The Anonymous Widower

Could The Unwanted Class 707 Trains Be Converted To Hydrogen-Power?

South West Trains ordered a fleet of thirty Class 707 trains from Siemens for the route between Waterloo and Windsor and to increase services generally.

However, the new franchise holder; South Western Railway has decided to replace these new trains with new Class 701 trains from Bombardier.

Various reasons have been  put forward for the very early replacement.

  • Lower leasing costs.
  • Lack of toilets on the new trains.
  • The bad reputation with customers of the closely-related Class 700 trains on Thameslink.
  • SWR want a unified fleet.

My observations include.

  •  MTR, who are a partner in SWR and the Crossrail operator, have got good reports of the Crossrail Aventras.
  • SWR have ordered sixty ten-car trains and thirty five-car trains. So perhaps, SWT ordered the wrong mix of trains.

Crossrail 2 will probably use Aventras and it will take over some of SWR’s routes, So is there a degree of future-proofing for Crossrail 2 in the decision to abandon the Class 707 trains.

The Search For A New Operator For The Class 707 Trains

Wikipedia sums up the current situation.

Consequently, Angel Trains is looking for a future operator to lease these trains from 2019.

Will they find one?

The new franchise holder on Southeastern could be a possibility, if they decide to replace all their older units.

This totals to 1,300 carriages. So they would have to buy a lot more trains of the same type to have an easy-to-manage unified fleet.

Buying that number of carriages, you will have to be very sure, that you had the design and the price right!

Northern and Scotrail could have been possible homes, but they have bought substantial numbers of other train manufacturers products.

\st.Pancras to Corby could be a possibility, but I think that route needs a faster train.

So is there a fleet of thirty five-car trains, that just don’t fit what train operating companies want?

The Need For A 100 mph Diesel Multiple Unit Replacement

Currently, there are the following larger DMUs on the UK network with speeds in the range of 90-100 mph.

This totals about 1200 carriages.

Note.

  1. Most are in good condition.
  2. Some are being replaced.
  3. They are run by most train operating companies.
  4. Some run on routes that are partially electrified.
  5. Trains sometimes run in longer formations to increase capacity

This story in City AM is entitled Transport Minister Jo Johnson Calls For Diesel-Only Trains To Be Ditched By 2040 And Fast Rollout Of Hydrogen Train Trials.

So is what Jo Johnson said feasble?

On a rough estimate there must be somewhere between two and four thousand carriages to replace before 2040, with some form of zero-carbon trains powered by batteries, hydrogen or Aunt Jemina’s extra strong knicker elastic.

Replacing four thousand carriages in twenty years is just two hundred a year or just four per week . Given that Bombardier have been quoted as saying that production rates as high as twenty-five carriages a week is possible in a single production line, I don’t think building the trains will be a problem.

|When you develop new or adapt technology in a disruptive way, you must be thorough in your development and testing.

So I think that Jo Johnson has come up with a feasible plan to decarbonise a lot of UK trains.

Lessons From The Alstom Coradia iLint

The world’s first hydrogen-powered train is a version of the Alstom Coradia Lint.

Alstom and Siemens have now merged their transportation interests, so could we be seeing a hydrogen-powered version of the Desiro City, which is the train family to which the Class 707 train belongs?

A hydrogen-powered Class 707 train, would probably be a useful train for a train operating company to have in its fleet.

Perhaps, the current unwanted thirty trains could be converted to dual-voltage hydrogen-powered trains?

Wikipedia gives details on the hydrogen-powered Alstom Coradia iLint.

  • It is two-cars
  • It is based on a successful train.
  • It has a 140 kph operating speed.
  • It has a range of 600-800 kilometres on a tank-full of hydrogen.
  • It also uses a battery to store energy from traditional electrification, generated by hydrogen or from the regenerative braking system.

One of the keys to making it all work, is an intelligent computer system, that optimises energy generation and use according to the route.

A Hydrogen-Powered Class 707 Train

Could a conversion of a Class 707 train be tweaked to have the following performance and features?

  • A 160 kph (100 mph) operating speed on hydrogen.
  • The train already has this speed on electrification.
  • Dual-voltage of 25 KVAC overhead and 750 VDC third-rail.
  • A range on hydrogen in the region of four hundred miles.
  • An interior designed for hundred mile trips, with toilets, wi-fi and power sockets.

The trains would need a substantial rebuild, but probably nothing too radical provided the hydrogen-powered generator, Hydrogen tank and the battery could be fitted in.

In The Formation Of A Class 707 Train, I describe hoe the Class 707 train, is two motored-cars, with three trailer-cars in between. I suspect, that the train can be lengthened or shortened by adding or removing trailer cars.

So could appropriate trailer cars be placed in the middle to create Battery, electric or hydrogen trains?

It very much looks like it!

Possible Routes

This train would be very useful for 100 mph partially-electrified routes.

  • Basimgstoke to Exeter.
  • Brighton to Ashford.
  • London Bridge to Uckfield.
  • Liverpool to Holyhead via the Halton Curve.
  • Leeds to Carlisle via Settle.
  • Newcastle to Carlisle
  • Carlisle to Preston via Barrow and the Cumbrian Coast Line.
  • Blackpool to Leeds via the Calder Valley.
  • Blackburn to Manchester Airport via Todmorden

There are other routes, but most train operating companies have gone for a diesel or bi-mode solution.

Conclusion

I think that a hydrogen-powered Class 707 train is possible.

March 4, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

Class 158/159 Bi-Modes?

In the March 2018 Edition of Modern Railways, there is a short news item, which is entitled Bi-Mode Study For SWR DMUs.

The Class 158 and Class 159 diesel multiple units used by South Western Railway are diesel-hydraulic units.

Under their franchise aggreement, South Western Railway, agreed to perform a study, to see if the multiple units could be converted from diesel-hydraulic to diesel-electric transmission.

If this is successful, then the plan would be to fit a third-rail capability to the trains, so they could use the electrification between Basingstoke and Waterloo on services to Salisbury and Exeter.

Could the conversion also raise the operating speed of the trains from their current 90 mph to a more timetable-friendly 100 mph?

It looks like it could be a feasible , especially as the article states they might re-use redundant modern traction equipment from Class 455 trains, which are due for replacement.

Disruptive Innovation From Edinburgh

In The Future Of Diesel Trains, I talked about work being done in Edinburgh, by a company called Artemis Intelligent Power, to improve the efficiency of diesel-hydraulic trains.

This is an extract from the original post.

Artemis Intelligent Power has a page about Rail applications on their web-site.

This is the introductory paragraphs to their work.

Whilst electrification has enabled the de-carbonisation of much of the UK’s rail sector, the high capital costs in electrifying new lines means that much of Britain (and the world’s) railways will continue to rely on diesel.

In 2010, Artemis completed a study with First ScotRail which showed that between 64 and 73 percent of a train’s energy is lost through braking and transmission.

In response to this, Artemis began a number of initiatives to demonstrate the significant benefits which digital hydraulics can bring to diesel powered rail vehicles.

Two projects are detailed.

The first is the fitting of a more efficient hydraulic unit, that is described in the Rail Technology Magazine article.

Under a heading of Faster Acceleration, Reduced Consumption, there is a technical drawing with a caption of The Artemis Railcar.

This is said.

We are also working with JCB and Chiltern Railways on a project funded by the RSSB to reduce fuel consumption and improve engine performance by combining highly efficient hydraulic transmission with on board energy storage in the form of hydraulic accumulators, which store energy during braking for reuse during acceleration.

Note.

  1. The use of hydraulic accumulators to provide regenerative braking.
  2. The involvement of JCB, whose construction equipment features a lot of hydraulics.
  3. The involvement of Chiltern Railways, who like their parent company, Deutsche Bahn, have a lot of diesel-hydraulic multiple units and locomotives.

The article goes on to detail, how a test railcar will be running before the end of 2017.

I wonder if Artemis Intelligent Power have ideas for improving the efficiency and creating bi-modes of Class 158 and Class 159 trains?

Could they for instance produce a highly-efficient electrically-driven hydraulic pump, that could be powered by the third-rail electrification, where it is available?

If they can, the advantages of this approach include.

  • The ability to swap from diesel to electric power as required.
  • Regenerative braking could be made available.
  • The trains would still use diesel-hydraulic transmission.

It must surely, be at a lower cost.

February 27, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

Brexit – Signalling Implications For The UK

The title of this post is that of an article on Rail Engineer.

It looks at how rail signalling will be affected by Brexit.

It is an article worth reading.

Remember that signalling is the instructions that keeps a railway functioning, just like the operating system does on your computer.

The article starts like this.

With Britain on a course to leave the EU, how might the plans for signalling (control and communications) be affected? In short, nobody really knows, but a number of factors might now change the policy that had existed hitherto. Not having to comply with EU rules on interoperability, the non-inclusion of TEN routes and the advertising of large contracts in the European Journal might all lead to a different (or modified) approach.

So will it lead to different approach?

I don’t know either, but if you read the article we have gone a long way to creating a signalling system, that is some way along the path to meeting the ultimate EU aims.

ERTMS

The article says this about ERTMS or \European Rail Transport Management System.

ERTMS, and its constituent parts of ETCS and GSM-R, has been a corner stone of European signalling policy for over two decades. Both have taken far too long to come to maturity, with ETCS Level 2 just about at a stable level and GSM-R, whilst rolled out throughout the UK, facing an obsolescence crisis within the next ten years.

ETCS or European Train Control System is not fully deployed, but in the UK, we have made some progress.

  • The Cambrian Line has been equipped as a learning exercise.
  • Significant testing has been performed on the Hertford Loop Line
  • ETCS is being installed and has been tested in the central core of Thameslink.
  • Crossrail will be using ETCS.
  • ETCS is being implemented on the Southern part of the East Coast Main Line.

GSM-R is the communication system from train to signallers.

Looking at this , shows that although the UK fully implemented a GSM-R network by January 2016, not many countries have got as far as the UK.

Surely, you need decent communications to run an efficient and safe railway.

I think it is true to say we’ve not been idle.

The article talks about alternatives and shows a few cases where an alternative approach has been taken.

  • Norwich-Ely and Crewe-Shrewsbury have been resignalled using a modular system.
  • Scotland has decided to go its own way in the Far North.
  • The article talks about CBTC or Commuincations-Based Train Control, which is used on several systems around the world including London’s Jubilee and Northern Lines.

The article also says this about CBTC

The endless committees to discuss and agree how the standards will be implemented do not get in the way. Whilst not suitable for main line usage (at least in the foreseeable future), there could be suburban routes around cities (for example Merseyrail) that could benefit from CBTC deployment.

Could CBTC be a practical system without the bureaucracy?

But these alternatives all smell of pragmatism, where the best system is chosen for a particular line.

But we have one great advantage in that we have imnplemented a comprehensive digital network covering the whole network.

This is no Internet of Things, but an Internet of Trains.

Software

As a computer programmer, I couldn’t leave this out of the signalling recipe.

You can bet your house, that somewhere there are programmers devising solutions to get round our problems.

And they will!

Conclusion

I can’t believe that other industries are not giving the same opportunities to the disruptive innovators of the UK.

Brexit might be good for us, in a surprising way!

Nothing to do with politics or immigration and all to do with innovation!

 

October 11, 2016 Posted by | Computing, Transport | , , , | 2 Comments

The Platform For The Future

The June 2016 Edition of Modern Railways has a section about The Railway Industry Innovation Awards 2016.

One is labelled the Platform for the Future.

That probably sounds rather boring, but I’m a great believer in disruptive technology and using new and innovative methods to replace something that is rather dull, with something that is better, quicker to be installed and get working and more affordable.

This is said.

Abellio Greater Anglia and Dura have pioneered the use of a composite platform at Needham Market station in Suffolk, which was installed in just 36 hours.

This installation might be considered surprising as Needham Market station is a Grade II Listed building. So  it can’t look like.

A monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend.

But the product comes with these advantages.

  • The design life is sixty years.
  • A financial saving of 25% is reported.
  • As the platforms are built in a factory, the quality should be tip-top.
  • Other features like Harrington Humps could be built-in.

Hopefully, this would dissuade even the most determined member of the Heritage Taliban from objecting.

There’s more here on the Dura website. There’s also this video, of the platform being installed at Needham Market station.

This is a picture I took from a p[passing train.

The New Platform At Needham Market

It looks good and  who would think it was long-life hard-wearing plastic.

Only members of the Taliban tendency of the Green and Heritage lobbies would probably object!

I think that this product could find lots of applications, in traditional heavy rail, light rail and tramways. Certainly, it could be used to create some of the needed extensions to platforms on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.

Look at these pictures taken at Harringay Green Lanes station.

Would composite platforms make extending these platforms an easier process?

The company might also have the solution to the dual-height platforms, that some people feel are needed for tram-trains. The Germans certainly use stepped platforms so that different types of tram-trains have step-free access.

In fact, why restrict it to rail applications?

It could be used to provide a disabled viewing platform at somewhere like a horse racecourse or other sporting venue.

Or how about helping to create step-free bus stops, that I wrote about in One Of London’s Step-Free Bus Stops?

One Of London's Step-Free Bus Stops

One Of London’s Step-Free Bus Stops

It’s certainly a very good innovation.

 

June 13, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

Is Vivarail True Disruptive Innovation?

Disruptive innovation is defined like this in Wikipedia.

A disruptive innovation is an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology.

I’ve always been a great believer in this sort of innovation.

When we started Metier Management Systems and created Artemis, project management was worthy, time-consuming and if a computer was used it was an expensive mainframe. So we took a small but powerful industrial computer put it in a desk, added a VDU and a printer to do the same PERT and financial calculations much faster and often much physically closer to where the answers were needed. I have heard argued that one of our reasons for great success in the early days of North Sea Oil, was that you could find space for an Artemis system in Aberdeen, but not for a mainframe. The city was crawling with dozens of our systems.

After Artemis, project management was never the same again!

If we look at the building of trains, it is supposed to be an expensive business, with large manufacturers like Alstom, Bombardier, Hitachi and Siemens make expensive complicated trains, that are virtually computers on wheels. But at a price and to a time-scale that is such, that say a train company needs perhaps some extra four coach diesel multiple units to support say a Rugby World Cup or Open Golf venue, there is nothing that can be delivered in a short time.

Over the last few years, disruptive innovation has been alive and well in the train building industry. In the 1970s and 1980s, we built a large number of trains and electric and diesel multiple units based on the legendary Mark 3 coach. Wikipedia says this about the coach.

The Mark 3 and its derivatives are widely recognised as a safe and reliable design, and most of the surviving fleet is still in revenue service on the British railway network in 2015.

It is truly one of the great British designs. My personal view is that the ride in a Mark 3 coach, is unsurpassed for quality by any other train, I’ve ever ridden, in the UK or Europe.

A Mark 3-based multiple unit also survived the incident at Oxshott, where a 24-tonne cement mixer lorry fell on top of the train. There were injuries, but no-one was killed.

So what has the Mark 3 coach got to do with disruptive innovation?

They are like a well-built house, that constantly gets remodelled and improved by successive owners.

The structure and running gear of a Mark 3 coach is such that it is often more affordable to rebuild and improve Mark 3-based trains, rather than order new ones.

If Terry Miller and his team in Derby, had not designed the Mark 3 coach and the related InterCity 125 in the 1960s, I suspect that UK railways would be in a truly terrible state today.

These trains still remain the benchmark against which all other trains are judged. Two journeys sum up the class of a Mark 3 coach.

  • Travel in First and enjoy Pullman Dining on a First Great Western service between London and Wales or the West. Is there any better rail journey available without a special ticket in the world?
  • Travel in Standard on Chiltern to Birmingham and enjoy the ride and the views from the large windows, in the style that the designers envisaged for all passengers.

But the Mark 3 coach has created this industry in the UK, that can take well-built old trains and turn them into modern trains, that are often the equal of shiny new ones from the factory.

So where do Vivarail fit in all this?

London Underground has always specified the best for its railways and expected the trains to last a long time. In some ways it had to, as when it depended on Government favours for new trains, it could not predict if the replacements would ever be forthcoming.

Until the 1980s, most trains were built by Metro-Cammell in Birmingham and regularly fleets have lasted for forty or fifty years, as they were built to handle the heavy use in London, where journeys can be over an hour of full-speed running with frequent stops and often with far more passengers than the trains were designed. Take a Piccadilly Line train from say Kings Cross to Heathrow in the rush hour, if you want to see the sort of punishment that London Underground trains are built to take. The last of these Piccadilly Line trains were built in 1977 and under current plans, they will have to stay in service to 2025.

The oldest London Underground trains still in regularly passenger service, are the Class 483 trains used on the Isle of Wight. Admittedly, they are running a service in a less-stressful environment after fifty years service in London, but the trains were originally delivered to London Underground in 1939 or 1940.

The London Underground D78 Stock, that has been purchased by Vivarail for conversion into the D-train, were first delivered in 1980, so they have only taken about thirty-five years of London’s punishment.

The trains were also extensively refurbished in the mid-2000s.

It also has to be born in mind, that although London works its Underground trains very hard, they also get first class servicing.

Several factors have all come together to create an opportunity for Vivarail.

  • There is a desperate shortage of diesel multiple units all over the UK. Partly, this is because of a need to replace the ageing Pacers, but mainly because of the growth in passenger numbers and the reluctant of Government in the 2000s to invest in much-needed new diesel trains.
  • Network Rail’s well-publicised problems with electrification, only makes the need for more diesel trains more important.
  • A lot of trains will have to be taken out of service as they don’t meet the disability regulations.
  • The UK’s world-class train refurbishment business, which has honed its skills on creating new trains from old for forty years, is ready for a new project.
  • There is now a supply of well-maintained, corrosion-free D78 Stock, that may not be sexy, but are as tough as teak, that are surplus to requirements.

It should also be said, that train operators and passengers want more flexible and better specified train services on difficult lines that are unlikely to be electrified in the near future and are difficult lines on which to provid a decent reliable train service.

Read any of the serious literature about the D-Train and it shows that the engineers are taking the project very seriously and are thinking very much outside the box.

  • Power units are based on Ford Duratorq diesel engines mounted on rafts under the train, with two to each power car.
  • These rafts can be changed using a fork lift at a remote location.
  • Flexibility of interior layout to suit the route.
  • Extensive use of LED lighting, Wi-fi and other modern technology.
  • The crash test has been released as a video. How often do you see that?

But perhaps this article from Rail Magazine entitled Catering for VivaRail’s rebuilt D-Stock, illustrates their innovative thinking better than ever.

The more I read about the D-train, the more I think it will surprise everybody.

It is true world class disruptive technology. And British technology too!

 

September 18, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Zopa Goes With The Flow

This article on CrowdfundInsider talks of a tie-up between a boiler maker; Flow and a peer-to-peer lender; Zopa. This describes the link.

The Flow boiler will be launching in January 2015 and will be available to customers through a new finance package. This will provide a payback time of five years for the complete cost of the boiler. Customers may purchase the Flow boiler using a separate unsecured personal loan via Zopa, with repayments being off-set by reductions in your home energy bill from the value of the electricity generated.

I think we’ll see a lot of deals like this, where two new companies in different fields link up to make two and two add up to six.

This is disruptive innovation at its best.

December 2, 2014 Posted by | Finance, Transport, World | , , , , | Leave a comment

The NHS And Disruptive Innovation

I’m a great fan of disruptive innovation.  It summed up in Wikipedia as follows.

disruptive innovation is an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually goes on to disrupt an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology.

In some ways the classic disruptive innovation is iTunes, where Apple changed the music industry totally.

I, of course, would be a fan, because my first great success was Artemis, which took the project management industry out of the domain of large mainframe computers and cumbersome management structures into a computer that fitted under a desk.

But I have given this post, the title I have, as the NHS and other health systems is coming under pressure from disruptive innovation.

My other big innvation success was also disruptive innovation.

I was one of the backers of the technology that led to Respimat, a metered-dose inhaler.

That device seems to be too disruptive, as despite many years of development, I don’t think it is in general use.

It doesn’t use any batteries, compressed gases, nasty chemicals and is affordable to be throwaway. But despite their HCFC propellants, the incumbents in the healthcare industry, have not given market share.

But I have the satisfaction, that because of my scientific knowledge and practical experience, I spotted that the guys I backed could do something special. At least too, when I sold my share, I was well rewarded.

I do feel though that the NHS doesn’t do things in the same way as perhaps John Lewis would, when it comes to handling new methods of working.

As an example I was talking to my excellent GP about how having my cholesterol  results on my blog, helped the doctors in Hong Kong when I had my stroke. I said it would be great if all our medical records were searchable on line. We were also discussing a small operation I had on my nose ten years ago and wondering if it should be done again to stop the nose bleeds I sometimes get.

We then both said that computerisation had been an expensive farce, but we were both agreed it would be a good thing, especially if like me you travel a lot.  He did say Google launched something called Google Health, but that has now been discontinued.  Read about it here.

So did the general conservatism of health professionals and a lot of the general public kill the project.  Google don’t have many failures.

Reading about it, it seems that it would have been something I would have used.

If I look too at my Coaguchek, that is classic disruptive innovation. I don’t know how many use the device in the UK, but I suspect it’s not a large proportion of those who could benefit from such a device.

I suspect though that in a few years this device and its probably simpler successors will be as accepted as the monitors used by diabetics.

Small personal patient used technology like this will become more common.  After all, we now have a population, who love their gadgets and what better gadget is there, than one that helps you improve your health.

The NHS is going to have to get used to new technology and especially where that technology shows substantial cost savings.  But a lot of it, will mean changes in methods and management structures.

Disruptive innovation will improve the NHS, but it will be an NHS with a different number and type of hospitals, and staff not always deployed as they are now.

 

October 5, 2013 Posted by | Computing, Health, World | , , , , | 2 Comments

Disruptive Innovation

I’ve not heard the term before, but read this article.  It starts with this question and answer.

Question: what do these companies have in common?

Skype, Spotify, Marks and Spencer, Whipcar, Zopa, Zilok, Kiva, Patagonia, Kickstarter, Café Direct, Taskrabbit, Buzzcar and InterfaceFLOR.

Two of my favourite innovators; Zopa and Kiva are mentioned in the same breath as quite a few companies like, Skype, Spotify and M&S.

If the article has a fault, it’s that it misses out a couple of well known names, who the writer would call disruptive innovators.

I would have thought ARM Holdings and Dyson should be on the list. And I would think that a certain company called Metier Management Systems was one of the first! So we were only a shark in a small pond, but we completely rebuilt the pond.

August 23, 2012 Posted by | Business, Computing, Finance | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments