The Anonymous Widower

Exploring Devon And Cornwall In Castles

Castle is the name given by Great Western Railway to their four- and five-car InterCity 125 trains, with which they run services in the West Country.

These pictures show the trains, as I meandered up and down the Cornish Main Line.

These are my observations.

The Doors

These trains now have electrically-controlled sliding doors and it seems to be a conversion, that has been carried out to a high standard.

Certainly, all the doors appeared to be working, as they should.

The Seats And Tables

The seats were comfortable, but not as comfortable as some seats I’ve used in Mark 3 coaches.

Could there be a few more tables?

The Ride

My pocket dynamometer was showing a speed of about 65 mph and the ride was as you’d expect from a well-maintained Mark 3 coach.

Access Between Platform And Train

This is not good as the pictures show.

This is the step on a Castle.

And this is the step on a new Class 755 train

Think buggies, heavy cases and wheelchairs.

The Class 755 train, really is the Gold Standard of step-free access between platform and train.

Conclusion

These iconic trains will do a good job for Great Western Railway.

You could certainly find a good hotel in Devon or Cornwall and have a few enjoyable days riding between Penzance and Exeter, to explore the area

I do hope that they eventually put a catering trolley on the train.

November 19, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

My First Ride In An Inter7City Train

These are some pictures I took of a ride between Edinburgh and Leuchars station.

In some ways, I wasn’t particularly impressed and the interiors were not up to the standard of some InterCity125 trains and Mark 3 coaches I’ve ridden lately.

These are some other pictures of Inter7City trains, I took on my recent trip to Scotland.

They may look nice and are what the public wanted, but would the right new trains have been better.

 

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

Speculation Increases Over Use Of HSTs

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

This is the second paragraph.

GWR and ScotRail are both introducing modified four and five-coach HSTs on various duties, with GWR’s operating regional services and ScotRail’s Inter7City sets to be used on its core inter-city routes.

I’ve yet to take a ride in either of the GWR oe Scotrail version of the trains and I shall be looking forward to riding both, later in the year.

I’ve only seem one close-up once at Dundee.

But they seem to be very slow in coming in to service.

Abellio Scotrail’s Proposed Fleet

Abellio Scotrail seem to have 54 Class 43 locomotives and 121 Mark 3 coaches, which according to Wikipedia, will be formed into 26 sets: 17 five-car and 9 four-car trains.

Routes include connecting Scotland’s seven cities.

GWR’s Proposed Fleet

Great Western Railway seem to have retained 24 Class 43 locomotives and 48 Mark 3 coaches, which will be formed into 11 four-car trains.

Routes include between Cardiff and Penzance.

Will These Short HSTs Be Successful?

A number of factors will come into play.

  • The trains are liked by passengers and drivers.
  • They are an ideal size for a lot of routes.
  • They have an excellent ride.
  • They have a lot of capacity for oversized baggage, like bicycles, surf boards, sporting equipment and even some urgent or perishable freight.

Only time will tell, but it is my view, they have a good chance of being a success.

Do Short HSTs Have Any Problems?

The two big problems are their age and that they are diesel-powered I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of the new franchises in the next few years, deciding to go all electric, with only a small number of diesel or hybrid trains.

Would Short HSTs be able to get an exception on heritage grounds?

The technology now is at a level, that by 2030, the UK railways could be diesel-free, with all trains electric, battery or zero-carbon hybrid.

Are There Any Other Routes Where Short HSTs Could Be Used?

I will break them down by franchis, in this incomplete list.

East Midlands Railway – Norwich And Derby

This new route for East Midlands Railway will be created by splitting the current service between Norwich and Liverpool Lime Street stations.

  • The route is 152 miles long.
  • I estimate that current trains will take three hours.
  • The service needs four-car trains at certain times.

Would it be possible for Short HSTs to do a Norwich and Derby round trip in six hours?

GWR – Cardiff And Portsmouth

If the Castles can work Cardiff and Penzance, could they work Cardiff and Portsmouth?

Scotrail – Far North Line

What has surprised me is that Abellio Scotrail are not going to use their Inter7City trains between Inverness and Wick stations on the Far North Line.

  • The distance is 174 miles
  • The current trip takes four and a quarter hours
  • The round trip is nine hours.

So could a short HST do the round trip in eight hours?

A single train could then run to the following schedule.

  • Leave Inverness at 0600.
  • Return from Wick at 1000.
  • Leave Inverness at 1400
  • Return from Wick at 1800

The train would arrive back in Inverness at 2200.

In Is This The Most Unusual Idea For A New Railway Service in The UK?, I wrote about a proposal to introduce Class 230 trains between Wick and Thurso at the far north of Scotland.

This Far North Metro, would sit well with a two train per day service to Inverness.

  • Mark 3 carriages have large windows for sightseeing.
  • A buffet and small bar could be provided.
  • The trains have space for parcels, urgent and perishable freight.
  • The service could link with the ferries to the Orkneys.

A subsidiary objective would be to bring some prosperity to a remote region.

Scotrail – Kyle Of Lochalsh Line

If Short HSTs can work their magic on the Far North Line, I just wonder if they could provide services on the Kyle Of Lochalsh Line.

  • The distance is 83 miles
  • The current trip takes two hours and forty minutes.

So could a short HST do the round trip in six hours?

As with the Far North Line, there would be a much improved service for both those that live along the line and the many visitors.

Transport for Wales – Cardiff And Holyhead

Transport for Wales run a two-hourly service between Cardiff and Holyhead stations. The rolling stock for some services will be a rake of four Mark 4 carriages, a Class 67 locomotive and a driving van trailer.

Isn’t this in effect a train with a similar purpose to a Short HST?

Obviously, Transport for Wales have got good reasons for not running Short HSTs on this route, but the choice of rolling stock does show similar thinking that led to the creation of the Short HST.

Transport for Wales – Heart Of Wales Line

The Heart Of Wales Line runs between Llanelli in West Wales and Craven Arms in England.

  • It is around 150 miles long.
  • Trains take a few minutes over four hours between Swansea and Shrewsbury stations.

It is one of those rail lines, that could be a serious tourism asset.

Would Short HSTs add to the experience?

Transport for Wales -North Wales Main Line

The North Wales Main Line is another line, where iconic Short HSTs might attract passengers.

Conclusion On Routes

There are certainly several places where Short HSTs could be gainfully employed.

Could Any Other Trains Be Used?

The specification could be something like this.

  • Four or five carriages.
  • Diesel, diesel bi-mode or hydrogen bi-mode.
  • Quality interior
  • 100, 110 or 125 mph top-speed.

Trains could be either new build or a rebuilt and/or refurbished older train.

Class 802 Train

Hitachi’s Class 802 train is in service.

  • It meets the specification.
  • It can seat somewhere between 326-342 passengers.
  • It can use electrification if it exists.

It would do a good job.

Class 755 Train

Stadler’s Class 755 train will soon be in service.

  • It meets the specification.
  • It is only a 100 mph train, but I suspect it can be uprated to 125 mph, as the electric version can handle this speed.
  • A four-car train  can seat 227 passengers.
  • It can use electrification if it exists.

It should do a good job.

Could HSTs Have Any Parcel Or Freight Applications?

This is always being suggested, but anything concerning freight or parcels must have the following characteristics.

  • They must be reliable.
  • They must be able to stick to a timetable.
  • They must have a hard-wearing interior, as they will have a hard life.
  • The small single doors would need to be replaced.
  • They must be able to accept standard freight pallets.
  • They must be quick and easy to load.

My biggest worry would be over the last two points. Would the trains just need three much modification to make them suitable for freight and parcels.

Could HSTs Have Heritage Applications?

Already a rake of Mark 3 coaches is going to be used with the  60163 steam locomotive.

But could HSTs in their own right find use in the heritage sector?

I think, that there could be space in the market for a few HSTs, which may have the sort of appeal to the younger generation, that steam trains had to my generation.

After all, I’ve had some of the best meals in my life in an HST.

Conclusion

They may be applications, but each will only use small numbers of trains.

So I’m afraid that some of these trains will go to scrap.

But then no-one can say, that they haven’t done well!

 

 

 

June 16, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Norwich-In-Ninety Is A Lot More Than Passengers Think!

But, I very much expect that Greater Anglia know what they are doing.

I came up to Norwich on the 1100 train, which was timed to get in at 1230. According to the driver, there were signalling problems at Manningtree, which meant we arrived in Norwich twenty-one minutes late.

I was going on to Cromer or Lowestoft. So by the time I’d had a cider and bought a ticket, I didn’t leave Norwich until 1345 for Cromer. But I did have time by the sea to take a few pictures and have a coffee and a gluten-free scone, before getting the return train to Norwich.

Back at Norwich, I had a choice of two trains.

  • The 1700 stopping at just Ipswich and Norwich
  • The 1703 stopping at Diss, Stowmarket, Ipswich and a few other places.

I was booked on the 1700, from where I’m writing this note on my phone.

These are some of my observations.

Operating Speed

I have just travelled between Norwich and Ipswich in thirty minutes, with Speedview on my phone reading within a couple of mph of 100 mph all the way from where we got to operating speed South of Norwich to where we slowed for Ipswich station.

Diss, Stowmarket and Nedham Market stations were passed at almost 100 mph

Ipswich to Colchester was at a slower 90 mph, but then from Marks Tey to just before Chelmsford, the train was back to around 100 mph.

Speeds between 70 and 90 mph were held from Chelmsford to Liverpool Street, which was reached at 1830 as scheduled.

Acceleration

I got the impression, that the acceleration of the train wasn’t up to the operating speed. Certainly, it didn’t seem to accelerate as fast as an InterCity 125,

But then we’re talking about a rather puny Class 90 locomotive with just 930 kW pulling eight Mark 3 coaches.

In an InterCity 125, there is nearly 1,400 kW to accelerate the same number of similar coaches to 125 mph.

But these are small numbers compared to a four-car Class 755 train running on electrical power, which according to Stadler’s data sheet is 2,600 kW, which is 86% more power than an InterCity 125.

As there are two power-bogies each must be good for 1,300 kW.

Typical four-car electric Flirts seem to have around 2-3,000 kW, according to various Stadler data sheets.

Flirts seem to be seriously powerful trains and I can understand why some Norwegian Flirts are capable of 125 mph running. This is said in Wikipedia about the Norwegian Flirts.

All trains have five cars. However, in contrast to previous five-car FLIRTs they will have a third powered bogie giving them a maximum power output of 4,500 kW (6,000 hp) and a top speed of 200 km/h (120 mph).

If that extract is saying that each bogie can provide up to 1,500 kW, then Class 745 trains with four bogies have 6,000 kW.

If they were Class 755 train-sized bogies, then Class 745 trains, then the trains have 5,200 kW.

For comparison, an eleven-car Class 390/1 train has 5,950 kW.

With these figures, I feel it is reasonable to assume, that Class 745 trains, will accelerate to operating speed faster than the current forty-year-old BR stock.

  • They appear to have a lot more power, than the current trains.
  • Their aluminium bodies probably mean they weigh less, than the steel-bodies of the current trains.
  • Their aerodynamics are probably more advanced.
  • They probably have sophisticated technology that stops wheel slip, controls the train in a smooth manner and assists the driver.
  • The rolling dynamics will be no worse than that of the current trains.

Some conclusions can be drawn about the current trains and their operation.

  • A Class 90 locomotive with only 930 kW has sufficient power to keep an eight-car train running at 100 mph. It looks like the figure  is around 1.2 kWh per car per mile.
  • They must be in top condition.
  • The drivers probably know the route like the back of their hand and can coax the required performance from their ageing charges.

BR’s forty-year-old design must still be seriously good and the trains get the TLC they need.

Passing Stations At 100 mph

Diss, Stowmarket, Needham Market, Marks Tey, Kelvedon, Hatfield Peverel and Ingatestone stations were all passed within a few mph of 100 mph, with Maningtree and Colchester stations passed at around 85-90 mph.

Obviously, this must be allowed and not having to slow means that the speed is not degraded.

The only station where there was a substantial slowing was Chelmsford, where the train slowed to about 60 mph.

The Current Norwich-in-Ninety Services

These are the current ninety minutes services between Liverpool Street and Norwich.

  • 0900 – Norwich to Liverpool Street
  • 1100 – Liverpool Street to Norwich
  • 1700 – Norwich to Liverpool Street
  • 1900 – Liverpool Street to Norwich

Only one train is needed that starts and finishes in Norwich, where it is stabled overnight.

Serving The Intermediate Stations

Both the 1100 train to Norwich and the 1700 to Liverpool Street only stop at Ipswich.

But leaving a couple of minutes behind was another Class 90 locomotive/Mark 3 coach set stopping at more stations.

  • Going North, the train takes nineteen minutes longer, with stops at Colchester, Manningtree, Ipswich and Diss.
  • Going South, this train takes ten minutes longer, with stops at Diss, Stowmarket, Ipswich, Colchester and Stratford.

I suspect that when the Bombardier Class 720 trains have been delivered, these might be used for the stopping trains.

How Many Trains Will Be Needed?

It appears that the slower trains are currently timetabled to take between 111 and 115 minutes.

If a round trip can be done in four hours, then two trains per hour (tph), will require eight Class 745 trains.

As there are ten trains on order, this means the following.

  • Eight trains will be used to run the two tph stopping service.
  • One train will be needed for the Norwich-in-Ninety service.

This leaves one train as a spare or in maintenance.

Cromer And Back In A Day

In the four-and-a-half hours, I was in Norwich, I was able to take a train to Cromer, take a few pictures, have a quick lunch and then return to Norwich.

This is possible using the slower trains, but the fast trains can give you another hour in Norwich.

Obviously, this hour will be available for many journeys and must surely open up many possibilities for frequent travellers on the route.

How Reliable Is The Norwich-in-Ninety Service?

There have been twenty services in the first week of the service..

  • Fourteen have been on-time or a couple of minutes early.
  • Five have been under ten minutes late.
  • One was late by more than ten minutes.

That last train was twenty-two minutes late and I was on it, on the first Wednesday of the service.

I shall update this table, until I get bored with it!

Can The Timetable Be Changed?

The way the timetable is set out is an interesting solution to trying to be all things to all passengers.

  • There is a basic two tph service, which stops between London and Norwich according to a simple pattern.
  • Four services per day, with two in each direction, are delayed by two or three minutes.
  • The original departure times are taken by a fast train, that only stops at Ipswich.
  • These four departure times, are arranged, so that the services can be handled by a single fast train shuttling between Liverpool Street and Norwich
  • The fast train starts in Norwich at 0900 in the morning and returns to Norwich and its depot at 2030. The train can then have a good service after a hard day’s work!

Obviously, Greater Anglia have all the passenger data, so they have probably laid out a fast timetable, that will reflect current passenger numbers.

But as time goes on, this timetable can be augmented.

At present, they are using their express trains for both the two tph and the fast services.

These will be changed to Class 745 trains during the remainder of this year.

The venerable Class 90 locomotives and their Mark 3 coaches have blazed the trail and made everybody’s dream of Norwich-in-Ninety a reality, but now it is up to Greater Anglia’s new trains to fully develop the timetable.

  • If they are successful in attracting passengers more services will do Norwich in ninety and Ipswich in sixty.
  • The back-up stopping service running behind the fast train could be run by a new Class 720 train, which have a similar 100 mph operating speed.
  • Several services per day, using Class 755 trains, will be running between Lowestoft and London and augmenting the fast service between London and Ipswich.

Interestingly, as I left Norwich for Cromer, there was a Class 321 Renatus at Norwich station in Platform 2 Checking with Real Time Trains, this other relic from British Rail, but refurbished to a modern standard for passengers and performance, formed the 1400 express to London and arrived on time after seven stops.

It looks to me that Greater Anglia have a creditable back-stop, if there should be any unforeseen problems with the new trains.

But it also shows that the stopping service that follows the Norwich-in-Ninety service can be run by a 100 mph electric multiple unit.

This would surely release Class 745 trains to run more fast services.

An Improved Ipswich And Norwich Service

Greater Anglia have said that there will be three tph between London and Norwich and that one may or will be run the new Class 720 trains.

The only section of the Great Eastern Main Line, that won’t have four tph will be between Ipswich and Norwich. So could we see a 100 mph local service between two rivals.

Yesterday’s Class 321 Renatus did Norwich to Ipswich in forty-one minutes.

  • The route is fully-electrified.
  • Class 720 or Class 321 Renatus trains could be used.
  • Trains would stop at Diss, Stowmarket and Needham Market stations.
  • The rail line is not busy North of Stowmarket.
  • The bottleneck of Trowse bridge South of Norwich is to be replaced.

Running four tph between Ipswich and Norwich would be a lot more affordable, than improving the capacity on the mainly single-carriageway A140.

Would Faster Running Be Possible North Of Ipswich?

There are two major problems on the Great Eastern Main Line to the North of Ipswich.

  • Trowse Bridge to the South of Norwich.
  • Haughley Junction, where the Cambridge and Norwich routes divide to the North of Stowmarket.

Both projects have been kicked into the long grass more times than most, but it does look, that these two bottlenecks could be fixed in the next few years.

I also observed the following between Ipswich and Norwich.

  • The line wasn’t busy North of Stowmarket.
  • The train had no difficulty maintaining 100 mph.
  • The quality of the overhead electrification gantries might suggest a need for replacement.
  • There are some level crossings, that have no place on a 100 mph main line.

Would it be advantageous to update the line, so that higher speeds were possible?

I suspect that both the Class 745 and Class 720 trains could handle perhaps 110 mph with modifications, that are proven or planned with similar trains.

Conclusion

I had an exhilarating ride yesterday and it is a foretaste for the greatest improvement in transport for East Anglia in my lifetime.

 

 

May 22, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The First Norwich To London Service In Ninety Minutes

These pictures show the arrival of the first Norwich-in-Ninety service in Liverpool Street

Looking at Real Time Trains, it appears the train left Norwich at 0900 and arrived in Liverpool Street at 1030.

Normal services take three or four minutes under two hours, so ninety minutes with a Class 90 locomotive, eight Mark 3 coaches and a driving van trailer isn’t bad!

May 20, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

A Greater Anglia Train In An Unexpected Place

I took these pictures from Drayton Park station of a Greater Anglia train, which  consisted of a Class 90 locomotive, Mark 3 coaches and a DVT going South on the line above the station that leads to the Canonbury Curve.

I wonder what it had been doing?

 

October 1, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

The Last Unmodified Rakes Of Mark 3 Coaches In Front Line Service

Greater Anglia runs the last rakes of the unrivalled Mark 3 coaches, with their original doors, on their services between London and Norwich.

This set was going North pushed by an immaculate Class 90 locomotive, which like the coaches is no spring chicken.

The Swiss-built Class 745 trains, will have to be very good, to gain the same hard-won reputation.

One of these rakes of coaches is going to be hauled by 60163 Tornado.

I suspect other rakes will find specialist uses. If not in the UK, then in other countries with standard gauge railways.

July 10, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

TPE Earmarks Top-And-Tail ’68s’ For Passenger Services

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in Issue 851 of Rail Magazine.

The article describes how TransPennine Express are going to use four Class 68 locomotives and four-carriage rakes of Mark 3 coaches to provide passenger services between Liverpool Lime Street and Scarborough.

From the 20th of May, services will leave Liverpool at 0556, 0656, 1156, 1256, 1756 and 1856 and Scarborough at 0846, 0946, 1446, 1546, 2050 and 2149.

May 8, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , | 2 Comments

What Will Happen To The Class 319, Class 455, Class 321 And Cl;ass 317 Trains?

When I go to Walthamstow to have supper with my son, I regularly travel from Hackney Downs station in one of London Overground’s Class 317 trains.

For a metro train, some are unusual in that they still have the First Class compartment and spacious 2 + 2 seating in the rest of the train. Also, as some at one time used to work the Stansted Express service, they have multi-lingual safety instructions and luggage racks.

Like the Class 319, Class 321 and Class 455 trains, they are going to be replaced by new trains by their current operators.

So what will happen to the various trains.

The Class 319 Flex Train

Porterbrook, the ROSCO, who own the Class 319 and Class 455 trains have developed the Flex concept that can transform these classes into much-needed four-car bi-mode trains. We should be seeing Class 319 Flex trains under test by the end of the year.

As the Class 319 Flex train has now been given its own TOPS-number of 769, the powers-that-be must think it is a viable concept.

In Metro Development With Flex Trains, I describe how I believe Northern are going to use the Class 319 Flex trains in the North West in the Liverpool, Manchester and Preston triangle, to develop a world-class Metro network.

The Class 455 Flex Train

The applications of a Class 455 Flex train would probably be less than that of a Class 319 Flex train, as the trains are 75 mph third rail trains, as opposed to 100 mph dual-voltage units.

The Class 319 and its Flex version will travel on say the West Coast Main Line with ease, but the slower Class 455 train would be a rolling roadblock.

But because they have a high-quality 2 + 2 interior, they could find applications as much-needed four-car diesel multiple units.

The interiors are certainly some of the best on short distance suburban trains and I would rate them better than some stock delivered in the lst couple of years.

The Class 455 Flex Train And Pacer Replacement

Class 455 Flex trains would make a superb replacement for the dreaded Pacers.

  • Class 455 trains were built to withstand the impact of a 24-tonne cement mixer truck falling from the sky. Try repeating the Oxshott accident with a Pacer.
  • The Class 455 interior is comfortable and South Western Railway‘s fleet was fully refurbished around 2003.
  • The Class 455 Flex train will have at least the performance of a Pacer.
  • The Class 455 trains meet all the latest Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations.
  • Could the Class 455 Flex train be given the same hill-climbing capability of a Class 319 Flex train?
  • The Class 455 train is four-cars as opposed to the two-cars of a Pacer.

Ironically, the Pacers are a few years younger than the Class 455 trains. But then class is permanent! Or should that be Mark 3 coaches are permanent?

I think that Porterbrook are looking at converting the Class 455 trains for several reasons.

  • They own ninety-one Class 455 trains, that will be released by South Western Railway.
  • The quality interiors probably just need good cleaning and cosmetic repairs.
  • The costs and rate of conversion are now well-known.
  • The Pacers need to be replaced quickly.

It should be noted that the number of Pacers in service are as follows.

  • Class 142 – Arriva Trains Wales – 15
  • Class 142 – Northern – 79
  • Class 143 – Arriva Trains Wales – 15
  • Cl;ass 143 – Great Western Railway – 8
  • Class 144 – Northern – 23

The only replacements on order are Northern’s 25 x two-car and 30 x three-car Class 195 trains.

That means that 140 two-car Pacers are being replaced by the same number of vehicles.

So there is a short term need for some quality trains. If all the Cl;ass 455 trains were converted that would add another ninety-one quality trains that could be used to replace Pacers.

The Welsh and Great Western Pacers are used far from any 25 KVAC electrification, so the inability to use electrification on a Class 455 Flex will be irrelevant. But both Wales and the West Country have lines with challenging gradients.

So if the Class 455 Flex train was designed to be able to handle the Manchester to Buxton test route, the trains could handle the Cardiff Valley Lines and the challenging lines in Devon.

Currently, the Class 455 trains have a very red interior, which would surely go down well in the Principality.

The 100 mph Bi-Mode Train

The rumoured large response to Porterbrook’s proposal for the 100 mph four-car bi-mode Class 319 Flex train, says to me, that there is a market for a train, with the following characteristics.

  • 100 mph operating speed on electricity.
  • Over 90 mph operating speed on diesel power.
  • Four-car

Both the Class 321 and Class 317 trains could be modified to fit this specification.

Class 321 Flex Trains

Greater Anglia have around a hundred of these trains, which will be replaced by brand-new Aventras in the next couple of years.

  • They were built in the late 1980s.
  • They have a 2 + 3 interior.
  • Class 321 trains can be modified for dual voltage.
  • Thirty are being upgraded under the Renatus project, which involves new air conditioning and heating, seating and Wi-Fi.
  • A new traction package with new AC traction motors and regenerative braking has been designed.
  • They are owned by Eversholt Rail Group.
  • The trains are probably very similar electrically to the Class 319 trains,

If needed, there must be scope to convert some of these trains to bi-mode using similar engineering to the Class 319 Flex trains.

I haven’t ridden in a Class 321 Renatus, but pictures on the web, indicate the train could have a high-class interior.

It would appear that with the Renatus treatment, the Class 321 trains could be transformed into a high class train.

The market would decide, if some were converted into bi-mode Flex variants.

Class 317 Flex Trains

Greater Anglia and London Overground have around seventy of these trains, which will be replaced by brand-new Aventras in the next couple of years.

  • They were built in the early 1980s.
  • They have a 2 + 2 interior, to a variety of standards, but mostly in generally good condition.
  • Some have First Class compartments.
  • Some were built for the Stansted Express and have luggage racks.
  • All are 25 KVAC units.
  • They are owned by Angel Trains.
  • Plans exist for the fitting of a new traction package if required.

As with the Class 321 trains, there must be scope to convert some of these trains to bi-mode using similar engineering to the Class 319 Flex trains.

The Future

The four main train types , that I have have listed are all slightly different.

  • Class 317 is a 100 mph, 25 KVAC overhead only, good 2 + 2 interior
  • Class 319 is a 100 mph, dual-voltage train, average 2 + 3 interior
  • Class 321 is a 100 mph, dual-voltage train, average 2 + 3 interior
  • Class 455 is a 75 mph, 750 VDC third-rail only, good 2 + 2 interior

There are also smaller numbers of other types that could also be converted.

Different train types will be better suited to different markets.

I’ll list some of the markets in the next few sections.

Route Extensions

This is probably the simplest application of a Flex train.

Consider the new Bromsgrove station at the Western end of the Cross-City Line in Birmingham.

From May 2018, the station will have been electrified and new electrified services will start across Birmingham from Bromsgrove.

West from Bromsgrove it is under twenty miles to Worcester, which is getting a new station at Worcestershire Parkway.

Bromsgrove to Worcestershire Parkway would be well within range of a Flex train.

How many simple extensions to electric services could be created with a few Flex trains?

There could be quite a few and some might even be extensions to third-rail networks using Class 455 Flex trains.

Metro Development

In Metro Development With Flex Trains, I discuss how Northern are developing the Northern Electric network in the Liverpool, Manchester and Preston triangle, using a mixed fleet of electric and bi-mode Flex version of the Class 319 trains.

Various places in the UK have plans for Metros and where there is some electrification a mixed fleet of electric and bi-mode trains could be used to develop the metro.

The mixed fleet of electric and bi-mode Flex trains gives the train operator advantages.

  • Passengers have a similar customer experience across the fleet.
  • The Flex trains can go anywhere on the network.
  • The electric trains can only work electrified lines, but as more electrification is added, they can take advantage.
  • Flex trains can deputise for electric ones.
  • If there is a problem with the electrification, the Flex trains can still get through.
  • Drivers and other staff don’t have two very dissimilar train types to deal with.
  • Maintenance must be simplified.

I feel that Class 319, Class 321 and Class 317 trains could all be offered in both electric and bi-mode Flex versions.

Several of the possible places where a Metro needs to be developed like Hull, Leeds, Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Sheffield and Stoke-on-Trent are in Northern territory, so for preference, Northern would probably use Class 319 trains, especially as they have the ability to cruise safely at near 100 mph on the West and East Coast Main Lines.

But there is only so many Class 319 trains, so I suspect Northern will have to look at other types.

A city that could benefit from the Flex approach is Leeds.

  • There is a mix of electrified and non-electrified local lines from Leeds station.
  • Some important local routes like Leeds to York and Sheffield are not fully electrified, but could be worked by a Flex train.
  • Northern use five Class 322 trains in the Leeds area. These are very similar to Class 321 trains.
  • Northern need some more stock for the electrified lines from the City and have brought in some Class 321 trains.
  • Leeds station seems to me to have a platform capacity problem.

I feel that a few Class 321 Flex trains and some reorganisation of services so some ran back-to-back through Leeds station could be beneficial.

One point about a mixed fleet of electric and bi-mode Flex trains must be raised.

Suppose an operator is thinking of using a mixed fleet to create a local Metro around a City and that calculations say that to work the required service would need six electric and four bi-mode trains.

Would the operator perhaps buy five trains of each type and use one bi-mode as an electric train most of the time?

But surely, this would be inefficient as the bi-mode would be dragging its diesel power packs around all day.

But the bi-mode trains have an advantage, in that they can still operate if the electrification has failed.

They might also be able to rescue a stalled train and drag it back to the depot.

Diesel Multiple Unit And Pacer Replacement

The Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations are going to kill off a lot of diesel multiple units and especially the Pacers.

Operators with Pacers are going to need to act quickly and as I showed earlier in The Class 455 Flex Train And Pacer Replacement, a  Class 455 Flex train would be a very able replacement.

  • Similar performance.
  • Four cars instead of two.
  • The unmatched ride of the Mark 3 coach.
  • Modern, comfortable high-quality interior.
  • Full compliance with the accessibility regulations.

For operators with lots of Class 150 and Class 156 trains, which need to be refurbished, a Class 455 Flex train would be a very able deputy.

In some places, where two Class 150 trains work as a pair, replacing them with a single Class 455 Flex train, may give operational and capacity advantages.

The High Speed Parcel or Pallet Train

In The Go-Anywhere Express Parcel And Pallet Carrier, I proposed using Class 321 trains as HSPTs of High Speed Parcel or Pallet Trains. In the manner of all Mark 3-based trains, they would undoubtedly make an excellent fist of this job.

Both electric and bi-mode Flex versions could be used to give a go-anywhere fleet.

I suggested using Class 321 trains, as some of them have very basic interiors, so conversion would be less costly to parcel carriers than acceptable passenger trains.

Conclusion

The train refurbishing companies are going to be busy.

The real beauty of this approach, is that what trains get created will depend on what is needed and how much train operators are prepared to pay.

But there are also plenty of trains for most applications.

Cats are supposed to have nine lives, but that is nothing compared to a Mark 3 coach.

 

 

May 30, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Go-Anywhere Express Parcel And Pallet Carrier (HSPT)

In the June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways there is an article entitled Freight, Not All Doom And Gloom, which talks about high-value parcel carriers. The article says this.

Think about all those 1980s units that are soon to be made redundant, especially the ones with wide doorways. You could forklift in pallets and move them by hand trolley inside the vehicle (forklift tines would not fit an HST’s doors).

A Class 150 parcels unit, anyone?

There are other reasons for not using a High Speed Train.

  • ScotRail and Great Western Railway have better uses for the trains moving passengers around in style.
  • Their 125 mph capability and large windows might come in handy for heritage tourism.
  • They are diesel trains and some might not like to hear them thundering through the countryside in the middle of the night.

As to the Class 150 train, it has a few disadvantages.

  • It is only two-cars.
  • It has a 75 mph operating speed.
  • It is diesel-powered, which probably means regular refuelling.

But also like all Mark 3-based stock it scrubs up well as I wrote in What Train Is This?

I would refurbish the whole fleet and use them on short branch lines to provide a quality service, where a two or four-car train was all that was needed.

So what would be the specification of an ideal Go-Anywhere Express Parcel and Pallet Carrier?

I was going to call it a GAEPPC in this post, but that’s rather a mouthful, so I’ll call it a High Speed Parcel Train or High Speed Pallet Train, which in recognition of its more famous big brother will be called a HSPT.

For the specification, it might be a good idea to start with the Class 325 train. This is the first paragraph of the train’s Wikipedia entry.

The British Rail Class 325 is a 4-car dual-voltage 25 kV alternating current (AC) or 750 V direct current (DC) electric multiple unit (EMU) train used for postal train services. While the Class 325 bears a resemblance to the Networker series of DMUs and EMUs, they are based on the Class 319 EMU. The Class 325 was British Rail’s newest unit to take over parcels workings on electrified lines.

The requirement might have changed since the 1990s, but the basic specification would be similar.

  • Four-cars
  • 100 mph operating speed.
  • 25 KVAC overhead or 750 VDC third rail operation.
  • The ability to run as four-, eight- and twelve-car trains.
  • It would be available in a range of colours and not just red!

In addition, it would need wide doors for pallets.

It would also be nice, if the HSPT could run on lines without electrification.

Look at this picture of a Class 321 train.

Would a standard size 1200 x 1000 pallet go through this door?

This morning, I measured the door on a Class 378 train and it was about 1700 mm. wide. So yes!

Once inside the systems used in cargo aircraft could be used to arrange the pallets.

Consider, these facts about Class 321 trains.

  • They are four-car electric multiple units, that can also run as eight and twelve car units.
  • They can operate at 100 mph.
  • They are dual voltage units, if required.
  • There are 117 of the trains, of which over a hundred will be released by Greater Anglia and will need a new caring owner.
  • The interior may be wide enough to put two standard pallets side-by-side.
  • They are based on Mark 3 steel carriages, so are built to take punishment.

In Could There Be A Class 321 Flex Train?, I speculated as to whether these trains could be fitted with underfloor diesel engines as in the Class 319 Flex train. After the news reports in the June 2017 Edition of Modern railways, which I reported on in The Class 319 Flex Units To Be Class 769, I’m now convinced that converting other types of train like Class 455 and Class 321 trains is feasible and that the train refurbishing companies are going to be extremely busy.

I have a feeling that Class 319 trains will not be converted to HSPTs, as they seem to be very much in demand to carry more valuable cargo – Namely fare-paying passengers!

But fit diesel engines under a Class 321 train and I think it would make a HSPT, that could travel on nearly every mile of the UK rail network and quite a few miles on heritage railways too!

A Freight Terminal For An HSPT

As the Class 321 train has been designed for passengers, it lines up reasonably well with most of the station platforms in the UK.

So at its simplest a freight terminal for a HSPT could just be a station platform, where a fork lift truck could lift pallets in and out.The freight handling facilities would be designed appropriately.

Supermarket Deliveries

I also think, that if a HSPT were available, it could attract the attention of the big supermarket groups.

In The LaMiLo Project, I described how goods were brought into Euston station in the middle of the night for onward delivery.

If it cuts costs, the supermarket groups will use this method to get goods from their central warehouses to perhaps the centres of our largest cities.

Get the design right and I suspect the supermarkets’ large delivery trolley will just roll between the train and the last-mile truck, which ideally would be a zero-emission vehicle.

In some of the larger out-of-town superstores, the train could even stop alongside the store and goods and trolleys could be wheeled in and out.

This Google Map shows Morrisons at Ipswich.

The store lies alongside the Great Eastern Main Line.

Surely, the ultimate would be if the goods were to be transported on the trains in driverless electric trolleys, which when the doors were opened, automatically came out of the trains and into the store.

Supermarket groups like to emphasise their green credentials.

Surely, doing daily deliveries to major stores by train, wouldn’t annoy anybody. |Except perhaps Donald Trump, but he’s an aberration on the upward march of scientifically-correct living.

Just-In-Time Deliveries

To take Toyota as an example, in the UK, cars are built near Derby, and the engines are built near Shotton in North Wales.

Reasons for the two separate sites are probably down to availability of the right workforce and Government subsidy.

I’m not sure, but I suspect currently in Toyota’s case, engines are moved across the country by truck, but if there was a HSPT, with a capacity of around a hundred and fifty standard pallets would manufacturing companies use them to move goods from one factory to another?

It should be said in Toyota’s case the rail lines at both Derby and Shotton are not electrified, but if the train could run on its own diesel power, it wouldn’t matter.

Refrigerated Deliveries

There probably wouldn’t be much demand now, but in the future bringing Scottish meat and seafood to London might make a refrigerated HSPT viable.

Deliveries To And From Remote Parts Of The UK

It is very difficult to get freight between certain parts of the UK and say Birmingham, London and the South-Eastern half of England.

Perishable products from Cornwall are now sent to London in the large space in the locomotives of the High Speed Trains. Plymouth, which is in Devon, to London takes nearly four hours and I suspect that a HSPT could do it in perhaps an hour longer.

But it would go between specialist terminals at both ends of the journey, so it would be a much easier service to use for both sender and receiver.

Another article in the same June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways is entitled Caithness Sleeper Plan Set Out.

This is said in the article.

Another possibility would be to convey freight on the sleeper trains with HiTrans suggesting the ability to carry four 40-foot and two 20-foot boxes on twin wagons could provide welcome products and parcels northwards and locally-produced food southwards.

A disadvantage of this idea would be that passengers would be required to vacate sleeping berths immediately on arrival at Edinburgh, so that containers could continue to a freight terminal.

The HSPT would go direct to a suitable terminal. In remote  places like Caithness, this would probably be the local station, which had been suitably modified, so that fork lift trucks could move pallets into and out of the train.

One-Off Deliveries

Provided a load can be put on a pallet, the train can move it, if there is a fork lift available at both ends of the route.

It would be wrong to speculate what sort of one-off deliveries are performed, as some will be truly unusual.

Disaster Relief

On the worldwide scale we don’t get serious natural disasters in the UK, but every year there are storms, floods, bridge collapses and other emergencies, where it is necessary to get supplies quickly to places that are difficult to reach by road, but easy by rail. If the supplies were to be put on pallets and loaded onto a HSPT, it might be easier to get them to where they are needed for unloading using a fork lift or even by hand.

International Deliveries

I am sure that Class 319 and Class 321 trains can be made compatible with Continental railway networks. In fact two Class 319 trains, were the first to pass through the Channel Tunnel.

Post-Brexit will we see high value cargoes transported by the trainload, as this would surely simplify the paperwork?

What value of Scotch whisky could you get in a four-car train?

Expect Amazon to be first in the queue for International Deliveries!

Imagine a corgo aircraft coming into the UK, at either Doncaster Sheffield or Manston Airports, with cargo containers or pallets for all over the UK, that were designed for quick loading onto an HSPT.

Conclusion

There is definitely a market for a HSPT.

If it does come about, it will be yet another tribute to the magnificent Mark 3 design!

 

 

 

 

May 27, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments