The Anonymous Widower

First Steps To Faster Trains Is Delivered

This is the title of an article in the Hastings and St. Leonards Observer, that has been signed by Amber Rudd.

About Amber Rudd

Amber Rudd is the Home Secretary and in this year’s General Election, she retained the Hastings and Rye constituency with a majority of just 346 votes.

As I doubt she wants to commit political suicide, I therefor consider that what is said in the article is very close to what is intended to happen about the delivery of faster trains between London and Hastings.

London To Hastings In 66 Minutes

This is the first two paragraphs of her article.

Last week I invited Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to visit Ashford International to hear an update on my campaign to secure a high speed rail link between our communities and London St Pancras.

Specifically, I want to see journey times, which are currently around 100 minutes between Hastings and London, reduced to 66 minutes.

The sixty-six minutes is mentioned again later in the article.

Would a politician be so definite about her aims, unless she knew that it was deliverable?

Or is it lucky to say sixty-six in Hastings?

So how feasible is London to Hastings in 66 minutes?

Consider.

  • Southeastern’s Highspeed services between St. Pancras and Ashford, generally take between 37-38 minutes for the journey, with some trains a few minutes faster.
  • The Marshlink Line between Ashford and Hastings is about 26¼ miles in length
  • The operating speed is quoted in Wikipedia as 60 mph.
  • There are some serious level crossings.

So could a train go from Ashford to Hastings in twenty-eight minutes to meet Amber Rudd’s quoted target of 66 minutes?

26¼ miles in 28 minutes works out a an average speed of 56.25 mph.

I would give that time a 9/10 for feasibility.

The problem would be the level crossings on the line, so if Network Rail were to remove these and improve the track a bit, I feel that this could even score highly for reliability.

Currently, there doesn’t appear to be many trains passing through and even if the service was doubled to two trains per hour in both directions, I don’t think they would trouble the timetable compiler.

Track Changes At Ashford

Amber Rudd’s article then says this about track changes at Ashford.

This was a very encouraging meeting. I am pleased to announce that the commitment has been made to supporting the development of a proposed track layout at Ashford International which would allow trains from Hastings, Rye, Bexhill and Eastbourne to travel direct to London St Pancras

Work will now begin towards the necessary track connections to join-up the Marshlink and the High Speed 1 line to London.

This change would help make possible the direct service to St Pancras with a journey time of 81 minutes from Hastings.

That seems to be a plan. But where does the 81 minutes come from?

The current Class 171 trains take around 42 minutes between Hastings and Ashford, so 38+42 would say that 81 minutes is a reasonable claim.

This document on the Network Rail web site, is the Technical Appendix of the South East Route: Kent Area Route Study.

This map was extracted from the document.

This shows the changes needed to connect HS1 to the Marshlink Line.

Diesel-Electric Or Battery-Electric Trains?

Amber Rudd’s article says this about the trains.

Accompanying the track changes at Ashford, hybrid rolling stock – trains running on diesel-electric or battery-electric power – would make these quick journey times a reality.

This fits in with what is said in the Technical Appendix to the  Kent Area Route Study.

The diesel electric train mentioned in the Technical Appendix is a Class 802 train. Production and delivery of these is underway for Great Western Railway, so we’re not talking about an untried class of train.

But there may be problems running trains carrying diesel fuel in the HS1 tunnels.

The battery-electric train mentioned in the Technical Appendix is the IPEMU based on a Class 379 train.

This train is not in production yet and the picture shows the test train, that ran in Essex nearly two years ago.

The Technical Appendix says this about the IPEMU.

In 2015, industry partners worked together to investigate
battery-electric traction and this culminated with a
practical demonstration of the Independently Powered
Electric Multiple Unit IPEMU concept on the Harwich
Branch line in Anglia Route. At the industry launch event,
the train manufacturers explained that battery
technology is being developed to enable trains to run
further, at line speeds, on battery power, indeed, some
tram lines use this technology in the city centres and many
London buses are completely electric powered.

The IPEMU project looked at the feasibility of battery power
on the Marshlink service and found that battery was
sufficient for the train to run from Brighton to Ashford
International and back but there was insufficient charge to
return to Ashford International on a second round trip. A
solution to this could be that the unit arrives from Ashford
International at Brighton and forms a service to Seaford and
back before returning to Ashford International with a
charged battery.

The IPEMU demonstration train was a Class 379, a similar
type to the Class 377 units currently operated by Southern, it
was found that the best use of the battery power was to
restrict the acceleration rate to that of a modern diesel
multiple unit, such as a Class 171 (the current unit type
operating the line) when in battery mode and normal
acceleration on electrified lines.

Note the following from Network Rail’s text.

  • Brighton to Ashford is about 60-70 miles.
  • Acceleration should be limited.
  • The Class 377 train would not be suitable for HS1, as it is only a 100 mph train.

It is my opinion, that a battery-electric train with the following characteristics could be designed.

  • Five to eight cars.
  • 140 mph on HS1 using 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • 100 mph on the East Coastway Line between Brighton and Hastings using 750 VDC third-rail electrification.
  • Class 171 train performance using batteries on the Marshlink Line.
  • A battery range of sixty miles to allow a fully charged train to go from Ashford to Hastings and back.

Effectively, it’s a dual-voltage high speed train, that can also run on battery power.

How Would A Battery Train Operate?

A train working from St. Pancras to Hastings would go through the following operations.

  • Run from St. Pancras to Ashford along HS1, as the current Class 395 trains do using the 25KVAC overhead power.
  • Stop in Platform 2 at Ashford station and switch to battery power.
  • Run to Hastings on battery power.
  • Run to Aahford on battery power.
  • Stop in Platform 2 at Ashford station and switch to 25 KVAC overhead power.
  • Run from Ashford to St. Pancras along HS1 using the 25 KVAC overhead power

The battery would be charged on HS1 and using the third-rail electrification at Hastings.

How Big Would The Battery Need To Be?

The test IPEMU had a battery capacity of 500 kWh and based on what is said in the Technical Appendix was capable of perhaps 150 miles on battery power.

This works out as a consumption of under one kWh per car per mile.

So a six-car train would need perhaps 200 kWh to do a single trip on the 26¼ mile Marshlink Line. Providing of course it was fully charged before starting the journey.

Could Hitachi Modify a Class 395 Train To Have A Battery Option?

Hitachi have been developing battery trains for several years.

I believe that if Bombardier can create and test a battery-electric version of a Class 379 train, in under a year, then Hitachi could do the same with any of their A train family, which includes Class 800/801/802/395 trains.

This page on the Hitachi web site is entitled AT300 – INTERCITY HIGH SPEED.

The page has a picture of a Class 395 train and it has this caption.

The Class 395 is the first High Speed commuter train in the UK and part of Hitachi’s family of AT300 units. Its introduction to HS1 in 2009 continues to be a success story and it has set new standards for performance in High Speed trains in the UK.

Underneath the picture, it gives a Technical Outline for the trains, where this is said.

Power Supply: (25kVAC / 750 Vdc / Battery)

This may only be for train hotel power, but certainly the trains can use batteries.

Conclusion On The Type Of Train

I have no reason to believe that St. Pancras to Hastings copuldn’t be run by either type of train.

Although there is the problem of whether trains carrying diesel can go throyugh the HS1 tunnels.

The new operator for the Southeastern Franchise will chose the deal they liked.

Destination Stations

The Technical Appendix to the Kent Area Route Study proposes three possible destination stations.

Hastings

Hastings station has some advantages.

  • It may be easier for operational reasons.
  • Using Platform 1 would allow cross-platform interchange with trains going West.
  • Only minimal signalling and track changes are needed.
  • A 25-30 minute dwell time at the station is good for recovery after a late arrival.

The big disadvantage is that Bexhill will not be served.

Bexhill

Stakeholders would like the service to go to Bexhill station.

Train operation doesn’t appear to be as simple as at Hastings.

Eastbourne

Eastbourne station also offers advantages.

  • There could be a 20-25 minute dwell time at Eastbourne, which would help in service recovery.
  • Sic-car trains would offer signification extra capacity between Hastings and Eastbourne, where it is needed.
  • The line between Bexhill and Eastbourne was resignalled in 2015.
  • Eastbourne to St. Pancras would be a good alternative route in times of perturbation.
  • With extra work at Hampden Park station, it could provide a faster route to Brighton and Gatwick Airport.

The only disadvantage is that an extra train would be needed to run the service.

Conclusion On The Destination

All three stations could be a suitable destination.

I feel that if the choice of trains favours battery-electric, that Eastbourne might have a useful advantage in recharging the batteries.

Track Improvements

The Technical Appendix to the Kent Area Route Study proposes various track improvements in various places from Ashford to Brighton.

It looks like Network Rail are preparing the infrastructure for faster services all along the South Coast.

Conclusion

Amber Rudd has put her name to a well-worked article.

 

 

 

 

 

November 10, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Gibbs Report – Ashford – Hastings Route Should Be Transferred To The New Southeastern Franchise

The Gibbs Report, says that the Ashford – Hastings route should be transferred to the new Southeastern franchise.

The Gibbs Report says this about the operation of the route.

The Ashford – Hastings route is currently a service operated by 12 Class 171 diesel units, running as through services from Ashford / Hastings to Eastbourne and Brighton. The trains run empty to and from GTR’s Selhurst depot for maintenance. GTR’s 2018 Timetable consultation has proposed reducing the service back to Ashford / Hastings, and concentrating the fleet there to provide more capacity to relieve current overcrowding.
In my opinion this service in its new form, in December, 2018, should transfer to the new South Eastern franchise.

Bidders for that franchise should be asked to include it, and identify the most efficient way to run the revised service, and maintain the trains in Kent or East Sussex rather than Selhurst. Other possibilities exist that bidders should explore, such as bi-mode trains and electrification.

Bidders will already be obliged to review arrangements for train maintenance and stabling as part of providing additional train capacity on South Eastern for the future. There are potential under utilised and rail connected depot facilities at Ashford and St Leonards, Hastings, that bidders will no doubt consider as part of their wider depot strategy.

It looks to me that this is not an efficient way to provide a service.

In Highspeed To Hastings, I outlined how Southeastern Highspeed services from St. Pancras would reach Hastings and Eastbourne. The most likely method seems to be by using a train with onboard energy storage, as bi-mode trains would have problems running with diesel in the tanks under London.

It should also be born in mind, that with the completion of the Ashford Spurs, that Ashford would become a more important stop for services going to and from the Continent.

So I suspect, there could be a strong case for a South Coast Express between Ashford and Bournemouth via Hastings, Eastbourne, Brighton, Portsmouth and Southampton.

This service could be a nightmare to organise, as it involves three franchise areas.

  • Southeastern.
  • Southern
  • South Western Railway.

Bur several of my friends on the South Coast would benefit from such a service.

  • The guy in Southampton, who regularly goes to Paris and Brussels.
  • The guy near Chichester, who likes to visit his old school-friends in Brighton.
  • People in Brighton, who would move to Hastings to take advantage of lower house prices and continue to work in Brighton.

Often people have to drive and they spend a long time on the South Coast’s incomplete road network.

Conclusion

Chris Gibbs may be right, as regards Govia Thameslink Railway, but he is ignoring the wider picture.

July 8, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 2 Comments

Hastings Station

Hastings station was only built in 2004 and it is effectively a new building on the existing platforms, which have been made step-free.

What surprised me though, was that trains going East are still controlled by semaphore signals, although there appeared to be new LED signals at the Western end of the station.

I wanted to go back via East Croydon and unfortunately, I just missed that train, so as there is only one direct train per hour (tph), I had to fiddle about and go via Eastbourne and Brighton.

In an ideal world, there would be four tph at all stations on the line between Ashford and Brighton, with stations like Hastings, St. Leonards and Eastbourne having better direct services to London.

The current services on both the East Coastway and West Coastway Lines seem to be designed to discourage passengers to turn-up-and-go.

If you look at the Off Peak services through the Medway towns from Gravesend to Gillingham, it is four tph, whereas Hastings to Brighton is only two tph.

But then Southern seem to have a very focused business model, where passengers are someway down the list!

January 19, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | 3 Comments