The Anonymous Widower

Prototype Revolution Very Light Rail Vehicle Ready For Testing

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

It is very much a complete article, which gives full information on the current status of the Revolution VLR very light rail prototype railcar.

  • The railcar is an eighteen metre long bi-directional vehicle.
  • It has capacity for 56 seated passengers and 40 standees. This is more than a double-deck bus load.
  • It has a Cummins diesel-electric power-train.
  • Maximum speed is 65 mph.
  • There is regenerative braking to a battery, which can be used for traction in built-up areas.

I must admit that I am surprised that Revolution VLR is not fully zero-carbon, but as this is a prototype, that is probably a sensible move, as it will be able to test the concept and show the railcar to potential customers.

However, as Cummins are a member of the consortium and they are now embracing hydrogen as an alternative fuel, a zero-carbon hydrogen power-train may be under development, that would be suitable for the Revolution VLR.

When the Revolution VLR consortium was in its early stages I wrote Very Light Rail Research On Track, based on a Railway Gazette article with the same title.

That earlier article did talk about a problem.

However, the drawback of a lightweight vehicle is that its lower crashworthiness could make it unsuitable for mixed traffic lines.

But the consortium felt that the limitation could be overcome by better traffic management and digital signalling.

Mixed traffic running was also flagged up as a problem by the tram-trains running in Sheffield, but touch wood, they seem to be working well!

Hopefully extensive testing of this prototype will identify any limitations of the concept.

August 12, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Stonehenge Tunnel Campaigners Win Court Battle

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

This is the first part of the BBC article.

Campaigners have won a court battle to prevent the “scandalous” construction of a road tunnel near Stonehenge.

The £1.7bn Highways England project aimed to reduce A303 congestion but campaigners said it would detrimentally affect the world heritage site.

The government approved plans in 2020 for a two-mile (3.2km) tunnel to be created near the Wiltshire monument.

Mr Justice Holgate’s ruling means the order granted by transport secretary Grant Shapps has been quashed.

I obtained my driving licence in 1964 and since then the A303 past Stonehenge has been a worsening bottleneck.

I suspect that unreleased papers from successive governments since the 1960s would show that most Ministers of Transport hoped the problem of Stonehenge would be solved by the next Government of a different colour, which would hopefully lose them the next election.

If you read the whole of the BBC article you’ll see a large map from Highways England.

Note.

  1. The proposed tunnel is shown as a dotted red line to the South of Stonehenge, more or less following the line of the current A303.
  2. The Amesbury by-pass already exists in the East.
  3. A new Winterbourne Stoke by-pass will be built in the West.

Some feel that a longer tunnel might be the solution.

But it would probably need to start to the West of Winterbourne Stoke and be at least three times longer than the proposed tunnel.

So this short stretch of road would then probably cost around £5billion.

Can We Reduce The Traffic On This Road?

There are several ways that traffic might be reduced.

Universal Road Pricing

Every vehicle would be fitted with a meter, which charged drivers depending on the following.

  • The type of vehicle.
  • The congestion on the road.
  • The speed, at which the vehicle is travelling.

It might work, but any government introducing universal road pricing would lose the next General Election by a landslide.

Tolls On Parts Of The A303

Again it might work and push drivers to find other routes.

Improve Other Routes Like The M4

As capacity is increased on other routes, drivers could be lured away from the busy section of the A303 around Stonehenge.

Improve Rail Services Between Paddington And West Of Exeter

I know because of friends, who regularly go to Devon and \Cornwall for both weekends and longer holidays, that many people go to the far-South West by car and most will use the A303 route to and from London.

These services are run by Great Western Railway and the destinations in the South West are not as comprehensive as they could be.

  • GWR’s Class 802 trains can split and join efficiently, which could mean they could serve more destinations with the same number of trains.
  • GWR seem to be in favour of developing more direct services between London and Bodmin, Okehampton and other places.
  • GWR are adding stations to their network in the South-West.

But most importantly, GWR, Hitachi and the Eversholt Rail Group are developing the Hitachi Intercity Tri-Mode Battery Train, which will lower carbon-emissions on the route. This Hitachi infographic describes the train.

These trains could attract numbers of car drivers to use the train, rather than drive.

Improve The Night Riviera Between Paddington And Penzance

Most other sleeper trains in Europe have renewed their fleet.

An improvement in the rolling stock could encourage more people to travel this way.

Improve Rail Services Between Waterloo And Exeter

The rail line between Waterloo and Exeter via Basingstoke and Salisbury runs within a dozen miles of Stonehenge.

  • The rolling stock is thirty-year-old British Rail diesel trains.
  • It is not electrified to the West of Basingstoke.
  • There are portions of single-track railway.

The Waterloo and Exeter line could be improved.

  • Remove some sections of single track.
  • Upgrade the operating speed to up to 100 mph in places.
  • Use a version of the latest Hitachi Intercity Tri-Mode Battery Train
  • Add some new stations.

I believe the quality, frequency and journey times of the service could all be improved.

Would this second fast route from the South-West encourage more to take the train?

Stonehenge And Wilton Junction Station

Stonehenge may be the problem, but it can also be part of the solution.

In The Proposal For Stonehenge And Wilton Junction Station, I write about an innovative proposal, that uses a car park at a new station to create a Park-And-Ride for both Stonehenge and Salisbury.

This could bring more visitors to Stonehenge without their cars.

Conclusion

None of these proposals will take vast amounts of pressure from the A303. But every little helps.

Some like the decarbonisation of rail services will have to be done anyway.

 

July 30, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel, World | , , , , , | 5 Comments

Whisky Galore!

The Levenmouth Rail Link has carried freight in the past.

Mainly in the past, it was coal to the now-demolished Methil power station.

But it has been known to carry whisky for Diageo.

This Google map shows the area.

Note.

  1. The blue dot marking Sainsbury’s by the bew Leven station, by the mouth of the River Leven.
  2. The railway follows the river with Cameron Bridge station to the East of the A915 and the two Camero Bridge distilleries.
  3. The silver warehouses at the North side of the map are labelled Diageo Global Supply.

I wonder, if a siding can be provided for the distribution of products stored in the warehouses?

Companies are looking to lower their carbon-footprint and I wouldn’t be surprised, if Diageo were looking at rail distribution.

Modern Rail Freight Distribution

Companies are converting redundant electric multiple units into fast parcel delivery trains to replace diesel trucks.

  • Typically, four-car trains are used.
  • Trains have a 100 mph capability and can be 240 metres in length.
  • Eversholt Rail Group are proposing adding battery power. This would be ideal to reach Cameron Bridge over the Forth Bridge.

These trains would be ideal for the delivery of Scotch Whisky.

They might even be capable of exporting product through the Channel Tunnel.

I don’t think the capacity of the Levenmouth Rail Link would be a problem, as it is a double-track railway, that can probably handle over four trains per hour and there is plenty of capacity for a number of freight trains.

Conclusion

I think freight will play a use in the future of the Levenmouth Rail Link.

Related Posts

The New Leven Station On The Levenmouth Rail Link

The New Cameron Bridge Station On The Levenmouth Rail Link

North From Thornton Junction

Service Provision On The Levenmouth Rail Link

Trains On The Levenmouth Rail Link

July 29, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , | 7 Comments

H2 Green, Eversholt Rail To Jointly Develop Hydrogen Supply Solutions In The UK

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on H2 View.

Their co-operation will be for the rail industry and based on green hydrogen, produced by electrolysis.

  • H2 Green is a Scottish company, that were recently taken over by Getech,
  • Eversholt Rail Group is a rolling stock leasing company, who are also backing hydrogen trains, that will be manufactured by Alstom.

This could be the kick up the backside, that hydrogen trains need in the UK.

July 6, 2021 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport/Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is This The Shape Of Freight To Come?

This article on Rail Advent is entitled Eversholt Rail Unveils First Swift Express Freight Train In Doncaster.

It is a full report on the first of a new breed of freight trains based on redundant 100 mph electric multiple units.

Three Rail Problems

The rail industry, its financiers and customers have a lot of problems, they’d like to solve, but these three seem to be coming together to create a whole new industry.

Rolling Stock Leasing Companies Have A Surplus Of Redundant Rolling Stock

 

Most of the released rolling stock has been made redundant because of the arrival of new trains.

What will be left will be a an assortment, which will contain a lot of trains with these characteristics.

  • Four cars
  • Can run in formations of 4, 8 and 12 cars
  • Electrically-powered.
  • Some trains are even dual voltage.
  • 100 mph operating speed.
  • Good reliability.
  • Easy maintenance and modification if needed.

Many were even built over thirty years ago by British Rail Engineering Ltd.

As someone, who used to part-own a company that leased trucks to operators, I know that to maximise cash-flow and ultimately profits, you don’t want them sitting in a yard or a siding.

Conversion to zero carbon is one option.

  • Porterbrook have said they will convert the Class 350 trains, that they own to battery-electric operation.
  • Porterbrook have also converted some Class 319 trains to electro-diesel Class 769 trains.
  • Porterbrook have also converted a Class 319 train to hydrogen operation.
  • Eversholt Rail Group and Alstom are converting Class 321 trains to hydrogen operation.

I also believe that the redundant Class 379 trains will also be converted to battery-electric operation.

But there will still be a substantial number of quality trains, that need a second life.

The Growth Of Parcel Freight

Parcel freight traffic driven by on-line shopping, has boomed in the pandemic.

This type of traffic often originates from outside of the UK and enters the country at places like London Gateway or East Midlands Airport.

Much of it is currently distributed to large cities by truck, which in this day and age is not a green option, or even an option at all.

Rail Operations Group have leased ten Class 769 trains and 9 Class 319 trains with the intention of running parcel services under the Orion brand. I wrote about this proposal in A Freight Shuttle For Liverpool Street Station Planned.

Road Congestion

Road congestion is getting worse and there is bir much point in having product stuck on the motorway, when it can be running along at a 100 mph on an electrified rail line.

The Need For Just-In-Time Deliveries

Many factories these days work on the Just-In-Time principle, with product delivered just as its needed.

As an example Toyota build their cars at Burnaston near Derby, but the engines are built in North Wales. I suspect that they go across the country by truck.

Looking at maps, the engine plant could be rail connected and I feel one could be arranged at Burnaston.

Do they keep a good stock of engines at Burnaston?

I can see several situations like this needing a regular company train.

Fast Food

Because of Brexit we will need to be growing more of our own food.

Traditionally, the Class 43 power cars of InterCity 125 trains carried flowers and fish up from Cornwall.

So will we see rail provide an alternative.

Conclusion

Put these problems together and you can see a fair number of four-car electric multiple units being converted to short 100 mph electric freight trains.

Eversholt Rail Group‘s Swift Express Freight Train is very much a demonstrator for their ideas and it has some expected and unexpected features.

Based On A Class 321 train

The train is based on a four-car Class 321 train.

I rode one recently and I timed it at over 90 mph on the way to Southend.

Trolley Cages

Pictures in the Rail Advent article show a stripped-bare interior with a steel floor, with another picture showing three supermarket trolley cages arranged across the train.

One estimate in the article says that each coach can handle over fifty of these cages and up to nine-and-a-half tonnes of cargo.

Four Seats And A Toilet

Eversholt feel that some of the trains could be used in a Travelling Post Office mode and there may be a need for sorting en route, so two first-class seats, two second-class seats and a toilet are provided.

This train would enable an Anglo-Scottish parcel service.

  • It might stop several times en route.
  • At each stop parcels would be rolled out and in, perhaps with the help of a Harrington Hump.
  • The on-train staff would sort the incoming parcels and put them in the required trolley for offloading.

I don’t think though, they’ll be delivering postal orders.

A Last Mile Capability

The article also disclosed that Eversholt were thinking of fitting a Last-Mile capability to the Swift Express Freight Train.

Batteries were mentioned and they would obviously work.

But one development recently is Porterbrook’s HydroFlex train, which has converted a Class 319 train to hydrogen power.

  • The conversion was done by Birmingham University.
  • It appears that all the hydrogen gubbins is underneath the floor, so cargo capacity would not be reduced.

I suspect underfloor hydrogen power could be very viable in an express freight train.

Fleet Size

The article talks of a fleet size of twenty and also says that the first train has been leased to an unnamed parcel distributor in the UK.

July 3, 2021 Posted by | Design, Finance, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Swift Express Freight Demonstrator To Be Tested

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

This is the first paragraph.

Leasing company Eversholt Rail and Ricardo have teamed up to develop an electric multiple-unit intended to demonstrate a cost-effective and low carbon way of transporting parcels.

Other points include.

  • A Class 321 train will be converted.
  • The trains have a top speed of 100 mph.
  • Each vehicle will handle up to twelve tonnes of freight.

Eversholt are talking to possible operators.

Conclusion

There are various train leasing companies and operators looking at similar concepts.

I’m sure one will create a viable model.

March 18, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | 4 Comments

Will Hitachi Announce A High Speed Metro Train?

As the UK high speed rail network increases, we are seeing more services and proposed services, where local services are sharing tracks, where trains will be running at 125 mph or even more.

London Kings Cross And Cambridge/Kings Lynn

This Great Northern service is run by Class 387 trains.

  • Services run between London Kings Cross and King’s Lynn or Cambridge
  • The Class 387 trains have a maximum operating speed of 110 mph.
  • The route is fully electrified.
  • The trains generally use the fast lines on the East Coast Main Line, South of Hitchin.
  • Most trains on the fast lines on the East Coast Main Line are travelling at 125 mph.

When in the future full digital in-cab ERTMS signalling is implemented on the East Coast Main Line, speeds of up to 140 mph should be possible in some sections between London Kings Cross and Hitchin.

The Digswell Viaduct Problem

I also believe that digital signalling may be able to provide a solution to the twin-track bottleneck over the Digswell Viaduct.

Consider.

  • Airliners have been flown automatically and safely from airport to airport for perhaps four decades.
  • The Victoria Line in London, has been running automatically and safely at over twenty trains per hour (tph) for five decades. It is now running at over 30 tph.
  • I worked with engineers developing a high-frequency sequence control system for a complicated chemical plant in 1970.

We also can’t deny that computers are getting better and more capable.

For these reasons, I believe there could be an ERTMS-based solution to the problem of the Digswell Viaduct, which could be something like this.

  • All trains running on the two track section over the Digswell Viaduct and through Welwyn North station would be under computer control between Welwyn Garden City and Knebworth stations.
  • Fast trains would be slowed as appropriate to create spaces to allow the slow trains to pass through the section.
  • The train drivers would be monitoring the computer control, just as they do on the Victoria Line.

Much more complicated automated systems have been created in various applications.

The nearest rail application in the UK, is probably the application of digital signalling to London Underground’s Circle, District, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan Lines.

This is known at the Four Lines Modernisation and it will be completed by 2023 and increase capacity by up to twenty-seven percent.

I don’t think it unreasonable to see the following maximum numbers of services running over the Digswell Viaduct by 2030 in both directions in every hour.

  • Sixteen fast trains
  • Four slow trains

That is one train every three minutes.

Currently, it appears to be about ten fast and two slow.

As someone, who doesn’t like to be on a platform, when a fast train goes through, I believe that some form of advanced safety measures should be installed at Welwyn North station.

It would appear that trains between London Kings Cross and King’s Lynn need to have this specification.

  • Ability to run at 125 mph on the East Coast Main Line
  • Ability to run at 140 mph on the East Coast Main Line, under control of full digital in-cab ERTMS signalling.

This speed increase could reduce the journey time between London Kings Cross and Cambridge to just over half-an-hour with London Kings Cross and King’s Lynn under ninety minutes.

The only new infrastructure needed would be improvements to the Fen Line to King’s Lynn to allow two tph, which I think is needed.

Speed improvements between Hitchin and Cambridge could also benefit timings.

London Kings Cross And Cambridge/Norwich

I believe there is a need for a high speed service between London Kings Cross and Norwich via Cambridge.

  • The Class 755 trains, that are capable of 100 mph take 82 minutes, between Cambridge and Norwich.
  • The electrification gap between Ely and Norwich is 54 miles.
  • Norwich station and South of Ely is fully electrified.
  • Greater Anglia’s Norwich and Cambridge service has been very successful.

With the growth of Cambridge and its incessant need for more space, housing and workers, a high speed train  between London Kings Cross and Norwich via Cambridge could tick a lot of boxes.

  • If hourly, it would double the frequency between Cambridge and Norwich until East-West Rail is completed.
  • All stations between Ely and Norwich get a direct London service.
  • Cambridge would have better links for commuting to the city.
  • Norwich would provide the quality premises, that Cambridge is finding hard to develop.
  • London Kings Cross and Cambridge would be just over half an hour apart.
  • If the current London Kings Cross and Ely service were to be extended to Norwich, no extra paths on the East Coast Main Line would be needed.
  • Trains could even split and join at Cambridge or Ely to give all stations a two tph service to London Kings Cross.
  • No new infrastructure would be required.

The Cambridge Cruiser would become the Cambridge High Speed Cruiser.

London Paddington And Bedwyn

This Great Western Railway service is run by Class 802 trains.

  • Services run between London Paddington and Bedwyn.
  • Services use the Great Western Main Line at speeds of up to 125 mph.
  • In the future if full digital in-cab ERTMS signalling is implemented, speeds of up to 140 mph could be possible on some sections between London Paddington and Reading.
  • The 13.3 miles between Newbury and Bedwyn is not electrified.

As the service would need to be able to run both ways between Newbury and Bedwyn, a capability to run upwards of perhaps thirty miles without electrification is needed. Currently, diesel power is used, but battery power would be better.

London Paddington And Oxford

This Great Western Railway service is run by Class 802 trains.

  • Services run between London Paddington and Oxford.
  • Services use the Great Western Main Line at speeds of up to 125 mph.
  • In the future if full digital in-cab ERTMS signalling is implemented, speeds of up to 140 mph could be possible on some sections between London Paddington and Didcot Parkway.
  • The 10.3 miles between Didcot Parkway and Oxford is not electrified.

As the service would need to be able to run both ways between Didcot Parkway and Oxford, a capability to run upwards of perhaps thirty miles without electrification is needed. Currently, diesel power is used, but battery power would be better.

Local And Regional Trains On Existing 125 mph Lines

In The UK, in addition to High Speed One and High Speed Two, we have the following lines, where speeds of 125 mph are possible.

  • East Coast Main Line
  • Great Western Main Line
  • Midland Main Line
  • West Coast Main Line

Note.

  1. Long stretches of these routes allow speeds of up to 125 mph.
  2. Full digital in-cab ERTMS signalling is being installed on the East Coast Main Line to allow running up to 140 mph.
  3. Some of these routes have four tracks, with pairs of slow and fast lines, but there are sections with only two tracks.

It is likely, that by the end of the decade large sections of these four 125 mph lines will have been upgraded, to allow faster running.

If you have Hitachi and other trains thundering along at 140 mph, you don’t want dawdlers, at 100 mph or less, on the same tracks.

These are a few examples of slow trains, that use two-track sections of 125 nph lines.

  • East Midlands Railway – 1 tph – Leicester and Lincoln – Uses Midland Main Line
  • East Midlands Railway – 1 tph – Liverpool and Norwich – Uses Midland Main Line
  • East Midlands Railway – 2 tph – St. Pancras and Corby – Uses Midland Main Line
  • Great Western Railway – 1 tph – Cardiff and Portsmouth Harbour – Uses Great Western Main Line
  • Great Western Railway – 1 tph – Cardiff and Taunton – Uses Great Western Main Line
  • Northern – 1 tph – Manchester Airport and Cumbria – Uses West Coast Main Line
  • Northern – 1 tph – Newcastle and Morpeth – Uses East Coast Main Line
  • West Midlands Trains – Some services use West Coast Main Line.

Conflicts can probably be avoided by judicious train planning in some cases, but in some cases trains capable of 125 mph will be needed.

Southeastern Highspeed Services

Class 395 trains have been running Southeastern Highspeed local services since 2009.

  • Services run between London St. Pancras and Kent.
  • Services use Speed One at speeds of up to 140 mph.
  • These services are planned to be extended to Hastings and possibly Eastbourne.

The extension would need the ability to run on the Marshlink Line, which is an electrification gap of 25.4 miles, between Ashford and Ore.

Thameslink

Thameslink is a tricky problem.

These services run on the double-track section of the East Coast Main Line over the Digswell Viaduct.

  • 2 tph – Cambridge and Brighton – Fast train stopping at Hitchin, Stevenage and Finsbury Park.
  • 2 tph – Cambridge and Kings Cross – Slow train stopping at Hitchin, Stevenage, Knebworth, Welwyn North, Welwyn Garden City, Hatfield, Potters Bar and Finsbury Park
  • 2 tph – Peterborough and Horsham – Fast train stopping at Hitchin, Stevenage and Finsbury Park.

Note.

  1. These services are run by Class 700 trains, that are only capable of 100 mph.
  2. The fast services take the fast lines South of the Digswell Viaduct.
  3. South of Finsbury Park, both fast services cross over to access the Canal Tunnel for St, Pancras station.
  4. I am fairly certain, that I have been on InterCity 125 trains running in excess of 100 mph in places between Finsbury Park and Stevenage.

It would appear that the slow Thameslink trains are slowing express services South of Stevenage.

As I indicated earlier, I think it is likely that the Kings Cross and King’s Lynn services will use 125 mph trains for various reasons, like London and Cambridge in under half an hour.

But if 125 mph trains are better for King’s Lynn services, then they would surely improve Thameslink and increase capacity between London and Stevenage.

Looking at average speeds and timings on the 25 miles between Stevenage and Finsbury Park gives the following.

  • 100 mph – 15 minutes
  • 110 mph – 14 minutes
  • 125 mph – 12 minutes
  • 140 mph – 11 minutes

The figures don’t appear to indicate large savings, but when you take into account that the four tph running the Thameslink services to Peterborough and Cambridge stop at Finsbury Park and Stevenage and have to get up to speed, I feel that the 100 mph Class 700 trains are a hindrance to more and faster trains on the Southern section of the East Coast Main Line.

It should be noted, that faster trains on these Thameslink services would probably have better acceleration and and would be able to execute faster stops at stations.

There is a similar less serious problem on the Midland Main Line branch of Thameslink, in that some Thameslink services use the fast lines.

A couple of years ago, I had a very interesting chat with a group of East Midlands Railway drivers. They felt that the 100 mph Thameslink and the 125 mph Class 222 trains were not a good mix.

The Midland Main Line services are also becoming more complicated, with the new EMR Electric services between St. Pancras and Corby, which will be run by 110 mph Class 360 trains.

Hitachi’s Three Trains With Batteries

Hitachi have so far announced three battery-electric trains. Two are based on battery packs being developed and built by Hyperdrive Innovation.

Hyperdrive Innovation

Looking at the Hyperdrive Innovation web site, I like what I see.

Hyperdrive Innovation provided the battery packs for JCB’s first electric excavator.

Note that JCB give a five-year warranty on the Hyperdrive batteries.

Hyperdrive have also been involved in the design of battery packs for aircraft push-back tractors.

The battery capacity for one of these is given as 172 kWh and it is able to supply 34 kW.

I was very surprised that Hitachi didn’t go back to Japan for their batteries, but after reading Hyperdrive’s web site about the JCB and Textron applications, there would appear to be good reasons to use Hyperdrive.

  • Hyperdrive have experience of large lithium ion batteries.
  • Hyperdrive have a design, develop and manufacture model.
  • They seem to able to develop solutions quickly and successfully.
  • Battery packs for the UK and Europe are made in Sunderland.
  • Hyperdrive are co-operating with Nissan, Warwick Manufacturing Group and Newcastle University.
  • They appear from the web site to be experts in the field of battery management, which is important in prolonging battery life.
  • Hyperdrive have a Taiwanese partner, who manufactures their battery packs for Taiwan and China.
  • I have done calculations based on the datasheet for their batteries and Hyperdrive’s energy density is up with the best

I suspect, that Hitachi also like the idea of a local supplier, as it could be helpful in the negotiation of innovative applications. Face-to-face discussions are easier, when you’re only thirty miles apart.

Hitachi Regional Battery Train

The first train to be announced was the Hitachi Regional Battery Train, which is described in this Hitachi infographic.

Note.

  1. It is only a 100 mph train.
  2. The batteries are to be designed and manufactured by Hyperdrive Innovation.
  3. It has a range of 56 miles on battery power.
  4. Any of Hitachi’s A Train family like Class 800, 802 or 385 train can be converted to a Regional Battery Train.

No orders have been announced yet.

But it would surely be very suitable for routes like.

  • London Paddington And Bedwyn
  • London Paddington And Oxford

It would also be very suitable for extensions to electrified suburban routes like.

  • London Bridge and Uckfield
  • London Waterloo and Salisbury
  • Manchester Airport and Windermere.
  • Newcastle and Carlisle

It would also be a very sound choice to extend electrified routes in Scotland, which are currently run by Class 385 trains.

Hitachi InterCity Tri-Mode Battery Train

The second train to be announced was the Hitachi InterCity Tri-Mode Battery Train, which is described in this Hitachi infographic.

Note.

  1. Only one engine is replaced by a battery.
  2. The batteries are to be designed and manufactured by Hyperdrive Innovation.
  3. Typically a five-car Class 800 or 802 train has three diesel engines and a nine-car train has five.
  4. These trains would obviously be capable of 125 mph on electrified main lines and 140 mph on lines fully equipped with digital in-cab ERTMS signalling.

Nothing is said about battery range away from electrification.

Routes currently run from London with a section without electrification at the other end include.

  • London Kings Cross And Harrogate – 18.3 miles
  • London Kings Cross And Hull – 36 miles
  • London Kings Cross And Lincoln – 16.5 miles
  • London Paddington And Bedwyn – 13.3 miles
  • London Paddington And Oxford – 10.3 miles

In the March 2021 Edition of Modern Railways, LNER are quoted as having aspirations to extend the Lincoln service to Cleethorpes.

  • With all energy developments in North Lincolnshire, this is probably a good idea.
  • Services could also call at Market Rasen and Grimsby.
  • Two trains per day, would probably be a minimum frequency.

But the trains would need to be able to run around 64 miles each way without electrification. Very large batteries and/or charging at Cleethorpes will be needed.

Class 803 Trains For East Coast Trains

East Coast Trains have ordered a fleet of five Class 803 trains.

  • These trains appear to be built for speed and fast acceleration.
  • They have no diesel engines, which must save weight and servicing costs.
  • But they will be fitted with batteries for emergency power to maintain onboard  train services in the event of overhead line failure.
  • They are planned to enter service in October 2021.

Given that Hyperdrive Innovation are developing traction batteries for the other two Hitachi battery trains, I would not be the least bit surprised if Hyperdrive were designing and building the batteries for the Class 803 trains.

  • Hyperdrive batteries are modular, so for a smaller battery you would use less modules.
  • If all coaches are wired for a diesel engine, then they can accept any power module like a battery or hydrogen pack, without expensive redesign.
  • I suspect too, that the battery packs for the Class 803 trains could be tested on an LNER Class 801 train.

LNER might also decide to replace the diesel engines on their Class 801 trains with an emergency battery pack, if it were more energy efficient and had a lighter weight.

Thoughts On The Design Of The Hyperdrive innovation Battery Packs

Consider.

  • Hitachi trains have a sophisticated computer system, which on start-up can determine the configuration of the train or whether it is more than one train running as a longer formation or even being hauled by a locomotive.
  • To convert a bi-mode Class 800 train to an all-electric Class 801 the diesel engines are removed. I suspect that the computer is also adjusted, but train formation may well be totally automatic and independent of the driver.
  • Hyperdrive Innovation’s battery seem to be based on a modular system, where typical modules have a capacity of 5 kWh, weighs 32 Kg and has a volume of 0.022 cu metres.
  • The wet mass of an MTU 16V 1600 R80L diesel engine commonly fitted to AT-300 trains of different types is 6750 Kg or nearly seven tonnes.
  • The diesel engine has a physical size of 1.5 x 1.25 x 0.845 metres, which is a volume of 1.6 cubic metres.
  • In How Much Power Is Needed To Run A Train At 125 mph?, I calculated that a five-car Class 801 electric train, needed 3.42 kWh per vehicle-mile to maintain 125 mph.
  • It is likely, than any design of battery pack, will handle the regenerative braking.

To my mind, the ideal solution would be a plug compatible battery pack, that the train’s computer thought was a diesel engine.

But then I have form in the area of plug-compatible electronics.

At the age of sixteen, for a vacation job, I worked in the Electronics Laboratory at Enfield Rolling Mills.

It was the early sixties and one of their tasks was at the time replacing electronic valve-based automation systems with new transistor-based systems.

The new equipment had to be compatible to that which it replaced, but as some were installed in dozens of places around the works, they had to be able to be plug-compatible, so that they could be quickly changed. Occasionally, the new ones suffered infant-mortality and the old equipment could just be plugged back in, if there wasn’t a spare of the new equipment.

So will Hyperdrive Innovation’s battery-packs have the same characteristics as the diesel engines that they replace?

  • Same instantaneous and continuous power output.
  • Both would fit the same mountings under the train.
  • Same control and electrical power connections.
  • Compatibility with the trains control computer.

I think they will as it will give several advantages.

  • The changeover between diesel engine and battery pack could be designed as a simple overnight operation.
  • Operators can mix-and-match the number of diesel engines and battery-packs to a given route.
  • As the lithium-ion cells making up the battery pack improve, battery capacity and performance can be increased.
  • If the computer, is well-programmed, it could reduce diesel usage and carbon-emissions.
  • Driver conversion from a standard train to one equipped with batteries, would surely be simplified.

As with the diesel engines, all battery packs could be substantially the same across all of Hitachi’s Class 80x trains.

What Size Of Battery Would Be Possible?

If Hyperdrive are producing a battery pack with the same volume as the diesel engine it replaced, I estimate that the battery would have a capacity defined by.

5 * 1.6 / 0.022 = 364 kWh

In an article in the October 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, which is entitled Celling England By The Pound, Ian Walmsley says this in relation to trains running on the Uckfield Branch, which is not very challenging.

A modern EMU needs between 3 and 5 kWh per vehicle mile for this sort of service.

As a figure of 3.42 kWh per vehicle-mile to maintain 125 mph, applies to a Class 801 train, I suspect that a figure of 3 kWh or less could apply to a five-car Class 800 train trundling at around 80-100 mph to Bedwyn, Cleethorpes or Oxford.

  • A one-battery five-car train would have a range of 24.3 miles
  • A two-battery five-car train would have a range of 48.6 miles
  • A three-battery five-car train would have a range of 72.9 miles

Note.

  1. Reducing the consumption to 2.5 kWh per vehicle-mile would give a range of 87.3 miles.
  2. Reducing the consumption to 2 kWh per vehicle-mile would give a range of 109.2 miles.
  3. Hitachi will be working to reduce the electricity consumption of the trains.
  4. There will also be losses at each station stop, as regenerative braking is not 100 % efficient.

But it does appear to me, that distances of the order of 60-70 miles would be possible on a lot of routes.

Bedwyn, Harrogate, Lincoln and Oxford may be possible without charging before the return trip.

Cleethorpes and Hull would need a battery charge before return.

A Specification For A High Speed Metro Train

I have called the proposed train a High Speed Metro Train, as it would run at up to 140 mph on an existing high speed line and then run a full or limited stopping service to the final destination.

These are a few thoughts.

Electrification

In some cases like London Kings Cross and King’s Lynn, the route is already electrified and batteries would only be needed for the following.

  • Handling regenerative braking.
  • Emergency  power in case of overhead line failure.
  • Train movements in depots.

But if the overhead wires on a branch line. are in need of replacement, why not remove them and use battery power? It might be the most affordable and least disruptive option to update the power supply on a route.

The trains would have to be able to run on both types of electrification in the UK.

  • 25 KVAC overhead.
  • 750 VDC third rail.

This dual-voltage capability would enable the extension of Southeastern Highspeed services.

Operating Speed

The trains must obviously be capable of running at the maximum operating speed on the routes they travel.

  • 125 mph on high speed lines, where this speed is possible.
  • 140 mph on high speed lines equipped with full digital in-cab ERTMS signalling, where this speed is possible.

The performance on battery power must be matched with the routes.

Hitachi have said, that their Regional Battery trains can run at up to 100 mph, which would probably be sufficient for most secondary routes in the UK and in line with modern diesel and electric multiple units.

Full Digital In-cab ERTMS Signalling

This will be essential and is already fitted to some of Hitachi’s trains.

Regenerative Braking To Batteries

Hitachi’s battery electric  trains will probably use regenerative braking to the batteries, as it is much more energy efficient.

It also means that when stopping at a station perhaps as much as 70-80% of the train’s kinetic energy can be captured in the batteries and used to accelerate the train.

In Kinetic Energy Of A Five-Car Class 801 Train, I showed that at 125 mph the energy of a full five-car train is just over 100 kWh, so batteries would not need to be unduly large.

Acceleration

This graph from Eversholt Rail, shows the acceleration and deceleration of a five-car Class 802 electric train.

As batteries are just a different source of electric power, I would think, that with respect to acceleration and deceleration, that the performance of a battery-electric version will be similar.

Although, it will only achieve 160 kph instead of the 200 kph of the electric train.

I estimate from this graph, that a battery-electric train would take around 220 seconds from starting to decelerate for a station to being back at 160 kph. If the train was stopped for around eighty seconds, a station stop would add five minutes to the journey time.

London Kings Cross And Cleethorpes

As an example consider a service between London Kings Cross and Cleethorpes.

  • The section without electrification between Newark and Cleethorpes is 64 miles.
  • There appear to be ambitions to increase the operating speed to 90 mph.
  • Local trains seem to travel at around 45 mph including stops.
  • A fast service between London Kings Cross and Cleethorpes would probably stop at Lincoln Central, Market Rasen and Grimsby Town.
  • In addition, local services stop at Collingham, Hykeham, Barnetby and Habrough.
  • London Kings Cross and Newark takes one hour and twenty minutes.
  • London Kings Cross and Cleethorpes takes three hours and fifteen minutes with a change at Doncaster.

I can now calculate a time between Kings Cross and Cleethorpes.

  • If a battery-electric train can average 70 mph between Newark and Cleethorpes, it would take 55 minutes.
  • Add five minutes for each of the three stops at Lincoln Central, Market Rasen and Grimsby Town
  • Add in the eighty minutes between London Kings Cross and Newark and that would be  two-and-a-half hours.

That would be very marketing friendly and a very good start.

Note.

  1. An average speed of 80 mph would save seven minutes.
  2. An average speed of 90 mph would save twelve minutes.
  3. I suspect that the current bi-modes would be slower by a few minutes as their acceleration is not as potent of that of an electric train.

I have a feeling London Kings Cross and Cleethorpes via Lincoln Central, Market Rasen and Grimsby Town, could be a very important service for LNER.

Interiors

I can see a new lightweight and more energy efficient interior being developed for these trains.

In addition some of the routes, where they could be used are popular with cyclists and the current Hitachi trains are not the best for bicycles.

Battery Charging

Range On Batteries

I have left this to last, as it depends on so many factors, including the route and the quality of the driving or the Automatic Train Control

Earlier, I estimated that a five-car train with all three diesel engines replaced by batteries, when trundling around Lincolnshire, Oxfordshire or Wiltshire could have range of up to 100 miles.

That sort of distance would be very useful and would include.

  • Ely and Norwich
  • Newark and Cleethorpes
  • Salisbury and Exeter

It might even allow a round trip between the East Coast Main Line and Hull.

The Ultimate Battery Train

This press release from Hitachi is entitled Hitachi And Eversholt Rail To Develop GWR Intercity Battery Hybrid Train – Offering Fuel Savings Of More Than 20%.

This is a paragraph.

The projected improvements in battery technology – particularly in power output and charge – create opportunities to replace incrementally more diesel engines on long distance trains. With the ambition to create a fully electric-battery intercity train – that can travel the full journey between London and Penzance – by the late 2040s, in line with the UK’s 2050 net zero emissions target.

Consider.

  • Three batteries would on my calculations give a hundred mile range.
  • Would a train with no diesel engines mean that fuel tanks, radiators and other gubbins could be removed and more or large batteries could be added.
  • Could smaller batteries be added to the two driving cars?
  • By 2030, let alone 2040, battery energy density will have increased.

I suspect that one way or another these trains could have a range on battery power of between 130 and 140 miles.

This would certainly be handy in Scotland for the two routes to the North.

  • Haymarket and Aberdeen, which is 130 miles without electrification.
  • Stirling and Inverness, which is 111 miles without electrification, if the current wires are extended from Stirling to Perth, which is being considered by the Scottish Government.

The various sections of the London Paddington to Penzance route are as follows.

  • Paddington and Newbury – 53 miles – electrified
  • Newbury and Taunton – 90 miles – not electrified
  • Taunton and Exeter – 31 miles – not electrified
  • Exeter and Plymouth – 52 miles – not electrified
  • Plymouth and Penzance – 79 miles – not electrified

The total length of the section without electrification between Penzance and Newbury  is a distance of 252 miles.

This means that the train will need a battery charge en route.

I think there are three possibilities.

  • Trains can take up to seven minutes for a stop at Plymouth. As London and Plymouth trains will need to recharge at Plymouth before returning to London, Plymouth station could be fitted with comprehensive recharge facilities for all trains passing through. Perhaps the ideal solution would be to electrify all lines and platforms at Plymouth.
  • Between Taunton and Exeter, the rail line runs alongside the M5 motorway. This would surely be an ideal section to electrify, as it would enable battery electric trains to run between Exeter and both Newbury and Bristol.
  • As some trains terminate at Exeter, there would probably need to be charging facilities there.

I believe that the date of the late 2040s is being overly pessimistic.

I suspect that by 2040 we’ll be seeing trains between London and Aberdeen, Inverness and Penzance doing the trips without a drop of diesel.

But Hitachi are making a promise of London and Penzance by zero-carbon trains, by the late-2040s, because they know they can keep it.

And Passengers and the Government won’t mind the trains being early!

Conclusion

This could be a very useful train to add to Hitachi’s product line.

 

 

 

March 9, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I Design A Hydrogen Aventra

This article on Rail News is entitled Alstom Moves Ahead With Bombardier Takeover.

This is a paragraph in the report, which is dated the eighteenth of last month.

n a statement issued last night, Alstom said it had ‘signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Bombardier Inc. and Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec in view of the acquisition of Bombardier Transportation. Post-transaction, Alstom will have a backlog of around €75bn and revenues around €15.5bn. The price for the acquisition of 100 per cent of Bombardier Transportation shares will be €5.8bn to €6.2bn, which will be paid via a mix of cash and new Alstom shares.’

That sounds pretty definite to me.

In the UK, Alstom will take over a company with the following projects.

  • A large order book for building Aventras in the Litchurch Lane factory at Derby.
  • Several support projects for existing train fleets.
  • A joint design project with Hitachi to bid for the trains for High Speed Two. Alstom are also bidding for High Speed Two, as are CAF, Siemens and Talgo.
  • Design and build the cars for the Cairo monorail.
  • Bombardier have been offering train operating companies a bi-mode Aventra.

There are also rumours, that Bombardier are in the running for a large order for Southeastern.

What are Bombardier’s strengths in the UK?

  • The Aventra is without doubt an excellent train, but with some software teething troubles.
  • The company has the ability to turn out finished trains at a formidable rate.
  • The company can make the carriage bodies in a high-tech plant.
  • Could the bodies be built in a larger size?
  • Or even a smaller size for a country like Australia, New Zealand, Nigeria or South Africa that uses a narrow gauge?
  • The company has the ability to design complete trains to the UK’s smaller standards.
  • The company can make trains in both European-sizes in Europe and UK-sizes in Derby.
  • The company builds bogies for other train manufacturing companies.

On the other hand, Bombardier has the following weaknesses.

  • It doesn’t make any diesel-powered trains, although it has successfully trialled battery-powered trains.
  • It has dismissed hydrogen-powered trains.
  • But above all the finances of the parent company are a basket case.

It appears to me that Alstom might bring much needed technology and finance to Bombardier UK. In return, they will acquire a modern design, that can be used in the UK and other countries, that use a smaller loading gauge.

Obviously, if the takeover goes through, more information should be forthcoming in the near to mid future.

The Future For Hydrogen Trains In The UK

I would suspect, that Alstom have designed a train in the Class 321 Breeze, that fits their view of what will work well in the UK train market.

  • It is a sixty metre long train, for a couple, where most platforms are at least eighty metres long.
  • It has a capacity similar to that of a modern two-car diesel multiple unit.
  • The Renatus version of the Class 321 train has a modern and reliable AC-based traction package. Or that’s what a Greater Anglia driver told me!
  • Eversholt Rail Group have already devised a good interior.
  • I said I was impressed with the interior of the train in A Class 321 Renatus.
  • The train can operate at 100 mph on a suitably electrified line, when running using the electrification.
  • Adding an extra trailer car or two could be a simple way of increasing capacity.

I should say, that I think it will be a quieter train, than the Coradia iLint, which has a rather noisy mechanical transmission.

I feel that a Class 321 Breeze train could be a good seller to routes that will not be electrified, either because of difficulty, expence or politics.

With a 100 mph operating speed on electrification and perhaps 90 mph on hydrogen power, it may have enough performance to work a lot of routes fast, profitably and reliably.

I think, that the Alston Class 321 Breeze will prove whether there is a market for hydrogen-powered trains in the UK.

I would think, that use of these trains could be a big application.

Replacement Of Two-And Three-Car Diesel Multiple Units

There are a lot of these still in service in the UK, which include.

All of these are currently running services all over Great Britain and I have ignored those trains run by Chiltern Railways as they will logically be replaced by a dedicated batch of new trains, with possible full- or part-electrification of the route. Or they could be custom-designed hydrogen trains.

As there are only 105 Class 321 trains that can be converted, some other trains will be needed.

I suppose classes of trains like Class 365 trains and others can be converted, but there must come a point, when it will be better to build new hydrogen trains from scratch.

Components For Hydrogen Trains

This article on Rail Business is entitled Breeze Hydrogen Multiple-Unit Order Expected Soon.

It says this about the design of the Alstom Breeze train.

The converted HMUs would have three roof-mounted banks of fuel cells on each of the two driving vehicles, producing around 50% more power than the iLint. Two passenger seating bays and one door vestibule behind each cab would be replaced by storage tanks. The fuel cells would feed underfloor battery packs which would also store regenerated braking energy. The current DC traction package on the centre car would be replaced by new AC drives and a sophisticated energy management system. Despite the loss of some seating space, each set of three 20 m vehicles would provide slightly more capacity than a two-car DMU with 23 m cars which it would typically replace.

The following components will be needed for hydrogen trains.

One Or More Hydrogen Tanks

This picture shows the proposed design of the  Alstom Class 321 Breeze.

Note how half the side of the front car of the train is blocked in because it is full of the hydrogen tank. As this Driver Car is twenty metres long, each hydrogen tank must be almost seven metres long. If it was one larger tank, then it could be longer and perhaps up to fourteen metres long.

Batteries

As the Rail Business article said, that the batteries are underfloor, I wouldn’t be surprised to see all cars having a battery pack.

I favour this layout, as if cars all are motored, it must cut the length of cabling and reduce electrical losses.

Effectively, it creates a train with the following.

  • Faster acceleration
  • Smooth, fast deceleration.
  • Efficient braking
  • Low energy losses.

It should also add up to a train with good weight distribution and high efficiency.

Hydrogen Fuel Cells

In the Class 321 Breeze, Alstom are quoted as having three banks of fuel cell on the roof of each driver car.

This would distribute the power derived from hydrogen to both ends of the train

Hydrogen For Hydrogen Trains

Alstom’s Coradia iLint trains do not have a custom-design of hydrogen system, but over the last few years green hydrogen systems have started to be supplied by companies including ITM Power from Rotherham. Recently, they have supplied the hydrogen system for the hydrogen-powered Van Hool  Exqui-City tram-buses in Pau in France. A similar system could be used to refuel a fleet of Breeze trains.

It looks like we have a limited number of hydrogen-powered trains and their fuel could be made available, but not enough to replace all of the UK’s small diesel trains, if we rely on Class 321 Breeze trains.

So there will be a need to build some more.

My Design Of Hydrogen Train

I would start with the Aventra design.

  • It is very much Plug-and-Play, where different types of cars can be connected together.
  • Cars can be any convenient length.
  • Some Aventras, like the Class 345 trains for Crossrail are even two half-trains.
  • There are various styles of interior.
  • The Aventra appears to be a very efficient train, with good aerodynamics and a very modern traction system with regenerative braking.
  • Driver, pantograph, trailer and motor cars and third-rail equipment are available.
  • Battery cars have probably been designed.
  • For good performance, Aventras tend to have a high proportion of motored cars.
  • Aventras have been designed, so that power components can be distributed around the train, so that as much space as possible is available for passengers.

This picture shows a four-car Class 710 train, which is an Aventra.

In the next sub-sections I will fill out the design.

Train Layout

Perhaps, a hydrogen-powered train could be five cars and consist of these cars.

  • Driver Motor Car
  • Trailer or Motor Car
  • Hydrogen Tank Car
  • Trailer or Motor Car
  • Driver Motor Car

Equipment would be arranged as followed.

  • I would put the hydrogen tank in the middle car. Stadler have been very successful in putting a power car in the middle and it could be the ideal car for some of the important equipment.
  • As I said earlier, I would put batteries under all cars.
  • Regenerative braking and electrification would be used to charge the batteries.
  • I think, I would put the hydrogen fuel cells in Alstom’s position on the rear part of the roof of the driver cars.
  • There would also be a need to add a pantograph, so that could go on any convenient car!
  • I do wonder, if the middle-car could be developed into a mini-locomotive with a walkway through, like the PowerCar in a Stadler Class 755 train.

There’s certainly a lot of possibilities on how to layout the various components.

Passenger Capacity

The five-car hydrogen-powered Aventra, I have detailed is effectively a four-car Aventra like a Class 710 train, with a fifth hydrogen tank car in the middle.

So the passenger capacity will be the same as a four-car Aventra.

The Class 710 trains have longitudinal seating, as these pictures of the interior show.

They have a capacity of 189 sitting and 489 standing passengers or a total capacity of 678.

Greater Anglia’s Class 720 trains have transverse seating and a five-car train holds 540 sitting and 145 standing passengers.

Multiplying by 0.8 to adjust for the hydrogen car and the capacity would be 432 sitting and116 standing passengers or a total capacity of 548.

Seats in various UK four-car electric multiple units are as follows.

  • Class 319 – 319
  • Class 321 – 309
  • Class 375 – 236
  • Class 379 – 209
  • Class 380 – 265
  • Class 385 – 273
  • Class 450 – 264

It would appear that a five-car hydrogen-powered Aventra, with one car taken up by a hydrogen tank and other electrical equipment can carry a more than adequate number of passengers.

Extra Passenger Capacity

Suppose to eliminate diesel on a route, a five-car Class 802 train were to be replaced with a six-car hydrogen-powered Aventra, which contained five passenger cars

  • The capacity of the Class 802 train is 326 seats, which still compares well with the five-car hydrogen-powered Aventra.
  • The extra car would increase the passenger capacity.

As Aventras are of a Plug-and-Play design, extra cars would be added as needed.

Maximum Length

Aventras tend to have lots of powered axles, as this improves accelerations and braking, so I suspect that trains with four or five cars on either side of the hydrogen car would be possible.

Nine-car trains could be ideal for replacing trains like Class 800 bi-mode trains to reduce the number of diesel trains. The Class 800 trains would then be converted to Class 801 electric trains or a new battery/electric version.

A Walkway Through The Hydrogen Car

These pictures show the walkway through the PowerCar in a Stadler Class 755 train.

I’m sure that an elegant design of walkway can be created.

In-Cab Digital Signalling

It goes without saying, that the train would be capable of being fitted with in-cab digital signalling.

Performance On Electrification

Bombardier have stated that they have a design for a 125 mph bi-mode Aventra. They might even have designed the trains to achieve 140 mph running on routes with full in-cab digital signalling.

These electrified lines are likely to be able to support 140 mph running with full in-cab digital signalling.

  • East Coast Main Line
  • Great Western Main Line
  • Midland Main Line
  • West Coast Main Line

As these hydrogen-powered Aventras may need to run on these high speed electrified lines, I would design the trains so that they could achieve the design speed of these lines, when using the electrification.

This would enable the trains to keep out of the way of the numerous 140 mph electric expresses.

Performance On Batteries And Hydrogen

Hydrogen-powered trains are essentially battery-electric trains, which have the ability to top up the batteries using hydrogen power.

I would suspect that a well-designed hydrogen/battery/electric train should have the same maximum speed on all modes of power, subject to the capabilities of the track and having sufficient power in the batteries to accelerate as required.

The Complete Package

As Hydrogen filling stations from companies like ITM Power and others, that can refuel hydrogen-powered trains are a reality, I’m certain, that it would be possible to create a package solution for a railway company that needed the complete solution.

Different Gauges

If you take a country like Malawi, Malawi Railways looks to need improvement.

They have a three-foot six-inch gauge railway, so could a package of narrower hydrogen-powered Aventras and a solar-powered hydrogen-generator be put together to improve Malawi’s railways?

In When Do Mark 2 Coaches Accept The Inevitable?, I discuss how British Rail Mark 2 coaches were converted from UK loading gauge to one that would work with New Zealand’s 1067 mm. gauge.

So I suspect that a design related to trains built for the UK could be modified for running on the narrow gauge lines of Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

Conclusion

I think it would be possible to design a hydrogen/battery/electric train based on an Aventra with the following characteristics.

  • Up to eleven cars
  • A hydrogen car with a hydrogen tank in the middle of the train.
  • Ability to use 25 KVAC overhead or 750 VDC third-rail electrification.
  • In-cab digital signalling
  • 140 mph running where the route allows.
  • Regenerative braking to batteries.
  • Sufficient range on hydrogen power.
  • Sophisticated computer control, that swaps mode automatically.

The train would be possible to run the following routes, if configured appropriately.

  • Kings Cross and Aberdeen
  • Kings Cross and Inverness
  • Kings Cross and Cleethorpes via Lincoln and Grimsby
  • Kings Cross and Redcar via Middlesbrough
  • Kings Cross and Norwich via Cambridge
  • Paddington and Penzance
  • Paddington and Swansea
  • Waterloo and Exeter via Basingstoke

Some routes might need a section of fill-in electrification, but most routes should be possible with a hydrogen fill-up at both ends.

 

 

 

March 9, 2020 Posted by | Business, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Very Light Rail Research On Track

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

It details the progress on very light rail, which is defined as a vehicle with a weight of less than one tonne per linear metre.

It is a thorough article and very much a must-read.

It also details thirty-five rail routes in the UK and several cities, where the technology could be employed.

Some of the routes mentioned include, ones that I’ve covered on this blog, including.

  • Cromer – Sheringham – Part of Greater Anglia
  • Saxmundham – Aldeburgh – Part of Greater Anglia
  • Coventry – Nuneaton – Part of West Midlands
  • Liskeard – Looe – Part of Great Western
  • Plymouth – Tavistock – Part of Great Western
  • St Erth – St Ives – Part of Great Western
  • Henley-on-Thames – Twyford – Part of Great Western
  • Maidenhead – Marlow – Part of Great Western
  • Slough – Windsor & Eton Central – Part of Great Western
  • Truro – Falmouth- Part of Great Western
  • Watford – St Albans Abbey – Part of London Midland
  • Ashington – Blyth
  • Fleetwood – Poulton-le-Fylde

Note.

  1. On reading the full list, I wondered why Greenfood – West Ealing and Southall – Brentford weren’t included, but it’s probably because freight uses the lines.
  2. I particularly like the inclusion of Saxmundham – Aldeburgh and Watford Junction – St. Albans Abbey.

You can understand why the rail leasing company; Eversholt, has got involved, as they must see quite a few possible sales.

There is more information on the concept call Revolution on this page on the Transport Design International web site.

Some points that can be gleaned from this page.

  • One picture shows a coupler on the front of the vehicle. So can they work in multiple?
  • Vehicles will have low axle weights (around 4 tonnes),
  • Self-powered vehicles, with energy recovery and storage systems as standard,
  • Reduced infrastructure costs for installation, operation and maintenance.

The consortium is also aiming for a sub million pound price tag.

Conclusion

It is a bold plan, which is backed by some large companies and organisations with deep pockets.

 

 

 

January 31, 2020 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , | 5 Comments

Fuelling The Change On Teesside Rails

The title of this post, is the same as that of an article in Edition 895 of RAIL Magazine.

The article is based on an interview with Ben Houchen, who is the Tees Valley Mayor.

Various topics are covered.

Hydrogen-Powered Local Trains

According to the article, the Tees Valley produces fifty percent of UK hydrogen and the area is already secured investment for fuelling road vehicles with hydrogen.

So the Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) is planning to convert some routes to hydrogen.

The Trains

Ten hydrogen-powered trains will be purchased or more likely leased, as the trains will probably be converted from redundant electrical multiple units, owned by leasing companies like Eversholt Rail and Porterbrook.

The RAIL article says that the first train could be under test in 2021 and service could be started in 2022.

That would certainly fit the development timetables for the trains.

Lackenby Depot

A depot Will Be Created At Lackenby.

  • The site is between Middlesbrough and Redcar.
  • It already has rail and hydrogen connections.

This Google Map shows the area.

Note the disused Redcar British Steel station, which is still shown on the map.

I remember the area from the around 1970, when I used to catch the train at the now-closed Grangetown station, after visits to ICI’s Wilton site. It was all fire, smoke, smells and pollution.

Darlington Station

Darlington station will also be remodelled to allow more services to operate without conflicting with the East Coast Main Line.

Wikipedia says this under Future for Darlington station.

As part of the Tees Valley Metro, two new platforms were to be built on the eastern edge of the main station. There were to be a total of four trains per hour, to Middlesbrough and Saltburn via the Tees Valley Line, and trains would not have to cross the East Coast Main Line when the new platforms would have been built. The Tees Valley Metro project was, however, cancelled.

It does sound from reading the RAIL article, that this plan is being reinstated.

Would services between Bishop Auckland and Saltburn, use these new platforms?

Saltburn And Bishops Auckland Via Middlesbrough and Darlington

Currently, the service is two trains per hour (tph) between Saltburn and Darlington, with one tph extending to Bishop Auckland.

  • I estimate that the current service needs five trains.
  • If a two tph service were to be run on the whole route, an extra train would be needed.
  • I suspect, the limitations at Darlington station, stop more trains being run all the way to Bishops Auckland.

I could also see extra stations being added to this route.

The Mayor is talking of running a service as frequent as six or eight tph.

These numbers of trains, will be needed for services of different frequencies between Saltburn and Darlington.

  • 2 tph – 6 trains
  • 4 tph – 12 trains
  • 6 tph – 18 trains
  • 8 tph – 24 trains

As the London Overground, Merseyrail and Birmingham’s Cross-City Line, find four tph a more than adequate service, I suspect that should be provided.

After updating, Darlington station, should be able to handle the following.

  • Up to six tph terminating in one of the new Eastern platforms, without having to cross the East Coast Main Line.
  • Two tph between Saltburn and Bishops Auckland could use the other platform in both directions.

I would suspect that the design would see the two platforms sharing an island platform.

Alternatively, trains could continue as now.

  • Terminating trains could continue to use Platform 2!
  • Two tph between Saltburn and Bishops Auckland stopping in Platforms 1 (Eastbound) and 4 (Westbound)

This would avoid any infrastructure changes at Darlington station, but terminating trains at Darlington would still have to cross the Southbound East Coast Main Line.

If the frequencies were as follows.

  • 4 tph – Saltburn and Darlington
  • 2 tph – Saltburn and Bishop Auckland

This would require fourteen trains and give a six tph service between Saltburn and Darlington.

Ten trains would allow a two tph service on both routes.

There would be other services using parts of the same route, which would increase the frequency.

Hartlepool And The Esk Valley Line Via Middlesbrough

This is the other route through the area and was part of the cancelled Tees Valley Metro.

  • Service is basically one tph, with six trains per day (tpd) extending to Whitby.
  • A second platform is needed at Hartlepool station.
  • There is a proposal to add a Park-and-Ride station between Nunthorpe and Great Ayton stations.
  • One proposal from Modern Railways commentator; Alan Williams, was to simplify the track at Battersby station to avoid the reverse.
  • Currently, trains between Whitby and Middlesbrough are timetabled for around 80-100 minutes.
  • Hartlepool and Middlesbrough takes around twenty minutes.

Substantial track improvements are probably needed to increase the number of trains and reduce the journey times between Middlesbrough and Whitby.

But I believe that an hourly service between Hartlepool and Whitby, that would take under two hours or four hours for a round trip, could be possible.

This would mean that the hourly Hartlepool and Whitby service would need four trains.

Providing the track between Nunthorpe and |Whitby could be improved to handle the traffic, this would appear to be a very feasible proposition.

Nunthorpe And Hexham Via Newcastle

There is also an hourly service between Nunthorpe and Hexham, via Middlesbrough, Stockton, Hartlepool, Sunderland and Newcastle, there would be two tph.

  • It takes around two hours and twenty minutes.
  • I estimate that five trains would be needed for the service.
  • I travelled once between Newcastle and James Cook Hospital in the Peak and the service was busy.
  • A new station is being built at Horden, which is eight minutes North of Hartlepool.
  • The service could easily access the proposed fuelling station at Lackenby.
  • It would reduce carbon emissions in Newcastle and Sunderland stations..

Surely, if hydrogen power is good enough for the other routes, then it is good enough for this route.

Hartlepool Station

Hartlepool Station could become a problem, as although it is on a double track railway, it only has one through platform, as these pictures from 2011 show.

Consider.

  • There is no footbridge, although Grand Central could pay for one
  • There is a rarely-used bay platform to turn trains from Middlesbrough, Nunthorpe and Whitby.

This Google Map shows the cramped site.

The final solution could mean a new station.

Nunthorpe Park-And-Ride

This Google Map shows Nunthorpe with thje bEsk Valley Line running through it.

Note.

  1. Gypsy Lane and Nunthorpe stations.
  2. The dual-carriageway A171 Guisborough by-pass running East-West, that connects in the East to Whitby and Scarborough.
  3. The A1043 Nunthorpe by-pass that connects to roads to the South.

Would where the A1043 crosses the Esk Valley Line be the place for the Park-and-Ride station?

The new station could have a passing loop, that could also be used to turn back trains.

Battersby Station

Alan Williams, who is Chairman of the Esk Valley Railway Development Company, is quoted in the RAIL article as saying.

If you’re going to spend that sort of money we’d much rather you spent it on building a curve at Battersby to cut out the reversal there.

Williams gives further reasons.

  • Battersby is the least used station on the line.
  • It’s in the middle of nowhere.
  • The curve would save five minutes on the overall journey.

This Google Map shows Battersby station and the current track layout.

Note.

  1. The line to Middlesbrough goes through the North-West corner of the map.
  2. The line to Whitby goes through the North-East corner of the map.

There would appear to be plenty of space for a curve that would cut out the station.

LNER To Teesside

LNER, the Government and the TVCA are aiming to meet a target date of the Second Quarter of 2021 for a direct London and Middlesbrough service.

Middlesbrough Station

Middlesbrough Station will need to be updated and according to the RAIL article, the following work will be done.

  • A new Northern entrance with a glass frontage.
  • A third platform.
  • Lengthening of existing platforms to take LNER’s Class 800 trains.

This Google Map shows the current layout of the station.

From this map it doesn’t look to be the most difficult of stations, on which to fit in the extra platform and the extensions.

It should also be noted that the station is Grade II Listed, was in good condition on my last visit and has a step-free subway between the two sides of the station.

Journey Times

I estimate that a Kings Cross and Middlesbrough time via Northallerton would take aroud two hours and fifty minutes.

This compares with other journey times in the area to London.

  • LNER – Kings Cross and Darlington – two hours and twenty-two minutes
  • Grand Central – Kings Cross and Eaglescliffe – two hours and thirty-seven minutes.

I also estimate that timings to Redcar and Saltburn would be another 14 and 28 minutes respectively.

Frequencies

Currently, LNER run between three and four tph between Kings Cross and Darlington, with the competing Grand Central service between Kings Cross and Eaglescliffe having a frequency of five trains per day (tpd).

LNER have also started serving secondary destinations in the last month or so.

  • Harrogate, which has a population of 75.000, is served with a frequency of six tpd.
  • Lincoln, which has a population of 130,000 is now served with a frequency of six tpd.

Note that the RAIL article, states that the Tees Valley has a population of 750,000.

I feel that Middlesbrough will be served by a frequency of at least five tpd and probably six to match LNER’s new Harrogate and Lincoln services.

Will LNER’s Kings Cross and York Service Be Extended To Middlesbrough?

Cirrently , trains that leave Kings Cross at six minutes past the hour end up in Lincoln or York

  • 0806 – Lincoln
  • 0906 – York
  • 1006 – Lincoln
  • 1106 – York
  • 1206 -Lincoln
  • 1306 – York
  • 1406 – Lincoln
  • 1506 – York
  • 1606 – Lincoln
  • 1906 -Lincoln

It looks to me that a pattern is being developed.

  • Could it be that the York services will be extended to Middlesbrough in 2021?
  • Could six Middlesbrough trains leave Kings Cross at 0706, 0906, 1106, 1306, 1506 and 1706 or 1806?
  • York would still have the same number of trains as it does now!

LNER certainly seem to be putting together a comprehensive timetable.

Could Middlesbrough Trains Split At Doncaster Or York?

I was in Kings Cross station, this afternoon and saw the 1506 service to York, go on its way.

The train was formed of two five-car trains, running as a ten-car train.

If LNER employ spitting and joining,, as some of their staff believe, there are surely, places, where this can be done to serve more destinations, without requiring more paths on the East Coast Main Line.

  • Splitting at Doncaster could serve Hull, Middlesborough and York.
  • Splitting at York could serve Scarborough, Middlesborough and Sunderland.

Scarborough might be a viable destination, as the town has a population of over 100,000.

Onward To Redcar And Saltburn

One of the changes in the December 2019 timetable change, was the extension of TransPennine Express’s Manchester Airport and Middlesbrough service to Redcar Central station.

The RAIL article quotes the Mayor as being pleased with this, although he would have preferred the service to have gone as far as Saltburn, which is a regional growth point for housing and employment.

But the extra six miles would have meant the purchase of another train.

Redcar Central Station

This Google Map shows Redcar Central station and its position in the town.

It is close to the sea front and the High Street and there appears to be space for the stabling of long-distance trains to Manchester Airport and perhaps, London.

TransPennine seem to be using their rakes of Mark 5A coaches on Redcar services, rather than their Class 802 trains, which are similar to LNER’s Azumas.

Surely, there will be operational advantages, if both train operating companies ran similar trains to Teesside.

Saltburn Station

Saltburn station is the end of the line.

This Google Map shows its position in the town.

Unlike Redcar Central station, there appears to be very little space along the railway and turning back trains might be difficult.

There may be good economic reasons to use Saltburn as a terminal, but operationally, it could be difficult.

Will Redcar And Saltburn See Services To and From London?

Given that both towns will likely see much improved services to Middlesbrough, with at least a service of four tph, I think it will be unlikely.

But we might see the following.

  • LNER using Redcar as a terminus, as TransPennine Express do, as it might ease operations.
  • An early morning train to London and an evening train back from the capital, which is stabled overnight at Redcar.
  • TransPennine Express using Class 802 trains on their Redcar service for operational efficiency, as these trains are similar to LNER’s Azumas.

It would all depend on the passenger numbers.

A High-Frequency Service Between York And Teesside

After all the changes the service between York and Teesside will be as follows.

  • LNER will be offering a train virtually every two hours between York and Middlesbrough.
  • Grand Central will be offering a train virtually every two hours between York and Eaglescliffe, which is six miles from Middlesbrough.
  • TransPennine Express will have an hourly service between York and Redcar via Middlesbrough.
  • There will be between three and four tph between York and Darlington.

All services would connect to the hydrogen-powdered local services to take you all over Teesside.

Could this open up tourism without cars in the area?

Expansion Of The Hydrogen-Powered Train Network

Could some form of Hydrogen Hub be developed at Lackenby.

Alstom are talking of the hydrogen-powered Breeze trains having a range of over six hundred miles and possibly an operating speed of 100 mph, when using overhead electrification, where it is available.

In Breeze Hydrogen Multiple-Unit Order Expected Soon, I put together information from various articles and said this.

I am fairly certain, that Alstom can create a five-car Class 321 Breeze with the following characteristics.

  • A capacity of about three hundred seats.
  • A smaller three-car train would have 140 seats.
  • A near-100 mph top speed on hydrogen-power.
  • A 100 mph top speed on electrification.
  • A 1000 km range on hydrogen.
  • Regenerative braking to an on-board battery.
  • The ability to use 25 KVAC overhead and/or 750 VDC third rail electrification.

The trains could have the ability to run as pairs to increase capacity.

The distance without electrification to a selection of main stations in the North East from Lackenby is as follows.

  • Newcastle via Middlesbrough and Darlington – 21 miles
  • Newcastle via Middlesbrough and Durham Coast Line – 53 miles.
  • York via Northallerton – 27 miles
  • Doncaster via Northallerton and York – 27 miles
  • Leeds via Northallerton and York – 52 miles
  • Sheffield via Northallerton, York and Doncaster – 45 miles

I am assuming that the trains can use the electrification on the East Coast Main Line.

From these figures it would appear that hydrogen-powered trains stabled and refuelled at Lackenby could travel to Doncaster, Newcastle, Leeds, Sheffield or York before putting in a days work and still have enough hydrogen in the tank to return to Lackenby.

Several things would help.

  • As hydrogen-powered trains have a battery, with a battery range of thirty miles all these main stations could be reached on battery power, charging on the East Coast Main Line and at Lackenby.
  • Electrification between Darlington and Lackenby.
  • Electrification between Northallerton and Eaglescliffe.

I am fairly certain that a large proportion of the intensive network of diesel services in the North East of |England from Doncaster and Sheffield in the South to Newcastle in the North, can be replaced with hydrogen-powered trains.

  • Trains could go as far West as Blackpool North, Carlisle, Manchester Victoria, Preston and Southport.
  • Refueling could be all at Lackenby, although other refuelling points could increase the coverage and efficieny of the trains.
  • Green hydrogen could be produced by electrolysis from the massive offshore wind farms off the Lincolnshire Coast.
  • Hydrogen-powered trains would be ideal for re-opened routes like the proposed services from Newcastle to Blyth and Ashington.

The hydrogen-powered trains on Teesside could be the start of a large zero-carbon railway network.

The Alstom Breeze And The HydroFlex Would Only Be The Start

As I said earlier, the initial trains would be conversions of redundant British Rail-era electrical multiple units.

Thirty-year-old British Rail designs like the Class 319 and Class 321 trains based on the legendary Mark 3 carriages with its structural integrity and superb ride, may have been state-of-the-art in their day, but engineers can do better now.

  • Traction and regenerative braking systems are much more energy efficient.
  • Train aerodynamics and rolling resistance have improved, which means less energy is needed to maintain a speed.
  • Interior design and walk-through trains have increased capacity.
  • Crashworthiness has been improved.

Current Bombardier Aventras, Stadler Flirts or Siemens Desiros and CAF Civities are far removed from 1980s designs.

I can see a design for a hydrogen-powered train based on a modern design, tailored to the needs of operators being developed.

A place to start could be an electric CAF Class 331 train. or any one of a number of Aventras.

  • From the visualisation that Alstom have released of their Breeze conversion of a Class 321 train, I feel that to store enough hydrogen, a large tank will be needed and perhaps the easiest thing to do at the present time would be to add an extra car containing the hydrogen tank, the fuel cells and the batteries.
  • Alstom have stated they’re putting the fuel cells on the roof and the batteries underneath the train.

Although, it is not a hydrogen train, Stadler have developed the Class 755 train, with a power car in the middle of the train.

Stadler’s approach of a power car, must be working as they have received an order for a hydrogen-powered version of their popular Flirts, which I wrote about in MSU Research Leads To North America’s First Commercial Hydrogen-Powered Train.

I think we can be certain, that because of the UK loading gauge, that a hydrogen-powered train will be longer by about a car, than the equivalent electric train.

I can see a certain amount of platform lengthening being required. But this is probably easier and less costly than electrification to achieve zero-carbon on a route.

Batteries can be distributed under all cars of the train, anywhere there is space., But I would suspect that fuel cells must be in the same car as the hydrogen tank, as I doubt having hydrogen pipes between cars would be a good idea.

Alstom have resorted to putting hydrogen tanks and fuel cells in both driving cars and they must have sound reasons for this.

Perhaps, it is the only way, they can get the required power and range.

As I understand it, the Alstom Breeze draws power from three sources.

  • The electrification if the route is electrified.
  • The electricity generated by regenerative braking.
  • The hydrogen system produces electricity on demand, at the required level.

Energy is stored in the batteries, which power the train’s traction motors and internal systems.

The electrical components needed for the train are getting smaller and lighter and I feel that it should be possible to put all the power generation and collection into a power car, that is somewhere near the middle of the train. Stadler’s power car is short at under seven metres, but there is probably no reason, why it couldn’t be the twenty metres, that are typical of UK trains.

Suppose you took a four-car version of CAF’s Class 331 train, which has two driver cars either side of a pantograph car and a trailer car.

This has 284 seats and by comparison with the three-car version the trailer car has eighty. As the pantograph car is also a trailer, I’ll assume that has eighty seats too! Until I know better!

Replacing the pantograph car with a hydrogen car, which would be unlikely to have seats, would cut the seats to 204 seats, but a second trailer would bring it back up to 284 seats.

I actually, think the concept of a hydrogen car in the middle of a four-car electric train could work.

  • The five-car hydrogen train would have the same capacity as the four-car electric version.
  • The train would need an updated software system and some rewiring. Bombardier achieved this quickly and easily with the train for the Class 379 BEMU trial.
  • There are several types of four-car electrical multiple units, that could possibly be converted to five-car hydrogen-powered multiple units.
  • Some five-car electrical multiple units might also be possible to be converted.

Obviously, if an existing train can be adapted for hydrogen, this will be a more cost effective approach.

Conclusion

Overall, the plans for rail improvements on Teesside seem to be good ones.

I’m looking forward to riding LNER to Teesside and then using the network of hydrogen-powered trains to explore the area in 2022.

My only worry, is that, if the network is successful, the many tourists visiting York will surely increase the numbers of day visitors to Whitby.

This is a paragraph from the RAIL article.

Alan Williams says that the EVRDC’s long-term objective is to see the Esk Valley served at intervals of roughly every two hours, equating to eight return trains per day, but with Northern and NYMR services sharing the single line between Grosmont and Whitby, introducing further Middlesbrough trains during the middle of the day, brings the conversation back to infrastructure.

He goes on to detail what is needed.

January 8, 2020 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments