The Anonymous Widower

Hitachi Trains For Avanti

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in the January 2020 Edition of Modern Railways.

The Bi-Mode Trains

Some more details of the thirteen bi-mode and ten electric Hitachi AT 300 trains are given.

Engine Size and Batteries

This is an extract from the article.

Hitachi told Modern Railways it was unable to confirm the rating of the diesel engines on the bi-modes, but said these would be replaceable by batteries in future if specified.

I do wonder if my speculation in Will Future Hitachi AT-300 Trains Have MTU Hybrid PowerPacks? is possible.

After all, why do all the hard work to develop a hybrid drive system, when your engine supplier has done it for you?

Would Avanti West Coast need a train that will do 125 mph on diesel?

The only place, they will be able to run at 125 mph or even higher will be on the West Coast Main Line, where they will be running under electric power from the pantograph.

If I were designing a bi-mode for 90 mph on diesel and 125 mph on electric, I would have batteries on the train for the following purposes.

  • Handle regenerative braking.
  • Provide hotel power in stations or when stationery.
  • Provide an acceleration boost, if required, when running on diesel.
  • Provide emergency power, if the wires go down in electric mode.

I’m sure MTU could work out a suitable size of diesel engine and batteries in an MTU PowerPack, that would meet the required performance.

Or maybe a smaller diesel could be used. An LNER Class 800 train has 1680 kW of installed power to maintain 125 mph. But the Great Western Railway versions have 2100 kW or twenty-five percent more, as their routes are more challenging with steeper gradients.

For the less challenging routes at a maximum of 90 mph between Crewe, Chester, Shrewsbury and North Wales, I wonder what level of power is needed.

A very rough estimate based on the speed required could put the power requirement as low as 1200-1500 kW.

As the diesel engines are only electrical generators, it would not effect the ability of the train to do 125 mph between Crewe and London.

There looks to be a virtuous circle at work here.

  • Lower maximum speed on diesel means smaller diesel engines.
  • Smaller diesel engines means lighter diesel engines and less fuel to carry.
  • Less weight to accelerate needs less installed power.
  • Less power probably means a more affordable train, that uses less diesel.

It looks to me, that Hitachi have designed a train, that will work Avanti West Coast’s routes efficiently.

The Asymmetric Bi-Mode Train

It looks to me that the bi-mode train  that Avanti West Coast are buying has very different performance depending on the power source and signalling

  • 90 mph or perhaps up to 100 mph on diesel.
  • 125 mph on electric power.with current signalling.
  • Up to 140 mph on electric power with in-cab digital signalling.

This compares with the current Class 221 trains, which can do 125 mph on all tracks, with a high enough operating speed.

The new trains’ different performance on diesel and electric power means they could be called asymmetric bi-modes.

Surely, creating an asymmetric bi-mode train, with on-board power; battery, diesel or hydrogen, sized to the route, mean less weight, greater efficiency, less cost and in the case of diesel, Higher carbon efficiency.

Carbon Emissions

Does the improvement in powertrain efficiency with smaller engines running the train at slower speeds help to explain this statement from the Modern Railways article?

Significant emissions reduction are promised from the elimination of diesel operation on electrified sections as currently seen with the Voyagers, with an expected reduction in CO2 emissions across the franchise of around two-thirds.

That is a large reduction, which is why I feel, that efficiency and batteries must play a part.

Battery-Electric Conversion

In my quote earlier from the Modern Railways article, I said this.

These (the diesel engines) would be replaceable by batteries in future if specified.

In Thoughts On The Next Generation Of Hitachi High Speed Trains, I looked at routes that could be run by a battery-electric version of Hitachi AT-300 trains.

I first estimated how far an AT-300 train could go on batteries.

How far will an AT-300 train go on battery power?

  • I don’t think it is unreasonable to be able to have 150 kWh of batteries per car, especially if the train only has one diesel engine, rather than the current three in a five-car train.
  • I feel with better aerodynamics and other improvements based on experience with the current trains, that an energy consumption of 2.5 kWh per vehicle mile is possible, as compared to the 3.5 kWh per vehicle mile of the current trains.

Doing the calculation gives a range of sixty miles for an AT-300 train with batteries.

As train efficiency improves and batteries are able to store more energy for a given volume, this range can only get better.

I then said this about routes that will be part of Avanti West Coast’s network.

With a range of sixty miles on batteries, the following is possible.

  • Chester, Gobowen, Shrewsbury And Wrexham Central stations could be reached on battery power from the nearest electrification.
  • Charging would only be needed at Shrewsbury to ensure a return to Crewe.

Gobowen is probably at the limit of battery range, so was it chosen as a destination for this reason.

The original post was based on trains running faster than the 90 mph that is the maximum possible on the lines without electrification, so my sixty mile battery range could be an underestimate.

These distances should be noted.

  • Crewe and Chester – 21 miles
  • Chester and Shrewsbury – 42 miles
  • Chester and Llandudno – 47 miles
  • Chester and Holyhead – 84 miles

Could electrification between Crewe and Chester make it possible for Avanti West Coast’s new trains to go all the way between Chester and Holyhead on battery power in a few years?

I feel that trains with a sixty mile battery range would make operations easier for Avanti West Coast.

Eighty miles would almost get them all the way to Holyhead, where they could recharge!

Rlectrification Between Chester And Crewe

I feel that this twenty-odd miles of electrification could be key to enabling battery-electric trains for the routes to the West of Chester to Shrewsbury, Llandudno and Holyhead.

How difficult would it be to electrify between Chester and Crewe?

  • It is not a long distance to electrify.
  • There doesn’t appear to be difficult viaducts or cuttings.
  • It is electrified at Crewe, so power is not a problem.
  • There are no intermediate stations.

But there does seem to be a very large number of bridges. I counted forty-four overbridges and six underbridges. At least some of the bridges are new and appear to have been built with the correct clearance.

Perhaps it would be simpler to develop fast charging for the trains and install it at Chester station.

Conclusion On The Bi-Mode Trains

It appears to me that Avanti West Coast, Hitachi and Rock Rail, who are financing the trains have done a very good job in devising the specification for a fleet of trains that will offer a good service and gradually move towards being able to deliver that service in a carbon-free manner.

  • The initial bi-mode trains will give a big improvement in performance and reduction in emission on the current Voyagers, as they will be able to make use of the existing electrification between Crewe and London.
  • The trains could be designed for 125 mph on electric power and only 90-100 mph on diesel, as no route requires over 100 mph on diesel. This must save operating costs and reduce carbon emissions.
  • They could use MTU Hybrid PowerPacks instead of conventional diesel engines to further reduce emissions and save energy
  • It also appears that Hitachi might be able to convert the trains to battery operation in a few years.
  • The only new infrastructure would be a few charging stations for the batteries and possible electrification between Chester and Crewe.

I don’t think Avanti West Coast’s ambition of a two-thirds reduction in CO2 is unreasonable and feel it could even be exceeded.

Other Routes For Asymetric Bi-Mode Trains

I like the concept of an asymetric bi-mode train, where the train has the following performance.

  • Up to 100 mph on battery, diesel or hydrogen.
  • Up to 100 mph on electrified slower-speed lines.
  • 125 mph on electrified high-speed lines, with current signalling.
  • Up to 140 mph on electrified high-speed lines, with in-cab digital signalling.

I am very sure that Hitachi can now tailor an AT-300 train to a particular company’s needs. Certainly, in the case of Avanti West Coast, this seems to have happened, when Avanti West Coast, Hitachi, Network Rail and Rock Rail had some serious negotiation.

LNER At Leeds

As an example consider the rumoured splitting and joining of trains at Leeds to provide direct services between London and Bradford, Harrogate, Huddersfield, Ilkley, Skipton and other places, that I wrote about in Dancing Azumas At Leeds.

In the related post, I gave some possible destinations.

  • Bradford – 13 miles – 25 minutes – Electrified
  • Harrogate – 18 miles – 30 minutes
  • Huddersfield – 17 miles – 35 minutes
  • Hull – 20 miles – 60 minutes
  • Ilkley – 16 miles – 26 minutes – Electrified
  • Skipton – 26 miles – 43 minutes – Electrified
  • York – 25 miles – 30 minutes

Note, that the extended services would have the following characteristics.

They would be run by one five-car train.

  1. Services to Bradford, Ilkley and Skipton would be electric
  2. Electrification is planned from Leeds to Huddersfield and York, so these services could be electric in a few years.
  3. All other services would need independent power; battery, diesel or hydrogen to and from Leeds.
  4. Two trains would join at Leeds and run fast to London on the electrified line.
  5. Services would probably have a frequency of six trains per day, which works out at a around a train every two hours and makes London and back very possible in a day.
  6. They would stop at most intermediate stations to boost services to and from Leeds and give a direct service to and from London.

As there are thirty trains per day between London and Leeds in each direction, there are a lot of possible services that could be provided.

Currently, LNER are only serving Harrogate via Leeds.

  • LNER are using either a nine-car train or a pair of five-car trains.
  • The trains reverse in Platforms 6 or 8 at Leeds, both of which can handle full-length trains.
  • LNER allow for a generous time for the reverse, which would allow the required splitting and joining.
  • All trains going to Harrogate are Class 800 bi-mode trains.

Note that the Class 800 trains are capable of 125 mph on diesel, whereas the average speed between Harrogate and Leeds is just 35 mph. Obviously, some of this slow speed is due to the route, but surely a train with a maximum speed of 90-100 mph, with an appropriate total amount of diesel power, would be the following.

  • Lighter in weight.
  • More efficient.
  • Emit less pollution.
  • Still capable of high speed on electrified lines.
  • Bi-mode and electric versions could run in pairs between Leeds and London.

LNER would probably save on track access charges and diesel fuel.

LNER To Other Places

Could LNER split and join in a similar way to other places?

  • Doncaster for Hull and Sheffield
  • Edinburgh for Aberdeen and Inverness
  • Newark for Lincoln and Nottingham
  • York for Middlesbrough and Scarborough.

It should be noted that many of the extended routes are quite short, so I suspect some train diagrams will be arranged, so that trains are only filled up with diesel overnight,

GWR

Great Western Railway are another First Group company and I’m sure some of their routes could benefit, from similar planning to that of Avanti West Coast.

Splitting and joining might take place at Reading, Swindon, Bristol and Swansea.

South Western Railway

South Western Railway will need to replace the three-car Class 159 trains to Exeter, that generally work in pairs with a total number of around 400 seats, in the next few years.

These could be replaced with a fleet of third-rail Hitachi trains of appropriate length.

  • Seven cars sating 420 passengers?
  • They would remove diesel trains from Waterloo station.
  • All South Western Railway Trains running between Waterloo and Basingstoke would be 100 mph trains.

I wonder, if in-cab digital signalling on the route, would increase the capacity? It is sorely needed!

Southeastern

Southeastern need bi-mode trains to run the promised service to Hastings.

  • Trains would need a third-rail capability.
  • Trains need to be capable of 140 mph for High Speed One.
  • Trains need to be able to travel the 25 miles between Ashford International and Ore stations.
  • Trains would preferably be battery-electric for working into St. Pancras International station.

Would the trains be made up from six twenty-metre cars, like the Class 395 trains?

The Simple All-Electric Train

The Modern Railways article, also says this about the ten all-electric AT-300 trains for Birmingham, Blackpool and Liverpool services.

The electric trains will be fully reliant on the overhead wire, with no diesel auxiliary engines or batteries.

It strikes me as strange, that Hitachi are throwing out one of their design criteria, which is the ability of the train to rescue itself, when the overhead wires fail.

In Do Class 800/801/802 Trains Use Batteries For Regenerative Braking?, I published this extract from this document on the Hitachi Rail web site.

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

This is a very comprehensive power system, with a backup in case of power or catenary failure.

So why does it look like Hitachi are throwing that capability out on the trains for Avanti West Coast.

There are several possibilities.

  • The reliability of the trains and the overhead wire is such, that the ability of a train to rescue itself is not needed.
  • The auxiliary generator has never been used for rescuing the train.
  • The West Coast Main Line is well-provided with Thunderbird locomotives for rescuing Pendelinos, as these trains have no auxiliary generator or batteries.
  • Removal of the excess weight of the auxiliary engine and batteries, enables the Hitachi AT-300 trains to match the performance of the Pendelinos, when they are using tilt.

Obviously, Hitachi have a lot of train performance statistics, from the what must be around a hundred trains in service.

It looks like Hitachi are creating a lightweight all-electric train, that has the performance or better of a Pendelino, that it achieves without using tilt.

  • No tilt means less weight and more interior space.
  • No auxiliary generator or batteries means less weight.
  • Wikipedia indicates, that Hitachi coaches are around 41 tonnes and Pendelino coaches are perhaps up to ten tonnes heavier.
  • Less weight means fast acceleration and deceleration.
  • Less weight means less electricity generated under regenerative braking.
  • Pendelinos use regenerative braking, through the catenary.
  • Will the new Hitachi trains do the same instead of the complex system they now use?

If the train fails and needs to be rescued, it uses the same Thunderbird system, that the Pendelinos use when they fail.

Will The New Hitachi Trains Be Less Costly To Run?

These trains will be lighter in weight than the Pendelinos and will not require the track to allow tilting.

Does this mean, that Avanti West Coast will pay lower track access charges for their new trains?

They should also pay less on a particular trip for the electricity, as the lighter trains will need less electricity to accelerate them to line speed.

Are Avanti West Coast Going To Keep The Fleets Apart?

Under a heading of Only South Of Preston, the Modern Railways article says this.

Unlike the current West Coast fleet, the Hitachi trains will not be able to tilt. Bid Director Caroline Donaldson told Modern Railways this will be compensated for by their improved acceleration and deceleration characteristics and that the operator is also working with Network Rail to look at opportunities to improve the linespeed for non-tilting trains.

The routes on which the Hitachi trains will operate have been chosen with the lack of tilt capability in mind, with this having the greatest impact north of Preston, where only Class 390 Pendelinos, which continue to make use of their tilting capability will be used.

Avanti West Coast have said that the Hitachi trains will run from London to Birmingham, Blackpool and Liverpool.

All of these places are on fully-electrified branches running West from the West Coast Main Line, so it looks like there will be separation.

Will The New Hitachi Trains Be Faster To Birmingham, Blackpool And Liverpool?

Using data from Real Time Trains, I find the following data about the current services.

  • Birmingham and Coventry is 19 miles and takes 20 minutes at an average speed of 57 mph
  • Blackpool and Preston is 16.5 miles and takes 21 minutes at an average speed of 47 mph
  • Liverpool and Runcorn is 3.15 miles and takes 15 minutes at an average speed of 52 mph

All the final legs when approaching the terminus seem to be at similar speeds, so I doubt there are much savings to be made away from the West Coast Main Line.

Most savings will be on the West Coast Main Line, where hopefully modern in-cab digital signalling will allow faster running at up to the design speed of both the Hitachi and Pendelino trains of 140 mph.

As an illustration of what might be possible, London to Liverpool takes two hours and thirteen minutes.

The distance is 203 miles, which means that including stops the average speed is 91.6 mph.

If the average speed could be raised to 100 mph, this would mean a journey time of two hours and two minutes.

As much of the journey between London and Liverpool is spent at 125 mph, which is the limit set by the signalling, raising that to 135 mph could bring substantial benefits.

To achieve the journey in two hours would require an overall average speed of 101.5 mph.

As the proportion of track on which faster speeds, than the current 125 mph increase over the next few years, I can see Hitachi’s lightweight all-electric expresses breaking the two hour barrier between London and Liverpool.

What About The Pendelinos And Digital Signalling?

The January 2020 Edition of Modern Railways also has an article entitled Pendolino Refurb Planned.

These improvements are mentioned.

  • Better standard class seats! (Hallelujah!)
  • Refreshed First Class.
  • Revamped shop.

Nothing is mentioned about any preparation for the installation of the equipment to enable faster running using digital in-cab signalling, when it is installed on the West Coast Main Line.

Surely, the trains will be updated to be ready to use digital signalling, as soon as they can.

Just as the new Hitachi trains will be able to take advantage of the digital signalling, when it is installed, the Pendellinos will be able to as well.

Looking at London and Glasgow, the distance is 400 miles and it takes four hours and thirty minutes.

This is an average speed of 89 mph, which compares well with the 91.6 mph between London and Liverpool.

Raise the average speed to 100 mph with the installation of digital in-cab signalling on the route, that will allow running at over 125 mph for long sections and the journey time will be around four hours.

This is a table of average speeds and journey times.

  • 100 mph – four hours
  • 105 mph – three hours and forty-eight minutes
  • 110 mph – three hours and thirty-eight minutes
  • 115 mph – three hours and twenty-eight minutes
  • 120 mph – three hours and twenty minutes
  • 125 mph – three hours and twelve minutes
  • 130 mph – three hours and four minutes

I think that I’m still young enough at 72 to be able to see Pendelinos running regularly between London and Glasgow in three hours twenty minutes.

The paragraph is from the Wikipedia entry for the Advanced Passenger Train.

The APT is acknowledged as a milestone in the development of the current generation of tilting high speed trains. 25 years later on an upgraded infrastructure the Class 390 Pendolinos now match the APT’s scheduled timings. The London to Glasgow route by APT (1980/81 timetable) was 4hrs 10min, the same time as the fastest Pendolino timing (December 2008 timetable). In 2006, on a one off non-stop run for charity, a Pendolino completed the Glasgow to London journey in 3hrs 55min, whereas the APT completed the opposite London to Glasgow journey in 3hrs 52min in 1984.

I think it’s a case of give the Pendelinos the modern digital in-cab signalling they need and let them see what they can do.

It is also possible to give an estimate for a possible time to and from Manchester.

An average speed of 120 mph on the route would deliver a time of under one hour and forty minutes.

Is it possible? I suspect someone is working on it!

Conclusion

I certainly think, that Avanti West Cost, Hitachi and Network Rail, have been seriously thinking how to maximise capacity and speed on the West Coast Main Line.

I also think, that they have an ultimate objective to make Avanti West Coast an operator, that only uses diesel fuel in an emergency.

 

 

January 1, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

What Is A Pimby?

We all know that a Nimby (Not In My Back Yard!) doesn’t want fracking, a nuclear power station or a new railway to be built or something similar near to where they live.

But I believe, we could see the rise of a new type of protestor – the Pimby or a Please In My Back Yard!

I was reading this article on CleanTechnica, which is entitled Coal-Killing Long-Duration Energy Storage For Vermont (Vermont?!?).

The article is about Highview Power’s planned energy storage facility in Vermont, which I wrote about in Encore Joins Highview To Co-Develop Liquid Air Energy Storage System In Vermont.

This paragraph is from Highview.

“Unlike competing long-duration technologies, such as pumped hydro-power or compressed air, Highview Power’s CRYOBattery™ can be sited just about anywhere. The CRYOBattery has a small footprint, even at multiple gigawatt-levels, and does not use hazardous materials.”

You could imagine a community, , perhaps miles away from the nearest power station, where jobs and economic prospects are being held back by a dodgy power supply.

So the community might start to protest not about building perhaps a gas-fired station to satisfy their electricity needs, but in favour of a Highview Power system and some renewable wind or solar power.

Pimbys might also protest in favour of a new railway station or electrification of their branch line. The latter would be a good use for a Highview system.

December 24, 2019 Posted by | Transport, World | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Switching From Lorries To Freight Trains Could Cut Air Pollution By 10%

The title of this post is the same as this article on Rail Technology Magazine. This is the first paragraph.

Making the switch from HGVs to trains for freight travel could lead to 10% less air pollution from NOx across the country, says new research from the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT).

The major problem will be to get freight operators to switch from road to rail.

However, I do feel that this may be hastened by external factors and innovative methods and technology.

Shortages Of Train And Truck Drivers

There are regular news items about shortages of train and truck drivers.

I would think, that both careers will attract the same type of person.

Both careers will have their good and bad points.

But after a search of the Internet, it does appear that the train driver will earn more than the truck driver.

So will a shortage of truck drivers, nudge more freight operators to use rail?

Track Improvements For Rail Freight

Over the last decade or so, there have been several improvements in track layouts, that have been driven by the need to increase the amount of freigt carried by rail.

  • The development of the Great Northern and Great Eastern Joint Line through Lincolnshire as a freight by-pass for the East Coast Main Line.
  • The building of the Bacon Factory Chord to increase capacity to and from the Port of Felixstowe.
  • Electrification of the Gospel Oak to Barking Line will create a second electrified freight route across London.
  • Several passing loops have been lengthened to allow longer freight trains.
  • The Ordsall Chord will help freight through Manchester.

Obviously any general improvements will help freight trains as well as passenger trains.

Air-Pollution Activitists And Politicians

Most long-distance rail-freight is diesel-hauled and increasingly it goes through areas of large cities, where there is electrification. These electrified lines all see diesel-hauled freight trains.

  • The North London Line
  • The West London Line
  • The Gospel Oak to Barking Line
  • The Ordsall Chord
  • The Great Eastern Main Line
  • The West Coast Main Line
  • The East Coast Main Line
  • The Great Western Main Line

It will not be long before air-quality activists set their sites on removing diesel haulage from lines like these.

Will a local politician in North London say, be more likely to get elected, if they say, they will push for a ban on noisy and polluting diesel-powered locomotives running through their constituency.

The Replacement Of Diesel Locomotives With Electro-Diesel Locomotives

If you take a freight route like say Felixstowe to Trafford Park in Manchester via the Great Eastern Main Line, the North London Line and the West Coast Main Line, all of the route except for the two ends is electrified.

Normally, freight on this route would be hauled by a Class 66 diesel-locomotive, which would probably score 2/10 as a friend of the environment.

A modern electro-diesel locomotive, like a Class 88 locomotive  may be able to this and similar routes using electricity in the middle and its onboard diesel engine at both ends of the route.

The various locomotives, used on UK freight trains compare as follows.

  • Class 66 – 65/75 mph – 2.4 MW on diesel
  • Class 68 – Modern diesel to Stage II A emission standards – 100 mph – 2.8 MW on diesel
  • Class 70 – 75 mph – 2.7 MW on diesel
  • Class 86 – 75 mph – 0.7 MW on electricity
  • Class 88 – 100 mph – 4 MW on electricity – 0.7 MW on diesel
  • Class 90 – Electric locomotive – 100 mph – 0.9 MW on electricity
  • Class 92 – Electric locomotive – 87 mph – 5 MW on electricity

As the table shows the  Class 66 locomotives  are slow and less powerful than both the more modern Class 68 or Class 88 locomotives.

Cynically, I would say that the only reason that Class 66 and Class 70 locomotives are still in service is that they are good for the bottom line.

Despite this, I feel we’ll see an increasing number of electro-diesel locomotives like the Class 88 arriving in the UK.

New Electric Locomotives

Judging by some of the strange combinations, I’ve seen on some freight trains, we are short of electric locomotives.

This double-headed train has a Class 90 electric locomotive and a Class 66 diesel locomotive at the front of a long freight train.

Even electric locomotives from the 1960s are being called up for service.

These two Class 86 locomotives were hauling a freight train through Hackney Wick station.

I think we’ll see small numbers of new electric locomotives arriving in the UK.

I suspect too, that freight operators are preparing their bids for the fifteen Class 90 locomotives, that will be released in the next few years by Greater Anglia.

More Electrification

In a couple of years, there will be full electrification from London to Bristol and Cardiff.

Although the Government has put a hold on a lot of electrification,  current schemes like electrification of the Great Western Main Line will increase the use of electric or electro-diesel haulage.

Other smaller schemes might be added to increase the use of electric haulage for freight.

As an example, the lines into the important freight ports of London Gateway and Liverpool Two are not electrified. Electrifying both would probably increase the proportion of electrically-hauled freight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 2, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Could Cirencester Be Reconnected To The Rail Network?

In Boris Johnson Vows New Life For High Streets And Axed Rail Lines, I laid out a list of rail lines that could be reopened by a future Conservative government.

Today, I’m going to Cirencester to have lunch with an old friend.

But, Cirencester does not have a rail connection, although there used to be a Cirencester branch line from Kemble station.

The Wikipedia entry says this under Future.

As of 2016, discussions have taken place regarding the potential of relaying 5km of track from Kemble station to the edge of Cirencester at Chesterton Halt.

In January 2019, the Campaign for Better Transport released a report identifying the line as Priority 2 for reopening. Priority 2 is for those lines which require further development or a change in circumstances (such as housing developments)

It looks to me, the sort of rail reopening that fits with Boris’s list.

These are a few of my thoughts on the rebuilding.

The Connection At Kemble Station

This Google Map shows the connection at Kemble station.

It appears that connecting a new single-track branch line could be possible.

Crossing The A 429

This Google Map shows, where the A 429 and the Cirecenter Branch cross.

A bridge would be needed, as Network Rail doesn’t do level crossings on major roads.

Crossing Of Spratsgate Lane

This Google Map shows, where the Cirecester Branch crosses Spratsgate Lane as Cirencester is approached.

Would a bridge be needed?

Other Crossings

There are three other minor crossings on the route, between the two major ones I’ve mapped.

Approach To Cirencester

This Google Map shows the approach to Cirencester.

Could a rail track be squeezed in for a station?

Service Frequency

I would feel that, if the Cirencester Branch was reinstated as a single-track line, that a two tph service could be run between Swindon and Cirencester station with a stop at Kemble.

Extra Stations

The Golden Valley Line used to have two extra stations between Swindon and Kemble stations.

Minety & Ashton Keynes

Purton

If housing developments were to be proposed near these two locations or perhaps in other locations in Swindon, it would improve the financial case for a shuttle between Swindon and Cirencester stations.

Could Battery Trains Be Used?

The nearest electrification is fourteen miles away at Swindon station. An out-and-back trip on battery power should be possible.

Could Tram-Trains Be Used?

I don’t see why not! They would also have advantages.

  • Bridges would be lighter and less intrusive.
  • The minor crossings could work under tramway rules.
  • They might be able to reach Cirencester Town Centre
  • The branch could be fitted with lightweight tramway electrification.
  • Extra stations at Minety & Ashton Keynes and Purton could be simpler designs.
  • Battery power could be used on sections of the route.

I very much feel that a tram-train solution would be possible, from my observations in Karlsruhe and Sheffield.

A Visit To Cirencester

I had an excellent lunch with my friend in Cirencester and I have some some observations.

Cirencester

I have seen towns like Cirencester so often and used to live near Bury St. Edmunds which is going in a similar direction.

  • A town that is worth a visit, but is overrun with cars and people driving around looking for somewhere to park.
  • It is a typical country town, that is unfit for the Twenty-First Century.
  • It will strangle itself with traffic.
  • At least through traffic can use a by-pass.
  • Is it the sort of place, where teenagers, that are too young to drive, or don’t have a car, get exceedingly bored?

Residents will move away and the shopping centre will see lower footfall.

The Bay Platform At Swindon Station

This picture shows the Western end of the bay plstform 2 at Swindon station.

Shuttle trains from Cheltenham and Kemble, usually call in this platform, with through trains stopping in either Platforms 1 and 3.

All platforms are fully electrified, with the electrification continuing about a hundred metres up the Golden Valley Line.

Kemble Station

These pictures show Kemble station.

Note.

  1. There is a lot of car-parking for a small station.
  2. How many of the cars parked at the station are commuters Between Cirencester and London?
  3. It is not a step-free station.
  4. The station, water tank and limestone bridge are all Grade two Listed.

It also looks like the Cirencester branch had its own platform.

Traffic On The Golden Valley Line

It appears that except for the occasional freight train, it is not a busy line.

Although one of the reasons for making it a full double track, was so it can be used as a diversion route, when the Severn Tunnel is closed.

Electrification Of The Golden Valley Line

The distance between Swindon and Cheltenham stations is a short distance over forty-three miles, with four intermediate stations, Listed structures and two tunnels.

Electrification has been considered and under Electrification Proposal in the Wikipedia entry for the line, this is said.

As of 2016 there are no plans to electrify the line.

At present trains from London are Class 802 trains, which are electric trains with onboard diesel engines for routes like this.

As Hitachi have stated they will be using battery power to extend ranges of their trains, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of the current trains modified to have batteries instead of some of their current diesel engines.

Such a train would would be ideal for the following routes.

  • Paddington and Bedwyn – 13 miles
  • Paddington and Cheltenham – 43 miles
  • Paddington and Oxford – 10 miles
  • Paddington and Weston-Super-Mare – 19 miles

The distance is the length that is not electrified.

I don’t think it improbable, that London Paddington and Swansea will be achieved by a battery-electric train based on the current Hitachi train designs.

Train Frequency Between Paddington And Kemble

Trains on the Paddington and Cheltenham route, run every two hours and I just missed the 09:36, so I had to change at Swindon.

  • Cheltenham and Gloucester probably need at least an hourly service to and from London.
  • The current timetable effectively gives an hourly service, with the second service provided by a change at Swindon.
  • But it was a busy down-and-up interchange, and I wonder how many travellers miss the connection.

An hourly direct service from London would be so much more convenient.

Conclusion

With some clever and sympathetic engineering on the branch to handle the crossings, it could be a feasible reopening.

My Preference Would Be For A Tram-Train With Batteries

It would have the following characteristics.

  • Single-track branch from Kemble.
  • Kemble and Cirencester electrified with 750 VDC overhead.
  • Tram rules on the branch.
  • Trams as close to the centre of Cirencester as possible.
  • Two trams per hour between Swindon and Cirencester.
  • Trams would use batteries between Kemble and Swindon.
  • Batteries would be charged at Swindon station using the existing 25 KVAC overhead electrification and on the branch.
  • Extra stops where needed.

The route might even loop into Cirencester to provide a Park-and-Ride on the by-pass, that would serve the town and Kemble station.

The tram-trains ordered for the South Wales Metro would be able to run the service.

It would be an unobtrusive rural tram-train.

November 15, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 4 Comments

Shapps Supports Beeching Axe Reversals

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps says he supports the reopening of routes closed in the Beeching cuts of the 1960s.

In the article, which describes proceedings in the House of Commons, Grant Shapps, says he was very supportive of opening the Market Harborough Line.

Digging around the Internet, I found this article on the Harborough Mail, which is entitled Harborough Rail Group Says Plan To Reopen Historic Line Is A ‘Excellent Idea’.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Moves to reopen the historic Market Harborough-Northampton railway line are being backed by a local rail passengers’ chief.

The Market Harborough-Northampton Line was only finally closed in 1981.

  • It used to connect the two stations with a double-track railway.
  • It is about fourteen miles long.
  • It is now partly a heritage railway and a walking and cycling route called the Brampton Valley Way.

I have flown my virtual helicopter along the route and can make these observations.

  • There is space for a bay platform at Market Harborough station.
  • Once clear of Market Hrborough, the route appears to be across open countryside.
  • The connection to the Northampton Loop Line wouldn’t be too difficult.

The only problem, I can see is that the route into Market Harborough station could be tricky.

These are a few of my thoughts.

What Passenger Service Would Be Provided?

Consider.

  • The route could certainly handle an hourly shuttle, as does the nearby Marston Vale Line.
  • Northampton station currently has three trains per hour (tph) to and from London.
  • Timings between Northampton and Market Harborough stations would probably be around twenty minutes.
  • Fast services between Northampton and Euston take about an hour.
  • Four tph between Northampton and London would probably be desirable.

So could a fourth service to and from London, be extended to Market Harborough station? Or perhaps even Leicester, which already has a platform, where the trains could be turned back?

  • I estimate that with a ten minute turnround at Market Harborough, a three hour round trip would be possible and very convenient.
  • A single track between Northampton and Market Harborough station would be enough.
  • The fourteen miles between the two stations could be handled by a battery-electric train, as there will be electrification at both ends of the route.
  • Porterbrook are developing a battery-electric Class 350 train.

It looks to be a very sensible proposition.

This map clipped from Wikipedia, shows the rail line between Milton Keynes Central and Northampton stations.

It is planned to introduce, a service between Marylebone and Milton Keynes Central using the tracks of the East West Rail Link.

  • It could be run by East West Rail or Chiltern.
  • It might be an easier service to operate as trains wouldn’t need to be turned back at Milton Keynes Central station.
  • It might be a better financial option, if services were to be extended to Northampton and Market Harborough.

As the East West Rail Link is being built by a private company, do they have plans to create services between say Leicester and Oxford?

Could Freight Trains Use The  Northampton And Market Harborough Line?

Consider.

  • A large rail freight interchange is being developed close to East Midlands Airport.
  • The East West Rail Link will be a better route between Southampton Docks and the West Coast Main Line, than the current roundabout routes.
  • Multimodal trains need to travel between the East Midlands and Sheffield and Southampton Docks.
  • Stone trains need to travel between the North Midlands and West London.

If the  Northampton and Market Harborough Line were to be reopened, it would provide a convenient freight route between the Midland Main Line and the Great Western Main Line.

Would the The Northampton And Market Harborough Line Be Electrified?

Consider.

  • It joins the electrified Midland Main Line at Market Harborough station.
  • It joins the electrified Northampton Loop Line at Northampton station.
  • It is only fourteen miles long.
  • Most trains should be able to bridge use the line on battery power.
  • It will be a new well-surveyed railway, which is easier to electrify.

I suspect, whether the line is electrified will be more down to planning issues.

Would the The Northampton And Market Harborough Line Be Double Track?

The line was double-track when it closed and I think that only planning issues will stop it being reopened as a double track.

Is the Opening Of The Northampton And Market Harborough Line Being Driven By The East West Rail Link?

This is a paragraph from the Rail Magazine article.

Asked by Andrew Lewer (Con) at Transport Questions on October 24 whether he would elaborate on plans to open the proposed Market Harborough line as part of the Oxford to Cambridge expressway he said: “I understand that the reopening is at a formative stage, but I am very supportive of it. Indeed, I support the reopening of many of the smaller lines that were closed as a result of the Beeching cuts under a Labour Government, and I should like to see as many reopened as possible.”

Does that mean that The East West Rail Link is driving this project?

Conclusion

Reopening of the Northampton and Market Harborough Line  could be a nice little earner for the East West Rail Link.

  • Freight trains between Southampton Docks and the Midlands and Yorkshire.
  • Stone trains between the North Midlands and London.
  • Passenger trains between Marylebone and Market Harborough and/or Leicester.
  • Passenger trains between Oxford and/or Reading and Market Harborough and/or Leicester.

These sections could be electrified.

  • Basingstoke and Reading
  • Didcot Packway and Oxford
  • Oxford and Milton Keynes
  • Northampton and Market Harborough

Much of the abandoned Electric Spine would have been created.

 

 

October 29, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Did Someone Try To Steal The Electrification?

I arrived at Ipswich station to come back to London at 09:30 this morning and finally arrived home at 15:00. The journey had taken at least four times longer than it should.

This article on Railnews, which has a subtitle of Overhead Line Damage Disrupts Great Eastern, explains the problem.

The wires between Colchester and Marks Tey stations were damaged at around four in the morning and trains didn’t run again until about 1700.

This is a paragraph that adds more details.

overhead line damage was discovered between Colchester and Marks Tey. Network Rail workers reported shortly before 04.45 that overhead line equipment was tripping, and a train driver reported ‘visible damage’ to the power lines.

I eventually came home by this route.

  • I took a train to Class 153 train to Cambridge.
  • Another electric train took me to to Tottenham Hale,.
  • It was then two buses home.

It was a completely wasted day.

What puzzles me is that the damage to the wires appears to have happened, when no trains were running. So that seems to indicate they either just fell down for no apparent reason or someone was up to no good.

Years ago, I did some work for British Rail and they talked about all sorts of groups getting up to all sorts f tricks to steal copper. signalling cable.

The crooks would even repeatedly cut fibre optic signalling cables, in the hope it would be replaced by copper, so they could nick that!

I shall await the report of what happened yesterday with interest!

Greater Anglia Were Short Of Trains

I took this picture, when I arrived at Ipswich.

It shows the Ipswich to Cambridge service that gives a good connection to the train from London. For several years, it has been a smart three-car Class 170 train. This is a rwo-car Class 156 train.

  • Greater Anglia were also apologising for the connecting Lowestoft service being just a one car; Class 153 train.
  • It appeared to me, that Greater Anglia has sent nearly all of their Class 170 trains to Wales.
  • And yet again, Greater Anglia are looking after their Norwich customers and heaping all the inadequate rolling stock on Ipswich.
  • Are the new Class 755 trains and their drivers ready?

It looks to me, to be a management cock-up.

Train For Cambridge Anybody?

This was my train to Cambridge.

As I said, it was normally a three-car Class 170 train, but this is an inadequate Class 153 train, which went they ran between Ipswich and Cambridge generally ran in pairs.

Gerald Fiennes and Delia Smith at Dullingham

At least I only had to wait ten minutes at Cambridge for my Tottenham Hale train.

Greater Anglia’s Response

The staff at Ipswich did their best, but there did seem to be a biit of bad leadership from somewhere as at one point, it was announced that a London train would be running and I don’t think it did.

To make matters worse, as we ran into Cambridge, we passed two brand new Class 755 trains in the sidings. Are they parked their ready to start the service?

This article on the East Anglian Daily Times is entitled We’re Completely Stuck – it’s A Joke’ – Rail Passengers’ Anger At Train Chaos.

It shows a large degree of management failure.

Planning For The Future

The electrification on the Great Eastern Main Line appears to be notoriously unreliable.

Network Rail must get it better! But they don’t seem to be doing a good job, as I have had pain getting to Ipswich for six years, whilst they are updating the wires!

I believe that the best insurance for the train services would be to do the following, as soon as possible.

  • Increase services on the Ipswich and Cambridge route to two trains per hour (tph) using four-car Class 755 trains. One would be direct and the other would have a change at Ely.
  • Increase services on the Norwich and Cambridge route to two tph using four-car Class 755 trains. One would be direct and the other would have a change at Ely.
  • Start running the London and Lowestoft service using four-car Class 755 trains.
  • Make sure that, it is possible to run routes with pairs of Class 755 trains.
  • Ensure, that Class 755 trains can run London and Norwich via Cambridge.

As an example yesterday, a six-car Class 755 formation formed of two three-car trains shuttling between Ipswich and Cambridge, would probably have solved the problem.

But I do think that East Anglia’s rail problems might be best served by running a new direct service between London Kings Cross and Norwich.

As I have said several times, the Kings Cross and Cambridge and/or Kings Lynn service needs to be upgraded to 140 mph trains to make the most of the 140 mph running on the Southern section of the East Coast Main Line.

So why not run the following services?

  • Hourly between Kings Cross and Kings Lynn via Cambridge.
  • Hourly between Kings Cross and Norwich via Cambridge.

The trains could be Hitachi AT-300 trains with a battery capability sufficient to take the train North of Ely.

Conclusion

Did someone try to steal the electrification?

I will await the answer as to what happened with interest.

October 26, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Haughley Junction Improvements

This article in the East Anglian Daily Times is entitled New Tracks. New Platforms At Ipswich Station. And Faster Trains. Will East Anglia’s Rail Bosses Be Able To Deliver?.

This is said about Haughley Junction.

Mr Bradley said improving Haughley junction, making it a full double-track junction, would mainly benefit cross-country services but it would reduce a potential main-line bottleneck.

This Google Map shows the junction.

Haughley Junction is towards the top of the map.

  • The track going vaguely to the North-West goes towards Bury St. Edmunds, Newmarket and Cambridge.
  • The track going North goes to Diss and Norwich.
  • Ipswich is to the South.

Work is eased by having a large space on the Eastern side of the junction, but where the railway crosses Station Road, there is a level crossing, which is to be removed.

It looks to me, that this is one of those projects, that can grow to be very complicated.

Consider.

  • Will a flyover be built or will it be a flat junction?
  • Will the main Ipswich-Norwich line be moved to the East.
  • How will engineers deal with the level crossing closure?
  • Will any electrification be added towards Cambridge?

With regards to the last question, it should be noted that Cambridge and Haughley Junction are forty-two miles apart.

Greater Anglia’s Class 755 trains can replace each diesel engine with a battery pack. This will be done on the South Wales Metro.

In .Battery Power Lined Up For ‘755s’, I investigate what Stadler have said about Class 755 trains running on batteries.

  • Ranges of up to forty miles are quoted.
  • Batteries could be fitted to Greater Anglia’s bi-mode Flirts at an overhaul.

I would expect that the electrification would be extended towards Cambridge by as much as is needed to make sure that battery operation between Ipswich and Cambridge is possible.

I have just flown my helicopter along the line, as far as Chippenham Junction.

  • The line splits at Chippenham Junction, with one branch going through Newmarket to Cambridge and the other to Ely.
  • Chippenham Junction is seventeen miles from Cambridge.
  • The route betwen Chippenham Junction and Haughley Junction appears to have been cleared for el;ectrification.
  • Electrification through Newmarket would be expensive, as there is a tunnel, a section of single track and possibly a station rebuild.
  • Chippenham Junction and Haughley Junction are about twenty-five miles apart.
  • Chippenham Junction and Ely are about fourteen miles apart.

If I was in charge of this project, I would certainly investigate the possibility of electrification between Haughley and Chippenham Junctions

  • Class 755 trains with batteries would be able to run between Chippenham Junction and Cambridge or Ely on battery power.
  • The East West Rail Consortium is proposing a Park-And Ride station, which could be called A14 Parkway.
  • How much money would train operators save, if this section was el;ectrified?
  • Power for the electrification would be picked up at Haughley Junction.

Would it allow tri-mode Class 93 locomotives to be able to go between Felixstowe and Ely only using a relatively small amount of diesel compared to a Class 66 locomotive?

I also think that electrifying between Chippenham and Haughley Junctions is low risk electrification.

  • The route has been gauge-cleared.
  • Thee new Class 755 trains can run without it.
  • On the other hand they will run more efficiently when it has been installed.
  • It would enable Class 93 locomotives to run on electricity.

Too many electrification projects need new trains. These are already in service.

Conclusion

There is more to this project than meets the eye.

 

October 20, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two Unrelated (?) Stories About Rail Freight

Today there are two news stories about rail freight on the Internet.

I’ll sketch out a few details from both stories.

Invest In Rail Freight

This is the first paragraph of the news story.

A new report published by the Rail Freight Group today is outlining how an ‘ambitious growth strategy’ for rail freight over the next ten years could be worth between £75 billion and £90 billion in environmental and economic benefits.

The report was written by well-respected rail commentator; Stephen Joseph

Recommendations include.

  • A new approach from national and local government.
  • New investment
  • More investment in the Strategic Freight Network.
  • Increased electrification
  • New rail linked terminals
  • Reforms to planning laws
  • High speed freight services to city centres.
  • Road pricing could also be used to encourage a shift to rail.

The Rail Freight group’s director general Maggie Simpson is quoted as saying. With renewed focus on the environment, and with new trade opportunities on the horizon, there has never been a better time to invest in rail freight.

Note that invest or investment is mentioned five times in the short news story.

New Owner For GB Railfreight

This is the first paragraph of the news story.

Hector Rail Group has sold GB Railfreight to Infracapital – the unlisted infrastructure equity arm of M&GPrudential.

This article in Rail Magazine was published in July 2017 and is entitled GB Railfreight In ‘Locomotive Acquisition’ Talks.

GB Railfreight has a fleet of seventy-eight Class 66 locomotives with other locomotives in the ageing category. Some of their work like hauling the Caledonian Sleeper needs well-presented reliable locomotives, so perhaps they need to update their image.

Would being owned by Infracapital give the company better access to finance for a renewed fleet?

The previous article indicated, that new investment in infrastructure, like selective electrification, railfreight terminals and perhaps freight loops is needed in the UK Strategic Freight Network.

Would Infracapital be prepared to fund this infrastructure, where it made their locomotives more profitable?

Consider.

  • Partial electrification of the Felixstowe Branch Line might enable a hybrid Class 93 locomotive to haul the heaviest intermodal freight trains between Felixstowe and Ipswich. This improvement would also allow Greater Anglia’s Class 755 trains to run partially on electricity on the route.
  • Doubling of the single-track between Soham and Ely would increase the number of freight paths across Suffolk.
  • Reworking of junctions at Haughley and Ely would also speed up freight trains across Suffolk.

These are just three examples from an area I know well, but in how many places in the UK would smaller projects improve the profitability of new locomotives.

Infracapital would also be paid track access charges for their small sections of infrastructure. So well-planned improvements would have two revenue streams. And both would have a lifetime of thirty to forty years.

Case Study – Partial Electrification Of Felixstowe Branch Line

The Felixstowe Branch Line has now been double-tracked to create a passing loop to the West of Trimley, which allows more freight trains per day into and out of the Port of Felixstowe.

I believe that if sections of the branch line were to be electrified, that a diesel/electric/battery Class 93 locomotive would be able to haul a maximum weight intermodal freight train from Felixstowe to Ipswich.

The freight train would continue South and would use electric power to go to Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester using existing electrified routes through London.

In Issue 888 of Rail Magazine, there is a short article, which is entitled Battery Power Lined Up For ‘755s.

This is said.

Class 755s could be fitted with battery power when they undergo their first overhaul.

Stadler built the trains with diesel and electric power.

The Swiss manufacturer believes batteries to be the alternative power source for rail of the future, and is to build tri-mode trains for Transport for Wales, with these entering traffic in 2023.

Rock Rail owns the Greater Anglia fleet. Chief Operating Office Mike Kean told RAIL on September 4 it was possible that when a four-car ‘755/4’ requires an overhaul, one of its four diesel engines will be removed and replaced by a battery.

I suspect the battery size and electrification can be designed, so that the trains can work the twelve mile branch without using diesel  power.

I can envisage a time, when the following trains on the Felixstowe Branch are zero-carbon.

  1. Freight trains between Felixstowe and London via Ipswich.
  2. Passenger services.

That will be a substantial improvement in environmental credentials.

Conclusion

There is more to this than an insurance and fund management company, funding locomotives.

Suppose GB Railfreight see an opportunity to deploy a new fleet of locomotives on a valuable contract, but perhaps a missing piece of infrastructure, stops them from running the service. Will they then approach their parent company; Infracapital, to see if they can help?

Are we seeing the first green shoots of realism in the financing of much-needed improvements to the UK rail network.

If it works out well, I don’t think that Infracapital will mind the good publicity.

 

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September 23, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Does The Acceleration Of The TransPennine Upgrade Have Anything To Do With Boris?

In Issue 885 of Rail Magazine, which was published on 14/08/19, there is an article, which is entitled Johnson Vows To Build New Manchester-Leeds Line, where this is said.

New Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to fund a new line as part of Northern Powerhouse Rail in what has been described by leaders in the North as a “seminal moment”.

Speaking in Manchester on July 27, Johnson said. “I want to be the PM who does with Northern Powerhouse Rail what we did with Crossrail in London. And today I’m going to deliver on my commitment to that vision with a pledge to fund the Leeds to Manchester route.

“It will be up to local people and us to come to an agreement on the exact proposal they wat – but I have tasked officials to accelerate their work on these plans so that we are ready to do a deal in the autumn.”

Since Boris’s speech, plans for improvements between Huddersfield and Dewsbury have been announced and now it seems that Network Rail have published plans for full electrification between Huddersfield and Leeds, as I discussed in Is There Going To Be Full Electrification Between Leeds And Huddersfield?.

Whether you are for or against Boris, he certainly seems to have got action from Network Rail.

August 31, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , | 3 Comments

Is There Going To Be Full Electrification Between Leeds And Huddersfield?

This article on Rail Technology Magazine is dated 23/08/19 and is entitled Network Rail Reveals Detailed £2.9bn Upgrade Plans For TransPennine Route and it prompted me to write this post of the same name.

The Rail Technology Magazine article talks about a comprehensive upgrade to the Huddersfield Line is planned that includes.

  • Improvement between Huddersfield and Westtown
  • Grade separation or a tunnel at Ravensthorpe
  • Rebuilding and electrification of eight miles of track.
  • Possible doubling the number of tracks from two to four.
  • Improved stations at Huddersfield, Deighton, Mirfield and Ravensthorpe.

I have now found this document on the Network Rail web site, which is entitled Huddersfield to Westtown (Dewsbury).

This statement is included under proposals.

Electrification of the railway from Huddersfield to Ravensthorpe – and right through to Leeds.

Because there is a dash in the words, has electrification to Leeds, been a recent addition?

It certainly doesn’t fit with the Rail Technology Magazine article.

It also doesn’t fit with this article on the BBC, which is dated 20/08/19 and is entitled Detailed TransPennine £2.9bn Rail Upgrade Plans Unveiled.

Electrification is mentioned in the second paragraph.

Network Rail has also announced it intends to electrify the line between Huddersfield and Dewsbury and double the number of tracks from two to four.

And in the sixth paragraph.

Network Rail said the proposed major overhaul and electrification work would be carried out on an 8-mile (13km) section of the route, with the “first round” of consultations starting with those living closest to the railway.

The two news sites seem to have used the same source.

The BBC also uses this map, that I have copied from the Network Rail document

Note the railway lines shown in red. Are these the ones to be electrified? As they go from Huddersfield to Westtown, I think the answer is probably in the affirmative.

I seems to me, that Rail Technology Magazine and the BBC are using a common source and could it be an earlier version of the Network Rail document.

But the map, I have shown, shows the electrification only going as far as Westtown, despite coming from a document, that states twice that the electrification is going as far as Leeds.

It is certainly sloppy documentation.

Track Layouts

This document on the Digital Railway web site is dated 16/08/18 and is entitled Transpennine Route Upgrade SDO1 ETCS – Analysis.

Significantly, it is written by the Digital Railway – Joint Development Group (JDG), which consists of representatives of Siemens, Hitachi, ARUP and Network Rail.

It is mainly about using digital signalling called ETCS on the Transpennine Route, but it does give these track layouts between Huddersfield and Dewsbury.

This is the current layout.

There is also this full four-track layout, which I assume was the original plan.

It is more complicated and involved the building of bridges in the area of Ravensthorpe station.

There is also a reduced four-track layout, which I assume was developed as the track analysis progressed.

It is not a massive upgrade from the current layout.

As I see it, if the reduced layout can handle the required number of services, it has major advantages over the full scheme.

  • There are no changes to track  layout between Ravensthorpe and Dewsbury stations.
  • Rebuilding Ravensthorpe station should be a smaller project.
  • The current and reduced layout have three tracks between Mirfield and Ravensthorpe stations.
  • There are no expensive new bridges to be built.

To make the scheme work there is a small amount of bi-directional running on the centre track, which is made possible by using digital signalling on the route.

Track Usage

By using bi-directional running on the centre track between Ravensthorpe and Mirfield stations, which is controlled by ETCS, the track layout is simplified, with three tracks instead of four.

  • Slow trains from Huddersfield to Dewsbury will dive under the Brighouse lines and call in/pass Platform 1 at Mirfield station before going straight on to Ravensthorpe and Dewsbury. This is as trains do now.
  • Slow trains from Dewsbury to Huddersfield will use the centre track from East to West and call in/pass Platform 2 at Mirfield station before turning South-West  on to Huddersfield. This is as trains do now.
  • Fast trains from Huddersfield to Dewsbury will call in/pass Platform 3 at Mirfield station and then cross over to the top track and go straight on to Ravensthorpe and Dewsbury.
  • Fast trains from Dewsbury to Huddersfield will use the centre track from East to West and call in/pass Platform 4 at Mirfield station before turning South-West  on to Huddersfield.
  • Trains from Brighouse  to Wakefield will call in/pass Platform 1 at Mirfield station and then cross to the centre track and go straight on to Wakefield. This is as trains do now.
  • Trains from Wakefield to Brighouse will use the centre track from East to West and call in/pass Platform 2 at Mirfield station and go straight on to Brighouse.

Note.

  1. Platforms at Mirfield station are numbered 1 to 4 from the North
  2. The slow lines between Mirfield and Huddersfield are shown in black.
  3. The fast lines between Mirfield and Huddersfield are shown in blue.
  4. Passengers can use Platforms 1/2 as a cross-platform interchange between slow Huddersfield-Leeds and Brighouse-Wakefield services.

I also think it likely, that the proposed layout will improve the timetable.

Does The Reduced Layout Produce A Cost Saving?

In one of the first jobs I did at ICI Plastics Division, I simulated a chemical process on an analogue computer. My mathematics showed they could use much smaller vessels, which meant the height of the plant could be reduced by a few  metres. I remember the engineer in charge of the project being very pleased, when he told me, that height costs money.

  • The reduced layout removes three bridges, which must mean a cost saving.
  • There is probably less track to lay

The negative is that digital signalling with ETCS must be installed through the area. This is going to be installed on the UK network, so it probably needs little more than shuffling the installation order.

On balance, when all things are considered, I suspect if the reduced layout can be used, there will be substantial cost savings on the project.

Problems At Morley Station

Morley station is two stations after Dewsbury station on the route towards Leeds.

Unusually for Wikipedia, the entry for Morley station has a large section entitled Current Problems.

This is the first two paragraphs.

The increase in demand, combined with growth elsewhere on the line, means that overcrowding in the morning peak, particularly for commuters heading towards Leeds, is becoming more of an issue.

Despite this commuter growth little has been done to bring this station into the 21st century. For example, only one platform is accessible for disabled passengers, there is insufficient parking, access routes to and from the station are often overgrown with weeds, and there are frequent drainage problems which all combine to make the station not as pleasant as other stations in West Yorkshire. In 2012 a “Friends of Morley station” group was formed, and is addressing some of these issues. Work to improve the car park and drainage commenced in February 2013.

To make matters worse, the station is 10-15 minutes walk from the centre of Morley with poor bus and taxi connections.

Would the following help the Friends of Morley Station?

  • Longer trains.
  • More frequent trains.
  • Faster trains to Leeds
  • Better bus services.

Electric trains would help solve the first three.

White Rose Station

There are plans to build a new White Rose station in the next couple of years at the White Rose Centre..

This would be between Morley and Cottingley stations.

This station will surely increase the passenger numbers on the Huddersfield Line.

Have Network Rail Designed The Electrification Between Dewsbury And Leeds?

This electrification has been off and on more times, than the lights in an average kitchen, so I suspect there is a workable plan dating from the last century amongst many others.

Would Extending Electrification To Leeds Provide The Power?

Electrification needs a good connection to the National Grid to provide the power needed to run the trains.

The short eight-mile electrification, as originally proposed could probably have been fed from one end; Huddersfield or Dewsbury.

Both locations would need new sub-stations, with Huddersfield possibly needed in the future to power the wires all the way to Manchester.

Leeds is already fully-electrified with electric expresses to Doncaster and London and several electric local services.

So is the easiest and most affordable way to power the eight-mile electrification between Huddersfield and Westtown to run an extension cable between Leeds and Dewsbury?

Network Rail had a similar problem on the Midland Main Line, which I wrote about in Welcome For Extension Of Midland Electrification.

National Grid had provided a power connection near Market Harborough for the Midland Main Line electrification, which was then cancelled North of Kettering North Junction, leaving the electrification to Corby without a power supply.

The problem is being solved, by extending the electrification to Market Harborough and connecting the wires to the power there.

I do wonder, that the most affordable way to power the Huddersfield and Westtown electrified line is to electrify all the way to Leeds and connect to the power there.

Conclusion

Improving services on the Huddersfield Line between Huddersfield and Leeds is going to be very necessary in the next few years, as passenger numbers will surely grow, due to new housing, increased commuting and the opening of White Rose station.

  • New or refurbished four-car electric trains would provide more capacity, increased frequencies and faster services,
  • Digital signalling with ETCS would allow more trains to run smoothly.

It appears to me, that to electrify all of the Huddersfield Line between Huddersfield and Leeds would be a good idea, if the money can be found.

Has that money been found by developing a more affordable track layout for the proposed TransPennine Upgrade between Huddersfield and Westtown?

But also using the power at Leeds and electrifying all the way between Huddersfield and Leeds, seems to be a bloody great tail, that is wagging the dog of electrification.

Further Electrification

Providing a fully-electrified route between Huddersfield and Leeds, would leave just two sections of the main TransPennine route without electrification.

I don’t know about the planning and difficulty of the first route, but from my helicopter the engineering shouldn’t be too difficult, with the exception of the elecxtrification of the Standedge Tunnels, although Wikipedia seems optimistic about the electrifying the main twin-bore tunnel.

During the 2000s, Network Rail proposed reinstating rail traffic through the 1848 and 1871 tunnels to increase capacity on the Leeds-Manchester trans-Pennine route, but after a re-appraisal after the decision to electrify the trans-Pennine line, it was reported in 2012 that reinstatement was unnecessary.

In addition, could it be, that Manchester with lots of electric trains can provide enough power at Stalybridge, where an updated power connection has been recently installed, to power electric trains between Manchester and Huddersfield?

, The second has been planned for years and has a string of advantages.

  • Speed up services between Leeds and Newcastle and Scotland.
  • Allow LNER to run electric trains between London and Scotland via Leeds.
  • Create an electrified route between Neville Hill Depot and York.
  • Create an electrified diversion through Leeds for the East Coast Main Line

This section should be electrified for operational reasons on the East Coast Main Line.

A Final Conclusion

Network Rail’s plans seem to have evolved under analysis to be as follows.

  • Limited four-tracking and updated track between Huddersfield and Westtown.
  • Digital signalling with ETCS between Huddersfield and Leeds.
  • Full electrification between Huddersfield and Leeds
  • Power for the electrification from Leeds.

Could it even cost less than the allocated £2.9billion?

 

 

 

August 31, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 2 Comments