The Anonymous Widower

Would A North-East And South West Sleeper Service Be A Good Idea?

I ask this question as in the October 2021, there is an article entitled A New Sleeper, which has this explanatory sub-title.

Des Bradley describes his concept for a North-East to South-West Overnight Service

Paraphrasing his resume from the article, Des Bradley is probably best described as a rail enthusiast, who has travelled all over Europe by train, especially on sleeper trains. He has also worked recently with ScotRail, where he led their integrated travel activities.

I regularly use the Caledonian Sleeper on my trips to Scotland,  often taking a sleeper one way and a day time train the other. Towards the end of next month, I have tickets booked for a low-cost Lumo train to Edinburgh and a sleeper back to London in the evening.

In this blog, I have regularly written about the sleeper trains being introduced across Europe and this summer I had intended to go via Eurostar and NightJet to Vienna. But the pandemic has kept me in England for two years.

An Edinburgh And Plymouth Sleeper

Des Bradley is proposing a sleeper train between Edinburgh and Plymouth.

  • A typical daytime trip on this route takes eight hours and forty-five minutes.
  • Intermediate stops would be Berwick-upon-Tweed, Newcastle, Durham, Darlington, York, Leeds, Sheffield, Derby, Birmingham New Street, Cheltenham Spa, Bristol Parkway, Bristol Temple Meads, Taunton, Exeter St. David’s and Newton Abbot.
  • Journey time would be just over twelve hours.
  • By comparison a sleeper between London and Edinburgh takes about seven hours and thirty minutes.

He calls the service the NESW Sleeper.

I have some thoughts on the proposal.

A Spine Route Between Edinburgh And Penzance

The route is effectively a spine between Edinburgh and Plymouth on which other services can be built.

Unlike the Caledonian Sleeper, Des Bradley doesn’t feel the train should split and join as it travels up and down the country.

But I do think that the NESW Sleeper can be timed to fit in with high-quality connecting services to extend the coverage.

An Innovative Timetable

Des Bradley’s timetable is innovative.

  • Trains leave Edinburgh and Plymouth around 21:00.
  • Trains arrive at their destination around 09:00.
  • Trains stop for about two hours at Derby.
  • After resting at Derby, the trains are effectively early morning trains.

Note.

  1. The wait at Derby, adds extra time, that can be used to make up for engineering diversions, which often happen at night!
  2. The trains could be used by non-sleeper passengers to get to Plymouth or Edinburgh early.

The consequence of the second point, is that the trains will have to offer some Standard Class seats.

Should The Train Serve Penzance?

The Great Western Railway’s Night Riviera sleeper train calls at Liskeard, Bodmin Parkway, Lostwithiel, St.Austell, Truro, Redruth, Cambourne, Hoyle and St. Erth between Plymouth and Penzance.

According to a proposed NESW timetable, the Night Riviera has long gone, before the NESW Sleeper arrives in Plymouth at 08:58.

But I’m sure Great Western Railway could arrange for a convenient service between Plymouth and Penzance to pick up passengers in the morning and deliver them in the evening. This picture taken at Plymouth, indicates that cross-platform interchange may be possible.

This picture shows a pair of GWR Castles, which regularly work additional services between Plymouth and Penzance.

What About Wales?

I suspect that Cardiff, Swansea and other towns and cities in South Wales, can be served in a similar way, by connecting with GWR services at Bristol Parkway station.

Other Connecting Services

Birmingham New Street, Derby, Leeds and Newcastle are important interchange stations and I can see services being timed to bring passengers to and from the NESW Sleeper.

Rolling Stock

The author offers choices for the trains, based on what is used currently in the UK and adding multiple units. But he is definitely tending towards fixed formations.

I feel that the trains should meet the following criteria.

They should be of similar standard as the Caledonian Sleeper.

They would need an independently-powered capability for sections without electrification.

They should be zero-carbon.

They should offer a range of accommodation including Standard Class seats to cater the early birds and budget travellers.

The possibility to run at 100 mph or faster might be useful to catch up time on some sections of the route.

I think that two trains could be possible.

  • A rake of coaches hauled by a hydrogen-electric locomotive.
  • A battery-electric Sleeper Multiple-Unit with a range of perhaps eighty miles on batteries.

This is a sentence from the article.

The concept of ‘Sleeper Multiple-Units’ has also emerged in recent years, and this idea could be attractive; although it has some inherent inflexibility, it could in the future allow multi-portion or experimental new routes to be tagged onto the core service.

Sleeper Multiple Units might enable a South Wales and Edinburgh service, that used the same train path between Edinburgh and Bristol Parkway, where the two trains would split and join.

Conclusion

I like this proposal and definitely think it is a good idea.

 

 

 

September 26, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The London And Edinburgh Travel Market

This paragraph comes from of this article on Railway Gazette.

Lumo is aiming to carry more than 1 million passengers per year. It is particularly targeting people who currently fly between Edinburgh and London; in June it says there were 74 764 air journeys on the route, compared to 82 002 by rail.

Lumo’s million passengers per year, will equate to around 83,300 passengers per month.

What these figures don’t show is the number of rail journeys made to intermediate stations like Newcastle, York, Doncaster and Peterborough.

These are a few thoughts.

Rail Capacity Between London And Edinburgh

Consider.

  • LNER is currently the only rail carrier offering a daytime service between London and Edinburgh.
  • LNER run approximately 26 trains per day (tpd) in both directions between London and Edinburgh.
  • A nine-car Class 801 train can carry 510 Standard Class passengers and 101 First Class passengers.

That means that LNER had a capacity of just over 950,000 seats in June.

It might seem poor to have only sold 82,002 seats in June between London and Edinburgh, which is just 8.6 % of the available seats.

On the other hand, LNER’s two trains per hour (tph) are a lot more than London and Edinburgh trains, as they connect towns and cities all the way up the East Coast Main Line between London and Aberdeen.

Lumo’s capacity of a million seats per year, works out at 83,300 seats per month, which is another 8.7 % of capacity.

  • Lumo will sell seats on price initially and I suspect they’ll end up running about 85-95 % full.
  • It has been stated that they need to run 80% full to break even.
  • I also think, that they would like to have a few seats for late bookers.

But even so, they will surely affect LNER’s bookings.

What Will LNER Do?

Several of the things, that Lumo are doing can be easily copied by LNER.

  • Early booking.
  • Improve onboard service.
  • Better seating.

They could even reduce prices.

I think it is very likely we could end up with a price and service war between LNER and Lumo.

Would The Airlines Be The Losers?

This could be an outcome of competition between LNER and Lumo.

We are now talking about times of around four hours and twenty-five minutes between London and Edinburgh, but there are improvements underway on the East Coast Main Line.

  • The remodelling of the approach to Kings Cross station has not been reflected in the timetables.
  • The Werrington Dive Under has not been completed yet.
  • Digital signalling is being installed South of Doncaster.
  • The power supply is being upgraded North of Newcastle.

When these and other improvements are complete, I can see journey times reduced below four hours.

But would that only be for starters?great b

If a 1970s-technology Intercity 225 train, admittedly running as a shortened train formation, could achieve a time of just under three-and-a-half hours for the 393.2 miles between Kings Cross and Edinburgh stations in September 1991, what could a modern Hitachi train do, if all of the improvements had been completed and perhaps half of the route could be run at 140 mph under the watchful eyes of full digital signalling and an experienced driver.

Consider.

  • London and York is nearly two hundred miles of fairly straight railway, that is ideal for high speed.
  • Current trains run the 393.2 miles in four hours 25 minutes, which is an average speed of 89 mph.
  • A train running at 89 mph would take two hours and fifteen minutes to cover 200 miles.
  • A train running at 125 mph would take one hour and thirty-six minutes to cover 200 miles.
  • A train running at 140 mph would take one hour and twenty-six minutes to cover 200 miles.

When Network Rail, Great British Railways or the Prime Minister renames the East Coast Main Line as High Speed East Coast, I think we can be sure that trains between London and Edinburgh will be able to achieve three-and-a-half hours between the two capitals.

High Speed Two is only promising three hours and forty-eight minutes.

What About LNER’s New Trains?

LNER Seeks 10 More Bi-Modes, was written to explore the possibilities suggested by a short article in the December 2020 Edition of Modern Railways.

There has been no sign of any order being placed, but Hitachi have moved on.

  • They are building the prototype of the Hitachi Intercity Tri-Mode Battery for testing on the Great Western Railway.
  • They have completed some of the Class 803 trains for East Coast Trains, which has now been renamed Lumo. These trains have a battery for hotel power in case of catenary failure, but no diesel engines.
  • They are building the Class 807 trains for Avanti West Coast, which appear to be designed for high speed and have no batteries or diesel engines.
  • The latest versions of the trains will have a reshaped nose. Is it more aerodynamic at high speeds?

It does seem that there is an emphasis on speed, better acceleration and efficiency.

  • Could the lessons learned be used to improve the performance of the existing trains?
  • Could a small high performance sub-fleet be created to run LNER’s Scottish services?

There are certainly possibilities, that would cut journey times between London and Edinburgh.

Conclusion

I can see the airlines flying between London and Edinburgh suffering a lot of collateral damage, as the two train companies slug it out.

 

September 10, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

North From Thornton Junction

This Google Map shows how all the railways connect at Thornton junction.

Note.

  1. The village of Cameron Bridge is in the North-East corner of the map.
  2. The A 915 running diagonally across the map and to the East of the village of Cameron Bridge.
  3. In The New Cameron Bridge Station On The Levenmouth Rail Link, I showed how Cameron Bridge station was positioned to the East of the A915 and the village.
  4. The Levenmouth Rail Link would appear to pass to the South of the village, according to a Network Rail map in the related post.

Thornton junction is a large triangular junction in the South-West corner of the map.

  • Thornton North junction is close to Thornton Golf Club, which is shown by the green marker.
  • Glenrothes with Thornton station is at the Eastern point of Thornton junction.
  • Trains going West from Glenrothes with Thornton station go through Dunfermline and over the Forth bridge to Edinburgh.
  • Thornton South junction is South of Thornton Golf Club and leads South through Kirkcaldy station and over the Forth bridge to Edinburgh.

This second Google Map shows the main Edinburgh and Dundee rail line between Thornton Golf Club (Thornton North junction) and Markinch station, which is the next station to the North.

Note.

  1. The village of Cameron Bridge in the East of the map.
  2. Markinch station is in the North-West corner of the map.
  3. Thornton Golf Club (Thornton North junction) is in the South-West corner of the map.

Looking at various maps, Thornton Junction appears very complicated.

  • The North-South leg of the junction is at least double-track.
  • The North-East leg of the junction appears to be single-track.
  • The South-East leg of the junction appears to be single-track.
  • The former Levenmouth Rail Link appeared to join the main line at a single-track junction to the North of Thornton North junction
  • There is lots of space.

.I’m sure Network Rail can come up with an efficient track layout, that will enable the following.

  • Trains can go between Glenrothes with Thornton and Kirkcaldy stations in both directions, as they do now.
  • Trains can go between Glenrothes with Thornton and Levenmouth Rail Link in both directions.
  • Trains can go between Kirkcaldy station and Levenmouth Rail Link in both directions.

This would enable the service provision, that was specified in Service Provision On The Levenmouth Rail Link.

What Will Be Electrified At Thornton Junction?

This page on the Network Rail web site, says this about the trains that will run the service on the Levenmouth Rail Link.

And while the line will be electrified with overhead wires, services will be operated initially by battery electric units in order to reduce the number of diesels operating on the network as early as possible.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see full electrification between Glenrothes with Thornton and Leven stations, to make sure that the battery-electric trains had full batteries for the run South to Edinburgh.

  • The other two legs of Thornton junction  would also be fully electrified to give all passing trains a good charge.
  • The distance between Kirkcaldy and Markinch stations is 7.3 miles and trains take about ten minutes. I suspect most of this section of the Edinburgh and Dundee line will be electrified. There looks to be about six overbridges that might need raising, but I suspect it would be nothing too terrible, with about the same degree of engineering difficulty as electrifying the Gospel Oak to Barking Line in London.
  • I feel with good engineering and guile, enough electrification can be added to the route through Kirkcaldy to get the trains to the South.
  • West of Glenrothes with Thornton station, the track looks to be good territory for electrification and enough wires can be added, so that by Cardenden station, there is enough power in the batteries to get the trains to the South.

I have a feeling that by intelligently using the two routes via Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline, Network Rail can increase the frequency of trains over the Forth Bridge.

  • This probably partly explains, why trains to Leven go alternatively via Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline.
  • 100 mph battery-electric trains help too with their sparkling acceleration.
  • Who’d have thought, that at the age of one hundred and thirty, the Forth Bridge will be at the heart of an electrified local train network?

And the only new electrification is based on Thornton junction, over twenty miles to the North.

Electrification Between The Forth Bridge And Edinburgh

Without doubt, the electrification to the South of the Firth of Forth must reach as far North as possible.

Dalmeny station is the most Northerly station South of the bridge and I feel that this could be a practical place for the electrification to end.

Distances from Dalmeny to stations further North include.

  • Leuchars – 41.4 miles
  • Leven – via Dunfermline – 28.2 miles
  • Leven – via Kirkcaldy – 27.3 miles
  • Dundee – 48.8 miles
  • Perth – 47.4 miles

All these destinations would be within range of Hitachi Regional Battery Trains, which are described in this Hitachi infographic.

Note that the range on battery power alone is 90 km or 56 miles.

Given that the battery-electric trains would be able to grab a battery charge as they passed through Thornton junction, I am fairly certain that Hitachi Regional Battery Trains could reach Leuchars, Dundee or Perth.

An Electric Service Between Edinburgh And Dundee

Dundee is a new station and I doubt, that it was rebuilt without provision for full electrification.

It has two through platforms for Aberdeen and Edinburgh services.

There are also two South-facing bay platforms for regional services from the South.

This picture shows the two bay platforms with an Edinburgh-bound train to the left.

Note.

  1. In the picture the two Class 170 diesel trains will be going to Edinburgh or Glasgow.
  2. Scotrail’s plans include an hourly train to both of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

If these two bay platforms were electrified with 25 KVAC overhead wires, these battery-electric services will be possible.

  • Edinburgh and Dundee via Haymarket, Kirkcaldy, Thornton junction and intermediate stations.
  • Glasgow Queen Street and Dundee via Stirling, Dunblane, Perth, Gleneagles and intermediate stations.

I suspect other routes battery-electric will be possible.

An Electric Service Between Dundee And Aberdeen

The distance between Dundee and Aberdeen stations is 72 miles.

In Solving The Electrification Conundrum, I described techniques being developed by Hitachi Rail and Hitachi ABB Power Grids to electrify routes like Dundee and Aberdeen.

With Hitachi looking to give battery-electric trains a range of over forty miles, it could be just two hops between Dundee and Aberdeen.

I suspect Montrose could be the charging point, as it is forty miles South of Aberdeen.

Conclusion

It appears that the proposed electrification of Levenmouth Rail Link creates an electrification island at Thornton junction, that enables battery-electric trains to reach Dundee.

Coupled with plans to electrify between Stirling and Perth, this means that both Perth and Dundee will be connected to Scotland’s electrified rail network.

I suspect it is also possible to easily extend battery-electric trains all the way to Aberdeen, with only short sections of carefully positioned overhead wires.

Related Posts

The New Leven Station On The Levenmouth Rail Link

The New Cameron Bridge Station On The Levenmouth Rail Link

Service Provision On The Levenmouth Rail Link

Trains On The Levenmouth Rail Link

Whisky Galore!

July 29, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

These New Sleeper Trains Are Basically Luxury Hotels On Wheels

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Time Out.

French startup; Midnight Trains, aims to update sleeper trains for the twenty-first century.

What Routes Are Being Offered?

The Time Out article says this.

Centred around Paris’s Gare du Nord train station, routes will stretch as far as 800km in a star shape across Europe, encompassing major destinations such as Madrid, Lisbon, Porto, Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome, Vienna, Prague, Budapest, Berlin, Hamburg, Copenhagen and even Edinburgh.

A map on the Midnight Trains web site, shows these individual routes.

  • Paris and Barcelona
  • Paris and Edinburgh
  • Paris and Madrid
  • Paris and Porto
  • Paris, Brussels, Hamburg and Copenhagen
  • Paris, Brussels, Hamburg and Berlin
  • Paris, Milan and Venice
  • Paris, Florence and Rome

I’m sure this list will grow.

Some Detailed Looks At Routes

I shall give a few notes about some of the proposed routes.

Paris And Barcelona

Crows would fly 831 kilometres or 516 miles.

I have gone by train between Barcelona and Paris twice. One trip is described in From Barcelona To Paris.

It looks like it takes 06:40 in a TGV without a change.

The service leaves from Barcelona Sants and arrives at Paris Lyon.

Time Out says journeys are centred on Gare Nord, so could the train access that terminal from the South?

An eight or nine hour sleeper journey would probably be convenient for train operators and passengers.

But I suspect that this route may need trains that can take advantage of the high speed nature of much of the route.

Paris And Edinburgh

Crows would fly 873 kilometres or 543 miles.

  • I have gone by train between London and Edinburgh many times and four-and-a half hours would not be an unreasonable time.
  • I have also used  Eurostar between London and Paris many times and two-and-a-quarter-hours would not be an unreasonable time.

An eight or nine hour sleeper journey would probably be convenient for train operators and passengers.

The most efficient way could be for the Paris and Edinburgh service to operate would be with a reverse at St. Pancras.

  • It could be at between one and three in the morning, as sleeper trains run slower than high speed services.
  • It would take about ten-fifteen minutes for the driver to change ends.

Would they be allowed to pick up passengers on the way through London?

  • I doubt they would be able to do this universally, but there must be a market for passengers needing to get to Edinburgh or Paris early in the morning from London.
  • During the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, on one day, I used the Caledonian Sleeper to return to London. It was packed and a sleeper train leaving for Paris and Edinburgh might pick up a substantial number of passengers after sporting or cultural events or business that finished late in the evening.
  • Timings could be arranged, so that both the Edinburgh and Paris legs were sufficient for say four or five hours sleep.

Caledonian Sleeper would probably object. But competition of this nature is often mutually beneficial.

There is also an alternative fully-electrified route that avoids the reverse at St. Pancras.

It winds its way through East London between Barking and Holloway using the North London Line.

It is feasible, but wouldn’t have the commercial advantages of a reverse in St. Pancras.

Would the Paris and Edinburgh services call at other stations?

The Lowland Caledonian Sleeper to Edinburgh and Glasgow calls at the following other stations.

  • Watford Junction – Pick up Northbound – Set down Southbound
  • Carlisle – Pick up Southbound – Set down Northbound
  • Carstairs – Pick up Southbound – Set down Northbound
  • Motherwell – Pick up Southbound – Set down Northbound

Would the Midnight Trains do something similar. Perhaps they would call at the following stations.

  • Stevenage – Pick up Northbound – Set down Southbound
  • York – Pick up Southbound – Set down Northbound
  • Newcastle – Pick up Southbound – Set down Northbound

This would create three extra sleeper services.

  • Paris and Newcastle
  • Paris and York
  • Stevenage and Edinburgh

Commercially this must be attractive, as it would require no extra rolling stock.

I also suspect providing Customs and Immigration for outgoing passengers at York and Newcastle would not be an expense, that made the stops unviable.

Paris And Madrid

Crows would fly 1057 kilometres or 657 miles.

In 2014, I used trains from Madrid to Paris and on to London, which I wrote about in From Madrid To London.

That was a trip that I planned on the move, so it could have been done faster.

Looking at the timetables, I find the following.

  • Paris and Barcelona – 6:41
  • Barcelona and Madrid – 2:45

Note

  1. All times are given in hours:minutes.
  2. A direct service without a change at Barcelona must be possible.
  3. Would this service pick up and set down at Girona, Barcelona, Camp de Tarragona and Zaragoza?

A ten or eleven hour sleeper journey would probably be feasible and convenient for train operators and passengers.

But when I look at the route map on the Midnight Trains web site, their route between Paris and Madrid appears to go further to the West.

I have a strong feeling that they are proposing to use the currently closed route via the iconic Canfranc station.

But then Wikipedia says this about plans for the future of the route and the station.

The government of Aragon has long held various ambitions for the rehabilitation of the station. Plans have been mooted to redevelop the main station building into a hotel, which would involve the construction of a new station beside it to replace it. There have been explorations of options to reopen the through line as the “western trans-Pyrenean line”; this initiative would reportedly involve the assistance of the government of Aquitaine, the adjacent French region. In February 2020, it was announced that funding from the European Union had been made available for the purpose of reopening the through line and relaunching international services.

Note.

  1. A regular rail service between Pau in France and Zaragoza in Spain would tick a lot of boxes.
  2. On the French side the Pau-Canfranc railway is a fifty-eight mile electrified single-track, standard-gauge railway.
  3. On the Spanish side, the railway is Iberian gauge.
  4. It would probably be a useful freight route.
  5. If it could take a TGV, it would enable faster TGV links between France and the Iberian nations.

It looks to me, that if it was properly rebuilt, it could be a useful standard gauge line between the high speed networks of France and Spain.

Looking at the timetables, I find the following.

  • Paris and Pau – 4:24
  • Zaragoza and Madrid – 1:35

If Pau and Zaragoza could be achieved in three hours, times would be as good or better, than the Barcelona route.

Paris And Porto

Crows would fly 1213 kilometres or 753 miles.

This is a challenging one to find the route, but I did find a current time of just over fourteen hours with lots of changes.

But from Zaragoza, there does appear to be a route via Burgos and Vigo.

It could be up to sixteen hours, so would probably be the better part of a day.

Could the Madrid and Porto services, provide a service to and from Canfranc?

Consider.

  • Canfranc station is a spectacular station in the Pyrenees.
  • It has been blessed by St. Michael.
  • I suspect many people would like to visit.
  • The station might be converted into a hotel.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see innovative arrangements in the Madrid and Porto services, so that passengers could have a visit to Canfranc.

Paris, Brussels, Hamburg And Copenhagen

Crows would fly 1027 kilometres or 638 miles.

Looking at the timetables, I find the following.

  • Paris and Brussels – 1:32
  • Brussels and Hamburg- 6:49
  • Hamburg and Copenhagen- 5:06

Note

  1. All times are given in hours:minutes.
  2. When I went between Hamburg and Copenhagen by train, I used the Bird Flight Line which involved a train ferry, where passengers had to get on the ship for the crossing. I described that trip in From Copenhagen To Hamburg By Train.
  3. The ferry is being replaced by a tunnel by 2028.
  4. It looks like it might be possible to go between Hamburg and Copenhagen by a longer route further to the North.

An eleven or twelve hour sleeper journey would probably be feasible and convenient for train operators and passengers.

I was initially surprised that the service didn’t call at Amsterdam.

  • But then there are a lot of big cities between Brussels and Amsterdam; Antwerp, Rotterdam, Schipol Airport and The Hague.
  • There is generally one train per hour (tph) between Brussels and Amsterdam.
  • Paris and Amsterdam are only 3:20 apart by Thalys, so perhaps there wouldn’t be many takers for a sleeper train.
  • It would appear that the best route between Paris and Hamburg is via Brussels and Cologne.

From friends in the area, I also get the impression, that it would take forever for the Belgians and the Dutch to decide on the calling pattern.

Paris, Brussels, Hamburg And Berlin

Crows would fly 876 kilometres or 545 miles.

Looking at the timetables, I find the following.

  • Paris and Brussels – 1:32
  • Brussels and Hamburg- 6:49
  • Hamburg and Berlin – 1:36

Note that all times are given in hours:minutes.

A ten or eleven hour sleeper journey would probably be feasible and convenient for train operators and passengers.

I was initially surprised that the service didn’t call at Cologne.

  • Thalys runs a high speed service between Paris and Cologne.
  • DB runs a high speed service between Cologne and Hamburg.
  • NightJet runs a sleeper service from Brussels and Cologne to Austria.

It could be that the demand isn’t thought to be there.

Paris, Milan And Venice

Crows would fly 845 kilometres or 525 miles.

I have done much of this route before and wrote about it in From Novara To Paris.

Looking at the timetables, I find the following.

  • Paris and Milan – 7:22
  • Milan and Venice – 2:29

Note

  1. All times are given in hours:minutes.
  2. Would this service pick up and set down at Turin and Verona?

A ten or eleven hour sleeper journey would probably be feasible and convenient for train operators and passengers.

Paris, Florence And Rome

Crows would fly 1106 kilometres or 687 miles.

Looking at the timetables, I find the following.

  • Paris and Turin – 5:42
  • Turin and Florence – 3:00
  • Florence and Rome – 1:36

Note

  1. All times are given in hours:minutes.
  2. Would this service pick up and set down at Turin and Verona?

A ten or eleven hour sleeper journey would probably be feasible and convenient for train operators and passengers.

What Rolling Stock Will Be Used?

In recent years sleeper train sets have been ordered as follows.

  • Austrian Railways from Siemens.
  • Caledonian Sleepers from CAF of Spain.

But as Midnight Trains is a French Company, I suspect the train order could go to Alstom.

On the other hand because of European procurement rules and quality, the order could go to CAF.

The CAF Mark 5 Coaches are capable of running at 100 mph and there are pictures in On The Caledonian Sleeper To Glasgow.

I do wonder, though if we’ll see a radical design, which is different to current locomotive-hauled sleeper trains.

  • Electrical multiple unit rather than locomotive hauled.
  • 125 mph capability, which could be useful on some routes.
  • A fleet of identical train sets.
  • Ability to use all the voltages on the routes.
  • Ability to work in pairs or singly dependent on the needs of the route.
  • Ability to split and join automatically in a station.
  • Ability to use the signalling on all routes, including high speed ones.
  • The trains would be built to be suitable for all loading gauges on the routes served.

Note.

  1. Given that French-designed Class 373 trains used by Eurostar, could trundle all over South London into Waterloo, I don’t think it will be difficult to design a train, that fitted the Edinburgh service.
  2. Get the design right and there could be other customers.

They would be true Pan-European trains.

When Will The Trains Start Running?

2024 is the date given by Time Out and the Midnight Trains web site.

Conclusion

I like the proposed service.

These are reasons why.

The Proposed Level Of Service

When travelling for between eight and twelve hours, you need a quality train.

Over the years, I must have used sleeper trains run by Caledonian Sleeper at least twenty times,

When they have been good, they have been very good.

The new trains from CAF don’t need for anything more.

If Midnight Trains can match Caledonian Sleeper for quality on trains, service and food, they’ll attract passengers.

The Service Is Easy To Expand And Extend

Consider, these extra services could surely be added to the  proposed network.

  • Paris and Munich
  • Paris and Switzerland.
  • Paris, Nice and Genoa

If some of the plans to connect the UK and Irish railways come to fruition, there could even be a Paris and Dublin service in the distant future.

Consider, these extensions to the proposed services.

  • Edinburgh and Glasgow 1:12
  • Rome and Naples – 1:10
  • Barcelona and Valencia – 2:40

Note that all times are given in hours:minutes.

The Service Is Very UK-Friendly

Because of Eurostar, with its two-and-a-quarter hour journey between two of Europe’s largest cities, London and Paris can almost be considered twin cities with respect to long-distance transport.

Suppose a resident of Paris wants to go for a weeks holiday birdwatching in the North of Scotland, a late afternoon Eurostar to London and the Caledonian sleeper to Inverness is a very-feasible way to travel.

Suppose, I wanted to go from London to Berlin, in the future, I will be able to get a Eurostar to Paris and a Midnight Train to Berlin.

A Good Food Offering

I would hope that the food is of a quality nature.

I am coeliac and must have gluten-free food, like probably up to one percent of people.

I have found that the higher the quality of the food, the more likely it is, that the chef knows their allergies.

Before the pandemic, the best train food in Europe on a regular service was Great Western Railway’s Pullman Dining. But because of the restrictions, I’ve not tried it lately.

 

 

June 30, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Gravitricity Celebrates Success Of 250kW Energy Storage Demonstrator

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the Solar Power Portal.

I have already posted about this success in Gravitricity Battery Generates First Power At Edinburgh Site.

But the news story has now been mentioned in several respected publications and web sites.

So this idea, based on traditional Scottish products of heavy weights and girders seems to be getting valuable publicity.

The demonstrator is only small and uses two 25 tonne weights and a fifteen metre tower.

This is only a storage capacity of only 2.04 kWh, but the company is talking of weights totalling up to a massive 12,000 tonnes.

With a fifteen metre tower, that would be 490 kWh.

Note.

  1. The shafts at Kellingley Colliery in Yorkshire are 800 metres deep.
  2. The TauTona mine in South Africa is 3.9 kilometres deep
  3. In this article in The Engineer, Gravitricity talk about weights of up to 12,000 tonnes.

These are typical storage capacities.

  • Kellingley – 50 tonnes – 109 kWh
  • Kellingley – 12,000 tonnes – 26.15 MWh
  • TauTona – 50 tonnes – 531 kWh
  • TuaqTona = 12,000 – 127.5 MWh

Accountants before they invest in a company look at the financial figures. As an engineer, I look at the numbers in the science behind their claims.

If the engineering can be made to work, these figures are to say the least; very promising.

They are also beautifully scalable.

If say your application needed a 2 MWh battery and you had a 400 metre shaft available, you can calculate the weight needed. It’s around 1836 tonnes.

The Solar Power Portal article finishes with these two paragraphs.

The company will now look to rollout the technology in a series of full-scale 4-8MW projects, with conversations already underway with mine owners in the UK, Scandinavia, Poland and the Czech Republic, it said. Additionally, in South Africa Gravitricity is working closely with mine operator United Mining Services as part of a programme funded by an Innovate UK Energy Catalyst programme to identify potential schemes.

“A key feature of our full-scale projects will be their long life” added Blair. “Once built, our system can last for over 25 years, with no loss in output or degradation over time. This makes gravity storage cost-effective. And unlike batteries, we have no reliance on rare metals such as cobalt and nickel which are becoming increasingly scarce in the global drive to electrification.”

Note.

  1. I assume that they are 4-8 MWh projects.
  2. Charlie Blair is the Managing Director of Gravitricity.
  3. A weight of 1836 tonnes would give 4 MWh in the 800 metre shaft at Kellingley.

I wouldn’t be surprised that those owning a deep empty hole in the ground will be starting conversations with Gravitricity!

Conclusion

I am not worried, that I bought a few shares in Gravitricity in the crowd-funding last year!

All this good publicity from the BBC, Good News Network, Science, The Engineer, The Times and other media sites won’t harm my investment.

 

April 24, 2021 Posted by | Energy, Energy Storage, Finance | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

LNER To Keep Class 91s Until 2023

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

This is the two introductory paragraphs.

Class 91s hauling Mk 4s will remain with London North Eastern Railway until 2023.

Ten rakes of coaches and ten ‘91s’ will be used, with two additional spare ‘91s’ and a handful of spare Mk 4s also retained.

It looks like LNER are keeping enough Class 91 locomotives and Mark 4 coaches to guarantee having ten trains in service.

Why 2023?

The answer to this question is probably contained in an article in Issue 901 of Rail Magazine, which is entitled ORR Approves New Hitachi Inter-Car Connector Design, which has these two statements.

  • All inter-car connectors will have been updated by Summer 2022.
  • Hitachi has deals for a further 61 trains for three operators and all will be in traffic by the end of 2022.

It looks like Hitachi could have production capability from 2023.

The original Rail Magazine article also says this.

The extension is until the end of 2023 while LNER sources brand new trains, which would take a minimum of around two years to build and deliver. The operator has previously told RAIL it needs around six new trains.

It appears the difference between retaining ten InterCity 225 trains and adding six new trains to the fleet, is to cover for the retrofit of the inter-car connectors.

The Performance Of A Class 91 Locomotive And Five Mark 4 Coaches

I have seen in mentioned that Virgin East Coast were intending to run shortened rakes of Mark 4 coaches.

In the Wikipedia entry for the Class 91 locomotive, there is a section called Speed Record, where this is said.

A Class 91, 91010 (now 91110), holds the British locomotive speed record at 161.7 mph (260.2 km/h), set on 17 September 1989,[ just south of Little Bytham on a test run down Stoke Bank with the DVT leading. Although Class 370s, Class 373s and Class 374s have run faster, all are EMUs which means that the Electra is officially the fastest locomotive in Britain. Another loco (91031, now 91131), hauling five Mk4s and a DVT on a test run, ran between London King’s Cross and Edinburgh Waverley in 3 hours, 29 minutes and 30 seconds on 26 September 1991. This is still the current record. The set covered the route in an average speed of 112.5 mph (181.1 km/h) and reached the full 140 mph (225 km/h) several times during the run.

When you consider, this was nearly forty years ago, there can’t be much wrong with British Rail’s train engineering.

What Average Speed Do You Need  To Achieve London And Edinburgh In Four Hours?

The rail distance between London and Edinburgh is 393 miles, so four hours needs an average speed of 98 mph.

Consider.

  • I have travelled in InterCity 125 and InterCity 225 trains, where I have measured the speed at around 125 mph for perhaps thirty or forty miles.
  • In Norwich-In-Ninety Is A Lot More Than Passengers Think!, I travelled to Norwich and back, at around 100 mph most of the way.
  • Continuous 125 mph running is just as much about the track as the train.
  • I have watched a driver in an InterCity 125 at work and these guys and girls know the route and their charges, like the backs of their hands.

I think it is possible to arrange train pathing, so that trains could run between London and Edinburgh in excess of 100 mph.

I believe, that this would enable London and Edinburgh in under four hours.

Will LNER Run Faster Services With Short Sets?

Virgin East Coast’s original plan, was to run short sets between London and Edinburgh.

Would these short sets have been faster, than full size sets?

  • The power-to-weight ratio is higher, so acceleration would be better.
  • A five-car train would probably need half the power of a ten-car train to cruise at a given speed.
  • It might be possible to save weight to increase performance.
  • There would be no intermediate stops.
  • They know that the Kings Cross and Edinburgh record is three-and-a-half hours, which was set by a five-car train.
  • In-cab digital signalling and other improvements could be fitted.

It should also be noted, that a short set would probably do significantly less damage to the track than a full-size set at 140 mph.

Possible Short InterCity 225 Routes

LNER have only six fully-electrified routes, where they could run short InterCity 225 sets.

  • Kings Cross and Leeds
  • Kings Cross and Doncaster
  • Kings Cross and York
  • Kings Cross and Newcastle
  • Kings Cross and Edinburgh
  • Kings Cross and Stirling

Note.

  1. All routes are fully-electrified, which is a pre-requisite, as InterCity 225 sets have no self-power capability.
  2. Kings Cross and Leeds will probably be run by pairs of Class 800 trains, as LNER looks like it will split trains at Leeds and serve two destinations.
  3. Do Doncaster, York and Newcastle generate enough traffic for a fast service?
  4. The Edinburgh route will have direct competition from East Coast Trains, who will be running five-car Class 803 trains.
  5. The Stirling route at over five hours is probably too long.

It looks to me, that the preferred route for InterCity 225 sets,; short or full-size will be Kings Cross and Edinburgh.

How Many Trains Would Be Needed To Run An Edinburgh Service?

A flagship service between London and Edinburgh might have the following timetable.

  • One tph perhaps leaving at a fixed time in every hour.
  • A timing of under four hours.
  • Minimal numbers of intermediate stops.
  • The service would not be extended past Edinburgh, as the trains need electrified lines.

Suppose, the trains could do a round trip in eight hours, this would mean that eight trains would be needed to provide a service.

Ten trains would allow one train in maintenance and one ready to be brought into service at a moment’s notice.

Does this explain, why ten InterCity 225 sets are being retained.

Would In-Cab Signalling Be Needed?

I suspect that under current rules, in-cab digital signalling might be needed! But as I observed in Partners On Board For In-Cab Signalling Project On East Coast Main Line, this is on its way!

But, as the average speed needed to do London and Edinburgh in four hours is only 98 mph, I wonder what time could be achieved by one of the top drivers, using the following.

  • All their route knowledge and driving skill.
  • A five-car train.
  • Maximum acceleration.
  • A well-thought out pathing structure.
  • A clear track
  • No hold-ups
  • A non-stop run.

If the train were to run at 125 mph all the way without stopping, the journey time would be around three hours and ten minutes.

Wikipedia says this about in-cab digital signalling on the East Coast Main Line.

The line between London King’s Cross and Bawtry, on the approach to Doncaster, will be signalled with Level 2 ERTMS. The target date for operational ERTMS services is December 2018 with completion in 2020.

  • I estimate that that this will mean that 145 miles of the route will have full in-cab digital signalling.
  • Currently, the fastest London and Doncaster times are around 90 minutes, with many taking 97-98 minutes for the 155 miles.

This means the fast train takes 84 minutes between King’s Cross and Bawtry, at an average speed of 103 mph.

Suppose this fast train could go at 125 mph for all but twenty of the distance between King’s Cross and Bawtry, how much time would this save?

  • 125 miles at 125 mph would take 60 minutes.
  • 125 miles at 103 mph would take 72 minutes.

This means that just by running at 125 mph continuously for all but twenty miles could save up to twelve minutes.

If 140 mph running could be maintained on this section, another six minutes would be saved.

As they say, every little helps!

Lessons From Norwich-in-Ninety

In Norwich-In-Ninety Is A Lot More Than Passengers Think!, I travelled to Norwich and back, at around 100 mph most of the way.

Liverpool Street and Norwich is 114 miles and a ninety minute journey is an average of just 76 mph, which is 24 mph below the maximum cruise of a Class 90 locomotive and a rake of eight Mark 3 coaches. Compare this with an average speed of 98 mph needed for London and Edinburgh in four hours and the 125 mph maximum certified cruise of an InterCity 225 train, without in-cab digital signalling.

It should also be noted that Greater Anglia, run an additional stopping train after the Norwich-in-Ninety expresses, that call at several important stations and not just Ipswich.

Will LNER use a similar strategy? It was working well and successfully for Greater Anglia, until services were decimated by COVID-19!

Will LNER Increase Frequency Between London And Edinburgh To Three Trains Per Hour?

It would seem that the current two tph service running nine- or ten-car trains, runs with a high level of occupancy, so to replace some of these trains with faster and shorter trains might cause capacity problems.

But to add, a third faster train in the hour might be possible. Especially, if the Norwich-in-Ninety strategy were to be used. The timetable in both directions could be something like.

  • XX:00 – Four hour express
  • XX:06 – Four-hour plus train to current timing
  • XX:30 – Four-hour plus train to current timing

LNER’s Marketing Department would like it.

Could Hitachi Trains Achieve London and Edinburgh In Four Hours?

The all-electric Class 801 trains most certainly have a performance to match an InterCity 225 in terms of acceleration and maximum operating speed without in-cab digital signalling. After all, the Japanese train was designed as a direct replacement for British Rail’s last high performance train!

So I believe that with a well-designed timetable, electric Hitachi trains will be able to run between London and Edinburgh in under four hours, with a small number of stops.

Note that LNER will have a fleet of thirty nine-car and twelve five-car all-electric Class 801 trains.

But East Coast Trains will have a fleet of five five-car all-electric Class 803 trains, which could get near to a four-hour timing, despite their four stops at Stevenage, Durham, Newcastle and Morpeth.

  • I have timed a Class 800 train leaving Kings Cross and they get up to 125 mph fairly fast, by about Potters Bar, which is reached in eleven minutes.
  • Stops at Stevenage, Durham and Morpeth will probably each add two minutes to the timing, with Newcastle adding five minutes.
  • 125 mph all the way from Kings Cross to Edinburgh would be a timing of three hours and ten minutes.

Add up the stationary times at the stops (2+2+2+5) and that gives a journey time of three hours and twenty-one minutes, which leaves thirty-nine minutes for the five decelerations and accelerations between stationary and 125 mph.

This page on the Eversholt Rail web site, has a data sheet for a Class 802 train, which is a Class 800 train with larger engines.

The data sheet shows that a five-car train can accelerate to 125 mph and then decelerate to a stop in six minutes in electric mode. So five accelerations/deceleration cycles  to 125 mph would take thirty minutes. This gives a journey time between London and Edinburgh of three hours and fifty-one minutes.

Note that Class 801 trains, which don’t lug diesel engines about will have better acceleration, due to the lower weight, so should have better acceleration and deceleration.

Does this time seem reasonable? First Group with their extensive experience of running Class 800 trains on the Great Western Main Line will know the capabilities of the trains, down to the last mph.

I doubt, they’d have bought the trains for East Coast Trains, if they couldn’t do London and Edinburgh in four hours.

I believe that both InterCity 225 and Class 801/803 trains can do London and Edinburgh in four hours and any train company that doesn’t offer this timing, will come second!

A Possible Hitachi-Based Timetable For LNER

I would be very surprised if a service pattern like this wouldn’t be possible.

  • XX:00 – Four hour express – Class 801 train
  • XX:06 – Four-hour plus train to current timing – Class 801 train or InterCity 225
  • XX:30 – Four-hour plus train to current timing – Class 801 train or InterCity 225

Note.

  1. As there is only one extra train per hour, ten extra trains would be the addition to the fleet, needed to run this service pattern.
  2. Class 801 trains could be five-car or nine-car sets as passenger numbers require.
  3. InterCity 225 trains could be as long as are needed.

InterCity 225 trains would only be doing the job, they’ve done for many years.

Targeting The Airline Market

In Trains Ordered For 2021 Launch Of ‘High-Quality, Low Fare’ London – Edinburgh Service, which described the launch of First East Coast Trains, I said this about their target market.

First East Coast Trains is targeting the two-thirds of passengers, who fly between London and Edinburgh. The company are also targeting business passengers, as the first train arrives in Edinburgh at 10:00. Trains will take around four hours.

Note that currently, LNER’s first train arrives at 11:12. In the future, I would envisage that LNER intend to go for four hour journeys.

It would seem to me, that both train companies will be attempting to take passengers from the airlines.

Conclusion

It looks to me that ten InterCity 225 trains could add a third train in each hour between London and Edinburgh for LNER, that would do the journey in under four hours.

The third train could either be an InterCity 225 or a Class 801 train.

 

 

March 24, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hydrogen Refuelling In East Lothian

This article on Daily Business is entitled Hydrogen Refuelling Station Boost For Emission-Free Cars.

Hydrogen is coming!

March 4, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Gluten-Free Breakfast At Amarone In Edinburgh

I had my gluten free breakfast in Amarone in Edinburgh a couple of weeks ago.

I would certainly go back again.

  • Service was friendly.
  • Price was reasonable.
  • Food was excellent.
  • Tea was at it should be in a pot!

It was a bit quiet, but that was probably due to the early hour.

I’ll certainly use their restaurant in Glasgow as well!

August 21, 2019 Posted by | Food | , , | Leave a comment

Travelling From Edinburgh To London Next Wednesday

I am going to Scotland for a couple of days and will be returning on Wednesday.

I have just booked a First Class Advance Ticket for £69.30

  • I used my Senior Railcard.
  • The train leaves at 19:36 and s the last direct train South.
  • The train arrives in London at 01:05, which isn’t too late for me, as I can get a taxi home, for a reasonable fare.
  • I can even get an all-night bus to the stop round the corner.
  • I will be served complimentary snacks on the train.

Out of curiosity, I looked up easyJet

These were possible flights and prices, between Edinburgh and Gatwick Airports.

  • 06:05 – 07:35 – 65.55
  • 13:40 – 15:20 – £82.72
  • 15:35 – 17:15 – £88.78
  • 21:15 – 22:45 – £125.14

In addition, I would have to add about a tenner for getting to the Airports and perhaps ninety minutes before and after the flight.

So it looks to me, that my train ticket is better value, quicker and may get me home only an hour or so, later than the last flight, which will be twice the price.

 

August 17, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trains Ordered For 2021 Launch Of ‘High-Quality, Low Fare’ London – Edinburgh Service

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

This is the first paragraph.

FirstGroup has finalised an order for five Hitachi AT300 electric trainsets which it will use to launch a London – Edinburgh open access service in autumn 2021.

The trains appear to be be similar to those used by FirstGroup companies; Hull Trains and Great Western Railway.

These are some points from the article.

  • FirstGroup is targeting the two-thirds of passengers, who fly between London and Edinburgh.
  • They are also targeting business passengers, as the first train arrives in Edinburgh at 10:00.
  • The trains are five-cars.
  • The trains are one class with onboard catering, air-conditioning, power sockets and free wi-fi.
  • Stops will be five trains per day with stops at Stevenage, Newcastle and Morpeth.
  • The trains will take around four hours.
  • The service will start in Autumn 2021.

These are my observations.

Earlier Start

I suspect that the service can’t start earlier, due to one of the following.

  • The lead time in building the trains.
  • Completion of the new Werrington Junction.
  • Completion of the sorting of Kings Cross.
  • Completion of the works at Stevenage station.

The track works will probably be needed to create the extra paths needed on the East Coast Main Line.

Electric-Only Trains

Most other AT300 trains are bi-mode trains, but will these be electric-only?

Capacity Issues

If the trains prove too small, they can just add extra carriages or two trains can run as a pair.

Timetables

Trains will probably take nine hours for a round-trip, allowing 30 minutes for turnround.

This would mean that two trains leaving London and Edinburgh at six, would arrive back at home after two round trips around midnight.

Conclusion

I think it will be a successful service.

March 22, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 5 Comments