The Anonymous Widower

London St Pancras Twins With Bordeaux Saint-Jean To Promote Direct Service

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

Channel Tunnel rail link concessionaire HS1 Ltd announced a twinning agreement between its London St Pancras International station and SNCF’s Bordeaux Saint-Jean station on October 18, saying this would help to progress the development of proposals for a through passenger service between the cities.

I tend to think, that all twinning arrangements are mainly about giving directors, mayors and those at the top, junkets and expensive free dinners.

It is much more important that the links go much deeper and hat those lower down meet the important objectives.

In the case of this twinning, will it accelerate the start of a direct London and Bordeaux service, which could be much-needed or a waste of resources.

Let’s get on with trialling the service, rather than wasting time thinking about it and posing for photographs.

October 19, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

NightJet Expands To Amsterdam And Brussels

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

The Amsterdam Service

This is said about the NightJet service to Amsterdam.

  • It will run daily.
  • It will run between Amsterdam and Vienna via Munich.
  • Service will start in December 2020.
  • Journey time will be fourteen hours.
  • The Dutch government is supporting the service with €6.7million.

The Dutch Minister for Infrastructure is also quoted as saying that International rail traffic to and from The Netherlands has increased by 13% this summer and that they are targeting intra-European journeys of up to six hours.

Given that it has recently been announced that the Customs and Immigration problems on the Amsterdam to London services will soon be resolved, I can shhe the following happening in the next couple of years.

  • Tourists taking Eurostar from London to Amsterdam and then exploring the City before taking a NightJet to Vienna, after a night or two in Amsterdam.
  • More tourists exploring Europe by rail.
  • Eiurostar needing to run four daily services between London and Amsterdam.

I feel the Dutch Government are backing an obvious winner.

The Brussels Service

This is said about the NightJet service to Brussels.

  • ÖBB will trial a service to Brussels from January 2020
  • It will run between Brussels and Vienna via Dusseldorf and Innsbruck.
  • It will initially run two days per week.

The aim would be to go daily, at the same time as the start of the Amsterdam service.

Everything said about the Amsterdam service would apply to the Brussels service, but would it be used by European politicians going to and from their home countries.

Conclusion

These two services will open up Central Europe to civilised comfortable train travel for passengers starting in the Benelux countries, Northern France and South-East England.

Vienna is a hub for other NightJet services going further East, so after a day or two the options to travel further are many and varied.

Will we ever see a London and Vienna sleeper?

We might!

But consider!

  • The last Eurostar from London to Brussels leaves at 18:04 and arrives at arrives at 21:05
  • The last |Eurostar from London to Paris leaves at 20:01 and arrives at 23:17
  • You can get a good meal in the two top classes; Standard Premier and Business Premier.

It may be a better idea to run a later service from London to Brussels to connect with the NightJet

 

 

October 11, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 2 Comments

The Missing Link At St. Pancras Station

This picture was taken inside St. Pancras station.

I was standing in front of the glass security wall, towards the East (Kings Cross) side of the station.

On the British Library side of the station it is possible to walk along to the four platforms for East Midlands Railway trains.

I wonder why, there isn’t a link down the Kings Cross side of the station, so that it would be possible to walk from the front of the station to the Souyjeastern HighSpeed commuter routes.

October 7, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , | 2 Comments

Thalys-Eurostar Merger Planned Under Green Speed Initiative

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

This is the first paragraph.

SNCF, SNCB and the Patina Rail investment vehicle announced on September 27 their intention to combine the Eurostar and Thalys high speed rail operations, reporting that outline proposals were being presented to their respective boards.

Eurostar runs or has ambition to run these services.

  • London and Paris Nord via Calais and Lille
  • London and Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy
  • London and Bordeaux via Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy and Tours
  • London and Amsterdam via Calais, Lille, Brussels, Antwerp, Ritterdam and Schipol Airport
  • London and Frankfurt via Calais, Lille, Brussels, Liege, Aachen and Cologne.
  • In Winter services run to skiing resorts.
  • In Summer services run to the sun.

Thalys runs these services.

  • Paris Nord and Amsterdam via Brussels, Antwerp, Ritterdam and Schipol Airport
  • Paris Nord and Cologne via Brussels, Liege and Aachen.
  • Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy and Amsterdam via Brussels, Antwerp, Ritterdam and Schipol Airport
  • In Winter services run to skiing resorts.
  • In Summer services run to the sun.

Eurostar and Thalys seem to have a good fit of routes.

  • Both have two Northern terminals; Amsterdam and Cologne or Frankfurt.
  • Both serve Schipol Airport
  • Both serve Brussels Midi, which is in the city centre.
  • Both serve Paris Nord, which is a large well-connected station just to the North of the city centre.
  • Both serve Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy, which is in Disneyland Paris, has a connect to Charles de Gaulle airport and is a major hub for French TGV services.
  • Both have winter and summer holiday services.

You could almost consider the combined networks to be the following.

  • A high-frequency Paris and Brussels service.
  • Northern branches to Amsterdam and Cologne or Frankfurt.
  • A branch to London via Lille, Calais and the Channel Tunnel.
  • A Southern branch to Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy for Disneyland Paris, Charles de Gaulle airport and onward travel to much of France.

It’s all very simple really and as they say Simple is Efficient.

A few thoughts.

London And Amsterdam Services

As an example, suppose you are going from London to Amsterdam at the present time..

  • There are three direct services taking around four hours.
  • There are four services with a change at Brusseks Midi to Thalys taking ten minutes short of five hours.

You could  catch a direct train, but sometimes, you might have to change at Brussels Midi.

There is no problem with immigration control, as that has been done in London.

Going from Amsterdam to London, services are as follows.

  • There seems to be eight daily services, taking ten minutes short of five hours.
  • They also seem to be very heavily booked.

There is no problem with immigration control, as that is done in a forty-five minute stopover in Brussels.

Experienced travellers, and some following a more relaxed schedule, might appreciate the stopover in Brussels, but most travellers would prefer a direct service through Brussels.

I suspect too that Eurostar or the future joint operator would prefer direct services.

  • It would increase capacity between Brussels and Amsterdam via Antwerp, Rotterdam and Schipol Airport.
  • It would increase domestic capacity.
  • The organisation of the trains and onboard staff would surely be easier.

The only problem, is doing the immigration control on the journey to London.

Solutions have been suggested, where Amsterdam and London services are two half trains; one for domestic passengers and one for those going to London, but I’m sure there is a solution out there.

London And Cologne Or Frankfurt Services

The same rules will apply.

Going out will be easy, but coming back will probably need a change of train at Brussels.

Was There A German Solution?

Some years ago, I remember reading that Deurche Bahn were intending to run services from Amsterdam and Cologne to London, where the two trains divided and combined at Brussels.

Using current Thalys and Eurostar times and assuming a fifteen minute stop at Brussels, would probably have meant these times.

  • London to Amsterdam – four hours and thirty minutes.
  • London to Cologne – four hours and twenty minutes.
  • London to Frankfurt- five hours and forty minutes.

Note.

  1. Amsterdam and Cologne services are fairly similar times, which must improve the utilisation of the trains.
  2. Like Amsterdam, the station in Cologne is in the heart of the historic city.
  3. You can get a train to virtually anywhere in Germany from Cologne. But note that Berlin will be a six-hour journey.

As the London to Amsterdam service has been successful, I’m sure London to Cologne would attract passengers.

Were the Germans going to organise Amsterdam and Cologne services, like this?

  • Each service could be a double-train, which could be joined and split quickly, as some operators do.
  • This train would meet all the Channel Tunnel regulations.
  • Going out from London, the double-train would arrive in Brussels and split with one train going to Amsterdam and the other to Cologne.
  • Going into London,, the two trains would join at Brussels and be just another Brussels to London service.

But as with the Amsterdam service, the major problem is immigration control.

There is also the problem of utilising the spare capacity North of Brussels for inbound services to London, which could increase the cash-flow generated by the services.

Or were the Germans thinking in a more innovative manner?

I do wonder if using double trains from Amsterdam and Cologne, with one train for London and the other for Paris or Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy could have been in the German’s minds.

With some creative joining amd splitting in a long platform at Brussels Midi, could it be made to work?

If Eurostar and Thalys were two parts of the same operator, I suspect that it is more likely that a service pattern will be found, that delivers the following.

  • More direct services between London and Amsterdam and Cologne.
  • Extra capacity between Amsterdam and Cologne and Paris and Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy.
  • More efficient utilisation of trains and oboard staff.

It would surely attract more passengers.

Brussels Midi

Brussels Midi station can be considered to be a prototype for the ideal station on both the main network and the London branch.

It will have to do the following.

  • Handle through services between Landon and Amsterdam and London and Cologne or Frankfurt.
  • Terminate some services between London and Brussels.
  • Allow local passengers to use through services to and from London to access other stations on the route.
  • Handle through services between Paris or Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy and Amsterdam and Paris or Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy and Cologne or Frankfurt.
  • Allow Passengers to and from London to use the other services.
  • Handle immigration for passengers to and from London.
  • Allow a passenger from London to connect to any onward services at the station.
  • Allow a passenger to London to arrive on any train and after checking through immigration catch the train to London.
  • The station has full UK Border Control.

It’s complicated, but I suspect that it’s more of an architectural and train design problem than anything else.

Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy

If Brussels Midi can be made to work efficiently, the same thing can be organised at Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy.

  • It is very close to Disneyland Paris.
  • It has good connection to Charles-de-Gaulle Airport
  • There are ten TGV services to other parts of France.
  • There are two Oiugo low cost high-speed services to other parts of France.
  • There are also some international services.
  • The station has full UK Border Control.

Could the plan be to develop this hub close to the airport, with train services to destinations in Belgium, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, Switzerland, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom?

London To Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy

Eurostar already has direct services between London and Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy.

  • Some services going to destinations further South use this route.
  • London to Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy takes two hours forty-nine minutes.

Will the proposed London and Bordeaux service stop at Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy?

  • This would give Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy, will all its connections and attractions another service.
  • If the service stopped at Lille Europe, this would double the High Speed service between Lille and Bordeaux.

Could it be that the London and Bordeaux service will also improve internal French High Speed services?

If SNCF control Eurostar, Thalys and the French TGVs, this must give scope for the services to compliment each other and run economically.

The UK Immigration Control Problem

I can see UK Immigration Control being centred on the following stations.

  • Brussels Midi
  • Lille Europe
  • Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy
  • Paris Nord

These would work as they do now.

Outbound services are not a problem, as it is all handled in London. I have travelled from London to Amsterdam a couple of times and notice how seats vacated in Brussels are used by other passengers between Brussels and The Netherlands.

I believe that it would be possible to develop an efficient system to handle incoming passengers to the UK.

Consider the following.

  • Passengers to and from the UK could be asked for passport details when checking in on-line.
  • Passengers for the UK would use an automatic passport gate, as is common at airports and on Eurostar.
  • Passengers for the UK would sit in a separate part of the train, isolated from the domestic passengers, except in an emergency.
  • If a train stopped at say Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy and Lille Europe, UK Border Force could check passengers on the train between these two stations.

These and other ideas can surely be developed.into a system that would satisfy the most xenophobic of polticians and their supporters.

Conclusion

This proposed merger could be good for High Speed rail in Europe and the UK.

The French government also hopes it could be good for France.

 

 

 

September 30, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 6 Comments

Amsterdam – London Through Train Agreement To Be Signed Shortly

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

This is the first paragraph.

The international agreement which would permit the operation of through passenger services between the Netherlands and the UK is expected to be signed in October, State Secretary for Justice & Security Ankie Broekers-Knol told the Dutch parliament’s lower house on September 25.

I can’t wait!

Hopefully, a similar agreement will be signed soon with the Germans to allow direct London and Frankfurt services via Cologne.

I can only see one problem!

What if Amsterdam, Germany, Bordeaux and all the other destinations that are being talked about are hugh successes?

Will St.Pancras cope?

September 26, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 2 Comments

Eurostar Is Overflowing

I took this picture on Sunday night at around seven in the evening.

I’d just walked through the entrance and the queues were long and overflowing round the corner.

I do think there’ll come a time in a few years, when Eurostar will have to rebuild substantially to handle the increasing numbers of passengers.

July 30, 2019 Posted by | Transport | | 4 Comments

Thello Bids To Run Milano – Paris High Speed Service

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

This is the first paragraph.

Trenitalia subsidiary Thello has notified rail regulator ARAFER of its intention to launch the first open access passenger services on the French high speed network. The regulator announced on June 4 that Thello had requested paths from SNCF Réseau for a twice-daily service between Milano and Paris to start from June 2020.

These are more details of the service.

  • Services will leave both cities around 07.00 and 15.00 each day.The journey time would be under 7 hours.
  • Intermediate stops would be at Torino, Modane, Chambery Challes Les Eaux and Lyon Part Dieu.
  • Services would be worked by Trenitalia’s Frecciarossa 1000 trainsets.
  • Trains would use LGV Sud-Est.
  • Each train would be able to carry up to 457 passengers, with 300 standard class seats, 76 Premium, 69 Business and 10 Executive.

SNCF also run a service between Milano and Paris, which I have used between Novara and Paris.

I wrote about that trip in From Novara To Paris.

It looks to me that the Trello service could be a better experience.

  • It could be faster as it will use the Torino to Milano High Speed Line.
  • It runs twice a day.

Combined with Eurostar, it would make London to Milan in a day feasible.

But whether you would want to do that is another matter!

I have come home in a day from Barcelona, Geneva, Karlsruhe, Madrid, Munich and Novara.

  • But then, I can be in my bed at home in under twenty minutes from when the Eurostar arrives in St. Pancras.
  • Leaving the UK, I will often fly to my starting point.
  • I will also come home in half-day-sized journeys, breaking the trip in a reasonable hotel each night.

There are various developments making this mode of travel around Europe easier and more comfortable.

  • More high-speed lines are being developed.
  • Austrian Railways are developing more sleeper trains, that they call NightJet.
  • The availability of affordable hotels is getting better.

At certain times of the year, hotels and train tickets can be arranged easily in every overnight stop.

 

 

 

June 5, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hydrogen Trains To Be Trialled On The Midland Main Line

This article on Railway Gazette is entitled Bimode And Hydrogen Trains As Abellio Wins Next East Midlands Franchise.

Abellio will be taking over the franchise in August this year and although bi-mode trains were certain to be introduced in a couple of years, the trialling of hydrogen-powered trains is a surprise to me and possibly others.

This is all that is said in the article.

Abellio will also trial hydrogen fuel cell trains on the Midland Main Line.

It also says, that the new fleet will not be announced until the orders are finalised.

In this post, I’m assuming that the hydrogen trial will be performed using the main line trains.

Trains for the Midland Main Line will need to have the following properties

  • 125 mph on electric power
  • 125 mph on diesel power
  • Ability to go at up to 140 mph, when idigital n-cab signalling is installed and the track is improved.
  • UK gauge
  • Ability to run on hydrogen at a future date.

I think there could be three types of train.

  • A traditional bi-mode multiple unit, with underfloor engines like the Hitachi Class 800 series, is obviously a possibility.
  • An electrical multiple unit, where one driving car is replaced by a bi-mode locomotive with appropriate power.
  • Stadler or another manufacturer might opt for a train with a power pack in the middle.

The second option would effectively be a modern InterCity 225.

  • South of Kettering, electricity would be used.
  • North of Kettering, diesel would be used
  • Hydrogen power could replace diesel power at some future date.
  • Design could probably make the two cabs and their driving desks identical.
  • The locomotive would be interchangeable with a driver car.

Bi-modes would work most services, with electric versions working to Corby at 125 mph.

Which manufacturer has a design for a 125 mph, hydrogen-powered train?

Alstom

Alstom have no 125 mph UK multiple unit and their Class 321 Hydogen train, is certainly not a 125 mph train and probably will still be under development.

Bombardier

In Mathematics Of A Bi-Mode Aventra With Batteries, I compared diesel and hydrogen-power on bi-mode Aventras and felt that hydrogen could be feasible.

In that post, I wrote a section called Diesel Or Hydrogen Power?, where I said this.

Could the better ambience be, because the train doesn’t use noisy and polluting diesel power, but clean hydrogen?

It’s a possibility, especially as Bombardier are Canadian, as are Ballard, who produce hydrogen fuel-cells with output between 100-200 kW.

Ballard’s fuel cells power some of London’s hydrogen buses.

The New Routemaster hybrid bus is powered by a 138 kW Cummins ISBe diesel engine and uses a 75 kWh lithium-ion battery, with the bus being driven by an electric motor.

If you sit in the back of one of these buses, you can sometimes hear the engine stop and start.

In the following calculations, I’m going to assume that the bi-mode |Aventra with batteries has a power source, that can provide up to 200 kW, in a fully-controlled manner

Ballard can do this power output with hydrogen and I’m sure that to do it with a diesel engine and alternator is not the most difficult problem in the world.

So are Bombardier designing the Bi-Mode Aventra With Batteries, so that at a later date it can be changed from diesel to hydrogen power?

All an Aventra needs to run is electricity and the train, the onboard staff and passengers don’t care whether it comes from overhead wires, third-rail, batteries, diesel or hydrogen.

Bombardier  also have the technology for my proposed locomotive-based solution, where one driver-car of an Aventra is replaced by what is effectively a locomotive.

If Bombardier have a problem, it is that they have no small diesel train to replace Abellio’s small diesel trains. Could the longer services use the bi-mode Aventras and the shorter ones Aventras with battery power?

CAF

CAF probably have the technology, but there would be a lot of development work to do.

Hitachi

Hitachi have the bi-mode trains in the Class 802 trains, but haven’t as yet disclosed a hydrogen train.

Siemens

They’ve made a few noises, but I can’t see them producing a bi-mode train for 2022.

Stadler

In a few weeks time, I will be having a ride in a Stadler-built Class 755 train, run by Abellio Greater Anglia.

The Class 755 train is a bi-mode 100 mph train, from Stadler’s Flirt family.

Could it be stretched to a 125 mph train?

  • Stadler have built 125 mph electric Flirts.
  • It is my view, that Stadler have the knowledge to make 125 mph trains work.
  • Flirts are available in any reasonable length.
  • I’ve read that bi-mode and electric Flirts are very similar for drivers and operators.

These could work the Midland Main Line.

If the mainline version is possible, then Abellio could replace all their smaller diesel trains with appropriate Class 755 trains, just as they will be doing in East Anglia.

Stadler with the launch of the Class 93 locomotive, certainly have the technology for a locomotive-based solution.

East Midlands Railway would be an all-Stadler Flirt fleet.

As to hydrogen, Stadler are supplying hydrogen-powered trains for the Zillertalbahn, as I wrote in Zillertalbahn Orders Stadler Hydrogen-Powered Trains.

Talgo

Talgo could be the joker in the pack. They have the technology to build 125 mph bi-mode trains and are building a factory in Scotland.

My Selection

I think it comes down to a straight choice between Bombardier and Stadler.

It should also be noted, that Abellio has bought large fleets from both manufacturers for their franchises in the UK.

Zero-Carbon Pilots At Six Stations

This promise is stated in the franchise.

Once the electrification reaches Market Harborough in a couple of years, with new bi-mode trains, running on electricity, the following stations will not see any passenger trains, running their diesel engines.

  • St. Pancras
  • Luton Airport Parkway
  • Luton
  • Bedford
  • Wellingborough
  • Kettering
  • Corby
  • Market Harborough

These are not pilots, as they have been planned to happen, since the go-ahead for the wires to Market Harborough.

Other main line stations include.

  • Beeston
  • Chesterfield
  • Derby
  • East Midlands Parkway
  • Leicester
  • Long Eaaton
  • Loughborough
  • Nottingham
  • Sheffield

Could these stations be ones, where East Midlands Railway will not be emitting any CO2?

For a bi-mode train to be compliant, it must be able to pass through the station using battery power alone.

  • As the train decelerates, it charges the onboard batteries, using regernerative braking.
  • Battery power is used whilst the train is in the station.
  • Battery power is used to take the train out of the station.

Diesel power would only be used well outside of stations.

How would the trains for the secondary routes be emission-friendly?

  • For the long Norwich to Derby and Nottingham to Liverpool routes, these would surely be run by shorter versions of the main line trains.
  • For Stadler, if secondary routes were to be run using Class 755 trains, the battery option would be added, so that there was no need to run the diesel engines in stations.
  • For Bombardier, they may offer battery Aventras or shortened bi-modes for the secondary routes, which could also be emission-free in stations.
  • There is also the joker of Porterbrook’s battery-enhaced Class 350 train or BatteryFLEX.

I think that with the right rolling-stock, East Midlands Railway, could be able to avoid running diesel engines in all the stations, where they call.

Why Are Abellio Running A Hydrogen Trial?

This is a question that some might will ask, so I’m adding a few reasons.

A Train Manufacturer Wants To Test A Planned Hydrogen Train

I think that it could be likely, that a train manufacturer wants to trial a hydrogen-powered variant of a high-speed train.

Consider.

  • The Midland Main Line is about 160 miles long.
  • A lot of the route is quadruple-track.
  • It is a 125 mph railway for a proportion of the route.
  • It has only a few stops.
  • It is reasonably straight with gentle curves.
  • Part of the route is electrified.
  • It is connected to London at one end.

In my view the Midland Main Line is an ideal test track for bi-mode high speed trains.

A Train Manufacturer Wants To Sell A Fleet Of High Speed Trains

If a train manufacturer said to Abellio, that the fleet of diesel bi-mode trains they are buying could be updated to zero-carbon hydrogen bi-modes in a few years, this could clinch the sale.

Helping with a trial, as Abellio did at Manningtree with Bombardier’s battery Class 379 train in 2015, is probably mutually-beneficial.

The Midland Main Line Will Never Be Fully Electrified

I believe that the Midland Main Line will never be fully-electrified.

  • The line North of Derby runs through the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. Would UNESCO allow electrification?
  • I have been told by drivers, that immediately South of Leicester station, there is a section, that would be very difficult to electrify.
  • Some secondary routes like Corby to Leicester via Oakham might be left without electrification.

But on the other hand some sections will almost certainly be electrified.

  • Around Toton, where High Speed Two crosses the Midland Main Line and the two routes will share East Midlands Hub station.
  • Between Clay Cross Junction and Sheffield, where the route will be shared with the Sheffield Spur of High Speed Two.
  • The Erewash Valley Line, if High Speed Two trains use that route to Sheffield.

The Midland Main Line will continue to need bi-mode trains and in 2040, when the Government has said, that diesel will not be used on UK railways,

It is my view, that to run after 2040, there are only two current methods of zero-carbon propulsion; on the sections without overhead electrification battery or hydrogen power.

So we should run trials for both!

Abellio Know About Hydrogen

Abellio is Dutch and after my trip to the Netherlands last week, I wrote The Dutch Plan For Hydrogen, which describes how the Dutch are developing a green hydrogen economy, where the hydrogen is produced by electricity generated from wind power.

So by helping with the trial of hydrogen bi-mode trains on the Midland Main Line, are Abellio increasing their knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of hydrogen-powered trains.

In Thoughts On Eurostar To North Netherlands And North West Germany, I  proposed running bi-mode trains on the partially-electrified route between Amsterdam and Hamburg via Groningen and Bremen, which would be timed to connect to Eurostar’s services between London and Amsterdam. These could use diesel, hydrogen or battery power on the sections without electrification.

If hydrogen or battery power were to be used on the European bi-mode train, It would be possible to go between Sheffield and Hamburg on a zero-carbon basis, if all electric power to the route were to be provided from renewable sources.

Abellio Sees The PR Value In Running Zero-Carbon Trains

In My First Ride In An Alstom Coradia iLint, I talked about running hydrogen-powered trains on a hundred mile lines at 60 mph over the flat German countrside

The Midland Main Line is a real high speed railway, where trains go at up to 125 mph between two major cities, that are one-hundred-and-sixty miles apart.

Powered by hydrogen, this could be one of the world’s great railway journeys.

If hydrogen-power is successful, Abellio’s bottom line would benefit.

Conclusion

This franchise will be a big improvement in terms of  carbon emissions.

As I said the choice of trains probably lies between Bombardier and Stadler.

But be prepared for a surprise.

 

 

 

 

 

April 11, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Thoughts On Eurostar To North Netherlands And North West Germany

I have now taken Eurostar to Hamburg twice, with a change at Amsterdam Centraal.

The first time, I took two German Inter City trains, with a change at Osnabruck. I wrote about it in From Amsterdam To Hamburg The Hard Way.

On my latest trip, I took the following route.

  • An overnight stay in Amsterdam
  • Train from Amsterdam Centraal to Groningen with changes at Almere Centrum and Zwolle
  • An overnight stay in Groningen
  • Rail Replacement Bus from Groningen to Leer
  • Train from Leer to Bremen
  • Train from Bremen to Bremerhaven
  • Train from Bremerhaven to Hamburg

Note.

  1. There are no direct trains between Amsterdam Centraal and Groningen. Most involve a quick interchange at Almere or Utrecht.
  2. Amsterdam Centraal to Groningen is electrified.
  3. Amsterdam Centraal to Groningen takes two hours six minutes on the fastest train.
  4. When the bridge over the Ems is rebuilt, there should be an hourly train between Groningen and Leer, rather than a two-hourly bus.
  5. Leer to Bremen is electrified and takes under an hour and a half.
  6. I took a roundabout route from Bremen and Hamburg, as I wanted to check that the hydrogen-powered trains were running.
  7. There are direct trains between Bremen and Hamburg.

Could The Slower Route Be Improved?

My thoughts are as follows.

Between Amsterdam Centraal And Groningen

Consider the following.

  • The Dutch probably planned the timetable before Eurostar served Amsterdam.
  • Eurostar is going to three trains per day between London and Amsterdam
  • There are new Dutch InterCity trains on order for other routes.
  • A direct service between Amsterdam Centraal and Groningen could probably be under two hours, with perhaps two stops.
  • On my trip, the trains trundled along at 50-60 mph, which isn’t very fast.

For these reasons, I would rate it highly lightly that the Dutch will think about a direct service.

Between Groningen And Leer

Without doubt, the problem on this section is the bridge over the Ems.

I estimate the following.

  • The mainly single-track railway without electrification between Groningen and Ihrhove near Leer is about seventy kilometres.
  • After the bridge is rebuilt, one of Arriva’s Stadler GTWs could do the journey in perhaps 30-35 minutes.
  • A bi-mode Stadler Flirt, like one of Greater Anglia’s  Class 755 trains, which have a top speed of 100 mph and bags of grunt could probably break the half-hour.

Some web sites put the opening of the new bridge in 2024. I’m reasonably certain, that by that date, an electric train with these power systems would be able to handle the route.

  • Dutch electrification
  • German electrification
  • Batteries

Bombardier and Stadler are certainly aiming to have battery-powered trains in service by the bridge opening date.

Between Leer and Bremen/Hamburg

This electrified double-track section has the following timings.

  • Leer and Bremen – 1:24
  • Leer and Hamburg 2:23

There doesn’t appear to be any major improvements needed.

Times On The Two Routes Compared

How do the fastest times on the two routes compare?

Via Osnabruck

This is the only route available and the fastest times are something like.

  • Amsterdam Centraal and Bremen – 4:16
  • Amsterdam Centraal and Hamburg – 5:14

It appears that most services go to both Bremen and Hamburg.

Every time, I’ve changed at Osnabruck, the second train has been late.

Via Groningen

I would estimate the best fastest times are something like.

  • Amsterdam Centraal and Bremen – three hours
  • Amsterdam Centraal and Hamburg – four hours

I am very surprised that the route via Groningen could appear to be over an hour faster.

Trains For An Amsterdam Centraal and Bremen/Hamburg Service Via Groningen

At present, this service would not be possible, because of the bridge over the Ems.

The route has the following characteristics.

  • Dutch electrification at 1.5 KVDC between Amsterdam Centraal and Groningen.
  • No electrification from Groningen between Groningen and Ihrhove, which is seventy kilometres.
  • German electrification at 15 KVAC between Ihrhove and Bremen/Hamburg

There are several trains that can handle both electrification systems at the two ends of the route, it’s just the seventy kilometres in the middle.

In my view there are several ways to bridge the gap.

Electrification

The Dutch or the Germans can probably electrify the line on time and on budget better than we could.

But which electrification system would be used?

Diesel

Using a dual-mode bi-mode train, that could also run on diesel would be a possibility and I’m sure that Bombardier, Hitachi and Stadler could supply a more or less off-the-the-shelf train, that could run at up to 200 kph where possible and handle the section without electrification on diesel.

But using diesel in an area developing a green economy based on wind power and hydrogen, is probably not a good marketing idea.

Hydrogen

If diesel can handle the route, I’m certain that hydrogen could be used on the section without electrification.

Battery

The section without electrification is only seventy kilometres and in a few years time will be totally in range of a battery train, that charged the batteries on the end sections. Power changeover could be arranged in Leer and Groningen stations if this was thought to be more reliable.

Note that in Hitachi Plans To Run ScotRail Class 385 EMUs Beyond The Wires, I write that Hitachi are claiming a battery range of sixty miles or a hundred kilometres with a Class 385 train with batteries in a few years time. Hitachi won’t be the only train manufacturer with the technology to build a suitable product.

I have to conclude that Groningen and Leer is a classic application for battery power.

Intermediate Stops For An Amsterdam Centraal and Bremen/Hamburg Service Via Groningen

Obviously, the Dutch and the Germans, should know their market and would know where the trains should stop.

Having experienced the route in the last few days, the following stops could be possible.

  • Almere Centrum
  • Zwolle
  • Groningen
  • Leer
  • Oldenburg

But with modern trains, that have a minimum dwell time at stations, there may be more stops than some might think.

Which Company Would Run The Service?

I don’t know anything about the complications of running international trains, even when they are totally in the Schengen  Zone.

In the UK, Amsterdam to Hamburg is the sort of service that would be proposed by a well-funded Open Access Operator.

The company, who would benefit most from this service is Eurostar.

So could we see Eurostar operating or sponsoring Open Access feeder services in Europe, using say 200 kph trains?

Conclusion

It would appear that the following journey times are possible.

  • Amsterdam Centraal and Bremen – three hours
  • Amsterdam Centraal and Hamburg – four hours

For this to be possible the following is needed.

  • The bridge over the Ems is rebuilt.
  • Battery power works as its developers hope it will.

How many other routes in the world, would benefit from a similar philosophy?

 

March 31, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Will NightJet Connect To Eurostar?

NightJet is Austrian Railways sleeper service, that they took off the hands of the Germans when they closed it as a waste of money.

Ridership is increasing and they will be bringing in new trains in the next few years.

They also appear to have formed a partnership with Hungarian, Croatian and Polish Railways to take the network further East.

But what about the West? NightJet serves German cities like Cologne and Frankfurt, which are on Eurostar’s wish list.

Frankfurt is boring, but Cologne is the sort of city where you can fill time enjoyably.

So will we see travellers taking a morning Eurostar to Cologne, spend a day in the city and then take an overnight NightJet to Vienna. Vienna is linked by more NightJet services to places that non-European tourists love.

I don’t know the Austrian psyche well. But it does seem to me, that they have taken a loss-making Getman sleeper network and may succeed in turning it jnto something profitable and worthwhile with a little help from their friends. Do Austrians like getting one over the Germans?

A Eurostar connection in the West at Cologne and possibly in Switzerland, where NightJet runs to Zurich, would surely be beneficial. Eurostar have ambitions on Geneva and the connections between the two Swiss cities are good and picturesque!

I feel that we could be seeing the takibg of train tourism to a new level. How cuvilised?

 

March 26, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment