This article in Rail Magazine is entitled Testing programme in place for first Class 88.
The Class 88 locomotive could revolutionise locomotive haulage on some routes in the UK.
It is a go anywhere locomotive with the ability to use 25 KVAC electric or onboard diesel power. Wikipedia says this.
The UK version will be able to run either on electrified lines using the pantograph, which will be the UK’s standard OHLE current at 25kV AC, or away from electrified lines with the Caterpillar C27 950 hp (710 kW) engine.
The diesel engine is not as powerful the 2.8 MW (3,800 hp) C175-16 engine fitted to its cousin the Class 68 locomotive, which is used by Chiltern on their Main Line services to Birmingham.
The Class 88 has a powerful dual-mode capability, with the locomotive being able to haul a train on diesel power, despite having only twenty percent of the power on electricity.
It will be interesting to see which routes these locomotives serve.
With the completion of the electrification of the Gospel Oak to Barking Line, the two major freight routes across North London will be electrified on much of their length, but some of the secondary routes like the Dudding Hill Line will not be electrified. Also, as many ports in the UK are not electrified, could we see Class 88 locomotives replacing Class 66 locomotives on some of the cross-London freights.
If Sadiq Khan is serious about pollution and noise, then he should push Network Rail and the rail freight companies to go for electric haulage on all routes across London.
I also wonder, if the diesel power of the Class 88, is enough to take a heavy freight train out of the Port of Felixstowe to join the Great Eastern Main Line for London,
The Class 88 is also capable of hauling passenger trains, so could we see them hauling rakes of coaches on long routes, which are only partially electrified.
- London to Holyhead
- London to Aberdeen
- London to Inverness
- London to Sunderland
It could be a suitable locomotive for sleeper services, especially if the Class 88 can work North of Edinburgh and Glasgow.
I suspect though initially, as there are only ten of the locomotives, they will be used in high-profile services with an ecological dimension.
- Services through sensitive areas for noise and pollution, where the line is electrified like North London are an obvious application.
- Direct Rail Services provide motive power for Tesco’s delivery from Daventry to Inverness, which is electrified a lot of the way. This would surely generate headlines if hauled by a Class 88 instead of a Class 66.
- It would be an ideal locomotive for a Whisky-Liner from Scotland to the South,
- Would BMW like it to haul their miniLiners from Oxford to the Channel Tunnel?
The last two applications ask if the locomotive could use the Channel Tunnel. I doubt that using the locomotive to take Minis all the way to Germany though, would be an efficient use of the locomotive, so at some point the locomotive would change. Being able to use the tunnel though, would enable the locomotive change to be made in either England or France.
I think that Stadler will see an order for more Class 88 locomotives before the end of the year. After all, the Class 68 locomotive fleet has continually grown since its introduction in 2013 and not stands at 25 in service and seven on order.
Railways in Ely must be a bit of a problem as they have their own section in Wikipedia.
This map shows the lines in the area.
This is a Google Map of the area.
The current Ely station is towards the South-West corner, with the iconic cathedral to the North. The main line goes South-West to North-East across the map with Ely North Junction alongside the white chalky area in the North-East corner.
What suggested that I write this post was this article in the Eastern Daily Press, which is entitled Talks in Downham Market hear work to end East Anglia’s rail bottleneck at Ely could begin in three years’ time.
Reading the title, is a good summary of the article.
So what are the problems at Ely?
Ely station was not designed for efficient operation.
The following services call at the station.
- Ipswich and Peterborough.
- Cambridge and Norwich.
- London, Cambridge and King Lynn.
- Stansted Airport and Birmingham.
- Norwich and Liverpool.
To make matters worse. the Norwich-Liverpool service has to reverse in the station.
Connectivity between services can be bad and I have read that passengers between Kings Lynn and Ipswich may have to wait up to nearly an hour for a connection.
Because the station has only three platforms, organising the trains into a sensible pattern, for train operators and passengers. must be a difficult process.
The station is not step-free and relies on long ramps to cross the lines.
The Low Road Bridge On The A142 At Ely Station
This is said in Wikipedia about the low bridge just to the North of the station.
The height available for road traffic passing beneath the bridge is only 9.0 feet (2.7 m) which is unusually low for a bridge over an A-road. Despite the various warnings, the limited headroom is a frequent cause of accidents. High vehicles must use a level crossing next to the bridge.
East Anglia’s legendary bad drivers, who seem to find new ways to cause chaos on the railways, must have real fun with this crossing.
According to this article on the BBC web site, the bridge was hit twelve times in 2015/16.
This Google Map shows Ely station.
Note that the level crossing is closed.
The Large Number Of Freight Trains Between Felixstowe And Peterborough
In Along The Felixstowe Branch, I said that the number of trains on the Felixstowe Branch could rise to 47. Not all will come through Ely station, but there could be a couple of long container trains in both direction every hour.
- The number of freight trains will increase.
- These freight trains can be up to 775 metres long and the average length will grow.
- Hawk Bridge over the Great Ouse on the Ipswich-Ely Line is only single-track, as is several miles of the line to Kennett station, where the Cambridge and Peterborough branches join.
All of these trains have to pass over the low bridge and through the level crossing.
Ely North Junction
Ely North Junction is a busy junction, where services to Kings Lynn, Norwich and Peterborough split.
This Google Map shows the junction.
Note the tracks come from Ely station to the South-West and split into three separate lines.
There is also.
- A single-track loop line called the West Curve, that allows traius to go between Peterborough and Norwich.
- A distribution depot by the junction.
One of the problems is that freight trains between Peterborough and Felixstowe pass on the Southern side of Ely station and need to cross the lines to connect to Peterborough.
Footpaths and where they cross the railway are a sensitive issue in the Ely area. This document on the Network Rail web site, illustrates some of the problems.
This is said in the document.
The railway at this level crossing carries passenger and freight trains with a line speed of 60 mph. There are generally 194 trains passing throughthis level crossing per day.
That sounds like a recipe for a serious accident to me.
The Opening Of Cambridge North Station
The new Cambridge North station is scheduled to open on the 21st May, 2017 and will initially be just a stop on all services passing through.
The Cambridge Effect
Cambridge is successful and overflowing.
Towns and cities like Bury St. Edmunds, Ely, Haverhill, Huntington, Newmarket and Peterborough will increasingly find that they become satellites of the East Anglian Mega-Powerhouse.
These towns and cities will need good transport links to Cambridge.
Rail links to both Cambridge and Cambridge North stations will be important.
The New Greater Anglia Franchise
Greater Anglia have published plans that will affect Ely.
- They will run an hourly service between Peterborough and Colchester via Bury St. Edmunds and Ipswich to replace the current less frequent service between Peterborough and Ipswich.
- They will run an hourly service between Norwich and Stansted Airport to replace the current less frequent service between Norwich and Cambridge.
- I have also read somewhere, that Greater Anglia would like to run a direct service between Cambridge North and Ipswich via Bury St. Edmunds.
- Fordham and Soham stations could be reopened.
Some of these changes will put more pressure on Ely, but they will have two very beneficial effects.
- A North-facing bay platform will be released at Cambridge station.
- There will be two trains per hour (tph) between Kennett and Ipswich via Bury St. Edmunds.
I suspect that Greater Anglia will bring in other changes.
The Reopening Of March To Spalding Via Wisbech
Network Rail has spent £330million on upgrading the Great Northern Great Eastern Joint Railway into a freight link between Peterborough and Doncaster, which I wrote about in Project Managers Having Fun In The East.
It might never happen, but why shouldn’t the route be extended from Spalding to March on the Peterbough-Ely Line via Wisbech?
This would open up two main possibilities.
- Freight trains between Felixstowe and Doncaster would avoid the East Coast Main Line to the South of Doncaster.
- A passenger service from Cambridge to Wisbech could be opened.
Other longer distance passenger services might be viable.
The East West Rail Link
The East West Rail Link will provide a new route from Cambridge to the West, via a new Cambridge South station.
It will add to the numbers of passenger trains through Ely, as services will probably go from Oxford to Norwich and Ipswich via all three Cambridge stations.
But will the East West Rail Link be used to route freight trains between Felixstowe and Wales and the West?
A Proposed Ely North Station
I have found this article on the Ely Standard web site, which is entitled Could railway revolution see new station built at Ely North?.
The article says a new four-platform station would allow.
- Two tph on the Fen Line
- Connections reduced to no more than eight minutes.
- The introduction of a Kings Cross to Norwich service.
The new station would probably have the following.
- More passenger-friendly features.
- A lot more car parking.
- Good walking access to the City Centre.
- Trains between Norwich and Liverpool would stop in the station and would use the West Curve to avoid reversing in the station.
With all the water in the area, there must be scope for an architecturally excellent station.
From a project management view, this station is a good idea.
- It could probably be built fairly easily without causing too much interruption to current services, as Cambridge North station seems to have been.
- Once open, the current Ely station could be demolished or simplified.
- The low bridge and the level crossing could then be replaced with a modern traffic underpass capable of handling trucks.
- Ely Dock Junction and the lines South of the City could be remodelled to speed the freight trains through the area.
There might even be a dive-under to simplify operations.
I have no idea if the good people of Ely will like the idea of a new station.
The extra freight traffic and the published plans of the Greater Anglia franchise will mean, that substantial work will have to be done at Ely.
- Network Rail have a long term ambition of dualling the whole route between Ely and Kennett including Hawk Bridge over the Great Ouse, which would certainly ease the problems of the freight trains.
- A new Ely North station may be created.
- Closing the level crossing and creating an underpass for traffic at Ely station, would be an obvious thing to do, but could this be done without closing the railway for several months? Construction companies could always use the technique they did at Silver Street station in the 1990s, to get the North Circular Road under that station.
- Eventually, there will be a need for a chord at Ely Dock Junction, so that trains can go direct from Cambridge to the Ipswich to Ely Line without a reverse in Ely station.
I’ll be interested to see what Network Rail propose.
I have just read this article on Global Rail News, which is entitled French Senate approves Lyon-Turin rail link.
That sounds easy until you read this from the Wikipedia entry.
Test drilling found some internally stressed coal-bearing schists that are poorly suited for a tunnel boring machine, and old-fashion Drilling and blasting will be used for the short corresponding sections.
It is not going to be a simple tunnelling job. It is more akin to some of the eighteenth and nineteenth century tunnels through the Pennines. Except that the tunnel will be 57 kilometres long and modern explosives are better.
It will carry a lot of freight, in addition to passengers from Paris and Lyon to Northern Italy.
But I doubt, I’ll ever be able to take a High Speed Train from London to Milan, as I’ll be long gone before everything is completed.
This article in the Railway Gazette is entitled First China to UK rail freight service arrives in London.
The article describes in detail how 34 containers came all the way to Barking by train.
It is very much a route-proving exercise at the moment and the UK shipment was effectively part of a larger shipment that was split at Duisburg
The trip can be summarised as follows.
- The trip took seventeen days, which was faster than container ship.
- The trip is slower, but a lot cheaper than air-freight.
- The trip is 12,000 kilometres.
- There were two changes to gauge and transshipment of the containers on the route.
It is intended to run the trains for three or four months to assess demand.
The article finishes like this.
The project supports the Chinese government’s One Belt, One Road trade connectivity initiative to create a modern-day Silk Road. According to DB around 40 000 containers were transported by rail along the routes between China and Europe in 2016, with journey times of between 12 and 16 days. Annual traffic is expected to increase to 100 000 containers by 2020.
If these figures are achieved, it certainly looks like the route could be approaching viability.
In How To Move 100,000 Containers A Year Between Germany And China, I wrote about German plans to create a standard gauge railway from Germany to China via Georgia, that would avoid Russia and all the gauge-changing.
Without the gauge-change, this would surely be a faster route, thus increasingly viability.
There’s going to be an interestimg commercial battle in the next bfew years between the various metods of getting freight between Europe and China.
This is the title of another article in the January 2017 Edition of Modern Railways.
I wasn’t sure where Aberthaw was, so I looked it up on the Internet and this Google Map shows Aberthaw Cement Works, Cardiff International Airport and the Vale of Glamorgan Railway, that links Cardiff Central station in the East to Bridgend in the West.
- The red arrow indicates the cement works.
- The Airport terminal is on the North side of the long runway,.
- Rhoose Cardiff International Airport railway station is on the other side of the runway and connected to the Airport by a sguttle bus.
- The line was closed by Beeching to passenger traffic in 1964, but was reopened in 2005.
Could Cardiff Airport benefit from the same sort of train-train link, that has been proposed for Glasgow that I wrote about in The Glasgow Airport Rail Link Will Be A Tram-Train?
But the map does illustrate the benefit of rail access to the cement works.
- The works is close the Vale of Glamorgan Line.
- Trains from the cement works can go East to places that need the product, including surprisingly, the South West of England.
- The rail link could cut the number of truck movements by 25%.
This would seem to be an ideal use for rail freight.
Are we doing enough to develop similar links, from other large factories all over the UK?
As the line is supposed to be electrified in a few years, could it be that a proper review of the line should be done first, to see whether any other projects should be done at the same time.
The reason I say this, is that the history of the line is much the same as that of the Grand Old Duke of York and his soldiers.
I came into Ipswich station today on a train from Lowestoft and took these pictures before I got on a train to London.
They would appear to show the following.
- An electrified line has been created to the North of Ipswich Yard between the Felixstowe Branch Line and Ipswich station.
- Some construction on the far side of the siding that lies next to the platform used for Lowestoft and Felixstowe trains.
Could the construction, be tye start of work for a dedicated platform for the Felixstowe Branch?
Consider the following about traffic on the Felixstowe Branch Line.
- According to this article in Rail Magazine, there are now twenty-three daily freight trains out of Felixstowe.
- The freight trains are getting longer and I have seen trains hauled by a pair of Class 66 locomotives.
- Passenger trains are a single-car Class 153 train every hour.
- The Class 153 train takes twenty-six minutes.
- The line is around fifteen miles of unelectrified line.
- The Freightliner motive power depot is going to be moved from Ipswich to Felkixstowe.
- The December 2016 Edition of Modern Railways is saying that a 1.4 km loop will be built on the branch and six level crossings will be closed.
Despite the last two points, the single track branch line must be very much full.
There are also issues with the Class 153 trains at Ipswich.
- Do they sometimes find it difficult to get through all the freight trains to the bay platform at Ipswich?
- Sometimes, they use the end of the main platform 2, but as the Flirts will be longer, this won’t be possible when the new trains arrive.
- Various reports have said that two bay platforms are needed; one for Felixstowe services and one for Lowestoft services.
We don’t know their actual plans, but Greater Anglia would probably love to put a modern electric train on the Ipswich-Felixstowe route.
Electrification of the Felixstowe Branch is not even likely.
- Electrification of the Felixstowe Branch without wiring all the way to Nuneaton would probably not be good value for money.
- Where would Freightliner get all the electric locomotives?
- The Port of Felixstowe isn’t wired and might not want wires all over the place with cranes everywhere!
- The Gospel Oak to Barking Line will be electrified and what effects will this have?
The only bright spot on the horizon is Greater Anglia’s new Flirts, which could release fifteen well-maintained and reliable Class 90 locomotives.
A modern two-coach train, even if it was a diesel, would have benefits.
- It would be faster and thus scheduling the crowded route could be easier.
- It might attract more passengers to the line, especially, if there was space for bicycles and buggies.
- It should be more reliable.
But I suspect Greater Anglia would want an electric train with all the trimmings.
So am I right, that a new electrified line has been created into the station in a place where a new platform can be created?
- I might be wrong and it could have been there for years to enable the movements of electric locomotives, without blocking the main line.
- But there are certainly modern style gantries and supports for the overhead wires.
- The existing bay platform 1 is wired. Why? No current or possible electric services could use the platform.
But something is certainly happening.
- Is it a new platform or just tidying up?
- Is it a walkway to enable train drivers to get to locomotives in Ipswich Yard?
- Is it a short platform to take up to a two-car train?
There is one other possibility, that fits with my observations at Maidenhead and the Marlow Branch, that I wrote about in Bourne End Station And Improving The Marlow Branch Line.
At Maidenhead, I came to the conclusion, that electric trains (Class 387s?) with on-board energy storage were going to be used on the Marlow Branch to Bourne End, with a diesel shuttle between Bourne End and Marlow.
Is the current Platform 1 at Ipswich, which could probably accommodate a five-car Aventra going to be used in the same way?
Consider how an electric train with on-board energy storage, would work the Ipswich-Felixstowe service.
- I’ll assume that a fully-charged train starts from the new depot at Manningtree or some othe suitable overnight stabling.
- The train positions early in the morning for the first service from Felixstowe, using overhead power to Ipswich and on-board power on the branch.
- Passengers load at Felixstowe and the train proceeds to Ipswich under on-board power to the current Platform 1 at Ipswich.
- The train would sneak into the platform on the North side of Ipswich Yard, well out of the way of the Great Eastern Main Line and any freight movements.
- If the platform was busy and the train had to wait at a signal, it could even up pantograph to start the recharging of the on-board storage.
- Once in Platform 1, the train would either start or continue the charging process.
- The pantograph would be lowered, when the charging was complete or the train was approaching the limit of the overhead wiring on its way out to Felixstowe.
The process would continue all day.
But Aventras will be a clever train. This is a snippet from an article in the Derby Telegraph.
Unlike today’s commuter trains, Aventra can shut down fully at night and can be “woken up” by remote control before the driver arrives for the first shift.
So could we see a train parked at Felixstowe overnight, ready for the driver to get into a nice warm train?
I used to live round the corner from Felixstowe station and as the train would be in full view of the Police Station opposite and electrifically dead, I doubt there would be any security problem.
A five-car Aventra parked overnight with an appropriate all-over paint scheme might even encourage new passengers to give it a try.
Obviously, the suitable Aventra doesn’t exist yet, but putting in a new short platform 0 at Ipswich station, that can accept a three-car train, would mean.
- Platform 2 would no longer be needed for terminating trains at Ipswich.
- Twelve-car Flirts could work the London-Norwich services, without terminating services interfering.
- Felixstowe and Lowestoft services would have a short platform 0 and a longer platform 1, to use appropriately.
- The infrastructure would be ready for the Aventra with on-board storage.
But surely the biggest advantage is that a second bay platform would probably be to make it possible to schedule all trains such that if passengers were changing between the various lines to Bury St. Edmunds, Cambridge, Felixstowe, London, Lowestoft and Norwich, it was a convenient process of less than ten minutes.
Whether an Aventra with on-board storage will ever appear on this route is unknown at present, but there could be other advantages to running such a train on the Felixstowe Branch.
- Electrification of the branch can be kicked into some very long grass or buried at sea.
- The branch gets a massive increase in passenger capacity, without losing any paths for freight trains.
- The extra capacity with plenty of space for bicycles and buggies.
- Greater Anglia get a line for training drivers to use on-board storage.
- Bombardier get a demonstration of a train with on-board energy storage.
It could be a win for all parties.
Liverpool2 is the Port of Liverpool’s new extension to handle the largest container ships.
They were reporting from it today on BBC’s One Show, as it will official open tomorrow.
- It can handle two of the largest container ships at the same time.
- It can handle 95% of the global container fleet.
- The Canada Dock branch is being upgraded, so it can handle 48 trains per day.
Depending what you read, Peel Ports are investing up to £750million in upgrading their port of Liverpool and the Manchester Ship Canal.
This article in the Liverpool Echo is entitled Liverpool port’s Panama deal could boost transatlantic trade from city.
This is said.
Bosses at the Port of Liverpool have signed a deal with the Panama Canal’s owners they say could create jobs and help boost trade across the Atlantic.
Peel Ports has signed an agreement with the Panama Canal Authority, which runs the vital waterway that connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
The Memorandum of Understanding aims to grow trade links between Liverpool and the west coast of America via the Panama Canal.
So will that bottle of Chilean wine have arrived in the UK, via the Panama Canal and Liverpool?
I remember reading somewhere or I might have been told by someone in the University, that if you send goods by container ship from the Americas to Europe, that going via Liverpool and then using a train, takes a day off the journey, than going via Rotterdam.
So Liverpool can exploit its position at one end of the Blue Banana. I wrote more about this in Have You Heard about…the New European Transport Strategy?, which I wrote when the Gotthard Base Tunnel was completed.
It’ll be interesting to see how much of the container traffic through Liverpool in a few years time is coming from or going to mainland Europe.
With many goods, speed is paramount and Liverpool’s position may give it an advantage.
Incidentally, one of the main reasons for HS2, is to create freight paths between the Liverpool, Birmingham, London and the Channel Tunnel, on the West Coast Main Line, by reducing the passenger trains on the line,
Where the trouble is going to come is in London, as freight trains between Liverpool and Europe will have to come through Camden, Islington and Hackney. At least, they’re electrifying the missing link between Gospel Oak and Barking.
The November 2016 Edition of Modern Railways has an article about the new Class 88 locomotive.
It is an electro-diesel locomotive, than can run on both overhead electric power or its own onboard diesel engine.
This is said.
The loco can transition from electric to diesel power on the move, dropping the pantograph without losing speed.
That must make operation very flexible.
I wonder if all bi-mode trains and locomotives can do this!
Coal still claims victims, but these days, the biggest ones are economic and corporate.
In the United States, this article has been published on Bloomberg, with a title of Coal Slump Sends Mining Giant Peabody Energy Into Bankruptcy.
The article makes these points.
Biggest U.S. producer felled by cheap gas, China slowdown
Environmental costs could complicate miner’s reorganisation
How many US pensions have lost value because Peabody was considered a safe investment?
As fracked cheap gas is given as the reason for Peabody’s fall, don’t think that the US is swapping one dirty fuel for another!
- When you burn coal, which is virtually pure carbon with impurities, you create a lot of carbon dioxide and spread the impurities, which are sometimes quite noxious over a wide area.
- But natural gas is mainly methane, which is one carbon atom and four of hydrogen. So burning gas creates a lot of water, as well as less carbon.
I seem to remember that to get the same amount of heat energy from natural gas, as from a given quantity of coal, you only create about forty percent of the carbon dioxide.
This page on the US Energy Information Administration probably can lead you to the answer.
In the UK, there are two recent stories on Global Rail News.
Rail freight is going through a bit of a crisis in the UK, because we are burning much less coal in power stations.
As coal is moved to power stations by diesel-hauled trains in the UK, from open-cast sites and the ports, the burning of less coal in power stations is having a serious effect on rail freight companies.
At least, if any train drivers are made redundant, there are plenty of vacancies for drivers of passenger trains and I’ve yet to meet a freight train driver, you likes the dreaded Class 66 locomotives, with all their noise, vibration and smell, that generally pull coal trains.
But it’s not all bad news, as this article from the Railway Gazette, which is entitled Freightliner wagons use recycled coal hopper components, shows. This is said.
Freightliner has taken delivery of the first of 64 open wagons which are being built by Greenbrier Europe using bogies and brake components recovered from coal hoppers made redundant as a result of the decline in coal traffic.
Freightliner Heavy Haul needed a fleet of high capacity box wagons for a new contract to haul construction materials for Tarmac, and decided to investigate the possibility of using recycled parts from redundant Type HHA 102 tonne coal hoppers. With assistance from engineering consultancy SNC Lavalin, Freightliner and Greenbrier Europe identified that with some modifications the bogies and some of the braking equipment would be compatible with an existing design of Greenbrier box wagon.
To a small extent, the movement of aggregates around the country by rail instead of truck, is replacing the coal trains on the the railways.