The Anonymous Widower

Comparing Stadler Citylink Metro Vehicles With Tyne And Wear Metro’s Class 994 Trains

As the Class 994 trains of the Tyne and Wear Metro, are being replaced, it will be interesting to compare them with the proposed Stadler Citylink Metro Vehicles for the South Wales Metro.

New Trains For The Tyne And Wear Metro

Under Proposed New Fleet in the Wikipedia entry for Tyne and Wear Metro Rolling Stock this is said.

In November 2017, the Chancellor Philip Hammond announced that the government would provide £337 million towards the new fleet. The proposed new fleet would consist of 84 trains to replace the existing 90 train fleet, as Nexus believe that the improved reliability of the newer trains would allow them to operate the same service levels with fewer trains. These are proposed to have longitudinal seating instead of the 2+2 bench seating arrangement of the present fleet, and a full width drivers cab instead of the small driving booth of the existing trains. The proposed new fleet is planned to have dual voltage capability, able to operate on the Metro’s existing 1.5 kV DC electrification system and also the 25 kV AC used on the national rail network, to allow greater flexibility. Battery technology is also being considered.

Note.

  1. A dual-voltage capability will be required.
  2. Battery capability would be ideal for short movements and regenerative braking.
  3. In my, view longitudinal seating needs a walk-though capability.
  4. Currently, trains are two-car units and generally work in pairs.
  5. Trains can work in formations of three and four units, but the ability is not used.

If trains generally work in pairs would it be more affordable to have four-car trains?

Comparing Stadler Citylink Metro Vehicles With The Current Tyne And Wear Class 994 Trains

In the following I will assume that the Stadler Citylink Metro Vehicles are similar to Class 399 tram-trains, as they are both members of the Stadler Citylink family.

Train Width And Height

The width and height of the two vehicles are as follow.

  • Class 994 train – 2.65 x 3.45 metres
  • Class 399 tram-train – 2.65 x 3.60 metres

There’s not much difference here.

Train Length And Sections

  • Class 994 train – 55.6 metres and two sections.
  • Class 399 tram-train – 37.2 metres and three sections.
  • South Wales Metro’s Metro Vehicle – 40 metres (?) and three sections.

It should be noted that Citylink tram-trains in Valencia have four and five sections.

Having used the Class 378 trains, with their walk-through capability and longitudinal seating, on the London Overground for at least seven years, I believe there is no other way to design a high-capacity metro train.

So the Tyne and Wear Metro’s new trains could be 110 metres long and four walk-through sections.

  • This train would be the same length as two current trains working as a pair, which they generally do!
  • The design reduces the number of cabs.
  • Passengers distribute themselves along the train better.
  • Passengers can move to the convenient point to disembark at their destination.
  • On train staff are more prominent.

If in the future, the trains need more capacity, extra cars can be added.

Train Capacity

  • Class 994 train – 64 seats and 188 standing.
  • Class 399 tram-train – 88 seats and 150 standing
  • South Wales Metro’s Metro Vehicle – 129 seats and 128 standing

This works out as.

  • Class 994 train – 9 passengers per metre.
  • Class 399 tram-train – 6.4 passengers per metre.
  • South Wales Metro’s Metro Vehicle – 6.4 passengers per metre.

Are we creating trains, that give passengers more space?

Doors

The Class 994 trains have two double-doors on each side of all cars.

But with Stadler Citylink vehicles, it appears the number is flexible.

  • Sheffield’s three-car Class 399 tram-trains have four double-doors on each side of the train.
  • Visualisations of the proposed Stadler Citylink Metro Vehicles, show a double-door in each of three cars.
  • Karlsruhe’s version only appear to have a double-door on the two end cars on one side only.

It would appear that the customer gets what they want.

Maximum Speed

  • Class 994 train – 80 kph
  • Class 399 tram-train – 100 kph
  • Karlsruhe’s Citylink tram-trains – 80 kph

There is no speed given for South Wales Metro’s Stadler Citylink Metro Vehicles, but they are replacing diesel trains with a 120 kph maximum speed.

As tram-trains share tracks with faster trains, I would expect that a maximum speed of at least 100 kph is needed.

Power Supply

  • Class 994 train – 1500 VDC
  • Class 399 tram-train – 750 VDC and 25 KVAC
  • South Wales Metro’s Stadler Citylink Metro Vehicle – 25 KVAC and battery.

I also suspect thst the Class 399 tram-train and other members of the Citylink family, can run for a few metres on battery power in order to bridge the gap between different voltages.

It is worth noting that future vehicles for the Tyne and Wear Metro will need to access both 1500 VDC and 25 KVAC. A possible battery capability is also mentioned.

I suspect that Stadler could easily produce a Citylink to work on all these common European voltages.

  1. 750 VDC
  2. 3000 VDC
  3. 15 KVAC
  4. 25 KVAC

All except 3000 VDC are already in service in Gerrmany, Spain or the UK.

So the Tyne and Wear Metro’s unusual 1500 VDC shouldn’t be a problem.

Minimum Curve Radius

Wikipedia says this about the minimum curve radius for a Class 994 train.

The vehicles have a minimum curve radius of 50 m (55 yd), although there are no curves this tight except for the non-passenger chord between Manors and West Jesmond.

This page on Wikipedia, says that the Karlsruhe Citylink tram-trains can handle a minimum cure radius of twenty-two metres.

Conclusion

I am led to the conclusion, that a version of the Stadler Citylink Metro Vehicle similar to those of the South Waes Metro, could be developed for the Tyne and Wear Metro.

My specification would include.

  • Length of two current Class 994 trains, which would be around 111 metres.
  • Walk through design with longitudinal seating.
  • Level access between platform and train at all stations.
  • A well-designed cab with large windows at each end.
  • Ability to use overhead electrification at any voltage between 750 and 1500 VDC.
  • Ability to use overhead electrification at 25 KVAC.
  • Pantographs would handle all voltages.
  • A second pantograph might be provided for reasons of reliable operation.
  • Ability to use onboard battery power.
  • Regenerative braking would use the batteries on the vehicle.

Note.

  1. Many of these features are already in service in Germany, Spain or Sheffield.
  2. The train would be designed, so that no unnecessary platform lengthening is required.
  3. As in Cardiff, the specification would allow street-running in the future.
  4. Could battery range be sufficient to allow new routes to be developed without electrification?

I also feel that the specification should allow the new trains to work on the current network, whilst the current trains are still running.

June 12, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 2 Comments

Stadler Citylink Metro Vehicles

This document on the KeolisAmey web site details their plans for the new Wales and Borders Franchise.

The Stadler Citylink Metro Vehicles in the KeolisAmey document. look very similar to Sheffield Supertram‘s Class 399 tram-trains, that are providing a tram service in Sheffield and will soon be running on the heavy rail network to Rotherham.

  • The Citylink vehicles seat 88 with 150 standees.
  • They can run using 750 VDC or 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The tram-trains are built by Stadler in Spain.
  • According to a driver, that I spoke to in Sheffield, the tram-trains have a good hill climbing capability.

These pictures were taken of one of the Class 399 tram-trains operating in Sheffield.

The Keolis/Amey document gives more details on the tram-trains.

  • Main power source 25kV overhead line but also operates from battery.
  • Capacity of 257 with seats for 129.
  • Capable of on-street line-of-sight ‘tramway’ operation.
  • They can work in pairs.

I’ve known for some time, that Class 399 tram/trains had a battery.

The Battery Point On A Class 399 Tram-Train

but I thought it was probably for secondary purposes, like making sure the vehicle crossed the boundary, where the two voltages change.

So it looks like in Cardiff, battery power will be used for traction.

How Big Will The Batteries Need To Be?

Consider a Class 399 tram/train, working to and from Merthyr Tydfil.

  • Wikipedia gives the weight of the vehicle as 66 tonnes.
  • Rhymney has an altitude of 178 metres.
  • I will assume 200 passengers at 90 Kg. each, which gives a weight of 12 tonnes.

This means that the train has a potential energy of 41 kWh at Merthyr Tydfil station.

On the way down the hill from Merthyr Tydfil the regenerative braking will convert this potential energy into electricity, which will be stored in the battery.

I would reckon that a battery of about 50 kWh would be an ideal size, but would it be big enough to take the Stadler Citylink Metro Vehicles from Cardiff Queen Street station to The Flourish and back?

That journey is probably about 1.5 miles each way.

How Far Would A Full 50 kWh Battery Take A Stadler Citylink Metro Vehicle?

In an article in the October 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, which is entitled Celling England By The Pound, Ian Walmsley says this in relation to trains running on the Uckfield Branch, which probably has a terrain not much different to the lines to the South and West of Cardiff.

A modern EMU needs between 3 and 5 kWh per vehicle mile for this sort of service.

This would mean that a 50 kWh battery would take a three-car Stadler Citylink Metro Vehicle up to five miles, if the usage of the lighter-weight tram-train was at the lower end of the quoted range.

The battery would certainly take a Stadler Citylink Metro Vehicle from Cardiff Queen Street station to The Flourish and back.

Conclusion

As with the Tri-Mode Stadler Flirts, the Stadler Citylink Metro Vehicle with a battery, looks a very interesting concept.

  • Most of the energy is provided by the 25 KVAC electrification, which would power the tram-train up the hill.
  • Coming down the hill, the battery would be recharged using the regenerative braking.
  • Battery power would used to take the tram-train on routes without electrification to The Flourish station.

Energy efficiency would be high.

June 8, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 8 Comments

The Greening Of The Valleys

This document on the KeolisAmey web site details their plans for the new Wales and Borders Franchise.

The documents gives these two definitions.

  • South Wales Metro – Includes the full set of local services around South East Wales. This includes what is currently known as the ‘Valley Lines’, plus services between Cardiff and Ebbw Vale, Maesteg and extending to Severn Tunnel Junction and beyond.
  • Central Metro -Refers to the sub-set of the South Wales Metro train services which run from Treherbert, Aberdare, Merthyr Tydfil, Radyr, Rhymney and Coryton, through Queen Street to Cardiff Bay, Cardiff Central, Penarth, Barry Island and Bridgend.

For these services around Cardiff and on the Cardiff Valley Lines, KeolisAmey Wales intend to acquire the following fleet.

  • 11 x four-car Stadler Flirt DEMU
  • 7 x three-car Stadler Flirt Tri-mode MU
  • 17 x four-car Stadler Flirt Tri-mode MU
  • 36 x three-car Stadler Citylink Metro Vehicles

This diagram from the document shows the routes and the frequencies.

They also say the following surrounding the map in the document.

  • Maintains all existing connections to Cardiff Queen Street and Cardiff Central stations.
  • Service pattern easy to understand
  • Most frequencies even in the hour ‘clockface’ (e.g. 00-15-30-45 past)
  • Vale of Glamorgan, Barry, Penarth and City Lines integrated into Central Metro solution.
  • 2tph from Pontypridd station ‘divert’ via City Line but don’t terminate at Central i.e. Aberdare – City Line – Central – Merthyr

Note that Aberdare, Merthyr Tydfil, Rhymney and Treherbert stations all get a total of four trains per hour (tph)

The Trains In More Detail

Stadler Rail are building the three fleets of rail vehicles.

Stadler Flirt DEMUs

Over a thousand Stadler Flirts have been sold to operators around the world. Most have been or will be built in Switzerland.

From the pictures, the trains, that will be delivered to Wales, look very much like the Class 755 trains, that have been ordered by Greater Anglia. These trains will enter service next year.

Stadler Flirt DEMUs gives more details of these trains and the closely-related fleets.

The trains will operate services between Cardiff and Ebbw Vale, Maesteg and extending to Severn Tunnel Junction and beyond.

Tri-Mode Stadler Flirts

I would expect that these trains are very similar to the bi-mode Flirt DEMUs, but that the power-pack would also contain a battery.

Tri-Mode Stadler Flirts gives more details of these trains and how I think they will operate.

The Tri-Mode Stadler Flirts are intended for Rhymney/Coryton <> Penarth/Barry Island/Bridgend via the Vale of Glamorgan Line.

There will be a lot of commonality between the two types of Flirts and I suspect driver and other staff training for the two variants will be the same.

Stadler Citylink Metro Vehicles

The Stadler Citylink Metro Vehicles in the KeolisAmey document. look very similar to Sheffield Supertram‘s Class 399 tram-trains, that are providing a tram service in Sheffield and will soon be running on the heavy rail network to Rotherham.

Stadler Citylink Metro Vehicles gives more details of these trains and how I think they will operate.

From Cardiff Queen Street To The Flourish

It looks like the Metro vehicles will use the batteries for power on the extension to the new terminal station at The Flourish.

I describe the proposal for the extension to the Flourish in The Flourish Station Is The Focus Of The South Wales Metro.

Electrically-Efficient Operation Of The Metro

I have a feeling that Stadler are bringing some of their mountaineering experience from Switzerland to the valleys of South Wales.

It is interesting that both the Tri-mode Stadler Flirts and the Stadler Citylink Metro Vehicles will have batteries.

Climbing The Hills

The main purpose of the batteries is to make the climb and descent to the terminals at the heads of the valleys as energy efficient as possible.

Efficient climbing of the hills will need all uphill tracks to be electrified.

The KeolisAmey document states this about the electrification.

Discontinuous overhead line electrification to 25 KVAC with permanently earthed sections around restricted structures, saving 55 interventions e.g. rebuilding bridges/no need for wire in Caerphilly tunnel.

Battery power would be invaluable for jumping the gaps in the electrification.

Coming down, I believe that the trains and tram-trains will use the batteries to handle the energy generated by regenerative braking.

This means.

  • The electrification can be simpler.
  • There might be no need to electrify the downhill track in double-track sections.
  • Trains can use the battery power  to cross sections without wires or restarting from stations, when going downhill.
  • Tram-trains going to The Flourish will arrive at Cardiff Queen Street station with enough energy in the batteries for the return trip to The Flourish.
  • The Cardiff Bay Line doesn’t need to be electrified, which saves money and possibly increases safety and reduces visual intrusion.

It is not only energy efficient, but it saves construction costs and time.

Why Aren’t Citylink Metro Vehicles  Used On The Rhymney Line?

There are several possible reasons.

  • Calculations have shown, that the battery capacity of the smaller Citylink vehicle might not be enough to go uphill through the Caerrphilly tunnel.
  • The route may need more powerful vehicles.
  • More capacity may be needed on this line, so the larger Tri-mode Stadler Flirts will be used.
  • The Flirts could use their diesel engines to rescue a train stuck in the tunnel.

But whatever the reason, I’m sure it’s a good one!

Could Downhill Tracks Not Be Electrified?

I think this may be possible, as vehicles coming down the hills could use gravity and small amounts of battery power.

Regenerative braking would also be continuously charging the batteries.

It would certainly be simpler, than having to constantly swap between overhead and battery power on the descent, where the electrification was discontinuous.

As the lines are going to have a more intensive service, there will be additions of a second track in places to allow trains to pass.

Any electrification that could be removed from the project would be beneficial in terms of building and operational costs.

How Would Discountinuous Electrification Be Handled?

I discus this in How Can Discontinuous Electrification Be Handled?

The Lines In More Detail

Click these links to find out more about the individual lines.

Rhymney Line

Conclusion

The two types of compatible vehicles, allows the plans for the South Wales Metro to be a cost-effective and very green solution for Cardiff’s transport needs.

It is a model, that can be used elsewhere.

Will railway engineers in future talk of the Cardiff Model, just as they talk of the Karlsruhe Model?

June 6, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Reason Why The UK Is Fertile Territory For Tram Trains

The UK has several modern tram systems. If you look at the cross section of trams you get the following figures.

I wonder why Nottingham is twenty-five centimetres narrower!

If you look at the Class 399 tram-train, it has a width of 2.65 metres and a height of 3.67 metres.

So no wonder, there has been no problems with Class 399 tram-trains running on the Sheffield Supertram as trams!

Various trains that run local rail networks include.

  • Class 142 – Width 2..8 metres – Height 3.86 metres
  • Class 150 – Width 2.8 metres – Height 3.8 metres
  • Class 222 – Width 2.73 metres
  • Class 319 – Width 2.82 metres – Height – 3.58 metres
  • Class 345 – Width 2.78 metres – Height N/A
  • Class 378 – Width 2.80 metres – Height 3.78 metres
  • Class 700 – Width 2.80 metres – Height N/A
  • Class 769 – Width 2.82 metres – Height 3.58 metres
  • Mark 4 Coach – Width 2.73 metres – Height 2.79 metres

These are some figures from German trains.

  • DBAG 641 – Width 2.90 metres – Height 3.7 metres
  • BD Class 420 – With 3.08 metres
  • ICE 3 – Width 2.95 metres – Height 3.89 metres

I’ll look at various issues.

Tram And Train Height

I think this is not a big issue.

If a tram or electric train can run on a particular track, then there should be no height problems running a tram-train over the route, providing overhead wires can be erected.

UK Tram And Train Width

It would appear that the maximum width of UK trains is 2.82 metres. In some stations, where there is only one class of train, level access is possible.

The picture shows a Class 378 train on the London Overground.

This is not one of the best I’ve seen, but there is no reason, why someone in a wheelchair shouldn’t be able to wheel themselves into every train at every station.

This is in the train operating company’s interest, as one of the things that delays trains, is getting someone in a wheelchair on and off the train with a portable ramp.

If we take the UK train width of 2.82 metres and compare that to the width of a Class 399 tram-train, which is 2.65 metres, that means that there is seventeen  centimetres difference or eight and a half centimetres on each side of the train.

If the platform can be arranged to be level, that is not a large gap. It’s probably about the same size as this gap in this picture.

Shown is a Class 399 tram-train at a tram stop on the Sheffield Supertram.

Continental Tram And Train Width

But on the Continent, where the trains are wider and the loading gauge is bigger, the gap will be larger.

Trains on the Continent also often have a significant step up as this picture shows.

Shown is an Italian High Speed train.

If the EU wanted to improve train travel for the disabled, those in wheelchairs, those with buggies and the elderly, they should make it compulsory for all trains to have level access from the platform.

It’s very rare to find level access on the Continent and not that easy in parts of the UK.

Gap Fillers

But things are getting better, as this picture shows.

Shown is a Stadler Flirt with a rather nifty automatic gap filler.

Merseyrail’s New Class 777 Trains

Gap fillers will be fitted to Merseyrail‘s new Class 777 trains, which are being built by Stadler.

The Class 777 trains and the current Class 507 trains have the same width of 2.82 metres, but the new Stadler trains have an eighteen centimetre lower floor.

The picture shows a Class 507 train at one of Liverpool’s underground stations.

Eighteen centimetres wouldn’t be far away from the height of the step in the picture.

The design must also allow both classes of trains to be in service at the same time, to ease introduction of the new Class 777 trains.

Talk about Swiss precision!

South Wales Metro

This document on the KeolisAmey web site details their plans for the new Wales and Borders Franchise.

For services around Cardiff and on the Cardiff Valley Lines, KeolisAmey Wales intend to acquire the following fleet.

  • 11 – four-car Stadler Flirt DEMU
  • 7 – three-car Stadler Flirt Tri-mode MU
  • 17 – four-car Stadler Flirt Tri-mode MU
  • 36 – three-car Stadler Citylink Metro Vehicles

Note.

  1. The Stadler Flirts look very similar to Greater Anglia‘s Class 755 trains, that by the time of delivery of these trains for Wales, will have proven themselves on the mountains of East Anglia.
  2. The tri-mode multiple units will be able to run on electric, diesel or battery power.
  3. The Stadler Citylink Metro Vehicles look very similar to Sheffield Supertram‘s Class 399 tram-trains, that are providing a tram service in Sheffield and will soon be running on the rail network to Rotherham.
  4. It is an all-Stadler fleet.

This is a clip from the KeolisAmey document.

This looks like a visualisation of one of the Flirts, as the Citylink tram-trains have flat sides.

I will be very surprised if Stadler don’t provide the Cardiff area, with one of the best step-free networks in the world.

Conclusion

The UK’s standard tram width of 2.65 metres and our small loading gauge must make it easier to design tram-train systems for the UK.

 

 

 

 

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June 6, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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 | , , , | 6 Comments