would have a seating capacity of around 140 seats, with the ability to perhaps take an additional 160 standees.

I also believe that longer versions of Alstom Breezes are possible, with the addition of trailer cars. I estimate capacities, which would include standees could be.

  • Four-car – 450 passengers
  • Five-car – 600 passengers

Both Class 769 trains and Alstom Breezes would appear to have sufficient capacity for typical routes.

Noise Signature

I have not heard either train in action, as neither is in service yet.

This article on Rail Engineer is entitled Class 769 In Action.

This is an extract talking about the noise and vibration of a Class 769 train.

There was no need to worry; just walking through the car park with the train alongside was a revelation. The two idling MAN diesel engines were almost purring; none of the ‘rattling’ that one is used to from older diesels and no visible exhaust either. A conversation at normal volume was easily possible, sitting on the benches outside the café just four metres away from the train.

As to the Alstom Breeze, it is likely to be a near-silent train, if my rides in battery-powered trains are anything to go by.

Carbon Footprint

The Alstom Breeze has a zero carbon footprint, whereas the Class 769 train will produce some carbon dioxide, as it’s partially diesel-powered.

The Alstom Breeze has the possibility of running using hydrogen produced by a zero carbon method, such as the electrolysis of water or brine using electricity from a renewable source such as geothermal, solar, water or wind power.

Recycling Credentials

Both trains effectively recycle existing trains, that would otherwise be scrapped or sold off to an operator in the Developing World.

Conclusion On Comparison

Both trains have their good points and both should find a niche market in the UK, as the Class 769 train already has with four orders for a total of thirty-nine trains.

The Future

In addition, the Alstom Breeze is a demonstrator for the company’s hydrogen technology in a train for a UK-sized rail network.

I would not be surprised, if the Breeze is successful, to see Alstom develop a family of trains based on the technology.

They would have the following characteristics.

  • Flexible length and capacity.
  • Modern aluminium construction.
  • Modern well-designed interiors with everything passengers, operators and staff want and need.
  • 100 mph on hydrogen and electrification
  • Efficient hydrogen generation and refuelling stations
  • Availability in various gauges.

I can also envisage a complete package being offered to railways in a country like Ireland or New Zealand, to run hydrogen-powered trains on a route that is currently not electrified.

By good design, I feel that the only difference between standard, Irish and narrow gauge versions would be a change of bogie.

The Gazelle In The Wings

Bombardier are proposing a 125 mph bi-mode Aventra, which I talked about in Bombardier Bi-Mode Aventra To Feature Battery Power.

Bombardier obviously have extensive mathematical models of the Aventra and just as this has led to a 125 mph bi-mode Aventra, I believe that if it is possible, Bombardier will propose a bi-mode train with the following characteristics.

  • Flexible length and capacity.
  • Small diesel engine and batteries
  • 100 mph on both diesel and electric power.
  • Level floor
  • Almost silent operation.

There will be plenty of applications for this bi-mode train.

It is interesting to note, that Bombardier have dismissed hydrogen as a fuel.

Could it be, that their modelling has shown, that the large tanks for hydrogen make a new-build hydrogen-powered bi-mode train an unviable proposition?

Diesel on the other hand is a much more convenient fuel.

Conclusion

It is going to be an interesting fight between, diesel and hydrogen bi-modes to determine the future of the rail industry.

It is a tribute to the much-maligned British Rail, that the first major battle between the two fuels is being fought using rebuilt thirty-year-old trains built by British Rail Egineering Limited.

Which fuel will win?

Some applications will be ideal for hydrogen and others will need diesel.

But as battery technology improves and electrification increases, it is likely that the need for hydrogen and diesel will decrease.

 

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

Hydrogen Trains Ready To Steam Ahead

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in today’s copy of The Times.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Hydrogen trains will be introduced in as little as two years under ambitious plans to phase out dirty diesel engines.

The trains, which are almost silent and have zero emissions, will operate at speeds of up to 90 mph and release steam only as a by-product. The new trains, which will be called “Breeze” will be employed on commuter and suburban lines by early 2021.

From the article and other published sources like Wikipedia, I can say the following.

Train Formation

The formation of some of the current Class 321 trains is as follows.

DTSO(A)+TSO+MSO+DTSO(B)

Note.

  1. The two DTSO cars are identical and are Driving Trailer Standard Open cars.
  2. The TSO car is a Trailer Standard Open car.
  3. The MSO car is a Motor Standard Open, which contains the four traction motors, the pantograph and all the electrical gubbins.

The refurbished Class 321 Renatus train has a new AC traction system.

In the past, the Trailer car has been removed from some of these trains, to make a three-car Class 320 train, which has this formation.

DTSO(A)+MSO+DTSO(B)

The Times says this about the formation of the hydrogen trains.

New images released by Alstom show that the existing four-carriage 321s will be reduced to three as part of the conversion process, which will be carried out at the company’s plant in Widnes, Cheshire. The front and rear third of the train will be used to house hydrogen gas storage tanks.

It would appear to me that Alstom have decided to go down a route based on the proven Class 320 train.

The TSO car will be removed and the existing or re-tractioned MSO car will be sandwiched between two rebuilt DTSO cars containing large hydrogen tanks and the hydrogen fuel cells to generate the electricity to power the train.

Although, Alstom’s pictures show a three-car train, I can’t see any reason, why a four-car train would not be possible, with the addition of a TSO car.

The train would obviously need to have enough power.

But then a standard Class 321 train is no wimp with a 100 mph operating speed and one MW of power, which is a power level not far short of the 1.68 MW of a modern four-car Class 387 train.

The MSO Car

You could almost consider that a Class 321 train is an MSO car, with a Driving Trailer car on either side and an extra Trailer car to make a four-car train.

In an original Class 321 train, the MSO car has the following.

  • Two motored bogies, each with two traction motors.
  • A pantograph on the roof to pick up the 25 KVAC overhead power.
  • A transformer and the other electrical gubbins.

This picture shows the side view of an MSO car in an unmodified Class 321 train.

It does appear to be rather full under the MSO car, but I suspect, that modern AC equipment will take up less space. Although, the air-conditioning will have to be squeezed in.

Some if not all cars are labelled as PMSO, to indicate they have the train’s pantograph.

British Rail designed a lot of Mark 3 coach-based Electric Multiple Units like this, with a power car in the middle and trailer cars on either side. For instance, the legendary Class 442 train, is of five cars, with all the traction motors and electrical gear in the middle car. It still holds the speed record for third-rail-powered trains. British Rail certainly got the dynamics right.

The upgraded Class 321 Renatus trains have a new AC traction system.

  • This will be state-of-the-art, more efficient and probably more reliable.
  • New traction motors handle regenerative braking.

But is it more powerful than the original system?

If it was, it would give better acceleration.

This modern traction system will probably be a starting point for the electrical system of a hydrogen-powered Class 321 train.

It would have to be able to accept electrical power from the following sources.

  • The pantograph, when connected to the 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The two Driving Trailer Standard Open cars with their hydrogen tanks and fuel-cells..

The voltages will probably be different, but this should not be a problem for a modern well-designed electrical system.

Batteries And Regenerative Braking

The Times has a graphic, which shows a part-cutaway of the train.

There is an arrow and explanation labelled Traction System, where this is said.

Ensures appropriate energy is transmitted between fuel cell and battery. Drives wheels and collects energy during braking.

I would suspect that a single battery would be placed in the MSO car, so that the battery could be close to the traction motors under the car.

Battery Size Calculation

The battery should be big enough to handle the energy generated when braking from the train’s maximum speed.

Obviously, Alstom have not disclosed the weight of the train, but a three-car Class 320 train, which is a Class 321 train without the trailer car,  weighs 114.5 tonnes and has 213 seats. So I suspect that because of the hydrogen tanks, there will be about 140 seats in the hydrogen-powered train. So could it hold 300 passengers with the addition of standees?

I don’t know how much a hydrogen tank weighs, but I suspect it is more bulky than heavy.

Fuel cells of the required size, seem to weigh in the order of hundreds of kilograms rather than tonnes.

So I think I will assume the following for my kinetic energy calculation.

  • A 200 tonne train
  • 300 passengers at 90 Kg each with baggage, bikes and buggies.
  • A speed of 87 mph.

This gives a 227 tonne train, when fully loaded.

Omni’s Kinetic Energy Calculator gives a kinetic energy of just under 50 kWh.

So this amount of energy will be needed to accelerate the train to the operating speed and could be substantially recovered at a station stop from the operating speed.

As the train will also need hotel power for doors, air-conditioning and other train systems, a battery of perhaps around 100 kWh would give enough power.

Obviously, Alstom will have done a complete computer simulation, they will have much better and more accurate figures.

As 50 kWh traction batteries are of the size of a large suitcase, I doubt there would be a problem putting enough battery capacity in the MSO car.

Obviously, these are very rough calculations, but it does appear that with modern lightweight tanks, hydrogen trains are feasible, with readily-available components.

But then Alstom have already converted a Coradia Lint to hydrogen power.

Will The Train Be A Series Hybrid?

In a series hybrid, like a New Routemaster bus, the vehicle is driven by an electric motor, powered by a battery, which in the case of the bus is charged by a small diesel engine. Braking energy is also recycled to the battery.

In Alstom’s Breeze train, the traction motors in the MSO car would be connected to the battery.

When the power in the battery is low, the train’s computer will top up the battery from the overhead electrification, if it is available or use the hydrogen fuel cells.

I suspect the computer would always leave enough spare capacity in the battery to accommodate the energy generated during braking.

Passenger Capacity and Range

I have estimated that the passenger capacity of the train is around three hundred.

This picture from Alstom, shows a side view of one DTSO car of the train.

The windows, probably denote the size of the passenger compartment. So instead of having the capacity of a three-car train, it probably only carries that of a two-car train.

Compare this visualisation with a picture of an unmodified DTSO car.

There’s certainly a lot of space under the DTSO car, which I’m sure Alstom will use creatively. Can the fuel cells fit underneath?

From the cutaway view of the proposed train in The Times, it would appear that the section behind the driving compartment is occupied by the hydrogen tank.

The hydrogen fuel cells or at least their vents are on the roof at the back end of the car.

The Times gives the range of the train as in excess of 625 miles.

To put this into context, the Tyne Valley Line has a length of sixty miles, so a train could do at least five round trips between Newcastle and Carlisle without refuelling.

It’s certainly no short-range trundler!

I deduce from the extreme range quoted by The Times, that Alstom’s Breeze is an extremely efficient train and probably a series hybrid.

If the train is very efficient, that could mean, that there is the possibility to use smaller tanks to increase the train’s passenger capacity to fit a particular route better.

Use Of The Pantograph

All the articles published today don’t say anything about the pantograph.

But I can’t see any reason, why when 25 KVAC overhead electrification exists, it couldn’t be used.

Being able to use available electrification is also a great help in positioning trains before and after, trains  perform their daily schedule.

750 VDC Operation

British Rail did get a lot of things right and one was that nearly all of their electrical multiple units could work or be modified to work on both forms of electrification in the UK; 25 KVAC overhead and 750 VDC third-rail.

So I believe that a 750 VDC version of Alstom’s Breeze will be possible.

A Replacement For A Two-Car Diesel Multiple Unit

There are large numbers of two-car diesel multiple units in the UK.

All would appear to have a similar passenger capacity to Alstom’s Breeze.

Some though will be converted into more efficient diesel-battery hybrids.

But there will still be a sizeable number of replacements, where the Breeze will be suitable.

The Breeze will have a major advantage, if as I expect, it has the ability to run using 25 KVAC or 750 VDC electrification.

It will be able to work routes that are partially electrified.

Possible Routes

The Times says this about possible routes.

Although the company refused to be drawn on the destination of the new trains, it is believed that they could be used on unelectrified lines in the north-west or north-east.

It is worth looking at the location of Alstom’s factory in Widnes, where the Class 321 trains will be converted. This Google Map shows the area.

Note.

  1. The main railway between Liverpool and Crewe running across the top of the map and then crossing the River Mersey to go South.
  2. The Alstom factory is shown by a red arrow in the North-West corner of the map.

Not shown on the map, as it is just to the South on the South Bank of the Mersey, is INEOS’s massive Castner-Kellner works, which is a major producer of hydrogen, as it was when I worked there in the late 1960s.

I doubt that Alstom will be short of hydrogen to test the new trains.

Alstom and INEOS could even build a pipeline across the Mersey.

The Liverpool and Crewe Line is electrified and recently, the Halton Curve has been upgraded to form a new route between Liverpool and Chester via Runcorn, Frodsham and Helsby.

The Wikipedia entry for the Halton Curve has a section called Hydrogen Fuel Cell Train Trials, where this is said.

The Chester to Liverpool line via the Halton Curve is proposed for a trial by Alstom of their zero emissions hydrogen fuel cell trains. The line was chosen as Alstom’s new technology facility is at Halebank on the Liverpool border adjacent to the line, with hydrogen supplied via the nearby Stanlow refinery.

I should say, that I personally prefer the INEOS route for hydrogen, where it is a by-product of the electrolysis of brine, which is mainly to produce chlorine. Even in the 1960s, ICI performed a lot of production at night to take advantage of more affordable electricity.

The other route that goes close to Alstom’s factory is the Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester route via Warrington.

Increasing Capacity

I believe that effectively two-car trains with a capacity of 300 passengers,running between say the cities of Liverpool and Chester would not be large enough.

The current Class 321 trains are four-car trains and the conversion to Alstom’s Breeze trains, will result in the removal of the Trailer car, which contains the toilet.

The power of the MSO car in the current Class 321 trains is 1,000 kW.

During the conversion for use in Alstom’s Breeze trains, the power system will be updated.

  • Four new AC traction motors will be fitted.
  • A battery to store electricity and handle regenerative braking will be fitted. I estimated earlier, that this could be at least 100 kWh.
  • The ability to connect to the hydrogen fuel cells in the two updated Driving Trailer Standard Open cars will be fitted.

I also suspect a well-designed computer control system will be added.

As a time-expired Control Engineer, I believe that the updated MSO car can be designed to deliver any amount of power between say 1,000 kW and 1,600 kW.

Alstom will obviously know, how much power will be needed to accelerate their proposed three-car train to the operating speed of 87 mph.

Four-Car Alstom Breeze Trains

Suppose though that the trailer car was also updated and added to the train.

  • The weight would rise to 223 tonnes.
  • Passenger capacity would rise to 450.
  • Maximum kinetic energy at 87 mph, would rise to 55 kWh.

Provided the MSO car is powerful enough, a four-car Alstom Breeze would appear to be feasible.

Five-Car Alstom Breeze Trains

What would the sums look like for a five-car Alstom Breeze.

  • Two trailer cars would be added.
  • The weight would rise to 246 tonnes.
  • Passenger capacity would rise to 600.
  • Maximum kinetic energy at 87 mph, would rise to 63 kWh.

With the priviso of the power of the MSO car, it certainly looks like a five-car Alstom Breeze could be feasible.

It looks like at least three different sizes of train are possible.

  • Three-car – 300 passengers
  • Four-car – 450 passengers
  • Five-car – 600 passengers

Only three different types of car will be needed.

  • Driving Trailer Standard Open – DTSO – With hydrogen tanks and hydrogen fuel cells and less seating than in the current trains.
  • Motor Standard Open – MSO – With new AC power system and a battery.
  • Trailer Standard Open – TSO – With seats and possibly a Universal Access Toilet, bike racks or a buffet.

Note.

  1. All DTSO would be more-or-less identical, but some might have larger tanks and more fuel-cells.
  2. All MSO cars would be identical.
  3. TSO cars would be specified by the customer and could be tailored to a particular route.

The train’s computer, would automatically determine what train had been assembled and adjust power settings and displays accordingly.

Suppose four Class 321 trains were to be converted to Alstom Breezes.

You could end up with.

  • Four three-car trains.
  • Four spare Trailer Standard Open cars.

Or.

  • Four four-car trains.

Or.

  • Two three-car trains.
  • Two five-car trains

The permutations are endless.

It is an infinitely flexible system, which can produce trains of a variety of lengths.

I would suspect that Eversholt will want customers to take complete trains, to maximise their returns and not end up with too many orphaned trailer cars.

Are There Any Spare Trailer Cars?

I ask this question, as in the last few years, twelve four-car Class 321 trains, have been converted to three-car Class 320 trains. As part of this process the trailer car is removed.

I would assume the twelve trailer cars have been put into store.

Could they be used to create five-car Alstom Breeze trains?

Will Alstom Breeze Trains Work In Multiple?

Class 321 trains can do this and I suspect that the Alstom Breezes will have the capability.

But it will probably be mainly for train recovery, than general operation.

Although, running two shorter trains as a longer one, is always useful, when there is a large sporting or other event happening.

Manufacturing

Alstom’s design eases the conversion.

Each type of car has its own manufacturing process,

Driving Trailer Standard Open

This would need to be done to all DTSO cars.

  • The car is checked, cleaned and externally refurbished.
  • The seats and most of the interior is removed.
  • The driving compartment is updated.
  • The hydrogen tank is added behind the driving compartment.
  • The hydrogen fuel cells are added, with vents on the roof.
  • The new interior with seats is fitted behind the hydrogen tank and fuel cells.
  • No work would need to be done to the bogies, except that needed for maintenance.
  • Finally, the new livery would be applied.

All DTSO cars would be treated in the same manner, although some might have smaller hydrogen tanks and detailed differences due to customer preferences and route needs.

Motor Standard Open

This would need to be done to all MSO cars.

  • The car is checked, cleaned and externally refurbished.
  • The seats and most of the interior is removed.
  • The electrical equipment is replaced with the new AC system with a battery.
  • The bogies would be fitted with the new AC traction motors.
  • The new interior is fitted.
  • Finally, the new livery would be applied.

All MSO cars would probably be treated in the same manner.

Trailer Standard Open

This would need to be done to all TSO cars.

  • The car is checked, cleaned and externally refurbished.
  • The seats and most of the interior is removed.
  • The new interior is fitted.
  • Finally, the new livery would be applied.

All TSO cars would probably be treated in a similar manner, but the interior fitment would depend on the customer’s requirements.

This picture shows a side view of an unmodified TSO car.

There is certainly a lot of space underneath the car.

I wonder if Alstom have any plans for using this space?

Summing Up Manufacturing

The process for the three types of cars is very similar and is very typical of the work regularly done to give mid-life updates to trains in the UK.

Alstom’s Widnes factory has already performed a major upgrade to Virgin Trains’ Pendelinos and I doubt that the work will hold many terrors for the factory, if the design phase is good.

Train Testing

So many train projects have been let down recently, by the lack of suitable test facilities and poorly-planned testing.

The Halton Curve route between Liverpool and Chester would appear to be an ideal route to test the trains.

  • Liverpool Lime Street station has recently been upgraded in size.
  • Chester station is not busy.
  • The route is about forty miles long.
  • I estimate that trains will take about forty minutes
  • The route passes Alstom’s factory in Widnes.
  • The route is about half-electrified, between Liverpool Lime Street and Runcorn.
  • Access is good to the North Wales Main Line for long range testing.

Running on both electrification and hydrogen can be tested with a changeover at Runcorn station.

A Liverpool to Chester service would go through the following sequence.

  • Arrive at Runcorn station, after running from Liverpool using existing 25 KVAC electrification.
  • Drop the pantograph.
  • Continue towards Chester on hydrogen power.

The sequence would be reversed in the opposite direction.

I don’t believe Alstom could want for a better test route.

I can only see one major problem.

Liverpudlians are a curious breed and I predict they will turn up in droves at a new attraction in their midst.

Conclusion

I very much feel that by using hydrogen tanks in the two driving cars Alstom have created a pragmatic flexible design, that will prove if hydrogen trains are a viable proposition for the UK.

Things that I particularly like.

  • The first trains being two-car DMU-sized.
  • The ability to use electrified lines.
  • The extraordinary range.
  • The performance.
  • Trains of different length and capacity can be created from three different car types.
  • The testing process.

But I have my doubts that the initial train has enough capacity.

Although I suspect that it could be increased by adding one or more trailer cars.

 

 

 

January 8, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hybrid Power On The Railways

In my opinion, one of the best hybrid transmissions is that of London’s New Routemaster bus. This description of the drive-train is from Wikipedia.

The bus is a hybrid diesel-electric driven by a battery-powered electric motor, charged by a diesel fuelled generator and recovering energy during braking by regenerative braking.

It is a classic serial hybrid vehicle.

  • There is no mechanical connection between the engine and the driving wheels.
  • The diesel engine only runs, when the battery charge is low.
  • The electric motor is always powered directly from the battery.
  • The control systems for the drive-train are very simple.
  • It is very efficient, as the engine only runs when needed and regenerative braking is employed.
  • The bus can run on battery power only, for short distances.
  • The various components of the drive-train can be placed in convenient places and connected by power and control cables.

In the New Routemaster, the components are placed as follows.

  • The diesel engine is half-way up the back stairs.
  • The battery is under the front stairs.
  • The electric motor is under the floor  in front of the rear axle.

This flexibility is very useful in a large vehicle.

Hybrid transmissions are starting to be employed on the railways.

These are the applications in use or planned.

Alstom Coradia iLint

The Alstom Coradia iLint is a hydrogen-powered two-car multiple unit.

This video shows the operation of the train.

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It would appear to be a serial hybrid, where the hydrogen fuel-cell charges the battery and this drives the train through an electric motor,

I suspect most hydrogen trains will work in a similar way.

Class 321 Hydrogen Train

Some Class 321 trains are being converted to run on hydrogen. Unlike the Coradia iLint, the trains will also be able to use electricity from electrification.

MTU Hybrid PowerPacks

MTU have produced a Hybrid PowerPack, which is being retrofitted into several trains, including Class 170 trains in the UK.

Class 93 Locomotive

The recently-announced Class 93 locomotive appears to be a hybrid locomotive with a large diesel engine and about 125 kWh of batteries, that can also use electrification.

High Speed Bi-Mode Aventra

I am sure that Bombardier’s proposed High Speed Bi-Mode Aventra, which features batteries and 125 mph running under both diesel and electric power is a hybrid train.

Conclusion

Just as hybrid cars are becoming more numerous, I suspect we’ll be seeing more hybrid trains in the future.

December 22, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

How Do Porterbrook’s Battery/FLEX Trains Compare With Eversholt’s Hydrogen-Powered Trains?

In the two green corners of this ultra-heavyweight fight to provide electric trains for rail routes without electrification, there are two ROSCOs or rolling stock operating companies.

Eversholt Rail Group

Eversholt Rail Group‘s product is the Class 321 Hydrogen, which is an upgrade of a Class 321 train with batteries and hydrogen-power.

Porterbrook

Porterbrook‘s product is the Class 350 Battery/FLEX, which is an upgrade of a Class 350 train with batteries.

How Do The Two Trains Compare?

I will list various areas and features in alphabetical order.

Age

The Class 350 trains date from 2008-2009 and others were introduced to the UK rail network as early as 2004.

The Class 321 trains date from the 1990s, but that shouldn’t be too  much of a problem as they are based on the legendary Mark 3 Coach.

Scores: Porterbrook 4 – Eversholt 3

Batteries And Supercapacitors

This is an area, where the flow of development and innovation is very much in favour of both trains.

Currently, a 1000 kWh battery would weigh about a tonne. Expect the weight and volume to decrease substantially.

Scores: Porterbrook 5 – Eversholt 5

Battery Charging – From Electrification

No problem for either train.

Scores: Porterbrook 5 – Eversholt 5

Battery Charging – From Rapid Charging System

I believe that a third-rail based rapid charging system can be developed for battery/electric trains and I wrote about this in Charging Battery/Electric Trains En-Route.

No problem for either train.

Scores: Porterbrook 5 – Eversholt 5

Development And Engineering

Fitting batteries to rolling stock has now been done successfully several times and products are now appearing with 400 kWh and more energy storage either under the floor or on the roof of three and four-car electrical multiple units.

I feel that adding batteries, supercapacitors or a mixture of both to typical UK electric multiple units is now a well-defined process of engineering design and is likely to be achieved without too much heartache.

It should be noted, that the public test of the Class 379 BEMU train, was a rare rail project, where the serious issues found wouldn’t even fill a a thimble.

So I have no doubt that both trains will get their batteries sorted without too much trouble.

I do feel though, that adding hydrogen power to an existing UK train will be more difficult. It’s probably more a matter of space in the restricted UK loading gauge.

Scores: Porterbrook 5 – Eversholt 3

Electrification

Both types of train currently work on lines equipped with 25 KVAC overhead electrification, although other closely-related trains have the ability to work on 750 VDC third-rail electrification.

Both trains could be converted to work on both systems.

Scores: Porterbrook 5 – Eversholt 5

Interiors

The interior of both trains will need updating, as the interiors reflect the period, when the trains were designed and built.

Eversholt have already shown their hand with the Class 321 Renatus.

The interiors is a design and refurbishment issue, where train operating companies will order the trains and a complimentary interior they need, for the routes, where they intend to run the trains.

Scores: Porterbrook 5 – Eversholt 5

Operating Speed

Both trains in their current forms are 100 mph trains.

However some versions of the Class 350 trains have been upgraded to 110 mph, which allows them to work faster on busy main lines and not annoy 125 mph expresses.

I am pretty sure that all Class 350 trains can be 110 mph trains.

Scores: Porterbrook 5 – Eversholt 4

Public Perception

The public judge their trains mainly on the interiors and whether they are reliable and arrive on time.

I’ve talked to various people, who’ve used the two scheduled battery/electric services, that have run in the UK.

All reports were favourable and I heard no tales of difficulties.

In my two trips to Hamburg, I didn’t get a ride on the Coradia iLint hydrogen-powered train, but I did talk to passengers who had and their reactions were similar to those who travelled to and from Harwich in the UK.

I rode on the Harwich train myself and just like Vivarail’s Class 230 train, which I rode in Scotland, it was impressive.

I think we can say, that the concept and execution of battery/electric or hydrogen-powered trains in the UK, will be given a fair hearing by the general public.

Scores: Porterbrook 5 – Eversholt 5

Range Without Electrification

Alstom talk of ranges of hundreds of miles for hydrogen trains.and there is no reason to believe that the Class 321 Hydrogen trains will not be capable of this order of distance before refuelling.

Bombardier, Vivarail and others talk of battery ranges in the tens of miles before a recharge is needed.

The game-changer could be something like the technique for charging electric trains, I outlined in Charging Battery/Electric Trains En-Route.

This method could give battery trains a way of topping up the batteries at station stops.

Scores: Porterbrook 3 – Eversholt 5

Conclusion

The total scores are level at forty-seven.

All those, who say that I fiddled it, not to annoy anybody are wrong.

The level result surprised me!

I feel that it is going to be an interesting engineering, technical and commercial battle between the two ROSCOs, where the biggest winners could be the train operating companies and the general public.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see two fleets of superb trains.

 

November 4, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

£18.75m Halton Curve Project Delayed A Further Six Months

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

I could just blame politicians for the latest project to be delayed, but it is not wholly their fault.

Train companies all over the UK, Europe and the Rest of the World have been ordering new trains at an unprecedented rate for the following reasons.

  • The replacement of clapped-out trains like Pacers.
  • Extra trains to provide extra services.
  • Faster trains to provide faster services.
  • Bigger or longer trains to provide more capacity.
  • New electric trains for newly electrified routes.
  • New trains often cost less to service and maintain.
  • Affordable finance for quality new trains is available in billions of pounds, euros and dollars of all kinds.

In addition a lot of trains are being updated with new technology like signalling, autonomic systems and high-technology interiors.

All of these factors mean that there is a high level of train testing that needs to be done.

These test tracks are in Europe and listed in Wikipedia.

Note that Italy and Soain, who build substantial numbers of trains, don’t have a specialist testing centre.

I have read somewhere that each individual train has to be run for so many hours before it can be certified for service.

Consider

  • Bombardier is building 412 Aventras with lengths between three and ten cars.
  • CAF is building trains for Calodonian Sleeper, Keolis Amey Wales, Northern, TranPennine Express and West Midlands Trains.
  • Hitachi is building 182 Class 800/801/802 trains with length of five or nine cars.
  • Hitachi is building 80 Class 385 trains with lengths of 3/4 cars.
  • Siemens are building trains for Govia Thameslink Railway.
  • Stadler is building trains for Greater Anglia, Keolis Amay Wales and MerseyRail.

I haven’t done a detailed calculation must it must be at least 700 trains.

In addition there are various rebuilt and existing trains that will need to be tested.

  • ScotRail’s shorterned InterCity 125s
  • Porterbrook’s Class 769 trains.
  • Vivarail’s Class 230 trains.
  • Alstom’s Class 321 Hydrogen trains.
  • Crossrail Class 345 trains need further testing.

And there will be new orders for the following franchises and lines.

  • East Midlands.
  • London Underground Piccadilly Line.
  • South Eastern
  • West Coast Alliance

I haven’t done a detailed calculation but we must be talking of nearly a thousand new trains of which probably six hundred will be delivered in the next five years.

I’m no expert, but I feel that two short test tracks and short lengths of improvised test tracks in factories, isn’t enough to test all these trains and certify them for service.

I should also blow my own trumpet and I know that when I wrote project management software, I was probably the best programmer in the World, at automatically scheduling resources.

So I tend to know, an impossible scheduling problem, when I see one!

Conclusion

We do send trains to Europe to specialist centres like the one at Velim in the Czech Republic. But these centres are also used by other European manufacturers.

I am led to the inevitable conclusion, that we need more train testing facilities, in both the UK and mainland Europe.

The Welsh Government has come to the same conclusion and are planning a test track at Neath, which I wrote about in £100m Rail Test Complex Plans For Neath Valley.

What would help, would be if Chris Grayling oiled a few wheels with some money. It might even result in some Continental trains coming to Wales for specialist testing like curing them of dracophobia.

I would also have felt that CAF would be happy with a test track fifty miles away from their new factory in Newport.

Come on, Wales! Fire up the dragons and get started!

 

 

September 25, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Rolls-Royce And Porterbrook Launch First Hybrid Rail Project In The UK With MTU Hybrid PowerPacks

The title of this post is the same as that on this Press Release from Porterbrook.

Porterbrook, Eversholt and the other train leasing companies have a problem, that can be turned into an opportunity to make money in a way, few will find unacceptable.

There are several fleets of trains in the UK, that are reasonably new and have plenty of life left in their basic structure, running gear and traction equipment.

But compared to modern rolling stock, they are like a twenty-year-old BMW, Jaguar or Mercedes. Good runners and comfortable, but not up to the standards, passengers, rail operators, rail staff and environmentalists expect.

So the train leasing companies are looking for ways to update their fleets, so that they can continue to earn money and satisfy everybody’s needs and aspirations.

Class 769 Train

Porterbrook started this innovation by taking redundant Class 319 trains and converting them into Class 769 trains, so they could be used on lines without electrification.

The picture shows one of Northern’s Class 319 trains.

Thirty-five of these trains have been ordered. So far, due to design and testing issues none have been delivered. Hopefully, as testing has now started, some will be in traffic before the end of the year.

This project could create upwards of fifty much-needed four-car bi-mode trains for running on partially-electrified routes.

Class 321 Hydrogen Train

Eversholt have also teamed up with Alstom to create a hydrogen-powered version of their Class 321 train.

This project could create around a hundred four-car 100 mph, zero-emission electric trains, for running on routes with no or only partial electrification.electrification.

The Four-Car High Speed Train

Everybody loves High Speed Trains and Scotrail and Great Western Railway  are taking a number of them and creating four-car quality trains to increase their rolling stock.

The picture shows a High Speed Train under test in Glasgow Queen Street station.

They are already running in Cornwall and they should be running in Scotland before the end of the year.

Updating The Class 170 Trains

The Press Release announces Porterbrook’s latest project and gives this picture.

There are 122 Class 170 trains on the UK rail network, which were built around twenty years ago. There are also nearly a hundred other Class 168, 171 and 172 trains with a similar design.

They are 100 mph trains, that are diesel-powered and some are used on long distances.

As a passenger, they are not a bad train, but being diesel, they are not that environmentally friendly.

The Class 172 trains, which are currently running on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line, would surely be a much better train with a smoother electric transmission, that had regenerative braking. Although, as they have a mechanical transmission, rather than the hydraulic of the other Turbostars, this might not be possible.

On the other hand, West Midlands Trains will soon have a fleet of thirty-five Class 172 trains of various sub-types, so fuel savings could be significant.

This is from the Press Release.

Rolls-Royce and Porterbrook, the UK’s largest owner of passenger rolling stock, have agreed the delivery of MTU Hybrid PowerPacks that can convert Class 168 and Class 170 ‘Turbostar’ DMUs from diesel-only to hybrid-electric operation. Hybrid technology allows for the cleaner and quieter operation of trains in stations and through urban areas.

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

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

This should also reduce diesel fuel consumption and carbon emissions.

Conclusion

The good Class 170 trains, are being improved and should give another twenty years of service.

How many other projects like these will surface in the next few years?

 

September 20, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Colne To Skipton Rail Line Re-Opening Campaign Moves Forwards

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article in the Lancashire Telegraph.

This is the first paragraph.

A meeting at the House of Commons hosted by Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson and his Labour counterpart for Keighley John Grogan convened senior officials from the Department of Transport (DfT), Transport for the North (TfN), Network Rail and commercial companies with an interest in East-West rail links.

Like many at the meeting, I feel very strongly that this link should be built.

There are obviously local reasons, like better passenger services between the conurbations of Blackburn/Accrington/Burnley and Leeds/Bradford, but there is something far more important.

Extra Train Paths Across The Pennines

Currently, trains take about twenty minutes between Rose Grove and Colne stations, over the mainly single track line.

I think it would be possible for experts to design a railway between Rose grove and Skipton stations via Colne, that would offer paths for three trains per hour (tph) across the Pennines in both directions. It might even be possible to accommodate four tph, using a combination of passing loops and digital signalling.

It should be noted that currently, the traffic through Accrington on the Calder Valley Line, which is to the West of Rose Grove station is around three tph in both directions. As the route is double-track, with modern trains and modern signalling, surely a higher frequency can be achieved.

These extra paths would be invaluable during the upgrading of the main TransPennine routes from Leeds to Manchester via Huddersfield.

I have some questions about the link.

Should The Link Be Double-Track?

Given that it will probably be difficult to put a double track on the Bank Top Viaduct over Burnley, I feel that to get the needed extra capacity, where it is possible to squeeze in a double-track, this should be done.

Should The Link Be Electrified?

Operationally, this would probably be preferable, but there are reasons why it could be difficult.

  • There are a lot of quality stone bridges over all routes in the area.
  • The heritage lobby might object to gantries marching across the Pennines.
  • Network Rail’s abysmal performance on installing electrification.

It would also be sensible to electrify between Preston and Rose Grove stations, which would add substantially to the cost.

Passenger services wouldn’t be too much of a problem, as I am fairly certain that hydrogen-powered or battery trains could be used. The four-car Class 321 Hydrogen would probably by ideal.

Freight trains are probably better under electric power, rather than the awful Class 66 locomotives. Especially, if freight trains were run in the middle of the night.

I think the budget will decide on electrification.

Conclusion

I feel it is imperative, that to reduce the chaos of the TransPennine upgrade, work should start on the creation of the Skipton to Colne Link immediately.

September 17, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

Alstom And Eversholt Rail Develop Hydrogen Train For Britain

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article in the International Rail Journal.

This is the first paragraph.

Alstom confirmed on September 11 that it is working with British rolling stock leasing company Eversholt Rail to refit class 321 EMUs with hydrogen tanks and fuel cells for hydrogen operation, in response to the British government’s challenge to eliminate diesel operation on the national network by 2040.

Other points about the conversion of Class 321 trains include.

  • Alstom will convert trains in batches of fifteen.
  • The first trains could be ready by 2021.
  • Up to a hundred trains could be converted..
  • A range of up to 1000 km on a tank of hydrogen.
  • A maximum speed of 160 kph.

The article also suggests that the Tees Valley Line and Liverpool to Widnes could be two routes for the trains.

A few points of my own.

  • Fifteen is probably a suitable batch size considering how Class 769 trains have been ordered.
  • Hydrogen is produced in both areas for the possible routes and could be piped to the depots.
  • In Runcorn it is plentiful supply from the chlorine cell rooms of INEOS and that company is thinking of creating a pipeline network to supply the hydrogen to users with high energy needs.
  • As the maximum speed of the hydrogen train is the same as the current Class 321 trains, I would suspect that it is likely that the hydrogen-powered train will not have an inferior performance.
  • I’ve now travelled in Class 321 Renatus trains on three occasions and in common with several passengers I’ve spoken to, I like them.
  • I hope the Class 321 Hydrogen trains have as good an interior!

I very much feel that there is a good chance that the Class 321 Hydrogen could turn out to be a good train, powered by a fuel, that is to a large extent, is an unwanted by-product of the chemical industry.

A Comparison Between The Alstom Coradia iLint And The Class 321 Hydrogen

It is difficult for me to compare the Alstom Coeadia iLint or even a bog-standard iLint , as I’ve never rode in either.

Hopefully, I’ll ride the iLint in the next few weeks.

The following statistics are from various sources on the Internet

  • Cars – 321 – 4 – iLint – 2
  • Electric Operation – 321 – Yes – iLint – Not Yet!
  • Loading Gauge – 321 – UK – iLint – European
  • Operating Speed – 321 – 160 kph – iLint – 140 kph
  • Range – 321 – 1000 km. – iLint – 500-800 km.
  • Seats – 321 – 309 – iLint – 150-180

Although the Class 321 Hydrogen will be a refurbished train and the iLint will be new, I suspect passengers will just both trains as similar, given the experience with refurbished trains in the UK.

In some ways, they are not that different in terms of performance and capacity per car.

But the Class 321 Hydrogen does appear to have one big advantage – It can run at up to 160 kph on a suitable electrified line, This ability also means the following.

  • Hydrogen power is not the sole way of charging the battery.
  • On some routes, where perhaps a twenty kilometre branch line, which is not electrified, is to be served, the train might work as a battery-electric train.
  • A smaller capacity hydrogen power unit could be fitted for charging the battery, when the train is turned back at a terminal station and for rescuing trains with a flat battery.
  • The depot and associated filling station, doesn’t have to be where the trains run most of their passenger services.

I also suspect that a Class 321 hydrogen could run on the UK’s third-rail network after modification, if required.

If you were an operator choosing between the two trains, you would probably find that because of your location, there would be a strong preference for one of the two trains.

I also doubt we’ll see iLints running in the UK because of the loading gauge problem.

Will the platform height scupper the running of Class 321 Hydrogen trains in Europe?

In Riding Docklands Light Railway Trains In Essen, I reported on seeing redundant Docklands Light Railway trains running in Essen.

For this reason, I wouldn’t totally rule out Class 321 Hydrogen trains invading Europe!

 

September 14, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Cost Studies Could See Electrification Comback

The title of this post is the same as that of an article by Roger Ford in the September 2018 Edition of Modern Railways

There are now two studies into the cost of railway electrification.

Both arudies expected to be completed in October.

The article gives some examples of electrification costs per single track kilometre (stkm).

  • A sustained rolling program – £1million/stkm
  • Great Western Main Line – £3million/stkm
  • Northern England – Below £2million/stkm.
  • Cumbernauld-Springburn – £1.2million/stkm
  • East Coast Main Line – £500,000/stkm (At current prices)

The article finishes with these words.

£1million/stkm would be a feasible target.

That the Department for Transport has commissioned the independent review suggests electrification could still be on the agenda.

Roger is very much a respected commentator and his conclusions are more likely to be spot on, than wide of the mark.

Does Running Electric Trains On A Route Count As Electrification?

I ask this question deliberately, as over the last few years several schemes have been proposed to electrify perhaps two miles of line to a new development or city or town centre.

The Midland Metro is being extended to Wolverhampton station by building a tram line, that will be run using battery power on the existing trams.

Another example of this type of line is the extension of the Gospel Oak to Barking Line to Barking Riverside. After reading all the documentation, I have found that electric trains are mentioned several times, but electrification is not. As Bombardier Aventras probably can run on battery power, does this mean that the extension will be built without wires?

There are also some electrified branch lines, where the overhead electrification is unadulterated crap.

Could we see the electrification on these branches removed to save on replacement and maintenance costs and the trains replaced by battery trains charged on the electrified main lines?

Recent Developments

I think various developments of recent years will help in the containing of electrification costs.

Batteries On Trains

It is my belief that batteries on trains could revolutionise the approach to electrification.

In my view, batteries are the only way to handle regenerative braking, which cuts energy costs.

This means, that if no trains using a route, return their braking energy through the electrification, then costs are saved by using simpler transformers.

Adequate battery capacity also gives other advantages.

  • Bombardier are fitting remote wake-up to Aventras. I wrote about this in Do Bombardier Aventras Have Remote Wake-Up?
  • Depots and sidings can be built with only limited electrification.
  • Hitachi use batteries charged by regenerative braking to provide hotel power for Class 800 trains.
  • Batteries are a simple way of moving trains in a Last Mile application on perhaps a short branch line.
  • Battery power can be used to rescue a train, when the electrification fails.

Reports exist of Alstom, Bombardier, CAF, Hitachi, Siemens and Stadler using or researching the use of batteries in trains.

Hydrogen Power

I am becoming more enthusiastic about hydrogen power, which is primarily being developed by Alstom.

  • The UK could produce a lot of hydrogen easily from electrolysis of either brine to produce chlorine or water to produce hydrogen and oxygen.
  • Wind power would be a convenient way to provide the electricity needed.
  • Alstom are starting a project at Widnes to convert redundant Class 321 trains to hydrogen power.

A hydrogen powered Class 321 train would appear to be a powerful concept.

  • The trains will still be able to run on electrification.
  • The trains are pollution-free.
  • The trains make extensive use of batteries.
  • Alstom quote ranges of several hundred kilometres.
  • It would appear that the trains will still be capable of 100 mph after conversion.
  • Class 321 trains can be updated with quality interiors.

I believe these trains could find a solid market extending electrified routes.

Porterbrook’s Class 769 Trains

The Class 769 trains have been a long time coming, but companies have ordered 35 of these bi-mode upgrades of Class 319 trains.

  • They will be capable of 100 mph on electricity
  • They will be capable of 90 mph-plus on diesel
  • They will be able to use 25 KVAC overhead or 750 VDC third rail electrification.
  • They have been designed with a powerful hill-climbing capability.

Looking at the orders,some need the hill-climbing capability and GWR’s proposal to use the trains on the dual-voltage Reading-Gatwick route is a sensible one.

Bombardier’s 125 mph Bi-Mode Aventra With Batteries

I think that this train and others like it will be the future for many rail routes in the UK and around the world.

I will use the Midland Main Line as an example of the use of this type of train.

In a few years time, this important route will have the following characteristics.

  • A high proportion of 125 mph running.
  • Electrification between St. Pancras and Kettering/Corby
  • Possibly, electrification between Sheffield and Clay Cross courtesy of High Speed Two.

Full electrification would be difficult as part of the route is through a World Heritage Site.

But Bombardier’s train would swap power source intelligently as it powered its way along at 125 mph.

Stadler’s Electric/Diesel/Battery Hybrid Train

This version of Greater Anglia’s Class 755 train, has been ordered for the South Wales Metro.

It can run on the following power sources.

  • 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • Onboard diesel generators.
  • Batteries

An intelligent control system will select the best power source.

With a central power pack between passenger cars, the design of this train is slightly quirky.

  • It is a 100 mph train with lots of acceleration.
  • I’m sure it could be equipped for 750 VDC electrification.
  • The power pack can be configured for different operators and types of routes.
  • Stadler are quite happy to sell small fleets of trains into niche markets.
  • It is a member of the successful Flirt family of trains, which are selling all over the world.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of these trains sold to the UK.

Hitachi’s Class 800 Trains and Class 802 Trains

Hitachi’s Class 800 trains are already running on the Great Western Railway.

  • They have an operating speed of 125 mph on both electricity and diesel.
  • TransPennine Express have ordered nineteen Class 802 trains.
  • Hull Trains have ordered five Class 802 trains.

I have gone from London to Swansea and back in a day in Class 800 trains and they the new trains seem to be perfirming well.

They will get even better, as electrification is extended to Cardiff.

100/125 mph Bi-Mode Trains

In the previous sub-sections I have talked about four new bi-mode trains, that can run using electrification and under their own power.

  • Class 321 Hydrogen
  • Porterbrook’s Class 769 Train
  • High Speed Bi-Mode Aventra
  • Tri-Mode Stadler Flirt
  • Hitachi’s Class 800 Trains and Class 802 Trains

The designs are different, but they have common features.

  • An operating speed of at least 100 mph on electrified lines.
  • 90 mph-plus operating speed, when independently powered.
  • An out-and-back range of at least 200 miles away from electrification.
  • Proven designs from large families of trains.

Only one new route for these trains has been fully disclosed and that is Greater Anglia’s new Liverpool Street-Lowestoft service.

  • There will be three round trips a day between Lowestoft and London, using Class 755 trains.
  • North of Ipswich, diesel power will be used.
  • South of Ipswich, electric power will be used and trains will join the 100 mph queues to and from London.
  • Extra trains North of Ipswich, will use additional Class 755 trains, shuttling up and down the East Suffolk Line.

As the Class 755 trains and the express Class 745 trains on London-Ipswich-Norwich services will share the same team of drivers, it is an efficient use of bi-mode trains to extend an electric network.

Several of the proposed electrification schemes in the UK in addition to allowing electric trains, will also open up new routes for bi-mode and tri-mode trains.

  • Stirling to Perth electrification would allow bi-mode trains to run between Glasgow and Aberdeen via Dundee.
  • Leeds to York electrification would improve TransPennine bi-mode performance and allow electric trains access to Neville Hill TMD from the East Coast Main Line.
  • Sheffield to Clay Closs electrification for High Speed Two would also improve bi-mode performance on the Midland Main Line.

I think it should be born in mind, that the rolling out of the Class 800 trains all over the GWR, seems to have generated few bad reports, after a few initial problems.

In Thoughts On The Introduction Of Class 800 Trains On The Great Western Railway, I came to this conclusion.

There’s nothing much wrong operationally or passenger-wise with the Class 800 trains, that will not be put right by minor adjustments in the next couple of years.

So perhaps extending an electric network with quality bi-mode trains works well.

Used creatively bi-mode trains will increase the return on the money invested  in electrification.

Tram-Trains

I first saw tram-trains in Kassel in 2015 and I wrote about them in The Trams And Tram-Trains Of Kassel.

We are now embracing this technology in a trial in Sheffield using new Class 399 tram-trains.

I believe that, the UK is fertile territory for this technology.

  • KeolisAmey Wales haven’t waited for the results of the Sheffield trial and have already ordered thirty-six tram-trains with batteries for the South Wales Metro.
  • It also looks as if the West Midlands are planning to use the technology on an extension of the Midland Metro to Brierley Hill.
  • Glasgow are investigating a tram-train route to Glasgow Airport.

Although Network Rail and the Department for Transport seem to be only lukewarm on the technology, it does appear that local interests are much more enthusiastic.

In my view, the South Wales Metro is going to be a game changer, as it uses existing tracks, virtually standard tram-trains, electric/diesel/battery trains and a modicum of street running to transform a city’s transport system.

Intelligent Pantographs

I have read that the electro-diesel Class 88 locomotive can change between electric and diesel modes at line speed.

As a Control Engineer, I don’t believe it would be an impossible problem for a train powered by a mixture of 25 KVAC overhead electrification and diesel, battery, hydrogen or some other fuel to raise and lower a pantograph efficiently, to take advantage of any overhead wires that exist.

The raising and lowering could even be GPS controlled and totally automatic, with the driver just monitoring.

Ingenious Electrification Techniques

In Novel Solution Cuts Cardiff Bridge Wiring Cost, I wrote about how two simple techniques; an insulating coating and surge arresters, saved about ten million pounds, by avoiding a bridge reconstruction.

How much can be saved on electrification schemes by using simple and proven techniques like these?

Better Surveying And Site Information

A lot of the UK’s railways are like long Victorian buildings.

If you’ve ever tried to renovate a cottage that was built around the middle of the nineteenth century, you will understand the following.

  • It is unlikely you will have any accurate plans.
  • Some of the construction will be very good, but other parts will be downright shoddy.
  • You have no idea of the quality of the foundations.
  • If the building is Listed you’ll have a whole new level of bureaucracy to deal with.

Now scale your problems up to say a ten mile stretch of rail line, that needs to be electrified.

Instead of dealing with a cottage-sized plot, you may now be dealing with the following.

  • A double track railway with four train per hour (tph) in both directions.
  • A site that is several miles long.
  • Access to the work-site could be difficult.

So just surveying what has to be done and making sure you have details on any unforeseen underground structures like sewers, gas and water mains and old mine workings, can be a major undertaking.

Reading local newspaper reports on the Gospel Oak to Barking electrification, you get the impression the following happened.

  • Various overhead gantries were built to the wrong size.
  • A sewer was found, that had been missed by surveyors.
  • It was wrongly thought that the bridge at Crouch Hill station had sufficient clearance for the electrification. So much more work had to be done.

At least there weren’t any mine workings in East London, but as you can imagine these are a major problem in areas in the North.

Surely, nearly twenty years into the 21st century, we can avoid problems like these.

Discontinuous Electrification

Low bridges and and other structures crossing the tracks, can be  a big and expensive problem, when it comes to electrifying railway lines.

In the proposed electrification of the lines for the South Wales Metro, look at these statistics.

  • A total of 172 km. of track will be electrified.
  • Fifty-six structures were identified as needing to be raised.

The cost savings of eliminating some of this bridge raising would not be small.

In the July 2018 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article entitled KeolisAmey Wins Welsh Franchise.

This is said about the electrification on the South Wales Metro.

KeolisAmey has opted to use continuous overhead line equipment but discontinuous power on the Core Valley Lnes (CVL), meaning isolated OLE will be installed under bridges. On reaching a permanently earthed section, trains will automatically switch from 25 KVAC overhead to on-board battery supply, but the pantograph will remain in contact with the overhead cable, ready to collect power after the section. The company believes this method of reducing costly and disruptive engineering works could revive the business cases of cancelled electrification schemes. Hopes of having money left over for other schemes rest partly on this choice of technology.

In the final design, KeolisAmey have been able to use this discontinuous power solution at all but one of the fifty-six structures.

These structures will be checked and refurbished as required, but they would be unlikely to need lengthy closures, which would disrupt traffic, cyclists and walkers.

Each structure would need a bespoke structure to create a rail or wire on which the pantograph, would ride from one side of the structure to the other. But installing these would be a task of a much smaller magnitude.

There must be a lot of scope for both cost and time savings.

I think in the future, when it comes to electrifying existing lines, I think we’ll increasing see, this type of discontinuous electrification used to avoid rebuilding a structurally-sound bridge or structure.

I also think, that experience will give engineers a more extensive library of solutions.

Hopefully, costs could be driven downwards, instead of spiralling upwards!

Complimentary Design Of Trains And New Electrified Routes

In recent years two major electric rail projects have been planned, which have gone much further than the old philosophy of just putting up wires and a adding fleet of new trains.

I believe that the Crossrail Class 345 trains and the tunnel under London were designed to be complimentary to each other to improve operation and safety and cut operating costs.

But the interesting project is the South Wales Metro, where discontinuous electrification and battery power have been used to design, what should be a world-class metro at an affordable cost.

Too many electrification schemes have been designed by dull people, who don’t appreciate the developments that are happening.

Conclusion On Recent Developments

UK railways are doing better on electrification than many think.

Possible Developments

These are ideas I’ve seen talked about or are my own speculation.

Intelligent Discontinuous Third Rail Electrification

New third rail electrification is not installed much these days, due to perceived safety problems.

I have seen it proposed by respected commentators, that third rail electrification could play a part in the charging of train batteries.

Discontinuous third-rail electrification is already used extensively, at places like level crossings and where a safe route is needed for staff to cross the line.

But it is done in a crude manner, where the contact shoes on the train run up and down the sloping ends of the third rail.

As a time-expired Control Engineer, I’m fairly sure that a much better, safer system can be designed.

On the South Wales Metro, where discontinuous overhead electrification is to be used, battery power will be used to bridge the gaps.

Supposing trains on a third-rail electrified route, were fitted with batteries that gave the train a range of say two kilometres. This would give sufficient range to recover a train, where the power failed to a safe evacuation point.

The range on battery power would mean that there could be substantial gaps between sections of electrification, which would be sized to maximise safety, operational efficiency and minimise energy use.

Each section of electrification would only be switched on, when a train was present.

Train drivers could also have an emergency system to cut the power in a particular section, if they saw anything untoward, such as graffiti artists on the line.

Third Rail Electrification In Stations

I have seen it proposed by respected commentators, that third rail electrification could play a part in the charging of train batteries.

When you consider that trains often spend fifteen or twenty minutes at a terminal station, it could make it easier to run electric or bi-mode trains with batteries on branch lines.

The rail would normally be switched off and would only be switched on, when a train was above and connected to the rail.

As a time-expired Control Engineer, I’m fairly sure that a safe system can be designed.

Third Rail Electrification On Viaducts

To some overhead electrification gantries on top of a high viaduct are an unnecessary eyesore.

So why not use third-rail electrification, on top of viaducts like these?

Trains would need to be able to swap efficiently and reliably between modes.

Gravity-Assisted Electrification

For a country with no really high mountains, we have quite a few railways, that have the following characteristics.

  • Heavily-used commuter routes.
  • Double-track
  • A height difference of perhaps two hundred metres.

These are a few examples.

  • Cardiff Queen Street to Aberdare, Merthy Tydfil, Rhymney and Treherbert
  • Exeter to Barnstaple
  • Glasgow Central to East Kilbride
  • Manchester to Buxton

All are in areas, where putting up overhead gantries may be challenging and opposed by some campaigners.

As an example consider the Manchester to Buxton route.

  • The height difference is 220 metres.
  • One of Northern’s Class 319 trains weighs 140.3 tonnes.
  • These trains have a capacity of around 320 passengers.
  • If each passenger weighs 90 Kg with baggage, bikes and buggies, this gives a train weight of 167.3 tonnes.

These figures mean that just over 100 kWh of electricity would be needed to raise the train to Buxton.

Coming down the hill, a full train would convert the height and weight into kinetic energy, which would need to be absorbed by the brakes. Only small amounts of new energy would need to be applied to nudge the train onto the hill towards Manchester.

The brakes on trains working these routes must take a severe hammering.

Supposing, we take a modern train with these characteristics.

  • Four cars.
  • Electric traction.
  • 200 kWh of battery capacity to handle regenerative braking.

Such a train would not be a difficult design and I suspect that Bombardier may already have designed an Aventra with these characteristics.

Only the uphill line would be electrified and operation would be as follows.

  • Climbing to Buxton, the train would use power from the electrification.
  • On the climb, the train could also use some battery power for efficiency reasons.
  • The train would arrive at Buxton with enough power left in the batteries to provide hotel power in the stop at Buxton and nudge the train down the hill.
  • On the descent, regenerative braking would be used to slow the train, with the energy created being stored in the batteries.
  • On the level run to Manchester, battery power could be used, rather than electrification power to increase efficiency.

How efficient would that be, with respect to the use of electricity?

I would also investigate the use of intelligent third-rail electrification, to minimise visual impact and the need to raise any bridges or structures over the line.

Gravity is free and reliable, so why not use it?

We don’t know the full

Conclusion On Possible Developments

Without taking great risks, there are lots of ideas out there that will help to electrify routes in an affordable manner.

Conclusion

I very much feel we’ll be seeing more electrification in the next few years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 26, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment