The Anonymous Widower

I Will Just Carry On

I feel this morning, just like I did on the 2nd May 1997, which was the day Tony Blair became Prime Minister.

I was slightly apprehensive then as to what is going to happen, as after John Major’s government had fallen, I wondered what a left-wing Government would do to the economy.

But I feel that just as John Major and Kenneth Clarke left Blair an economy that worked, I believe that David Cameron and especially George Osborne have left the country in a state to live with or without the EU.

I was very much for staying in, but since the vote only one large company has expressed regrets as this article in the Daily Post, which is entitled EU Referendum: Airbus assessing impact of ‘disappointing’ Brexit vote, details.

But I am an Englishman and especially a London mongrel, with genes stolen from all the best parts of Europe.

I grew up with stories from my parents and others of the Blitz, in the midst of some of the worst air pollution, any child has ever had to endure.

Since then, I lived through the bombings of the Irish troubles and although I wasn’t in London for the bombings of the 7th July 2005, I know many who were. Perhaps the biggest terrible event, that happened near me was the Moorgate Tube Crash of 1975, which was less than 200 metres from where I lived in the Barbican.

Londoners will do what they always do in times of troubles and that is just carry on! It’s in their genes.

My genes from the Tailor of Bexley, did for a few hours about running, but my solid Devonian genes, told the others to wait and let’s see what happens first.

I said that David Cameron and George Osborne have left the country in a good state for the future.

For years, this country has been too centralised, so giving power to the regions and big cities will become Osborne’s legacy.

If Manchester wants to develop its trams or city centre, or build offices, housing and factories, that should be Manhester’s decision and should not be decided by the dead hand of London.

Scotland’s new bid for independence, is a good thing, and it is a consequence of devolved government.

I can for instance envisage a time in say a hundred years, where London becomes a powerful independent city-state. In the nineteenth century we had several of those; Birmingham, Glasgow, Liverpool, Leeds, London, Manchester and Sheffield.

That model for the UK will return.

If you look at the most powerful country in Europe; Germany already has that model with Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, the Ruhr cities and Stuttgart dominating.

But look at France! What Paris and the elite want, they impose!

Perhaps the biggest consequence of Brexit, will be a desire for the people of Europe to have more independence from their own Central Government.

 

June 25, 2016 Posted by | World | , , , , | 2 Comments

Adonis Promises Milk And Honey In The Future, But The North Needs Unblocking Now!

I don’t have much time for Lord Adonis, as I always think that unelected politicians who change sides are a bit like the Vicar of Bray.

And lets face it, he was part of Tony Blair’s gang of idiots, who felt that licking Dubya’s arse and making war in Afghanistan and Iraq was more important than creating proper transport links across the north.

But they were only following the lead set by Harold Wilson, when he cancelled the Picc-Vic Tunnel. Wikipedia says this about how the need for the tunnel has been and is being fulfilled.

In 1992, the Metrolink system opened and linked both stations via tram, negating the requirement for a direct rail connection to an extent. In 2011, the Ordsall Chord was announced; it is an overground railway scheme designed to directly link Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria in a comparable fashion to Picc-Vic.

Wouldn’t it have been better to dig the tunnel in the first place?

I heard Lord Haskins and Chris Hyomes from Railfuture on Wake Up To Money this morning and they were aggressive in demanding that something happen sooner rather than later.

After my last trip to Huddersfield and writing Welcome To Huddersfield, I can say, that the Class 185 trains are a sick joke inflicted on the North by Tony Blair as Prime Minister and Gordon Brown as Chancellor. The trains are both too short and to few in number.

And then we have Lord Adonis saying on BBC Breakfast, that the line needs to be electrified as soon as possible.

So how long will the misery of the TransPennine routes continue before the line is electrified? 2022 is mentioned!

In my view there are four solutions for acceptable trains across the Pennines.

  1. Introduce the first bi-mode Class 800 trains on the route.
  2. Introduce the first bi-mode Class 800 trains on the East Coast to release InterCity 125s for the route.
  3. Introduce some locomotive-hauled stock.
  4. Create Class 387 trains with an IPEMU capability, so they could use energy storage to bridge the electrification gaps.

One of these must be implemented before the end of this year.

The first two options are impossible, as the Class 800 trains won’t be ready for passenger service until 2017.

I also think that Option 3 would be unacceptable to passengers, but is probably impossible, as there are no modern diesel locomotives available and probably very few coaches in good condition.

So we’re left with the Class 387 IPEMUs.

  • They are modern four car electric trains, with everything passengers expect. Only wi-fi is missing.
  • The IPEMU technology was successfully demonstrated in early 2015 using a Class 379 train.
  • I rode the demonstrator and was impressed for what that is worth!
  • Bombardier have won awards for the technology.
  • There are well upwards of twenty four-car trains available or being built, that could be modified.
  • There are rumours that IPEMUs could be used on the Great Western.
  • They can work in eight or twelve car trains, where platforms allow.
  • They can travel for over fifty miles on battery power, after charging on electrified track. So Leeds to Manchester is no problem!
  • Liverpool to Newcastle and Edinburgh via Leeds could be served by 110 mph electric trains.

Would a Northern Powerhouse built on battery trains be acceptable to politicians?

In my view, it will have to be, as Derby-built Bombardier Class 387 trains with an IPEMU capability are all we’ve got.

I shall be listening to George Osborne tomorrow!

March 15, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Are The Class 387 Trains Getting Excited?

I travelled from Blackfriars to St. Pancras on one of Thameslink’s Class 387 trains.

With only a couple of hours to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, are these trains getting excited about visiting places they never thought they would?

Since I wrote Rumours of Battery Powered Trains a few months ago, nothing has been heard. In that article I quoted from Modern Railways, who said this about future orders for Class 387 trains.

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 IPEMU is Network Rail’s term for a part-time battery train, that has the same performance as a standard train.

It is a deafening silence!

There has been nothing heard about electrification either, except the award of the contract for the Gospel Oak to Barking Line to J. Murphy and Sons as reported in this article in Rail Technology.

So is it a case of no news is good news for electrification?

I still believe that a fleet of Class 387 IPEMUs could be used to extend electrification by stealth, into areas, where everybody thinks it is impossible to go.

I would use them to run these routes for a start.

  • Liverpool to Newcastle – There is one gap of 43 miles between Leeds and Manchester
  • Blackpool to Scarborough – There might need to be some electrification at Scarborough
  • Liverpool to Hull – There might need to be some electrification at Hull
  • Euston to Blackpool
  • Euston to Chester
  • St. Pancras to Corby
  • St. Pancras to Leicester – There might need to be some electrification at Leicester
  • Kings Cross to Hull
  • Kings Cross to Harrogate
  • Kings Cross to Lincoln
  • Kings Cross to Middlesbrough
  • Kings Cross to Sunderland
  • Liverpool Street to Lowestoft
  • Liverpool Street to Norwich via Ely
  • Ipswich to Cambridge
  • Ipswich to Peterborough
  • Paddington to Oxford, Newbury and Bedwyn
  • St. Pancras to Ashford, Hastings and Eastbourne
  • London Bridge to Uckfield
  • Assorted Branch Lines to Barrow, Felixstowe, Greenford, Maidenhead, Marlow, Windermere and Yarmouth

On many of these lines, IPEMUs could run as soon as they are built or modified from existing trains!

If anybody doubts the concept, it could be proven on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line in North London.

So how does electrification figure in George Osborne’s statement?

Note these points!

  • Electrification cuts carbon emmissions.
  • Electric trains are faster and more efficient.
  • Electrification needs to be done all over the country, so a lot of areas will benefit.
  • It looks like there are upwards of thirty Class 387 trains, that have nowhere to go! But fitted with batteries they do!
  • Using battery trains means that the costs and disruption of electrification are reduced.

If electrification is enabled using battery trains, it will be the biggest rabbit any Chancellor has ever pulled!

 

November 25, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Battery Trains In Japan

Some think I’m wrong about battery trains and believe they will never catch on! But none of the doubters are engineers or physicists, and perhaps more importantly none rode the amazing Class 379 BEMU, when it was being trialled last year in Essex.

I have just searched for battery trains and found this article on the Rail Journal web site entitled Battery-Electric Trains For Japan’s Oga Line. This is said.

EAST Japan Railway Company (JR East) has announced plans to carry out trials with ac battery-electric multiple units (BEMUs) on the 26.6km Oga Line in Japan’s northern Akita prefecture from Spring 2017.

But this is not an experiment, as this is said later.

The Oga Line will be the second line on the JR east network to benefit from BEMU operation, following the introduction of EV-E301 series trains on the Karasuyama Line in Tochigi Prefecture in March 2014.

If the Japanese use BEMU (IPEMU in the UK!) technology in daily service, it can’t be their version of Mickey Mouse! The train is called an EV-E301, and looks a professional train, even if a bit spartan for use in the UK.

I just wonder when George Osborne makes his Autumn Statement today, will he be announcing new battery-electric trains or IPEMUs for all?

In my view, it’s the only way to electrify large parts of the UK and reduce the costs of electrification!

 

 

November 25, 2015 Posted by | Finance, Transport | , , , | 2 Comments

Torotrak Share Price Rises

On of my Google Alerts picked up this article from www.financialmagazin.com which is entitled How Analysts Feel About Torotrak plc After Today’s Huge Increase?

Torotrak is an engineering company behind some kinetic energy recovery systems, that are seen in motor sport like Formula One. But the technology also has applications in the general motor industry to save fuel and we all know the hole VW has dug for itself.

But could the rise in the share price be driver by the big event happening tomorrow – The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement?

Probably not, but Torotrak’s system might be part of a suitable energy storage system for an Independently Powered Electrical Multiple Unit or IPEMU.

One of George Osborne’s biggest problems is funding the electrification of the railways, as if we are to modernise this country, then most rail lines need to be electrified or at least provided with modern trains.

I believe that the IPEMU is one solution to reduce costs, by avoiding the horrendous problems and costs of putting up the wires.

So will George go for it?

November 24, 2015 Posted by | Finance, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

The National Infrastructure Commission Is Welcomed By Warwickshire

This article on Rail News is entitled Warwickshire rail campaigners welcome news of National Infrastructure Commission and it discusses the struggles of local campaigners trying to restore the rail line between Stratford-on-Avon and Honeybourne, on the North Cotswold Route. Wikipedia says this about the plans.

The Shakespeare Line Promotion Group is promoting a scheme to reinstate the 9 miles (14 km) “missing Link” between Honeybourne and Stratford. Called the “Avon Rail Link”, the scheme (supported as a freight diversionary route by DB Schenker) would make Stratford-upon-Avon railway station a through station once again with improved connections to the Cotswolds and the South. The scheme faces local opposition. There is, however, a good business case for Stratford-Cotswolds link.

Note this could also be a freight diversion route.

Last year, I went to Stratford-on-Avon and wrote Stratford Upon Avon Station Is Getting A Facelift.

I hinted at more services to come and linked to the Wikipedia comments above.

To return to the Rail News article, it says some interesting things like this.

A NIC could overcome one of the biggest hurdles that has existed for decades. For mainly no other reason the route from Stratford to Honeybourne straddles two government regional boundaries (West Midlands and South West) two Network Rail regions (Chiltern/West Midlands and Western), three County Councils, three District Councils and two Local Enterprise Partnerships.

Is anybody in charge? Perhaps the NIC will be. This is said on visitors to Stratford-on-Avon.

Stratford only attracts six per cent of visitors to the town to travel by rail, while the national average for visitors by rail to similar UK rail-connected tourist destinations is over double that, at 13 per cent.

As the line has a good case for reopening and Stratford-on-Avon station has been upgraded, perhaps this is a project that should be looked at seriously.

We are probably going to live in a new era if George Osbourn’s plans for business rate reform come to fruition, which might see progressive Councils developing infrastructure to enable business, housing and tourism opportunities.

Surely a reconstructed line from Stratford-on-Avon to Cheltenham would tick a few boxes.

There is a major prize at the Cheltenham end if Cheltenham Racecourse, which is one of the busiest in the UK, could be linked to the main line rail network at Cheltenham Spa station. The Google Map shows the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway going past the racecourse, where there is already a station.

Cheltenham Racecourse

Cheltenham Racecourse

Unfortunately, there is a supermarket which is partially blocking the route between the racecourse and Cheltenham Spa station.

These are the sort of problems that a National Infrastructure Commission should have the power to solve or dismiss as insoluble.

Watching National Hunt racing at Cheltenham is one of the  great sporting spectacles of the British Isles and a viable rail service to the course from London and Oxford needs to be created.

October 5, 2015 Posted by | Sport, Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Northern Electrification Going To Use Battery Trains?

This report on the BBC is entitled Network Rail to restart electrification of train lines. This is said.

The electrification of two railway lines is to be restarted after the projects were halted so a review could be carried out, the government says.

Work on the TransPennine Express Railway – between Manchester and York – and Midland Mainline – from London to Sheffield – was paused in June.

Sir Peter Hendy, chair of Network Rail, said the “temporary pause” had “given us the space to develop a better plan”

The Aventra IPEMU

Looking at the electrification of the two lines in posts over the previous few days, I have come to the conclusion that properly engineered battery trains built by Bombardier in Derby called Aventra IPEMUs (Independently Powered Electrical Multiple Units) could charge their batteries on existing sections of electrification and jump the gaps at speeds of up to at least 110 mph and possibly 125 mph, by running on batteries.

If that sounds like something that is too good to be true, I don’t believe it is! I was impressed when as a paying passenger, I rode the prototype train between Manningtree and Harwich.

For those who think that a battery train is just so-much Mickey Mouse-technology, note that the battery supplier; Valence is linked to Tessla; the electric vehicle manufacturer. A review of their latest car is on Autocar. The biggest problem with the car is not the power, range and performance, but the time it takes to charge the car from a typical supply. In addition to the overhead wire or third rail of the railway, an Aventra IPEMU has to charge the battery, the train will also charge the batteries using the regenerative braking system.

The TransPennine Line

On the TransPennine Line from Liverpool to Newcastle, the only gap in the electrification is the forty-three miles between Leeds and Manchester.

Aventra IPEMUs have a range of sixty miles, so Liverpool to Newcastle would be electric all the way and could be faster by up to thirty minutes on the current three hour journey.

Read Jumping The Electrification Gap Between Leeds And Manchester for full details on what it would entail.

The Midland Main Line

On the Midland Main Line, the electrification reaches from St. Pancras to Bedford.

As Corby, Kettering and Leicester are all within an Aventra IPEMU’s range from Bedford, these places could be served by these trains, once a certain amount of track and station work had been completed.

Read Thoughts On Midland Main Line Electrification for full details.

Delivering The Projects

The BBC article says this about the schedule.

The TransPennine upgrade is expected to provide capacity for six “fast or semi-fast trains” per hour between Manchester, Leeds and York , reducing journey times by up to 15 minutes.

The Manchester to York section of the work is now planned to be completed by 2022.

Once completed, the whole line from Liverpool to Newcastle will be fully electrified, the Department for Transport added.

The electrification of Midland Mainline north of Bedford to Kettering and Corby will now be completed by 2019, and the line north of Kettering to Leicester, Derby, Nottingham and to Sheffield will finish by 2023.

My project management knowledge and observations of Network Rail, say that to get electric trains to Kettering and Corby by 2019, would be a very tight schedule to perform on a working railway using conventional electrification!

But if it were needed to replace the current Class 222 trains with Aventra IPEMUs, it would just be a matter of certifying the line for the new Aventra IPEMUs and training the drivers and other staff.

There would be little or no work outside in the elements and all of the electrification would effectively be done in a comfortable warm factory at Derby!

I also feel that if say Network Rail said that the projects would be delivered on a particular date, that the risk of non-delivery would be very small.

Aventra IPEMUs can’t be delivered earlier, as the Derby factory will be jammed solid with production of Aventras for Crossrail.

On the other hand to prove the concept, would Bombardier modify a Class 387 train to create an IPEMU variant to run in passenger service between St.Pancras and Corby. Note that there have already been rumours of Class 387 IPEMU variants for Great Western Railway.

I wouldn’t be surprised if such a train is created, as it would be a superb way to identify any problems, train staff, prove the credibility of battery trains to a sceptical public and even deliver  electric trains earlier.

A Cunning Plan

There are twenty seven Class 387 trains running on the Thameslink route at the moment, that will be replaced by Class 700 trains between 2016 and 2018.

As the Great Western Main Line won’t be electrified to Newbury, Swindon and Oxford until 2019 or whatever, there does seem to be the possibility of some very new Class 387 trains going into storage.

But as they are very similar to the Class 379 that was used for the IPEMU demonstrator, I do wonder if those clever engineers at Bombardier could convert some of these 110 mph trains into an IPEMU variant that could be used on services on TransPennine and the Midland Main Line.

If there were any spare Class 379 trains, I’m sure that other train companies would find a use for them! Especially, if Bombardier developed a plug-in battery system for the trains, so they could be used to prove if IPEMUs improved the lot of passengers on secondary lines.

You have to make your assets sweat.

Conclusion

I may be wrong, but I can’t see any other way to meet the schedule that has been published, unless some form of IPEMU is used to bridge the gaps in electrification..

It could be said that the North needs fast electric trains now and George Osborne needs them by 2020, as he has an election to win!

It might not matter much to most people if the trains didn’t run until say August 2020, but George Osborne would be unlikely to win an election in May 2020, if the trains were not delivered and running smoothly.

 

September 30, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Open Letter To George Osborne About Teeside

I should say, I have no connection to Teeside, except that I quite like the area.

There is little that can be done about SSI Redcar, other than hope for a miracle, as there is so much steel being produced in the world, that the price will only get lower and the plant will get less and less economic.

I also live in Dalston, which since the arrival of the London Overground five years ago, has very much gone up in the world! And in some ways, like employment, gone up for those at all levels in society.

So I very much feel, that improving a railway and other forms of public transport, can only make an area more attractive for investment, employment, living and leisure.

Teeside has been lobbying for a Metro for years, to link the knit the area together.

There is only one way that this can be provided in the absolutely necesary short time-scale.

The railway line between Newton Aycliffe and Middlebrough should be electrified, as soon as possible. Immediately, this would enable.

  • The new trains being produced at Newton Aycliffe by Hitachi, to get to the East Coast Main Line under their own power.
  • Direct electric train services between Middlesbrough, Darlington and all points North and South from Edinburgh to London on the East Coast Main Line.

Northern Rail or their successor have been mandated in the new Invitation to Tender for the franchise to provide 120 new carriages to replace the disgusting Pacer trains.

Some of these new carriages should be the IPEMU variant of the new Aventra trains, being produced by Bombardier at Derby, which could by the use of the electrification at Middlesbrough and on the East Coast Main Line and the trains on-board batteries be able to run on the following routes.

  • Saltburn to Bishop Auckland via Middlesbrough and the Tees Valley Line
  • Hexham to Nunthorpe via the Tyne Valley Line, Newcastle, Sunderland, the Durham Coast Line, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough.
  • Middlesbrough to Whitby could be done later.

The faster electric trains would increase capacity, decrease journey times and improve frequencies.

The only construction needed for the new trains, would be a small amount of platform lengthening and adjustments to the track and signalling.

 

 

September 29, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Are There Secondary Effects In The Budget?

I have a feeling that there could be some secondary effects from the budget and particularly the announcement of a National Living Wage.

Nowhere will this measure be felt more than at the bottom end of the employers. If you read the tabloids, you get the impression that dodgy low-quality businesses are the big employers of illegal immigrants, keeping them in squalor and paying them in cash, if they’re lucky.

With a solidly enforced living wage, will this make it more difficult for these companies and operators to survive, so this country might be less of a magnet for illegal immigrants. I don’t know, but a higher level of living wage gives the Tax Authorities a good reason to investigate the sort of businesses who rely on no-questions-asked labour.

I very much watch innovation in the media and also have been in touch several times with universities in the last few years. I think we’ll see companies using their local innovators to make sure they support their now more highly-paid employees. I know several universities are giving students real projects in local companies.

So will we be pushing our employment up-market? I think we will!

As an example, an industry that we all seem to use more these days are couriers to deliver the goods we’ve bought on-line. They have got so much better over the last few years and that is just not the delivery reliability, but the staff as well, who seem to be polite and very much on-the-ball. Incidentally, most staff who’ve delivered to me lately seem to have been British born and educated.

I don’t know what will happen in the next few years, but I have a feeling that the Chancellor’s announcements may be helping to move the country on from a low-wage, low-skilled and badly-supported work force to one where a job, where you work hard and efficiently gives you a real living wage.

Of course Labour think that the restructuring of Tax Credits will mean many will lose out. But then Labour’s solution to a low-wage, low-skill economy was to pay people at the low-end to do nothing or crap jobs.

The other thing the Chancellor must do to help, is make sure that our transport links are improved. It’s one thing to get a job and often it’s a much more difficult thing to get to that job every day. You just have to see what the Overground and the fleets of new buses have done for Hackney and the surrounding boroughs, here in London, over the past few years.

 

July 9, 2015 Posted by | Finance, Transport, World | , , , | 4 Comments

The Train Now Arriving Is Fifty Years Late

When I went to Liverpool University in October 1965. According to Wikipedia, electric trains between London and Liverpool and Manchester, started public service in April 1966. I can remember once taking a late train to London from Liverpool and a time of five hours forty minutes stricks in my mind.

The electric service between the North West and London is faster and more frequent now, but in some ways services between London and Blackpool and other places, is worse than it was in the 1960s, when there were direct trains.

In addition Leeds and Newcastle were connected to London by an electrified East Coast Main Line in 1990.

Over the last fifty years, since I first emerged into Lime Street, Liverpool and Leeds have developed local electric railways and Manchester has created a tram network. On the negative side, the electrified railway between Manchester and Sheffield has been ripped out.

The contempt for the North shown by successive Governments under Wilson, Callaghan, Heath, Thatcher, Major, Blair and Brown, by not even creating a plan to build a modern electrified railway from Liverpool to Newcastle and Hull, is one of the greatest political disgraces in this country, ranking with the day that Chamberlain thought he’d got a deal with Hitler.

But now, that plan is emerging to create that railway that the French or the Italians would have built before the 1970s. It’s here on the BBC and this is the first two paragraphs.

Plans to overhaul transport across the North of England, including with multi-billion pound rail schemes, have been laid out by the government.

The Northern Transport Strategy report details what George Osborne believes will create a “northern powerhouse”.

It contains a long-term plan to improve road links and speed up train times between major cities.

This plan or at least a simpler one which only used 100 mph trains, should have been created in the 1960s. All those politicians who failed the north should hang their heads in shame.

I blame Harold Wilson in particular, as surely being a Yorkshireman representing a Lancashire constiuency, he should have known the value of good rail links across the country.

I suppose that until recently, trains didn’t get any votes outside London and the South East, but wide and empty new motorways do.

In some ways, I find that all the rail developments in the North are being driven, by that most unlikely champion; the St. Pauls and Oxford-educated Tory Chancellor; George Osborne, who said this about the plans according to the BBC report.

Connecting up the great cities of the North is at the heart of our plan to build a northern powerhouse.

From backing high-speed rail to introducing simpler fares right across the North, our ambitious plans for transport mean we will deliver a truly national recovery where every part of the country will share in Britain’s prosperity.

But then Osborne is someone, who spent a lot of their formative years in London. I suspect as a teenager he roamed all over the city on the Underground and the buses, as I did. It is the sort of experience, that gives you the opinion that good public transport is a necessity for prosperity for all those who live and work in an area.

Sorting out the public transport in the North with electrified fast trains and contactless ticketing at its heart, should be something that anybody standing in the May election should be made to sign up to, before they are allowed to be a candidate.

 

March 21, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , | 1 Comment