The Anonymous Widower

Use Of A Bi-Mode Class 755 Train On The Sudbury Branch Line

I took these pictures today on a visit to the Sudbury Branch Line in Suffolk.

The two stations shown are Marks Tey, where the branch joins the Great Eastern Main Line and Sudbury, which is the Western terminus of the branch.

Both stations have short platforms.

To simplify this description, I will identify the four cars of the Class 755 train as follows.

  • Driver East Car – Driver car with passengers on the Marks Tey end of the train.
  • Passenger Car – The passenger car, which also has the bike space and the Universal Access Toilet.
  • PowerPack – The smaller car that powers the train.
  • Driver West Car – Driver car with passengers on the Sudbury end of the train.

This Google Map shows Marks Tey station.

The short and gently curving, Sudbury Branch Line platform is on the North side of the station.

To make it easy for passengers to get in and out of the train, Greater Anglia seem to have devised a cunning plan.

  • The Class 755 trains run with the end with the Driver East and Passenger Cars are towards Marks Tey and Colchester stations.
  • The driver stops the train in the station, so that the two passenger cars, are in the same place as a two-car diesel multiple unit, like a Class 156 train, would be.
  • The two pairs of wide double doors and the level step-free access, encourage passengers to enter the train.
  • Interestingly, the PowerPack Car of the train is at the narrowest part of the platform and is this deliberate to encourage passengers to enter through the doors facing them on the platform.
  • The Driver West Car doesn’t come into the platform.
  • At busy times, when the Driver West Car will need to be used, passengers will walk through the PowerPack Car.
  • Bicycles can be wheeled between the platform and the space in the Passenger Car.

The method of operation has avoided any expensive lengthening of the short and curvy platform.

This second Google Map shows Sudbury station.

At least the single platform is straight.

A similar procedure is used at Sudbury station to that at Marks Tey.

  • The driver stops the train in the station, so that the Driver West and Passenger Cars either side of the PowerPack Car are in the station.
  • Passengers have two sets of doors and level access to get into and out of the train.
  • Bicycles can be wheeled between the platform and the space in the Passenger Car.
  • There is no direct access to the Driver West Car at the Marks Tey end of the train, but passengers can walk through the train.

Lengthening of the platform is not necessary.

Important Routes With Few Passengers

Suppose you have a route that at certain times of the day needs a three-car train, but at other times two-cars or even only one car.

I can think of the case of a large industrial site like a nuclear facility or power station, that has lots of passengers, when people are going to and from work and students are going to and from school and college, but at other times of the day, passenger numbers are low.

The conductor indicated to me, that the design of the train allows the doors on the PowerPack to be locked, thus restricting movement.

This could save operating costs if thought out properly.

Wheelchair Passengers To And From Sudbury

The conductor indicated that this was a problem for some directions.

  • London to Sudbury  is just a walk or push between platforms.
  • Sudbury to Ipswich and Norwich is just a walk or push between platforms.
  • Sudbury to London is take a train to Colchester from Marks Tey and use the lifts to change direction for London.
  • Ipswich and Norwich to Sudbury is take a train to Witham and use the lifts to change direction for Marks Tey.

The local MP is Pritti Patel and she has been pushing hard for a step-free bridge with lifts, which would solve the problem.

Sudbury And Colchester Town

Greater Anglia have proposed that the Sudbury service be extended to Colchester Town station.

There may be problems running on the busy Great Eastern Main Line between Marks Tey and Colchester, but at least there appears to be a freight loop just to the North of Marks Tey, on the London-bound track.

Some things would help.

  • Redesign of the junction to allow a faster turnout.
  • The extra power of the Class 755 trains.
  • Electrification of Platform 3 at Marks Tey station.
  • Full digital in-cab signalling on the Great Eastern Main Line.

It might even be worthwhile putting in a simple flyover for Sudbury-bound trains.

Could Battery Power Be Used On The Sudbury Branch Line?

Class 755 trains have been designed, so that diesel engines in the ~PowerPack Car can be replaced with batteries, which can be charged from electrification.

If and when a suitable battery module is developed, then it could just be slotted in.

Some form of charging would be needed and the proposal to change the service into s Sudbury and Colchester Town service, would allow the trains to be charged on the main line.

The German Solution

I can’t help feeling that the Germans or the Welsh would use a different solution.

In Could There Be A Tram-Train Between Ipswich And Felixstowe?, I discuss the East-West Rail Link’s idea of running tram-trains between Ipswich and Felixstowe.

  • It would have a frequency of four trains per hour.
  • It would probably start in the forecourt of Ipswich station.
  • It could either go to Felixstowe station or perhaps through the High Street and down to the Sea Front.
  • It would go via Portman Road, Ipswich Town Centre, Ipswich Hospital, before joining the Felixstowe Branch Line to the East of the town.

The reason for this proposal, is to get more freight trains into the Port of Felixstowe.

Now look at this Google Map of North Colchester.

Note.

  • Colchester station in the middle of the map on the Great Eastern Main Line, which runs East-West.
  • A junction to the East of the station, where the lines from Colchester Town, Clacton and Walton join the Great Eastern Main Line.
  • Colchester Hospital at the top of the map.

Without doubt,, the Germans would create a tram-train network based on Colchester station.

  • Sudbury and Marks Tey could be served in the West, by perhaps building a third track alongside the Great Eastern Main Line
  • Marks Tey and Sudbury would be on battery power.
  • Colchester Hospital and perhaps the football ground and a Park-and-Ride could be served in the North, by adding tracks to the junction East of Colchester.
  • Colchester Town could be served in the South, using the existing tracks.

The network would certainly connect a lot of important places to the main station.

  • It would improve access to Colchester Hospital.
  • It would solve the step-free problem at Marks Tey.
  • It could open up much needed new housing developments.

With 100 mph tram-trains or trains able to work as trams, it could reach places using the various routes in the area, like Clacton, Harwich and Walton.

Stadler have already designed 100 mph diesel trains, that work in Zwickau in Germany, alongside and share tracks with the city’s trams.

It seems that if you have a specification, Stadler will make it.

Conclusion

Greater Anglia are going to have fun with these trains.

Their level access is liked by passengers.

The short car length, allows the trains to call in curvy platforms.

January 23, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

No News On Hydrogen Trains For The Midland Main Line

In April 2019, I wrote Hydrogen Trains To Be Trialled On The Midland Main Line, which was based on an article on Railway Gazette that is entitled Bimode And Hydrogen Trains As Abellio Wins Next East Midlands Franchise.

I said this in my post.

Abellio will be taking over the franchise in August this year and although bi-mode trains were certain to be introduced in a couple of years, the trialling of hydrogen-powered trains is a surprise to me and possibly others.

This is all that is said in the article.

Abellio will also trial hydrogen fuel cell trains on the Midland Main Line.

It also says, that the new fleet will not be announced until the orders are finalised.

Nothing has been heard since about the hydrogen train trial for the Midland Main Line.

But there have been several related developments, that might have implications for the trial.

East Midlands Railway Has Ordered Hitachi Class 804 Trains For EMR InterCity Services

Class 804 trains are Hitachi’s latest offering, that are tailored for the Midland Main Line.

The trains will have a few differences to the current Class 800,/801/802 trains.

But will they be suitable for conversion to hydrogen power?

Consider.

  • The Hitachi trains have a comprehensivecomputer system, that looks at the train and sees what power sources are available and controls the train accordingly.
  • Trains have already been ordered in five, seven and nine-car lengths. I have read up to twelve-car trains are possible in normal operation. See Do Class 800/801/802 Trains Use Batteries For Regenerative Braking?
  • Hydrogen train designs, with a useful range of several hundred miles between refuelling, seem to need a hydrogen tank, that takes up at least half of a twenty metre long carriage.
  • The Hitachi train design has pantographs on the driver cars and can support diesel generator units in the intermediate cars, as it does in current trains.
  • The Japanese are researching hydrogen trains.
  • The five-car Class 802 trains have 2,100 kW of installed generator power.

I think that Hitachi’s engineers can build another carriage, with the following characteristics.

  • It could be based on a Motor Standard car.
  • The passenger seats and interior would be removed or redesigned in a shorter space.
  • Powered bogies would be as required.
  • It would contain a hydrogen tank to give sufficient range.
  • Appropriately-sized batteries and fuel-cells would be inside or under the vehicle.
  • Regenerative braking would help to recharge the batteries.
  • There would probably be no diesel generator unit.

There would need to be a walkway through the car. Stadler have shown this works in the Class 755 train.

A Hydrogen Power car like this would convert a five-car bi-mode diesel-electric train into a six-car hydrogen-electric hybrid train. Or they might just replace one Motor Standard car with the Hydrogen Power Car to create a five-car hydrogen-electric hybrid train, if the longer train would cause problems in the short platforms at St. Pancras.

  • The computer system would need to recognise the Hydrogen Power Car and control it accordingly. It would probably be very Plug-and-Play.
  • The weight of the train could probably be reduced by removing all diesel generator units.
  • The passenger experience would be better without diesel power.
  • The range away from the wires would probably be several hundred miles.

The drivers and other staff would probably not need massive retraining.

What Do I Mean By Appropriately-Sized Batteries And Fuel Cells?

I can’t be sure,, but I suspect the following rules and estimates hold.

  • The batteries must be large enough to more than hold the kinetic energy of a full five-car train, running at the full speed of 140 mph.
  • I estimate that the kinetic energy of the train,will be around 200 kWh, so with a contingency, perhaps battery capacity of between 400-500 kWh would be needed.
  • Currently, a 500 kWh battery would weigh five tonnes, which is of a similar weight to one of the diesel generator units, that are no longer needed.
  • In How Much Power Is Needed To Run A Train At 125 mph?, I estimated that the all-electric Class 801 train, needs 3.42 kWh per vehicle mile to maintain 125 mph. This means that travelling at 125 mph for an hour would consume around 2,000 kWh or an output of 2,000 kW from the fuel cell for the hour.
  • Note that 1 kg of hydrogen contains 33.33 kWh of usable energy, so the hydrogen to power the train for an hour at 125 mph, will weigh around sixty kilograms.

From my past experience in doing chemical reaction calculations in pressure vessels, I think it makes the concept feasible. After all, it’s not that different to Alstom’s Breeze.

I would assume, that the train manufacturers can do a full calculation, to a much more accurate level.

Applying The Concept To Other Hitachi Trains

Once proven, the concept could be applied to a large number of Hitachi bi-mode trains. I suspect too, that it could be applied to all other Hitachi A-train designs, that are in service or on order, all over the world.

In the UK, this includes Class 385, Class 395 and Class 80x trains.

Bombardier Have Said That They’re Not Interested In Hydrogen Power

But Electrostars and Aventras have the same Plug-and-Play characteristic as the Hitachi train.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find that Bombardier have a Hydrogen Power Car design for an Aventra. All that it needs is an order.

They could also probably convert a five-car Class 377 train to effectively a four-car train, with a Hydrogen Power Car in the middle. This would be ideal for the Uckfield Branch and the Marshlink Lines. I suspect it could be done to meet the timescale imposed by the transfer of the Class 171 trains to East Midlands Railway.

There must be an optimal point, where converting an electric multiple unit, is more affordable to convert to hydrogen, than to add just batteries.

But then everybody has been dithering about the Uckfield and Marshlink trains, since I started this blog!

Stadler Have Shown That a Gangway Through A Power Car Is Acceptable To Passengers In The UK

Stadler’s Class 755 trains seem to be operating without any complaints about the gangway between the two halves of the train.

Stadler Have Two Orders For Hydrogen-Powered Trains

These posts describe them.

Stadler also have a substantial order for a fleet of battery Flirt Akku in Schleswig Holstein and they are heavily involved in providing the rolling stock for Merseyrail and the South Wales Metro, where battery-powered trains are part of the solution.

It looks to me, that Stadler have got the technology to satisfy the battery and hydrogen train market.

The Driver’s View Of Stadler

It’s happened to me twice now; in the Netherlands and in the UK.

  • Both drivers have talked about hydrogen and Stadler’s trains with the engine in the middle.
  • They like the concept of the engine.
  • The English driver couldn’t wait to get his hands on the train, when he finished his conversion.
  • Both brought up the subject of hydrogen first, which made me think, that Stadler are telling drivers about it.

Or does driving a hydrogen-powered vehicle as your day job, score Greta points in the pub or club after work?

Could The Hydrogen Train On The Midland Main Line Be A Stadler?

Greater Anglia and East Midlands Railway are both controlled by Abellio or Dutch Railways.

In The Dutch Plan For Hydrogen, I laid out what the Dutch are doing to create a hydrogen-based economy in the North of the country.

Stadler are going to provide hydrogen-powered for the plan.

In addition.

  • Greater Anglia have bought a lot of Class 755 trains.
  • A lot of Lincolnshire and Norfolk is similar to the North of the Netherlands; flat and windy.
  • One of these trains with a hydrogen PowerPack, could be an ideal train for demonstrating hydrogen on rural routes like Peterborough and Doncaster via Lincoln.

But the promise was on the Midland Main Line?

Conclusion

Hydrogen trains seem to be taking off!

Even if there’s been no news about the trial on the Midland Main Line.

 

January 12, 2020 Posted by | Transport, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Northern Welcome New Link Between East And West Yorkshire

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

Rail Operator, Northern Railway, is celebrating the improved links between East and West Yorkshire today (Dec 19) following the introduction of a new service on the network, providing a direct service between Halifax and Hull.

The tone may be a bit self-congratulatory by Northern, but it is to me a very necessary service.

  • The trains run hourly.
  • Looking at today’s early morning Saturday service, it appears to have doubled the frequency to and from Leeds.
  • Families and friends are more spread out these days..
  • Events like football matches and concerts bring in supporters and attendees from a lot further, than when the rail services were carved in stone.

I shall be very interested to see the figures for ridership on this new service..

The Suffolk Experience

Over the last few years, Suffolk’s cross-county service between Ipswich and Cambridge has gone from an hourly single-car Class 153 train through two and three-car Class 170 trains to the proposed four-car Class 755 trains.

Greater Anglia may be having trouble introducing the Class 755 train, but the proposed capacity increase is there. They are also proposing to double the frequency on the Eastern section of the route.

Nationwide

Hopefully, we’ll see more improvements in services on routes like these all over the country. Certainly, Northern and Greater Anglia have been increased threir train fleets to provide more services.

I would also like to see a nationwide capacity standard for routes like these between cities and large towns.

December 21, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Greater Anglia’s New Stansted Service To And From Norwich

Stansted Airport railway station now has the following rail services.

  • Four trains per hour (tph) Stansted Express services to and from Liverpool Street station.
  • One tph to and from Cambridge.
  • One tph to and from Birmongham New Street
  • One tph to and from Norwich, which started on December 15th, 2019.

This morning I wen to the station to use the new service to Cambridge.

Note.

  1. Platform 1 at Stansted Airport, is used to handle two trains.
  2. The Class 755 trains appeared to be using overhead 25 KVAC.
  3. The Cambridge-Ipswich and Norwich-Stansted services appear to offer interchange possibilities at Cambridge could be developed in the future.
  4. It appeared that a new Class 755 train had failed and was parked in Platform 1a at Stansted.

The service certainly seemed to be attracting more than a handle of passengers.

These are a few extra thoughts.

Whittlesford Parkway Station

Whittlesford Parkway station has a Holiday Inn hotel and a large car park, as this Google Map shows.

When I lived in the area, I used to use it as a station for travelling to and from London.

Consider.

  • Whittlesford Parkway to Stansted Airport takes twenty-six minutes by train.
  • There are two tph to and from Stansted Airport.
  • Given the station’s convenient position on the road network and the good train service to Stansted Airport, I suspect some Airport users will use the station as an alternative place to park.
  • It will certainly make a sensible drop off point for Stansted passengers and workers.

In my view, the only improvement needed, is a step-free bridge.

Audley End Station

Audley |End station is another station that is served by trains going between Stansted Airport and Cambridge and Norwich.

As the map shows, car parking is not as extensive.

Commuting From Audley End And Whittlesford Parkway To Norwich

C, my late wife was a barrister, who regularly drove to Norwich for a day in Court.

If there had been a train service between Whittlesford and Norwich, she might have used it.

But it does appear, that early morning services start from Cambridge.

Early And Late Trains Between Norwich and Stansted Airport

It appears to me, that that the timetable between Norwich and Stansted Airport may not start ealy enough and perhaps run late enough, given the hours that flights arrive and depart at the Airport.

Conclusion

This is going to be a worthwhile service, but I don’t think it is fully developed yet.

 

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

Is The Walkway Through The PowerPack On A Class 755 Train Too Narrow?

These pictures show the walkway through the PowerPack on a Class 755 train.

For comparison here’s the walkway between cars on a Class 802 train.

Certainly, this passage takes a trolley.

There is no need at present for a trolley on a Class 755 train, but surely the Lowestoft and London service could have one.

December 13, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , | Leave a comment

MSU Research Leads To North America’s First Commercial Hydrogen-Powered Train

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article in Railway Age.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Research from Michigan State University’s Center for Railway Research and Education (CRRE) contributed to the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority’s (SBCTA) decision to order the first commercial hydrogen-powered train for use in North America.

These statements were also made.

  • The research was conducted in partnership with the Birmingham CRRE and Mott MacDonald.
  • Funding was from the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA).
  • The trains will be built by Stadler, probably in their US factory.

There is also a picture of the hydrogen-powered Flirt in the article, and it is very similar in formation to a Class 755 train, with a PowerPack in the middle.

The picture shows a Class 755 train at Norwich station.

The article indicates that hydrogen-power was chosen, as the rail line may be extended by sixty miles to Los Angeles.

Conclusion

After reading the full article, it certainly looks like San Bernardino County Transportation Authority have planned their new railway in a very professional way.

 

 

December 12, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 2 Comments

Class 755 Train Details

These pictures are a collection of some of the details of Class 755 trains.

I shall add to this collection of pictures.

If you give me a credit, feel free to use them in anything you write.

December 12, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , | Leave a comment

A Trip On The East Suffolk Line In A New Stadler Class 755 Train

Today, I took a round trip between Ipswich and Lowestoft stations, along the East Suffolk Line, in one of Greater Anglia’s new Class 755 trains.

These are my observations and comments.

Stations

The stations vary between the very good and the very basic.

  • I don’t think that any station has a step-free bridge to cross the line.
  • Many stations are just a single platform.
  • Crossing the line often involves a nearby level crossing.
  • Westerfield, Woodbridge, Saxmundham, Darsham, Halesworth and Beccles have two platforms.
  • Lowestoft and Ipswich are both step-free from the street to the platforms.
  • There also appears to be step-free access between the new trains and the platforms.

Overall, from what I could see from the train, each stop was fairly efficient, although I do think that when the drivers and train staff, fully get to grips with the trains, that there is time to be saved on each of the ten stops.

Consider.

  • These trains have much better acceleration and deceleration, than the trains for which the timetable was written.
  • The trains have level access between train and platform. At Lowestoft, I saw an electric wheelchair roll out of the train at a smart speed.
  • These trains set the Gold Standard for step-free access.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least a minute and possibly two minutes saved at each station.

That would reduce the current journey time of one hour and thirty minutes between Lowestoft and Ipswich by perhaps ten minutes.

Level Crossings

Consider.

  • Over the years, Greater Anglia and its predecessors right back teyond British Rail have been plagued by accidents at level crossings.
  • Network Rail would like to close them all,
  • But there are always a lot of local objections especially in rural counties like Suffolk.
  • Removal is often expensive, as a new toad of several miles needs to be constructed.

I noticed perhaps ten crossings on my trip.

A big problem is that at many stations on the East Suffolk Line, there is a level crossing and it is often the only way to cross the line.

This Google Map shows Saxmundham station.

This is typical of the line. But here at Saxmundham, there is probably enough space to squeeze in a step-free bridge like this one, that won the Network Rail/RIBA Footbridge Design Competition.

There are lots of rural stations like Saxmundham in the country, so why should suburban stations get all the investment?

How long will it be before one of the new Class 755 trains hits a vehicle on an East Anglian level crossing?

Other Traffic

The only other trains that I saw on the route were Greater Anglia trains going the other way, which we passed in stations like Beccles and Saxmundham.

Checking on realtrimetrains.co.uk, there appears to have been no trains other than the Lowestoft and Ipswich service all day.

It appears that although parts of the route are only single track, that a well-designed timetable operated by well-trained and well-performing staff can provide a reliable hourly service.

Line Speed

I brought my personal dynamometer car with me and the train trundled along at a very easy and leisurely 55-60 mph, which is around the operating speed of the line of 55 mph.

Consider.

  • The train gave me the impression, that all those 2,920 kW in the diesel engines could go a bit faster.
  • The timetable was probably designed around a Class 156 train, which has just 425 kW per car, as opposed to the 730 kW per car of the Stadler train.
  • I estimate that the Stadler train is about sixty percent heavier per car, but it does have a lot of electrical gubbins to carry around.
  • The weight of the Stadler train does appear to be lighter per car than a Class 170 train.

I would expect that a well-driven Class 755 train has the power and speed to skip from station to station along the East Suffolk Line at several minutes faster than the timetable.

The line is 49 miles long and trains typically take 90 minutes between Lowestoft and Ipswich. That is an average speed of just under 33 mph.

The leg between Saxmundham and Darsham is just over four miles long and it takes nine minutes. This is an average speed of 27 mph.

Consider

  • The acceleration of a Class 755 train is 0.9 m/s², which means to get up to a line speed of 60 mph takes thirty seconds.
  • Four miles at 60 mph takes four minutes.
  • Driver assistance software can tell the driver exactly where to start slowing for the next station.

It might be possible to do the Saxmundham and Darsham leg in perhaps three or four minutes less than the current timetable.

How much time could be saved on the whole route between Lowestoft and Ipswich?

Trains Needed

Look at a typical Off Peak pattern.

  • An Off Peak train is the 1007 from Lowestoft, which arrives at Ipswich at 1136.
  • This train returns from Ipswich at 1217, which arrives in Lowestoft at 1343.
  • It then leaves Lowestoft for Ipswich at 1407.

The train takes four hours to do a round trip on the route, with forty-one minutes wait at Ipswich and twenty-four minutes wait at Lowestoft.

As trains are scheduled from Lowestoft at 1107, 1207 and 1307, four trains will be needed to provide the service.

This is very inefficient.

I feel that it is totally possible for the new trains to run between Lowestoft and Ipswich in around an hour and fifteen minutes, which would mean a saving of between one-two minutes on each leg of the journey.

Suppose though the trains could achieve this time, with an allowance of fifteen minutes to turn the trains at the two end stations.

This would mean that the round trip is now three hours and only three trains will be needed to provide the service.

The Possibility Of A Half-Hourly Service

The current timetable waits for awkward times in each of the end stations.

But my proposed hour and fifteen minute journey with a fifteen minute turnround could offer the possibility of a half-hourly service.

  • Suppose two trains left Ipswich and Lowestoft at identical times on the hour.
  • They would arrive at their destination an hour and fifteen minutes later at a quarter past the hour.
  • By the half-hour, they would be ready to return to the other station.
  • They would arrive back at the start at a quarter to the hour and fifteen minutes they would be ready to repeat the cycle.

The only problem would be to make sure all trains met each other at a place, where they could pass.

The half-hourly service would need six trains. or two more than the current service.

I don’t think that any major engineering works will be needed, although , there might be a need to adjust a passing loop or the signalling.

This is probably only one of many possibilities to provide a half-hourly services.

A Service Between Ipswich And Leiston And Aldeburgh

As I passed this branch the orange army was clearing the track of years of tree and other plant growth.

I’ve always thought that this would be a good idea and I wrote about it in A Station For Leiston.

  • A half-hourly service would need two trains.
  • It would add extra capacity between Ipswich and Saxmundham.
  • It would certainly be needed if Sizewell C is built.
  • Much of the route is double-track between Saxmundham and Ipswich.

It should also be noted that Sizewell has a high-capacity electricity grid connection and with the growtyh of offshore wind, Sizewell might be the ideal place for a large energy storage facility,

Cambridge And Lowestoft?

I took a train recently between Cambridge and Norwich and I noticed it went on to Cromer and Sheringham.

This was just Greater Anglia’s way of scheduling the trains for their convenience.

But could the same joining be done between these two services.

  • Lowestoft and Ipswich
  • Ipswich and Cambridge

It would do the following.

  • Make better use of Platform 1 at Ipswich.
  • Improve train utilisation.
  • It might encourage day trippers to the coast to use the trains.
  • It would improve the link from East Suffolk to Stabsted Airport.
  • Create a comprehensive service, that connects all the major towns in Suffolk.
  • It would connect these Suffolk towns; Lowestoft, Beccles, Saxmundham, Woodbridge, Ipswich, Needham Market, Stowmarket, Bury St. Edmund’s and Newnarket.
  • It would serve the proposed A14 Parkway station.
  • It would be an excellent feeder sewrvice for the East-West Rail Link.

It would be a true TransSuffolk railway.

Could There Be A Lowestoft And Great Yarmouth Service?

There has been talk of a new service between Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth stations.

There are two options to provide a service.

  • Reinstatement of the Reedham Curve that was closed in 1880.
  • By reversing the train in Reedham station.

I describe these options in Norfolk Rail Line To Remain Closed As £68m Upgrade Project Overruns.

As the second option does not need any extra infrastructure, I think it is more likely.

This was my conclusion about the route with a reverse.

Typical timings appear to be.

  • Between Reedham and Yarmouth – 14-16 minutes
  • Between Reedham and Lowestoft – 24-26 minutes

Given that the Class 755 trains have the following characteristics.

  • They are 100 mph trains.
  • They are optimised for fast stops.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see a sub-forty minute time between Lowestoft and Yarmouth.

It would appear that one train could run an hourly shuttle between Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth.

A Scenic Route Between Norwich And Ipswich

Using the current times between Ipswich and Lowestoft and Norwich and Yarmouth, it also looks like a sub-three hour scenic route is possible between Ipswich and Norwich.

It could be East Anglia’s version of the Cumbrian Coast Line.

Onboard Catering

The East Suffolk Line service currently takes ninety minutes.

I feel that this service is one that could benefit from a coffee service from a trolley.

The service could be provided by Greater Anglia or as on the Settle & Carlisle Line, by the local Community Rail Partnership.

Conclusion

The arrival of Class 755 trains on the East Suffolk Line could be the start of something special!

 

December 4, 2019 Posted by | Food, Transport | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The 125 mph Bi-Mode Flirt

I am convinced that Stadler’s bi-mode Flirt of which Greater Anglia’s Class 755 trains are the first such fleet to go into service anywhere in the world, are trains that are capable of being developed into a train that can cruise at 125 mph.

Rumours Of 125 mph

When the Flirts were first introduced, I asked a driver, if a 125 mph version was possible and he said yes.

Not that Greater Anglia would have much use for a 125 mph bi-mode.

But it had been reported that several of the drivers had been on trips to Switzerland, as part of the design and training process to smooth the entry of the fleet into service.

And all drivers like to talk about their charges be they freight locomotives, high speed trains, heavy trucks, racing cars (I had a Stig in my kitchen!) or complicated dockside or tower cranes.

Norway’s 120 mph Flirts

Norway runs all-electric Flirts at 200 kph or 120 mph, as described here in Wikipedia.

The basic train design should be capable of running at 125 mph.

Could The PowerPack Run At 125 mph?

This picture shows the PowerPack on a Class 755 train.

It is only 6.69 metres long and it weighs 27.9 tonnes.

The weight is not out of line with the weight of the 20.81 metre long driver car, which weighs 27.2 tonnes and the 15.22 metre long pantograph car, which weighs 16 tonnes.

But Stadler have put large dampers between the cars.

The dampers are the long black cylinders connecting the two cars. There are two on this side of the train and I suspect there are two on the other side.

It looks to me, that Stadler have paid very detailed attention to the dynamics of these trains and seem to hae done the following.

  • Carefully balanced the weights.
  • Driven the train from the two bogies under the driving cabs.
  • Used powerful dampers to calm everything down.

This is probably to enable good performance on both fast and not-so-straight routes.

I also suspect that Swiss railways are a much more challenging environment for running trains, than East Anglia and most of our 125 mph lines.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that a Class 755 train could run at or near 125 mph on a straight 125 mph line, whilst running on electric power.

Operating Speed On Diesel

I suspect the power requirements for 125 mph would be too much for the installed power in the PowerPack, but 100 mph would certainly be possible.

Ts There A Need For A 125 mph On Electric/100 mph On Diesel Flirt?

If you look at the UK, Hitachi have sold lots of Class 800 and 802 trains, which have a similar performance, but are a few mph faster on diesel.

It would appear that the market is there in the UK.

But the UK is only one of a large number of markets, where Flirts have been sold.

Greater Anglia will be running three services with a large proportion of electrified line.

  • Norwich and Stansted Airport
  • Lowestoft and Liverpool Street
  • Colchester and Peterborough

How the Class 755 trains perform on these services could be crucial to the development and success of Stadler’s unique concept.

 

December 3, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Would It Have Been Better To Scrap HSTs, Abandon Class 769 Trains And Use Stadler Bi-Mode Flirts Instead?

I have ridden for several hours in Greater Anglia'[s new Class 755 trains and they seem to make good trains for scenic rural lines.

From December 16th, we’ll be seeing them work between Stansted and Norwich, which will show their mettle as true bi-modes working a partially-electrified route.

By mid-next year they will be working the following partially-electrified routes.

  • Liverpool Street and Lowestoft
  • Colchester and Peterborough
  • Norwich and Stansted
  • Ipswich and Cambridge
  • Sudbury and Colchester Town

I think that about forty percent of these routes are electrified and they also include a lot of 100 mph lines.

ScotRail

These Greater Anglia routes are not unlike some of the ScotRail Inter7City routes, which are to be run by shorterned four- and five-car HSTs.

Both trains have been late because of training and other issues, but delivery of the HSTs seems to have got stuck round various remanufacturing problems at Wabtec.

Would ScotRail have done better to follow their sister company Greater Anglia and buy some Class 755 trains to their specification?

Consider the advantages of the Inter7City over the Class 755 train.

  • Nostalgia
  • Well-known engineering
  • Comfortable

They could have been obtained at an affordable price.

But they do come with disadvantages.

  • Forty years old
  • Two big diesel engines
  • They are rather dark and dingy inside.

The Class 755 trains also have the following advantages.

  • They would help to remove diesel power from Edinburgh, Glasgow Queen Street and Stirling stations.
  • They have large picture windows ideal for looking at lakes and mountains.
  • Some seats are raised for a better view.
  • They are genuine 100 mph trains, which could be uprated to 125 mph, so would be ideal for incursions on the fast routes to England.
  • They’re probably ready to fit ERTMS.
  • They come in various lengths.
  • They are able to be modified for battery-electric operation.
  • I suspect hydrogen operation will be possible in the future.

But the biggest advantage is that they could extend Scotland’s electric network by using the bi-mode capability.

Think.

  • Fife Circle
  • Borders Railway
  • West Kilbride
  • Perth
  • West Highland Line

I think Scotland could really get to love these trains.

Great Western Railway

I could see a case for running shortened HSTs in the far South West, where GWR call them Castles, mainly on nostalgia and tourism grounds, but Class 755 trains would surely be better running the following partially-electrified services.

  • Henley and Paddington
  • Oxford and Gatwick via Reading
  • Oxford and Paddington
  • Cardiff and Taunton
  • Cardiff and Portsmouth Harbour

Often, they would be replacing Class 156 or Class 769 trains.

  • Some would need to be fitted with third-rail equipment.
  • The Gatwick services could be given an airport interior.
  • I suspect a 125 mph capability is available.
  • The Class 769 trains seem to be late in arriving.

I have no doubt in my mind, that the new Stadler trains are much better than the refurbished British Rail trains.

Transport For Wales

Transport for Wales have ordered a selection of bi-mode and tri-mode Flirts.

They must have good reasons for buying a selection of trains, rather than buying more Flirts.

Probably cost!

All these routes could be run using bi-mode Flirts

  • Cardiff and Holyhead
  • Birmingham International and Holyhead
  • Manchester Airport and Llandudno
  • Crewe and Chester
  • Chester and Liverpool Lime Street
  • Milford Haven and Manchester Piccadilly
  • Birmingham International and Aberystwyth via Shrewsbury
  • Birmingham International and Pwllheli via Shrewsbury
  • Heart of Wales Line
  • Conwy Valley Line

Some of these routes are partially electrified and use lines with a 125 mph operating speed.

Answering The Question In The Title

I very much feel that bi-mode Flirts would be better trains than shortened HSTs and Class 769 trains.

  • They are new trains.
  • They can use electrification, where it is present.
  • The appear to be capable of uprating to 125 mph.
  • They have good viewing for scenic routes because of large windows and some raised seats.
  • They are comfortable with a good ride.
  • They are able to be modified for battery-electric operation.
  • I suspect hydrogen operation will be possible in the future.

I  suspect their one downside is cost.

Conclusion

Bi-mode and tri-mode Flirts and other similar trains will proliferate and within ten years we’ll have seen the last of pure diesel trains in the UK.

I suspect that most of the shortened HSTs will have gone by 2030.

 

December 2, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment