The Anonymous Widower

Thales Supports Rollout Of UK Digital Railway Programme

The title of this post, is the same as that of this press release from Porterbrook.

The press release starts with these bullet points.

  • Thales wins the fitment and supply of European Train Control System (ETCS) onboard units for Class 43 high-speed train retrofit.
  • Implementation will benefit passengers and freight operators by delivering additional capacity, improving performance, enhancing safety and reducing the costs of operating the national railway.

Which is followed by this explanation.

As a key player in delivering this digital transformation, Thales has today been awarded the contract for the Class 43 First in Class (FiC) design and fitment project that will use Network Rail’s new measurement train power cars in the Infrastructure Measurement fleet. The FiC project will culminate in a Type approval from the Office of Road and Rail to enable subsequent Class 43 ETCS fleet fitments.

The new Thales onboard system will be integrated as part of the Digital Railway train control system, and will enable rolling stock to operate on ETCS-equipped infrastructure. The onboard equipment is an evolution of Thales’s level 1 ETCS system that has been successfully deployed worldwide.

This could be a smart move.

  • Type Approval will mean that the Class 43 power cars of ScotRail’s Inter7Cities, Great Western Railway’s Castles and those of other operators can be retrofitted.
  • Will the New Measurement Train also be used to test the digital signalling, as it covers all the tracks in Great Britain in a four-weekly cycle?
  • Fitting of these iconic 1970’s designed power cars with the latest modern signalling could be a design exercise, that helps in the fitting of ETCS to other older and unusual locomotives.

I still think, that because of the iconic nature of the InterCity125, that we may see a conversion of Class 43 power cars to more sustainable operation.

  • All power cars now have modern MTU diesel engines, which probably could be fuelled by hydrogen.
  • The simplest way would be to run them on HVO, as I wrote about in Powered By HVO.
  • Some operations like the short format trains in Scotland and South-West England might be more suitable for battery-electric operation.
  • Given that there are 167 in operation or in store, it would be a good-sized order for the company converting the power cars.

I also believe that zero-carbon InterCity 125s could be an unusual tourist attraction.

Conclusion

The fitting of digital signalling to Class 43 power cars is a good move, but is it the start of a wider plan to bring these iconic trains up to modern standards.

 

June 11, 2022 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Over 10,000 People Use Reopened Dartmoor Line In First Two Weeks

The title of this post, is the same as that of this press release from the Dartmoor Line.

These are the first three paragraphs of the press release.

More than 10,000 people have travelled on the Dartmoor Line in the first two weeks since its reopening.

The line reopened for regular year-round, all-week passenger services on Saturday 20 November and demand for the trains linking Okehampton and Exeter has continued to remain high.

The reopening of the Dartmoor Line is the first of the Government’s Restoring Your Railway schemes, made possible thanks to over £40 million Government investment.

All concerned must be very pleased, especially as it was delivered £10 million under budget and within nine months, ahead of time.

I described my first use of the new route to Okehampton in A Few Hours In Okehampton, where I came to this conclusion.

Exeter and Okehampton is a well-thought out reopening, that will be welcomed in the South West of England.

It would appear the passenger numbers confirm my conclusion.

Since my visit to Okehampton, I have wondered, whether the apparent success of the Okehampton reopening, would have any other effects.

In the December 2021 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article, which is entitled South West Seeks More Reopenings, with a sub-title of Okehampton Service Could Be A Precursor.

The article details a number of projects.

Marsh Barton Station

A new Marsh Barton station is under construction and has a December 2022 opening date.

Edginswell Station

A new Edginswell station is being planned to serve Torbay Hospital on the Riviera Line, with a possible opening of 2025.

Collumpton And Wellington Stations

The last budget chipped in five million, so that preferred options and a full business case can be developed for these two new stations.

  • Collumpton station will probably be developed at the site of the old station, which is close to Collumpton Services on the M5.
  • Wellington station will probably be on a new site at Longworth Farm, where five hundred houses are being developed.

The Modern Railways article also says this about housing.

Thousands of houses are expected to be built in both towns in the next decade, making provision of railway stations highly desirable to avoid soaring road congestion.

Network Rail and Great Western Railway also seem to be experimenting with different service patterns through the two stations.

  • Both hourly and two-hourly services have been tested.
  • In the December 2021 timetable there is now a two-hourly GWR Castle service over the Taunton and Exeter stretch, that will call at the two new stations, when they open.
  • To have an hourly service there will also be a Taunton and Exeter shuttle.

This service would provide access to education and employment in Exeter, Taunton and Bristol.

The cost benefit ratio is above the Government’s limit for backing of two.

Opening of the two new stations is pencilled in for 2025.

Barnstaple And Axminster

The Modern Railways article also says this.

As part of the Devon Metro concept, Devon County Council aspires to extend further eastwards the hourly Barnstaple services that currently terminate at Exeter Central, perhaps as far as Axminster.

This would need track improvements East of Pinhoe station.

The current timings of the two sections are as follows.

  • Exeter Central and Axminster – 37 minutes
  • Exeter Central and Barnstaple – 74 minutes

These timings probably mean that a round trip between Axminster and Barnstaple can be done in a convenient four hours, so an hourly service would need four trains.

From sometime next year, when the frequency of the Exeter Central and Okehampton service becomes hourly, the services along the route will be as follows.

  • Exeter St. Davids and Axminster – Hourly
  • Exeter Central and Barnstaple – Hourly
  • Exeter Central and Okehampton – Hourly

There is also a service, that runs every thirty minutes between Exmouth and Paignton via Exeter Central and Exeter St. Davids, Newton Abbot and Torquay.

The frequencies on the various sections would be as follows.

  • Barnstaple and Crediton – One tph
  • Okehampton and Crediton – One tph
  • Crediton and Exeter St. Davids – Two tph
  • Paignton and Exeter St. Davids – At least two tph
  • Exeter St. Davids and Exeter Central – Five tph
  • Exeter Central and Axminster – One tph
  • Exeter Central and Exmouth – Two tph

Note.

  1. tph is trains per hour.
  2. Other services run between Exeter St. Davids and Paignton stations.
  3. In recent years a new station at Cranbrook has opened between Exeter Central and Axminster.

Extending the Barnstaple and Exeter Central service to Axminster would double the frequency on the Exeter Central and Axminster section.

Axminster station is shown in this Google Map.

Note.

  1. The station has two platforms.
  2. The station appears to have a bridge with lifts.
  3. The station has a good road connection and the parking could probably be extended.

Axminster station could certainly handle a fast train between London and Exeter, a stopping train to Barnstaple and all the passengers.

Devon Metro

It does appear that the services of the Devon Metro are coming together.

  • Paignton and Exmouth is already running.
  • Barnstaple and Exeter Central is already running.
  • Okehampton and Exeter Central has just started.
  • Exeter St. Davids and Taunton via new stations at Collumpton and Wellington is being planned.
  • Barnstaple and Exeter Central needs to be extended to Axminster.

How many other cities in the UK could benefit from a metro of this quality?

Bere Alston And Tavistock

The Modern Railways article also says this.

Meanwhile, further west on the former Southern network, restoration of services from Bere Alston to Tavistock has long been proposed, giving Tavistock a rail link to Plymouth. Christian Irwin, Network Rail’s Industry Programme Manager (South West), who oversaw the Okehampton reopening that came in early and underbudget, says he is keen to repeat the trick on the Tavistock route.

It is probably more difficult than at Okehampton.

  • The trackbed is mainly intact, but the track has been lifted.
  • The track to be laid is shorter than at Okehampton.
  • Two structures at the Southern end need to be replaced.
  • A new station needs to be built at Tavistock.

Devon County Council seems to be in control of the land needed.

Proposed services seem to be as follows.

  • Plymouth and Gunnislake via Bere Alston – One train per two hours (tp2h)
  • Plymouth and Tavistock via Bere Alston – One tph

Overall it looks like the Tavistock project will be more expensive than that at Okehampton, but there would appear to be more contributions from developers.

Devon County Council are hoping that the Tavistock link could be build in the next decade.

Tavistock And Okehampton

After the reconnection of Tavistock to the National Rail network, the council would hope to complete the link between Tavistock and Okehampton.

This would give the following benefits.

  • Improved public transport connectivity in West Devon and North Cornwall.
  • Improve revenue potential at Okehampton and Tavistock stations.
  • Create an easier freight route.
  • Create an alternative route, if the coastal route is closed.

It is a challenging project, but I feel it will be possible by perhaps 2035.

 

December 31, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

A Few Hours In Okehampton

Today, I took a trip by train to Okehampton and spent a couple of hours in the town.

I took the 10:04 from Paddington and after changing at Exeter St. Davids, I arrived in Okehampton at 13:11

Coming back, I took the 15:24 from Okehampton and arrived in Paddington at 18:24.

So the journeys took about three hours.

These pictures show Okehampton station.

Note.

  1. The train was two Class 150 trains coupled together.
  2. I suspect the platform is long enough to take a GWR Castle train
  3. The bus in the pictures is the 118, of which more later.
  4. It looked like a buffet was under construction.
  5. The new train information displays.

I took the bus down to Okehampton, where I took these pictures, as I walked around.

Note, that the first three pictures show the museum and the cycle works cafe, where I had a coffee and a delicious gluten-free flapjack.

I have a few thoughts on my journey, both now and in the future.

The 118 Bus

The 118 bus runs between Tavistock and Okehampton station.

  • It serves the villages in between.
  • It meets the trains from Exeter and takes them to Okehampton Town Centre.
  • It picks people up from Okehampton Town Centre and takes them to the station just before the trains leave for Exeter.
  • It accepts contactless payment.

It is a well-designed bus route that links passengers with the trains to and from Exeter.

Many other towns could follow Okehampton’s lead.

Walking Between Station And The Town Centre

I could certainly walk down the hill, but one of the locals said that it rather a stiff walk up the hill that takes about fifteen minutes, if you’re up to it. He also felt a taxi would be about a fiver.

Could A Battery Train Work The Service between Exeter And Okehampton Station?

Consider.

  • It is 24.8 miles between Exeter St. David and Okehampton stations.
  • It is a rise of under 200 metres.
  • The Class 150 trains climbed the hill at around 30 mph, but in places it was lower.
  • Hitachi, Stadler and Vivarail are talking about battery-electric trains with a range of fifty miles.
  • I was talking to one of the Great Western Railway staff and he said in the days of steam, the trains used to roll down the hill into Exeter.
  • There is the 18 MW Den Brook Wind Farm close to Okehampton.
  • With regenerative braking rolling down would recharge the batteries.

I suspect, that designing a battery-electric train to climb the hill is possible.

My rough estimate says that a battery of around 500 KWh could be enough.

Are The People Of Devon Going To Use The Train?

I took these pictures as I joined the train back to Exeter.

The people were a mixture of those arriving from Exeter and those returning to Exeter, but most seats were taken on the way back.

I can see Great Western Railway running Castles, like the one in the picture, for services on this route in the Summer, both to attract passengers and to cope with their numbers.

Local Reaction

I talked to several local people and they were all pleased that the service has been reinstated.

The only complaint was that it should have happened sooner.

Is A Day Trip Possible?

Suppose you live in London and your mother or other close relative lives in Okehampton.

Would it be possible to be able to visit them on their birthday for a good lunch?

Consider.

  • At the present time, trains from London, connect to the Okehampton service about every two hours.
  • The first connecting service leaves Paddington at 08:04.
  • Trains take around three hours between Paddington and Okehampton.
  • From probably May 2022, there will be hourly connections to Okehampton.
  • The last London train leaves Exeter at 20:46.

If you wanted to be a real hero, you could always take the Night Riviera back to London, which leaves Exeter at 0100.

I would say that if they planned it properly, a day trip from London to Okehampton by train, is feasible for a special occasion.

Will Great Western Railway Ever Run Direct Trains Between London Paddington And Okehampton?

I doubt this would be a regular service but I do believe that it is technically feasible.

  • Trains would need to reverse at Exeter St. Davids.
  • Trains would probably be limited to five car Class 802 trains.
  • Okehampton station could probably accommodate a five-car Class 802 train.
  • I estimate that the journey time would be a few minutes under three hours.

It should be noted that Paignton gets around three trains per day (tpd) from Paddington.

It might be that if the demand was there, a few trains per day could be run to and from London, by splitting and joining with the Paignton service at Exeter St. Davids.

  • If both services were run by five-car trains, there would be a ten-car service to and from London.
  • It certainly looks that GWR wouldn’t have to spend a great deal to implement the service.
  • The extra capacity of the five-car train might help commuters into Exeter.

It  is likely that this service wouldn’t run until Okehampton Parkway station is opened, which would attract travellers from the West, who would arrive at the station along the A 30 dual-carriageway

I can certainly see a service leaving Okehampton at around seven in the morning and getting into London about ten, paired with a late afternoon/evening train home.

It should be noted, that First Group with their Lumo service between London and Edinburgh, seem to negotiate for paths that create revenue.

But I do wonder, if one of the reasons , that Great Western Railway, Network Rail, Devon County Council, the Department of Transport and the Government were all very much in favour of reopening this route, is that it creates a valid alternative route between London and Plymouth and all places to the West, should the main route via Dawlish be breached again by the sea.

Okehampton station and the future Okehampton Parkway station are both close to the A30 which would allow express coaches to Plymouth and all over West Devon and Cornwall to bypass the trouble.

Hopefully, because the alterative route has been enabled the worst won’t happen.

Conclusion

Exeter and Okehampton is a well-thought out reopening, that will be welcomed in the South West of England.

 

 

November 26, 2021 Posted by | Food, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Would A North-East And South West Sleeper Service Be A Good Idea?

I ask this question as in the October 2021, there is an article entitled A New Sleeper, which has this explanatory sub-title.

Des Bradley describes his concept for a North-East to South-West Overnight Service

Paraphrasing his resume from the article, Des Bradley is probably best described as a rail enthusiast, who has travelled all over Europe by train, especially on sleeper trains. He has also worked recently with ScotRail, where he led their integrated travel activities.

I regularly use the Caledonian Sleeper on my trips to Scotland,  often taking a sleeper one way and a day time train the other. Towards the end of next month, I have tickets booked for a low-cost Lumo train to Edinburgh and a sleeper back to London in the evening.

In this blog, I have regularly written about the sleeper trains being introduced across Europe and this summer I had intended to go via Eurostar and NightJet to Vienna. But the pandemic has kept me in England for two years.

An Edinburgh And Plymouth Sleeper

Des Bradley is proposing a sleeper train between Edinburgh and Plymouth.

  • A typical daytime trip on this route takes eight hours and forty-five minutes.
  • Intermediate stops would be Berwick-upon-Tweed, Newcastle, Durham, Darlington, York, Leeds, Sheffield, Derby, Birmingham New Street, Cheltenham Spa, Bristol Parkway, Bristol Temple Meads, Taunton, Exeter St. David’s and Newton Abbot.
  • Journey time would be just over twelve hours.
  • By comparison a sleeper between London and Edinburgh takes about seven hours and thirty minutes.

He calls the service the NESW Sleeper.

I have some thoughts on the proposal.

A Spine Route Between Edinburgh And Penzance

The route is effectively a spine between Edinburgh and Plymouth on which other services can be built.

Unlike the Caledonian Sleeper, Des Bradley doesn’t feel the train should split and join as it travels up and down the country.

But I do think that the NESW Sleeper can be timed to fit in with high-quality connecting services to extend the coverage.

An Innovative Timetable

Des Bradley’s timetable is innovative.

  • Trains leave Edinburgh and Plymouth around 21:00.
  • Trains arrive at their destination around 09:00.
  • Trains stop for about two hours at Derby.
  • After resting at Derby, the trains are effectively early morning trains.

Note.

  1. The wait at Derby, adds extra time, that can be used to make up for engineering diversions, which often happen at night!
  2. The trains could be used by non-sleeper passengers to get to Plymouth or Edinburgh early.

The consequence of the second point, is that the trains will have to offer some Standard Class seats.

Should The Train Serve Penzance?

The Great Western Railway’s Night Riviera sleeper train calls at Liskeard, Bodmin Parkway, Lostwithiel, St.Austell, Truro, Redruth, Cambourne, Hoyle and St. Erth between Plymouth and Penzance.

According to a proposed NESW timetable, the Night Riviera has long gone, before the NESW Sleeper arrives in Plymouth at 08:58.

But I’m sure Great Western Railway could arrange for a convenient service between Plymouth and Penzance to pick up passengers in the morning and deliver them in the evening. This picture taken at Plymouth, indicates that cross-platform interchange may be possible.

This picture shows a pair of GWR Castles, which regularly work additional services between Plymouth and Penzance.

What About Wales?

I suspect that Cardiff, Swansea and other towns and cities in South Wales, can be served in a similar way, by connecting with GWR services at Bristol Parkway station.

Other Connecting Services

Birmingham New Street, Derby, Leeds and Newcastle are important interchange stations and I can see services being timed to bring passengers to and from the NESW Sleeper.

Rolling Stock

The author offers choices for the trains, based on what is used currently in the UK and adding multiple units. But he is definitely tending towards fixed formations.

I feel that the trains should meet the following criteria.

They should be of similar standard as the Caledonian Sleeper.

They would need an independently-powered capability for sections without electrification.

They should be zero-carbon.

They should offer a range of accommodation including Standard Class seats to cater the early birds and budget travellers.

The possibility to run at 100 mph or faster might be useful to catch up time on some sections of the route.

I think that two trains could be possible.

  • A rake of coaches hauled by a hydrogen-electric locomotive.
  • A battery-electric Sleeper Multiple-Unit with a range of perhaps eighty miles on batteries.

This is a sentence from the article.

The concept of ‘Sleeper Multiple-Units’ has also emerged in recent years, and this idea could be attractive; although it has some inherent inflexibility, it could in the future allow multi-portion or experimental new routes to be tagged onto the core service.

Sleeper Multiple Units might enable a South Wales and Edinburgh service, that used the same train path between Edinburgh and Bristol Parkway, where the two trains would split and join.

Conclusion

I like this proposal and definitely think it is a good idea.

 

 

 

September 26, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Through Settle And Carlisle Service Under Consideration

The title of this post, is the same as that of an article in the June 2021 Edition of Modern Railways.

This is the first paragraph.

Plans for a new Leeds to Glasgow through service via the Settle and Carlisle line are being developed, with CrossCountry and the Department for Transport starting to look at the possible scheme.

It sounds like a sensible idea to me.

The article also suggests the following.

  • CrossCountry is a possible operator.
  • CrossCountry are keen to improve services between Leeds and Glasgow
  • The trains could be InterCity 125s, freed up, by a the arrival of Class 221 trains from Avanti West Coast, when they receive their new Class 805 trains.
  • Maintenance of the trains wouldn’t be a problem, as this could be done at Neville Hill in Leeds or Craigentinny in Edinburgh.
  • Services could start in December 2023.

I have a few thoughts of my own!

The Route

The route between Leeds and Carlisle is obvious, but there are two routes between Carlisle and Glasgow.

Trains would probably choose a route and call at stations to maximise passenger numbers.

These stations are on the various routes.

  • Settle and Carlisle – Shipley, Bingley, Keighley, Skipton, Gargrave, Hellifield, Long Preston, Settle, Horton in Ribblesdale, Ribblehead, Dent, Garsdale, Kirkby Stephen, Appleby, Langwathby, Lazonby & Kirkoswald and Armathwaite
  • Glasgow South Western – Dunlop, Stewarton, Kilmaurs, Kilmarnock, Auchinleck, New Cumnock, Kirkconnel, Sanquhar, Dumfries, Annan and Gretna Green
  • West Coast Main – Motherwell, Carstairs and Lockerbie

There are certainly a lot of possibilities.

 Upgrading The InterCity 125 Trains

CrossCountry appear to have enough InterCity 125 trains to muster five in a two Class 43  power car and seven Mark 3 coach formation.

They may not be fully in-line with the latest regulations and there may be a need for a certain degree of refurbishment.

These pictures show some details of a refurbished Great Western Railway Castle, which has been fitted with sliding doors.

Will The InterCity 125 Trains Be Shortened?

Scotrail’s Inter7City trains and Great Western Railway’s Castle trains have all been shortened to four or five coaches.

This picture shows a pair of Castles.

Journey Times, Timetable And Frequency

The current journey time between Leeds and Glasgow Central stations via the East Coast Main Line is four hours and eight minutes with nine stops.

The Modern Railways article says this about the current service.

The new service would be targeted at business and leisure travellers, with through journey times competitive with road and faster than the current direct CrossCountry Leeds to Glasgow services via the East Coast main line.

I would expect that CrossCountry are looking for a time of around four hours including the turn round.

  • Stops could be removed to achieve the timing.
  • The trains could run at 125 mph on the West Coast Main Line.

This could enable a train to have the following diagram.

  • 0800 – Depart Leeds
  • 1200 – Depart Glasgow Central
  • 1600 – Depart Leeds
  • 2000 – Depart Glasgow Central
  • Before 2400 – Arrive Leeds

Note.

  1. A second train could start in Glasgow and perform the mirrored timetable.
  2. Timings would probably be ideal for train catering.
  3. Trains would leave both termini at 0800, 1200, 1600 and 2000.
  4. The timetable would need just two trains.

I also think, if a second pair of trains were to be worked into the timetable, there could be one train every two hours on the route, if the demand was there.

I certainly believe there could be a timetable, that would meet the objectives of attracting business and leisure passengers away from the roads.

Tourism And Leisure Potential

The Settle and Carlisle Line is known as one of the most scenic railway lines in England, if not the whole of the UK.

There are important tourist sites all along the route between Leeds and Glasgow

Many of the stations are used by walkers and others interested in country pursuits.

I believe that it is a route that needs a quality rail service.

Travel Between London and Towns Along The Settle And Carlisle Line

In Thoughts On Digital Signalling On The East Coast Main Line, I said this.

I think it is highly likely that in the future, there will be at least one train per hour (tph) between London Kings Cross and Leeds, that does the trip in two hours.

It may seem fast compared to today, but I do believe it is possible.

With a timely connection at Leeds station, will this encourage passengers to places along the Settle and Carlisle line to use the train?

What About the Carbon Emissions?

The one problem with using InterCity 125 trains on this route, is that they are diesel-powered, using a pair of Class 43 locomotives.

But then there are over a hundred of these diesel-electric locomotives in service, nearly all of which are now powered by modern MTU diesel engines, which were fitted in the first decade of this century.

Consider.

  • The locomotives and the coaches they haul have an iconic status.
  • Great Western Railway and Scotrail have recently developed shorter versions of the trains for important routes.
  • There are over a hundred of the locomotives in service.
  • Companies like ULEMCo are developing technology to create diesel-powered vehicles that can run on diesel or hydrogen.
  • There is plenty of space in the back of the locomotives for extra equipment.
  • MTU have a very large number of diesel engines in service. It must be in the company’s interest to find an easy way to cut carbon emissions.
  • I believe that the modern MTU diesel engines could run on biodiesel to reduce their carbon footprint.

And we shouldn’t forget JCB’s technology, which I wrote about in JCB Finds Cheap Way To Run Digger Using Hydrogen.

If they could develop a 2 MW hydrogen engine, it could be a shoe-in.

I believe that for these and other reasons, a solution will be found to reduce the carbon emissions of these locomotives to acceptable levels.

Conclusion

In this quick look, it appears to me that a Glasgow and Leeds service using InterCity 125 trains could be a very good idea.

May 21, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Charging The Batteries On An Intercity Tri-Mode Battery Train

There are several ways the batteries on an Intercity Tri-Mode Battery Train could be charged.

  • On an electrified main line like the Great Western or East Coast Main Lines, the electrification can be used in normal electrified running.
  • A short length of electrification at the terminal or through stations can be used.
  • The diesel engines could be used, at stations, where this is acceptable.

Alternatively, a custom design of charger can be used like Vivarail’s  Fast Charge system.

In Vivarail’s Plans For Zero-Emission Trains, I said this.

Vivarail Now Has Permission To Charge Any Train

Mr. Shooter said this about Vivarail’s Fast Charge system.

The system has now been given preliminary approval to be installed as the UK’s standard charging system for any make of train.

I may have got the word’s slightly wrong, but I believe the overall message is correct.

In the November 2020 Edition of Modern Railways, there is a transcript of what Mr. Shooter said.

‘Network Rail has granted interim approval for the fast charge system and wants it to be the UK’s standard battery charging system’ says Mr. Shooter. ‘We believe it could have worldwide implications.’

I hope Mr. Shooter knows some affordable lawyers, as in my experience, those working in IPR are not cheap.

I think it’s very likely, that Vivarail’s Fast Charge system could be installed at terminals to charge Hitachi’s Intercity Tri-Mode Battery Trains.

    • The Fast Charge systems can be powered by renewable energy.
    • The trains would need to be fitted with third rail shoes modified to accept the high currents involved.
    • They can also be installed at intermediate stations on unelectrified lines.

Vivarail is likely to install a Fast Charge system at a UK station in the next few months.

These are my thoughts about charging trains at various stations.

Penzance station

This Google Map shows Penzance station.

Penzance would be an ideal station to fully charge the trains, before they ran East.

  • The station has four long platforms.
  • There appears to be plenty of space just to the East of the station.
  • Penzance TMD is nearby.

This picture shows Platform 4, which is on the seaward side of the station. The train in the platform is one of GWR’s Castles.

It is partly outside the main station, so might be very suitable to charge a train.

If trials were being performed to Penzance, it appears that the station would be a superb choice to charge trains.

My only worry, is would the location have enough power to charge the trains?

Plymouth Station

This Google Map shows Plymouth station.

It is another spacious station with six platforms.

Chargers could be installed as needed for both expresses and local trains.

A Zero-Carbon Devon and Cornwall

If the battery trains perform as expected, I can see the Devon and Cornwall area becoming a low if not zero carbon railway by the end of this decade.

  • The Castles would be retired.
  • They would be replaced by battery electric trains.
  • Charging would be available on all platforms at Penzance, Plymouth and possible some other intermediate stations and those on some branch lines.

It certainly wouldn’t hurt tourism.

 

December 28, 2020 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

GWR Buys Vehicles Outright In HST Fleet Expansion

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Railway Gazette.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Despite concerns over future passenger numbers, the Department for Transport has given permission for Great Western Railway to procure three more shortened HST diesel trainsets, branded as the Castle Class by the franchisee.

These pictures show some of the Castle Class trains.

They must be profitable and/or popular with passengers.

If I have a problem with these trains, it is with the Class 43 diesel power cars.

  • Each train has two power cars.
  • It would appear that there are about 150 of the Class 43 power cars in regular service.
  • Each is powered by a modern MTU 16V4000 R41R diesel engine, that is rated at 1678 kW.
  • The engines are generally less than a dozen years old.
  • They will be emitting a lot of carbon dioxide.

As the trains are now only half as long as they used to be, I would suspect, that the engines won’t be working as hard, as they can.

Hopefully, this will mean less emissions.

The article says this about use of the fleet.

With its fleet now increasing to 14, GWR expects to use 12 each day on services across the west of England. Currently the fleet is deployed on the Cardiff – Bristol – Penzance corridor, but the company is still evaluating how the additional sets will be used.

It also says, that they are acquiring rolling stock from other sources. Some of which will be cannibalised for spares.

Are First Rail Holdings Cutting Carbon Emissions?

First Rail Holdings, who are GWR’s parent, have announced in recent months three innovative and lower-carbon fleets from Hitachi, for their subsidiary companies.

Hitachi have also announced a collaboration with Hyperdrive Innovation to provide battery packs to replace diesel engines, that could be used on Class 800 and Class 802 trains.

First Rail Holdings have these Class 800/802 fleets.

  • GWR – 36 x five-car Class 800 trains
  • GWR – 21 x nine-car Class 800 trains
  • GWR – 22 x five-car Class 802 trains
  • GWR – 14 x nine-car Class 802 trains
  • TransPennine Express – 19 x five-car Class 802 trains
  • Hull Trains – 5 x five-car Class 802 trains

Note.

  1. That is a total of 117 trains.
  2. As five-car trains have three diesel engines and nine-car trains have five diesel engines, that is a total of 357 engines.
  3. In Could Battery-Electric Hitachi Trains Work Hull Trains’s Services?, I showed that Hull Trains could run their services with a Fast Charging system in Hull station.
  4. In Could Battery-Electric Hitachi Trains Work TransPennine Express’s Services?, I concluded that Class 802 trains equipped with batteries could handle all their routes without diesel and some strategically-placed charging stations.

In the Wikipedia entry for the Class 800 train, there is a section called Powertrain, where this is said.

According to Modern Railways magazine, the limited space available for the GUs has made them prone to overheating. It claims that, on one day in summer 2018, “half the diagrammed units were out of action as engines shut down through overheating.

So would replacing some diesel engines with battery packs, also reduce this problem, in addition to cutting carbon emissions?

It does appear to me, that First Rail Holdings could be cutting carbon emissions in their large fleet of Hitachi Class 800 and Class 802 trains.

The Class 43 power cars could become a marketing nightmare for the company?

Could Class 43 Power Cars Be Decarbonised?

Consider.

  • Class 43 power cars are forty-five years old.
  • They have been rebuilt with new MTU engines in the last dozen years or so.
  • I suspect MTU and GWR know everything there is to know about the traction system of a Class 43 power car.
  • There is bags of space in the rear section of the power car.
  • MTU are part of Rolls-Royce, who because of the downturn in aviation aren’t performing very well!

But perhaps more importantly, the power cars are iconic, so anybody, who decarbonises these fabulous beasts, gets the right sort of high-class publicity.

I would also feel, if you could decarbonise these power cars, the hundreds of diesel locomotives around the world powered by similar diesel engines could be a useful market.

What methods could be used?

Biodiesel

Running the trains on biodiesel would be a simple solution.

  • It could be used short-term or long-term.
  • MTU has probably run the engines on biodiesel to see how they perform.
  • Biodiesel could also be used in GWR’s smaller diesel multiple units, like Class 150, 158, 165 and 166 trains.

Some environmentalists think biodiesel is cheating as it isn’t zero-carbon.

But it’s my view, that for a lot of applications it is a good interim solution, especially, as companies like Altalto, will be making biodiesel and aviation biofuel from household and industrial waste, which would otherwise be incinerated or go to landfill.

The Addition Of Batteries

This page on the Hitachi Rail Ltd web site shows this image of the V-Train 2.

This is the introduction to the research program, which was based on a High Speed Train, fotmed of two Class 43 power cars and four Mark 3 carriages.

The V-Train 2 was a demonstration train designed in order to demonstrate our skills and expertise while bidding for the Intercity Express Programme project.

The page  is claiming, that a 20 % fuel saving could be possible.

This paragraph talks about performance.

The V-Train 2 looked to power the train away from the platform using batteries – which would in turn be topped up by regenerative braking when a train slowed down to stop at a station. Acceleration would be quicker and diesel saved for the cruising part of the journey.

A similar arrangement to that Hitachi produced in 2005 could be ideal.

  • Technology has moved on significantly in the intervening years.
  • The performance would be adequate for a train that just trundles around the West Country at 90 mph.
  • The space in the rear of the power car could hold a lot of batteries.
  • The power car would be quiet and emission-free in stations.
  • There would be nothing to stop the diesel engine running on biodiesel.

This might be the sort of project, that Hitachi’s partner in the Regional Battery Train; Hyperdrive Innovation. would probably be capable of undertaking.

MTU Hybrid PowerPack

I wouldn’t be surprised to find, that MTU have a drop-in solution for the current 6V4000 R41R diesel engine, that includes a significant amount of batteries.

This must be a serious possibility.

Rolls-Royce’s 2.5 MW Generator

In Our Sustainability Journey, I talk about rail applications of Rolls-Royce’s 2.5 MW generator, that has been developed to provide power for electric flight.

In the post, I discuss fitting the generator into a Class 43 power car and running it on aviation biofuel.

I conclude the section with this.

It should also be noted, that more-efficient and less-polluting MTU engines were fitted in Class 43s from 2005, so as MTU is now part of Rolls-Royce, I suspect that Rolls-Royce have access to all the drawings and engineers notes, if not the engineers themselves

But it would be more about publicity for future sales around the world, with headlines like.

Iconic UK Diesel Passenger Trains To Receive Green Roll-Royce Jet Power!

COVID-19 has given Rolls-Royce’s aviation business a real hammering, so perhaps they can open up a new revenue stream by replacing the engines of diesel locomotives,

I find this an intriguing possibility. Especially, if it were to be fitted with a battery pack.

Answering My Original Question

In answering my original question, I feel that there could be several ways to reduce the carbon footprint of a Class 43 power car.

It should also be noted that other operators are users of Class 43 power cars.

  • ScotRail – 56
  • CrossCountry – 12
  • East Midlands Railway – 39
  • Network Rail – 3

Note.

  1. ScotRail’s use of the power cars, is very similar to that of GWR.
  2. CrossCountry’s routes would need a lot of reorganisation to be run by say Hitachi’s Regional Battery Train.
  3. East Midlands Railway are replacing their Inter-City 125s with new Class 810 trains.

The picture shows the power car of Network Rail’s New Measurement Train.

These may well be the most difficult to decarbonise, as I suspect they need to run at 125 mph on some routes, which do not have electrification and there are no 125 mph self-powered locomotives. After the Stonehaven crash, there may be more tests to do and a second train may be needed by Network Rail.

Why Are GWR Increasing Their Castle Class Fleet?

These are possible reasons.

GWR Want To Increase Services

This is the obvious explanation, as more services will need more trains.

GWR Want To Update The Fleet

There may be something that they need to do to all the fleet, so having a few extra trains would enable them to update the trains without cutting services.

GWR Want To Partially Or Fully Decarbonise The Power Cars

As with updating the fleet,  extra power cars would help, as they could be modified first and then given a thorough testing before entering passenger service.

GWR Have Been Made An Offer They Can’t Refuse

Suppose Rolls-Royce, MTU or another locomotive power plant manufacturer has a novel idea, they want to test.

Over the years, train operating companies have often tested modified trains and locomotives for manufacturers.

So has a manufacturer, asked GWR to test something in main line service?

Are Other Train Operators Thinking Of Using Introducing More Short-Formed InterCity 125 Trains?

This question has to be asked, as I feel there could be routes, that would be suitable for a net-zero carbon version of a train, like a GWR Castle or a ScotRail Inter7City.

Northern Trains

Northern Trains is now run by the Department for Transport and has surely the most suitable route in the UK for a shorted-formed InterCity 125 train – Leeds and Carlisle via the Settle and Carlisle Line.

Northern Trains may have other routes.

Transport for Wales Rail Services

Transport for Wales Rail Services already run services between Cardiff Central and Holyhead using diesel locomotive hauled services and long distance services between South Wales and Manchester using diesel multiple units.

Would an iconic lower-carbon train be a better way of providing some services and attract more visitors to the Principality?

Conclusion

GWR must have a plan, but there are few clues to what it is.

The fact that the trains have been purchased rather than leased could be significant and suggests to me that because there is no leasing company involved to consult, GWR are going to do major experimental modifications to the trains.

They may be being paid, by someone like an established or new locomotive engine manufacturer.

It could also be part of a large government innovation and decarbonisation project.

My hunch says that as First Rail Holdings appear to be going for a lower-carbon fleet, that it is about decarbonising the Class 43 power cars.

The plan would be something like this.

  • Update the three new trains to the new specification.
  • Give them a good testing, before certifying them for service.
  • Check them out in passenger service.
  • Update all the trains.

The three extra trains would give flexibility and mean that there would always be enough trains for a full service.

Which Methods Could Be Used To Reduce The Carbon Footprint Of The Class 43 Power Cars?

These must be the front runners.

  • A Hitachi/Hyperdrive Innovation specialist battery pack.
  • An MTU Hybrid PowerPack.
  • A Rolls-Royce MTU solution based on the Rolls-Royce 2.5 MW generator with batteries.

All would appear to be viable solutions.

 

 

 

 

September 10, 2020 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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/Travel | , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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/Travel | , , , , , , | 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/Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment