The Anonymous Widower

Will Hitachi Announce A High Speed Metro Train?

As the UK high speed rail network increases, we are seeing more services and proposed services, where local services are sharing tracks, where trains will be running at 125 mph or even more.

London Kings Cross And Cambridge/Kings Lynn

This Great Northern service is run by Class 387 trains.

  • Services run between London Kings Cross and Kings Lynn or Cambridge
  • The Class 387 trains have a maximum operating speed of 110 mph.
  • The route is fully electrified.
  • The trains generally use the fast lines on the East Coast Main Line, South of Hitchin.
  • Most trains on the fast lines on the East Coast Main Line are travelling at 125 mph.
  • When in the future full digital in-cab ERTMS signalling is implemented on the East Coast Main Line, speeds of up to 140 mph should be possible in some sections between London Kings Cross and Hitchin.

I also believe that digital signalling may be able to provide a solution to the twin-track bottleneck over the Digswell Viaduct.

Consider.

  • Airliners have been flown automatically and safely from airport to airport for perhaps four decades.
  • The Victoria Line has been running automatically and safely at over twenty trains per hour (tph) for five decades. It is now running at over 30 tph.
  • I worked with engineers developing a high-frequency sequence control system for a complicated chemical plant in 1970.

We also can’t deny that computers are getting better and more capable.

For these reasons, I believe there could be an ERTMS-based solution to the problem of the Digswell Viaduct, which could be something like this.

  • All trains running on the two track section over the Digswell Viaduct and through Welwyn North station would be under computer control between Welwyn Garden City and Knebworth stations.
  • Fast trains would be slowed as appropriate to create spaces to allow the slow trains to pass through the section.
  • The driver would be monitoring the computer control, just as they do on the Victoria Line.

Much more complicated automated systems have been created in various applications.

The nearest rail application in the UK, is probably the application of digital signalling to London Underground’s Circle, District, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan Lines.

This is known at the Four Lines Modernisation and it will be completed by 2023 and increase capacity by up to twenty-seven percent.

I don’t think it unreasonable to see the following maximum numbers of services running over the Digswell Viaduct by 2030 in both directions in every hour.

  • Sixteen fast trains
  • Four slow trains

That is one train every three minutes.

Currently, it appears to be about ten fast and two slow.

As someone, who doesn’t like to be on a platform, when a fast train goes through, I believe that some form of advanced safety measures should be installed at Welwyn North station.

It would appear that trains between London Kings Cross and King’s Lynn need to have this specification.

  • Ability to run at 125 mph on the East Coast Main Line
  • Ability to run at 140 mph on the East Coast Main Line, under control of full digital in-cab ERTMS signalling.

This speed increase could reduce the journey time between London Kings Cross and Cambridge to just over half-an-hour with London Kings Cross and King’s Lynn under ninety minutes.

The only new infrastructure needed would be improvements to the Fen Line to King’s Lynn to allow two tph, which I think is needed.

Speed improvements between Hitchin and Cambridge could also benefit timings.

London Kings Cross And Cambridge/Norwich

I believe there is a need for a high speed service between London Kings Cross and Norwich via Cambridge.

  • The Class 755 trains, that are capable of 100 mph take 82 minutes, between Cambridge and Norwich.
  • The electrification gap between Ely and Norwich is 54 miles.
  • Norwich station and South of Ely is fully electrified.
  • Greater Anglia’s Norwich and Cambridge service has been very successful.

With the growth of Cambridge and its incessant need for more space, housing and workers, a high speed train  between London Kings Cross and Norwich via Cambridge could tick a lot of boxes.

  • If hourly, it would double the frequency between Cambridge and Norwich until East-West Rail is completed.
  • All stations between Ely and Norwich get a direct London service.
  • Cambridge would have better links for commuting to the city.
  • London Kings Cross and Cambridge would be less than an hour apart.
  • If the current London Kings Cross and Ely service were to be extended to Norwich, no extra paths on the East Coast Main Line would be needed.
  • Trains could even split and join at Cambridge or Ely to give all stations a two tph service to London Kings Cross.
  • No new infrastructure would be required.

The Cambridge Cruiser would become the Cambridge High Speed Cruiser.

London Paddington And Bedwyn

This Great Western Railway service is run by Class 802 trains.

  • Services run between London Paddington and Bedwyn.
  • Services use the Great Western Main Line at speeds of up to 125 mph.
  • In the future if full digital in-cab ERTMS signalling is implemented, speeds of up to 140 mph could be possible on some sections between London Paddington and Reading.
  • The 13.3 miles between Newbury and Bedwyn is not electrified.

As the service would need to be able to run both ways between Newbury and Bedwyn, a capability to run upwards of perhaps thirty miles without electrification is needed. Currently, diesel power is used, but battery power would be better.

London Paddington And Oxford

This Great Western Railway service is run by Class 802 trains.

  • Services run between London Paddington and Oxford.
  • Services use the Great Western Main Line at speeds of up to 125 mph.
  • In the future if full digital in-cab ERTMS signalling is implemented, speeds of up to 140 mph could be possible on some sections between London Paddington and Didcot Parkway.
  • The 10.3 miles between Didcot Parkway and Oxford is not electrified.

As the service would need to be able to run both ways between Didcot Parkway and Oxford, a capability to run upwards of perhaps thirty miles without electrification is needed. Currently, diesel power is used, but battery power would be better.

Local And Regional Trains On Existing 125 mph Lines

In The UK, in addition to High Speed One and High Speed Two, we have the following lines, where speeds of 125 mph are possible.

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

Note.

  1. Long stretches of these routes allow speeds of up to 125 mph.
  2. Full digital in-cab ERTMS signalling is being installed on the East Coast Main Line to allow running up to 140 mph.
  3. Some of these routes have four tracks, with pairs of slow and fast lines, but there are sections with only two tracks.

It is likely, that by the end of the decade large sections of these four 125 mph lines will have been upgraded, to allow faster running.

If you have Hitachi and other trains thundering along at 140 mph, you don’t want dawdlers, at 100 mph or less, on the same tracks.

These are a few examples of slow trains, that use two-track sections of 125 nph lines.

  • East Midlands Railway – 1 tph – Leicester and Lincoln – Uses Midland Main Line
  • East Midlands Railway – 1 tph – Liverpool and Norwich – Uses Midland Main Line
  • Great Western Railway – 1 tph – Cardiff and Portsmouth Harbour – Uses Great Western Main Line
  • Great Western Railway – 1 tph – Cardiff and Taunton – Uses Great Western Main Line
  • Northern – 1 tph – Manchester Airport and Cumbria – Uses West Coast Main Line
  • Northern – 1 tph – Newcastle and Morpeth – Uses East Coast Main Line
  • West Midlands Trains – Some services use West Coast Main Line.

Conflicts can probably be avoided by judicious train planning in some cases, but in some cases trains capable of 125 mph will be needed.

Southeastern Highspeed Services

Class 395 trains have been running Southeastern Highspeed local services since 2009.

  • Services run between London St. Pancras and Kent.
  • Services use Speed One at speeds of up to 140 mph.
  • These services are planned to be extended to Hastings and possibly Eastbourne.

The extension would need the ability to run on the Marshlink Line, which is an electrification gap of 25.4 miles, between Ashford and Ore.

Thameslink

Thameslink is a tricky problem.

These services run on the double-track section of the East Coast Main Line over the Digswell Viaduct.

  • 2 tph – Cambridge and Brighton – Fast train stopping at Hitchin, Stevenage and Finsbury Park.
  • 2 tph – Cambridge and Kings Cross – Slow train stopping at Hitchin, Stevenage, Knebworth, Welwyn North, Welwyn Garden City, Hatfield, Potters Bar and Finsbury Park
  • 2 tph – Peterborough and Horsham – Fast train stopping at Hitchin, Stevenage and Finsbury Park.

Note.

  1. These services are run by Class 700 trains, that are only capable of 100 mph.
  2. The fast services take the fast lines South of the Digswell Viaduct.
  3. South of Finsbury Park, both fast services cross over to access the Canal Tunnel for St, Pancras station.
  4. I am fairly certain, that I have been on InterCity 125 trains running in excess of 100 mph in places between Finsbury Park and Stevenage.

It would appear that the slow Thameslink trains are slowing express services South of Stevenage.

As I indicated earlier, I think it is likely that the Kings Cross and King’s Lynn services will use 125 mph trains for various reasons, like London and Cambridge in well under an hour.

But if 125 mph trains are better for King’s Lynn services, then they would surely improve Thameslink and increase capacity between London and Stevenage.

Looking at average speeds and timings on the 25 miles between Stevenage and Finsbury Park gives the following.

  • 100 mph – 15 minutes
  • 110 mph – 14 minutes
  • 125 mph – 12 minutes
  • 140 mph – 11 minutes

The figures don’t appear to indicate large savings, but when you take into account that the four tph running the Thameslink services to Peterborough and Cambridge stop at Finsbury Park and Stevenage and have to get up to speed, I feel that the 100 mph Class 700 trains are a hindrance to more and faster trains on the Southern section of the East Coast Main Line.

It should be noted, that faster trains on these Thameslink services would probably have better acceleration and and would be able to execute faster stops at stations.

There is a similar less serious problem on the Midland Main Line branch of Thameslink, in that some Thameslink services use the fast lines.

A couple of years ago, I had a very interesting chat with a group of East Midlands Railway drivers. They felt that the 100 mph Thameslink and the 125 mph Class 222 trains were not a good mix.

The Midland Main Line services are also becoming more complicated, with the new EMR Electric services between St. Pancras and Corby, which will be run by 110 mph Class 360 trains.

Hitachi’s Three Trains With Batteries

Hitachi have so far announced three battery-electric trains. Two are based on battery packs being developed and built by Hyperdrive Innovation.

Hyperdrive Innovation

Looking at the Hyperdrive Innovation web site, I like what I see.

Hyperdrive Innovation provided the battery packs for JCB’s first electric excavator.

Note that JCB give a five-year warranty on the Hyperdrive batteries.

Hyperdrive have also been involved in the design of battery packs for aircraft push-back tractors.

The battery capacity for one of these is given as 172 kWh and it is able to supply 34 kW.

I was very surprised that Hitachi didn’t go back to Japan for their batteries, but after reading Hyperdrive’s web site about the JCB and Textron applications, there would appear to be good reasons to use Hyperdrive.

  • Hyperdrive have experience of large lithium ion batteries.
  • Hyperdrive have a design, develop and manufacture model.
  • They seem to able to develop solutions quickly and successfully.
  • Battery packs for the UK and Europe are made in Sunderland.
  • Hyperdrive are co-operating with Nissan, Warwick Manufacturing Group and Newcastle University.
  • They appear from the web site to be experts in the field of battery management, which is important in prolonging battery life.
  • Hyperdrive have a Taiwanese partner, who manufactures their battery packs for Taiwan and China.
  • I have done calculations based on the datasheet for their batteries and Hyperdrive’s energy density is up with the best

I suspect, that Hitachi also like the idea of a local supplier, as it could be helpful in the negotiation of innovative applications. Face-to-face discussions are easier, when you’re only thirty miles apart.

Hitachi Regional Battery Train

The first train to be announced was the Hitachi Regional Battery Train, which is described in this Hitachi infographic.

Note.

  1. It is only a 100 mph train.
  2. The batteries are to be designed and manufactured by Hyperdrive Innovation.
  3. It has a range of 56 miles on battery power.
  4. Any of Hitachi’s A Train family like Class 800, 802 or 385 train can be converted to a Regional Battery Train.

No orders have been announced yet.

But it would surely be very suitable for routes like.

  • London Paddington And Bedwyn
  • London Paddington And Oxford

It would also be very suitable for extensions to electrified suburban routes like.

  • London Bridge and Uckfield
  • London Waterloo and Salisbury
  • Manchester Airport and Windermere.
  • Newcastle and Carlisle

It would also be a very sound choice to extend electrified routes in Scotland, which are currently run by Class 385 trains.

Hitachi InterCity Tri-Mode Battery Train

The second train to be announced was the Hitachi InterCity Tri-Mode Battery Train, which is described in this Hitachi infographic.

Note.

  1. Only one engine is replaced by a battery.
  2. The batteries are to be designed and manufactured by Hyperdrive Innovation.
  3. Typically a five-car Class 800 or 802 train has three diesel engines and a nine-car train has five.
  4. These trains would obviously be capable of 125 mph on electrified main lines and 140 mph on lines fully equipped with digital in-cab ERTMS signalling.

Nothing is said about battery range away from electrification.

Routes currently run from London with a section without electrification at the other end include.

  • London Kings Cross And Harrogate – 18.3 miles
  • London Kings Cross And Hull – 36 miles
  • London Kings Cross And Lincoln – 16.5 miles
  • London Paddington And Bedwyn – 13.3 miles
  • London Paddington And Oxford – 10.3 miles

In the March 2021 Edition of Modern Railways, LNER are quoted as having aspirations to extend the Lincoln service to Cleethorpes.

  • With all energy developments in North Lincolnshire, this is probably a good idea.
  • Services could also call at Market Rasen and Grimsby.
  • Two trains per day, would probably be a minimum frequency.

But the trains would need to be able to run around 64 miles each way without electrification. Very large batteries and/or charging at Cleethorpes will be needed.

Class 803 Trains For East Coast Trains

East Coast Trains have ordered a fleet of five Class 803 trains.

  • These trains appear to be built for speed and fast acceleration.
  • They have no diesel engines, which must save weight and servicing costs.
  • But they will be fitted with batteries for emergency power to maintain onboard  train services in the event of overhead line failure.
  • They are planned to enter service in October 2021.

Given that Hyperdrive Innovation are developing traction batteries for the other two Hitachi battery trains, I would not be the least bit surprised if Hyperdrive were designing and building the batteries for the Class 803 trains.

  • Hyperdrive batteries are modular, so for a smaller battery you would use less modules.
  • If all coaches are wired for a diesel engine, then they can accept any power module like a battery or hydrogen pack, without expensive redesign.
  • I suspect too, that the battery packs for the Class 803 trains could be tested on an LNER Class 801 train.

LNER might also decide to replace the diesel engines on their Class 801 trains with an emergency battery pack, if it were more energy efficient and had a lighter weight.

Thoughts On The Design Of The Hyperdrive innovation Battery Packs

Consider.

  • Hitachi trains have a sophisticated computer system, which on start-up can determine the configuration of the train or whether it is more than one train running as a longer formation or even being hauled by a locomotive.
  • To convert a bi-mode Class 800 train to an all-electric Class 801 the diesel engines are removed. I suspect that the computer is also adjusted, but train formation may well be totally automatic and independent of the driver.
  • Hyperdrive Innovation’s battery seem to be based on a modular system, where typical modules have a capacity of 5 kWh, weighs 32 Kg and has a volume of 0.022 cu metres.
  • The wet mass of an MTU 16V 1600 R80L diesel engine commonly fitted to AT-300 trains of different types is 6750 Kg or nearly seven tonnes.
  • The diesel engine has a physical size of 1.5 x 1.25 x 0.845 metres, which is a volume of 1.6 cubic metres.
  • In How Much Power Is Needed To Run A Train At 125 mph?, I calculated that a five-car Class 801 electric train, needed 3.42 kWh per vehicle-mile to maintain 125 mph.
  • It is likely, than any design of battery pack, will handle the regenerative braking.

To my mind, the ideal solution would be a plug compatible battery pack, that the train’s computer thought was a diesel engine.

But then I have form in the area of plug-compatible electronics.

At the age of sixteen, for a vacation job, I worked in the Electronics Laboratory at Enfield Rolling Mills.

It was the early sixties and one of their tasks was at the time replacing electronic valve-based automation systems with new transistor-based systems.

The new equipment had to be compatible to that which it replaced, but as some were installed in dozens of places around the works, they had to be able to be plug-compatible, so that they could be quickly changed. Occasionally, the new ones suffered infant-mortality and the old equipment could just be plugged back in, if there wasn’t a spare of the new equipment.

So will Hyperdrive Innovation’s battery-packs have the same characteristics as the diesel engines that they replace?

  • Same instantaneous and continuous power output.
  • Both would fit the same mountings under the train.
  • Same control and electrical power connections.
  • Compatibility with the trains control computer.

I think they will as it will give several advantages.

  • The changeover between diesel engine and battery pack could be designed as a simple overnight operation.
  • Operators can mix-and-match the number of diesel engines and battery-packs to a given route.
  • As the lithium-ion cells making up the battery pack improve, battery capacity and performance can be increased.
  • If the computer, is well-programmed, it could reduce diesel usage and carbon-emissions.
  • Driver conversion from a standard train to one equipped with batteries, would surely be simplified.

As with the diesel engines, all battery packs could be substantially the same across all of Hitachi’s Class 80x trains.

What Size Of Battery Would Be Possible?

If Hyperdrive are producing a battery pack with the same volume as the diesel engine it replaced, I estimate that the battery would have a capacity defined by.

5 * 1.6 / 0.022 = 364 kWh

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

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

As a figure of 3.42 kWh per vehicle-mile to maintain 125 mph, applies to a Class 801 train, I suspect that a figure of 3 kWh or less could apply to a five-car Class 800 train trundling at around 80-100 mph to Bedwyn, Cleethorpes or Oxford.

  • A one-battery five-car train would have a range of 24.3 miles
  • A two-battery five-car train would have a range of 48.6 miles
  • A three-battery five-car train would have a range of 72.9 miles

Note.

  1. Reducing the consumption to 2.5 kWh per vehicle-mile would give a range of 87.3 miles.
  2. Reducing the consumption to 2 kWh per vehicle-mile would give a range of 109.2 miles.
  3. Hitachi will be working to reduce the electricity consumption of the trains.
  4. There will also be losses at each station stop, as regenerative braking is not 100 % efficient.

But it does appear to me, that distances of the order of 60-70 miles would be possible on a lot of routes.

Bedwyn, Harrogate, Lincoln and Oxford may be possible without charging before the return trip.

Cleethorpes and Hull would need a battery charge before return.

A Specification For A High Speed Metro Train

I have called the proposed train a High Speed Metro Train, as it would run at up to 140 mph on an existing high speed line and then run a full or limited stopping service to the final destination.

These are a few thoughts.

Electrification

In some cases like London Kings Cross and King’s Lynn, the route is already electrified and batteries would only be needed for the following.

  • Handling regenerative braking.
  • Emergency  power in case of overhead line failure.
  • Train movements in depots.

But if the overhead wires on a branch line. are in need of replacement, why not remove them and use battery power? It might be the most affordable and least disruptive option to update the power supply on a route.

The trains would have to be able to run on both types of electrification in the UK.

  • 25 KVAC overhead.
  • 750 VDC third rail.

This dual-voltage capability would enable the extension of Southeastern Highspeed services.

Operating Speed

The trains must obviously be capable of running at the maximum operating speed on the routes they travel.

  • 125 mph on high speed lines, where this speed is possible.
  • 140 mph on high speed lines equipped with full digital in-cab ERTMS signalling, where this speed is possible.

The performance on battery power must be matched with the routes.

Hitachi have said, that their Regional Battery trains can run at up to 100 mph, which would probably be sufficient for most secondary routes in the UK and in line with modern diesel and electric multiple units.

Full Digital In-cab ERTMS Signalling

This will be essential and is already fitted to some of Hitachi’s trains.

Regenerative Braking To Batteries

Hitachi’s battery electric  trains will probably use regenerative braking to the batteries, as it is much more energy efficient.

It also means that when stopping at a station perhaps as much as 70-80% of the train’s kinetic energy can be captured in the batteries and used to accelerate the train.

In Kinetic Energy Of A Five-Car Class 801 Train, I showed that at 125 mph the energy of a full five-car train is just over 100 kWh, so batteries would not need to be unduly large.

Acceleration

This graph from Eversholt Rail, shows the acceleration and deceleration of a five-car Class 802 electric train.

As batteries are just a different source of electric power, I would think, that with respect to acceleration and deceleration, that the performance of a battery-electric version will be similar.

Although, it will only achieve 160 kph instead of the 200 kph of the electric train.

I estimate from this graph, that a battery-electric train would take around 220 seconds from starting to decelerate for a station to being back at 160 kph. If the train was stopped for around eighty seconds, a station stop would add five minutes to the journey time.

London Kings Cross And Cleethorpes

As an example consider a service between London Kings Cross and Cleethorpes.

  • The section without electrification between Newark and Cleethorpes is 64 miles.
  • There appear to be ambitions to increase the operating speed to 90 mph.
  • Local trains seem to travel at around 45 mph including stops.
  • A fast service between London Kings Cross and Cleethorpes would probably stop at Lincoln Central, Market Rasen and Grimsby Town.
  • In addition, local services stop at Collingham, Hykeham, Barnetby and Habrough.
  • London Kings Cross and Newark takes one hour and twenty minutes.
  • London Kings Cross and Cleethorpes takes three hours and fifteen minutes with a change at Doncaster.

I can now calculate a time between Kings Cross and Cleethorpes.

  • If a battery-electric train can average 70 mph between Newark and Cleethorpes, it would take 55 minutes.
  • Add five minutes for each of the three stops at Lincoln Central, Market Rasen and Grimsby Town
  • Add in the eighty minutes between London Kings Cross and Newark and that would be  two-and-a-half hours.

That would be very marketing friendly and a very good start.

Note.

  1. An average speed of 80 mph would save seven minutes.
  2. An average speed of 90 mph would save twelve minutes.
  3. I suspect that the current bi-modes would be slower by a few minutes as their acceleration is not as potent of that of an electric train.

I have a feeling London Kings Cross and Cleethorpes via Lincoln Central, Market Rasen and Grimsby Town, could be a very important service for LNER.

Interiors

I can see a new lightweight and more energy efficient interior being developed for these trains.

In addition some of the routes, where they could be used are popular with cyclists and the current Hitachi trains are not the best for bicycles.

Battery Charging

Range On Batteries

I have left this to last, as it depends on so many factors, including the route and the quality of the driving or the Automatic Train Control

Earlier, I estimated that a five-car train with all three diesel engines replaced by batteries, when trundling around Lincolnshire, Oxfordshire or Wiltshire could have range of up to 100 miles.

That sort of distance would be very useful and would include.

  • Ely and Norwich
  • Newark and Cleethorpes
  • Salisbury and Exeter

It might even allow a round trip between the East Coast Main Line and Hull.

The Ultimate Battery Train

This press release from Hitachi is entitled Hitachi And Eversholt Rail To Develop GWR Intercity Battery Hybrid Train – Offering Fuel Savings Of More Than 20%.

This is a paragraph.

The projected improvements in battery technology – particularly in power output and charge – create opportunities to replace incrementally more diesel engines on long distance trains. With the ambition to create a fully electric-battery intercity train – that can travel the full journey between London and Penzance – by the late 2040s, in line with the UK’s 2050 net zero emissions target.

Consider.

  • Three batteries would on my calculations give a hundred mile range.
  • Would a train with no diesel engines mean that fuel tanks, radiators and other gubbins could be removed and more or large batteries could be added.
  • Could smaller batteries be added to the two driving cars?
  • By 2030, let alone 2040, battery energy density will have increased.

I suspect that one way or another these trains could have a range on battery power of between 130 and 140 miles.

This would certainly be handy in Scotland for the two routes to the North.

  • Haymarket and Aberdeen, which is 130 miles without electrification.
  • Stirling and Inverness, which is 111 miles without electrification, if the current wires are extended from Stirling to Perth, which is being considered by the Scottish Government.

The various sections of the London Paddington to Penzance route are as follows.

  • Paddington and Newbury – 53 miles – electrified
  • Newbury and Taunton – 90 miles – not electrified
  • Taunton and Exeter – 31 miles – not electrified
  • Exeter and Plymouth – 52 miles – not electrified
  • Plymouth and Penzance – 79 miles – not electrified

The total length of the section without electrification between Penzance and Newbury  is a distance of 252 miles.

This means that the train will need a battery charge en route.

I think there are three possibilities.

  • Trains can take up to seven minutes for a stop at Plymouth. As London and Plymouth trains will need to recharge at Plymouth before returning to London, Plymouth station could be fitted with comprehensive recharge facilities for all trains passing through. Perhaps the ideal solution would be to electrify all lines and platforms at Plymouth.
  • Between Taunton and Exeter, the rail line runs alongside the M5 motorway. This would surely be an ideal section to electrify, as it would enable battery electric trains to run between Exeter and both Newbury and Bristol.
  • As some trains terminate at Exeter, there would probably need to be charging facilities there.

I believe that the date of the late 2040s is being overly pessimistic.

I suspect that by 2040 we’ll be seeing trains between London and Aberdeen, Inverness and Penzance doing the trips without a drop of diesel.

But Hitachi are making a promise of London and Penzance by zero-carbon trains, by the late-2040s, because they know they can keep it.

And Passengers and the Government won’t mind the trains being early!

Conclusion

This could be a very useful train to add to Hitachi’s product line.

 

 

 

March 9, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stevenage Station’s New Fifth Platform Opened A Year Early

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

A new £40 million platform and track at Stevenage station has been completed more than a year ahead of schedule.

Yesterday, it appears that the first scheduled train left Stevenage for Moorgate at 0502.

Will This Be Good For Travellers?

A few thoughts!

Stevenage Hospital

One of my old school friends lives in Cuffley. From that part of Hertfordshire, the hospital, patients use is in Stevenage. He can drive, but not everybody can!

LNER

Currently, LNER run an hourly service between Stevenage and Leeds, with an hourly service between Stevenage and Lincoln or York via Newark.

North From Enfield, Palmers Green, Southgate, Winchmore Hill and Wood Green

If you live in Enfield or the old London boroughs of Southgate or Wood Green, it could be easier to pick up trains for the North from Stevenage, rather than Kings Cross.

Not Bad For Me Too!

Even, where I live now, which is a mile or so East of Highbury & Islington station, if the timing is right, I can walk or get a bus for four stops to Essex Road station and get a train to Stevenage and then change for Leeds and the North.

East Coast Trains

East Coast Trains will be starting a fast, low-cost London Kings Cross and Edinburgh service, which will call at Stevenage.

Grand Central Trains

Grand Central Trains are currently shut down because of COVID-19, but will they call at Stevenage station, when they restart?

Hull Trains

Some Hull Trains services between London Kings Cross and Hull, call at Stevenage.

Hitachi’s Class 80x Trains

LNER, East Coast Trains and Hull Trains, all run versions of Hitachi’s Class 800 trains or similar.

These trains are built for performance and an extra stop at Stevenage station can probably be incorporated in the timetable without any penalty.

So will we see more trains stopping at Stevenage, if the train operators think it will be worthwhile?

Could Some Services From The North Terminate At Stevenage?

The Digswell Viaduct and the double-track section through Welwyn North station are the major bottleneck on the East Coast Main Line.

But a train returning North at Stevenage wouldn’t go over the viaduct.

Stevenage already has or could have excellent connections to the following.

  • Cambridge, Stansted Airport and East Anglia
  • Moorgate and the City of London and Crossrail.
  • North East London

If keen pricing can encourage travellers to use Stevenage instead of Kings Cross, I can see operators wanting to run extra services, that could start at Stevenage.

I can also see Greater Anglia getting in on the act.

Could Greater Anglia’s Ipswich and Cambridge service be extended to Stevenage via the planned Cambridge South and Royston stations?

Could the service be timed to offer cross-platform interchange with their Norwich and Stansted Airport, at Cambridge South station?

Four important extra services would be created with a step-free interchange.

  • Ipswich and Stansted Airport – 106 minutes – Step-free walk across at Cambridge South station
  • Ipswich and Stevenage – 115 minutes – New direct service
  • Norwich and Stansted Airport – 107 minutes – Existing service
  • Norwich and Stevenage – 116 minutes – Step-free walk across at Cambridge South station.

A large number East Anglian rail journeys would be simpler.

Car Parking

Will there be enough car parking at Stevenage station?

I suppose, it would be possible to build a Stevenage Parkway station between Stevenage and Watton-at-Stone stations.

This Google Map shows the area.

Note, that the railway seems to mark the development limit for the town.

The high performance of the Class 717 trains, would probably mean, that there would be no lengthened journey times.

Conclusion

This project appears to have been well-thought through!

 

 

August 4, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Ultimate Capacity Of The Moorgate Line

The Moorgate Line is an important commuter line to and from its terminus at Moorgate station within easy walking distance of the City of London.

I use the line regularly to travel between my house and Moorgate station for breakfast at Leon, followed by shopping in Marks & Spencer on Finsbury Pavement.

  • I catch a 38 or 56 bus from close to my house to Essex Road station.
  • I then take the Northern City Line two stops to Moorgate station.

After my breakfast and shopping, I generally get a bus home, as it means less road crossings to get to my house.

A Useful Line That Needs Improvement

It is a useful and well-used line, that needs improvement in various areas, some of which is already being done or is either in planning or fully planned.

The New Class 717 Trains

The new Class 717 trains are now all running up and down without too many problems.

The trains have been designed for the route, so hopefully they have the following features.

  • Fast and automatic voltage changeover between 25 KVAC overhead and 750 VDC third-rail at Drayton Park station.
  • Ready for ERTMS signalling.
  • 100 mph running, so they don’t get in the way of Thameslink trains on the East Coast Main Line (ECML).
  • Fast acceleration and regenerative braking to batteries for fast station stops and train recovery, when power fails.
  • Optimisation for fast entry and exit to the trains.

I am afraid that they don’t fully meet the last three points, but they should!

It will be interesting to compare these trains, with Statdler’s new Class 777 trains for Merseyrail, which are also replacing similar BR units.

I believe that regenerative braking to batteries is important for trains in tunnels, and as far as I can determine, only Bombardier’s Class 345 trains for Crossrail have it fitted.

  • It reduces the power running in the overhead cables or third-rail in the tunnels, which generates less heat.
  • Conventional braking can be avoided in tunnels.
  • In case of power failure, the train can be moved to the next station for passenger evacuation.

If trains, tunnels and power supply are designed as a complete system, then surely there must be cost savings.

It is also probably true to say about these trains, that if the operator needed some more trains, then Siemens would probably oblige.

Upgrading The Route

The complete route consists of three separate parts.

The big upgrade planned for the East Coast Main Line is to install ERTMS digital signalling between Doncaster and Kings Cross.

Network Rail are doing their first digital signalling design in a darkened room with no communication to the real world, but I believe if the project was designed by experienced engineers, the following will happen.

  • Any train that might use the East Coast Main Line will be fitted with ERTMS signalling.
  • This ERTMS roll-out must include all Class 717 trains, as these can use the East Coast Main Loop to Welwyn Garden City and at Stevenage station.
  • As the Hertford Loop Line is used as a diversion for the East Coast Main Line, it would be logical to install ERTMS signalling on this route.
  • Installing ERTMS  signalling into Moorgate station would surely be beneficial and would surely be needed to get the best of ERTMS  on the East Coast Main Line.

The outcome should be that the whole Moorgate Line will become a fully digitally signalled route.

This should increase train frequency and capacity on all the digitally signalled routes.

  • The fast lines of the East Coast Main Line will become a 140 mph race track.
  • The slow lines of the East Coast Main Line will allow extra services.
  • If coupled with track improvements, extra capacity on the Hertford Loop Line could be used to allow services to by-pass the bottleneck of the Digswell Viaduct with its limited pair of tracks.
  • The Northern and City Line could take extra trains to and from Moorgate.

There could be reorganisation of some services.

  • Kings Cross and Cambridge/Ely/Kings Lynn services would be run by 140 mph trains, so they could use the fast lines on the East Coast Main Line. I feel these services could be extended to Norwich, but that’s another matter. What would Alan Partridge think of High Speed Norwich?
  • Thameslink services serving Peterborough would still use the East Coast Main Line, so they could call at Welwyn North and Knebworth stations, but why not divert the four trains per hour (tph) that serve Cambridge onto the Hertford Loop Line at Stevenage, to ease pressure over the Digswell Viaduct.

Consider.

  • An upgraded Hertford Loop Line with full digital signalling could be able to handle as many as the twenty-four tph of Thameslink and Crossrail,
  • The grade-separated junction with the East Coast Main Line is being improved.
  • There are only infrequent freight trains on the Hertford Loop Line.
  • Various  platform upgrades at Hertford East and Gordon Hill could allow passing and more turnbacks.

My scheduling experience says that with a well-programmed computer calling the shots, that at least twenty tph along the Hertford Loop Line would be a serious possibility.

Improvements At Stevenage

The Stevenage improvements are very comprehensive and are designed so that however many trains run through the Hertford Loop, they can all stop in the station, if required.

Improvements At Alexandra Palace

If you are travelling North from Moorgate and find yourself on an East Coast Main Line service, when you need a Hertford Loop One, there is a cross-platform interchange at Alexandra Palace station, where the two routes are on either side of the platform.

It is convenient, but the platform needs better facilities, like a decent waiting room, better information screens and possibly a coffee stall and toilets.

Going South, there are two separate platforms, but this doesn’t matter, as there is no need to change.

Although surely, if all trains left from the same island, it would be easier for passengers.

The station would be improved with a properly-designed step-free bridge and information screens.

Passengers needing other than Moorgate as a final destination must change at Finsbury Park for Thameslink or the Piccadilly Line

The Knitting At Finsbury Park

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the tangle of lines at Finsbury Park station.

Note that the blue lines are the Victoria and Piccadilly Lines.

Improvements in the last few years have unlocked some of the station’s potential, but there is still plenty of space on the railway land to add extra tracks and possibly reinstate two more platforms.

If there are any train capacity problems, I believe that they can be solved.

The main passenger interchanges at Finsbury Park station are.

  • An up-and-down interchange with the Piccadilly Line
  • A cross platform interchange with Thameslink

Lifts have been added recently.

Improvements At Drayton Park Station

Drayton Park station is one of those stations, that should be given to developers with a blessing and a very detailed set of objectives and timescales  enthrined in a watertight contract.

  • The station sits very close to the Emirates Stadium.
  • The new trains have increased passenger capacity through the station.
  • It could handle much-more match day traffic.
  • Large amounts of housing could be built on top.

If done well, it could provide a lot of housing and take the pressures off the other stations in the area on match days.

Improvements At Highbury & Islington Station

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the lines at Highbury & Islington station.

The track layout is basically sound.

The cross-platform interface between the Victoria and Moorgate Line is superb and only needs a good team of builders and lighting specialists to give it a modern finish to make it even better.

The Overground will get better too, as service frequencies increase by up to fifty percent.

The big problem at Highbury & Islington station is that access to the deep level platforms is not fit for purpose.

It is an absolute disgrace that The Mayor and Transport for London have put forward no plan to solve the problem of access to the deep level platforms.

The solution would probably involve opening up the disused station entrance on the on the side of Holloway Road and sinking an escalator and lift shaft to the four platforms. As at Drayton Park station, I believe with the right contract, it could be handed to a developer.

At least Crossrail, when it opens might give a bit of relief in the Peak. Many passengers might avoid Highbury & Islington station altogether by changing between the Overground and Crossrail at Whitechapel.

Like water passengers tend to flow through the widest channels and find their own level.

Improvements At Essex Road Station

Essex Road station is a disgusting station, with all the charm of a Victorian slum.

As with Drayton Park station, it should be given to developers with a blessing and a very detailed set of objectives and timescales  enthrined in a watertight contract.

Improvements At Old Street Station

The access to the existing Old Street station is being improved, but it seems to be taking forever.

I do hope, there is a realistic plan to create a flagship station for Silicon Roundabout.

Improvements At Moorgate Station

This station is being fully upgraded for Crossrail.

Eventually, there will be step-free access between the following lines.

  • Central Line
  • Circle Line
  • Crossrail
  • Hammersmith & City Line
  • Northern Line

In addition all the National Rail  lines out of Liverpool Street will be step and weather-free from all the other lines.

This can only increase the number of passengers using the Moorgate Line.

The Ultimate Frequency

I said earlier that the complete route consists of three separate parts.

  • The Northern City Line between Moorgate and Finsbury Park stations.
  • The slow lines of the East Coast Main Line to the South of Welwyn Garden City station.
  • The Hertford Loop Line between Stevenage and Alexandra Palace stations

These are my thoughts on the capacity of each section.

Frequency Of The Northern City Line

I know Walthamstow Central station on the Victoria Line well and have observed the following.

  • Thirty-six tph come and go for most of the day.
  • From the time the brakes are applied after a train arrives until the time they are release when the train leaves is about two and a half minutes.
  • Drivers use a procedure called stepping-up to speed the turnround. The driver leaves the arrived train and a new driver gets in at the other end, to drive it out.
  • There is a lot of passenger congestion in the Peak, due to bad passenger access.

Surely, if Dear Old Vicky can handle thirty-six tph with the following.

  • Two platforms,
  • Modern trains
  • Modern signalling
  • Well-trained staff
  • Not the best passenger access with just two escalators.

Then the new Class 717 trains at Moorgate with the best passenger access can handle a higher frequency than they do now!

I suspect that around twenty tph can be achieved fairly easily, but that in future , a higher frequency will be achieved.

Frequency Of The Slow Lines Of The East Coast Main Line

London has several commuter lines with frequencies of over 10 tph.

  • Foremost, are Crossrail and Thameslink, which are both planned to run at 24 tph
  • The East London Line is also planned to increase from 16 tph to 20 tph.
  • The North London Line is planned to be increased from its current eight tph
  • Waterloo and Wimbledon is upwards of 8 tph.

In addition most London Underground lines have frequencies in exccess of 16 tph.

The slow lines of the East Coast Main Line to be a railway,  in a few years time with the following characteristics between Finbsbury Park and Welwyn Garden City.

  • At least one track in each direction.
  • An operating speed of over 60 mph
  • ERTMS signalling, which will be fitted to all trains on the lines.

I can’t see any reason, why the lines couldn’t be able to handle up to twenty tph in both directions, based on the experience of other lines in London, that have been operating for over a decade.

But strand on the bridge for an hour at a station like Oakleigh Park, at a busy time of day and you’ll be lucky to see ten trains.

There is a lot more capacity on the slow lines of the East Coast Main Line, to use to add extra services between London and Welwyn Garden City.

Adding services that go further North than  Welwyn Garden City will need a solution to the double-track section over the Digswell Viaduct.

Frequency Of The Hertford Loop Line

I said this earlier.

My scheduling experience says that with a well-programmed computer calling the shots, that at least twenty tph along the Hertford Loop Line would be a serious possibility.

I also think that the slow lines of the East Coast Main Line can handle the same frequency, so I very much stand by my original fugure.

Is There An ERTMS-based Solution To The Digswell Viaduct?

Consider.

  • Airliners have been flown automatically and safely from airport to airport for perhaps four decades.
  • The Victoria Line has been running automatically and safely at over twenty tph for five decades.
  • I worked with engineers developing a high-frequency sequence control system for a complicated chemical plant in 1970.

We also can’t deny that computers are getting better and more capable.

For these reasons, I believe there could be an ERTMS-based solution to the problem of the Digswell Viaduct, which could be something like this.

  • All trains running on the two track section over the Digswell Viaduct and through Welwyn North station would be under computer control between Welwyn Garden City and Knebworth stations.
  • Fast trains would be slowed as appropriate to create spaces to allow the slow trains to pass through the section.
  • The driver would be monitoring the computer control, just as they do on the Victoria Line.

Much more complicated automated systems have been created in various applications.

The nearest rail application in the UK, is probably the application of digital signalling to London Underground’s Circle, District, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan Lines.

This is known at the Four Lines Modernisation and it will be completed by 2023 and increase capacity by up to twenty-seven percent.

I don’t think it unreasonable to see the following numbers of services running over the Digswell Viaduct by 2030 in both directions in every hour.

  • Sixteen fast trains
  • Four slow trains

That is one train every three minutes.

Currently, it appears to be about ten fast and two slow.

As someone, who doesn’t like to be on a platform, when a fast train goes through, I believe that some form of advanced safety measures should be installed at Welwyn North station.

Some Questions

Various people over recent months have asked me questions about possible improvements to the Moorgate Line.

Could There Be A Direct Escalator Connection Between Bowes Park Station On The Hertford Loop Line and Bounds Green Station On The Piccadilly Line?

This map from carto.metro.free.fr, shows the two stations.

Bounds Green station is one of the Piccadilly Line’s classic stations.

I took the picture, when I walked between the Bowes Park and Bounds Green stations

It is a level walk, that could be better signed and  if the two stations were to be made step-free it would be an easier interchange than that at Finsbury Park.

In my view, improving the two stations and the local environment, would be much better value than an expensive escalator connection.

Should There Be A Second London Terminal?

Kings Cross is used as a London terminal at times, but would there be much of a necessity.

Passengers can use the following connections to get to Kings Cross and other stations along Euston Road.

  • A cross-platform interchange at Finsbury Park with Thameslink
  • A cross-platform interchange at Highbury & Islington with the Victoria Line
  • When Crossrail opens, there will be a step-free connection with the Circle, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan Lines at Moorgate.

Passenger numbers will decide.

Could The Moorgate Line Be Extended South To Bank Station?

The original Victorian plans for the Moorgate Line show the line extended to a station at Lothbury, which is just behind the Bank of England. This Google Map shows the area.

These pictures show the area, where Lothbury and Moorgate meet.

Given the difficulty of handling the logistics of all the tunnelling for the Bank station upgrade, I don’t think the City of London would look too kindly on a rail extension between Moorgate and Bank, especially, as there is already the Northern Line and even I can walk it easily.

It could be argued as Moorgate is served by Crossrail and Bank station isn’t, that there will be a high level of passenger traffic between the  two stations.

Consider.

  • It is only five hundreds to walk.
  • The Northe Line is jammed solid between London Bridge and Kings Cross in the Peak.
  • After the completion of the massive Liverpool Street-Moorgate double-ended Crossrail station and the Bank Station Capacity Upgrade, a one stop on either the Central Line or the Northern Line will be step-free.
  • The Liverpool Street-Moorgate Crossrail station will hopefully have a selection of entrances with good connections to walking routes leading South towards Bank.
  • The City of London is planning to make the streets of the city more friendly to walking and cycling.
  • More and taller towers are increasing employment in the City.

Will the walking routes and the Central and Northern Lines be overwhelmed?

I think they could be, but there could be other solutions.

  • Opening up of more walking routes and improving the already pretty good street maps and signage.
  • A redesign of the bus network with high capacity electric buses taking over the routes between Old Street and London Bridge stations.

I also wonder, if it would be possible to dig a pedestrian tunnel between the two stations under the existing roads and fit it with travelators.

The ingenuity that has been shown in the Bank Station Capacity Upgrade has probably suggested a few ideas.

But I’m absolutely sure there will be no extension of the railway pass Moorgate.

Is The Interchange With Thameslink At Finsbury Park Frequent Enough?

It seems that Thameslink will run four tph through Finsbury Park station.

  • All will have cross-platform interchange with Moorgate Line services.
  • All services will serve London Bridge, East Croydon and Gatwick Airport stations.

Are these enough services?

Passenger numbers will decide.

Should Some Thameslink Services Use The Hertford Loop?

I said this earlier.

Thameslink services serving Peterborough would still use the East Coast Main Line, so they could call at Welwyn North and Knebworth stations, but why not divert the four trains per hour (tph) that serve Cambridge onto the Hertford Loop Line at Stevenage, to ease pressure over the Digswell Viaduct.

It possibly is an idea, but I also believe, that ERTMS signalling could offer an elegant solution to the Digswell Viaduct problem.

Could The Moorgate Line Have Some New Park-An-Ride Stations?

There are two possibilities on the Hertford Loop Line.

This Google Map shows where the Hertford Loop Line crosses the M25, to the North of Crews Hill station.

It would probably be impossible to build a Park-and-Ride station in this area now, but if the M25 had been designed in an holistic and environmentally-sympathetic manner, it could have been a place for such a facility.

There must also be the possibility of building a Park-and-Ride or more likely a Cycle-and-Ride station to the South of Stevenage, as the town develops, as it surely will in the next decade.

From my helicopter, it doesn’t look promising to add more parking except possibly at Hadley Wood station. This page from Hansard is a good summary of GNER’s original proposal in about 2000.

Should The Moorgate Line Be Taken Over By Transport for London?

Consider.

  • This is certainly a desire of the London Mayor; Saddiq Khan.
  • After the farce of the Metropolitan Line Extension at Watford will Greater London and Hertfordshire be able to work together over the route?
  • There are twelve stations in Hertfordshire and twenty in Greater London.
  • Stations are in four Greater London Boroughs; Barnet, Enfield, Haringey and Islington with Moorgate actually in the City of London.

The line might improve as part of Transport for London, but agreeing the management and development strategy for the line, with all those politicians of different colours, could be a nightmare.

Conclusion

Without doubt all of the parts of the Moorgate Line can handle at least twenty tph and possibly more, once the following conditions are met.

  • Full ERTMS signalling on all lines.
  • The stations are capable of handling the increased number of passengers.
  • There are a few more trains.

Automatic Train Control may need to be used in certain sections, as it will be on Crossrail and Thameslink.

What Would This Mean For Passengers?

The current pattern of train services in the Off Peak is as follows.

  • 4 tph – Welwyn Garden City
  • 2 tph – Hertford North
  • 1 tph – Watton-at-Stone
  • 1 tph – Stevenage

Note.

  1. This is well below the future capacity of the section between Moorgate and Alexandra Palace stations
  2. It needs eight trains for each branch or a total of sixteen trains.

The simplest pattern would be twenty tph between Moorgate and Alexandra Palace stations, which would serve the following destinations.

  • 10 tph – Welwyn Garden City
  • 5 tph – Hertford North
  • 5 tph – Stevenage

Note.

  • Intermediate stations, like New Barnet and Cuffley would get a train every six minutes.
  • The service would need forty trains.
  • I doubt Great Nortern would want to finance the extra trains.

Cutting the service back to somewhere in between would also work.

  • 6 tph – Welwyn Garden City
  • 3 tph – Hertford North
  • 3 tph – Stevenage

Note.

  1. Intermediate stations, like New Barnet and Cuffley would get a train every ten minutes.
  2. The service would need twenty-four trains.

As there are twenty-five Class 717 trains, is this Great Northern’s plan?

It looks to me like a plan designed by Great Northern’s accountants based on the least they can get away with.

An Improved Service For South Hertfordshire

Consider.

  • The extra platform and remodelling at Stevenage station are ambitious and the new platform could probably handle six tph.
  • Stevenage has an LN|ER service to the North of two tph.
  • East Coast Trains intend to start a service linking Stevenage to Newcastle and Edinburgh.
  • Healthcare in South Hertfordshire sends patients to hospitals at Barnet and Stevenage, neither of which are easy from a station like Cuffley
  • Bus services across are not for the frail, elderly and impatient.
  • There is no rail link between Hertford and Hatfield except with a change at Alexandra Palace station, which is not step-free.

Perhaps the Moorgate train service should be as follows.

  • 8 tph – Welwyn Garden City
  • 4 tph – Hertford North
  • 4 tph – Stevenage

Note.

  1. Importantly, there would be four tph to between Alexandra Palace and Stevenage.
  2. The Stevenage services would link up to the improved fast services between Stevenage and the North of England and Scotland.
  3. Intermediate stations, like New Barnet and Cuffley would get a train every seven-eight minutes.
  4. The service would need thirty-two trains, which is probably another eight trains.

I also think, that Alexandra Palace station should be made step-free to ease journeys from one side of Hertfordshire to the other.

 

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December 1, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Integration Of High-Speed And Commuter Services Out Of Kings Cross Station

The East Coast Main Line ECML) has the following services on the Southern section between Kings Cross and Peterborough.

  • Express services capable of at least 125 mph running from LNER , Grand Central, Hull Trains and other Open Access operators.
  • Great Northern services capable of 110 mph running between Kings Cross and Cambridge and Ely.
  • Great Northern services to Peterborough appear to have been discontinued.
  • Thameslink services capable of 100 mph running between Kings Cross and Cambridge and Peterborough.

It would appear that the slower  Great Northern and Thameslink services will get in the way of the faster trains, if they need to use the fast lines.

The Digswell Viaduct

A particular problem will be the double-track section of line through Welwyn North station and over the Digswell Viaduct.

There are two Great Northern and  six Thameslink services in each hour, that are not capable of operating at 125 mph on the double-track section.

Following the logic of Oxford and Bedwyn services out of Paddington, which are now run by 125 mph Class 802 trains, I feel that timetabling would be easier on the ECML, if there were 125 mph trains running Great Northern and Thameslink services to Cambridge, Ely and Peterborough.

I explored 125 mph services to Kings Lynn in Call For ETCS On King’s Lynn Route, after reading about a proposal in Rail Magazine. They certainly look like they’d give advantages.

Some idiot decided that Thameslink services were fine with a 100 mph top speed. They should have been 110 mph or even faster trains, so that they could cross the Digswell Viaduct without slowing high speed services.

Digital Signalling

Digital signalling will be installed on the Southern section of the East Coast Main Line

This could ease the problem of the double-track section, as all trains should eventually be timed more precisely.

More Use Of The Hertford Loop

Perhaps some or all of the six 100 mph Thameslink services, could use an upgraded Hertford Loop Line, which will be fitted with digital signalling.

125 mph Trains

In a last resort, it would surely be more affordable to run 125 mph commuter trains to Cambridge, Ely and Peterborough, than put put two extra tracks on the Digswell Viaduct.

March 20, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 5 Comments

Nervous Operators Force Network Rail To Defer King’s Cross Plan

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

King’s Cross station has to be closed for three months, so that tracks, electrification and signalling can be replaced and modernised for about 1.5 miles from the buffer stops at the station.

The original dates of the closure were to have been between December 2019 and March 2020, but now it looks like it could be delayed by up to a year.

The article on the web site, is a shortened version of the article in the magazine, where this is said.

Closure dates have yet to be announced, and NR is still developing a passenger handling strategy which could include long-distance services at Finsbury Park or some services terminating at Peterborough. Some trains could even be rerouted into London Liverpool Street.

I wonder, if Network Rail’s planners are cursing that the around thirty miles between Peterborough and Ely is not electrified.

If it were electrified, it would allow electric trains as well as diesel and bi-mode trains to access Liverpool Street station via the West Anglia Main Line.

What Benefits Would There Be From Electrifying Peterborough To Ely?

I can imagine Oxford-educated civil servants in the Department of Transport and The Treasury dismissing calls for more electrification in the backwater of East Anglia, after the successful electrification to Norwich in the 1980s.

But now Cambridge is powering ahead and East Anglia is on the rise, with the massive Port of Felixstowe needing large numbers of freight trains to other parts of mainland UK.

This East Anglian success gives reasons for the electrification of the Peterborough-Ely Line.

Direct Electric Trains Between Peterborough And Cambridge

I have met Cambridge thinkers, who believe that Peterborough is the ideal place for businesses, who need to expand from Cambridge.

Peterborough has the space that Cambridge lacks.

But the transport links between the two cities are abysmal.

  • The A14 is only a two-lane dual-carriageway, although a motorway-standard section is being added around Huntingdon.
  • Peterborough station has been improved in recent years.
  • The direct train service is an hourly three-car diesel service between Birmingham and Stansted Airport, which doesn’t stop at the increasingly-important Cambridge North station.

The road will get better, but the rail service needs improvement.

  • There needs to be at least two direct trains per hour (tph) between Cambridge and Peterborough.
  • They would stop at Cambridge North, Waterbeach, Ely and March.
  • End-to-end timing would be under an hour.
  • Greater Anglia will have the four-car bi-mode Class 755 trains, which would be ideal for the route from next year.

If the Peterborough- Ely Line was electrified, Greater Anglia could use five-car Class 720 trains.

An Electric Diversion Route For The East Coast Main Line

The works at Kings Cross station, and the possible proposal to run some trains into Liverpool Street station, show that an electric diversion route would be useful, when there are closures or problems on the East Coast Main Line.

In the case of the Kings Cross closure, if Peterborough were to be used as the terminal for some trains from the North, then I suspect some high-capacity Class 800 trains could shuttle passengers to Liverpool Street.

If the date of the Kings Cross closure is 2020, then certain things may help.

  • Crossrail will be running.
  • Extra trains will be running from Finsbury Park to Moorgate.
  • Hull Trains will be running bi-mode Class 802 trains.
  • There could be more capacity on the West Anglia Main Line.
  • There could be more capacity and some longer platforms at Liverpool Street.

What would really help, is the proposed four-tracking of the West Anglia Main Line.

The latter could prove extremely useful, when Network Rail decide to bite the bullet and four-track the Digswell Viaduct.

Extending Greater Anglia’s Network

Greater Anglia have bought new bi-mode Class 755 trains.

This would appear to be more than enough to covering the current services, as they are replacing twenty-six trains with a total of fifty-eight coaches with thirty-eight trains with a total of one hundred and thirty-eight coaches.

That is 46 % more trains and 137 % more coaches.

The new trains are also genuine 100 mph trains on both electricity and diesel.

Obviously, Greater Anglia will be running extra services, but with the explosive growth around Cambridge, coupled with the new Cambridge North station, I feel they will be running extra services on the Peterborough to Cambridge route and perhaps further.

The new Werrington Grade Separation will make a difference.

  • It will open in a couple of years.
  • Trains between Peterborough and Lincoln won’t block the East Coast Main Line.
  • The Leicester route could also be improved.

So services to and from Lincoln and Leicester would probably be easier to run from Cambridge and Stansted Airport.

CrossCountry run a service between Birmingham New Street and Stansted Airport stations.

  • The service stops at Coleshill Parlway, Nuneaton, Leicester, Melton Mowbray, Oakham, Stamford, Peterborough, March, Ely and.Cambridge and Audley End stations.
  • The service doesn’t stop at Cambridge North station.
  • The service is run by an inadequate Class 170 train, which sometimes is only two coaches and totally full.
  • Trains take just over three hours ten minutes for the journey.

Will Greater Anglia take over this route? Or possibly run a second train as far as Leicester?

Their Class 755 trains with better performance and specification would offer the following.

  • Electric running between Ely and Stansted Airport stations.
  • Greater passenger capacity.
  • wi-fi, plugs and USB sockets.
  • A three hour journey both ways.
  • The extra performance would probably allow an extra important stop at Cambridge North station.

The new trains would certainly offer what passengers want.

CrossCountry run an extra train between Birmingham New Street and Leicester, so perhaps at the Western end, the Greater Anglia service need only go as far as Leicester.

At the Stansted end of the route, there will be an hourly train between Stansted Airport and Norwich, so there could be scope for perhaps cutting one the services back to Cambridge.

Obviously, time-tabling would sort it out to the benefit of the train operators and passengers, but I can envisage a set of services like this.

  • Norwich and Stansted Airport – Greater Anglia – 1 tph
  • Birmingham New Street and Stansted Airport – CrossCountry – 1 tph
  • Leicester and Cambridge – Greater Anglia – 1 tph
  • Colchester and Peterborough – 1 tph
  • Norwich and Nottingham (Currently Liverpool Lime Street) – 1 tph

Adding these up you get.

  • Stansted Airport and Cambridge – 2 tph – As now!
  • Stansted Airport and Cambridge North – 2 tph – New service!
  • Cambridge and Ely – 4 tph – At least!
  • Ely and Peterborough – 4 tph – At least!
  • Cambridge and Peterborough – 2 tph – Up from 1 tph
  • Stansted Airport and Peterbough – 1 tph – As now!
  • Cambridge and Leicester – 2 tph = Up from 1 tph.

This pattern or something like it would be much better for all.

If the Ely-Peterborough section of the were to be electrified then it would enable the following.

  • A reduced journey time for electric or bi-mode trains.
  • If required Greater Anglia could run an extra electric service using Class 720 trains between Stansted Airport and Peterbough.

I said earlier that the Werrington Grade Separation will make it easier to run services between Peterborough and Lincoln.

So why not add an hourly service between Cambridge and Lincoln?

I can envisage, when the West Anglia Main Line is four-tracked at the southern end, that there might be enough capacity for a Liverpool Street to Lincoln service via Cambridge, Cambridge North, Ely, Peterborough, Spalding and Sleaford.

But whatever happens Greater Anglia’s choice of bi-mode Class 755 trains, seems to give them the flexibility to match services to passengers needs.

Electro-Diesel and Battery-Electric Freight Locomotives

The Class 88 locomotive is an electro-diesel freight locomotive, that can use either power from overhead electrification or an pnboard diesel engine.

I believe that locomotives like this will become more common and that eventually, we’ll see a battery-electric heavy freight locomotive.

I wrote about the latter in Thoughts On A Battery/Electric Replacement For A Class 66 Locomotive.

The Peterborough-Ely Line will see increasing numbers of trains hauled by these powerful electric locomotives, with either diesel or battery power to propel them over the gaps in the electrification.

Electrifying the line would speed these hybrid trains through and increase the capacity of the route.

Conclusion

Network Rail have annoyed the train operators with their planning and timing of the upgrade at Kings Cross station.

It looks to me, that the part of the problem, is that there is no viable electrified secondary route to London.

Bi-mode trains can use the Peterborough-Ely Line to go to Liverpool Street via Cambridge.

This line is one of those routes that sits in a sea of electrification, which carries a lot of traffic, that would bring several benefits if it were to be electrified.

  • Direct electric trains between Cambridge and Peterborough, would greatly improve the spasmodic service between the two cities, with large economic benefits to the county.
  • An electric diversion route would be created from Peterborough to Liverpool Street via Ely and Cambridge.
  • It would allow Greater Anglia to develop routes West of Cambridge to places like Lincoln and Leicester using their future fleet of Class 755 trains.
  • It would also make it easier for battery-electric freight locomotives to cover the busy freight route between Felixstowe and Peterborough.

I also feel that it wouldn’t be the most difficult route to electrify.

The Fens are flat.

There is no history of mining.

The track is fairly straight and simple.

I suspect that it could become a high-quality 90-100 mph, electrified line.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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December 8, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Could We Just Double The Width Of The Digswell Viaduct?

The Digswell Viaduct and the associated double-track railway through Welwyn North station at its northern end, on the East Coast Main Line is probably one of the biggest bottlenecks on railways in the UK. Wikipedia says this about the Grade II* Listed viaduct.

The viaduct carries the East Coast Main Line, which has to narrow from four tracks to two to cross the viaduct, making it a bottleneck restraining capacity over this strategic transport route. This problem is exacerbated by Welwyn North railway station situated at the northern end of the viaduct, which blocks the line while trains are stationary and two tunnels to the north. Several ideas to overcome the limitations of the viaduct and station without damaging the viaduct’s essential historic character and rhythmic design are periodically discussed. The line was electrified in the 1970s.

Various plans have been put forward to remove the bottleneck cause by this masterpiece of Victorian engineering.

The Current Capacity

Network Rail have published this report, which is entitled The Capacity Of The Welwyn Viaduct. This is said about the capacity of the twin-track section.

The two track section between Woolmer Green Junction and Digswell contains both Welwyn Viaduct and Welwyn Tunnel and is approximately 2.5 miles in length.

In pure theoretical terms the capacity of the viaduct is dictated by the headway over the section.

There is a planning headway of 3 minutes over the two track section which therefore results in a theoretical maximum capacity of 20 trains per hour. To achieve this capacity would require a fully homogeneous service (for example same rolling stock and calling patterns) and 100% use of planning capacity.

The usable capacity is below the theoretical and is determined by the service specification which needs to use the capacity. The current and future specifications for the section require calls at Welwyn North Station which is on the two track section. This reduces the number of paths that can be achieved in a single hour over the viaduct. The usable capacity is also determined by the fast line capacity between Finsbury Park and Digswell and the difference in speed of rolling stock approaching the two track section which will determine whether trains can be flighted over the viaduct at 3 minute slots to achieve the theoretical capacity.

There is no defined permitted number of paths on the viaduct as the capacity available is a function of demand and therefore the type and number of services which need to use it.

Network Rail concludes that eighteen trains per hour is a theoretical maximum on the current track layout.

Reason For Removal Of The Bottleneck

Whether or not HS2 is built, the East Coast Main Line must be improved to handle the large and ever growing traffic between London and Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh.

If more of the line was four-track, it would make the train companies aim of a frequent four-hour service to Edinburgh achievable. It could be even faster, if a lot of the line could handle trains at one hundred and forty mph, rather than the current one hundred and twenty-five.

Proposed developments are detailed in Wikpedia.

One of the most important is removing the bottleneck at Welwyn.

One Problem Or Two?

I think that when outsiders look at this bottleneck, they see one problem, but I think it is fair to describe it as two.

  • Welwyn North station and the tunnels to the North.
  • The Digswell Viaduct itself

In my view both problems need their own solutions.

We shouldn’t also forget other smaller changes, that can take the pressure of the area.

  • More and better use of an upgraded Hertford Loop Line.
  • More precise and better timetabling of trains.
  • As Thameslink beds down, we’ll see other improvements.

I also wonder, if a fully-electrified freight route could be created between Peterborough and London, through March, Ely and Cambridge, that used the extra capacity of a four-tracked West Anglia Main Line.

Welwyn North Station

In some ways the station is as big a bottleneck as the viaduct, as the two trains an hour that stop in the station, effectively block the line for a few minutes.

It is also one of those heritage problems, that Network Rail love so much. This is said in the Wikipedia entry for the station.

The station is a rare survival of architecture from the early days of the GNR and this is now recognised with listed building status. The main station building, the footbridge, the tunnel portal to the north and Welwyn Viaduct to the south are all Grade 2 listed.

So I doubt that modifying the station will be easy.

This Google Map shows the lines through the station.

Welwyn North Station

Welwyn North Station

These are some pictures of Welwyn North station taken on another day.

The images,  probably shows another problem in that four-tracking the line through Welwyn North station would probably close the car parks.

The Digswell Viaduct

The Digswell Viaduct is an iconic structure and if the views of the viaduct and the valley it crosses were to be altered in any negative way, there would be a battle that would make the protests over HS2 look like a child’s tea party.

Around 1890, they had a similar capacity problem at the Stockport Viaduct, which was successfully widened from two tracks to four.

It is my view, that with major advances in structural engineering and construction methods, that widening the viaduct would be one of the better methods to improving the capacity through the area, without changing the look of the viaduct.

Intriguingly, if the East Coast Main Line was not already electrified, with the recent development of IPEMU-technology, I suspect now that Network Rail would think seriously about not electrifying the viaduct.

Trains would cross using their on-board energy storage, raising and lowering their pantographs appropriately.

Knebworth Station

This Google Map shows Knebworth station, a few miles to the North of Welwyn North.

KnebworthStation

This station has four platforms arranged on two islands.

For comparison, this is an image of Welwyn North station to the same scale.

A1

I think that four-tracking Welwyn North station will be a tight fit.

Comclusion

At some point, I feel that Network Rail will bite the bullet on four-tracking this section of line and the fight will be a big one.

 

March 14, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , | 3 Comments