The Anonymous Widower

A Class 321 Renatus

I finally got to ride in a Class 321 Renatus today.

Quite frankly I was impressed.

  • The seats were more comfortable than those in a Class 700 train.
  • There was wi-fi.
  • There were plugs to charge a phone or a laptop everywhere.
  • There was air-conditioning.
  • There was a new Universal Access Toilet.
  • There was new lighting.

Generally, the trains also seemed to have more space.

Will Alstom’s hydrogen-powered version of the Class 321 train have interiors as good as these?

July 25, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , | 3 Comments

The Battery Trains Are Coming

Every month seems to bring more information about trains where batteries are an important part of the propulsion system of the train.

So what are the various manufacturers offering?

Alstom

Alstom’s Coradia iLint train is hydrogen powered and as this video shows, batteries are an important part of the design of the train, which can probably be considered a hydrogen/battery hybrid train.

As I wrote in Germany Approves Alstom’s Hydrogen Train For Passenger Service, these trains will be entering service in late summer in Germany.

In the UK, Alstom are to convert some of the hundred-plus fleet of Class 321 trains, to running on hydrogen power.

I set out my thoughts on this in Thoughts On A Hydrogen-Powered Class 321 Train.

These were my conclusions.

  • The Class 321 train will make a good hydrogen-powered train.
  • Alstom would not have looked at converting a thirty-year-old train to hydrogen power, if they thought it would be less than good.
  • British Rail’s design of a 750 VDC bus makes a lot of the engineering easier and enables the train to be tailored for world-wide markets, with different electrification systems and voltages.
  • Having two different hydrogen-powered trains will give Alstom a better place in an emerging market.

I suspect in a few years time, if these two hydrogen projects are successful, Alstom will design and manufacture, a whole family of hydrogen-powered trains, with different gauges, capacities and operating speeds.

Bombardier

Unlike Alstom, who seem to be telling the world what they are doing with hybrid hydrogen/battery trains, Bombardier are playing their cards close to their chest.

In early 2015, I rode on Bombardier’s Class 379 Battery-Electric Multiple Unit demonstrator between Manningtree and Harwich.

It destroyed my scepticism about battery-electric trains.

Since then, the following has happened.

Class 345 Trains Have Entered Service

Class 345 trains have entered service on Crossrail routes to the East and West of London.

Until denied by Bombardier, I believe that these trains from Bombardier’s new   Aventra family use batteries for the following purposes.

  • Storing and reuseing the energy generated by regenerative braking.
  • Providing an emergency power source, should the main electricity supply fail.
  • Allowing depots and stabling sidings without electrification.

The trains should also make Crossrail and the other routes on which they run, more electrically efficient.

Five More Fleets Of Aventras

Bombardier have sold five more fleets of Aventras.

Could electrical efficiency because of clever use of batteries be a reason?

A 125 Mph Bi-Mode Aventra With Batteries Has Been Launched

This article in Rail Magazine is entitled Bombardier Bi-Mode Aventra Could Feature Battery Power.

A few points from the article.

  • Development has already started.
  • Battery power could be used for Last-Mile applications.
  • The bi-mode would have a maximum speed of 125 mph under both electric and diesel power.
  • The trains will be built at Derby.
  • Bombardier’s spokesman said that the ambience will be better, than other bi-modes.
  • Export of trains is a possibility.

In Mathematics Of A Bi-Mode Aventra With Batteries, I analyse the train in detail.

This was my conclusion.

I am rapidly coming to the conclusion, that a 125 mph bi-mode train is a practical proposition.

  • It would need a controllable hydrogen or diesel power-pack, that could deliver up to 200 kW
  • Only one power-pack would be needed for a five-car train.
  • For a five-car train, a battery capacity of 300 kWh would probably be sufficient.

From my past professional experience, I know that a computer model can be built, that would show the best onboard generator and battery sizes, and possibly a better operating strategy, for both individual routes and train operating companies.

Obviously, Bombardier have better data and more sophisticated calculations than I do.

My calculation might be wrong, but it’s in the right area.

Voyager Battery Upgrade

This use of batteries by Bombardier was a total surprise.

In the July 2018 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article entitled Bi-Mode Aventra Details Revealed.

A lot of the article takes the form of reporting an interview with Des McKeon, who is Bombardier’s Commercial |Director and Global Head of Regional and Intercity.

This is a paragraph.

He also confirmed Bombardier is examining the option of fitting batteries to Voyager DEMUs for use in stations.

I discuss what Bombardier might be doing in Have Bombardier Got A Cunning Plan For Voyagers?.

I feel the simplest use for batteries on these trains would be to store the energy generated by regenerative braking in batteries, from where it would be used for the train’s hotel power!

This would reduce the need for the engines to be running in stations.

Conclusion

I think Bombardier have been thinking very hard about how you design a train with batteries.

CAF

CAF have fitted several of their trams with batteries and this system will be used on the Midland Metro, to create new routes without catenary.

But they only seem to have an on-off order for trains fitted with batteries for Auckland.in New Zealand.

The order seems to be on hold.

Given that CAF, have a reputation for research and development and they have used batteries in trams, I can’t believe that they are not looking seriously at how to use batteries in their train designs.

Hitachi

On page 79 of the January 2018 Edition of Modern Railways, Nick Hughes, who is the Sales Director of Hitachi Rail Europe outlines how the manufacturer is embracing the development of battery technology.

He is remarkably open.

I wrote Hitachi’s Thoughts On Battery Trains, after reading what he said.

Hitachi certainly have working battery trains in Japan and use batteries on Class 800 trains to capture the energy generated by regenerative braking. On these trains, it appears to be used for hotel power.

Siemens

Siemens have now merged with Alstom and they are also developing a hydrogen-powered train.

I wrote about this train in Siemens Joins The Hydrogen-Powered Train Club.

As with Alstom, I suspect this train will be using batteries.

Siemens have also won the order for the New Tube For London.

I wrote about this in Thoughts On The New Tube For London.

In the Future Upgrades section of the Wikipedia entry for the Piccadilly Line, this is said.

Siemens publicised an outline design featuring air-conditioning and battery power to enable the train to run on to the next station if third and fourth rail power were lost. It would have a lower floor and 11% higher passenger capacity than the present tube stock. There would be a weight saving of 30 tonnes, and the trains would be 17% more energy-efficient with air-conditioning included, or 30% more energy-efficient without it

I would suspect, the batteries are also used to handle the energy from regenerative braking

Stadler

Stadler have developed a bi-mode Flirt, which has been ordered by Greater Anglia as the Class 755 train.

They have now sold a diesel/electric/battery tri-mode to KeolisAmey Wales, which from the visualisations look like the trains are closely related to the Class 755 trains.

Stadler are also delivering Class 777 trains to Merseyrail. Wikipedia says this.

In May 2018, it was announced the sixth Class 777 unit to be delivered will be fitted with batteries for a trial.

So it looks like two major fleets of trains for the UK from Stadler will have batteries.

There is also the Stadler Wink, which has been sold to Arriva Nederland.

Wikipedia says this about the design.

It has an aluminium carbody that can be customized in length by the customer, and can be powered by either diesel or electric powertrains with supplemental on board batteries. Arriva units will be delivered with Deutz diesel engines and batteries charged by regenerative braking; the engines are planned to be replaced by additional batteries once electrification is installed over part of their route.

Stadler seem to be putting a lot of effort into batteries.

Vivarail

Vivarail’s Class 230 train started as a diesel-electric and they have now sold a battery version to KeolisAmey Wales, which should be in service in May 2019.

Conclusion

All train manufacturers seem to be applying battery technology to their trains.

The main purpose seems to be to recycle the energy generated by regenerative braking.

Some trains like Alstom’s hydrogen trains, Bombardier’s Aventras and Stadler’s tri-mode Flirt, use the energy for traction, whilst others like Hitachi’s Class 800 trins, use the energy for hotel power.

If a researcher or company comes up with a better battery, they will certainly get a return for their efforts in the rail industry.

 

July 17, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts On A Hydrogen-Powered Class 321 Train

A hundred and seventeen Class 321 trains were built around 1990 and a hundred and four, which are currently in service with Greater Anglia, are due to be replaced by new Class 720 trains.

Alstom and the trains owners;  the Eversholt Rail Group, plan to convert some of these trains to hydrogen power.

The Class 321 Train

The basic characteristics of these trains are as follows.

  • They have a 100 mph operating speed.
  • They are built for operation on 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The closely-related Class 456 trains can run on 750 VDC third-rail electrification.
  • They have a formation of DTCO+TSO+MSO+DTSO.
  • Note that only the third car is powered.
  • Thirty of the trains have been refurbished in the Renatus project, which includes an upgraded interior and a new traction package, which includes regenerative braking.

This picture shows on of the driving trailers of a Class 321 train.

Note the large amount of space underneath.

If the Class 321 train has a problem, when converted to a modern efficient train, it is that the front end of the train has the aerodynamics of a large brick outhouse.

The Electrical System Of A Class 321 Train

I don’t know the electrical system of a Class 321 train, but I do know that of the Class 319 trains, which were built a couple of years earlier in the same factory at York These trains have a 750 VDC bus from one end of the train to the other.

As Class 321 and Class 319 trains have a similar train formation and a common Mark 3 heritage, I suspect that the electrical systems are the same and both have this 750 VDC bus.

Regenerative Braking

Regenerative braking is an important part of any modern train, as it saves energy.

Normally, the energy generated as a train stops, is returned through the electrification to power other nearby trains.

But with a hydrogen-powered train, that may not be connected to the electrification, the energy has to be stored on the train to avoid being wasted.

The Alstom Coradia iLint Train

Alstom have developed a hydrogen-powered version of the Coradia Lint train, which they call an iLint.

This promotional video shows how Alsthom’s hydrogen-powered Coradia iLint works.

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Summarising, Alstom’s video the Coradia iLint works in the following way.

  • The hydrogen fuel cell turns hydrogen gas into electricity.
  • The electricity is used to power the train or is stored in a lithium-ion battery.
  • The computer on the train monitors the system and controls it in an intelligent manner.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find out the system works in the same way as a serial hybrid vehicle like a New Routemaster bus.

  • The power source; hydrogen fuel cell in the train or small diesel generator in the New Routemaster, charges the battery directly.
  • The power source shuts down automatically, when the charge in the battery reaches a certain high level.
  • The power source starts up automatically, when the charge in the battery reaches a certain low level.
  • The battery moves the vehicle using one or more electric traction motors.
  • The battery powers all the other systems in the vehicle.
  • When the vehicle brakes, the traction motors generate electricity, which is stored in the battery.

The great advantage of this system is its simplicity, as the vehicle is effectively powered from a single source; the battery.

There is also an independently-controlled charging system for the battery.

A Possible Layout For A Hydrogen Powered Class 321 Train

Hydrogen powered trains need the following components.

  • Hydrogen tank.
  • Fuel cell to convert hydrogen to electricity.
  • Battery to store energy from both the fuel cell and regenerative braking.
  • Intelligent control system to control everything.

Positioning the last item shouldn’t be a problem, but could the other three larger components be placed under the train?

There’s certainly plenty of space under the two driving cars.

The battery would be connected to the following.

  • The 750 VDC bus to power the train.
  • The regenerative braking system.
  • The hydrogen fuel cell.

The train’s computer would control the systems intelligently.

Powering The Class 321 Train From Electrification

Class 321 trains were designed as electric trains and I’m certain they could be made to run on 25 KVAC overhead or 750 VDC third rail electrification.

The electrically similar Class 319 trains are being converted into bi-mode Class 769 trains, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the hydrogen-powered Class 321 trains being able to use electrification directly.

The Battery Size

How large would a battery need to be to store energy from both the fuel cell and regenerative braking?

I will start by calculating the kinetic energy of a Class 321 train, as the battery must be able to store all the energy generated by regenerative braking, when the train stops in a station from an operating speed of up to 100 mph.

  • A Class 321 train weighs 137.9 tonnes
  • A train can accommodate a total of about 320 seated and standing passengers.
  • With bags, buggies and the other things passengers bring on, let’s assume an average passenger weight of 90 kg, which gives an extra 28.8 tonnes.
  • I will assume a total weight of ten tonnes for the battery, hydrogen fuel cell and hydrogen tank
  • So I will assume that an in service Class 321 train weighs 176.7 tonnes.

Calculating the kinetic energy of the train for various speeds gives.

  • 50 mph – 12.3 kWh
  • 75 mph – 28 kWh
  • 90 mph – 40 kWh
  • 100 mph – 49 kWh

Note that speed increases the kinetic energy much more than weight. This is because kinetic energy is proportional to the square of the speed and only proportional to the weight.

Even if the extra equipment weighed twenty tonnes, the kinetic energy at 100 mph only increases to 51.8 kWh.

As the battery will have to store this energy after a stop from 100 mph, I suspect that the battery will have a capacity somewhere between 50 and 100 kWh.

A  Bombardier Primove 50 kWh battery, which is built to power trams and trains, has the following characteristics.

  • A weight of under a tonne.
  • Dimensions of under two x one x half metres.
  • The height is the smallest dimension, which must help installation under the train floor or on the roof.

I conclude that Alstom won’t have any problems designing a battery with sufficient capacity, that can be fitted under the floor of a Class 321 train.

The Train Will Need An Intelligent Computer System

The hydrogen-powered Class 321 train could have up to four methods of charging the battery.

  • From 25 KVAC overhead electrification
  • From 750 VDC third rail electrification
  • From the hydrogen fuel cell.
  • From regenerative braking.

The computer would try to ensure the following.

  • There was always spare capacity in the battery to accept the energy from regenerative braking.
  • Trains stop in a station with a full battery.
  • Hydrogen consumption is minimised.

The computer might even be programmed with the route and use GPS or digital signalling to optimise the train to that route.

It’s all very basic Control Engineering.

Alstom’s Marketing Philosophy

Watch Alstom’s video embedded in this post and they stress the environmental credentials of hydrogen power and particularly the Cordadia iLint.

They also show a caption which states that 195 states have made a commitment to zero carbon emissions.

That could be a very big market

The Coradia iLint will probably be a good train, but I suspect it may have a few problems satisfying a large market.

  • It is only two cars.
  • The current design can’t work on overhead electric power.
  • It is based on a Lint 54, which has only 160 seats.
  • Operating speed is 140 kph.
  • They are new trains and manufacturing may be expensive.

On the other hand, Class 321 trains have the following characteristics.

  • They are four car trains.
  • The trains can work from 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The trains are built to a smaller loading gauge than the iLint.
  • I suspect that they could be easily converted to other overhead and third-rail electrification voltages.
  • Each train has 309 seats.
  • Operating speed is 160 kph.
  • They are existing trains and manufacturing may be more affordable.

It should also be said, that there is a massive amount of knowledge accumulated in the UK over thirty and more years, about how to refurbish, modify and update Mark 3-based rolling stock.

Once the concept of a hydrogen-powered Class 321 train is proven and certified, Alstom would probably be able to produce four-car hydrogen-powered trains at a fair rate, as they become available from Greater Anglia.

Conclusion

I have come to the following conclusions.

  • The Class 321 train will make a good hydrogen-powered train.
  • Alstom would not have looked at converting a thirty-year-old train to hydrogen power, if they thought it would be less than good.
  • British Rail’s design of a 750 VDC bus makes a lot of the engineering easier and enables the train to be tailored for world-wide markets, with different electrification systems and voltages.
  • Having two different trains will give Alstom better coverage of an emerging market.

I suspect in a few years time, if the hydrogen project is successful, Alstom will design and manufacture, a whole family of hydrogen-powered trains, with different gauges, capacities and operating speeds.

 

July 3, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 1 Comment

Hydrogen Trains Herald New Steam Age

The title of this post is the same as that of an article on nearly half of Page 4 of today’s Sunday Times.

When I saw the article with its large graphic showing the working of a hydrogen train, the train seemed rather familiar.

The leaning back front of the train with its two windows and the corrugated roof looked like a Class 321 train.

The large orange area on the roof is the hydrogen tank and the smaller one is the hydrogen fuel cell.

This is a paragraph from the article.

Alstom revealed this weekend that it planned to convert the Class 321 diesel trains, which date to 1988 and are used on the Greater Anglia network between London Liverpool Street and Ipswich. The units will be switched to other lines once converted to hydrogen power.

I suspect Mark Hookham, who wrote the article, has already been told by ninety percent of the train enthusiasts in this country, that Class 321 trains are electric multiple units.

This picture shows the first car of a Class 321 train in the sidings at Ipswich.

Note all the space, under the train, which would be an ideal place for the batteries and traction control, that are shown in that position, in pink, in the Sunday Times graphic.

But there are other reasons, why Class 321 trains may be ideal to convert to hydrogen power.

  • Although they are thirty years old, they are a modern train, which meet all the latest regulations.
  • They have a 100 mph operating speed on electricity.
  • They operate on 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • There are a hundred and seventeen four-car trains.
  • Greater Anglia will be replacing over a hundred Class 321 trains, with new Class 720 trains in the next two years.
  • A number of Greater Anglia’s trains have been upgraded to Class 321 Renatus. These trains are a substantial upgrade over the standard train..
  • Greater Anglia’s trains appear to be in good condition.
  • Designs have been tested to upgrade the traction motors and drive systems of the trains.

But most importantly, the trains are based on the Mark 3 coach, which gives the following advantages.

  • An excellent ride and superb brakes.
  • Bodies with a legendary strength and toughness.
  • There is a vast amount of knowledge in the UK rail industry, that enables the trains to be kept at peak performance.

I doubt, that you could find a better fleet of a hundred trains to convert to hydrogen power anywhere in the world.

The article says or indicates the following.

  • Hydrogen tanks will be mounted on the roof.
  • An Alstom spokesman is quoted as saying. “We have now started work on the development of a specific hydrogen train to launch the technology here in the UK.”
  • He also said that the trains would be super quiet, super smooth and much more accelerative. I assume that is compared to diesel.
  • Conversion will take place in fleets of up to 15 trains a time at Alstom’s factory in Widnes.
  • The first train could be ready by 2021.
  • Eventually, all Class 321 trains could be converted.
  • Initial routes could be on the Tees Valley Line and between Liverpool and Widnes.
  • Range on a tank of hydrogen will be 620 miles.
  • Top speed would be about 87 mph.

The article finishes with a quote from Alstom’s spokesman. “The initial capital costs of hydrogen trains were higher than diesel ones, but the “total life cost” of running them for 40 years was lower.”

I have my thoughts on various things said and not said in the article.

Alstom’s Widnes Factory

Alstom’s Widnes factory has just upgraded, Virgin Trains, fleet of Class 390 trains, so it does seem capable of handling heavy work on a number of trains at one time.

Train Certification

All trains have to be certified, as to being safe and compatible to run on the UK rail network.

Converting an existing train, must make this process a lot easier, especially as many of the hydrogen components and batteries have been used on trains in the EU.

The Proposed Routes

The routes named in the article are in the North East and North West of England, where hydrogen could be readily available from the petrochemical works, so fuelling the trains may not be a problem.

Power Supply

Class 321 trains were only built to work on lines with 25 KVAC overhead wires, but I suspect the parts exist to enable them to run on 750 VDC third-rail lines, if needed.

INEOS

INEOS is a very large multi-national petrochemical company, with a multi-billion pound turnover, which is sixty percent owned by Jim Ratcliffe, who has just been named the UK’s richest man.

So why would a company like that be involved in hydrogen-powered trains?

This news item from Reuters, is entitled AFC In Hydrogen Power Generation Deal With INEOS.

This is the first two paragraphs.

British budget fuel cell maker AFC Energy has signed a deal with British petrochemicals company INEOS to produce electricity using the hydrogen given off in chlorine manufacturing.

AFC said the project with INEOS ChlorVinyls would use surplus hydrogen from the chemical firm’s Runcorn facility in north-west England to supplement the plant’s energy needs.

I used to know the Runcorn plant well, when I worked there for ICI in the 1960s.

The hydrogen was produced when brine was electrolysed to produce chlorine.

So does Jim Ratcliffe, who is a qualified Chemical Engineer, see an opportunity to sell the by-product as train fuel to his neighbour; Alstom, on the other side of the Mersey?

Obviously, I don’t know what Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS are thinking.

But consider.

  • The Sunday Times article says that the North West and the North East of England are two promising areas for hydrogen-powered trains.
  • INEOS has large petrochemical plants on the Mersey and Teeside.
  • I wonder how many plants owned by INEOS around the world have a surplus of hydrogen.
  • Alstom would probably like to sell hydrogen-powered trains everywhere.
  • A well-respected chemical engineer, once told me, that the only things that should go out of an integrated petrochemical plant is product that someone pays for, air and water.

As the other place in the UK, where INEOS have a large petrochemical plant is Grangemouth in Central Scotland, I wonder, if we’ll see hydrogen-powered trains North of the Border.

Availability of Hydrogen

This article on Process Engineering, which is entitled INEOS project reduces energy bill by £3m, starts with these three paragraphs.

INEOS Chlor is one of the major chlor-alkali and chlorine derivative producers in Europe. Its Runcorn site in north west England has two large chlorine plants: the original J Unit that uses a mercury cell electrolysis process route, and the more recently opened Genesis Membrane Chlorine Plant (MCP).

Continuous improvement of the manufacturing processes has taken the Runcorn site to a ’best in class’ cost base and environmental performance, and as part of this improvement programme the company wanted to minimise vented hydrogen and maximise the value of this resource at both plants.

Without a significant change in market demand for hydrogen, it was not possible to increase sales to existing customers. The only alternative was to increase the amount used as fuel to power on-site boilers, thereby reducing costs for purchased natural gas.

Burning the hydrogen in on-site boilers.obviously helps to reduce the energy bill, but surely, if the hydrogen could be sold to a local customer, that could be more profitable.

You certainly want to minimise the vented hydrogen!

A few days ago I wrote The Liverpool Manchester Hydrogen Clusters Project, which is a project to create a hydrogen network in the Liverpool Manchester area.

Surplus hydrogen from Runcorn and other placed would be piped around the area to augment the natural gas supply.

This network could supply Alstom’s new hydrogen-powered trains and INEOS have a new market for their surplus hydrogen.

I don’t know the petrochemical industry in the North East, but there are a lot of petrochemical plants and some are owned by INEOS.

Is there a surplus of hydrogen, that could profitably sold as fuel for Alstom’s hydrogen-powered trains. I don’t know!

And then there’s Grangemouth in Scotland! My Scottish agent in the Borderlands, used to work at the INEOS plant in Grangemouth and that had a hydrogen surplus.

Even, if we can’t pipe hydrogen to the various depots for the trains around the country, surely it can be transported by rail!

I think that we may be short of some things in this country, but hydrogen might not be one of them.

Given that Alstom have moved so quickly to start planning conversion of the Class 321 trains, they have probably identified sources of enough hydrogen to power the fleet, even if all are converted, as they hinted at in the Sunday Times article.

Eversholt Rail Group’s Involvement

All the trains are leased from the Eversholt Rail Group, who would probably like to see their assets continue to earn the best return possible.

A few days ago, I wrote Eversholt Joins Very Light Rail Consortium.

These two projects may be at both ends of the rail industry, but I believe, they show the willingness of Eversholt to invest in innovation, rather than allow an asset to drift towards the scrapyard.

The Class 321 Renatus

This page on their web site describes the Class 321 Renatus, which was an upgrade developed by Eversholt in conjunction with Greater Anglia, to improve the trains, whilst waiting for Greater Anglia’s new fleet to be delivered.

These are the listed improvements.

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

It would be a better interior than most British Rail-era trains.

Comparison With The Class 769 Train

The proposed hydrogen-powered Class 321 train, will inevitably be compared with Porterbrook‘s Class 769 train, which is a bi-mode upgrade of the Class 319 train.

Looking at operating speed on electricity and alternative fuel we find.

  • Both trains can operate at 100 mph on lines with 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The Class 769 train can also operate at 100 mph on lines with 750 VDC third-rail electrification.
  • According to the Sunday Times article, the Class 321 Hydrogen train can operate at about 87 mph on hydrogen.
  • According to this article in Rail Magazine, the Class 769 train can operate at 91-92 mph on diesel.

So in terms of operating speed, the trains are more of less comparable, but emissions will be better with the hydrogen-powered train.

When it comes to interiors, as both trains are Mark 3-based, designed around the same time, train operating companies will have what their budget allows.

In the end the choice will come down to cost, which will surely be higher for the Class 321 Hydrogen, as this will require more expensive modifications and additional infrastructure for refuelling the train.

Could Any Other Trains Be Converted?

There are various other classes of electric multiple unit based on the Mark 3 coach.

I think there could be good reasons to only convert trains with the following characteristics.

  • Four-cars or more.
  • 100 mph capability
  • Perhaps fifty or more trains to convert.

These rules would leave us with only the seventy-two Class 317 trains, many of which have been refurbished and are in very good condition.

Conclusion

I’m drawn to the conclusion, that Alstom and Eversholt are serious about producing hydrogen-powered trains for the UK.

I also think, they’ve identified enough hydrogen to power the whole fleet, if it’s converted.

 

 

May 13, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Could A Three-Car Class 769 Train Be Created?

Some of the applications for bi-mode Class 769 trains on the UK rail network are on routes, where there is a short limit to train length.

Three cars might be a maximum on some routes, so a three-car Class 769 train might be a product with a future.

The formation of a Class 769 train, based on a Class 319/4 train would appear to be.

  • DTOC – Driver Trailer Car with Diesel Generator
  • PMOS – Pantograph Motor Car
  • TOSL – Trailer Car With Universal Access Toilet
  • DTOS – Driver Trailer Car with Diesel Generator

Note the train has only one powered-car and three trailer cars.

Could the TOSL car be removed to create a three-car Class 769 train?

In the Wikipedia entry for Class 319 trains, 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.

Four-car Class 321 trains have been turned into three-car Class 320 trains, in the past. The Wikipedia entry for the Class 320 train, says this.

The Class 320 is effectively a three-car derivative of the Class 321 units found in and around London and Yorkshire.

Scotrail‘s seven Class 320/4 trains were converted from ex-London Midland Class 321/4 trains in 2015/16. The conversion was done at Wabtec, who are doing work on the creation of the Class 769 trains.

Conclusion

I’m pretty certain, the TOSL car can be removed from a Class 769 train, to create a three-car version, just as it has been in a vaguely-similar four-car Class 321 train to create a three-car Class 320 train.

There are other conclusions.

  • Four-car Class 321 Flex bi-mode trains must be possible.
  • Three-car Class 320 Flex bi-mode trains must be possible.

As there will be a large number of Class 321 trains from Greater Anglia, going off lease in the next few years, the UK could be overflowing with quality bi-mode trains, based on the Class 769 train design.

April 23, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , | 5 Comments

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

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

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

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

So what will happen to the various trains.

The Class 319 Flex Train

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

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

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

The Class 455 Flex Train

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

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

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

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

The Class 455 Flex Train And Pacer Replacement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 100 mph Bi-Mode Train

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

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

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

Class 321 Flex Trains

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

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

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

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

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

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

Class 317 Flex Trains

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

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

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

The Future

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

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

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

Different train types will be better suited to different markets.

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

Route Extensions

This is probably the simplest application of a Flex train.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Metro Development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diesel Multiple Unit And Pacer Replacement

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

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

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

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

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

The High Speed Parcel or Pallet Train

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

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

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

Conclusion

The train refurbishing companies are going to be busy.

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

But there are also plenty of trains for most applications.

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

 

 

May 30, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Go-Anywhere Express Parcel And Pallet Carrier (HSPT)

In the June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways there is an article entitled Freight, Not All Doom And Gloom, which talks about high-value parcel carriers. The article says this.

Think about all those 1980s units that are soon to be made redundant, especially the ones with wide doorways. You could forklift in pallets and move them by hand trolley inside the vehicle (forklift tines would not fit an HST’s doors).

A Class 150 parcels unit, anyone?

There are other reasons for not using a High Speed Train.

  • ScotRail and Great Western Railway have better uses for the trains moving passengers around in style.
  • Their 125 mph capability and large windows might come in handy for heritage tourism.
  • They are diesel trains and some might not like to hear them thundering through the countryside in the middle of the night.

As to the Class 150 train, it has a few disadvantages.

  • It is only two-cars.
  • It has a 75 mph operating speed.
  • It is diesel-powered, which probably means regular refuelling.

But also like all Mark 3-based stock it scrubs up well as I wrote in What Train Is This?

I would refurbish the whole fleet and use them on short branch lines to provide a quality service, where a two or four-car train was all that was needed.

So what would be the specification of an ideal Go-Anywhere Express Parcel and Pallet Carrier?

I was going to call it a GAEPPC in this post, but that’s rather a mouthful, so I’ll call it a High Speed Parcel Train or High Speed Pallet Train, which in recognition of its more famous big brother will be called a HSPT.

For the specification, it might be a good idea to start with the Class 325 train. This is the first paragraph of the train’s Wikipedia entry.

The British Rail Class 325 is a 4-car dual-voltage 25 kV alternating current (AC) or 750 V direct current (DC) electric multiple unit (EMU) train used for postal train services. While the Class 325 bears a resemblance to the Networker series of DMUs and EMUs, they are based on the Class 319 EMU. The Class 325 was British Rail’s newest unit to take over parcels workings on electrified lines.

The requirement might have changed since the 1990s, but the basic specification would be similar.

  • Four-cars
  • 100 mph operating speed.
  • 25 KVAC overhead or 750 VDC third rail operation.
  • The ability to run as four-, eight- and twelve-car trains.
  • It would be available in a range of colours and not just red!

In addition, it would need wide doors for pallets.

It would also be nice, if the HSPT could run on lines without electrification.

Look at this picture of a Class 321 train.

Would a standard size 1200 x 1000 pallet go through this door?

This morning, I measured the door on a Class 378 train and it was about 1700 mm. wide. So yes!

Once inside the systems used in cargo aircraft could be used to arrange the pallets.

Consider, these facts about Class 321 trains.

  • They are four-car electric multiple units, that can also run as eight and twelve car units.
  • They can operate at 100 mph.
  • They are dual voltage units, if required.
  • There are 117 of the trains, of which over a hundred will be released by Greater Anglia and will need a new caring owner.
  • The interior may be wide enough to put two standard pallets side-by-side.
  • They are based on Mark 3 steel carriages, so are built to take punishment.

In Could There Be A Class 321 Flex Train?, I speculated as to whether these trains could be fitted with underfloor diesel engines as in the Class 319 Flex train. After the news reports in the June 2017 Edition of Modern railways, which I reported on in The Class 319 Flex Units To Be Class 769, I’m now convinced that converting other types of train like Class 455 and Class 321 trains is feasible and that the train refurbishing companies are going to be extremely busy.

I have a feeling that Class 319 trains will not be converted to HSPTs, as they seem to be very much in demand to carry more valuable cargo – Namely fare-paying passengers!

But fit diesel engines under a Class 321 train and I think it would make a HSPT, that could travel on nearly every mile of the UK rail network and quite a few miles on heritage railways too!

A Freight Terminal For An HSPT

As the Class 321 train has been designed for passengers, it lines up reasonably well with most of the station platforms in the UK.

So at its simplest a freight terminal for a HSPT could just be a station platform, where a fork lift truck could lift pallets in and out.The freight handling facilities would be designed appropriately.

Supermarket Deliveries

I also think, that if a HSPT were available, it could attract the attention of the big supermarket groups.

In The LaMiLo Project, I described how goods were brought into Euston station in the middle of the night for onward delivery.

If it cuts costs, the supermarket groups will use this method to get goods from their central warehouses to perhaps the centres of our largest cities.

Get the design right and I suspect the supermarkets’ large delivery trolley will just roll between the train and the last-mile truck, which ideally would be a zero-emission vehicle.

In some of the larger out-of-town superstores, the train could even stop alongside the store and goods and trolleys could be wheeled in and out.

This Google Map shows Morrisons at Ipswich.

The store lies alongside the Great Eastern Main Line.

Surely, the ultimate would be if the goods were to be transported on the trains in driverless electric trolleys, which when the doors were opened, automatically came out of the trains and into the store.

Supermarket groups like to emphasise their green credentials.

Surely, doing daily deliveries to major stores by train, wouldn’t annoy anybody. |Except perhaps Donald Trump, but he’s an aberration on the upward march of scientifically-correct living.

Just-In-Time Deliveries

To take Toyota as an example, in the UK, cars are built near Derby, and the engines are built near Shotton in North Wales.

Reasons for the two separate sites are probably down to availability of the right workforce and Government subsidy.

I’m not sure, but I suspect currently in Toyota’s case, engines are moved across the country by truck, but if there was a HSPT, with a capacity of around a hundred and fifty standard pallets would manufacturing companies use them to move goods from one factory to another?

It should be said in Toyota’s case the rail lines at both Derby and Shotton are not electrified, but if the train could run on its own diesel power, it wouldn’t matter.

Refrigerated Deliveries

There probably wouldn’t be much demand now, but in the future bringing Scottish meat and seafood to London might make a refrigerated HSPT viable.

Deliveries To And From Remote Parts Of The UK

It is very difficult to get freight between certain parts of the UK and say Birmingham, London and the South-Eastern half of England.

Perishable products from Cornwall are now sent to London in the large space in the locomotives of the High Speed Trains. Plymouth, which is in Devon, to London takes nearly four hours and I suspect that a HSPT could do it in perhaps an hour longer.

But it would go between specialist terminals at both ends of the journey, so it would be a much easier service to use for both sender and receiver.

Another article in the same June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways is entitled Caithness Sleeper Plan Set Out.

This is said in the article.

Another possibility would be to convey freight on the sleeper trains with HiTrans suggesting the ability to carry four 40-foot and two 20-foot boxes on twin wagons could provide welcome products and parcels northwards and locally-produced food southwards.

A disadvantage of this idea would be that passengers would be required to vacate sleeping berths immediately on arrival at Edinburgh, so that containers could continue to a freight terminal.

The HSPT would go direct to a suitable terminal. In remote  places like Caithness, this would probably be the local station, which had been suitably modified, so that fork lift trucks could move pallets into and out of the train.

One-Off Deliveries

Provided a load can be put on a pallet, the train can move it, if there is a fork lift available at both ends of the route.

It would be wrong to speculate what sort of one-off deliveries are performed, as some will be truly unusual.

Disaster Relief

On the worldwide scale we don’t get serious natural disasters in the UK, but every year there are storms, floods, bridge collapses and other emergencies, where it is necessary to get supplies quickly to places that are difficult to reach by road, but easy by rail. If the supplies were to be put on pallets and loaded onto a HSPT, it might be easier to get them to where they are needed for unloading using a fork lift or even by hand.

International Deliveries

I am sure that Class 319 and Class 321 trains can be made compatible with Continental railway networks. In fact two Class 319 trains, were the first to pass through the Channel Tunnel.

Post-Brexit will we see high value cargoes transported by the trainload, as this would surely simplify the paperwork?

What value of Scotch whisky could you get in a four-car train?

Expect Amazon to be first in the queue for International Deliveries!

Imagine a corgo aircraft coming into the UK, at either Doncaster Sheffield or Manston Airports, with cargo containers or pallets for all over the UK, that were designed for quick loading onto an HSPT.

Conclusion

There is definitely a market for a HSPT.

If it does come about, it will be yet another tribute to the magnificent Mark 3 design!

 

 

 

 

May 27, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

What Should We Do With Old Coal-Fired Power Station Sites?

As I indicated in The Beginning Of A New Era, the way we generate electricity is changing.

Wikipedia has a list of all the active coal-fired power stations in the UK. The section starts like this.

There are currently 9 active coal fired power stations operating in the United Kingdom which have a total generating capacity of 14.4GW. In 2016 three power stations closed at Rugeley, Ferrybridge and Longannet. In November 2015 it was announced by the UK Government that all coal fired power stations would be closed by 2025.

So what should we do with the sites?

This picture shows the power station site at Eugeley

This is a Google Map of the area.

The two stations shown on the map are Rugeley Trent Valley, which is on the the Trent Valley section of the West Coast Main Line and Rugeley Town, which is on the Chase Line.

Many of these large coal-fired  power station sites sites are rail connected, so that the coal could be brought in efficiently.

In the June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways there is an article entitled Freight, Not All Doom And Gloom, which makes this plea.

Old coal-fired power stations and Ministry of Fefence sites with ready-made rail links, could make ideal distribution parks, if they are in the right part of the country.

The author is so right, when they say elsewhere in the article,  that these rail links must be kept.

Even, if a site was given over to housing, developers will say, that a good rail link to a development, improves their profits.

The article is an interesting read about moving goods by rail and contains a few surprises.

  • Moving coal and steel is well down, but to a certain extend, these bulk loads have been replaced by the moving of aggregates.
  • The article states forty percent of the materials used in London buildings, are now brought in by rail.
  • The supermarket groups and in particular Asda and Tesco are increasingly using rail for long-distance transport.
  • Short term Treasury policy sometimes works against long term aims of moving freight from the roads and cutting carbon emissions.
  • Quality 1980s passenger stock with wide doors might make excellent parcels carriers.

The last one is an interesting point, as HSTs have only got narrow doors, whereas pallets could be fork-lifted through the wide doors of something like a Class 319 or Class 321 train.

I discuss the small parcel train in detail in The Go-Anywhere Express Parcels And Pallet Carrier.

 

May 27, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Class 319 Flex Train And A Railbaar

When I wrote Could There Be A Battery-Powered Class 319 Flex Train?, not much information had been published on the Railbaar, but a Railbaar could be another tool to use with a Class 319 Flex train.

This is a paragraph from the advance copy I have of Porterbrook’s brochure for the Class 319 Flex train.

By way of an example, Porterbrook determined that the most arduous route would be Manchester Piccadilly to Buxton, which has a steep gradient and multiple stops along its 25 mile route (8 miles of which is electrified). This analysis was included to give confidence that the Class 319 Flex would be comparable to existing Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) technology across a range of different routes, stopping patterns and gradients.

Elsewhere in the brochure, they say this.

A large battery option was shown to be heavy, would require a lot of space and have long recharge times.

On the other hand, they have stated that batteries could be used to augment diesel power.

Challenging Rail Lines Up Steep Gradients in the UK

Lines like the Buxton Line are not unusual in the UK. The following challenging.

  1. Bromsgrove to Barnt Green up the infamous Lickey Incline – non-stop
  2. Bolton to Blackburn up the Ribble Valley Line – 4 intermediate stops
  3. Blackburn to Clitheroe up the Ribble Valley Line – 3 intermediate stops
  4. Rose Grove to Colne up the East Lancashire Line – 5 intermediate stops
  5. Exeter St. Davids to Barnstaple up the Tarka Line – 10 intermediate stops
  6. Plymouth to Gunnislake up the Tamar Valley Line – 7 intermediate stops
  7. Cardiff Central to Aberdate up the Aberdare Branch of the Methyr Line – 13 intermediate stops
  8. Cardiff Central to Ebbw Vale Town up the Ebbw Valley Railway – 5 intermediate stops
  9. Cardiff Central to Merthyr Tydfil up the Merthyr Line – 13 intermediate stops
  10. Cardiff Central to Rhymney up the Rhymney Line – 16 intermediate stops
  11. Cardiff Central to Treherbert up the Rhondda Line – 16 intermediate stops

Our Victorian engineers never let a steep gradient get in the way of where they wanted to build a railway.

Could These Lines Be Electrified?

Only the Lickey Incline (1) is currently being electrified. This is a description of the incline from Wikipedia.

The Lickey Incline, south of Birmingham, is the steepest sustained main-line railway incline in Great Britain. The climb is a gradient of 1 in 37.7 (2.65% or 26.5‰ or 1.52°) for a continuous distance of two miles (3.2 km)

Youtube has a great deal of modern and historic video of the Lickey Incline. Some recent footage shows freight trains climbing the incline with the assistance of a banking engine at the rear.

I doubt if the two lines in Devon (5 and 6) will ever be electrified, The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England will never allow overhead wiring gantries to despoil the landscape along the routes, some of which is in a National Park.

If the Class 319 Flex train does a good job with the three Lancashire Lines around Blackburn (2,3 and 4), the decision to electrify will be pushed a decade or more into the future. I could certainly see, Bombardier, Stadler and perhaps a couple of other companies building a train based on the experience with a Class 319 Flex train, as a replacement.

Politicians will decide whether the Cardiff Valley Lines (7 to 11) are electrified, but I have a feeling that someone somewhere will have a better alternative to full traditional electrification.

The Cardiff Valley Lines

Consider these facts about the rail service on the Cardiff Valley Lines

  • The lines are a vital lifeline to those that live in the South Wales Valleys.
  • The area is not without its attraction, for those who like to be in the hills.
  • Traffic on the lines varies throughout the day.
  • Traffic up the Valleys is highest in the evening commuting Peak and after a big sporting event in Cardiff.
  • Four-car trains are needed on the route.
  • The current diesel trains are elderly and unreliable.
  • There are plans to open new lines and stations and extend some of the existing lines further to the North.

But above all jobs and business and housing developments are needed in the Valleys.

An improved rail service could benefit a large number of people and interests.

The Class 319 Flex Train

The Class 319 Flex train started operational service  thirty years ago as a 100 mph express commuter train running on the Thameslink route from Bedford to Brighton.

It may be a comparatively old train, but it has the following characteristics.

  • It is based on the legendary Mark 3 coach, as used on the InterCity 125.
  • It is four-cars.
  • It is a dual-voltage train.
  • Two rail-proven MAN diesels and an ABB alternator provide electric power away from electrification.
  • It is a 100 mph train on an electrified main line.
  • It has a speed of around 90 mph on diesel power.
  • Drivers have told me, that the brakes are superb.
  • It has a good reputation for reliability.
  • It meets all the current disabled regulations.

But about all, like all Mark 3-based stock, it scrubs up well to any desired standard. In What Train Is This?, I showed the interior of a refurburbished thirty-year-old Class 150 train. Unrefurbished examples are typical of the stock that work the challenging lines.

Use Of A Railbaar With A Class 319 Flex Train

Porterbrook have said that the train’s electrical layout with a DC busbar connecting all xars, lends itself to adding a battery, which could be charged using the diesel power.

A typical layout of the Class 319 Flex train could be as follows.

  • DTOC – A driving car with a diesel engine/alternator set underneath.
  • PMOS – A motor car with a pantograph.
  • TOSL – A trailer car with a toilet.
  • DTOS – A driving car with a diesel engine/alternator set underneath.

I suspect that the battery would go under the TOSL.

The connection points for a Railbaar would be on the uncluttered roof of this car.

Railbaar would be a good add-on for a Class 319 Flex train, working an extension or branch line from an electrified line.

Possible Class 319 Flex Train Problems

The Class 319 train has two possible problems; the body is made of steel and the braking is not regenerative.

Despite being steel, their weight at 140 tonnes is lighter than many aluminium bodied trains, but they don’t have all the equipment like air-conditioning.

On the other hand, a similar train to a Class 319, survived the Oxshott Incident, where a 24-tonne cement mixer truck fell off a bridge onto the roof of the train.

Some Class 321 trains, which are similar to the Class 319 train, have been rebuilt with regenerative braking, so if that becomes a necessity for the Class 319 Flex train, I suspect an engineering solution is possible. Especially, as there is over a hundred Class 321 trains, which will be coming off-lease soon.

The Class 319 Flex Train And The Cardiff Valley Lines

There are eighty-six Class 319 trains, so there would be no problems finding a donor train to convert into a trial train for the Cardiff Valley Lines, if the Class 319 Flex train performs successfully on the Buxton Line.

  • On the Buxton Line, trains climb 150 metres in 15 kilometres from the electrified station at Hazel Grove to Buxton.
  • On the Merthyr Line, trains climb 168 metres in about 30 kilometres from Cardiff to Merthyr Tydfil.

So it looks like Buxton is steeper, but the Merthyr Line is longer.

I suspect that a Class 319 Flex train will go into service on a trial basis in South Wales, to test performance and customer reaction.

If nothing, it will help define the specification for the trains that can work the Cardiff Valley Lines.

Energy Needed To Raise A Train To Merthyr Tydfil

I will make these assumptions.

  • Merthyr Tydfil has an altitude of 179 metres.
  • Cardiff Central station has an altitude of 11 metres.
  • The train must be raised 168 metres
  • A Class 319 train has a weight of 140 tonnes.
  • A Class 319 train has a seated capacity of 319.
  • A suitable battery would weigh about 2 tonnes.

Raising an empty  four-car train similar to a Class 319 train, from Cardiff Central to Merthyr Tydfil will require 23,856,000 Kg-m or 65  KwH of energy.

Assuming a full load of 319 passengers at 80 Kg a time and that adds another 4,287,360 Kg-m or 12 KwH of energy.

My calculations are very rough.

The passengers get out at the top, so they are not energy that will be regenerated on the way down.

An Electrification Scheme For The Cardiff Valley Lines

The Cardiff Valley Lines were built with the main purpose of bringing coal from the valleys to the port of Cardiff for distribution and export by ship.

Now passengers are much more important, with commuting , leisure and tourism prominent.

Coming down is never a problem and a battery electric train with good brakes could handle a full load of passengers with few problems.

Going up is the problem, as the evening peak or a big rugby match in Cardiff can result in a full train having to be hauled up the valleys.

Similar problems are encountered on all the lines in my list to a certain extent, but without seeing the figures, I suspect the Cardiff Valley Lines are some of the most challenging.

Porterbrook have said, that they are not against using batteries on a Class 319 Flex train as a boost on difficult climbs.

So I think that a Class 319 Flex train fitted with an appropriate-sized battery could be a starting point.

But there is one big problem with a Class 319 Flex train. The Class 319 trains do not have regenerative braking, which could be used to charge the batteries on the way down from the valleys.

However, the very similar Class 321 train is being fitted with regenerative braking, so a possible Class 321 Flex train could charge the batteries on the way down.

When the train arrived in Cardiff, it could attach to a Railbaar to make sure that when it left to climb up into the valleys, the batteries were fully charged.

I think that in all these ramblings, there will be a solution, where all the various technologies come together in a bespoke solution.

  • Four-car train.
  • Electric drive.
  • 25 KVAC overhead to work electrified routes on the South Wales Main Line, at 100 mph.
  • Onboard rail-proven diesel engines and alternators, which would be used accordingly and probably automatically!
  • Two diesel power units would be used, so that one failure wouldn’t leave a stranded train.
  • Batteries with a capacity of around 100 KwH
  • Powerful regenerative braking
  • Railbaars in Cardiff and other low-altitude terminal stations, could be used if diesel charging can’t be used.
  • Well-driven trains to an energy efficient timetable.

Obviously, any electrification of the Cardiff ends of the routes would be welcome and less diesel-power would be needed.

Conclusions

Railbaar would be a good add-on for a Class 319 Flex train, working an extension or branch line from an electrified line.

A Class 319 Flex train with a battery and regenerative braking could be very useful on challenging routes like the Cardiff Valley Lines.

With these applications,  strategically placed Railbaars could add to the resilience and efficiency of the system.

The bespoke solution, that I have outlined, is very close to the specification of a Class 319 Flex train with a battery and regenerative braking.

I can’t wait to ride a Class 319 Flex train on a proving run to Merthyr Tydfil.

 

 

 

 

 

April 12, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

So Where Will Greater Anglia’s Old Trains Go?

The title of this post is the title of this article in the East Anglian Daily Times.

It is a good question to ask, as when all Greater Anglia‘s new trains have arrived in 2020 or so, there will be a lot of trains needing good homes.

The article comes to these conclusions.

I don’t disagree greatly, but I do feel that because of the continued fast growth of the UK rail network, that other outcomes could happen.

Mark 3 Coaches

Passengers like the Mark 3 coach and Chiltern Railways have shown that the coaches can be refurbished to a very high standard, that meets all current and future regulations.

I feel that at least some coaches will get the Chiltern treatment, as there are routes, where they could work economically, between a locomotive and a driving van trailer (DVT). The key to this could be that Greater Anglia will release sixteen DVTs in good condition.

Class 321 Trains

Greater Anglia has over a hundred of these four-car trains and thirty of these will have been upgraded under the Renatus project.

If the Class 319 Flex train is a success, could we see some of these trains given the same treatment as I talked about in Could There Be A Class 321 Flex Train?

If the Class 321 Flex train were to possess the same hill-climbing ability that is proposed for the Class 319 Flex train, then there could be a whole fleet of trains suitable to work the Valley Lines from Cardiff, without any further electrification.

It will come down to a political decision, as to whether to electrify the Valley Lines and use new rolling stock or appropriately refurbished cascaded Class 321 trains.

 

March 6, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment