The Anonymous Widower

Werrington Dive-Under – 8th November 2018

In Issue 865 of Rail Magazine, there is an article, which is entitled NR Primed To Start Work On £200m ECML Dive-Under.

This is said about construction of the dive-under.

Devegetation has already commenced in the area, while work compounds and access roads are due to be constructed before the end of the year (when the main construction sequence is expected to begin).

The dive-under is expected to enter service in 2021.

The article also says that the Cock Lane footbridge will be replaced with a longer truss bridge to span the widened alignment.

These pictures show the current Cock Lane footbridge.

Whilst I took the pictures there was a lot of noise from chain saws and other machinery, as the vegetation was cleared.

The Track Layout

Note how the tracks are divided into a set of two on the Western side and three on the Eastern.

The Western pair are the so-called Stamford lines, which go off to the West through Stamford station.

A diagram in Rail Magazine shows how they will be moved apart and twenty-five metres to the West. This will enable the two new tracks to be laid between them, which will then dive under the East Coast Main Line and connect to the Great Northern Great Eastern Joint Line towards Spalding, Sleaford and Doncaster.

This Google Map shows the Cock Lane Bridge as it crosses the tracks.

The Cock Lane Bridge is at the bottom of the map.

Doing The Work

It looks a simple plan, that NR believes could be executed with a nine-day closure of the East Coast Main Line. This would be needed to tunnel under the three tracks of the main line.

But I suspect that Network Rail could have a series of cunning plans to keep a limited service going.

  • There will probably be a number of bi-mode Class 800 trains available.
  • Some of the sixteen InterCity 125 trains could be retained.

The diesels and bi-modes could be able to use the Great Northern Great Eastern Joint Line and other routes without electrification to sneak through.

They might also use an interim layout of lines at Werrington to keep the service going.

Extra Electrification

It appears to me that not all tracks are electrified.

The Northbound Stamford Line certainly has electrification, but it appears that the Southbound doesn’t.

Given that in the next decade, it is likely that battery/electric or electro-diesel trains or locomotives will use the route throughStamford station to Leicester and Nuneaton, would it be worthwhile to fully electrify the Stamford Lines.

This image captured from a Network Rail video, clearly shows the new Cock Lane footbridge and that the following lines are electrified.

  • The Northbound Stamford Line on the left.
  • The three tracks of the East Coast Main Line on the right.

The actual dive-under and the Southbound Stamford Line appear not to have electrification.

Retention Of Diesel Trains

But surely, if there are a few extra diesel trains around for a couple of years or at least until the end of 2019, would it help to sort out some of the other problems on the East Coast Main Line.

 

November 8, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Paddington Fiasco

Everybody is looking for a scapegoat for the problems at Paddington station, that is reported in this article on the BBC, which is entitled Paddington Station: Passengers Face Major Disruption.

Tony Miles of Modern Railways was on BBC Breakfast this morning and he explained what happened.

The Class 802 train was accumulating the 2,000 miles it needs before it can be accepted by Great Western Railway.

The trains are designed to be able to change from diesel to electric power and vice-versa at line speed.

This train was raising the pantograph to access the pverhead wires on a section of British Rail-era overhead wires at Ealing.

The pantograph is thought to have bounced and the overhead wires have broken and become entangled in the pantograph.

Modern electrification with its heavyweight gantries has each line wired separately, but according to Tony Miles, the British Rail lightweight system, means if one comes down, they all fail.

I should add, that several times in the last ten years on the East Coast Main and Great Eastern Main Lines, I have been on trains that have been stranded by failed overhead wires.

In addition, over the last few years, it has been a nightmare travelling to Ipswich, as Network Rail have been renewing the overhead wires to a modern standard.

There are still many miles of this sub-standard British Rail-era overhead wiring all over the country.

It should all be replaced with new modern systems.

There is a problem though with the new modern electrification systems. They are ugly and many believe they are totally out-of-place in the countryside.

There is also the problem caused by the disruption, when the old systems are removed.

Conclusion

This sub-standard overhead electrification should have been removed years ago.

 

October 18, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts On The Introduction Of Class 800 Trains On The Great Western Railway

I have travelled about six times on Class 800 trains on the Great Western Railway.

I have not had any train-related problems and on every journey, the trains have arrived close to schedule.

That even included an out-and-back trip to Swansea from Paddington on a Saturday.

There doesn’t seem to be too many complaints or news stories on the Internet. Although, I do feel some passengers are missing the InterCity 125s and others talk of hard seats.

I would also not complain about the view from a window seat and I have found the trains to be a good camera platform.

Rail Magazine’s Verdict

This article in Rail Magazine is entitled Does Great Western Railway’s Class 800 IET pass the test?.

This is their main conclusion.

The Great Western Railway Class 800 is a good train. It is quiet and comfortable, with better legroom for those travelling in Standard Class. Its acceleration on electric is borderline spectacular, while its diesel performance appears better than predicted.

They also say, that First Class is not worth the extra, whereas they felt it was was in the InterCity 125s.

Conclusion

There’s nothing much wrong operationally or passenger-wise with the Class 800 trains, that will not be put right by minor adjustments in the next couple of years.

 

August 24, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 1 Comment

A New Train On The North London Line

I was waiting at Gospel Oak station on the North London Line, when this train went through.

Checking with Real Time Trains, the Class 800 train was going from Hitachi’s depot at Doncaster to North Pole Depot.

July 14, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

MML Wires Could Reach Market Harborough

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in the June 2018 Edition of Modern Railways.

It appears that Network Rail have a problem.

So Network Rail are now looking for a twelve mile long extension lead.

A Network Rail spokesman, says they are looking at various options, including an underground cable or extending the Overhead Line Equipment.

Extending The Electrification To Market Harborough

There must be a scenario, where extending the electrification as far as Market Harborough, is a feasible and cost-effective engineering solution.

Consider, the MML between Market Harborough station and Glendon Junction, where the Corby Branch Line joins.

  • The distance is less than twelve miles.
  • There are no stations, which can be a pain to electrify.
  • The track through Market Harborough station is being re-aligned, so the station should be easy to electrify.
  • Glendon Junction is the only junction.
  • The electrification will reach as far as Glendon Junction from St. Pancras.
  • The route is is a double-track railway, which appears to be over fairly level terrain.
  • There appears to be wide margins on either side of the railway.
  • There are about half-a-dozen bridges over the railway, some of which could have been fairly recently built or rebuilt.

I doubt, it would be one of the most difficult of electrification projects.

I also suspect, that after their electrification fiascoes of the last few years, Network Rail might have learned enough to do this at an affordable cost.

For example, if the bridges are a problem, they might be able to use the technique I described in Novel Solution Cuts Cardiff Bridge Wiring Cost.

East Midlands Trains Services To And From London

If you look at the current long distance service of East Midlands Trains, there are the following four services between St. Pancras and Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield stations.

  • Nottingham (stopping) – Stops at Luton Airport Parkway, Bedford, Wellingborough, Kettering, Market Harborough, Leicester, Loughborough and Beeston.
  • Sheffield (semi-fast) – Stops at Leicester, Loughborough, East Midlands Parkway, Long Eaton, Derby and Chesterfield
  • Nottingham (fast) – Stops at Market Harborough, Leicester and East Midlands Parkway
  • Sheffield (fast) – Stops at Leicester, Derby and Chesterfield.

Note.

  1. Market Harborough, Leicester, Loughborough, East Midlands Psrkway, Derby, Nottingham, Chesterfield and Sheffield stations, all get at least two trains per hour (tph) to and from London.
  2. Include the Corby service and Bedford, Wellingborough and Kettering have two tph to and from London.
  3. All trains stop at Leicester station, which gives the city four tph to and from London.
  4. Market Harborough to Leicester is only sixteen miles.

Bi-Mode Trains

From 2021, it is expected that these services will be run by 125 mph bi-mode trains.

So how will electrification help these bi-mode trains?

Class 802 Trains

Suppose the services were to be run by a Class 802 train, which can do at least 125 mph using electric power.

An article on Christian Wolmar’s web site, is entitled Bombardier’s Survival Was The Right Kind Of Politics.

This is said.

The Hitachi bi-mode trains can only go 110 mph when using diesel.

The article was written a year ago, so this figure may be higher now!

So a Hitachi bi-mode will be able to go to the end of the electrification at either Glendon Junction or Market Harborough, as fast as the track allows and then at 110 mph on diesel.

Currently, services between St. Pancras and London take around seventy to eighty minutes.

What difference would the planned electrification to Glendon Junction make to this time?

Consider.

  • Electrification to Glendon Junction or Market Harborough station could save more time, through faster running.
  • Electrification to Market Harborough would mean only sixteen miles to Leicester would be on diesel.
  • Electrification at Market Harborough station would cut time for those services stopping at the station.
  • Track improvement could allow more 125 mph running using electric power.
  • Modern in-cab digital signalling might allow sections of even faster running under electric power.
  • Modern trains should save time at stations.

I’m certain that the right combination of improvements to track, stations and trains, will mean all services between St. Pancras and Leicester would be around an hour with Class 802 trains.

Bombardier’s Proposed 125 mph Aventra Bi-Mode

Bmbardier have announced a 125 mph bi-mode Aventra, which I wrote about in Bombardier Bi-Mode Aventra To Feature Battery Power.

I said this about the train.

  • Development has already started.
  • Battery power could be used for Last-Mile applications.
  • The bi-mode would have a maximum speed of 125 mph under both electric and diesel power.
  • Bombardier’s spokesman said that the ambience will be better, than other bi-modes.

This train with its faster speed on diesel would certainly achieve a time between St. Pancras and Leicester of under an hour.

I also think that this time will be achieved, whether or not, the wires are extended to Market Harborough.

Improving The Track

Many politicians, union leaders and environmentalists, see electrification as the main answer to better train services.

But before you can electrify a route, the track must be in a state, so that trains can run at a high speed, with long gentle curves and as few junctions as possible.

In the Wikipedia entry for Market Harborough station, there is a section called Future. This is said.

Market Harborough station is located on a large curve on the Midland Main Line, as a result of this line speeds through the station have always been relatively slow, at around 60 mph (100 km/h). The track layout is set to change significantly over the next couple of years as Network Rail engineers set about straightening the line, as part of their overall plan to increase overall line speeds.

How many other sections between Glendon Junction and Leicester could benefit from this type of improvement?

Should Market Harborough To Leicester Be Electrified?

As Market Harborough and Leicester stations are only about sixteen miles apart, surely it would be sensible to electrify this section, if Glendon Junction to Market Harborough is electrified?

I have flown my helicopter from Market Harborough to Leicester and the whole route has the following characteristics.

  • Double-track
  • Fairly level
  • Wide margins.
  • Market Harborough is the only station.
  • There are junctions South of Leicester.

It would be fairly easy to electrify, but for one thing.

Although, there are only half-a-dozen bridges South of Market Harborough, it would appear there to be up to twenty bridges on the Northern section, some of which look like they would need serious work to get the wires underneath.

I have a feeling that electrifying between Market Harborough and Leicester would cause massive disruption to road traffic, if some bridges needed to be demolished and rebuilt.

A bi-mode travelling at upwards of 110 mph would probably achieve the same times on this section, without the disruption.

Conclusion

I think that electrification between Glendon Junction and Market Harborough station will happen.

  • The section wouldn’t be the most difficult to electrify.
  • As there needs to be an electrical connection between Market Harborough and Glendon Junction, electrification of that section of the railway, might be a cost-effective solution to provide the connection.
  • Electrification of Market Harborough station would cut the time to make a call at the station.
  • It would offer enough time reduction on the Midland Main Line, that to give Leicester a four tph service to and from St. Pancras, with a journey time of under an hour, using existing train designs.

However, electrifying from Market Harborough to Leicester would be more difficult and I can’t see it offering any substantial benefits over a modern bi-mode train.

 

 

 

May 24, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Greater Anglia’s Class 755 Trains Seem To Have Bags Of Grunt

This article on Rail Magazine, is entitled IN PICTURES: Greater Anglia Unveils First New Stadler Bi-Mode Train In Switzerland.

The text with the excellent and numerous pictures is informative, with other details of the Class 755 trains.

Dynamic Testing

This starts in July and involves.

  • Sixteen trains.
  • Eight teams.
  • Seven locations across Europe including the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, Romania and Switzerland.

No-one can say that Stadler are not being thorough.

Entry Into Service

The bi-modes will enter service in Summer 2019, when Greater Anglia hope to have twenty trains in service.

The first Class 755 train will be delivered to Norwich Crown Point depot in October.

Articulated Trains

The trains are articulated and the article has a good image of two carriages showing the join.

Power Car And Car Lengths

The article says that the engines will be located in a power car. There is also an image looking through the power car.

I’m still unsure, whether the length of the train, includes the power car!

There are two versions.

  • Three-car Class 755/3 trains.
  • Four-car Class 755/4 trains.

This clipped image from Wikipedia shows the train formats.

It looks like the four-car Class 755/4 trains, a three-car train with an extra passenger car.

The Class 755/4 train would appear to consist of the following

  • Two full-length drive cars, with passenger accommodation.
  • A half-length power car.
  • Two  full-length passenger car.

The three-car Class 755/3 car train would not have the extra full-length passenger car.

So in terms of full-length passenger cars, train lengths could be as follows

  • Class 755/3 trains – 3 cars
  • Class 755/4 trains – 4 cars

Wikipedia says that each train has the following number of seats

  • Class 755/3 trains – 166 seats
  • Class 755/4 trains – 224 seats

Calculating the seats per car, gives the following.

  • Class 755/3 trains – 55.3 seats/car.
  • Class 755/4 trains – 56 seats/car.

This suggests to me, that the interior of a passenger car is very similar to that of a driver car, which must mean manufacturing cost savings.

Diesel Engines

Both trains are fitted with  16 litre V8 engines supplied by Deutz which produce 478 kW.

The power cars have the following numbers of engines

  • Class 755/3 trains – 2 engines – 956 kW – 319 kW per car
  • Class 755/4 trains – 4 engines – 1912 kW – 478 kW per car.

I suspect that a fifth car could be added to a Class 755 train. This would have 1912 kW and 382 kW per car.

Add a sixth car and this would have 1912 kW and 319 kW per car.

Comparison With A Class 170 Train

Compare these figures with a diesel Class 170 train, which has 315 kW per car.

Both trains are 100 mph trains, built from aluminium, so I suspect that the performance of three-car Class 755/3 and Class 170 trains are roughly the same.

But the four-car Class 755/4 trains have fifty percent more power per car, than the Class 170 train, so these will be no sedate rural trundlers.

Looking at the power figures for five-car and six-car units, they would still have at least as much power per car as a Class 170 train.

Other Possible Routes For Class 755 Trains

Could Class 755 trains be a replacement for routes like the following?

  •  Aberystwyth to Shrewsbury
  • Basingstoke to Exeter – Stadler are doing third-rail in Liverpool
  • Birmingham to Stansted Airport
  • Cardiff to Holyhead
  • Cardiff to Shrewsbury
  • Holyhead to Liverpool via Halton Curve
  • Holyhead to Manchester Piccadilly
  • Liverpool to Norwich
  • Milford Haven to Manchester Piccadilly
  • Swansea to Shrewsbury

Trains could be any suitable length from three to six cars.

Note that electric FLIRTs can attain 125 mph, so could we see a train with the following characteristics?

  • 125 mph on electrified lines, where operating speeds allow.
  • 100 mph on lines with no electrification.

This performance is not far off Hitachi’s Class 802 train.

The other major competition could be Bombardier’s proposed 125 mph bi-mode Aventra, that I wrote about in Bombardier Bi-Mode Aventra To Feature Battery Power.

The winners will be the train operating companies and their passengers.

A Video

Greater Anglia have put a video on YouTube.

Conclusion

The Class 755 trains certainly seem to have bags of grunt!

May 4, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Thoughts On Trains Between Cardiff And Swansea

I decided to write this post, when, I read this article on Rail Magazine, which is entitled Cardiff-Swansea wires ‘not sensible’.

This is the first paragraph.

Electrifying the railway between Cardiff and Swansea was not a sensible thing to do, according to Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling.

Some would argue that Chris Grayling holds a controversial view!

The Current Route

Before, proposing anything, I’ll list what we have today.

The Tracks

I have flown my virtual helicopter along the route and nearly all the route is double track, with sections of triple and quadruple track in places.

This Google Map shows a typical section of the line.

Note.

  • There are two well-spaced tracks.
  • The tracks are not straight, but gently curve.
  • There appears to be a lot of green space on either side.

The line appears to be similar to this most of the way.

I may be wrong, but I don’t think much of the line would be that difficult to electrify, from an engineering point of view.

The signalling and operating speed are described under Infrastructure in the Wikipedia entry for the South Wales Main Line.

The signalling is modern and this is said about operating speed between Cardiff and Swansea.

90 mph (145 km/h) from Newport to east of Bridgend; 75 mph (120 km/h) from east of Bridgend to Swansea Loop North junction (with a small section of 100 mph (160 km/h) track through Pyle station); and 40 mph (65 km/h) from Swansea Loop North Junction to Swansea.

It is not a high speed line, although I suspect that things could be improved.

The Stations

These are the stations between Cardiff and Swansea.

  • Pontyclun – Two platforms – 300,000 passengers – Reopened in 1992
  • Llanharan – Two platforms – 200,000 passengers – Reopened in 2007
  • Pencoed – Two platforms – 200,000 passengers – Reopened in 1992
  • Bridgend – Two platforms – 1,500.00 passengers – Opened in 1850
  • Pyle – Two platforms – 100,000 passengers – Opened in 1850
  • Port Talbot Parkway – Two platforms – 500,000 passengers – Opened in 1850
  • Baglan – Two platforms – 24,000 passengers – Opened in 1996
  • Briton Ferry – Two platforms – 40,000 passengers – Reopened in 1994
  • Neath – Two platforms – 800,000 passengers – Opened in 1850
  • Skewen – Two platforms – 40,000 passengers – Reopened in 1994
  • Llansamlet – Two platforms – 40,000 passengers – Opened in 1994

Note that the passenger figure is the number of passengers given for the past year, rounded to a sensible value.

It should also be noted, that not one of the stations has a layout that allows a fast train to bypass a slow one stopped in the station.

The Trains

Current trains on the route include.

Some parts of the route are also used by freight trains.

As much of the route has a operating speed of less than 100 mph, the operating speed of the two 100 mph trains is determined by the track, not the train.

The Services

There appears to be a fast service between Cardiff and Swansea.

  • It runs with a frequency of three trains per hour (tph)
  • Trains stop at Bridgend, Port Talbot Parkway and Neath.
  • Two services are run by Great Western Railway and one by Arriva Trains Wales
  • Timings are not clock-face by any means.

In an ideal world the frequency of this fast service would be four or more tph.

There is also a slow train, which appears to be once every two hours at the other stations.

It surely should be at least one tph.

Why are the services so limited?

Improving The Route

A new franchise for Wales will be announced and I wouldn’t be surprised to see improvements promised for the route between Cardiff and Swansea.

How could the capacity of the line be increased?

Raising The Operating Speed

I quoted this extract from Wikipedia, about operating speed between Cardiff and Swansea, earlier

90 mph (145 km/h) from Newport to east of Bridgend; 75 mph (120 km/h) from east of Bridgend to Swansea Loop North junction (with a small section of 100 mph (160 km/h) track through Pyle station); and 40 mph (65 km/h) from Swansea Loop North Junction to Swansea.

So except for around Pyle station, the operating speed is below and sometimes well below 100 mph.

Improving the operating speed to as high as possible will reduce the timings between Cardiff and Swansea.

Elimination Of Slower Trains

There is no point in raising the operating speed, if trains that cannot cruise at the improved speed are still running on the line.

Modern Trains With A Fast Dwell Time

Modern trains like Class 800 trains, Desiros and Aventras are designed to be able to stop from line speed, load and unload passengers and regain line speed as fast as possible.

Off the current trains working on the line, only Class 800 trains are in this category.

Step-Free Access Between Platform And Train

All stations between Cardiff and Swansea should be made step-free between platform and train.

This will help the trains keep to the timetable.

Allow Faster Trains To Overtake Slower Ones

Timetabling is probably made difficult, in that there is nowhere where a fast train can overtake a slower one.

Often this is done in a station, where whilst the slow train sits in the station, the fast train goes straight through.

Rebuilding Some Stations

It might be prudent to rebuild some stations, for better step-free access and allow trains to pass.

Are there any plans for new ones?

Electrification

None of these improvements need or affect any future electrification of the route.

But these improvements don’t need it!

In fact, it might be quite the reverse in that some of the improvements like improving the track may need to be done before electrification!

The Next Generation Of Bi-Mode Trains

In Bombardier Bi-Mode Aventra To Feature Battery Power, I discussed Bombardier’s proposed 125 mph bi-mode Aventra.

The information came from this article in Rail Magazine.

A few points from the article.

  • Development has already started.
  • Battery power could be used for Last-Mile applications.
  • The bi-mode would have a maximum speed of 125 mph under both electric and diesel power.
  • The trains will be built at Derby.
  • Bombardier’s spokesman said that the ambience will be better, than other bi-modes.

If Bombardier are doing this, what are Alstom , CAF, Hitachi, Siemens and Stadler doing.

And I haven’t mentioned hydrogen power!

Conclusion

Put all this together and I’m sure this could be the reasoning behind  Chris Grayling’s statement that electrifying between Cardiff and Swansea is not sensible.

I am coming round to the belief that it might be better spending the electrification money on improving the line between Cardiff and Swansea, so that something like the following is possible.

  • Four fast tph between Cardiff and Swansea.
  • Two slow tph between Cardiff and Port Talbot Parkway stopping at all stations.
  • Two slow tph between Port Talbot Parkway and Swansea stopping at all stations.

Or whatever is needed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 24, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 1 Comment

Grand Central Opts For Split And Join

An article in the April 2018 Edition of Modern Railways is entitled Grand Central Appies For Extra Services.

Grand Central wants to run the following services.

  • An extra daily round trip between Sunderland and Kings Cross.
  • An extra service from Bradford to Kings Cross.
  • An early morning service from Wakefield Kirkgate to Kings Cross.
  • A late evening service of two trains; one for Wakefield and one for York, whicj would split at Doncaster.

Cleethorpes would also be served by running West Riding services as two trains, which would split and join at Dncaster.

All this can be done with the current fleet of ten Class 180 trains, supplemented by four extra released by Hull Trains, on delivery of new Class 802 trains.

By running as pairs between Kings Cross and Doncaster, the operator cuts the number of paths needed, on a crowded East Coast Main Line.

Joining and splitting is not without problems.

  • Train timings need to be accurate.
  • Joining and splitting hasn’t been done on the East Coast Main Line before, so would need permission.
  • I suspect that, the process won’t be automatic, as on Hitachi’s trains.

But get it right and this would surely open up the possibility of extra destinations in the North, provided like Bradford, Cleethorpes, Sunderland, Wakefield and York, they are on railway routes North of Doncaster.

The Class 180 trains are 125 mph diesel trains, that are about fifteen years old.

All other operators on the East Coast Main Line in a few years will be running variants of Class 800 trains, which will be capable of running at 140 mph on large parts of the route, when in-cab signalling is up and running.

As these trains can split and join with ease, surely Grand Central will be looking for some suitable new trains.

Currently, the fastest trains take about around a hundred minutes between London and Doncaster.

A rough estimate says that savings of around ten minutes could result from all trains being 140 mph capable, which would benefit all services.

But all operators on the line would have joining and splitting, so expect some new destinations from Kings Cross.

i

March 23, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Future Of London To Oakham And Melton Mowbray Rail Services

The bids for the future East Midlands Franchise are expected in April 2018, with the new franchise starting in April 2019.

A Statement From The Department for Transport

In the consultation about the Future of the East Midlands Franchise, this is said in a paragraph entitled Oakham and Melton Mowbray.

A consequence of operating electric trains between London and
Corby could be the loss of direct services between London and
Oakham and Melton Mowbray as there are no plans to electrify
beyond Corby on this route.

Can the Department for Transport really believe that this is a viable idea?

Efficient Train Operation

As I understand it, one of the reasons for the Oakham and Melton Mowbray service to London at six in the morning from Derby, is so they can get their trains positioned for an efficient service to London.

A Useful Diversion Route

The route from London to Derby via Oakham and Melton Mowbray also gives a useful diversion route, if there is engineering works at Leicester. These will happen, at some time in the next few years, as plans to work on the station and possible electrification could happen.

Track Improvements Between London And Kettering And Corby

  • The London to Kettering section is being upgraded.
  • Double-track to Corby.
  • Four-track between London and Kettering.
  • As much 125 mph operating speed as possible.

There may also be other track improvements to come.

Bi-Mode Trains

The new franchise will be using 125 mph bi-mode trains, to decrease the times between London and the Midlands and Yorkshire, without the need for more electrification.

Class 800 trains must be in the pole position, but Bombardier wouldn’t want another company’s products to be speeding past their factory gate, so I suspect we can expect them to offer a 125 mph bi-mode Aventra. In Is A Bi-Mode Aventra A Silly Idea?, I linked to  this article on Christian Wolmar’s web site which is entitled Bombardier’s Survival Was The Right Kind Of Politics, where this is said in the article.

Bombardier is not resting on its laurels. Interestingly, the company has been watching the problems over electrification and the fact that more of Hitachi’s new trains will now be bi-mode because the wires have not been put up in time. McKeon has a team looking at whether Bombardier will go into the bi-mode market: ‘The Hitachi bi-mode trains can only go 110 mph when using diesel. Based on Aventra designs, we could build one that went 125 mph. This would help Network Rail as it would not have to electrify everywhere.’ He cites East Midlands, CrossCountry and Wales as potential users of this technology.

Note the statement that Bombardier could build an Aventra that could do 125 mph running on diesel.

Could Class 387 Or Class 379 Trains Run Between London And Corby?

Once the route between Corby and London is fully electrified could the route be run by high-end Electrostars like Class 387 or Class 379 trains?

In theory, the answer is yes, but there is one major problem!

The Class 387 trains are 110 mph trains, but the Class 379 trains are only 100 mph trains.

They are just too slow.

Currently, London to Corby takes seventy minutes with a 125 mph Class 222 train.

These trains run on diesel, but after the track improvements between Corby and London, that will allow more 125 mph running, I would expect that the new franchise holder will be able to run these trains on the route in under an hour.

The trains may even be able to do a London to Corby round trip in under two hours, which would mean that the route would need less trains for the current level of service.

In addition to being too slow for the Corby route, the Electrostars would cause timetabling problems between Kettering and London, where they would be sharing the 125 mph Midland Main Line with a succession to 125 mph trains going between London and the North.

A Possible Solution

In my view the solution is obvious.

The current 125 mph diesel fleet, must be replaced by a 125 mph bi-mode fleet.

This would give the following advantages.

  • Faster or at least no slower journey times between London and the North, without any electrification North of Kettering and Corby.
  • 125 mph electric running between London and Kettering/Corby.
  • Efficient 125 mph running between London and Bedford, where possible.
  • The ability to use the route from Corby to Derby via Oakham and Melton Mowbray for passenger services or diversions.
  • Surely, the maintenance of a unified fleet is more affordable.

But that is not everything, as modern trains have other advantages.

Take for instance, Hitachi’s Class 800 trains, which have the ability to split and join in less than a couple of minutes at a station.

Some Corby services start or finish at Derby and stop North of Corby at Oakham, Melton Mowbray and East Midlands Parkway.

One possibility could be that some services could start in London as two five-car trains, running as a ten-car train.

  • The combined train would run fast to Corby.
  • At Corby the trains would split.
  • The front train would continue to Derby with stops at Oakham, Melton Mowbray and East Midlands Parkway.
  • The rear train would return to London.
  • Some trains would join up with a train from Derby before returning to London.

The London to Corby service would be two trains per hour, with an hourly train going on to Derby.

Looking at timings, I reckon that the round trip between Corby and Derby could be done in three hours, so it would fit neatly with a half-hourly service between London and Corby that took two hours for the round trip.

This is just speculation, but Class 395 trains have been doing the splitting and joining at Ashford for years.

Conclusion

If the new franchise holder goes for the conservative solution of Class 800 trains, I believe that it would be possible to run an hourly service from Derby to London with stops at Corby, Oakham, Melton Mowbray and East Midlands Parkway.

 

 

 

If

 

January 8, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hitachi Battery Trains On The Great Western Railway

The slow pace of the electrification on the Great Western Main Line has become a big stick with which to beat Network Rail.

But are rolling stock engineers going to pull Network Rail out of their hole?

On page 79 of the January 2018 Edition of Modern Railways, Nick Hughes, who is the Sales Director of Hitachi Rail Europe outlines how the manufacturer is embracing the development of battery technology.

He is remarkably open.

I discuss what he says in detail in Hitachi’s Thoughts On Battery Trains.

But here’s an extract.

Nick Hughes follows his description of the DENCHA; a Japanese battery train, with this prediction.

I can picture a future when these sorts of trains are carrying out similar types of journeys in the UK, perhaps by installing battery technology in our Class 395s to connect to Hastings via the non-electrified Marshlink Line from Ashford for example.

This would massively slice the journey time and heklp overcome the issue of electrification and infrastructure cases not stacking up. There are a large number of similar routes like this all across the country.

It is a prediction, with which I could agree.

I conclude the post with this conclusion.

It is the most positive article about battery trains, that I have read so far!

As it comes direct from one of the train manufacturers in a respected journal, I would rate it high on quality reporting.

Hitachi Battery Train Technology And Their UK-Built Trains

The section without electrification on the Marshlink Line between Ashford International and Ore stations has the following characteristics.

  • It is under twenty-five miles long.
  • It is a mixture of double and single-track railway.
  • It has nine stations.
  • It has a sixty mph operating speed.

As the line is across the flat terrain of Romney Marsh, I don’t think that the power requirements would be excessive.

In the Modern Railway article, Nick Hughes suggests that battery technology could be installed in Class 395 trains.

The Class 395 train is part of a family of trains, Hitachi calls A-trains. The family includes.

In Japan, another member of the family is the BEC819, which is the DENCHA, that is mentioned in the Modern Railways article.

As a time-expired electrical engineer, I would think, that if Hitachi’s engineers have done their jobs to a reasonable standard, that it would not be impossible to fit batteries to all of the A-train family of trains, which would include all train types, built at Newton Aycliffe for the UK.

In Japan the DENCHAs run on the Chikuhō Main Line, which has three sections.

  • Wakamatsu Line – Wakamatsu–Orio, 10.8 km
  • Fukuhoku Yutaka Line – Orio–Keisen, 34.5 km
  • Haruda Line – Keisen–Haruda, 20.8 km

Only the middle section is electrified.

It looks to me, that the Japanese have chosen a very simple route, where they can run on electrification for a lot of the way and just use batteries at each end.

Bombardier used a similar low-risk test in their BEMU Trial with a Class 379 train in 2015.

So How Will Battery Trains Be used On the Great Western?

On the Great Western Main Line, all long distance trains and some shorter-distance ones will be Class 80x trains.

The size of battery in the DENCHA can be estimated using a rule, given by Ian Walmsley.

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.

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

So the energy needed to power the DENCHA, which is a two-car battery train on the just under twenty miles without electrification of  the Chikuhō Main Line in a one way trip would be between 112 and 187 kWh.

A Battery-Powered Class 801 Train

The Class 801 train is Hitachi’s all-electric train, of which Great Western Railway have ordered thirty-six of the closely-related five-car Class 800 train and twenty-one of the nine-car units.

The difference between the two classes of train, is only the number of generator units fitted.

  • Trains can be converted from Class 800 to Class 801 by removing generator units.
  • Bi-mode Class 800 trains have a generator unit for each powered car.
  • The all-electric Class 801 train has a single generator unit, in case of electrical power failure.
  • When trains couple and uncouple, the train’s computer system determines the formation of the new train and drives and manages the train accordingly.

If I was designing the train, I would design a battery module, that replaced a generator unit

This leads me to think, that a five-car Class 801 train, could have one generator unit and up to four battery modules.

  • The computer would decide what it’s got and control the train accordingly.
  • The generator unit and battery power could be used together to accelerate the train or at other times where high power is needed.
  • If the batteries failed, the generator unit would limp the train to a safe place.
  • The number of battery units would depend on the needs of the route.

It would be a true tri-mode train; electric, diesel and battery.

I will now look at some routes, that could see possible applications of a battery version of Class 80x trains.

Cardiff To Swansea

I’ll start with the most controversial and political of the cutbacks in electrification.

At present plans exist to take the electrification on the Great Western as far as Cardiff Central station, by the end of 2018.

The distance between Cardiff Central and Swansea stations is forty-six miles, so applying the Ian Walmsley formula and assuming the train is five-cars, we have an energy usage for a one-way trip between the two cities of between 690 and 1150 kWh.

As the Class 80x trains are a modern efficient design, I suspect that a figure towards the lower end of the range will apply.

But various techniques can be used to stretch the range of the train on battery power.

  • From London to Cardiff, the line will be fully-electrified, so on arrival in the Welsh capital, the batteries could be fully charged.
  • The electrification can be continued for a few miles past Cardiff Central station, so that acceleration to line speed can be achieved using overhead wires.
  • Electrification could also be installed on the short stretch of track between Swansea station and the South Wales Main Line.
  • There are three stops between Cardiff and Swansea and regenerative braking can be used to charge the batteries.
  • The single generator unit could be used to help accelerate the train if necessary.
  • There are only two tph on the route, so efficient driving and signalling could probably smooth the path and save energy.
  • Less necessary equipment can be switched off, when running on batteries.

Note. that the power/weight and power/size ratios of batteries will also increase, as engineers find better ways to build batteries.

The trains would need to be charged at Swansea, but Hitachi are building a depot in the city, which is shown in these pictures.

It looks like they are electrifying the depot.

Surely, enough electrification can be put up at Swansea to charge the trains and help them back to the South Wales Main Line..

The mathematics show what is possible.

Suppose the following.

  • Hitachi can reduce the train’s average energy consumption to 2 kWh per carriage-mile, when running on battery power.
  • Electrification at Cardiff and Swansea reduces the length of battery use to forty miles.

This would reduce the battery size needed to 400 kWh, which could mean that on a five-car train with four battery modules, each battery module would be just 100 kWh. This compares well with the 75 kWh battery in a New Routemaster bus.

Will it happen?

We are probably not talking about any serious risk to passengers, as the worst that can happen to any train, is that it breaks down or runs out of power in the middle of nowhere. But then using the single generator unit, the train will limp to the nearest station.

But think of all the wonderful publicity for Hitachi and everybody involved, if the world’s first battery high speed train, runs twice an hour between Paddington and Swansea.

Surely, that is an example of the Can-Do attitude of Isambard Kingdom Brunel?

Paddington To Oxford

The route between Paddington and Oxford stations is electrified as far as Didcot Parkway station.

The distance between Didcot Parkway and Oxford stations is about ten miles, so applying the Ian Walmsley formula and assuming the train is five-cars, we have an energy usage for the return trip to Oxford from Didcot of between 300 and 500 kWh.

If the five-car train has one generator unit,four battery modules and has an energy usage to the low end, then each battery module would need to handle under 100 kWh.

There are plans to develop a  South-facing bay platform at Oxford station and to save wasting energy reversing the train by running up and down to sidings North of the station, I suspect that this platform must be built before battery trains can be introduced to Oxford.

If it’s not, the train could use the diesel generator to change platforms.

The platform could also be fitted with a system to charge the battery during turnround.

Paddington To Bedwyn

The route between Paddington and Bedwyn is electrified as far as Reading station, but there are plans to electrify as far as Newbury station.

The distance between Newbury and Bedwyn stations is about thirteen miles, so applying the Ian Walmsley formula and assuming the train is five-cars, we have an energy usage for the return trip to Bedwyn from Newbury of between 390 and 520 kWh.

As with Paddington to Oxford, the required battery size wouldn’t be excessive.

Paddington To Henley-on-Thames

The route between Paddington and Henley-on-Thames station is probably one of those routes, where electric trains must be run for political reasons.

The Henley Branch Line is only four miles long.

It would probably only require one battery module and would be a superb test route for the new train.

Paddington To Weston-super-Mare

Some Paddington to Bristol trains extend to Weston-super-Mare station.

Weston-super-Mare to the soon-to-be-electrified Bristol Temple Meads station is less than twenty miles, so if  Swansea can be reached on battery power, then I’m certain that Weston can be reached in a similar way.

Other Routes

Most of the other routes don’t have enough electrification to benefit from trains with a battery capability.

One possibility though is Paddington to Cheltenham and Gloucester along the Golden Valley Line. The length of the section without electrification is forty-two  miles, but unless a means to charge the train quickly at Cheltenham station is found, it is probably not feasible.

It could be possible though to create a real tri-mode train with a mix of diesel generator units and battery modules.

This train might have the following characteristics.

  • Five cars.
  • A mix of  generator units and battery modules.
  • Enough generator units to power the train on the stiffest lines without electrification.
  • Ability to collect power from 25 KVAC overhead electrification
  • Ability to collect power from 750 VDC third-rail electrification.

Note.

  1. The battery modules would be used for regenerative braking in all power modes.
  2. The ability to use third rail electrification would be useful when running to Brighton, Exeter, Portsmouth and Weymouth.

The train could also have a sophisticated computer system, that would choose power source according to route,timetable,  train loading, traffic conditions and battery energy level.

The objective would be to run routes like Paddington to Cheltenham, Gloucester to Weymouth and Cardiff to Portsmouth Harbour, as efficiently as possible.

Collateral Advantages

Several of the routes out of Paddington could easily be worked using bi-mode Class 800 trains.

  1. But using battery trains to places like Bedwyn, Henley, Oxford and Weston-super-Mare is obviously better for the environment and probably for ticket sales too!
  2. If places like Bedwyn, Henley and Oxford are served by Class 801 trains with a battery option, it could mean that they could just join the throng of 125 mph trains going in and out of London.
  3. Battery trains would save money on electrification.

I also suspect, that the running costs of a battery train are less than those of using a bi-mode or diesel trains.

Conclusion

Hitachi seem to have the technology, whereby their A-train family can be fitted with batteries, as they have done it in Japan and their Sales Director  in the UK, has said it can be done on a Class 395 train to use the Marshlink Line.

We may not see Hitachi trains using batteries for a couple of years, but it certainly isn’t fantasy.

Great Western Railway certainly need them!

 

 

 

December 25, 2017 Posted by | Travel, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments