The Anonymous Widower

Battery Use In Class 777 Trains

In the November 2022 Edition of Today’s Railways, there is an article about Merseyrail’s new Class 777 trains.

This extract describes the use of batteries on the trains.

All units have small batteries for moving independently around depots. Seven units are now being fitted with larger 160 kWh Lithium Titanate Oxide (LTO) batteries and associated traction converter in the leading coaches in space that could also be taken up by a transformer and AC equipment if some units were converted to dual /Battery operation (there would not be the space for tri-mode AC/DC/Battery operation). The cooling system for the battery lies has been roof-mounted. The battery boxes have been supplied by ABB and the batteries themselves by Toshiba. 777002 has been converted as a trial to prove the concept in 2021 but has now been converted back to an EMU.

Stadler explained that the battery life would normally be 8-10years but if the units are only used in battery mode for the 2 km between Kirkby and Headbolt Lane then that is expected to be more like 15 years. However the batteries have the potential to do around 40 miles, so Bidston-Wrexham is possible, with a 15 minute recharge time required at Wrexham before returning. Maximum speed in battery mode is 60 mph compared to 75mph as a DC EMU.

This is a map of how the network might look.

These are the lengths of routes, where the Class 777 trains might run on batteries.

  • Bidston and Wrexham Central – 27.5 miles – Possible with a charge at Wrexham Central.
  • Canada Dock Branch – 4.7 miles – Dual-voltage trains.
  • Chester and Crewe – 21.2 miles – Possible with a charge at Crewe
  • Chester and Runcorn East  – 13.1 miles – Possible without recharging
  • Ellesmere Port and Runcorn East  – 10.8 miles – Possible without recharging
  • Hunts Cross and Manchester Oxford Road – 27.1 miles – Possible with a charge at Manchester Oxford Road
  • Kirkby and Wigan Wallgate – 12.1 miles – Possible without recharging
  • Ormskirk and Preston – 15.4 miles – Possible without recharging

Note.

  1. There are a lot of possibilities to use Class 777 trains with batteries.
  2. Charging might be needed at only three stations; Crewe, Manchester Oxford Road and Wrexham Central.
  3. Four route extensions are possible without charging.

Merseyrail are going to have plenty of uses for the sixty trains, that they have on option.

Train Efficiency On Battery Power

In an article in the October 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, which is entitled Celling England By The Pound, Ian Walmsley says this in relation to trains running on the Uckfield Branch, which is not very challenging.

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

Consider.

  • The Class 777 train is a four-car train, but is only five metres longer than a three-car train.
  • So applying Ian’s formula, it seems that to do forty miles, the battery will be between 480 and 800 kWh.
  • If it is mathematically like a three car train, it seems that to do forty miles, the battery will be between 360 and 450 kWh.

A 160 kWh battery is obviously too small.

But the extract says that the batteries are fitted in the leading coaches, so can we assume that each battery train has two leading coaches and two batteries.

Does the battery train have a battery capacity of 320 kWh?

  • Assuming it does, it would appear that after using Ian’s formula for a four-car train gives a figure of 2 kWh per vehicle mile.
  • A three-car train gives a figure of 2.67 kWh per vehicle mile.

I suspect that these low figures are down to good engineering and a very efficient electrical system on the train.

But then I did write Stadler FLIRT Akku Battery Train Demonstrates 185km Range.

Conclusion

These trains are going to set new standards for a city metro.

October 13, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | 5 Comments

A Thought On Broughton Station

This Google Map shows Hawarden Airport to the West of Chester.

Note.

  1. Airbus make wings for their aircraft at their Broughton factory on this airport.
  2. The wings are flown to Europe for final assembly.
  3. The North Wales Coast Line passes the Northern end of the runway.

When I bought my return ticket between Chester and Holyhead, which was good value at £25.25 with my Senior Railcard, I got chatting with the clerk about Airbus and their Broughton factory.

He felt it needed a station and afterwards I checked and found that the Welsh Government had been trying to build one for some time.

Thinking back, I wonder if he keeps getting asked about getting to the Airbus factory and wishes that the government and Airbus would make his job easier by building a  Broughton station.

A station at Broughton might also cut the factory’s carbon footprint, by allowing more staff to go to work by train.

A Merseyrail Extension To Shotton

Shotton is already served by the Borderlands Line which connects Wrexham and Bidston.

This line is shown on the West side of this map, which shows how the Merseyrail network might look in the future.

Note.

  1. Chester could have services that terminate in the East at Crewe and Runcorn East stations.
  2. Chester already has electric services from Liverpool, which will receive new Class 777 trains in the next few months.
  3. The new trains can be fitted with a battery electric capability.

I just wonder, if a Cross-Chester Metro could be built.

  • Eastern termini would be Runcorn East or possibly Warrington Bank Quay and Crewe.
  • Shotton is only 7.9 miles from Chester.
  • Shotton low-level station used to have four tracks.
  • I suspect that Shotton or even Flint could be the Western terminus.
  • Extra stations could be added as required.

Note.

It would probably be best, if the trains were battery-electric that could use 25 KVAC overhead electrification, as this would allow them to charge at the Eastern termini.

I also feel that Crewe and Chester should be electrified, so that Chester could be reached by the new Class 805 trains running under electric power.

This would also allow Chester to become a High Speed Two destination, that was served by High Speed Two Classic-Compatible trains.

I believe that a Cross-Chester Metro is a possibility.

October 12, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Liverpool Shows The World How To Plan A New Station

Liverpool and Liverpudlians tend to do things differently.

This article on Liverpool Business News is entitled First Look At New Baltic Triangle Station.

This is the first paragraph.

St James station closed in 1917 but images and a video fly-through of a proposed new Merseyrail station to serve the fast-growing Baltic Triangle in Liverpool have been released – and you can help choose a name.

These are my thoughts about the new Liverpool St. James station.

The Video Fly-Through

Merseyrail produced a high-class video fly-through for Headbolt Lane station and it is my belief that these types of presentation are the best way to show everybody what the Transport Authority, Local and National Government are planning to deliver.

Note.

  • The station is very cycling-friendly.
  • The proposal includes a cafe and toilets.
  • There are escalators from the surface to the platforms.

My only fault with the video, is that it uses the old Class 508 trains, rather than the new Class 777 trains. But that is being picky!

The Station Name

Liverpool already has a station called Liverpool James Street station.

The UK also has seven railway stations with James in the name and the whole world has a total of twelve, which are listed in Wikipedia.

So to avoid any possible confusion, the three chosen names seem to be a good idea.

  • Liverpool Baltic
  • Liverpool Parliament Street
  • Liverpool Riverside

Cast your vote before February 18th  by clicking here.

I can’t remember a station name being chosen by an Internet vote.

At least a write-in name is not allowed, which should avoid a silly name like Station McStationFace.

Conclusion

Liverpool are to be congratulated on their planning exercise for the new station.

January 20, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Green Light For New £80m Merseyrail Station

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

These are the first two paragraphs.

The station was hailed as a key part of the town’s “bright future” tonight as councillors met to consider the proposal at a meeting of Knowsley Council ’s planning committee.

Based at Headbolt lane in the Tower Hill/ Northwood area of Kirkby, the station, which will take around 18 months to build, will become the first in the country to have trains operating by battery power instead of electrified lines on part of the track.

This Google Map shows the location of the station.

And this planning document from Knowsley Council shows the station road layout.

Note.

  1. Kirkby station and Liverpool is to the West.
  2. Wigan is to the East.
  3. There is adequate car parking.

I have also enlarged the area around the station buildings to show the platform layout.

Note.

  1. There are two platforms and tracks towards Liverpool.
  2. There is a single platform towards Wigan.
  3. There appears to be adequate cycle storage and blue badge parking.

In Headbolt Lane Station Fly-Through, I described the new Headbolt Lane station.

This screen capture is from the video in that post.

Note.

  1. Two platforms going away from the camera and one platform and what looks to be a siding going towards the camera.
  2. There appears to be no direct connection between the two different sets of tracks.

From the maps the camera is looking towards Liverpool,so it would mean that Liverpool services had two platforms. But they currently make do with one at Kirkby.

There appears to be no clues about how the station will be modified to serve Skelmersdale.

 

 

 

December 10, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , | 10 Comments

Alstom Hydrogen Aventras And Extension Of The Birmingham Cross-City Line

In Alstom And Eversholt Rail Sign An Agreement For The UK’s First Ever Brand-New Hydrogen Train Fleet, I give my thoughts on Alstom’s new hydrogen train, which I have called the Alstom Hydrogen Aventra.

In that post, decide that the proposed Alstom Hydrogen Aventras are based on the three-car Class 730/0 trains that have been ordered by West Midlands Trains for Birmingham’s electrified Cross-City Line.

I then go on to say.

There are plans to expand the line in the future and I do wonder if the proposed Alstom Hydrogen Aventras could be the ideal trains for extending the network.

Expansion plans are detailed a section called Future, in the Wikipedia entry for the Cross-City Line, where these plans are indicated.

In addition, the Walsall and Wolverhampton Line is being reopened to passenger trains.

These new and possibly other services will need no new tracks, but more electrification and extra new trains.

In 2015, I wrote Electrification May Be In Trouble Elsewhere, But The Brummies Keep Marching On, which looked at electrification progress in the UK and the Birmingham in particular, where the electrification of the Chase Line seemed to be going well. So unlike in some places, where electrification seems to be accident-prone, Birmingham seems to avoid the sort of problems, that happened in the Preston and Blackpool and GOBlin electrifications.

But the Alstom Hydrogen Aventra gives Birmingham and the West Midlands a unique advantage compared to say Leeds or Manchester.

Birmingham can obtain a unified fleet, which to the passengers and the drivers looks the same, but in fact are two separate classes of three-car trains;  the Class 730/0 electric train and the Alstom Hydrogen Aventra.

  • Where electrification exists, the Class 730/0 trains will be used and where there is no electrification, the Alstom Hydrogen Aventra will work the route on hydrogen.
  • All that is needed is to provide good tracks and signalling and the Alstom Hydrogen Aventras will take you where you want to go.
  • Through the centre of Birmingham, these trains will use the existing electrification.
  • It would be a network, that would be simple to expand.

The only other English city to use a similar technique will be Liverpool, where Merseyrail’s new Class 777 trains will use battery power outside of the electrified core.

Conclusion

If Birmingham uses their disused but still existing railway lines and adds new trains as required, they can create a world-class suburban network, with the Cross-City Line at its centre

 

November 13, 2021 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Chancellor To Fund £710m Merseyrail Expansion

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Liverpool Business News.

This is the first sentence.

In his Budget on October 27 Chancellor Rishi Sunak will hand Liverpool city region £710m to extend the Merseyrail network using battery-operated trains.

I wrote about Merseyrail’s plans in Liverpool’s Vision For Rail.

This is a map of how the network might look.

Battery trains might serve Preston, Skelmersdale, Warrington, Widnes, Wigan and Wrexham.

There is also this tailpiece to the Liverpool Business News article.

In August LBN also revealed Mr Rotheram was in talks with senior Government officials about taking full control of the Merseyrail network, including the physical infrastructure, Full devolution of the network would give the CA direct control over significant areas of land, opening up the opportunity for new development.

That seems very sensible.

October 23, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , | 7 Comments

ORR Authorises Merseyrail ‘777s’

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

This is the first paragraph.

Merseyrail’s 52 Class 777 trains have been authorised for passenger use by the Office of Rail and Road.

I can’t wait to get up to Liverpool to have a ride.

But it will be a few weeks yet!

On the other hand, these trains will be as valuable to Merseyside as Crossrail will be to London.

July 26, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , | 3 Comments

Liverpool’s Vision For Rail

This document on the Liverpool City Region web site is entitled Metro Mayor’s Vision Of A Merseyrail for All Takes Vital Step Forward With Successful Trial Of New Battery-Powered Trains.

It makes these points in the first part of the document.

  • Game-changing technology paves way for Merseyrail network expansion across the Liverpool City Region and beyond
  • Merseyrail services could reach as far as Wrexham and Preston
  • City Region is at the forefront of the introduction of pioneering energy efficient technology.

The new battery-powered trains would certainly go a long way to  enable, these objectives.

  • Battery-powered trains would need a range of 26.9 miles to go between Bidston and Wrexham stations.
  • Battery-powered trains would need a range of 15.3 miles to go between Ormskirk and Preston stations.

This link is to the North Cheshire Rail User Group’s Newsletter for Spring 2021.

This is said about battery range of the new Class 777 trains.

Later model Class 777’s have the ability to leave the 3rd rail and operate under battery power for 20 miles or more with a full load thus
permitting expansion of the Merseyrail network beyond its current limits.

I suspect they will also have regenerative braking to batteries, which will increase the range and allow Preston and Wrexham stations to be achieved without charge.

It certainly sounds like Preston and Wrexham and all the intermediate stations,  will be added to the Merseyrail network.

As to the third point above about the introduction of pioneering energy efficient technology, I suspect this is mainly regenerative braking to batteries and replacement of elderly worn-out power supply equipment.

There is more in the Liverpool City Region document.

Expanding Merseyrail

This is said.

The game-changing technology could allow the Merseyrail network to extend across all six city region boroughs to places like Rainhill in St Helens, Woodchurch on the Wirral and Widnes in Halton.

It could also allow the new fleet to operate as far afield as Skelmersdale, Wrexham, Warrington and Runcorn.

Note.

  1. A 25 KVAC capability could well be needed. But that is built into the Class 777 trains.
  2. Chargers could be needed at some of these stations. I suspect Stadler have a Swiss manufacturer in mind.

In the run-up to May’s elections, the Mayor pledged to deliver ‘Merseyrail for All, a commitment to connecting under-served communities to the Merseyrail network.

New Stations

Initially the battery-powered trains, which are considerably greener, using up to 30% less energy than the existing fleet, are set to run on services to a planned new station at Headbolt Lane, Kirkby.

The wider Merseyrail for All programme could ensure every community is well served by an integrated public transport network and new and refurbished train stations are also high on the agenda.

They could include:

  • The Baltic Triangle in Liverpool
  • Carr Mill in St Helens
  • Woodchurch on the Wirral

Note.

Tram-Trains And Trackless Trams

The document says this.

Tram-Train technology and trackless trams will also be looked at as potential means of extending the Merseyrail network into hard-to-reach places. The technology could benefit areas such as Liverpool John Lennon Airport and Speke, Kirkby Town Centre, Southport Town Centre, Wirral Waters and the Knowledge Quarter.

Tram-trains built by Stadler in Valencia are already running in Sheffield and in the next few years they should be deployed on the South Wales Metro.

TStadler are also building Merseyrail’s new Class 777 trains, so I suspect they’ll go together like peaches and cream.

The Belgian firm; Van Hool have a product called Exquicity. This video shows them working in Pau in France.

These tram buses run on rubber types and are powered by hydrogen.

Similar buses running in Belfast are diesel-electric.

Could these be what the document refers to as trackless trams?

Battery Train Trials

The article finishes with this summary of the battery train trials. This is said.

Under the battery trials, financed by the Transforming Cities Fund, one of the new class 777 trains fitted with the battery technology was tested on the Northern line.

The batteries exceeded expectations with the trains travelling up to 20 miles per run without the need for re-charging.

The battery trains would remove the need for the third ‘electric’ rail, enabling the trains to travel beyond the existing network without major track investment.

The units passed all tests during four weeks of trials on the City Region’s rail network in May and June.

The Combined Authority and partners are still assessing the full impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the programme and will provide more information regarding the roll out as soon as it has been agreed.

It looks to me, if all these plans get implemented successfully, Liverpool City Region will have one of the best public transport systems of any similar-sized cities in the world.

The Full Plan As A Map

This article on the BBC is entitled Battery-Powered Trains Part Of Merseyrail Expansion Plan.

The article contains this map.

There is no key or explanation, but it appears that the pink lines are new routes, where Merseyrail will run trains.

Before I discuss each of the possible routes, I will discuss two big factors, that will affect a lot of my thinking.

The West Coast Main Line

Avanti West Coast have the following stops in trains per hour (tph)  at these stations on the West Coast Main Line as its trains pass the East of Merseyside to and from London Euston.

  • Crewe – At least 5 tph
  • Warrington Bank Quay – At least 2 tph
  • Preston – At least 1 tph

These frequencies are in addition to these direct trains from London Euston.

  • 1 tph to Liverpool Lime Street, which will rise to 2 tph in the December 2022, with a call at Liverpool South Parkway station.
  • Occasional services to Chester throughout the day.

Passengers do not have to go via Liverpool Lime Street to travel to London.

In addition. there are useful services run by TransPennine Express between Liverpool Lime Street and Scotland, that call at Preston.

In Future; High Speed Two

This will call at Crewe, Liverpool Lime Street, Liverpool South Parkway, Preston and Warrington.

Northern Trains

Northern Trains were in all sorts of troubles and the service is now run directly by the Government’s Operator of Last Resort. I suspect that any reasonable offer to takeover over a service will be looked at favourably.

I will now look at Merseyrail’s new routes.

Ormskirk And Southport Via The Burscough Curve

Consider.

  • This route has been a long term aspiration of Merseyrail.
  • A curve between Burscough Bridge and Burscough Junction will have to be rebuilt on a former alignment.
  • Southport and Ormskirk are about 13 miles apart.
  • Southport and Ormskirk have third-rail electrified lines to Liverpool and the South.

It would be an ideal route for battery-electric trains with a range of 20 miles.

What would it do for passengers?

  • It gives those living near five stations a direct link to Liverpool.
  • It gives Southport a town of over 91,000 people more capacity to the city of Liverpool for jobs, leisure and shopping.
  • Will it open up more opportunities for new housing in villages like Burscough?

It will certainly give Merseyrail operational advantages to Southport.

Ormskirk And Preston

Consider.

  • Takeover of this Northern Trains route has been a long term aspiration of Merseyrail.
  • Preston and Ormskirk are about 15.3 miles and 32 minutes apart.
  • Omskirk has 750 VDC third-rail electrification and Preston has 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The Class 777 trains have been built so they can be updated to dual voltage.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • It gives those living near the Ormskirk and Preston Line a direct link to Liverpool.
  • It creates a direct link in modern electric trains between North Liverpool and Preston, for onward travel on West Coast Main Line services and High Speed Two in the future.
  • The journey time could be reduced to under thirty minutes.

As football is so important to the Liverpool economy, would a time around forty-five minutes between Preston and Sandhills station tempt football supporters going to Anfield and Goodison Park to use the train and then perhaps a trackless tram to the stadium?

This Google map shows the location of Anfield, Goodison Park and Sandhills station.

Note.

  1. Anfield is in the bottom-right corner of the map and is marked by a red arrow.
  2. Goodison is in the top-right corner of the map, slightly to the West of Anfield.
  3. Sandhills station is in the bottom-left corner of the map.

Both stadia are around a mile and a half from the station.

Southport And Preston

Once the Ormskirk and Southport and Ormskirk and Preston services are up and running, it would surely be possible to run a Southport and Preston service.

  • There would be a reverse at Ormskirk.
  • The two sections of Ormskirk and Southport and Ormskirk and Preston would both need battery power.
  • Whilst the driver changed ends at Ormskirk, the train would be recharged using a fast and efficient charger.
  • Times between Southport and Preston would be under an hour.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • It gives those living in Southport, a direct link to Preston.
  • It creates a direct link in modern electric trains between Southport and Preston, for onward travel on West Coast Main Line services and High Speed Two in the future.

This service could be very valuable for passengers, but I suspect the route could be implemented with minimal infrastructure changes at Ormskirk station.

Ormskirk Station

This picture shows Ormskirk’s single platform from the Merseyrail end.

Note.

  1. The Liverpool train in the foreground.
  2. The Preston train in the background.
  3. The solid barrier between the trains.

 

I wonder if the following would be possible with the barrier removed.

  • The long platform would be treated as one platform divided into two.
  • Perhaps they will be the Liverpool and Preston/Southport platform,
  • Trains that will leave the station for Liverpool will stop in the Liverpool platform.
  • Trains that will leave the station for Preston or Southport will stop in the Preston/Southport platform.
  • Through trains between Liverpool and Preston or Southport would be possible.
  • A train between Preston and Southport could reverse in the Preston/Southport platform, whilst trains for Liverpool used the Liverpool platform.

It looks like it’s an efficient layout borrowed from somewhere else. and Stadler have probably seen it before.

Headbolt Lane Station

In Headbolt Lane Station Fly-Through, I described the new Headbolt Lane station.

This screen capture is from the video in that post,

Note.

  1. Two platforms going away from the camera and one platform and what looks to be a siding going towards the camera.
  2. There appears to be no direct connection between the two different sets of tracks.

Until proven wrong, I believe that the camera is looking towards Liverpool, as it would mean that Liverpool services had two platforms. But they currently make do with one at Kirkby.

There is a walk through between the tracks, which

  • Enables passengers to access the second platform.
  • Allows passengers to enter the station from the other side.
  • Allows non-passengers to cross the tracks on the level.
  • Avoids the need to build a bridge.

It is certainly an innovative design.

If occasional trains need to go through, could there be a lift-out section of the walk-through?

But as there are buffer stops on the tracks in the three platforms, that are either side of the walk-through, I suspect it will never happen, as it’s too much hassle.

In the Wikipedia entry for Headbolt Lane station this is said.

The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority announced in July 2021 that a trial of a battery electric multiple unit (BEMU) version of the new Class 777 will serve the new station, when it opens. This will not require all of the line extension to Headbolt Lane to be electrified.

Merseyrail would appear to have neatly side-stepped, the Office of Road and Rail’s policy of no more third-rail electrification.

But I’m sure Merseyrail could put an approved train-charging system in the station.

  • They would need one if a Class 777 train arrived with a flat battery.
  • They would need one to charge trains on the Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale service, if the service were to be run by battery-electric trains.
  • They would need one to charge trains on the Headbolt Lane and Wigan Wallgate service, if the service were to be run by battery-electric trains.

The system could be based on a short length of overhead wire and a slim pantograph or a system like Railbaar from Furrer + Frey.

But does it give any clues as to the orientation of the station in the video?

  • As there are three platforms and a siding, that meet at Headbolt Lane station, all could be fitted with chargers. to make sure the services are reliable.
  • Liverpool services could be handled at either end, as it only needs one platform.
  • Skelmersdale and Wigan services could probably share a platform, but they would be better surely using two platforms.
  • The siding could be created into a platform for extra services to be added to the Merseyrail network

So there is no pressing reason, why the station cannot be North or South of the railway.

I suspect road layout and land use issues will eventually decide, the orientation of the station.

Headbolt Lane And Skelmersdale

Consider.

  • This has been a long term aspiration of Merseyrail and Lancashire County Council.
  • Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale are just a few miles apart.
  • Direct running between Liverpool and Skelmersdale will not be possible, but it will be a step-free change between trains.

The Wikipedia entry for Headbolt Lane station seems to indicate a proposed extension of the Northern Line with the next stop being the existing Rainford station. This would surely not add greatly to costs and bring Merseyrail to more fare-paying customers.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • Skelmersdale is a town of nearly 39,000 and is said to be one of the largest towns in England without a rail connection.
  • At Headbolt Lane passengers will be able to change for Liverpool or Manchester.

A lot of passengers will have received a modern train service.

Headbolt Lane And Wigan

Consider.

  • This service is currently run by Northern trains.
  • Kirkby and Wigan Wallgate stations are just over twelve miles apart.
  • Someone, who should know told me that by the time High Speed Two starts running through Wigan at a frequency of two tph, the two Wigan stations will have been combined.
  • Headbolt Lane station could be the drop-off point for those needing to go to Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London on both the current West Coast Main Line and the future High Speed Two.

What better way to start that journey than on one of Merseyrail’s battery-electric Class 777 trains.

What would it do for passengers?

With modern battery-electric trains linking Headbolt Lane station to the combined Wigan station complex, this route could be the zero-carbon route between large parts of Liverpool and cantres of tourism and employment along and to the East of the M6 and the West Coast Main Line.

Liverpool South Parkway And Warrington Central

Consider.

  • This would be takeover of part of the current Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Oxford Road service.
  • The map shows the service going at least as far as Warrington Central station.
  • Stations between Hunts Cross and Warrington Central include Halewood, Hough Green, Widnes, Sankey and the new Warrington West stations.

Distances are as follows.

  • Liverpool South Parkway and Liverpool Lime Street – 5.5 miles
  • Liverpool South Parkway and Warrington Central – 12.7 miles
  • Liverpool South Parkway and Trafford Park – 25.4 miles
  • Liverpool South Parkway and Manchester Oxford Road – 28.7 miles

The following sections of the route have 25 KVAC overhead electrification.

  • Liverpool South Parkway and Liverpool Lime Street
  • East of Trafford Park.

With a bit more electrification at either end, the whole route should be in range of a battery-electric Class 777 train.

Or the Class 777 trains could be fitted with bigger batteries!

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • This is a route that has needed decent trains for years and has finally got new Class 195 trains.
  • But, in addition, the battery-electric Class 777 trains would decarbonise the route.

The major problem, though is not infrastructure or trains, but surely Andy Burnham, who is the outspoken Mayor of Greater Manchester and could object to Merseyrail invading his patch.

Merseyrail’s Cheshire Ambitions

This is a section of the map shown on the BBC article, showing Cheshire.

It looks like there could be as many as three routes.

  • Chester and Crewe
  • Chester and Runcorn East
  • Ellesmere Port and Runcorn East

I’ll now cover the routes in detail.

Chester And Crewe

Consider.

  • This would be a takeover by Merseyrail of the existing Trains for Wales service.
  • Chester And Crewe are about 21,2 miles and 25 minutes apart.
  • Chester has 750 VDC third-rail electrification and Crewe has 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The Class 777 trains have been built so they can be updated to dual voltage.
  • There is a proposal, that Beeston Castle and Tarporley station be re-opened.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • If trains will run between Crewe and Liverpool, this creates a second route between the two major stations.
  • It creates a direct link in modern electric trains between The Wirral and Crewe, for onward travel on West Coast Main Line services and High Speed Two in the future.
  • The journey time could be reduced by enough to increase service frequency on the route.

I This would be a very useful extension of the Merseyrail network.

Chester And Runcorn East

Consider.

  • This would be a takeover by Merseyrail of the existing Trains for Wales service.
  • Chester And Runcorn East are about 13.1 miles apart.
  • Two stations and five miles further on is Warrington Bank Quay station.
  • Chester has 750 VDC third-rail electrification and Warrington Bank Quay has 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The Class 777 trains have been built so they can be updated to dual voltage.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • It would enable a Merseyrail circular route from Liverpool Lime Street to Chester via Edge Hill, Wavertree Technology Park, Broad Green, Roby, Huyton, Whiston, Rainhill, Lea Green, St Helens Junction, Warrington Bank Quay, Frodsham, Runcorn East and Helsby.
  • After Chester, it could take the Wirral Line back to Liverpool to make it a true Mersey Circular service.

Would a Mersey Circular service be a good idea?

Ellesmere Port And Runcorn East

Consider.

  • This been a long term aspiration of Merseyrail.
  • This would be a takeover by Merseyrail of the infrequent Northern Rail service.
  • Ellesmere Port And Runcorn East are about 10.8 miles apart.
  • Two stations and five miles further on is Warrington Bank Quay station.
  • Ellesmere Port has 750 VDC third-rail electrification and Warrington Bank Quay has 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The Class 777 trains have been built so they can be updated to dual voltage.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • It would certainly improve rail transport along the South Bank of the Mersey from Ellesmere Port to Warrington Bank Quay or Runcorn East depending on the Eastern terminus.
  • If the terminal were to be Warrington Bank Quay that would sort out the charging.
  • It could create a direct link in modern electric trains between Ellesmere Port and Warrington Bank Quay, for onward travel on West Coast Main Line services and High Speed Two in the future.

I feel that an Ellesmere Port and Warrington Bank Quay service would be good for the area.

The Borderlands Line

I’ve left the Borderlands Line to last, as I feel it will be a lot more than commuter and leisure line between Liverpool and Wrexham.

  • It crosses the border between England and Wales
  • The line is 26.9 miles of double track, with a single-track extension of under two miles between the two Wrexham stations.
  • It has over twenty stations with more planned in both countries
  • It crosses a couple of rivers on long steel bridges.
  • It brings commuters to Liverpool and takes workers to the high-tech factories of companies like Airbus and Toyota on Deeside.
  • It connects to a lot of golf courses, one of which is the Open Championship course  at Royal Liverpool.
  • Once in Wales it has two connections to the North Wales Coast Line, which runs between Chester and holyhead.

It is no ordinary railway and is ripe for improvement to bridge passengers to employment sites and leisure areas along its route.

The line has one big problem in that passengers need to change trains at Bidston between Liverpool and Wrexham stations.

  • Between Bidston and Liverpool the Merseyrail electric trains to and from  Hoylake are used and they turn in the Liverpool Loop under Liverpool City Centre calling at four stations before returning.
  • Between Bidston and Wrexham, diesel multiple units are used.

It is a route design straight out of the 1970s of men with minds without imagination. Even British Rail were designing battery-electric trains in the 1950s, which I wrote about in Did The Queen Ever Ride In This Train?.

Merseyrail intend to right the wrongs of the past using battery-electric Class 777 trains.

  • As electric versions of these trains will be used on the Liverpool and Hoylake service, there would be no need to change trains at Bidston if the Liverpool and Wrexham trains were just a battery-electric version of the same train.
  • The Wrexham trains would drive round the Liverpool Loop tunnel as hundreds of trains do every day.
  • The trains would be charged on the existing third-rail electrification at the Liverpool end.
  • I’m fairly certain that a frequency of two tph would be possible on the route, if the Liverpool Loop tunnel signalling could cope,
  • Trains would need to be charged at the Wexham end of the route and I’m sure Stadler have a solution.

It would be an efficient and cost effective way to decarbonise a tricky but useful branch line.

Conclusion

Stadler are playing their full orchestra of ideas on Merseyrail.

When completed, it will be one of the best metros of any urban areas up to a million people in the world.

This metro could do for Liverpool, what the Beatles did for the city in the 1960s.

July 15, 2021 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 33 Comments

Will Hitachi ABB Power Grids Technology Be Used At Headbolt Lane Station?

Today, I was sent a link to the North Cheshire Rail User Group’s Newsletter for Spring 2021.

Current Progress on Merseyrail’s Class 777 Trains

This is said in the newsletter about the progress of the new Class 777 trains.

At a recent meeting of the Liverpool City Region rail user groups hosted by Liam Robinson, Chair of
Merseytravel, a short presentation was given detailing progress in bringing the new Class 777 Stadler fleet into
operation. NCRUG has been keeping a keen watch on the introduction of this new fleet; later model Class 777’s
have the ability to leave the 3rd rail and operate under battery power for 20 miles or more with a full load thus
permitting expansion of the Merseyrail network beyond its current limits.

Particularly of interest in our patch is the Ellesmere Port to Helsby line, although at one point in the meeting I
did raise the concept of ultimately having a complete Merseyrail service circling the Mersey Estuary on a metro
styled basis Ambitious certainly, but unrealistic as a long-term goal? There would be considerable work required
at Liverpool south Parkway to connect the Merseyrail line to the network, however the terrain is suitably flat and
the trains will be capable. This obvious evolution of the network did seem to take the meeting by surprise.

Unfortunately the much anticipated introduction of the Class 777’s has been delayed for a number of factors,
not least of all the pandemic but border issues and storage also play a part. Trails are taking place on the Kirby
and Ormskirk lines, and full introduction might not be until as late as next year. The Liverpool City Region has a
clearly defined set of (deliverable) objectives for development of the rail network and the expansion has been
prioritised with a line to Skelmersdale being top of the list and the first step of that being a new station at Headbolt
Lane, Kirby – plans are already well developed for this. It is expected to be this line where proof of concept trails
will be conducted for the battery powered 777’s, although Merseyrail does have authorisation to use Ellesmere
Port–Helsby on account of the low traffic movements on that line! Network expansion is being considered to
Widnes via Hunts Cross and possibly as far as Warrington, but when the question of Ellesmere Port–Helsby
was raised, the route, although under consideration, was not high on the priority list. I suspect it will be at least
several years away and I’m sure the delayed introduction of the type will not only come as a disappointment for
NCRUG but also the Community Rail Partnership and CWaC Council, who have funded a basic feasibility study
into possible demand. Therefore we are left with the Northern Trains service for the foreseeable future – 3 return
trains daily on the current schedule.

After reading this extract, I am puzzled. The original priority was to use the battery capabilities of the new Class 777 trains to extend the Ellesmere Port service to Helsby.

  • Ellesmere Port and Helsby stations are 5.2 miles apart.
  • Ellesmere Port has a two trains per hour (tph) service to Birkenhead and Liverpool.
  • Ellesmere Port and Helsby stations are linked by a three trains per day (tpd) service.

Helsby station has comprehensive connections to Chester, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Warrington Bank Quay station.

Two tph between Ellesmere Port and Helsby stations would certainly improve train services in the area and probably explains the disappointment shown by the writer of the newsletter.

So why have Merseyrail switched the emphasis to battery trains to Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale from Ellesmere Port and Helsby?

Headbolt Lane Station

Headbolt Lane station is a station of an unusual design, which I wrote about in Headbolt Lane Station Fly-Through.

  • Two platforms appear to face West towards Liverpool.
  • One platform appears to face East towards Wigan and Manchester.
  • The platforms meet head-on and a walkway runs between them to allow passengers to access all platforms.
  • There appears to be provision for a fourth platform to serve Skelmersdale. which is to the East of Headbolt Lane.

I think the design means that access to all platforms is level, passengers can enter from both sides of the railway and the station doesn’t need an expensive bridge.

Between Kirkby And Headbolt Lane Stations

Headbolt Lane and Kirkby stations are a couple of miles apart at most. So were Merseyrail hoping to extend the third-rail electrification to Headbolt Lane station, but the Office of Rail and Road has more or less said that no more third-rail electrification is allowed. See ORR’s Policy On Third Rail DC Electrification Systems.

So are Merseyrail having to use battery power between Kirkby and Headbolt Lane stations?

If they are then they have the trains.

As according to the extract from the Cheshire Rail User Group’s Newsletter, the Class 777 trains have a range of twenty miles on battery power, then this should be no problem.

The Skelmersdale Shuttle

The design of Headbolt Lane station does mean that there will be no through running between Liverpool and Skelmersdale.

So it looks to me, that to allow full step-free access to all platforms, the Skelmersdale service will be a battery-electric shuttle train.

  • It could also be the only train on a single-track between Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale, which would simplify signalling and operation.
  • Two tph could be possible with a single train.
  • The train would be charged in either termini using an appropriate charging system.

How many other simple branch lines could be run that way or built new?

Headbolt Lane And Manchester Victoria Via Wigan Wallgate

Consider.

  • The distance between Headbolt Lane and Manchester Victoria stations is just under thirty miles, which is well within range of the average battery-electric trains currently under development.
  • As the current Kirkby and Manchester Victoria stations is run by Northern Trains and they are likely to be acquiring some Class 331 trains with a battery capability, these will surely be an ideal train.
  • The train would be charged in the East-facing platform at Headbolt Lane station using an appropriate charging system.

Headbolt Lane station would be a diesel-free station. As incidentally, so would Kirkby and Skelmersdale stations.

Charging Trains At Headbolt Lane Station

It would appear that both East-facing platforms at Headbolt Lane station will need to charge these trains.

  • A Class 777 train with a third-rail capability and the ability in the future to access overhead electrification.
  • A Class 331 train with no third-rail capability and the ability to access overhead electrification.

Class 777 trains from Liverpool would hopefully have enough power in their batteries to return to Kirkby.

It would appear that a short length of 25 KVAC overhead electrification in both platforms would be ideal for charging trains to and from Manchester and Skelmersdale.

If one of Hitachi ABB Power Grids’s containerised overhead electrification power systems could handle both platforms, it would surely be ideal.

A crossover to allow Manchester and Skelmersdale trains to use either East-facing platform, might be desirable, as it could improve reliability.

Conclusion

It looks like Hitachi ABB Power Grids can provide a sensible solution to handling battery-electric trains at Headbolt Lane station. Or for that matter at any station, where battery-electric trains interface with the UK rail network.

July 10, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , | 2 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/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments