The Anonymous Widower

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 | , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Vivarail At COP26

This press release from Network Rail is entitled Network Rail And Porterbrook To Showcase Britain’s Green Trains Of The Future At COP26.

These two paragraphs are from the end of the first section of the press release.

It is envisaged that the HydroFLEX may also be used to transport visitors to see the Zero Emission Train, Scotland’s first hydrogen powered train.

Network Rail is also in the earlier stages of planning a similar event with Vivarail to bring an operational battery train to COP26.

Vivarail have taken battery trains to Scotland before for demonstration, as I wrote about in Battery Class 230 Train Demonstration At Bo’ness And Kinneil Railway.

Will other train companies be joining the party?

Alstom

It looks like Alstom’s hydrogen-powered Class 600 train will not be ready for COP26.

But I suspect that the French would not like to be upstaged by a rolling stock leasing company and a university on the one hand and a company with scrapyard-ready redundant London Underground trains on the other.

I think, they could still turn up with something different.

They could drag one of their Coradia iLint trains through the Channel Tunnel and even run it to Scotland under hydrogen power, to demonstrate the range of a hydrogen-powered train.

Alstom have recently acquired Bombardier’s train interests in the UK and there have been rumours of a fleet of battery-electric Electrostars, even since the demonstrator ran successfully in 2015. Will the prototype turn up at COP26?

Alstom’s UK train factory is in Widnes and I’ve worked with Liverpudlians and Merseysiders on urgent projects and I wouldn’t rule out the Class 600 train making an appearance.

CAF

Spanish train company; CAF, have impressed me with the speed, they have setup their factory in Newport and have delivered a total of well over a hundred Class 195 and Class 331 trains to Northern.

I wrote Northern’s Battery Plans, in February 2020, which talked about adding a fourth-car to three-car Class 331 trains, to create a battery-electric Class 331 train.

Will the Spanish bring their first battery-electric Class 331 train to Glasgow?

I think, they just might!

After all, is there a better place for a train manufacturer looking to sell zero-carbon trains around the world to announce, their latest product?

Hitachi

A lot of what I have said for Alstom and CAF, could be said for Hitachi.

Hitachi have announced plans for two battery-electric trains; a Regional Battery Train and an Intercity Tri-Mode Battery Train.

I doubt that either of these trains could be ready for COP26.

But last week, I saw the new Hitachi Class 803 train speeding through Oakleigh Park station.

This is not a battery-electric train, where battery power can be used for traction, but according to Wikipedia and other sources, it is certainly an electric train fitted with batteries to provide hotel power for the train, when the overhead electrification fails.

Are these Class 803 trains already fitted with their batteries? And if they are, have they been tested?

And who is building the batteries for the Class 803 trains?

The traction batteries for Hitachi’s two battery-electric trains are to be produced by Hyperdrive Innovation of Sunderland, which is not far from Hitachi’s train factory at Newton Aycliffe.

As an engineer, I would suspect that a well-respected company like Hyperdrive Innovation, can design a battery-pack that plugs in to Hitachi’s trains, as a diesel engine would. I would also suspect that a good design, would allow an appropriate size of battery for the application and route.

I feel it is very likely, that all batteries for Hitachi’s UK trains will be designed and build by Hyperdrive Innovation.

If that is the case and the Class 803 trains are fitted with batteries, then Hitachi can be testing the battery systems.

This document on the Hitachi Rail web site, which is entitled Development of Class 800/801 High-speed Rolling Stock for UK Intercity Express Programme, gives a very comprehensive description of the electrical and computer systems of the Hitachi trains.

As an engineer and a computer programmer, I believe that if Hyperdrive Innovation get their battery design right and after a full test program, that Hitachi could be able to run battery-electric trains based on the various Class 80x trains.

It could be a more difficult task to fit batteries to Scotland’s Class 385 trains, as they are not fitted with diesel engines in any application. Although, the fitting of diesel engines may be possible in the global specification for the train.

It is likely that these trains could form the basis of the Regional Battery Train, which is described in this infographic.

Note.

  1. The Class 385 and Regional Battery trains are both 100 mph trains.
  2. Class 385 and Class 80x trains are all members of Hitachi’s A-Train family.
  3. Regional Battery trains could handle a lot of unelectrified routes in Scotland.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hitachi bring a battery-equipped train to COP26, if the Class 803 trains have a successful introduction into service.

Siemens

Siemens have no orders to build new trains for the national rail network in the UK.

But there are plans by Porterbrook and possibly other rolling stock leasing companies and train operators to convert some redundant Siemens-built trains, like Class 350 trains, into battery-electric trains.

According to Wikipedia, Siemens upgraded East Midlands Railways, Class 360 trains to 110 mph operation, at their Kings Heath Depot in Northampton.

Could Siemens be updating one of the Class 350 trains, that are serviced at that depot, to a prototype battery-electric Class 350 train?

Stadler

Stadler have a proven design for diesel-electric, battery-electric and hydrogen trains, that they sell all over the world.

In the UK, the only ones in service are Greater Anglia’s Class 755 trains, which are diesel-electric bi-mode trains.

The picture shows one of these trains at Ipswich.

  • They are 100 mph trains.
  • Diesel, battery or hydrogen modules can be inserted in the short PowerPack car in the middle of the train.
  • Diesel-battery-electric versions of these trains have been sold for operation in Wales.
  • The interiors of these trains are designed for both short journeys and a two-hour run.

There is a possibility, that these trains will be upgraded with batteries. See Battery Power Lined Up For ‘755s’.

Conclusion

Times will be interesting in Glasgow at COP26!

 

June 6, 2021 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport, World | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A New Reston Station

This page on the Scotland’s Railway web site, gives an overview of the project to build a new Reston station on the East Coast Main line about 3.5 miles North of Berwick-upon-Tweed station.

This is the project summary given on the web page.

Network Rail has developed proposals to create a new station at Reston in the Scottish Borders.

We worked with local partners and stakeholders to develop plans for the station and liaised with the local community in advance of submitting a planning application to Scottish Borders Council.

Planning consent was granted in February 2021 and the team are gearing up to deliver a challenging programme of work to create the new station.

The page also says that work on the station started in March 2021. Certainly, by May 2021, there was quite a bit happening.

This Google Map shows the village of Reston.

Note.

  1. The A1 running East-West at the top of the map.
  2. Main Street running East-West across the middle of the map.
  3. The East Coast Main Line runs North West-South East across the South-West corner of the map.

The station would appear to be East of the road called The Orchard.

Station Facilities

Looking at the video the station appears to have the following facilities.

  • Two platforms.
  • About seventy car-parking spaces, which is designed to be expanded
  • Five disabled car-parking spaces.
  • Electric car charging.
  • Bicycle storage
  • Full step-free access, at the South-Eastern end of the station.

There does not appear to be any avoiding line for freight trains or a bay platform to reverse trains.

But there appear to be a pair of crossovers to the North of the station site.

Distances Between Reston Station And Selected Towns

This are road distances between Reston station and selected towns.

  • Duns – 10 miles
  • Galashiels – 38 miles
  • Hawick – 47 miles
  • Kelso – 26 miles

Are there plans for new housing in the area?

Services Between Newcastle And Edinburgh

The following services run between Edinburgh and Newcastle.

  • CrossCountry – 1 tph – Plymouth and Edinburgh/Glasgow – Stops at Alnmouth (irregular), Berwick-upon-Tweed (irregular), Dunbar (1tp2h)
  • East Coast Trains – 5 tpd – London Kings Cross and Edinburgh – Stops at Morpeth
  • LNER – 1 tph – London Kings Cross and Edinburgh – Stops at Berwick-upon-Tweed
  • LNER – 1 tph – London Kings Cross and Edinburgh – Stops at Alnmouth (1tp2h)
  • TransPennine Express – 1 tph – Liverpool Lime Street and Edinburgh – Stops at Morpeth

Note.

  1. tpd is trains per day.
  2. tph is trains per hour.
  3. tp2h is trains per two hours.
  4. All services are run by 125 mph trains
  5. All services stop at Edinburgh and Newcastle.
  6. A typical service averages around 88.9 mph between Edinburgh and Newcastle.

The timetable appears to be arranged to ensure at least 4 tph between Edinburgh and Newcastle.

I have a few thoughts.

How Many Services Should Call At Reston?

On an urban line, stopping frequencies of services of up to four or even six tph are common, which would probably be in excess of what is needed at Reston.

Most rural main or secondary lines have frequencies of one or two tph.

I would suggest that if you’re designing and building a station, that will cost several million pounds, then the station must have at least an hourly service, but that two tph would be much more preferable.

In an ideal world, there might be two tph.

  • A slow train that stopped at all the larger stations, which could include East Linton, Dunbar, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Almouth and Morpeth.
  • A fast train that stopped just once at Reston station between Edinburgh and Newcastle.

Note.

  • Like Reston station, East Linton station is also under construction.
  • Reston station, is likely to have a selection of buses to Galashiels and other towns in the Borders.
  • Reston station has space for a sensible amount of parking.

I would also expect bus and train services to obey these conditions.

  • Be timetabled to arrive and leave at the same time each hour.
  • Run from early until late.
  • Provide an easy interchange, so that travellers don’t have to endure too much unfriendly weather.
  • Have a comprehensive ticketing system to attract passengers.

I also think that a warm waiting room and cafe should be provided.

Will Reston Station Have A Direct Service To London And The South?

Both of LNER’s services between Edinburgh and London call at York, Darlington and Newcastle, with only one service calling at Berwick-upon-Tweed.

This Google Map shows the location of Berwick-upon-Tweed station.

Note.

  1. The long island platform between the tracks.
  2. There are 124 parking spaces.
  3. The A1 is some distance away to the West.

It all looks very cramped.

So if, one of LNER’s London services stopped at Reston, would it be better for all travellers and operators.

I would suggest that it would probably be ideal if one of LNER’s two services stopped at Berwick-on-Tweed and the other stopped at Reston.

It would also probably be a good idea for ticketing to consider Reston as a Berwick-on-Tweed station.

Will ERTMS Signalling Be Used Between Edinburgh and Newcastle?

I don’t think this is a question of will, but more one of when.

  • It will enable trains to run at up to 140 mph.
  • It will handle trains efficiently, when they are running at different speeds.
  • It will allow the increasing of the frequency of trains on the double-track route.
  • All trains on the route will probably be fitted with equipment to run under in-cab digital ERTMS signalling in a few years.

I would expect that ERTMS signalling could be used to run an increasingly complex pattern of trains between Edinburgh and Newcastle.

Will There Be 140 mph Running Between Edinburgh and Newcastle?

I have flown my helicopter along the route between Edinburgh and Newcastle and ridden it in a 125 mph train many times.

Given how Network Rail have squeezed increased speeds out of routes like the Midland Main and Great Eastern Main Line, I have no doubt that some 140 mph running will be possible between Edinburgh and Newcastle.

I estimate that with a substantial amount of 140 mph running between Edinburgh and Berwick-on-Tweed could save as much as fifteen minutes on current timings.

What Trains Will Be Used Between Edinburgh and Newcastle?

Consider.

  • It is a fully-electrified double-track railway.
  • There will be 125 mph and possibly 140 mph express trains passing through.

I suspect that to avoid getting in the way of the expresses, trains with at least a 110 mph capability would be needed.

Some of the redundant Class 350 trains would probably do fine.

How Will LNER’s Extra Paths Affect Trains Between Edinburgh and Newcastle?

In the December 2020 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article, which is entitled LNER Seeks 10 More Bi-Modes.

This is the last paragraph.

Infrastructure upgrades are due to prompt a timetable recast in May 2022 (delayed from December 2022), from which point LNER will operate 6.5 trains per hour out of King’s Cross, compared to five today. As an interim measure  LNER is retaining seven rakes of Mk. 4 coaches hauled by 12 Class 91 locomotives to supplement the Azuma fleet and support its timetable ambitions until new trains are delivered.

In A New Elizabethan, I suggest that one of these extra paths could be used to run a third hourly service between London King’s Cross and Edinburgh.

I would think it likely, that it only would only stop at Newcastle, if it provided a fast service between the two capitals.

Is Reston Station About Borders Unemployment?

This post has been up for a few days now and there have been comments about the cost of this station and the more-than-adequate car-parking provision for the small villages.

This article on the Southern Reporter is entitled Unemployment In Borders Up Almost 120% Year On Year.

Could it be that one of the purposes with its expandable car-parking is to allow people to get to jobs in Edinburgh and Newcastle?

  • It should also be noted that Britishvolt are planning to build a £4 billion battery factory at Blyth, which according to reports will employ between three and five thousand people.
  • It is a distance of seventy miles and Google says it will take nearly an hour-and-a-half.
  • I suspect a 110 mph train between Reston and Bebside stations on the Northumberland Line would take about forty-five minutes.
  • Bebside station is on the Northumberland Line and will have a shuttle bus to the Britishvolt factory.
  • Porterbrook are developing a battery/FLEX version of their 110 mph Class 350 trains.

By choosing to build a station will the possibility of large amounts of parking are the Scottish Government doing the best for the unemployed in the Borders?

You can imagine a scenario in the employment office at Britishvolt.

  • They are getting a lot of letters and e-mails asking about jobs.
  • Someone does a bit of counting and realises their planned car-park is too small.
  • Problems are outlined to ministers in the UK and Scottish Governments.
  • The reopening of the Northumberland Line and the building of Reston station do appear to have been accelerated.

Perhaps the rail developments are a small price for both governments to pay to secure a £4 billion investment,

Conclusion

There’s a lot more to Reston station, than first appears.

 

May 16, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

The Future Of West Midlands Trains’s Class 350 Trains

Currently, West Midlands Trains have four sub-fleets of Class 350 trains.

  • Class 350/1 – 30 trains – Leased from Angel Trains
  • Class 350/2 – 37 trains – Leased from Porterbrook
  • Class 350/3 – 10 trains – Leased from Angel Trains
  • Class 350/4 – 10 trains –  Leased from Angel Trains

Note.

  1. All are 110 mph trains
  2. The trains are capable of being modified for 750 VDC third-rail electrification.

Under Future the Wikipedia entry for Class 350 trains says this.

West Midlands Trains announced that they would be replacing all 37 of their 350/2 units for Class 350/4 units cascaded from TransPennine Express and brand new Class 730 units which both can travel up to speeds of 110 mph.

In October 2018, Porterbrook announced it was considering converting its fleet of 350/2s to Battery electric multiple units for potential future cascades to non-electrified routes.

As West Midlands Trains have ordered 45 Class 730 trains for express services, it looks like they will be expanding services on the West Coast Main Line and around the West Midlands.

But it does appear that as many as thirty-seven trains will be returned to Porterbrook.

Class 350 Trains With Batteries

I believe that if fitted with batteries, these trains would meet or be very near to Hitachi’s specification, which is given in this infographic from Hitachi.

 

Note that 90 kilometres is 56 miles.

Could West Midlands Trains Run Any Services With Class 350 Trains With Batteries?

I think there are some possibilities

  • Birmingham New Street and Shrewsbury – 30 miles without electrification between Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton – Charging facility needed at Shrewsbury.
  • Birmingham New Street and Hereford via Worcester – 41 miles without electrification between Hereford and Bromsgrove – Charging facility needed at Hereford.
  • Leamington Spa and Nuneaton via Coventry – 19 miles without electrification – Charging on existing electrification at Coventry and Nuneaton.
  • The proposed direct Wolverhampton and Walsall service, that i wrote about in Green Light For Revived West Midlands Passenger Service.

There may also be some services added because of the development of the Midlands Rail Hub and extensions to London services,

Who Has Shown Interest In These Trains?

I can’t remember any reports in the media, about any train operator wanting to lease these trains; either without or with batteries.

Conclusion

It does all seem a bit strange to me.

  • As a passenger, I see nothing wrong with these trains.
  • They are less than twenty years old.
  • They are 110 mph trains.
  • They have 2+2 interiors, with lots of tables.
  • They could be fitted with batteries if required.

But then, all of those things could be said about Greater Anglia’s Class 379 trains.

 

July 20, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Beeching Reversal – Stockport And Ashton Line

This is one of the Beeching Reversal projects that the Government and Network Rail are proposing to reverse some of the Beeching cuts.

I came across this railway, when I was writing Macclesfield Station And High Speed Two, as I felt the Stockport and Stalybridge Line could be a useful connection to the proposed High Speed Two terminus at Macclesfield station.

This article on the Quest Media Network is entitled Proposals For New Rail Link Between Ashton And Stockport.

This paragraph described the political backing.

The Labour politicians are backing a bid to the ‘Restoring Your Railway Fund’, which will distribute £500 million of funds to reinstate axed local services and restore stations. 

The bid was put forward by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) and Stockport Council, but also has the backing of Tameside Council.

Not fans of Boris, I would presume!

These paragraphs describe the proposals

It proposes two options – a heavy rail service between Stockport and Manchester Victoria via Denton and Reddish South, and a light rail service connecting with the existing Manchester-Ashton Metrolink line at Ashton Moss in the north, and with the proposed Stockport-East Didsbury line in the south.

The proposals also open possibilities of new stations along the line at Audenshaw, Thornley Lane and Heaton Norris.

These are my thoughts.

Macclesfield As A Terminal

As I said in conjunction with High Speed Two, I believe that Macclesfield station would make a good terminal, where a Stockport-facing platform could be built, which would give step-free access to the hourly High Speed Two train to Stoke, Stafford and London.

Manchester Victoria And Stockport

This route map, which has been clipped from Wikipedia, shows the route between Manchester Victoria and Stockport stations.

Note.

  1. The connection to Manchester Victoria station joins at Denton Junction.
  2. There are possible stations at Denton, Reddish South and Heaton Norris.
  3. Trains to Macclesfield station take the West Coast Main Line from Stockport station.
  4. At Stalybridge there is a connection to the Huddersfield Line for Huddersfield and Leeds.

Realtimetrains devolves this extra information.

  • Manchester Victoria and Stockport are twelve miles apart via Denton.
  • It is a busy freight route with upwards of a couple of trains per hour (tph)
  • There used to be a station at Miles Platting.

It is a comprehensive route and deserves a lot more than a simple hourly service to Manchester Victoria station.

Battery Electric Trains

Consider.

  • Macclesfield, Manchester Victoria and Stockport stations are all fully electrified.
  • About twelve miles of track are not electrified.
  • Manchester Victoria and Macclesfield stations are twenty-four miles apart.
  • I estimate a four-car 100 mph battery electric train like a Class 350 train would do the trip in close to 25 minutes.

It looks like an ideal route for a battery electric train to me.

Two trains would be needed to run a two tph service, with no extra infrastructure.

Conclusion

Develop a service between Manchester Victoria and Macclesfield stations using battery electric trains, with at least a frequency of two tph.

 

July 15, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The World’s First Bi-Mode Hydrogen-Electric Train

This news page on the University of Birmingham web site is entitled HydroFLEX Secures Funding For Hydrogen-Powered Train Design.

The page is mainly about the new funding from Innovate UK, that I wrote about in First Of A Kind Funding Awarded For 25 Rail Innovation Projects, but it also includes this significant paragraph.

As well as being the UK’s first hydrogen-powered train, HydroFLEX is also the world’s first bi-mode electric hydrogen train. It will be undergoing mainline testing on the UK railway in the next few weeks.

One of my disappointments in the design of the Alstom Coradia iLint, is that, it is designed as a hydrogen-power only train, where it could surely have had a pantograph fitted, for more efficient working.

Consider.

  • I suspect many hydrogen-powered trains will only be doing short distances, where electrification is not available, so daily distances under hydrogen power could be quite short.
  • In the UK, a smaller hydrogen tank would certainly ease the design problems caused by a large fuel tank.
  • There have been improvements in hydrogen storage in recent years.

The funding award to the project talks about raft production, so are the engineers, aiming to design a hydrogen power-pack on rafts, that could be fitted underneath the large fleets of retired electric multiple units, that are owned by Porterbrook.

Now that would be a game changer.

  • Porterbrook have thirty-seven Class 350 trains, that will be replaced in the next few years by new trains. The electric trains are less than a dozen years old and Porterbrook have been talking about fitting batteries to these trains and creating a battery/FLEX train. Would making these trains bi-mode hydrogen-electric trains be better?
  • Birmingham wants to open up new rail routes in the city on lines without electrification. What would be better than a hydrogen powered train, designed in the city’s premier university?
  • Routes from Birmingham to Burton-on-Trent, Hereford, Leicester, Shrewsbury, Stratford-on-Avon and Worcester would be prime candidates for the deployment of a fleet of bi-mode hydrogen-electric trains.
  • Birmingham have already asked ITM Power to build a hydrogen filling station in the city for hydrogen buses.

 

June 18, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

TransPennine Express’s New Liverpool Lime Street And Glasgow Central Service

Transpennine Express are introducing a new service between Liverpool Lime Street and Glasgow Central stations at the December 2019 timetable change.

So I examined the service for the the 21st January, 2020.

  • There are three Northbound trains at 08:12, 12:12 and 16:12.
  • There are three Southbound trains at 07:45, 11:44 and 16:29
  • Journey times vary between three hours and 17 minutes and three hours and 47 minutes.
  • Trains appear to always stop at Wigan North Western, Preston, Penrith North Lakes and Carlisle.
  • Selective services call at other stations including Lancaster and St. Helens Central.

As passengers can always travel the route with a change at Preston, it is a useful start. It should also be born in mind that there are currently, two trains per hour (tph) between Glasgow Central and Preston stations, so the route with a change at Preston can be quicker than waiting for a direct train.

If you look at the Transpennine service between Manchester Airport and Glasgow Central stations, it appears that there are gaps in the hourly service at 08:00, 12:00 and 16:00.

These gaps have now been filled with Liverpool services.

Current and Future Trains Between Liverpool or Manchester and Glssgow or Edinburgh

The current service is run by nine Class 350 trains, which includes the following.

  • One tph between Between Manchester Airport and Glasgow Central, with three services missing.
  • One train every two hours between Manchester Airport and Edinburgh.

The service from the December 2019 change will at some point be run by twelve Class 397 trains.

It will add three trains per day between Liverpool Lime Street and Glasgow Central, which will give an hourly TranPennine service between Glasgow Central and Preston.

I estimate that the new service will require two more trains, which is incorporated in the larger fleet size.

Timings Between Preston And Glasgow

If you look at the limitings between Preston and Glasgow, you find the following.

  • Virgin’s Class 390 trains take between two hours 21 minutes and two hours 34 minutes.
  • The new Liverpool service is timetabled to take two hours 53 minutes.

As the current Class 350 trains are only 110 mph trains, this is the explanation.

But the new Class 397 trains are 125 mph trains and can probably match the times set by Virgin.

So expect to see some timing reductions on TransPennine’s routes on the West Coast Main Line.

Will Services Between Liverpool And Manchester and Glasgow Split And Join At Preston?

TransPennine Express are meeting their franchise obligations, by providing three trains per day between Liverpool ad Glasgow, but could they do better by splitting and joining services at Preston.

  • Going North, a service from Manchester Airport and one from Liverpool would join at Preston, before proceeding to Glasgow as a ten-car train.
  • Coming South, a pair of trains from Glasgow, would split at Preston, with one train going to Liverpool and the other to Manchester Airport.

Obviously, the trains would need to be able to split and join in a minute or so, but it would open up the possibility of an hourly service from both Liverpool and Manchester to Glasgow.

Liverpool And Manchester To Edinburgh

After the December 2019 timetable change, TransPennine’s Liverpool and Newcastle service will be extend to Edinburgh, giving Liverpool a direct service to \Edinburgh and Manchester, a second service to Edinburgh.

Timings by the various routes will be.

  • Liverpool and Edinburgh via Manchester, Leeds and York – Four hours 28 minutes – Hourly
  • Manchester Piccadilly and Edinburgh via Preston and Carstairs – Three hours 10 minutes – Two hourly
  • Manchester Victoria  and Edinburgh via Leeds and York – Three hours 52 minutes – Hourly

These times compare well with the four hours drive predicted on the Internet.

Conclusion

Connections between Northern England and the Central Belt of Scotland will improve greatly after the December 2019 timetable change.

New trains on these routes will also mean faster services, where they run on the East and |West Coast Main Lines.

More trains will also increase frequency.

 

November 17, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Shapps Wants ‘Earlier Extinction Of Diesel Trains’

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the East London and West Essex Guardian.

This is the first two paragraphs of the article.

The phasing out of diesel trains from Britain’s railways could be intensified as part of the Government’s bid to cut carbon emissions.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told MPs he is “hugely concerned” that the current policy means diesel trains will continue to operate until 2040.

In some ways the positioning of the article in a newspaper serving East London and West Essex is a bit strange.

  • The only diesel trains in the area are freight trains, after the electrification of the Gospel Oak and Barking Line.
  • Grant Schapps constituency is Welwyn and Hatfield, which is twenty or so miles North of London.

It looks to me to be a syndicated story picked up by the paper.

But as it reports what he said to the Transport Select Committee, there is a strong chance that it is not fake news.

How Feasible Would It Be To Bring Forward The 2040 Diesel Extinction Date?

Government policy of an extinction date of 2040 was first mentioned by Jo Johnson, when he was Rail Minister in February 2018.

This article on Politics Home is entitled Rail Minister Announces Diesel Trains To Be Phased Out By 2040, gives more details about what Jo said.

Since then several developments have happened in the intervening nearly two years.

Scores Of Class 800 Trains Are In Service

Class 800 trains and their similar siblings can honestly be said to have arrived.

Currently, there appear to be over two hundred of these trains either delivered or on order.

Many have replaced diesel trains on Great Western Railway and LNER and stations like Kings Cross, Paddington and Reading are becoming over ninety percent diesel-free.

It should be noted that over half of these trains have diesel engines, so they can run on lines without electrification.

But the diesel engines are designed to be removed, to convert the trains into pure electric trains, when more electrification is installed.

Midland Main Line Upgrade

This line will be the next to be treated to the Hitachi effect, with thirsty-three of the second generation of Hitachi’s 125 mph trains.

  • The Hitachi trains will use electrification South of Melton Mowbray and diesel power to the North.
  • The trains will have a redesigned nose and I am sure, this is to make the trains more aerodynamically efficient.
  • The introduction of the trains will mean, that, all passenger trains on the Midland Main Line will be electric South of Melton Mowbray.
  • St. Pancras will become a diesel-free station.

Whether High Speed Two is built as planned or in a reduced form, I can see electrification creeping up the Midland Main Line to Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield and eventually on to Leeds.

Other Main Line Routes

The Midland Main Line will have joined a group of routes, that are  run partly by diesel and partly by electricity.

  • London and Aberdeen
  • London and Bradford
  • London and Cheltenham
  • London and Harrogate
  • London and Hull
  • London and Inverness
  • London and Lincoln
  • London and Middlesbrough
  • London and Penzance via Exeter and Plymouth.
  • London and Sunderland
  • London and Swansea
  • London and Worcester and Hereford

Once the Midland Main Line is upgraded, these main routes will only be these routes that use pure diesel for passenger routes.

  • TransPennine Routes
  • Chiltern Route
  • London and Exeter via Basingstoke
  • London and Holyhead

Plans already exist from West Coast Rail to use bi-mode on the Holyhead route and the Basingstoke route could also be a bi-mode route.

TransPennine and Chiltern will need bespoke solutions.

Some Electrification Has Happened

Electrification has continued at a slow pace and these schemes have been completed or progressed.

  • Chase Line
  • Between Birmingham and Bromsgrove
  • North West England
  • Between Edinbugh, Glasgow, Alloa, Dunblane and Stirling.
  • Gospel Oak to Barking Line
  • Between St. Pancras and Corby.
  • Crossrail

In addition London and Cardiff will soon be electrified and a lot of electrification designed by the Treasury in the past fifty years has been updated to a modern standard.

Battery Trains Have Been Developed And Orders Have Been Received Or Promised

Stadler bi-mode Class 755 trains have been delivered to Greater Anglia and these will be delivered as electric-diesel-battery trains to South Wales.

Stadler also have orders for battery-electric trains for Germany, which are a version of the Flirt called an Akku.

In the Wikipedia entry for the Stadler Flirt, this is a paragraph.

In July 2019, Schleswig-Holstein rail authority NAH.SH awarded Stadler a €600m order for 55 battery-powered Flirt Akku multiple unit trains along with maintenance for 30 years. The trains will start entering service in 2022 and replace DMUs on non-electrified routes.

55 trains at €600 million is not a small order.

Alstom, Bombardier, CAF, Hitacxhi and Siemens all seem to be involved in the development of battery-electric trains.

I think, if a train operator wanted to buy a fleet of battery trains for delivery in 2023, they wouldn’t have too much difficulty finding a manmufacturer.

Quite A Few Recently-Built Electric Trains Are Being Replaced And Could Be Converted To Battery-Electric Trains

In 2015 Bombardier converted a Class 379 train, into a battery-electric demonstrator.

The project showed a lot more than battery-electric trains were possible.

  • Range could be up to fifty miles.
  • The trains could be reliable.
  • Passengers liked the concept.

Judging by the elapsed time, that Bombardier spent on the demonstrator, I would be very surprised to be told that adding batteries to a reasonably modern electric train, is the most difficult of projects.

The Class 379 trains are being replaced by by brand-new Class 745 trains and at the time of writing, no-one wants the currents fleet of thirty trains, that were only built in 2010-2011.

In addition to the Class 379 trains, the following electric trains are being replaced and could be suitable for conversion to battery-electric trains.

There also may be other trains frm Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect.

All of these trains are too good for the scrapyard and the leasing companies that own them, will want to find profitable uses for them.

Porterbrook are already looking at converting some Class 350 trains to Battery-electric operation.

Vivarail And Others Are Developing Fast Charging Systems For Trains

Battery trains are not much use, unless they can be reliably charged in a short time.

Vivarail and others are developing various systems to charge trains.

Hydrogen-Powered Trains Have Entered Service In Germany

Hydrogen-powered Alstom Coradia Lint trains are now operating in Germany.

Alstom are developing a Class 321 train powered by hydrogen for the UK.

Stadler’s Bi-Mode Class 755 Train

The Class 755 train is the other successful bi-mode train in service on UK railways.

I would be very surprised if Grant Schapps hasn’t had good reports about these trains.

They may be diesel-electric trains, but Stadler have made no secret of the fact that these trains can be battery electric.

Like the Class 800 train, the Class 755 train must now be an off-the-shelf solution to use on UK railways to avoid the need for full electrification.

Class 93 Locomotives

Stadler’s new Class 93 locomotive is a tri-mode locomotive, that is capable of running on electric, diesel or battery power.

This locomotive could be the best option for hauling freight, with a lighter carbon footprint.

As an example of the usability of this locomotive, London Gateway has around fifty freights trains per day, that use the port.

  • That is an average of two tph in and two tph out all day.
  • All trains thread their way through London using either the North London or Gospel Oak to Barking Lines.
  • Most trains run run substantially on electrified tracks.
  • All services seem to go to freight terminals.

With perhaps a few of miles of electrification, at some freight terminals could most, if not all services to and from London Gateway be handled by Class 93 locomotives or similar? Diesel and/or battery power would only be used to move the train into, out of and around the freight terminals.

And then there’s Felixstowe!

How much electrification would be needed on the Felixstowe Branch to enable a Class 93 locomotive to take trains into and out of Felixstowe Port?

I have a feeling that we’ll be seeing a lot of these tri-mode freight locomotives.

Heavy Freight Locomotives

One of the major uses of diesel heavy freight locomotives,, like Class 59 and Class 70 locomotives is to move cargoes like coal, biomass, stone and aggregate. Coal traffic is declining, but the others are increasing.

Other countries also use these heavy freight locomotives and like the UK, would like to see a zero-carbon replacement.

I also believe that the current diesel locomotives will become targets of politicians and environmentalists, which will increase the need for a replacement.

There could be a sizeable world-wide market, if say a company could develop a powerful low-carbon locomotive.

A Class 93 locomotive has the following power outputs.

  • 1,300 kW on hybrid power
  • 4,055 kW on electric

It also has a very useful operating speed on 110 mph on electric power.

Compare these figures with the power output of a Class 70 locomotive at 2,750 kW on diesel.

I wonder if Stadler have ideas for a locomotive design, that can give 4,000 kW on electric and 3,000 kW on diesel/battery hybrid power.

A few thoughts.

  • It might be a two-section locomotive.
  • Features and components could be borrowed from UKLight locomotives.
  • It would have a similar axle loading to the current UKLight locomotives.
  • There are 54 UKLight locomotives in service or on order for the UK.
  • Stadler will have details of all routes run by Class 59, Class 66 and Class 70 locomotives, in the UK.
  • Stadler will have the experience of certifying locomotives for the UK.

Stadler also have a reputation for innovation and being a bit different.

Conclusion

All pf the developments I have listed mean that a large selection of efficient zero carbon passenger trains are easier to procure,than they were when Jo Johnson set 2040 as the diesel extinction date.

The one area, where zero carbon operation is difficult is the heavy freight sector.

For freight to be zero-carbon, we probably need a lot more electrification and more electric locomotives.

October 19, 2019 Posted by | Transport, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Irlam Station To Go Step-Free

This document on the Government web site is entitled Access for All: 73 Stations Set To Benefit From Additional Funding.

Irlam station is on the list.

These pictures show the station and the current subway.

The station was a total surprise, with a large pub-cafe and a lot of visitors and/or travellers sitting in the sun.

I had an excellent coffee and a very welcoming gluten-free blueberry muffin!

This Google Map shows the station.

It is one of those stations where commuters have to cross the railway either on the way to work or coming home.

So a step-free method of crossing the railway is absolutely necessary.

The Current And Future Rail Service

As the station lies conveniently between Liverpool and Warrington to the West and Manchester and Manchester Airport to the East, it must be a station with tremendous potential for increasing the number of passengers.

At the moment the service is two trains per hour (tph) between Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Oxford Road stations.

  • Oxford Road is probably not the best terminus, as it is not on the Metrolink network.
  • When I returned to Manchester, many passengers alighted at Deansgate for the Metrolink.
  • On the other hand, Liverpool Lime Street is a much better-connected station and it is backed up by Liverpool South Parkway station, which has a connection to Merseyrail’s Northern Line.
  • The current service doesn’t serve Manchester Piccadilly or Airport stations.

A guy in the cafe also told me that two tph are not enough and the trains are often too short.

Merseyrail work to the same principle as the London Overground and other cities of four tph at all times and the frequency certainly draws in passengers.

Whilst I was drinking my coffee, other trains past the station.

  • One tph – Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Airport
  • One tph – Liverpool Lime Street and Norwich

Modern trains like Northern’s new Class 195 trains, should be able to execute stops at stations faster than the elderly diesel trains currently working the route.

So perhaps, after Irlam station becomes step-free, the Manchester Airport service should call as well.

As Liverpool Lime Street station has been remodelled, I can see a time in the not too distant future, when that station can support four tph, that all stop at Irlam station.

The Manchester end of the route could be a problem, as services terminating at Oxford Road have to cross the busy lines of the Castlefield Corridor.

So perhaps all services through Irlam, should go through Deansgate, Manchester Oxford Road and Manchester Piccadilly stations to terminate either at the Airport or perhaps Stockport or Hazel Grove stations.

But would this overload the Castlefield Corridor?

Battery/Electric Trains

If you look at the route between Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Oxford Road stations, the following can be seen.

  • Only about thirty miles between Deansgate and Liverpool South Parkway stations is not electrified.
  • The section without electrification doesn’t appear to be particularly challenging, as it is along the River Mersey.

It is my view, that the route between Liverpool and Manchester via Irlam, would be an ideal route for a battery/electric train.

A train between Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Airport stations would do the following.

  • Run from Liverpool Lime Street station to Liverpool South Parkway station using the installed 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • Drop the pantograph during the stop at Liverpool South Parkway station.
  • Run from Liverpool South Parkway station to Deansgate station using battery power.
  • Raise the pantograph during the stop at Deansgate station.
  • Run from Deansgate station to Manchester Airport station, using the installed 25 KVAC overhead electrification.

The exact distance between Deansgate and Liverpool South Parkway stations is 28.2 miles or 45.3 kilometres.

In 2015, I was told by the engineer riding shotgun on the battery/electric Class 379 train, that that experimental train was capable of doing fifty kilometres on battery power.

There are at least four possible trains, that could handle this route efficiently.

  • Porterbrook’s proposed batteryFLEX train based on a Class 350 train.
  • A battery/electric train based on the seemingly unwanted Class 379 train.
  • A battery/electric version of Stadler’s Class 755 train.
  • I believe that Bombardier’s Aventra has been designed so that a battery/electric version can be created.

There are probably others and I haven’t talked about hydrogen-powered trains.

Battery power between Liverpool and Manchester via Irlam, appears to be very feasible.

Tram-Trains

As my train ran between Manchster and Irlam it ran alongside the Metrolink between Cornbrook and Pomona tram stops.

Manchester is very serious about tram-trains, which I wrote about in Could A Class 399 Tram-Train With Batteries Go Between Manchester Victoria And Rochdale/Bury Bolton Street/Rawtenstall Stations?.

Tram-trains are often best employed to go right across a city, so could the Bury tram-trains go to Irlam after joining the route in the Cornbrook area?

  • Only about thirty miles between Deansgate and Liverpool South Parkway stations is not electrified.
  • The route between Liverpool and Manchester via Irlam doesn’t look to be a very challenging line to electrify.
  • The total distance bettween Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Victoria station is only about forty miles, which is a short distance for a tram-train compared to some in Karlsruhe.
  • Merseyrail’s Northern Line terminates at Hunts Cross station, which is going to be made step-free.
  • There is an existing step-free interchange between the Liverpool and Manchester route via Irlam and Merseyrail’s Northern Line at Liverpool South Parkway station.
  • Class 399 tram-trains will have a battery capability in South Wales.
  • Class 399 tram-trains have an operating speed of 62 mph, which might be possible to increase.
  • Stadler make Class 399 tram-trains and are building the new Class 777 trains for Merseyrail.

I think that Stadler’s engineers will find a totally feasible and affordable way to link Manchester’s Metrolink with Liverpool Lime Street station and Merseyrail’s Northern and Wirral Lines.

I can envisage the following train service running between Liverpool and Manchester via Irlam.

  • An hourly service between Liverpool Lime Street and Nottingham, as has been proposed for the new East Midlands Franchise.
  • A four tph service between Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Airport via Manchester Piccadilly.
  • A tram-train every ten minutes, linking Liverpool Central and Manchester’s St Peter’s Square.
  • Tram-trains would extend to the North and East of Manchester as required.
  • All services would stop much more comprehensively, than the current services.
  • Several new stations would be built.
  • In the future, the tram-trains could have an interchange with High Speed Two at Warrington.

Obviously, this is just my speculation, based on what I’ve seen of tram-train networks in Germany.

The possibilities for the use of tram trains are wide-ranging.

Installing Step-Free Access At Irlam Station

There would appear to be two ways of installing step-free access at Irlam station.

  • Add lifts to the existing subway.
  • Add a separate bridge with lifts.

These are my thoughts on each method.

Adding Lifts To The Existing Subway

Consider.

  • The engineering would not be difficult.
  • Installaton would probably take a number of weeks.
  • There is good contractor access on both sides of the railway.

There are similar successful step-free installations around the UK

The problem is all about, how you deal with passengers, whilst the subway is closed for the installation of the lifts.

Adding A Separate Bridge With Lifts

Consider.

  • There is a lot of space at both the Eastern and Western ends of the platform to install a new bridge.
  • Adding a separate bridge has the big advantage, that during the installation of the bridge, passengers can use the existing subway.
  • Once the bridge is installed, the subway can be refurbished to an appropriate standard.

Passengers will probably prefer the construction of a new bridge.

In Winner Announced In The Network Rail Footbridge Design Ideas Competition, I wrote how the competition was won by this bridge.

So could a factory-built bridge like this be installed at Irlam station?

There is certainly space at both ends of the platform to install such a bridge and the daily business of the station and its passengers would be able to continue unhindered, during the installation.

I’m also sure, that the cafe would be happy to provide the daily needs of the workforce.

Conclusion

From a station and project management point-of-view, adding a new factory-built bridge to Irlam station is the easiest and quickest way to make the station step-free.

It also appears, that Network Rail have made a wise choice in deciding to put Irlam station on their list of stations to be made step-free, as the station could be a major part in creating a new high-capacity route between Liverpool and Manchester.

This could also be one of the first stations to use an example of the new bridge.

  • Installation would be quick and easy.
  • There is no site access problems.
  • There station can remain fully open during the installation.
  • All stakeholders would probably be in favour.

But above all, it would be a superb demonstration site to bring those from stations, where Network Rail are proposing to erect similar bridges.

July 6, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Trip Around The West Midlands

Today, I did a trip around the West Midlands, using five different trains.

Tain 1 – 19:10 – Chiltern – London Marylebone To Leamington Spa

This was one of Chiltern’s rakes of Mark 3 coaches hauled by a Class 68 locomotive.

I like these trains.

  • They are comfortable.
  • Everybody gets a table and half sit by a big window.
  • There is more space than Virgin Train’s Class 390 trains.
  • They may be slower, but they are fast enough for most journeys I make.

The train arrived seven minutes late at Leamington Spa at 11:32.

Train 2 – 12:02 – West Midlands Trains – Leamington Spa To Nuneaton

This is a new West Midlands Trains service, via the new station at Kenilworth and Coventry.

The trains are Class 172 trains, that used to run on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.

Note.

  1. The have been repainted and refreshed.
  2. The seat cover on the driver’s seat is a relic of the London Overground.
  3. The train now has a toilet.

The train was about half-full and I got the impression, that the new service had been well-received.

The train arrived on time at Nuneaton at 12:38.

Train 3 – 12:54 – West Midlands Trains – Nuneaton to Rugeley Trent Valley

The train was a Class 350 train and it arrived eight minutes late at 13:29.

These pictures show Rugeley Trent Valley station.

It is very minimal with just a shelter, a basic footbridge and no information on how or where to buy a ticket.

Passengers deserve better than this!

Train 4 – 13:43 – West Midlands Trains – Rugeley Trent Valley to Birmingham New Street

This is a new West Midlands Trains electric service.

Compared to the Leamington Spa to Nuneaton service, passengers were spread rather thinly in the train.

The train was a Class 350 train and it arrived five minutes late at 14:44.

Train 5 – 15:55 – Chiltern – Birmingham Moor Street to London Marylebone

Another comfortable Chiltern Railways train back to London, which arrived four minutes late at 17:47.

Customer Service

Customer service and especially that from West Midlands Trains was rather patchy.

  • Leamington Spa station was rebuilding the entrance, but staff were around.
  • Nuneaton station was very quiet.
  • Rugeley Trent Valley station needs a lot of improvement.
  • The two Birmingham City Centre stations were much better.

I actually had to travel ticketless from Rugeley Trent Valley to Birmingham New Street, as the Conductor on the train didn’t check the tickets.

But Virgin Trains were very professional at Birmingham New Street.

Service Pattern

I have some observations on the service patterns.

  • For comfort reasons, I would prefer that Chiltern ran Mark 3 coaches and Class 68 locomotives on all Birmingham services.
  • In the future, it looks like Leamington Spa and Nuneaton needs at least a half-hourly service.
  • There definitely needs to be more services on the Chase Line.

There also is a serious need for staff and better facilities at Rugeley Trent Valley station.

No-one even a hardened member of the SAS would want to spend thirty minutes changing trains there on a blustery and cold winter’s day.

Conclusion

I tried two new services today, that started on the May 2019 timetable change.

  • A diesel service between Leamington Spa and Nuneaton via Kenilworth and Coventry.
  • An electrified service between Rugeley Trent Valley and Birmingham New Street.

The first would appear to be what passengers want, but the second needs a bit of promoting.

 

May 24, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment