The Anonymous Widower

Would It Have Been Better To Scrap HSTs, Abandon Class 769 Trains And Use Stadler Bi-Mode Flirts Instead?

I have ridden for several hours in Greater Anglia'[s new Class 755 trains and they seem to make good trains for scenic rural lines.

From December 16th, we’ll be seeing them work between Stansted and Norwich, which will show their mettle as true bi-modes working a partially-electrified route.

By mid-next year they will be working the following partially-electrified routes.

  • Liverpool Street and Lowestoft
  • Colchester and Peterborough
  • Norwich and Stansted
  • Ipswich and Cambridge
  • Sudbury and Colchester Town

I think that about forty percent of these routes are electrified and they also include a lot of 100 mph lines.

ScotRail

These Greater Anglia routes are not unlike some of the ScotRail Inter7City routes, which are to be run by shorterned four- and five-car HSTs.

Both trains have been late because of training and other issues, but delivery of the HSTs seems to have got stuck round various remanufacturing problems at Wabtec.

Would ScotRail have done better to follow their sister company Greater Anglia and buy some Class 755 trains to their specification?

Consider the advantages of the Inter7City over the Class 755 train.

  • Nostalgia
  • Well-known engineering
  • Comfortable

They could have been obtained at an affordable price.

But they do come with disadvantages.

  • Forty years old
  • Two big diesel engines
  • They are rather dark and dingy inside.

The Class 755 trains also have the following advantages.

  • They would help to remove diesel power from Edinburgh, Glasgow Queen Street and Stirling stations.
  • They have large picture windows ideal for looking at lakes and mountains.
  • Some seats are raised for a better view.
  • They are genuine 100 mph trains, which could be uprated to 125 mph, so would be ideal for incursions on the fast routes to England.
  • They’re probably ready to fit ERTMS.
  • They come in various lengths.
  • They are able to be modified for battery-electric operation.
  • I suspect hydrogen operation will be possible in the future.

But the biggest advantage is that they could extend Scotland’s electric network by using the bi-mode capability.

Think.

  • Fife Circle
  • Borders Railway
  • West Kilbride
  • Perth
  • West Highland Line

I think Scotland could really get to love these trains.

Great Western Railway

I could see a case for running shortened HSTs in the far South West, where GWR call them Castles, mainly on nostalgia and tourism grounds, but Class 755 trains would surely be better running the following partially-electrified services.

  • Henley and Paddington
  • Oxford and Gatwick via Reading
  • Oxford and Paddington
  • Cardiff and Taunton
  • Cardiff and Portsmouth Harbour

Often, they would be replacing Class 156 or Class 769 trains.

  • Some would need to be fitted with third-rail equipment.
  • The Gatwick services could be given an airport interior.
  • I suspect a 125 mph capability is available.
  • The Class 769 trains seem to be late in arriving.

I have no doubt in my mind, that the new Stadler trains are much better than the refurbished British Rail trains.

Transport For Wales

Transport for Wales have ordered a selection of bi-mode and tri-mode Flirts.

They must have good reasons for buying a selection of trains, rather than buying more Flirts.

Probably cost!

All these routes could be run using bi-mode Flirts

  • Cardiff and Holyhead
  • Birmingham International and Holyhead
  • Manchester Airport and Llandudno
  • Crewe and Chester
  • Chester and Liverpool Lime Street
  • Milford Haven and Manchester Piccadilly
  • Birmingham International and Aberystwyth via Shrewsbury
  • Birmingham International and Pwllheli via Shrewsbury
  • Heart of Wales Line
  • Conwy Valley Line

Some of these routes are partially electrified and use lines with a 125 mph operating speed.

Answering The Question In The Title

I very much feel that bi-mode Flirts would be better trains than shortened HSTs and Class 769 trains.

  • They are new trains.
  • They can use electrification, where it is present.
  • The appear to be capable of uprating to 125 mph.
  • They have good viewing for scenic routes because of large windows and some raised seats.
  • They are comfortable with a good ride.
  • They are able to be modified for battery-electric operation.
  • I suspect hydrogen operation will be possible in the future.

I  suspect their one downside is cost.

Conclusion

Bi-mode and tri-mode Flirts and other similar trains will proliferate and within ten years we’ll have seen the last of pure diesel trains in the UK.

I suspect that most of the shortened HSTs will have gone by 2030.

 

December 2, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Truro Station – 19th November 2019

I took these pictures as I changed trains at Truro station yesterday.

Note.

  1. The station has two footbridges, neither of which are step-free.
  2. There are two through platforms and a bay platform for the Maritime Line service to Falmouth Docks.
  3. The frequency of the main lines is two trains per hour (tph).
  4. As the frequency of the Maritime Line is rge same services should connect.

But I had to wait thirty minutes on both my changes at the station.

In some ways for people like me, the lack of a step-free bridge at Truro station is a pain.

In one of my waits, at the station, I was on a cold platform with the coffee shop on the other.

So I skipped coffee, as I didn’t want to spill it getting back over the footbridge.

This Google Map shows Truro station.

Note the level crossing at the Eastern end.

In Winner Announced In The Network Rail Footbridge Design Ideas Competition, I wrote how the competition was won by this bridge.

So could a factory-built bridge like this be installed at Truro station?

There could be possibilities at the Eastern end, especially, if the level crossing were to be improved.

November 19, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exploring Devon And Cornwall In Castles

Castle is the name given by Great Western Railway to their four- and five-car InterCity 125 trains, with which they run services in the West Country.

These pictures show the trains, as I meandered up and down the Cornish Main Line.

These are my observations.

The Doors

These trains now have electrically-controlled sliding doors and it seems to be a conversion, that has been carried out to a high standard.

Certainly, all the doors appeared to be working, as they should.

The Seats And Tables

The seats were comfortable, but not as comfortable as some seats I’ve used in Mark 3 coaches.

Could there be a few more tables?

The Ride

My pocket dynamometer was showing a speed of about 65 mph and the ride was as you’d expect from a well-maintained Mark 3 coach.

Access Between Platform And Train

This is not good as the pictures show.

This is the step on a Castle.

And this is the step on a new Class 755 train

Think buggies, heavy cases and wheelchairs.

The Class 755 train, really is the Gold Standard of step-free access between platform and train.

Conclusion

These iconic trains will do a good job for Great Western Railway.

You could certainly find a good hotel in Devon or Cornwall and have a few enjoyable days riding between Penzance and Exeter, to explore the area

I do hope that they eventually put a catering trolley on the train.

November 19, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Speculation Increases Over Use Of HSTs

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Rail Magazine

This is the second paragraph.

GWR and ScotRail are both introducing modified four and five-coach HSTs on various duties, with GWR’s operating regional services and ScotRail’s Inter7City sets to be used on its core inter-city routes.

I’ve yet to take a ride in either of the GWR oe Scotrail version of the trains and I shall be looking forward to riding both, later in the year.

I’ve only seem one close-up once at Dundee.

But they seem to be very slow in coming in to service.

Abellio Scotrail’s Proposed Fleet

Abellio Scotrail seem to have 54 Class 43 locomotives and 121 Mark 3 coaches, which according to Wikipedia, will be formed into 26 sets: 17 five-car and 9 four-car trains.

Routes include connecting Scotland’s seven cities.

GWR’s Proposed Fleet

Great Western Railway seem to have retained 24 Class 43 locomotives and 48 Mark 3 coaches, which will be formed into 11 four-car trains.

Routes include between Cardiff and Penzance.

Will These Short HSTs Be Successful?

A number of factors will come into play.

  • The trains are liked by passengers and drivers.
  • They are an ideal size for a lot of routes.
  • They have an excellent ride.
  • They have a lot of capacity for oversized baggage, like bicycles, surf boards, sporting equipment and even some urgent or perishable freight.

Only time will tell, but it is my view, they have a good chance of being a success.

Do Short HSTs Have Any Problems?

The two big problems are their age and that they are diesel-powered I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of the new franchises in the next few years, deciding to go all electric, with only a small number of diesel or hybrid trains.

Would Short HSTs be able to get an exception on heritage grounds?

The technology now is at a level, that by 2030, the UK railways could be diesel-free, with all trains electric, battery or zero-carbon hybrid.

Are There Any Other Routes Where Short HSTs Could Be Used?

I will break them down by franchis, in this incomplete list.

East Midlands Railway – Norwich And Derby

This new route for East Midlands Railway will be created by splitting the current service between Norwich and Liverpool Lime Street stations.

  • The route is 152 miles long.
  • I estimate that current trains will take three hours.
  • The service needs four-car trains at certain times.

Would it be possible for Short HSTs to do a Norwich and Derby round trip in six hours?

GWR – Cardiff And Portsmouth

If the Castles can work Cardiff and Penzance, could they work Cardiff and Portsmouth?

Scotrail – Far North Line

What has surprised me is that Abellio Scotrail are not going to use their Inter7City trains between Inverness and Wick stations on the Far North Line.

  • The distance is 174 miles
  • The current trip takes four and a quarter hours
  • The round trip is nine hours.

So could a short HST do the round trip in eight hours?

A single train could then run to the following schedule.

  • Leave Inverness at 0600.
  • Return from Wick at 1000.
  • Leave Inverness at 1400
  • Return from Wick at 1800

The train would arrive back in Inverness at 2200.

In Is This The Most Unusual Idea For A New Railway Service in The UK?, I wrote about a proposal to introduce Class 230 trains between Wick and Thurso at the far north of Scotland.

This Far North Metro, would sit well with a two train per day service to Inverness.

  • Mark 3 carriages have large windows for sightseeing.
  • A buffet and small bar could be provided.
  • The trains have space for parcels, urgent and perishable freight.
  • The service could link with the ferries to the Orkneys.

A subsidiary objective would be to bring some prosperity to a remote region.

Scotrail – Kyle Of Lochalsh Line

If Short HSTs can work their magic on the Far North Line, I just wonder if they could provide services on the Kyle Of Lochalsh Line.

  • The distance is 83 miles
  • The current trip takes two hours and forty minutes.

So could a short HST do the round trip in six hours?

As with the Far North Line, there would be a much improved service for both those that live along the line and the many visitors.

Transport for Wales – Cardiff And Holyhead

Transport for Wales run a two-hourly service between Cardiff and Holyhead stations. The rolling stock for some services will be a rake of four Mark 4 carriages, a Class 67 locomotive and a driving van trailer.

Isn’t this in effect a train with a similar purpose to a Short HST?

Obviously, Transport for Wales have got good reasons for not running Short HSTs on this route, but the choice of rolling stock does show similar thinking that led to the creation of the Short HST.

Transport for Wales – Heart Of Wales Line

The Heart Of Wales Line runs between Llanelli in West Wales and Craven Arms in England.

  • It is around 150 miles long.
  • Trains take a few minutes over four hours between Swansea and Shrewsbury stations.

It is one of those rail lines, that could be a serious tourism asset.

Would Short HSTs add to the experience?

Transport for Wales -North Wales Main Line

The North Wales Main Line is another line, where iconic Short HSTs might attract passengers.

Conclusion On Routes

There are certainly several places where Short HSTs could be gainfully employed.

Could Any Other Trains Be Used?

The specification could be something like this.

  • Four or five carriages.
  • Diesel, diesel bi-mode or hydrogen bi-mode.
  • Quality interior
  • 100, 110 or 125 mph top-speed.

Trains could be either new build or a rebuilt and/or refurbished older train.

Class 802 Train

Hitachi’s Class 802 train is in service.

  • It meets the specification.
  • It can seat somewhere between 326-342 passengers.
  • It can use electrification if it exists.

It would do a good job.

Class 755 Train

Stadler’s Class 755 train will soon be in service.

  • It meets the specification.
  • It is only a 100 mph train, but I suspect it can be uprated to 125 mph, as the electric version can handle this speed.
  • A four-car train  can seat 227 passengers.
  • It can use electrification if it exists.

It should do a good job.

Could HSTs Have Any Parcel Or Freight Applications?

This is always being suggested, but anything concerning freight or parcels must have the following characteristics.

  • They must be reliable.
  • They must be able to stick to a timetable.
  • They must have a hard-wearing interior, as they will have a hard life.
  • The small single doors would need to be replaced.
  • They must be able to accept standard freight pallets.
  • They must be quick and easy to load.

My biggest worry would be over the last two points. Would the trains just need three much modification to make them suitable for freight and parcels.

Could HSTs Have Heritage Applications?

Already a rake of Mark 3 coaches is going to be used with the  60163 steam locomotive.

But could HSTs in their own right find use in the heritage sector?

I think, that there could be space in the market for a few HSTs, which may have the sort of appeal to the younger generation, that steam trains had to my generation.

After all, I’ve had some of the best meals in my life in an HST.

Conclusion

They may be applications, but each will only use small numbers of trains.

So I’m afraid that some of these trains will go to scrap.

But then no-one can say, that they haven’t done well!

 

 

 

June 16, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment