The Anonymous Widower

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.


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.






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.


  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.


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

Could Class 800/801 Trains Work Southeastern Highspeed Services?

Southeastern Highspeed services are run by Class 395 trains.

These trains are capable of the following.

  1. 140 mph running on HS1.
  2. Running on third-rail lines.
  3. Joining and separating in under a couple of minutes.

As the electric Class 801 trains are also members of Hitachi’s A-train family, I’m sure that they could built to a similar specification.

  • The trains are capable of 140 mph on suitable lines.
  • Rhird-rail gear can probably be easily added.
  • The joining and separating is in the specification.

So I think the answer to my question must be in the afformative.

November 10, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Regenerative Braking On A Dual-Voltage Train

Yesterday, I found this document on the Railway People website, which is entitled Regenerative Braking On The Third Rail DC Network.

Although, the document dates from 2008, it is very informative.

Regenerative Braking On 25 KVAC Trains

The document says this.

For AC stock, incoming power from the National Grid at high voltage is stepped down by a transformer. The AC power is transmitted via OHL to the trains. When the train uses regenerative braking, the motor is used as a generator, so braking the axle and producing electrical energy. The generated power is then smoothed and conditioned by the train control system, stepped up by a transformer and returned to the outside world. Just about 100% of regenerated power is put back into the UK power system.

But I have read somewhere, that you need a 25 KVAC overhead electrification system with more expensive transformers to handle the returned electricity.

Regenerative Braking On 750 VDC Trains

The document says this.

After being imported from the National Grid, the power is stepped down and then AC power is rectified to DC before being transmitted via the 3rd rail. Regenerated Power can not be inverted, so a local load is required. The power has to be used within the railway network. It cannot be exported.

So the electricity, is usually turned into heat, i there is no train nearby.

The Solution That Was Applied

The document then explains what happened.

So, until such time as ATOC started to lobby for a change, regenerative DC braking was going nowhere. But when they did start, they soon got the backing of the DfT and Network Rail. It takes a real combined effort of all organisations to challenge the limiting assumptions.

In parallel, there were rolling stock developments. The point at which all the issues started to drop away was when the Infrastructure Engineers and Bombardier, helped out by some translating consultants (Booz & Company), started to understand that new trains are really quite clever beasts. These trains do understand what voltage the 3rd rail is at, and are able, without the need to use any complicated switch gear – just using software, to decide when to regenerate into the 3rd rail or alternatively, use the rheostatic resistors that are on the train.

Effectively, the trains can sense from the voltage if the extensive third-rail network can accept any more electricity and the train behaves accordingly.

As most of the electric units with regenerative braking at the time were Bombardier Electrostars, it probably wasn’t the most difficult of tasks to update most of the trains.

Some of the Class 455 trains have recently been updated. So these are now probably compatible with the power network. Do the new traction motors and associated systems use regenerative braking?

This document on the Vossloh-Kiepe web site is entitled Vossloh Kiepe enters Production Phase for SWTs Class 455 EMU Re-Tractioning at Eastleigh Depot and describes the updating of the trains. This is said.

The new IGBT Traction System provides a regenerative braking facility that uses the traction motors as generators when the train is braking. The electrical energy generated is fed back into the 750 V third rail DC supply and offsets the electrical demands of other trains on the same network. Tests have shown that the energy consumption can be reduced by between 10 per cent and 30 per cent, depending on conditions. With the increasing cost of energy, regenerative braking will have a massive positive cost impact on the long-term viability of these trains. If the supply is non-receptive to the regenerated power, the generated power is dissipated by the rheostatic brake.

So thirty-five year old British Rail trains now have a modern energy-saving traction system.

Has The Solution Worked On The Third-Rail Network?

The Railway People document goes on to outline how they solved various issues and judging by how little there is about regenerative braking on the third-rail network, I think we can assume it works well.

One Train, Two Systems

If you have a train that has to work on both the 25 KVAC and 750 VDC networks, as Thameslink and Southeastern Highspeed trains do, the trains must be able to handle regenerative braking on both networks.

So is there a better way, than having a separate system for each voltage?

In Do Class 800/801/802 Trains Use Batteries For Regenerative Braking?, I investigated how Hitachi’s new Class 800 trains handle regenerative braking.

A document on Hitachi’s web site provides this schematic of the traction system.

Note BC which is described as battery charger.

The regenerative braking energy from the traction motors could be distributed as follows.

  • To provide power for the train’s  services through the auxiliary power supply.
  • To charge a battery.
  • It could be returned to the overhead wires.

Hitachi’s system illustrates how using a battery to handle regenerative braking could be a very efficient way of running a train.

Hitachi’s diagram also includes a generator unit or diesel power-pack, so it could obviously fit a 750 VDC supply in addition to the 25 KVAC system on the Class 800 train.

So we have now have one train, with three power sources all handled by one system.

What Has Happened Since?

As the Hitachi document dates from 2014, I suspect Hitachi have moved on.

Siemens have produced the Class 700 train for Thameslink, which is described in this Siemens data sheet.

Regenerative braking is only mentioned in this sentence.

These new trains raise energy efficiency to new levels. But energy efficiency does not stop at regenerative braking.

This is just a bland marketing statement.

Bombardier are building the first batches of their new Aventra train, with some Class 345 trains in service and Class 710 trains about to enter testing.

Nothing has been said about how the trains handle regenerative braking.

But given that Bombardier have been experimenting with battery power for some time, I wouldn’t be surprised to see batteries involved.

They call their battery technology Primove and it has its own web site.

There is also this data sheet on the Bombardier web site.

Class 387 Trains

There is another train built by Bombardier, that is worth investigating.

The Class 387 train was the last and probably most advanced Electrostar.

  • The trains have been built as dual-voltage trains.
  • The trains have regenerative braking that works on both electrification types.
  • They were built at around the time Bombardier were creating the Class 379 BEMU demonstrator.
  • The trains use a sophisticated propulsion converter system called MITRAC, which is also used in their battery trams.

On my visit to Abbey Wood station, that I wrote about in Abbey Wood Station Opens, I got talking to a Gatwick Express driver about trains, planes and stations, as one does.

From what he said, I got the impression that the Class 387/2 trains, as used on Gatwick Express, have batteries and use them to keep the train and passengers comfortable, in case of an electrification failure.

So do these trains use a battery to handle the regenerative braking?

How Big Would Batteries Need To Be On A Train For Regenerative Braking?

I asked this question in a post with the same name in November 2016 and came to this conclusion.

I have a feeling that using batteries to handle regenerative braking on a train could be a very affordable proposition.

As time goes on, with the development of energy storage technology, the concept can only get more affordable.

Bombardier make a Primove battery with a capacity of 50 kWh, which is 180 mega-Joules.

So the braking energy of what mass of train could be stored in one of these batteries?

I got these figures.

  • 100 mph – 180.14 tonnes.
  • 110 mph – 148.88 tonnes.

What is the mass of a Class 387 train?

This is not available on the Internet but the mass of each car of a similar Class 378 train averages out at 32 tonnes.

Consider these points.

  • A Class 387/2 train, has 219 seats, so if we assume each passenger and baggage weighs eighty kilograms, that adds up to 17.5 tonnes.
  • As the Class 387 trains have a maximum speed of 100  mph on third-rail electrification, it would appear that a Primove 50 kWh battery could handle the braking energy.
  • A Primove 50 battery with its controller weighs 827 Kg. according to the data sheet.

It all looks like using one of Bombardier’s Primove 50 batteries on a Class 387 train to handle the regenerative braking should be possible.

But would Bombardier’s MITRAC be able to use that battery power to drive the train in the most efficient manner? I suspect so!

If the traction layout is as I have outlined, it is not very different to the one published by Hitachi in 2014 on their web site for the Class 800 train.


Hitachi have got their traction layout right, as it can handle any number of power sources.



October 26, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 2 Comments

Class 800 Trains On The Wharncliffe Viaduct

These pictures show two Class 800 trains working as a pair crossing the Wharncliffe Viaduct.

Note Paddington is to the right.

October 25, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

The Intelligent Multi-Mode Train And Affordable Electrification

Some would say we are at a crisis point in electrification, but I would prefer to call it a crossroads, where new techniques and clever automation will bring the benefits of electric traction to many more rail lines in the UK.

Lines That Need Electric Passenger Services

I could have said lines that need to be electrified, but that is probably a different question, as some lines like the Felixstowe Branch Line need to be electrified for freight purposes, but electric passenger services can be provided without full electrification.

Lines include.

  • Ashford to Hastings.
  • Borderlands Line.
  • Caldervale Line from Preston to Leeds
  • Camp Hill Line across Birmingham.
  • Huddersfield Line from Manchester to Leeds via Huddersfield.
  • Midland Main Line from Kettering to Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield.
  • Uckfield Branch Line

There are many others, too numerous to mention.

What Is A Multi-Mode Train?

If a bi-mode train is both electric and diesel-powered, a multi-mode train will have at least three ways of moving.

The Intelligent Multi-Mode Train

The  intelligent multi-mode train in its simplest form would be an electric train with these characteristics.

  • Electric drive with regenerative braking.
  • Diesel or hydrogen power-pack.
  • Onboard energy storage to handle the energy generated by braking.
  • 25 KVAC and/or 750 VDC operation.
  • Automatic pantograph and third-rail shoe deployment.
  • Automatic power source selection.
  • The train would be designed for low energy use.
  • Driver assistance system, so the train was driven safely, economically and to the timetable.

Note the amount of automation to ease the workload for the driver and run the train efficiently.

Onboard Energy Storage

I am sure that both the current Hitachi and Bombardier trains have been designed around energy storage. Certainly, there are several quotes from Bombardier executives that say so.

The first application will be to handle regenerative braking, so that energy can be stored on the train, rather than returned to the electrification.

Onboard energy storage is also important in modern electric trains for other reasons.

  • Features like remote train wake-up can be enabled.
  • Moving the train short distances in case of power failure.
  • When Bombardier started developing the use of onboard energy storage, they stated that one reason was to reduce electrification in depots for reasons of safety.

Onboard energy storage will improve in several ways.

  • The energy density will get higher, meaning lighter and smaller storage.
  • The energy storage capacity will get higher, meaning greater range.
  • The cost of energy storage will become more affordable.
  • Energy storage will last longer before needing replacement.
  • CAF use a supercapacitor to get fast response and a  lithium-ion battery for good capacity.

We underestimate how energy storage will improve over the next few years at our peril.

Automatic Onboard Storage Management

The use of the energy storage will also be optimised for route, passenger load, performance and battery life by the trains automatic power source selection system.

Diesel Power Pack

A conventional diesel power pack to drive the train on lines without electrification.

As the train is electrically-driven, when running under diesel, regenerative braking can still be used, with the generated energy being stored onboard the train.

Hydrogen Power Pack

I believe that hydrogen could be used to generate the electricity required, as it is in some buses.

Operation Of The Multi-Mode Train

I’ve read somewhere that Greater Anglia intend to run their Class 755 trains using electricity, where electrification is available, even if it only for a short distance. This is enabled, by the ability of the train to be able to raise and lower the pantograph quickly and at line speed.

The train’s automatic power source selection will choose the most appropriate power source, from perhaps electrification, stored energy and diesel, based on route, load and the timetable.

Do Any Multi-Mode Trains Exist?

The nearest is probably the Class 800 train, which I believe uses onboard energy storage to handle regenerative braking, as I outlined in Do Class 800/801/802 Trains Use Batteries For Regenerative Braking?.

This article in RailNews is entitled Greater Anglia unveils the future with Stadler mock-up and says this.

The bi-mode Class 755s will offer three or four passenger vehicles, but will also include a short ‘power pack’ car to generate electricity when the trains are not under the wires. This vehicle will include a central aisle so that the cars on either side are not isolated. Greater Anglia said there are no plans to include batteries as a secondary back-up.

So does that mean that Class 755 trains don’t use onboard energy storage to handle regenerative braking?

At the present time, there is no bi-mode Bombardier Aventra.

But in Is A Bi-Mode Aventra A Silly Idea?, I link to an article on Christian Wolmar’s web site, which says that Bombardier are looking into a 125 mph bi-mode Aventra.

My technical brochure for the new Class 769 train, states that onboard energy storage is a possibility for that rebuild of a Class 319 train.

I don’t think it is a wild claim to say that within the next few years, a train will be launched that can run on electric, diesel and onboard stored power.

The Pause Of Electrification

Obviously, for many reasons, electrification of all railway lines is an ideal.

But there are problems.

  • Some object to electrification gantries marching across the countryside and through historic stations.
  • Network Rail seem to have a knack of delivering electrification late and over budget.
  • The cost of raising bridges and other structures can make electrification very bad value for money.

It is for these and other reasons, that the Government is having second thoughts about the direction of electrification.

Is There A Plan?

I ask this question deliberately, as nothing has been disclosed.

But I suspect that not for the first time, the rolling stock engineers and designers seem to be getting the permanent way and electrification engineers out of trouble.

As far as anybody knows, the plan seems to be to do no more electrification and use bi-mode trains that can run under both electrification and diesel-power to provide new and improved services.

Use Of Bi-Mode Trains

Taking a Liverpool to Newcastle service, this would use the electrification to Manchester, around Leeds and on the East Coast Main Line, with diesel power on the unelectrified sections.

If we take a modern bi-mode train like a Class 800 train, some features of the train will help on this route.

  • The pantograph can raise or lower as required at line speed.
  • It is probably efficient to use the pantograph for short sections of electrification.
  • Whether to use the pantograph is probably or certainly should be controlled automatically.

On this route the bi-mode will also be a great help on the fragile East Coast Main Line electrification.

Improving Bi-Mode Train Efficiency

Bi-mode trains may seem to be a solution.

However, as an electrical engineer, I believe that what we have at the moment is rather primitive compared to how the current crop of trains will develop.

Onboard Energy Storage

I said this earlier.

  • I am sure that both the current Hitachi and Bombardier trains have been designed to use energy storage.
  • CAF use a supercapacitor to get fast response and a  lithium-ion battery for good capacity.

This is an extract from the the Wikipedia entry for supercapacitor.

They typically store 10 to 100 times more energy per unit volume or mass than electrolytic capacitors, can accept and deliver charge much faster than batteries, and tolerate many more charge and discharge cycles than rechargeable batteries.

Supercapacitors are used in applications requiring many rapid charge/discharge cycles rather than long term compact energy storage: within cars, buses, trains, cranes and elevators, where they are used for regenerative braking.

Pairing them with a traditional lithium-ion battery seems to be good engineering.

The most common large lithium-ion batteries in public transport use are those in hybrid buses. In London, there are a thousand New Routemaster buses each with a 75 kWh battery.

In the past, there has have been problems with the batteries on New Routemasters and other hybrid buses, but things have improved and I suspect there is a mountain of knowledge both in the UK and worldwide on how to build a reliable, affordable and safe lithium-ion battery in the 75-100 kWh range.

As on the New Routemaster the battery is squeezed under the stairs, these batteries are not massive and I suspect one or more could easily be fitted underneath the average passenger train.

Look at this picture of a Class 321 train.

The space underneath is typical of many electrical multiple units.

How Far Could A Train Travel On Stored Energy?

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 if we take a battery from a New Routemaster bus, which is rated at 75 kWh, this would propel a five-car electric multiple unit between three and five miles.

Suppose though you put a battery of this size in every car of the train. This may seem expensive, but a typical car in a multiple unit and a double-deck bus carry about the same number of passengers.

A battery in each car would give advantages, especially in a Bombardier Aventra.

  • Most cars in an appear to be powered, so each traction motor would be close to a battery, which must reduce electrical transmission losses and ease regenerative braking.
  • Each car would have its own power supply, in case the main supply failed.
  • The weight of the batteries is spread along the train.

If you take any Aventra, with a 75 kWh battery in each car, using Ian’s figures, they would be able to run between fifteen and twenty-five miles on battery power alone.

Quotes by Bombardier executives of a fifty mile range don’t look so fanciful.

What Onboard Energy Storage Capacity Would Be Needed For Fifty Miles?

This article in Rail Engineer, which is entitled An Exciting New Aventra, quotes Jon Shaw of Bombardier on onboard energy storage.

As part of these discussions, another need was identified. Aventra will be an electric train, but how would it serve stations set off the electrified network? Would a diesel version be needed as well?

So plans were made for an Aventra that could run away from the wires, using batteries or other forms of energy storage. “We call it an independently powered EMU, but it’s effectively an EMU that you could put the pantograph down and it will run on the energy storage to a point say 50 miles away. There it can recharge by putting the pantograph back up briefly in a terminus before it comes back.

What onboard energy storage capacity would be needed for the quoted fifty miles?

I will use these parameters.

  • Ian Walmsley said a modern EMU consumes between 3 and 5 kWh for each vehicle mile.
  • All vehicles are powered and there is one battery per vehicle.

This will result in the following battery sizes for different EMU consumption rates.

  • 3 kWh/vehicle-mile – 150 kWh
  • 4 kWh/vehicle-mile – 200 kWh
  • 5 kWh/vehicle-mile – 250 kWh

These figures show that to get a smaller size of battery, you need a very energy-efficient train. At least lighting, air-conditioning and other electrical equipment is getting more efficient.

The 379 IPEMU Experiment On The Mayflower Line

In 2015, I rode the battery-powered Class 379 train on the 11.2 mile long Mayflower Line.

I was told by the engineer monitoring the train on a laptop, that they generally went to Harwich using the overhead electrification, charging the battery and then returned on battery power.

Ian Walmsley in his Modern Railways article says that the batteries on that train had a capacity of 500 kWh.

This works out at just over 11 kWh per vehicle per mile.

Considering this was an experiment conducted on a scheduled passenger service, it fits well with the conssumption quoted in Ian Walmsley’s article.

Crossrail’s Emergency Power

If you look at Crossrail’s Class 345 trains, they are nine cars, with a formation of


All the Ms mean that eight cars are motored.

Suppose each of the motored cars have a battery of 75 kWh.

  • This means a total installed battery size of 600 kWh.
  • Suppose the nine-car train needs Ian’s Walmsley’s high value of 5 kWh per vehicle mile to proceed through Crossrail.
  • Thus 45 kWh will be needed to move the train for a mile.
  • Dividing this into the battery capacity gives the range of 13.3 miles.

If this were Crossrail’s emergency range on stored energy, it would be more than enough to move the train to the next station or place of safety in case of a complete power failure.

Trains Suitable For Onboard Energy Storage

I have a feeling that for any train to run efficiently with batteries, there needs to be a lot of powered axles and batteries distributed along the train.

Aventras certainly have a lot of powered axles and I think Hitachi trains are similar.

Perhaps this explains, why after the successful trial of battery technology on a Class 379 train, it has not been retrofitted to any other Electrostars.

There might not be enough powered axles!

Topping Up The Onboard Energy Storage

There are three main ways to top up the onboard energy storage.

  • From regenerative braking.
  • From the diesel or hydrogen powerpack.
  • From the electrification, where it is available.

The latter is probably the most efficient and is ideal, where a route is partly electrified.

Affordable Electrification

Although the Government has said that there will be no more electrification, I think there will be selective affordable electrification to improve the efficiency of multi-mode trains.

Why Is Electrification Often Late And Over Budget?

The reasons I have found or been told are varied.

  • Electrification seems regularly to hit unexpected infrastructure like sewers and cables on older routes.
  • There have been examples of poor engineering.
  • There is a large amount of Victorian infrastructure like bridges and stations that need to be rebuilt.
  • There is a certain amount of opposition from the Heritage lobby.
  • Connecting the electrification to the National Grid can be a large cost.

My experience in Project Management, also leads me to believe that although Network Rail seems to plan large station and track projects well, they tend to get in rather a mess with large electrification projects.

Electrification Of New Track

It may only be a personal feeling, but where new track has been laid and it is electrified Network Rail don’t seem to have the same level of problems.

These projects are generally smaller, but also I suspect the track-bed has been well-surveyed and well-built, to give a good foundation for the electrification.

It was interesting to note a few weeks ago at Blackpool, where they are electrifying the line, that Network Rail appeared to be relaying all of the track as well.

I know they were also re-signalling the area, but have Network Rail decided that the best way to electrify the line was a complete rebuild?

Short Lengths Of New Electrification

Short lengths of new electrification could make all the difference on routes using multi-mode trains with onboard energy storage.

As a simple example, I’ll take the Felixstowe Branch Line, that I know well. Ipswwich to Felixstowe is about sixteen miles, which is probably too far for a train running on onboard energy storage. But there are places, where short lengths of electrification would be beneficial to both the Class 755 trains and trains with onboard energy storage.

  • Ipswich to Westerfield
  • On the section of double-track to be built in 2019.
  • Felixstowe station

There is also the large number of diesel-hauled freight trains passing through the area, quite a few of which change to and from electric haulage at Ipswich.

So would some selective short lengths of electrification enable the route to be run by trains using onboard energy storage?

Electrification Of Tunnels

Over the last few years, there has been some very successful electrification of tunnels like the seven kilometre long Severn Tunnel. This is said about the problems of electrification in Wikipedia.

As part of the 21st-century modernisation of the Great Western Main Line, the tunnel was prepared for electrification. It has good clearances and was relatively easy to electrify, although due to its age, the seepage of water from above in some areas provided an engineering challenge. The options of using either normal tunnel electrification equipment or a covered solid beam technology were considered and the decision was made to use a solid beam. Over the length of the tunnel, an aluminium conductor rail holds the copper cable, which is not under tension. A six-week closure of the tunnel started on 12 September 2016. During that time, alternative means of travel were either a longer train journey via Gloucester, or a bus service between Severn Tunnel Junction and Bristol Parkway stations. Also during that time, and possibly later, there were direct flights between Cardiff and London City Airport. The tunnel was reopened on 22 October 2016.

It appears to have been a challenging but successful project.

This type of solid beam electrification has been used successfully by Crossrail and Chris Gibb has suggested using overhead beam to electrify the three tunnels on the Uckfield Branch Line.

In the North of England, there are quite a few long tunnels.

Could these become islands of electrification to both speed the trains and charge the onbosrd energy storage?

Third-Rail Electrification Of Stations

Ian Walmsley in his Modern Railways article proposes using third rail electrification at Uckfield station to charge the onboard energy storage of the trains. He also says this.

This would need only one substation and the third rail could energise only when there is a train on it, like a Bordeaux tram, hence minimal safety risk.

There needs to be some serious thought about how you create a safe, affordable installation for a station.

I also feel there is no need to limit the use of short lengths of third-rail electrification to terminal stations. On the Uckfield Branch, some stations are very rural, but others are in centres of population and/or industry, where electricity to power a short length of third-rail might be available.

Overhead Beams In Stations

This picture shows the Seville trams, which use an overhead beam at stops to charge their onboard energy storage.

Surely devices like these can be used in selective stations, like Hull, Scarborough and Uckfield.

Third-Rail Electrification On Bridges And Viaducts

Some bridges and high rail viaducts like the Chappel Viaduct on the Gainsborough Line, present unique electrification problems.

  • It is Grade II Listed.
  • Would overhead electrification gantries be welcomed by the heritage lobby?
  • It is 23 metres high.
  • Would this height present severe Health and Safety problems for work on the line?
  • The viaduct is 320 metres long.

Could structures like this be electrified using third-rail methods?

  • The technology is proven.
  • As in stations, it could only be switched on when needed.
  • The electrification would not be generally visible.

The only minor disadvantage is that dual-voltage trains would be needed. But most trains destined for the UK market are designed to work on both systems.

Getting Power To Short Lengths Of Electrification

One thing that is probably needed is innovation in powering these short sections of electrification.


There are a very large number of techniques that can enable a multi-mode train to roam freely over large parts of the UK.

It is also a team effort, with every design element of the train, track, signalling and stations contributing to an efficient low-energy train, that is not too heavy.













October 7, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Is Existing UK Electrification Up To Scratch?

I ask this question after a very delayed rail journey from Leeds to London after the football yesterday.

I left Leeds on the 19:15 and all went well until between Grantham and Peterborough the train ground to a halt.

The driver informed us, that the previous train had had a pantograph failure and had brought the overhead wires down.

So we were stuck.

Free water was offered and I took a carrier bag to the buffet and looted half-a-dozen bottles for myself and a few fellow travellers.

But we waited and waited as the the train awaited a tow from a diesel locomotive.

Eventually, one arrived and it towed us to Peterborough, where the train started on its own power to London on the unaffected electrification.

We finally arrived at 02:10 at Kings Cross or four and a half hours behind schedule.

Virgin were rounding up taxis for everyone at Kings |Cross. But the length of queue was such, I came home using that lady of the night;Victoria and a 277 bus.

But consider other facts from last night.

  • At least four Southbound trains were delayed upwards of four hours.
  • Some Northbound trains, got no further than Peterborough.
  • Virgin probably had to make arrangements for large number of disgruntled passengers.
  • Taxis appeared to be in short supply.
  • The train ran out of snacks.

I also think from comments from friends, that problems with the overhead wires are not uncommon.

This article in Rail Magazine is entitled MPs Debate Reliability Of ECML Wiring. This is a paragraph.

Maskell had asked: “We already know that there is six times higher spend in the South than in the North on rail and transport infrastructure, but we also seem to have an east-west divide in rail – the East Coast route has received £3 billion less than that of the West. Will the Government bring forward their funding to upgrade the East Coast Main Line infrastructure, since the passenger performance measure is now at 25.1% because of overhead line failure?”

Rachel Maskell is MP for York Central.

It would appear that the electrification needs to be made more robust and improved in reliability.

East Coast Main Line Power Supply Upgrade

This page on the VolkerRail web site describes a project called East Coast the Main Line Power Supply Upgrade, which has the following project scope.

The Rail Electrification Alliance (REAL) is responsible for the delivery of Network Rail’s East Coast Main Line Power Supply Upgrade Project. The alliance, comprising of Network Rail, VolkerRail, Siemens, J Murphy and Sons, Jacobs and TSP, will construct new substations, install over 600km of new cabling and renew overhead line equipment (OLE) and structures over 246km of the ECML, from Wood Green in London to Bawtry near Doncaster.

The new power supply upgrade (PSU) is in direct support of the InterCity Express Programme, providing an enhanced traction power supply to enable the introduction of the new faster, more environmentally friendly Class 800 and 801 trains at the end of 2018, providing an improved service for passengers. The improvements will also reduce the amount of maintenance required for OLE.

Hopefully, this will reduce the likelihood of incidents like yesterday’s!

How Will The Class 800 and Class 801 Trains Deal With Line Problems?

In Do Class 800/801/802 Trains Use Batteries For Regenerative Braking?, I looked at the electrical systems of how Class 800 and Class 801 trains and how they would cope with various problems, based on  this document on the Hitachi Rail web site, which is entitled Development of Class 800/801 High-speed Rolling Stock for UK Intercity Express Programme.

I found the following.

All Class 801 Trains Have At Least One Generator Unit

All Class 801 trains have at least one generator unit, so it can obviously provide hotel power and probably enough power to limp to the next station, in case of overhead line failure.

So if yesterday’s problem hit and the line was not physically blocked the electric Class 801 train could move to the next station or perhaps cross to an unaffected line.

The Class 800 train would just continue on its onbopard diesel power.

Locomotive Haulage Is Possible

So a rescue similar to yesteday’s is possible.

Automatic Coupling And Uncoupling

This is definitely in line with Class 395 train performance.

Automatic Train Identification Function

This is said in the Hitachi document.

To simplify the rearrangement and management of train configurations, functions are provided for identifying the train (Class 800/801), for automatically determining the cars in the trainset and its total length, and for coupling and uncoupling up to 12 cars in
normal and 24 cars in rescue or emergency mode.

I suspect most modern trains can do this.

One Twelve-Car Train Can Rescue Another

That would have been very useful yesterday.


The design of the new Class 800 and Class 801 trains will probably help in the coping with some of the problems on the East Coast Main Line and any other routes on which they operate.

I suspect there is already a lot of provision of crossovers for trains to cross between slow and fast lines and also to allow trains to run bi-directionally to get around various problems.



September 23, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

The Pressure For More Rail Electrification

Over the last few days, there have been several articles on the media pushing for more electrification.

This article in Rail Technology Magazine, which is entitled TfGM To Fight Corner For Full TransPennine Electrification.

This article in the Carlisle Times and Star, which is entitled Campaigners Urge Backtrack On Axed Electric Rail Projects.

This article in the Times, which is entitled New Oxford-Cambridge Rail Route Must Rely On Diesel Trains.

This article in the Nottingham Post, which is entitled Strong Condemnation Of Government Plan To Abandon Rail Electrification.

I feel that electric trains are the future, but like members of the current Government, I feel that we need an alternative approach to creating a modern railway network in the UK.

What Do Passengers Want?

Passengers in general want a comprehensive rail service, that is affordable, reliable, fast and frequent and gives them good comfort and service on trains and at their terminal stations.

What Do Train Operating Companies Want?

Train companies need and want to make profits.

Judging by the latest franchise awards to Northern, TransPennine Express, Greater Anglia, South Western Railway and West Midlands Trains, part of their philosophy to achieve this is to buy fleets of new trains to replace old ones, with the following characteristics.

  1. More carriages and increased capacity.
  2. Higher speed and performance.
  3. Power and USB points, wi-fi and 4G connectivity.
  4. Easier entrance and exit.
  5. Better facilities for persons of reduced mobility.
  6. Shorter dwell times at stations.
  7. Better driver assistance systems.

The best way to pay for these trains and make a profit is to fill them with happy passengers.

So Where Does Electrification Give Advantages?

In summarising what passengers and train companies want, I didn’t mention electrification, although electric trains do give advantages to both groups.

  • It must be easy to fit electrical equipment into an electric train.
  • Electric trains accelerate faster.
  • Electric trains can be fitted with regenerative braking to save energy

Electrification is not needed in all cases as electricity for the train can be provided by diesel or hydrogen-powered generators or some form of onboard energy storage can be used.

Why Are So Many Elecification Schemes In The UK Over Budget And Late?

With my experience of writing Project Management software and talking about it with numerous Project Managers all over the world, I suspect the following about electrifying an existing railway in the UK.

  • The drawings and documentation for some of the existing lines which go back well over a hundred years is questionable.
  • Politicians put undue pressure to keep costs down and corners are cut.
  • The scope of the project changes as it progresses.
  • Those against the electrification have lots of routes to delay the project.
  • We don’t have enough engineers or qualified personnel to do the work.
  • Often work is on constricted sites and the locals get annoyed.

I’m coming to the conclusion, that electrification is one of the most difficult of projects.

I do feel though there is hope for the future judged on what happened at Waterloo during August.

The Future Of Road Transport

We are seeing more and more electric and hybrid vehicles on the roads and this article in the Guardian, says that Britain will ban the sale of all diesel and petrol cars by 2040.

For this to happen, there needs to be a vast improvement in the efficiency and size of energy storage systems.

A few years ago, if you’d fitted solar panels to your house, your neighbours would have laughed at you. Now they don’t as technology has improved the performance of solar panels, just like it will improve energy storage in the next few years.

What Will Improved Energy Storage Mean For Trains?

The first trains with onboard energy storage are starting to appear on the UK’s railways.

Class 800 trains – Intercity Express Programme

This document on the Hitachi Rail web site, which is entitled Development of Class 800/801 High-speed Rolling Stock for UK Intercity Express Programme.


The document provides this schematic of the traction system of a Class 800 train.

Note BC which is described as battery charger.

This is said in the text.

The system can select the appropriate power source from either the main transformer or the GUs. Also, the size and weight of the system were minimized by designing the power supply converter to be able to work with both power sources. To ensure that the Class 800 and 801 are able to adapt to future changes in operating practices, they both have the same traction system and the rolling stock can be operated as either class by simply adding or removing GUs. On the Class 800, which is intended to run on both electrified and non-electrified track, each traction system has its own GU. On the other hand, the Class 801 is designed only for electrified lines and has one or two GUs depending on the length of the trainset (one GU for trainsets of five to nine cars, two GUs for trainsets of 10 to 12 cars). These GUs supply emergency traction power and auxiliary power in the event of a power outage on the catenary, and as an auxiliary power supply on non-electrified lines where the Class 801 is in service and pulled by a locomotive. This allows the Class 801 to operate on lines it would otherwise not be able to use and provides a backup in the event of a catenary power outage or other problem on the ground systems as well as non-electrified routes in loco-hauled mode.

Note that GU refers to Generator Unit, which in these trains are diesel-powered.

This is all very comprehensive, but if you look at how the braking system of the trains work and if it uses regenerative braking, you won’t find anything on the web.

But note how the four traction motors in the diagram are connected to the system. When they are in braking mode, what happens to the electricity?

  1. It is returned to the overhead wires. Difficult when using GUs on lines without electrification.
  2. It is passed to resistors on the roof of the train and burnt off as heat.
  3. It is stored in some form of onboard energy storage, so it can be reused later.

I feel that Hitachi are using Option 3, as it would work in both modes of the train and would save a lot of energy.

Note that in the above extract from the Hitachi document, the company states that the electric Class 801 trains have at least one GU to provide auxiliary and traction power in the event of catenary failure.

It looks like the only difference between the Class 800 and Class 801 trains, is that the Class 800 trains have more GUs.

Could this explain why Hitachi seem to be doing all their testing with Class 800 trains, as the differences between the two trains are minimal?

If the Class 800 works, then the Class 801 will!

Hitachi are also testing the Class 802 trains, but then these are built in Italy, have more powerful engines and bigger fuel tanks.

Bombardier Aventras

Bombardier have been developing battery technology for some years and as I described in Is The Battery Electric Multiple Unit (BEMU) A Big Innovation In Train Design?, I rode in the prototype converted from a Class 379 train in February 2015.

I believe that the Class 345 trains are fitted with onboard energy storage for the following reasons.

  • Onboard energy storage is the logical way to handle regenerative braking in tunnels.
  • Onboard energy storage means that each train reuses its own braking energy and draws less current from the electrification.
  • Onboard energy storage is the only way to move a train to a safe place, when the Russians or North Koreans hack the power suppky.
  • Some of the features announced for Aventras, like remote wakeup as I discussed in Do Bombardier Aventras Have Remote Wake-Up?, need onboard energy storage.
  • Bombardier have won awards for the technology.

Until Bombardier say otherwise, I’ll assume that Aventras like the Class 345 trains have onboard energy storage.

Overhead Power In Long Tunnels

It should also be noted that the overhead power supply in the Crossrail tunnels is a rail fed with power at both ends, as incidentally is the Severn Tunnel.

Could it be that money could have been saved on the electrification of these tunnels as all electric trains using them; IEPs and Aventras, can handle their own regenerative braking energy?

The Effect Of Large Onboard Energy Storage On Trains and Trams

There is a big difference between adding weight to a pneumatic-tyred vehicle like a car or truck, and adding weight to that of a steel-wheel-on-steel-rail vehicle like a train or tram.

With the former, the rolling resistance is increased, which means more power is needed to move the vehicle, but with the latter, surprisingly, the reverse is true.

This allows locomotives to pull iron ore, coal and stone trains carrying hundreds of tonnes.

So adding a heavy energy storage device under a train may not be as detrimental to performance as you may think.

I suspect Bombardier, Hitachi and others have determined the optimal size of storage device for their trains.

I believe the following,  if an appropriately-sized online storage device is fitted to a train.

  • It will be able to handle all the regenerative braking energy.
  • It will give the train a range of up to fifty kilometres on stored energy.

Without doubt, all trains driven by electricity and having regenerative braking will use onboard energy storage.

This applies even if their main power source is not electricity, but perhaps diesel, hydrogen or extra-strong knicker elastic!

Discontinuous Electrification

Modern trains like Aventras and Hitachi Class 80x trains have another ability.

They can raise and lower their pantographs under GPS control, so that they only connect with the electrification, when it is there.

They can also do it at line speed.

This raises the possibility of discontinuous electrification, where the easy-to-electrify sections have wires and the difficult bits are run using either diesel, hydrogen or onboard storage power.

An example would be between Batley and Morley stations on the Huddersfield Line, between which is the Morley Tunnel.

  • The tunnel is four kilometres long and hopefully could be electrified using a conductor rail in the tunnel roof.
  • Morley station is hard by the Northern portal of the tunnel.
  • The line from Morley to the electrification at Leeds doesn’t appear to have any serious bridges to replace and the double-track line has wide margins.
  • Batley, Morley and Cottingley stations are all stations with platforms either side of the track and could probably have the gantries on the platform.

Would it be possible to electrify short sections of line like this and let the trains and the driver decide to use onboard or overhead power?

The TransPennine Route

I will look at the TransPennine route in detail.

Mainly Electrically-Driven Trains

Looking at the various trains on TransPennine routes, we see the following ways of driving the trains and locomotives.

The last three trains and all the locomotives in this list are electrically driven, where on-board diesel engines generate electricity to power the train.

In addition the Class 802 trains and the Class 88 locomotives are bi-mode and can use electrification to power the trains directly, if it is available.

So a Liverpool to Newcastle service using Class 802 trains or Class 88 locomotives and Mark 5 carriages could use the overhead electrification on the following sections of track.

  • From Liverpool to Stalybridge via Manchester Victoria
  • Through Leeds
  • On the East Coast Main Line

Electrifying between Leeds and the East Coast Main Line would seem to be a lot easier than that between Leeds and Manchester, so I suspect that there is some seriously difficulty that has prevented it being done already, as it would allow Kings Cross to Edinburgh services to stop at Leeds, if that was desired.

Improving The Current Service

Currently Liverpool Lime Street to Newcastle takes three hours and three minutes, with the following sectional times.

  • Liverpool to Manchester Victoria – 39 minutes
  • Manchester Victoria to Huddersfield – 30 minutes
  • Huddersfield to Leeds – 22 minutes
  • Leeds to York – 25 minutes
  • York to Newcastle – 67 minutes

Some places to save times are apparent.

  • Liverpool to Manchester Victoria could be speeded up by a couple of minutes, after the addition of the fourth track at Huyton.
  • According to the time table, most dwell times are reasonable, but nine minutes is allowed at Manchester Victoria.
  • Manchester Victoria to Stalybridge is being electrified.
  • Virgin’s fastest trains take 56 minutes between York and Newcastle, so I would assume that a TransPennine Class 802 train could match this.
  • If Leeds to York were to be electrified, I would think that the same percentage decrease in journey time could be expected, which would give a Leeds to York time of 21 minutes.

Could we see the following times on the route?

  • Liverpool to Manchester Victoria – 30 minutes
  • Manchester Victoria to Huddersfield – 28 minutes
  • Huddersfield to Leeds – 22 minutes
  • Leeds to York – 21 minutes
  • York to Newcastle – 56 minutes

This gives a timing of 157 minutes, which is a saving of twenty-three minutes.

Is The Track Up To It?

Under Timings And Line Speeds in the Wikipedia entry for Liverpool and Manchester Lines, this is said.

As of 2016, the fastest journey times are around half an hour, which is little better than over a century earlier. The fastest recorded run was from Manchester Exchange to Liverpool Lime St in 30 minutes 46 seconds by a 1936 built Jubilee 5707 with 7 coaches. An 1882-built compound steam locomotive was timed on the same route in 38 minutes 18 seconds. Until 1968 trains from Liverpool to Manchester by all 3 routes were scheduled to take 40 minutes and often took less. The southern route via Warrington is now restricted to 85 mph and the northern route via Earlestown to 90 mph, with 75 mph over Chat Moss.

Work is under way to four-track the line between Huyton and Roby which is scheduled for completion in December 2017.

Surely, Twenty-First Century engineering can sort out Stephenson‘s problems of nearly two centuries ago!

If it’s like this between Liverpool and Manchester on a fully-electrified line, what’s it like between Manchester and Leeds?

I believe that modern engineering should be able to create a 100 mph route between Liverpool and Leeds.

Are The Other Trains Slowing The Expresses?

Northern run an assortment of trains between Liverpool and Leeds via Manchester Victoria.

Between Liverpool and Manchester Victoria are all the services timed for and run by 100 mph Class 319 trains, or do some of the assortment of 75 mph trains share the route? If it’s the latter then they will delay the expresses.

Between Manchester Victoria and Hudderfield, I’m sure that slower trains are on the route.

Help is at hand as Northern have ordered fifty-five Class 195 trains, which have a 100 mph capability.

Should Stalybridge To Leeds Be Electrified?

Only when slow trains have been eliminated and the track has been improved to allow 100 mph running between Liverpool and Leeds should we answer this question!

Using rough estimates, I feel we might see the following timings with a Class 802 train.

  • Liverpool to Manchester Victoria – 26 minutes
  • Manchester Victoria to Huddersfield – 21 minutes
  • Huddersfield to Leeds – 16 minutes
  • Leeds to York – 21 minutes
  • York to Newcastle – 56 minutes

This gives a timing of 140 minutes, which is a saving of forty-three minutes on the current times.

Improving Leeds To Newcastle

The Class 802 trains are stated in Wikipedia as being capable of running at 140 mph with minor modifications.

How many minutes would this take off the journey, if this were to be possible?


There are a lot of things to do before the decision to electrify Stalybridge to Leeds is taken.

  • Sort the track for at least 100 mph running.
  • Remove all passenger trains not capable of 100 mph from the line.
  • Perhaps add some passing loops.
  • Electrify Leeds to Colton Junction.
  • Remove all level crossings.
  • Raise all bridges and other structures, so that electrification is possible.
  • Get the planning permission for electrifying the sensitive areas.

Hopefully these actions in themselves would deliver a time of under forty minutes between Manchester and Leeds.

That would be a spoonful of sugar for the passengers and the train operating companies.

Any attempt to electrify without doing all of these actions before the decision to electrify is taken, will result in the sort of mess seen in some of the electrification schemes of the last few years.

The East West Rail Link

I will look at the East West Rail Link in detail.

Linking To Electrified Lines

The East West Rail Link joins or crosses the following electrified lines.

  • The Great Western Main Line at Didcot
  • The West Coast Main Line at Bletchley
  • The Midland Main Line at Bedford
  • The East Coast Main Line at Sandy
  • The West Anglia Main Line at Cambridge

As connecting the National Grid to electrification is a major cost, if the line were to be electrified, then there are several places to connect at a cheaper cost.

Building For Electrification

The instructions from the Department for Transport seem to have stated the following.

  • The line will be double track.
  • The line will have an operating speed of at least 100 mph or possibly 125 mph.
  • All bridges and structures, will be built to accommodate overhead electrification.

I wonder if the specification suggests preparing the margins of the route, so putting up overhead gantries wouldn’t be a case of digging and hitting important cables or pipes.

Electrification of new lines like the East London Line, Crossrail and the Hitchin Flyover seem to have proceeded much smoother than schemes like the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.

Trains For The East-West Rail Link

The proposed services include.

  • Oxford to Bedford
  • Bletchley to Bedford
  • Oxford to Milton Keynes Central
  • Aylesbury to Milton Keynes Central.

I have also seen suggestions that the trains terminate at Reading.

The trains will need the following.

  • A 100 mph capability to make good use of the route.
  • Ability to use overhead electrification to get to Bedford, Milton Keynes Central and Reading.
  • Ability to use diesel to use the Chiltern routes to Aylesbury and Marylebone.

To meet all these requirements, it would appear bi-mode trains like a Class 800 train are needed.

Should The East-West Rail Link Be Electrified?


  • The trains chosen for the route will be bi-mode and so the line doesn’t need to be electrified.
  • Freight trains using the route would be hauled by a diesel locomotive or possibly a bi-mode locomotive like a Class 88 locomotive.

However, if at a future date, all or part of the electrification were to be deemed needed, if the line had been built with electrification in mind, putting up the wires would be a lot easier than on the TransPennine route.


I have come to these conclusions from these two examples.

  • The bi-mode route allows a lot of flexibility and means that electrification with all its problems can be done when it is really necessary.
  • The bi-mode route, also means that passengers get the benefits of modern,  faster and more frequent trains at an earlier date.
  • Electrification of a new line is easier than electrifying an old Victorian one.
  • All new or reopened lines should be built to allow electrification at a future date.

Don’t underestimate the ingenuity of railway engineers to make a more comprehensive railway powered by electricity possible.

September 10, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Automatic Splitting And Joining Of Trains

Hitachi And Automatic Splitting And Joining Of Trains

The Hitachi Class 395 train was the first train in the UK  to be able to automatically split and join in service.

In The Impressive Coupling And Uncoupling Of Class 395 Trains, I linked to this video.

Impressive isn’t it?

In Do Class 800/801/802 Trains Use Batteries For Regenerative Braking?, I quoted this comment from a public on-line Hitachi document.

Because the coupling or uncoupling of cars in a trainset occurs during commercial service at an intermediate station, the automatic coupling device is able to perform this operation in less than 2 minutes.

This is definitely in line with Class 395 train performance.

This document from the Hitachi web site talks about the design of Hitachi’s Class 385 trains for Scotland. This is said.

The lead and rear railcars have an automatic coupler at the front and walk-through gangway hoods. When train sets are coupled together, the hoods fit together as part of the automatic coupling operation to provide access between train sets, meaning that passengers and staff are able to move freely from one train set to another.

Obviously, Hitachi have got automatic splitting and joining of trains spot on!

Current Split/Join Services

There are several places in the UK network, where splitting and joining of trains is used.

  •  Southeastern Highspeed do it at Ashford.
  • Great Northern Kings Lynn do it at Cambridge.
  • Southern do it at Haywards Heath.
  • Virgin Trains do it at Crewe.
  • South West Trains do it at Southampton.

But currently only the Class 395 trains can do it automatically.

The in-service entry of the Class 800 trains will change everything, as it will make a lot more new routes possible.

Virgin Trains East Coast

Currently, Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC) run two trains per hour (tph) between Kings Cross and Leeds. In the Peak, some services are extended to Bradford Forster Square, Skipton and Harrogate, where the last route is not electrified.

Will some services to Leeds be run by two five-car Class 800/801 trains working together as a ten-car train?

  • Class 800 trains are electro-diesel which could work to Harrogate under diesel power.
  • Class 801 trains are all-electric, which could work all electrified routes from Leeds.

At Leeds the two trains could separate, with each train going to a different destination. Reading Hitachi’s published documents, the split would take under two minutes at Leeds and I don’t think there would be a restriction of a Class 800 and a Class 801 working together between Kings Cross and Leeds using the overhead electrification.

VTEC gets advantages by using this split and join approach.

  • Frequencies and train length to the eventual destinations can be adjusted to what the market will sustain.
  • Extra expensive train paths between the split/join station and London are not needed.
  • Between the split/join station and London, the train can usually run using electrification.
  • Costs are probably saved, if only a half-train is run to some destinations, as track access charges are based on weight.
  • A five-car electro-diesel could probably access more routes than a nine-car train.

This is the fleet that VTEC have ordered.

  • Class 800 – 10 x five-car
  • Class 800 – 13 x nine-car
  • Class 801 – 12 x five-car
  • Class 801 – 30 x nine-car

These Class 800 and Class 801 trains give VTEC all sorts of of possibilities.

The backbone of the service which is a half-hourly service to Edinburgh probably needs about 35 nine-car trains, some of which would be electro-diesels to work North of the electrification to Aberdeen and Inverness.

But that still leaves quite a few five-car trains available for other services.

Great Western Railway

Great Western Railway (GWR) will probably use their Class 800/801802 trains in a similar manner.

This is the fleet that GWR have ordered.

  • Class 800 – 36 x five-car
  • Class 800 – 21 x nine-car
  • Class 802 – 22 x five-car
  • Class 802 – 14 x nine-car

Note that the electro-diesel Class 802 train is similar to the Class 800, but with the engines tuned for more power and larger fuel tanks, so it can handle Devon and Cornwall routes easier.

I think that given the number of five-car trains on order and the lack of promised electrification, I think that GWR will be using splitting and joining  in some surprising places, to make sure that as many routes as possible get the new trains.

The Stadler Flirt

This article on Railway Technology describes the Stadler Flirts built for Swiss Federal Railways. This is said.

The train consists of articulated train sets, which contains light rail cars attached semi-permanently sharing a common bogie. The trains are available in two to six car combinations with two to six motorised axles. The automatic couplers, installed at both the ends of the trains, permit connection and disconnection of up to four train cars easily and quickly.

Does this mean that two trains can split and join like the Hitachi trains?

The Bombardier Aventra

The Aventra is a train that has been designed to have everything that customers might need. This is the description of the train in Wikipedia.

The train has been designed to be lighter and more efficient, with increased reliability. It will have lightweight all-welded bodies, wide gangways and doors to shorten boarding times in stations, and ERTMS. The design incorporates FlexxEco bogies which have been used in service on Voyagers and newer Turbostars. The gangway is designed to allow maximum use of the interior space and ease of movement throughout the train.

As Hitachi have published a lot of their thinking on Class 800/801 trains on the Internet, I would find it astounding that Bombardier and the other train building companies haven’t read it.

There have been four orders for the Aventras so far, which total over two thousand carriages.

Two of these orders are for mixed fleets of five-car and ten-car trains.

Are these trains and half-trains just like with the Hitachi trains?

If the answer is in the affirmative, I think it is very likely that Aventras will have the capability of splitting and joining automatically.

Greater Anglia

Greater Anglia has a complex route structure that fans out from a very busy electrified core into Liverpool Street on both their main lines.

They have ordered 89 x five-car and 22 x ten-car of Class 720 trains.

Many of their outer-suburban routes currently run twelve-car services and as their two main lines are only double-track, I can see a lot of five car trains working in pairs.

In Harlow Council Leader Jon Clempner Hopes Crossrail 2 Will Extend To Town, I suggested that Greater Anglia might use splitting and joining on the West Anglia Main Line to get four tph on the Hertford East Branch.

It may not be practical in that case, but Greater Anglia have several electrified branches.

South Western Railway

South Western Railway have a similar route structure to Greater Anglia, with a very busy electrified core into Waterloo.

They have ordered 30 x five-car and 60 x ten-car of Aventra trains.

In Waterloo Upgrade August 2017 – Virginia Water Station, I talked about used splitting and joining to provide a better service on the Waterloo to Reading Line and the Chertsey Branch.

However, I think that most services will be run by ten-car trains given the make-up of the fleet.

The five-cars could generally run on routes where the capacity only needs five-car trains or the infrastructure wouldn’t allow anything longer.

They could then split and join to maximise the capacity and use only one path from the split/join station to Waterloo.







August 6, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

TransPennine Electrification And Piccadilly Upgrade Now Also In Doubt

The title of this post is the same as this article in Rail Technology Magazine.

A Digression About The Next Generation Of Trains

After digging through the various pages on Hitachi’s web site, I wrote Do Class 800/801/802 Trains Use Batteries For Regenerative Braking?.

My conclusion was this.

I will be very surprised if Class 800/801/802 trains don’t have batteries.

Will the Class 385 trains for ScotRail have similar traction system?

But having thought about it more, I’m now convinced that by 2030, the average long distance train will have the following characteristics.

  • Ability to work from 25 KVAC overhead wires.
  • Ability if required to work from 750 VDC third rail.
  • Ability to raise and lower pantograph and switch beween modes at line speed.
  • Batteries to handle regenerative braking.
  • A generator unit to power the train.
  • A sophisticated control system to choose the appropriate power source and drive the train according to terrain, passenger load, weather and traffic.

The more I read about Hitachi’s Class 800, Class 801 and Class 802 trains, the more I’m convinced that the features I have listed, is their ultimate goal. I suspect too, that the suburban Class 385 train has the capability of meeting the same objectives.

I would be very surprised if Alstom, Bombardier, CAF, Siemens, Stadler and others are not thinking along the same lines, as this document from Hitachi entitled Development of Class 800/801 High-speed Rolling Stock for UK Intercity Express Programme has been freely available since 2014.

It contains this diagram of the traction system of a Class 800 train.

Note the generator unit and the battery charger.

I’ve ridden the new Class 345 trains for Crossrail, a few times and after a trip yesterday in the gold-standard train;a 1970s  British Rail Mark 3 coach, I can honestly say that the ride, noise and vibration in ombardier’s new train, is the best I’ve ridden.

So are Bombardier using a new traction system to achieve this smoothness? I suspect they are.

I also can’t find anything to say how a train will be removed from the tunnel under London, in the event of a complete power failure. No sane engineer would allow a rescue involving diesel or hydrogen in an emergency. However, batteries on the train with the capability of getting passengers to a safe disembarking point would be an obvious solution..

TransPennine Electrification

The major rail route across the Pennines between Leeds and Manchester is the Huddersfield Line.

The following stations are open on the route.

The stations marked with asterisks (*) have electrification or will do soon.

Note the following about the route.

  • Stalybridge to Leeds is under forty miles by road, so it could be even shorter by rail.
  • Huddersfield station is one of a select group of Grade I Listed railway stations..
  • Greater Manchester is developing a suburban electric network.
  • Greenfield is the last station in Greater Manchester towards Leeds.
  • Leeds is developing a suburban electric network.
  • Cottingley is the last station in Leeds towards Manchester.
  • Currently, trains from Manchester Piccadilly to Leeds can take a diferent route to Stalybridge, that is electrified as far as Guide Bridge station.
  • I counted four tunnels, including Standedge tunnel, and over twenty bridges between Stalybridge and Huddersfield.
  • Electrification of this section, would probably mean closure for at least a year.
  • Between Huddersfield and Leeds the electrification would be a lot easier with about fifteen bridges and  Morley tunnel.

My philosophy for this route would be as follows.

  1. Electrification would not go anywhere near Huddersfield, as the heritage lobby and their lawyers would have a field day.
  2. Standedge and Morley tunnels are over 2,000 metres long, double track and Standedge is level. If they needed refurbishment in the future, perhaps they could be electrified with an overhead rail, so that bi-modes could have a couple of miles of electricity.
  3. Electrification might be extended at the Manchester and Leeds ends of the line, so that the two cities could improve their local suburban electric networks.
  4. An alternative would be that the Leeds and Manchester suburban electric networks were provided with a few Class 769 trains or even some brand new four-car bi-modes.
  5. Services between Leeds and Manchester would be run by fast bi-modes.

TransPennine Express are already planning to run Class 802 trains between Liverpool and Newcastle via Manchester and Leeds. It looks to me, that whoever plans their train policy, saw this electrification crisis coming.

The money saved on the electrification would be spent on improving track and stations.

Currently the fastest journeys between Manchester and Leeds take just under fifty minutes.

What time could a Class 802 train achieve if the following were done.

  • Manchester to Stalybridge is fully electrified.
  • Some extra electrification was installed at Leeds.
  • The track is improved.

My money would be on thirty-five minutes.

Manchester Piccadilly Upgrade

I hate using the isolated island Platforms 13 and 14 at Manchester Piccadilly station.

They are just too crowded and the steps and escalators down to the platform aren’t well-designed.

The Frequency Of Trains Through Platforms 13/14

The two platforms can be considered equivalent to these busy two-platform stations.

All of these stations handle more trains than Plstforms 13./14 at Manchester Piccadilly.

Provided the signalling can handle it, it should be possible to schedule more trains through these two platforms.

One piece of information I viewed seemed to show that some services terminate in these two platforms. Surely, that is a way to reduce capacity.

Ordsall Chord And Class 769 Train Implications

The Ordsall Chord should change the pattern of trains, when it opens later this year.

The main implication will be that cross-city services can be developed.

The new Class 769 trains will help too, in that current diesel and electric services can be run using one type of train across the city.

A simple example would be Buxton to Blackburn.

These services release platform space in Manchester Piccadilly and other stations, which can be used for new services.

Access To Platforms 13/14

I’ve felt for some time, that if the access to the platform was better designed that a lot of the problems could be reduced.

I sometimes wonder, if when people see that their train is leaving from Platform 13 or 14, that they go there immediately and instead of waiting upstairs in the lounge, they descend to the platform.

When the Ordsall Chord is opened, because of the pattern of services passengers will sometimes change at one of the string of stations on the line.

Perhaps Oxford Road or Deansgate should be designated the preferred interchange station and fixed up with wider platforms, various kiosks and a waiting room to encourage passengers to change away from Piccadilly.

This Google Map shows Oxford Road station.

Oxford Road certainly seems to have space for passengers to use it as an exchange, when crossing the city.

But does Oxford Road have a stop on the Metrolink?

This Google Map shows Deansgate station.


Deansgate doesn’t seem to have the space of Oxford Road. But it does have a good connection to the Metrolink.

The Forgotten Salford Stations

The other stations that could help are the two forgotten Salford stations; Salford Crescent and Salford Central.

This Google Map shows Salford Crescent station.

I believe that this station is going to get more platforms. Could it become a sort of triage station, where passengers from the North of Greater Manchester changed for.

  • Trains for Manchester Victoria station.
  • Trains for Manchester Piccadilly station.
  • Metrolink to the city centre.

Surely, space could be found to run trams along Broad Street.

It would also look to be a station, where there is considerable scope to put housing or commercial developments above the station.

This Google Map shows Salford Central station.

With a bit of thinking Salford Central must have interchange possibilities.

But as with Salford Crescent, this station doesn’t have a Metrolink connection.

The Wikipedia entry for Salford Central has a section called Future Development. This is said.

A Network Rail report suggests building platforms on the line to Liverpool (via Newton-le-Willows), the lines of which run through the station but are not provided with platforms. This scheme has since been adopted by Transport for Greater Manchester and included in their Capital Works Programme for 2015–16 to 2020–21. This will see three additional platforms built, at a cost of £20.5 million and will allow Liverpool, Chester & Manchester Airport-bound trains (using the Ordsall Chord) to call here.

I’ll believe it when I see it.

Conclusion About Manchester Piccadilly Upgrade

I am inevitably drawn to the following conclusions about the upgrade to Manchester Piccadilly.

The Ordsall Chord and the new electric services offered by the bi-mode trains will create a duckers-and-divers network across Manchester City Centre.

The following should be done.

  • Access to Platforms 13/14 at Manchester Piccadilly should be greatly improved.
  • Deansgate, Oxford Road, Salford Central and Salford Crescent should be improved with extra platforms, same- and cross-platform interchange.
  • The Metrolink should be extended to both Salford stations.
  • Greater Manchester should adopt a ticketing system based on bank cards to encourage use of the transport network.

Perhaps Mancunians need to be taught to duck-and-dive.







July 26, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 2 Comments