The Anonymous Widower

The Intelligent Multi-Mode Train And Affordable Electrification

Some would say we are at a crisis point in electrification, but I would prefer to call it a crossroads, where new techniques and clever automation will bring the benefits of electric traction to many more rail lines in the UK.

Lines That Need Electric Passenger Services

I could have said lines that need to be electrified, but that is probably a different question, as some lines like the Felixstowe Branch Line need to be electrified for freight purposes, but electric passenger services can be provided without full electrification.

Lines include.

  • Ashford to Hastings.
  • Borderlands Line.
  • Caldervale Line from Preston to Leeds
  • Camp Hill Line across Birmingham.
  • Huddersfield Line from Manchester to Leeds via Huddersfield.
  • Midland Main Line from Kettering to Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield.
  • Uckfield Branch Line

There are many others, too numerous to mention.

What Is A Multi-Mode Train?

If a bi-mode train is both electric and diesel-powered, a multi-mode train will have at least three ways of moving.

The Intelligent Multi-Mode Train

The  intelligent multi-mode train in its simplest form would be an electric train with these characteristics.

  • Electric drive with regenerative braking.
  • Diesel or hydrogen power-pack.
  • Onboard energy storage to handle the energy generated by braking.
  • 25 KVAC and/or 750 VDC operation.
  • Automatic pantograph and third-rail shoe deployment.
  • Automatic power source selection.
  • The train would be designed for low energy use.
  • Driver assistance system, so the train was driven safely, economically and to the timetable.

Note the amount of automation to ease the workload for the driver and run the train efficiently.

Onboard Energy Storage

I am sure that both the current Hitachi and Bombardier trains have been designed around energy storage. Certainly, there are several quotes from Bombardier executives that say so.

The first application will be to handle regenerative braking, so that energy can be stored on the train, rather than returned to the electrification.

Onboard energy storage is also important in modern electric trains for other reasons.

  • Features like remote train wake-up can be enabled.
  • Moving the train short distances in case of power failure.
  • When Bombardier started developing the use of onboard energy storage, they stated that one reason was to reduce electrification in depots for reasons of safety.

Onboard energy storage will improve in several ways.

  • The energy density will get higher, meaning lighter and smaller storage.
  • The energy storage capacity will get higher, meaning greater range.
  • The cost of energy storage will become more affordable.
  • Energy storage will last longer before needing replacement.
  • CAF use a supercapacitor to get fast response and a  lithium-ion battery for good capacity.

We underestimate how energy storage will improve over the next few years at our peril.

Automatic Onboard Storage Management

The use of the energy storage will also be optimised for route, passenger load, performance and battery life by the trains automatic power source selection system.

Diesel Power Pack

A conventional diesel power pack to drive the train on lines without electrification.

As the train is electrically-driven, when running under diesel, regenerative braking can still be used, with the generated energy being stored onboard the train.

Hydrogen Power Pack

I believe that hydrogen could be used to generate the electricity required, as it is in some buses.

Operation Of The Multi-Mode Train

I’ve read somewhere that Greater Anglia intend to run their Class 755 trains using electricity, where electrification is available, even if it only for a short distance. This is enabled, by the ability of the train to be able to raise and lower the pantograph quickly and at line speed.

The train’s automatic power source selection will choose the most appropriate power source, from perhaps electrification, stored energy and diesel, based on route, load and the timetable.

Do Any Multi-Mode Trains Exist?

The nearest is probably the Class 800 train, which I believe uses onboard energy storage to handle regenerative braking, as I outlined in Do Class 800/801/802 Trains Use Batteries For Regenerative Braking?.

This article in RailNews is entitled Greater Anglia unveils the future with Stadler mock-up and says this.

The bi-mode Class 755s will offer three or four passenger vehicles, but will also include a short ‘power pack’ car to generate electricity when the trains are not under the wires. This vehicle will include a central aisle so that the cars on either side are not isolated. Greater Anglia said there are no plans to include batteries as a secondary back-up.

So does that mean that Class 755 trains don’t use onboard energy storage to handle regenerative braking?

At the present time, there is no bi-mode Bombardier Aventra.

But in Is A Bi-Mode Aventra A Silly Idea?, I link to an article on Christian Wolmar’s web site, which says that Bombardier are looking into a 125 mph bi-mode Aventra.

My technical brochure for the new Class 769 train, states that onboard energy storage is a possibility for that rebuild of a Class 319 train.

I don’t think it is a wild claim to say that within the next few years, a train will be launched that can run on electric, diesel and onboard stored power.

The Pause Of Electrification

Obviously, for many reasons, electrification of all railway lines is an ideal.

But there are problems.

  • Some object to electrification gantries marching across the countryside and through historic stations.
  • Network Rail seem to have a knack of delivering electrification late and over budget.
  • The cost of raising bridges and other structures can make electrification very bad value for money.

It is for these and other reasons, that the Government is having second thoughts about the direction of electrification.

Is There A Plan?

I ask this question deliberately, as nothing has been disclosed.

But I suspect that not for the first time, the rolling stock engineers and designers seem to be getting the permanent way and electrification engineers out of trouble.

As far as anybody knows, the plan seems to be to do no more electrification and use bi-mode trains that can run under both electrification and diesel-power to provide new and improved services.

Use Of Bi-Mode Trains

Taking a Liverpool to Newcastle service, this would use the electrification to Manchester, around Leeds and on the East Coast Main Line, with diesel power on the unelectrified sections.

If we take a modern bi-mode train like a Class 800 train, some features of the train will help on this route.

  • The pantograph can raise or lower as required at line speed.
  • It is probably efficient to use the pantograph for short sections of electrification.
  • Whether to use the pantograph is probably or certainly should be controlled automatically.

On this route the bi-mode will also be a great help on the fragile East Coast Main Line electrification.

Improving Bi-Mode Train Efficiency

Bi-mode trains may seem to be a solution.

However, as an electrical engineer, I believe that what we have at the moment is rather primitive compared to how the current crop of trains will develop.

Onboard Energy Storage

I said this earlier.

  • I am sure that both the current Hitachi and Bombardier trains have been designed to use energy storage.
  • CAF use a supercapacitor to get fast response and a  lithium-ion battery for good capacity.

This is an extract from the the Wikipedia entry for supercapacitor.

They typically store 10 to 100 times more energy per unit volume or mass than electrolytic capacitors, can accept and deliver charge much faster than batteries, and tolerate many more charge and discharge cycles than rechargeable batteries.

Supercapacitors are used in applications requiring many rapid charge/discharge cycles rather than long term compact energy storage: within cars, buses, trains, cranes and elevators, where they are used for regenerative braking.

Pairing them with a traditional lithium-ion battery seems to be good engineering.

The most common large lithium-ion batteries in public transport use are those in hybrid buses. In London, there are a thousand New Routemaster buses each with a 75 kWh battery.

In the past, there has have been problems with the batteries on New Routemasters and other hybrid buses, but things have improved and I suspect there is a mountain of knowledge both in the UK and worldwide on how to build a reliable, affordable and safe lithium-ion battery in the 75-100 kWh range.

As on the New Routemaster the battery is squeezed under the stairs, these batteries are not massive and I suspect one or more could easily be fitted underneath the average passenger train.

Look at this picture of a Class 321 train.

The space underneath is typical of many electrical multiple units.

How Far Could A Train Travel On Stored Energy?

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.

So if we take a battery from a New Routemaster bus, which is rated at 75 kWh, this would propel a five-car electric multiple unit between three and five miles.

Suppose though you put a battery of this size in every car of the train. This may seem expensive, but a typical car in a multiple unit and a double-deck bus carry about the same number of passengers.

A battery in each car would give advantages, especially in a Bombardier Aventra.

  • Most cars in an appear to be powered, so each traction motor would be close to a battery, which must reduce electrical transmission losses and ease regenerative braking.
  • Each car would have its own power supply, in case the main supply failed.
  • The weight of the batteries is spread along the train.

If you take any Aventra, with a 75 kWh battery in each car, using Ian’s figures, they would be able to run between fifteen and twenty-five miles on battery power alone.

Quotes by Bombardier executives of a fifty mile range don’t look so fanciful.

What Onboard Energy Storage Capacity Would Be Needed For Fifty Miles?

This article in Rail Engineer, which is entitled An Exciting New Aventra, quotes Jon Shaw of Bombardier on onboard energy storage.

As part of these discussions, another need was identified. Aventra will be an electric train, but how would it serve stations set off the electrified network? Would a diesel version be needed as well?

So plans were made for an Aventra that could run away from the wires, using batteries or other forms of energy storage. “We call it an independently powered EMU, but it’s effectively an EMU that you could put the pantograph down and it will run on the energy storage to a point say 50 miles away. There it can recharge by putting the pantograph back up briefly in a terminus before it comes back.

What onboard energy storage capacity would be needed for the quoted fifty miles?

I will use these parameters.

  • Ian Walmsley said a modern EMU consumes between 3 and 5 kWh for each vehicle mile.
  • All vehicles are powered and there is one battery per vehicle.

This will result in the following battery sizes for different EMU consumption rates.

  • 3 kWh/vehicle-mile – 150 kWh
  • 4 kWh/vehicle-mile – 200 kWh
  • 5 kWh/vehicle-mile – 250 kWh

These figures show that to get a smaller size of battery, you need a very energy-efficient train. At least lighting, air-conditioning and other electrical equipment is getting more efficient.

The 379 IPEMU Experiment On The Mayflower Line

In 2015, I rode the battery-powered Class 379 train on the 11.2 mile long Mayflower Line.

I was told by the engineer monitoring the train on a laptop, that they generally went to Harwich using the overhead electrification, charging the battery and then returned on battery power.

Ian Walmsley in his Modern Railways article says that the batteries on that train had a capacity of 500 kWh.

This works out at just over 11 kWh per vehicle per mile.

Considering this was an experiment conducted on a scheduled passenger service, it fits well with the conssumption quoted in Ian Walmsley’s article.

Crossrail’s Emergency Power

If you look at Crossrail’s Class 345 trains, they are nine cars, with a formation of

DMSO+PMSO+MSO+MSO+TSO+MSO+MSO+PMSO+DMSO

All the Ms mean that eight cars are motored.

Suppose each of the motored cars have a battery of 75 kWh.

  • This means a total installed battery size of 600 kWh.
  • Suppose the nine-car train needs Ian’s Walmsley’s high value of 5 kWh per vehicle mile to proceed through Crossrail.
  • Thus 45 kWh will be needed to move the train for a mile.
  • Dividing this into the battery capacity gives the range of 13.3 miles.

If this were Crossrail’s emergency range on stored energy, it would be more than enough to move the train to the next station or place of safety in case of a complete power failure.

Trains Suitable For Onboard Energy Storage

I have a feeling that for any train to run efficiently with batteries, there needs to be a lot of powered axles and batteries distributed along the train.

Aventras certainly have a lot of powered axles and I think Hitachi trains are similar.

Perhaps this explains, why after the successful trial of battery technology on a Class 379 train, it has not been retrofitted to any other Electrostars.

There might not be enough powered axles!

Topping Up The Onboard Energy Storage

There are three main ways to top up the onboard energy storage.

  • From regenerative braking.
  • From the diesel or hydrogen powerpack.
  • From the electrification, where it is available.

The latter is probably the most efficient and is ideal, where a route is partly electrified.

Affordable Electrification

Although the Government has said that there will be no more electrification, I think there will be selective affordable electrification to improve the efficiency of multi-mode trains.

Why Is Electrification Often Late And Over Budget?

The reasons I have found or been told are varied.

  • Electrification seems regularly to hit unexpected infrastructure like sewers and cables on older routes.
  • There have been examples of poor engineering.
  • There is a large amount of Victorian infrastructure like bridges and stations that need to be rebuilt.
  • There is a certain amount of opposition from the Heritage lobby.
  • Connecting the electrification to the National Grid can be a large cost.

My experience in Project Management, also leads me to believe that although Network Rail seems to plan large station and track projects well, they tend to get in rather a mess with large electrification projects.

Electrification Of New Track

It may only be a personal feeling, but where new track has been laid and it is electrified Network Rail don’t seem to have the same level of problems.

These projects are generally smaller, but also I suspect the track-bed has been well-surveyed and well-built, to give a good foundation for the electrification.

It was interesting to note a few weeks ago at Blackpool, where they are electrifying the line, that Network Rail appeared to be relaying all of the track as well.

I know they were also re-signalling the area, but have Network Rail decided that the best way to electrify the line was a complete rebuild?

Short Lengths Of New Electrification

Short lengths of new electrification could make all the difference on routes using multi-mode trains with onboard energy storage.

As a simple example, I’ll take the Felixstowe Branch Line, that I know well. Ipswwich to Felixstowe is about sixteen miles, which is probably too far for a train running on onboard energy storage. But there are places, where short lengths of electrification would be beneficial to both the Class 755 trains and trains with onboard energy storage.

  • Ipswich to Westerfield
  • On the section of double-track to be built in 2019.
  • Felixstowe station

There is also the large number of diesel-hauled freight trains passing through the area, quite a few of which change to and from electric haulage at Ipswich.

So would some selective short lengths of electrification enable the route to be run by trains using onboard energy storage?

Electrification Of Tunnels

Over the last few years, there has been some very successful electrification of tunnels like the seven kilometre long Severn Tunnel. This is said about the problems of electrification in Wikipedia.

As part of the 21st-century modernisation of the Great Western Main Line, the tunnel was prepared for electrification. It has good clearances and was relatively easy to electrify, although due to its age, the seepage of water from above in some areas provided an engineering challenge. The options of using either normal tunnel electrification equipment or a covered solid beam technology were considered and the decision was made to use a solid beam. Over the length of the tunnel, an aluminium conductor rail holds the copper cable, which is not under tension. A six-week closure of the tunnel started on 12 September 2016. During that time, alternative means of travel were either a longer train journey via Gloucester, or a bus service between Severn Tunnel Junction and Bristol Parkway stations. Also during that time, and possibly later, there were direct flights between Cardiff and London City Airport. The tunnel was reopened on 22 October 2016.

It appears to have been a challenging but successful project.

This type of solid beam electrification has been used successfully by Crossrail and Chris Gibb has suggested using overhead beam to electrify the three tunnels on the Uckfield Branch Line.

In the North of England, there are quite a few long tunnels.

Could these become islands of electrification to both speed the trains and charge the onbosrd energy storage?

Third-Rail Electrification Of Stations

Ian Walmsley in his Modern Railways article proposes using third rail electrification at Uckfield station to charge the onboard energy storage of the trains. He also says this.

This would need only one substation and the third rail could energise only when there is a train on it, like a Bordeaux tram, hence minimal safety risk.

There needs to be some serious thought about how you create a safe, affordable installation for a station.

I also feel there is no need to limit the use of short lengths of third-rail electrification to terminal stations. On the Uckfield Branch, some stations are very rural, but others are in centres of population and/or industry, where electricity to power a short length of third-rail might be available.

Overhead Beams In Stations

This picture shows the Seville trams, which use an overhead beam at stops to charge their onboard energy storage.

Surely devices like these can be used in selective stations, like Hull, Scarborough and Uckfield.

Third-Rail Electrification On Bridges And Viaducts

Some bridges and high rail viaducts like the Chappel Viaduct on the Gainsborough Line, present unique electrification problems.

  • It is Grade II Listed.
  • Would overhead electrification gantries be welcomed by the heritage lobby?
  • It is 23 metres high.
  • Would this height present severe Health and Safety problems for work on the line?
  • The viaduct is 320 metres long.

Could structures like this be electrified using third-rail methods?

  • The technology is proven.
  • As in stations, it could only be switched on when needed.
  • The electrification would not be generally visible.

The only minor disadvantage is that dual-voltage trains would be needed. But most trains destined for the UK market are designed to work on both systems.

Getting Power To Short Lengths Of Electrification

One thing that is probably needed is innovation in powering these short sections of electrification.

Conclusion

There are a very large number of techniques that can enable a multi-mode train to roam freely over large parts of the UK.

It is also a team effort, with every design element of the train, track, signalling and stations contributing to an efficient low-energy train, that is not too heavy.

 

 

 

 

 

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October 7, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How To 3D-Print Using Concrete!

All the 3D-printing I’ve seen has involved plastic, but Crossrail’s builders are using the technique to create complex shapes in concrete.

It’s all explained in this post on IanVisits, which is entitled How Crossrail Is Using 3D-Printing To Build Its Stations.

They don’t actually 3D-print the concrete, but a wax mould, that is then used to cast the actual piece required.

According to the post, the FreeFAB process has been used to create 1,400 unique moulds, which have then been used to create 36,000 different shaped concrete panels.

Ian’s post is a fascinating read and the mind boggles as to what will eventually produced using this technique.

September 29, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 2 Comments

Please Do Not Wait In The Green Lanes

These pictures show an experiment in Kings Cross St. Pancras tube station, on the Southbound Victoria Line platform, which aims to make boarding and unloading of trains faster.

The idea is you don’t wait on the green lines, which are reserved for those getting on and off the trains.

The pictures were taken at ten in the morning, so I’ll go back one day in the Peak, to see how it works at a busy time.

But I do think it could be a good idea and a bit like platform edge doors, without the expense of the doors.

Note how the train stops precisely as indicated by the green lines. But then the stopping position of the train is determined automatically and has been since the Victoria Lie opened in 1967.

September 5, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 1 Comment

My Japanese Wallet

These pictures show my Japanese wallet.

Note.

  • The pocket on the outside to hold one credit card. Unfortunately, you can’t do contactless in the pocket.
  • The inside purse to hold a few coins, my door key and a few Warfarin tablets.
  • Plenty of space for cards.
  • The usual folder for notes.
  • The zip that closes it shut.

I haven’t shown the miniature Samurai sword, that pokes out if someone, who doesn’t look like me tries to open the wallet.

September 2, 2017 Posted by | World | , | Leave a comment

Saving Fuel In Rail Vehicles

The title of this post is the same as this page on the web site of a company called Artemis Intelligent Power.

The first paragraph sums up the project and the participants.

Since 2013, Artemis has been proud to work with leading companies Ricardo and Bombardier on the project ‘Digital Displacement® Rail Transmission with Flywheel Energy Storage’ which has been supported by the government funding body Innovate UK.

So who are the players, mentioned in this paragraph.

  • Artemis Intelligent Power, is a company that has been spun out of Edinburgh University, that is now owned by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. In 2015, the company won a MacRobert Award, which is regarded as the leading prize recognising UK innovation in engineering.
  • Ricardo is one of those companies, that have shaped our lives, but few people have ever heard of. At some time most of us would have driven a diesel car, where the engine has been designed around patents or ideas from Ricardo.
  • Bombardier in the UK are best known for the trains they build in Derby.
  • Innovate UK is the UK Government’s innovation agency.

I think it is true to say, that these players wouldn’t be short of ideas, engineering knowledge and resources, including money.

This second paragraph, describes in simple details, what they aim to achieve.

The system is based on the use of Artemis Digital Displacement® pump-motors to capture braking energy from diesel multiple unit (DMU) rail cars, store it in high tech Ricardo flywheels and then use it to displace diesel fuel during vehicle acceleration. Such energy recovery is commonplace on modern electric trains but there is general agreement in the rail industry that are many routes where electrification is unlikely ever to make economic sense.

There is also a press release from Ricardo, which has this title Significant fuel savings and rapid payback shown for rail flywheel hybrid technology.

The project has a name of DDFlyTrain and searching for this word, found this article in the Railway Gazette, which gives more details. These are the last two paragraphs of the article.

The delivery of the flywheel will now enable the assembly of a test rig for laboratory verification trials. Ricardo said its latest flywheel represents a significant advance on products available two years ago, drawing on research undertaken for Formula 1 cars. The flywheel spins in a permanent vacuum to reduce energy losses, with transmission by a magnetic gear system which does not require rotating seals or vacuum pumps The flywheel will be mated with Artemis’ Digital Displacement hydraulic transmission technology, which combines mechanical electric and software elements to facilitate efficient operation despite the varying speeds and loadings of a rail environment.

There are currently no firm plans for installation on a real trainset, but this could be undertaken in the future following laboratory tests.

I shall be searching for DDFlyTrain.

Conclusion

Artemis Intelligent Power and Ricardo have developed some very advanced technology.

The News page on the Artemis IP web site, details some varied applications for their technology in the fields of wave power, excavators, diesel railcar transmissions and wind power.

Ricardo’s flywheel has the name of TorqStor and looks to have potential in other applications.

Could we be seeing a larger version of Torqstor in Electrical Multiple Units, like the new Aventra?

With technology companies like Ricardo and Artemis IP, you never know what is possible, until it has been done!

August 12, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Rolling Stock Leaser Beacon Rail Acquires 78-Train Fleet

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

European rolling stock leaser Beacon Rail has acquired the 352-vehicle fleet of Bombardier Class 220 and Class 221 Voyager’s from subsidiaries of Lloyds Bank and the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

The diesel-electric multiple units are currently in passenger service on the Virgin West Coast and the Arriva Cross Country franchises.

Is it just a tidying up by two banks of their asset portfolios or is there something more behind the transaction?

Beacon Rail Leasing is a ROSCO  or specialist train leasing company and this is their mission statement.

The Mission of Beacon Rail Leasing is to be the leading provider of high utility rolling stock to the Pan-European operator base. Management’s goal is to provide the company’s equity investors with superior returns by being the best managed and most efficiently operated rail operating lease company in the Pan-European Market.

So do they have a long-term plan for these trains?

In Modern Trains From Old, I write about three articles in the February 2017 Edition of Modern Railways.

This is a relevant extract from the previous post.

Bi-Modus Operandi

This is the title of an article by Ian Walmsley in the magazine, who makes the case for adding an extra coach with a pantograph to the Class 220, 221 and 222 and effectively creating a bi-mode train.

The idea is not new and I wrote about it in The Part-Time Electric Train, after a long editorial comment in Modern Railways in 2010.

If anything, the case for convcersion is even better now, as quality high-speed bi-mode trains are desperately needed.

As the article suggests, they could sort out some of the other problems with the trains.

There are quite a few suitable trains.

  • Class 220 trains – 34 trains of four cars.
  • Class 221 trains – 43 trains of a mix of four and five cars.
  • Class 222 trains – 27 trains of a mix of four, five and seven cars.

All are 125 mph trains.

ROSCOs are always looking for innovative ways to make money.

So perhaps Beacon have got together with Eversholt Rail Group, who are the owner of the Class 222 trains and Bombardier, the manufacturer of all three classes of trains to create a series of affordable 125 mph bi-mode trains.

I have no idea if these trains will be updated, but on the 20th of July, this document, which is entitled Rail update: bi-mode train technology, was published by the Department of Transport.

This is said about the new East Midlands franchise.

The next operator will be required to deliver modern, fast and efficient trains. This includes a brand new fleet of bi-mode intercity trains from 2022, delivering more seats and comfort for long-distance passengers. The provision of these trains will replace plans to electrify the line north of Kettering to Sheffield and Nottingham, improving journeys sooner, without the need for wires and masts on the whole route, and causing less disruption to services. We do not intend to proceed with plans to electrify the line from Kettering to Sheffield and Nottingham, and there will be further investment to come to ensure Sheffield is HS2-ready.

Ian Walmsley’s proposal of adding an extra coach, wouldn’t deliver brand-new bi-mode intercity trains, but it could deliver refurbished Class 222 trains with the following characteristics for the new East Midlands franchise.

  • More seats in one or more extra carriages.
  • One extra carriage would have an automatic pantograph to access the 25 KVAC overhead wires.
  • Trains could probably be any length from five-cars upwards, that the operatir wanted.
  • Refurbished interiors.
  • Wi-fi, 4G and power sockets.
  • Ability to run on electricity South of Kettering.
  • Diesel power North of Kettering
  • Update the current rheostatic to regenerative braking using energy storage in both electric and diesel mode.
  • 125 mph operating speed.
  • A modern and efficient electrical and control system.

Note.

  1. I suspect that some features and equipment from the new Aventra would be incorporated.
  2. The trains might cost a bit more to lease, but they would generate more revenue and ultimately profits.
  3. But the biggest advantage of going this route, is that the concept can be tested by building a single carriage and inserting it into a refurbished test train.
  4. After the concept is proven and a go-ahead is given, trains could be built steadily. It should also be said that Bombardier did a superb job in lengthening London Overground’s Class 378 trains twice!
  5. An efficient control system could reduce the amount of time the diesel engines were running.

Similar conversions could be performed on the Class 220 and Class 221 trains.

Conclusion

It will be interesting to see what happens.

July 27, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Kissing The Innovators Goodbye!

I was part of a team that started a high-tech business n the UK in 1977 at the age of thirty.

James Callaghan was Prime Minister and tax rates were higher than they are today.

In 1984, the business was sold for $128,000,000.

So what advice would I give to my thirty-year-old son, daughter, grandchild, niece or nephew, thinking of starting a high-tech business today?

He or she would in one way be very different to me, in that by the age of thirty.

  • I’d probably only been abroad twice and wasn’t very savvy about how to survive in a foreign country.
  • Now the average thirty-year-old has probably done around a hundred foreign trips.

Due to a broader spectrum of nationalities in the UK today, a group thinking of starting a business would be less white middle-class than we were.

So whereas, we had to start the business in the UK, unless perhaps we wanted to relocate to the US, which I wouldn’t have done, even if I’d known how much money we would realise, so many factors, like the Internet, cheap air travel, better language skills, the easier availability of money, good support services and welcoming governments mean you can start a high-tech business virtually anywhere.

These factors also mean Brexit isn’t a disaster for the high-tech start-up.

If you are a UK-focused start-up perhaps dealing with something that is very UK specific, Brexit will only effect you if the economy goes bust.

If you are selling a world-wide product, the Internet means Brexit is irrelevant or will be in a couple of years.

But who wins the General Election is.

A May victory will probably mean things will carry on as before with a probability upwards of sixty-per-cent, as history teaches us, that in times of unexpected crisis that the UK just keeps calm and carries on.

Consider.

  • Corbyn and his cronies are so Consevative in their thinking.
  • Of all our industries, the NHS is probably our most Conservative.
  • A lot of innovation is disruptive, which destroys existing methods, restrictive practices and industries, but improves employment and quality of life.
  • Good ideas, make their inventors lots of money and they usually desire to keep it.

As an example, what would happen if a revolutionary product came along, that saved the NHS billions of pounds a year, but cut staff by 100,000?

It would never be introduced and if it was, the inventors would be driven out of the country by Corbyn’s proposed high taxation.

So after the disastrous Brexit, a Corbyn victory would probably be equally disastrous for innovation and innovators in the UK.

 

 

June 2, 2017 Posted by | World | , , , , | 2 Comments

Forget Trump: The Private Sector Is Still Going Green

This is title of a piece by Irwin Stelzer in this week’s Sunday Times.

Read the article if you can. It talks about how large companies like Exxon and Shell and individuals like Bill Gates are putting prices on carbon and backing reliable clean energy.

The last paragraph sums it up nicely.

Presidents come and go. The private sector will be engaging in long-run research and long-lived investments, perhaps more efficiently than the government has been doing. The profit motive might just turn out to be more productive than the vote-getting or ideological motives of politicians.

I think he could be right!

Think of all those successful projects, that were were done without any Government support or blessing and think of all those government projects that sunk without trace taking millions of pounds with them.

And also think about all that legal money slushing around the world looking for a home in an innovation that will be a wothwhile investment.

March 28, 2017 Posted by | Business, Finance, World | , , | Leave a comment

Could There Be A Class 321 Flex Train?

I took these pictures of a Class 321 train at Ipswich station.

Like the Class 319 train currently being updated to a bi-mode Class 319 Flex train, I wonder if the same bi-mode  upgrade could be applied to a Class 321 train.

Look at this picture of a Class 319 train.

A Class 319 At Lime Street

A Class 319 At Lime Street

Both trains do seem to have generous space underneath.

Consider.

  • Both trains are 100 mph four-car trains based on Mark 3 coaches.
  • Ten Class 321 trains are being given the Renatus treatment by Eversholt Leasing for Greater Anglia with air-conditioning and new interiors.
  • The Class 321s were built after the Class 319s.
  • The Class 321s are 25 KVAC overhead operation only.
  • There are 117 Class 321 trains.
  • As the two trains were launched within a year of each other, they can’t be that different under the skin.

It should also be remembers that train companies have a lot of experience about running both type of train.

Porterbrook Versus Eversholt

Could we be seeing a strong commercial battle, where the two leasing companies; Porterbrook and Eversholt, fight it out to sell the best four-car bi-mode train to the train operating companies?

This could only be of benefit to train companies and passengers.

The Electrical System Of a Possible Class 321 Flex

The only problem, I can envisage is that as I wrote in The Electrical System Of A Class 319 Flex, the DC electrical bus of the Class 319 train makes the design of the Class 319 Flex train easy. If the Class 321 Train doesn’t have a similar layout, then it might be more difficult to create a Class 321 Flex!

On the other hand Vossloh Keipe have received a contract to upgrade the traction systems of thirty Class 321 trains to give them.

  • AC traction motors and the associated control systems.
  • Regenerative braking.

This work is fully described onb this page of the Vossloh Keipe web site.

Probably, with a suitable alternator from ABB and some quality electrical engineering, I would think that a Class 321 Flex could be created.

Conclusions

Each train will have their own big advantages.

  • The Class 319 Flex train will work third rail routes.
  • The Class 321 Flex train will have regenerative braking on electrified routes.

But in the end, if two bi-mode fleets can be created, there will probably be a lot of conviviality in hostelries in Derby and York, where the probably long-retired engineers, who designed the Mark 3 coach and its various derivative multiple units, will be laughing loudly into their beer.

March 5, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Cost Of Tram Batteries

This article in Rail Technology Magazine is entitled Midland Metro tram shipped to Spain for battery fit-out ahead of OLE-free operation.

One Midland Metro tram has been sent back to the factory in Zaragoza to be fitted with two roof-mounted lithium-ion cells and after testing it will be returned to the West Midlands in the Autumn, where more testing will be performed, prior to starting running on the catenary-free streets of Birmingham and Wolverhampton.

After a successful completion of testing on the first tram, the other twenty trams will be converted.

This is said in the article about costs.

The total cost to the WMCA of fitting out the fleet will be £15.5m, but the authority says that it will save £9.24m on infrastructure costs on the first four extensions to the Metro network alone, with further infrastructure savings planned as future extensions take place.

So the savings can go a long way to help pay for the trams to run on the four extensions.

The cost of the modifications to each tram is £738,000, but if the infrastructure savings are factored in, the modifications cost just £298,000 per tram.

I also wonder if the layout of the Midland Metro, with a fairly long wired central section and a catenary-free section at either end is ideal for battery operation, as the trams will have a long section to fully charge the batteries.

But it looks like trams will reach Victoria Square and Wolverhampton station in 2019, Edgbaston in 2021 and the Eastside extension to Curzon Street will be completed in 2023.

Perhaps, the most interesting section in the article is this paragraph.

The WMCA is also evaluating a proposed Wednesbury to Brierley Hill extension to identify the viability of catenary-free sections.

Could this mean that the South Staffordshire Line, which will be used for the extension will be without catenary? As the tram does small detours into Dudley and at the Merry Hill Shopping Centre, then these sections could be wired to charge the batteries, leaving the South Staffordshire Line without any wires. I estimate that the distance the tram would travel would be about seven miles each way.

As Network Rail want to run both trams and freight trains on the South Staffordshire Line, this might allow both to share an unelectrified line, if they have the right wheel and track profiles.

There certainly seems to be some very innovative ideas around, when it comes to using trains and trams in City Centres.

 

 

January 23, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment