The Anonymous Widower

Regulator Approves New Grand Union Train Service From Carmarthen To London Paddington

The title of this post, is the same as that of this press release from the Office of Rail and Road.

This is the sub-heading of the press release.

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has opened up the Great Western Main Line to competition and enabled a significant increase in rail services between London and South Wales.

These points are made in the press release.

  • The rail regulator has approved the introduction of new train services between London, Cardiff and South West Wales from the end of 2024.
  • The services will be operated by a new open access operator, Grand Union Trains, bringing competition to the Great Western route out of Paddington.
  • Passengers travelling between London, Bristol Parkway, Severn Tunnel Junction, Newport, Cardiff, Gowerton, Llanelli and Carmarthen will benefit from an extra five daily return services and greater choice of operator.
  • The decision opens up the Great Western Main Line to competition for the first time, with potential benefits in terms of lower fares, improved service quality and innovation for all passengers using the route.
  • The application, submitted to ORR in June 2022, was disputed by Network Rail due to concerns about capacity on the network. But following careful consideration and analysis, ORR has directed Network Rail to enter into a contract with Grand Union.
  • Grand Union has committed to significant investment in new trains.
  • As an ‘open access’ train operator, however, it will not get paid subsidies from public funds, unlike current operators along the route.

ORR supports new open access where it delivers competition for the benefit of passengers. In making this decision, the regulator has weighed this up against the impact on Government funds and effect on other users of the railway, both passengers and freight customers.

These are my thoughts.

The Company

Grand Union Trains have certainly persevered to get this approval.

  • The company was created by Ian Yeowart, who previously created open access operators; Alliance Rail Holdings and Grand Central before selling both to Arriva.
  • After multiple negotiations with the Office of Road and Rail (ORR), Yeowart must know how to get an acceptable deal.
  • Grand Union Trains have a similar application for a service between Euston and Stirling with the ORR.

Grand Union Trains also have a web site.

The home page has a mission statement of Railways To Our Core, with this statement underneath.

At Grand Union we are passionate about Britain’s railways. We are committed to the traditional values of providing a high-quality customer service and a comfortable journey experience at a fair price.

I’ll go with that.

The Financial Backing Of The Company

All the UK’s open access operators are well-financed either by Arriva or First Group.

The ORR would not receive any thanks, if they approved an operator, which duly went bust.

So what is the quality of the financing behind Grand Union Trains?

This article on Railway Gazette is entitled RENFE Looks At Entering UK Rail Market Through Open Access Partnership, which starts with this paragraph.

Open access passenger service developer Grand Union Trains is working with Spain’s national operator RENFE and private equity firm Serena Industrial Partners on a proposed service between London and Wales.

That is fairly clear and would surely help in the financing of Grand Union Trains.

The Route

Trains will run between Carmarthen and London Paddington, with stops at Llanelli, Gowerton, Cardiff, Newport, Severn Tunnel Junction and Bristol Parkway.

A new station at Felindre will replace Gowerton at some time in the future.

There will be five trains per day (tpd).

I have some thoughts and questions about the route

Felindre Station

Felindre station is named in Wikipedia as the West Wales Parkway station, where it is introduced like this.

West Wales Parkway is a proposed railway station north of Swansea, near to the boundaries of the neighbouring principal area of Carmarthenshire, and the villages of Felindre and Llangyfelach. The station is proposed to be situated at the former Felindre steelworks, near Junction 46 of the M4 and A48, and near Felindre Business Park and Penllergaer Business Park. The project is in the planning stages, as part of a wider Department for Transport proposal to re-open the Swansea District line to passenger traffic.

This Google Map shows where, it appears the Felindre station will be built.

Note.

  1. The Felindre Business Park in the North-West corner of the map, with a Park-and-Ride.
  2. The M4 running across the bottom of the map.
  3. The Swansea District Line runs East-West between the motorway and the Business Park.

It looks that the new station could be located on the South side of the Business Park.

When High Speed Two Opens Will Trains Call At Old Oak Common?

When High Speed Two opens, all GWR trains will stop at Old Oak Common station for these connections.

  • Chiltern for for Banbury, Bicester, High Wycombe and the West Midlands
  • Elizabeth Line for Central and East London and the Thames Valley
  • Heathrow Airport
  • High Speed Two for Birmingham and the North
  • Overground for Outer London

As Old Oak Common will be such an important interchange, I think they should.

Will The Platforms At Carmarthen Station Need Lengthening?

This Google Map shows Carmarthen station.

Note.

  1. The station has two platforms.
  2. There are certainly pictures of the station with an InterCity 125 in the station. There is a picture on the Wikipedia entry for Carmarthen station.

These pictures show the station.

I suspect that the station will be upgraded to accommodate Grand Union Trains.

The Trains

An article in the June 2022 Edition of Modern Railways, which is entitled Grand Union Bids For London To Carmarthen, gives these details of the trains.

  • Three classes.
  • 2023 start for the service.
  • Cycle provision.
  • Vanload freight will be carried.
  • Electric trains could start between London and Cardiff by 2023.
  • In 2025, trains could be nine-car bi-modes.
  • South Wales-based operation and maintenance.
  • 125 full-time jobs created.

It certainly seems to be a comprehensive and well-thought out plan.

I have a few thoughts on the trains.

What Make Of Trains Will Be Procured?

Consider.

  • Lumo’s Class 803 trains were ordered from Hitachi in March 2019 and entered service in October 2021.
  • So if they ordered their version of the Hitachi trains by the end of 2022, the trains could be in service by July/August 2025.
  • It would probably be easier, if the only fast trains on the Great Western Main Line between London and South Wales were all Hitachi trains with identical performance.

But the Spanish backers of Grand Union Trains may prefer Spanish-designed trains assembled in South Wales. So would a bi-mode version of CAF’s Class 397 trains be suitable?

