The Anonymous Widower

Beeching Reversal – Mid-Cornwall Metro

This is one of the Beeching Reversal projects that the Government and Network Rail are proposing to reverse some of the Beeching cuts.

This is a strange project, as I can’t find a detailed description of what it entails.

All I can think, is that it is a general project to run all the local lines in Cornwall as a unified whole.

Great Western Railway runs these services in Cornwall.

  • Cornish Main Line – London Paddington and Penzance – One train per two hours (tp2h) – Calling at Plymouth, Liskeard, Bodmin Parkway, Lostwithiel, Par, St Austell, Truro, Redruth, Camborne and St Erth
  • Cornish Main Line – Exeter St. Davids and Penzance – One train per hour (tph) – Calling at Newton Abbot, Totnes, Ivybridge, Plymouth, Devonport, Dockyard, Keyham, St Budeaux Ferry Road, Saltash, St Germans, Menheniot, Liskeard, Bodmin Parkway, Lostwithiel, Par, St Austell, Truro, Redruth, Camborne, Hayle and St Erth
  • Looe Valley Line – Liskeard and Looe – One tph – Calling at Coombe Junction Halt, St Keyne Wishing, Well Halt, Causeland and Sandplace.
  • Atlantic Coast Line – Par and Newquay – One tp2h – Calling at Luxulyan, Bugle, Roche, St Columb Road and Quintrell Downs
  • Maritime Line – Truro and Falmouth Docks – Two tph – Calling at Perranwell (1tph), Penryn, Penmere and Falmouth Town
  • St. Ives Bay Line – St. Erth and St. Ives – Two tph – Calling at Lelant Saltings, Lelant and Carbis Bay

Could frequencies and connectivities be improved?

Other Beeching Reversal projects are also aiming to improve the railways in Cornwall.

Transforming the Newquay Line
Reinstatement of Bodmin-Wadebridge Railway and associated works
Increased service provision Bodmin General-Bodmin Parkway

I think the first might increase frequencies on the Newquay to one tph or even two tph and the Bodmin General station improvements should create a useful new platform.

Wikipedia mentions this project.

Reopening The Lostwithiel And Fowey Railway To Passengers

Are there any other lines, stations or platforms, that could be reopened, given a passenger service or or an increase in frequency?

Conclusion

Someone must have a plan somewhere! So can they please disclose it?

 

August 1, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Beeching Reversal – Shepton Mallet (Mendip Vale)

This is one of the Beeching Reversal projects that the Government and Network Rail are proposing to reverse some of the Beeching cuts.

This article on Rail Technology News is entitled Shepton Mallet Railway Station And Services Could Be Restored Under New Vision.

These are the introductory paragraphs.

National rail services could be restored to a Somerset town after the local authority unveiled a new vision for the rail route.

Shepton Mallet’s current nearest mainline station is Castle Cary which is over seven miles away, but new stations and a bypass have been proposed in a business case from Mendip District Council for major new transport projects.

In the Wikipedia entry for the East Somerset Railway, this is said.

On 25 March 2007, the East Somerset Railway announced that it had received a £7,500 grant from Shepton 21 Group, a local organisation, set up to regenerate the area around Shepton Mallet. The money was to be spent on conducting a feasibility study into extending the line towards Shepton Mallet, with a possible new terminus at Cannards Grave, on the outskirts of Shepton Mallet

This Google Map shows the South-Eastern edge of Shepton Mallet.

Note.

  1. The scar of the disused railway passing East-West through the town.
  2. Mendip Vale station on the East Somerset Railway on the Eastern side of the map.
  3. The Cannard’s Grave area of the town, with what appears to be a new road system.

Would it be possible to extend the East Somerset Railway to a new Parkway station in the Cannard’s Grave area?

It certainly looks the most likely plan.

This map clipped from Wikipedia, shows the route of the railway.

The railway may be only 2.5 miles long, but it does provide a connection for the important Merehead Quarry to the UK rail network.

The tracks to the Quarry and Shepton Mallet join up to the South West of the quarry before joining the Heart of Wessex Line, that connects Bristol Temple Meads and Weymouth stations via Bath Spa, Bradford-on-Avon, Trowbridge, Westbury, Frome. Castle Cary and Yeovil.

Passenger Train Services

This Google Map shows East Somerset Junction, where the branch line joins the Heart of Wessex Line.

Note.

  1. Frome, Westbury, Bath Spa and Bristol Temple Meads are to the North East.
  2. The double-track railway going South-West is the Heart of Wessex Line to Castle Cary, Yeovil and Weymouth.
  3. The East Somerset Railway is the single-track joining from the West.

There is no direct access to and from the branch from the South-West. But then all of the quarry traffic needs to go to and from via the junction at Westbury.

In Westbury Station – 30th July 2020, I discussed the development of Westbury station.

This was my conclusion.

Could Westbury station develop into a zero-carbon rail transport hub for Wiltshire?

    1. It has an hourly train service between London Paddington and Exeter St. Davids.
    2. It has an hourly service between Bristol Temple Meads and Weymouth.
    3. There are hourly services to stations like Bath Spa, Bradford-on-Avon, Bristol Temple Meads, Chippenham, Dorchester, Frome, Swindon, Taunton, Trowbridge and Yeovil

It could be electrified to charge battery electric trains as they pass through.

Perhaps, an hourly service between Westbury and Shepton Mallet Parkway stations could be added to the services?

  • I estimate that Westbury and Shepton Mallet Parkway stations are about 13.5 miles apart
  • With an intermediate stop at Frome, I estimate that it would be a twenty minute journey.
  • A shuttle would need just one train and could run a passenger-friendly clock-face timetable.
  • A two-car diesel multiple unit would probably be good enough to open the service.
  • The service could be fully-integrated with all the other services passing through Westbury.

It would also be a shuttle service, that could be run using a battery electric train charging at Westbury station.

Conclusion

I like this proposal.

  • The only infrastructure required is the Park-and-Ride station at Shepton Mallet Parkway.
  • Much of the route is currently used by heavy freight trains.
  • I doubt that the East Somerset Railway will object.
  • I’m sure, that a diesel multiple unit could be found for the shuttle.
  • The passenger services will have good connections at Westbury station.

In a future zero-carbon world, it could be run by battery electric trains, charging at Westbury station.

August 1, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Westbury Station – 30th July 2020

I went to Westbury station today and took these pictures.

I found Westbury station to be a station in extremely good condition.

It also had a buffet, where I was able to purchase a delicious ice cream.

Passenger Services Through Westbury Station

I was at the station for about an hour and several trains passed through.

Great Western Railway services through the station include.

  • One train per two hour (tp2h) – London Paddington and Exeter St. Davids – Stops
  • One tp2h – London Paddington and Penzance – Passes through
  • One tp2h – London Paddington and Plymouth – Passes through
  • One train per hour (tph) – Cardiff Central and Portsmouth Harbour – Stops
  • One tp2h – Great Malvern and Westbury
  • One tp2h – Gloucester and Weymouth – Stops
  • One tp2h – Swindon and Westbury

Train classes included Class 800 trains and Class 166 trains.

South Western Railway services through the station include.

  • Five trains per day – Salisbury and Bristol Temple Meads – Stops

Train classes include Class 159 trains.

Battery Trains Through Westbury

Hitachi’s Class 800 train with a battery electric capability or Regional Battery Train, is described in this infographic from the company.

The proposed 90 km or 56 mile range could even be sufficient take a train between Westbury and Bristol Temple Meads stations on a return trip.

Many of the trains through Westbury go to the same stations.

Distances are as follows.

  • Bristol Temple Meads – 28 miles
  • Newbury – 42 miles
  • Salisbury – 24 miles
  • Swindon – 32.5 miles
  • Taunton – 47 miles

It looks like all of these places should be in range of an electric train with a battery capability, providing there is a charging facility at the other end.

An Electrification Island At Westbury Station

I have been advocating an island of electrification around Westbury station for some time and feel about a dozen miles of electrification through the station would be sufficient for Class 800 trains with a battery capability to bridge the gap.

  • At Newbury, trains would access the current electrification into London Paddington.
  • Between Exeter and Taunton, the rail route runs alongside the M5, so why not electrify this stretch, as the wires will not be so noticeable?

Looking at Westbury, to my untrained eye, it would appear that a short section of electrification around the station, would not be the most challenging of projects.

I believe that discontinuous electrification between Newbury and Exeter would be possible and could gradually be extended across Devon and Cornwall.

It should also be noted that one of Hitachi’s Regional Battery Trains has a range of 56 miles, so that these places from Westbury could be an return trip on batteries, with a well-driven train with excellent energy management.

  • Bath Spa – 17 miles
  • Bradford-on-Avon – 7 miles
  • Bristol Temple Meads – 28 miles
  • Chippenham – 16 miles
  • Frome – 6 miles
  • Salisbury – 24 miles
  • Trowbridge – 4 miles
  • Warminster – 9 miles

Obviously, the number of stops and the terrain will play a part.

Freight Might Drive Full Electrification Through Westbury Station

As the pictures show, there are heavy freight trains going through the area, which bring long and weighty loads of stone from the Mendips to London.

  • There are regularly two or three stone trains in an average hour of the day.
  • Like in the picture, I suspect they are usually hauled by a noisy, smelly, polluting and carbon-dioxide emitting Class 66 Locomotive. Not all of these, are as clean and well-maintained, as the one in the picture.
  • Some trains start at Merehead Quarry, which is about fifteen miles from Westbury station.

I believe that we must decarbonise freight trains.

But freight and electric haulage is not a simple subject.

  • I once had extensive talks with a Senior Crane Driver at the Port of Felixstowe during an Ipswich Town Away match. Ports don’t like overhead wires, as containers do get dropped and fall off rail wagons.
  • Suppose a historic line without electrification, like the Settle and Carlisle has a serious land-slip, which it did a couple of years ago. How do you haul in the materials for repair?
  • Because freight can be of a random and unpredictable nature, to electrify freight, you probably need to electrify the whole rail network.

For these and other reasons, we need independently-powered freight locomotives and I feel that a new freight locomotive will develop, that will be needed by the rail industry all over the world.

There are several solutions.

Biodiesel

Biodiesel is the simplest solution and would mean that the current diesel locomotives could be used.

In Grant Shapps Announcement On Friday, I talked about Government support for an industrial process, that has been developed by Oxford University and their spin-off company; Velocys, from the the Fischer-Tropsch Process, which can produce, the following fuels from household and industrial waste.

  • Aviation biofuel.
  • Biodiesel.

A plant to process 500,000 tonnes per year of Lincolnshire finest waste is now being built at Immingham to create 50,000,000 litres of fuel, by Altalto, which is a partnership between Velocys, British Airways and Shell.

If nothing else, waste-to-fuel is the interim solution to the decarbonisation of tricky sectors like heavy rail freight, rail construction, large diesel-powered machines, ships or long-distance aviation.

This fuel could be ideal to haul the heavy stone trains from the Mendips.

Hydrogen

I did think, it would be hydrogen powered, but I’m not so sure now, as hydrogen trains and locomotives seem to have a slow development cycle.

Although, there is one factor, that might influence the use of hydrogen as a fuel, which I wrote about in Thirsty High-Rollers … Mining’s Heavy Haulers Prime Candidates For Hydrogen Conversion.

Mining and quarrying don’t have a good green image, but converting mines and quarries to hydrogen power, would surely have operational and good public relational advantages.

It would also ensure a plentiful and convenient supply of hydrogen, for any hydrogen-powered locomotives.

Hydrogen-powered locomotives, with their electric transmissions, would probably be able to use electrification for traction power, so they would put pressure on the Government to electrify between Westbury and Newbury stations, so that there was a fully-electrified route between the Mendips and London.

Rolls-Royce’s Staggering Development

Staggering is not my word, but that of Paul Stein, who is Rolls-Royce’s Chief Technology Officer.

He used the word in a press release, which I discuss in Our Sustainability Journey.

To electrify aviation, Rolls-Royce has developed a 2.5 MW generator, based on a small gas-turbine engine, which Paul Stein describes like this.

Amongst the many great achievements from E-Fan X has been the generator – about the same size as a beer keg – but producing a staggering 2.5 MW. That’s enough power to supply 2,500 homes and fully represents the pioneering spirit on this project.

This generator is designed for flight and the data sheet for the gas-turbine engine is available on the Internet.

  • It has a weight of under a couple of tonnes compared to the thirteen tonnes of the diesel engine and generator in a Class 68 locomotive.
  • It is also more powerful than the diesel.
  • It looks to be as frugal, if not more so!
  • Rolls-Royce haven’t said if this gas-turbine can run on aviation biofuel, but as many of Rolls-Royce’s large engines can, I would be very surprised if it couldn’t!

Rolls-Royce’s German subsidiary is a large producer of rail and maritime diesel engines, so the company has the expertise to customise the generator for rail applications.

I can see this generator ending up in a high-powered heavy independently-powered electric locomotive for hauling stone and inter-modal container trains.

As with hydrogen-powered locomotives, this new breed of gas-turbine locomotive with its electric transmission, will be able to use electrification, where it exists.

So would locomotive developments drive the electrification through Westbury and especially between Westbury and Newbury?

I would rate is likely, that in the future, increasingly rail locomotives will have sophisticated electric transmissions, between their prime motive power of diesel, hydrogen, gas-turbine or whatever and their traction system. All of these locomotives will have pantographs and/or third-rail shoes to access electrification, where it exists.

These locomotives will surely add to pressure to electrify between Westbury and Newbury.

Biodiesel is surely the interim freight solution, if one is needed.

Future Zero-Carbon Passenger Services

Passenger services through Westbury can be divided into three groups.

Great Western Railway’s Services Between London Paddington And Devon And Cornwall

From Beeching Reversal projects put forward over the last few months, it looks like these services will increase and stop at several new and refurbished stations.

I can see discontinuous electrification being used to create a series of electrification islands to allow Class 800 trains, with a battery capability reach the Far South West of Cornwall.

Electrification islands could be at places like

  • Around Westbury station.
  • Between Taunton and Exeter St. Davids stations alongside the M5.
  • Between Plymouth station and the Royal Albert bridge.
  • Around Bodmin Parkway station
  • Around Truro station
  • At Newquay station
  • At Penzance station

Obviously, the number and type of the various installations will depend on the methods used and the engineering required.

I do believe that with Hitachi trains, that meet their specification, that trains will be able to travel between Paddington and Penzance without touching a drop of diesel.

Great Western Railway’s Cardiff Central And Portsmouth Harbour Service

The service can be split into the following legs.

  • Cardiff Central and Filton Junction – 33 miles – Electrified
  • Filton Junction and Bristol Temple Meads – 5 miles – Not Electrified
  • Bristol Temple Meads and Westbury – 28 miles – Not Electrified
  • Westbury and Salisbury – 24 miles – Not Electrified
  • Salisbury and Southampton Central – 15 miles – Not Electrified
  • Southampton Central and Portsmouth Harbour – 26 miles – Electrified

It would appear that a train with the performance and range on batteries of Hitachi’s Regional Battery Train should be able to handle the route, provided the following conditions are met.

  • It can leave the Great Western Main Line at Filton Junction with a full battery.
  • It can leave the electrification at Westbury station with a full battery.
  • It can leave Southampton Central station with a full battery.
  • Third-rail shoes are fitted for working between Southampton Central and Portsmouth Harbour stations.

Recharging batteries at Bristol Temple Meads and Salisbury stations, although probably welcome, are not necessary.

I can envisage Hitachi Class 800 and Class 385 trains being able to fulfil this role, along with Bombardier Electrostars and Aventras and Siemens Desiros.

As Great Western Railway have forty-five Class 387 trains, conversion of some of these to battery electric operation must be a possibility.

Great Western Railway’s Gloucester and Weymouth Service

The service can be split into the following legs.

  • Gloucester and Bristol Temple Meads – 39 miles – Not Electrified
  • Bristol Temple Meads and Westbury – 28 miles – Not Electrifield
  • Westbury and Dorchester Junction – 52 miles – Not Electrified
  • Dorchester Junction and Weymouth – 4 miles – Electrified

It would appear that a train with the performance and range on batteries of Hitachi’s Regional Battery Train should be able to handle the route, provided the following conditions are met.

  • It can leave Gloucester station with a full battery.
  • It can leave Bristol Temple Meads with a full battery.
  • It can leave Westbury with a full battery.
  • It can leave the South Western Main Line at Dorchester Junction with a full battery.

It would be a tight trip for a battery electric train and I suspect, that there would be some extra electrification between Westbury and Dorchester Junction or perhaps charging facilities at Frome or Yeovil Pen Mill stations.

The alternative would be to fit larger batteries on the train.

As to the train to be used, a Class 387 train with a battery capability would surely be ideal.

Great Western Railway’s Swindon and Westbury Service

The service can be split into the following legs.

  • Swindon and Chippenham – 16 miles – Electrified
  • Chippenham and Westbury- 16 miles – Not Electrified

It would appear that a train with the performance and range on batteries of Hitachi’s Regional Battery Train should be able to handle the route, provided the following conditions are met.

  • It can leave Chippenham station with a full battery.

This would have sufficient charge to do the thirty-two mile round trip from Chippenham to Westbury and back.

As to the train to be used, a Class 387 train with a battery capability would surely be ideal.

South Western Railway’s Bristol Temple Meads and Salisbury Service

The service can be split into the following legs.

  • Bristol Temple Meads and Westbury – 28 miles – Not Electrified
  • Westbury and Salisbury- 24 miles – Not Electrified

t would appear that a train with the performance and range on batteries of Hitachi’s Regional Battery Train should be able to handle the route, provided the following conditions are met.

  • It can leave Bristol Temple Meads station with a full battery.
  • It can leave Westbury with a full battery.
  • It can leave Salisbury with a full battery.

But, I do wonder, if with a slightly larger battery, a well-driven train could work the route with only charging the battery at Westbury station?

Conclusion

Could Westbury station develop into a zero-carbon rail transport hub for Wiltshire?

  1. It has an hourly train service between London Paddington and Exeter St. Davids.
  2. It has an hourly service between Bristol Temple Meads and Weymouth.
  3. There are hourly services to stations like Bath Spa, Bradford-on-Avon, Bristol Temple Meads, Chippenham, Dorchester, Frome, Swindon, Taunton, Trowbridge and Yeovil

It could be electrified to charge battery electric trains as they pass through.

 

July 30, 2020 Posted by | Energy Storage, Hydrogen, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Speeding Down To Bristol By Train

On Wednesday, I went to Bristol to take a few photographs.

I took these pictures, where the electrification ran out at Chippenham station.

There is some half-hearted erection of electrification going on between Chippenham station and Box Tunnel, but despite the fact, that the iconic tunnel is ready for wires, construction work seemed noticeable by its absence.

Line Speed Observations

I had my personal dynamometer car connected for much of the journey.

  • Between Southall and Slough we were at times running at only a few miles short of 130 mph. Are Great Western Railway starting to wind up the speed.
  • Most of the journey, when well clear of stations, we were at around 125 mph until Chippenham station.
  • At Chippenham, it was noticeable that the diesel engine under my seat kicked in.
  • Onwards from Chippenham, we were at around 100 mph on diesel.

I suspect that London and Bristol services could be improved and/or speeded up.

  • Timings could be reduced between London Paddington and Reading by running at faster speeds under digital ERTMS signalling. The train certainly felt comfortable at 128 mph.
  • Any increase in electrification past Chippenham station will increase the the reach of a Class 800 train with a battery capability on a mile-for-mile basis.
  • Trains should be able to increase speed towards 125 mph for some of the twelve miles between Chippenham and Bath Spa stations.
  • As trains would not be swapping between diesel and electricity in Chippenham station, would panning up and down happen automatically  further West?
  • It might be possible to fit in a third London Paddington and Bristol service, that doesn’t stop at Chippenham station.

None of these improvements would need the line through Bath Spa station to be electrified.

 

July 30, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Beeching Reversal – New Station For Langport And Somerton Area

This is one of the Beeching Reversal projects that the Government and Network Rail are proposing to reverse some of the Beeching cuts.

This Google Map shows the Langport and Somerton area.

Note.

  1. This map is probably best clicked to see in a large size.
  2. Langport is in the South-West corner of the map.
  3. Somerton is in the North-East corner of the map.
  4. The Reading-Taunton Line goes through both villages, although both stations are now closed.
  5. Somerton station was in a cutting in the middle of the village.

The station’s location is shown in this second Google Map.

According to the Wikipedia entry for Somerton station, this seems to be the plan.

A May 2018 transport strategy suggested that a station should be opened to serve the Somerton and Langport area.

Judging from the map, there should be space for a two-platform station.

Services Though Somerton Station

Currently, there are three Great Western Railway (GWR) services on this route.

  • London Paddington and Exeter St. Davids via Reading, Newbury, Pewsey, Westbury, Castle Cary, Taunton and Tiverton Parkway.
  • London Paddington and Plymouth via Reading, Taunton, Tiverton Parkway, Exeter St Davids, Newton Abbot and Totnes.
  • London Paddington and Penzance via Reading, Taunton, Tiverton Parkway, Exeter St Davids, Newton Abbot, Totnes, Plymouth, Liskeard, Bodmin Parkway, Lostwithiel, Par, St Austell, Truro, Redruth, Camborne and St Erth.

All services have a frequency of one train per two hours (tp2h)

The frequency of trains between Reading and Taunton on the 24th July was around each hour as follows.

  • 7 – 4/1
  • 8 – 4/1
  • 9 – 5/2
  • 10 4/0
  • 11 6/2
  • 12 5/2
  • 13 – 5/1
  • 14 – 5/2
  • 15 – 4/1
  • 16 – 3/0
  • 17 – 7/2
  • 18 – 3/0
  • 19 – 3/0
  • 20 – 3/0
  • 21 – 3/1
  • 22 – 0/0
  • 23 – 0/0
  • 24 – 1/1

Note.

  1. The first figure is the total number of trains per hour (tph).
  2. The second figure is the total number of freight tph.

There is under two tph in both directions and under one freight tph.

As the Reading-Taunton Line is a 110 mph route, my scheduling experience, says that with 125 mph Class 800 trains running all the passenger services, there should be some space for a few more services on the route.

So could this mean a fourth service between London Paddington and the South West?

Are we seeing the emergence of a stopping service, between London Paddington and Exeter St. Davids?

Hitachi’s Proposed Class 800 Trains With Batteries

Hitachi’s proposed train is described in this infographic.

Note the phrase – Allows Discontinuous Electrification; at the top of the infographic.

Suppose the train ran these legs.

  • Newbury – Westbury – 42 miles
  • Westbury – Taunton – 48 miles
  • Taunton – Exeter St. Davids – 30 miles
  • Exeter St. Davids – Plymouth – 52 miles

All would be under the 55 mile limit for battery range.

Conclusion

It looks like GWR are building up to increase services between London Paddington and Exeter St Davids.

 

 

 

 

July 26, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Could Hitachi’s Class 800 Trains Work The Cornish Main Line On Battery Power?

The distance between Plymouth and Penzance stations along the Cornish Main Line is just seventy-nine miles and thirty-eight chains. I’ll call it 79.5 miles.

Hitachi’s proposed train is described in this infographic.

The range on battery power of 90 km or 56 miles, will not be quite enough to get all the way between Plymouth and Penzance!

But note the phrase – Allows Discontinuous Electrification; at the top of the infographic.

Will Electrification Be Needed?

Obviously or the train could perhaps wait at Truro for ten minutes to charge the batteries.

But how customer-unfriendly and disruptive to good operating practice is that?

Could Bigger Batteries Be Fitted?

This obviously is a possibility, but surely an operator would prefer all of their trains to have the same battery range and updating them all for a longer distance might not be an economic proposition.

Could Intelligent Discontinuous Third-Rail Electrification Be Used?

Third-rail electrification, is hated by the Health & Safety Taliban, as it occasionally kills people trespassing or falling on the railway. But in the UK, we have around 1,500 miles of third-rail electrified line, that generally operates to a high level of safety.

Can my modern successors make third-rail electrification absolutely safe in new installations?

Third-Rail And Discontinuous Electrification Installations!

To connect to overhead electrification, the driver or an automatic system on the train, must raise the pantograph. It doesn’t often go wrong, but when it does, it can bring down the wires. This section on panotograph weaknesses from Wikipedia give more details.

With third-rail, the connection and disconnection is automatic, with far less to go wrong.

These pictures show a gap in the third-rail electrification at the Blackfriars station, which was rebuilt in 2012, so it must meet all modern regulations.

Note the gap in the third-rail, which carries the current.

  • The third-rail shoes on the train disconnect and connect automatically, as the train passes through.
  • The only rails with voltage are between the tracks for safety.
  • The high-tech shields appear to be real tree wood painted yellow.

As an Electrical Engineer, I actually suspect, that this gap in the conductor rail, is to isolate the North and South London electricity supplies from each other,, so that a catastrophic failure on one side doesn’t affect both halves of Thameslink.

Third-Rail Electrification In Stations

Most rail passengers in the UK, understand third-rail electrification, if they’ve ever used trains in the South of London or Merseyside.

Electrifying stations using third-rail equipment could enable battery trains to go further.

  • Stopping trains could top-up their batteries.
  • Passing trains, that were low on power could make a pit-stop.
  • All trains would connect automatically to the third-rail, when in the station.

The safety level would be raised by making sure that the third-rail was electrically-dead unless a train was over the top.

I am by training a Control Engineer and one of my first jobs in a dangerous factory as a fifteen-year-old,  was designing and building safety systems, that cut power to guillotines, when the operator put their hands somewhere they shouldn’t! I remember endlessly testing the system with an old broom, which survived unscathed.

I believe that only switching on the electrification, when a train completes the circuit, is a fairly simple operation for modern control switchgear. I can imagine an intelligent switch constantly monitoring the resistance  and only switching on power, when the resistance in the circuit looks like a train.

Third-Rail Electrification In Discrete Locations

Overhead electrification can receive complaints in scenic locations, but third-rail electrification can be invisible in tunnels and over bridges and viaducts.

The Cornish Main Line has four tunnels, two bridges, which include the Royal Albert Bridge, and no less than thirty-two viaducts.

How many of these could be used to hide electrification?

  • Any electrified sections could be intelligently controlled to increase safety.
  • Power for the electrification could come from local renewable sources, using techniques like Riding Sunbeams.

I can see engineers developing several techniques for discrete electrification.

Third-Rail And Charging Battery Trains

I like the Vivarail’s Fast Charge concept of using third-rail equipment to charge battery trains.

This press release from the company describes how they charge their battery electric Class 230 trains.

  • The system is patented.
  • The system uses a trickle-charged battery pack, by the side of the track to supply the power.
  • The first system worked with the London Underground 3rd and 4th rail electrification standard.

As the length of rails needed to be added at charging points is about a metre, installing a charging facility in a station, will not be the largest of projects.

Under How Does It Work?, the press release says this.

The concept is simple – at the terminus 4 short sections of 3rd and 4th rail are installed and connected to the electronic control unit and the battery bank. Whilst the train is in service the battery bank trickle charges itself from the national grid – the benefit of this is that there is a continuous low-level draw such as an EMU would use rather than a one-off huge demand for power.

The train pulls into the station as normal and the shoe-gear connects with the sections of charging rail. The driver need do nothing other than stop in the correct place as per normal and the rail is not live until the train is in place.

That’s it!

As an electrical engineer, I’m certain the concept could be adapted to charge the batteries of a conventional third-rail train.

Vivarail’s press release says this about modification to the trains.

The train’s shoe-gear is made of ceramic carbon so it is able to withstand the heat generated during the fast charge process.

That wouldn’t be a major problem to solve.

Hitachi And Third Rail

The picture shows a Hitachi Class 395 train at Gillingham station.

 

The silver-coloured  third-rail equipment is clearly visible, under the javelin logo.

These trains are cousins of all the new Hitachi trains in the UK, so I suspect fitting third-rail equipment to Class 80x trains, is just a matter of finding the appropriate documents on the computer and raiding the parts bin.

I suspect, as Hitachi will probably be building some more trains for Southeastern to start the Highspeed service between London St. Pancras and Hastings, that Hitachi are already working on the design of a third-rail high-speed train with batteries.

I doubt that Hitachi have any fears about fitting third-rail gear to their trains, as an optional extra.

Electrifying Between Plymouth And Penzance

Obviously, Plymouth and Penzance stations would have charging facilities, but now many would the trains handle the 79.5 miles in between?

There are three possibilities.

Limited-Third Rail Electrification

As I indicated earlier short lengths of intelligent third-rail electrification could be added at various places on the route.

A full battery would take the train fifty-six miles and as the Cornish Main Line is nearly eighty miles long, I suspect that the train would need almost a full charge halfway along the route.

  • Hitachi claim in the infographic, that a full-charge takes 10-15 minutes, when the train is static, so I will assume the largest figure of this range, as charging on the move might not be as efficient, with everything happening at 90 mph.
  • So I will assume a fifteen minute charge time.
  • Typically, a Class 80x takes two hours between Penzance and Plymouth, which is an average speed of just 40 mph.
  • In fifteen minutes, the train will go ten miles. So a rough estimate would say ten miles should be electrified.

As electrification in stations would allow trains to have a bigger sup, a scientifically-correct simulation would show the best philosophy.

The London Paddington and Penzance services call at the following stations, that are West of Plymouth.

Liskeard, Saltash, St. Germans, Bodmin Parkway, Lostwithiel, Par, St Austell, Truro, Redruth, Camborne, Hayle and St Erth

Note.

  1. Some smaller stations do get skipped.
  2. According to Real Time Trains, stops seem to take 1-2 minutes.
  3. Trains are usually nine- or ten-cars, but I feel that the proposed improvements between Bodmin General and Bodmin Parkway stations, that I wrote about in Increased Service Provision Bodmin General-Bodmin Parkway, may result in a large reorganisation of services between London and Cornwall.

Could it be that electrifying the major stations with third-rail electrification would enable enough power to be taken on board by a train running between London Paddington and Penzance, so that the journey could be completed?

Vivarail Fast Chargers

Vivarail’s Fast Chargers could be fitted at all or selected stations and trains could take a sip as and when they need.

A charger would also be needed at any Cornish terminal station, that would have services from battery electric trains.

A Mixture Of Third-Rail Electrification And Vivarail Fast Chargers

Both technologies are interchangeable and can be used with compatible battery electric trains.

I would expect an accurate mathematical model will indicate the best layout of electrification and Fast Chargers.

 

July 26, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beeching Reversal – Increased Service Provision Bodmin General-Bodmin Parkway

This is one of the Beeching Reversal projects that the Government and Network Rail are proposing to reverse some of the Beeching cuts.

This Google Map shows the relationship of the two Bodmin General and Bodmin Parkway stations.

The two stations are clearly visible.

The aim of this Beeching Reversal project would appear to set up a more regular service between Bodmin Parkway station on the Cornish Main Line and Bodmin General station in the town.

This video shows some of the current trains run by the Bodmin and Wenford railway, between the two stations.

This article on Cornwall Live is entitled Plan To Link Heritage Railway At Bodmin To Mainline Train Services, gives a few scant details.

  • There will be a second platform at Bodmin General station.
  • This will allow extra services.

Looking at the space around Bodmin Parkway station, it should be possible to have a very comprehensive track layout, that connects the Bodmin branch to the main line.

It also appears that the platform is fully-funded from Great Western Railway (GWR) and Cornwall County Council.

What Do GWR Want In Return For Their Funding?

I think that GWR could have a couple of uses for a platform at Bodmin General station.

Reorganising The Services Between London Paddington and the South-West

Currently, there are three services on this route.

  • London Paddington and Exeter St. Davids via Reading, Newbury, Pewsey, Westbury, Castle Cary, Taunton, Tiverton Parkway.
  • London Paddington and Plymouth via Reading, Taunton, Tiverton Parkway, Exeter St Davids, Newton Abbot, Totnes.
  • London Paddington and Penzance via Reading, Taunton, Tiverton Parkway, Exeter St Davids, Newton Abbot, Totnes, Plymouth, Liskeard, Bodmin Parkway, Lostwithiel, Par, St Austell, Truro, Redruth, Camborne, St Erth.

All services have a frequency of one train per two hours (tp2h)

Perhaps by reorganising the train paths, GWR could run another 1 tp2h service between London Paddington and Bodmin or Newquay station after the Transformation Of The Newquay Line.

Joining And Splitting Between London Paddington And The South-West

GWR’s Hitachi Class 80x trains have the ability to run in pairs, that are split and joined at convenient places en route.

As a means of evening out passenger loadings on pairs of trains running to the South-West, the two large stations of Exeter St. Davids and Plymouth would surely be possibilities for the manoeuvre.

I also think that Bodmin Parkway station could be used to split and join two trains from Cornwall.

  • One train would come from Penzance and the West.
  • The other could come from either Newquay or Bodmin General stations.
  • In the future the second train, might come from a new Wadebridge station.

Bodmin Parkway station might need some small modifications, but it should be remembered that the closely-related Class 395 trains, do the deed and quickly disappear at Ashford International station.

Creating A Bodmin-Wadebridge Railway

There are also plans in the Beeching Reversal projects for the Reinstatement of the Bodmin-Wadebridge Railway

For trains to travel between Bodmin Parkway and Wadebridge stations, trains will need to reverse in the new platform at Bodmin General station.

Local Services From Exeter And Plymouth

From what I have read on the Internet, the Bodmin and Wenford Railway is an important tourist attraction and is one of several around Bodmin including the beaches and the Camel Trail.

So perhaps, a connection between Bodmin and Exeter and/or Plymouth in a vintage InterCity 125 could be a nice little earner for GWR and an appropriate way to arrive at the steam railway.

Steam Local Services From Exeter And Plymouth

Why not?

The new platform at Bodmin General station could probably take a locomotive and four coaches and all the facilities to handle steam engines are in the vicinity of the station.

Could The New Platform Be Used For High Speed Freight Shuttles?

Why not?

Rail Operations Group is looking at the possibility of running Class 769 trains as freight shuttles.

Bodmin could make an ideal Cornish terminal, as it’s the right side of county and has the main A38 close by.

Could The Platform Be Used To Charge Battery Electric Trains?

I feel that First Group are starting to embrace battery trains.

In Hitachi Trains For Avanti, I talked about how a fellow First Group company were reporting, that they might have battery trains.

If Great Western Railway were running extra trains into Cornwall, would a new platform at Bodmin General station, be an ideal place to charge a train?

Conclusion

A second platform at Bodmin General station could open up a lot of possibilities for train operating companies.

 

July 25, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Beeching Reversal – Cirencester Community Railway

This is one of the Beeching Reversal projects that the Government and Network Rail are proposing to reverse some of the Beeching cuts.

It is also one of only a few of these projects, that has a very detailed plan.

  • The plan has been written to the sort of standards, that would be expected of competent professionals from one of the large international rail consultancies.
  • The plan is explained in detail on a comprehensive web site.
  • The authors seem to have knowledge of recent developments in rail technology.

After a visit to Cirencester in November 2019, I wrote Could Cirencester Be Reconnected To The Rail Network?, which I started with this paragraph.

In Boris Johnson Vows New Life For High Streets And Axed Rail Lines, I laid out a list of rail lines that could be reopened by a future Conservative government.

Today, I’m going to Cirencester to have lunch with an old friend.

But, Cirencester does not have a rail connection, although there used to be a Cirencester branch line from Kemble station.

This was my conclusion.

With some clever and sympathetic engineering on the branch to handle the crossings, it could be a feasible reopening.

I also felt that a tram-train with batteries, could serve a two trains per hour (tph) service between Swindon and Cirencester via Kemble.

These are some details from the Cirencester Community Railway (CCR) plan.

The Route

In my post, I thought the last part of the route into Cirencester could be a problem.

The authors of the scheme have come up with an elegant solution.

  • Between Kemble station and Parklease Farm, the route follows the previous route.
  • Between Parklease Farm and the A433 Tetbury Road, the route runs North-South, possible along the route of an existing track.
  • The route then follows the A433 into the town.

It is simple and there won’t be much major construction.

  • A new bridge over the A429 will be needed.
  • The track will need to cross the A433 on the level. It appears that this could be fitted in with major works to provide access to a new housing development.

All of the construction needed is laid out in the CCR report.

Single Or Double Track?

The report says that it will be built single track, which should be sufficient. Although there may be a need for a passing place around halfway to allow a more frequent service.

The Stations

Before detailing the stations, I will show this Google Map, which shows the route of the A433 Tetbury Road into Cirencester.

Note.

  1. The A 433 running SW-NE across the map.
  2. The Royal Agricultural University towards the West of the map.
  3. Cirencester College to the North-East of the University.
  4. The red arrow in the North-East corner of the map, which marks the Old Station Car Park.

The design envisages the following stations.

Parklease Farm

This station could be added, where the track changes direction, when it leaves the old route. It lies to the South of the Royal Agricultural University and off the map above.

It would probably be by request.

The University Station

This would be the main station on the route.

  • It would serve the Royal Agricultural University.
  • It would act as a Park-and-Ride station, with a large car park.
  • Overnight stabling for the trains could be provided here.

If a passing loop is needed it could be added at this station.

The College Halt

This would be  to the East of the roundabout on the map and would serve Cirencester College.

The Town Halt

This would be on the edge of the town centre, by the Old Station Car Park.

The Vehicles

The plan envisages using Very Light Rail vehicles.

  • If these run on concrete tracks, as the report indicates, then effectively this means the the CCR will be separate from the UK rail network and through running will not be possible.
  • In my post, I proposed battery tram-trains as these would allow extra local services between Kemble and Swindon, which might be needed if there was substantial housing development in the area.
  • But then I like tram-trains and felt they would be a way to get to the centre of Cirencester. But the CCR’s route avoids the need for tram-trains.

I also wonder, if Very Light Rail would offer enough capacity. But it could probably offer a higher frequency easier than heavy rail.

Service Frequency

Nothing is said in the CCR report about service frequency.

As the University station doubles as a Park-and-Ride for the town, I think the frequency between the University station and the Town halt should be at least four tph.

Would this frequency apply to the whole of the CCR?

Great Western Railway’s Attitude

I can’t speak for Great Western Railway (GWR), but surely they would hope that the CCR would bring them a large number of passengers..

Currently, there is a two tph service between Swindon and Cheltenham through Kemble! Will this provide a good connection with the Cirencester service? Or will passengers find that they waste thirty minutes waiting for trains.

This was one of the reasons, I proposed tram-trains in my original post.

But this would not be a problem unique to the CCR, as the GWR has several branch lines with a similar problem.

So will GWR develop a company-wide solution to feed passengers in from branch lines?

Conclusion

The CCR have produced a well-thought out and detailed plan, but I think it can be improved. Especially, if GWR develop a company-wide solution for branch lines.

July 21, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

Reinstatement Of Rail Access To Devizes Via A New Station At Lydeway

This is one of the successful bids in the First Round of the Restoring Your Railway Fund.

Devizes is a growing town without a railway station.

The Wikipedia entry for the former Devizes station, says this about providing a new station.

Although Devizes was denied a railway station due to its stagnant population, as of 2017 the population had grown to 31,000, which could warrant its re-establishment. However, much of the vital land agreements and rights of way were sold off reducing the chances of reinstatement. An alternative plan has been proposed: to build Devizes Parkway Station at Clock Inn Park, three miles east of Devizes on the Reading–Taunton line, near to the site of the original junction for the branch at Etchilhampton.

It appears to have been taken from Baldrick’s book of cunning plans, where you create a virtual branch line using the A342, travellers’ personal transport and a shuttle bus service.

This Google Map shows the position of the station site at Clock Inn Park, with relation to Devizes.

Note.

  1. Devizes in the North-West corner of the map.
  2. Clock Inn Park in the South-East corner of the map.
  3. The A342 road connecting the town with the station site.

This more detailed Google Map shows the station site.

Note.

  1. The A342 going diagonally across the map.
  2. The Reading-Taunton Line going across the map.
  3. There’s even bus stops by the station site.

As the site could be fairly generous, I think a station with adequate parking could be created.

The Train Service

The train service is currently two hourly on this route between Paddington and Exeter St. David’s stations.

Perhaps, with an extra stop and more passengers, the service could be increased to hourly.

Another alternative would be to run battery-electric trains on the route between Paddington and Westbury, that called at all stations West of Newbury.

  • Trains would use the electrification between Paddington and Newbury and would leave Newbury with a full battery.
  • This service would be an extension of the current hourly service to Bedwyn station.
  • Between Newbury and Westbury stations is forty-two miles of unelectrified lines, which should be possible with a battery electric version of the Class 802 train.
  • Charging facilities would be needed at Westbury station.
  • Between Paddington and Westbury stations takes one hour and thirteen minutes.
  • Hitachi are quoting a ten minute charge time for one of their battery-electric trains.
  • The trains would turn at Westbury station, which has refreshments and toilets for the crew.
  • No extra electrification would be needed to run electric services to Westbury.

I think it could be feasible.

The Concept Of An Electrification Island

Westbury could be what I would call an electrification island.

Consider

  • The Reading-Taunton Line passes through the station.
  • The Wessex Main Line both passes through the station.
  • The town of Westbury has a population of around 17,000 and some substantial heavy industries, so I suspect that it has a robust electricity supply.
  • Taunton is 47 miles away.
  • Newbury is 42 miles away.
  • Weymouth is 59 miles away.
  • Bristol Temple Meads is 40 miles away.
  • Swindon is 32 miles away.
  • Hitachi are claiming a range of between 55 and 65 miles for a battery-electric train.

Suppose the two routes through the station  and perhaps for up to ten miles away from the town, were to be electrified.

  • A battery-electric train turning back at Westbury would pan-up in the station and charge the battery. Leaving the station, the driver would leave the pantograph up for acceleration and then make sure pan-down was performed before the end of the electrification.
  • A through battery-electric express between Paddington and Exeter would pan-up when under the electrification and pan down before it left the electrification.
  • It might be prudent that all passing expresses stopped in Westbury station, to make sure, trains didn’t stop with a flat battery in the middle of nowhere, until procedures were seen to be totally reliable.
  • A battery-electric train to and from Weymouth would probably need to run for about 45 miles between the electrification island at Westbury and the third-rail electrification at Dorchester Junction.

I believe that a well-designed electrification island at Westbury coupled with perhaps electrification between Exeter and Taunton, would enable battery-electric trains to work the following routes.

  • Paddington and Exeter
  • Westbury and Bristol
  • Westbury and Weymouth
  • Westbury and Swubdon

I suspect that Transwilts services could also be run by battery-electric trains, as they could charge at Westbury, Swindon and other electrified stations.

Conclusion

Devizes Parkway station would appear to be a simple way to provide a new station, at a town that has grown substantially since the days of Dr. Beeching.

Did Dr. Beeching and the Government of the day, have a view on population growth in the UK? They certainly didn’t take it into the account in their rail closure program. Or if they did, they got it spectacularly wrong!

 

May 24, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

GWR and DfT’s Commitment To The Night Riviera

The May 2020 Edition of Modern Railways has an article, which is entitled West Of England Improvements In GWR Deal.

Under a heading of Sleeper Planning, this is said about plans for the Night Riviera.

Whilst GWR is already developing plans for the short term future of the ‘Night Riviera’ sleeper service, including the provision of additional capacity at times of high demand using Mk. 3 vehicles withdrawn from the Caledonian Sleeper fleet, it is understood the company has been asked to develop a long-term plan for the replacement of the current Mk. 3 fleet of coaches, constructed between 1981 and 1984, as well as the Class 57/6 locomotives, which were rebuilt in 2002-03 from Class 47 locomotives constructed in the early 1960s.

This must show commitment from both GWR and the Department for Transport, that the Night Riviera has a future.

These are a few of my thoughts on the future of the service.

The Coaches

I would suspect that GWR will opt for the same Mark 5 coaches, built by CAF, as are used on the Caledonian Sleeper.

I took these pictures on a trip from Euston to Glasgow.

The coaches don’t seem to have any problems and appear to be performing well.

The facilities are comprehensive and include full en-suite plumbing, a selection of beds including doubles and a lounge car. There are also berths for disabled passengers.

The Locomotives

The Class 57 locomotives have a power output around 2 MW and I would suspect a similar-sized locomotive would be used.

Possible locomotives could include.

  • Class 67 – Used by Chiltern on passenger services – 2.4 kW
  • Class 68 – Used by Chiltern, TransPennine Express and others on passenger services – 2.8 MW
  • Class 88 – A dual-mode locomotive might be powerful enough on diesel – 700 kW

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Stadler come up with a customised version of their Euro Dual dual-mode locomotives.

 

April 23, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment