The Anonymous Widower

TransPennine Express Explores Further Fleet And Capacity Expansion Options

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Railway Gazette.

This is the first paragraph.

First TransPennine Express is hopeful that it will be able to issue a call for expressions of interest in the provision of additional bi-mode trains before the end of March. This follows ‘a healthy level of interest’ in its existing call for expressions of interest in the supply of bi-mode locomotives to replace the Class 68s which work with its MkVa coaches.

I wrote about the expressions of interest to replace the Class 68 locomotives with new bi-mode locomotives in Suppliers Sought For New Bi-Mode Locomotives For TransPennine Express And Great Western Railway.

This was my conclusion in the related post.

When I saw First Group’s proposals, I thought that they were over ambitious.

But after doing a few simple calculations, I think they can decarbonise some, but not all of the TransPennine Express services and the Night Riviera.

So do First Group want to complete the decarbonisation of  TransPennine Express services?

These are my thoughts.

The Train Fleet Specification

The Railway Gazette article makes these points about the new bi-mode trains.

  • The trains could be existing or new bi-modes.
  • It would be desirable for the trains to have a long-term electric-only option.
  • Options for this would include removing the diesel engines or converting the trains to battery-electric operation.
  • Hydrogen is not mentioned.
  • A fleet size of twenty-five trains is mentioned.
  • The possibility of electric-only trains in the future is mentioned..
  • Five-cars, with the ability to lengthen to six- or seven-cars.
  • 200 km/h operation.

There is nothing unusual in the specification.

Will They Be Existing Or New Trains?

I doubt that there are any existing 200 km/h bi-modes in the UK, that are not wanted by their current operators.

I am very certain they will be new trains.

Could The Trains Be Hitachi Class 802 Trains?

The trains sound very much like Hitachi Class 802 trains, that are in service with TransPennine Express, Great Western Railway and Hull Trains, all of whom are First Group companies.

  • Long-term, the diesel engines can be removed or replaced with batteries.
  • The battery option is under development and should be on test this year.
  • The trains can be lengthened to as long as twelve cars, so six- and seven-car trains would be possible.

Hitachi will obviously show interest in this possible order.

Will These Trains Replace the Class 185 Trains?

Consider.

  • TransPennine Express have 51 three-car Class 185 trains.
  • This is a total of 153 cars.
  • On some routes they work singly and on others they work in pairs.
  • A three-car Class 185 train has 167 Standard Class and 15 First Class seats or 60.7 seats per car.
  • A pair of Class 185 trains have 334 Standard Class and 30 First Class seats.
  • A five-car TransPennine Express Class 802 train has 318 Standard Class and 24 First Class seats or 68.4 seats per car.
  • It would appear that a Class 802 train is not that far short of the capacity of a pair of Class 185 trains.
  • Some of the TransPennine services are very crowded.

I suspect that twenty-five five-car trains be able to handle the the workload of the Class 185 trains.

If a small amount of extra capacity were needed, some of the new trains could be six-cars.

In this section, I have assumed the new trains will be Class 802 trains, but any train manufacturer pitching for this order would adjust the capacity to the needs of TransPennine Express.

The Railway Gazette article says this.

TPE continues to explore opportunities for new services in the north of England, and the move could also feed into government plans for the removal of older and more costly to operate diesel trains elsewhere on the network, should any rolling stock become surplus to requirements at TPE.

So where could the Class 185 trains be used in the future?

Recently, MTU Hybrid PowerPacks have replaced the transmission on a Class 168 train, which reduces carbon emissions and fuel consumption and makes the train quieter and more passenger-friendly, as it doesn’t use diesel in stations.

The Class 185 trains are only fifteen years old and I suspect that MTU have designed the Hybrid PowerPack, so that it can replace the Cummins engine in trains like these.

The conversion could be done as a rolling program, so that any future operator would start with diesel and go hybrid a train at a time.

There has been speculation, that the trains may end up on the East West Railway and I wrote about this in East West Railway Company To Start Second Phase Of Rolling Stock Procurement.

But the East West Railway may prefer to use zero-carbon trains on a route, where there is electrification in places on the route.

Alternatively, South Western Railway run 10 two-car Class 158 trains and 30 three-car Class 159 trains between London Waterloo and Exeter.

  • South Western Railway is another First Group company.
  • The Class 185 trains could provide a capacity increase.
  • The Class 185 trains are 100 mph trains, whereas the Class 158/159 trains are only capable of 90 mph.

The London Waterloo and Exeter Route could be electrified in the future and I am pretty sure, that the Class 185 trains with a hybrid transmission could be a good stand-in until this happens.

Other Train Manufacturers

I believe that Hitachi are in pole position for this order, just because they are an established supplier to both TransPennine Express and First Group.

But twenty-five five-car trains would be a very worthwhile order, so I suspect that companies like Alstom, CAF, Siemens, Stadler and Talgo will also express interest.

Conclusion

Buying extra bi-mode trains will take TransPennine Express further along the route to full decarbonisation.

 

 

 

 

March 15, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Bletchley Viaduct – 15th March 2022

The Bletchley Viaduct is now complete and the extra platforms of Bletchley station are under construction.

This visualisation from East West Rail shows an idea for the new station.

It would appear the visualisation was taken from somewhere near the roundabout on the East side of the viaduct.

March 15, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | 1 Comment

The New Winslow Station Site

This Google Map shows the site of the new Winslow station, on the East West Railway.

Note.

  1. The line from north of Wolvercote Tunnel (just north of Oxford) through Bicester to Bletchley would be enabled for 100 mph (160 km/h) double-track running.
  2. There will be two platforms at Winslow station.
  3. The station is planned to open in 2024.

Services at the station are likely to be.

  • Two tph – Oxford and Milton Keynes via Oxford Parkway, Bicester Village, Winslow and Bletchley
  • One tph – Oxford and Bedford via Oxford Parkway, Bicester Village, Winslow, Bletchley, Woburn Sands and Ridgmont

Note.

  1. tph is trains per hour.
  2. It appears the current Bedford and Bletchley service will continue.

It looks like the one tph service between Aylesbury and Milton Keynes via Aylesbury Vale Parkway, Winslow, Bletchley has been deferred indefinitely.

Consider.

  • Building a single track railway between Aylesbury Vale Parkway station and Claydon Junction on the East West Railway can’t be that challenging or expensive.
  • A single track railway should be able to handle the required train service of up to two tph at Aylesbury Vale Parkway station and occasional freight trains.

It doesn’t look too difficult or costly. So why? The only valid reason I can think of is that High Speed Two doesn’t want it for some reason.

March 3, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Platform Construction Underway At Winslow On New East West Railway

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

This picture from Network Rail shows the Winslow station construction site.

This paragraph from the Rail Advent article describes the operation.

A 250 tonne crawler crane is being used to lift over 500 pre-cast concrete platform units into position within new railway cutting. As there is limited space available on site, a smartphone app has been developed to allow the platform units to be called for delivery in the exact construction sequence. The crane’ ‘lattice boom’ is 62-metres long , which is taller than Nelson’s Column.

That all sounds like good project management to me.

December 26, 2021 Posted by | Computing, Transport/Travel | , , , | 2 Comments

Soham Station – 14th December 2021

I visited the new Soham station today.

I took four trains in total.

  • The 11:12 from King’s Cross, which arrived at  Ely at 12:23
  • The 12:31 from Ely, which arrived at  Soham at 12:39
  • The 12:51 from Soham, which arrived at  Ely at 12:59
  • The 13:18 from Ely, which arrived at King’s Cross at 14:33

The outward journey took  87 minutes, with the return taking 102 minutes.

I took these pictures at Soham station.

Note.

  1. The train is a three-car Class 755 train.
  2. There is only a single platform.
  3. There are dropped kerbs everywhere on the walking routes.
  4. There is plenty of car parking.
  5. There are disabled car parking spaces.
  6. There is a circular turning area in front of the station, which forms a high-capacity Kiss-and-Ride, with space for a couple of buses.
  7. The track towards Ely is single-track
  8. The track towards Bury St. Edmunds and Ipswich is double-track.
  9. The bridge is ready for a second platform, should it be needed and/or installed.
  10. The station is unmanned.

These are some further thoughts.

Is Soham The Ultimate Step-Free Station?

Consider

  • Greater Anglia’s Class 755 trains are level with the platform, as they have gap fillers.
  • Walking from the car parking to the train is step-free.
  • There are lots of dropped kerbs and tactile pavements.

I suspect it is one of the few stations in the UK, where if you arrive on foot or by car or bus, that there is no step to the train.

This document on Network Rail says this about the footbridge.

A stepped footbridge across the railway to connect to an existing public right of way, designed for future installation of lifts if a second platform is constructed.

It looks like Network Rail have all eventualities covered.

The Station Has Adequate Parking

This picture from the gallery shows the parking to the South of the station.

The Network Rail document says that the car park can accommodate 50 vehicles and has four spaces for blue badge holders.

But looking at this picture, there could be space for more parking.

The Station Is Well-Connected To The Road System

This Google Map shows the town of Soham.

Note.

  1. Soham has a by-pass around the Eastern side of the town.
  2. The railway passes to the West side of the town.
  3. The station is marked by the small blue dot to the left of the word Soham in the middle.
  4. The old road goes through the centre of the town.
  5. Soham is a town of nearly eleven thousand people.
  6. I suspect the town is fairly flat and many will walk or cycle to the station.

Hopefully, the station will attract a lot of passengers.

Does The Station Need A Second Platform?

Network Rail have shown with the Borders Railway and the Avocet Line, that two trains per hour (tph) can be run reliably on a line with sections of single-track and some stations with only one platform.

One of the problems with a second platform at Soham, would be that lifts would be needed for many to cross the track.

It is not the cost that is the problem, but lifts do not have a hundred percent reliability.

Would installing lifts mean providing staff at the station?

I think, that unless the station attracts a lot of passengers, the second platform will never be built.

Would A Second Track Be Provided At Soham Station?

This is a different question, with possibly a different answer.

A large number of freight trains pass through Soham station each day and to increase their number Network Rail have proposed double-tracking the route between Soham and Ely.

As Soham and Ely are just over five miles apart, I wonder if Network Rail are thinking of putting a freight loop through Soham station, that continues to Ely.

These pictures show a long freight train waiting in the freight loop at Ely station before proceeding to Peterborough and the West.

I think that this loop is bi-directional.

Could the new freight loop be built, so that the following happens?

  • The freight loop starts to the South of Soham station.
  • The freight loop connects to the freight loop at Ely station.
  • All passenger trains use the current single-track.
  • All freight trains use the freight loop.
  • Both tracks would be bi-directional.
  • Freight trains don’t pass through the current platform at Soham station.

It stood be noted that passenger  and freight trains take less than ten minutes between Ely and Soham stations.

As both freight and passenger trains would have their own tracks, I suspect that a total of at least four passenger tph and four freight tph would be able to pass between Soham and Ely.

The A14 Parkway Station

I wrote this section originally in Soham Station Aims For December 2021 Opening, but it still applies.

The A14 Parkway station is a proposal from the East West Railway.

  • It would be just to the East of Chippenham junction and would be served by both Greater Anglia’s services between Ipswich and Cambridge and Ipswich and Peterborough.
  • It would also be close to the major road junction, where the A11 and the A14 meet.
  • It would be a Park-and-Ride station.

I believe it could be a major factor in cutting road mileage in East Anglia, as drivers going to Cambridge from Ipswich, Norwich, a large area of North-East East Anglia and North Essex could find that using the A14 Parkway station an easier and faster route. But the A14 Parkway would need a frequent service to the soon-to-be-three main Cambridge stations.

A Soham and Cambridge service could reverse at the A14 Parkway station or by careful timetabling, passengers would be able to change trains in a minute or two.

A Cambridge And Soham Service

I do wonder, if Cambridge could benefit from a triangular metro.

The three points of the triangle would be A14 Parkway, Cambridge South and Ely stations.

The three legs would have the following stations.

  • A14 Parkway and Cambridge South – Newmarket, Dullingham, Six Mile Bottom *, Fulbourne *, Cherry Hinton * and Cambridge
  • Cambridge South and Ely – Cambridge, Cambridge North and Waterbeach
  • Ely and A14 Parkway – Soham and Fordham *

Note.

  1. Stations marked with an asterisk (*) are possible new stations.
  2. The basic frequency would be one tph.
  3. Trains would reverse at A14 Parkway, Cambridge South and Ely stations.

The triangular nature of the service may mean that to avoid the driver constantly changing ends, that automation and video technology may allow driving from either end of the train.

These existing services would fit in with the triangular service.

  • Norwich and Stansted Airport via Cambridge South, Cambridge, Cambridge North, Waterbeach and Ely.
  • Ipswich and Peterborough via A14 Parkway, Soham and Ely
  • Ipswich and Cambridge via A14 Parkway, Newmarket and Dullingham
  • Wisbech and Cambridge via Cambridge North, Waterbeach and Ely.
  • King’s Cross and King’s Lynn via Cambridge South, Cambridge, Cambridge North, Waterbeach and Ely.
  • Birmingham and Stansted Airport via Cambridge South, Cambridge, Cambridge North, Waterbeach and Ely.

Note.

  1. All services would probably be one tph.
  2. Some services currently terminating at Cambridge, may be extended to Cambridge South.
  3. There will be other services from East West Railway.

The frequencies on the various legs would be as follows.

  • A14 Parkway and Cambridge South – 2 tph plus one tph from East West Railway
  • Cambridge South and Ely – 5 tph plus one tph from East West Railway
  • Ely and A14 Parkway – 2 tph

The route between A14 Parkway and Cambridge would need to be improved, but this is planned by East West Railway.

Would It Be Possible To Commute From Soham To London?

My timings of around ninety minutes are probably well within the endurance of the average commuter.

Conclusion

Soham station is not your run-of-the-mill rural station.

 

December 14, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Then And Now: Winslow’s Transformation Over The Years As New Train Station Construction Continues

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Buckinghamshire Live.

Very little has been heard about progress at Winslow station on East West Rail and the article fills in a lot of gaps.

  • Interesting to see, that the board at the station still shows the link to Aylesbury.
  • The article says that the station should be finished by 2023.
  • Work has definitely started on the station.

It does seem that this important rail link is well and truly underway.

November 20, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | Leave a comment

‘Box Structure’ Flyover Saves £70m And Six Months For East West Rail

The title of this post, is the same as that of this press release on Network Rail.

This is the first paragraph.

Engineers have saved £70m of taxpayers’ money by using creative new methods to build a railway flyover as part of the East West Rail project.

This Network Rail picture shows how the new flyover rests on a concrete box, that spans the West Coast Main Line (WCML).

Note that the press release contains a video that explains how the flyover was replaced and why the method of construction saved all the money and time.

The main cost savings came about because of the following.

  • Construction could go on above the WCML without having to stop the trains.
  • Components for the flyover were made in a factory, with subsequent cost reductions and quality increases.

Anybody, who’s ever poured a concrete slab in typical British weather will understand the second point.

According to the press release, the method of construction gives a hundred and twenty year life span for the structure.

For comparison, this 3D Google Map visualisation shows the Hitchin flyover, which was opened in 2013.

Note the columns supporting the single-track railway.

If this was being built today, would a box be used as at Bletchley?

November 16, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Soham Station Aims For December 2021 Opening

This article on Rail Technology Magazine is entitled Soham Set To Benefit From New Station After 56 years Without.

Work only started on Soham station earlier this year, so this paragraph is a bit of a surprise.

The completion of the work means that from December, Greater Anglia’s Ipswich to Peterborough service will finally be able to stop at Soham once more, better connecting the population.

The work referred to is changes to the signalling to allow services to call at the new Soham station.

It certainly appears that the station is being built at a canter!

I have some thoughts on the station.

Station Location

This Google Map shows the town of Soham.

Note.

  1. The railway between Ely and Ipswich running North-South at the Western edge of the map.
  2. Station Road connecting the town centre to the railway.
  3. Looking at the map to a large scale, it certainly appears that construction has started, as dark green portacabins and red and white barriers ae visible.

This Network Rail visualisation shows the proposed station.

Note.

  1. The visualisation is looking to the East.
  2. Ely and Peterborough are to the left.
  3. Bury St. Edmunds and Ipswich are to the right.
  4. The footbridge is wide enough to cross a double-track, although the route is currently only single-track at this point.
  5. There is just a single platform on the town side of the track.

It appears to be a simple design, that possibly could speed the construction.

Station Design

This Network Rail visualisation is a closer view of the proposed station.

Note.

  1. The turning circle and the carpark on the town (Eastern) side of the station can be clearly seen.
  2. The single platform will be 100 metres long and will be able to accommodate a four-car Class 755 train, which is 80.7 metres long.
  3. It appears that there is a concrete wall at the back of the platform. Is this to protect passengers from the sometimes-biting winds of the Fens or the swirling air currents generated by passing freight trains.

The station and footbridge are future proofed for a possible second platform and lifts.

Services

Currently, Greater Anglia runs a train between Ipswich and Peterborough every two hours, although this was promised to be doubled in frequency at some time in the future.

Times to various stations are as follows.

  • Ipswich – 48 minutes
  • Bury St. Edmunds – 19 minutes
  • Ely – 9 minutes
  • Peterborough – 50 minutes

These times are from Real Time Trains, which already acknowledges the station.

Note that to get to the important city of Cambridge passengers will need to change at either Bury St. Edmunds or Ely.

In the future there are two ways that the connection between Soham and Cambridge can be improved.

Reinstatement Of The Warren Hill Junction and Snailwell Junction Chord

This Google Map shows the layout, where the Ely and Ipswich Line and the Cambridge Branch Line join to the North of Newmarket in a triangular junction.

Note.

  1. The A14 runs across the top of the map.
  2. The Ely and Ipswich Line runs in a curve to the South of the A14 and the British Racing School.
  3. The former Snailwell junction was to the South of the British Racing School and was the Northern point of the triangular junction.
  4. Chippenham junction is the Eastern point of the triangular junction and is where the Ely and Cambridge lines join.
  5. The former Warren Hill junction was at the South close to the stables of Godolphin and John Gosden and was the Southern point of the triangular junction. From Warren Hill junction the railway runs through the Warren Hill tunnel to Newmarket station and ultimately to Cambridge.

If the chord were to be reinstated between Snailwell and Warren Hill junctions, it would be possible to run an hourly service between Soham and Cambridge via Dullingham and Newmarket.

The A14 Parkway Station

The A14 Parkway station is a proposal from the East West Railway.

  • It would be just to the East of Chippenham junction and would be served by both Greater Anglia’s services between Ipswich and Cambridge and Ipswich and Peterborough.
  • It would also be close to the major road junction, where the A11 and the A14 meet.
  • It would be a Park-and-Ride station.

I believe it could be a major factor in cutting road mileage in East Anglia, as drivers going to Cambridge from Ipswich, Norwich, a large area of North-East East Anglia and North Essex could find that using the A14 Parkway station an easier and faster route. But the A14 Parkway would need a frequent service to the soon-to-be-three main Cambridge stations.

A Soham and Cambridge service could reverse at the A14 Parkway station or by careful timetabling, passengers would be able to change trains in a minute or two.

Two Trains Per Hour Between Newmarket and Cambridge

An hourly service between Soham and Cambridge would add an invaluable second hourly service between Newmarket and Cambridge.

It would also fit in with the regular proposals to reopen stations at Six Mile Bottom, Fulbourn and Cherry Hinton.

 

August 31, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Beeching Reversal – Reopening Harston Station

This is one of the Round 3 bids of Beeching Reversal projects that the Government and Network Rail are proposing to reverse some of the Beeching cuts.

Harston is a Cambridgeshire village, which is shown in this Google Map.

Note.

  1. The A10 winding its way North and South through the village.
  2. Cambridge is five miles to the North.
  3. The triangular road junction in the middle of the village with Station Road leading off to the South East.
  4. The Cambridge Line crosses the South-East corner of the map, at a right angle to Station Road.

This Google Map shows the former station site at an enlarged scale..

Note.

  1. There is plenty of space.
  2. There is a level crossing.
  3. The railway is double-track.

There’s even a Harston History page for the station, so if the architect’s decide to go retro, they can visit it for design inspiration.

My initial thoughts are that compared to some of the proposals for Beeching Reversal this one is practical and not over ambitious.

These are some of my thoughts.

Car Parking

Currently, there are the following stations between Cambridge and Hitchin.

Note.

Only Royston station has more than minimal parking provision.

The addition of Harston and Cambridge South stations will probably mean, that a lot of thought will be given to parking at all the stations between Cambridge and Hitchin.

Cambridge South like Cambridge North will probably have extensive parking to also serve Addenbrooke’s Hospital and Cambridge Bio-Medical Campus.

Whittlesford Parkway station on the line between Cambridge and Liverpool Street has very adequate parking provision.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Harston station having a couple of hundred parking spaces.

East West Railway

In Looking At The East West Railway Between Bedford And Cambridge, I looked at the route of the East West Railway as it approaches Cambridge.

I very much doubt that this new railway will go through Harston station.

But Harston station will beef up the capacity on the Cambridge Line to bring more workers to one of the science and engineering capitals of the world.

Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro

There are also plans for the Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro.

This map shows the proposed layout of the Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro.

Note that the green section will be in tunnel.

I doubt that the Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro will run to Harston, as it most likely will run on rubber-tyred wheels and probably wouldn’t mix well with heavy rail.

Train Service

Currently, the current trains run through the station in the Off Peak.

  • Thameslink – 2 tph – Cambridge and Brighton
  • Thameslink – 2 tph – Cambridge and King’s Cross
  • Great Northern – 1 tph – King’s Cross and Ely
  • Great Northern – 1 tph – King’s Cross and King’s Lynn

Note.

  1. tph is an abbreviation for trains per hour.
  2. All trains are fast services, except for the Cambridge and King’s Cross service, which stops at all stations.
  3. When Cambridge South station opens, I suspect nearly all services will stop at that station.
  4. The Great Northern services also stop at Cambridge North station.
  5. In Call For ETCS On King’s Lynn Route, I talked of the possibility of running 125 mph trains on Great Northern services between King’s Cross, Cambridge, Cambridge North, Ely and King’s Lynn.

I suspect that it will be likely only the Thameslink stopping train will call at Harston station, just as it is the only service that calls at Foxton, Shepreth and Meldreth stations.

  • But is two tph enough for a Park-and-Ride station?
  • Whittlesford Parkway station already has three tph to and from Cambridge.
  • I suspect there will be a second Stansted and Cambridge service which mean Whittlesford Parkway station gets four tph to Cambridge,

I suspect Hartston station needs four tph to give a Turn-Up-And-Go service.

Barrington Quarry And Landfill

This Google map shows the location of the Barrington Quarry and Landfill, with respect to Harston.

Note.

  1. Barrington Quarry and Landfill is in the North-West corner of the map.
  2. Harston is in the North-East corner of the map.
  3. The A10 road runs South-West from Harston to Foxton station, where there is a level crossing, where the Cambridge Line crosses the road.
  4. Foxton station has a freight-only line linking it to the quarry.

This second Google Map shows Foxton station in detail.

Note the rail line to Barrington curving away to the North West.

This document from CEMEX is entitled Barrington Quarry – Restoration Project.

It appears that the quarry will be restored and some of the land will be used for new homes.

As all the track is already in place, would it be possible to run a 2tph service between Barrington and Cambridge North station?

  • It could call at  Harston, Cambridge North and Cambridge stations.
  • Harston station would get a four tph service.
  • Cambridge gets more much-needed housing connected to the city.

It could also be run using battery-electric trains that would be charged using the electrification between Foxton and Cambridge North stations.

Conclusion

Taking everything together, it appears to me, that Harston station could improve the rail network to the South West of Cambridge.

March 21, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

East West Railway Company To Start Second Phase Of Rolling Stock Procurement

The title of this post, is the same as that of this press release from East West Rail.

These are the three introductory paragraphs.

East West Railway Company (EWR Co) is to restart market engagement with potential train suppliers, as its rolling stock procurement process enters a new phase.

The move follows an initial phase of procurement activity, which EWR Co concluded earlier in the year. A new PIN Notice has been published today to restart engagement with potential suppliers, which includes a set of technical specifications taking account of feedback from the market gained during the initial procurement phase.

This procurement aims to secure a short-term, interim solution to leasing a small fleet of self-powered trains for the Western Section of East West Rail.

The press release has a link to the Prior Information Notice or PIN Notice on the EU database.

along with all the usual contact and other details, this is said about the specification.

The East West Railway Company (EWR Co.) is looking to leasing a fleet of 12 or 14 x 3 car self-powered units with modifications including European Train Control System (‘ETCS’) Level 2 and Driver Controlled Operation (‘DCO’) capability, supported by a full maintenance package (under a ‘wet’ lease). These units will ensure timely operation of EWR’s Western Section Phase 2 between Oxford, Milton Keynes, Bedford and Aylesbury. The lease duration would be 4 years, with an option to extend for 2 years.

The date of the notice is the 10th of November 2020, so it has been recently updated.

I commented on these trains in March 2020, when I wrote EWR Targets Short-Term Fleet Ahead Of Possible Electrification.

In the intervening eight months, a lot have things have happened.

Awareness Of Green Issues

The Covid-19 pandemic has arrived, with all its ferocity and seems to be moving people in the direction of thinking about green issues and zero-carbon transport.

Type “build back greener UK” into Google and you get lots of articles. Some feature Boris Johnson, like this article on Business Green, which is entitled Boris Johnson To Pledge To ‘Build Back Greener’.

I don’t think the public, myriad engineers and scientists and a good selection of politicians will find it appropriate for the East West Railway to use any rolling stock, that is not zero-carbon and powered by renewable energy.

Hitachi Have Launched The Regional Battery Train In Conjunction With Hyperdrive Innovation

In July 2020, I wrote Hyperdrive Innovation And Hitachi Rail To Develop Battery Tech For Trains.

Hitachi had been talking for some time, that they were developing battery electric trains for the UK, but this was the first news of a route to their design, manufacture and into service.

Hitachi also published this YouTube video and this infographic of the train’s specification.

They have also called the train, the Hitachi Regional Battery Train.

My estimate is that Oxford and Bedford are under fifty miles apart, so if Hitachi’s train could be charged at both ends of the route, one of their trains could provide a self-powered service between Oxford and Bedford.

It seems that Hitachi have an off-the-shelf train, that fits the specification for the trains required by East West Railway.

Vivarail Have Launched A Fast Charge System

Battery electric trains, like electric vehicles are not much use, if you can’t charge them when it is needed.

The initial Service Pattern of the East West Railway is given in the Wikipedia entry of the East West Railway.

  • Two trains per hour (tph) – Oxford and Milton Keynes Central via Oxford Parkway, Bicester Village, Winslow and Bletchley.
  • One tph – Oxford and Milton Keynes via Oxford Parkway, Bicester Village, Winslow, Bletchley, Woburn Sands and Ridgemont.
  • One tph – Aylesbury and Milton Keynes Central via Aylesbury Vale Parkway, Winslow and Bletchley.

There are four terminal stations.

  • Aylesbury – No electrification
  • Bedford – Full Electrification
  • Milton Keynes Central – Full Electrification
  • Oxford – No electrification

The existing electrification could be used at Bedford and Milton Keynes Central, whereas some type of charging system, would be needed at Aylesbury and Oxford.

It appears that Adrian Shooter of Vivarail has just announced a One-Size-Fits-All Fast Charge system, that has been given interim approval by Network Rail.

I discuss this charger in Vivarail’s Plans For Zero-Emission Trains, which is based on a video on the Modern Railways web site.

There is more about Vivarail’s plans in the November 2020 Print Edition of the magazine, where this is said on page 69.

‘Network Rail has granted interim approval for the fast charge system and wants it to be the UK’s standard battery charging system’ says Mr. Shooter. ‘We believe it could have worldwide implications.’

Vivarail’s Fast Charge system would surely be a front-runner for installation at Aylesbury and Oxford, if battery electric trains were to be run on the East West Railway.

Choosing A Train

East West Rail have said the following about the train specification.

  • Three cars
  • Self-powered
  • European Train Control System (‘ETCS’) Level 2 and Driver Controlled Operation (‘DCO’) capability
  • Available on a wet lease, that includes a full maintenance package

The press release from East West Rail and other documents mentions between twelve and fourteen trains will be leased.

In Trains Needed For The East West Railway, I calculated that the proposed services could need around eight or nine trains.

This must mean one of three things.

  • There are plans for extra services.
  • There are plans for the proposed services to be extended.
  • Trains will run some services in pairs.

Because, of the last reason, the trains must have the ability to run in pairs.

As sections of the East West Railway are being built for 100 mph operation, the trains must also have a 100 mph capability.

When I talked briefly about green issues earlier, I said that I felt the trains should be zero-carbon, which would rule out diesel.

That leaves two options for self-powered operation; battery electric or hydrogen.

So what trains fit the specification?

British Rail Era Trains

A large number of British Rail era trains could be suitable for updating for interim use on the East West Railway.

I even suspect, some fantasist will suggest using shortened versions of InterCity 125 trains, as are used in South-West England and Scotland.

But let’s be serious and not insult the intelligence of the three world-leading universities on the final route of the East West Railway.

A lot of money is also being spent on this railway and tarted-up forty-year-old trains would not encourage people to use the new railway.

Class 170 Trains

There are eighty-seven three-car Class 170 trains with various operators, some of which will be surplus to requirements, as they are being replaced with new trains.

But they are diesel, so surely they don’t fit my perceived need for zero-carbon trains.

That would have been true until a couple of weeks ago, when as I wrote in Vivarail’s Plans For Zero-Emission Trains, Adrian Shooter of Vivarail disclosed an audacious plan to convert, diesel trains into zero-carbon battery electric trains.

Class 170 trains like this were on the list of possible conversions.

  • They 100 mph trains.
  • Some are three-cars.
  • They meet all the disability regulations.
  • They have been used for services much longer than Oxford and Bedford.

They could also start the service as diesel trains and gradually converted to battery electric, if this would be better for operation.

Class 175 Trains

The three-car 100 mph Class 175 trains could be a possibility as there are fifteen trains, but they have two problems.

  • They are powered by diesel.
  • They probably won’t be available until 2023.

So I think they can be ruled out.

Class 185 Trains

All the fifty-one Class 185 trains are currently in service with TransPennine Express. They are due to release fifteen trains in 2021 and it was thought that these trains were in prime position for becoming the interim trains for East West Railway.

  • They 100 mph trains.
  • Some are three-cars.
  • They meet all the disability regulations.
  • They have been used for services much longer than Oxford and Bedford.
  • The fleet is the right size.

But then the Department of Transport decided to change their plans for the Liverpool and Norwich service.

I wrote about one journey on the overcrowded section of this service in Mule Trains Between Liverpool And Norwich.

The picture shows the inadequate train formed of an assorted collection of Class 153 trains, I took from Liverpool to Sheffield.

The service is now being split at Nottingham and East Midlands Railway will receive the released Class 185 trains for the Liverpool and Nottingham portion of the service.

A fleet of these Class 185 trains will surely offer more comfort on a very busy service.

So it is looking unlikely that Class 185 trains will be used on the East West Railway.

Class 220, 221 and 222 Trains

These three fleets of Voyager trains could be a possibility, as they can be shortened to three-car trains.

But they have disadvantages.

I think it is unlikely, that these trains will be used on the East West Railway.

Class 350 Trains

There are thirty-seven Class 350 trains, that were built only twelve years ago, that have been retired. The owner; Porterbrook are planning to convert them into battery electric versions, which they have called BatteryFLEX trains.

Unfortunately, they are four-cars and unlike other trains, it doesn’t appear that they can be shortened to three cars.

Class 375, 377, 379 and 387 Trains

These four fleets of Electrostar trains could be a possibility for running as battery electric trains.

  • Some are three-car trains and four-car trains can be converted to three-car trains, by simply removing a car.
  • They are 100 mph trains.
  • Bombardier converted a Class 379 train for battery operation and I have heard or seen no adverse reports from either passengers, rail staff or journalists.
  • They can work in multiple formations.
  • They are all wired for dual-voltage operation.
  • Pantographs wells have already been fitted to trains that normally work using 750 VDC third-rail electrification.

The picture shows the Class 379 train, that was converted to battery electric operation.

The Class 379 trains, also have the advantage, that there is a fleet of thirty trains, that are being replaced by Greater Anglia, who are homeless.

If I were the owner of the Class 379 trains, I’d do the following.

  • Convert them all into battery electric trains.
  • Shuffle cars around to get a mix of three-, four- and five-car trains to match market opportunities.
  • Make them compatible with Vivarail’s Fast Charge system.
  • Do a licensing deal with Vivarail, so I could supply the chargers.

This plan has some big advantages.

  • Battery electric operation of the Class 379 trains has been successfully proven.
  • Some Class 379 trains are already available for conversion, as they have been replaced by Greater Anglia.
  • The trains could easily be delivered in time for the opening of the East West Railway.
  • The trains would not need to be replaced, if the East West Railway was to be fully electrified in the future.
  • If I leased out all the Class 379 trains, I’m fairly sure that I could acquire some other Electrostars to convert.

The trains would surely be ideal for the Uckfield Branch and Ashford and Hastings, which are to be run by battery electric trains.

  • The order for these services is still to be announced.
  • This use would be a trial application of the highest quality.
  • I suspect that five-car trains would be ideal for these Southern routes.
  • In Battery Electrostars And The Uckfield Branch, I estimated that Southern would need twelve five-car trains for the Uckfield Branch and four trains for the Ashford and Hastings service.

It looks to me, the thirty four-car Class 379 trains could be converted into the following battery electric trains.

  • Twelve five-car trains for the Uckfield Branch.
  • Four four-car trains for Ashford and Hastings.
  • Fourteen three-car trains for the East West Railway.

Using battery electric Class 379 trains for the East West Railway, the Uckfield Branch and Ashford and Hastings. looks from the engineering, numbers and financial points of view to be a very efficient proposition.

Class 385 Trains

As I indicated earlier, Hitachi have the technology to create a Class 385 train with a battery capability.

  • They appear to be talking to ScotRail.
  • Are they talking to Vivarail about using their Fast Charge system?
  • As the trains would be new, East West Railway would get trains to their specification.

Battery electric Class 385 trains must be a serious proposition.

Class 600 Trains

The Class 600 train could be an interesting possibility.

The trains can be powered by both hydrogen and overhead or third-rail electrification.

  • The trains are three-cars long.
  • They are 100 mph trains.
  • First in-service dates are scheduled for 2024, which could be convenient.
  • The trains will have a state-of-the-art Renatus interior.
  • They will not need charging and could probably be refuelled as infrequently as only once per day.

I am not worried, by the train being powered by hydrogen, but because of the large tanks in the train, the passenger capacity will be lower, than a diesel, electric or battery electric train of a similar length.

I suspect though, that Alstom will be pitching for the order.

Aventras

In this article in Global Rail News from 2011, which is entitled Bombardier’s AVENTRA – A new era in train performance, gives some details of the Aventra’s electrical systems. This is said.

AVENTRA can run on both 25kV AC and 750V DC power – the high-efficiency transformers being another area where a heavier component was chosen because, in the long term, it’s cheaper to run. Pairs of cars will run off a common power bus with a converter on one car powering both. The other car can be fitted with power storage devices such as super-capacitors or Lithium-ion batteries if required. The intention is that every car will be powered although trailer cars will be available.

Unlike today’s commuter trains, AVENTRA will also shut down fully at night. It will be ‘woken up’ by remote control before the driver arrives for the first shift

This was published over nine years ago, so I suspect Bombardier have refined the concept.

Bombardier have not announced that any of their trains have energy storage, but I have my suspicions, that both the Class 345 and Class 710 trains use super-capacitors or Lithium-ion batteries, as part of their traction system design.

I believe that Bombardier, have the ability to build an Aventra to this specification.

  • Three-cars
  • 100 mph running
  • Sixty mile range on battery power.
  • Dual voltage.
  • Ability to work in pairs.

Like the Hitachi trains, they would be new build.

CAF

CAF have proposed a battery electric train based on the Class 331 train, which I wrote about in Northern’s Battery Plans.

It is a four-car development of the three-car Class 331 trains.

Can it be built as a three-car train to fit the specification?

Conclusion

There are some good candidates sir supplying an interim fleet of trains for the East West Railway.

My money’s on one of the following.

  • New Hitachi Class 385 trains
  • Converted Class 379 trains.
  • New Aventras

All would be battery electric trains.

But there is a change that Alstom’s Class 600 hydrogen trains could be used.

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 14, 2020 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments