The Anonymous Widower

Beeching Reversal – Transforming The Newquay Line

This is one of the Beeching Reversal projects that the Government and Network Rail are proposing to reverse some of the Beeching cuts.


This map clipped from Wikipedia shows the Newquay or Atlantic Coast Line.

When I first saw this map, my initial thought, was that the various loops and other sections of disused track could and/or might be added to the route.

Searching the Internet, I can’t find much information except from this article on Cornwall Live, which is entitled Cornish Railway lines Axed In Beeching Cuts Could Be Restored, where this is said.

Other projects focused on Cornwall bidding for the funding to develop business cases include one to transform the Newquay to Par railway line as well as a “Mid-Cornwall Metro” proposal.

Nothing more about the Atlantic Coast Line, is said in the article.

This Google Map shows where the Atlantic Coast Line joins the Cornish Main Line at Par.


  1. The Atlantic Coast Line goes off to the North West.
  2. Par station is shown towards the North-Western corner on the Cornish Main Line.
  3. The junction is designed, so that china clay trains can access the branch.

In the summer, Newquay station is also served by long-distance trains from London and Scotland.

This Google Map shows Newquay station in the heart of the town.

It could probably be called a Beach station, as the sea is just off the map.

Partly, because I lived in the town, from 1963 onwards, I can remember Felixstowe Beach station! Yarmouth Beach station has gone too, but how many others are left?

These are the only ones, I can think of with Beach in their name!

Perhaps, if Felixstowe ever gets the promised tram-train, that I wrote about in  Could There Be A Tram-Train Between Ipswich And Felixstowe?, one of the or more of the stops on the way to the Port of Felixstowe will be Felixstowe Beach.

Frequency Improvement

The current frequency on the Atlantic Coast Line is one train every two hours, which is not a family-friendly frequency, as if any child starts playing silly games, you have a two-hour wait for the next train.

I would suspect that an hourly service would create a large increase in ridership on the line.

As the journey takes fifty-one minutes between Par and Newquay, is the frequency defined by the need for one train to work the line, by shuttling from end-to-end?

So is one of the needs, some better track layouts, so that trains can pass and be parked at Par, whilst the crew has a refreshment break?

I also suspect, that if one of Network Rail’s track wizards got the layout spot on, which they seem to do, that this would make things easier for any china clay trains still passing through the area.

Could Newquay Be Used As An Extra Terminal?

I wonder how many people drive to Newquay, if they live in East Cornwall or Devon?

I have just looked at train times today from Plymouth to Newquay.

To be fair to Great Western Railway (GWR), I would only have a few minutes to wait at Par station, but there is only one train every two hours, due to the limitations on the Atlantic Coast Line.

With an improved higher-capacity track, GWR could call up the heavy brigade.

As full-length InterCity125s have served Newquay station for decades, four-car Castles like these, should manage the trip with ease.

Surely, once the Atlantic Coast Line can handle at least hourly trains, that would enable separate one train per two hour schedules.

  • Newquay and Par
  • Newquay and either Plymouth or Exeter.

This would improve service frequencies on both the Cornish Main Line and the Atlantic Coast Line and enable passengers to go between Exeter, Plymouth and Truro, and Newquay without changing trains.

Hopefully, the Cornish Main Line trains would serve appropriate refreshments at the correct times of the day.

Would Newquay Station Need A Second Platform?

Newquay station used to have more than one platform, but all the others were removed in British Rail’s ruthless quest to save money in the 1960s and 1970s.

I have never been to Newquay station, so I don’t know whether there is space to reinstate another platform.

However, I did find this video, which appears to be some very professional plans for Newquay station.

This video dates from 2008.

The video definitely says, that Newquay station needs an extra platform or two.

  • Two platforms would allow two trains to share the station.
  • A third platform would allow steam trains to visit.

The video also answers the age old question about why in many towns and cities, the railway station is often the best building, except for the church and the town or city hall.


It does appear to me, that giving the Atlantic Coast Line a modern track layout, will unlock a lot of possibilities that can be tried on the branch, to the benefit of all stakeholders.



July 24, 2020 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , | 9 Comments

Would It Have Been Better To Scrap HSTs, Abandon Class 769 Trains And Use Stadler Bi-Mode Flirts Instead?

I have ridden for several hours in Greater Anglia'[s new Class 755 trains and they seem to make good trains for scenic rural lines.

From December 16th, we’ll be seeing them work between Stansted and Norwich, which will show their mettle as true bi-modes working a partially-electrified route.

By mid-next year they will be working the following partially-electrified routes.

  • Liverpool Street and Lowestoft
  • Colchester and Peterborough
  • Norwich and Stansted
  • Ipswich and Cambridge
  • Sudbury and Colchester Town

I think that about forty percent of these routes are electrified and they also include a lot of 100 mph lines.


These Greater Anglia routes are not unlike some of the ScotRail Inter7City routes, which are to be run by shorterned four- and five-car HSTs.

Both trains have been late because of training and other issues, but delivery of the HSTs seems to have got stuck round various remanufacturing problems at Wabtec.

Would ScotRail have done better to follow their sister company Greater Anglia and buy some Class 755 trains to their specification?

Consider the advantages of the Inter7City over the Class 755 train.

  • Nostalgia
  • Well-known engineering
  • Comfortable

They could have been obtained at an affordable price.

But they do come with disadvantages.

  • Forty years old
  • Two big diesel engines
  • They are rather dark and dingy inside.

The Class 755 trains also have the following advantages.

  • They would help to remove diesel power from Edinburgh, Glasgow Queen Street and Stirling stations.
  • They have large picture windows ideal for looking at lakes and mountains.
  • Some seats are raised for a better view.
  • They are genuine 100 mph trains, which could be uprated to 125 mph, so would be ideal for incursions on the fast routes to England.
  • They’re probably ready to fit ERTMS.
  • They come in various lengths.
  • They are able to be modified for battery-electric operation.
  • I suspect hydrogen operation will be possible in the future.

But the biggest advantage is that they could extend Scotland’s electric network by using the bi-mode capability.


  • Fife Circle
  • Borders Railway
  • West Kilbride
  • Perth
  • West Highland Line

I think Scotland could really get to love these trains.

Great Western Railway

I could see a case for running shortened HSTs in the far South West, where GWR call them Castles, mainly on nostalgia and tourism grounds, but Class 755 trains would surely be better running the following partially-electrified services.

  • Henley and Paddington
  • Oxford and Gatwick via Reading
  • Oxford and Paddington
  • Cardiff and Taunton
  • Cardiff and Portsmouth Harbour

Often, they would be replacing Class 156 or Class 769 trains.

  • Some would need to be fitted with third-rail equipment.
  • The Gatwick services could be given an airport interior.
  • I suspect a 125 mph capability is available.
  • The Class 769 trains seem to be late in arriving.

I have no doubt in my mind, that the new Stadler trains are much better than the refurbished British Rail trains.

Transport For Wales

Transport for Wales have ordered a selection of bi-mode and tri-mode Flirts.

They must have good reasons for buying a selection of trains, rather than buying more Flirts.

Probably cost!

All these routes could be run using bi-mode Flirts

  • Cardiff and Holyhead
  • Birmingham International and Holyhead
  • Manchester Airport and Llandudno
  • Crewe and Chester
  • Chester and Liverpool Lime Street
  • Milford Haven and Manchester Piccadilly
  • Birmingham International and Aberystwyth via Shrewsbury
  • Birmingham International and Pwllheli via Shrewsbury
  • Heart of Wales Line
  • Conwy Valley Line

Some of these routes are partially electrified and use lines with a 125 mph operating speed.

Answering The Question In The Title

I very much feel that bi-mode Flirts would be better trains than shortened HSTs and Class 769 trains.

  • They are new trains.
  • They can use electrification, where it is present.
  • The appear to be capable of uprating to 125 mph.
  • They have good viewing for scenic routes because of large windows and some raised seats.
  • They are comfortable with a good ride.
  • They are able to be modified for battery-electric operation.
  • I suspect hydrogen operation will be possible in the future.

I  suspect their one downside is cost.


Bi-mode and tri-mode Flirts and other similar trains will proliferate and within ten years we’ll have seen the last of pure diesel trains in the UK.

I suspect that most of the shortened HSTs will have gone by 2030.


December 2, 2019 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Bicycles And Class 800 Trains

I was at Paddington station this morning, having breakfast in Leon.

Afterwards, I noticed that Great Western Railway were using a nine-car Class 800 train on the 10:52 to Oxford.

I also noticed from the information displays, that all bicycles needed to be booked. That is a bit different from the days of the InterCity 125s, which had lots of space in the back of the locomotive.

On one trip to Plymouth, I saw several surfboards swallowed by the locomotive.

I got in a conversation with a station guy about bicycles and surfboards and from the knowing look on his face, I suspect it is a bit of a pain.

With the growing popularity of cycling, surely a turn up and go regime is needed.

March 16, 2019 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | 1 Comment

Huge Increase In Capacity On GWR As Final Class 800 Enters Traffic

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

This is the first two paragraphs.

More than 10,000 extra seats will be available to Great Western Railway passengers on January 2, compared with the same number last year.

This follows the delivery of the final Class 800 Intercity Express Train.

This means that Great Western Railway (GWR) ‘s fleet is now

  • 21 x nine-car Class 800 trains
  • 36 x five-car Class 800 trains.
  • 21 x Class 802 trains

With still another 15 Class 802 trains to come of the 32 x five-car and 14 x nine-car order.

They are certainly ready to increase services in 2019.

January 2, 2019 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | 1 Comment

Will Crossrail Open To Reading in 2019?

The latest rather dodgy date for the opening of Crossrail’s Core Tunnel is Autumn 2019.

In the January 2019 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article, which is entitled Crossrail Can’t Commit To Autumn Opening.

This a paragraph from the article.

TfL also says that it is exploring with DfT the possibility of beginning to operate Reading to Paddington services ahead of the completion of the Elizabeth Line to help provide a boost in revenue.

This is a very interesting possibility.

How Much Work Is Still To Be Done To The West of Hayes & Harlington?

This is the key factor as to whether Western Branch of Crossrail can be opened.

  • The biggest problem is that Class 345 trains can’t run to Heathrow as there are signalling issues to eradicate.
  • There are also several stations, that need to be completed.

There is no work-round to the first problem, but trains seem to be able to call at the unfinished stations.

It would appear, that for TfL’s proposal to be taken fully forward, the signalling issues to and from Heathrow, must be dealt with.

The stations can be finished later.

The Current Proposed Crossrail Service To Reading And Maidenhead

These are the proposed services shown on Wikipedia, so they could have been updated.

Reading To Paddington – Limited Stop

This service will be run at two trains per hour (tph) in the Peak with no trains in the Off-Peak.

Stops are Twyford, Maidenhead, Slough, West Drayton and Ealing Broadway.

Reading To Paddington – All Stations

This service will be run at two tph all day.

The service will call at all stations except Hanwell and Acton Main Line.

Maidenhead To Paddington

This service will be run at two tph all day.

The service will call at all stations except Hanwell and Acton Main Line.

A Summary Of Peak/Off Peak Calls

Adding these service up, gives the following numbers for Peak and Off Peak calls in trains per hour (tph)

  • Reading – 4,2
  • Twyford – 4,2
  • Maidenhead – 6,4
  • Taplow – 4.4
  • Burnham 4,4
  • Slough – 6,4
  • Langley – 4,4
  • Iver – 4,4
  • West Drayton – 6,4
  • Hayes & Harlington – 4.4
  • Southall – 4,4
  • Hanwell – None to Reading/Maidenhead
  • West Ealing – 4.4
  • Ealing Broadway – 6,4
  • Acton Main Line – None to Reading/Maidenhead
  • Paddington – 6,4


  1. 4,2 means 4 tph in the Peak and 2 tph in the Off Peak.
  2. It would appear that all stations except Reading and Twyford have at least four tph all day.
  3. Stations between Hayes & Harlington and Ealing Broadway will get another six tph all day going to Heathrow.
  4. Acton Main Line station will get another four tph all day going to Heathrow.

This gives the following frequencies.

  • Reading – 4,2
  • Twyford – 4,2
  • Maidenhead – 6,4
  • Taplow – 4.4
  • Burnham 4,4
  • Slough – 6,4
  • Langley – 4,4
  • Iver – 4,4
  • West Drayton – 6,4
  • Hayes & Harlington – 10,10
  • Southall – 10,10
  • Hanwell – 6,6
  • West Ealing – 10,10
  • Ealing Broadway – 12,10
  • Acton Main Line – 4,4
  • Paddington – 12,10

I can draw these conclusions from the figures.

  • Every station has a good service from Crossrail.
  • But could Reading and Twyford have another two tph in the Off-Peak to make the services four tph all day?
  • Paddington station would need perhaps two or three platforms dedicated to Crossrail to handle twelve tph.
  • The maximum frequency of 12 tph should be easily handled with conventional signalling and could be increased with modern digital signalling.

It looks like running the Western services of Crossrail from Paddington could be a possibility.


  • The Reading and Maidenhead services will be run on routes with mainly conventional signalling.
  • The Class 345 trains, which each can hold 1,500 passengers would give a massive capacity boost to the outer Crossrail stations.
  • Heathrow services can be run with Class 345 trains, when the signalling problems are solved.
  • Higher frequencies to and from Paddington may enable trains to provide a better interchange with branch line services, at West Ealing, Slough, Maidenhead and Twyford.

But I think that separating these services initially from Crossrail will have substantial operational and development  benefits.

  • Paddington to Reading is essentially a self-contained railway, with a major branch to Heathrow and four small branch lines worked by diesel shuttle trains.
  • The route, with the exception of the Heathrow branch, has conventional signalling.
  • The signalling problems of the Heathrow branch can be solved independently.
  • The Western branches of Crossrail could be fully debugged before trains start running through the Core Tunnel.

I also wonder, if the route could be useful for mileage accumulation, driver training  and certification of newly-delivered trains.

Is It Just About The Money?

The original Modern Railways extract said that the proposal was to help provide TfL with extra revenue.

It must bring in revenue and especially when the Heathrow Branch is working reliably to plan.

Faster Journeys

Modern Class 345 trains have the following advantages over the current British Rail-era Class 156 trains.

  • They are slightly faster.
  • They have better acceleration.
  • They are modern trains designed for short dwell times at stations.

It would be very likely, that journey times between Paddington and Reading, will improve..

Passenger Behaviour

But passengers may change their behaviour .

  • Will passengers use Crossrail as a lower-cost alternative to Heathrow Express?
  • Will passengers use Crossrail as a faster alternative to the Piccadilly Line?
  • Will passengers,  going between Heathrow and the West and Wales, use Crossrail to and from Reading, with a change at Hayes & Harlingon?
  • Will passengers on branch lines find the extra capacity helpful, when travelling to London or Reading?

In addition, as I said earlier, I think opening Paddington to Reading early,, could make finishing the Crossrail project easier.

If nothing else, it shortens the to-do list!

GWR Might Object

Will GWR object to losing their local services between Reading and London to Crossrail?

Consider the following issues.

Heathrow Express

GWR have taken over the lucrative Heathrow Express.

  • Heathrow Express will be run using 110 mph Class 387 trains in an Airport Express configuration.
  • Will these trains be less of a block on the line, than the 100 mph Class 332 trains currently running the service?
  • Currently both Class 332 and Class 800 trains take nine 9½ minutes to go between Paddington and Heathrow Airport Junction.

Perhaps GWR could squeeze in extra trains, by replacing the Class 332 trains with faster Class 387 trains?

The more trains they could squeeze into Paddington, the larger their revenue.

Reading, Bedwyn and Oxford Services

I am not sure, but it does appear that GWR services to places like Bedwyn and Oxford will in future be run using the new five-car Class 802 trains.

  • The trains will surely use electric traction on the fast lines to Paddington.
  • Will passengers going between Bedwyn/Oxford and stations between Reading and Paddington, be happy to change at Reading?

As it appears that Bedwyn/Oxford services might not need to use the slow lines, these will be used  exclusively by  Crossrail and the occasional freight.

Could Bedwyn And Oxford Services Be Combined?

There is also the possibility that to save paths on the fast lines between Reading and Paddington, that hourly Bedwyn and Oxford services could be combined and split at Reading.

  • GWR already splits and joins Class 387 trains at Reading.
  • Class 800/802 trains are designed to be split and joined quickly.
  • Timings to the two destinations are about the same, being around 75 minutes.

Two five-car Class 802 trains with one running to Bedwyn and one to Oxford might be a good idea. Especially, as it saves one high-speed path between Paddington and Reading  and possibly a few trains.

It does look, that Oxford and Bedwyn services could be moved out of the way of Crossrail services.

Will There Be Enough Class 800/802 Trains?

In Huge Increase In Capacity On GWR As Final Class 800 Enters Traffic, I wrote that there are now only fifteen trains of a total fleet of 93 trains to be delivered.

I suspect that GWR can find enough trains to run Bedwyn/Oxford services to London.

Too Many Class 387 Trains!

But it does strike me that GWR will have too many Class 387 trains, if Crossrail takes over local services to Reading and Class 802 trains take over services to Bedwyn and Oxford.

Twelve Class 387 trains are being converted to take over Heathrow Express services, but that still leaves GWR with 33 trains to find a use for.

It seems like Greater Anglia’s twenty Class 379 trains, they could become homeless orphans.

Will The Class 769 Trains Get In The Way?

Original plans talked about using 100 mph Class 769 trains to back up the Class 387 trains, whilst twelve of these were updated to Heathrow Express standard.

But it appears now from Wikipedia and other sources on the Internet, that these trains will concentrate on the following services.

  • Reading To Gatwick Airport
  • Reading to Oxford

I can’t find any reference of them continuing to serve Paddington, so it looks like they should keep out of the way.

Serving The Henley And Marlow Branches

Henley-on-THames station on the Henley Branch Line and Bourne End station on the Marlow Branch Line are having their Peak services to London gradually withdrawn.

If Crossrail took over services between Reading and Paddington, the frequencies in the Peak at the interchange stations would be.

  • Maindenhead for the Marlow Branch Line – 6 tph,
  • Twyford for the Henley Branch Line – 4 tph

Two tph at each interchange station run limited stop to and from Paddington.

The trains will each hold 1,500 passengers.

Could it be that GWR feel that the increased frequencies and reduced journey times to and from Paddington mean that there is a lesser need to run a direct diesel service.

But I could see the following.

  • A four-car shuttle train, which could be a Class 769 bi-mode, at two tph on the Henley Branch Line.
  • Two tph on the Marlow Branch Line.

At least GWR have the trains to provide a service to match customer demand.

I also wouldn’t be surprised to see a radical plan for these branches.

No Diesel Running Into Paddington

Every train run by GWR and Crossrail, between Paddington and Reading, would use electric traction.

  • Now that large numbers of Class 800/802 trains have been delivered, it can’t be long before the last InterCity 125 runs into Paddington on a regular service.
  • Class 165 and Class 166 diesel trains will be refurbished and sent to the West Country.
  • Bedwyn and Oxford services will be run by Class 800/802 trains.

In addition all GWR trains running into Paddington will be 125 mph units running on electricity.

What is that worth as a marketing hook?


It looks to me, that running a full Western Branch service for Crossrail could be a good move.

So will it happen in 2019?

I think it all depends on solving the signalling issues on the Heathrow Branch!

But I feel, it should be possible, otherwise TfL wouldn’t have suggested it!

December 30, 2018 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The £20million Station Car Park

This article in the Oxford Mail is entitled Work begins on £20m multi-storey car park at Didcot Parkway.

Didcot Parkway station is a major Park-and-Ride station on the Great Western Railway, so the economics of spending £20million on car parking must be an investment, that the company thinks is worthwhile.

This Google Map shows the station and the existing car park in Foxhall Road.

Note that Oxford is to the North, with the Great Western Main Line going across from London in the East to Swindon in the West.

This visualisation shows the new car park, which will be built on the site of the existing car park.

The Didcot to Oxford Railway is in front, with Oxford to the right and Didcot Parkway station to the left.

The Economics

If you go up from Didcot Parkway to Paddington, the return fares are as follows.

  • Anytime Day Return – £82.40
  • Off-Peak Day Return – £25.70


  • Parking will probably cost from £3/hour.
  • The Internet reckons that Didcot to London is about 60 miles and it will take about one hour thirty-eight minutes to drive.
  • On the other hand, the fastest trains take 41 minutes with a stop at Reading.
  • From December 2019, interchange for the City and Canary Wharf wil be possible at Reading and Paddington.

I have a feeling that another large Park-and-Ride will be needed.

This Google Map shows Swindon station.

It would surely be a station, where the existing car parks could be multi-storied.

But there are probably lots of others. This article in the Wantage Herald mentions Grove, Corsham and Royal Wooton Bassett, as possible parkway stations.





May 8, 2017 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Chiltern Are Being Very Serious

This article in the Oxford Mail is entitled Train timetable released for new Oxford to London Marylebone route.

This is said.

The new timetable shows services running every 30 minutes, starting at 6.02am from Oxford and returning at 23.10pm.

The line will open on Monday, December 12.

That is certainly a passenger magnet of a timetable.

Looking at the timetable of both Chiltern and Great Western,

  • Both services run at least two trains per hour (tph) all day.
  • Both services run fairly late in the evening.
  • Great Western has the fastest trains, with some doing the journey in under an hour.

It will certainly be interesting to see how these two heavyweights slug it out.

But this is only Round 1One.


  • In December 2018, Crossrail services between Paddington and Abbey Wood, via Liverpool Street and Canary Wharf start.
  • In May 2019, Crossrail services between Paddington and Shenfield start.
  • In December 2019, full Crossrail services start.
  • The East West Rail Link will open.
  • Oxford to Didcot should be electrified, allowing electric trains to Oxford.

These developments may appear to favour Great Western services over Chiltern, but I doubt that Chiltern will sit back and do nothing.

So what will Chiltern do?


What is needed is a comprehensive plan for Chiltern’s future.

I can’t believe that they’re not working on one!

It could include the following.

  • Line improvements to reduce journey times between Marylebone and Oxford.
  • Improvements to allow the longest possible locomotive-hauled sets to run the route.
  • Development of West Hampstead Interchange.
  • Creation of a second terminus at Old Oak Common.

One or both of the last two options will have to be implemented, due to the lack of capacity at Marylebone and that station’s bad connectivity.

But what would I do?

The Southern end of the Chiltern Main Line needs better connectivity and the best way to do this would be to link it to Crossrail.

When Crossrail opens to Paddington in December 2018, the direct link I wrote about in Paddington Is Operational Again, will enable passengers taking the Bakerloo Line from Marylebone to change easily to Crossrail.

Together with line improvements and longer trains, this should handle the traffic for a few years.

It is interesting to look at a few journey times.

  • Chiltern has trains scheduled between Marylebone and High Wycombe in around 24-28 minutes.
  • Crossrail services from Paddington will take 27 minutes to Sloughbold step of creating a Crossrail .
  • Crossrail services from Paddington will take 45 minutes to Reading.

I would take the bold step of creating a Crossrail branch to High Wycombe.

  • High Wycombe would receive 4 tph from Crossrail.
  • There could be cross-platform interchange between Crossrail and Chiltern services to Oxford and Birmingham.
  • The Acton-Northolt Line would be double-tracked and electrified to connect Crossrail at Old Oak Common to the Chiltern Main Line at Northolt Junction.
  • The Chiltern Main line would be electrified from Northolt Junction to High Wycombe.
  • Chiltern’s Oxford and Birmingham services could use Class 88 electro-diesel locomotives, to take advantage of the limited electrification.
  • Extra services could run from High Wycombe to Oxford and Birmingham, if traffic required more capacity.

Except for the electrification and some track layout changes, there is no substantial investment required in new lines and stations.

If this approach is taken, there will probably be eough eletrification on the Chiltern routes to use Aventra trains with an IPEMU-capability to provide the services out of Marylebone.


October 25, 2016 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Are More Class 387 Trains On The Way?

In Sorting Out The Great Western Electrification, I said this, based on what I had read in the June 2016 Edition of Modern Railways, in an article entitled GWR To Order More ‘387s’.

So GWR have snapped up the other fourteen ordered by Porterbrook and supplemented this with an order for fifteen new build units.

This means they have got their required 29 trains to go with the eight they ordered some time ago.

Unfortunately, building more Class 387 trains, which would probably help the rolling stock shortage caused by the non-working Class 700 trains, especially as it appears Bombardier has spare capacity, is not on, as changes to crashworthiness regulations mean that these trains can’t be produced after September 2016.

So it’s probably very lucky, that the Great Western doesn’t have much working electrification.

In the July 2016 Edition of Modern Railways there is an article entitled GWR Confirms Order For More ‘387s’.

This confirms that GWR are taking Porterbrook’s fourteen trains and another twenty-three not fifteen trains.

Fleet Details in the Wikipedia entry for Class 387 trains confirms these numbers.

But the July 2016 article in Modern Railways also has this sentence.;

Previous concerns that the ‘387’ design could not be produced after September this year have proved to be unfounded, so Bombardier is not required to cease manufacturing the units after that time.

So does this mean we will be seeing more Class 387 trains coming off the production line at Derby?


  • Bombardier are building the new Aventras on a new production line at Derby.
  • An airport version of the Class 387 train is available.
  • The trains can run in four-, eight- and twelve-car formations.
  • An IPEMU version of the train should be possible.
  • How would the price on a Class 387 train compare to other trains of a similar capacity?
  • Over fifty trains are in service on both lines with overhead or third-rail electrification.
  • Many of the trains run under DOO rules.

So how could various operators use Class 387 trains.

GWR already have forty-five Class 387 trains on order for suburban services out of Paddington.

  • If Bombardier get IPEMU technology to work, there are several places around the GWR network, where it might be possible to be used.
  • GWR are thinking of obtaining more AT300 trains for Oxford services, but if wires could be erected or the IPEMU version could be used on battery power from Didcot, Class 387 trains could handle the route. Surely, more Class 387 trains would be preferable, as this would give a one-class suburban fleet.
  • An airport version of a Class 387 train fitted with an IPEMU capability could handle the Reading to Gatwick route.
  • The Marlow Branch and other routes away from the main line, could be handled by a Class 387 train with an IPEMU capability.
  • Are there any other services in Wales and the West for which Class 387 trains would be ideal, once electrification gets to Bristol, Cardiff and Swansea.

c2c are an operator of seventy-four Class 357 trains, which are Electrostars like the Class 387s.

  • c2c are taking six Class 387 trains before placing an order for sixty-eight new carriages to be delivered in 2019.

The new East Anglia Franchise will be awarded this month and requires a lot of changes to the rolling stock. Some are urgent.

  • Three Class 387 trains running as a twelve-car unit with a high-class interior would probably be faster, more comfortable and spacious with an increased capacity compared to the ageing Class 90 locomotives and rakes of Mark 3 coaches. Would the Class 90/Mk 3 trains, be able to do Norwich in 90?
  • Class 387 trains with an IPEMU capability could work various routes around East Anglia connecting Cambridge, Colchester, Ely, Great Yarmouth, Ipswich, Lowestoft, Norwich and Peterborough.
  • There are several branch lines in East Anglia without electrification,which could be worked by Class 387 trains with an IPEMU capability.
  • The Class 379 fleet working to Cambridge and Stansted Airport, may need expansion, due to the opening of Cambridge North station.
  • According to Wikipedia, the invitation to tender for the france include this ” extra points will be awarded to bidders who include plans to trial new technologies in rolling stock”

Although some of the uses of Class 387 trains could obviously be filled by Aventras and other trains, as there is little development involved to build more Class 387 trains, I wouldn’t be surprised if more of these trains were built.

After all, if you are the CEO of a train operating company, currently running Electrostars, at speeds of up to 110 mph and you are offered the latest Class 387 train to your specification, with a sensible delivery date and at a price that is affordable, you must seriously consider signing the order.

You also have the example of the Class 387/2 trains that were built to an airport specification for Gatwick Express.

I wouldn’t underestimate the involvement of Porterbrook-Rent-A-Train in all this. Some of the franchises will need more rolling stock, as soon as possible.

June 23, 2016 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | 1 Comment

First Great Western’s Pragmatic Large And Little Solution To The Problems Of Great Western Electrification

The electrification of the Great Western Main Line from West of Airport Junction to Bristol, Cardiff and Swansea is proving to be a difficult project to deliver.

This article on the BBC web site talks about the problems and starts with these paragraphs.

Electrifying the Great Western line is “a top priority”, the transport secretary has said, as he announces a rethink of a £38bn programme to overhaul Britain’s railways.

Patrick McLoughlin said Network Rail’s five-year plan was being “reset” as it was “costing more and taking longer”.

In an ideal world, the whole of the Great Western Main Line and its branches to places like Worcester, Gloucester, Cheltenham, Exeter,Plymouth and Penzance would be electrified.

But it was never intended to electrify the major branches and for a time InterCity 125 diesel trains will be used on these lines.

Then in February 2014, the sea wall at Dalwish was breached in a storm and much of the track and Dawlish station was washed away. Although the line was rebuilt in a few months, it is only recently that the sea wall and the walk alongside the railway has been reinstated.

The force of the storm probably put an end to thoughts for many years of fully electrifying the line from Exeter to Plymouth and Penzance

The Large Class 800 Electro-Diesel Train

The trains that will work the Great Western Main Line to Bristol and Cardiff are the Hitachi Super Express, which comes in two variants.

The two trains are very similar, but the Class 800 has on-board diesel engines to generate electricity. Wikipedia says this.

The Class 800 units will be electro-diesel multiple units, able to draw power from electrified overhead lines where available and power themselves via underfloor diesel generators outside of the electrified network. The train specification requires that this changeover can occur at line speed. The trains are able to be converted to electric only operation by removal of the diesel engines

Current plans are for 21 9-car Class 801 and 36 5-car Class 800 to replace 60 InterCity 125.

With no prospect of electrification to Devon and Cornwall and because of the nature of the line with gradients, First Great Western have taken the pragmatic decision to order twenty-nine more trains, which will effectively be a variant of the Class 800, but with uprated diesel-engines and larger fuel tanks. It’s reported in this article in the Railway Gazette International.

So the total fleet will eventually be 47 9-car trains and 39 5-car trains of all new variants to replace 60 2+7 InterCity 125 and 5 5 car Class 180 trains.

So it would appear that about 490 x 23 metre cars will be replaced by 618 x 26 metre cars. On a crude calculation that is just over a forty percent increase in capacity, with a sixteen percent increase in the number of trains.

When everything is delivered towards the end of this decade, First Great Western would seem to have available a substantial increase in capacity, with a large proportion of the fleet having a go-anywhere capability because they are electro-diesel trains.

So it looks like some of these trains will be used to extend the network, as well as increase the frequency to Devon and Cornwall.

But there will be no need to need for any extra electrification. Although of course if there were, this would only be to the advantage of the electro-diesel trains, which would run on electric power for longer.

The Little Class 387 IPEMU

If the rumours about the Class 387 trains for First Great Western in this month’s Modern Railways are true, then some or all of the eight trains on order will be IPEMUs, with an on-board battery to power the train for up to sixty miles.

Modern Railways said this about their use.

Delivery as IPEMUs would allow EMUs to make use of as much wiring as is available (and batteries beyond) while electrification pushes ahead under the delayed scheme, and in the longer term would allow units to run on sections not yet authorised for electrification, such as Newbury to Bedwyn. The use of IPEMUs might also hasten the cascade of Class 16x units to the west of the franchise.

As Newbury to Bedwyn is probably less than twenty miles, a Class 387 IPEMU could easily do the trip out and back on a battery, charged whilst running from Paddington.

There is also a small problem highlighted in a section entitled Review after May 2015 general election in an article on Wikipedia describing the Great Western electrification.

This has led to speculation that the GW electrification scheme (although it remains “top priority”) could be cut back. On 27 May 2015, the website of Theresa May, MP for Maidenhead, contained the following: “… a recent report stated that it would not be ‘technically feasible’ for electrification to go ahead on the Marlow branch, raising questions about the future of the Henley branch as well”

The Marlow and Henley branches are 7.25 and 4.5 miles long respectively and mainly run a shuttle service to the main line with occasional services to Paddington.

So would it be more cost-effective to use a Class 387 IPEMU on these branches, as there would be no need to electrify the lines?

If a Class 387 IPEMU was good enough for these branches, what about the other branches on the Great Western Main Line to Greenford and Windsor and Eton Central?

The only work that would need to be done on these branches to accept the 4-car Class 387 IPEMU would be some platform lengthening and electrifying any bay platforms they use on the main line.

There may be other places on the Great Western Main Line, where electrification can be omitted by the use of the Class 387 IPEMU.

Class 387 IPEMU Or Aventra IPEMU?

This question has to be asked.

The Class 387 train on which the Class 387 IPEMU will be based is a member of the Electrostar family of trains, that have been produced by Bombardier since 1999,

The Electrostar is being superseded by the new Aventra family and the first orders have been placed for Crossrail and the London Overground.

The improvements in the Aventra design are summed up here in Wikipedia. This is said.

The multiple units have been designed to be lighter, more efficient, and have increased reliability. They will have lightweight all-welded bodies, wide gangways and doors to shorten boarding times in stations, and ERTMS. The design incorporates FlexxEco bogies which have been used in service on Voyagers, Meridians and newerTurbostars.

The design features a gangway design that allows maximum use of the interior space and ease of movement throughout the train.

As the Aventra is a new train, that has been designed since the successful IPEMU trial with a Class 379 in 2014, I do wonder if it has been designed with the ability to be fitted with an on-board battery to make it an Aventra IPEMU! In this article on Global Rail News this is said.

AVENTRA can run on both 25kV AC and 750V DC power – the high-efficiency transformers being another area where a heavier component was chosen because, in the long term, it’s cheaper to run. Pairs of cars will run off a common power bus with a converter on one car powering both. The other car can be fitted with power storage devices such as super-capacitors or Lithium-Iron batteries if required. The intention is that every car will be powered although trailer cars will be available.

So every Aventra can be converted to an Aventra IPEMU! And as that article was written in 2011, it increasingly looks like the IPEMU trial was a test of one of the new systems for an Aventra.

It would surely be a big advantage to a train operator running a fleet of Aventras, if they could add and remove battery packs as their schedules required.

But surely, because of the fact that an Aventra is lighter and more efficient than a Class 387, I wouldn’t be surprised that the range of an Aventra IPEMU is greater than the sixty miles quoted for the prototype.

Every extra mile, that the train can complete on batteries would open up new routes.

I suspect too that the Aventra IPEMU will have more customer appeal than a Class 387 IPEMU.

No-one will believe that a train running on batteries could possibly be a viable proposition, so at least if it looks like one of the new Crossrail Class 345 trains, passengers would at least think the train was modern.

So I wouldn’t be surprised if the order for Class 387 IPEMU was delivered as Aventra IPEMUs.


To say that Oxford station has had planning problems in the last few years would be a massive understatement. I talked about them in Network Rail’s Problems In Oxford.

According to this article on the BBC, planning permission has at last been given to extend platforms at the station, so that Chiltern Trains can run services to the city.

But there is no mention of a new platform on the South side of the station, as is mentioned in Future Expansion in the station’s Wikipedia entry.

Or any mention of electrification either!

So will Network Rail postpone the new platform and the electrification to Oxford?

If they do, then First Great Western can serve the city by Class 800 trains going along the Cotswold Line to and from Evesham and Worcester.

First Great Western could also still use the current Class 165/6 trains, but they would like to cascade them to other places on their network.

Now here’s a thing!

Didcot to Oxford  is probably less than thirty miles, so once Didcot is electrified, Oxford could be easily reached by an IPEMU.

If this happened Oxford would get new 110 mph 4-car electric trains to replace 90 mph 2-car and 3-car diesel trains.

The electrification needed for the East-West Rail Link would be done later, when Oxford decided to join the twentieth century.

Rolling Stock Cascade

At present First Great Western has a fleet of diesel multiple units that work the Thames Valley Services.

These will be replaced by twenty-one 4-car Class 365 trains from Great Northern and twenty-nine 4-car Class 387 trains cascaded from Thameslink as the new Class 700 trains arrive.

Another order for eight 4-car Class 387 trains has been placed and it is this order that Modern Railways said could be for IPEMUs.

In terms of carriages 151 diesel carriages are being replaced by 232 electric ones.

According to this document on the ATOC web site, this will happen to the Class 165 and Class 166 trains.

Some will be displaced by electrification (and the resulting cascade) on Great Western. One option is that they remain in service, to accommodate growth and to provide a cascade of Class 15x vehicles, subject to necessary modifications and PRM-TSI.

So it looks like they will be used to replace the outdated Class 15x trains.

Cardiff to Portsmouth

Cardiff to Portsmouth is a route run by First Great Western. When I went from East London To Yeovil By The Long Way, I used a First Great Western Class 158 train from Fratton to Salisbury. I said this in the related post about the journey.

I think this journey shows up our trains in a reasonable light. The journey times are slow not because of slow trains, but because of the frequent stops and complicated route. The journey took three hours seventeen minutes from Littlehampton to Yeovil, but there was only thirty-three minutes wasted in connections.

Although some trains date from the 1980s, there wasn’t anything as bad as the dreaded Pacers that inhabit the North. The services were pretty well-used and except for the short leg from Littlehampton to Fratton, there was a catering trolley on all trains.

I do think though, that perhaps this journey might be better done in something like a 4-car Class 800. Although, there isn’t much electrification to make use of until you get to Bristol, once you’ve left Southampton.

An IPEMU wouldn’t be much help, as it’s a long way between Cardiff and Portsmouth.

So is there a need for a 4-car Class 800 train, optimised for long cross-country routes, where there is not much electrification or high-speed running?


The Large and Little approach by First Great Western seems to be a pragmatic way around the problems of the Great Western electrification.

The new Class 800 trains and their closely-related siblings will enable services to be expanded at the extremities of their network, without any need for full electrification.

If all or some of that future order for eight Class 387 trains, was for the IPEMU variant or were even Aventras, so long as electrification reached Newbury and Didcot, new Class 387 IPEMUs could run to Marlow, Henley, Windsor, Oxford and Bedwyn.

One side effect would be the release of Class 165/6 trains, currently used on the routes out of Paddington and the branch lines, for other services on their network.





August 29, 2015 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Rumours Of Battery Powered Trains

In the September edition of Modern Railways, there is an article entitled Class 387s Could Be Battery Powered.

The Class 387 train is an electric train, where the first twenty-nine members of the class are running on Thameslink between Bedford and Brighton. Built in Derby by Bombardier, they are possibly the last variant of the numerous Electrostar family. When the new Thameslink Class 700 trains are delivered, these units will be transferred to First Great Western to run services out of Paddington on the electrified Great Western Main Line.

At present Bombardier are building twenty-seven new Class 387 trains to run the Gatwick Express out of Victoria.

When this order is complete, they will build another eight units for services out of Paddington, for delivery in late 2016.

It is these eight trains that are rumoured to be capable of battery running, using technology I saw demonstrated and talked about in Is The Battery Electric Multiple Unit (BEMU) A Big Innovation In Train Design?

If you still think these trains aren’t practical, there is a BBC video on YouTube of the Class 379 IPEMU during its tests at Manningtree.

In their article, Modern Railways says the following.

Delivery as IPEMUs would allow EMUs to make use of as much wiring as is available (and batteries beyond) while electrification pushes ahead under the delayed scheme, and in the longer term would allow units to run on sections not yet authorised for electrification, such as Newbury to Bedwyn. The use of IPEMUs might also hasten the cascade of Class 16x units to the west of the franchise.

Note that these trains are now called IPEMUs or independently powered electric multiple units.

It looks to me, like the rolling stock engineers at Bombardier in Derby are getting their fellow engineers in electrification out of trouble.

Having a small number of IPEMUs could be very useful to train companies, as they could be used tactically to perhaps extend electric services, when the wires are being installed or onto a scenic branch line, where putting up overhead wires would be strongly opposed. They could also be used for blockade busting, say when a tunnel or bridge is being rebuilt.

It would be interesting to see the cost difference between a standard Class 387 and one with batteries, as this would determine, whether to electrify say a branch or use IPEMUs.

Other Places For An IPEMU

Also in Modern Railways are three articles, where an IPEMU could be the solution.

  1. Hull Trains are reported looking for a bi-mode fleet to run their Hull services, as they would bridge the unelectrified seventy miles of line between Selby and Hull. A Class 387 IPEMU probably doesn’t have enough performance, but it might be capable of running the route.
  2. Services to Blackpool have also been approved, which if the electrification is not ready in time, is a route that could be handled by a Class 387 IPEMU.
  3. Roger Ford is also talking about Open Access Hotting Up. Some of the routes would be ideal for a Class 387 IPEMU, as lots of places without a decent service to London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow or other large cities, are thirty or so miles off a main electrified line. Places like Yarmouth, Lowestoft, Sudbury, Cromer, Lincoln, Skrgness, Wisbech, Windermere, Chester and Burnley come to mind.

I also think, that as the years pass, IPEMU technology will get better and much more efficient with a longer range when running on the batteries. Drivers will also learn how to coax the maximum range out of the trains.

This could enable services like.

  1. London to Norwich via Cambridge
  2. London to Salisbury
  3. Ipswich to Cambridge and Peterborough
  4. Manchester to Sheffield
  5. Newcastle to Carlisle

In my list, there would seem to be a large number of routes in East Anglia. But then Anglia Greater Anglia were part of the trials of the test train.

Visual Intrusion Of Electrification

I think too, we shouldn’t underestimate the lack of visual intrusion if say a picturesque branch line was to be served by an IPEMU rather than by a traditional electric train. The Windermere branch and some lines in South Wales may well be better served by a more visually acceptable IPEMU.

Affordable Electrification

I have listed that these IPEMU trains would be able to run between Carlisle to Newcastle.

I don’t know the Tyne Valley Line well, but it is about sixty miles long and has electrified lines at both ends. Traditional electrification may require a lot of bridge and station reconstruction to accommodate the overhead wires, whereas a Class 379 IPEMU could use the line without any modifications to infrastructure, as it can use any line that the current Class 156 trains on the line can. There would of course be a need to make sure that at both ends of the line, there was sufficient electrification to fully charge the train for its return journey.

So the cost of replacing diesel trains on this line with modern electric ones, would be solely the cost of the new trains, and perhaps the cost of a small amount of electrification in the stations and the stabling sidings at each end of the line.

In this case, I suspect Network Rail would breathe a big sigh of relief, if they didn’t have to electrify this line, with all its logistical and possibly environmental problems.

How many lines in the UK, could be electrified this way?

Route Proving For Electrification

The lines in East Anglia from Felixstowe and Ipswich to Cambridge and Peterborough are not electrified.

They carry a large amount of freight to and from the Port of Felixstowe, so if they were to be electrified the benefits of replacing Noisy and polluting diesel locomotives with environmentally-friendly electric ones is probably easily calculated.

But how do you calculate what will happen when two and three car diesel multiple units, albeit modern Class 170 trains, with new four-car electric ones?

In the case of these East Anglian lines, you could run a Class 379 IPEMU on the line.

The only problem after the test was completed, would the passengers allow their brand-new ekectric train to be moved elsewhere.

But you would get an accurate figure to put in your costings for electrification.

Electro-Diesel Freight Locomotives

Nobody except possibly the operators, love the Class 66 locomotive, which is extensively used for freight in the UK. It doesn’t meet the latest EU regulations and it’s noisy and unloved by the drivers to whom I’ve spoken.

Electrifying freight routes like Felixstowe to Nuneaton, would allow operators to send freight trains between Felixstowe and the Midlands, North and Scotland, using electric haulage all the way.

Next year, we’ll see the first of the new electro-diesel locomotives; the Class 88, which is an electric locomotive, that can use an on-board diesel engine, where there are no overhead wires.

How will these and other locomotives using similar technology affect the costs and need for electrification?

In the case of any electrified route to a port like Felixstowe or London Gateway, overhead wires in the port can present a problem, which an electro-diesel locomotive solves, as it uses the on-board diesel, anywhere near the sidings in the port.

Class 800 Trains

The Class 800 train being introduced in a few years is an electro-diesel train, which has been designed to run at 200 kph to the farthest corners or the UK, as a replacement for the diesel InterCity 125.

The specification of the train and what they’ve seen so far of the prototype must have impressed First Great Western as they’ve ordered extra trains as Wikipedia reports.

In March 2015 First Great Western agreed to acquire 29 bi-mode Hitachi AT300 (Class 800 variant) trains as HST replacements on services in and to the southwest of England. The order consisted of 22 five-car and 7 nine-car trainsets, with an option for 30 more sets. Differences with the original design included more powerful diesel engines more suited to steeper graded line in Devon and Cornwall, as well as larger fuel tanks. A £361 million contract between FGW and rolling stock leasing company Eversholt Rail was signed in July 2015. The expected introduction date of the new trains was summer 2018.

So where else could these trains appear to provide high speed services on routes with no or only partial electrification?

The Class 800 is closely related to the Class 395 train used on High Speed and third-rail routes South of the Thames. So could we see a third-rail version of the Class 800, or an electro-diesel Class 395 variant, which could run from St. Pancras to Hastings and Eastbourne and from Waterloo to Salisbury and Exeter? This would kill any thoughts of adding more third-rail electrification.

The Class 387 IPEMU and the Class 800 are a Little and Large combination to provide a cost-effective alternative to full electrification of some routes across the UK.



The Class 387 IPEMU, could be a component of a series of solutions, that bring high-quality new electric or electro-diesel trains to a large portion of the UK.

My only worry about them is the battery technology of the IPEMU, which has reportedly been troublesome in some applications on buses and aircraft.

August 28, 2015 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , | 17 Comments