The Anonymous Widower

Manchester Metrolink To Gorton And Glossop

The Wikipedia entry for the Manchester Metrolink doesn’t say much about  Glossop, except that one of the original lines would have taken over the Glossop Line to Gorton, Glossop and Hadfield stations.

In Manchester Metrolink Extensions In A Sentence, I quoted this sentence from the Manchester Evening News.

It includes tram extensions to Port Salford, Middleton and Stalybridge, plus ‘tram trains’ to Hale, Warrington, Gorton and Glossop.

How would tram-trains from Gorton and Glossop join the current Metrolink network at Piccadilly station?

Consider.

  • Glossop Line trains use the low-numbered platforms on the Northern side of Manchester Piccadilly station.
  • Some plans have shown High Speed Two platforms on the save side of Piccadilly station.

Look at this Google Map of the Northern side of the station.

Note.

  1. Two trams crossing the green space to the North of the station.
  2. The area between the tram lines and the tracks going into Piccadilly station, appears to be mainly car parking and low-grade buildings.
  3. The tracks leading to Gorton and Glossop are on the Northern side of Piccadilly station.

These are a few pictures of the area.to the North of the station.

I feel it would be very feasible for tram-trains to connect the Glossop Line and the tram station underneath the main station.

In fact there would be no reason, why tram-trains shouldn’t continue to serve Manchester Piccadilly train station.

High Speed Two

High Speed Two’s terminals in Manchester is in a state of foux at the moment, so it might be preferable to just replace all Glossop Line services with tram-trains and use Manchester Piccadilly tram station.

Updating The Glossop Line

The Glossop Line is electrified with 25 KVAC overhead wires, which looks to be one of the systems in worst condition in the UK along with the Crouch Valley Line in Essex.

It would probably need replacing, as the rust weevils holding it up, must be getting very tired.

To say that some stations look like they’ve seen better times, is an understatement.

Class 399 Tram-Trains For Manchester

Transport for Greater Manchester are serious about tram-trains and I believe that their usefullness to the City could be explored by running the existing service between Manchester Piccadilly and Glossop using a small fleet.

Conclusion

Extending the Manchester Metrolink to Gorton and Glossop using tram-trains appears to be very feasible.

In my view, it would have made a good trial route to prove the concept of tram-trains in the UK.

 

July 29, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 11 Comments

Steaming Up To Treforest In A Class 143 Train

On my trip to Treforest, I was in a Class 143 train or one of the dreaded Pacers.

It was performing well on the challenging route and I wondered how the power compared with that of the proposed tram-trains, that will be used in a couple of years.

Class 143 Train

  • Speed – 75 mph
  • Sections – 2
  • Weight – 48.5 tonnes
  • Length 31 metres
  • Power – 336 kW
  • Capacity – 122 seats
  • Gross Weight (90 Kg per passenger) – 49.6 tonnes
  • Kinetic Energy At Operating Speed – 7.7 kWh
  • Time to Operating Speed At Full Power – 1.5 minutes

The train I was on was pretty smooth! Or for a Pacer anyway!

Class 399 Tram-Train

  • Speed – 62 mph
  • Sections – 3
  • Weight -66.15 tonnes
  • Length – 37.2 metres
  • Power – 870 kW
  • Capacity – 88 seats and 150 standing.
  • Gross Weight (90 Kg per passenger) – 87.6 tonnes
  • Kinetic Energy At Operating Speed – 9.3 kWh
  • Time to Operating Speed At Full Power – 6 minutes

These figures are taken from details of the tram-trains in Sheffield.

The two trains are very similar in some respects, but the tram-train is heavier with a full load of passengers.

I certainly can see no reason, why the Class 399 tram-train won’t perform as well as the lass 143 train, but with a bigger and heavier load of passengers.

But one important factor should be born in mind.

The German cousins of the Class 399 tram-trains are used in Karlsruhe, where they easily climb out of the city into the surrounding hills.

A trip up the valleys to Aberdate, Merthyr Tydfil or Treherbert could be no more difficult, once the electrification is in place.

Conclusion

I can see other cities and tram networks around the UK, Europe and the wider world developing urban transport networks around these Stadler tram-trains.

UK cities for their deployment must include Manchester and Sheffield.

July 25, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , | 4 Comments

Sheffield Region Transport Plan 2019 – Tram-Trains Between Sheffield And Doncaster-Sheffield Airport

The Sheffield plans, state this as a medium to long-term priority.

Regional tram-train services to be maximised through Rotherham Central, with direct fast services to Doncaster, DSA and Sheffield.

The tram-train route between Sheffield and Doncaster, would probably be as follows.

  • Tinsley Meadowhall South
  • Magna
  • Rortherham Central
  • Rotherham Parkgate
  • Swinton
  • Mexborough
  • Conisbrough
  • Doncaster

The distance between Rotherham Parkgate and Doncaster is under twelve miles and has full electrification at both ends.

The Class 399 tram-trains being built with a battery capability for the South Wales Metro to be delivered in 2023, should be able to reach Doncaster.

But there are probably other good reasons to fully electrify between Doncaster and Sheffield, via Meadowhall, Rotherham Central and Rotherham Parkgate.

The major work would probably be to update Rotherham Parkgate to a through station with two platforms and a step-free footbridge.

Currently, trains take twenty-three minutes between Rotherham Central and Doncaster. This is a time, that the tram-trains would probably match.

Onward To Doncaster Sheffield Airport

I have clipped this map of services from the report on Sheffield’s plans.

The tram-train route to the Airport is clearly marked in a broken orange line.

  • The tram-train uses a loop from the East Coast Main Line.
  • It shares the loop with expresses between London and Doncaster, that call at the Airport.
  • The tram-train extension from Doncaster to Doncaster Sheffield Airport has new stations at Lakeside, Bessacarr and terminates at a new station at Bawtry.

It looks a well-thought out plan.

 

 

 

July 21, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 6 Comments

Sheffield Region Transport Plan 2019 – Renewal Of Supertram Network

Sheffield’s plan has renewal of the Supertram network as a short term priority.

The Sheffield Supertram is twenty-five years old and when you consider, many UK urban railway and tram systems of the same vintage have been substantially updated with new rolling stock and new routes.

The plan lists three things that must be done.

Network Rerailing

This has already been done over part of the network to allow the Class 399 tram-trains to operate on the Supertram network.

So I suspect that the rest of the network needs to be re-railed.

Certainly, the Class 399 tram-trains, which are cousins of the tram-trains working in Karlsruhe don’t seem to have had any serious problems, that have surfaced in the media.

New Vehicles

New trams are needed, mainly because the original trains are twenty-five years old.

But will these new trams, be trams or tram-trains?

That question has already been answered, as Sheffield uses some Class 399 tram-trains as capacity enhancers on some normal tram routes.

The Class 399 tram-trains that have been ordered for the South Wales Metro are being delivered with a battery capability.

So if Class 399 tram-trains or something similar, should they have a battery capability?

Undoubtedly, as Birmingham are showing, the ability to extend a route without wires is extremely useful amd cost-saving.

I also suspect that Cardiff, Karlsruhe and Sheffield will share similar vehicles, as the latter two cities do now.

The only differences are the German version runs on 15 KVAC as opposed to the UK’s 25 KVAC, some changed body panels, boarding heights, door number and position, colour schemes and couplers.

Sheffield and Cardiff will be using a standard European tram-train, adapted to our working practices and track standards.

Extending The Network

Suppose Sheffield choose as the tram replacement, a vehicle with the following characteristics.

  • Tram-train.
  • Able to use 25 VAC and 750 VDC overhead wires.
  • Able to use battery power.
  • Regeerative braking to battery.
  • Enhanced performance, as the original vehicles struggle on the hills, according to drivers to whom I’ve spoken. But the 399s are much better!
  • Extra capacity.
  • 75 mph operating speed

Sheffield would be able to develop several new routes.

I am particularly curious, as to whether a tram-train with a battery capability delivered in say 2025, will have the capability of handling a route like the Penistone Line.

It should be noted, that if Sheffield were Karlsruhe, there would be tram-trains to Doncaster, Doncaster-Sheffield Airport, Huddersfield, Retford and Worksop.

But the German city is at the centre of a network of electrified lines.

Conclusion

Sheffield will be the next city in the UK, after Cardiff, that will have a wide-spresad battery-electric tram-train network.

July 21, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 4 Comments

Sheffield Region Transport Plan 2019 – A New Tram-Train Route To A New Station At Waverley

Sheffield’s plans state that a medium to long term priority is to have a new station on the Sheffield-Lincoln Line.

This Google Map shows the location of Waverley between Darnall and stations.

 

Note.

  1. Darnall station is in the North-West corner of the map.
  2. Woodhouse station is in the South-East corner of the map.
  3. Waverley is a new housing area and is highlighted in red towards the North-East corner of the map.

The plans also propose that the service will be run by tram-trains and they will also serve the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP)

This Google Map shows AMP and Waverley in a larger scale.

Note.

  1. Waverley in the South-East corner of the map.
  2. The AMP in the North-West corner of the map.
  3. The Sheffield-Lincoln Line curving through to the South.

Most rail and tram systems are straight out-and-back layouts, but there are two very important loops  that serve a wider area under Liverpool City Centre and Heathrow Airport.

Could Waverley and the AMP be served by a surface loop from the Shyeffield-Lincoln Line?

  • The loop could be single- or double-track.
  • Stops would be in appropriate places.
  • The loop could be electrified as needed with 750 VDC to the Sheffield Supertram standard.

As Sheffield is less than three miles from Waverley, the battery-electric version of Class 399 tram-trains, as ordered for the South Wales Metro, should be able to run to and from Sheffield on battery power, if the loop was fully electrified, so could charge the tram-trains.

The Sheffield-Lincoln Line passes to the back of the Sheffield Supertram Depot, so I suspect, if required the tram-trains could sneak through the depot to join the main tram route through Sheffield City Centre.

But as the Sheffield Supertram expands, there must surely come a point, where a second route across the City is needed to handle increasing numbers of trams. Manchester found this a few years ago and have since built the Second City Crossing.

Sheffield already has a second route across the City and it is the rail line through Sheffield station, which will be electrified in the next few years, to allow High Speed Two trains to reach the City.

So I can see no reason, why tram-trains from Waverley and the AMP can’t terminate in Sheffield station or go across the City.

To show what the Germans get up to, here’s one of Karlruhe’s tram-trains in a platform in Karlsruhe HBf, with a double-deck TGV in an adjacent platform.

This is one of Karlsruhe’s older train trains, that are being replaced by tram-trains, which are cousins of those in Sheffield.

If the Waverley loop is built, it can be considered as a separate tram system, that connects to Sheffield station, by running as a battery-electric train.

Conclusion

Why shouldn’t Sheffield have an advanced tram-train system to serve the Advanced Manufacturing Park?

 

July 20, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 3 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

Comparing Trams And Tram-Trains In Manchester And Sheffield

In Could A Class 399 Tram-Train With Batteries Go Between Manchester Victoria And Rochdale/Bury Bolton Street/Rawtenstall Stations?, I discussed how Class 399 tram-trains might be used on a route in the Manchester area.

This was my conclusion.

Could we see tram-trains running from Bury Bolton Street, Hebden Bridge, Rawtenstall and Rochdale into Manchester Victoria and then taking to the existing tram network?

If you’ve ever been to Karlsruhe, as I have to see the Class 399 tram-trains German cousins, you wouldn’t rule out anything.

That would include tram-train services to Blackburn, Buxton, Chester, Glossop, Hebden Bridge, Sheffield, Southport and Wigan.

So how do Manchester’s M5000 trams, Sheffield’s Supertrams compare to the Class 399 tram-train?

Body Construction

  • M5000 – Aluminium
  • Supertram – Steel
  • Class 399 – Lightweight Stainless Steel

Does the Class 399 use lightweight stainless steel to give enhanced crash protection and better corrosion resistance?

Sections, Doors and Length

  • M5000 – 2, 4 and 38.4 metres
  • Supertram – 3, 4 and 34.8 metres
  • Class 399 – 3, 4 and 37.2 metres

Capacity

  • M5000 – 60 or 66 seats, 149 standing, 209/215 maximum
  • Supertram – 86 seats, 155 standing, 241 maximum
  • Class 399 – 88 seats and 150 standing, 238 maximum

The M5000 is a bit less because it is a shorter vehicle with less standing space.

Entrance Height

  • M5000 – 0.98 metres
  • Supertram – 0.42 metres
  • Class 399 – .425 metres

The Supertram and the Class 399 have obviously been built to be able to use the same tram platforms in Sheffield.

Wikipedia says this about standard UK platform height.

The standard height for platforms is 915 mm with a margin of +0,-25 mm

But it would appear that the M5000 is not far from the UK standard height, but the Class 399 is 0.465 metres too low.

Consider.

  • The entrance height of a Greater Anglia Class 755 train, which is a bi-mode FLIRT is 0.96 metres.
  • On the South Wales Metro, variants of Class 399 tram/trains and Class 755 trains will share platforms.

So Stadler must have a nifty solution to overcome the platform height difference for these two trains, which is similar to that in Manchester between a Class 399 tram-train and an M5000.

If it’s on the tram-train, then Stadler have a solution, that will allow Class 399 tram-trains to run on the Manchester Metrolink.

The datasheet for the Class 399 tram-train says this about the suspension of the tram-train.

Smooth and silent operation with secondary air suspension and resilient wheels.

Secondary air suspension is not new on trains, as it certainly featured on British Rail Mark 3 coaches from the 1970s, which have a legendary smooth ride. It can still be seen between the bogie and the coach on many Bombardier trains, which trace their ancestry to British Rail designs.

The picture shows the bogie on a Class 378 train.

Note the air-suspension above the frame of the bogie.

Some cars use secondary air suspension with computers to control the amount of air in each rubber bag to improve the ride and road-holding.

Transport for London measure the pressure in the suspension and use this to calculate train loading. I described this application in Is This The Hippest Train Status Displays?

Could the air bags be pumped up to raise the train and and reduced in pressure to drop it a few centimetres?

There are certainly suspension engineers, in the automotive and motor-sport industries, who have relevant experience and could suggest a solution.

All this speculation is a bit like Lew Grasde’s quote on the film Raise the Titanic on which he lost a lot of money.

Raise The Titanic?  It would have been cheaper to lower the Atlantic!

Here it’s a bit of the reverse as if the tram-trains can be adjusted to the platform height, then hundreds of platforms don’t need to be rebuilt.

Suppose the platforms were built to fit an existing tram or train.

  • On the Manchester Metrolink the platforms would fit the M5000 trams.
  • On the Sheffield Supertram, the platforms would fit the Supertrams.
  • On the South Wales Metro, the platforms would fit the Welsh variant of the Class 755 train.

The Class 399 tram-trains running in Sheffield have their suspension adjusted on mnufacture and in the depot, so that there is level access between tram-train and platform.

Could the same tram-trains be adjusted so that they fit the Manchester Metrolink platforms, which are higher?

If they can, then Manchester has got a source of off-the-shelf tram-trains.

The picture shows a Class 399 tram-train at Rotherham Parkgate. Note the level access at the orange door in the foreground.

Manchester would need a different colour as Chelsea Blue wouldn’t be appropriate.

The intriguing idea, is can the same Class 399 tram-trains run in both Manchester and Sheffield, with the tram-train’s computer adjusting the ride height to suit the different height of platforms?

At present the answer is probably no, as if they could then there wouldn’t be dual-height platforms at Rotherham Central station.

Note the slopes down on both sides of the tracks from the high-level train platforms in the background, to the low-level tram platforms in the foreground.

It all depends on whether the suspension design is possible.

If it is, which I doubt, it would get round the bit problem of platforms on tram-train systems.

Weight

  • M5000 – 30.7 tonnes
  • Supertram – 46.5 tonnes
  • Class 399 – .66.1 tonnes

The Class 399 tram-train is a heavy beast so raising it by much might be difficult, as you changed from Sheffield to Manchester heights.

Operating Speed

  • M5000 – 80 kph
  • Supertram – 80 kph
  • Class 399 – .100 kph

Power And Power/Weight Ratio

  • M5000 – 480 kW – 15.6 kW/tonne
  • Supertram – 1108kW –  23.8 kW/tonne
  • Class 399 – 870 kW – 13.2 kW/tonne

Noye.

  1. By comparison the power/weight ratio of a Class 321 train is just 7.9 kW/tonne
  2. I have talked to Sheffield tram-drivers and their view is that the Class 399 tram-trains handle Sheffield’s hills better with a full load of passengers.
  3. The Class 399 has six traction motors, whereas the others have four.

So perhaps, the way that the Class 399 tram-train puts its power to the rail with more driven axles,  is important.

Conclusion

I am convinced that just as Sheffield’s Supertram can work happily with Class 399 tram-trains, Stadler have ways and means of making Manchester Metrolink’s M5000 trams work with the tram-trains.

If the Class 399 tram-train is compatible with both tram networks, this will be a great advantage in designing new tram-train routes.

It would also mean that one day, a tram-train service could run from Cathedral in Sheffield to Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester via the Hope Valley Line.

I suspect that a lot of local services from the two cities will be run by tram-train services, that cross the cities.

 

 

 

 

March 10, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 2 Comments

Stadler Rail’s Specification For UK Trains

These are links to the pdf specifications of Stadler Rail’s products in the UK.

I shall add more as I find them!

March 10, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

Could There Be A Tram-Train Between Ipswich And Felixstowe?

I should declare an interest here of my teenage self, who spent some very boring summers in, what was then, the small coastal resort and dormitory town of Felixstowe.

There was only so many places you could cycle and as my school friends were all in London, I used to avoid going to Felixstowe if possible.

I can remember going from London to Felixstowe several times on the train.

I would cycle from our London house in Cockfosters to Liverpool Street station and put my bike in the guard’s van for the trip to Ipswich.

From Ipswich, I would ride the dozen or so miles along the A45 (now the A14) to Felixstowe.

I suspect, that I could have used, the two-car diesel shuttle from Ipswich to Felixstowe, but I never did.

Perhaps, it was because it was not the most frequent of services.

The frequency was certainly a lot less than the current hourly service.

A Tram-Train To Felixstowe

This report on the East West Rail web site is entitled Eastern Section Prospectus and gives full details of their proposals for the Eastern section of the East-West Rail Link.

This is said in the report.

Introduction of a tram-train service on the Felixstowe branch, with doubling between Derby Road and Felixstowe and street running through
Ipswich.

It is also said, that there will be a frequency of four trains per hour (tph)  between Ipswich and Felixstowe.

So how feasible is this proposal?

The Proposed Frequency

People travel between Ipswich and Felixstowe for several reasons.

  • It is an important dormitory town for Ipswich and increasingly for London,
  • The Port of Felixstowe is an important employer.
  • There is a large amount of leisure traffic between the two towns.

Currently, much of the travelling between Ipswich and Felixstowe is by car on an increasingly crowded A14.

Four tph seems an eminently sensible frequency.

Why Propose A Tram-Train?

If a train, like a Class 170 train or one of the new Class 755 trains were used for the route,  it would mean the following.

  • Four tph in the single platform at Felixstowe.
  • Four tph in a dedicated platform at Ipwich.
  • Four trains would be needed for the service.
  • An extra six tph using the route between Westerfield and Ipswich stations.

The stations should be able to cope, but I doubt that the extra trains could be fitted into a busy route with the following services.

  • Ipswich and Norwich
  • Ipswich and Bury St. Edmunds, Cambridge and Peterborough
  • Ipswich and Lowestoft

If you add in the up to forty freight trains per day, that will use the route, something will have to give.

The Route Od The Tram-Train

It would appear that the plan is to replace the train, with a tram-train running on the streets of Ipswich.

This could be a possible route for street running.

  • Ipswich Station
  • Portman Road
  • Ipswich Town Centre
  • Ipswich Hospital

It would then join the Ipswich-Felixstowe rail line in the area of Derby Road station or the retail parks on the East of Ipswich.

This Google Map shows Derby Road station and Ipswich Hospital.

Note.

  1. Ipswich Hospital is in the top-right of the map.
  2. Derby Road station is at the left side of the map in the middle.
  3. The Ipswich-Felkixstowe Line can be seen going South-Easterly across the map to the well-known St. Augustine’s roundabout.

A tram-train would have the following benefits.

  • It would link the town centres of Ipswich and Felixstowe.
  • It would create a step-free link across Ipswich Town Centre to the all-important hospital.
  • Extra stations can be added where they are needed in Ipswich without decreasing capacity on the rail line.
  • It would surely encourage more people to use the trains from Ipswich station.

I suspect too, that Class 399 tram-trains could be used as they are in Sheffield and will be on the South Wales Metro.

Between Ipswich And Derby Road Stations

This extract is from the Wikipedia entry for the Felixstowe Branch Line.

The train now enters a section of double track through Derby Road station (6.10 miles (9.82 km) from Ipswich station by train, but only 1.5 miles on the map) where trains can pass.

It is very significant, that going through the houses between the two stations is a route that is shorter by eight-and-a-half miles.

Could it be that the time that would be saved by the shorter route is balanced by the slower progress of on-street running, which means that the current twenty-six minute journey time can be maintained?

Doubling Between Derby Road And Felixstowe

I’ll repeat what is said in the report.

Introduction of a tram-train service on the Felixstowe branch, with doubling between Derby Road and Felixstowe.

Doubling of about a mile of the Felixstowe Branch to the West of Trimley is ongoing and doubling further to the West looks to be fairly easy from my helicopter.

But there is one major problem.

This Google Map shows, where the rail line goes over the Ipswich by-pass.

Note that provision has been made for a second track.

So hopefully, it won’t be much more expensive to add a second bridge and track, than to add points either side of the existing bridge.

There would be some extra bridge works between the A14 and Derby Road station, but doubling all the way from Derby Road station to Felixstowe doesn’t look to be the world’s most difficult railway engineering.

Extra Tram-Train Stops Between Ipswich And Felixstowe

There used to be an extra stop at Orwell station. It was little-used and closed in 1959.

Looking at the station, it is now a large private residence and I suspect there is no point in reopening, as there isn’t much housing in the area.

But there could be a case for a station at Futura Park, which is shown in this Google Map.

Lots of the usual out-of-town stops are there including a Waitrose and a John Lewis.

The railway runs to the South of the A1156 Felixstowe Road and there is surely the possibility of a station in this area.

There is also the possibility, that the tram-train could join and leave the Felixstowe Branch Line at this point, after and before street running to Ipswich station.

Would The Tram-Trains Go Walkabout In Felixstowe?

Felixstowe used to have two other stations; Felixstowe Pier and Felixstowe Beach. Both are now closed.

  • I can remember Felxstowe Beach station, as occasionally in the 1950s, we stayed nearby at the Cavendish Hotel.
  • Felixstowe Pier station was towards Landguard Fort and even served steam vessels going to Germany.

Both stations were served by trains reversing at the main station, which is impossible now as the chord has been removed.

This Google Map shows the current rail lines in Felixstowe.

The line to/from Ipswich splits into two in the top-left corner of the map.

  • The branch going East goes to Felixstowe station.
  • The branch going South used to serve the two other Felixstowe stations and now serves the Port of Felixstowe.

The missing chord is visible to the West of the playing fields of Felixstowe International College.

I would rate reinstatement of the chord as highly unlikely.

  • The only reason, the chord would be reinstated, would be if the Port of Felixstowe wanted to have a four tph passenger service.
  • The Port wouldn’t want to have all those extra movements on what is a busy and exclusive freight line.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t rule out extension into Felixstowe Town Centre.

This Google Map shows the Town Centre.

Note.

  1. The one-platform station is at the top of the map, behind a small Co-op supermarket and the Listed station buildings, which are now a small shopping centre.
  2. The High Street, which is part -pedestrianised leads down from the station to the top of the cliffs, where Bent Hill leads down to the sea-front.
  3. Halfway along is a triangular garden, where a local road splits off toward the Southern part of the sea-front and the Port.
  4. The pattern of retail shopping is changing and Marks and Spencer in the town will be closing soon.

My plan would be as follows.

  • Rebuild the Co-op supermarket to allow a single-track tram line to squeeze through to the High Street.
  • Trams would then continue down the High Street to the triangular garden.
  • A second platform face could be added at Felixstowe station to allow trams to pass and give flexibility.

Done properly, it could improve Felixstowe’s appeal as a leisure destination.

I also think, that as the extension is only short, the current Ipswich to Felixstowe timing could be maintained.

Future Services At Ipswich Station

Listing all the services proposed at Ipswich station gives the following.

  • 3 tph – London Liverpool Street and Norwich – Greater Anglia
  • 1 tph – Colchester and Peterborough – Greater Anglia – Replaces current Ipswich and Peterborough service.
  • 1 tph – Manningtree and Oxford via Cambridge – East West Rail – Replaces current Ipswich and Cambridge service
  • 1 tph – Ipswich and Lowestoft – Greater Anglia – Some services extend to London
  • 4 tph – ipswich and Felixstowe – Greater Anglia – Proposed tram-train service.

If the Felixstowe tram-train service were to terminate outside the station, as trams tend to do, there would only be a need for one bay platform at Ipswich, that would handle hourly Lowestoft services, that didn’t go to/from London.

Ipswich station would become more of a through station with the following through trains.

  • Five tph going between Manningtree and Stowmarket
  • Two tph between Manningtree and the proposed A14 Parkway station via Bury St. Edmunds.

This would all save the expense of rebuilding large parts of Ipswich station.

Although, there would be a certain amount of remodelling of the station forecourt to accommodate the tram-trains.

Conclusion

It is a classic application of tram-train technology and I’m sure that a good route can be devised between the two towns.

 

 

February 22, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Automated Shuttle Trains With A Train Captain

There are various short routes on the UK rail network, where shuttle trains work a frequency of perhaps two or three trains per hour (tph), that is generally felt by passengers and train operators to be inadequate.

Examples include the following.

Could the frequency on these lines be increased using automation?

The Automated Docklands Light Railway

The Docklands Light Railway is not a simple railway, but it is fully automated.

  • Trains are driverless
  • A Train Captain is responsible for patrolling the train, checking tickets, making announcements and controlling the doors.
  • The Train Captain can take control of the train if required.

It is a system that seems to have worked well for many years.

An Automated Shuttle With A Train Captain

Could a similar principle be applied to a shuttle train?

As an example, I’ll use the Bromley North Line.

Consider.

  • The line is two miles long and trains take five minutes each way.
  • The current frequency is three tph.
  • There are problems at Grove Park station with connections in the Peak.
  • The route is double-track.
  • The current service is operated by a single train, manned only by a driver.

It would appear if the Bromley North Line could be run at four tph, this would be a welcome improvement.

One of the problems of driver-operated shuttle services like this, is that at each end of the route, the driver must change ends, which takes a couple of valuable minutes.

To operate a frequency of four tph, the round-trip must be performed in fifteen minutes.

  • Each leg takes five minutes.
  • There are four stops in a round trip; one at Grove Park, one at Bromley North and two at Sundridge Park.

I believe that a single automated train, with a Train Captain on board to look after safety, open and close the doors and start the train after each stop, should be able to handle the much-needed four tph on the Bromley North Line.

How Would The Automation Work?

Many years ago, a Central Line driver explained to me how the original automation of the Victoria Line worked.

  • A train would arrive in the station and stop in the correct place automatically with high precision.
  • The doors would be opened.
  • After passengers had unloaded and loaded, the doors would be closed.

When the doors were closed and everything was safe, the driver would push a button to ask the automation to take the train to the next station.

Automation has moved on since the 1960s, and I believe that some form of on-train automation would be able to handle a simple shuttle.

  • Only one track would probably be need to used to remove the complication of points.
  • Only one train would be used for the shuttle, as this increases safety.
  • Sensors would determine the exact position of the train.
  • CCTV cameras, including ones looking forwards and backwards,  would be relayed to the Train Captain and their Control Station in the middle of the train.
  • The Train Captain would have an Emergency Stop Button.

If something goes wrong or the train is  being taken to and from the depot, the Train Captain would go to the forward cab, switch off the automation and drive the train in the normal manner.

I am sure, that it would not only be a very safe system, but if it made full use of the capabilities of modern trains, it would speed up services sufficiently, so that frequencies could be increased.

What Trains Would Be Suitable?

I think that the choice of trains would be wide, but I think they must have the following characteristics.

  • An ability to perform a station stop and restart quickly.
  • Fast acceleration and deceleration.
  • Level access between platform and train.
  • Walk-through interior, to help the Train Captain perform their duties.
  • Lots of wide double doors and large lobbies.

All these characteristics would enable the train to save time on the route.

Power would be anything that could be used on the route. For the Bromley North Line, that would be either third-rail electrification or battery power.

Battery power, though on this route, would have a problem.

If the train is running an intense shuttle service, with stops taking a minute or even less, the train never stops long enough to charge the batteries. As the route is electrified with 750 VDC using third-rail, this would need to be used on the Bromley North Line.

Although, I have used the word train in this section, I suspect trams, tram-trains or light rail vehicles could be used.

All vehicles would retain their driving cabs for the following reasons.

  • If there is a problem, the Train Captain can drive the train, as happens on the Docklands Light Railway.
  • If the train needs to be positioned to and from a depot, the train could be driven manually.

I also feel that for these reasons, the Train Captain would be a fully qualified driver.

Examples of vehicles that could be used, if appropriate automation were to be fitted include.

Class 399 Tram-Train

Class399 tram-trains are working successfully in Sheffield and they have been ordered for the South Wales Metro, where they will run under both overhead and battery power.

As an Electrical Engineer, I believe that it would not be the most difficult piece of engineering to fit these tram-trains with the ability to run under third-rail power.

The tram-trains would have similar capacities, cross-section and performance to the current Class 466 trains.

The only modifications that would be needed to the route, would be to adjust the platforms used by the tram-train to give level access between tram-train and platform.

A Three-Car Aventra Or Similar

Three-car Class 730 Aventra trains,  have been ordered by West Midlands Railway and Aventras have also been ordered to run using third-rail power.

As with the Class 399 tram-train, these trains could probably work the route successfully, subject to suitable platform modification.

How Fast Could Stops Be Performed?

I have timed stops on the London Overground and the London Tramlink rarely do you find a time from brakes on to brakes off in excess of a minute, without a red signal being involved.

I have measured some London Overground stops are at  thirty seconds some  London Tramlink stops at twenty seconds.

If a shuttle had the track to itself and the train was a modern design, I could see maximum timings on the Bromley North Line as follows.

  • Bromley North – One minute
  • Sundridge Park – Thirty seconds
  • Grove Park – One minute

Surely, with station stop times like these and perhaps faster running than the current 30 mph, the goal of four tph could be comfortably achieved.

What Happens With Delays?

Suppose, an incident occurs, and the train is delayed.

After the incident is successfully sorted, the train could just carry on or wait until it was on schedule for the next train.

Within a few minutes, the train would be running to time.

Some Other Selected Routes

Over the next few days, I will be adding calculations for other routes.

Brentford Branch Line

Greenford Branch Line

Marlow Branch Line

Romford And Upminster

Slough And Windsor & Eton Central

Extra routes will be added here.

Conclusion

On the Bromley North Line, selective automation should be able to enable a four tph service using one train or tramtrain.

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