The Anonymous Widower

Scottish Government Approve £75m Levenmouth Rail Link

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

The plan seems to have been well-received by politicians and the media.

I’ve always thought this line to be a good candidate for reopening.

  • It is only five miles long.
  • It would serve Scotland’s largest town without a rail station.
  • There must be freight opportunities for freight, as the line could serve Scotland’s largest distillery.

There is more here on the Wikipedia entry for the Levenmouth Rail Link under Cost, Feasibility And Services.

Could The Levenmouth Rail Link Be Part Of A Bigger Picture?

The Fife Circle Line is an important route into Edinburgh for commuters, shoppers and visitors.

This map from Wikipedia shows the stations on the Fife Circle Line.

Consider.

  • The route is not electrified.
  • A train starting in Edinburgh and going rund the loop would cover about sixty miles.
  • Trains have a frequency of four trains per hour (tph)

It would appear that it would be the sort of service that would be ideal for electric trains, like ScotRail’s Class 385 trains, where a fleet of perhaps eight trains could provide the current service.

But there is a big obstacle to electrification; the Forth Rail Bridge.

It would be a difficult engineering project, that would cause massive disruption and one that would probably be strongly opposed by the Heritage lobby.

This map from Wikipedia shows the proposed Levenmouth Rail Link.

Note how it connects to the Fife Circle Line at Glenrothes with Thorton and Kirkcaldy stations.

I estimate that the distance between Leven and Edinburgh stations would be about 31 miles.

Could Battery-Electric Trains Work To Glenrothes with Thorton And Leven?

Consider these  facts abut battery-electric trains.

  • Bombardier ran a battery-electric train on the 11.5 mile Mayflower Line in public service for three months, without a hitch in 2015.
  • Hitachi, Siemens, Stadler and Vivarail have sold battery-electric trains.
  • Hitachi are running battery-electric trains in Japan.
  • Ranges of upwards of fifty miles are being claimed.
  • Battery-electric trains are a quality experience for passengers.

.As the Edinburgh and Leven and dinburgh and Glenrothes with Thorton routes  are about thirty miles, I believe it is now possible to run battery-electric trains on these two routes.

  • They would be charged at the Edinburgh end using the existing electrification.
  • Charging stations would be needed at Leven and Glenrothes with Thornton.
  • Electrification could also be erected as far as Dalmeny station at the Edinburgh end, which would reduce the range on batteries by about seven miles.

There would be no difficult engineering and the Forth Rail Bridge would look the same as the day it was built!

Hitachi Plans To Run ScotRail Class 385 EMUs Beyond The Wires

I covered this in more detail in Hitachi Plans To Run ScotRail Class 385 EMUs Beyond The Wires.

Hitachi appear to be serious according to this article of the same name on Rail Engineer.

The article concludes with this paragraph.

Hitachi’s proposal to operate battery trains in Scotland is at an early stage. However, with their use being recommended by the rail decarbonisation task force and the Scottish Government about to pass new climate change legislation, it may not be long before battery trains are operating in Scotland.

Hitachi aren’t stupid and I doubt they could want for a better portfolio of launch routes, than some of those in Scotland.

  • Edinburgh and Leven over the Forth Rail Bridge.
  • Edinburgh and Grenrothes with Thornton over the Forth Rail Bridge.
  • The Borders Railway.

I also show in the related article, that Glasgow to Oban and Mallaig may be possible.

The Rail Network And Electrification To The West Of Edinburgh

This map shows the rail system to the West of Edinburgh.

All lines except for the route through South Gyle and Edinburgh Gateway stations are electrified.

Electrification as far as Dalmeny station, the addition of the new chord (shown in yellow) and fill in electrification to join the chord to the Glosgow wires would open up the possibilities of more routes between Edinburgh and Glasgow and a connection between Glasgow and the Fife Circle.

But battery-electric trains would be needed.

ScotRail has Options For More Class 385 Trains

This is said in the Wikipedia entry for the Class 385 trains.

10 unit optional follow up order after 2020.

So ScotRail seem to have a gateway to the future.

Will Battery-Electric Trains Be Good For Tourism?

I very much doubt, that they’ll be bad for it!

Conclusion

The announcement of the reinstatement of the Levenmouth Rail Link, could be be a collateral benefit of a decision to trial or even order some battery-electric Hitachi Class 385 trains.

August 9, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 5 Comments

Tender Set To Be Issued For East West Rail Rolling Stock

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

Brief details of the fleet include.

  • Eleven trains.
  • Self-propelled.
  • Three cars.

Services are due to commence in 2024, serving Oxford, Aylesbury, Milton Keynes and Bedford.

Here are a few of my thoughts.

Are Three Car Trains Long Enough?

New train services in the UK, especially those on new or reopened routes, seem to suffer from London Overground Syndrome.

I define it as follows.

This benign disease, which is probably a modern version of the Victorian railway mania, was first identified in East London in 2011, when it was found that the newly-refurbished East London Line and North London Line were inadequate due to high passenger satisfaction and much increased usage. It has now spread across other parts of the capital, despite various eradication programs.

The Borders Railway certainly suffered and the London Overground is still adding extra services on the original routes.

Three-car trains may be enough for the initial service, but provision must be made  for running longer trains.

  • The trains that are purchased must be capable of lengthening.
  • Platforms must be built for longer trains.

So often we don’t future-proof new rail routes.

What Performance Is Needed?

I’ll ask this question first, as it may affect the choice of train.

The trains will certainly be at least capable of 100 mph operation.

But I wouldn’t be surprised if they were capable of 110 mph or even 125 mph, as this would surely make it easier for trains to go walkabout on the Great Western, Midland and West Coast Main Lines.

Faster East West trains might also get more services out of the fleet.

Appropriate acceleration and braking would be needed.

Conservative Or Innovative?

Will we get more of the same or will some of the responders to the tender offer trains based on innovative designs?

I would hope that as the line will eventually connect Oxford and Cambridge via Milton Keynes, the trains will take over the flavour of the route and be more innovative.

The Route

The eventual full route of the East West Rail Link will serve these sections.

  • Reading and Ocford – 25 miles – Partially-electrified
  • Oxford and Milton Keynes – 43 miles – Not electrified
  • Milton Keynes and Bedford – 20 miles – Partially-electrified
  • Bedford and Sandy – 10 miles – Not electrified
  • Sandy and Cambridge – 25 miles – Partially-electrified.

Note.

  1. The distances are approximate.
  2. With the exception of Oxford, all the major stations will be served by electric trains on other routes.

It is rather a mixture created out of existing and abandoned routes.

Could Battery Trains Run On The East West Rail Link?

Consider.

  • All the major stations except Oxford have electrification.
  • Sections of the route are electrified.
  • The route is not very challenging.
  • The longest section without electrification is around forty miles.

All this leads me to believe that a battery-electric train with a range of forty miles could handle the route, if there was the means to charge the train at Oxford.

Possibly the easiest way to achieve the charging station at Oxford station, would be to electrify between Didcot Junction and Oxford stations.

In How Much Power Is Needed To Run A Train At 125 mph?, I showed that to run at 125 mph, a train needs around three kWh per vehicle mile.

This would mean that to run between Oxford and Milron Keynes stations, would need a maximum power of around 40*3*3 kWh or 360 kWh.

This is only a 120 kWh battery in each car.

I am fairly certain, that a well-designed battery train could run on the East West Rail Link.

The Usual Suspects

There are several train companies, who could be offering existing trains or their developments.

Alstom

Alstom don’t have a current design of train for the UK, but they are heavily into the development of trains powered by hydrogen.

By 2024, I suspect they will be offering a purpose-built hydrogen-powered train for the UK.

Also, by that time, I think it will be likely, that many buses in cities will be powered by zero-carbon hydrogen and the availability of this fuel would be much better than it is today.

An East West Rail Link running hydrogen-powered trains would go a long way to answer the electrification lobby.

Bombardier

Bombardier are developing a 125 mph bi-mode Aventra with batteries, that they are proposing for various franchises in the UK, including the Midland Main Line.

I believe that by rearranging the components of this train, they could develop a train that would be very suitable for the East West Rail Link.

  • Three cars
  • At least 100 mph operating speed
  • In service by 2024 or earlier.

It could be a bi-mode train with batteries, or if battery and the associated charging technology has improved, it could be a battery-electric train.

The latter would certainly fulfil the flavour of the route.

Bombardier’s Aventra would also have the advantages of an electrical version and the ability to add more cars.

CAF

CAF have recently introduced the Class 195 traincaf in the UK.

But would a diesel train be acceptable on a flagship route?

On the other hand CAF have been delivering battery-powered trams for several years and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the company, offer an innovative battery-electric train for the East West Rail Link.

Hitachi

Hitachi don’t make self-powered trains in the UK.

But in Hitachi Plans To Run ScotRail Class 385 EMUs Beyond The Wires, I wrote about the company’s plans to use batteries as range extenders on their Class 385 trains.

I suspect that by 2024, these trains will be running in Scotland and they will probably be high-quality reliable trains.

So could these trains be able to run between Reading and Cambridge using battery power, topped up at the various sections of electrification along the route.

Hitachi’s development regime is cautious, professional and well-funded, so I suspect they could offer a version of the Class 385 train, for delivery in 2024.

Hitachi would also have the advantages of an electrical version and the ability to add more cars.

Siemens

Siemens have a large number of modern electrical multiple units in the UK, but none are self-powered, except the diesel Class 185 train.

Siemens will have a factory in the UK to built London Underground trains by 2024.

But eleven trains could be an expensive order to fulfil, if it required a new self-powered train design.

Stadler

Stadler are an innovative company and their Class 755 train will shortly be starting passenger service in East Anglia.

  • It is three-cars, which is extendable if required.
  • It has a 100 mph operating speed.
  • It is a bi-mode; diesel and electric train.
  • Trains for Wales have ordered a diesel/electric/battery version.
  • There are rumours of hydrogen-powered versions.

Stadler could certainly deliver some of these trains by 2024.

Summing Up

I would suspect that the front runners are Bombardier, Hitachi and Stadler, with CAF in fourth place.

  • All could probably develop a zero-emission train for the route using battery technology.
  • Stadler will have trains in service this year, and I suspect Bombardier and Hitachi will be running trains by 2022.

I think we could be seeing some very good trains on the route.

 

 

 

 

July 13, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Scottish Government Is Considering Plans To Electrify The Borders Railway

The title of this post is the same as that of this article in The Scotsman.

These reasons are given for the electrification, of the Borders Railway.

  • Electric trains would shorten journey times.
  • New Class 385 trains would be more reliable than the current elderly diesel trains.
  • It would be an easy line to electrify, as the line was built so that overhead electrification could be added without any gauge enhancement.

I would add a few reasons of my own.

  • The route is already electrified as far as Newcraighall station. This would probably ease the grid connection  to the new electrification.
  • I believe that electrification of a new railway, where everything is known an well-documented has a higher change of being delivered on time and on budget.
  • Running Class 385 trains may also produce operating and maintenance savings.
  • The Class 385 trains are serviced at the convenient Millerhill Depot.
  • Electrification might help running trains across Edinburgh.

If and when the Borders Railway is extended to Carlisle, there could be very good reasons to electrify the whole route.

I will answer a few questions.

How Much Time Would a Class 385 Train Save?

Currently, trains between Edinburgh and Tweedbank currently take fifty-five minutes with seven stops.

The Class 385 trains will probably save a few minutes at each stop, so this will make the journey time a bit shorter and turnround at each end of the route will be more relaxed.

How Long Is The Section Without Electrification Of The Borders Railway?

The distance between Newcraighall and Tweedbank stations is 30.75 miles.

How Challenging Is The Borders Railway?

It is not the easiest of routes, but it is not the most difficult either. It also has a high summit.

The current diesel trains don’t seem to be working that hard, when I’ve used the railway.

Would Electrification Be Difficult?

If I look at electrification projects over the last few years in the UK, they have been delayed and suffered cost increases because of the following.

  • Difficulty of raising bridges over the route.
  • Connecting to the electricity grid.
  • Surprises like unexpected sewers and mine workings, when installing the electrification.

Hopefully, as the Borders Railway is new railway, that is already partially electrified, this will not be a difficult electrification.

Could the Current Route Be Served By A Battery-Electric Train?

This is the big question, as it were possible, then the current Borders Railway may not need to be electrified.

In Hitachi Plans To Run ScotRail Class 385 EMUs Beyond The Wires, I talked about Class 385 trains with batteries, that #Hitachi are proposing.

Hitachi have said this.

  • It would be straightforward to add batteries to give a range of twenty miles on batteries.
  • Sixty miles would be possible but more difficult.

I believe that a safety-first way to run a battery-electric Class 385 train on the Borders Railway would be to do the following.

  • Procure a sin-fleet of Class 385 trains, with a range of forty miles on onboard batteries.
  • The trains would handle regenerative braking to the onboard batteries.
  • A charging station would be provided at Tweedbank station.

The only new infrastructure would be the charging station, which I believe should be based on Vivarail’s design, which I wrote about in Vivarail Unveils Fast Charging System For Class 230 Battery Trains

  • Currently, trains take just under ten minutes to turn round at Tweedbank station, which would be time enough to charge the battery.
  • Vivarail’s system is fully automatic, after the driver stops the train over a length of third-rail electrified track, which is only live, when a train is connected.

Hitachi would need to fit third-rail shoes to the trains, but then they could use the design from their Class 395 trains.

Conclusion

There is currently no need to electrify the Borders Railway, if Hitachi can do the following.

  • Fit batteries to a Class 385 train, to give a range of forty miles.
  • Design a fast charging system and install it at Tweedbank station.

I also believe that if and when the Borders Railway is extended to Carlisle, that there could be a strong case for electrification of the whole route.

Running battery-electric Class 385 trains on the Borders Railway would be a project with a lot of winners.

  • Hitachi would have a scenic demonstration route, close to a major well-connected international city.
  • The Borders would get a better and more environmentally – friendly train service to Edinburgh.
  • Scotrail would have a higher proportion of one class of electric trains.

But the biggest advantage could be the possibility of terminating Borders Railway services on the other side of Edinburgh, at perhaps Stirling or Dunblane.

 

 

 

June 19, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Chester To Liverpool Via Runcorn

This new service between Chester and Liverpool Lime Street stations via Runcorn station and the Halton Curve, started a couple of weeks ago.

I took these pictures of the journey.

Note.

  1. The service was busy, as everybody seemed to be going to Liverpool to prepare for the evening’s match.
  2. The Class 150 train kept up a good speed, which indicates that Network Rail didn’t cut quality on the link.
  3. Runcorn is about the halfway point of the journey.
  4. The route is electrified between Runcorn and Liverpool Lime Street stations.
  5. The Class 150 train was a bit tired.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see a hybrid train working this route.

Operation would be as follows.

  • All these trains work be capable of 100 mph using 25 KVAC overhead electrification between Liverpool Lime Street and Runcorn stations.
  • Power changeover would be at Runcorn station.
  • Between Runcorn to Chester stations is only about fourteen miles.. This will be well within battery range in a few years.

Transport for Wales will be obtaining trains from a crowded market.

More Halton Curve Services

Under Planned Improvements in the Wikipedia entry for Transport for Wales, this is said.

Introduction of a new hourly Liverpool to Llandudno and Shrewsbury service, and a new two-hourly Liverpool to Cardiff Central service from December 2022.

Adding these to the current hourly service, this would mean that two trains per hour (tph) would normally run between Liverpool Lime Street and Chester stations, with three trains in every alternate hour.

I think that, there would be a marketing advantage in running hybrid trains on these routes. Hydrogen would be ideal, as these would not need recharging like battery trains after a long trip.

To go through the single-track Halton Curve appears to take trains about five minutes, so up to eight tph could probably be feasible, which would mean four tph between Liverpool and Chester via Runcorn in both directions.

If Trains for Wales are going to compete with the Merseyrail electric services, they need a four tph frequency in both directions.

Flexible Ticketing

Currently, if you want to buy a ticket between the Chester and Liverpool Lime Street, you have to buy an appropriate ticket for your chosen route.

Surely, tourists and others might like to do the out and back journeys by a different route.

If London Underground and some train companies can share ticketing, then surely Merseyrail and other train companies can do the same.

Conclusion

This new service will be surprisingly well-used and needs an iconic hybrid train.

  • Diesel is not appropriate for the long term, although in Northern Connect Between Chester And Leeds To Start In May, I did report a rumour that Class 769 trains might be running between Chester and Leeds.
  • Hydrogen is non-polluting and has a longer range, that could make services between Liverpool and Holyhead possible.
  • Battery will probably need a charging infrastructure.

My money is on hydrogen power.

 

 

June 2, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hitachi Plans To Run ScotRail Class 385 EMUs Beyond The Wires

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

This is the first paragraph.

Hitachi are in discussions with the Scottish Government to run a Class 385 variant with underfloor batteries that could either be charged whilst under the wires or whilst stationary at the end of the route.

The article makes these points, about adding batteries to Class 385 trains.

  • It would be straightforward to add batteries to give a range of twenty miles on batteries.
  • Sixty miles would be possible but more difficult.
  • Experience gained with the DENCHA trains in Japan would be used.

The article concludes with this paragraph.

Hitachi’s proposal to operate battery trains in Scotland is at an early stage. However, with their use being recommended by the rail decarbonisation task force and the Scottish Government about to pass new climate change legislation, it may not be long before battery trains are operating in Scotland.

I think it should be noted that Hitachi’s order book is rather thin these days and it appears that innovative technology will sell new trains.

Alstom, Bombardier, CAF, Siemens, Stadler and Vivarail have all designed, demonstrated or sold trains, where batteries are used improve efficiency or extend range.

As Scotland has several routes, where battery trains could provide a service, perhaps Hitachi thought it was time to do some marketing, to make sure that they got any orders for battery trains.

Scotrail would probably prefer to have a battery train similar to their largest fleet of electric trains.

Electric Trains On The West Highland Line Between Glasgow And Mallaig/Oban

This might be considered as difficult as putting a London bus on the Moon.

But consider.

  • The West Highland Line is electrified as far as Helenburgh Central station.
  • Electrification to Helensburgh Upper station would probably not be a difficult project for Network Rail in Scotland.
  • Heleburgh Upper to Mallaig is just under 140 miles.
  • Hellensuburgh Upper to Oban is around 80 miles.
  • Crianlarich station, where the two routes divide is forty miles from Helesburgh Upper.
  • Fort William station is around halfway between Mallaig and Crianlarich.
  • Trains take several minutes to reverse at Fort William.

Vivarail have developed fast charging for battery trains, that I wrote about in Vivarail Unveils Fast Charging System For Class 230 Battery Trains.

If Hitachi can develop a Class 385 train with batteries, that has a range of perhaps sixty miles on a full battery, then I believe it would be possible to run an electric train service between Glasgow and Oban and Mallaig.

  • Charging stations would need to be able to fully charge the batteries in perhaps six minutes.
  • Trains would leave Hellensburgh Upper with a full battery and charging stations at Crianlarich and Fort William would top up the batteries.
  • The longest stretch is between Crianlarich and Fort William and it would probably need an additional charging station at perhaps Tulluch.

What would battery-electric trains to Oban and Mallaig do for tourism in the area?

Hitachi would have one of the most scenic and iconic test tracks in the world!

 

 

April 2, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 8 Comments