The Anonymous Widower

How A Sketch On A Piece Of Paper Became An £85m Rail Bridge

The title of this post is the same as an article on inews, which describes the design process for the bridge over the Irwell in Manchester, which is the centrepiece of the Ordsall Chord.

It is a fascinating insight into the design of what could become Manchester’s new icon.

August 17, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

An Exciting New Aventra

The title of this post is the title of an article in Rail Engineer.

It is actually dated the 31st of January 2014, so you might think it is out of date.

But surely, with the first Aventras appearing in service, now is the time to revisit.

I found the article this morning by accident and it is a fascinating read, Especially when you consider the article was written before the train had received any orders. Bombardier had actually just missed out on the Thameslink order, which resulted in the Class 700 trains.

A Blank Sheet Of Paper

The loss of the Thameslink order allowed Bombardier to start from scratch.

This paragraph indicates one of their start points.

And then we looked at it and thought we’ve also got depot engineers from Strathclyde to Surrey, all over the place, all looking after these trains in the field. How are they performing? Is there something we can do better there?

As the article says Aventra was reborn after Thameslink!

They also talked extensively to possible customers.

Suppliers

Suppliers were invited on board and given space with the design team in a new Design Office in Derby.

This paragraph described how everyone worked together.

We basically started from scratch, and in a completely different way. It isn’t engineering-led any more. It’s a joint collaboration of our depot people, our manufacturing guys, procurement and engineering.

I would describe it as a project-led structure similar to one that ICI used to use in the 1960s.

I wrote my first scheduling program to allocate the office space needed.

A Modular Approach For The Future

Each Electrostar had been different to the previous, but this sums up the Aventra philosophy.

Aventra will be a single modular product, capable of being easily modified for different applications but in each case referring back to the core design. So whether the actual class will be a 90mph metro train or a 125mph main-line express, it will have the same systems and components as its basis. In fact, Jon thinks that the distinctions are becoming blurred anyway.

They had looked forward ten years.

Away From The Wires

Aventra will be an electric train, but what happens, when the wires run out?

This was their solution.

So plans were made for an Aventra that could run away from the wires, using batteries or other forms of energy storage. “We call it an independently powered EMU, but it’s effectively an EMU that you could put the pantograph down and it will run on the energy storage to a point say 50 miles away. There it can recharge by putting the pantograph back up briefly in a terminus before it comes back.

I rode the prototype in public service in January 2015!

I was totally convinced that Bombardier’s battery trains have not even the smallest touch of Mickey Mouse!

Although the experience was magical!

Bombardier’s Iron Bird

Bombardier have borrowed the Iron Bird concept from the plane-makers.

This is an extract.

A leaf has been taken out of the aircraft designers’ handbook. They use something termed an Iron Bird – basically an aeroplane without wings – to test new systems.

Bombardier’s Iron Bird is a train without bogies. However, it does contain control systems, wiring looms and other bits of kit and it is being assembled at Derby.

I think that this shows, that they are not against borrowing other concepts from other industries.

The Most Affordable Train

The article describes how the train was designed to give the best whole life cost.

This sentence sums up the philosophy.

It’s actually about a 50/50 split between the whole life cost and the first capital cost. That makes it a bit more difficult because we’ve got be competitive on the first practical cost, but additionally we have to offer a really high availability, strong reliability, combined with much better energy consumption and less track damage.

As someone, who used to own a finance company, that leased trucks and other expensive equipment, the product described is the sort of product that leasing companies love. If the train is economical to run, if the first train operating company goes bust, you’ll still have an asset that other train operating companies will fight over.

Trains are also a predictable long-term investment, as well-built efficient trains have a thirty or forty year lifetime.

In my view the big winner of a train like this is the manufacturer, as they’ll get happy owners, train operating companies and passengers, which must lead to repeat orders.

Conclusion

I’ve never ridden a more well-designed, comfortable, smooth and quiet suburban electric train, than the Class 345 train in trial service on the Shenfield Metro, anywhere in the UK or Europe.

August 10, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Waterloo Upgrade August 2017 – Mid-Platform Entrance/Exit On Platforms 23/24 At Waterloo Station

These pictures show the mid-platform entrance/exit on Platforms 23/24 at Waterloo station.

Note.

  • This mid-platform entrance/exit must mean that Platforms 20 to 24 effectively have a double-deck gate line.
  • Access is also to the Waterloo and City Line.

This article in Rail Engineer, which is entitled Waterloo and South West Route Upgrade, says this.

Improvements in access to the Bakerloo, Northern and Jubilee tube lines from platforms 1/2 and 3/4 and from the former International terminal.

These pictures were taken at 09:30 at the end of the Peak.

When finished it looks like it will be impressive.

Will the access on Platforms 1/2 and 3/4 be double-escalator like this access on the former International platforms?

As I indicated in Waterloo’s Wide Platforms, the design of the older platforms isn’t cramped, so it could be possible.

Incidentally, I couldn’t see any lifts on Platforms 23/24, but these structures behind the grey hoardings could be for lifts.

Will there be any platforms in the UK with better step-free access?

And it’s not as if the platforms are for an exotic destination like Cardiff, Huddersfield or Norwich, although I suspect services will go to the regal delights of Windsor! Will Liz be amused?

August 8, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 3 Comments

Waterloo Upgrade August 2017 – Waterloo’s Wide Platforms

These pictures compare the platforms at Waterloo station.

The pictures are shown in increasing platform number order.

Platforms 5 to 14 are in the old part of the station, which was opened in 1922, whilst Platforms 20 to 24 are in the former International station.

Surprisingly, the platforms in the old part of the station seem to be fairly generous in width compared to say those in other London terminals.

They are not much narrower than those built for Eurostar in 1994.

Note that it appears that the old platforms have around five to seven gates per platform, as the space allows, whereas the new ones have thirty gates for the five platforms.

As gates are reversible, that surely is enough to cope with the Peak, especially as there is a mid-platform entrance/exit on some platforms to the Underground.

I suspect the platforms can cope with a whole battalion of guardsmen complete with full kit, all arriving at the same time!

August 8, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 1 Comment

The 10:35 From Liverpool Street To Shenfield

I took these pictures on the untimetabled 10:35 TfL Rail service between Liverpool Street and Shenfield stations and on the return to Liverpool Street.

As you can see it is a new Class 345 train.

There were a lot of Crossrail and Transport for London staff about, talking to passengers.

These are my thoughts on various issues.

Ride Quality

This is up with the best or the legendary British Rail Mark 3 coach, which was designed in the 1960s.

One of the Crossrail staff was wearing stiletto heels close to four inches and she was walking up-and-down with no difficulty.

For someone who suffered a bad stroke, my balance is good and I had no difficulty walking along the seven-car train.

Cabin Height And Width

I don’t know how Bombardier have done it, but the cabin seems higher and wider than any other train I’ve ridden in the UK.

Next time, I ride one, I’ll take a couple of tall guys and a tape measure.

Information

The current on-train information is simple, but then as I suspect the screens are software driven, any degree of required complication can be added.

I don’t know whether it is deliberate but everything is large and easy to read. There is also no maps or exhortations about security.

Long may it stay that way!

Simple is efficient!

Seats

Not everybody was completely satisfied with the seats, but I found them much more comfortable than those in the Class 700 trains on Thameslink.

There were some good points.

  • The sets of four seats were arranged as they were in the original InterCity 125 around a large window.
  • The metro-style seating had a wide aisle in the middle, that would satisfy a basketball team.
  • An amply-proportioned  man, thought the seats comfortable.
  • Most seats had well-designed armrests.
  • There was plenty of space under the seats for airline-size carry-on baggage or a labrador.

On the other hand, there were no cupholders, tables or litter bins. But there aren’t any on the Class 378 trains or London Underground‘s S Stock.

Entry And Exit

I feel that trains should be a level step across from the platform.

This train wasn’t as good as a Class 378 train on many Overground stations, but it was better than some.

As many Crossrail stations will be one train type only there is probably scope to get this better.

I regularly see a lady in a simple wheel-chair on the Overground and I feel she would probably be able to wheel herself in and out, which she does at Dalston Junction station with ease.

It should be noted that each coach has three sets of wide double doors and a large lobby, so perhaps a mother with triplets and a baby in a buggy would find entry easier than any train on the Underground.

Walking Up And Down The Train

I found this very easy on a train that was no more than a third full, as it was an extra service to introduce the train to passengers.

There were numerous hand-holds and vertical rails in the centre of the lobbies. Unlike on some trains in France, Italy or Germany, the rails were very simple. They also borrowed heavily from the Overground’s Class 378 trains.

Wi-Fi And 4G

I didn’t try the wi-fi, as it is not something I use very often.

But I was getting a strong 4G signal all the way to and from Shenfield. Was this direct or was I picking up a booster in the train? I  suspect it was the latter at some points close to Liverpool Street.

Windows

The windows on the train are large and well-positioned.

The simple seat and window layout, seems to appeal to all classes of rail user.

A Train For Families

When Celia and I had three children under three, with two able to toddle-along (they had too!) and the youngest in his McClaren, I could imagine us taking a train from Barbican station to perhaps go shopping on Oxford Street, sitting in one of those set of four seats by that large window.

A Train For Commuters

The Class 378 trains of the Overground cram them in and the metro layout of much of the Class 345 train will accommodate large numbers of commuters.

I would question, if there are enough seats, but the proof should be apparent by the end of the year, as eleven of the current seven-car trains will be in service between Liverpool Street and Shenfield.

For the full Crossrail service, they will be lengthened to nine cars and there is a possibility of adding a tenth.

A Train For Shoppers

If say, I’d been to Eastfield at Stratford and was coming back to Moorgate heavily loaded with shopping to get a bus home, I could probably put some bags under the seat. Try that on the Underground!

A Train For The Not-So-Young

From what I saw today, I couldn’t make too many observations, as the train wasn’t crowded, but the few older travellers that I did see were smiling at the experience.

A Train For The Disabled

As I’m not disabled, I can’t comment and would love to hear from those who are.

A Train For The Tall

Compared to other trains in London, the headroom seemed to be generous, but then I didn’t see anybody who was much more than six foot.

A Train For The Airport

Class 345 trains will serve Heathrow Airport. I feel they will cope, as the metro layout of the Class 378 trains, seems to accommodate large cases well!

Comparison With A Class 700 Train

The Thameslink Class 700 trains are designed for running over a longer distance at a higher speed and they have toilets.

But for a thirty minute journey through a busy part of London, there is no doubt in my mind, as to which train I would choose.

The Class 345 train, with its large windows, more comfortable seating, space for bags, uncluttered views and the appearance of more space, is undoubtedly in my view a better designed train.

Incidentally, for every metre of a nine-car Class 345 train, 7.31 passengers can be accommodated, as opposed to 7.07 in an eight-car  Class 700 train.

I think we can put all this comparison down to Derby 1 – Krefeld 0!

Comparison With A Class 387 Train

The trains will be compared with Bombadier’s last Electrostar, the Class 387 train, which will be in service with GWR between Paddington and Reading, alongside the Class 345 train.

Passengers will be able to take whichever train they want on this route.

Will they choose the Class 387 train, with its tables, very comfortable seats and toilets or the Class 345 train?

I’d choose the Class 387 train, as I like to lay out my newspaper for reading.

No matter what happens Derby wins again.

Moving Forward On Approach To Liverpool Street

I was surprised how many people walked to the front as we approached Liverpool Street.

But were they only demonstrating the Londoners’ ducking and diving ability of getting to the right place for exit.

Regular passengers on regular routes will anticipate their stops and I will be interested to see how much passenger behaviour increases the capacity of the train.

Conclusion

This first Aventra feels like it is a very good train.

Consider how Bombardier improved the Electrostar since it was first produced in 1999.

So what will an Aventra be like in 2035?

 

June 27, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

The Go-Anywhere Express Parcel And Pallet Carrier

In the June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways there is an article entitled Freight, Not All Doom And Gloom, which talks about high-value parcel carriers. The article says this.

Think about all those 1980s units that are soon to be made redundant, especially the ones with wide doorways. You could forklift in pallets and move them by hand trolley inside the vehicle (forklift tines would not fit an HST’s doors).

A Class 150 parcels unit, anyone?

There are other reasons for not using a High Speed Train.

  • ScotRail and Great Western Railway have better uses for the trains moving passengers around in style.
  • Their 125 mph capability and large windows might come in handy for heritage tourism.
  • They are diesel trains and some might not like to hear them thundering through the countryside in the middle of the night.

As to the Class 150 train, it has a few disadvantages.

  • It is only two-cars.
  • It has a 75 mph operating speed.
  • It is diesel-powered, which probably means regular refuelling.

But also like all Mark 3-based stock it scrubs up well as I wrote in What Train Is This?

I would refurbish the whole fleet and use them on short branch lines to provide a quality service, where a two or four-car train was all that was needed.

So what would be the specification of an ideal Go-Anywhere Express Parcel and Pallet Carrier?

I was going to call it a GAEPPC in this post, but that’s rather a mouthful, so I’ll call it a High Speed Parcel Train or High Speed Pallet Train, which in recognition of its more famous big brother will be called a HSPT.

For the specification, it might be a good idea to start with the Class 325 train. This is the first paragraph of the train’s Wikipedia entry.

The British Rail Class 325 is a 4-car dual-voltage 25 kV alternating current (AC) or 750 V direct current (DC) electric multiple unit (EMU) train used for postal train services. While the Class 325 bears a resemblance to the Networker series of DMUs and EMUs, they are based on the Class 319 EMU. The Class 325 was British Rail’s newest unit to take over parcels workings on electrified lines.

The requirement might have changed since the 1990s, but the basic specification would be similar.

  • Four-cars
  • 100 mph operating speed.
  • 25 KVAC overhead or 750 VDC third rail operation.
  • The ability to run as four-, eight- and twelve-car trains.
  • It would be available in a range of colours and not just red!

In addition, it would need wide doors for pallets.

It would also be nice, if the HSPT could run on lines without electrification.

Look at this picture of a Class 321 train.

Would a standard size 1200 x 1000 pallet go through this door?

This morning, I measured the door on a Class 378 train and it was about 1700 mm. wide. So yes!

Once inside the systems used in aircraft could be used to arrange the pallets.

Consider, these facts about Class 321 trains.

  • They are four-car electric multiple units, that can also run as eight and twelve car units.
  • They can operate at 100 mph.
  • They are dual voltage units, if required.
  • There are 117 of the trains, of which over a hundred will be released by Greater Anglia and will need a new caring owner.
  • The interior may be wide enough to put two standard pallets side-by-side.
  • They are based on Mark 3 steel carriages, so are built to take punishment.

In Could There Be A Class 321 Flex Train?, I speculated as to whether these trains could be fitted with underfloor diesel engines as in the Class 319 Flex train. After the news reports in the June 2017 Edition of Modern railways, which I reported on in The Class 319 Flex Units To Be Class 769, I’m now convinced that converting other types of train like Class 455 and Class 321 trains is feasible and that the train refurbishing companies are going to be extremely busy.

I have a feeling that Class 319 trains will not be converted to HSPTs, as they seem to be very much in demand to carry more valuable cargo – Namely fare-paying passengers!

But fit diesel engines under a Class 321 train and I think it would make a HSPT, that could travel on nearly every mile of the UK rail network and quite a few miles on heritage railways too!

A Freight Terminal For An HSPT

As the Class 321 train has been designed for passengers, it lines up reasonably well with most of the station platforms in the UK.

So at its simplest a freight terminal for a HSPT could just be a station platform, where a fork lift truck could lift pallets in and out.The freight handling facilities would be designed appropriately.

Supermarket Deliveries

I also think, that if a HSPT were available, it could attract the attention of the big supermarket groups.

In The LaMiLo Project, I described how goods were brought into Euston station in the middle of the night for onward delivery.

If it cuts costs, the supermarket groups will use this method to get goods from their central warehouses to perhaps the centres of our largest cities.

Get the design right and I suspect the supermarkets’ large delivery trolley will just roll between the train and the last-mile truck, which ideally would be a zero-emission vehicle.

In some of the larger out-of-town superstores, the train could even stop alongside the store and goods and trolleys could be wheeled in and out.

This Google Map shows Morrisons at Ipswich.

The store lies alongside the Great Eastern Main Line.

Surely, the ultimate would be if the goods were to be transported on the trains in driverless electric trolleys, which when the doors were opened, automatically came out of the trains and into the store.

Supermarket groups like to emphasise their green credentials.

Surely, doing daily deliveries to major stores by train, wouldn’t annoy anybody. |Except perhaps Donald Trump, but he’s an aberration on the upward march of scientifically-correct living.

Just-In-Time Deliveries

To take Toyota as an example, in the UK, cars are built near Derby, and The engines are built near Shotton in North Wales.

Reasons for the two separate sites are probably down to availability of the right workforce and Government subsidy.

I’m not sure, but I suspect currently in Toyota’s case, engines are moved across the country by truck, but if there was a HSPT, with a capacity of around a hundred and fifty standard pallets would manufacturing companies use them to move goods from one factory to another?

It should be said in Toyota’s case the rail lines at both Derby and Shotton are not electrified, but if the train could run on its own diesel power, it wouldn’t matter.

Refrigerated Deliveries

There probably wouldn’t be much demand now, but in the future bringing Scottish meat and seafood to London might make a refrigerated HSPT viable.

Deliveries To And From Remote Parts Of The UK

It is very difficult to get freight between certain parts of the UK and say Birmingham, London and the South-Eastern half of England.

Perishable products from Cornwall are now sent to London in the large space in the locomotives of the High Speed Trains. Plymouth, which is in Devon, to London takes nearly four hours and I suspect that a HSPT could do it in perhaps an hour longer.

But it would go between specialist terminals at both ends of the journey, so it would be a much easier service to use for both sender and receiver.

Another article in the same June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways is entitled Caithness Sleeper Plan Set Out.

This is said in the article.

Another possibility would be to convey freight on the sleeper trains with HiTrans suggesting the ability to carry four 40-foot and two 20-foot boxes on twin wagons could provide welcome products and parcxels northwards and locally-produced food southwards.

A disadvantage of this idea would be that passengers would be required to vacate sleeping berths immediately on arrival at Edinburgh, so that containers could continue to a freight terminal.

The HSPT would go direct to a suitable terminal. In remote  places like Caithness, this would probably be the local station, which had been suitably modified, so that fork lift trucks could move pallets into and out of the train.

One-Off Deliveries

Provided a load can be put on a pallet, the train can move it, if there is a fork lift available at both ends of the route.

It would be wrong to speculate what sort of one-off deliveries are performed, as some will be truly unusual.

Disaster Relief

On the worldwide scale we don’t get serious natural disasters in the UK, but every year there are storms, floods, bridge collapses and other emergencies, where it is necessary to get supplies quickly to places that are difficult to reach by road, but easy by rail. If the supplies were to be put on pallets and loaded onto a HSPT, it might be easier to get them to where they are needed for unloading using a fork lift or even by hand.

International Deliveries

I am sure that Class 319 and Class 321 trains can be made compatible with Continental railway networks. In fact two Class 319 trains, were the first to pass through the Channel Tunnel.

Post-Brexit will we see high values transported by the trainload, as this would surely simplify the paperwork?

What value of Scotch could you get in a four-car train?

Expect Amazon to be first in the queue for International Deliveries!

Conclusion

There is definitely a market for a HSPT.

If it does come about, it will be yet another tribute to the magnificent Mark 3 coach!

 

 

 

 

May 27, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Class 345 Trains Really Are Quiet!

This morning I was sitting waiting on Platform 8 at Stratford station.

Platform 8 is separated from Platform 9 by just two tracks, so you notice a train, when it goes through Platform 9 at speed.

Usually, the trains that go through Platform 9 at speed towards Liverpool Street station are Class 321 trains or rakes of Mark 3 coaches oulled by a Class 90 locomotives.

Today, a new Class 345 train went through and the level of noise was extremely low compared to other trains.

Bombardier have applied world class aviation aerodynamics to these trains. Particularly in the areas of body shape, door design, car-to-car interfaces, bogies and pantographs.

Remember too, that low noise means less wasted energy and greater energy efficiency.

May 18, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Manor Park Station – 15th May 2017

In Before Crossrail – Manor Park, I likened Manor Park station to A Ruin With Serious Issues and gave it a score of 1/10.

I also said.

Manor Park is very unusual architecturally. I do wonder if the Luftwaffe tried to demolish the station.

Perhaps the builders just ran out of money and couldn’t afford to put in windows.

With hindsight, I think I was being generous with one point.

But these are the pictures I took today.

The builder is certainly not our friend Jerry.

When my train arrived, I stepped out close by the driver’s cab. I was surprised to see that half the old station had disappeared and it must have shown, as the driver asked me if I was OK!

I certainly was and it looks like the builders and the architects are well on the way to turning one of London’s worst stations, into one of the better.

  • Judging by the position of the gate line on the South side of the Ticket Hall, it will lead to a series of passages to the stairs and the lifts to the platforms.
  • I particularly liked the use of strips of LED lights to illuminate the Ticket Hall and the area outside the doors.
  • The staff seem to have a good view of the front glass doors from the Ticket Counter.
  • It looks to me that any bits of the old station that there were good reasons to keep, have been kept.
  • It could be a very welcoming station, that I suspect Transport for London hopes will attract a lot of new passengers.
  • I was told that the lifts are only a couple of months away.

Importantly with my Project Manager’s hard hat on, it would appear that they have managed to create much of the new station without too much disruption.

May 15, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The New Platform 6 At Shenfield Station

These pictures show the new double Platform 5 and Platform 6 at Shenfield station, which opened a few days ago.

I think that it is a good design.

  • Platform 5 is a through platform, where trains can go through the station to and from the sidings to the East of the station.
  • Platform 6 is a new bay platform.

If these two platforms are for the exclusive use of Crossrail services, that means that in the Peak, they will be handling sixteen trains per hour (tph) or eight tph  on each platform. The Victoria Line handles over twice as many trains on each of its four terminal platforms at Brixton and Walthamstow Central, so the more modern Crossrail should handle the number of trains with ease.

There has also been a major restructuring of the other lines through the station. But as services terminating at Shenfield are not now handled by Platform 4, I would assume that it is a much more operator-friendly layout.

These could be platform assignments.

  1. Southend Branch to London trains
  2. Great Eastern Main Line to London trains
  3. London to Great Eastern Main Line trains.
  4. London to Southend Branch trains
  5. Crossrail
  6. Crossrail

As there is more platform capacity, it will be interesting to see how Greater Anglia use their share of the extra capacity.

Current and Crossrail times between Liverpool Street and Shenfield are as follows.

  • Shenfield Metro – Current – 43 minutes
  • Single-Stop at Stratford – Current – 24 minutes
  • Crossrail – 41 minutes.

The interesting time will be what will be achieved by Greater Anglia’s Aventras, with just a single-stop at Stratford. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a sub-twenty minute time.

I think passengers between Shenfield and London will choose a route appropriate to their journey.

Crossrail will be a line for the duck-and-divers.

May 10, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

What Train Is This?

I took these pictures of a train coming from Barnstaple to Exeter.

But what type if train is it?

The last picture shows it is Class 150 train built in the 1980s by British Rail.

It is certainly a high quality refurbishment of 150263.

I’d much rather travel in this train, than a new Class 700 train.

Consider.

  • The seats were comfortable.
  • There were several tables in each car.
  • The toilet was one of the best I’ve seen.
  • The information system, tip-up seats and grab handles were all excellent.

The train even had it’s own wheelchair ramp stowed away in a secure metal cupboard.

I can’t find anything on the web about who did the refurbishment of this train.

My only thought, is that it was an in-house job and came from Laira with love!

The Truth About The Refurbishment

The August 2017 Edition of Modern Railways has a long article entitled Great Western Improvement Imminent, where on page 75, this is said.

The Class 150/2s are going through a refurbishment and repaint at Wabtec’s Doncaster plant

If all the 137 trainsets end up like this no-one will complain.

April 5, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 6 Comments