The Anonymous Widower

Is This The Shape Of Freight To Come?

This article on Rail Advent is entitled Eversholt Rail Unveils First Swift Express Freight Train In Doncaster.

It is a full report on the first of a new breed of freight trains based on redundant 100 mph electric multiple units.

Three Rail Problems

The rail industry, its financiers and customers have a lot of problems, they’d like to solve, but these three seem to be coming together to create a whole new industry.

Rolling Stock Leasing Companies Have A Surplus Of Redundant Rolling Stock

 

Most of the released rolling stock has been made redundant because of the arrival of new trains.

What will be left will be a an assortment, which will contain a lot of trains with these characteristics.

  • Four cars
  • Can run in formations of 4, 8 and 12 cars
  • Electrically-powered.
  • Some trains are even dual voltage.
  • 100 mph operating speed.
  • Good reliability.
  • Easy maintenance and modification if needed.

Many were even built over thirty years ago by British Rail Engineering Ltd.

As someone, who used to part-own a company that leased trucks to operators, I know that to maximise cash-flow and ultimately profits, you don’t want them sitting in a yard or a siding.

Conversion to zero carbon is one option.

  • Porterbrook have said they will convert the Class 350 trains, that they own to battery-electric operation.
  • Porterbrook have also converted some Class 319 trains to electro-diesel Class 769 trains.
  • Porterbrook have also converted a Class 319 train to hydrogen operation.
  • Eversholt Rail Group and Alstom are converting Class 321 trains to hydrogen operation.

I also believe that the redundant Class 379 trains will also be converted to battery-electric operation.

But there will still be a substantial number of quality trains, that need a second life.

The Growth Of Parcel Freight

Parcel freight traffic driven by on-line shopping, has boomed in the pandemic.

This type of traffic often originates from outside of the UK and enters the country at places like London Gateway or East Midlands Airport.

Much of it is currently distributed to large cities by truck, which in this day and age is not a green option, or even an option at all.

Rail Operations Group have leased ten Class 769 trains and 9 Class 319 trains with the intention of running parcel services under the Orion brand. I wrote about this proposal in A Freight Shuttle For Liverpool Street Station Planned.

Road Congestion

Road congestion is getting worse and there is bir much point in having product stuck on the motorway, when it can be running along at a 100 mph on an electrified rail line.

The Need For Just-In-Time Deliveries

Many factories these days work on the Just-In-Time principle, with product delivered just as its needed.

As an example Toyota build their cars at Burnaston near Derby, but the engines are built in North Wales. I suspect that they go across the country by truck.

Looking at maps, the engine plant could be rail connected and I feel one could be arranged at Burnaston.

Do they keep a good stock of engines at Burnaston?

I can see several situations like this needing a regular company train.

Fast Food

Because of Brexit we will need to be growing more of our own food.

Traditionally, the Class 43 power cars of InterCity 125 trains carried flowers and fish up from Cornwall.

So will we see rail provide an alternative.

Conclusion

Put these problems together and you can see a fair number of four-car electric multiple units being converted to short 100 mph electric freight trains.

Eversholt Rail Group‘s Swift Express Freight Train is very much a demonstrator for their ideas and it has some expected and unexpected features.

Based On A Class 321 train

The train is based on a four-car Class 321 train.

I rode one recently and I timed it at over 90 mph on the way to Southend.

Trolley Cages

Pictures in the Rail Advent article show a stripped-bare interior with a steel floor, with another picture showing three supermarket trolley cages arranged across the train.

One estimate in the article says that each coach can handle over fifty of these cages and up to nine-and-a-half tonnes of cargo.

Four Seats And A Toilet

Eversholt feel that some of the trains could be used in a Travelling Post Office mode and there may be a need for sorting en route, so two first-class seats, two second-class seats and a toilet are provided.

This train would enable an Anglo-Scottish parcel service.

  • It might stop several times en route.
  • At each stop parcels would be rolled out and in, perhaps with the help of a Harrington Hump.
  • The on-train staff would sort the incoming parcels and put them in the required trolley for offloading.

I don’t think though, they’ll be delivering postal orders.

A Last Mile Capability

The article also disclosed that Eversholt were thinking of fitting a Last-Mile capability to the Swift Express Freight Train.

Batteries were mentioned and they would obviously work.

But one development recently is Porterbrook’s HydroFlex train, which has converted a Class 319 train to hydrogen power.

  • The conversion was done by Birmingham University.
  • It appears that all the hydrogen gubbins is underneath the floor, so cargo capacity would not be reduced.

I suspect underfloor hydrogen power could be very viable in an express freight train.

Fleet Size

The article talks of a fleet size of twenty and also says that the first train has been leased to an unnamed parcel distributor in the UK.

July 3, 2021 Posted by | Design, Finance, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Headbolt Lane Station Fly-Through

I had to show this Merseytravel YouTube video, as I feel the new Headbolt Lane station uses some interesting ideas.

This Google Map shows Headbolt Lane and the railway.

Note.

  1. The footbridge over the railway. I took the pictures from and around this bridge in Merseyrail To Skelmersdale – Headbolt Lane Station.
  2. The footbridge can’t be seen in the YouTube video.

Liverpool is to the West and Wigan is to the East.

These are my thoughts.

Is The Station North Or South Of The Railway?

As it is called Headbolt Lane, the station must have good access from that road, otherwise travellers will get rather confused.

So until proven otherwise, I will assume that the station must be to the North of the railway.

Which Way Is Liverpool In the Video?

If the station is North of the railway, then in the first part of the video, the visualisation approaches the station from the North and Liverpool is to the right and Wigan is to the left.

If that is right, then the yellow bus always points towards Liverpool.

How Many Platforms?

Wikipedia says that Headbolt Lane station will have three platforms.

From the video there will be two platforms for trains to and from Liverpool, although the current layout at Kirkby station makes do with just one platform.

There would also appear to be a single platform for trains to and from Wigan, Bolton and Manchester.

But there is a second Eastern track shown in the video, which possibly indicates provision has been made for a second platform for services in that direction.

Wot No Bridge?

It would appear that there is no bridge over or subway under the railway.

But it does appear that the platform layout shown allows passengers to walk between the ends of the tracks on the level to the platform or platforms on the side of the station away from the station building.

Will There Be A Second Entrance To The Station On The Other Side Of The Tracks?

The layout would allow this and it could be useful for those passengers living or working on that side of the railway.

Is The Platform Layout Unique?

I have travelled widely looked at railway stations all over the world.

But I can’t remember seeing a layout like this.

The layout does have advantages.

  • An expensive bridge with lifts will not be needed.
  • There is nothing mechanical or electrical to go wrong.
  • Extra platforms can be added if required.
  • It can also be used as a simple step-free way to cross the railway.

I suspect that the layout could be used in other places.

Train Frequencies To Liverpool

The current service between Kirkby station and Liverpool is four trains per hour (tph), which is handled on a single platform.

One platform at Headbolt Lane would surely be sufficient, but a second platform must surely allow extra services and provide more resilience in case of train failure.

Train Frequencies To Wigan, Bolton And Manchester

The current service between Kirkby station and Manchester is one tph, which is handled on a single platform.

One platform at Headbolt Lane would surely be sufficient and could easily handle two tph.

Are two platforms provided for Liverpool services, so that extra services could be run in the Peak or to provide more resilience, should a train fail in the station.

A Service To Skelmersdale

Consider.

  • Skelmersdale is about five miles North of the line between Headbolt Lane and Wigan.
  • One of Merseyrail’s current Class 507 trains covers the 5.5 miles between Kirkby and Sandhills station in twelve minutes.
  • The proposed layout of Headbolt Lane station does not allow direct services between Liverpool and Skelmersdale.

These distances and timing would mean the following.

  • A single shuttle train between Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale could run a two tph service.
  • A pair of shuttle trains between Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale could run a four tph service.

Passengers would need to change trains at Headbolt Lane station.

This may seem less passenger-friendly than a direct service, but it could be the most affordable option.

And it could always be improved with modifications at Headbolt Lane station.

Is There A Role For Battery-Electric Trains?

Consider.

  • For Health and Safety reasons, it is very unlikely that any new third-rail track will be laid in the UK.
  • The distance between the current Kirkby station and the new Headbolt Lane station is about 1.5 miles.
  • The distance between Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale stations is less than eight miles.
  • I suspect Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale stations would both have good power supplies.
  • Merseyrail’s new Class 777 trains have a battery capability.

Would this allow the following?

  • Liverpool and Headbolt Lane services to use battery power between Kirkby and Headbolt Lane station. All charging would be done between Liverpool and Kirkby.
  • The shuttle train between Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale would work on battery power, with batteries charged at both ends of the route.

There is also the possibility, that the Headbolt Lane and Manchester Victoria service could be run using battery-electric Class 331 trains.

  • Headbolt Lane and Manchester Victoria will be a 28.5 mile service with a couple of miles of electrification at the Manchester end.
  • I estimate that the battery-electric Class 331 trains will have sufficient range to handle this route with charging at Headbolt Lane station.
  • Currently, trains from Manchester Victoria take over ten minutes to turnround at Kirkby station.
  • Provision for a charger could be built into Headbolt Lane station.

It would be a simple way to electrify the Kirkby and Manchester Victoria service.

In addition, battery-electric Class 331 trains are likely to have longer battery range than the Class 777 trains.

So might it be better if the Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale shuttle was worked by battery-electric Class 331 trains.

If the two East-facing platforms at Headbolt Lane station were to be fitted with charging facilities, this would give an increased level of reliability.

Could Northern’s Manchester Victoria Service Terminate At Skelmersdale?

If both services were to be run by Northern’s battery-electric Class 331 trains, this could be a possibility.

  • A reverse would be needed at Headbolt Lane station.
  • I estimate that 2tph on the route would fit together well.
  • Trains would be charged at Skelmersdale station.
  • Chargers might not be needed at Headbolt Lane station.

In addition, a two tph service would fit in well with four or six tph to Liverpool.

Conclusion

It’s almost as if Headbolt Lane station could consist of three elements.

  • The station facilities, bus interchange and car parking.
  • A two-platform station for Merseyrail services to Liverpool
  • A two-platform station with charging facilities for Northern services to Blackburn, Bolton, Manchester Victoria, Skelmersdale and Wigan.

All services from Headbolt Lane station will be run by battery-electric reains.

Costs have been saved by the following.

  • Not having a bridge over the tracks.
  • Maintaining the separation between Northern and Merseyrail services.
  • Not electrifying between Kirkby and Headbolt Lane stations.
  • Not electrifying the Skelmersdale Branch.

The whole station appears to have been designed on a single level.

 

 

 

May 24, 2021 Posted by | Design, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Arcola Energy, Consortium Of Rail Industry Leaders To Deliver First Scottish Hydrogen-Powered Train

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on seanews.

The article describes the project to create a demonstrator hydrogen train for Scotland out of an old Class 314 train.

Note.

  1. Work will be needed on the interior.
  2. Is a three-car train long enough?
  3. Will the train still be able to use its pantograph?

The trains may be over forty years old, but they can probably made to look good, as they are closely related to these Class 508 trains, that are in superb condition on Merseyrail.

These trains were built in 1979 and are one of the oldest trains on the UK’s mainland network.

Wikipedia says this about the conversion to hydrogen.

In February 2020, ScotRail announced plans to convert one of the two remaining units, 314209, to run on hydrogen. This is a feasibility study running alongside ScotRail’s commitment to run no diesel trains by 2035.

The train will be displayed at the COP26 Climate Change Summit in Glasgow in 2021.

December 30, 2020 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Scrapyard Special Ready For The Blowtorch

I took these pictures of possibly the worst train, I’ve ridden in for some years.

I took this Class 313 train between Hertford North and Old |Street stations.

Not all trains of this age have to be so dirty and unkempt.

In Liverpool’s Underground Trains, I showed these pictures.

 

These Merseyrail Class 507/508 trains are only three years younger, than those in London.

Both fleets are being replaced before the end of 2020.

So it’s not that if trains are going to the scrapyard they have to be let go!

I do wonder whether that this illustrates the point, that if trains are run as a concession from the Local Authority, like those of Merseyrail and London Overground, there is much better control of service quality.

In Gibb Report – Moorgate Services Could Be Transferred To The London Overground, I laid out Chris Gibb’s view of what should happen.

This was my conclusion.

Chris Gibb has made an interesting proposal.

There are good reasons to transfer the Great Northern Metro to London Overground.

  • London Overground have the expertise to introduce the new trains.
  • Transport for London have the expertise to redevelop the stations on the route at the Southern end.
  • GTR will be able to concentrate on Thameslink
  • Moorgate, Old Street, Essex Road and Highbury and Islington stations become Transport for London-only stations.
  • London would gain a new Metro line between Moorgate and Alexandra Palace via Highbury and Islington and Finsbury Park, that extends into Hertfordshire and has a frequency of at least twelve tph.
  • Crossrail gets another North-South feeder line.
  • Highbury and Islington and Finsbury Park will become high quality interchanges.
  • The Hertford Loop Line can be developed independently of Thameslink and the East Coast Main Line to be a high-capacity North-South Metro from North London to Stevenage.
  • The Victoria Line gets a cross-platform connection to the Great Northern Metro for Crossrail at Highbury and Islington.
  • The only problem, is that it might remove some of the reasons for extending Crossrail 2 to New Southgate.

Overall it strikes me that GTR have been working totally without any vision or any idea about how their new trains will transform the Great Northern Metro.

I hope Sadiq Khan is watching what is happening from his bunker in South London.

 

April 29, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 3 Comments

Slow Trains Outside The South-East

This article on the Times and Star website is entitled Mind the snores! Snail’s-pace trains four times slower outside South East.

This is said.

Trains connecting Britain’s major towns and cities are up to four times slower outside the South East, according to new research.

Press Association analysis of the quickest possible trains on 19 routes found that services from London travel at average speeds of 65-93mph, compared with just 20-60mph elsewhere.

The slowest route featured in the study was Liverpool Central to Chester, which takes 41 minutes to make the 14-mile journey (as the crow flies) at 20mph.

The example that they give between Liverpool Central and Chester stations, is one that I can use to illustrate the problem.

  • Currently, services on this route are run by nearly forty-year-old Class 508 trains, that are only capable of 75 mph.
  • The speed limit on the Wirral Line is just 70 mph, so the well-maintained elderly trains can’t even stretch their legs properly.
  • The route has thirteen stops.

The timing is dreadful, if you consider that Merseyrail has exclusive use of the line.

The new Stadler Flirt trains are promised to save nine minutes between Southport and Hunts Cross stations, because they are better designed for passenger entrance and exit with faster speed and better braking and acceleration.

Applying this saving to the Liverpool Central to Chester route would reduce the time from 41 minutes to 35 minutes.

If these Swiss trains can get a roll on, I do wonder if they could do the round trip in under an hour, which would mean Merseyrail could run a four trains per hour (tph) service with just four trains. The slower Class 508 trains need six trains.

This logic can apply to a lot of rail lines in the UK.

Conclusion

The reasons for slow trains can be summed up as follows.

  • Trains are timetabled for the slowest trains that work the route.
  • A lot of routes, including quite a few in the South-East are timetabled for elderly scrapyard specials.
  • Line speeds can often be improved by five or ten mph.
  • Modern trains like Merseyrail’s new Flirts are designed to minimise the time it takes to stop at a station. This is referred to as the dwell time.
  • Platforms and trains don’t always match up well.
  • Level crossings can be a nuisance on some lines like the York to Scarborough Line, which has 89 of the little darlings in forty-two miles.

Trains can be speeded up by doing the following.

  • Improving platforms, track and signalling to the highest possible standard and safe line speed.
  • Choose trains that can make use of the good infrastructure.
  • Consign scrapyard specials like Pacers and Class 508 trains to a well-deserved but long-overdue retirement.
  • Make sure that train entry and exit for wheelchair users, persons of reduced mobility, buggy pushers and wheeled-case draggers is level.
  • Have well-trained staff and excellent information on the platform.

This is the London Overground’s philosophy and it looks like Merseyrail are applying it.

August 28, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment