The Anonymous Widower

Chester To Liverpool Via Runcorn

This new service between Chester and Liverpool Lime Street stations via Runcorn station and the Halton Curve, started a couple of weeks ago.

I took these pictures of the journey.

Note.

  1. The service was busy, as everybody seemed to be going to Liverpool to prepare for the evening’s match.
  2. The Class 150 train kept up a good speed, which indicates that Network Rail didn’t cut quality on the link.
  3. Runcorn is about the halfway point of the journey.
  4. The route is electrified between Runcorn and Liverpool Lime Street stations.
  5. The Class 150 train was a bit tired.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see a hybrid train working this route.

Operation would be as follows.

  • All these trains work be capable of 100 mph using 25 KVAC overhead electrification between Liverpool Lime Street and Runcorn stations.
  • Power changeover would be at Runcorn station.
  • Between Runcorn to Chester stations is only about fourteen miles.. This will be well within battery range in a few years.

Transport for Wales will be obtaining trains from a crowded market.

More Halton Curve Services

Under Planned Improvements in the Wikipedia entry for Transport for Wales, this is said.

Introduction of a new hourly Liverpool to Llandudno and Shrewsbury service, and a new two-hourly Liverpool to Cardiff Central service from December 2022.

Adding these to the current hourly service, this would mean that two trains per hour (tph) would normally run between Liverpool Lime Street and Chester stations, with three trains in every alternate hour.

I think that, there would be a marketing advantage in running hybrid trains on these routes. Hydrogen would be ideal, as these would not need recharging like battery trains after a long trip.

To go through the single-track Halton Curve appears to take trains about five minutes, so up to eight tph could probably be feasible, which would mean four tph between Liverpool and Chester via Runcorn in both directions.

If Trains for Wales are going to compete with the Merseyrail electric services, they need a four tph frequency in both directions.

Flexible Ticketing

Currently, if you want to buy a ticket between the Chester and Liverpool Lime Street, you have to buy an appropriate ticket for your chosen route.

Surely, tourists and others might like to do the out and back journeys by a different route.

If London Underground and some train companies can share ticketing, then surely Merseyrail and other train companies can do the same.

Conclusion

This new service will be surprisingly well-used and needs an iconic hybrid train.

  • Diesel is not appropriate for the long term, although in Northern Connect Between Chester And Leeds To Start In May, I did report a rumour that Class 769 trains might be running between Chester and Leeds.
  • Hydrogen is non-polluting and has a longer range, that could make services between Liverpool and Holyhead possible.
  • Battery will probably need a charging infrastructure.

My money is on hydrogen power.

 

 

June 2, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Liverpool Lime Street And Chester Services Via Halton Curve Start In May

This page on the National Rail web site is entitled Changes to the National Rail Timetable.

Under Transport for Wales, this is said.

New services will run between Liverpool Lime Street and Chester via Runcorn. An hourly service will run, with peak time extensions to Wrexham General.

This sounds like the Halton Curve service to me.

Timing On The Route

Timing on the sections of route are as follows.

  • Liverpool Lime Street and Runcorn – 21 minutes – West Midland Class 350 train, with a stop at Liverpool South Parkway.
  • Runcorn and Chester – 17 minutes – Parliamentary service as given on Wikipedia.
  • Chester and Wrexham General – 14 minutes – Trains for Wales

This gives timings as follows.

  • Liverpool Lime Street and Chester – 38 minutes
  • Liverpool Lime Street and Wrexham General – 52 minutes

It looks to me that a round trip would be under two hours to both destinations, so two trains would be enough to provide an hourly service.

If Trains for Wales should decide to run a half-hourly service, then four trains would be needed.

Trains On The Route

The Crewe-Liverpool Line has fast services between Liverpool Lime Street and Crewe, so I suspect that it has a speed limit of at least 100 mph.

For this reason along, I suspect that all operators and Network Rail, would hope that Trains for Wales will use a train capable of running at up to 100 mph between Liverpool Lime Street and Runcorn.

The operating speed of trains owned or planned by Trains for Wales are.

It seems to me for various reasons that the Class 769 trains would be ideal for this route.

  • They could use the electrification between Liverpool Lime Street and Runcorn.
  • They are four-car high-capacity trains, that meet all the regulations.
  • They are 100 mph trains on electrification.
  • They will be straight from the factory with new interiors.
  • Northern will have servicing facilities for these trains at Allerton TMD.
  • They would give the service some publicity.

They probably won’t be delivered in time for May 2019, but they could replace whatever is used for the initial service.

 

 

March 10, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 11 Comments

Hydrogen Trains Ready To Steam Ahead

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in today’s copy of The Times.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Hydrogen trains will be introduced in as little as two years under ambitious plans to phase out dirty diesel engines.

The trains, which are almost silent and have zero emissions, will operate at speeds of up to 90 mph and release steam only as a by-product. The new trains, which will be called “Breeze” will be employed on commuter and suburban lines by early 2021.

From the article and other published sources like Wikipedia, I can say the following.

Train Formation

The formation of some of the current Class 321 trains is as follows.

DTSO(A)+TSO+MSO+DTSO(B)

Note.

  1. The two DTSO cars are identical and are Driving Trailer Standard Open cars.
  2. The TSO car is a Trailer Standard Open car.
  3. The MSO car is a Motor Standard Open, which contains the four traction motors, the pantograph and all the electrical gubbins.

The refurbished Class 321 Renatus train has a new AC traction system.

In the past, the Trailer car has been removed from some of these trains, to make a three-car Class 320 train, which has this formation.

DTSO(A)+MSO+DTSO(B)

The Times says this about the formation of the hydrogen trains.

New images released by Alstom show that the existing four-carriage 321s will be reduced to three as part of the conversion process, which will be carried out at the company’s plant in Widnes, Cheshire. The front and rear third of the train will be used to house hydrogen gas storage tanks.

It would appear to me that Alstom have decided to go down a route based on the proven Class 320 train.

The TSO car will be removed and the existing or re-tractioned MSO car will be sandwiched between two rebuilt DTSO cars containing large hydrogen tanks and the hydrogen fuel cells to generate the electricity to power the train.

Although, Alstom’s pictures show a three-car train, I can’t see any reason, why a four-car train would not be possible, with the addition of a TSO car.

The train would obviously need to have enough power.

But then a standard Class 321 train is no wimp with a 100 mph operating speed and one MW of power, which is a power level not far short of the 1.68 MW of a modern four-car Class 387 train.

The MSO Car

You could almost consider that a Class 321 train is an MSO car, with a Driving Trailer car on either side and an extra Trailer car to make a four-car train.

In an original Class 321 train, the MSO car has the following.

  • Two motored bogies, each with two traction motors.
  • A pantograph on the roof to pick up the 25 KVAC overhead power.
  • A transformer and the other electrical gubbins.

This picture shows the side view of an MSO car in an unmodified Class 321 train.

It does appear to be rather full under the MSO car, but I suspect, that modern AC equipment will take up less space. Although, the air-conditioning will have to be squeezed in.

Some if not all cars are labelled as PMSO, to indicate they have the train’s pantograph.

British Rail designed a lot of Mark 3 coach-based Electric Multiple Units like this, with a power car in the middle and trailer cars on either side. For instance, the legendary Class 442 train, is of five cars, with all the traction motors and electrical gear in the middle car. It still holds the speed record for third-rail-powered trains. British Rail certainly got the dynamics right.

The upgraded Class 321 Renatus trains have a new AC traction system.

  • This will be state-of-the-art, more efficient and probably more reliable.
  • New traction motors handle regenerative braking.

But is it more powerful than the original system?

If it was, it would give better acceleration.

This modern traction system will probably be a starting point for the electrical system of a hydrogen-powered Class 321 train.

It would have to be able to accept electrical power from the following sources.

  • The pantograph, when connected to the 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The two Driving Trailer Standard Open cars with their hydrogen tanks and fuel-cells..

The voltages will probably be different, but this should not be a problem for a modern well-designed electrical system.

Batteries And Regenerative Braking

The Times has a graphic, which shows a part-cutaway of the train.

There is an arrow and explanation labelled Traction System, where this is said.

Ensures appropriate energy is transmitted between fuel cell and battery. Drives wheels and collects energy during braking.

I would suspect that a single battery would be placed in the MSO car, so that the battery could be close to the traction motors under the car.

Battery Size Calculation

The battery should be big enough to handle the energy generated when braking from the train’s maximum speed.

Obviously, Alstom have not disclosed the weight of the train, but a three-car Class 320 train, which is a Class 321 train without the trailer car,  weighs 114.5 tonnes and has 213 seats. So I suspect that because of the hydrogen tanks, there will be about 140 seats in the hydrogen-powered train. So could it hold 300 passengers with the addition of standees?

I don’t know how much a hydrogen tank weighs, but I suspect it is more bulky than heavy.

Fuel cells of the required size, seem to weigh in the order of hundreds of kilograms rather than tonnes.

So I think I will assume the following for my kinetic energy calculation.

  • A 200 tonne train
  • 300 passengers at 90 Kg each with baggage, bikes and buggies.
  • A speed of 87 mph.

This gives a 227 tonne train, when fully loaded.

Omni’s Kinetic Energy Calculator gives a kinetic energy of just under 50 kWh.

So this amount of energy will be needed to accelerate the train to the operating speed and could be substantially recovered at a station stop from the operating speed.

As the train will also need hotel power for doors, air-conditioning and other train systems, a battery of perhaps around 100 kWh would give enough power.

Obviously, Alstom will have done a complete computer simulation, they will have much better and more accurate figures.

As 50 kWh traction batteries are of the size of a large suitcase, I doubt there would be a problem putting enough battery capacity in the MSO car.

Obviously, these are very rough calculations, but it does appear that with modern lightweight tanks, hydrogen trains are feasible, with readily-available components.

But then Alstom have already converted a Coradia Lint to hydrogen power.

Will The Train Be A Series Hybrid?

In a series hybrid, like a New Routemaster bus, the vehicle is driven by an electric motor, powered by a battery, which in the case of the bus is charged by a small diesel engine. Braking energy is also recycled to the battery.

In Alstom’s Breeze train, the traction motors in the MSO car would be connected to the battery.

When the power in the battery is low, the train’s computer will top up the battery from the overhead electrification, if it is available or use the hydrogen fuel cells.

I suspect the computer would always leave enough spare capacity in the battery to accommodate the energy generated during braking.

Passenger Capacity and Range

I have estimated that the passenger capacity of the train is around three hundred.

This picture from Alstom, shows a side view of one DTSO car of the train.

The windows, probably denote the size of the passenger compartment. So instead of having the capacity of a three-car train, it probably only carries that of a two-car train.

Compare this visualisation with a picture of an unmodified DTSO car.

There’s certainly a lot of space under the DTSO car, which I’m sure Alstom will use creatively. Can the fuel cells fit underneath?

From the cutaway view of the proposed train in The Times, it would appear that the section behind the driving compartment is occupied by the hydrogen tank.

The hydrogen fuel cells or at least their vents are on the roof at the back end of the car.

The Times gives the range of the train as in excess of 625 miles.

To put this into context, the Tyne Valley Line has a length of sixty miles, so a train could do at least five round trips between Newcastle and Carlisle without refuelling.

It’s certainly no short-range trundler!

I deduce from the extreme range quoted by The Times, that Alstom’s Breeze is an extremely efficient train and probably a series hybrid.

If the train is very efficient, that could mean, that there is the possibility to use smaller tanks to increase the train’s passenger capacity to fit a particular route better.

Use Of The Pantograph

All the articles published today don’t say anything about the pantograph.

But I can’t see any reason, why when 25 KVAC overhead electrification exists, it couldn’t be used.

Being able to use available electrification is also a great help in positioning trains before and after, trains  perform their daily schedule.

750 VDC Operation

British Rail did get a lot of things right and one was that nearly all of their electrical multiple units could work or be modified to work on both forms of electrification in the UK; 25 KVAC overhead and 750 VDC third-rail.

So I believe that a 750 VDC version of Alstom’s Breeze will be possible.

A Replacement For A Two-Car Diesel Multiple Unit

There are large numbers of two-car diesel multiple units in the UK.

All would appear to have a similar passenger capacity to Alstom’s Breeze.

Some though will be converted into more efficient diesel-battery hybrids.

But there will still be a sizeable number of replacements, where the Breeze will be suitable.

The Breeze will have a major advantage, if as I expect, it has the ability to run using 25 KVAC or 750 VDC electrification.

It will be able to work routes that are partially electrified.

Possible Routes

The Times says this about possible routes.

Although the company refused to be drawn on the destination of the new trains, it is believed that they could be used on unelectrified lines in the north-west or north-east.

It is worth looking at the location of Alstom’s factory in Widnes, where the Class 321 trains will be converted. This Google Map shows the area.

Note.

  1. The main railway between Liverpool and Crewe running across the top of the map and then crossing the River Mersey to go South.
  2. The Alstom factory is shown by a red arrow in the North-West corner of the map.

Not shown on the map, as it is just to the South on the South Bank of the Mersey, is INEOS’s massive Castner-Kellner works, which is a major producer of hydrogen, as it was when I worked there in the late 1960s.

I doubt that Alstom will be short of hydrogen to test the new trains.

Alstom and INEOS could even build a pipeline across the Mersey.

The Liverpool and Crewe Line is electrified and recently, the Halton Curve has been upgraded to form a new route between Liverpool and Chester via Runcorn, Frodsham and Helsby.

The Wikipedia entry for the Halton Curve has a section called Hydrogen Fuel Cell Train Trials, where this is said.

The Chester to Liverpool line via the Halton Curve is proposed for a trial by Alstom of their zero emissions hydrogen fuel cell trains. The line was chosen as Alstom’s new technology facility is at Halebank on the Liverpool border adjacent to the line, with hydrogen supplied via the nearby Stanlow refinery.

I should say, that I personally prefer the INEOS route for hydrogen, where it is a by-product of the electrolysis of brine, which is mainly to produce chlorine. Even in the 1960s, ICI performed a lot of production at night to take advantage of more affordable electricity.

The other route that goes close to Alstom’s factory is the Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester route via Warrington.

Increasing Capacity

I believe that effectively two-car trains with a capacity of 300 passengers,running between say the cities of Liverpool and Chester would not be large enough.

The current Class 321 trains are four-car trains and the conversion to Alstom’s Breeze trains, will result in the removal of the Trailer car, which contains the toilet.

The power of the MSO car in the current Class 321 trains is 1,000 kW.

During the conversion for use in Alstom’s Breeze trains, the power system will be updated.

  • Four new AC traction motors will be fitted.
  • A battery to store electricity and handle regenerative braking will be fitted. I estimated earlier, that this could be at least 100 kWh.
  • The ability to connect to the hydrogen fuel cells in the two updated Driving Trailer Standard Open cars will be fitted.

I also suspect a well-designed computer control system will be added.

As a time-expired Control Engineer, I believe that the updated MSO car can be designed to deliver any amount of power between say 1,000 kW and 1,600 kW.

Alstom will obviously know, how much power will be needed to accelerate their proposed three-car train to the operating speed of 87 mph.

Four-Car Alstom Breeze Trains

Suppose though that the trailer car was also updated and added to the train.

  • The weight would rise to 223 tonnes.
  • Passenger capacity would rise to 450.
  • Maximum kinetic energy at 87 mph, would rise to 55 kWh.

Provided the MSO car is powerful enough, a four-car Alstom Breeze would appear to be feasible.

Five-Car Alstom Breeze Trains

What would the sums look like for a five-car Alstom Breeze.

  • Two trailer cars would be added.
  • The weight would rise to 246 tonnes.
  • Passenger capacity would rise to 600.
  • Maximum kinetic energy at 87 mph, would rise to 63 kWh.

With the priviso of the power of the MSO car, it certainly looks like a five-car Alstom Breeze could be feasible.

It looks like at least three different sizes of train are possible.

  • Three-car – 300 passengers
  • Four-car – 450 passengers
  • Five-car – 600 passengers

Only three different types of car will be needed.

  • Driving Trailer Standard Open – DTSO – With hydrogen tanks and hydrogen fuel cells and less seating than in the current trains.
  • Motor Standard Open – MSO – With new AC power system and a battery.
  • Trailer Standard Open – TSO – With seats and possibly a Universal Access Toilet, bike racks or a buffet.

Note.

  1. All DTSO would be more-or-less identical, but some might have larger tanks and more fuel-cells.
  2. All MSO cars would be identical.
  3. TSO cars would be specified by the customer and could be tailored to a particular route.

The train’s computer, would automatically determine what train had been assembled and adjust power settings and displays accordingly.

Suppose four Class 321 trains were to be converted to Alstom Breezes.

You could end up with.

  • Four three-car trains.
  • Four spare Trailer Standard Open cars.

Or.

  • Four four-car trains.

Or.

  • Two three-car trains.
  • Two five-car trains

The permutations are endless.

It is an infinitely flexible system, which can produce trains of a variety of lengths.

I would suspect that Eversholt will want customers to take complete trains, to maximise their returns and not end up with too many orphaned trailer cars.

Are There Any Spare Trailer Cars?

I ask this question, as in the last few years, twelve four-car Class 321 trains, have been converted to three-car Class 320 trains. As part of this process the trailer car is removed.

I would assume the twelve trailer cars have been put into store.

Could they be used to create five-car Alstom Breeze trains?

Will Alstom Breeze Trains Work In Multiple?

Class 321 trains can do this and I suspect that the Alstom Breezes will have the capability.

But it will probably be mainly for train recovery, than general operation.

Although, running two shorter trains as a longer one, is always useful, when there is a large sporting or other event happening.

Manufacturing

Alstom’s design eases the conversion.

Each type of car has its own manufacturing process,

Driving Trailer Standard Open

This would need to be done to all DTSO cars.

  • The car is checked, cleaned and externally refurbished.
  • The seats and most of the interior is removed.
  • The driving compartment is updated.
  • The hydrogen tank is added behind the driving compartment.
  • The hydrogen fuel cells are added, with vents on the roof.
  • The new interior with seats is fitted behind the hydrogen tank and fuel cells.
  • No work would need to be done to the bogies, except that needed for maintenance.
  • Finally, the new livery would be applied.

All DTSO cars would be treated in the same manner, although some might have smaller hydrogen tanks and detailed differences due to customer preferences and route needs.

Motor Standard Open

This would need to be done to all MSO cars.

  • The car is checked, cleaned and externally refurbished.
  • The seats and most of the interior is removed.
  • The electrical equipment is replaced with the new AC system with a battery.
  • The bogies would be fitted with the new AC traction motors.
  • The new interior is fitted.
  • Finally, the new livery would be applied.

All MSO cars would probably be treated in the same manner.

Trailer Standard Open

This would need to be done to all TSO cars.

  • The car is checked, cleaned and externally refurbished.
  • The seats and most of the interior is removed.
  • The new interior is fitted.
  • Finally, the new livery would be applied.

All TSO cars would probably be treated in a similar manner, but the interior fitment would depend on the customer’s requirements.

This picture shows a side view of an unmodified TSO car.

There is certainly a lot of space underneath the car.

I wonder if Alstom have any plans for using this space?

Summing Up Manufacturing

The process for the three types of cars is very similar and is very typical of the work regularly done to give mid-life updates to trains in the UK.

Alstom’s Widnes factory has already performed a major upgrade to Virgin Trains’ Pendelinos and I doubt that the work will hold many terrors for the factory, if the design phase is good.

Train Testing

So many train projects have been let down recently, by the lack of suitable test facilities and poorly-planned testing.

The Halton Curve route between Liverpool and Chester would appear to be an ideal route to test the trains.

  • Liverpool Lime Street station has recently been upgraded in size.
  • Chester station is not busy.
  • The route is about forty miles long.
  • I estimate that trains will take about forty minutes
  • The route passes Alstom’s factory in Widnes.
  • The route is about half-electrified, between Liverpool Lime Street and Runcorn.
  • Access is good to the North Wales Main Line for long range testing.

Running on both electrification and hydrogen can be tested with a changeover at Runcorn station.

A Liverpool to Chester service would go through the following sequence.

  • Arrive at Runcorn station, after running from Liverpool using existing 25 KVAC electrification.
  • Drop the pantograph.
  • Continue towards Chester on hydrogen power.

The sequence would be reversed in the opposite direction.

I don’t believe Alstom could want for a better test route.

I can only see one major problem.

Liverpudlians are a curious breed and I predict they will turn up in droves at a new attraction in their midst.

Conclusion

I very much feel that by using hydrogen tanks in the two driving cars Alstom have created a pragmatic flexible design, that will prove if hydrogen trains are a viable proposition for the UK.

Things that I particularly like.

  • The first trains being two-car DMU-sized.
  • The ability to use electrified lines.
  • The extraordinary range.
  • The performance.
  • Trains of different length and capacity can be created from three different car types.
  • The testing process.

But I have my doubts that the initial train has enough capacity.

Although I suspect that it could be increased by adding one or more trailer cars.

 

 

 

January 8, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

£18.75m Halton Curve Project Delayed A Further Six Months

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Rail Technology News.

I could just blame politicians for the latest project to be delayed, but it is not wholly their fault.

Train companies all over the UK, Europe and the Rest of the World have been ordering new trains at an unprecedented rate for the following reasons.

  • The replacement of clapped-out trains like Pacers.
  • Extra trains to provide extra services.
  • Faster trains to provide faster services.
  • Bigger or longer trains to provide more capacity.
  • New electric trains for newly electrified routes.
  • New trains often cost less to service and maintain.
  • Affordable finance for quality new trains is available in billions of pounds, euros and dollars of all kinds.

In addition a lot of trains are being updated with new technology like signalling, automatic systems and high-technology interiors.

All of these factors mean that there is a high level of train testing that needs to be done.

These test tracks are in Europe and listed in Wikipedia.

Note that Italy and Soain, who build substantial numbers of trains, don’t have a specialist testing centre.

I have read somewhere that each individual train has to be run for so many hours before it can be certified for service.

Consider

  • Bombardier is building 412 Aventras with lengths between three and ten cars.
  • CAF is building trains for Calodonian Sleeper, Keolis Amey Wales, Northern, TranPennine Express and West Midlands Trains.
  • Hitachi is building 182 Class 800/801/802 trains with length of five or nine cars.
  • Hitachi is building 80 Class 385 trains with lengths of 3/4 cars.
  • Siemens are building trains for Govia Thameslink Railway.
  • Stadler is building trains for Greater Anglia, Keolis Amay Wales and MerseyRail.

I haven’t done a detailed calculation must it must be at least 700 trains.

In addition there are various rebuilt and existing trains that will need to be tested.

  • ScotRail’s shorterned InterCity 125s
  • Porterbrook’s Class 769 trains.
  • Vivarail’s Class 230 trains.
  • Alstom’s Class 321 Hydrogen trains.
  • Crossrail Class 345 trains need further testing.

And there will be new orders for the following franchises and lines.

  • East Midlands.
  • London Underground Piccadilly Line.
  • South Eastern
  • West Coast Alliance

I haven’t done a detailed calculation but we must be talking of nearly a thousand new trains of which probably six hundred will be delivered in the next five years.

I’m no expert, but I feel that two short test tracks and short lengths of improvised test tracks in factories, isn’t enough to test all these trains and certify them for service.

I should also blow my own trumpet and I know that when I wrote project management software, I was probably the best programmer in the World, at automatically scheduling resources.

So I tend to know, an impossible scheduling problem, when I see one!

Conclusion

We do send trains to Europe to specialist centres like the one at Velim in the Czech Republic. But these centres are also used by other European manufacturers.

I am led to the inevitable conclusion, that we need more train testing facilities, in both the UK and mainland Europe.

The Welsh Government has come to the same conclusion and are planning a test track at Neath, which I wrote about in £100m Rail Test Complex Plans For Neath Valley.

What would help, would be if Chris Grayling oiled a few wheels with some money. It might even result in some Continental trains coming to Wales for specialist testing like curing them of dracophobia.

I would also have felt that CAF would be happy with a test track fifty miles away from their new factory in Newport.

Come on, Wales! Fire up the dragons and get started!

 

 

September 25, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Between Liverpool Lime Street And Chester Stations

Currently, using Merseyrail‘s Wirral Line, a journey between Liverpool Lime Street and Chester stations takes around forty-five minutes.

This time will improve by several minutes, when the new Class 777 trains come into service in a couple of years.

In Slow Trains Outside The South-East, I calculated that this time could be as low as 35 minutes.

Using The Halton Curve

But how fast could a train go between Liverpool Lime Street and Chester stations, using the Halton Curve, when that comes into use in December 2018?

Consider.

  • West Midlands Trains take nineteen minutes to go between Liverpool Lime Street and Runcorn stations with a stop at Liverpool South Parkway station.
  • The current parliamentary train takes twenty-one minutes between Chester and Runcorn stations using the Halton Curve.
  • Transport for Wales will run the route with their new 100 mph CAF trains.

It should be possible for the direct trains to do the trip between Liverpool Lime Street and Chester in under forty minutes, with stops at Liverpool South Parkway, Runcorn, Frodsham and Helsby stations.

As to the frequency of the service between Liverpool Lime Street and Chester stations via the Halton Curve, under Improvements in the Wikipedia entry for KeolisAmey Wales, these services are listed.

  • Introduction of a new hourly Liverpool to Chester service from December 2018
  • Introduction of a new hourly Liverpool to Llandudno and Shrewsbury service from December 2022
  • Introduction of a new two-hourly Liverpool to Cardiff service from December 2022

So it looks like there will be at least a train every half-hour between Liverpool Lime Street and Chester.

Liverpool Airport

One advantage of using the Halton Curve, is that as trains can call at Liverpool South Parkway station, it would be possible to provide a direct link to Liverpool Airport.

Merseyrail are looking into the possibility of using tram-trains on this route.

Direct Services Between Liverpool Lime Street And North Wales

Consider.

  • Virgin Trains take forty-eight minutes between Chester and Llandudno Junction stations.
  • Virgin Trains take ninety-nine minutes between Chester and Holyhead stations.
  • Currently, Liverpool to Llandudno takes between 110-120 minutes with a change at Chester station.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see timings of direct trains between Llandudno and Liverpool Lime Street stations in the order of an hour-and-a half.

Electrification

Electrification is the big question, hanging over railways in this area.

Merseyrail already runs electrified services to Chester on the Wirral Line and the following routes have been earmarked for electrification.

  • Chester to Crewe
  • Chester to Manchester

If the latter were to be electrified, then only the relatively short Halton Curve would need to be electrified to create another all-electric route between Liverpool and Chester.

Bi-Mode Trains For KeolisAmey Wales

If Chester station, were to be electrified, this will have possible consequences for KeolisAmey Wales, as all their services Eastwards from Chester to Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester would be running on fully-electrified routes.

So will KeolisAmey Wales order some  of new CAF trains with a bi-mode capability.

This capability could also be useful in South Wales.

 

 

July 23, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

A Day Out From Liverpool

I was staying at the Premier Inn close to Moorfields station in Liverpool and decided to go to Blaenau Ffestiniog for the day, with hopefully, a ride from there on the Ffestiniog Railway to Porthmadog on the coast.

The following sections describe the route I took.

Moorfields To Chester

After buying a Day Return from Liverpool Stations to Blaunau Ffestiniog with my Senior Railcard for £20.40, I took one of Merseyrail‘s four trains per hour (tph) from Moorfields station, that goes direct to Chester station.

The train was one of Merseyrail’s Class 508 trains, which are nearly forty years old. Although, they were refurbished a few years ago and get much better TLC. I’ve yet to see a Merseyrail train, that has suffered from spray painters!

It always surprises me, how many people I’ve met, who’ve been for a weekend to Liverpool and haven’t used the Merseyrail system, that has four stations in the City Centre and connects to attractions in the North, South and on the Wirral.

Over the next few years, it will be getting larger and better.

  • New Class 777 trains will replace the current ones.
  • The new trains will have a battery capability to extend routes.
  • The network will be expanded to Skelmerdale and possibly Preston and Wrexham.
  • A connection to Liverpool Airport is a possibility.
  • New stations will be added.

It should also be noted, that after the extensive works at the main Liverpool Lime Street station, that extra direct main line services will be introduced.

  • Chester, Lladudno and Shrewsbury via the Halton Curve.
  • Edinburgh and Glasgow via the West Coast Main Line.

If I was going between Liverpool and Llandudno from next year, I will have two routes.

Chester Station

I think it is truthful to say that Chester station needs improvement.

According to Transport for Wales, improvement is coming by 2028.

It certainly needs it!

  • Chester is one of England’s historic cities.
  • Many residents of Chester commute to Liverpool and Manchester.
  • Chester station is a main railway interchange between North Wales and Birmingham, Liverpool, London and Manchester.
  • The station doesn’t have enough staff or a decent passenger information system.

As the station is managed from Cardiff, does it suffer from being out of sight and out of mind?

Chester To Llandudno Junction

From Chester to Llandudno Junction station took about an hour in a Class 175 train, along the North Wales Coast Line.

The scenery is mixed as these pictures show.

The line has an operating speed of ninety mph, but the train didn’t seem to travel at much over seventy.

The signalling is being improved and it strikes me, that the section of the line to the East of Llandudno could become a route, where Virgin’s Class 221 trains and the new Welsh diesel multiple units to be built in Newport, could really crack on and improve timings.

Up The Conwy Valley Line

Blaenau Ffestiniog has an altitude of 215 metres, and Llandudno Junction has an altitude of perhaps less than ten metres.

The Class 150 train was fairly well loaded, but it managed the climb on the Conwy Valley Line easily.

.As you can see the single-track route starts alongside the estuary of the River Conwy, then continues up to the summit in the 3.5 km long Ffestiniog Tunnel. The summit is 240 metres, so the line descends into Blaenau Ffestiniog station.

Transport for Wales intend to run Class 230 trains on this line.

I wrote about this in Class 230 Trains On The Conwy Valley Line.

Conclusion

The trip with its three changes took around three hours, but this time will get a bit shorter, once direct trains between Liverpool and Llandudno Junction stations via the Halton Curve will be faster and there will be no need to change trains at Chester station.

I looked at the effects of the Halton Curve in Between Liverpool Lime Street And Chester Stations.

I came to this conclusion on timings.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see timings of direct trains between Llandudno and Liverpool Lime Street stations in the order of an hour-and-a half.

I suspect the direct train and the improved journey time will attract more passengers to the route.

 

 

 

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July 23, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Alstom Seem To Be Stepping Up The Pressure To Get Hydrogen-Powered Trains Into The UK

This article on Rail Technology Magazine is entitled Alstom: Industry must start work bringing hydrogen trains to UK immediately.

This is said.

In an exclusive interview with RTM, Mike Muldoon, who leads on hydrogen for Alstom in the UK, also warned that if the British rail industry did not start trying to bring in hydrogen trains as quickly as possible, the country’s market could become less attractive.

Could it be that Alstom see the opportunity for hydrogen-powered trains closing and want to make sure that the UK Government comes on-side?

Would The Coradia iLint Be Able To Run In The UK?

This document on the Alstom web site is a data sheet for the Coradia iLint.

Unfortunately, the data sheet doesn’t give the height and width of the iLint, but I suspect that these and other dimensions are not much different to typical UK values.

Even if the current iLint is wider and taller, I suspect that on a lot of routes a Coradia iLint would be able to run.

Development Of A UK Hydrogen-Powered Train

The Alstom Coradia iLint was developed from an existing train in a few months, in much the same way that Bombardier’s Class 379 BEMU prototype was created.

There would be the following differences between a UK and a German version.

  1. Adjusted height, with and platform height.
  2. Would a different pantograph reach be required?
  3. 25 KVAC instead of 15 KVAC.
  4. Would a third-rail 750 VDC version be needed?

Notes.

  • Point 1 is probably covered by the way modern trains are built.
  • Point 2 is down to the pantograph manufacturer.
  • Point 3 is covered by developing an electrical system that handles both voltages. After all 25 KVAC will be needed for France.
  • Point 4 just needs the appropriate third-rail shoe and electrical system.

I think that all this could mean that a UK version of the iLint could be developed within a reasonable time and budget.

Have Alstom Said Anything Else About For The UK?

This article on the Engineer web site is entitled Alstom Eyes Liverpool Hydrogen Train Trials.

It would appear to be a good choice for the following reasons.

Location

Alstom’s UK base is at Widnes, which is in the South-East of the Liverpool City Region.

Test Partner

Merseyrail have shown in recent years, that they can think out of the box, about using trains and would be a very able partner.

Test Route

The article suggests that Liverpool to Chester via the Halton Curve could be the test route.

  • The route is partly electrified from Runcorn to Liverpool.
  • The route passes close to Alstom’s base.
  • The section without electrification from Runcorn to Chester is probably about twenty miles long, which is a good test, but not a very difficult one.
  • I don’t think that there are too many low over-bridges that would need to be raised.

There would also be good opportunities for publicity and photographs.

Availability Of Hydrogen

Hydrogen is available locally from the various petro-chemical industries along the Mersey.

Incidentally, I used to work in a chlorine plant at Runcorn, where brine was split into hydrogen and chlorine by electrolysis. There were hydrogen tankers going everywhere! Does the industry still exist?

Further Routes

If you look at a map of the railways in the area, there are several other possibilities of other services.

  • Liverpool to Manchester via Warrington
  • Chester to Manchester
  • Serving new stations like Middlewich

The trains might be a possibility for the Borderlands Line.

Conclusion

Hydrogen trains would seem to be a possibility for running services in the Liverpool area and especially over the Halton Curve.

  • Liverpool to Crewe via Runcorn is electrified.
  • Hydrogen-powered trains could easily handle the routes without electrification.
  • There is a plentiful local supply of hydrogen.
  • There will be no great difficulty in updating the track and signalling.

Services could be run by existing diesel trains, until the new trains are available.

I also feel that Stadler’s new Class 777 trains for Merseyrail, when fitted with the ability to run on 25 KVAC overhead electrification and batteries could be able to handle Halton Curve routes.

Although, it is obviously very feasble to run hydrogen-powered trains, I have a feeling that the finances might not be as simple. Especially if Stadler make sure that their new Merseyrail trains can extend the Merseyrail network to town along routess without electrification.

Are Alstom stepping up the pressure, as they can see other trains arriving?

 

February 22, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Halton Curve: Small Piece Of Track, Big Rail Ambitions

The title of this post is the same as that of an article on the Rail Technology Magazine web site.

The Halton Curve will create a link between Liverpool and North Wales. This page on the Network Rail web site gives more details.

Work has started on the 1.5 miles of rail track, known as the ‘Halton Curve,’ that will unlock leisure and business opportunities between the Liverpool City Region, its airport, Cheshire and North Wales.

Vital upgrades to signalling and track will enable new services between Liverpool and Chester, serving Liverpool Lime Street, Liverpool South Parkway (for Liverpool John Lennon Airport) Runcorn, Frodsham and Helsby.

The existing line, which currently only runs a one-way passenger service once a week in the summer, will be upgraded to provide an hourly service in each direction from December 2018 with the potential for connections to North Wales in the future.

Restoring the Halton Curve is similar to a number of smaller projects that have been executed in the last few years, to improve connectivity and efficiency in the UK rail network.

Most seem to have been worthwhile. But look back a couple of decades and it was unlikely that some of these projects would ever be needed.

As the economy grows, freight moves from road to rail and more people travel a lot more by rail, it is very difficult to predict what will happen in the future. I feel we should address the following.

If we remove a railway line, we should not destroy the ability to reinstate the line. Rebuilding the Waverley Route and the Varsity Line would be a lot easier, if this rule had been followed.

Network Rail appear to have a tendency to kick smaller projects into the future. A simple example is the creation of a bay platform at Stevenage station to turn back services on the Hertford Loop Line which seems to have been pushed back until after the new Class 717 trains arrive.

September 10, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Capacity Crunch At Chester – Halton Curve

The Capacity Crunch At Chester article in the July 2017 Edition of Modern Railways talks about the Halton Curve.

The curve will allow services between Liverpool Lime Street, South Liverpool and Liverpool Airport to Chester and North Wales.

The article says this.

Initially, Merseytravel will subsidise an hourly Chester-Liverpool service via the Halton Curve, as a first step in the development of enhanced services using the curve.

It then goes on to quote Huw Jenkins if Merseytravel as saying.

It would be a priority for the new Wales and Borders franchise to introduce regular services via the curve to Liverpool from significant stations in North Wales, including Bangor, Llandudno and Wrexham.

The business case for the Halton Curve is also stated to include.

  • Bangor to Liverpool in 140 minutes.
  • Llandudno to Liverpool in 130 minutes.
  • Create an alternative route between Liverpool and Cardiff via Chester and Shrewsbury.

I would suspect that the direct service between Cardiff and Liverpool will take about three and a half hours in something like a Class 802 train.

These trains could also probably travel between Liverpool and Shrewsbury in around ninety minutes, giving access to all the West Wales services at Shrewsbury station.

Conclusion

I have a feeling that when we look back on the reinstatement of the Halton Curve in a couple of decades, it could be a raging success and a very bad case of what I call London Overground Syndrome.

This is my definition of the disease.

This disease, which is probably a modern version of the Victorian railway mania, was first identified in East London in 2011, when it was found that the newly-refurbished East London Line and North London Line were inadequate due to high passenger satisfaction and much increased usage. It has now spread across other parts of the capital and across the UK, despite various eradication programs.

It is usually solved by adding more capacity.

July 17, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

Capacity Crunch At Chester

This is the title of an article by Rhodri Clark in the July 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, which discusses the various rail issues that will be tackled around the City of Chester.

This is the sub-title to the article.

Pressure is mounting for rail infrastructure and service enhancements to alleviate road congestion in the thriving Mersey Dee region.

The Modern Railways article discusses the following.

Halton Curve

HS2

Mid-Cheshire Line

Sandbach To Northwich

Each is discussed in separate posts.

July 16, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment