The Anonymous Widower

Think Britain To Belfast Is A Bridge Too Far? Try Tunnelling Across Instead

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article in The Sunday Times.

It is a well-written article, with good graphics and maps, which fills out the descriptive title.

This paragraph sums up the overall objective.

For the rail industry, it is part of a long-term ambition to reduce journeys by rail between London and Glasgow and Edinburgh to below three hours, which it is also advocating in the review. Trains to Belfast would turn west near Carlisle, around the Scottish border, and lorries bound for Ireland could be loaded there.

The article also predicts London and Belfast in four hours, with Dublin in six.

In a A Glimpse Of 2035, I looked into the future and left London at eight in the morning on the first train between London and Dublin and arrived at 13:30.

My predictions were thirty minutes less than The Times.

But I also predicted, that eventually, times will be three hours to Belfast and four to Dublin.

A Deep Water Port At Shannon And Its Consequences

One thing not mentioned in the Times article, is that the Irish Government and the EU have a plan to develop a deep water port at Shannon.

It would have a rail link to any rail link to the UK and would speed goods between Germany and North America, avoiding the increasingly congested ports of Rotterdam and Hamburg. Time savings of as much as a day are predicted.

I should say, that I part-grew up in Felixstowe in the 1950s and 1960s and I can remember a sleepy little dock with a giant crane to lift seaplanes out of the water, before the massive container port we know today. There are now something like forty container trains per day, going along the sleepy branch line to Ipswich and then to the rest of the UK mainland. If anybody had predicted that in 1960, they’d have been laughed at.

If the Shannon Port is built, I can see twenty high-speed freight trains per day between Shannon and the Channel Tunnel. There will probably need to be massive improvements to the freight network in the South East of England, to get all those freight trains through or around London.

Standard Or Irish Gauge

If the EU develops the deep water port at Shannon, this would surely be rail connected to the new tunnel.

But the EU only likes to build standard gauge railways, so everybody can use them. I would expect that all new tracks in the Republic of Ireland would be standard gauge.

If you look at Spain, all their high-speed railways are standard gauge and they have both narrow and Spanish gauge railways as well.

Some of the awkward squad in Ireland will object to the standard gauge railways, but he who pays the piper calls the tune.

As the UK will be paying from London to the place where the tunnel emerges and the EU from South of the Irish border, it would be much cheaper to make all the route standard gauge. But some diehards would be against it!

February 14, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 5 Comments

Could The Madrid And Lisbon High Speed Line Become Iconic?

This article on Railway Gazette International is entitled ADIF AV Agrees EIB Loan As Extremadura High Speed Link Makes Progress.

This sentence in the first paragraph gives details of the route.

The loan will support completion of the 282 km high speed line between Talayuela, Plasencia Cáceres, Mérida and Badajoz.

It will carry both passengers and freight and eventually link Madrid and Lisbon.

The article shows a spectacular bridge under construction.

So I got out my helicopter and decided to go and look for the bridge.

These are some sections and stations along the line.

The Railway Gazette article says this about the route to the East of Plasencia.

East of Plasencia however, land acquisition and preparatory works have proceeded more slowly. On this section, broad gauge tracks are to be laid as far as Talavera de la Reina, where there would be a junction with the conventional network and a gauge-changer. Passenger trains would then continue over 1 435 mm gauge tracks to join the existing Toledo – Madrid high speed line south of the capital.

Note.

  1. As I started from the East, it’s the other way round.
  2. If there is a gauge change and Iberian (broad) gauge to the West of Talavera de la Reina, is this to make it easier to connect to the Portuguese network?
  3. On the other hand, I thought, that all European-funded lines, as this one is, are supposed to be standard gauge.
  4. Will freight trains use gauge-change to get through?

As the Spanish do gauge-change well, I suspect they know what they’re doing, even if I don’t!

Two Routes From Madrid

Consider.

  • Currently, trains between Madrid and Talavera de la Reina, use a single track line.
  • The only sections of double-track are in stations and on the approaches to Madrid, after the trains pass Humanes de Madrid EMU depot.
  • Plans appear to exist to link the new high speed route to Madrid, by using the existing Madrid and Toledo high speed line.
  • This would reduce journey times and possibly increase capacity.

This Google Map shows the area between Msdrid and Toledo.

Note.

  1. The current single-track line between Madrid and Talavera de la Reina leaves the map in the South-Western corner.
  2. The line goes to the West of Villa Luenga de la Sagra and Yuncler before going to Madrid in a NNE direction.
  3. The Madrid and Toledo high speed line, runs diagonally in a SSW direction from the North-East corner of the map.
  4. The high speed line passes to the West of Cobeja and Pantoja.

Looking at the map, I don’t think it would be impossible to create a link between the two lines.

The Area Is Mainly Agricultural

This Google Map shows the mainly agricultural nature of the land.

Between Madrid and Talavera de la Reina, it also appears to not be very challenging and there doesn’t appear to be a major river, that would need to be crossed.

This should make construction easier!

Talavera de la Reina

This Google Map shows the railway station at the city of Talavera de la Reina.

Note.

  1. Madrid is to the East using standard gauge tracks.
  2. Badajoz is to the West using broad gauge tracks. Or does the standard gauge continue?
  3. The gauge change will be needed somewhere and it looks like it will happen here.

I can’t find any work here concerned with building the new high speed tracks.

Oropesa de Toledo

This Google Map shows the railway station in the town of Oropesa de Toledo.

There is no sign of the high speed line.

 

 

Note.

  1. The high speed line stops rather abruptly. Will it continue in a tunnel?
  2. The current single-track railway, at the top of the map.
  3. The border between the two provinces at the right of the map.

No clues as to the gauge of the high speed lines.

Navalmoral de la Mata

The current line goes through the municipality of Navalmoral de la Mata.

This Google Map shows the station.

There appeared to be no sign of the new high speed line. On one of my maps it is shown to the North.

The Eastern End Of The High Speed Line

The first sight of the new high speed line was at the border of Extremadura.

Note.

  1. The high speed line stops rather abruptly. Will it continue in a tunnel?
  2. The current single-track railway, at the top of the map.
  3. The border between the two provinces at the right of the map.

No clues as to the gauge of the high speed lines.

Casatejada

This Google Map shows the municipality of Casatejada.

Note.

  1. The route of the new high speed line to the North.
  2. Wikipedia doesn’t say much about it.

It may have a station, but it doesn’t have too many trains.

The section of the high speed line ends just to the West of Casatejada, as this Google Map shows.

This section of the high speed line would seem to go all the way to the Eastern edge of Extremadura, which I showed in a previous section.

La Bazagona

This Google Map, shows the area of La Bazagona.

Note.

  1. The current railway curving across the map to the South-East corner.
  2. The two circle farms.
  3. Is a new community being built here?

It certainly looks like a new station is being built to serve the area.

West Of La Bazagona

Consider.

  • West of La Bazagona, except for the current line, that goes via Monfrague, Mirabel and Cañaveral.
  • My European railway atlas, indicates the new high speed route goes between Monfrague and Plasencia and calls at a station called Plascencia Fuenteduñas.
  • I can’t locate Plascencia Fuenteduñas.

This Google Map shows the area to the West of La Bazagona.

Note.

  • La Bazagona is in the South-East corner of the map.
  • Plasencia is creeping into the map in the North-West corner.
  • The location of the current Monfrague station appears as a white dash and dot  and to the West of the North-South road.

The current railway runs East West between La Bazagone  and Monfrague.

Monfrague

This Google Map shows that except for a tobacco factory, there’s not much near Monfrague station.

On other maps, where it is to a smaller scale, the station and the surrounding buildings appear as a dash and a dot.

It appears the station only has one train per day. But it was December, when I checked.

Mirabel

Mirabel is a municipality on the current line, that is shown in this Google Map.

From Wikipedia it appears to be worth a visit.

A Diversion of the Current Route

Between Mirabel and Cañaveral, the old route takes a diversion to the East.

The railway goes to the West of the lake.

The green label indicates, it’s a hiking area.

The High Speed Line Becomes Visible Again

Since La Bazagona, I have followed the current route, but this Google Map shows where construction starts again for the new high speed line.

Note,

This is an enlargement of the South-West corner of the map.

Note the new high speed line, which stops abruptly.

North and South Of Venta El Caldero

This map shows the construction to the North of Venta El Caldero.

And this map shows the construction to the South of Venta El Caldero.

Note.

  1. The scar new railway is to the East of the A66 road.
  2. The railway construction stops abruptly North of Venta El Caldero.

Grimaldo is in the South-West corner of the map.

Grimaldo To Cañaveral

This Google Map shows the route of the high speed line from Grimaldo to Cañaveral.

Note how the scar of the railway construction is to the East of the A66 Motorway.

Cañaveral

This Google Map shows Cañaveral station on the current line and the track of the new high speed line.

This map illustrates how the new high speed line is so much more direct, which in itself will save time.

From Cañaveral To The Tagus

This map shows the scar of the construction of the high speed line from Cañaveral to the Tagus.

Note.

  1. The River Tagus across the bottom of the map.
  2. Cañaveral is in the North-East corner of the map.
  3. The scar of the railway construction running North-Easterly across the map.

A lot of the features, as the railway crosses the River Tagus, will come clearer in the next section.

Crossing The Tagus

This Google Map shows where the railway crosses the River Tagus.

 

This second map shows the Northern end of the bridge on a larger scale.

Is this bridge a double deck bridge with a road underneath a rail track?

Almonte River Railway Viaduct

This Google Map shows the viaduct over the Almonte river.

Note.

  1. It is the Eastern bridge on the map.
  2. It will carry a double-track high speed railway.
  3. At 384 metres it is the longest railway arch bridge in the world.
  4. It is seventy metres high, so the views should be good.
  5. It is 54 metres longer than the Silver Jubilee bridge over the Mersey.

The other bridge to the West is shown in this Google Map.

It appears to be a double-deck bridge, with a road on top of as single track railway.

This third Google Map clearly shows the arch.

 

It certainly is a bridge I want to experience.

The Old And New South Of The Almonte

I had to include this Google Map.

Note.

  1. The old and the new bridges over the Rio Almonte.
  2. The current railway meanders about.
  3. A lot of the track-bed of the new railway is complete.

There would appear to be a viewpoint and parking to explore the area.

Cáceres

This Google Map shows the joining of the old and new lines to the Nothe of the Cáceres

Note.

  1. The most Westerly line is the scar of the conscruction of the new high speed line.
  2. Next to it, is the current line.

The lines would appear to join to go through Cáceres. This must surely mean, they are the same gauge.

This second map shows the station in the city of Cáceres.

Reading Wikipedia, it looks to be the sort of place for an overnight stop or more.

Building The New Line South Of Cáceres

A new double-track High Speed Line is being built alongside the existing single track, as this Google Map shows.

Note.

  1. The road is the A66.
  2. The new railway is on the Western side, with the old one on the East.

This second map, taken in the same area, appears to show rail and railway being constructed along the same route.

The third map shows a tunnel on the route.

It goes straight through a range of mountains.

Aljucén

This Google Map shows the track layout at Aljucén.

Note.

  1. Aljucen station is on the East bank of the river.
  2. The North branch of the railway goes North to Caceres.
  3. The South branch of railway goes West to Badajoz.

Trains between Caceres and Badajoz, may go East to Mérida to reverse.

Mérida

As I said, the city of Mérida is to the East of Aljucén.

This Google Map shows the area between Aljucén and Mérida .

This second map, shows the large railway yard and the station at Mérida .

Note how the railway splits into two at the West of the station. One line takes the North side of the river and the other the South.

Onward To Badajoz

The Railway Gazette article says this about the section of the railway between Cáceres and Badajoz.

By late November, the 58∙8 km of double track between Plasencia and Cáceres was complete, while a single track has been built over the 80 km between Cáceres, Mérida and Badajoz. At Montijo, between Mérida and Badajoz, a junction is to be built to link the high speed line and the adjacent conventional line, which is to be electrified as part of work to modernise the east-west route across Extremadura between Badajoz and Puertollano.

Puertollano is to the East.

  • The city lies on the main high speed rail line between Madrid and Seville.
  • Trains take four hours between Puertollano and Badajoz.
  • It has a solar thermal power station.

It looks to me, that if I was going to Badajoz, I’d fly to Seville and take the train, with a change at Puertollano.

Guardiana del Caudillo

This Google Map around Guadina del Caudillo station is typical of much of the route between Aljucén and Badajoz.

It appears that a double-track high speed railway is being built alongside the current single track.

Badajoz

This Google Map shows the current single-track railway passing North-West South-East through the city of Badajoz.

Note.

  1. Portugal is a few miles to the North-West.
  2. The station appears to be in the centre of the city.

This second map shows the border.

Note.

  1. The single-track curving around the South-West corner of the map.
  2. Underground water must be good, as they’re farming in circles.

Given the closeness of Badejoz to the border, the Spanish city could be a good place to break a journey.

Conclusion

This high speed line would appear to be easier to build than High Speed Two in some ways.

  • A rail route already exists and in many places, the Spaniards are using a similar route.
  • The population density appears low.
  • The route is only about as long as London and Sheffield.

On the other hand, there are some tunnels and hills and some substantial river crossings.

Writing, this has made me want to visit, this part of Spain, where I’ve never been.

I would fly to Lisbon and gradually work my way back, stopping in places like Badajoz, Caceres and Toledo, before taking a train back to London.

Could The Madrid And Lisbon High Speed Line Become Iconic?

I think it could, as it will be a line with beautiful scenery between two of Europe’s must-visit capitals.

December 6, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

High Speed Rail Link To Lift Baltic Economies By Up To 0.6 Per Cent

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Emerging Europe.

This is the first two paragraphs.

A major new report from Swedbank, a Nordic-Baltic banking group based in Stockholm, Sweden, claims that the construction of a high speed rail link between the Estonian capital Tallinn and Lithuania’s border with Poland could lift GDP in each of the three Baltic states by between 0.2 and 0.6 per cent.

In addition to the direct economic impact in terms of public investment and jobs, the ambitious project will also help the region meet its environmental goals and bring in new technology and know-how.

The article is a must-read and has left me thinking, what will High Speed Two do for the UK?

June 23, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , | 6 Comments

Will Biofuel Save Jet Aviation?

I ask this question as I have just written a post, which is entitled Grant Shapps Announcement On Friday, where I detail a project called Altalto, which its developers hope will convert waste into aviation biofuel.

But there are other factors at work, that will have effects on passenger flying.

Electric Aircraft

Despite the technological problems electric aircraft, I can see that in a couple of years, an electric plane will be available with the following specification.

  • 9-15 passenger capacity
  • 100-200 mile range
  • Half-hour recharge time

These will improve as technology improves. But then everybody who uses a battery in their product says this.

Lightweight Structures

If you’ve ever looked at a high-performance glider, you’ll see that they are the featherweights of the aviation world and are built mainly from ultra lightweight composites.

Boeing have gone this route with the 787 Dreamliner and the aircraft has been a success.

Unfortunately, Boeing’s accountants have trashed the company, by trying to prolong the life of the obsolete 737 too far, instead of developing a composite replacement.

By the end of this decade all aircraft will be made from lightweight composite structures.

Interstingly, the only all new electric passenger aircraft; the Eviation Alice has a fully-composite airframe.

Lightweight structures will help create lower carbon emissions on traditional aircraft, by reducing fuel burn, but will really help in creating new aircraft types. Some of which will look very unusual.

Better Aerodynamics

Aerodynamics are getting more efficient and this will reduce fuel burn and have two effects on aircraft design.

  • They will make existing designs more efficient.
  • They will improve the design of electric aircraft designed on a clean sheet of paper.

Expect to see some very weird looking aircraft. Look at Eviation Alice, which could evolve into a twenty seat aircraft with a range exceeding six hundred miles.

Hybrid-Powered Aircraft

I can’t with current technology, see an all-electric aircraft powered by batteries having a range greater than perhaps six hundred miles and a capacity of greater than perhaps 20 passengers. The mathematics and the physics say no!

Some aero engine manufacturers are talking about hybrid power, where a small turbofan engine is paired with a battery and electric motors.

I think it could be a way to extend the range of electric aircraft, without creating significant emissions. Aviation biofuel would fit well with a hybrid aviation powerplant, as it would further remove emissions.

Completely Automatic Flight

The pilot of a modern airliner does very little flying and there is no reason, pilots couldn’t do as little to fly the plane, as a driver on a Victoria Line tube has done since 1967 to drive the train.

When a train is ready to depart, the driver presses a button and the train moves automatically to the next station.

If anything unusual happens, the driver takes control.

Why not with airliners?

Point-To-Point Air Services

In MagniX Electric Aircraft Engines Take To The Skies, I put this quote from magniX, who make the electric motors for electric aircraft.

magniX says 45% of all airline flights cover less than 800 km, while 5% of flights are sub-160 km.

These flights will be the first to go electric.

But they are not really suited for an airport like Heathrow or Gatwick, as each plane needs a separate take-off and landing slot to fit in with conventional flights.

Heathrow want a third runway to increase capacity.

Perhaps it should be for electric flights only!

  • Electric aircraft will be low-noise and create no pollution.
  • It would have its own terminal.
  • Charging facilities would be built into the terminal.
  • Taxi distances would be short.
  • The runway would only need to be short.
  • Passengers would have to arrive and leave by zero-carbon transport.
  • There might even be space for two runways; one for landing and one of take-off.

I can see a network of both smaller airports and satellites at major airports developing, that are designed for electric aircraft.

  • Some airports, like possibly London City, might convert to all-electric, due to their sensitive locations.
  • Other important towns and cities without an airport, might develop new all-electric airports.
  • Hubs might develop at convenient locations in the UK, for short trips to the Continent and Ireland. Perhaps a high speed rail-connected Manston Airport would be ideal for electric flights to Belgium, The Netherlands and Northern France.

Frequent point-to-point electric flights could create a zero-carbon short-haul network for flights of up to about six hundred miles.

Rail Journeys Less Than Four Hours

It is accepted by many analysts and rail companies, that if a train takes less than four hours, then it is a viable alternative to flying.

  • Could the success of Eurostar’s London and Amsterdam route, be partly down to the that it’s four hours?
  • First Group subsidiary; East Coast Trains have stated they will target air passengers, with a sub four-hour, one-class £25 train journey between London and Edinburgh.
  • High Speed Two is currently promising three hours and forty minute journeys between London and Edinburgh/Glasgow, when their service starts.

I believe that rail companies all over the world will see tempting air passengers to use rail, as a market to develop.

Zoom And Other Internet Techniques

During the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses, families and others have started using Internet conferencing in a big way.

But will other software develop, that will have the effect of both cutting flying or making it more zero-carbon.

Suppose, I wanted to visit several cities in the United States. Is there an Internet site that tells me how to do it to create the least amount of CO2?

Biofuel For Short Flights

When I laid out the factors, I only mentioned aviation biofuels once.

That was in conjunction with hybrid aircraft, that use both jet and electric power.

If the hybrid technology succeeds, it may mean that flights up to about a thousand miles are possible and this would include a lot of short haul flights around the world. With biofuels and hybrid powerplants, carbon dioxide emissions will be greatly reduced and could probably be managed by carbon offset measures like tree-planting.

Biofuel For Long Flights

As aircraft get more efficient using biofuel will help to reduce the amount of emissions, to a level that could be balanced by carbon offset.

This will be an expensive process for airlines, as probably most fleets will need to be replaced with more fuel efficient planes.

But this is happening, as 757s and A380 are being replaced by Dreamliners and other more fuel efficient types.

Conclusion

By 2035, most short haul flights will be electric or some form of hybrid power, although a lot will be replaced by high speed rail.

Biofuel won’t save long-haul flights, but it will make them economic for the airlines.

I suspect that there will be a lot of aluminium aircraft going for scrap.

June 16, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

UBS Predicts Post-Pandemic Shift From Air To High Speed Rail

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

The title says it all.

April 13, 2020 Posted by | Health, Transport | , , | 3 Comments

RENFE To Launch Avlo Low-Cost High Speed Rail For Everyone

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

The title says it all and it looks like the Spanish are going the way of the French.

As High Speed Rail networks get larger,and able to handle more trains, it appears that the train operators, run out of premium passengers and turn to other markets.

SNCF have already launched a low-cost service called Ouigo, so it looks like the Spanish are following along similar lines.

In some ways is rail following air travel with low-cost companies offering a more affordable service.

On the whole, the UK, will find it more difficult to offer these services, as we don’t have the rail capacity. In part, this is due to the late development of high speed lines like High Speed Two.

But competitive services using a low-cost model are running or in development.

It should be noted that First East Coast Trains and Hull Trains will be running similar new Hitachi trains to the dominant operator on the route; LNER.

But then Ryanair and easyJet fly similar planes to British Airways and Air France!

Conclusion

It does appear that low-cost operators are providing competition, just as they have done with the airlines.

December 28, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

HS2 Way Out In Front In Tunnel Design For High-Speed Rail

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

The article describes how Arup and Birmingham University are using physical and computer modelling to obtain the ultimate profiles of both tunnel portal and train nose to both increase train performance and reduce train noise as the trains enter tunnels.

They are even using a huge shed at the former British Rail Research Centre in Derby!

The biggest problem, is that there are aerodynamic effects, as the trains enter the tunnels at very high speeds, which result in what are inevitably called sonic booms, that disturb the local residents.

Because the new trains and tunnel portals are being developed together, there must be a greater chance, they will meet the objectives.

Collateral Benefits

Get the design right and there will be other benefits.

Lower Power In The Cruise

In How Much Power Is Needed To Run A Train At 125 mph?, I said this.

I have found this on this page on the RailUKForums web site.

A 130m Electric IEP Unit on a journey from Kings Cross to Newcastle under the conditions defined in Annex B shall consume no more than 4600kWh.

This is a Class 801 train.

  • It has five cars.
  • Kings Cross to Newcastle is 268.6 miles.
  • Most of this journey will be at 125 mph.
  • The trains have regenerative braking.
  • I don’t know how many stops are included

This gives a usage figure of 3.42 kWh per vehicle mile.

This figure is not exceptional and I suspect that good design of the train’s nose will reduce it, especially as the design speed of High Speed Two will be 360 kph or 224 mph.

Reduced Noise

Stand on a Crossrail platform at say Southall or West Drayton stations and listen to the Class 801 trains passing.

They are only doing about 100 mph and they are certainly not quiet! Noise comes from a variety of sources including aerodynamics, overhead wires and running gear.

Could the nose and profile of high speed trains also be designed to minimise noise, when cruising at high speeds?

Reduced Pantograph Noise

Travelling at up to 360 kph, pantograph noise could be a serious problem.

The only way to cut it down, would be to lower the pantograph in sensitive areas and run the train on battery power.

But if the trains energy consumption could be cut to a much lower level, it might be possible for the cruise to be maintained on battery power alone.

Consider a journey between Euston and Birmingham.

  • The train would accelerate away from Euston and go in a tunnel to Old Oak Common.
  • Batteries could be charged whilst waiting at Euston and in the run to Old Oak Common.
  • Accelerating away from Old Oak Common would bring the train to 360 kph as fast as possible.
  • It would now cruise virtually all the way to Birmingham Interchange at 360 kph.
  • At the appropriate moment the pantograph would be lowered and the train would use the kinetic energy to coast into Birmingham Interchange.
  • There would probably be enough energy in the batteries to take the train into Birmingham Curzon Street station after the stop at Birmingham Interchange.

One technology that will massively improve is the raising and lowering of the pantograph at speed.

So could we see much of the long non-stop intermediate section being run on batteries with the pantograph down. If power is needed, it would raise to power the train directly. If the raising and lowering was efficient, then it might be able to use the pantograph only in tunnels.

Could It Be Possible To Dispence With Wires Outside Of Tunnels?

Probably not on the first phase of High Speed Two, but consider.

  • High Speed Two is designed to have a lot of tunnels.
  • Arup and Birmingham may come up with even better aerodynamic designs.
  • Pantograph raising and lowering will get faster and extremely reliable.
  • Battery technology will hold more electricity for a given weight and volume.
  • Dispensing with visible wires could reduce the problems of getting planning permissions.
  • Noise and visible intrision will be reduced.

I believe there will come a time, when high speed railways could be built without visible overhead electrification.

The only places, where electrification would be used would be in tunnels and stations.

Are There Any Other Applications Of This Research?

These are a few thoughts.

Hitachi Trains For The Midland Main Line

I’m suspicious, that the research or similar research elsewhere, might have already produced a very handy result!

In an article in the October 2019 Edition of Modern Railways, which is entitled EMR Kicks Off New Era, more details of the new Hitachi bi-mode trains for East Midlands Railway (EMR) are given.

This is said.

The first train is required to be available for testing in December 2021 with service entry between April and December 2022.

The EMR bi-modes will be able to run at 125 mph in diesel mode, matching Meridian performance in a step-up from the capabilities of the existing Class 80x units in service with other franchises. They will have 24 metre vehicles (rather than 26 metres), a slightly different nose to the ‘800s’ and ‘802s’, and will have four diesel engines rather than three.

Could the new nose have been designed partly in Birmingham?

Consider.

  • Hitachi’s bi-modes for EMR InterCity could be running at up to 225 kph in a few years.
  • The Midland Main Line between Derby and Chesterfield goes through a number of tunnels in a World Heritage Site.
  • Hitachi have collaborated with UK research teams before, including on the Hyabusa.
  • Hitachi and Bombardier are submitting a joint bid for High Speed Two trains, which is based in Birmingham.

It should be noted that when the Tōkaidō Shinkansen opened in 1964 between Tokyo and Osaka average speed was 210 kph.

So are Hitachi aiming to provide EMR InterCity with almost Shinkansen speeds on a typical UK main line?

Arup and Birmingham University, certainly have the capability to design the perfect nose for such a project.

Aventras

Did the research team also help Bombardier with the aerodynamics of the Aventra?

I’m pretty certain, that somebody did, as these trains seem to have a very low noise signature, as they go past.

Talgo

Tsalgo are building a research centre at Chesterfield.

Will they be tapping in to all the rail research in the Midlands?

Conclusion

It looks to me, that there is some world-class research going on in Birmingham and we’ll all benefit!

October 4, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Will HS2 And Northern Powerhouse Rail Go For The Big Bore?

Different Versions Of This Post

The original post was published on the 25th August 2019.

It has been updated on the 21st November 2020 to reflect changes made to High Speed Two (HS2).

The Merging Of High Speed Two And Northern Powerhouse Rail

It looks to me that there will be increasing links and merging between High Speed Two (HS2) and Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR).

This report on the Transport for the North web site, is entitled At A Glance – Northern Powerhouse Rail.

Proposals and possibilities include.

  • NPR will have a Western terminal at a new station in Liverpool City Centre.
  • HS2 trains would access Liverpool and Manchester via a junction between HS2 and NPR at High Legh.
  • There will be six trains per hour (tph) between Liverpool and Manchester via Manchester Airport.
  • The route between Manchester and Manchester Airport is planned to be in tunnel.
  • There will be six tph between Manchester and Leeds.

In addition, Boris has made positive noises about a high speed line between Manchester and Leeds being of a high priority.

So will the planners go for the logical solution of a High Speed tunnel between Manchester Airport and Leeds?

  • There could be a theoretical capacity of perhaps 18 tph, which is the design capacity of High Speed Two.
  • Speeds of up to 125 mph or more could be possible. The Gottard Base Tunnel has an operating speed for passenger trains of 125 mph.
  • Stations could be at Manchester Airport, Manchester Piccadilly/Piccadilly Gardens/Victoria, Huddersfield, Bradford and Leeds.
  • West of Manchester Airport, the route appears easier and the tunnel would emerge close to the airport. Jigh Speed Two is planning that the tunnel emeges just to the North of the Airport and that the station is below ground level.
  • East of Leeds the tunnel would join up with existing routes to Doncaster, Hull, Newcastle and York.

I believe such a tunnel could be built without disrupting existing rail services and passengers. Remember building Crossrail’s tunnels was an almost invisible process.

It would result in two rail systems across Northern England.

  • Upgraded Classic Rail Routes
  • The Big Bore

My thoughts on the two systems follow.

Upgraded Classic Rail Routes

This could include improvements such as these,

  • Extra passing loops.
  • Selective electrification
  • Improved stations
  • Comprehensive in-cab digital signalling
  • More paths for passenger and freight trains.

Which could be applied to routes, such as these.

In addition, there could be the reopening of some closed or freight routes to passenger trains.

This article on Rail Technology Magazine is entitled Network Rail Reveals Detailed £2.9bn Upgrade Plans For TransPennine Route.

It is a comprehensive upgrade that includes.

  • Improvement between Huddersfield and Westtown
  • Grade separation or a tunnel at Ravensthorpe
  • Rebuilding and electrification of eight miles of track.
  • Possible doubling the number of tracks from two to four.
  • Improved stations at Huddersfield, Deighton, Mirfield and Ravensthorpe.

This project would be a major improvement to the Huddersfield Line.

In Sheffield Region Transport Plan 2019 – Hope Valley Line Improvements, I talked about planned improvements to the Hope Valley Line, which should begin in the next couple of years.

These improvements are given in detail under Plans in the Wikipedia entry for the Hope Valley Line.

The Hope Valley Improvements will cost in the region of tens of millions of pounds and Wikipedia sums up the benefits like this.

These changes to allow three fast trains, a stopping train and freight trains each hour were also supported in a Transport for the North investment report in 2019, together with “further interventions” for the Northern Powerhouse Rail programme.

It seems like good value to me!

So could we see other Multi-million and billion pound projects created to improve the classic routes across the Pennines?

Projects would be fully planned and the costs and benefits would then be assessed and calculated.

Then it would be up to the Project Managers to devise the optimal structure and order in which to carry out all the projects.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see the following techniques used.

  • Discontinuous electrification to avoid bridge reconstruction.
  • Intelligent, hybrid diesel/electric/battery trains from Bombardier, Hitachi or Stadler, capable of 125 mph running and changing mode at speed.
  • Modular digital signalling
  • Factory built stations and step-free bridges.
  • Removal of all level crossings.
  • All stations updated for step-free access between train and platform.

The objectives would be as follows.

  • More paths, where needed.
  • Faster line speed.
  • Less running on diesel.
  • Fast station stops.

Hopefully, the upgrading could be done without too much disruption.

Remember though, that disruption to existing users during a project, is most likely down to bad project management.

The Big Bore

The Central Core tunnel of Crossrail between Royal Oak and East London, was virtually a separate project before Crossrail’s stations and much of other infrastructure was built.

I believe that digging the tunnel first gave a big advantage, in that it could be constructed as an independent project, provided that the logistics of delivering the components and removing the junk was done efficiently.

But it did mean that travellers wouldn’t see any benefits until the project was almost complete.

HS2 and NPR are different in that they also envisage upgrading these routes.

  • The Huddersfield Line
  • The Chat Moss Line
  • The Calder Valley Line
  • The Hope Valley Line
  • The Dearne Valley Line
  • The Selby Line
  • The Midland Main Line North Of Clay Cross

Only the Huddersfield Line is directly affected by the Big Bore.

Effectively, the Big Bore will provide a by-pass route for passenger trains between Leeds and West of Manchester Airport, to take the fast trains of HS2 and NPR underneath the congested classic lines.

In Changes Signalled For HS2 Route In North I said this about a tunnel between Leeds and Manchester.

To get a twenty-five minute time between Leeds and Manchester with a ten minute frequency, which I believe is the minimum service the two cities deserve, would be like passing a whole herd of camels through the eye of a single needle.

The Swiss, who lets face it have higher hills, than we have in Northern England would create a new route mainly in tunnel between the two cities, with perhaps an underground station beneath the current Grade I Listed; Huddersfield station.

The transport for the North report suggests Bradford Low Moor station, as an intermediate station, so why not Bradford Low Moor and Huddersfield stations?

Note that the Gotthard Base Tunnel, which opened a couple of years ago, deep under the Alps, is about the same length as a Leeds and Manchester tunnel, and cost around eight billion pounds.

It would be expensive, but like Crossrail in London, the tunnel would have big advantages.

  • It could be built without disrupting current rail and road networks.
  • It would have a capacity of up to thirty tph in both directions.
  • Unlike Crossrail, it could handle freight trains.
  • It would unlock and join the railway systems to the East and West.

I believe, it would be a massive leap forward for transport in the North of England.

It would be a very big project and probably one of the longest rail tunnels in the world.

Comparison With The Gotthard Base Tunnel

But surely, if a small and rich nation like Switzerland can build the Gotthard Base Tunnel, then we have the resources to build the Big Bore between Manchester Airport and Leeds.

Consider these facts about the Gotthard Base Tunnel.

  • It is two single track bores.
  • Each bore has a track length of around 57 kilometres or 35 miles.
  • The tunnel may be deep, but it is direct and level.
  • The maximum speed is 250 kph or 160 mph.
  • The operational speed for passenger trains is 200 kph or 125 mph.
  • The operational speed for freight is 100 kph or 62 mph.
  • It can take the largest freight trains.

To make numbers even more impressive it is joined to the shorter Ceneri Base Tunnel, to provide an even longer route.

Manchester Airport And Leeds Direct

Now consider Manchester Airport and Leeds.

  • The current rail distance is 56 miles.
  • There are stops at Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Oxford Road, Manchester Victoria and Huddersfield stations.
  • Journey time is eighty minutes.

But the direct distance is only 68 kilometres or forty-three miles.

Surely if the Swiss can blast and dig two 57 km. single-track rail tunnels through solid rock, we can go eleven kilometres further with all the recent experience of tunnelling around the world.

The lengths of the various legs would be as follows.

  • Manchester Airport and Manchester – 14 km.
  • Manchester and Huddersfield – 35 km.
  • Huddersfield and Bradford – 17 km.
  • Bradford and Leeds – 13 km

Trains running on the various legs at 200 kph, which is the cruising speed of a 1970s-built InterCity 125, could take the following times for the various legs.

  • Manchester Airport and Manchester – 4.2 minutes
  • Manchester and Huddersfield – 10.5 minutes
  • Huddersfield and Bradford – 5.1 minutes
  • Bradford and Leeds – 13 km – 3.9 minutes

Leeds and Manchester Airport would be under thirty minutes apart, even allowing two minutes each for the three stops.

Looking at NPR between Liverpool and Hull, times could be as follows.

  • Liverpool and Manchester – 26 minutes
  • Manchester and Leeds – 20 minutes
  • Leeds and Hull – 38 minutes

Or a Coast-to-Coast time of under ninety minutes.

Train Frequencies

HS2 is being designed to handle eighteen tph, although slower intensive railways in the UK can handle up to twenty-four tph.

At the current time or certainly in a few years time, the theoretical maximum frequency through the Big Bore should be between these two figures. I will assume at least eighteen tph in this post.

The At A Glance – Northern Powerhouse Rail report talks about the following frequencies.

  • Liverpool and Manchester via Manchester Airport – Six tph.
  • Manchester and Leeds – Six tph
  • Leeds and Hull – Two tph

This is all so lacking in ambition. It is like building a new high capacity road and only allowing those with status to use the road.

If Leeds and Manchester Airport can handle eighteen tph, why not use some of it to create an Express Metro under the Pennines?

To me, if the Big Bore is built, nothing short of twelve tph or a train every five minutes is acceptable, at Liverpool, Manchester Airport, Manchester, Huddersfield, Bradford and Leeds stations.

The extension to Hull could be reduced to perhaps six tph, but with the upgrading of the Hull and Leeds Line to perhaps 140 mph, I’d be bold and create a true TransPennine Express;

Hull and Liverpool every five minutes would be the ultimate Marketing Man’s dream.

The Underground Stations

Manchester Airport, Manchester, Huddersfield, Bradford and Leeds would all be through stations deep underground.

  • They would be connected to the surface by lifts and escalators.
  • Some entrances to the stations would connect to existing stations and others might emerge in City squares like Manchester’s P:iccadilly Gardens.
  • Most stations would be just two platforms, as all trains would pass through on either side of a large underground concourse.
  • Bay platforms could be added as required.
  • All stations would have platform edge doors.
  • Passengers would be able to reverse direction by just walking across the concourse.

Stations would build on the lessons learned from Crossrail. But then NPR is closer to Crossrail than a Classic High Speed Line.

Weston Williamson’s Vision For Manchester Piccadilly Station

I wrote about this in The Rival Plans For Piccadilly Station, That Architects Say Will ‘Save Millions’.

I believe that this is the way to create an underground station.

The Terminal Stations

The two main terminal stations for NPR and trains running through the Big Bore would be the proposed High Speed station at Liverpool and the existing Hull station.

But one other terminal station is being created; Edinburgh.

I have been going to Edinburgh station to and from England for perhaps thirty years and the capacity of the station has constantly increased.

Recent developments are extended Platforms 5 and 6, that can take the longest LNER trains.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that with the application of digital signalling, that there is capacity for at least eight tph between Edinburgh and Newcastle.

There would certainly be capacity for at least two tph between Liverpool and Edinburgh via Manchester Airport, Manchester, Huddersfield, Bradford, Leeds, York and Newcastle.

In the East the other possibilities for terminals are Doncaster, Newcastle and York.

  • I would discount Newcastle, as it lacks capacity and its location would make it difficult to add more.
  • Doncaster has good connectivity and space, but do Leeds and Hull offer similar connectivity?

So that leaves Hull, Edinburgh and York, as the only Eastern terminals.

In the West, there is probably a need to connect to the Northern section of the West Coast Main Line (WCML).

Glasgow Central is probably the obvious terminal, but it would need an extra connection at the junction of HS2, NPR and WCML at High Legh.

If necessary Preston could be used, as it has space and lots of connectivity.

Tunnel Size

As Manchester will be served by High Speed Two’s Full-Size trains from Birmingham and London, both Manchester stations will need to be built to accept these trains.

I feel that the whole tunnel between Manchester Airport and Leeds, should be built to the High Speed Two size, so that it can accept the largest possible passenger and freight trains, in the future.

Integration Of HS2 and NPR

The At A Glance – Northern Powerhouse Rail report is proposing this and it looks that the following HS2 services could be possible between Euston and Manchester.

  • Two tph – Euston and Hull via Old Oak Common, Manchester Airport, Manchester, Huddersfield, Bradford and Leeds
  • Two tph – Euston and Edinburgh via Old Oak Common, Manchester Airport, Manchester, Huddersfield, Bradford, Leeds, York and Newcastle.

Note.

  1. Manchester Airport, Manchester, Huddersfield, Bradford and Leeds would all have four tph to and from London, by the Western arm of HS2’s Y.
  2. If in addition there were two tph between Liverpool and Hull and Liverpool and Edinburgh, this would mean four tph from the Big Bore of NPR to both Hull and Edinburgh.
  3. None of these core services need to terminate in the Big Bore.

I very much feel that integrating HS2 and NPR is the way to go.

Could We See A High Speed Northern Metro?

If we assume that the Big Bore could handle the HS2 frequency of at least eighteen tph, then it would be possible to create a high speed service across the Pennines with the following Metro-like frequencies.

  • Liverpool and Hull – 4 tph
  • Liverpool and Edinburgh – 2 tph
  • Glasgow and Hull – 2 tph
  • London Euston and Hull – 2 tph
  • London Euston and Edinburgh – 2 tph

This would result in the following frequencies

  • Liverpool – 6 tph
  • Glasgow – 2 tph
  • London Euston – 4 tph
  • Manchester Airport – 12 tph
  • Manchester – 12 tph
  • Huddersfield – 12 tph
  • Bradford – 12 tph
  • Leeds – 12 tph
  • Hull – 8 tph
  • York – 4 tph
  • Newcastle – 4 tph
  • Edinburgh – 4 tph

What would these frequencies do for train travel in the North of England?

Freight

The Gotthard Base Tunnel has been designed so that both freight and passenger trains can use the route.

There is a need for extra freight capacity across the country and I wonder if freight trains could use the Big Bore.

I estimate that the Big Bore would be 68 kilometres if bored straight and level between West of Manchester Airport and Leeds.

Lets assume it is seventy kilometres or 43.5 miles.

So times, through the tunnel at various average speeds would be.

  • 125 mph – 21 minutes
  • 110 mph – 23.7 minutes
  • 100 mph – 26.1 minutes
  • 90 mph – 29 minutes
  • 80 mph – 32.6 minutes
  • 62 mph (Gotthard Base Tunnel speed for freight) – 42 minutes.

Could it be mandated that freight trains can use the tunnel, if they could maintain a particular speed?

Consider.

  • A 125 mph train with stops at Manchester Airport, Manchester, Huddersfield, Bradford and Leeds would probably take thirty minutes to transit the tunnel.
  • A freight train running at 90 mph would take more or less the same time.
  • Fifteen tph would mean a train every four minutes.
  • Automatic control of all trains in the tunnel would be a possibility. It appears to work on the much more complicated Thameslink.

I think with the following conditions, one or even two freight trains per hour, in addition to the passenger trains, can pass through the Big Bore in each direction.

  • The locomotives have the performance of at least the Class 93 locomotive, which is currently being built.
  • Freight trains can be hauled through at a minimum speed, which could be between 90 and 110 mph.
  • The passenger trains and train and platform staff work together to produce very short station dwell times.
  • All passenger trains are identical.
  • Station platforms are designed so that passengers can leave and enter the trains rapidly.

It will be a Big Bore with a capacity to match!

What About Sheffield?

I haven’t forgotten Sheffield, but I think it could be linked across the Pennines by another route.

Under the upgrades for Northern Powerhouse Rail, it is proposed that services between Sheffield and Leeds become 4 tph in 25 minutes along the Dearne Valley Line.

Does Boris Know More Than He Lets On?

The headline on the front cover of Issue 885 of Rail Magazine is Boris Backs New Pennine Railway.

There is also a sub-heading of PM commits to Leeds-Manchester line.

Boris didn’t apply any substance to the speech, except to say that it will be funded.

Conclusion

I believe that my naïve analysis in this post shows that a TransPennine tunnel is possible.

But I believe that the right tunnel could have one big advantage.

Suppose it was built to handle the following.

  • A capacity of eighteen tph, which is the same as High Speed Two.
  • An operating speed of 140 mph or more. The Gotthard Base Tunnel has a maximum operating speed of 160 mph.
  • High Speed Two’s Full-Size trains.
  • The largest freight trains.

It would be future proofed for longer than anybody could envisage.

There are also other smaller advantages.

  • It would by-pass a lot of difficult areas.
  • It would cause very little aural and visual disruption.
  • IIf it were designed with care, it would affect the flora and fauna.
  • As with the Swiss tunnel, it could be dug level, which would save energy and allow trains to run faster.
  • It could be running twelve tph between Leeds and Manchester Airport via Bradford, Huddersfield and Manchester Piccadilly.
  • Existing surface railways at the Eastern end could serve Cleethorpes, Darlington, Doncaster, Edinburgh, Hull, Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Scarborough, Sheffield and York
  • Existing surface railways at the Western end could serve Barrow, Blackpool, Carlisle, Chester, Glasgow, Liverpool. North Wales, Preston and Wigan.

It would be more like Thameslink for the North turned on its side, rather than Crossrail for the North.

 

 

August 25, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Thello Bids To Run Milano – Paris High Speed Service

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

This is the first paragraph.

Trenitalia subsidiary Thello has notified rail regulator ARAFER of its intention to launch the first open access passenger services on the French high speed network. The regulator announced on June 4 that Thello had requested paths from SNCF Réseau for a twice-daily service between Milano and Paris to start from June 2020.

These are more details of the service.

  • Services will leave both cities around 07.00 and 15.00 each day.The journey time would be under 7 hours.
  • Intermediate stops would be at Torino, Modane, Chambery Challes Les Eaux and Lyon Part Dieu.
  • Services would be worked by Trenitalia’s Frecciarossa 1000 trainsets.
  • Trains would use LGV Sud-Est.
  • Each train would be able to carry up to 457 passengers, with 300 standard class seats, 76 Premium, 69 Business and 10 Executive.

SNCF also run a service between Milano and Paris, which I have used between Novara and Paris.

I wrote about that trip in From Novara To Paris.

It looks to me that the Trello service could be a better experience.

  • It could be faster as it will use the Torino to Milano High Speed Line.
  • It runs twice a day.

Combined with Eurostar, it would make London to Milan in a day feasible.

But whether you would want to do that is another matter!

I have come home in a day from Barcelona, Geneva, Karlsruhe, Madrid, Munich and Novara.

  • But then, I can be in my bed at home in under twenty minutes from when the Eurostar arrives in St. Pancras.
  • Leaving the UK, I will often fly to my starting point.
  • I will also come home in half-day-sized journeys, breaking the trip in a reasonable hotel each night.

There are various developments making this mode of travel around Europe easier and more comfortable.

  • More high-speed lines are being developed.
  • Austrian Railways are developing more sleeper trains, that they call NightJet.
  • The availability of affordable hotels is getting better.

At certain times of the year, hotels and train tickets can be arranged easily in every overnight stop.

 

 

 

June 5, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Algorithm Could Cut High Speed Rail Energy Use

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

This is the first paragraph.

Researchers at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University’s Suzhou campus have developed an algorithm intended to optimise the storage and reuse of braking energy.

Regenerative braking energy is stored on the trainand reused, rather than returned to the grid.

Ten percent savings are claimed.

I’ve always thought this was possible.

 

March 15, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , | 6 Comments