The Anonymous Widower

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!

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

A Neat Seat

These pictures show some seats  by Vauxhall Bridge, as part of a new development.

The idea is so brilliant and probably affordable, I’m surprised I haven’t seen something like it before.

March 14, 2017 Posted by | World | , | Leave a comment

The New Tunnel Under Bank Station

I never took the connection tunnel between the Waterloo and City Line or Drain platforms at Bank station to the escalators that eventually get you out into the air by Lombard Street, where I used to visit clients at a major clearing bank.

I doubt, it was as good as it is now!

I was travelling home from Waterloo using the Drain and once back on the surface, I just  crossed King William Street and got a 141 bus home.

It might be upwards of a hundred metres underground, but it’s light, airey and traffic-free.

We need more pedestrian tunnels like this under London.

Obviously, it wasn’t Rush Hour!

February 19, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 2 Comments

Will We Be Seeing More Railway Stations?

I didn’t put any qualification like UK or London in the title of this post, as it is a question that applies to all railways.

The post was prompted by an article in the January 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, which is entitled Funding Buds For New South Wales Stations.

The article talks of two possible stations.

  • A Cardiff Parkway station near St. Mellions.
  • A Magor Walkway station between Newport and Severn Tunnel Junction stations.

Cardiff Parkway station seems the more conventional of the two and is proposed to support a proposed new business park, with car parking and a bus station,

This article on Wales Online is entitled Plans revealed for huge new development and train station in Cardiff that could create 15,000 jobs, gives more details.

On the other hand, according to The Magor And Undy Walkway Station Website, the second station at Magor Walkway appears to be less conventional.

But the two stations do illustrate two common reasons for developing new stations.

A New Station To Support Development

Cardiff Parkway station falls into this category and there are several for this reason in the pipeline.

We will see a lot more, as having a station at a new development, has many positive effects on the project.

A New Station To Provide Better Transport Opportunities

Magor Walkway station falls into this category and others include.

There are also schemes for airport links to Glasgow, Liverpool, Leeds and Luton.

Why New Stations Don’t Get Built

Obviously, some stations don’t get built for reasons of practicality and cost.

The traffic may be there, but the proposed site is difficult, so a new station might be impossible to fit the space available.

When a re-opened station like Lea Bridge is reported to cost £11million, without car parking, new stations don’t come cheap.

So new stations need a good financial case to get built.

Another factor that is often ignored by campaigners for new stations, is the knock-on effects they will have on services through the station.

Stopping trains at a station on a single or double-track line will effectively block the line, thus slowing other traffic in the area.

But Innovation Is Making It Easier To Build New Stations

In the following sections, I shall detail some of the ideas and innovations that will make the building of stations easier.

The Rise Of The Single-Platform Station

Single-platform stations are not that common in the UK, and the first new one of this type I saw was James Cook station, which I wrote about in James Cook Station – The Reinvention Of The Halt .

Other recently built stations in this category include.

Note there is a parkway station on the list and Galashiels is a major train-bus interchange.

A good proportion of the list are also on newly opened lines.

Consider the advantages of a single-platform station.

  • There is no need for an expensive footbridge., that is part of the station.
  • Only one set of shelters, ticket machines and information displays are needed.
  • Single platform stations can be easily made long enough for the largest trains that will call.
  • Interchange to cars, buses and taxis is quick and easy.
  • Modern signalling makes bi-directional operation safe.

There may also be advantages in fitting a station into a restricted space, like shopping centres, airports, sports grounds or an historic town centre.

I think we’ll see a lot more single platform stations in the future.

The Express Stop Train

Next time, you’re on a train, notice how long it takes to perform a stop at a typical station.

It is often not a quick process.

  • Passengers have to lift children, buggies, bicycles and heavy cases over the step up or down between train and platform.
  • Passengers coming on get in the way of passengers getting off.
  • On a crowded train, that is not working under driver-only-operation (DOO) rules, the guard often has to struggle to get in position to open the doors.
  • Older trains without information systems, often mean that passengers aren’t ready to get off, so cause delays at the stop.

But look at the new trains for Merseyrail, I wrote about in Thoughts On Merseyrail’s New Trains.

  • They are designed to eliminate the gap between station and train and for passengers to step or roll across quickly.
  • They will have wide doors and probably ample lobbies, to ease entry and exit.
  • They will be information-rich trains, as are all modern trains.
  • They will be DOO, which avoids guard delays on crowded trains.
  • They will have high performance with respect to braking and acceleration.

I also wonder if braking and acceleration will be automated, so that they are fast, smooth and very safe in all weather and track conditions.

On Merseyrail, this will result in faster trains and a saving of nine minutes between Southport and Hunts Cross is quoted.

New trains on Greater Anglia, will also give substantial help in enabling a headline-grabbing Norwich in 90 and Ipswich in 60 service for all trains.

I suspect that as new trains improve their stop times, it will make it easier for a new station to be fitted into an intense schedule on a main line with extensive services.

Stations Without Electrification

Often electriofying stations is an expensive business, in planning, execution and in operation.

With the development of bi-mode and battery trains and especially ones that can switch mode automatically, I think we’ll see a lot more stations left without electrification, thus eliminating health and safety and heritage issues, whilst reducing costs.

The Station On A Train

Merseyrail’s new trains will be DOO and from the reports, it appears that all the CCTV needed for safe operation will be on the train, rather than the station.

So will this allow Merseyrail to simplify their stations, with the only CCTV needed on stations being only that for passenger and station security.

I wonder if the driver will have access to a station’s CCTV as he approaches. Being able to assess crowd density in a station on approach must be to the driver’s advantage.

Ticket Machines On A Train

Operators might even put a card-only ticket machine on the train, so the number of machines in stations can be cut to save costs.

I have seen this is in several places in Europe, but never in the UK.

Tram Style Operation Of Local Trains

There are two basic types of through platforms  in the UK, served by local or regional passenger trains.

  • Platforms where some freight and passenger trains pass through without stopping.
  • Platforms where all trains stop.

Merseyrail’s Northern Line and some of the branches of the Wirral Line would be examples of the second.

What would be the implications for station design, if say a branch line worked exclusively by one type of train ran to say a tram speed limit and the visual rules a tram driver would obey in the centre of Birmingham, Manchester or Nottingham.

Could we see new two platform stations built like say this station on the Croydon Tramlink?

Gentle Ramps To the Platforms

Passengers would just walk across the tracks to get to the other side.

I believe that Merseyrail’s new trains could work in this way.

Consider.

  • Stadler have enormous experience of trams and tram-trains.
  • Merseyrail’s new trains can be fitted with batteries, so for perhaps fifty metres either side of the station, the third rail can be removed.
  • The new trains look like trams, although they are trains.
  • There will always be a driver in the front of the train with a big horn, as the train enters the station.
  • Trains would be restricted to tram speeds in the station area.

Imagine a station on a network like Merseyrail or perhaps a branch line like the Walton-on-the-Naze Branch of the Sunshine Coast Line.

A train stopping at the station would go through the following procedure.

  • A safe distance from the station, after ascertaining, that the line in the station is clear, the driver initiates the automatic stop procedure or halts the train.
  • The train slows automatically from line speed to the tram speed perhaps fifty metres from the station.
  • The train proceeds automatically to the station at tram speed using onboard stored energy, as there is no electrification.
  • The driver would open the doors, so that passengers and their belongings can be unloaded and loaded.
  • Once everything is ready, the driver closes the doors and initiates the automatic leave sequence.
  • The train leaves the station at tram speed.
  • Once electrification starts and the train is connected, the train automatically accelerates back to line speed.

Note.

  1. The train is not at line speed anywhere near the station.
  2. The driver can take control at any time.
  3. The procedure is not very far removed from that used on the Victoria Line since 1967!

Effectively the operation of the train through the station is train-tram-train.

I wonder if Merseyrail have been thinking this way to create a tram-train link to Liverpool Airport.

Conclusion

Various innovations will mean that stations will cost less.

  • Simpler design.
  • Step-free without footbridges.
  • Less expensive features.
  • Equipment moved from station to train.

In addition, trains will find it easier to fit stops into busy timetables.

This will mean that the available station budget will go further and more stations will be built.

 

December 25, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

How To Build A Step-Free Access Ramp For A Train

This new ramp or Harrington Hump, has been built on Platform 1 at Canonbury station.

I didn’t use it, as I was going the other way.

It looks to be a very good design.

  • Like all the best designs, it is simple.
  • It is double-ended.
  • It’s a gentle slope to ascend to train level, with no steps to trip on.
  • It’s got seats to prop yourself on.
  • It’s got a rail to hang on to.
  • Those with poor eye-sight wouldn’t miss it and trip over.
  • I suspect any sensible local builder could build one of these, from a kit of parts and instructions on a page of A4.

It looks to me like it is one of those classic engineering designs, that was developed using copious amounts of real ale, with everything written down on the back of fag-packets and used envelopes.

After my musings on dual-height platforms for the Bakerloo Line Extension, in How Will They Build The Bakerloo Line Extension?, I think that a modified version could handle the problems at stations on the Northern reaches of the Bakerloo Line, where 1972 Stock and Class 378 trains, share a platform.

December 12, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Grayling’s Proposal For The East-West Rail Link Could Be Right?

I’m not saying it’s right that one  company will build the line and then operate it, but I do think it could have advantages.

Track

With the exception of a few short lengths of existing track, most of the construction is a green field site or one where there is just rusty worthless track from decades ago.

This must give opportunities to design a future-proofed route, that in say the 203os or 2040s could run trains much faster, frequent, heavier and longer, than envisaged today.

The route can also be optimised for what is mow believed to be the likely scheduled service.

Stations

This line could have stations optimised for the modern level of working, that the line will.use.

Nothing should be ruled out in station design, if it makes for a more efficient railway.

I would also hope that stations could be modular, so that improvements and new stations could be added by the operator as ttaffic changes.

Get the design right and the company, passengers and staff will benefit.

It would be easier to get the design right, if all stakeholders are in the same team.

Electrification

Parts of the route are electrified and it will have connections to existing electrified lines at Bedford, Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Oxford and Reading.

I believe that there could be considerable savings to be made, by designing the electrification so that it is integrated with the trains bought for the line.

For instance, I believe in a few years time that all new trains will have on-board energy storage, so could this be taken advantage of to perhaps?

  • Enable regenerative braking on trains, rather than trackside
  • Not put overhead wires in stations.

It could be difficult for freight trains and other electric trains, but there could be scope to simplify the electrification.

Signalling

Go digital to save money.

Operation

I have sat in the cab of a High Speed Train as it went between Edinburgh and Inverness. You see a lot and surely some that drivers see could be safety related.

Surely, if the same company is responsible for both trains and track, reporting and fixing problems must be much more direct.

Conclusion

Good design could really.make the railway cheaper to build and operate.

So if it’s one company, with everybody working to the same objectives, it must benefit that company, if someone has a good idea at any point.

If they have a bad idea, then hopefully it will.be ignored.

December 6, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment