The Anonymous Widower

Solving The Electrification Conundrum

The title of this post, is the same as an article in the July 2021 Edition of Modern Railways.

This is the introductory sub-heading.

Regional and rural railways poses a huge problem for the railway to decarbonise.

Lorna McDonald of Hitachi Rail and Jay Mehta of Hitachi ABB Power Grids tell Andy Roden why they believe they have the answer.

These are my thoughts on what is said.

Battery-Electric Trains

The article starts by giving a review of battery-electric trains and their use on routes of moderate but important length.

  • Some short routes can be handled with just a charge on an electrified main line.
  • Some will need a recharge at the termini.
  • Other routes might need a recharge at some intermediate stations, with a possible increase in dwell times.

It was in February 2015, that I wrote Is The Battery Electric Multiple Unit (BEMU) A Big Innovation In Train Design?, after a ride in public service on Bombardier’s test battery-electric train based on a Class 379 train.

I also wrote this in the related post.

Returning from Harwich, I travelled with the train’s on-board test engineer, who was monitoring the train performance in battery mode on a laptop. He told me that acceleration in this mode was the same as a standard train, that the range was up to sixty miles and that only minimal instruction was needed to convert a driver familiar to the Class 379 to this battery variant.

It was an impressive demonstration, of how a full-size train could be run in normal service without connection to a power supply. I also suspect that the partners in the project must be very confident about the train and its technology to allow paying passengers to travel on their only test train.

A couple of years later, I met a lady on another train, who’d used the test train virtually every day during the trial and she and her fellow travellers felt that it was as good if not better than the normal service from a Class 360 train or a Class 321 train.

So why if the engineering, customer acceptance and reliability were proven six years ago, do we not have several battery electric trains in service?

  • There is a proven need for battery-electric trains on the Marshlink Line and the Uckfield Branch in Sussex.
  • The current Class 171 trains are needed elsewhere, so why are no plans in place for replacement trains?
  • The government is pushing electric cars and buses, but why is there such little political support for battery-electric trains?

It’s almost as if, an important civil servant in the decision process has the naive belief that battery-electric trains won’t work and if they do, they will be phenomenally expensive. So the answer is an inevitable no!

Only in the South Wales Metro, are battery-electric trains considered to be part of the solution to create a more efficient and affordable electric railway.

But as I have constantly pointed out since February 2015 in this blog, battery-electric trains should be one of the innovations we use to build a better railway.

Hydrogen Powered Trains

The article says this about hydrogen powered trains.

Hybrid hydrogen fuel cells can potentially solve the range problem, but at the cost of the fuel eating up internal capacity that would ideally be used for passengers. (and as Industry and Technology Editor Roger Ford points out, at present hydrogen is a rather dirty fuel). By contrast, there is no loss of seating or capacity in a Hitachi battery train.

I suspect the article is referring to the Alstom train, which is based on the technology of the Alstom Coradia iLint.

I have ridden this train.

  • It works reliably.
  • It runs on a 100 km route.
  • The route is partially electrified, but the train doesn’t have a pantograph.
  • It has a very noisy mechanical transmission.

Having spoken to passengers at length, no-one seemed bothered by the Hindenburg possibilities.

It is certainly doing some things right, as nearly fifty trains have been ordered for train operating companies in Germany.

Alstom’s train for the UK is the Class 600 train, which will be converted from a four-car Class 321 train.

Note.

  1. Half of both driver cars is taken up by a hydrogen tank.
  2. Trains will be three-cars.
  3. Trains will be able to carry as many passengers as a two-car Class 156 train.

It is an inefficient design that can be improved upon.

Porterbrook and Birmingham University appear to have done that with their Class 799 train.

  • It can use 25 KVAC overhead or 750 VDC third-rail electrification.
  • The hydrogen tanks, fuel cell and other hydrogen gubbins are under the floor.

This picture from Network Rail shows how the train will appear at COP26 in Glasgow in November.

Now that’s what I call a train! Let alone a hydrogen train!

Without doubt, Porterbrook and their academic friends in Birmingham will be laying down a strong marker for hydrogen at COP26!

I know my hydrogen, as my first job on leaving Liverpool University with my Control Engineering degree in 1968 was for ICI at Runcorn, where I worked in a plant that electrolysed brine into hydrogen, sodium hydroxide and chlorine.

My life went full circle last week, when I rode this hydrogen powered bus in London.

The hydrogen is currently supplied from the same chemical works in Runcorn, where I worked. But plans have been made at Runcorn, to produce the hydrogen from renewable energy, which would make the hydrogen as green hydrogen of the highest standard. So sorry Roger, but totally carbon-free hydrogen is available.

The bus is a Wightbus Hydroliner FCEV and this page on the Wrightbus web site gives the specification. The specification also gives a series of cutaway drawings, which show how they fit 86 passengers, all the hydrogen gubbins and a driver into a standard size double-deck bus.

I believe that Alstom’s current proposal is not a viable design, but I wouldn’t say that about the Porterbrook/Birmingham University design.

Any Alternative To Full Electrification Must Meet Operator And Customer Expectations

This is a paragraph from the article.

It’s essential that an alternative traction solution offers the same levels of performance and frequency, while providing an increase in capacity and being economically viable.

In performance, I would include reliability. As the on-board engineer indicated on the Bombardier  test train on the Harwich branch, overhead electrification is not totally reliable, when there are winds and/or criminals about.

Easy Wins

Hitachi’s five-car Class 800 trains and Class 802 trains each have three diesel engines and run the following short routes.

  • Kings Cross and Middlesbrough- 21 miles not electrified – Changeover in Northallerton station
  • Kings Cross and Lincoln – 16.6 miles not electrified – Changeover in Newark Northgate station
  • Paddington and Bedwyn – 13.3 miles not electrified – Changeover in Newbury station
  • Paddington and Oxford – 10.3 miles not electrified – Changeover in Didcot Parkway station

Some of these routes could surely be run with a train, where one diesel engine was replaced by a battery-pack.

As I’m someone, who was designing, building and testing plug-compatible transistorised electronics in the 1960s to replace  older valve-based equipment in a heavy engineering factory, I suspect that creating a plug-compatible battery-pack that does what a diesel engine does in terms of power and performance is not impossible.

What would be the reaction to passengers, once they had been told, they had run all the way to or from London without using any diesel?

Hopefully, they’d come again and tell their friends, which is what a train operator wants and needs.

Solving The Electrification Conundrum

This section is from the article.

Where electrification isn’t likely to be a viable proposition, this presents a real conundrum to train operators and rolling stock leasing companies.

This is why Hitachi Rail and Hitachi ABB Power Grids are joining together to present a combined battery train and charging solution to solve this conundrum. In 2020, Hitachi and ABB’s Power Grids business, came together in a joint venture, and an early outcome of this is confidence that bringing together their expertise in rail, power and grid management, they can work together to make electrification simpler cheaper and quicker.

I agree strongly with the second paragraph, as several times, I’ve been the mathematician and simulation expert in a large multi-disciplinary engineering project, that went on to be very successful.

The Heart Of The Proposition

This is a paragraph from the article.

The proposition is conceptually simple. Rather than have extended dwell times at stations for battery-powered trains, why not have a short stretch of 25 KVAC overhead catenary (the exact length will depend on the types of train and the route) which can charge trains at linespeed on the move via a conventional pantograph?

The article also mentions ABB’s related expertise.

  • Charging buses all over Europe.
  • Creating the power grid for the Great Western Electrification to Cardiff.

I like the concept, but then it’s very similar to what I wrote in The Concept Of Electrification Islands in April 2020.

But as they are electrical power engineers and I’m not, they’d know how to create the system.

Collaboration With Hyperdrive Innovation

The article has nothing negative to say about the the collaboration with Hyperdrive Innovation to produce the battery-packs.

Route Modelling

Hitachi appear to have developed a sophisticated route modelling system, so that routes and charging positions can be planned.

I would be very surprised if they hadn’t developed such a system.

Modular And Scalable

This is a paragraph from the article.

In the heart of the system is a containerised modular solution containing everything needed to power a stretch of overhead catenary to charge trains. A three-car battery train might need one of these, but the great advantage is that it is scalable to capacity and speed requirements.

This all sounds very sensible and can surely cope with a variety of lines and traffic levels.

It also has the great advantage , that if a line is eventually electrified, the equipment can be moved on to another line.

Financing Trains And Chargers

The article talks about the flexibility of the system from an operator’s point of view with respect to finance.

I’ve had some good mentors in the area of finance and I know innovative finance contributed to the success of Metier Management Systems, the project management company I started with three others in 1977.

After selling Metier, I formed an innovative finance company, which would certainly have liked the proposition put forward in the article.

No Compromise, Little Risk

I would agree with this heading of the penultimate section of the article.

In February 2015, when I rode that Class 379 train between Manningtree and Harwich, no compromise had been made by Bombardier and it charged in the electrified bay platform at Manningtree.

But why was that train not put through an extensive route-proving exercise in the UK after the successful trial at Manningtree?

  • Was it the financial state of Bombardier?
  • Was it a lack of belief on the part of politicians, who were too preoccupied with Brexit?
  • Was it that an unnamed civil servant didn’t like the concept and stopped the project?

Whatever the reason, we have wasted several years in getting electric trains accepted on UK railways.

If no compromise needs to be made to create a battery-electric train, that is equivalent to the best-in-class diesel or electric multiple units, then what about the risk?

The beauty of Hitachi’s battery-electric train project is that it can be done in phases designed to minimise risk.

Phase 1 – Initial Battery Testing 

Obviously, there will be a lot of bench testing in a laboratory.

But I also believe that if the Class 803 trains are fitted with a similar battery from Hyperdrive Innovation, then this small fleet of five trains can be used to test a lot of the functionality of the batteries initially in a test environment and later in a real service environment.

The picture shows a Class 803 train under test through Oakleigh Park station.

This phase would be very low risk, especially where passengers are concerned.

Phase 2 – Battery Traction Testing And Route Proving

I am a devious bastard, when it comes to software development. The next set of features would always be available for me to test earlier, than anybody else knew.

I doubt that the engineers at Hyperdrive Innovation will be any different.

So I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the batteries in the Class 803 trains can also be used for traction, if you have the right authority.

We might even see Class 803 trains turning up in some unusual places to test the traction abilities of the batteries.

As East Coast Trains, Great Western Railway and Hull Trains are all First Group companies, I can’t see any problems.

I’m also sure that Hitachi could convert some Class 800 or Class 802 trains and add these to the test fleet, if East Coast Trains need their Class 803 trains to start service.

This phase would be very low risk, especially where passengers are concerned.

Possibly, the worse thing, that could happen would be a battery failure, which would need the train to be rescued.

Phase 3 – Service Testing On Short Routes

As I indicated earlier, there are some easy routes between London and places like Bedwyn, Lincoln, Middlesbrough and Oxford, that should be possible with a Class 800 or Class 802 train fitted with the appropriate number of batteries.

Once the trains have shown, the required level of performance and reliability, I can see converted Class 800, 801 and Class 802 trains entering services on these and other routes.

Another low risk phase, although passengers are involved, but they are probably subject to the same risks, as on an unmodified train.

Various combinations of diesel generators and batteries could be used to find out, what is the optimum combination for the typical diagrams that train operators use.

Hitachi didn’t commit to any dates, but I can see battery-electric trains running on the Great Western Railway earlier than anybody thinks.

Phase 4 – Service Testing On Medium Routes With A Terminal Charger System

It is my view that the ideal test route for battery-electric trains with a terminal charger system would be the Hull Trains service between London Kings Cross and Hull and Beverley.

The route is effectively in three sections.

  • London Kings Cross and Temple Hirst junction – 169.2 miles – Full Electrification
  • Temple Hirst junction and Hull station – 36.1 miles – No Electrification
  • Hull station and Beverley station – 8.3 miles – No Electrification

Two things would be needed to run zero-carbon electric trains on this route.

  • Sufficient battery capacity in Hull Trains’s Class 802 trains to reliably handle the 36.1 miles between Temple Hirst junction and Hull station.
  • A charging system in Hull station.

As Hull station also handles other Class 800 and Class 802 trains, there will probably be a need to put a charging system in more than one platform.

Note.

  1. Hull station has plenty of space.
  2. No other infrastructure work would be needed.
  3. There is a large bus interchange next door, so I suspect the power supply to Hull station is good.

Hull would be a very good first destination for a battery-electric InterCity train.

Others would include Bristol, Cheltenham, Chester, Scarborough, Sunderland and Swansea.

The risk would be very low, if the trains still had some diesel generator capacity.

Phase 5 – Service Testing On Long Routes With Multiple Charger Systems

Once the performance and reliability of the charger systems have been proven in single installations like perhaps Hull and Swansea stations, longer routes can be prepared for electric trains.

This press release from Hitachi is entitled Hitachi And Eversholt Rail To Develop GWR Intercity Battery Hybrid Train – Offering Fuel Savings Of More Than 20%.

The press release talks about Penzance and London, so would that be a suitable route for discontinuous electrification using multiple chargers?

These are the distances between major points on the route between Penzance and London Paddington.

  • Penzance and Truro – 35.8 miles
  • Truro and Bodmin Parkway – 26.8 miles
  • Bodmin Parkway and Plymouth – 26.9 miles
  • Plymouth and Newton Abbot – 31,9 miles
  • Newton Abbot and Exeter – 20.2 miles
  • Exeter and Taunton – 30.8 miles
  • Taunton and Westbury – 47.2 miles
  • Westbury and Newbury – 42.5 miles
  • Newbury and Paddington – 53 miles

Note.

  1. Only Newbury and Paddington is electrified.
  2. Trains generally stop at Plymouth, Newton Abbott, Exeter and Taunton.
  3. Services between Paddington and Exeter, Okehampton, Paignton, Penzance, Plymouth and Torquay wouldn’t use diesel.
  4. Okehampton would be served by a reverse at Exeter.
  5. As Paignton is just 8.1 miles from Newton Abbot, it probably wouldn’t need a charger.
  6. Bodmin is another possible destination, as Great Western Railway have helped to finance a new platform at Bodmin General station.

It would certainly be good marketing to run zero-carbon electric trains to Devon and Cornwall.

I would class this route as medium risk, but with a high reward for the operator.

In this brief analysis, it does look that Hitachi’s proposed system is of a lower risk.

A Few Questions

I do have a few questions.

Are The Class 803 Trains Fitted With Hyperdrive Innovation Batteries?

East Coast Trains‘s new Class 803 trains are undergoing testing between London Kings Cross and Edinburgh and they can be picked up on Real Time Trains.

Wikipedia says this about the traction system for the trains.

While sharing a bodyshell with the previous UK A-train variants, the Class 803 differs in that it has no diesel engines fitted. They will however be fitted with batteries to enable the train’s on-board services to be maintained, in case the primary electrical supplies have failed.

Will these emergency batteries be made by Hyperdrive Innovation?

My experience of similar systems in other industries, points me to the conclusion, that all Class 80x trains can be fitted with similar, if not identical batteries.

This would give the big advantage of allowing battery testing to be performed on Class 803 trains under test, up and down the East Coast Main Line.

Nothing finds faults in the design and manufacture of something used in transport, than to run it up and down in real conditions.

Failure of the catenary can be simulated to check out emergency modes.

Can A Class 801 Train Be Converted Into A Class 803 Train?

If I’d designed the trains, this conversion would be possible.

Currently, the electric Class 801 trains have a single diesel generator. This is said in the Wikipedia entry for the Class 800 train about the Class 801 train.

These provide emergency power for limited traction and auxiliaries if the power supply from the overhead line fails.

So it looks like the difference between the powertrain of a Class 801 train and a Class 803 train, is that the Class 801 train has a diesel generator and the Class 803 train has batteries. But the diesel generator and batteries, would appear to serve the same purpose.

Surely removing diesel from a Class 801 train would ease the maintenance of the train!

Will The System Work With Third-Rail Electrification?

There are three routes that if they were electrified would probably be electrified with 750 DC third-rail electrification, as they have this electrification at one or both ends.

  • Basingstoke and Exeter
  • Marshlink Line
  • Uckfield branch

Note.

  1. Basingstoke and Exeter would need a couple of charging systems.
  2. The Marshlink line would need a charging system at Rye station.
  3. The Uckfield branch would need a charging system at Uckfield station.

I am fairly certain as an Electrical Engineer, that the third-rails would only need to be switched on, when a train is connected and needs a charge.

I also feel that on some scenic and other routes, 750 VDC third-rail electrification may be more acceptable , than 25 KVAC  overhead electrification. For example, would the heritage lobby accept overhead wires through a World Heritage Site or on top of a Grade I Listed viaduct?

I do feel that the ability to use third-rail 750 VDC third-rail electrification strategically could be a useful tool in the system.

Will The System Work With Lightweight Catenary?

I like the design of this 25 KVAC overhead electrification, that uses lightweight gantries, which use laminated wood for the overhead structure.

There is also a video.

Electrification doesn’t have to be ugly and out-of-character with the surroundings.

Isuspect that both systems could work together.

 

Would Less Bridges Need To Be Rebuilt For Electrification?

This is always a contentious issue with electrification, as rebuilding bridges causes disruption to both rail and road.

I do wonder though by the use of careful design, that it might be possible to arrange that the sections of electrification and the contentious bridges were kept apart, with the bridges arranged to be in sections, where the trains ran on batteries.

I suspect that over the years as surveyors and engineers get more experienced, better techniques will evolve to satisfy all parties.

Get this right and it could reduce the cost of electrification on some lines, that will be difficult to electrify.

How Secure Are The Containerised Systems?

Consider.

  • I was delayed in East Anglia two years ago, because someone stole the overhead wires at two in the morning.
  • Apparently, overhead wire stealing is getting increasingly common in France and other parts of Europe.

I suspect the containerised systems will need to be more secure than those used for buses, which are not in isolated locations.

Will The Containerised Charging Systems Use Energy Storage?

Consider.

  • I’ve lived in rural locations and the power grids are not as good as in urban areas.
  • Increasingly, batteries of one sort or another are being installed in rural locations to beef up local power supplies.
  • A new generation of small-footprint eco-friendly energy storage systems are being developed.

In some locations, it might be prudent for a containerised charging system to share a battery with the local area.

Will The Containerised Charging Systems Accept Electricity From Local Sources Like Solar Farms?

I ask the question, as I know at least one place on the UK network, where a line without electrification runs through a succession of solar farms.

I also know of an area, where a locally-owned co-operative is planning a solar farm, which they propose would be used to power the local main line.

Will The System Work With Class 385 Trains?

Hitachi’s Class 385 trains are closely related to the Class 80x trains, as they are all members of Hitachi’s A-Train family.

Will the Charging Systems Charge Other Manufacturers Trains?

CAF and Stadler are both proposing to introduce battery-electric trains in the UK.

I also suspect that the new breed of electric parcel trains will include a battery electric variant.

As these trains will be able to use 25 KVAC overhead electrification, I would expect, that they would be able to charge their batteries on the Hitachi ABB  charging systems.

Will The System Work With Freight Trains?

I believe that freight services will split into two.

Heavy freight will probably use powerful hydrogen-electric locomotives.

In Freightliner Secures Government Funding For Dual-Fuel Project, which is based on a Freightliner press release, I detail Freightliner’s decarbonisation strategy, which indicates that in the future they will use hydrogen-powered locomotives.

But not all freight is long and extremely heavy and I believe that a battery-electric freight locomotive will emerge for lighter duties.

There is no reason it could not be designed to be compatible with Hitachi’s charging system.

In Is This The Shape Of Freight To Come?, I talked about the plans for 100 mph parcel services based on redundant electric multiple units. Eversholt Rail Group have said they want a Last-Mile capability for their version of these trains.

Perhaps they need a battery-electric capability, so they can deliver parcels and shop supplies to the remoter parts of these islands?

Where Could Hitachi’s System Be Deployed?

This is the final paragraph from the article.

Hitachi is not committing to any routes yet, but a glance at the railway map shows clear potential for the battery/OLE-technology to be deployed on relatively lightly used rural and regional routes where it will be hard to make a case for electrification. The Cambrian Coast and Central Wales Lines would appear to be worthy candidates, and in Scotland, the West Highland Line and Far North routes are also logical areas for the system to be deployed.

In England, while shorter branch lines could simply be operated by battery trains, longer routes need an alternative. Network Rail’s Traction Decarbonisation Network Strategy interim business case recommends hydrogen trains for branch lines in Norfolk, as well as Par to Newquay and Exeter to Barnstaple. However, it is also entirely feasible to use the system on routes likely to be electrified much later in the programme, such as the Great Western main line West of Exeter, Swansea to Fishguard and parts of the Cumbrian Coast Line.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and mine would be driven by high collateral benefits and practicality.

These are my thoughts.

Long Rural Lines

The Cambrian, Central Wales (Heart Of Wales), Far North and West Highland Lines may not be connected to each other, but they form a group of rail routes with a lot of shared characteristics.

  • All are rural routes of between 100 and 200 miles.
  • All are mainly single track.
  • They carry occasional freight trains.
  • They carry quite a few tourists, who are there to sample, view or explore the countryside.
  • All trains are diesel.
  • Scotrail have been experimenting with attaching Class 153 trains to the trains on the West Highland Line to act as lounge cars and cycle storage.

Perhaps we need a long-distance rural train with the following characteristics.

  • Four or possibly five cars
  • Battery-electric power
  • Space for a dozen cycles
  • A lounge car
  • Space for a snack trolley
  • Space to provide a parcels service to remote locations.

I should also say, that I’ve used trains on routes in countries like Germany, Poland and Slovenia, where a similar train requirement exists.

Norfolk Branch Lines

Consider.

  • North of the Cambridge and Ipswich, the passenger services on the branch lines and the important commuter routes between Cambridge and Norwich and Ipswich are run by Stadler Class 755 trains, which are designed to be converted to battery-electric trains.
  • Using Hitachi chargers at Beccles, Bury St. Edmunds, Lowestoft, Thetford and Yarmouth and the existing electrification, battery-electric Class 755 trains could provide a zero-carbon train service for Norfolk and Suffolk.
  • With chargers at Dereham and March, two important new branch lines could be added and the Ipswich and Peterborough service could go hourly and zero carbon.
  • Greater Anglia have plans to use the Class 755 trains to run a London and Lowestoft service.
  • Could they be planning a London and Norwich service via Cambridge?
  • Would battery-electric trains running services over Norfolk bring in more visitors by train?

Hitachi may sell a few chargers to Greater Anglia, but I feel they have enough battery-electric trains.

Par And Newquay

The Par and Newquay Line or the Atlantic Coast Line, has been put forward as a Beeching Reversal project, which I wrote about in Beeching Reversal – Transforming The Newquay Line.

In that related post, I said the line needed the following.

  • An improved track layout.
  • An hourly service.
  • An improved Par station.
  • A rebuilt Newquay station with a second platform, so that more through trains can be run.

I do wonder, if after the line were to be improved, that a new three-car battery-electric train shuttling between Par and Newquay stations could be the icing on the cake.

Exeter And Barnstaple

The Tarka Line between Exeter and Barnstaple is one of several local and main lines radiating from Exeter St. David’s station.

  • The Avocet Line to Exmouth
  • The Great Western Main Line to Taunton, Bristol and London
  • The Great Western Main Line to Newton Abbott, Plymouth and Penzance
  • The Riviera Line to Paignton
  • The West of England Line to Salisbury, Basingstoke and London.

Note.

  1. The Dartmoor Line to Okehampton is under development.
  2. Several new stations are planned on the routes.
  3. I have already stated that Exeter could host a charging station between London and Penzance, but it could also be an electrified hub for battery-electric trains running hither and thither.

Exeter could be a city with a battery-electric metro.

Exeter And Penzance

Earlier, I said that I’d trial multiple chargers between Paddington and Penzance to prove the concept worked.

I said this.

I would class this route as medium risk, but with a high reward for the operator.

But it is also an enabling route, as it would enable the following battery-electric services.

  • London and Bodmin
  • London and Okehampton
  • London and Paignton and Torquay

It would also enable the Exeter battery-electric metro.

For these reasons, this route should be electrified using Hitachi’s discontinuous electrification.

Swansea And Fishguard

I mentioned Swansea earlier, as a station, that could be fitted with a charging system, as this would allow battery-electric trains between Paddington and Swansea via Cardiff.

Just as with Exeter, there must be scope at Swansea to add a small number of charging systems to develop a battery-electric metro based on Swansea.

Cumbrian Coast Line

This is a line that needs improvement, mainly for the tourists and employment it could and probably will bring.

These are a few distances.

  • West Coast Main Line (Carnforth) and Barrow-in-Furness – 28.1 miles
  • Barrow-in-Furness and Sellafield – 25 miles
  • Sellafield and Workington – 18 miles
  • Workington and West Coast Main Line (Carlisle) – 33 miles

Note.

  1. The West Coast Main Line is fully-electrified.
  2. I suspect that Barrow-in-Furness, Sellafield and Workington have good enough electricity supplies to support charging systems  for the Cumbrian Coast Line.
  3. The more scenic parts of the line would be left without wires.

It certainly is a line, where a good case for running battery-electric trains can be made.

Crewe And Holyhead

In High-Speed Low-Carbon Transport Between Great Britain And Ireland, I looked at zero-carbon travel between the Great Britain and Ireland.

One of the fastest routes would be a Class 805 train between Euston and Holyhead and then a fast catamaran to either Dublin or a suitable rail-connected port in the North.

  • The Class 805 trains could be made battery-electric.
  • The trains could run between Euston and Crewe at speeds of up to 140 mph under digital signalling.
  • Charging systems would probably be needed at Chester, Llandudno Junction and Holyhead.
  • The North Wales Coast Line looks to my untrained eyes, that it could support at least some 100 mph running.

I believe that a time of under three hours could be regularly achieved between London Euston and Holyhead.

Battery-electric trains on this route, would deliver the following benefits.

  • A fast low-carbon route from Birmingham, London and Manchester to the island of Ireland. if coupled with the latest fast catamarans at Holyhead.
  • Substantial reductions in journey times to and from Anglesey and the North-West corner of Wales.
  • Chester could become a hub for battery-electric trains to and from Birmingham, Crewe, Liverpool, Manchester and Shrewsbury.
  • Battery-electric trains could be used on the Conwy Valley Line.
  • It might even be possible to connect the various railways, heritage railways and tourist attractions in the area with zero-carbon shuttle buses.
  • Opening up of the disused railway across Anglesey.

The economics of this corner of Wales could be transformed.

My Priority Routes

To finish this section, I will list my preferred routes for this method of discontinuous electrification.

  • Exeter and Penzance
  • Swansea and Fishguard
  • Crewe and Holyhead

Note.

  1. Some of the trains needed for these routes have been delivered or are on order.
  2. Local battery-electric services could be developed at Chester, Exeter and Swansea by building on the initial systems.
  3. The collateral benefits could be high for Anglesey, West Wales and Devon and Cornwall.

I suspect too, that very little construction work not concerned with the installation of the charging systems will be needed.

Conclusion

Hitachi have come up with a feasible way to electrify Great Britain’s railways.

I would love to see detailed costings for the following.

  • Adding a battery pack to a Class 800 train.
  • Installing five miles of electrification supported by a containerised charging system.

They could be on the right side for the Treasury.

But whatever the costs, it does appear that the Japanese have gone native, with their version of the Great British Compromise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 9, 2021 Posted by | Design, Energy, Hydrogen, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Is This The Shape Of Freight To Come?

This article on Rail Advent is entitled Eversholt Rail Unveils First Swift Express Freight Train In Doncaster.

It is a full report on the first of a new breed of freight trains based on redundant 100 mph electric multiple units.

Three Rail Problems

The rail industry, its financiers and customers have a lot of problems, they’d like to solve, but these three seem to be coming together to create a whole new industry.

Rolling Stock Leasing Companies Have A Surplus Of Redundant Rolling Stock

 

Most of the released rolling stock has been made redundant because of the arrival of new trains.

What will be left will be a an assortment, which will contain a lot of trains with these characteristics.

  • Four cars
  • Can run in formations of 4, 8 and 12 cars
  • Electrically-powered.
  • Some trains are even dual voltage.
  • 100 mph operating speed.
  • Good reliability.
  • Easy maintenance and modification if needed.

Many were even built over thirty years ago by British Rail Engineering Ltd.

As someone, who used to part-own a company that leased trucks to operators, I know that to maximise cash-flow and ultimately profits, you don’t want them sitting in a yard or a siding.

Conversion to zero carbon is one option.

  • Porterbrook have said they will convert the Class 350 trains, that they own to battery-electric operation.
  • Porterbrook have also converted some Class 319 trains to electro-diesel Class 769 trains.
  • Porterbrook have also converted a Class 319 train to hydrogen operation.
  • Eversholt Rail Group and Alstom are converting Class 321 trains to hydrogen operation.

I also believe that the redundant Class 379 trains will also be converted to battery-electric operation.

But there will still be a substantial number of quality trains, that need a second life.

The Growth Of Parcel Freight

Parcel freight traffic driven by on-line shopping, has boomed in the pandemic.

This type of traffic often originates from outside of the UK and enters the country at places like London Gateway or East Midlands Airport.

Much of it is currently distributed to large cities by truck, which in this day and age is not a green option, or even an option at all.

Rail Operations Group have leased ten Class 769 trains and 9 Class 319 trains with the intention of running parcel services under the Orion brand. I wrote about this proposal in A Freight Shuttle For Liverpool Street Station Planned.

Road Congestion

Road congestion is getting worse and there is bir much point in having product stuck on the motorway, when it can be running along at a 100 mph on an electrified rail line.

The Need For Just-In-Time Deliveries

Many factories these days work on the Just-In-Time principle, with product delivered just as its needed.

As an example Toyota build their cars at Burnaston near Derby, but the engines are built in North Wales. I suspect that they go across the country by truck.

Looking at maps, the engine plant could be rail connected and I feel one could be arranged at Burnaston.

Do they keep a good stock of engines at Burnaston?

I can see several situations like this needing a regular company train.

Fast Food

Because of Brexit we will need to be growing more of our own food.

Traditionally, the Class 43 power cars of InterCity 125 trains carried flowers and fish up from Cornwall.

So will we see rail provide an alternative.

Conclusion

Put these problems together and you can see a fair number of four-car electric multiple units being converted to short 100 mph electric freight trains.

Eversholt Rail Group‘s Swift Express Freight Train is very much a demonstrator for their ideas and it has some expected and unexpected features.

Based On A Class 321 train

The train is based on a four-car Class 321 train.

I rode one recently and I timed it at over 90 mph on the way to Southend.

Trolley Cages

Pictures in the Rail Advent article show a stripped-bare interior with a steel floor, with another picture showing three supermarket trolley cages arranged across the train.

One estimate in the article says that each coach can handle over fifty of these cages and up to nine-and-a-half tonnes of cargo.

Four Seats And A Toilet

Eversholt feel that some of the trains could be used in a Travelling Post Office mode and there may be a need for sorting en route, so two first-class seats, two second-class seats and a toilet are provided.

This train would enable an Anglo-Scottish parcel service.

  • It might stop several times en route.
  • At each stop parcels would be rolled out and in, perhaps with the help of a Harrington Hump.
  • The on-train staff would sort the incoming parcels and put them in the required trolley for offloading.

I don’t think though, they’ll be delivering postal orders.

A Last Mile Capability

The article also disclosed that Eversholt were thinking of fitting a Last-Mile capability to the Swift Express Freight Train.

Batteries were mentioned and they would obviously work.

But one development recently is Porterbrook’s HydroFlex train, which has converted a Class 319 train to hydrogen power.

  • The conversion was done by Birmingham University.
  • It appears that all the hydrogen gubbins is underneath the floor, so cargo capacity would not be reduced.

I suspect underfloor hydrogen power could be very viable in an express freight train.

Fleet Size

The article talks of a fleet size of twenty and also says that the first train has been leased to an unnamed parcel distributor in the UK.

July 3, 2021 Posted by | Design, Finance, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

300th Coradia Polyvalent Train Delivered By Alstom

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

The Polyvalent is a variety of the Alston Coradia, that was first ordered for France.

This is the description of the train in Wikipedia.

As of 2018, the Coradia Polyvalent is the latest variant in the Coradia family. It can operated at a maximum speed of 160 km/h in electric or bi-mode at voltages of 25 kV and 1,500 kV; a cross-border version capable of operating at a voltage of 15 kV, suitable for the German and Swiss rail networks, has also been made available. The low integrated floor of the carriages provides improved accessibility and a high level of visibility to passengers. As a measure to restrict vibrations and noise levels, motorised bogies are placed at both ends of each carriage.

The Rail Advent article adds this.

In response to the hydrogen plan by the French Minister, Alstom is now looking to incorporate a dual-mode hydrogen version of the Coradia Polyvalent range.

I would assume, this means an electric train, that can use hydrogen power, when the electrification stops.

This is how a hydrogen train should work and from reports, it appears the Alstom Breeze based on a rebuilt Class 321 train, will work like this.

The Alstom Coradia iLint may have proved the concept of hydrogen power, but compared to other hydrogen and battery powered buses and trains, I’ve ridden, it scores poorly in terms of noise, vibration and harshness.

May 24, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 3 Comments

Breeze Hydrogen Multiple-Unit Order Expected Soon

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

This is the first paragraph.

Alstom Transport is hopeful of confirming an order before the end of this year for its Breeze hydrogen multiple-unit trains being developed in partnership with leasing company Eversholt Rail, suggesting that the first trains could enter service ‘as early as 2022’.

It then goes out to fill out some of the thinking behind the Alstom Breeze hydrogen-powered train.

The Breeze Is A Stop-Gap

Alstom are quoted as indicating the Breeze is an interim solution, until the next generation of train is available.

But after a ride to Southend recently in a Class 321 Renatus, I’m sure that the ride and passenger acceptance will be of a high standard.

And that’s what counts. Hydrogen is only the train’s personal power supply.

Alstom Are Not Building A Suburban Trundler

The Alstom Coradia iLint is not an exciting train.

  • It has a cruising speed of 87 mph.
  • It has a range of 370-500 miles.
  • It has a noisy mechanical transmission.
  • It always runs on hydrogen-power.
  • The prototypes have covered 100,000 km.

In my view, it is very much a first generation compromise design.

The article says more about the Alstom Breeze.

  • It has a slightly faster cruising speed of 90 mph
  • The Breeze will have 50% more power than the iLint. Does this mean better acceleration and/or a longer and heavier train?
  • It will have a 1,000 km range.
  • It will have regenerative braking to the train’s batteries.
  • It will have a new AC traction package, as does a Class 321 Renatus. So will the two systems be the same? Or at least similar?

I am also fairly sure, the train will be able to use electrification of both 25 KVAC overhead and 750 VDC third-rail, as Class 321 trains can now!

Train Capacity

This is said about train capacity.

Despite the loss of some seating space, each set of three 20 m vehicles would provide slightly more capacity than a two-car DMU with 23 m cars which it would typically replace.

The Class 172/0 trains, that are two-car 23 metre diesel multiple units, have 124 seats.

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.

So was my seat estimate fairly good? I also think, that as the Breeze has been designed with bags of grunt, I suspect that the basic train could be increased in size by adding extra trailer cars.

After all, the legendary Class 442 train is a five-car train, with a power-car in the middle. South Western Railway, think they are worth pulling out of the scrapyard and refurbishing to run expresses between Waterloo and Portsmouth.

I am fairly certain, that Alstom can create a five-car Class 321 Breeze with the following characteristics.

  • A capacity of about three hundred seats
  • A smaller three-car train would have 140 seats.
  • A near-100 mph top speed on hydrogen-power.
  • A 100 mph top speed on electrification.
  • A 1000 km range on hydrogen.
  • Regenerative braking to an on-board battery.
  • The ability to use 25 KVAC overhead and/or 750 VDC third rail electrification.

The trains could have the ability to run as pairs to increase capacity.

The train would be ideal for the following routes.

  • Liverpool and North Wales via Chester
  • Norwich and Derby
  • Newcastle and Carlisle
  • Preston and Carlisle via Barrow
  • Cardiff and the South Coast of England
  • Borders Railway
  • Southampton and Ashford
  • Waterloo and Exeter

All of these routes have partial electrification, which would reduce the amount of hydrogen needed to be carried around.

Now that is an interesting multi-variable calculation!

Hydrogen Infrastructure

Alstom seem to be developing infrastructure solutions to supply hydrogen for fleets of ten or more trains, which could be shared with other applications. The obvious one could be where a train depot and a fleet of buses share a facility in say a large city like Exeter, which has an extensive diesel train network.

The article also says this about the source of hydrogen.

Ideally, the trains would use ‘green’ hydrogen manufactured by electrolysis using surplus renewable energy rather than ‘brown’ hydrogen from steam methane reforming.

I agree wholeheartedly with that!

Delivery In 2022?

Consider what has already been achieved in other projects.

  • Alstom have proved they can generate enough electricity to power a practical train.
  • Eversholt have proved that you can turn Class 321 trains into comfortable and efficient 100 mph Class 321 Renatus trains for routes up to a hundred miles.
  • Several classes of Mark 3-based electrical multiple units have been re-engined with AC traction, including the Class 321 Renatus.
  • Engineers all over the UK have modified Mark 3-based coaches and multiple units to create better and more-efficient trains.

Helping delivery of the project, is a legacy of drawings and philosophy from British Rail Engineering.

If Alstom say 2022, I believe that that could be a feasible date.

Conclusion

The ghost of British Rail Engineering is certainly a benign one allowing all sorts of worthwhile development paths.

May 16, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 4 Comments

Greater Anglia’s Class 720 Trains

Greater Anglia have ordered a new fleet of Class 720 trains for their suburban routes.

  • 22 x 10-car trains.
  • 89 x 5-car trains.

What do we know about the formation of Aventra trains?

The Formation Of Class 345 Trains

In A Detailed Layout Drawing For A Class 345 Train, I detailed the formation of a Class 345 train as follows.

DMS+PMS+MS1+MS3+TS(W)+MS3+MS2+PMS+DMS

Several things can be said about the formation.

Lots Of Cars With Motors

The Class 345 train has a high-proportion of cars with motors.

This may seem to be the wrong way to go, as motors cost money and lots of them, may make a more complicated and unreliable train.

But think of a tug-of-war team, which applies the force over a large patch of ground!

Having lots of motors may have advantages.

  • Force to move and accelerate the train is applied along the train.
  • It may make regenerative braking smoother and more controlled.
  • There is a greater contact area with the rail, so it may make train performance better with leaves on the line and other poor rail conditions.
  • The redundancy may mean greater reliability.

A clever control system on the train, may be able to distribute power to extract the best performance from a train, for various rail conditions, passenger loading and perhaps with one motor out of action.

Two-Half Trains

The Class 345 train formation clearly shows two half-trains with this formation.

DMS+PMS

Are these like mini-locomotives with seats for passengers at each end of the train?

With respect to a Class 345 train, I have observed the following.

  • The trains have two pantographs.
  • In a seven-car train, there is just a TS(|W) car in the middle. This is a trailer car with four wheelchair spaces.
  • A nine-car train has two extra motor cars inserted.

So are all seven-car and more trains, built as two half-trains with an appropriate number of cars in the middle to get the required length?

The concept surely means that in many scenarios of partial train failure, the remaining half-train can take passengers to a safe evacuation point, dragging the other half-train with it. This is obviously important in Crossrail’s long tunnel.

A Pair Of Power-Cars

In this article in Global Rail News from 2011, which is entitled Bombardier’s AVENTRA – A new era in train performance, gives some details of the Aventra’s electrical systems. This is said.

AVENTRA can run on both 25kV AC and 750V DC power – the high-efficiency transformers being another area where a heavier component was chosen because, in the long term, it’s cheaper to run. Pairs of cars will run off a common power bus with a converter on one car powering both. The other car can be fitted with power storage devices such as super-capacitors or Lithium-ion batteries if required. The intention is that every car will be powered although trailer cars will be available.

Unlike today’s commuter trains, AVENTRA will also shut down fully at night. It will be ‘woken up’ by remote control before the driver arrives for the first shift

This was published over eight years ago, so I suspect Bombardier have refined the concept.

But the concept of splitting the power components between two cars must be a good one, as there is twice the space underneath the cars, compared to a traditional single car with all the power components.

In the Class 345 train, it looks like the pair of cars are the DMS and PMS cars.

  • So a nine-car Class 345 train has five cars between the two pairs of power-cars.
  • Motored or trailer cars can be added to lengthen the train.

Shorter trains would only have one pair of power-cars and could be as short as three cars.

Greater Anglia’s Train Needs

Ten- and five-car trains may be OK for many of Greater Anglia’s routes, but there could be a few problems.

Hertford East Branch

These pictures show an eight-car Class 317 train at Hertford East station.

Note how both platforms are not much longer than the 160 metres of a pair of four-car Class 317 trains. Would the capacity of a five-car train be enough for the route?

Braintree Freeport Station

The pictures show Braintree Feeport station, which also seems to be sized to fit an pair of four-car Class 317 or Class 321 trains..

The same questions as with Hertford East station arise!

Wickford Station Bay Platform

This picture shows a Class 321 train parked in the bay platform at Wickford station, that is used for the Crouch Valley Line.

I would estimate that there is perhaps another twenty metres of space in the platform.

As a five-car Class 720 train is 122 metres long, as opposed to the eighty metres of the four-car Class 321 train in the picture, it will be a tight squeeze to get the new train in the platform.

But a four-car Class 720 train would probably fit.

Manningtree Station Bay Platform

Are there similar problems at Manningtree station, that a four-car Class 720 train would solve?

The Length And Capacity Of Different Trains

This table shows the length and capacity of different trains.

  • Four-car Class 317 train – 80 metres – Standard – 267/234 – First – 22/24 – Total 289/258
  • Eight-car Class 317 train – 160 metres – Standard 534/468 – First -44/48 – Total 578/516
  • Four-car Class 321 train – 80 metres – Total 309
  • Eight-car Class 321 train -160 metres – Total 618
  • Twelve-car Class 321 train -240 metres – Total 927
  • Four-car Class 360 train – 80 metres – Total 280
  • Eight-car Class 360 train – 160 metres – Total 560
  • Twelve-car Class 360 train – 240 metres – Total 840
  • Five-car Class 720 train – 122 metres – Total 540 – Standing – 145
  • Ten-car Class 720 train – 243 metres – Total 1100 – Standing – 290

Note that two five-car Class 720 trains, working as a ten-car formation have virtually identical length and capacity to a ten-car Class 720 train.

Ten-Car Services

We already know, that the ten-car Class 720 trains have been designed to replace twelve-car formations of Class 321 and Class 360 trains to places like Clacton, Ipswich and Southend.

  • They are similar lengths within a few metres.
  • The ten-car Class 720 trains give an 19% increase in seats over twelve-car Class 321 trains.
  • The ten-car Class 720 trains give an 31% increase in seats over twelve-car Class 360 trains.

An advantage must surely be that with two fewer cars, the trains will need less maintenance.

Five-Car Services

But how does a five-car Class 720 train compare with an eight-car formation of Class 317 or Class 321 trains?

  • Seat numbers are similar depending on the layout of the older train.
  • Standees will probably have more handholds.
  • The walk-through trains allow passengers to circulate around the train to find spare seats.
  • The new trains will fit any platform that can be served by an existing eight-car service.
  • With their better performance will the Class 720 trains be running faster services?
  • There are three cars less to maintain.

I feel that Greater Anglia have done their sums and feel that more train capacity and extra services might be a better way to increase total capacity than run longer trains, which will need expensive platform lengthening.

I’ll take the Braintree Branch services as an example, where extra services could be better than longer trains.

Currently, service is hourly, but a combination of some of the following might allow a doubling of frequency.

  • A passing loop.
  • Faster modern trains with shorter dwell times.
  • An improved timetable.

Two five-car Class 720 trains per hour as opposed to an hourly eight-car Class 321 train, would be around a doubling of capacity.

Four-Car Services

A four-car class 720 train would be ninety-six metres long and probably around 450 seats.

Bombardier and London Overground have shown recently, shortening a Class 378 train is a simple operation.

I think it is reasonable to expect that creating a four-car Class 720 train will be just as easy.

So if Greater Anglia need to run four-car Class 720 trains on certain routes, they can just take a car out of the required number of trains.

First Class

It should be noted that none of the services operated using Class 720 trains will have First Class after this year.

This article on the BBC, which is entitled Greater Anglia: First Class seats scrapped on most trains, gives details and an explanation of Greater Anglia’s thinking.

I have searched the Internet and can’t find any complaints.

But Greater Anglia are only putting themselves in line with c2c, who offer no First Class seats on any service.

Conclusion

I can’t wait to ride these trains, later in the year.

 

 

 

 

May 6, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Images Of A Class 321 Train

I took these pictures at Ipswich Yard of a Class 321 train.

I needed some pictures to show how much space there is under each car.

It would appear that the underneath of the DTSO and TSO cars is fairly clear, but that lots of electrical gubbins are under the MSO car.

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

What Are Greater Anglia Going To Do With A Problem Like The Crouch Valley Line?

This post is effectively a series of sub-posts describing the problems of the Crouch Valley Line.

Platform 1 At Wickford Station

These pictures show Platform  1 at Wickford station, where services on the Crouch Valley Line terminate.

The train in the platform is a four-car Class 321 train, which is almost exactly eighty metres long.

After Greater Anglia has renewed the fleet, the shortest electric train they will have will be a five-car Class 720 train, which is over one hundred and twenty metres long.

I don’t think one of these shiny new trains will fit into the current platform.

Electrification

These pictures show the electrification at Burnham-on-Crouch station.

And these show Southminster station.

The overhead electrification on the Shenfield to Southend Line is being renewed and this section is supposedly finished. But it does look very similar to pictures I took in 2016, that are posted in Wickford Station. As the 25 KVAC overhead electrification was installed in 1979, when the line was converted from 6.25 KVAC, I do wonder about the age of some of the gantries.

On the trip, where I took these pictures staff were still complaining about the unreliability of the wires, as they have done before.

There doesn’t appear to have been any work done on the Crouch Valley Line, although the conductor did say that the route was being closed at times for work in the near future.

I do question, whether the overhead wires on the Crouch Valley Line are of a sufficient high and modern standard to be both reliable and easy and affordable to maintain.

Can the electrification handle regenerative braking?

The Timetable

The timetable East of Shenfield is as follows.

  • Three trains per hour (tph) between Liverpool Street and Southend Victoria stations.
  • A train every forty minutes between Wickford and Southminster stations.
  • There are also some direct services between Southminster and Liverpool Street in the Peak.

Every time, I go use the line it seems, I always have a long wait at Wickford station.

Current services take thirty minutes between the two end stations with generous turnround times of about ten minutes at each end of the route.

Two trains are needed for the service, which are single-manned with a conductor checking and selling tickets appearing to float between the trains.

A New Nuclear Power Station At Bradwell

There is a possibility of building.of a new nuclear power station at Bradwell.

This Google Map shows the area.

Note.

  1. Burnham-on-Crouch is the large village on the North Bank of the River Crouch.
  2. Southminster is a couple of miles to the North of Burnham on Crouch.
  3. Bradwell is in the North-East corner of the map alongside the River Blackwater.
  4. You can just see the World War 2 airfield, which was the site of the original Bradwell nuclear power station.

If a new power station is built at Bradwell, I doubt that it will require rail freight access at Southminster, as did the original station.

Transport technology has moved on and heavy goods will surely be taken in and out by barge from the River Blackwater.

But a new station or more likely ; a cluster of small modular reactors will require transport for staff, contractors and visitors.

Although, on balance, with the growth of renewable energy, I don’t think that many more nuclear power stations will be built.

A Battery Storage Power Station At Bradwell

I also wouldn’t rule out the use of Bradwell for a battery storage power station for the electricity generated by wind farms like Gunfleet in the Northern section of the Thames Estuary.

The number and size of these wind farms will certainly increase in the coming years.

Battery storage power stations are ideal partners for wind farms, as they help turn the intermittent wind power into a constant flow of electricity.

Currently, the largest battery storage power station is a 300 MWh facility that was built in 2016,  at Buzen in Japan.

Energy storage technology is moving on fast and I would not be surprised to see 2000 MWh units by the mid-2020s.

Bradwell could be an ideal place to put a battery storage power station.

Passenger Numbers

Passenger numbers on the line over the last few years seem to have been fairly level although there appears to have been a drop in the last year or so. But this drop has happened in lots of places!

Various factors will effect the passenger numbers on the Crouch Valley Line in the future.

  • New housing along the route.
  • A large energy-based development at Bradwell will atract passengers.
  • New trains will attract passengers.
  • Will the Internet and new working practices affect passenger numbers?
  • A two tph clock-face service will attract passengers.
  • Faster and more frequent services between Liverpool Street and Wickford will make the line easier to access.

There is also the possibility of more visitors and tourists to the area. The RSPB have spent a lot of money developing Wallasea Wetlands, which is opposite Burnham-on-Crouch.

In future years, how many people will reach Wallasea, by ferry from Burnham-on-Crouch?

Adding up all these factors, I come to two conclusions.

Predicting the number of passengers will be difficult..

There will always be passengers who need this rail service.

It looks to me that Greater Anglia will have to plan for all eventualities from very low numbers of passengers to a substantial increase.

New Trains

Shenfield-Southend services and those on the Crouch Valley Line will be run using new Class 720 trains.

Bettween Liverpool Street And Southend Victoria

Currently, this service on the route is as follows.

Trains have a frequency of three tph.

  • Each train takes an hour for the journey.
  • All trains stop at the seven stations between Shenfield and Southend Victotria, Shenfield and Stratford.
  • One train in three has an extra stop at Romford.

The new trains have a faster acceleration of 1 metre per second², as opposed to the current trains which can only manage 0.55 metre per second².

This property and their modern design, probably means that the new trains, can do a complete round trip between Liverpool Street and Southend Victoria stations in under two hours.

  • The journey time between the two stations will be around fifty minutes.
  • A three tph frequency will need a fleet of six trains.
  • A four tph frequency will need a fleet of eight trains.

This service will be faster than the fastest services between Fenchurch Street and Southend Central stations.

I can certainly see a time, when the frequency between Liverpool Street and Southend Victoria stations is increased to four tph.

Passenger numbers are rising strongly at Southend Victoria station.

Southend Airport have big expansion plans and would welcome a better rail service, to and from their very convenient station.

At present times to their London termini from various airports are as follows.

  • Gatwick Airport – 31 minutes (Express)
  • Luton Airport – 28 minutes
  • Southend Airport – 53 minutes
  • Stansted Airport – 46 minutes

I think that Southend Airport times with the new trains could be about 43 minutes or less, which because of the closeness of the station to the terminal building could allow Southend Airport to claim faster times to Liverpool Street than Stansted Airport.

If the service does go to four tph, there will be a massive increase in capacity.

There will be 1145 seats in the new trains, as opposed to 927 in the current Class 321 trains.

With four tph. this would mean an increase in capacity of 40%.

I don’t think anybody in Southend will be complaining.

Between Wickford And Southminster

As I said earlier, the new longer Class 720 trains will have difficulty running the current service, as they don’t fit into Platform 1 at Wickford station.

Working the same timetable the new trains with their 544 seats will offer a 76% increase in train capacity.

Trains take thirty minutes with five intermediate stations.

Given the better acceleration and modern nature of the new trains, I wonder, if they will be able to do a round trip in an hour.

If they can do this, then it would be possible to run a two tph service on the route.

But it will be a tough ask!

That still leaves the problem of turning back the trains at Wickford.

Currently, trains between Liverpool Street and Southend Victoria going in opposite directions, pass at Wickford station.

If this could be arranged with four tph, then there would be up to fifteen minute windows, where no train was passing through Wickford station.

Suppose the Liverpool Street and Southend services passes through at XX:00, XX:15. XX:30 and XX:45.

Would it be possible for the Southminster trains to leave Wickford at XX:10 and XX:40 and arrive back at XX:05 and XX:35, thus giving five minutes for the driver to get to the other end.

As I said, it would be a tough ask!

But I suspect there is a plan to get two tph between Wickford and Southminster.

  • The track could be improved.
  • Some level crossings could be closed.
  • Operating speed could be faster.
  • Better step-free access could probably be arranged at the intermediate stations.
  • A step-free bridge could be built at Wickford.

If two tph can be achieved, then this would increase capacity on the route by 134 %.

The Passing Loop At North Fambridge Station

This Google Map shows the station and passing loop at North Fambridge station.

Measuring from the map, I estimate the following.

  • The length of the platforms are 160 metres.
  • The length of the passing loop is in around 400 metres.

I also suspect that to save money was the line was singled in the 1960s, British Rail made the passing loop as short as possible to cut costs.

The current loop can handle eight-car Class 321 trains, so it can certainly handle a five-car Class 720 trains.

I do wonder if the passing loop were to be lengthened, this would ease operation on the line.

There might even be a length, that enable a two tph service with the current four-car Class 321 trains.

Thoughts On Speed Limits

The speed limit on the line is 60 mph between Battlesbridge and North Fambridge stations and 50 mph at both ends of the line.

Summarising sections of the line, their length and speed limits give.

  • Wickford and Battlesbridge – 2 miles 38 chains = 4356 yards = 3983 metres – 50 mph
  • Battlesbridge and North Fambridge – – 5 miles 67 chains = 10274 yards = 9395 metres – 60 mph
  • North Fambridge and Southminster – 8 miles 15 chains = 14410 yards = 13177 metres – 50 mph

This gives totals of 17160 metres with a 50 mph limit and 9395 metres with a 60 mph limit.

  • At 50 mph, the train would cover the 17160 metres in 12.8 minutes
  • At 60 mph, the train would cover the 17160 metres in 10.7 minutes
  • At 75 mph, the train would cover the 17160 metres in 8.5 minutes

Increasing the speed limit to 60 mph would save two minutes.

Network Rail must have all the figures and costs, but this could be a cost-effective way to save a couple of minutes.

But it does seem if the operating speed of the line were to be increased, time saving could be achieved, that would make a two tph timetable a reality.,

Could Electrification Be Removed From The Crouch Valley Line?

If the track is going to be improved with respect to line speed, level crossings and passing loops, then there will have to be changes to the layout of the overhead electrification.

Most of the serious changes that could be carried out, would be to the East of North Fambridge station.

Would it be sensible if the Class 720 trains have a battery capability, to remove the electrification to the East of North Fambridge station?

  • 13.2 km. of single-track would have the electrification removed.
  • Some of this electrification will need replacing soon.
  • Trains could swap between power sources in North Fambridge station.
  • The batteries would be charged between Wickford and North Fambridge stations.
  • Only 16 miles in each round trip would be on batteries.

Removing some electrification would cut the cost of any works.

Conclusion

I’m sure Greater Anglia have a solution and it’s probably better than my rambling.

 

 

 

 

 

August 30, 2018 Posted by | Energy, Energy Storage, Transport | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Comparing Greater Anglia’s Old And New Electric Multiple Units

Currently, Greater Anglia has the following electric multiple units, which will be replaces by new Class 720 trains.

Class 317 Train

  • 68 x 4 car trains
  • Length 79.32 metres.
  • 100 mph operating speed.
  • Acceleration of 0.55 metre per second²
  • No regenerative braking
  • Capacity – 260/290 seats.
  • First Class section

Note the acceleration seems to be standard for all BR EMUs

Class 321 Train

  • 104 x 4 car trains
  • Length 79.8 metres.
  • 100 mph operating speed.
  • Acceleration of 0.55 metre per second²
  • Regenerative braking can be fitted.
  • Capacity – 309 seats.
  • First Class section

Thirty trains are being upgraded to the Class 321 Renatus

Class 360 Train

  • 21 x 4 car trains
  • Length 81.36 metres.
  • 100 mph operating speed.
  • Acceleration of 0.98 metre per second²
  • Regenerative braking.
  • Capacity – 280 seats.
  • First Class section

These are the specifications of the two lengths of new Class 720 trains.

Class 720 Train – Five Car

89 x 5-car trains

Length 122 metres

Capacity – 544 seats and 145 standing.

Class 720 Train – Ten Car

22 x 10-car trains

Length 243 metres

Capacity – 1145 seats and 290 standing.

All trains will have the following.

  • 100 mph operating speed.
  • Acceleration of 1 metre per second²
  • Regenerative Braking (Using batteries?)
  • No First Class section.

Also, these trains are modern trains will all the features passengers, staff and train operators need and desire.

How Do Old And New Trains Compare?

Ten-Car Class 720 Trains

Note that these trains are just over 240 metres long, which is conveniently the length of three Class 321 or Class 360 trains.

When the order for the Class 720 trains was announced, this was said to have been a design criteria.

So will the twenty-one Class 360 trains, which regularly run as twelve-car trains be replaced by seven Class 720 trains?

  • There will be 1145 seats in the new trains, as opposed to 840 in the old.
  • There will be a Universal Access Toilet and three other toilets in the new trains, as opposed to a Universal Access Toilet in each train.
  • The new trains won’t have any First Class.
  • The new trains will be walk-through, with no intermediate cabs.
  • Operating speed and acceleration appears to be almost the same.
  • The new trains will have a lot more of the things passengers need.

It appears, that everybody could be a winner.

  • Passengers have 36 % more seats and better facilities.
  • On-board staff can handle the whole train without needing to get off to reach the other trains.
  • Network Rail won’t need to do much work to prepare for the new trains, as they fit the current platforms.
  • Maintenance of one train instead of three must be easier and less costly.

Most of these arguments also apply to replacing a three-train formation of Class 321 trains, which would give a capacity increase of 24 % more seats.

But there is one big difference.

The acceleration of Class 720 trains is nearly twice that of a Class 321 train, so there could be time savings on routes like Southend and ones with a higher number of stopss.

Destinations which the new ten-car trains from Liverpool Street station could serve include, with current frequencies in train per hour (tph)

  • Bishop’s Stortford
  • Cambridge – One tph
  • Cambridge North – One tph
  • Clacton – One tph
  • Colchester
  • Ipswich – One tph
  • Norwich
  • Southend – Three tph

With the current services and the timetable improvements, the new trains would bring could mean the following trains would be needed for

  • Cambridge – 2 trains for 1 tph
  • Cambridge North – 3 trains for 1 tph
  • Clacton – 3 trains for 1 tph
  • Ipswich – 2 trains for 1 tph
  • Southend – 8 trains for 4 tph

This is a total of eighteen trains, which would mean ideas like extending some of the Ipswich services to Norwich are possible.

One of the beauties of modern train design, is that lengthening and shortening trains is a relatively easy process, that was invented by Lego and refined by Microsoft with Plug-and-Play!

Five-Car Class 720 Trains Replacing The Current Eight-Car Services

Some destinations like Braintree, Colchester Town, Harwich, Kings Lynn and Walton-on-the-Naze can’t accommodate the current twelve car trains, so they can’t be served by new ten-car Class 720 trains.

So how does a five-car Class 720 train compare with two Class 321 or 360 trains working as an eight-car train.

  • There will be 544 seats and 146 standees in a five-car Class 720 train.
  • There will be 560 seats in an eight-car formation of Class 360 trains.
  • There will be 618 seats in an eight-car formation of Class 321 trains.
  • There will be about 440 seats in an eight-car formation of Class 317 trains
  • The new trains are 122 metres long, whereas the current eight-car trains are 160 metres long.
  • All trains have a 100 mph operating speed.
  • The Class 720 and 360 trains have an acceleration of around 1 metre per second², whereas the acceleration of a Class 321 train is only 0.55 metre per second².

Given that the Class 720 is a modern train, designed with passengers, staff and operators in mind, I can’t see any problems with replacing the current eight-car trains with a five-car Class 720 train.

I also suspect that if required, an extra car could be added to make six-car trains with a length of 146 metres, that would be shorter than an eight-car Class 321 train.

Five-Car Class 720 Trains Replacing The Current Four-Car Services

There is only one electric service on Greater Anglia, that needs to be run using a four-car train and that is the service between Wickford to Southminster stations on the Crouch Valley Line.

Under Infrastructure in the |Wikipedia entry for the Crouch Valley Line, this is said.

Only Wickford and South Woodham Ferrers have platforms long enough to accommodate 12-coach trains, while each of the other stations on the line can accommodate eight coaches, though services on the line are typically only formed of four carriages due to the short terminus platforms at Wickford being able to only accommodate one four car unit.

So it would appear that the platform at Wickford station needs to be lengthened!

Or does it?

I’ve read that Greater Anglia plan to run four tph between Liverpool Street and Southend Victoria stations, so trains will pass through Wickford station in both directions every fifteen minutes.

Helpfully, both services seem curently to be in the station at the same time.

So if this happens after the fourth train is added to the schedule, there will be a fifteen minute window, where there is no train movements at Wickford station.

So instead of using the current platform, a five-car Class 720 train could stop in one of the main platforms to discharge and pick-up passengers.

Hopefully, the better acceleration of the Class 720 trains could be able to run along the branch in well under thirty minutes to allow a genuine two tph service, as opposed to the current difficult timetable of a train every forty minutes.

Greater Anglia does run other four-car trains at times, but surely running a five-car train wouldn’t really matter and it may attract more passengers.

Conclusion

Greater Anglia seem to have made a good choice of train size.

August 28, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 3 Comments

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 | Transport | , , | 5 Comments