On the other hand, the Carmarthen and Cardiff section of the route without a reverse at Swansea is only seventy-five miles.

This Hitachi infographic shows the Hitachi Intercity Tri-Mode Battery Train.

Consider.

  • Charging could be provided at Carmarthen using a short length of electrification or one of Furrer + Frey standard chargers.
  • Charging would also use the electrification between London Paddington and Cardiff.
  • A nine-car Class 800 or Class 802 train has five engines and a five-car train has three engines.
  • The Intercity Tri-Mode Battery Train was announced in December 2022.
  • In the intervening two years how far has the project progressed?
  • For the last twelve months, Lumo have been running trains with an emergency battery-pack for hotel power. How are the batteries doing, whilst being ferried up and down, the East Coast Main Line?

Can Hitachi configure a train with more than one battery-pack and a number of diesel engines, that has a range of seventy-five miles? I suspect they can.

I suspect that CAF also have similar technology.

There is also a benefit to Great Western Railway (GWR).

If GWR were able to fit out their Class 802 trains in the same way, they would be able to run between Cardiff and Swansea on battery power.

  • It is only 45.7 miles.
  • Charging would need to be provided at Swansea.
  • GWR could still run their one tpd service to Carmarthen.

It looks like both train operating companies could be able to do as Lumo does and advertise all electric services.

What Could Be The Maxmum Range Of A Hitachi Train On Batteries?

This Hitachi infographic shows the Hitachi Regional Battery Train.

Consider.

  • It has a battery range of 90 km or 56 miles on the single battery.
  • I would expect that by a regional train, Hitachi mean a five car Class 800 or 802 train, like those that go to Cheltenham, Lincoln or Middlesbrough.
  • A five-car Hitachi Regional Battery Train would have a battery that could contain power equivalent to 280 car-miles.
  • Five-car Class 800 or 802 trains have three engine positions.
  • These Hitachi trains have a very sophisticated control system, which I wrote about in Do Class 800/801/802 Trains Use Batteries For Regenerative Braking?

I believe the engineers at Hyperdrive Innovation have designed the battery-packs that replace the diesel engines as simulations of the diesel engines, so they can be a direct replacement.

This would mean that battery-packs could be additive, so the following could apply to a five-car train.

  • Two battery packs could have a range of 112 miles.
  • Three battery packs could have a range of 168 miles.

GWR generally runs pairs of five-car trains to Swansea, which would be 90 miles without electrification.

If five-car trains with two battery packs, could be given a range of 112 miles, GWR could run an electric service to Swansea.

They could also run to Carmarthen, if Grand Union Trains would share the charger.

What ranges could be possible with nine-car trains, if one battery pack is good for 280 car-miles?

  • One battery-pack, gives a range of 280/9 = 31 miles
  • Two battery-packs, give a range of 2*280/9 = 62 miles
  • Three battery-packs, give a range of 3*280/9 = 93 miles
  • Four battery-packs, give a range of 4*280/9 = 124 miles
  • Five battery-packs, give a range of 5*280/9 = 155 miles
  • Six battery-packs, give a range of 6*280/9 = 187 miles
  • Seven battery-packs, give a range of 7*280/9 = 218 miles

Note.

  1. I have rounded figures to the nearest mile.
  2. There are five cars with diesel engines in a nine-car train, which are in cars 2,3,5, 7 and 8.
  3. Diesel engines are also placed under the driver cars in five-car Class 810 trains.
  4. For the previous two reasons, I feel that the maximum numbers of diesel engines in a nine-car train could be a maximum of seven.
  5. I have therefor assumed a maximum of seven battery packs.

These distances seem sensational, but when you consider that Stradler’s Flirt Akku has demonstrated a battery range of 243 kilometres or 150 miles, I don’t think they are out of order.

But, if they are correct, then the ramifications are enormous.

  • Large numbers of routes could become electric without any infrastructure works.
  • Grand Union Trains would be able to run to Carmarthen and back without a charger at Carmarthen. 
  • GWR would be able to run to Swansea and back without a charger at Swansea.

Prudence may mean strategic chargers are installed.

Rrenewable Energy Developments In South West Wales

In Enter The Dragon, I talked about renewable energy developments in South West Wales.

I used information from this article on the Engineer, which is entitled Unlocking The Renewables Potential Of The Celtic Sea.

The article on the Engineer finishes with this conclusion.

For now, Wales may be lagging slightly behind its Celtic cousin to the north, but if the true potential of the Celtic Sea can be unleashed – FLOW, tidal stream, lagoon and wave – it looks set to play an even more prominent role in the net zero pursuit.

The Red Dragon is entering the battle to replace Vlad the Mad’s tainted energy.

South West Wales could see a massive renewable energy boom.

Grand Union Trains will increase the capacity to bring in more workers to support the developments from South Wales and Bristol.

 

 

 

December 3, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘Ryanair Of Rail’ Lights Up The East Coast On Fast Track To Profit

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

This is the first paragraph.

A cut-price rail service between London and Edinburgh, dubbed the Ryanair of rail, is on track to turn a profit after a year in service and has helped to reverse the airlines’ previous dominance of the travel market between the capitals.

Other points from the article.

  • Lumo will carry its millionth passenger in November.
  • The average one-way fare has been less than £40.
  • Rail is now claiming 63 % of the London and Scotland travel market.

Will this success lead to more trains attracting more rail travellers between England and Scotland?

Can Lumo Carry More Passengers?

Lumo use five-car Hitachi Class 803 trains for their services.

  • Their fleet consists of five cars.
  • Each five-car train can carry 402 passengers.
  • Lumo run five trains per day (tpd) in both directions.

There are various ways that the number of passengers could be increased.

Could Lumo Run More Services?

This may seem to be a solution, but only a fixed number of trains can be run in every hour, between England and Scotland.

  • Other train operators may also want to run more services.
  • It would also mean Lumo would need to buy more trains.

On the other hand it may be possible to squeeze in perhaps one extra service.

Could Lumo Run Longer Trains?

Lumo’s Class 803 trains are unusual among the Hitachi AT 300 trains, that handle long distance services all over the UK, in that they have no diesel engines and rely on battery power for emergencies.

As the trains’ computer work out which cars are present, I wouldn’t be surprised that these trains can be lengthened or even run as a pair, as GWR’s and LNER’s five-car Hitachi trains often do.

Platforms at King’s Cross, Stevenage, Newcastle, Morpeth and Edinburgh are probably already longer than is needed for a five-car train.

I could even see Lumo adding coaches as required to satisfy the need of the day. On a day like the Calcutta Cup, they might even run ten or twelve car trains, which is the longest formation possible with the Hitachi trains. But they’d have to have enough coaches!

Lumo use a very simple catering option, which I suspect can be modified to serve a longer train.

I am fairly certain, that LUMO’s fleet has been designed for gradual lengthening to expand capacity.

Would The Lumo Model Work On The West Coast Main Line?

As the Lumo model seems to work to Edinburgh, would it work to Glasgow?

I don’t see why not! And it might improve the service from Avanti West Coast?

Grand Union have lodged an application to run four tpd between London and Stirling via at Milton Keynes Central, Nuneaton, Crewe, Preston, Carlisle, Lockerbie, Motherwell, Whifflet, Greenfaulds and Larbert with InterCity 225s.

This proposal seems to be stalled at the moment, but I do feel it is a good idea.

I would certainly use it, as the air-conditioning on the Class 390 trains, used by Avanti West Coast, makes me ill!

 

 

 

October 25, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

TransPennine Express Explores Further Fleet And Capacity Expansion Options

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

This is the first paragraph.

First TransPennine Express is hopeful that it will be able to issue a call for expressions of interest in the provision of additional bi-mode trains before the end of March. This follows ‘a healthy level of interest’ in its existing call for expressions of interest in the supply of bi-mode locomotives to replace the Class 68s which work with its MkVa coaches.

I wrote about the expressions of interest to replace the Class 68 locomotives with new bi-mode locomotives in Suppliers Sought For New Bi-Mode Locomotives For TransPennine Express And Great Western Railway.

This was my conclusion in the related post.

When I saw First Group’s proposals, I thought that they were over ambitious.

But after doing a few simple calculations, I think they can decarbonise some, but not all of the TransPennine Express services and the Night Riviera.

So do First Group want to complete the decarbonisation of  TransPennine Express services?

These are my thoughts.

The Train Fleet Specification

The Railway Gazette article makes these points about the new bi-mode trains.

  • The trains could be existing or new bi-modes.
  • It would be desirable for the trains to have a long-term electric-only option.
  • Options for this would include removing the diesel engines or converting the trains to battery-electric operation.
  • Hydrogen is not mentioned.
  • A fleet size of twenty-five trains is mentioned.
  • The possibility of electric-only trains in the future is mentioned..
  • Five-cars, with the ability to lengthen to six- or seven-cars.
  • 200 km/h operation.

There is nothing unusual in the specification.

Will They Be Existing Or New Trains?

I doubt that there are any existing 200 km/h bi-modes in the UK, that are not wanted by their current operators.

I am very certain they will be new trains.

Could The Trains Be Hitachi Class 802 Trains?

The trains sound very much like Hitachi Class 802 trains, that are in service with TransPennine Express, Great Western Railway and Hull Trains, all of whom are First Group companies.

  • Long-term, the diesel engines can be removed or replaced with batteries.
  • The battery option is under development and should be on test this year.
  • The trains can be lengthened to as long as twelve cars, so six- and seven-car trains would be possible.

Hitachi will obviously show interest in this possible order.

Will These Trains Replace the Class 185 Trains?

Consider.

  • TransPennine Express have 51 three-car Class 185 trains.
  • This is a total of 153 cars.
  • On some routes they work singly and on others they work in pairs.
  • A three-car Class 185 train has 167 Standard Class and 15 First Class seats or 60.7 seats per car.
  • A pair of Class 185 trains have 334 Standard Class and 30 First Class seats.
  • A five-car TransPennine Express Class 802 train has 318 Standard Class and 24 First Class seats or 68.4 seats per car.
  • It would appear that a Class 802 train is not that far short of the capacity of a pair of Class 185 trains.
  • Some of the TransPennine services are very crowded.

I suspect that twenty-five five-car trains be able to handle the the workload of the Class 185 trains.

If a small amount of extra capacity were needed, some of the new trains could be six-cars.

In this section, I have assumed the new trains will be Class 802 trains, but any train manufacturer pitching for this order would adjust the capacity to the needs of TransPennine Express.

The Railway Gazette article says this.

TPE continues to explore opportunities for new services in the north of England, and the move could also feed into government plans for the removal of older and more costly to operate diesel trains elsewhere on the network, should any rolling stock become surplus to requirements at TPE.

So where could the Class 185 trains be used in the future?

Recently, MTU Hybrid PowerPacks have replaced the transmission on a Class 168 train, which reduces carbon emissions and fuel consumption and makes the train quieter and more passenger-friendly, as it doesn’t use diesel in stations.

The Class 185 trains are only fifteen years old and I suspect that MTU have designed the Hybrid PowerPack, so that it can replace the Cummins engine in trains like these.

The conversion could be done as a rolling program, so that any future operator would start with diesel and go hybrid a train at a time.

There has been speculation, that the trains may end up on the East West Railway and I wrote about this in East West Railway Company To Start Second Phase Of Rolling Stock Procurement.

But the East West Railway may prefer to use zero-carbon trains on a route, where there is electrification in places on the route.

Alternatively, South Western Railway run 10 two-car Class 158 trains and 30 three-car Class 159 trains between London Waterloo and Exeter.

  • South Western Railway is another First Group company.
  • The Class 185 trains could provide a capacity increase.
  • The Class 185 trains are 100 mph trains, whereas the Class 158/159 trains are only capable of 90 mph.

The London Waterloo and Exeter Route could be electrified in the future and I am pretty sure, that the Class 185 trains with a hybrid transmission could be a good stand-in until this happens.

Other Train Manufacturers

I believe that Hitachi are in pole position for this order, just because they are an established supplier to both TransPennine Express and First Group.

But twenty-five five-car trains would be a very worthwhile order, so I suspect that companies like Alstom, CAF, Siemens, Stadler and Talgo will also express interest.

Conclusion

Buying extra bi-mode trains will take TransPennine Express further along the route to full decarbonisation.

 

 

 

 

March 15, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

SWR Says Farewell To ‘456’s

The title of this post, is the same as a section heading in the February 2022 Edition of Modern Railways.

South Western Railways are reducing services because of the pandemic and they are retiring their Class 456 trains, which have been returned to their leasing company; Porterbrook.

  • The Class 456 trains are thirty-years old.
  • They are two-car third-rail electric trains.
  • They have an operating speed of 75 mph.
  • They are due to be replaced by new Class 701 trains.

According to the Modern Railways article, they have been put in store by Porterbrook.

But they are not trains in bad condition, as these pictures show.

The trains had a high-class refurbishment in 2014.

In Special Train Offers A Strong Case For Reopening Fawley Line, I discussed the reopening of the Fawley Line.

This is an extract from that post about the rolling stock to use on the line.

South Western Railway’s Innovative Train Plan

This is another quote from the original Rail Magazine article.

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 adds. “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.

Note.

  1. Mark Hopwood is now Managing Director of Great Western Railway.
  2. Great Western Railway and South Western Railway are both First Group companies.
  3. There are twenty-four Class 456 trains.

I wonder, if the plan that Mark Hopwood hinted at a couple of years ago, is being carried out.

Two dozen, two-car zero-carbon battery-electric trains would do nicely for some of the routes of GWR and SWR.

Converting Class 456 Trains Into Two-Car Battery Electric Trains discusses this possible conversion in detail.

January 25, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , | 5 Comments

Are First Group Moving Towards Zero-Carbon?

My post, which was entitled Suppliers Sought For New Bi-Mode Locomotives For TransPennine Express And Great Western Railway, prompted me to ask the question in the title of this post.

This factsheet for First Bus says that all their buses will be zero-carbon by 2035.

This factsheet for First Rail says this about Decarbonising Rail Travel.

FirstGroup’s ambition is to be the partner of choice for low or zero emission transport. We recently became the first UK rail and bus operator to formally commit to setting an ambitious science-based target for reaching net zero emissions by 2050 or earlier.

First Rail leads the sector in decarbonisation, including the introduction of bi-mode diesel and electric powered trains which allow us to make best use of electrified networks. We have signed up to the Government’s challenge to take all diesel-only trains out of service by 2040.

GWR has recently taken delivery of the UK’s first tri-mode train which can use overhead wires, third rail or diesel power. Sustainability is at the heart of the NRCs and both SWR and TPE will develop a decarbonisation policy and roadmap towards net zero emissions in accordance with this goal. New all-electric and bi-mode trains will be introduced by Avanti to replace diesel only trains in the current fleet.

Both these factsheets appear to have been written in 2021.

The zero-carbon status of each of First Group’s rail companies is as follows.

Avanti West Coast

The mainstay of Avanti West Coast are fifty-six Class 390 electric trains.

Twenty Class 221 diesel trains are being replaced by ten new Class 807 electric trains and thirteen new Class 805 bi-mode trains.

Great Western Railway

The mainstay of Great Western Railway are a mixture of ninety-three Class 800 and Class 802 bi-mode trains.

They also have thirty-three Class 387 electric trains working London commuter routes.

There are a large assortment of ninety-four diesel trains of various classes working rural routes and local services in Bristol, Exeter, Oxford and Plymouth. There are a lot of these trains in the UK and I suspect that a nationwide solution will be developed.

There are thirty-five Class 43 diesel locomotives, that power the shortened InterCity 125 trains in the South-West. I wrote about converting these to hydrogen in Will We See Class 43 Power Cars Converted To Hydrogen?

Four Class 57 diesel locomotives that haul the Night Riviera are covered by the request for suppliers, that prompted me to write this post.

South Western Railway

The mainstay of South Western Railway are a mixture of around  three hundred electric trains.

There are also ten Class 158 diesel trains and thirty Class 159 diesel trains. There are a lot of these trains in the UK and I suspect that a nationwide solution will be developed.

TransPennine Express

The mainstay of TransPennine Express are nineteen Class 802 bi-mode trains and twelve Class 397 electric trains.

There are also fifty-one Class 185 diesel trains.

Fourteen Class 68 diesel locomotives that haul coaches are covered by the request for suppliers, that prompted me to write this post.

Hull Trains

Hull Trains have a fleet of five Class 802 bi-mode trains.

Lumo

Lumo have a fleet of five Class 803 electric trains.

The service is also sold on the basis of its low-carbon footprint.

Conclusion

First Group would appear top have a fair way to go towards full decarbonisation.

  • They have around a hundred-and-thirty Hitachi bi-mode trains. Research is ongoing to replace some diesel engines with batteries.
  • They have a lot of diesel trains and locomotives, that are still in front-line service.
  • They have the tricky problem of the Class 43 locomotives, which I suspect will result in a nationwide solution.

