The Anonymous Widower

RTRI Tests Fuel Cell Multiple Unit

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

This is the first two paragraphs.

JAPAN: Railway Technical Research Institute has started test running with a prototype multiple-unit which can work as a conventional or battery EMU or using a fuel cell powerpack.

Converted from an older 1·5 kV DC EMU, the test train comprises a 34 tonne motor car and 29 tonne trailer vehicle. Each car is 19 760 mm long and 2 950 mm wide. It is able to operate as a conventional EMU when running under overhead catenary, or as a battery unit off-wire, with or without the fuel cell in use to trickle-charge the batteries.

These are my thoughts.

The Hydrogen Fuel Cells.

The article says this about the hydrogen fuel cells.

Two polymer electrolyte fuel cells are contained in an underfloor module 2 600 mm long, 2 655 mm wide and 720 mm high, which weighs 1·9 tonnes.

The fuel cells are stated to have a rating of 90 kW at 200 to 350 V.

To get a handle on how powerful the hydrogen fuel cells are, these are some characteristics of a British Rail Class 456 train.

  • It is a two-car electric multiple unit.
  • It weighs 72.5 tonnes.
  • It has an operating speed of 75 mph.
  • It is a 750 VDC train.
  • It has a power output of 373 kW

I wouldn’t think that the two trains are that far apart in performance and capacity.

The Japanese train has a total power output from the fuel cells of 180 kW, but it can also use power from the battery.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the Japanese fuel cell and battery combination was powerful enough to power the British train.

I also think, they would fit underneath a typical British train like the Class 456 train, which has a width of 2800 mm.

The Hydrogen Tanks

The article says this about the hydrogen tanks and the range.

Hydrogen is stored in four high pressure cylinders at 35 MPa, with a capacity of 180 litres, giving a range of 72 km.

The mass of the hydrogen in the tank according to this calculator on the Internet is around 4.3 Kg.

In How Much Energy Can Extracted From a Kilogram Of Hydrogen?, I showed that a typical fuel cell can produce 16 kWh from a kilogram of hydrogen.

So the hydrogen tank can be considered a battery holding 4.3 * 16 = 68.8 kWh.

That doesn’t sound much, so perhaps the capacity figure is for a single tank. In that case the total for the train would be 275.2 kWh, which seems more in line with the battery size of Vivarail’s two-car battery prototype, which has 424 kWh.

Each tank would be something like 2500 mm long and 300 mm in diameter, if they were cylindrical. Double the diameter to 600 mm and the capacity would be over 700 litres.

The Battery

The article says the train has a 540 kW battery, which I think could be a misprint, as it would more likely be 540 kWh.

Performance

The article says this about the performance.

The four 95 kW traction motors provide a maximum acceleration of 0·7 m/s2, and an electric braking rate of 0·86 m/s2

It also says that the range is 72 km.

My observations on the performance and traction system are.

  • The traction power of the two-car Japanese train at 380 kW is very similar to the 373 kW of the similar-sized British Class 456 train
  • The acceleration rate is very typical of an electric multiple unit.
  • Bracking is regenerative and used to charge the batteries. As it should!

This leads me to conclude, that this is a train, that could run a short public service, just as the Class 379 BEMU demonstrator did in 2015.

Thoughts About Range

The range is quoted at 72 kilometres (forty five miles.) This figure is unusual in that it is very precise, so perhaps it’s the Japanese way to give an exact figure, whereas we might say around or over seventy kilometres.

Applying my trusty formula of three kWh per vehicle-mile for cruising gives a energy requirement of 270 kWh for the full range, which is close to the four-tank energy capacity of 275.2 kWh.

Comparison With Alstom’s Breeze

Alstom are building a hydsrogen-powered version of a Class 321 train, which they have named Breeze.

Like the Japanese train, this is a effectively two-car train with respect to capacity as large hydrogen tanks to give a thousand kilometre range are installed.

So do the developers of both trains feel that a hydrogen-powered train to replace two- and three-car diesel multiple units is the highest priority?

Conclusion

If nothing else, it seems the Japanese have designed a two-car electric multiple unit, that has the following characteristics.

  • Practical size of two-cars.
  • Most equipment underneath the train.
  • Useful range.
  • Acceleration and braking in line with modern units.
  • Regenerative braking.
  • Ability to work on overhead, battery and hydrogen power.

I am led to the conclusion, that once their research is finished, the Japanese could design a very practical hydrogen-powered train for production in the required numbers.

 

 

 

September 7, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Little Has Been Said About East Midlands Railway’s Promised Hydrogen Trains

In their proposal for the East Midlands franchise, Abellio said that they would trial hydrogen-powered trains on the Midland Main Line.

But little has been heard of this promise since winning the franchise.

So where could the franchise use hydrogen-powered trains on the Midland Main Line?

Extending Corby Trains To Oakham And Melton Mowbray

This is a distance of under thirty miles, so it would probably be within range of a well-designed hybrid battery-hydrogen-electric train.

  • Refuelling with hydrogen could be at Corby or Melton Mowbray stations.
  • Trains would be 240 metres long.
  • In addition batteries would be charged between St. Pancras and Corby stations.
  • Trains would run at 125 mph for much of the route between St. Pancras and Corby.
  • Hydrogen power would be used as a top-up between Corby and Melton Mowbray if required.

The service could even go further and turn back at Leicester.

Perhaps one train per hour (tph) of the two Corby services could be extended.

Non-Stop London To Leicester Trains

The Midland Main Line will be electrified as far as Market Harborough, so there would be under twenty miles without electrification on the route between St. Pancras and Leicester stations.

  • Trains would run at 125 mph for much of the route between St. Pancras and Leicester.
  • Refuelling could be at Leicester.
  • To publicise the service, it might be best to run two tph non-stop.
  • Perhaps the only stop would be Luton Airport Parkway, as the Airport wants more fast services.

As with the Corby Extension service, it wouldn’t require a great deal of running on hydrogen.

Why Not Run A Loop From London?

If the Corby Extension service went as far as Leicester it would approach the station from the North, whereas the London service would approach from the South.

So why not run the services back-to-back?

  • There could be two tph in each direction.
  • There could be a longer stop at Leicester to take on hydrogen.
  • Stops could include Luton Airport Parkway in both directions, to give the Airport four tph to and from London and Leicester.
  • There might also be the possibility of an improved station at Syston, which is to the North-East of Leicester.

It wouldn’t need any new platforms or other infrastructure, except for the hydrogen filling station at Leicester and the possible improvements at Syston.

It would deliver high speed hydrogen-powered trains to Leicester at a frequency of two tph direct and two trph via Corby.

It would fit Luton Airport’s ambitions as I outlined in Luton Trains Its Eye On Sub 30-Minute Express.

What would that do for the prestige of the Leicester and the ambitions of Luton Airport?

Who Would Build The Trains?

These are my thoughts.

  • Alston have the technology, but do they have the train?
  • Bombardier have stated they are not interested in hydrogen.
  • CAF have the train and the battery technology, but do they have the hydrogen technology?
  • Hitachi have the train, but do they have the battery and hydrogen technology?
  • Stadler have the train and the battery technology, but do they have the hydrogen technology?

I have heard rumours they are pushing hydrogen technology and also that their PowerPack concept works at 125 mph, so I suspect that Stadler are as likely as any to produce a working high speed hybrid hydrogen train.

But they will have several dozen trains working in the UK in a year or so.

They are not to be underestimated.

But then the prize for successfully running a 200 kph or 125 mph zero-carbon train will be immense, and this will not be lost on the train builders.

Or East Midlands Railway for that matter!

The first person, who does something is always remembered!

Losers come second!

August 21, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Could A Battery- Or Hydrogen-Powered Freight Locomotive Borrow A Feature Of A Steam Locomotive?

Look at these pictures of the steam locomotive; Oliver Cromwell at Kings Cross station.

Unlike a diesel or electric locomotive, most powerful steam locomotives have a tender behind, to carry all the coal and water.

The Hydrogen Tank Problem

One of the problems with hydrogen trains for the UK’s small loading gauge is that it is difficult to find a place for the hydrogen tank.

The picture is a visualisation of the proposed Alstom Breeze conversion of a Class 321 train.

  • There is a large hydrogen tank between the driving compartment and the passengers.
  • The passenger capacity has been substantially reduced.
  • The train will have a range of several hundred miles on a full load of hydrogen.

The Alstom Breeze may or may not be a success, but it does illustrate the problem of where to put the large hydrogen tank needed.

In fact the problem is worse than the location and size of the hydrogen tank, as the hydrogen fuel cells and the batteries are also sizeable components.

An Ideal Freight Locomotive

The Class 88 locomotive, which has recently been introduced into the UK, is a successful modern locomotive with these power sources.

  • 4 MW using overhead 25 KVAC overhead electrication.
  • 0.7 MW using an onboard diesel engine.

Stadler are now developing the Class 93 locomotive, which adds batteries to the power mix.

The ubiquitous Class 66 locomotive has a power of  nearly 2.5 MW.

But as everybody knows, Class 66 locomotives come with a lot of noise, pollution, smell and a substantial carbon footprint.

To my mind, an ideal locomotive must be able to handle these freight tasks.

  • An intermodal freight train between Felixstowe and Manchester.
  • An intermodal freight train between Southampton and Leeds.
  • A work train for Network Rail
  • A stone train between the Mendips and London.

The latter is probably the most challenging, as West of Newbury, there is no electrification.

I also think, that locomotives must be able to run for two hours or perhaps three,  on an independent power source.

  • Independent power sources could be battery, diesel, hydrogen, or a hybrid design
  • This would enable bridging the many significant electrification gaps on major freight routes.

I feel that an ideal locomotive would need to meet the following.

  • 4 MW when running on a line electrified with either 25 KVAC overhead or 750 VDC third-rail.
  • 4 MW for two hours, when running on an independent power source.
  • Ability to change from electric to independent power source at speed.
  • 110 mph operating speed.

This would preferably without diesel.

Electric-Only Version

Even running without the independent power source, this locomotive should be able to haul a heavy intermodal freight train between London and Glasgow on the fully-electrified West Coast Main Line.

I regularly see freight trains pass along the North London Line, that could be electric-hauled, but there is a polluting Class 66 on the front.

Is this because there is a shortage of quality electric locomotives? Or electric locomotives with a Last Mile capability, that can handle the routes that need it?

If we have to use pairs of fifty-year-old Class 86 locomotives, then I suspect there are not enough electric freight locomotives.

Batteries For Last Mile Operation

Stadler have shown, in the design of the Class 88 locomotive, that in a 4 MW electric locomotive, there is still space to fit a heavy diesel engine.

I wonder how much  battery capacity could be installed in a UK-sized 4 MW electric locomotive, based on Stadler’s UK Light design.

Would it be enough to give the locomotive a useful Last Mile capabilty?

In Thoughts On A Battery Electric Class 88 Locomotive On TransPennine Routes, I estimated that a Class 88 locomotive could replace the diesel engine with a battery with a battery capacity of between 700 kWh and 1 MWh.

This would give about fifteen minutes at full power.

Would this be a useful range?

Probably not for heavy freight services, if you consider that a freight train leaving the Port of Felixstowe takes half-an-hour to reach the electrification at Ipswich.

But it would certainly be enough power to bring the heaviest freight train out of Felixstowe Port to Trimley.

If the Felixstowe Branch Line were to be at least partially electrified, then I’m sure a Class 88 locomotive with a battery instead of the diesel engine could bring the heaviest train to the Great Eastern Main Line.

  • Electrifying between Trimley and the Great Eastern Main Line should be reasonably easy, as much of the route has recently been rebuilt.
  • Electrifying Felixstowe Port would be very disruptive to the operation of the port.
  • Cranes and overhead wires don’t mix!

I wonder how many services to and from Felixstowe could be handled by an electric locomotive with a Last Five Miles-capability, if the Great Eastern Main Line electrification was extended a few miles along the Felixstowe Branch Line.

As an aside here, how many of the ports and freight interchanges are accessible to within perhaps five miles by electric haulage?

I believe that if we are going to decarbonise UK railways by 2040, then we should create electrified routes to within a few miles of all ports and freight interchanges.

Batteries For Traction

If batteries are to provide 4 MW power for two hours, they will need to have a capacity of 8 MWh.

In Thoughts On A Battery Electric Class 88 Locomotive On TransPennine Routes, I said this.

Traction batteries seem to have an energy/weight ratio of about 0.1kWh/Kg, which is increasing with time, as battery technology improves.

This means that a one tonne battery holds about 100 kWh.

So to hold 8 MWh or 8,000 kWh, there would be a need to be an 80 tonne battery using today6’s technology.

A Stadler Class 88 locomotive weighs 86 tonnes and has a 21.5 tonne axle load, so the battery would almost double the weight of the locomotive.

So to carry this amount of battery power, the batteries must be carried in a second vehicle, just like some steam locomotives have a tender.

But suppose Stadler developed another version of their UK Light locomotive, which was a four-axle locomotive that held the largest battery possible in the standard body.

  • It would effectively be a large battery locomotive.
  • It would have cabs on both  ends.
  • It might have a traction power of perhaps 2-2.5 MW.
  • It would have a pantograph for charging the battery if required.

It could work independently or electrically-connected to the proposed 4 MW electric locomotive.

I obviously don’t know all the practicalities and economics of designing such a pair of locomotives, but I do believe that the mathematics say  that a 4 MW electric locomotive can be paired with a locomotive that has a large  battery.

  • It would have 4 MW, when running on electrified lines.
  • It would have up to 4 MW, when running on battery power for at least an hour.
  • ,It could use battery-power to bridge the gaps in the UK’s electrification network and for Last Mile operation.

A  very formidable zero-carbon locomotive-pair could be possible.

Hydrogen Power

I don’t see why a 4 MW electric locomotive , probably with up to 1,000 kWh of batteries couldn’t be paired with a second vehicle, that contained a hydrogen tank, a hydrogen fuel-cell.and some more batteries.

It’s all a question of design and mathematics.

It should also be noted, that over time the following will happen.

  • Hydrogen tanks will be able to store hydrogen at a greater pressure.
  • Fuel cells will have a higher power to weight ratio.
  • Batteries will have a higher power storage density.

These improvements will all help to make a viable hydrogen-powered generator or locomotive possible.

I also feel that the same hydrogen technology could be used to create a hydrogen-powered locomotive with this specfication.

  • Ability to use 25 KVAC overhead or 750 VDC third-rail electrification.
  • 2 MW on electrification.
  • 1.5 MW on hydrogen/battery power.
  • 100 mph capability.
  • Regenerative braking to batteries.
  • Ability to pull a rake of five or six coaches.

This could be a very useful lower-powered locomotive.

What About The Extra Length?

A Class 66 locomotive is 21.4 metres long and a Class 68 locomotive is 20.3 metres long. Network Rail is moving towards a maximum freight train length of 775 metres, so it would appear that another twenty metre long vehicle wouldn’t be large in the grand scheme of things.

Conclusion

My instinct says to be that it would be possible to design a family of locomotives or an electric locomotive with a second vehicle containing batteries or a hydrogen-powered electricity generator, that could haul freight trains on some of the partially-electrified routes in the UK.

 

 

 

July 28, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Getting To The Proposed Morecambe Eden Project By Train

I originally wrote this post as part of Thoughts On The Morecambe Bay Eden Project, in August 2018, but I now feel it is better as a standalone post!

Current Train SAervices To Morecambe

Morecambe is served by the Morecambe Branch Line, This diagram from Wikipedia, shows how Morecambe is well-connected to Lancaster and the West Coast Main Line.

Note.

  1. The line has two stations in the town at Bare Lane and Morecambe and another at the nearby Heysham Port.
  2. Service between Morecambe and Lancaster seems to have a frequency of two trains per hour (tph) and a journey time of around ten minutes.
  3. There are also upwards of three services a day to and from Skipton and Leeds, which reverse at Lancaster.

I don’t think that a train every half-hour, is sufficient to serve a major attraction.

Possible Expansion Of The Train Service

As both Bare Lane and Morecambe stations have two platforms and there used to be extra tracks along the route, I think it would be possible to create a railway system to Morecambe that could include.

  • Two tph to and from Lancaster.
  • Trains to and from Leeds via Lancaster, Carnforth, Hellifield for the Settle & Carlisle Railway and Skipton
  • Trains to and from Windermere via Lancaster, Carnforth and Oxenholme Lake District.
  • Trains to and from Carlisle via Lancaster, Carnforth, Barrow and the Cumbrian Coast Line.

There is tremendous scope to expand rail services in an area of scenic beauty, that includes the Lake District and the Pennines.

Creating an iconic attraction at Morecambe could be a catalyst to develop the rail services in the wider area.

A decent rail service with good provision for bicycles and wheelchairs, might also encourage more tourism without the need for cars.

The West Coast Main Line And High Speed Two

The West Coast Main Line, which will also be used by High Speed Two trains in the future goes between Lancaster and Carlisle.

  • Trains to and from Morecambe, Windermere and Barrow will have to share with the 125 mph trains on the West Coast Main Line.

For this reason, I feel that the specification for local trains must be written with care.

Battery Trains Between Morecambe And Lancaster

In my view, the short Morecambe and Windermere Branch Lines are ideal for services that use battery trains, which would charge the batteries on the electrified West Coast Main Line.

  • All trains between Lancaster and Morecambe could use battery power.
  • Morecambe to Windermere could even be a 125 mph electric train on the West Coast Main Line, that used batteries on the short branch lines at either end.

Consider

  • Bombardier are talking about a 125 mph bi-mode Aventra with batteries. Diesel power would not be needed, so add more batteries.
  • Battery trains are talking about ranges of thirty miles, in a few years.
  • Batteries would be charged on the West Coast Main Line.
  • The trains would not be slow enough to interfere with the expresses on the West Coast Main Line.

How cool is that?

The battery-powered trains would surely fit in well with the message of the Eden Project.

Hydrogen-Powered Trains Between Morecambe And Leeds

In my view these routes would be ideal for environmentally-friendly hydrogen-powered trains.

  • Morecambe and Leeds
  • Lancaster and Carlisle via Barrow and Workington
  • Carlisle and Newcastle
  • Carlisle and Leeds via the Settle and Carlisle Line.

All passenger trains in Cumbria would be zero-carbon.

Conclusion

Morecambe and the Eden Project could be at the centre of an extensive zero-carbon rail network.

These major cities would have direct electric trains to Lancaster, which would be a short local train ride away.

  • Birmingham
  • Edinburgh
  • Glasgow
  • Liverpool
  • London
  • Manchester

All journeys could be zero-carbon.

July 26, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Industry Urged To Decide On Alternative Technology

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

This is the first paragraph.

The rail industry needs to decide on the right approach to alternative technology as soon as possible, to ensure the industry can continue to reduce emissions.

Speaking to the All-Party Parliamentary Rail Group, Anthony Perratt of the RSSB, outlined how there was a huge opportunity to replace ageing Sprinter trains with new units powered by alternative energy sources like batteries and hydrogen.

The Size Of The Opportunity

Sprinter trains in service of stored in the UK include.

These add up to 516 trains, with a total of 1035 cars.

In the Wikipedia entry for the Class 710 train, this is said.

TfL announced that it had placed a £260m order for 45 four-car Bombardier Aventra EMUs.

This works out at nearly £1,500,000 for each car of a modern train.

This means that replacement of the Sprinters, with new independently-powered trains, would be project of the order of £1.5billion.

That is a market, that would be very much desired by a train builder.

Battery, Diesel Or Hydrogen Power?

Diesel power is probably not a good idea, if it can be avoided.

The following points about hydrogen- and battery-powered trains should be noted.

  • Most hydrogen-powered trains are battery-powered trains, with a hydrogen fuel-cell to recharge the batteries.
  • Battery technology is improving fast.
  • Systems to rapidly charge batteries will be available in a couple of years.
  • Battery-powered trains can use existing electrification to charge the batteries.
  • Hydrogen-powered trains may need a large tank for the hydrogen, which limits passenger capacity.
  • Hydrogen-powered trains need a refuelling structure, which may be more difficult to install, than a charging system for battery trains.

I feel that innovative engineers will be able to find ways to enable battery-powered trains on routes that need independently powered trains.

Conclusion

I don’t think, that we’ll see many long-term applications of hydrogen-powered trains in the UK.

 

 

 

July 23, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Irlam Station To Go Step-Free

This document on the Government web site is entitled Access for All: 73 Stations Set To Benefit From Additional Funding.

Irlam station is on the list.

These pictures show the station and the current subway.

The station was a total surprise, with a large pub-cafe and a lot of visitors and/or travellers sitting in the sun.

I had an excellent coffee and a very welcoming gluten-free blueberry muffin!

This Google Map shows the station.

It is one of those stations where commuters have to cross the railway either on the way to work or coming home.

So a step-free method of crossing the railway is absolutely necessary.

The Current And Future Rail Service

As the station lies conveniently between Liverpool and Warrington to the West and Manchester and Manchester Airport to the East, it must be a station with tremendous potential for increasing the number of passengers.

At the moment the service is two trains per hour (tph) between Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Oxford Road stations.

  • Oxford Road is probably not the best terminus, as it is not on the Metrolink network.
  • When I returned to Manchester, many passengers alighted at Deansgate for the Metrolink.
  • On the other hand, Liverpool Lime Street is a much better-connected station and it is backed up by Liverpool South Parkway station, which has a connection to Merseyrail’s Northern Line.
  • The current service doesn’t serve Manchester Piccadilly or Airport stations.

A guy in the cafe also told me that two tph are not enough and the trains are often too short.

Merseyrail work to the same principle as the London Overground and other cities of four tph at all times and the frequency certainly draws in passengers.

Whilst I was drinking my coffee, other trains past the station.

  • One tph – Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Airport
  • One tph – Liverpool Lime Street and Norwich

Modern trains like Northern’s new Class 195 trains, should be able to execute stops at stations faster than the elderly diesel trains currently working the route.

So perhaps, after Irlam station becomes step-free, the Manchester Airport service should call as well.

As Liverpool Lime Street station has been remodelled, I can see a time in the not too distant future, when that station can support four tph, that all stop at Irlam station.

The Manchester end of the route could be a problem, as services terminating at Oxford Road have to cross the busy lines of the Castlefield Corridor.

So perhaps all services through Irlam, should go through Deansgate, Manchester Oxford Road and Manchester Piccadilly stations to terminate either at the Airport or perhaps Stockport or Hazel Grove stations.

But would this overload the Castlefield Corridor?

Battery/Electric Trains

If you look at the route between Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Oxford Road stations, the following can be seen.

  • Only about thirty miles between Deansgate and Liverpool South Parkway stations is not electrified.
  • The section without electrification doesn’t appear to be particularly challenging, as it is along the River Mersey.

It is my view, that the route between Liverpool and Manchester via Irlam, would be an ideal route for a battery/electric train.

A train between Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Airport stations would do the following.

  • Run from Liverpool Lime Street station to Liverpool South Parkway station using the installed 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • Drop the pantograph during the stop at Liverpool South Parkway station.
  • Run from Liverpool South Parkway station to Deansgate station using battery power.
  • Raise the pantograph during the stop at Deansgate station.
  • Run from Deansgate station to Manchester Airport station, using the installed 25 KVAC overhead electrification.

The exact distance between Deansgate and Liverpool South Parkway stations is 28.2 miles or 45.3 kilometres.

In 2015, I was told by the engineer riding shotgun on the battery/electric Class 379 train, that that experimental train was capable of doing fifty kilometres on battery power.

There are at least four possible trains, that could handle this route efficiently.

  • Porterbrook’s proposed batteryFLEX train based on a Class 350 train.
  • A battery/electric train based on the seemingly unwanted Class 379 train.
  • A battery/electric version of Stadler’s Class 755 train.
  • I believe that Bombardier’s Aventra has been designed so that a battery/electric version can be created.

There are probably others and I haven’t talked about hydrogen-powered trains.

Battery power between Liverpool and Manchester via Irlam, appears to be very feasible.

Tram-Trains

As my train ran between Manchster and Irlam it ran alongside the Metrolink between Cornbrook and Pomona tram stops.

Manchester is very serious about tram-trains, which I wrote about in Could A Class 399 Tram-Train With Batteries Go Between Manchester Victoria And Rochdale/Bury Bolton Street/Rawtenstall Stations?.

Tram-trains are often best employed to go right across a city, so could the Bury tram-trains go to Irlam after joining the route in the Cornbrook area?

  • Only about thirty miles between Deansgate and Liverpool South Parkway stations is not electrified.
  • The route between Liverpool and Manchester via Irlam doesn’t look to be a very challenging line to electrify.
  • The total distance bettween Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Victoria station is only about forty miles, which is a short distance for a tram-train compared to some in Karlsruhe.
  • Merseyrail’s Northern Line terminates at Hunts Cross station, which is going to be made step-free.
  • There is an existing step-free interchange between the Liverpool and Manchester route via Irlam and Merseyrail’s Northern Line at Liverpool South Parkway station.
  • Class 399 tram-trains will have a battery capability in South Wales.
  • Class 399 tram-trains have an operating speed of 62 mph, which might be possible to increase.
  • Stadler make Class 399 tram-trains and are building the new Class 777 trains for Merseyrail.

I think that Stadler’s engineers will find a totally feasible and affordable way to link Manchester’s Metrolink with Liverpool Lime Street station and Merseyrail’s Northern and Wirral Lines.

I can envisage the following train service running between Liverpool and Manchester via Irlam.

  • An hourly service between Liverpool Lime Street and Nottingham, as has been proposed for the new East Midlands Franchise.
  • A four tph service between Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Airport via Manchester Piccadilly.
  • A tram-train every ten minutes, linking Liverpool Central and Manchester’s St Peter’s Square.
  • Tram-trains would extend to the North and East of Manchester as required.
  • All services would stop much more comprehensively, than the current services.
  • Several new stations would be built.
  • In the future, the tram-trains could have an interchange with High Speed Two at Warrington.

Obviously, this is just my speculation, based on what I’ve seen of tram-train networks in Germany.

The possibilities for the use of tram trains are wide-ranging.

Installing Step-Free Access At Irlam Station

There would appear to be two ways of installing step-free access at Irlam station.

  • Add lifts to the existing subway.
  • Add a separate bridge with lifts.

These are my thoughts on each method.

Adding Lifts To The Existing Subway

Consider.

  • The engineering would not be difficult.
  • Installaton would probably take a number of weeks.
  • There is good contractor access on both sides of the railway.

There are similar successful step-free installations around the UK

The problem is all about, how you deal with passengers, whilst the subway is closed for the installation of the lifts.

Adding A Separate Bridge With Lifts

Consider.

  • There is a lot of space at both the Eastern and Western ends of the platform to install a new bridge.
  • Adding a separate bridge has the big advantage, that during the installation of the bridge, passengers can use the existing subway.
  • Once the bridge is installed, the subway can be refurbished to an appropriate standard.

Passengers will probably prefer the construction of a new bridge.

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

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

There is certainly space at both ends of the platform to install such a bridge and the daily business of the station and its passengers would be able to continue unhindered, during the installation.

I’m also sure, that the cafe would be happy to provide the daily needs of the workforce.

Conclusion

From a station and project management point-of-view, adding a new factory-built bridge to Irlam station is the easiest and quickest way to make the station step-free.

It also appears, that Network Rail have made a wise choice in deciding to put Irlam station on their list of stations to be made step-free, as the station could be a major part in creating a new high-capacity route between Liverpool and Manchester.

This could also be one of the first stations to use an example of the new bridge.

  • Installation would be quick and easy.
  • There is no site access problems.
  • There station can remain fully open during the installation.
  • All stakeholders would probably be in favour.

But above all, it would be a superb demonstration site to bring those from stations, where Network Rail are proposing to erect similar bridges.

July 6, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Romania Could Buy Hydrogen-Fueled Trains

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Romania Insider.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Romania could become the first country in Central and Eastern Europe to buy hydrogen-fueled trains for passenger rail transport, according to Club Feroviar online publication quoted by Economica.net.

Five such trains might be purchased to serve the new North Railway Station – Bucharest Airport line in the country’s capital city, a route that might be opened in 2020, the source said.

It looks like the trains could be off-the-shelf Alstom Coradia iLint trains, like the one in this picture at Buxtehude.

The article says that because the trains are non-polluting, European funding might be available.

 

 

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

Battery Answer To Schleswig-Holstein’s Diesel Replacement Question

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

It is a good explanation of why there is so much interest in battery-powered trains.

This paragraph from the article, describes how the trains will operate in Schleswig-Holstein.

They will have range of 150 km under optimal conditions, although the longest non-electrified route they will operate on is around 80 km. The batteries will be recharged from the existing 15 kV 16·7 Hz overhead electrification at Kiel, Neumünster, Flensburg, Lübeck and Lüneburg stations and on the Osterrönfeld – Jübek line. Charging facilities will also be provided in other locations, and there will be some extensions to the existing overhead power supply.

Consider.

  • These trains can run on routes of up to eighty kilometres or around fifty miles.
  • Greater Anglia and Transport for Wales will be running the UK versions of the Stadler Flirts, that will be used in Schleswig-Holstein.
  • Transport for Wales will also be running a tri-mode Flirt with electric, diesel and battery power.
  • The Continental loading gauge, probably allows more batteries than the smaller UK loading gauge.

I think it could be reasonable to assume, that a UK-sized  battery-electric Stadler Flirt could have a range of forty miles on batteries.

These could be possible routes for Greater Anglia.

  • Norwich and Sheringham – 30 miles
  • Norwich and Lowestoft – 23.5 miles
  • Norwich and Great Yarmouth – 18 miles
  • Ipswich and Felixstowe – 16 miles
  • Colchester Town and Sudbury – 20 miles

In addition some partially-electrified routes have gaps less than forty miles. Think Cambridge and Ipswich!

I would not be surprised to see battery trains, quietly gliding around East Anglia.

Would they attract passengers and tourists?

Perhaps Germany and Stadler will give us the Schleswig-Holstein Answer, which will be much more interesting than the Schleswig-Holstein Question.

Economics Of Battery Trains

The article also has this quote from the CEO of Stadler Germany about the economics of battery trains.

It makes us very proud that with the battery-powered Flirt we have not only managed to find an ecological and innovative solution, but have also enabled a clear economic improvement. If we consider the average life of a rail vehicle of around 30 years, battery-operated vehicles are more cost-effective than diesel’.

I think it can also be said, that battery technology will improve continuously in the next thirty years and we should see a corresponding improvement in range and performance.

You don’t get that with diesel.

Hydrogen Or Battery Power?

I would think that Alstom are not happy about this order for battery-powered trains.

  • Only a hundred kilometres or so to the West, they are supplying Alstom Coradia iLint trains for a similar network.
  • These trains are working well.
  • They have teamed up with Linde to supply the hydrogen.

I wouldn’t have been surprised if Schleswig-Holstein had chosen hydrogen trains.

So why did Schleswig-Holstein, choose battery rather than hydrogen trains?

  • Provided, the driver or a computer, raises and lowers the pantograph appropriately, there is no difference between an electric train and its battery-electric sibling.
  • Systems to charge battery trains can be installed anywhere, there is an electricity supply.
  • The electricity supply could be local wind or solar.
  • Charging battery trains could be automatic and require no more action from the driver, than checking everything is as it should be and perhaps pushing a button or two. On a bleak miserable day, the driver would remain in the warm and comfortable cab.
  • Hydrogen would need to be loaded on the train at a depot or another place with the necessary safety clearance.
  • The iLint seats 160 and the Flirt Akku seats 124, so I suspect capacity isn’t much of a problem.
  • The Flirt Akku is a train designed for battery-electric operation, whereas the iLint is a modified diesel train, with a noisy and harsh mechanical transmission. It’s like comparing Class 710 trains, with their predecessors on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line; the Class 172 trains.
  • I suspect most Germans have talked to a relative or older person, who remembers the Hindenburg.

There is probably little to choose between the two trains, but I believe that the operation of the hydrogen-powered train will be more complicated.

I also don’t know the cost of each train.

As I said earlier, Stadler claim long-term ownership of battery-powered trains is more economic than diesel. Does the same apply to battery against hydrogen power.

Conclusion

I believe we’ll see lots more battery trains.

 

 

 

 

July 2, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

Is This Stadler’s Plan For A Multi-Mode Future?

We have not seen any of Stadler’s bi-mode Flirts in service yet although Greater Anglia’a Class 755 trains have been rumoured to be speeding between London and Norwich in ninety minutes from this May!

Today, I rode on one of Stadler’s diesel GTWs between Groningen and Eemshaven in the Netherlands, which I wrote about in The Train Station At The Northern End Of The Netherlands.

GTWs are a diesel electric train with a power-pack car in the middle of the three car train. The diesel electric Flirts are a later train with a similar layout to the GTW.

So are the diesel GTWs and Flirts just a bi-mode without a pantograph? Or more likely the bi-mode is a diesel electric train with the addition of a pantograph and extra electrical gubbins.

Looking at the visualisations on Wikipedia of the bi-mode Class 755 train and the all-electric Class 745 train, it appears that the next-to-end car has the pantograph.

Are these cars with the pantograph identical on both the bi-mode and the all-electric versions? It would certainly be sensible from a engine erring point of view.

 

So could it be that all that is needed to convert a diesel electric Flirt into a bi-mode Flirt is to add the pantograph car and swap the power pack car for a bi-mode one? The old power pack car could then be converted into another bi-mode power pack car to convert another train.

But the power pack cars are not as simple as they look. They have four slots for diesel engines. Three-car and four-car Class 755 trains have two and four engines respectively.

I believe that one or more of the slots can be filled with a battery to create Flirts like the tri-mode ones proposed for South Wales.

So could we see some of the Greater Anglia Flirts converted in this way? Surely, Colchester Town to Sudbury could be a service that could benefit from battery power West of Marks Tey?

Today, I had a chat with a GTW driver, who said that the train he’d been driving was diesel-electric and that he had heard that batteries or hydrogen power could be used on the eoute.

The lines around Groningen seem to employ quite a few GTWs and distances are not overly long. So could some be converted to 1500 VDC electric/diesel/battery tri-modes? There is electrification at Groningen station and some of the bay platforms used by GTWs already have wires.

If the conversion is successful, then Stadler could be on a Swiss roll, as there are a lot of GTWs and Flirts out there, many of which are diesel-electric, like the one I rode today.

Would a train operator prefer to upgrade a diesel electric train that works well or buy a new bi-mode from another train manufacturer?

Could also an electric Flirt be converted into a bi-mode, by splitting the train and sticking a power pack car in the middle. Engineering common sense says that the passenger cars must be very similar to those of diesel Flirts to simplify manufacture of the trains.

We already know, that four-car Flirts are only three-car trains with an extra passenger car. Stadler could mix-and-match passenger, pantograph and power pack cars to give operators what they need.

Intelligent computer software would choose which power option to be used and the driver would just monitor, that the train was behaving as needed.

Looking at my route yesterday between Groningen and Eemshaven, it is a route of just under forty kilometres or twenty-five miles. Adrian Shooter is talking of ranges of sixty miles with battery versions of Class 230 trains. So I don’t find it impossible to create a tri-mode GTW or Flirt for this lonely route at the very North of the Netherlands.

Conclusion

Stadler seem to have created a very imitative modular train concept.

As some Flirts can travel at 125 mph, could they be serious bidders to provide the new trains for the Midland Main Line?

March 27, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment