The Anonymous Widower

Will Some Of The New Buildings For Heathrow Be Built In Scotland?

It’s all explained in this article on the Offsite Hub website, which is entitled Heathrow To Offer Offsite Hubs To Other Mega Projects.

This is the first two paragrahs.

Airport says schemes such as HS2 and Hinkley could make use of planned offsite manufacturing hubs

Heathrow Airport has said it hopes its idea for a series of offsite manufacturing hubs to help with its £16bn expansion plans will be used by other major projects, including the new nuclear power station at Hinkley and the HS2 railway.

Sounds a good idea to me.

A few other points.

  • Offsite accounts for 10% of the construction industry.
  • Heathrow are aiming for between 25% and 40%.
  • It will reduce the peak on-site workforce at Heathrow.
  • Offsite was safer, cleaner and less weather dependent.
  • Four hubs are plans, with one definitely in Scxotland.

A few months ago I talked to one of the managers building Custom House station, which was largely built offsite in Sheffield.

He told me, that the quality was so much better, than if it had been built traditionally.

The quality certainly wasn’t traditional pre-fab either.

Could this be part of the solution to our housing crisis?

 

 

 

February 9, 2018 Posted by | World | , , , , | 1 Comment

Funding Gives Weight To Idea For Storing Electricity

The title of this post, is the same as that of an article on Page 45 of today’s copy of The Times.

It talks of a company called Gravitricity, which has used the same principle as every weight-operated clock to store energy and especially energy generaed from intermittent sources like wind and solar power.

The company has just secured a £650,000 grant from Innovate UK.

In Solar Power Could Make Up “Significant Share” Of Railway’s Energy Demand, I looked at how solar farms and batteries could be used to power third-rail railway electrification.

Because of energy losses, third-rail electrification needs to be fed with power every three miles or so. This gives a problem, as connection of all these feeder points to the National Grid can be an expensive business.

A series of solar farms, wind turbines and batteries, controlled  by an intelligent control system, is an alternative way of providing the power.

In an article in the October 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, which is entitled Celling England By The Pound, Ian Walmsley says this in relation to trains running on the Uckfield Branch.

A modern EMU needs between 3 and 5 kWh per vehicle mile for this sort of service.

If I assume that trains are five cars and will be efficient enough to need only 3 kWh per vehicle mile, then to power a train along a ten mile section of track will take 150 kWh.

As the control system, only powers the track, when a train needs it, the whole system can be very efficient.

So why will Gravitricity battery ideas be ideal in this application?

Appropriate Size

By choosing the right weight and depth for the Gravitricity battery , appropriate energy storage can be provided at different points on a line.

Some parts of a journey, like accelerating away from stations will need more electricity than others, where trains are cruising along level ground.

Supposing my five-car example train is travelling at 60 mph, then to cover ten miles will take 10 minutes, with 15 kW being supplied in every minute.

If the train weighs 200 tonnes, then accelerating the train to 60 mph will need about 20 kWh.

I’m sure that a Gravitricity battery could handle this.

I would suspect that batteries of the order of 100 kWh would store enough power for the average third-rail electrified line.

A proper dynamic simulation would need to be done. I could have done this calculation in the 1960s, but I don’t have the software now!

Response Time

For safety and energy-efficiency reasons, you don’t want lines to be switched on, when there is no train present.

I suspect that if there is energy in the battery, response would be fast enough.

Energy Efficiency

The system should have a high efficiency.

How Big Would A 100 kWh Gravitricity Battery Be?

A quick calculation shows the weight would be 400 tonnes and the depth would be 100 metres.

Installing the batteries

Each battery will need a 100 metre deep hole of an appropriate diameter.

This sequence of operations would be performed.

  • A rail-mounted drilling rig would drill the hole.
  • The heavy weight of the battery would arrive by train and would be lifted into position using a rail-mounted crane.

As the equipment will generally be heavy, doing all operations from the railway will be a great help.

 

 

 

February 9, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 1 Comment

Stealing With Pride: Testing Automotive Industry Tech On Swiss Trams

The title of this post, is the same as this article on Global Rail News. This is first two paragraphs.

Swiss public transport operator Baselland Transport (BLT) is testing Bosch Rail Transport’s light rail collision-warning system in collaboration with Stadler.

Should the tests prove successful, BLT plans to equip its entire fleet of Tango trams with the technology – which is already established in the automotive industry.

In my working life, I often stole ideas and especially methods from other industries and obscurer mathematical papers.

This use of an automotive system on a tram is a good way of the application of proven technology in another area.

January 24, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

Rail Engineer On Hydrogen Trains

This article on Rail Engineer is entitled Hydrail Comes Of Age.

It is a serious look at hydrogen-powered trains.

This is typical information-packed paragraph.

Instead of diesel engines, the iLint has underframe-mounted traction motors driven by a traction inverter. Also mounted on the underframe is a lithium-ion battery pack supplied by Akasol and an auxiliary converter to power the train’s systems. On the roof is a Hydrogenics HD200-AT power pack which packages six HyPMTM HD30 fuel cells, with common manifolds and controls, and X-STORE hydrogen tanks supplied by Hexagon xperion which store 89kg of hydrogen on each car at 350 bar. These lightweight tanks have a polymer inner liner, covered with carbon fibres soaked in resin and wrapped in fibreglass.

They have interesting things to say about the trains and the production and delivery of the hydrogen, which can be what they call green hydrogen produced by electricity generated by wind power.

This is said about supplying the hydrogen.

It takes 15 minutes to refuel the iLint, which holds 178kg of hydrogen supplied at a pressure 350 bar. It consumes this at the rate of 0.3kg per kilometre. Thus, Lower Saxony’s fleet of 14 trains, covering, say, 600 kilometres a day, will require 2.5 tonnes of hydrogen per day. If this was produced by electrolysis, a wind farm of 10MW generating capacity would be required to power the required electrolysis plant with suitable back up. This, and sufficient hydrogen storage, will be required to ensure resilience of supply.

These are the concluding paragraphs.

With all these benefits, a long-term future in which all DMUs have been replaced by HMUs is a realistic goal. However, the replacement, or retrofitting, of 3,000 DMUs and the provision of the required hydrogen infrastructure would be a costly investment taking many years.

Germany has already taken its first steps towards this goal.

For myself, I am not sceptical about the technology that creates electricity from pure hydrogen, but I think there are design issues with hydrogen-powered trains in the UK.

The German trains, which are built by Alsthom and should start test runs in 2018, take advantage of the space above the train in the loading gauge to place the tanks for the hydrogen.

Our smaller loading gauge would probably preclude this and the tanks might need to take up some of the passenger space.

But in my view, we have another much more serious problem.

Over the last twenty years, a large number of high quality trains like electric Desiros, Electrostars and Junipers, and diesel Turbostars have been delivered and are still running on the UK network.

It could be that these trains couldn’t be converted to hydrogen, without perhaps devoting a carriage to the hydrogen tank, the electricity generator and the battery needed to support the hydrogen power.

It is for this reason, that I believe that if we use hydrogen power, it should be used with traditional electrification and virtually unmodified trains.

A Typical Modern Electric Train

Well! Perhaps not yet, but my view of what a typical electric multiple unit, will look like in ten years is as follows.

  • Ability to work with 25 KVAC  overhead or 750 VDC third-rail electrification or onboard battery power.
  • Ability to switch power source automatically.
  • Batteries would handle regenerative braking.
  • Energy-efficient train design.
  • Good aerodynamics.
  • Most axles would be powered for fast acceleration and smooth braking.
  • Efficient interior design to maximise passenger numbers that can be carried in comfort.
  • A sophisticated computer with route and weather profiles, passenger numbers would optimise the train.

The battery would be sized, such that it gave a range, that was appropriate to the route.

In an article in the October 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, which is entitled Celling England By The Pound, Ian Walmsley says this in relation to trains running on the Uckfield Branch.

A modern EMU needs between 3 and 5 kWh per vehicle mile for this sort of service.

As I’m talking about a train that has taken energy efficiency to the ultimate, I think it would be reasonable to assume that 3 kWh per vehicle mile is attainable.

As I believe that most axles would be powered, I feel that it would be electrically efficient for a battery to be fitted into each car.

Suppose we had a five-car train with a 30 kWh battery in each car.

This would give a total installed battery capacity of 150 kWh. Divide by five and three and this gives a useful emergency range of ten miles.

These facts put the battery size into perspective.

  • , 30 kWh is the size of the larger battery available for a Nissan Leaf.
  • A New Routemaster bus has a battery of 75 kWh.

Where will improved battery technology take us in the next decade?

Use Of Hydrogen Power With 750 VDC Third-Rail Electrification

This extract from the Wikipedia entry for third-rail, explains the working of third-rail electrification.

The trains have metal contact blocks called shoes (or contact shoes or pickup shoes) which make contact with the conductor rail. The traction current is returned to the generating station through the running rails. The conductor rail is usually made of high conductivity steel, and the running rails are electrically connected using wire bonds or other devices, to minimize resistance in the electric circuit. Contact shoes can be positioned below, above, or beside the third rail, depending on the type of third rail used; these third rails are referred to as bottom-contact, top-contact, or side-contact, respectively.

If a line is powered by third-rail electrification, it needs to be fed with power every two miles or so, due to the losses incurred in electricity passing along the steel conductor rail.

I suspect that Network Rail and our world-leading rail manufacturers have done as much as they can to reduce electrical losses.

Or have they? Wikipedia says this.

One method for reducing current losses (and thus increase the spacing of feeder/sub stations, a major cost in third rail electrification) is to use a composite conductor rail of a hybrid aluminium/steel design. The aluminium is a better conductor of electricity, and a running face of stainless steel gives better wear.

Suppose instead of having continuous third-rail electrification, lengths of electrification with the following characteristic were to be installed.

  • Hybrid aluminium/steel rails.
  • Power is supplied at the middle.
  • Power is only supplied when a train is in contact with the rail.

All trains would need to have batteries to run between electrified sections.

The length and frequency of the electrified sections would vary.

  • If a section was centred on a station, then the length must be such, that a train accelerating away can use third-rail power to get to operating speed.
  • Sections could be installed on uphill parts of the line.
  • On long level sections of line without junctions, the electrified sections could be more widely spaced.
  • Battery power could be used to take trains through complicated junctions and crossovers, to cut costs and the difficulties of electrification.
  • Electrified section woulds generally be placed , where power was easy to provide.

So where does hydrogen-power come in?

Obtaining the power for the track will not always be easy, so some form of distributed power will be needed.

  • A small solar farm could be used.
  • A couple of wind turbines might be appropriate.
  • In some places, small-scale hydro-electric power could even be used.

Hydrogen power and especially green hydrogen power could be a viable alternative.

  • It would comprise a hydrogen tank, an electricity generator and a battery to store energy.
  • The tank could be buried for safety reasons.
  • The installation would be placed at trackside to allow easy replenishment by tanker-train.
  • It could also be used in conjunction with intermittent solar and wind power.

The tanker-train would have these characteristics.

  • It could be a converted electrical multiple unit like a four-car Class 319 train.
  • Both 750 VDC and 25 KVAC operating capability would be retained.
  • One car would have a large hydrogen tank.
  • A hydrogen-powered electricity generator would be fitted to allow running on non-electrified lines and give a go-anywhere capability.
  • A battery would probably be needed, to handle discontinuous electrification efficiently.
  • It might even have facilities for a workshop, so checks could be performed on the trackside power system

Modern digital signalling, which is being installed across the UK, may will certainly have a part to play in the operation of the trackside power systems.

The position of all trains will be accurately known, so the trackside power system would switch itself on, as the train approached, if it was a train that could use the power.

Use Of Hydrogen Power With 25 KVAC Overhead |Electrification

The big difference between installation of 25 KVAC overhead electrification and 750 VDC third-rail electrification, is that the the overhead installation is more complicated.

  • Installing the piling for the gantries seems to have a tremendous propensity to go wrong.
  • Documentation of what lies around tracks installed in the Victorian Age can be scant.
  • The Victorians used to like digging tunnels.
  • Bridges and other structures need to be raised to give clearance for the overhead wires.
  • There are also those, who don’t like the visual impact of overhead electrification.

On the plus side though, getting power to 25 KVAC overhead electrification often needs just a connection at one or both ends.

The electrification in the Crossrail tunnel for instance, is only fed with electricity from the ends.

So how could hydrogen help with overhead electrification?

Electrifying some routes like those through the Pennines are challenging to say the least.

  • Long tunnels are common.
  • There are stations like Hebden Bridge in remote locations, that are Listed Victorian gems.
  • There are also those, who object to the wires and gantries.
  • Some areas have severe weather in the winter that is capable of bringing down the wires.

In some ways, the Government’s decision not to electrify, but use bi-mode trains is not only a cost-saving one, but a prudent one too.

Bi-mode trains across the Pennines would have the advantage, that they could use short lengths of electrification to avoid the use of environmentally-unfriendly diesel.

I have read and lost an article, where Greater Anglia have said, that they would take advantage of short lengths of electrification with their new Class 755 trains.

Electrifying Tunnels

If there is one place, where Network Rail have not had any electrification problems, it is in tunnels, where Crossrail and the Severn Tunnel have been electrified without any major problems being reported.

Tunnels could be developed as islands of electrification, that allow the next generation of trains to run on electricity and charge their batteries.

But they would need to have a reliable power source.

As with third-rail electrification, wind and solar power, backed by hydrogen could be a reliable source of power.

Electrifying Stations With Third Rail

It should be noted, that the current generation of new trains like Aventra, Desiro Cities and Hitachi’s A-trains can all work on both 25 KVAC overhead or 750 VDC third-rail systems, when the appropriate methods of current collection are fitted.

Network Rail have shown recently over Christmas, where they installed several short lengths of new third-rail electrification South of London, that installing third-rail electrification, is not a challenging process, provided you can find the power.

If the power supply to the third-rail is intelligent and is only switched on, when a train is on top, the railway will be no more a safety risk, than a route run by diesel.

The picture shows the Grade II Listed Hebden Bridge station.

Third-rail electrification with an independent reliable power supply could be a way of speeding hybrid trains on their way.

Power Supply In Remote Places

Communications are essential to the modern railway.

Trains and train operators need to be able to have good radio connections to signalling and control systems.

Passengers want to access wi-fi and 4G mobile phone networks.

More base stations for communication networks will be needed in remote locations.

Wind, solar and hydrogen will all play their part.

I believe in the future, that remote routes in places like Wales, Scotland and parts of England, will see increasing numbers of trains and consequently passengers., many of whom will be walking in the countryside.

Could this lead to upgrading of remote stations and the need for reliable independent power supplies?

Conclusion

I am very much coming to the conclusion, that because of the small UK loading gauge, hydrogen-powered trains would only have limited applications in the UK. Unless the train manufacturers come up with a really special design.

But using hydrogen as an environmentally-friendly power source for UK railways to power electrification, perhaps in combination with wind and solar is a definite possibility!

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January 7, 2018 Posted by | Travel, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Plastic Platforms At East Croydon Station

Platforms 1 and 2 at East Croydon station now have glass reinforced plastic surfaces.

They look good and feature.

  • Shorter stepping distance into and out of trains.
  • Underfloor heating to prevent ice and snow build up.
  • Blue LED edge lighting.
  • The lights are blue, so they can’t be confused for signals by the drivers.
  • The lighting is designed to deter suicides.

The keen-eyed will notice that the lights aren’t switched on. Apparently, some have failed!

December 21, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

The Electric Taxis Are Coming

London’s new electric black taxis will soon be seen on the streets.

From the pictures, I’ve seen, they could be an interesting ride.

  • There is a panoramic glass roof.
  • They are roomier, than the current black cabs and can seat six instead of five.
  • Wi-fi and charging points are standard.
  • Air-conditioning.
  • A small petrol engine is used to boost range up to nearly 400 miles.

I shall search one out for a ride.

The Times though points out an interesting point about the design. This is said.

The bigger story is LEVC will now use the technology behind the TX to build far greater volumes of hybrid electric vans, the sort that deliver all our online shopping.

That certainly is a bigger story.

A few points of my own.

Geo-Fencing

Will geo-fencing be used to ensure that in central and sensitive areas and those with high air pollution, the taxi will run on batteries only.

This would also be particularly useful with the delivery van, where delivery depots tend to be outside the centre of a city.

Wireless Charging

London’s black cabs use rabjs and only yesterday, I picked up one from the rank at the Angel.

Milton Keynes has buses that can be charged using an inductive system.

So why not install inductive charging on taxi ranks?

Online Shopping Delivery

Parcel delivery companies don’t have the best of images. Electric last-mile delivery would certainly help.

For too long, vans have just been a crude metal box, with a couple of seats and an engine at the front.

So why not design a complete system around the taxi chassis?

  • If the depot was outside the city centre, charging could be done at both the depot and on the journeys to and from the centre
  • The van could also be designed so that containers packed at the depots could be loaded for each delivery.
  • The containers could also be brought into the centre of the city at night into the main station by a purpose-designed train.
  • A sophisticated onboard computer could control the driver and the deliveries.

There is a wonderful opportunity here to develop parcel delivery systems that are truly efficient and as pollution-free as possible.

Service Vans

If I walk down my road of about 150 houses and a couple of tower blocks on any weekday during working hours, I will probably count around half-a-dozen service vans of various types for small builders, plumbers. Most have not come further than a dozen miles.

If the economics of the electric van are pitched right, I think a large proportion of these vehicles will go electric, as they often sit around for large periods during the working day.

Conclusion

I can’t wait to get a ride in one of these taxis.

December 8, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stadler Comes Up With A New Take And A Big Order For Hybrid And Battery Trains

This article on Global Rail News is entitled Vegetable Oil Fuel Trains To Run In The Netherlands Ahead Of Battery Conversion.

This is said.

  • Arriva has ordered eighteen hybrid diesel trains from Stadler to operate its Northern Lines services in the Netherlands.
  • The trains will initially be powered by Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO).
  • The trains will have regenerative braking.
  • Stadler have called the trains Flirtinos.
  • The trains are capable of conversion to battery trains, when there is sufficient electrification.
  • The first HVO trains will enter service in 2020.
  • Arriva has committed to putting batteries into all of its fleet  of fifty-one trains.

This a very strong environmental statement from Stadler and Arriva.

In July 2017, I wrote Battery EMUs For Merseyrail.

These trains are also being built by Stadler.

Conclusion

Have Stadler found the secret for better battery trains?

Certainly, the amount of money that Arriva is paying Stadler and the fact that Arriva are creating sixty-nine trains with batteries, indicates that they have confidence in the product!

You can’t fault Stadler’s marketing either!

 

November 14, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s The Weather Like In Africa?

This is a difficult question to answer, as Africa only has a limited number of weather stations.

So along comes Kukua, which has designed a low-cost, mobile network-connected, solar-powered weather station.

There’s a report in the latest edition of BBC Click.

It shows how the devices are helping small farmers in Africa.

November 5, 2017 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

Out Of Thin Air

This article on Global Rail News is entitled Could Building Above London’s Railways Solve The Capital’s Housing Crisis?.

This is said.

Around a quarter of a million homes could be built in London by developing above the capital’s railways, a new report has claimed.

A report published by engineering consultants WSP suggests that building apartments above open London Underground and Overground lines could provide much-needed housing capacity in the city.

WSP Global is one of the world’s leading consultancy companies, with probably their best known project in the UK, being The Shard.

They call the concept Rail Overbuild and the full report is at this document on the WSP web site.

This is a picture from the report.

The report is an informative read and the techniques don’t apply just to London, but could be used over many City Centre rail lines throughout the world.

One section of the report is entitled the Twelve Benefits of Rail Overbuild.

  1. Building over existing infrastructure requires no new land.
  2. Overbuilds in inner city locations are ideally located for residents: the ultra-close proximity to transport facilities provides greater mobility options and could tempt homeowners to either forego car ownership altogether or else reduce multi-car ownership, thereby increasing notional disposable income.
  3. Overbuilds can increase public transport ridership. In turn this will mean lower greenhouse gas emissions and require less carparking space.
  4. Rail overbuilds can better integrate a station into its surroundings; the station development becomes a connector within the urban realm. And by incorporating adjacent site development, rail overbuilds spread their communal benefit over a wider area.
  5. Mixed-use rail overbuild environments contribute to public safety, particularly for pedestrians, given they foster activities throughout the day and much of the evening.
  6. Rail overbuilds provide opportunities to create new pedestrian-friendly environments, creating social value and forming attractive places where people want to live.
  7. Rail overbuilds offer financial incentives for rail asset owners who may gain commercial benefit from the development and from which they
    can reinvest the proceeds into improving city infrastructure.
  8. Uplift can be created in the value of the  mmediate surrounding area and generate household and business rates, as well as other revenue for the local authority.
  9. Rail overbuild schemes can fulfil local authorities’ preference for higher densification and be used as tools of economic development.
  10. Provide a sustainable solution to urban development
  11.  In resolving rail-bridging issues – e.g. structural, acoustic, air quality, vibration,
    utilities, economy – the overbuild provides precedents for future developments.
  12. The station/transport hub becomes a destination in itself thanks to the resulting retail and commercial development in and around it.

They also give some substantial examples of where the proposed methods have been or will be used.

  • Earl’s Court Regeneration
  • Principal Place, Shoreditch
  • Royal Mint Gardens, Tower Hill
  • Stamford Bridge, Chelsea
  • Riverside, New York

This is said about the rebuilding of Stamford Bridge.

Rail overbuild doesn’t just have to facilitate housing. Chelsea Football Club’s proposed new stadium is a fine example of how a site constrained by adjacent rail lines can be successfully built over to maximise development potential.

I recommend that you read the WSP report.

Will the Government and the Mayor of London do what the report suggests?

November 2, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

A Heritage Class 315 Train For The Romford-Upminster Line

The Romford To Upminster Line is slated to get a brand-new Class 710 train to work the two trains per hour shuttle.

This article in London Reconnections, which is entitled More Trains for London Overground: A Bargain Never to be Repeated,   says that it is possible that this line could be served by a Class 315 train, held back from the scrapyard.

This would mean a new Class 710 train could be deployed elsewhere, where its performance and comfort levels would be more needed.

Surely, a single Class 315 train, would be enough capacity for the line and a lot cheaper than a new Class 710 train! Provided of course, that it was reliable, comfortable and could maintain the current service.

A Heritage Unit

Why not market the train, as an updated heritage unit?

  • It could be painted in British Rail livery from the 1980s.
  • It would have wi-fi!
  • It might have an information car, describing the history of the line and the area.
  • It might even have a coffee kiosk!

It would be very much a quirky train to asttract regular passengers and even tourists.

But of course, it would be run as professionally as any other train on the network.

An Educational Purpose

I feel strongly, as do many in education, that not enough people are choosing subjects like engineering as a career.

Could it be used to show that engineering and particularly rail engineering could be a worthwhile career move?

Surely, it could also be used for training staff!

A Technology Or Capability Demonstrator

Eversholt Rail Group own sixty-one of these Class 315 trains, which although they are nearly forty-years old, don’t seem to feature much on BBC London’s travel reports.

They are reportedly destined for the scrapyard, but if they were to show they could still perform after a refurbishment, they might find a paying application somewhere.

Research

Regularly, innovations are suggested for the railway, but often finding somewhere to test them can be difficult.

However, as the Romford to Upminster Line is an electrified single-track line without signalling, the line is about as simple as you can get.

So supposing a company wanted to test how a sensitive electronic instrument behaved on a moving vehicle, this could be done without any difficulty.

Conclusion

If it is decided that a Class 315 train is to be used on the Romford to Upminster Line, I believe that the service could be marketed as a quirky heritage unit, that in conjunction with its main purpose of providing a public service, could also be used for other education, training, marketing, innovation and research purposes.

Eversholt Rail Group might even shift a few redundant Class 315 trains!

November 2, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 1 Comment