The Anonymous Widower

Thoughts On Belgium’s Coastal Tram

I enjoyed riding Belgium’s Coastal Tram, which I wrote about in Riding The Coast Tram.

The Belgians appear to be upgrading it, with rebuilt stops, track replacement and new low-floor trams, so it must have a solid future.

The nearest we have in the UK to the Belgian tram is the Blackpool Tramway. But that is very different.

  • The Blackpool Tramway is just eleven miles long, as opposed to the Belgian Coast Tram’s forty-two miles.
  • Frequencies are roughly similar, but the Blackpool Tramway carries five million passenger per year, as opposed to about three million for the Belgian Coast Tram.
  • The Belgian tram uses metre gauge track, whereas Blackpool is standard gauge.
  • The Belgian Coast Tram connects to four railway stations, whereas the Blackpool Tramway is only getting a connection to Blackpool North station in 2019.

So could we see other coastal tramways developed around the world?

The Advance Of Technology

Both tramways are embracing modern low-floor trams, but also still run heritage tram services, so tram manufacturers seem to be able to update the ride experience to modern standards, without losing all the charm of heritage trams.

The next tramway technology will be the use of tram-train technology, which is currently being trialled between Sheffield and Rotherham on the Sheffield Supertram.

This can’t be used in Belgium, as the tram and railways have different gauges, but the technology could be used in Blackpool.

I have not seen the designs for the tramway stop at Blackpool North station, but with the right track layout, it would be possible for a tram-train like the Class 399 tram-train being trialled at Sheffield, to go between Preston and Blackpool North as a train and then take to the tramway to go North to Fleetwood or South to Starr Gate as a tram.

This technology is very applicable to extend railways through a terminal station, where there is convenient geography, as at Blackpool.

There must be many places around the world, where electric trains run to a coastal station, where an extension is possible with a tramway.

And then there is battery technology, which will be used in Birmingham with trams in a couple of years.

Extensions At Blackpool

Blackpool Tramway has various possibilities for extension.

  • Along the coast to Lytham St. Annes
  • Reinstating the Fleetwood Branch Line from Poulton-le-Fylde as a tramway.

Tram-trains and battery power could feature to save construction costs.

Along The North Norfolk Coast

This is a route, that could be developed, to ease the traffic problems in the area.

It could connect Kings Lynn and Sheringham stations.

Conclusion

There will be other coastal tram lines built.

 

May 18, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Sheffield Tram-Train Runs Onto Network Rail Infrastructure

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Metro International.

This is the first paragraph.

One of Stagecoach Supertram’s Vossloh Class 399 Tramlink tram-train vehicles operated on the national railway network for the first time during the early hours of May 10.

It would appear that the tram-train is getting there.

 

 

May 15, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

Is The West Midlands Going To Get A Tram-Train Line?

This article on Global Rail News is entitled Midland Metro Extension Receives £200m Boost From UK Government.

This is the first paragraph.

West Midlands mayor Andy Street has confirmed that £200 million from the UK government’s new ‘Transporting Cities Fund’ will be used to extend the Midland Metro to Brierley Hill.

The Brierley Hill Extension would use the currently disused South Staffordshire Line. It would link Wednesbury to Stourbridge, via Dudley, Brierley Hill and the Merry Hill |Shopping Centre.

Wikipedia says that ten trains per hour would run South of Wednesbury and five services would go to each of Birmingham and Wolverhampton.

The Need For Tram-Trains

The South Staffordshire Line is also wanted by Network Rail for use as a freight line.

Tram-trains would be the solution for a line-share.

  • The extension could be configured to suit Class 399 Tram-trains.
  • Class 399 tram-trains seem to be working well in Sheffield as trams.
  • In Rotherham the Class 399 tram-trains will co-exist with the heaviest of freight trains.
  • Dual-voltage tram-trains would allow electrification of the South Staffordshire Line with 25 KVAC at a later date if required.

The biggest advantage would be the cost savings, as both the tram-trains and the freight trains could use the same standard of track.

But I also feel that all the design problems for the extension will have been explored in a practical way in the Sheffield-Rotherham trial.

Should the Tram-Trains Terminate At Stourbridge?

The Global Rail News article doesn’t mention Stourbridge, but Wikipedia indicates it could be the terminus of the tram route.

If tram-trains are used on the route, then to run them as trains to Stourbridge Junction station may be a good idea.

Conclusion

This extension of the Midland Metro has a lot of possibilities.

I think that like the Midland Metro’s proposed use of battery trams, it shows that the West Midland Combined Authority is not afraid to be innovative.

 

 

November 21, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 2 Comments

Authorities Plan Joint Tram-Train Procurement

The title of this post is the same as that of this article in Global Rail News.

This is the first paragraph.

Several European transport authorities are planning to work in partnership to procure new tram-trains in order to bring down the cost enough to make the transport mode more commercially viable.

This later paragraph gives the members.

The new association includes Karlsruhe’s transport authorities, Albtal-Verkehrs-Gesellschaft (AVG) and Verkehrsbetriebe Karlsruhe (VBK), Saarland tram-train operator Saarbahn Netz, Kassel operator Kasseler Verkehrs-Gesellschaft, Upper Austria’s Schiene Oberösterreich, Erms-Neckar-Bahn and Regionaltangente West in Germany’s Rhine-Main area.

I hope Network Rail keeping a watching brief!

After all, the Class 399 tram-train being trialled in Sheffield is a 25 KVAC version of the tram-trains used in Karlruhe, where the main line voltage is 15 KVAC.

This picture shows a Class 399 tram-train in Sheffield.

This is one of Karlsruhe’s similar tram-trains.

There are some cosmetic differences and the German tram-trains have a coupler for multiple working.

Surely, any initiative for a standard European tram-train, that could work all over the Continent would bring benefits.

  • Prices would probably be more reasonable.
  • Solutions and problems could be shared.
  • \setting up a new tram-train line should become easier and more affordable.

Having travelled extensively on Karlsruhe’s tram-train network, it would appear that they are using not only the tram-trains, but several other ideas in Sheffield.

Different Voltages

Overhead line voltages vary across Europe.

  • 15 KVAC is used in Germany
  • 1,500 VDC is used in The Netherlands and for some local networks.
  • 25 KVAC has become an international standard and is generally used for high speed lines.

Surprisingly, all our overhead electrification used on railways is 25 KVAC. All other systems have been either replaced or closed.

All these different voltages can be handled by a good electrical system on the tram.

This will handle the problem ehere a route runs between two areas or countries with different voltages.

Changing From Tram To Train Mode And Vice-Versa

In Karlsruhe this is performed by connecting the two systems together with a cermaic rod in the catenary to separate the voltages.

Tram-trains just drive across, with perhaps some battery assistance.

I suspect Sheffield are using a similar method to Karlsruhe.

Platform Height

If the tram-trains are to have level access, as most low floor trams do these days, then platform height can be a problem.

Trams generally have low platforms as this picture from Tramlink shows.

On the Continent, the main line platform heights are often simiar, so level access can be easy.

But in the UK, platform heights are generally higher. The problem appears to be being solved at Rotherham Central station by means of dual height platforms. This technique is used in Karlsruhe.

The article says this about platform height.

VDV has said the tram-trains will be available as two or four-door vehicles and will be able to meet different platform heights and maximum axle loads.

So hopefully, it will be one size fits all!

Karlruhe

This is a paragraph from the article.

AVG and VBK would receive more than half of the new vehicles under the arrangement. AVG said it had already been approached by other transport companies interested in adopting the so-called Karlsruhe model tram-train system.

Karlsruhe certainly seem to be leading this project, in more ways than one.

The Sheffield tram-train trial could be said to use the Karlsruhe model.

Conclusion

I believe that nothing I have seen on the various tram-train systems, I have visited, would stop a common tram-train that worked being developed.

This must lead to the development of a lot more tram-train systems.

November 9, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

The Penistone Line And Rotherham Tram-Train Trials

The Penistone Line Tram-Train Trial

The Penistone Line from Sheffield to Barnsley, Penistone and Huddersfield was the line originally selected for the tram-train trial.

In the Wikipedia entry for the line, this is said about the tram-train trial.

On 18 March 2008, the Department for Transport released details of a proposal to trial tram-trains on the Penistone Line, the first use of such vehicles in the UK. The trial was to start in 2010 and last for two years. Northern Rail, the operator of passenger services on the line, asked potential manufacturers to tender for the design and construction of five new vehicles, which Northern Rail would subsequently lease. In addition, Network Rail planned to spend £15m modifying track and stations to make them compatible with the new vehicles.

However, it was announced on 15 September 2009 that a city tram-train trial between Rotherham and Sheffield would replace the Penistone Line scheme.

More about the trial is said in this article on Rail News, which is entitled Penistone Line Is Chosen For £24m Tram Trains Trial. In particular, this is said.

One of the biggest initial tasks is to set a specification for the building of the five diesel-electro hybrid tram trains at a cost of £9 million. The trains will have to be equipped with braking systems suitable for on-street running and a Train Protection Warning System which is required for running on lines with ‘heavy’ rail passenger and freight trains.

The article was written in 2008 and Chemnitz hybrid Citylink tram-trains didn’t enter service until 2016.

So was the trial on the Penistone Line a disaster before it even started?

It had the following problems.

  • It was expecting a diesel-electric hybrid tram to be designed and built before 2010.
  • A long distance was involved.
  • The track-work needed to connect to the Sheffield Supertram could have been incredibly complicated.
  • The first all-electric Citylink tram-trains weren’t delivered to Karlsruhe until May 2014, which was seven months late.

For these and other reasons, I think that the decision of the trial to be delayed and to use Rotherham, was a prudent decision.

The Rotherham Tram-Train Trial

Consider these characteristics of the current trial, between Cathedral and Rotherham Psrkgate.

  • The tram-trains are virtually standard Karlsruhe Citylink tram-trains, adapted for UK 25 KVAC and painted blue!
  • A simple chord connecting the two systems.
  • A few miles of electrification, that could be powered by either 750 VDC or 25 KVAC.
  • Modification of the recently-built Rotherham Central station.
  • Building of a new terminal tram stop at Rotherham Parkgate.

It’s a simple plan, but one that covers a lot of design possibilities and has few, if any, risky elements, that haven’t been done in the UK or Karlsruhe.

The following can be tested.

  • The Class 399 tram-trains on the Sheffield Supertram network and an electrified main line.
  • Passenger entry and exit at Rotherham Central station and all over the Supertram network.
  • Operation under both 750 VDC or 25 KVAC.
  • Signalling systems on both tram and main line networks.

The one thing that can’t be tested is a diesel hybrid tram-train as they have in Chemnitz, as they haven’t ordered any!

But if they did want to order some, they could easily be tested between Cathedral and Rotherham Parkgate.

Conclusion

The original plan to use the Penistone Line and diesel-electric tram-trains was impossible.

Network Rail might have got this one right at the second attempt.

They could even run a UK version of the Chemnitz hybrid tram-train on the test route between Sheffield and Rotherham.

 

October 18, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Class 399 Tram-Trains In Service

On my two day trip to Sheffield, I reckon that I saw six of the seven Class 399 tram-trains in service on the Supertram.

These pictures were taken on a quiet Saturday morning trip from the station to Herdings Park.


Current Service

Currently, the Class 399 tram-trams are running on the Purple Route from Cathedral to Herdings Park, which is generally tun at a frequency of  two trams per hour.

If you arrive in Sheffield station and don’t feel like walking up the hill, you take any of the trams from the  stop on the station side of the tracks.

But take a tram going to Cathedral and over the two and a bit days I was in Sheffield, it was always a Class 399 tram-train.


Comparison With Current Fleet

The Class 399 tram-trains and the existing Siemend-Duewag Supertram are surprisingly similar in several ways.

  • Both have three sections and four doors on either side.
  • The Siemens tram is 34.8 metres long, whereas the Class 399 is 37.2 metres long.
  • The Siemens tram weights 46.5 tonnes, whereas the Class 399 is a lot heavier at 66.1 tonnes.
  • The Siemens tram has installed power of 1108 kW, whereas the Class 399 has just 870 kW.
  • The Siemens tram has room for 86 sitting and 155 standing passengers, whereas the Class 399 has room for 88 and 150 respectively.
  • The seats and their arrangement are vaguely similar.
  • Neither tram has wi-fi.

The big  difference other than the tram-train capability and what that entails, is that the Class 399 tram-train is faster with a 100 kph top speed, as against the 80 kph of the Siemens tram.

Other differences are detailed in the next sub-sections.

Step-Free Access

Getting on and off both trams is step-free and I saw people in wheel-chairs on both vehicles. One was easily pushed into a Class 399.

These pictures show the steps inside the two trams.

There is only a single-step on the Class 399 tram-train, whereas the Siemens tram has more.

Neither tram is a hundred percent step-free.

Weight

Note that the weight of the Class 399 tram-train is more than that of the Siemens tram.

As the two vehicles are of a similar size, could this mean that any of the following causes the weight increase.

  • The electrical equipment needed to handle 15/25 KVAC power.
  • The weight of the two extra traction motors.
  • Strengthening for main line operation.

As someone, who has ridden for a few hours in both the Karlsruhe and Sheffield variants of the Citylink tram-train, they certainly don’t ride badly.

Performance

The current Siemens tram has 1108 kW of power and a weight of 46.5 tonnes, which gives an installed power/weight ratio of 23.8 kW/tonne.

The Class 399 tram-train has 870 kW of power and a weight of 66.1 tonnes, which gives an installed power/weight ratio of 13.1 kW/tonne.

So it would appear that the Class 399 tram-trains may not have the acceleration and hill-climbing capability of the Siemens trams.

However look at this data sheet on the Stadler Rail Espana web site for the Class 399 tram-train.

It clearly shows that the tram has four bogies and the text says that three are motored and one is a trailer. So this means that the central car is not a trailer and that power must be distributed along the tram, which probably puts the power to the rail in a more efficient way.

I did speak to a driver and he told me that on some of the hills the Siemens trams will strruggle with a full load, but the Class 399s can go up the hills at 40 mph.

The Class 399 tram-trains are very similar to the Stadler tram-trains in Karlsruhe, where the hills are much stiffer than Sheffield.

So it would appear that the layout of six smaller motors in a more modern vehicle probably does the trick.

Energy Efficiency

The question has to be asked if, as the Class 399 tram-trains have twenty-one percent less installed power, does this result in a saving of electricity use?


Comparison With Karlsruhe’s Tram-Trains

The Karlsruhe and Sheffield tram-trains are both variants of the Vossloh Citylink tram-train, that is now built by Stadler at Valencia in Spain.

The tram-trains in Karlruhe would appear to be very similar to the Class 399 tram-train, with a few small technical differences.

  • They work on 750 VDC and 15 KVAC overhead wires, whereas the Class 399 can work on 750 VDC and 25 KVAC.
  • As an electrical engineer, I wonder if the electrical systems are the same in both tram-trains and both can work 750 VDC and 15-25 KVAC, so they could work cross-border routes between say Germany and France.
  • They have couplers to work in multiple.
  • They have different passenger door arrangements.
  • The driver’s cab windows have different arrangement.

These pictures show Karlsruhe’s tram-trains.

Imagine these trams in Supertram colours on the streets of Sheffield.

Take a close look at picture 4.

You will notice that the Karlsruhe tram-trains have an obvious coupling and it can be assumed that they can work in ,multiple, although I don’t seem to have seen it happening.

Picture 4, also shows passengers apparently sitting in the back cab of the tram-train.

The fifth picture was taken from sitting inside the tram-train looking backwards, over the folded-down driver’s desk.

This feature wasn’t being used in Sheffield and this could be for one the following reasons.

  • The Class 399 tram-trains don’t have the feature installed.
  • There has been a Health and Safety decision.
  • It takes perhaps ten minutes to fold up the driver’s desk and this would slow the timetable.

It’s a pity , as this feature of German trams is very common and popular.


Comparison With Class 144 Train

The Class 399 tram-trains and Northern’s Class 144 train will share routes and on some routes the tram-trains may even take over from the Pacers.

So how do the two trains compare?

  • The Class 399 has room for 88 sitting and 150 standing passengers, whereas the Pacer has 99 seats in a two-car and 157 in a three-car train.
  • The Class 399 weighs 66.1 tonnes, whereas a two-car Pacer weighs 49.2 tonnes and a three-car weighs 72 .7 tonnes.
  • The Pacer has a toilet.
  • The Class 399 is air-conditioned, whereas the Pacer relioes on waste heat from the engine.
  • The Pacer is a 75 mph train, but seems to operate most of the time at 60 mph
  • The Class 399 has installed power of 870 kW, whereas the Pacer has just 336 kW.
  • The Pacer is thirty-year-old crap, that should have been strangled at birth, whereas the Clas 399 is a modern unit.

You could argue, that I’m being biased, as the tram-train can’t operate without electrification.

But it can!

Chemnitz or Karl Marz Stadt as the East Germans renamed it. also runs Stadler Citylink tram-trains, which are similar to the Class 399 tram-trains.

But the tram-trains in Chemnitz are different in that instead of being dual-voltage like Sheffield and Karlsruhe, they have a diesel-generator to power them away from the 750 VDC overhead wires.

This data sheet gives a few details of the Chemnitz Hybrid tram-train. The data sheet doesn’t specify the power of the diesel powerpack, but the much heavier Class 769 train uses two rail-proven MAN diesel engines of 390 kW each.

In this article on Rail News, which is entitled Penistone Line Is Chosen For £24m Tram Trains Trial, the original trial is described and this is said.

One of the biggest initial tasks is to set a specification for the building of the five diesel-electro hybrid tram trains at a cost of £9 million.

The article was written in 2008 and hybrid Citylink tram-trains didn’t run in Chemnitz until 2016.

So the original proposal envisaged using hydrid diesel tram-trains.

Why not use them in Sheffield?


Operational Details

The Class 399 tram-trains have other features that became apparent on my observations.

Battery Use

Passing a Class 399 tram-train, I took this picture.

The Battery Point On A Class 399 Tram-Train

I hadn’t thought about it before, but batteries on a tram must have similar uses to those in any vehicle.

  • Starting up the vehicle.
  • Raising the pantograph, on an electric tram, train or locomotive.
  • Opening the powered doors.
  • Providing lighting and other important services in a power failure.
  • Being able to move the vehicle a short distance in case of a complete overhead power failure.
  • With a dual-voltage vehicle, it must be there in case the changeover isn’t successful.

But with a tram-train, battery operation surely opens up the possibility of changing between the tram and heavy rail lines using very simple track without electrification, points and cross-overs.

The driver would do the following.

  • Pan down on one network.
  • Use battery power to move perhaps fifty or a hundred metres to the other system.
  • Raise the pantograph on the other network.

Provided the driver obeys the rules and the signals, it should be a safe transfer.

Regenerative Braking

This article on the Railway Gazette is entitled Karlsruhe orders Vossloh tram-trains.

These tram-trains were the first of the Citylink family of tram-trains, of which the Class 399 tram-trains are a member.

This is said.

The three-section steel-bodied tram-trains will incorporate extensive crashworthiness design elements and provision for regenerative braking. Top speed will be 80 km/h, with the four bogies having pneumatic secondary suspension. The air-conditioned interior will have 104 seats cantilevered from the sides for easy cleaning.

How do the Citylink tram-trains handle the regenerative braking?

Two methods are possible.

  • They return the braking energy to the overhead wires.
  • They store it in their battery for reuse.

In the Wikipedia entry for the Supertram, there is a section called Overhead Wiring. This is said.

The contact wires are twin cadmium copper ones, twin wires being necessary because of the high installed power rating of the trams (1 megawatt). The regenerative braking on the tram feeds current back into the wires.

So any braking energy can be returned to the wires.

But as the Railway Gazette article dates from 2011, I wonder if the trams have been developed to use battery storage?

How Far Could The Tram-Train Go On Battery Power?

I’ll assume the following.

  • A New Routemaster bus battery of 75 kWh can be fitted to the Class 399.
  • Running on an easy track, the Class 399 could need  5 kWh for each car-mile.

This would give a range of five miles.

Note.

  1. The stiffer the route the smaller the range.
  2. Battery capacity should increase through the years.
  3. Battery cost should decrease through the years.
  4. Charging stations can be fitted at station stops.

The only certainties are that practical battery range will increase and battery cost will decrease.

Conclusions

These tram-trains have been well worth waiting for.

If I was in charge of the Sheffield Supertram and a decision was made to replace the original Siemens trams, I would think seriously about going to Stadler for a replacement fleet.

If the fleet was all Class 399 tram-trains, this could offer other savings.

  • The lower-power of the Class 399 tram-trains might cut electricity use.
  • Regenerative braking using onboard batteries saves electrification costs.
  • Would expensive twin cadmium copper contact wires still be needed?
  • One tram type would save costs in maintenance and staff training.

New must-have features like wi-fi and 4G boosters could be added, as the technology has now been developed, since the Siemens trams were built.

 

October 15, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 4 Comments

Progress On The Sheffield-Rotherham Tram-Train

I took these pictures in Sheffield and Rotherham, whilst trying to take pictures of Class 399 tram-trains.

Note.

  1. The heavy-weight gantries for the electrification, which I suspect would support 25 KVAC electrification.
  2. It appears simple bi-level platforms are being built at Rotherham Central station.
  3. Could a stop being put at the New York stadium?

It certainly doesn’t seem to be an expensive system.

Single Or Double Track Electrified At 25 KVAC

The heavy rail route which is both single and double-track is electrified using standard 25 KVAC electrification.

Simple Voltage Changeover

In Karlsruhe, a ceramic rod is used to connect the overhead wires of different voltages. The pantograph of the tram-train runs on this rod, as the vehicle passes between the two voltages.

The different voltages would be handled automatically on the tram-train.

Kinetic energy or a battery will take the tram-train over the very short dead section.

I didn’t see it, but I suspect a similar system is used on the Tinsley Chord in Sheffield, where the two voltage systems meet.

The advantage of this simple system, is that voltage changeover can be completely automatic, with the driver only monitoring the changeover.

 

Simple Bi-Level Platform Extensions

This technique is used in Karlsruhe, where they have myriad problems due to various classes of tram-trains and conventional trains.

Modern construction methods will certainly help here.

How Did Network Rail Manage To Spend So Much Money?

The only feasible positive explanation is that this tram-train trial is being very comprehensive and covers all possible UK operations.

  • The tram-trains are tested on 25 KVAC at Rotherham.
  • Single and double-track.
  • The tram-trains are tested on 750 VDC all over Sheffield.
  • The tram-trains are tested on sharp curves and climbing hills on the Sheffield Supertram network.
  • The voltage changeover is thoroughly tested on the Tinsley Chord.
  • Platform designs get a rigorous test.

If the tram-train passes these tests and the regulators and operators like it, it’ll be passed for the UK network.

Is The Rotherham Trial A Tram-Train Or A Train-Tram?

When going from Sheffield to Rotherham, the Class 399 train, starts as a tram and changes to a train on the Tinsley Chord.

But when going from Rotherham to Sheffield, the vehicle starts as a train and changes to a tram.

So I suppose it’s both and it changes over where the voltage changes on the Tinsley Chord.

But just as in the Rotherham trial, provided there is an overhead wire with an acceptable voltage, the Class 399 tram-trains can run on any track, be it for trams or trains.

On What Routes Could A Class 399 Train Run?

There are several possibilities.

Extending An Existing Tram Network On A Heavy Rail Line

The tram-train runs normally on a standard tram line and then the route is extended on a heavy rail line, which is electrified with 25 KVAC overhead wires.

This is what is being done at Rotherham.

More possibilities exist in Sheffield and probably on other systems like Birmingham, Blackpool, Edinburgh, Manchester and Nottingham.

Creating A Tram Link Across A Town Or City

Suppose a town or city has two electrified stations on opposite sides. Perhaps one handles trains from the West and the other handles trains from the East.

If a tram route can be created between the two stations, which is connected to the lines at the station, then tram-trains can run across the town or city.

This has been done in Karlsruhe and other European cities, but I doubt we’ll see a cross-city link like this in the UK for a decade or two.

Creating A Tram Link Between Two Electrified Lines

This is similar to the previous application, except that the tram route might be in a rural area.

One possibility might be from Cambridge to Marks Tey along a rebuilt Stour Valley Railway.

Running A Branch On A Heavy Rail Line As A Tram

Creating a branch line to tram standards should be cheaper than creating it to heavy rail standards.

The proposed Glasgow  Airport Tram-Train could be built this way, by building a tram track from the Inverclyde Line to the Airport.

The branch would have the following characteristics.

  • Segregated single-track from the Inverclyde Line
  • 750 VDC overhead electrification.
  • Low floor tram-trains.
  • Simple stations.

The tram-trains could run as normal electric trains from Glasgow Central station to West of Paisley St. James station, where they would take to the branch line and run as trams to the Airport.

As the performance of a Class 399 tram-train is not much slower than the current Class 314 trains that work some services on the Inverclyde Line, I feel that fitting the tram-train service into the service pattern on the line would be possible.

I estimate that a round trip from Glasgow Central to the Airport could be done within an hour, which would mean that to provide an adequate four tram-trains per hour, would require four vehicles.

Two other airports could be served in this way; Leeds and Liverpool

  • Leeds Airport would require electrifying as far as Horsforth station, where a tram track would lead to the Airport.
  • I suspect that the tram-trains could not only connect Leeds to the Airport, but Bradford as well.
  • Liverpool Airport from Liverpool Lime Street services would change to a tram at Liverpool South Parkway station.

I think we’ll be seeing tram-trains used for services like these.

Consider these points.

  • A suitable station on the electrified network is needed as a terminus.
  • A suitable junction must be possible between the branch and the electrified network.
  • Any number of stops could be built on the branch.
  • Simple tram-style 750 VDC overhead wires can be used, which would be less visually intrusive.

Some schemes will be simple like perhaps the Slough to Windsor and Eton Line and others would be more complicated.

Conclusion

In a year or so’s time, we’ll know if tram-trains are another method of expanding and improving the UK’s rail network.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 22, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

A Branch To Penicuik From The Borders Railway

I started this post as part of Extending The Borders Railway To Carlisle, but as I research it more and talk to my correspondent in the Borders, I feel it needs to be a separate post.

There is an article in the Scotsman from 2013, which is entitled Borders rail link: £150m plan for Penicuik spur. This is the first paragraph.

A vital £150 million rail line connecting Penicuik to central Edinburgh could be reopened for the first time in half a century.

The article then gives a lot of favourable comments about the possibility of the link. My correspondent, grew up in the town and feels that a rail link is needed, especially, as when he was a boy, the town had three rail lines.

In the Wikipedia entry for the Borders Railway, this is a paragraph about a future branch to Penicuik.

In May 2013, it was reported that Heriot-Watt University had been asked by Midlothian Council to carry out a feasibility study on a 10-mile (16 km) rail link connecting Penicuik with the Borders Railway. At least 6 miles (9.7 km) of the new line would follow the Edinburgh, Loanhead and Roslin Railway, the alignment of which is generally intact between Millerhill and Straiton.

This proposal is not mentioned in the recent CBR report, which is entitled A Summary Case For A New Cross-Border Rail Link, that can be downloaded in PDF form from this location.

Newcraighall Station And Park-And-Ride

Newcraighall station will be North of where the proposed branch to Penicuik joins the Borders Railway.

This Google Map shows the station and the surrounding area.

Note the A1 and the convenient Park-and-Ride.

Wikipedia says this about Services from Newcraighall station.

Monday to Saturday daytimes there is a half-hourly service to Edinburgh and to Tweedbank, and an hourly evening and Sunday service. Four weekday morning peak services run beyond Edinburgh to Glenrothes with Thornton via Kirkcaldy and a similar number run in the opposite direction in the evening. When the station was a terminus, many services ran through to/from the Fife Circle Line but this practice ended prior to the reopening of the full route to Tweedbank.

I believe that a Park-and-Ride of this size, location and probable importance needs at least four trains per hour (tph) all day.

Currently, two tph between Edinburgh and Tweedbank call at Newcraighall. As it takes two hours for a train to do the round trip, this means that four trains are needed to provide a two tph service.

Four tph all the way to Tweedbank would need eight trains, but due to limitations in the design of the Borders Railway would probably be very difficult to operate.

Terminating them at Newcraighall and perhaps running beyond Edinburgh to Fife is obviously a possibility, but Newcraighall station only has one bi-directional platform.

Two Trains Per Hour To Penicuik

Opening a branch to Penicuik and running two tph would give Newcraighall station and the Park-and-Ride the four tph train service it needs, when combined with the two tph along the Borders Railway.

The Edinburgh, Loanhead and Roslin Railway

Wikipedia says the route would probably follow the route of the Edinburgh, Loanhead and Roslin Railway.

  • Much of the route is visible on Google Maps.
  • The original line closed in the 1960s.
  • There were stations at Gilmerton, Loanhead, Roslin and Glencourse.
  • The major engineering feature of the line was a visduct over Bilston Glen.

Penicuik was served by a freight-only line.

Shawfair Station

It would appear that the Northbound and Southbound trains on the Borders Railway seem to call at Shawfair station around the same time.

This must make operation of the line much simpler and it probably meant that Newcraighall station only needed one platform.

This Google Map shows the Borders Railway passing through Shawfair station.

Note the disused track of the Edinburgh, Loanhead and Roslin Railway crossing the Borders Railway at right-angles and then curving Northwards to the freight yard at Millerhill.

Trains could go via Millerhill, to join the Borders Railway South of Newcraighall station, but surely, it would be better if the branch to Penicuik, joined  the Borders Railway South of Shawfair station.

This would allow trains to and from Penicuik to pass at Shawfair station.

As trains to and from Tweedbank station seem to call between

  • XX:08 to XX:10
  • and XX 38 to XX:40

So  Penicuik trains could use times of perhaps .

  • XX:23 to XX:25
  • and XX 53 to XX:55

Which would mean a train would have thirty minutes to go from Shawfair to and from Penicuik.

The way Shawfair station is used also means the following for the Borders Railway.

  • A convenient spacing is imposed for trains to call at the single platform at Newcraighall station, as that is just four minutes towards Edinburgh.
  • Effectively, the Borders Railway to Tweedbank station runs a two tph service with two widely-seperated trains South of Shawfair station at any one time.
  • Two widely-separated  trains, South of Shawfair station enables the use of single-platform stations at all stations except Stow and Tweedbank.
  • Shawfair station is the only station with an expensive footbridge.

I also suspect that four tph is possible, with trains passing at Shawfair and Stow stations, perhaps with faster trains and improvements to the signalling.

By clever design and selective use of two-platform stations and double-track, it would appear that the engineers have designed an efficient affordable railway, that is mainly single track and has only one footbridge.

The Junction Of The Borders Railway And The Penicuik Branch

This Google Map shows where the track-bed of the Edinburgh, Loanhead and Roslin Railway passes under the Borders Railway to the South of Shawfair station.

Note the old track-bed of the Edinburgh, Loanhead and Roslin Railway running East-West across the bottom of the map.

The roads in the area don’t appear to have been built with a suitable space for a chord to connect.

But even so, I suspect it would be a practical proposition for a single-track chord to be built between the Borders Railway and the Edinburgh, Loanhead and Roslin Railway.

The only difficult construction would be crossing the A6106 road to the South-East of the roundabout.

A cross-over would be needed South of Shawfair station to allow Southbound trains to access the branch to Penicuik. But as there would only be no more than four tph South of Shawfair station, this wouldn’t be a large operational problem.

Single-Track To Penicuik

Wikipedia says that the proposed Penicuik branch is ten miles in length.

Surely, if it were a single-track branch, trains could go from Shawfair to Penicuik station and return within thirty minutes.

Consider.

  • It would take five minutes for the driver to change ends at Penicuik
  • Two stops each way with a modern train could take a total of just five minutes.
  • The train would be the only one on the branch.
  • A well-designed line could have an operating speed of at least 75 mph and possibly 90 mph.

All this would mean that there would be ten minutes for each leg of the journey between Shawfair and Penicuik.

Should A Future Penicuik Branch Be Electrified?

Electrification of a future Penicuik Branch would not be difficult.

  • Electrification would need to be extended from Newcraighall station.
  • Electrification would be easier, if the branch were single-track with single-platform stations.
  • Electrification of a new railway must be easier than electrifying an existing line.

Electrifying between Newcraighall and Penicuik may give advantages.

  • There will be a fairly plentiful supply of cascaded electric trains, that could be suitable for the route.
  • Electrifying may allow electric trains to access the Millerhill TMD.
  • Electrifying would help in running bi-mode trains on the Borders Railway, if that were thought necessary.
  • Electrifying may save a few minutes between Shawfair and Penicuik.

Obviously, electrification would allow politicians to boast about their green credentials.

The only disadvantage of electrification is that some bridges may need to be raised.

Surely, if the ten-mile branch was well-designed as mostly single-track, perhaps with electrification, and run by modern trains, two tph would be possible, even with one or more intermediate stops.

Could A Future Penicuik Branch Be Worked By Bi-Mode Trains?

A bi-mode train like a Class 319 Flex train could certainly work the route and as they have lots of power, they could probably achieve the Shawfair to Penicuik and return time of thirty minutes.

Could A Future Penicuik Branch Be Worked By Battery Trains?

As it is only ten miles between Shawfair and Penicuik, I suspect that in the future,, trains with onboard energy storage will be able to work the branch.

Single-Platform Stations

If the future Penicuik Branch could be a single-track railway, where only  one train was on the branch at any one time, all stations could be built with a single-platform and no expensive footbridge, as most stations were built on the existing Borders Railway.

As five-cars seems to be becoming the new standard train length, I would build all platforms to accept five-car trains.,

A North-South Service Across Edinbugh

Peak Hour services link Tweedbank and Newcraighall  beyond Edinburgh to Glenrothes with Thornton via Kirkcaldy.

There is obviously a need for a service in the Peak, but if there was a second Southern terminus at Penicuik would it be sensible that if a total of four tph were running from Newcraighall to Edinburgh, that a proportion cross the Forth.

Note that Cross-Forth services.

There are certainly lots of possibilities.

Could A Future Penicuik Branch Be Worked By Tram-Trains?

The Germans would probably use tram-trains in a city the size of Edinburgh.

Compared to the tram networks in Nottingham and Birmingham, Edinburgh trams always strike me that it was a network designed without ambition and that doesn’t provide the maximum benefit to the largest number of residents and visitors.

If you look at Edinburgh Gateway station, it could have been modified to allow tram-trains like the Class 399 tram-train to come from the Airport and then go straight onto the Fife Circle Line to South Gyle, Haymarket and Edinburgh stations.

At present this line is not electrified, but doing that is probably in Scotrail’s wish-list.

Once at Edinburgh station, the tram-trains could take any of the electrified routes to North Berwick, Dunbar or perhaps Penicuik.

Passengers would finally get a proper interchange between trains on the East Coast Main Line and the Edinburgh tram.

I also think that the Germans would run tram-trains on the Fife Circle Line and its proposed extension to Leven.

Currently, the frequency of trains on the Fife Circle Line is low and tram-trains could probably give a four tph service to all stations, if electrification was put in place.

Conclusion

I believe that it would be possible to open a single-track branch to Penicuik with single-platform stations and these objectives.

  • Provide a two tph service between Penicuik and Edinburgh.
  • Boost the service between the Park-and-Ride at Newcraighall and Edinburgh to four tph.
  • Provide an alternative Southern terminal for a North-South service across Edinburgh.

Electrification of the line might give operational advantages to Millerhill TMD, the Borders Railway and the branch itself.

June 13, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 3 Comments

The Third-Rail Tram-Train

I’ve never seen anybody propose a third-rail powered tram-train, but that is probably because everybody has assumed quite rightly, that you couldn’t power a tram by using third-rail electrification. It’s just too dangerous! But is it so dangerous on a segreated track?

In February 2016 I wrote Brummies Go For Battery Trams and it is now ienvisaged that Midland Metro‘s trams will be running services under battery power in 2019.

As battery power is used for trams in several places around Europe and the world and is becoming a proven technology, is there any reason why a battery tram-train, can’t be powered by third-rail electrification, when it is running as a train?

The Class 399 Tram-Train

The Class 399 tram-train is under test in Sheffield, to prove that it can run passenger services in the UK.

These tram-trains can handle either 25 KVAC or 750 VDC from overhead wiring. I also think, they are also clever enough to work out what voltage they are getting and configure themselves accordingly.

Stadler, whose Valemcia factory built the Class 399 tram-trains, will also be building trains for Merseyrail’s network, which will run using 750 VDC third-rail electrification.

Would it be reasonable to assume, that Stadler will be able to design an appropriate pick-up shoe for the Class 399 tram-train, so that it can run on a 750 VDC third-rail network?

Batteries

A battery system would also be needed, but I believe that this will be generally offered by all tram and tram-train manufacturers, as trams and tram-trains will be running increasingly in heritage or sensitive areas.

Charging The Batteries

Batteries would normally be charged, when the tram-train is running on an electrified line, under power from the third-rail system.

The MetroCentro in Seville, works without catenary and has a fast charging system  at the two end stops.

There is no reason to believe that a Class 399 tram-train with batteries, couldn’t work with a fast charging station like a Railbaar.

Would A Third-Rail Tram-Train Have A Pantograph?

This would be a matter for the operator.

But there is one UK tram network; the London Tramlink in Croydon, which is surrounded by an extensive third-rail electrified network.

The ability to run on both types of 750 VDC systems might be an asset and enable new services to be created without any extra electrification, by using a small amount of battery power to change from one system to another.

Range On Third-Rail Power

The range of a Class 399 tram-train running on third-rail power, would be more limited by the train-tram’s speed of 100 kph and interaction with other services, rather than any electrification issues.

The range will probably be the same as the German cousins of the Class 399 tram-trains on the Karlsruhe Stadtbahn. These trams run on both 750 VDC and 15 KVAC, to places up to fifty kilometres from the Centre of Karlsruhe.

As a simple example, a third-rail tram-train running on the London Tramlink, could certainly use third-rail lines to access Gatwick Airport.

Range On Battery Power

In Out Of The Mouths Of Brummies, which describes an interview with those involved in the Midland Metro battery train project, I published this quote about battery trams.

Since then there has been lots of work and we’re now comfortable that battery technology has advanced sufficiently for it to be viable.

Under test conditions with plain straight track a tram could travel 20 km catenary-free. In practice, this would be rather less for a fully laden tram ascending the 9% gradient on Penfold Street. The longest catenary-free run we’ve envisaged is around 2 km, and we’re comfortable we can achieve that.

I think until Birmingham proves otherwise, 2 km. would be a sensible range for a tram or tram-train running on a full battery.

Compatibility Issues With Other Rail Vehicles And Platforms

This to me is a matter of design, but after the Sheffield tram-train trial and the analysis of platform solutions in Europe, I suspect that we’ll come up with a solution that works.

I think it is true to say, that many of our trains are badly matched to the platforms, but as this picture of a Class 378 train on the London Overground shows, the gap is becoming easier to mind.

I think too, we have an advantage over Europe, in that our loading gauge is smaller and our trains are closer in size to a modern tram or tram-train.

We are also good at innovative access solutions, as this picture from Canonbury station shows.

We may have a problem with using double-deck trains, but I believe that good design can minimise the problems of good access to both trains and tram-trains at the same platform.

Applications

The applications will be limited by battery range and by the gradients of the line.

In Southampton – A City Built For Cars, I describe how if they built their proposed Solent Metro around third-rail tram-train technology, they could transform the city.

In Could Beckenham Junction To Birkbeck Be Run Using Third-Rail Tram-Trains?, I show how third-rail tram train-technology , could be used to create more capacity at Beckenham Junction station.

In Could Third-Rail Tram-Trains Be Used To Increase Services In South London?, I show how third-rail tram-train technology, could be used to expand the London Tramlink.

In Could Third-Rail Tram-Trains Work The Epsom Downs Branch?, I show how third-rail tram-train technology, could serve the Royal Marsden Hospital.

In The Cranleigh Line, I suggest that third-rail tram-train technology could be used on this route.

Conclusion

Technically, I feel that a Class 399 tram-train capable of running on third-rail electrified lines is possible.

But it would have to run on battery power or 750 VDC overhead, when running as a tram.

 

 

April 14, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Southampton – A City Built For Cars

These pictures show Southampton as I walked between Southampton Central station and the Town Quay for the ferry to Hythe.

The last few pictures are when I walked back.

This Google Map shows the layout of Southampton

Note now the city sits between the two rivers; the Itchen in the East and the Test going to the West.

Crossing the Itchen is a modern Itchen Bridge, which was built in 1977, that takes the A3025 into and out of the City.

, To the East of the bridge two stations; Woolston and Sholing on the West Coastway Line can be seen.

From Woolston station, the West Coastway Line, curves Northwards and follows the East bank of the River Itchen through Bitterne station, which can be picked out at the top of the map, East of the River Itchen.

The West Coastway Line then joins the South Western Main Line at St. Denys station.

This Google Map shows Bitterne and St. Denys stations.

After going along the river for a short distance and passing Northam Depot, the line splits, as this Google Map shows.

One branch goes South past St. Mary’s stadium and the other turns West and takes Southampton Tunnel to Southampton Central station.

I wrote about the upgrading of Southampton Tunnel in Boxing Clever, where I said this about how the project was performed.

I particularly liked the way that the 1847 Southampton Tunnel  was made larger. Rather than use the traditional approach and closing the tunnel for two to three months, as they did when they upgraded Ipswich Tunnel, they did it a track at a time closing for only three weekends and over Christmas 2009, saving a year on the project.

It is my belief that we can save a lot of money on infrastructure projects, like roads, railways, hospitals ands schools by thinking things through with a great deal more innovation, enterprise and by borrowing good and proven ideas and methods from other countries and industries.

The Wikipedia entry for Southampton Tunnel, has a section called Tunnel Development, which says this about those works.

During the period Sunday 27 December 2009 to Sunday 3 January 2010, the tunnel closed for the track to be lowered to achieve W10 (freight container) route clearance. Previously, Hi Cube intermodal container traffic had to be carried on special low wagons with areas which could not be loaded, resulting in both traffic planning issues and lower train capacity. Additionally, all container trains were restricted to 20 mph when passing through the tunnel because of the limited clearances at the top edges of the loaded containers. Since rebuilding no speed or loading restrictions apply to the tunnel and container trains can travel at up to the line speed of 40 mph, the limit for the tunnel. The work meant containers could be transported more easily by rail from the Port of Southampton.

In some ways the Southampton Tunnel sums up the problems with the UK’s railways. The Victorian layout doesn’t really support the needs of modern transport. And especially freight transport!

The railways will have to live with the updated Southampton Tunnel, as I doubt there is an alternative route to get intermodal container traffic between Southampton Container Terminal and the rest of the UK.

will finish my East-West journey across Southampton by showing this Google Map, which shows Southampton Central station and the Docks that lie to its West.

Note Millbrook station to the North of the Docks. It doesn’t appear to be a very busy station.

I shall now return to the Itchen Bridge along the Waterfront.

Note the following can be seen on this map.

  • The Itchen Bridge
  • St. Mary’s Stadium
  • Southampton Central station.
  • Red Funnel Ferries on Town Quay
  • The Ocean Terminal.
  • The West Quay Shopping Centre

There are also vast areas of surface car parks.

A Metro For Southampton

Southampton is a city, where I believe that too much emphasis has been placed on access to the City by car.

But the skeleton of an urban railway is still there, as this map of the railway lines through Southampton shows.

To be fair, the chance may have been missed when the Itchen Bridge was built in 1977. I suspect thaty at that time in Germany for example, the bridge would have been future proofed for trams to be added at a later date.

But the thoughts at the time in the UK, were that trams were of the Past and not of the Present.

This Google Map, which shows the Itchen Bridge, with St. Mary’s Stadium on the West Bank and Woolston station on the East.

If you look at this map carefully, the rail corridor to the old Southampton Terminus station is still there and about two hundred metres North of the station, a train in South West trains livery can be seen. The line is obviously used for some purpose by Northam Depot.

If I look at various rail systems, I’ve seen all over the UK, it would appear that the following could be done.

Reopen The Rail Line To Southampton Terminus

The line from St. Denys station to Southampton Terminus station could be reopened with possible stations at Northam and St. Mary’s Stadium.

St. Denys is a four-platform station and it could act as a cross-platform interchange between services going to and from Southampton Terminus and Central.

Run West Coastway Services To Southampton Terminus And London Waterloo Services To Southampton Central

Consider.

  • The South Western Main Line is at capacity with freight and passenger services.
  • The West Coastway Line is less busy.

So why not run West Coastway services to Southampton Terminus?

Remodel St. Denys Station

St. Denys is a four-platform station and it could act as a efficient cross-platform interchange .

  • Platform 1 – Services from Southampton Central to London
  • Platform 2 – Services to Southampton Central
  • Platform 3 – All services between the West Coastway and Southampton Terminus

Note.

  1. By making Platform 3 bi-directional, this means that trains using the West Coastway Line don’t have to cross the main line if they terminate at Southampton Terminus.
  2. Travellers going West would just walk across the platform, whereas those going East would use the bridge.
  3. Provision would be made to allow services to go between the West Coastway Line from and Southampton Central.
  4. Provision would be made to allow trains to access Northam Depot.

There is probably a better layout, but by careful design and the opening up of Southampton TerminusSouthampton would be given extra capacity.

A Cross-City Tram

Every time, I’ve gone to Soiuthampton, I’ve always seemed to walk halfway across the City.

Looking at the map, there must be scope for a tram route.

This article in the Romsey Advertiser is entitled Plans for multi-million pound tram project in Romsey are being investigated.

This is said about the route.

Phase one of the “Solent Metro” network would see trams run from Eastleigh past the airport, down to a new station at Southampton St Mary’s, on to an interchange at Royal Pier, then back up to Westquay and Southampton Central railway station.

The plan also envisages the network – which could be trams or a light railway – being extended west to Romsey and from there back to Eastleigh, and eastwards to Segensworth.

Southampton certainly needs something that connects the Waterfront to the West Quay Shopping Centre and Central station, hopefully with a good connection to St. Mary’s Stadium.

Tram-Trains

My preference would be for a tram-train system, where tram-trains started at places like Bournemouth, Eastleigh, Fareham, Fawley, Lymington, Portsmouth and Romsey as trains and then went walkabout as trams in the City Centre.

At the East, the tram trains would change mode in the vicinity of the old Southampton Terminus station and proceed to St. Mary’s and St. Denys stations as third-rail electrified trains

This Google Map shows the old Southampton Terminus station, which is now a casino.

The rail line goes North to St. Mary’s Stadium, Northam Depot and St. Denys station. To the South it goes as far as the Waterfront, where it finishes just to the East of the Ocean Terminal.

In the West they would need to join the South Western Main Line in the area of Southampton Central station.

The Google Map shows the area.

I’m sure that a more than adequate connection could be arranged after what I have seen in places like Karlsruhe.

There would of course be only one way for the the tram-trains to cross between Southampton Terminal and Southampton Central stations and that would be on battery power. I’m certain if Birmingham  do it across a City with much more of a gradient, as they intend, then Southampton could do it across the Waterfront.

Serving The Cruise Ships

The plan from the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership detailed in the Romsey Advertiser mentions running the trams or light rail service to the Royal Pier, where they would reverse.

This Google Map shows the Ocean Terminal, with a handy cruise ship alongside.

Note how the rail line that runs down behind St. Mary’s stadium continues to the dockside, just to the East of the Ocean Terminal.

If tram-trains were working the routes around Southampton, they could all terminate by the Ocean Terminal and thus give cruise passengers access to tourist attractions like Bournemouth, The New Forest and Portsmouth, in addition to the whole of Southampton City Centre.

I’m sure those clever engineers from Stadler can come up with a third-rail version of a Class 399 tram-train, that had enough battery power to traverse across Southampton. Especially, if a charge station like a Railbaar was installed at the Ocean Terminal to charge waiting tram-trains.

Conclusion

The possibilities at Southampton to improve public transport in the City are endless.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 12, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment