The Anonymous Widower

OVO Offers Solar Panels And A Battery

There are a couple of reports on the Internet, that the smaller energy supplier; Ovo Energy, is now offering deals on solar panels and a battery.

I have been thinking of adding a battery for some time, but I don’t think the time is quite right yet, as the price of batteries is becoming more affordable.

However, I do think that Ovo’s move is the first of many we will see in the next few months and years.

This march towards solar and batteries could have various consequences for the UK.

  • Many house builders will add solar panels and a battery to new houses.
  • Domestic electricity needs will reduce.
  • Solar panels and batteries may have some interesting effects on the property market.

Battery owners could also charge up overnight on low-price electricity, so the daily operation could be something like.

  • Overnight the battery is charged on low-price electricity.
  • Morning ablutions and breakfast, thus uses low-price electricity.
  • Hopefully, the sun charges the battery during the day.
  • Evening electricity would in part be what has been stored during the day.

One overall effect of the battery is to smooth the energy needs of a property.

So as the proportion of houses with batteries increases, the National Grid will see a reduction in the spikes of electricity demand, as evetybody makes a cup of tea in the advert breaks.

But the biggest effect will be on how the UK would generate its electricity.

I am not against nuclear power for any technical or environmental reasons, but I do think that the cost of new nuclear power stations like Hinckley Point C are not good value for money compared with other methods of generation. On the other hand, if we are going to have much smoother electricity needs, then we do need the nuclear power station’s ability to produce a steady baseload of power.

I am against inappropriate on-shore wind in many locations, but I am not against off-shore wind or perhaps a few large turbines in an industrial estate.

I feel that solar, batteries and off-shore wind could give the UK very affordable electricity, but they need to be backed by some form of baseload power stations, which at the moment can only be nuclear.

Conclusion

Following my logic, I believe, that as more batteries are installed in the UK, the following will happen.

  • Those who install a battery will save money whether they have solar panels or not!
  • Batteries will be allowed to be charged on low-cost overnight electricity.
  • As more batteries are installed in the UK, the UK power needs will be smoother.
  • Overnight off-shore wind could be used to charge all these batteries.

This leads me to the conclusion, that the Government should create incentives for homes to install batteries, which would be charged with low-cost overnight electricity or solar panels.

October 7, 2017 Posted by | World | , , , , , | 1 Comment

CAF Secures Tram Contracts In The United States

The title of this post is the same as this article in Global Rail News.

The sale of two batches of trams is not that remarkable, but this is an extract from the article, about the vorder for Seattle.

The trams will have a 100 per cent low floor and come with onboard energy storage to run on catenary-free sections of the network.

Trams with these characteristics are becoming increasingly common.

October 4, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

BBC Click On Batteries

This weekend’s Click on the BBC is a cracker and it’s all about batteries.

Electric Mountain

It starts with pictures of the UK’s largest battery at Dinorwig Power Station or Electric Mountain, as it is colloquially known.

The pumped storage power station was completed in 1984 and with a peak generating capacity  of 1.6 GW, it was built to satisfy short term demand, such as when people make a cup of tea in advert breaks in television programs. Under Purpose of the Wikipedia entry for Dinorwig Power Station, there is a very good summary of what the station does.

To build Dinorwig was a wonderful piece of foresight by the CEGB, over forty years ago.

Would environmentalists allow Dinorwig Power Station to be built these days?

That is a difficult question to answer!

On the one hand it is a massive development in an outstanding area of natural beauty and on the other Dinorwig and intermittent power sources like solar and wind power, is a marriage made in heaven by quality engineering.

As solar and wind power increase we will need more electric mountains and other ways of storing considerable amounts of electricity.

Close to Electric Mountain, another much smaller pumped storage power station of 100 MW capacity is being proposed in disued slate quarries at Glyn Rhonwy. This article on UK Hillwalking, is entitled Opinion: Glyn Rhonwy Hydro is Causing a Stir.

The article was written in 2015 and it looks like Planning Permission for the new pumped storage power station at Glyn Rhonwy has now been given.

The UK’s particular problem with pumped storage power stations, is mainly one of geography, in that we lack mountains.

However Electric Mountain is in the top ten pumped storage power stations on this list in Wikipedia.

I doubt in today’s economy, Electric Mountain would be built, despite the fact that it is probably needed more than ever with all those intermittent forms of electricity generation.

The Future Of Pumped Storage Technology

But if you read Wikipedia on pumped-storage technology, there are some interesting and downright wacky technologies proposed.

I particular like the idea of underwater storage, which if paired with offshore wind farms could be the power of the future. That idea is a German project called StEnSea.

Better Batteries

Click also talks about work at the Warwick Manufacturing Group about increasing the capacity of existing lithium-ion batteries for transport use by improved design of the battery package. Seventy to eighty percent increases in capacity were mentioned, by a guy who looked serious.

I would reckon that within five years, that electric vehicle range will have doubled, just by increments in chemistry, design and manufacture.

Batteries will also be a lot more affordable.

Intelligent Charging

Warwick Manufacturing Group are also working on research to create an intelligent charging algorithm, as a bad charging regime can reduce battery life and performance.

I rate this as significant, as anything that can improve performance and reduce cost is certainly needed in battery-powered transport.

The program reclons it would improve battery performance by ten percent in cars.

Surely, this would be most applicable to buses or trains, running on a regular route, as predicting energy use would be much easier, especially if the number of passengers were known.

In Technology Doesn’t Have To Be Complex, I discussed how Bombardier were using the suspension to give a good estimate of the weight of passengers on a Class 378 train. I suspect that bus and train manufacturers can use similar techniques to give an estimate.

So a bus or train on a particular route could build a loading profile, which would be able to calculate, when was the optimum time for the battery to be charged.

As an example, the 21 bus, that can be used from Bank station to my house, is serviced by hybrid new Routemasters. It has a very variable passenger load and sometimes after Old Street, it can be surprisingly empty.

Intelligent charging must surely offer advantages on a bus route like this, in terms of battery life and the use of the onboard diesel engine.

But is on trains, where intelligent charging can be of most use.

I believe that modern trains like Aventras and Hitachi’s Class 800 trains are designed to use batteries to handle regenerative braking.

If you take a Class 345 train running on Crossrail, the battery philosophy might be something like this.

  • Enough energy is stored in the battery at all times, so that the train can be moved to a safe place for passenger evacuation in case of a complete power failure.
  • Enough spare capacity is left in the battery, so that at the next stop, the regnerative braking energy can be stored on the train.
  • Battery power would be used where appropriate to reduce energy consumption.
  • The control algorithm would take inputs from route profile and passenger loading.

It may sound complicated, but philosophies like this have been used on aircraft for around forty years.

Reusing Vehicle Batteries In Homes

Click also had detailed coverage about how vehicles batteries could be remanufactured and used in homes. Especially, when solar panels are fitted.

Other Batteries

On the on-line version, the program goes on to look at alternative new ideas for batteries.

Inside Electric Mountain

The on-line version, also gives a tour of Electric Mountain.

Conclusion

The future’s electric, with batteries.

 

 

 

 

October 1, 2017 Posted by | Travel, World | , , , | Leave a comment

The Pressure For More Rail Electrification

Over the last few days, there have been several articles on the media pushing for more electrification.

This article in Rail Technology Magazine, which is entitled TfGM To Fight Corner For Full TransPennine Electrification.

This article in the Carlisle Times and Star, which is entitled Campaigners Urge Backtrack On Axed Electric Rail Projects.

This article in the Times, which is entitled New Oxford-Cambridge Rail Route Must Rely On Diesel Trains.

This article in the Nottingham Post, which is entitled Strong Condemnation Of Government Plan To Abandon Rail Electrification.

I feel that electric trains are the future, but like members of the current Government, I feel that we need an alternative approach to creating a modern railway network in the UK.

What Do Passengers Want?

Passengers in general want a comprehensive rail service, that is affordable, reliable, fast and frequent and gives them good comfort and service on trains and at their terminal stations.

What Do Train Operating Companies Want?

Train companies need and want to make profits.

Judging by the latest franchise awards to Northern, TransPennine Express, Greater Anglia, South Western Railway and West Midlands Trains, part of their philosophy to achieve this is to buy fleets of new trains to replace old ones, with the following characteristics.

  1. More carriages and increased capacity.
  2. Higher speed and performance.
  3. Power and USB points, wi-fi and 4G connectivity.
  4. Easier entrance and exit.
  5. Better facilities for persons of reduced mobility.
  6. Shorter dwell times at stations.
  7. Better driver assistance systems.

The best way to pay for these trains and make a profit is to fill them with happy passengers.

So Where Does Electrification Give Advantages?

In summarising what passengers and train companies want, I didn’t mention electrification, although electric trains do give advantages to both groups.

  • It must be easy to fit electrical equipment into an electric train.
  • Electric trains accelerate faster.
  • Electric trains can be fitted with regenerative braking to save energy

Electrification is not needed in all cases as electricity for the train can be provided by diesel or hydrogen-powered generators or some form of onboard energy storage can be used.

Why Are So Many Elecification Schemes In The UK Over Budget And Late?

With my experience of writing Project Management software and talking about it with numerous Project Managers all over the world, I suspect the following about electrifying an existing railway in the UK.

  • The drawings and documentation for some of the existing lines which go back well over a hundred years is questionable.
  • Politicians put undue pressure to keep costs down and corners are cut.
  • The scope of the project changes as it progresses.
  • Those against the electrification have lots of routes to delay the project.
  • We don’t have enough engineers or qualified personnel to do the work.
  • Often work is on constricted sites and the locals get annoyed.

I’m coming to the conclusion, that electrification is one of the most difficult of projects.

I do feel though there is hope for the future judged on what happened at Waterloo during August.

The Future Of Road Transport

We are seeing more and more electric and hybrid vehicles on the roads and this article in the Guardian, says that Britain will ban the sale of all diesel and petrol cars by 2040.

For this to happen, there needs to be a vast improvement in the efficiency and size of energy storage systems.

A few years ago, if you’d fitted solar panels to your house, your neighbours would have laughed at you. Now they don’t as technology has improved the performance of solar panels, just like it will improve energy storage in the next few years.

What Will Improved Energy Storage Mean For Trains?

The first trains with onboard energy storage are starting to appear on the UK’s railways.

Class 800 trains – Intercity Express Programme

This document on the Hitachi Rail web site, which is entitled Development of Class 800/801 High-speed Rolling Stock for UK Intercity Express Programme.

 

The document provides this schematic of the traction system of a Class 800 train.

Note BC which is described as battery charger.

This is said in the text.

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.

Note that GU refers to Generator Unit, which in these trains are diesel-powered.

This is all very comprehensive, but if you look at how the braking system of the trains work and if it uses regenerative braking, you won’t find anything on the web.

But note how the four traction motors in the diagram are connected to the system. When they are in braking mode, what happens to the electricity?

  1. It is returned to the overhead wires. Difficult when using GUs on lines without electrification.
  2. It is passed to resistors on the roof of the train and burnt off as heat.
  3. It is stored in some form of onboard energy storage, so it can be reused later.

I feel that Hitachi are using Option 3, as it would work in both modes of the train and would save a lot of energy.

Note that in the above extract from the Hitachi document, the company states that the electric Class 801 trains have at least one GU to provide auxiliary and traction power in the event of catenary failure.

It looks like the only difference between the Class 800 and Class 801 trains, is that the Class 800 trains have more GUs.

Could this explain why Hitachi seem to be doing all their testing with Class 800 trains, as the differences between the two trains are minimal?

If the Class 800 works, then the Class 801 will!

Hitachi are also testing the Class 802 trains, but then these are built in Italy, have more powerful engines and bigger fuel tanks.

Bombardier Aventras

Bombardier have been developing battery technology for some years and as I described in Is The Battery Electric Multiple Unit (BEMU) A Big Innovation In Train Design?, I rode in the prototype converted from a Class 379 train in February 2015.

I believe that the Class 345 trains are fitted with onboard energy storage for the following reasons.

  • Onboard energy storage is the logical way to handle regenerative braking in tunnels.
  • Onboard energy storage means that each train reuses its own braking energy and draws less current from the electrification.
  • Onboard energy storage is the only way to move a train to a safe place, when the Russians or North Koreans hack the power suppky.
  • Some of the features announced for Aventras, like remote wakeup as I discussed in Do Bombardier Aventras Have Remote Wake-Up?, need onboard energy storage.
  • Bombardier have won awards for the technology.

Until Bombardier say otherwise, I’ll assume that Aventras like the Class 345 trains have onboard energy storage.

Overhead Power In Long Tunnels

It should also be noted that the overhead power supply in the Crossrail tunnels is a rail fed with power at both ends, as incidentally is the Severn Tunnel.

Could it be that money could have been saved on the electrification of these tunnels as all electric trains using them; IEPs and Aventras, can handle their own regenerative braking energy?

The Effect Of Large Onboard Energy Storage On Trains and Trams

There is a big difference between adding weight to a pneumatic-tyred vehicle like a car or truck, and adding weight to that of a steel-wheel-on-steel-rail vehicle like a train or tram.

With the former, the rolling resistance is increased, which means more power is needed to move the vehicle, but with the latter, surprisingly, the reverse is true.

This allows locomotives to pull iron ore, coal and stone trains carrying hundreds of tonnes.

So adding a heavy energy storage device under a train may not be as detrimental to performance as you may think.

I suspect Bombardier, Hitachi and others have determined the optimal size of storage device for their trains.

I believe the following,  if an appropriately-sized online storage device is fitted to a train.

  • It will be able to handle all the regenerative braking energy.
  • It will give the train a range of up to fifty kilometres on stored energy.

Without doubt, all trains driven by electricity and having regenerative braking will use onboard energy storage.

This applies even if their main power source is not electricity, but perhaps diesel, hydrogen or extra-strong knicker elastic!

Discontinuous Electrification

Modern trains like Aventras and Hitachi Class 80x trains have another ability.

They can raise and lower their pantographs under GPS control, so that they only connect with the electrification, when it is there.

They can also do it at line speed.

This raises the possibility of discontinuous electrification, where the easy-to-electrify sections have wires and the difficult bits are run using either diesel, hydrogen or onboard storage power.

An example would be between Batley and Morley stations on the Huddersfield Line, between which is the Morley Tunnel.

  • The tunnel is four kilometres long and hopefully could be electrified using a conductor rail in the tunnel roof.
  • Morley station is hard by the Northern portal of the tunnel.
  • The line from Morley to the electrification at Leeds doesn’t appear to have any serious bridges to replace and the double-track line has wide margins.
  • Batley, Morley and Cottingley stations are all stations with platforms either side of the track and could probably have the gantries on the platform.

Would it be possible to electrify short sections of line like this and let the trains and the driver decide to use onboard or overhead power?

The TransPennine Route

I will look at the TransPennine route in detail.

Mainly Electrically-Driven Trains

Looking at the various trains on TransPennine routes, we see the following ways of driving the trains and locomotives.

The last three trains and all the locomotives in this list are electrically driven, where on-board diesel engines generate electricity to power the train.

In addition the Class 802 trains and the Class 88 locomotives are bi-mode and can use electrification to power the trains directly, if it is available.

So a Liverpool to Newcastle service using Class 802 trains or Class 88 locomotives and Mark 5 carriages could use the overhead electrification on the following sections of track.

  • From Liverpool to Stalybridge via Manchester Victoria
  • Through Leeds
  • On the East Coast Main Line

Electrifying between Leeds and the East Coast Main Line would seem to be a lot easier than that between Leeds and Manchester, so I suspect that there is some seriously difficulty that has prevented it being done already, as it would allow Kings Cross to Edinburgh services to stop at Leeds, if that was desired.

Improving The Current Service

Currently Liverpool Lime Street to Newcastle takes three hours and three minutes, with the following sectional times.

  • Liverpool to Manchester Victoria – 39 minutes
  • Manchester Victoria to Huddersfield – 30 minutes
  • Huddersfield to Leeds – 22 minutes
  • Leeds to York – 25 minutes
  • York to Newcastle – 67 minutes

Some places to save times are apparent.

  • Liverpool to Manchester Victoria could be speeded up by a couple of minutes, after the addition of the fourth track at Huyton.
  • According to the time table, most dwell times are reasonable, but nine minutes is allowed at Manchester Victoria.
  • Manchester Victoria to Stalybridge is being electrified.
  • Virgin’s fastest trains take 56 minutes between York and Newcastle, so I would assume that a TransPennine Class 802 train could match this.
  • If Leeds to York were to be electrified, I would think that the same percentage decrease in journey time could be expected, which would give a Leeds to York time of 21 minutes.

Could we see the following times on the route?

  • Liverpool to Manchester Victoria – 30 minutes
  • Manchester Victoria to Huddersfield – 28 minutes
  • Huddersfield to Leeds – 22 minutes
  • Leeds to York – 21 minutes
  • York to Newcastle – 56 minutes

This gives a timing of 157 minutes, which is a saving of twenty-three minutes.

Is The Track Up To It?

Under Timings And Line Speeds in the Wikipedia entry for Liverpool and Manchester Lines, this is said.

As of 2016, the fastest journey times are around half an hour, which is little better than over a century earlier. The fastest recorded run was from Manchester Exchange to Liverpool Lime St in 30 minutes 46 seconds by a 1936 built Jubilee 5707 with 7 coaches. An 1882-built compound steam locomotive was timed on the same route in 38 minutes 18 seconds. Until 1968 trains from Liverpool to Manchester by all 3 routes were scheduled to take 40 minutes and often took less. The southern route via Warrington is now restricted to 85 mph and the northern route via Earlestown to 90 mph, with 75 mph over Chat Moss.

Work is under way to four-track the line between Huyton and Roby which is scheduled for completion in December 2017.

Surely, Twenty-First Century engineering can sort out Stephenson‘s problems of nearly two centuries ago!

If it’s like this between Liverpool and Manchester on a fully-electrified line, what’s it like between Manchester and Leeds?

I believe that modern engineering should be able to create a 100 mph route between Liverpool and Leeds.

Are The Other Trains Slowing The Expresses?

Northern run an assortment of trains between Liverpool and Leeds via Manchester Victoria.

Between Liverpool and Manchester Victoria are all the services timed for and run by 100 mph Class 319 trains, or do some of the assortment of 75 mph trains share the route? If it’s the latter then they will delay the expresses.

Between Manchester Victoria and Hudderfield, I’m sure that slower trains are on the route.

Help is at hand as Northern have ordered fifty-five Class 195 trains, which have a 100 mph capability.

Should Stalybridge To Leeds Be Electrified?

Only when slow trains have been eliminated and the track has been improved to allow 100 mph running between Liverpool and Leeds should we answer this question!

Using rough estimates, I feel we might see the following timings with a Class 802 train.

  • Liverpool to Manchester Victoria – 26 minutes
  • Manchester Victoria to Huddersfield – 21 minutes
  • Huddersfield to Leeds – 16 minutes
  • Leeds to York – 21 minutes
  • York to Newcastle – 56 minutes

This gives a timing of 140 minutes, which is a saving of forty-three minutes on the current times.

Improving Leeds To Newcastle

The Class 802 trains are stated in Wikipedia as being capable of running at 140 mph with minor modifications.

How many minutes would this take off the journey, if this were to be possible?

Conclusion

There are a lot of things to do before the decision to electrify Stalybridge to Leeds is taken.

  • Sort the track for at least 100 mph running.
  • Remove all passenger trains not capable of 100 mph from the line.
  • Perhaps add some passing loops.
  • Electrify Leeds to Colton Junction.
  • Remove all level crossings.
  • Raise all bridges and other structures, so that electrification is possible.
  • Get the planning permission for electrifying the sensitive areas.

Hopefully these actions in themselves would deliver a time of under forty minutes between Manchester and Leeds.

That would be a spoonful of sugar for the passengers and the train operating companies.

Any attempt to electrify without doing all of these actions before the decision to electrify is taken, will result in the sort of mess seen in some of the electrification schemes of the last few years.

The East West Rail Link

I will look at the East West Rail Link in detail.

Linking To Electrified Lines

The East West Rail Link joins or crosses the following electrified lines.

  • The Great Western Main Line at Didcot
  • The West Coast Main Line at Bletchley
  • The Midland Main Line at Bedford
  • The East Coast Main Line at Sandy
  • The West Anglia Main Line at Cambridge

As connecting the National Grid to electrification is a major cost, if the line were to be electrified, then there are several places to connect at a cheaper cost.

Building For Electrification

The instructions from the Department for Transport seem to have stated the following.

  • The line will be double track.
  • The line will have an operating speed of at least 100 mph or possibly 125 mph.
  • All bridges and structures, will be built to accommodate overhead electrification.

I wonder if the specification suggests preparing the margins of the route, so putting up overhead gantries wouldn’t be a case of digging and hitting important cables or pipes.

Electrification of new lines like the East London Line, Crossrail and the Hitchin Flyover seem to have proceeded much smoother than schemes like the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.

Trains For The East-West Rail Link

The proposed services include.

  • Oxford to Bedford
  • Bletchley to Bedford
  • Oxford to Milton Keynes Central
  • Aylesbury to Milton Keynes Central.

I have also seen suggestions that the trains terminate at Reading.

The trains will need the following.

  • A 100 mph capability to make good use of the route.
  • Ability to use overhead electrification to get to Bedford, Milton Keynes Central and Reading.
  • Ability to use diesel to use the Chiltern routes to Aylesbury and Marylebone.

To meet all these requirements, it would appear bi-mode trains like a Class 800 train are needed.

Should The East-West Rail Link Be Electrified?

Consider.

  • The trains chosen for the route will be bi-mode and so the line doesn’t need to be electrified.
  • Freight trains using the route would be hauled by a diesel locomotive or possibly a bi-mode locomotive like a Class 88 locomotive.

However, if at a future date, all or part of the electrification were to be deemed needed, if the line had been built with electrification in mind, putting up the wires would be a lot easier than on the TransPennine route.

Conclusions

I have come to these conclusions from these two examples.

  • The bi-mode route allows a lot of flexibility and means that electrification with all its problems can be done when it is really necessary.
  • The bi-mode route, also means that passengers get the benefits of modern,  faster and more frequent trains at an earlier date.
  • Electrification of a new line is easier than electrifying an old Victorian one.
  • All new or reopened lines should be built to allow electrification at a future date.

Don’t underestimate the ingenuity of railway engineers to make a more comprehensive railway powered by electricity possible.

September 10, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Thoughts On Highspeed to Hastings

Since I wrote Kent On The Cusp Of Change – Highspeed To Hastings, a couple of months ago, several things have happened.

And Now There Are Three!

Trenitalia has pulled out of bidding for the new Southeastern franchise as reported in this article in the International Rail Journal.

This leaves just three bidders.

  • A joint venture of Abellio, East Japan Railway Company and Mitsui
  • Govia
  • Stagecoach

The same joint venture were recently awarded the West Midlands franchise.

The new franchise will be awarded in August 2018, with services starting in December 2018.

Electrification Has Been Abandoned

Major electrification schemes have been abandoned, so I suspect it will be even more unlikely that Ashford to Hastings will be electrified.

The Aventras Are Coming

Class 345 trains have started to appear on Crossrail and it is my opinion that they are a fine train.

In An Exciting New Aventra, I laid out the philosophy of the new trains and in How Long Will It Take Bombardier To Fulfil Their Aventra Orders?, I discussed how Bombardier will build the trains, at a rate of twenty-five carriages a month.

The rate comes from this article in The Guardian, which is entitled Full speed ahead for train builders as minister pulls plug on electrification, where I found this useful nugget of information, from the General Manager of Bombardier’s Derby plant.

Building trains in an “ergonomically correct” fashion, he says, means completing and testing the carriage’s constituent parts, then assembling them, rather than wiring them up afterwards – and also takes the risk away from a production line which boasts a rate of 25 carriages per week.

It sounds like Bombardier’s engineers have been drinking and swapping ideas, with Toyota’s production engineers a few miles down the road at Burnaston.

The New South Eastern Franchise

So do we have any clues as to what the new South Eastern franchise will be doing?

South Western Railway

South Western Railway‘s routes have a similar pattern to those of the South Eastern franchise, with an intense suburban network and longer distance services.

You could also argue that Greater Anglia isn’t much different.

Both these other franchises have are replacing their suburban trains with new 100 mph trains with all the trimming like wi-fi and toilets.

Both have chosen a mix of five and ten-car Aventras.

This would appear to give the following advantages.

  • The 100 mph trains with excellent acceleration and smooth regenerative braking help to make services faster and more frequent.
  • A near identical fleet will help maintenance and crew training.
  • It is easier to get the train-platform interface better, if only one class of train calls at a station.
  • Platform compatibility with Crossrail and Crossrail 2.

I suspect that the new South Eastern franchise will think on similar lines.

The Networkers Must Be Going

Southeastern currently has a total of 674 Networker carriages, most of which will surely be moved on by the new franchise holder.

I believe that these trains with their 75 mph speed and average performance, is not high enough for efficient timetabling of services and that consequently the new franchise holder will probably replace these trains with 100 mph units.

One choice would be to use a mix of new five and ten-car Aventras as chosen by Greater Anglia and South Western Railway. Replacing Networker carriages with the same number of Aventra carriages would take around six months of production at Bombardier.

The Aventras must be high on the list of new trains, as some of the new trains, may have to use the same platforms as Crossrail, if the line is extended from Abbey Wood station.

The Extra High Speed Trains

To serve Hastings and increase the number of Highspeed services, the new franchise holder, will have to obtain some more trains that can use High Speed 1.

Some of these trains will need the ability to travel on the Marshlink Line between Ashford and Hastings.

Consider.

  • It probably wouldn’t be a good idea to have two different types of trains working to Ashford on High Speed 1.
  • Class 800 trains, which are closely related to the Class 395 trains have onboard diesel power and might have energy storage to handle regenerative braking.
  • Class 395 trains are getting towards ten years old and are approaching the need for a refresh.
  • Hitachi have built trains with onboard energy storage in Japan.
  • Diesel fuel might not be allowed in the tunnels of High Speed 1.
  • Hitachi would probably be very disappointed to not get this order.

More Class 395 trains fitted with either onboard energy storage must be the favourite.

Conclusion

Kent will get Aventras to improve suburban services and more Class 395 trains with batteries for Highspeed services.

 

September 7, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Midland Metro’s £149m Extension To Open In 2021

The title of this post is the same as an article on Global Rail News.

This is the first two paragraphs.

A 2km extension of Transport for West Midlands’ Midland Metro has been given the go ahead in the UK.

The £149 million extension will link Grand Central, in Birmingham’s city centre, with the southern suburb of Edgbaston with five new stops served by up to 10 trams an hour at peak times.

This article in the Birmingham Mail, gives more details.

The locations of five new stops to be built in the next phase of the Midland Metro extension have been confirmed.

The line is being taken an additional 1.2 miles from outside New Street station to Hagley Road.

As previously mooted, there will be stops outside Town Hall Birmingham and at Centenary Square, in Broad Street, where passengers can access the ICC, Library of Birmingham and new HSBC UK head office.

The other stops will be opposite Brindleyplace at the corner of Granville Street, outside the Cineworld cinema in Broad Street and in front of office block 54 Hagley Road, close to the Morrisons supermarket.

I think that the design of the route has been kept fairly simple and also involves some pedestrianisation.

From New Street To Broad Street

This Google Map shows the first section of the route from the current terminus of the Midland Metro at Grand Central outside New Street station to the start of Broad Street.

The blue dot outside New Street station shows the Grand Central tram stop.

The route goes up the hill, to the stop at Birmingham Town Hall before twisting to go down Broad Street to stop in Centenary Square.

Along Broad Street

This Google Map shows Broad Street from the Symphony Hall to the Cineworld Cinema.

Three stops are on this section.

  • Brindleyplace
  • Granville Street
  • Cineworld Cinema

This visualisation shows the route at the cinema.

Note.

  • The view is looking towards Five Ways.
  • Overhead electrification is used on this section.

Will the route be pedestrian only?

Through Five Ways Roundabout And On To 54 Hagley Road

This Google Map shows the last section of the route.

The roundabout looks to have plenty of space to thread the tram lines through.

54 Hagley Road is the office tower in the South West corner of the map, on the South side of Hagley Road. Again there seems plenty of space.

Sections Without Wires

The route bwtween Grand Central and Hagley Road will use a mixture of overhead wiring and onboard energy storage to power the trams.

It has been stated that in the historic centre, the trams will not use wires, as in this visualisation.

It appears that there will be wired sections either side of this section without wires in the centre.

This will ensure, that the onboard energy storage is well-charged before entering the section.

Cost And Timescale

Comments on the Birmingham Mail article, think the line is expensive and it will take a long time to build.

Looking at the route the two tricky sections are around Paradise Street and Five Ways, as there will need to be a lot of reconstruction of the road network.

But the sections running on onboard energy storage should be a lot easier to build.

At £149 million for 3.38 kilometres, the extension will cost £44 million a kilometre.

Manchester Metrolink’s Trafford Park Line will cost £350 million for 5.5 kilometres or £64 million a kilometre.

Is the lower cost/km. of the Birmingham Extension due to the sections without wires?

I suspect, it’s probably more complicated than that!

Conclusion

It looks a good scheme.

My only reservation is what will drivers think about a pedestrianised Broad Street, if that is part of the design.

 

 

 

September 1, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Electrification ‘Very Unlikely’ To Come Back Into EWR Scheme

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

This is a quote from Andy Free, who is head of engineering of the alliance that is building the East West Rail Link.

The steer from the DfT is that wherever the Alliance is building a new structure it needs to be clear and suitable for electrification, “and we must do nothing that hinders future electrification, but it is not on the short- or medium-term horizon.

Given the developments in bi-mode trains in recent years, I suspect this is a sensible policy.

Electrification is probably cheaper to fit to a train in a nice warm factory in Derby or Newton Aycliffe, than at a remote location in the pouring rain and the howling wind.

In the case of the East West Rail Link, where sections of the route are well defined, as they are existing rail alignments, building the route would involve.

  • Raising any over-bridges to be clear of future electrification.
  • Building any bridges or flyovers, where the new railway crosses over roads and other railways.
  • Preparing the track bed.
  • Laying the track.
  • Building or rebuilding the stations.

Note I have ignored signalling, as ideally that will be in-cab by radio.

Building the line without electrification must give advantages.

  • Network Rail seem to find it impossible to do electrification projects to time and budget.
  • Stations without electrification are safer places and easier to design and build.
  • There is less visual intrusion for Nimbys to complain about.
  • The cost of connecting the electrification to the National Grid is zero.
  • There is less copper cable to steal.

In Is A Bi-Mode Aventra A Silly Idea?, I outlined what I believe the ultimate bi-mode train will be like.

A bi-mode Aventra would be a sophisticated train with the following characteristics.

  • Electric drive
  • Regenerative braking.
  • 25 KVAC overhead and 750 VDC third rail capability.
  • Automatic pantograph deployment.
  • Onboard energy storage.
  • Automatic power source selection.
  • Diesel or hydrogen power-pack

The first four are probably already in service in the Class 345 train.

A train going from between Reading and Bedford on the East West Rail Link, would charge its energy storage at the terminals and then use this power along the route. If the train detected that the stored energy was running low, the diesel or hydrogen power-pack would cut in and charge the energy storage.

Conclusion

It is my view, that if you are building a new rail line that is not high speed or high frequency, that there is no need to electrify the line, as intelligent bi-mode trains will be able to work the route economically and without the noise, pollution and vibration problems of their diesel engines working all the time.

August 26, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Saving Fuel In Rail Vehicles

The title of this post is the same as this page on the web site of a company called Artemis Intelligent Power.

The first paragraph sums up the project and the participants.

Since 2013, Artemis has been proud to work with leading companies Ricardo and Bombardier on the project ‘Digital Displacement® Rail Transmission with Flywheel Energy Storage’ which has been supported by the government funding body Innovate UK.

So who are the players, mentioned in this paragraph.

  • Artemis Intelligent Power, is a company that has been spun out of Edinburgh University, that is now owned by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. In 2015, the company won a MacRobert Award, which is regarded as the leading prize recognising UK innovation in engineering.
  • Ricardo is one of those companies, that have shaped our lives, but few people have ever heard of. At some time most of us would have driven a diesel car, where the engine has been designed around patents or ideas from Ricardo.
  • Bombardier in the UK are best known for the trains they build in Derby.
  • Innovate UK is the UK Government’s innovation agency.

I think it is true to say, that these players wouldn’t be short of ideas, engineering knowledge and resources, including money.

This second paragraph, describes in simple details, what they aim to achieve.

The system is based on the use of Artemis Digital Displacement® pump-motors to capture braking energy from diesel multiple unit (DMU) rail cars, store it in high tech Ricardo flywheels and then use it to displace diesel fuel during vehicle acceleration. Such energy recovery is commonplace on modern electric trains but there is general agreement in the rail industry that are many routes where electrification is unlikely ever to make economic sense.

There is also a press release from Ricardo, which has this title Significant fuel savings and rapid payback shown for rail flywheel hybrid technology.

The project has a name of DDFlyTrain and searching for this word, found this article in the Railway Gazette, which gives more details. These are the last two paragraphs of the article.

The delivery of the flywheel will now enable the assembly of a test rig for laboratory verification trials. Ricardo said its latest flywheel represents a significant advance on products available two years ago, drawing on research undertaken for Formula 1 cars. The flywheel spins in a permanent vacuum to reduce energy losses, with transmission by a magnetic gear system which does not require rotating seals or vacuum pumps The flywheel will be mated with Artemis’ Digital Displacement hydraulic transmission technology, which combines mechanical electric and software elements to facilitate efficient operation despite the varying speeds and loadings of a rail environment.

There are currently no firm plans for installation on a real trainset, but this could be undertaken in the future following laboratory tests.

I shall be searching for DDFlyTrain.

Conclusion

Artemis Intelligent Power and Ricardo have developed some very advanced technology.

The News page on the Artemis IP web site, details some varied applications for their technology in the fields of wave power, excavators, diesel railcar transmissions and wind power.

Ricardo’s flywheel has the name of TorqStor and looks to have potential in other applications.

Could we be seeing a larger version of Torqstor in Electrical Multiple Units, like the new Aventra?

With technology companies like Ricardo and Artemis IP, you never know what is possible, until it has been done!

August 12, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Class 345 Trains And Regenerative Braking

Bombardier don’t seem to talk much about regenerative braking on Class 345 trains.

In the Wikipedia entry for the train, there is a section called Background And Specifications. This is the first paragraph.

In 2008, the UK government’s rolling stock plan stated a requirement for around 600 carriages for Crossrail, expected to be similar in design to the Thameslink rolling stock, to meet the design improvement requirements of the 2007 ‘Rail Technical Strategy’ (RTS), including in-cab signalling/communication including satellite and ERTMS level 3 technologies, regenerative braking, low cost of operation and high reliability, with low weight and high acceleration.

Perhaps Bombardier aren’t letting on how they achieve efficient braking of the trains.

One thing I proved today, was that the trains have no give away electric fires on the roof, where braking energy is traditionally dissipated.

This bad picture was taken through safety netting at Forest Gate station.

The roof is mainly-smooth with just grills for the air-conditioning and ventilation.

There certainly wasn’t any electric fires on the roof!

So does the braking energy get stored on the train for reuse?

August 10, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 1 Comment

An Exciting New Aventra

The title of this post is the title of an article in Rail Engineer.

It is actually dated the 31st of January 2014, so you might think it is out of date.

But surely, with the first Aventras appearing in service, now is the time to revisit.

I found the article this morning by accident and it is a fascinating read, Especially when you consider the article was written before the train had received any orders. Bombardier had actually just missed out on the Thameslink order, which resulted in the Class 700 trains.

A Blank Sheet Of Paper

The loss of the Thameslink order allowed Bombardier to start from scratch.

This paragraph indicates one of their start points.

And then we looked at it and thought we’ve also got depot engineers from Strathclyde to Surrey, all over the place, all looking after these trains in the field. How are they performing? Is there something we can do better there?

As the article says Aventra was reborn after Thameslink!

They also talked extensively to possible customers.

Suppliers

Suppliers were invited on board and given space with the design team in a new Design Office in Derby.

This paragraph described how everyone worked together.

We basically started from scratch, and in a completely different way. It isn’t engineering-led any more. It’s a joint collaboration of our depot people, our manufacturing guys, procurement and engineering.

I would describe it as a project-led structure similar to one that ICI used to use in the 1960s.

I wrote my first scheduling program to allocate the office space needed.

A Modular Approach For The Future

Each Electrostar had been different to the previous, but this sums up the Aventra philosophy.

Aventra will be a single modular product, capable of being easily modified for different applications but in each case referring back to the core design. So whether the actual class will be a 90mph metro train or a 125mph main-line express, it will have the same systems and components as its basis. In fact, Jon thinks that the distinctions are becoming blurred anyway.

They had looked forward ten years.

Away From The Wires

Aventra will be an electric train, but what happens, when the wires run out?

This was their solution.

So plans were made for an Aventra that could run away from the wires, using batteries or other forms of energy storage. “We call it an independently powered EMU, but it’s effectively an EMU that you could put the pantograph down and it will run on the energy storage to a point say 50 miles away. There it can recharge by putting the pantograph back up briefly in a terminus before it comes back.

I rode the prototype in public service in January 2015!

I was totally convinced that Bombardier’s battery trains have not even the smallest touch of Mickey Mouse!

Although the experience was magical!

Bombardier’s Iron Bird

Bombardier have borrowed the Iron Bird concept from the plane-makers.

This is an extract.

A leaf has been taken out of the aircraft designers’ handbook. They use something termed an Iron Bird – basically an aeroplane without wings – to test new systems.

Bombardier’s Iron Bird is a train without bogies. However, it does contain control systems, wiring looms and other bits of kit and it is being assembled at Derby.

I think that this shows, that they are not against borrowing other concepts from other industries.

The Most Affordable Train

The article describes how the train was designed to give the best whole life cost.

This sentence sums up the philosophy.

It’s actually about a 50/50 split between the whole life cost and the first capital cost. That makes it a bit more difficult because we’ve got be competitive on the first practical cost, but additionally we have to offer a really high availability, strong reliability, combined with much better energy consumption and less track damage.

As someone, who used to own a finance company, that leased trucks and other expensive equipment, the product described is the sort of product that leasing companies love. If the train is economical to run, if the first train operating company goes bust, you’ll still have an asset that other train operating companies will fight over.

Trains are also a predictable long-term investment, as well-built efficient trains have a thirty or forty year lifetime.

In my view the big winner of a train like this is the manufacturer, as they’ll get happy owners, train operating companies and passengers, which must lead to repeat orders.

Conclusion

I’ve never ridden a more well-designed, comfortable, smooth and quiet suburban electric train, than the Class 345 train in trial service on the Shenfield Metro, anywhere in the UK or Europe.

August 10, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 3 Comments