But at least they have started by requesting proposals to replace the other diesel locomotives.

January 23, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Aviva To Eject Company Directors If Climate Goals Are Not Met

The title of this post is the same as that of this article in The Sunday Times.

Increasingly, I am seeing company boards taking decisions, that will cut their company’s carbon footprint.

Only yesterday, I wrote Suppliers Sought For New Bi-Mode Locomotives For TransPennine Express And Great Western Railway, which was about First Group’s moves to decarbonise some of their locomotive-hauled trains.

I have also written about BHP, BP, Fortescue, Go-Ahead and Rio-Tinto taking action to decarbonise.

It does seem that some company boards are following Aviva’s guidance, but then it is in the directors own interest.

Many directors of large companies own shares and in a big public company, these are publicly traded.

I would suspect, that if a company board, do the right thing in terms of decarbonisation, that the share price will rise.

So by following the accepted climate science, they are actually helping themselves.

If they don’t believe that, then aggressive shareholders from Norwich will punish them.

January 23, 2022 Posted by | Business, Finance, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Suppliers Sought For New Bi-Mode Locomotives For TransPennine Express And Great Western Railway

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

These three paragraphs give a summary of the proposed fleet of locomotives required by First Group for their two operations.

TransPennine Express is looking for expressions of interest from suppliers for a fleet of at least 15 bi-mode locomotives for use on with its Mk5 carriages.

The provision released by First Group is for up to 30 bi-mode locomotives, with an additional 5 for use on Great Western Railway’s Sleeper Service.

The operators say that the new locomotives must have the capability to be powered by overhead wires as well as being able to operate with an alternate traction mode, IE Diesel or Battery, where routes are not yet electrified or for use as a contingency.

I have also read the detailed proposal, which can be downloaded from this page of the First Group web site.

  • The locomotives must be capable of hauling a train at 100 mph.
  • First Group are putting a high emphasis on environmental impact of the locomotives.
  • The locomotives must be compatible with the latest emission regulations.
  • The locomotives must be low-noise.
  • The locomotives must be capable of hauling seven coaches, including a driving van trailer.

Nothing in the request for proposals would appear to be too challenging.

I have some thoughts.

The Number Of Locomotives For TransPennine Express

Currently, TransPennine Express has a fleet of fourteen Class 68 locomotives and enough coaches and driving van trailers to create thirteen rakes of Mark 5A coaches.

So why do TransPennine Express talk of up to thirty locomotives?

  • Fifteen locomotives would handle the current services, so thirty could cover new services or more services on the current locomotive-hauled routes.
  • Manchester Airport and Cleethorpes and Manchester Piccadilly and Hull are run by Class 185 diesel  trains, which will need replacing at some future time.
  • First Group probably know the costs of running Class 802 trains and locomotives with rakes of coaches better than anyone , so are they thinking about swapping some Class 802 trains for locomotives with rakes of coaches?

The last point would be one for the accountants.

But I am led to the conclusion, that TransPennine Express could be expanding and also decarbonising the long routes still operated by Class 185 trains.

The Number Of Locomotives For Great Western Railway

Currently, Great Western Railway has a fleet of four Class 57 locomotives to haul the Night Riviera.

Five replacement locomotives would probably be enough.

Could A Battery-Electric Locomotive Handle The TransPennine Express Requirement?

Currently, there are gaps in the electrification of the TransPennine network.

  • Manchester Victoria and Stalybridge – 7.7 miles – Electrification in progress
  • Stalybridge and Huddersfield – 18 miles
  • Huddersfield and Dewsbury – 8 miles – Electrification in progress
  • Dewsbury and Leeds – 9.1 miles
  • Leeds and York – 25.6 – Electrification in progress
  • Northallerton and Redcar – 28.8 miles
  • Manchester Piccadilly and Stalybridge – 7.5 miles
  • Leeds and Hull – 51.8 miles
  • Doncaster and Cleethorpes – 72.1 miles
  • Scarborough and York – 42 miles
  • Doncaster and Sheffield – 18.7 miles
  • Sheffield and Stockport – 36.8 miles – Rumoured to be electrified

Note.

  1. Many gaps are quite small.
  2. The longest gaps are on easy routes.
  3. Sheffield will be electrified for the Midland Main Line.
  4. A length of electrification at Scunthorpe could ease Doncaster and Cleethorpes.

I feel that a battery-electric locomotive with a range of a hundred miles hauling seven coaches, would be able to handle all the TransPennine routes.

If the train could run the routes with an electricity consumption of 4 kWh per vehicle-mile, seven coaches would need 4 * 8 * 100 = 3.2 MWh of battery storage.

Note.

  1. A 3.2 MWh battery would weigh around 3.2 tonnes, which would be less than the diesel engine in a Class 68 locomotive.
  2. Regenerative braking to batteries could be used to improve range.
  3. In How Much Power Is Needed To Run A Train At 125 Or 100 mph?, I calculated that an InterCity 125 needs 1.81 kWh per vehicle mile to maintain 100 mph.

I am fairly certain, that a well-designed efficient battery-electric locomotive would be able to handle all of the routes for TransPennine Express.

Could A Battery-Electric Locomotive Handle The Night Riviera?

I have just looked up the Southbound Night Riviera on Real Time Trains.

  • It leaves Paddington at 23:50.
  • It is typically eight coaches and a Class 57 locomotive.
  • The train is planned to run at 75 mph.
  • The first 53 miles between Paddington and Newbury are electrified.
  • There is a stop of one hour and 39 minutes at Exeter.
  • Newbury and Exeter is 120.4 miles
  • Exeter and Penzance is 130.8 miles

The Northbound Night Riviera only has a five minute stop at Exeter and two minutes stops at Totnes, Newton Abbott and Taunton.

A battery-electric locomotive would need a range of 140 miles hauling eight coaches.

  • Some stops like Plymouth may need to be lengthened by a few minutes to charge the batteries.
  • Extra stops of perhaps five minutes could be added to top-up the batteries.
  • The train would be limited to 75 mph, which would improve efficiency.
  • It might even be prudent to electrify the uphill track of some of the steeper parts of the route.

But think of the marketing advantages of a zero-carbon sleeper train!

Conclusion

When I saw First Group’s proposals, I thought that they were over ambitious.

But after doing a few simple calculations, I think they can decarbonise some, but not all of the TransPennine Express services and the Night Riviera.

January 22, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Reopening The Oswestry – Gobowen Line

On October 27th this Beeching Reversal Project was given £50,000 to build a case for reopening.

These are my thoughts.

Gobowen Station

Gobowen station appears to be a fine station.

Wikipedia says this about the future of the station.

Gobowen station may become the northern terminus of the proposed Cambrian Heritage Railways line to Llynclys, Pant and Blodwel via Oswestry. Shropshire Council was to acquire the coal yard at Gobowen for railway-related uses, including car parking for the station. If the plans are fully realised, the station would have three platforms, one of which would be for the Heritage Railway.

It does look as if, Shropshire Council have got the money for a full study.

This Google Map shows Gobowen station.

Note.

  1. The two tracks of the Chester-Shrewsbury Line each have a platform.
  2. Step-free access is by the level crossing, which is at the North end of the station.
  3. It looks like it would be space to convert the Northbound platform into an island platform, where the Western platform face would be for the heritage trains.

This second Google Map shows the tracks at the South end of Gobowen station.

Note.

There is a set of points to allow trains to access a third platform at Gobowen station.

The single-track line to Oswestry branches off to the West at the bottom of the map.

It would appear that a bay platform at Gobowen station can be created to handle trains to Oswestry.

Oswestry Station

Oswestry station appears to be another fine station.

  • It is also Grade II Listed.
  • It has just a single platform.
  • It appears to be owned by the local authority.

This Google Map shows the station.

Note.

  1. The station is the large building with the chimneys in the South-East corner of the map.
  2. The single platform is behind it.
  3. The platform is long enough to take a 1200 metre long train.

This station would make an ideal terminus.

The Track Between Oswestry And Gobowen

The track is single-track with a couple of foot crossings, so I don’t think it will need much to bring it up to a modern standard.

A Shuttle Service Between Oswestry And Gobowen

I suspect a two-car shuttle train between the two stations would suffice for most of the day.

Transport for Wales have some Class 230 trains and these would be ideal. They could even be battery-electric trains if a battery charging system were to be installed at one station.

Could Avanti West Coast Run A Service To London?

It looks like Avanti West Coast’s Class 805 trains could run along the line between Gobowen and Oswestry.

So could Avanti’s planned service to Gobowen terminate at Oswestry instead?

It would all depend on the passenger forecasts and actual numbers

Could Avanti West Coast Run A Battery-Electric Service To London?

Consider.

  • Oswestry is a town of 17,500 people, so probably has a reasonable electricity supply, especially if it were to be backed up by a battery.
  • The amount of renewable electricity produced over the border in Wales is only going to grow.
  • There is plenty of space at Oswestry to put in a charging system to replace the batteries.

Distances are as follows.

  • Crewe and Chester – 21.1 miles
  • Chester and Gobowen – 24.6 miles
  • Gobowen and Oswestry – 3.3 miles

This is a total distance of 49 miles.

Avanti West Coast have ordered thirteen bi-mode Class 805 trains, which will replace the diesel Class 221 trains currently working between London Euston and Chester. Holyhead and Shrewsbury.

  • They will run at 125 mph between Euston and Crewe using electric power.
  • If full in-cab digital signalling were to be installed on the electrified portion of the route, they may be able to run at 140 mph in places under the wires.
  • They will use diesel power on the North Wales Coast Line to reach places like Chester, Holyhead and Wrexham.
  • According to an article in Modern Railways, the Class 805 trains could be fitted with batteries.

I wouldn’t be surprised that when they are delivered, they are a version of the Hitachi’s Intercity Tri-Mode  Battery Train, the specification of which is shown in this Hitachi infographic.

Note.

  1. I suspect that the batteries will be used to handle regenerative braking on lines without electrification, which will save diesel fuel and carbon emissions.
  2. The trains accelerate faster, than those they replace.
  3. The claimed fuel and carbon saving is twenty percent.
  4. It is intended that these trains will be introduced next year.

But Hitachi have not given any predictions of the range of these trains on battery power alone.

However, they do claim a battery range of 56 miles for the Hitachi Regional Battery Train, which is based on similar technology.

I believe it would be possible to run a zero-carbon London Euston and Oswestry service.

  • The trains would be Class 805 trains fitted with batteries.
  • Trains could stop at Milton Keynes Central, Lichfield Trent Valley, Stafford, Crewe, Chester, Wrexham General and Gobowen.
  • Trains would use electrification between London Euston and Crewe.
  • Trains would recharge their batteries South of Crewe and at Oswestry.

I doubt that a battery-electric zero-carbon train serving Cheshire, Shropshire and North-East Wales would have a negative effect on the area.

Just as Hull and Lincoln seem to be moving towards a frequency of one train per two hours from London, I wonder if this service could ever attain the same frequency.

Onward From Oswestry

Cambrian Heritage Railways are planning to run services past Oswestry on their heritage railway.

Will this be a good idea?

Where Now For First Group?

First Group are a shareholder in Avanti West Coast.

They also own Lumo, who last week launched their open-access service between London and Edinburgh. Their marketing is all about being green and sustainable.

I just wonder if a battery-electric service to Gobowen is successful, they will apply this model all over the group.

Hull Trains service between London and Hull is an obvious possibility for a battery-electric zero-carbon service.

Conclusion

It looks to me, that reopening of the Oswestry – Gobowen Line opens up other possibilities.

October 31, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hull Trains Is Back And Stronger Than Ever

The title of this post, is the same as that of this press release from Hull Trains.

This is the first paragraph.

Timetables at Hull Trains will be back to pre-pandemic levels from December as public confidence in rail travel continues to grow.

These are other points from the press release.

  • The number of returning passengers is steadily increasing.
  • From December 12th, Hull Trains will be running 94 trains per week in total, which is two higher than the pre-pandemic record.
  • An additional service will be run on Sunday to match the six trains per day (tpd) on Saturday.
  • There will be seven tpd on weekdays. That’s not far off one train per teo hours (tp2h)  all day.

Passenger numbers must be coming out from the pandemic well.

This sentence from the press release gives a clue to how Hull Trains will cope with increasing passenger numbers.

Ten-car operations will commence on Fridays and Saturdays to provide additional capacity just in time for Christmas travel and the general growing demand as we prepare to enter 2022.

I suspect by rescheduling maintenance and running all five trains in services, they can run some trains on Fridays and Saturdays as pairs.

  • As Hull trains only stop at Stevenage, Grantham, Retford, Doncaster, Selby, Howden, Brough, Hull and Beverley, there aren’t many stations, that need to be able to take ten-car trains.
  • I suspect a couple of platforms might need lengthening, as a ten-car train is 260 metres long. Or they could instruct passengers to only use the front train for the stations with short platforms. Or only use five-car trains to the stations with short platforms.
  • But the longer trains won’t need any extra paths.
  • I was also told last year, that Hull station can take nine-car trains, so perhaps it can take a ten.

So to increase capacity on the route, Hull Trains just need to add another train to their fleet.

As all costs are probably well-known, with a bit of simple modelling, Hull Trains can probably predict, when they need to add a new train.

Whilst I was looking at the Lumo train yesterday, I got talking to a driver from Hull Trains, who had come over to take a professional look at Lumo’s Class 803 train.

I asked him what he liked about Hull Trains’s Class 802 trains as a driver. He said the brakes, which is probably most important to a driver, as they’re at the sharp end, if anything happens. So that’s comforting.

He also said that some of the Hitachi trains had shown they were stable at 140 mph. So that’s good too.

On talking about the batteries on the Lumo train, I got the impression that batteries will appear on other Hitachi Trains.

Conclusion

It appears to be all trains go between London and Hull.

In Could We See Between London And Much Of The North By Train In Under Two Hours?, I looked at the effect of improvements on the East Coast Main Line and concluded that timings between London Kings Cross and Hull could be around two hours and twenty minutes. This would surely be a spur to increasing traffic on the route.

Surely, when Hull Trains use battery-electric Hitachi trains between London and Hull, this will be the icing on the marketing cake, as we seem to be coming to a point, where zero-carbon sells.

As an aside, will Lumo, who are another First Group company, use a similar mix of five- and ten-car trains on the London and Edinburgh route to increase capacity?

I suspect that what is good for Hull Trains will be good for Lumo.

October 26, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Could Avanti West Coast Run A Lumo-Style Service Between London And Liverpool?

Avanti West Cost’s Class 807 Trains

Avanti West Coast will be introducing their new Class 807 trains by 2023.

One of the routes, on which they will run, will be between London Euston and Liverpool Lime Street stations.

These trains are members of Hitachi’s AT300 family, with these characteristics.

  • Seven cars.
  • 453 seats
  • 125 mph operating speed, with 140 mph possible under in-cab signalling, where the track allows.

They have been designed to be able to achieve or better times from the Class 390 trains, which have the advantage of tilt.

The Seats In The New Trains

Seats are important to passengers and there has been criticism, that some of the seats in Hitachi trains are like ironing boards.

But, so far nothing has been said about the seats on the new Class 807 trains.

453 seats in seven cars of a Class 807 train is 64.7 seats per car.

These are comparison figures for other trains.

  • On a nine-car Class 801 train, there are 611 seats or 67.8 seats per car.
  • On a five-car Class 801 train, there are 302 seats or 60.4 seats per car.
  • On a five-car Class 810 train, there are 301 seats or 60.2 seats per car.
  • On a five-car Class 803 train, there are 406 seats or 81.2 seats per car.
  • On a nine-car Class 390 train, there are 469 seats or 52.1 seats per car.
  • On an eleven-car Class 390 train, there are 589 seats or 53.5 seats per car.

Note.

  1. The Class 390 trains or Pendolinos have less seats per car, than the Hitachi trains. Is this because of all the space taken up by the tilting mechanism?
  2. As the seats per car for a Class 807 is between the five- and nine-car Class 801 trains, it would appear that the seat density is not much different to the trains on LNER and Great Western Railway.
  3. Lumo’s Class 803 trains on their low-cost service would appear to have a higher seating density. But  Lumo says that they have redesigned the seats for more comfort.
  4. In The Seat Of Aurora, I looked at a report from Modern Railways on the seats in the Class 810 trains, which the writer found were much more comfortable.

It would appear that the two latest fleets of Hitachi trains have seats that are designed for more comfort.

Consider.

  • First Group own seventy percent of Avanti West Coast.
  • First Group own hundred percent of two train operating companies; Great Western and TransPennine Express, who run versions of Hitachi AT300 trains, so they probably have a lot of bottom-level feedback.
  • In the current Class 390 train upgrade, Avanti West Coast are replacing all the Standard Class seats, the company must care about seat quality.
  • First Group own hundred percent of Lumo, who have acquired new trains with comfortable seats.

I would be very surprised if the seats in the new Class 807 trains for Avanti West Coast were not custom-designed for their routes.

The Unusual Length Of The Class 807 Train

These are the length of the Class 390 and Class 807 trains.

  • Class 390/0 – nine-car – 217.5 metres
  • Class 390/1 – eleven-car – 265.3 metres
  • Class 807 – seven-car – 182 metres

Note.

  1. A ten-car Class 807 train would be 260 metres.This could be convenient, if more eleven-car Pendolinos were needed.
  2. The Class 807 train is thirty-five metres shorter, than the nine-car Pendolino.

As eleven-car Class 390 trains commonly run London Euston and Liverpool Lime Street, why would they need the Class 807 train to be shorter?

I think there is a clue in this picture.

It shows a Class 390 train in Liverpool South Parkway station.

  • At the time, Liverpool Lime Street station was closed for track remodelling.
  • Liverpool South Parkway was acting as Liverpool’s main terminus.
  • To accommodate the Pendolinos a temporary platform extension was built in the station.

Could it be that shorter trains were ordered to avoid the expense of lengthening the platforms at Liverpool South Parkway and perhaps other stations, that Avanti West Coast might serve?

The Current Service Between London Euston And Liverpool

The current London Euston and Liverpool Lime Street service is as follows.

  • There is one train per hour (tph)
  • The service calls at Milton Keynes Central, Stafford, Crewe and Runcorn.
  • All of the stations can accommodate an eleven-car Pendolino.
  • Trains take around an average of two hours and twelve minutes.
  • The first Northbound train leaves at 07:07 and the last at 21:07.
  • The first Southbound train leaves at 07:00 and the last at 20:48.

Services are generally run by eleven-car Class 390 trains, which gives a capacity of 589 passengers per hour.

I always think, there a need for a later train back to London, but then that could be said of many places.

A Possible Service From December 2022

Wikipedia says this.

  • There will be two tph.
  • The second service will call at Liverpool South Parkway station.

If two tph were to be run by Class 807 trains, this would give the following.

  • A capacity of 906 seats per hour.
  • This is a 54 % increase in capacity.

But if only the Liverpool South Parkway service was run by a Class 807 train and the other service was still run by an eleven-car Class 390 train, this would give the following.

  • A capacity of 1042 seats per hour.
  • This is a 77 % increase in capacity.

And all without expensive and disruptive platform extensions at Liverpool South Parkway station.

According to Wikipedia, the plans will need to be approved by the Office of Road and Rail.

How Fast Will A Class 807 Train Travel Between London Euston And Liverpool?

The Class 807 trains will have these features.

  • The trains will have no diesel engines or batteries. This must save weight and that means better acceleration.
  • The trains will have no tilt mechanism.. This must save weight and that means better acceleration.
  • The trains will have a new nose. Is it more aerodynamic, which would cause less drag and increase operating speed?

Would these features mean the Class 807 trains can match the performance of the Class 390 train, despite not having tilt?

There are also improvements on the West Coast Main Line, that have not been fully reflected in the timetable.

I did a full analysis about how a two-hour journey time might be achieved in Will Avanti West Coast’s New Trains Be Able To Achieve London Euston and Liverpool Lime Street In Two Hours? This analysis led me to these conclusions.

  • I am convinced that the new trains are designed for a two hour journey between London Euston and Liverpool Lime Street stations.
  • Refurbished Class 390 trains should also be able to do the same time.
  • I also calculated that nine trains would be needed for the two tph service, if they can arrange a fifteen minute turnround at both ends of the route. So would, the Class 807 trains be used on the Liverpool service to release newly-refurbished Class 390 trains to boost Blackpool and Birmingham services?

Alternatively, if the two services are run using eleven-car Class 390 trains for the current service and seven-car Class 807 trains for the one via Liverpool South Parkway, Avanti West Coast would need five of each train.

  • They could fit in thirty minute turnrounds at both ends of the route.
  • The mixed pair of trains would give a 77 % increase in capacity.
  • The Class 807 service would be a two-hour trip.
  • If the Class 390 service couldn’t match the time it could use current timings.

Whatever is done, it would be a flagship service between London and Liverpool.

The new trains will pay for themselves many times over, if this is the case, as a two-hour journey will surely attract passengers.

Organising The Service

If you really wanted to make the service simple and passenger-friendly, you would have dedicated platforms for the trains at both ends of the route.

  • In Liverpool Lime Street station trains seem to have used one platform for many years. Currently, they seem to be using Platform 9.
  • Surely, a similar arrangement could be setup at London Euston.

The service could also be setup with contactless ticketing, if that was felt the way things should be done.

Going The Whole Way

Suppose, that the London Euston  and Liverpool Lime Street service is very successful for any number of reasons.

  • The two hour journey time.
  • The all-electric service.
  • The doubling of the frequency.
  • The availability of more seats.
  • The expansion of Merseyrail into England’s first battery-electric Metro, which I wrote about in Chancellor To Fund £710m Merseyrail Expansion.
  • The cost of driving, due to a mileage charge on all journeys.

Will this lead to a need to expand the service?

If it does, the obvious way would be to lengthen Liverpool South Parkway station and run longer trains.

An Eleven-car Class 390 train would carry 589 passengers.

Adding three-cars to a seven-car and the train would still be shorter than an eleven-car Class 390 train, but it would carry around 650 passengers.

This would add an extra ten percent capacity to the route.

This would surely provide the capacity until High Speed Two arrives towards the end of the decade.

I do wonder if Avanti West Coast are using the London Euston  and Liverpool Lime Street service to experiment with how they might run High Speed Two services.

Conclusion

As a two tph service run by Class 807 trains in two hours would be over 4,500,000 seats in each direction, I feel that this will be a very popular and intensive service.

I feel that Avanti West Coast will need to apply lessons learned on sister company’s Lumo’s service between London Kings Cross and Edinburgh.

 

 

 

 

 

September 14, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments