The Anonymous Widower

Converting Class 456 Trains Into Two-Car Battery Electric Trains

Mark Hopwood is the interim Managing Director of South Western Railway and in Special Train Offers A Strong Case For Reopening Fawley Line, I quote him as saying the following about the trains for the Fawley Branch Line.

However, SWR’s Mark Hopwood favours a much bolder plan. “We’d have to take a decision, once we knew the line was going ahead. But my personal belief is that we should be looking for a modern environmentally-friendly train that can use third-rail electricity between Southampton and Totton and maybe operate on batteries down the branch line.”

Pressed on whether that would mean Vivarail-converted former-London Underground stock, Hopwood ads. “It could be. Or it could be a conversion of our own Class 456, which will be replaced by new rolling stock very shortly. But I don’t think this is the time to use old diesels.

Mark Hopwood is so right about using old diesels.

  • Where possible new and refurbished trains should be zero-carbon.
  • Fiesel is to be banned by 2035 in Scotland and 2040 in England and Wales.
  • Diesel trains and hydrogen trains for that matter need to refuelled.
  • Get the diagrams right and battery electric trains can be charged on existing electrification or automatic Fast Charging systems, when they turn back at terminal stations.
  • Electric trains attract passengers.
  • Battery electric trains are mouse-quiet!

Who would use anything else other than electric trains with a battery option for sections without electrification?

The Class 456 Train

These pictures show some of the twenty-four Class 456 trains, that are in South Western Railway’s fleet.

This is the specification of a Class 456 train.

  • Two cars
  • Operating speed – 75 mph.
  • Capacity – 152 seats – Although the plate on the train says 113!
  • Built 1990-1991
  • Ability to work in pairs.

Most trains seem to be used to lengthen trains from eight to ten cars, as some of the pictures shows. As these 4+4+2 formations will be replaced with new 10-car Class 701 trains or pairs of five-car Class 701 trains, the trains will be looking for a new role.

Does this explain Mark Hopwood’s statement?

It should be noted that the Class 456 trains are members of the Mark 3 family, and bare a strong resemblance to the Class 321 train, which are shown in these pictures.

Note that I have included the side view, as it shows the amount of space under these trains.

Some Class 321 trains are being converted to Class 600 hydrogen trains, by Alstom at Widnes. Others have been given a life-extending Renatus upgrade.

Are The Driver Cars Of Class 456 and Class 321 Trains Identical?

The trains may look similar, but does the similarity go deeper?

Could Alstom Use Class 600 Hydrogen Train Technology To Create A Class 456 Train With a Battery Capability?

Consider.

  • Alstom are positioning themselves as Train Upgrade Specialists in the UK. They have already signed a near billion pound deal to upgrade and maintain Avanti West Coast’s fleet of Class 390 trains.
  • Alstom are creating the Class 600 hydrogen train from withdrawn Class 321 trains.
  • A hydrogen-powered  train is basically a battery electric train with a hydrogen tank and fuel cell to charge the batteries.
  • The Class 600 train doesn’t appear to be making fast progress and is still without an order.
  • One possible hydrogen route must surely be London Waterloo and Exeter, so I suspect Alstom are talking to South Western Railway.
  • The Class 456 trains are owned by Porterbrook, who would probably like to extend the useful life of the trains.

Could it be that the battery core and AC traction package of Alstom’s hydrogen system for the Class 600 train can turn old British Rail-era electric multiple units into battery electric multiple units with a useful range?

It is certainly a possibility and one that is also within the capability of other companies in the UK.

Could The Class 456 Trains Receive a Class 321 Renatus Interior And Traction Package?

As Class 321 and Class 456 trains were built around the same time, the two trains must share components.

These pictures show the current interior of a Class 456 train.

This is excellent for a two-car electric multiple unit, built thirty years ago! Although, the refurbishment is more recent from 2014-15.

  • Note the wheel-chair space and the copious rubbish bins.
  • I also spotted a stowed wheel-chair ramp on the train. It can be seen if you look hard in the picture than shows the wheel-chair space.
  • Some might feel that toilets should be provided.

These pictures show the interior of a Class 321 train, that has been given the Renatus upgrade.

What is not shown is the more efficient AC traction package.

I have been told or read, that the Renatus interior will be used in the conversion of a Class 321 train to an Alstom Class 600 or Breeze hydrogen train.

On the other hand, the current Class 456 interior would probably be ideal for a branch line, where one of initial aims would be to attract passengers.

Could A Class 456 Train Have a Lightweight Traction Package?

Consider.

  • The Class 456 train will access electrification that is only 750 VDC third-rail.
  • Batteries work in DC.
  • The new traction motors will work in AC, if they follow the practice in the Class 321 Renatus and the Class 600 train.
  • Regenerative braking will charge the batteries in both trains.
  • Air-conditioning and other hotel services can work in DC.

Some components needed to run from 25 KVAC like a transformer could be left out to save weight and improve acceleration.

I would suspect that a Class 456 train with batteries could use a slimmed-down traction system from the Class 600 train.

On both Class 456 and 600 trains a core system, that would power the train, might contain.

  • The traction battery or batteries.
  • The traction motors that both drive and brake the train,
  • Third-rail electrification shoes, so that the batteries could be charged in a station, as required.
  • A clever computer system, that controls the acceleration, braking and charging as required.

On the Class 600 train, there would also be the following.

  • Hydrogen tanks and fuel cells to provide an independent power source to charge the batteries.
  • A pantograph to access 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • Extra electrical gear to access the electrification.

I think it would be possible to design the Class 456 train with batteries as the basic train and just add the extra  hydrogen and electrical gubbins to make it a Class 600 train.

What Battery Range And Size Would Be Needed In A Class 456 Train?

These are typical branch line lengths for South Western Railway.

  • Fawley Branch – 8 miles
  • Wareham and Swanage – 11 miles
  • Lymington Branch – 5.6 miles
  • Reading and Basingstoke – 15.5 miles

I would suspect that a range of thirty miles on battery power would be sufficient for a Class 456 train with batteries.

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.

So applying that formula gives battery capacity of between 180 kWh and 300 kWh.

In Issue 864 of Rail Magazine, there is an article entitled Scotland High Among Vivarail’s Targets for Class 230 D-Trains, where this is said.

Vivarail’s two-car battery units contains four 100 kWh lithium-ion battery rafts, each weighing 1.2 tonnes.

If 200 kWh can be placed under the floor of each car of a rebuilt London Underground D78 Stock, then I think it is reasonable that up to 200 kWh can be placed under the floor of each car of the proposed train.

This picture of the Driver Car of a Class 321 train, shows that there is quite a bit of space under those trains.

Are the Class 456 trains similar? This is the best picture I have got so far.

It does appear that space is similar to that under a Class 321 train.

If we assume that the Class 456 train can have the following specification.

  • Battery capacity of 200 kWh in both cars.
  • Regenerative braking to battery.
  • Power consumption of 4 kWh per vehicle mile.

I think we could be approaching a range of fifty miles on a route without too many energy-consuming stops.

Charging The Batteries

I like the Vivarail’s Fast Charge concept of using third-rail equipment to charge battery trains.

This press release from the company describes how they charge their battery electric Class 230 trains.

  • The system is patented.
  • The system uses a trickle-charged battery pack, by the side of the track to supply the power.
  • The first system worked with the London Underground 3rd and 4th rail electrification standard.

As the length of rails needed to be added at charging points is about a metre, installing a charging facility in a station, will not be the largest of projects.

Under How Does It Work?, the press release says this.

The concept is simple – at the terminus 4 short sections of 3rd and 4th rail are installed and connected to the electronic control unit and the battery bank. Whilst the train is in service the battery bank trickle charges itself from the national grid – the benefit of this is that there is a continuous low-level draw such as an EMU would use rather than a one-off huge demand for power.

The train pulls into the station as normal and the shoe-gear connects with the sections of charging rail. The driver need do nothing other than stop in the correct place as per normal and the rail is not live until the train is in place.

That’s it!

As an electrical engineer, I’m certain the concept could be adapted to charge the batteries of a conventional third-rail train.

Vivarail’s press release says this about modification to the trains.

The train’s shoe-gear is made of ceramic carbon so it is able to withstand the heat generated during the fast charge process.

That wouldn’t be a major problem to solve.

Class 456 Train With Batteries And Class 600 Train Compared

The following sub-sections will compare the trains in various areas.

Lightweight Design

As I suspect that the basic structure of the Class 456 and Class 600 trains are similar, systems like toilets, air-conditioning, traction motors and seats will be chosen with saving weight in mind.

Every kilogram saved will mean faster acceleration.

Operating Speed

The current Class 321 train is a 100 mph train, whilst the current Class 456 train is only a 75 mph train.

I wonder if applying the modern traction package of the Class 321 Renatus to the Class 456 train could speed the shorter train up a bit?

Range Away From Electrification

Alstom have quoted ranges of hundreds of miles for the Class 600 train on one filling of hydrogen, but I can’t see the Class 456 train with batteries doing much more than fifty miles on a full charge.

But using a Fast Charge system, I can see the Class 456 train with batteries fully-charging in under ten minutes.

Fast Charge systems at Romsey and Salisbury stations would surely enable the Class 456 trains with batteries to run the hourly service over the thirty-eight mile route between the two stations.

Passenger Capacity

The current Class 456 trains have a capacity of 152 seats.

In Orders For Alstom Breeze Trains Still Expected, I said this.

The three-car Alstom Breeze is expected to have a similar capacity to a two-car diesel multiple unit.

But until I see one in the flesh, I won’t have a better figure.

If South Western Railway were wanting to replace a two-car diesel Class 158 train, they’d probably accept something like 180 seats.

Increasing Passenger Capacity

There are compatible trailer cars around from shortening Class 321 trains from four to three cars and their may be more from the creation of the Class 600 trains.

I suspect that these could be added to both Class 456 and Class 600 trains to increase capacity by fifty percent.

As a two-car train, the Class 456 train might be a bit small, but putting in a third car, which had perhaps slightly more dense seating and possibly a toilet and even more batteries could make the train anything the operator needed.

Suitability For London Waterloo and Exeter via Salisbury

This is South Western Railway’s big need for a zero emission train.

  1. It is around 170 miles
  2. Only 48 miles are electrified.
  3. It is currently worked by three-car Class 159 trains working in pairs.
  4. Class 159 trains are 90 mph trains.

I have believed for some time, that with fast charging, a battery electric train could handle this route.

But, I would feel that.

  • Class 456 trains would be too slow and too small for this route.
  • Class 600 trains would be too small for this route.

On the other hand, I believe that Hitachi’s Class 800 train with a battery electric capability or Regional Battery Train, which is described in this infographic from the company, could be ideal for the route.

The proposed 90 km or 56 mile range could even be sufficient take a train between Salisbury and Exeter with a single intermediate charge at Yeovil Junction station, where the trains wait up to ten minutes anyway.

There are other reasons for using Hitachi’s Regional Battery Train rather than Class 600 trains.

  • First Group have a lot of experience of running Hitachi Class 80x trains, through their various subsidiaries.
  • They could share depot facilities at Exeter.
  • No specialist facilities would be needed.
  • A five-car Class 801 with batteries would have a convenient 300 seats.
  • I suspect they could be delivered before Alstom’s Class 600 train.

As the only new infrastructure required would be Fast Charge facilities at Salisbury and Yeovil Junction stations, I feel that Hitachi’s Regional Battery Train, should be a shoe-in for this route.

First Delivery

The Wikipedia entry for the Class 600 train, says introduction into traffic could be in 2024. Given, the speed with which Greater Anglia’s Class 321 trains were updated to the Renatus specification, we could see Class 456 trains with a battery capability and new interiors running well before 2024.

A Few Questions

These questions have occurred to me.

Could The Technology Be Used To Create A Class 321 Battery Electric Train?

I don’t see why not!

I believe a Class 321 battery electric train could be created with this specification.

  • Three or four cars. Remember the Class 320 train is a three-car Class 321 train.
  • 100 mph operating speed.
  • Regenerative braking to the batteries.
  • Renatus or operator-specified interior.
  • Toilet as required.
  • Electrification as required.
  • Battery range of around sixty miles.
  • Ability to use a Fast Charge system, that can easily be installed in a terminal platform.

Trains could be tailored to suit a particular route and/or operator.

Any Other Questions?

If you have any other questions, send them in and I’ll add them to this section.

Conclusion

It does appear that if the Class 456 trains, were to be fitted with a battery capability, that they would make a very useful two-car battery electric train, with the following specification.

  • Two cars
  • Operating speed – 75 mph. This might be a bit higher.
  • Capacity – 152 seats
  • Ability to work in pairs.
  • Modern interior
  • Range of 45-50 miles on batteries.
  • Ability to charge batteries in ten minutes in a station.
  • Ability to charge batteries on any track with 750 VDC third-rail electrification.

This is the sort of train, that could attract other operators, who don’t have any electrification, but want to electrify short branch lines.

 

 

 

August 12, 2020 Posted by | Energy Storage, Hydrogen, Transport | , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Electrification Between Exeter And Plymouth

Eventually, there will be electric passenger trains between Exeter and Plymouth! Great Western Railway’s objective must be for passengers to board their Hitachi AT-300 train at Paddington and be powered all the way to Penzance by electricity, without using a drop of diesel. The added ingredient will be battery power.

In Sparking A Revolution, I gave Hitachi’s specification for a proposed battery-electric train.

  • Range – 55-65 miles
  • Performance – 90-100 mph
  • Recharge – 10 minutes when static
  • Routes – Suburban near electrified lines
  • Battery Life – 8-10 years

As the distance between Exeter and Plymouth is 52 miles, the Hitachi specification could have been designed around this route, which as these pictures show is in places, very close to the sea, where the line runs along the South Devon Railway Sea Wall.

Global warming will probably mean, we’ll see a repeat of the major sea wall breach  that happened at Dawlish in 2014.

I would suspect that the Network Rail’s solution to the problems of efficient low or zero-carbon traction between Exeter and Plymouth includes the following.

  • A very robust railway.
  • Extreme protection from almost everything the sea and the weather can produce.
  • Could we see some concrete tunnels, like the Swiss and others use in mountainous areas to protect from snow? Rail Magazine says yes! At Horse Cove.
  • No electrification as water and electricity are not a good mix, except in an electrolyser to produce hydrogen, oxygen and/or chlorine.
  • Battery or hydrogen-powered passenger trains or freight locomotives.
  • Digital in-cab signalling. Traditional signalling is even more expensive equipment to be swept away.

From media reports, this looks like the way Network Rail are thinking.

Charging The Trains

Battery-electric trains will need to be charged. There are three convenient stations; Exeter St. Davids, Newton Abbott and Plymouth.

As far as passenger services are concerned, it could be a very efficient zero-carbon railway.

Electrification At Exeter St. Davids

Exeter St. Davids is an important hub for services between Devon and Cornwall and the rest of Great Britain.

  • GWR services run to London Paddington via Newbury.
  • GWR services run to London Paddington via Bristol
  • GWR services run to Plymouth and Penzance via Newton Abbott.
  • GWR local services run to Barnstaple, Exmouth and Paignton.
  • CrossCountry services run to the Midlands, North and Scotland via Bristol.
  • South Western Railway services run to London Waterloo via Basingstoke.

In future, there could be services running to Plymouth on the reopened route via Okehampton and Tavistock.

All these services could be run by battery-electric trains for sixty miles from Exeter, if they could be fully-charged at the station.

Note.

  1. Trains to London Paddington and Bristol could easily reach Taunton, which is thirty miles away.
  2. Trains to London Waterloo could reach Yeovil Junction, which is fifty miles away.
  3. Trains to the West could reach Plymouth, which is fifty-two miles away.
  4. Barnstaple is forty miles away, so would probably need some help to get back.
  5. Exmouth is eleven miles away, so a return journey is probably possible.
  6. Paignton is twenty-eight miles away, so a return journey is probably possible, with a top-up at Newton Abbot if required.

Exeter is going to be very busy charging trains.

It should be noted, that trains to and from London Paddington and Bristol, all share the same route as far as Cogload Junction, where the London Paddington and Bristol routes divide.

  • Cogload Junction is thirty-six miles from Exeter.
  • Cogload Junction and Newbury, where the electrification to London Paddington starts are eighty-five miles apart.
  • Cogload Junction and Bristol Temple Meads, where the electrification to London Paddington starts are forty miles apart.

I wonder if it would be sensible to electrify between Exeter St. David station and Cogload Junction.

  • From my virtual helicopter, the line doesn’t look to be in the most difficult category to electrify.
  • There is only one tunnel and a few old bridges and a couple of level crossings.
  • Some of the route is alongside the M5.
  • Trains would arrive in Exeter with full batteries and could do a quick stop before continuing their journeys.
  • Trains would arrive at Cogload Junction and could reach Bristol Temple Meads without stopping for a recharge.
  • Bristol services that are extended to Taunton and Exeter could be run by battery-electric trains.

I also feel, that with upwards of twenty-five miles of extra electrification between Cogload Junction and Newbury, that battery-electric trains could run between London Paddington and Exeter via the Reading-Taunton Line.

Electrification At Plymouth

As with Exeter St. Davis, Plymouth is an important hub for services between Devon and Cornwall and the rest of Great Britain.

  • Most services run to Penzance in the West and Exeter in the East.
  • There is a local service to Gunnislake, which is fifteen miles away.

Lots of charging capacity, will enable battery-electric trains to reach their destinations, except for Penzance

Trains Between Plymouth And Penzance

Hitachi must have despaired, when it was pointed out that the distance between Penzance and Plymouth is eighty miles! This is fifteen miles longer than the range of their proposed battery-electric train.

The simplest solution would be to build a battery-electric train with an eighty mile range, that could travel between Plymouth and Penzance on a single charge. With charging at Penzance it could return to Plymouth.

The longer range, would also mean that, with perhaps ten extra miles of electrification, that battery-electric trains could bridge the electrification gap between Cogload Junction and Newbury.

Other solutions range from selective electrification, all the way up to full electrification of the Cornish Main Line.

It should be noted that there are the following branches on the Cornish Main Line.

If these branches are going to be served by battery-electric trains, arrangements will have to be made for their charging. This could either be on the main line, at the remote terminal or at both.

Would it be easier to run the branches using battery-electric trains, if the Cornish Main Line was fully electrified?

The Cornish Main Line also carries a number of heavy freight trains, most of which seem to be going to or from Burngullow, so I suspect they are in connection with the movement of china clay.

Currently, these heavy freight trains appear to be hauled by diesel locomotives, but if the Cornish Main Line were to be fully electrified, could they be run by electric locomotives?

Electrification Of A Reopened Northern Route

In the May 2020 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article, which is entitled Beeching Reversal Fund Bids.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Bids have been submitted to Government for a share of the £500 million ‘Restoring your railway’ fund launched by the Department for Transport in January. The fund is to be used to support proposals to reinstate axed local services, to accelerate schemes already being considered for restoration and also to promote new and restored stations.

One of the bids is for the Tavistock-Okrhampton Reopening scheme (TORs), which would reopen the former Exeter to Plymouth railway of the LSWR, as a new route between Exeter and Taunton in the East and Plymouth in the West.

  • The original railway was double-track.
  • Most of the infrastructure is intact.
  • The route would totally avoid Dawlish.

This is also said in the Modern Railways article.

It proposes journey times could be as little as six minutes longer than via the existing route between Exeter and Plymouth and that there could be opportunities for freight trains to avoid the steep gradients over the Devon banks between Newton Abbott and Plymouth. Provision of electrification for TORs as part of a wider programme for main lines in the region is also advocated.

Could an electrified route via Tavistock and Okehampton be connected to an electrified Cornish Main Line, to create an electrified route across Devon and Cornwall?

Connecting At The Royal Albert Bridge

This Google Map shows the Royal Albert Bridge and the Tamar Bridge over the River Tamar.

Note.

  1. The Royal Albert Bridge to the South of the modern Tamar Bridge.
  2. The Great Western Main Line running East to Plymouth and West to Penzance.
  3. The Tamar Valley Line running up the Eastern bank of the River Tamar and under the Eastern approaches to both bridges.
  4. Going North on the Tamar Valley Line leads to the TORs and going South leads to Plymouth station.

I can see a difficult design problem at the Eastern end of the Royal Albert Bridge, as a very complicated junction will be needed to allow all trains go the way they need.

Trains wanting to call at Plymouth station and use TORs will need to reverse in the station.

Connecting At The East Of Exeter

This Google Map shows The Tarka Line and the Bristol-Exeter Line join at Cowley Bridge Junction.

Note.

  1. The Tarka Line to Barnstaple and TORs leaves the map in the North West corner.
  2. The Bristol-Exeter Line to Taunton, Bristol and London Paddington leaves the map in the North East corner.
  3. Cowley Bridge Junction is in the South West corner of the map.
  4. Cntinuing South West leads to Exeter St. David’s station.

It looks to me, that Cowley Bridge Junction will need to be made into a full triangular junction, so that trains can go directly between the Bristol-Exeter Line and the Tarka Line.

Trains wanting to call at Exeter St. David’s station and use TORs will need to reverse in the station.

The Reversal Problem

If you wanted to run a passenger service between Taunton and Penzance using TORs with stops at Exeter, Okehampton, Tavistock, Plymouth and Truro, the train would need to reverse twice at Exeter and Plymouth.

These days with modern fast bi-mode multiple units, it’s not a problem, but in the days of Beeching, when the Tavistock and Okehampton route was originally closed in 1968, there probably wasn’t a suitable train other than a slow two-car diesel multiple unit.

I think, that fast expresses to and from Penzance will still take the current route.

  • Battery-electric trains can handle the route at 100 mph.
  • No reversals will be needed.
  • There is a call at Newton Abbott for connections to Torquay and Paignton.
  • Passengers wanting Okehampton, Tavistock and other stations on the TORs route can change at Exeter or Plymouth.

The Modern Railways article says this about services on the TORs route.

The case suggests that services could operate as an extension of the SWR Waterloo to Exeter service, or potentially as an extension of CrossCountry services beyond Exeter. During periods when the coastal route is blocked, additional services could use the TORs route, potentially running non-stop.

Note.

  1. As the extension of the SWR service would run the other way through Exeter St. David’s station, there would be no need to reverse.
  2. But I suspect the CrossCountry service would need the reverse.
  3. I feel for efficiency, that diverted freight services would need the efficient junctions at each end of TORs.

It probably would have helped if the Great Western and the London and South Western Railways had had a better crystal ball.

Fast Electric Freight Services To And From Devon And Cornwall

If the following lines are electrified.

  • Cogload Junction and Exeter
  • TORs
  • Cornish Main Line

I feel that electric freight services will be able to run between Taunton and Penzance.

All it would need to complete the electrified route would be to electrify the following.

  • Cogload Junction and Bristol
  • Cogload Junction and Newbury

What would a high-speed freight route do for the economy of the two South Western counties?

 

 

April 25, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Beeching Reversal Fund Bids

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

Bids have been submitted to Government for a share of the £500 million ‘Restoring your railway’ fund launched by the Department for Transport in January. The fund is to be used to support proposals to reinstate axed local services, to accelerate schemes already being considered for restoration and also to promote new and restored stations.

Some of the bids are detailed.

Okehampton And Tavistock

If you were deciding what lines shouldn’t have been closed by British Rail in the 1960s, by hindsight, the Exeter to Plymouth railway of the LSWR, would be a railway that you wouldn’t close.

  • The Northern route  would be a valuable diversion, when the sea and the weather decide to attack Dawlish again. as they did in 2014.
  • When COVID-19 is over, there will be more people going to Devon and Cornwall. A second rail route would be invaluable to get traffic off the roads.
  • Attitudes are changing about zero-carbon travel and this will also nudge passengers towards rail.
  • Four tracks between Exeter and Plymouth would allow more freight services to take trucks off the road.
  • There may be new developments along the Northern route.
  • It may be even be possible to electrify the Northern route.

At least, British Rail left the viaducts and bridges intact.

The Modern Railways article says this.

In the West Country, a new Northern Route Working Group has submitted a bid to the fund to develop a Strategic Outline Business Case for reopeing the former London and South Western Railway Main Line between Exeter and Plymouth via Okehampton and Tavistock. The proposal is backed by four local MPs and the working group of industry personnel.

These points are also made.

  • The reopening is crucial to the resilience of the network.
  • Reopening is complimentary to the ongoing work at Dawlish.
  • Devon County Council is leading plans to reopen the 5.5 miles between Bere Alston and Tavistock.
  • Devon County Council is pushing for a daily service between Exeter and Okehampton.
  • The previous two developments, would leave the 16 miles between Tavistock and Okehampton to be restored.
  • Much of the route is intact and structures survive, but some track has been sold off.
  • The route will be useful during closure of the coastal route through Dawlish.
  • Journey times might be only six minutes longer.
  • It might be an easier route for freight trains.

As I said earlier, the proposers of the scheme think electrification could be possible.

Stratford And Honeybourne

The Modern Railways article says this.

A bid has been submitted for £75,000 to carry out an Economic Impact Assessment regarding reopening of the Stratford-upon-Avon to Honeybourne route.

These points are also made.

Nothing is said about whether the route will be single or double track or what services will be run on the line.

There’s more on the Shakespeare Line web site.

This is said about train services.

  • A reopened railway could provide the ability to operate orbital train services in both directions between Birmingham-Stratford-Evesham-Worcester-Birmingham providing connections for South Wales and South West at the new Worcestershire Parkway station.
  • The reopened line would provide the ability to operate direct train services with a 12 mile shorter route between Stratford upon Avon, the Cotswolds, Oxford, Reading, Heathrow Airport and London Paddington.

I also think, I’ve read that the line could be used by freight services and heritage services on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway, which could link Birmingham and Cheltenham.

It does appear to be a rail link with potential.

Rawtenstall Line

The Modern Railways article says this.

Meanwhile, Rossendale Council has submitted an application to the fund seeking to propose reinstatement of passenger services on the Rawstenstall Line, now part of the East Lancashire Railway.

A study published in 2018 determined that reinstating services along the ELR and then joining the Manchester to Rochdale Line would be feasible.

These points are also made.

  • Rossendale is the only council in Lancashire without a rail link.
  • 60 % of residents leave the borough each day for work.

Tram-trains have also been proposed for this route, as I wrote about in Could A Class 399 Tram-Train With Batteries Go Between Manchester Victoria And Rochdale/Bury Bolton Street/Rawtenstall Stations?

Conclusion

This is the closing paragraph of the article.

In addition to those mentioned, it is likely that other bids will have been submitted to the fund.

It certainly looks like the money in the fund, will be bid for, by worthwhile projects.

 

April 24, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts On A Tri-Mode AT-300 Between Waterloo And Exeter

Note that in this post, I’m using the Class 802 train as an example of Hitachi’s AT-300 train.

In writing my post called What Would Be The Range Of A Tri-Mode Class 802 Train?, I realised that an efficient tri-mode train with electric, battery and diesel power could have a range of over a hundred miles.

Suppose a Class 802 train was built with the following characteristics, were designed for service on the West Of England Line.

  • Five cars, which would seat around 350 passengers.
  • Two diesel engines replaced with batteries of the same seven tonne weight.
  • At least 840 kWh or perhaps as much as 1,500 kWh of battery power could easily be installed.
  • One 700 kW diesel engine would be retained for electrification failure and to boost battery power.
  • All electrical equipment on the train will use the minimum amount of electricity.
  • Regenerative braking to batteries.
  • Aerodynamics would be improved, as I believe Hitachi are doing.
  • I believe that the train could have an energy consumption to maintain 100 mph on the West Of England Line around two kWh per vehicle-mile.

So what would be the range of a five-car train on just 840 kWh of batteries?

  • The train would consume 10 kWh per mile.

So this would give a range of 84 miles.

The diesel engine could be key.

  • At 100 mph, the train does a mile in thirty-six seconds.
  • In this time, the diesel engine can generate up to 7 kWh.
  • The train would need just 3 kWh per mile from the batteries to maintain 100 mph.

This would give a range of 280 miles,

This is more than enough for the 125 miles between Basingstoke and Exeter St. Davids stations.

Other people read books in the evening, I do puzzles and mathematical exercises.

In How Much Power Is Needed To Run A Train At 125 mph?, I calculated that a forty-year-old InterCity 125 needs 2.83 kWh per vehicle mile to maintain 125 mph. Surely, modern trains can halve that figure.

Suppose Hitachi, improve the aerodynamics and the energy consumption of the train, such that it is 1.5 kWh per vehicle mile, which is a figure I don’t consider impossible.

This would give a range with  840 kWh batteries of 112 miles.

With selective use of the diesel engine and a charging station at Exeter, this train could easily run between Waterloo and Exeter.

Passenger Capacity

The passenger capacity of the current Class 159 trains is 392 in two three-car trains working as a pair.

A five-car Class 802 train would probably seat 350 passengers in comfort.

Train Length

These are the train lengths.

  • A pair of three-car Class 159 trains are 156 metres long.
  • A five-car Class 802 train is 130 metres long.

So it would appear, there would be no platform length problems.

Conclusion

A tri-mode Class 802 train or AT-300 would appear to be ideal for Waterloo and Exeter.

Details of the AT-300 trains, that have been ordered by East Midlands Railway and the West Coast Partnership are not very comprehensive, but do say, the following.

  • Five-car trains will have four engines instead of three. Would they be smaller, with an added battery? Or will they use MTU Hybrid PowerPacks.
  • They will have a new nose. For better aerodynamics?

, But I believe they will make extensive use of battery traction to reduce the use of diesel.

 

November 18, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 5 Comments

Between Exeter St. Davids And Exeter Central Stations

Exeter St. Davids and Exeter Central are important stations in Exeter.

  • Many services call at both stations.
  • The two stations are about five minutes apart by train.
  • It takes fifteen to twenty minutes to walk between the two stations.
  • Exeter Central station is in the centre of the city and an easy walk to stops and restaurants.
  • Exeter St. Davis station is the junction station, where lines to and from the city meet.

The problem is that it is a very stiff walk up the hill from Exeter St. Davids station to Exeter Central station.

What eases matters, is that every few minutes, a train connects the lower St. Davids to the higher Central.

These pictures document a trip between the two stations.

Note the quality of the trains.

When staying in Exeter, if you come by train, make sure you pick a hotel at the best station for your visit.

I stayed in the Premier Inn by the station and met a couple, who were using the Mercure, which they didn’t fault.

This map clipped from Wikipedia, shows the stations in Exeter.

My ticket between the two main Exeter stations,  cost  £1.50 for an Anytime Day Return, but you can’t help thinking that the various train companies working in the area are looking at ways of improving the ticketing.

The fact that First Group is now involved in the two main franchises must help.

But as a visitor, who understands ticketing, I found my £6.60 Devon Day Rangers more than adequate.

 

 

 

 

April 6, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Tarka Line

The Tarka Line is a branch line in Devon that runs up from Exeter St. Davids station to Barnstable station.

I went to Barnstaple in the rush hour in a packed three car train, consisting of a Class 150 and a Class 153 train working together, asw a three-car unit.

The lady next to me, said she lived in Bideford, so she had a drive from Barnstaple.

Coming back down, the train was almost empty, so I took a pit stop at Yeoford station in a local pub called the Mare and Foal, before catching the next train back to Exeter. That train was a refurbished Class 150 train, that I wrote about in What Train Is This?

These pictures show Yeoford station to give a flavour of the line.

The Link To The Dartmoor Railway

This Google Map shows the section of the Tarka Line North from Yeoford station, which is in the South East corner.

At the village of Penstone, the Dartmoor Railway breaks off to the West to go to Okehampton station.

Under Future in the Wikipedia entry for Yeoford station, this is said.

The Dartmoor Railway plan to reopen the disused platform at the station in order to create an interchange with the Tarka Line (and thus the national network). Through running from Yeoford to Okehampton was intended to commence in 2009 but this was delayed pending the finalising of transfer arrangements with Network Rail. Accordingly, the “Sunday Rover” service run by Great Western Railway again operated on Sundays throughout the summer of 2009, although not calling here. Though the GWR summer trains have continued to operate since (running again each summer from 2013-16), agreement over the use of Yeoford as an interchange has still not been reached and it is unclear as to when (or if) this will be possible.

If this does happen, it could be the first step in opening up a second East-West route across Devon.

This page on the Dartmoor Railway web site is entitled GWR Sunday service to Okehampton and gives details of the GWR Summer Sunday service.

Reopening the old LSWR route across Devon will be driven by the following.

  • New housing developments in the area.
  • Tourism
  • Creating employment.
  • Bringing quarried materials to construction distribution depots and sites by rail.
  • Creating a second route to Cornwall in case of disruption at Dawlish.

Murphy’s Law will of course apply and once the route is open, there will be no more disruption at Dawlish.

If the route is built, it will allow local trains to do a circular route from Exeter calling at the following stations in large towns.

  • Crediton
  • Okehampton
  • Tavistock
  • Plymouth
  • Newton Abbott

The route would give connections to branches to Axminster, Barnstaple, Exmouth, Gunnislake, Paignton and Tiverton.

Onward To Bideford

The Wikipedia entry for Bideford station says this.

Recently, the station was included on the ATOC Connecting Communities report, that recommends closed lines and stations that should have a railway station. The report suggests the reopening of the Barnstaple – Bideford railway line.

This Google Map shows the centre of the town of Bideford.

The old station was located at the site of the Bideford Railway Heritage Centre at the Eastern end of the Old Bideford Bridge.

So could the railway line between Barnstaple and Bideford be reopened?

This Google Map shows the other end of the line at Barnstaple.

The old railway line is now used as the South West Coastal Path.

I think with traditional technology, it will be unlikely that the railway is rebuilt, as walkers and others will rightly object to noisy diesel trains or electrification of any kind, disturbing the countryside.

But as I wrote in No-Frills Mini Trains Offer Route To Reopening Lines That Beeching Shut, engineers won’t give up in providing solutions for difficult to serve places.

I believe that within ten years, a silent battery-powered train, will be ghosting its way along a single track railway between Barstaple and Bideford, that is shared with walkers and cyclists.

Remember engineering is the science of the possible, whereas politics is all impossible dreams.

 

 

April 5, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Exeter To Plymouth Via Okehampton

\since the 2014 Sea Wall Breach at |Dawlish station, Network  Rail have looked at various routes that can bypass Dawlish, should a sea wall breach happen again.

One route is the old Exeter to Plymouth railway of the LSWR, which is best described as partly open.

There is a just over twenty mile gap between Okehampton and Bere Alston stations.

The original route between those two stations included several stations, with the most important being Lydford and Tavistock.

It will be interesting to see if the trains ever run again between Okehampton and Bere Alston stations.

Even if the link was reinstated as a 55 mph line like the Tamar Valley Line, it would surely be valuable as a local line for residents and tourists.

 

 

February 10, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

Common Sense Between Exeter And Plymouth

After the failure of the South Devon Sea Wall in 2014 and the cutting of the main line at Dawlish, something had to be done to make sure there was an alternative rail route between Exeter and Plymouth.

In the June 2016 Edition of Modern Railways there is an article entitled Cheaper Okehampton Route Proposed, which puts forward the latest thinking. The article starts like this.

The Peninsular Rail Task Force is advocating the reopening of the former Southern Railway route between Exeter and Plymouth via Okehampton as a secondary route rather than as a bypass for the existing line via Dawlish.

The Task Force has produced a 20-year plan for investment in the south west’s rail network. This link can access a draft summary report.

The old Southern Railway route between Exeter and Plymouth is described in Wikipedia as Partly Closed, but with much of the infrastructure intact, although the track has been lifted in places. It sounds that it has been left in a similar state to the Waverley Route and the Varsity Line, after cuts in the 1960s and 1970s. These two routes have been or will be partly or fully reopened.

Exeter to Plymouth via Okehampton is certainly in a better state with regard to trains than either the Waverley Route or Varsity Line were before work started.

  • Trains run on the Tarka Line from Exeter to Crediton, before that line goes off to Barnstaple.
  • The Dartmoor Railway also uses the route to take passengers between Exeter and Okehampton.
  • From Okehampton to Tavistock, the track has been lifted.
  • Tavistock is getting a new station and being connected to the Tamar Valley Line at Bere Alston.
  • The Tamar Valley Line then takes passengers to Plymouth.

It may have the air of being assembled from Beeching’s left-overs, but it looks like it would work. Especially, as there should be no problem in the next few years in acquiring high-quality new or refurbished diesel trains for the line.

The Modern Railways article also says.

  • The line’s function would be to provide a modest service serving local stations and to offer diversionary capability.
  • Eight new stations would be provided.
  • The line would be unlikely to be electrified.
  • To help funding new housing would be built along the line.

A double-track railway with diesel trains would do the following.

  • Improve the economy of Devon around the fringes of Dartmoor.
  • Help in the development of much-needed housing in the area.
  • Provide a much-needed freight route to and from the peninsular.
  • Provide sufficient capacity in the event of problems at Dawlish.

But knowing Murphy’s Law, if the line were to reinstated, the sea at Dawlish would behave itself.

I also think that once the decision is made to reinstate the line, that it would be a project to build in a series of smaller related projects.

  1. Build the station at Tavistock and connect it to the Tamar Valley Line Line at Bere Alston, to create an hourly Plymouth to Tavistock service.
  2. Upgrade Okehampton station and the Dartmoor Railway to create an hourly Exeter to Okehampton service.
  3. Acquire some new or refurbished diesel trains for the routes and also for other local services in Devon. The trains would need to be weather-proofed for the Dawlish route.
  4. Build new stations at Okehampton East, North Tawton and Bow on the Okehampton to Exeter section.
  5. Reinstate the Tavistock to Okehampton route with stations at Lydford and Sourton Parkway.

Done in small stages, I think that other than getting a railway delivered at an affordable cost on an earlier date, it would have other advantages.

  • Once the first two phases are complete, all but about sixteen miles of the route would be running trains.
  • Hourly services at both ends of the line would give reliable forecasts as to expected passenger usage of the completed line.
  • The hourly services would surely have a Borders Railway-style effect on tourism.
  • Building in small stages could minimise heritage issues, that probably don’t come into play until the Tavistock to Okehampton section is designed and built.

Like the Borders Railway and the Varsity Line, it strikes me that this route from Exeter to Plymouth was wrongly closed in the 1960s and 1970s. But then Harold Wilson, that well-known friend of trains, flew to his cottage on the Scilly Isles.

I believe that this plan is a good one and I’m looking forward to exploring the complete line in the future.

 

 

 

 

June 12, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

A Job Well Done

Everybody is breathing a sigh of relief after the reopening of the rail line to Plymouth and Cornwall yesterday. It’s all reported here on the BBC.

The only problem this summer is going to be that with all the publicity, many of those, who want to go to Devon and Cornwall, might decide to use the train. So can the wonderful Inter City 125s cope? They have yet to fail to meet a challenge yet!

There has been talk of opening an inland route, which could go round the North of Dartmoor by way of Okehampton and Tavistock. This is the route of the old London and South Western Railway from Exeter to Plymouth.  The article in Wikipedia includes this.

There are proposals to reopen the line from Tavistock to Bere Alston for a through service to Plymouth. In the wake of widespread disruption caused by damage to the mainline track at Dawlish by coastal storms in February 2014, Network Rail are considering reopening the Tavistock to Okehampton and Exeter section of the line as an alternative to the coastal route.

I suspect there’s a team of exhausted engineers in Network Rail, who have the special engineering envelopes ready with a plan to reinstate this route for an encore after Dawlish. According to Wikipedia, the main viaducts seem to be intact, so it might not be the major job some might think.

As an engineer of sorts, I’d put the opening of this line in a box marked Difficult But Possible With Good Engineering.

Of course, Sod’s Law being what it is, if the old LSWR  line was reinstated, there wouldn’t be any more trouble on the Dawlish line. But it would provide an easy route to get to Dartmoor and the surrounding part of Devon by train.

 

April 5, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

A Two-Way Station

Exeter St. Davids station is unusual in that the two London services to Paddington and Waterloo leave in opposite directions.

When the two companies; GWR and LSWR were racing to get the mail from America to London, that had been dropped off at Plymouth, the trains used to pass through in opposite directions.

We sometimes wonder why things are not logical on British trains.  But often, it’s down to what happened in the 19th century.

October 15, 2011 Posted by | Transport | , | Leave a comment