The Anonymous Widower

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 oqften 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 | , , , , , , , | Leave a 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

Hybrid Power On The Railways

In my opinion, one of the best hybrid transmissions is that of London’s New Routemaster bus. This description of the drive-train is from Wikipedia.

The bus is a hybrid diesel-electric driven by a battery-powered electric motor, charged by a diesel fuelled generator and recovering energy during braking by regenerative braking.

It is a classic serial hybrid vehicle.

  • There is no mechanical connection between the engine and the driving wheels.
  • The diesel engine only runs, when the battery charge is low.
  • The electric motor is always powered directly from the battery.
  • The control systems for the drive-train are very simple.
  • It is very efficient, as the engine only runs when needed and regenerative braking is employed.
  • The bus can run on battery power only, for short distances.
  • The various components of the drive-train can be placed in convenient places and connected by power and control cables.

In the New Routemaster, the components are placed as follows.

  • The diesel engine is half-way up the back stairs.
  • The battery is under the front stairs.
  • The electric motor is under the floor  in front of the rear axle.

This flexibility is very useful in a large vehicle.

Hybrid transmissions are starting to be employed on the railways.

These are the applications in use or planned.

Alstom Coradia iLint

The Alstom Coradia iLint is a hydrogen-powered two-car multiple unit.

This video shows the operation of the train.

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It would appear to be a serial hybrid, where the hydrogen fuel-cell charges the battery and this drives the train through an electric motor,

I suspect most hydrogen trains will work in a similar way.

Class 321 Hydrogen Train

Some Class 321 trains are being converted to run on hydrogen. Unlike the Coradia iLint, the trains will also be able to use electricity from electrification.

MTU Hybrid PowerPacks

MTU have produced a Hybrid PowerPack, which is being retrofitted into several trains, including Class 170 trains in the UK.

Class 93 Locomotive

The recently-announced Class 93 locomotive appears to be a hybrid locomotive with a large diesel engine and about 125 kWh of batteries, that can also use electrification.

High Speed Bi-Mode Aventra

I am sure that Bombardier’s proposed High Speed Bi-Mode Aventra, which features batteries and 125 mph running under both diesel and electric power is a hybrid train.

Conclusion

Just as hybrid cars are becoming more numerous, I suspect we’ll be seeing more hybrid trains in the future.

December 22, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How Do Porterbrook’s Battery/FLEX Trains Compare With Eversholt’s Hydrogen-Powered Trains?

In the two green corners of this ultra-heavyweight fight to provide electric trains for rail routes without electrification, there are two ROSCOs or rolling stock operating companies.

Eversholt Rail Group

Eversholt Rail Group‘s product is the Class 321 Hydrogen, which is an upgrade of a Class 321 train with batteries and hydrogen-power.

Porterbrook

Porterbrook‘s product is the Class 350 Battery/FLEX, which is an upgrade of a Class 350 train with batteries.

How Do The Two Trains Compare?

I will list various areas and features in alphabetical order.

Age

The Class 350 trains date from 2008-2009 and others were introduced to the UK rail network as early as 2004.

The Class 321 trains date from the 1990s, but that shouldn’t be too  much of a problem as they are based on the legendary Mark 3 Coach.

Scores: Porterbrook 4 – Eversholt 3

Batteries And Supercapacitors

This is an area, where the flow of development and innovation is very much in favour of both trains.

Currently, a 1000 kWh battery would weigh about a tonne. Expect the weight and volume to decrease substantially.

Scores: Porterbrook 5 – Eversholt 5

Battery Charging – From Electrification

No problem for either train.

Scores: Porterbrook 5 – Eversholt 5

Battery Charging – From Rapid Charging System

I believe that a third-rail based rapid charging system can be developed for battery/electric trains and I wrote about this in Charging Battery/Electric Trains En-Route.

No problem for either train.

Scores: Porterbrook 5 – Eversholt 5

Development And Engineering

Fitting batteries to rolling stock has now been done successfully several times and products are now appearing with 400 kWh and more energy storage either under the floor or on the roof of three and four-car electrical multiple units.

I feel that adding batteries, supercapacitors or a mixture of both to typical UK electric multiple units is now a well-defined process of engineering design and is likely to be achieved without too much heartache.

It should be noted, that the public test of the Class 379 BEMU train, was a rare rail project, where the serious issues found wouldn’t even fill a a thimble.

So I have no doubt that both trains will get their batteries sorted without too much trouble.

I do feel though, that adding hydrogen power to an existing UK train will be more difficult. It’s probably more a matter of space in the restricted UK loading gauge.

Scores: Porterbrook 5 – Eversholt 3

Electrification

Both types of train currently work on lines equipped with 25 KVAC overhead electrification, although other closely-related trains have the ability to work on 750 VDC third-rail electrification.

Both trains could be converted to work on both systems.

Scores: Porterbrook 5 – Eversholt 5

Interiors

The interior of both trains will need updating, as the interiors reflect the period, when the trains were designed and built.

Eversholt have already shown their hand with the Class 321 Renatus.

The interiors is a design and refurbishment issue, where train operating companies will order the trains and a complimentary interior they need, for the routes, where they intend to run the trains.

Scores: Porterbrook 5 – Eversholt 5

Operating Speed

Both trains in their current forms are 100 mph trains.

However some versions of the Class 350 trains have been upgraded to 110 mph, which allows them to work faster on busy main lines and not annoy 125 mph expresses.

I am pretty sure that all Class 350 trains can be 110 mph trains.

Scores: Porterbrook 5 – Eversholt 4

Public Perception

The public judge their trains mainly on the interiors and whether they are reliable and arrive on time.

I’ve talked to various people, who’ve used the two scheduled battery/electric services, that have run in the UK.

All reports were favourable and I heard no tales of difficulties.

In my two trips to Hamburg, I didn’t get a ride on the Coradia iLint hydrogen-powered train, but I did talk to passengers who had and their reactions were similar to those who travelled to and from Harwich in the UK.

I rode on the Harwich train myself and just like Vivarail’s Class 230 train, which I rode in Scotland, it was impressive.

I think we can say, that the concept and execution of battery/electric or hydrogen-powered trains in the UK, will be given a fair hearing by the general public.

Scores: Porterbrook 5 – Eversholt 5

Range Without Electrification

Alstom talk of ranges of hundreds of miles for hydrogen trains.and there is no reason to believe that the Class 321 Hydrogen trains will not be capable of this order of distance before refuelling.

Bombardier, Vivarail and others talk of battery ranges in the tens of miles before a recharge is needed.

The game-changer could be something like the technique for charging electric trains, I outlined in Charging Battery/Electric Trains En-Route.

This method could give battery trains a way of topping up the batteries at station stops.

Scores: Porterbrook 3 – Eversholt 5

Conclusion

The total scores are level at forty-seven.

All those, who say that I fiddled it, not to annoy anybody are wrong.

The level result surprised me!

I feel that it is going to be an interesting engineering, technical and commercial battle between the two ROSCOs, where the biggest winners could be the train operating companies and the general public.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see two fleets of superb trains.

 

November 4, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Thoughts On A Hydrogen-Powered Class 321 Train

A hundred and seventeen Class 321 trains were built around 1990 and a hundred and four, which are currently in service with Greater Anglia, are due to be replaced by new Class 720 trains.

Alstom and the trains owners;  the Eversholt Rail Group, plan to convert some of these trains to hydrogen power.

The Class 321 Train

The basic characteristics of these trains are as follows.

  • They have a 100 mph operating speed.
  • They are built for operation on 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The closely-related Class 456 trains can run on 750 VDC third-rail electrification.
  • They have a formation of DTCO+TSO+MSO+DTSO.
  • Note that only the third car is powered.
  • Thirty of the trains have been refurbished in the Renatus project, which includes an upgraded interior and a new traction package, which includes regenerative braking.

This picture shows on of the driving trailers of a Class 321 train.

Note the large amount of space underneath.

If the Class 321 train has a problem, when converted to a modern efficient train, it is that the front end of the train has the aerodynamics of a large brick outhouse.

The Electrical System Of A Class 321 Train

I don’t know the electrical system of a Class 321 train, but I do know that of the Class 319 trains, which were built a couple of years earlier in the same factory at York These trains have a 750 VDC bus from one end of the train to the other.

As Class 321 and Class 319 trains have a similar train formation and a common Mark 3 heritage, I suspect that the electrical systems are the same and both have this 750 VDC bus.

Regenerative Braking

Regenerative braking is an important part of any modern train, as it saves energy.

Normally, the energy generated as a train stops, is returned through the electrification to power other nearby trains.

But with a hydrogen-powered train, that may not be connected to the electrification, the energy has to be stored on the train to avoid being wasted.

The Alstom Coradia iLint Train

Alstom have developed a hydrogen-powered version of the Coradia Lint train, which they call an iLint.

This promotional video shows how Alsthom’s hydrogen-powered Coradia iLint works.

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Summarising, Alstom’s video the Coradia iLint works in the following way.

  • The hydrogen fuel cell turns hydrogen gas into electricity.
  • The electricity is used to power the train or is stored in a lithium-ion battery.
  • The computer on the train monitors the system and controls it in an intelligent manner.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find out the system works in the same way as a serial hybrid vehicle like a New Routemaster bus.

  • The power source; hydrogen fuel cell in the train or small diesel generator in the New Routemaster, charges the battery directly.
  • The power source shuts down automatically, when the charge in the battery reaches a certain high level.
  • The power source starts up automatically, when the charge in the battery reaches a certain low level.
  • The battery moves the vehicle using one or more electric traction motors.
  • The battery powers all the other systems in the vehicle.
  • When the vehicle brakes, the traction motors generate electricity, which is stored in the battery.

The great advantage of this system is its simplicity, as the vehicle is effectively powered from a single source; the battery.

There is also an independently-controlled charging system for the battery.

A Possible Layout For A Hydrogen Powered Class 321 Train

Hydrogen powered trains need the following components.

  • Hydrogen tank.
  • Fuel cell to convert hydrogen to electricity.
  • Battery to store energy from both the fuel cell and regenerative braking.
  • Intelligent control system to control everything.

Positioning the last item shouldn’t be a problem, but could the other three larger components be placed under the train?

There’s certainly plenty of space under the two driving cars.

The battery would be connected to the following.

  • The 750 VDC bus to power the train.
  • The regenerative braking system.
  • The hydrogen fuel cell.

The train’s computer would control the systems intelligently.

Powering The Class 321 Train From Electrification

Class 321 trains were designed as electric trains and I’m certain they could be made to run on 25 KVAC overhead or 750 VDC third rail electrification.

The electrically similar Class 319 trains are being converted into bi-mode Class 769 trains, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the hydrogen-powered Class 321 trains being able to use electrification directly.

The Battery Size

How large would a battery need to be to store energy from both the fuel cell and regenerative braking?

I will start by calculating the kinetic energy of a Class 321 train, as the battery must be able to store all the energy generated by regenerative braking, when the train stops in a station from an operating speed of up to 100 mph.

  • A Class 321 train weighs 137.9 tonnes
  • A train can accommodate a total of about 320 seated and standing passengers.
  • With bags, buggies and the other things passengers bring on, let’s assume an average passenger weight of 90 kg, which gives an extra 28.8 tonnes.
  • I will assume a total weight of ten tonnes for the battery, hydrogen fuel cell and hydrogen tank
  • So I will assume that an in service Class 321 train weighs 176.7 tonnes.

Calculating the kinetic energy of the train for various speeds gives.

  • 50 mph – 12.3 kWh
  • 75 mph – 28 kWh
  • 90 mph – 40 kWh
  • 100 mph – 49 kWh

Note that speed increases the kinetic energy much more than weight. This is because kinetic energy is proportional to the square of the speed and only proportional to the weight.

Even if the extra equipment weighed twenty tonnes, the kinetic energy at 100 mph only increases to 51.8 kWh.

As the battery will have to store this energy after a stop from 100 mph, I suspect that the battery will have a capacity somewhere between 50 and 100 kWh.

A  Bombardier Primove 50 kWh battery, which is built to power trams and trains, has the following characteristics.

  • A weight of under a tonne.
  • Dimensions of under two x one x half metres.
  • The height is the smallest dimension, which must help installation under the train floor or on the roof.

I conclude that Alstom won’t have any problems designing a battery with sufficient capacity, that can be fitted under the floor of a Class 321 train.

The Train Will Need An Intelligent Computer System

The hydrogen-powered Class 321 train could have up to four methods of charging the battery.

  • From 25 KVAC overhead electrification
  • From 750 VDC third rail electrification
  • From the hydrogen fuel cell.
  • From regenerative braking.

The computer would try to ensure the following.

  • There was always spare capacity in the battery to accept the energy from regenerative braking.
  • Trains stop in a station with a full battery.
  • Hydrogen consumption is minimised.

The computer might even be programmed with the route and use GPS or digital signalling to optimise the train to that route.

It’s all very basic Control Engineering.

Alstom’s Marketing Philosophy

Watch Alstom’s video embedded in this post and they stress the environmental credentials of hydrogen power and particularly the Cordadia iLint.

They also show a caption which states that 195 states have made a commitment to zero carbon emissions.

That could be a very big market

The Coradia iLint will probably be a good train, but I suspect it may have a few problems satisfying a large market.

  • It is only two cars.
  • The current design can’t work on overhead electric power.
  • It is based on a Lint 54, which has only 160 seats.
  • Operating speed is 140 kph.
  • They are new trains and manufacturing may be expensive.

On the other hand, Class 321 trains have the following characteristics.

  • They are four car trains.
  • The trains can work from 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The trains are built to a smaller loading gauge than the iLint.
  • I suspect that they could be easily converted to other overhead and third-rail electrification voltages.
  • Each train has 309 seats.
  • Operating speed is 160 kph.
  • They are existing trains and manufacturing may be more affordable.

It should also be said, that there is a massive amount of knowledge accumulated in the UK over thirty and more years, about how to refurbish, modify and update Mark 3-based rolling stock.

Once the concept of a hydrogen-powered Class 321 train is proven and certified, Alstom would probably be able to produce four-car hydrogen-powered trains at a fair rate, as they become available from Greater Anglia.

Conclusion

I have come to the following conclusions.

  • The Class 321 train will make a good hydrogen-powered train.
  • Alstom would not have looked at converting a thirty-year-old train to hydrogen power, if they thought it would be less than good.
  • British Rail’s design of a 750 VDC bus makes a lot of the engineering easier and enables the train to be tailored for world-wide markets, with different electrification systems and voltages.
  • Having two different trains will give Alstom better coverage of an emerging market.

I suspect in a few years time, if the hydrogen project is successful, Alstom will design and manufacture, a whole family of hydrogen-powered trains, with different gauges, capacities and operating speeds.

 

July 3, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , | 1 Comment