The Anonymous Widower

The Flexible Train For A Pandemic

Anybody, who believes that COVID-19  will be the last pandemic is an idiot!

The virus has shown, those with evil intentions to take over the world, that a pandemic, started by a weaponised virus, whether natural or man-made, can be a useful tool in your arsenal.

We must prepare for the next pandemic.

So how will we travel by train?

Current Train Interiors And The Need To Social Distance

The need to social distance will remain paramount and some of our current train interiors are better than others for passengers to remain two metres apart.

These are some typical UK train interiors.

Typical London Overground Interior

These pictures show a typical London Overground interior on their Class 378 trains and Class 710 trains.

Distancing at two-metres will reduce the capacity dramatically, but with wide doors and common sense, this layout could allow social distancing to work.

Siemens Desiro City Suburban Interior

These pictures show the interior of the two Siemens Desiro City fleets; Thameslink‘s Class 700 trains, Great Northern‘s Class 717 trains and South Western Railway‘s Class 707 trains.

As with the London Overground layout, as the trains are fairly spacious with wide doors, social distancing could probably be made to work at reduced capacity.

Four Seats And A Table

These pictures show a selection of trains, where you have four seats around a table.

Trains include Greater Anglia’s Class 379 trains, Class 745 trains, Class 755 trains, and a selection of Class 800 trains, Class 377 trains from various operators and a superb reconditioned Class 150 train from Great Western Railway.

Could these be made to work, if there was only one person or self-isolating group living together at each set of four seats?

Designing For A Pandemic

These are my thoughts on various topics.

Seating Layouts

Consider.

  • As the pictures show, maintaining social distancing will be difficult on some trains.
  • Could the number of seats in use, be determined by the avert level of the pandemic?
  • Could seats have lights on them to show their status?
  • Will companies insist on reservations?

As to the last point, some train companies are already doing this!

 

Luggage

Will there be limits on the luggage you can take?

Entering And Leaving The Train

Would someone with a dangerous infectious disease be more likely to pass it on, when entering or leaving a train, through a narrow doorway?

I believe coaches with narrow single end doors make social distancing impossible.

  • Passengers get stuck in the bottleneck that these doors create.
  • Passengers are entering and leaving through the same crowded door.
  • Anybody in a wheelchair, pushing a child in a buggy or dragging a large suitcase, will make the bottleneck worse.

They are not fit for purpose in a post-COVID-19 world!

It might be possible to make the doors work using a traffic light system, which allowed passengers to leave, before any passengers were allowed to enter.

But any safe system, would be likely to increase dwell times in stations.

These pictures show the doors and entry and exit for Greater Anglia’s Class 745 and Class 755 trains.

These trains have been designed to be able to run London and Norwich services over a distance of more than a hundred miles, so the trains could be considered InterCity services in all but name.

Note.

  1. All doors are double and lead into a wide and spacious lobby.
  2. Entry and exit is level, as there is a gap filler between train and platform.
  3. Entry and exit in a wheelchair, pushing a buggy or wheeling a large suitcase doesn’t

Greater Anglia’s new trains would appear to be better in a post-COVID-19 world.

I also think, that these trains are better designed for the disabled, those with young children, and the elderly and just plain worn-out.

Finding A Seat

If you watch people entering a train, they often take forever to find their seat and sit down. Especially, if they’ve got a massive suitcase that won’t fit in the space provided.

Rules on boarding a train and how much luggage you can bring will be developed.

Toilets

Will visiting the toilet still be allowed? Or will toilets even be removed?

Flexibility

I think a degree of flexibility must be built into the design.

I mentioned lights on seats to show which could be used, that could be lit up according to the threat level.

Conclusion

Travelling will get more complicated.

 

 

 

 

May 17, 2020 Posted by | Health, Transport | , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Greater Anglia Completes Directly-Managed Norwich Victoria Sidings Project

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Railway Gazette.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Greater Anglia has opened four sidings able to stable 12-car trains just outside Norwich station, with its first train using the facility on March 3.

Other information can be found in this and other articles.

  • It was Greater Anglia’s biggest infrastructure investment to date.
  • The sidings are on the South side of the Trowse Swing Bridge, that crosses the River Wensum.
  • The project took nine months to complete.
  • The sidings look to be fully electrified.

I would assume that each siding can take one of the following.

  • A twelve-car Class 745 train, which are 236.6 metres long.
  • A ten-car Class 720 train, which are 240 metres long.
  • Two five-car Class 720 trains, which are 122 metres long.
  • More than one Class 755 trains, which are 65 metres long (3-car) and 81 metres long (4-car)

They will certainly be able to pack in the trains.

 

April 4, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Ipswich And Peterborough In A Battery Train

Greater Anglia have a fleet of bi-mode electro-diesel Class 755 trains, that could be converted into tri-mode electro-diesel-battery trains. I reported on this in Battery Power Lined Up For ‘755s’.

If when fitted with batteries these trains had a range of say 55-65 miles on battery power, these Greater Anglia routes could be handled using battery and electric power.

  • Ipswich and Cambridge
  • Ipswich and Felixstowe
  • Ipswich and Lowestoft
  • London and Lowestoft
  • Marks Tey and Sudbury
  • Norwich and Cambridge
  • Norwich and Great Yarmouth
  • Norwich and Lowestoft
  • Norwich and Sheringham

Note.

  1. Marks Tey and Sudbury is planned to be extended to Colchester Town. Is this to allow a Class 755 train with a battery capability to charge the batteries on the Great Eastern Main Line? No charging facilities would then be needed on the branch.
  2. I have left out the current Ipswich and Peterborough service.
  3. There is speculation that Greater Anglia want to run a Cambridge and Wisbech service via Ely and March.

It is also reported that some or all Peterborough and Ipswich services will continue to Colchester.

  • There is a convenient bay platform at Colchester to reverse the trains.
  • A Colchester and Peterborough service, would give travellers in North Essex easier access to LNER services at Peterborough.
  • Frequencies from Colchester and Ipswich across Suffolk would be improved.

If the trains were to run on battery power between Stowmarket and Ely, the batteries could be charged between Colchester and Stowmarket. Note that Stowmarket and Ely is about forty miles, which should be within battery range.

Ely and Peterborough is thirty miles, which again is within battery range. So would the train top up the batteries at Ely in perhaps a five minute stop?

Extra Electrification At Ely

There could be three battery-electric services needing to charge batteries as they pass through Ely.

  • Colchester/Ipswich and Peterborough
  • Norwich and Stansted Airport
  • Cambridge and Wisbech

So would it be sensible to extend the electrification for a few miles towards Peterborough and Norwich to give the battery a quick top-up? It should be noted that the notorious Ely Junction is to be remodelled.

 

April 1, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Class 755 Train PowerPack Car

The picture shows the PowerPack car of a Class 755 train.

Note.

  1. The two covers to give access to the two engines on each side of the car.
  2. The shared Jacobs bogies between the cars.
  3. The pairs of shock absorbers between cars.

The Jacobs bogies and the shock absorbers are probably used to help give the trains a smooth ride. The Wikipedia entry for Jacobs bogies says this.

Instead of being underneath a piece of rolling stock, Jacobs bogies are placed between two carbody sections. The weight of each car is spread between the Jacobs bogie. This arrangement provides the smooth ride of bogie carriages without the additional weight and drag.

After my half-dozen or so rides in Class 745 and Class 755 trains, I wouldn’t be averse to seeing a lot more of these trains in the UK.

 

March 17, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts On The Actual Battery Size In Class 756 Trains And Class 398 Tram-Trains

A Freedom of Information Request was sent to Transport for Wales, which said.

Please confirm the battery capacity and maximum distance possible under battery power for the Tram/Train, 3 & 4 Car Flirts.

The reply was as follows.

The batteries on the new fleets will have the following capacities: –

  • Class 756 (3-car) Flirt – 480 kWh
  • Class 756 (4-car) Flirt – 600 kWh
  • Class 398 tram-trains – 128 kWh

I will now have thoughts on both vehicles separately.

Class 756 Trains

In More On Tri-Mode Stadler Flirts, I speculated about the capacity of the batteries in the tri-mode Stadler Flirts, which are now called Class 756 trains, I said this.

I wonder how much energy storage you get for the weight of a V8 diesel, as used on a bi-mode Flirt?

The V8 16 litre diesel engines are made by Deutz and from their web site, it looks like they weigh about 1.3 tonnes.

How much energy could a 1.3 tonne battery store?

The best traction batteries can probably store 0.1 kWh per kilogram. Assuming that the usable battery weight is 1.2 tonnes, then each battery module could store 120 kWh or 360 kWh if there are three of them.

I also quoted this from the July 2018 Edition of Modern Railways.

The units will be able to run for 40 miles between charging, thanks to their three large batteries.

Since I wrote More On Tri-Mode Stadler Flirts in June 2018, a lot more information on the bi-mode Stadler Class 755 Flirt has become available and they have entered service with Greater Anglia.

Four-car trains weigh around 114 tonnes, with three-car trains around a hundred. I can also calculate kinetic energies.

How Good Was My Battery Size Estimate?

These are my estimate and the actual values for the three batteries in Class 756 trains

  • My estimate for Class 756 (3- & 4-car) – 120 kWh
  • Class 756 (3-car) Flirt – 160 kWh
  • Class 756 (4-car) Flirt – 200 kWh

So have Stadler’s battery manufacturer learned how to squeeze more kWh into the same weight of battery?

In Sparking A Revolution, I talked about Hitachi’s bullish plans for battery-powered trains, in a section called Costs and Power.

In that section, I used Hitachi’s quoted figures, that predicted a five tonne battery could hold a massive 15 MWh in fifteen years time.

If Stadler can get the same energy density in a battery as Hitachi, then their battery trains will have long enough ranges for many applications.

Class 398 Tram-Trains

In Sheffield Region Transport Plan 2019 – Tram-Trains Between Sheffield And Doncaster-Sheffield Airport, I showed this map of the route the trams would take.

I also said this about the tram-trains.

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

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

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

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

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

If you adopt the normal energy consumption of between three and five kWh per vehicle mile on the section without electrification between Rotherham Parkgate and Doncaster, you get a battery size of between 108 and 180 kWh.

It looks to me, that on a quick look, a 128 kWh battery could provide a useful range for one of Stadler’s Class 398/399 tram-trains.

Class 398 Tram-Trains Between Cardiff Bay and Cardiff Queen Street Stations

The distance between these two stations is six chains over a mile,

Adding the extra bit to the flourish might make a round trip between Cardiff Queen Street and The Flourish stations perhaps four miles.

Applying the normal energy consumption of between three and five kWh per vehicle mile on the section without electrification between Cardiff Queen Street and The Flourish, would need a battery size of between 36 and 60 kWh.

Conclusion

The battery sizes seem to fit the routes well.

 

 

March 11, 2020 Posted by | Energy Storage, Transport | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

I Design A Hydrogen Aventra

This article on Rail News is entitled Alstom Moves Ahead With Bombardier Takeover.

This is a paragraph in the report, which is dated the eighteenth of last month.

n a statement issued last night, Alstom said it had ‘signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Bombardier Inc. and Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec in view of the acquisition of Bombardier Transportation. Post-transaction, Alstom will have a backlog of around €75bn and revenues around €15.5bn. The price for the acquisition of 100 per cent of Bombardier Transportation shares will be €5.8bn to €6.2bn, which will be paid via a mix of cash and new Alstom shares.’

That sounds pretty definite to me.

In the UK, Alstom will take over a company with the following projects.

  • A large order book for building Aventras in the Litchurch Lane factory at Derby.
  • Several support projects for existing train fleets.
  • A joint design project with Hitachi to bid for the trains for High Speed Two. Alstom are also bidding for High Speed Two, as are CAF, Siemens and Talgo.
  • Design and build the cars for the Cairo monorail.
  • Bombardier have been offering train operating companies a bi-mode Aventra.

There are also rumours, that Bombardier are in the running for a large order for Southeastern.

What are Bombardier’s strengths in the UK?

  • The Aventra is without doubt an excellent train, but with some software teething troubles.
  • The company has the ability to turn out finished trains at a formidable rate.
  • The company can make the carriage bodies in a high-tech plant.
  • Could the bodies be built in a larger size?
  • Or even a smaller size for a country like Australia, New Zealand, Nigeria or South Africa that uses a narrow gauge?
  • The company has the ability to design complete trains to the UK’s smaller standards.
  • The company can make trains in both European-sizes in Europe and UK-sizes in Derby.
  • The company builds bogies for other train manufacturing companies.

On the other hand, Bombardier has the following weaknesses.

  • It doesn’t make any diesel-powered trains, although it has successfully trialled battery-powered trains.
  • It has dismissed hydrogen-powered trains.
  • But above all the finances of the parent company are a basket case.

It appears to me that Alstom might bring much needed technology and finance to Bombardier UK. In return, they will acquire a modern design, that can be used in the UK and other countries, that use a smaller loading gauge.

Obviously, if the takeover goes through, more information should be forthcoming in the near to mid future.

The Future For Hydrogen Trains In The UK

I would suspect, that Alstom have designed a train in the Class 321 Breeze, that fits their view of what will work well in the UK train market.

  • It is a sixty metre long train, for a couple, where most platforms are at least eighty metres long.
  • It has a capacity similar to that of a modern two-car diesel multiple unit.
  • The Renatus version of the Class 321 train has a modern and reliable AC-based traction package. Or that’s what a Greater Anglia driver told me!
  • Eversholt Rail Group have already devised a good interior.
  • I said I was impressed with the interior of the train in A Class 321 Renatus.
  • The train can operate at 100 mph on a suitably electrified line, when running using the electrification.
  • Adding an extra trailer car or two could be a simple way of increasing capacity.

I should say, that I think it will be a quieter train, than the Coradia iLint, which has a rather noisy mechanical transmission.

I feel that a Class 321 Breeze train could be a good seller to routes that will not be electrified, either because of difficulty, expence or politics.

With a 100 mph operating speed on electrification and perhaps 90 mph on hydrogen power, it may have enough performance to work a lot of routes fast, profitably and reliably.

I think, that the Alston Class 321 Breeze will prove whether there is a market for hydrogen-powered trains in the UK.

I would think, that use of these trains could be a big application.

Replacement Of Two-And Three-Car Diesel Multiple Units

There are a lot of these still in service in the UK, which include.

All of these are currently running services all over Great Britain and I have ignored those trains run by Chiltern Railways as they will logically be replaced by a dedicated batch of new trains, with possible full- or part-electrification of the route. Or they could be custom-designed hydrogen trains.

As there are only 105 Class 321 trains that can be converted, some other trains will be needed.

I suppose classes of trains like Class 365 trains and others can be converted, but there must come a point, when it will be better to build new hydrogen trains from scratch.

Components For Hydrogen Trains

This article on Rail Business is entitled Breeze Hydrogen Multiple-Unit Order Expected Soon.

It says this about the design of the Alstom Breeze train.

The converted HMUs would have three roof-mounted banks of fuel cells on each of the two driving vehicles, producing around 50% more power than the iLint. Two passenger seating bays and one door vestibule behind each cab would be replaced by storage tanks. The fuel cells would feed underfloor battery packs which would also store regenerated braking energy. The current DC traction package on the centre car would be replaced by new AC drives and a sophisticated energy management system. Despite the loss of some seating space, each set of three 20 m vehicles would provide slightly more capacity than a two-car DMU with 23 m cars which it would typically replace.

The following components will be needed for hydrogen trains.

One Or More Hydrogen Tanks

This picture shows the proposed design of the  Alstom Class 321 Breeze.

Note how half the side of the front car of the train is blocked in because it is full of the hydrogen tank. As this Driver Car is twenty metres long, each hydrogen tank must be almost seven metres long. If it was one larger tank, then it could be longer and perhaps up to fourteen metres long.

Batteries

As the Rail Business article said, that the batteries are underfloor, I wouldn’t be surprised to see all cars having a battery pack.

I favour this layout, as if cars all are motored, it must cut the length of cabling and reduce electrical losses.

Effectively, it creates a train with the following.

  • Faster acceleration
  • Smooth, fast deceleration.
  • Efficient braking
  • Low energy losses.

It should also add up to a train with good weight distribution and high efficiency.

Hydrogen Fuel Cells

In the Class 321 Breeze, Alstom are quoted as having three banks of fuel cell on the roof of each driver car.

This would distribute the power derived from hydrogen to both ends of the train

Hydrogen For Hydrogen Trains

Alstom’s Coradia iLint trains do not have a custom-design of hydrogen system, but over the last few years green hydrogen systems have started to be supplied by companies including ITM Power from Rotherham. Recently, they have supplied the hydrogen system for the hydrogen-powered Van Hool  Exqui-City tram-buses in Pau in France. A similar system could be used to refuel a fleet of Breeze trains.

It looks like we have a limited number of hydrogen-powered trains and their fuel could be made available, but not enough to replace all of the UK’s small diesel trains, if we rely on Class 321 Breeze trains.

So there will be a need to build some more.

My Design Of Hydrogen Train

I would start with the Aventra design.

  • It is very much Plug-and-Play, where different types of cars can be connected together.
  • Cars can be any convenient length.
  • Some Aventras, like the Class 345 trains for Crossrail are even two half-trains.
  • There are various styles of interior.
  • The Aventra appears to be a very efficient train, with good aerodynamics and a very modern traction system with regenerative braking.
  • Driver, pantograph, trailer and motor cars and third-rail equipment are available.
  • Battery cars have probably been designed.
  • For good performance, Aventras tend to have a high proportion of motored cars.
  • Aventras have been designed, so that power components can be distributed around the train, so that as much space as possible is available for passengers.

This picture shows a four-car Class 710 train, which is an Aventra.

In the next sub-sections I will fill out the design.

Train Layout

Perhaps, a hydrogen-powered train could be five cars and consist of these cars.

  • Driver Motor Car
  • Trailer or Motor Car
  • Hydrogen Tank Car
  • Trailer or Motor Car
  • Driver Motor Car

Equipment would be arranged as followed.

  • I would put the hydrogen tank in the middle car. Stadler have been very successful in putting a power car in the middle and it could be the ideal car for some of the important equipment.
  • As I said earlier, I would put batteries under all cars.
  • Regenerative braking and electrification would be used to charge the batteries.
  • I think, I would put the hydrogen fuel cells in Alstom’s position on the rear part of the roof of the driver cars.
  • There would also be a need to add a pantograph, so that could go on any convenient car!
  • I do wonder, if the middle-car could be developed into a mini-locomotive with a walkway through, like the PowerCar in a Stadler Class 755 train.

There’s certainly a lot of possibilities on how to layout the various components.

Passenger Capacity

The five-car hydrogen-powered Aventra, I have detailed is effectively a four-car Aventra like a Class 710 train, with a fifth hydrogen tank car in the middle.

So the passenger capacity will be the same as a four-car Aventra.

The Class 710 trains have longitudinal seating, as these pictures of the interior show.

They have a capacity of 189 sitting and 489 standing passengers or a total capacity of 678.

Greater Anglia’s Class 720 trains have transverse seating and a five-car train holds 540 sitting and 145 standing passengers.

Multiplying by 0.8 to adjust for the hydrogen car and the capacity would be 432 sitting and116 standing passengers or a total capacity of 548.

Seats in various UK four-car electric multiple units are as follows.

  • Class 319 – 319
  • Class 321 – 309
  • Class 375 – 236
  • Class 379 – 209
  • Class 380 – 265
  • Class 385 – 273
  • Class 450 – 264

It would appear that a five-car hydrogen-powered Aventra, with one car taken up by a hydrogen tank and other electrical equipment can carry a more than adequate number of passengers.

Extra Passenger Capacity

Suppose to eliminate diesel on a route, a five-car Class 802 train were to be replaced with a six-car hydrogen-powered Aventra, which contained five passenger cars

  • The capacity of the Class 802 train is 326 seats, which still compares well with the five-car hydrogen-powered Aventra.
  • The extra car would increase the passenger capacity.

As Aventras are of a Plug-and-Play design, extra cars would be added as needed.

Maximum Length

Aventras tend to have lots of powered axles, as this improves accelerations and braking, so I suspect that trains with four or five cars on either side of the hydrogen car would be possible.

Nine-car trains could be ideal for replacing trains like Class 800 bi-mode trains to reduce the number of diesel trains. The Class 800 trains would then be converted to Class 801 electric trains or a new battery/electric version.

A Walkway Through The Hydrogen Car

These pictures show the walkway through the PowerCar in a Stadler Class 755 train.

I’m sure that an elegant design of walkway can be created.

In-Cab Digital Signalling

It goes without saying, that the train would be capable of being fitted with in-cab digital signalling.

Performance On Electrification

Bombardier have stated that they have a design for a 125 mph bi-mode Aventra. They might even have designed the trains to achieve 140 mph running on routes with full in-cab digital signalling.

These electrified lines are likely to be able to support 140 mph running with full in-cab digital signalling.

  • East Coast Main Line
  • Great Western Main Line
  • Midland Main Line
  • West Coast Main Line

As these hydrogen-powered Aventras may need to run on these high speed electrified lines, I would design the trains so that they could achieve the design speed of these lines, when using the electrification.

This would enable the trains to keep out of the way of the numerous 140 mph electric expresses.

Performance On Batteries And Hydrogen

Hydrogen-powered trains are essentially battery-electric trains, which have the ability to top up the batteries using hydrogen power.

I would suspect that a well-designed hydrogen/battery/electric train should have the same maximum speed on all modes of power, subject to the capabilities of the track and having sufficient power in the batteries to accelerate as required.

The Complete Package

As Hydrogen filling stations from companies like ITM Power and others, that can refuel hydrogen-powered trains are a reality, I’m certain, that it would be possible to create a package solution for a railway company that needed the complete solution.

Different Gauges

If you take a country like Malawi, Malawi Railways looks to need improvement.

They have a three-foot six-inch gauge railway, so could a package of narrower hydrogen-powered Aventras and a solar-powered hydrogen-generator be put together to improve Malawi’s railways?

In When Do Mark 2 Coaches Accept The Inevitable?, I discuss how British Rail Mark 2 coaches were converted from UK loading gauge to one that would work with New Zealand’s 1067 mm. gauge.

So I suspect that a design related to trains built for the UK could be modified for running on the narrow gauge lines of Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

Conclusion

I think it would be possible to design a hydrogen/battery/electric train based on an Aventra with the following characteristics.

  • Up to eleven cars
  • A hydrogen car with a hydrogen tank in the middle of the train.
  • Ability to use 25 KVAC overhead or 750 VDC third-rail electrification.
  • In-cab digital signalling
  • 140 mph running where the route allows.
  • Regenerative braking to batteries.
  • Sufficient range on hydrogen power.
  • Sophisticated computer control, that swaps mode automatically.

The train would be possible to run the following routes, if configured appropriately.

  • Kings Cross and Aberdeen
  • Kings Cross and Inverness
  • Kings Cross and Cleethorpes via Lincoln and Grimsby
  • Kings Cross and Redcar via Middlesbrough
  • Kings Cross and Norwich via Cambridge
  • Paddington and Penzance
  • Paddington and Swansea
  • Waterloo and Exeter via Basingstoke

Some routes might need a section of fill-in electrification, but most routes should be possible with a hydrogen fill-up at both ends.

 

 

 

March 9, 2020 Posted by | Business, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Cambridge To Ipswich In A Class 755 Train

Because of the usual buses on the Great Eastern Main Line, to get to the football at Ipswich, I went via Cambridge and had a drink with a friend in the City.

The journey is timetabled to take seventy five minutes with seven or eight intermediate stops.

These were my observations.

  • We arrived in Ipswich a couple of minutes late.
  • At times the train was travelling at 75 mph.
  • The operating speed is given in Wikipedia as 40-75 mph.
  • Some stops were executed from brakes on to brakes off in around thirty seconds.
  • I wasn’t sure, but the pantograph may go up and down at Stowmarket, depending if the train is going East or West.
  • Cambridge to Stowmarket averaged 43 mph, whereas Stowmarket to Ipswich averaged 48 mph, which would seem to indicate use of the electrification.

I suspect that there isn’t much room to speed up the service, especially as the current 75 minutes gives a convenient turnround with a round trip of three hours.

Which means three trains are needed for the hourly service.

Surprise

What surprised me was the timing of the station stops.

As I said, some were around thirty seconds, with the longest at Stowmarket, where I assume the train picked up the electrification.

It certainly shows how modern trains can do station stops fast.

February 16, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Old And New At Ipswich

I took these pictures at Ipswich, yesterday.

There seemed to be a lot of old Class 86 locomotives and new Class 755 trains around.

February 2, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Mule Trains Between Liverpool And Norwich

I have done two trips to Liverpool in the last week.

On Saturday, I saw this collection of one-car Class 153 trains with a two-car Class 156 train thrown in.

They were forming one of East Midlands Railway‘s Liverpool and Norwich services.

And then yesterday, I had to travel between Liverpool and Sheffield and this was the collection of trains that took me.

So what was it like?

It started badly, with the driver announcing that because of the late arrival due to an undisclosed problem with the incoming train, that we would be leaving ten minutes after the planned departure time of 1551. He also indicated that our late departure meant that we would be stuck behind one of Northern’s services.

In the end, despite the gloomy faces of passengers we left twelve minutes late at 1603.

It was a bit like one of those classic films, where an ancient train escapes in the nick of time, with a lot of important and assorted passengers.

The asthmatic Cummins diesels under the train could be heard straining.

  • But the driver was at the top of his game and the train was running smoothly towards Manchester at close to 75 mph, which is the maximum speed of a Class 153 train.
  • At Manchester Piccadilly, the driver had pulled back two minutes.
  • There were obviously, no problems on the Dove Valley Line and the driver pulled back another minute before Sheffield, to arrive nine minutes late.

Looking at Real Time Trains, the train ran well until March (The place, not the month!), but there was some form of delay there and sadly it was thirty-four minutes late into Norwich.

The Train Was Clean

I should say there was nothing wrong with the train except for its design and age. It was also as clean as you can get one of these trains. The toilet, that I used was better than many I’ve used on trains and worked as it should.

Customer Service

East Midlands Railway had loaded a trolley and a steward and in the two hours I was on the train, he came through twice. The only problem for me, that he had no card machine, but I did find a fiver in my briefcase.

At least it was very drinkable. Even, if I hate those plastic tubs of milk, as they are difficult to open with one good hand.

Where Did Two Cars Go?

I had been fairly certain, that we had started with six cars, but we only arrived in Sheffield with four Class 153 trains.

I suspect that the trouble that delayed the train, concerned two cars and these were left on the naughty step or the end of Platform 6 in Liverpool Lime Street station.

Being Fair To East Midlands Railway

This service used to be run by a four-car formation of two-car Class 158 trains, but these have been causing trouble lately and they will be replaced by Class 170 trains cascaded from other operators.

But because of late arrivals of new trains the much better Class 170 trains haven’t arrived yet.

The driver, steward and other staff did a good job and I feel that the steward enjoyed it. No-one was abusive and stories were just exchanged, as we climbed across the Pennines in what by Sheffield was a very crowded train.

Class 153 trains may have been built as a stop-gap for short branch lines, but you couldn’t fault their performance.

Unless of course, one caused the delay at March, by expiring in a cloud of blue smoke.

Other Observations

These are other observations.

Scheduled Journey Times

On my journey the scheduled times were

  • Liverpool and Manchester Oxford Road – forty-seven minutes.
  • Liverpool and Sheffield – one hour and forty-eight minutes.
  • Liverpool and Nottingham – two hour and forty minutes.
  • Liverpool and Norwich – Five hours and twenty-seven minutes

The train considering the configuration, nearly achieved them.

It’s probably the motoring equivalent of doing the journey in a Morris Minor!

The Nine Stops Were Executed Perfectly

There were nine stops on my journey and eight took less than a minute, with Sheffield taking four, as the driver and crew changed.

A modern train like a Class 755 train, with fast acceleration and level boarding could probably save up to three minutes a time on each stop.

The Route Is A Genuine 75 mph Railway In Good Condition

I was checking the speed of the train on parts of the route and the driver had his motley crew at a steady 75 mph for long periods.

  • The train was riding well, indicating to me, that both trains and track were in reasonably good condition.
  • Note that 75 mph is the maximum speed of a Class 153 train.
  • The train recovered three minutes on the late departure from Liverpool.

I can see a faster train and improvements to the route, some of which are underway, could reduce the journey time by a few minutes.

Could Merseyrail’s New Class 777 Trains Work To The Bay Platform At Oxford Road?

Merseyrail’s new Class 777 trains will have the following performance.

  • A possible range of perhaps 40-50 miles on battery power.
  • An operating speed of 75 mph.
  • An acceleration rate of 1.1 m/sec², which is faster than a Class 153 or Class 170 train.
  • Fast stops due to regenerative braking, fast acceleration and level boarding.

As Liverpool Lime Street to Oxford Road is thirty four miles of which nine is electrified, I suspect that these new trains could extend Merseyrail’s Northern Line service from Hunts Cross to Manchester Oxford Road.

  • Two trains per hour (tph), but I’m sure four tph would transform the area.
  • I doubt any track modifications would be needed.

But would Liverpool and Manchester be able to sort out the local politics?

The Future Of The Liverpool And Norwich Service

This service will probably be spilt into two services.

  • Liverpool Lime Street and Derby, which could be run by TransPennine Express or Northern Trains.
  • Derby and Norwich, which would be run by East Midlands Railway.

As to the trains to be used, consider the following.

The Liverpool and Derby leg would probably need six trains, with the same number needed for Derby and Norwich, or twelve in total.

Currently, eleven or twelve is needed for the longer service.

Sections of the route like through Manchester and between Grantham and Peterborough are electrified.

There are even sections of route, where 125 mph running is possible.

Run reliably to an hourly frequency, I think that this service could attract passengers, especially, as it would serve Derby and extra stops like Ilkeston and Warrington West could be added.

This leads to the following trains being possibilities.

Class 802 trains – 125 mph bi-mode train of which TransPennine Express have 19 trains.

Class 185 trains – 100 mph diesel train of which TransPennine Express have 51 trains.

Class 804 trains – 125 mph bi-mode train of which East Midlands Railway have ordered 33 trains.

Class 755 trains – 100 mph diesel train of which Greater Anglia have 38 trains, which are based at Norwich.

Alstom Breeze hydrogen trains could be ideal for Liverpool and Derby.

Note.

  1. Greater Anglia and East Midlands Railway are both subsidiaries of Abellio.
  2. Developments of Class 755 trains could include battery and hydrogen versions.
  3. I suspect that 125 mph trains may be required for both legs, to maximise capacity on the East Coast Main Line and Midland Main Line.

January 29, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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 | , , , , , , , | 15 Comments