The Anonymous Widower

When Do Mark 3 Coaches Accept The Inevitable?

What Is A Mark 3 Coach?

This is a preamble to the main post, but if it is not included, you won’t understand a remarkable engineering story about how a nearly fifty-year-old British Rail design lies at the heart of the plans for an upgraded train service on one of the UK’s most important rail lines.

The Wikipedia entry for the British Rail Mark 3 Coach , starts with these two paragraphs.

The British Rail Mark 3 is a type of passenger carriage developed in response to growing competition from airlines and the car in the 1960s. A variant of the Mark 3 became the rolling stock for the High Speed Train (HST).

Originally conceived as locomotive-hauled coaching stock, the first coaches built were for the prototype HST in 1972. Production coaches entered service between 1975 and 1988, and multiple-unit designs based on the Mark 3 bodyshell continued to be built until the early 1990s. The Mark 3 and its derivatives are widely recognised as a safe and reliable design, and most of the surviving fleet is still in revenue service on the British railway network in 2016.

The Mark 3 coach is of an older age.

  • The structure was reputedly designed by traditional methods without computer.
  • Salford University Engineering Department did a finite-element structural analysis on the structure a few years ago and gave it a very good rating.
  • The coaches have a full monocoque construction with an all-welded mild steel stressed skin rather than aluminium.
  • Many engineers and passengers feel that it is one of the best-riding coaches in the world.
  • The coaches have a reputation for exceptional strength and crash-worthiness, which was proven in the Oxshott A244 Bridge Incident, where a 24 tonne cement mixer lorry, fell fifty metres directly onto a Mark 3-based Class 455 train, without any fatalities.

But in some ways though the trains most worthy characteristic, is that train refurbishment companies and their engineers can convert them to any passenger or traction specification, that an operator wants.

The Mark 3 may only be a humble railway coach, but it is one of the world’s great engineering designs.

First and MTR Take South Western

The front cover of the May 2017 Edition of Modern Railways has the usual variety of headlines to grab the atrtention of passing browsers in station newagents.

The main headline is First and MTR Take South Western with underneath it two sub-headlines of Plastic Pigs For Portsmouth and Brand New 707s Swept Out.

Further down, there  is another headline of New Stock Bonanza.

Bringing Back The Class 442 Trains

Between the various headlines, is a picture, not of one of the new trains, but of one of the plastic pigs. It should be said, that this is the nickname for the Class 442 trains, built by British Rail way back in the late 1980s.

The Class 442 trains were originally built to serve the routes to Weymouth and in some ways they are the ultimate Mark 3-based design. They have proper sliding external doors, that meet all the regulations. This is an extract from Description in the Wikipedia entry for the Class 442 train.

As was common on the British Rail Southern Region, many electrical components – including traction motors and electrical control gear – were salvaged from the Class 432 units they replaced. For this reason the older 4REP and 4TC units had to be withdrawn before their replacements were built.

The Class 442 was one of the first types to make extensive use of plastics in construction, and earned the nickname among staff and rail enthusiasts of “Pigs” or “Piggies”. When they were first introduced the units were plagued by minor technical failures, but they have subsequently become among the most reliable EMUs operating in the UK

With this attitude to saving money, how did anything good ever get built?

I’ve only ever ridden in a Class 442 train once and that was to Gatwick Airport a few years ago. Using the trains on the Gatwick Express was a mistake, as the trains were not friendly to airport passengers, as the luggage space was totally inadequate.

London To Portsmouth In Class 442 Trains

But now South Western Railway are bringing the Class 442 trains back into service between London and Portsmouth.

The May 2017 Edition of Modern Railways says this about the reintroduction of the trains, under a sub-heading of Plastic Pigs’ Revenge.

The Class 442 EMUs built by British Rail for the Bournemouth-Poole-Weymouth electrification in 1988, are to be upgraded, including replacement traction equipment.

The article also mentions that on a demonstration run in April 1988, a Class 442 train claimed a world record of 108 mph for a third-rail train.

Currently, services between London and Portsmouth take the following times.

  • London to Portsmouth – Fast – one hour thirty-three minutes with seven stops
  • London to Portsmouth – Slow – two hours nine minutes with fourteen stops
  • Portsmouth to London – Fast – one hour forty-two minutes with seven stops
  • Portsmouth to London – Slow – two hours eight minutes with fourteen stops

With those journey times, I shouldn’t think that it is the easiest route to schedule given the amount of traffic at the London end of the route.

According to Modern Railways, there is an aim to save five minutes on fast services and seven minutes on slower ones.

Could this actually make the scheduling problem easier?

A fast return journey currently takes three hours fifteen minutes plus, whatever it takes to turn the train at both ends of the route. I think that this is a variable amount and is adjusted according to time of day. So knocking ten minutes off the return journey might well enable the turn-round times to be more even and create a more passenger-friendly timetable.

So how will these time savings be achieved?

Upgrading The Class 442 Trains

As I said earlier, Modern Railways are saying that the traction equipment is being replaced.

Seeing that the current traction equipment for a Class 442 train,came from a Class 432 train, which were built in the mid-1960s, I suspect the current design may be reliable, but could be improved upon, with respect to power and electrical efficiency.

The very least we will see will be new traction motors and control systems, with the probable addition of regenerative braking, where the traction motors generate electricity to slow the train.

Note.

  1. The current Class 442 trains do not have regenerative braking, so a lot of energy is wasted.
  2. The Class 444 trains which work from London to Portsmouth have regenerative braking, so obviously the track can handle the reverse currents.

So if nothing else, a new traction package which included regenerative braking, would make a sensible saving in electricity.

I suspect, there are engineers in one of the companies that specialise in upgrading traction packages, working to create the ultimate traction package for the Class 442 train. It would deliver.

  • Fast acceleration and braking consistent with what is acceptable to passengers.
  • Regenerative braking.
  • Minimum energy usage.

Some might think a pantograph for 25 KVAC should be fitted, but I think the train is being modified to be a pure and simple; Pompey Rocket. The transformer to allow dual-voltage working would add weight and would rarely be needed.

A Train With An Engine In The Middle

The Class 442 train is unusual in that it only has one powered car and that is the piggie in the middle of each five-car train.

In A Train With The Engine In The Middle, I described the Stadler GTW, which is a three-car train, with one passenger car either side of a power module.

Wikipedia says this under Description for the Stadler GTW.

Although the traction is good for the powered bogies the concept has the same problem as other light railcars with the brakes on the non-powered axles having lower grip than traditional railcars. This has led to actual restrictions when leafs are on the rails as the wheel slide protection can not fully compensate the effect. The central power module has limits with heat dissipation as well which can lead into situations where the power output needs to be limited which is automatically done in this construction concept.

Perhaps because it is a heavier train, the Class 442 trains doesn’t have these problems!

I also have personal memory from about 1970.

At the time, I worked in simulation at ICI Plastics in Welwyn Garden City. I remember reading how British Rail Research at Derby had applied their analogue computer and dynamic modelling skills to the problems of why so many four-wheel freight wagons were derailing. They solved that problem and I have a feeling the work influenced the design of the running gear of the Mark 3 coach.

Could the unusual concept of the powered middle car of five have been influenced by all the research?

Incidentally, five-car Electrostars like Class 377 and Class 378 have unpowered middle cars, with most of the others powered.

Comparing power of a five-car 100 mph Class 442 train with a five-car 100 mph Class 377 train and they both have traction motors rated at a total of 1200 kW. The 442 weighs in at 199.54 long tons, as opposed to the 170.9 long tons of the Class 377 train, so it could appear that the modern train has faster acceleration.

The Class 442 Train And The High Speed Train Compared

By comparison, Wikipedia quotes the at rail power of a Class 43 locomotive as 1,320 kW.

Obviously, it was a deliberate design to put the motored car of the Class 442 train in the middle. But was it also, so that when working as a pair, you had two powerful power cars at 54 long tons separated by four lighter, but very stiff Mark 3 cars at between 35-39 long tons?

After all by the mid-1980s, British Rail had a lot of experience of running Mark 3 coaches between two powerful Class 43 locomotives, in the High Speed Train.

Surprisingly, the Class 43 locomotive is only 15 long tons heavier than the Class 442 motored car.

So could the Class 442 train be considered an electric HST, with a couple of extra cars at each end?

The dynamics could be similar and I suspect British Rail knew the dynamics of Mark 3 coaches and locomotives well.

After all, a few years later High Speed Trains on the East Coast were lengthened from 2+8 to 2+9, with it appears few problems.

The Ease Of A Power Upgrade

Upgrading the power on a Class 442 train could be easier than some.

  • All the power systems, except for the current collection, are in piggie numbered three in the middle.
  • Changes will be needed in the driver’s cabs, but I suspect that most changes in the rest of the train will be purely cosmetic and for the ease of passengers and crew.
  • The interior layout of the powered car has been chopped and changed many times, so it could be rebuilt to see the trains to their final retirement.
  • Engineers have plenty of space in which to work.
  • The upgrade would be more like updating a locomotive than an electric multiple unit.

I doubt it would be a very high cost upgrade, but the budget won’t need to be small, as an alternative fleet of eighteen 100 mph trains wouldn’t come cheap.

I suspect too, that in the rebuilt power car, no technology that helps the train meet the required performance, will be ruled out on grounds of cost.

Will The Upgrade Include A Battery?

I just wonder, whether onboard energy storage features in the engineers’ thinking?

This page on the Southern Electric Group website, shows a series of side views of the motored car. It would be interesting to see if a battery about the size of the 75 KwH unit in a Routemaster bus could be squeezed underneath.

Suppose the energy generated by the regenerative braking whilst stopping, were to be stored in such a battery.

This would mean.

  • Braking energy could be used to accelerate the train after the stop.
  • Less energy would need to be transferred from the train using the third-rail.
  • Electricity would be saved.
  • The train would have a short range on battery power.

In the Wikipedia entry for the Portsmouth Direct Line, there is a section called Topography Of The Line. This is said.

The central part of the route, from Guildford to Havant, runs through relatively thinly populated country. The line was designed on the “undulating principle”; that is, successive relatively steep gradients were accepted to reduce construction cost. In the days of steam operation this made the route difficult for enginemen.

Leaving the Southampton main line at Woking, the line diverges southwards falling to Worplesden and then climbing to Guildford, using the River Wey valley. After gentle gradients, the line then climbs from Godalming for eight miles (13 km) at 1:80/1:82 to a summit near Haslemere; it then falls at 1 in 100, climbing briefly at Liphook and then falling at 1 in 80 to Liss. A second climb of three miles (5 km) follows to a summit at Buriton Tunnel, then falling at 1 in 80 and then more gently for 8 miles (13 km) to Havant.

I’m sure that extensive modelling of the Portsmouth Direct Line has been done and it has been investigated whether a small amount of energy storage would be useful in assisting performance and saving electricity.

Will These Modifications Produce The Proposed Timings?

The upgraded Class 442 trains will probably be able to execute a stop at a station in a shorter time than the current Class 444 trains.

On the slow services, South Western Railway is aiming for a saving of seven minutes on a journey with fourteen stops, or a saving of just thirty seconds a stop.

I also suspect that services on the challenging Portsmouth Direct Line would be helped with a modern traction package and South Western Railway’s goal of a five minute saving is possible, especially as the seven stops might give three and a half minutes.

Conclusion

I suspect that someone will come up with a very innovative traction package.

The inevitable retirement could be a lot of years away yet!

 

 

April 30, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 3 Comments

Last ‘319s’ On Thameslink This Summer

The title of this post is the title of an article in the May 2017 Edition of Modern Railways.

This is the first paragraph of the article.

Govia Thameslink Railway plans to withdraw its last Class 319s by the end of June, allowing it to operate a full Class 700 service on Thameslink this summer.

According to Wikipedia on the 28th April 2017, Thameslink still have thirty-five examples (319/0 – 13 and 319/4 – 22) and there are twelve examples Off Lease (319/2 – 1,319/3- 6 and 319/4 – 5)

So it looks like there could be a maximum of forty-seven trains released, of the following types.

In Riding In A Clean Class 319/4 Train, I wrote about riding in a particularly nice Class 319/4 train. If any of the other twenty-six are in as good a condition, operators will want to take them over.

There’s certainly enough trains to keep the refurbishment line busy for four or five years.

There is also plenty of scope for speculation about the specification of the refurbished trains and where the trains will see service.

  • How many will end up as bi-mode Class 319 Flex trains?
  • How many will retain their third rail capability?
  • How many will retain their First Class seats?
  • How many will get wi-fi?
  • How many will end up in a reserve fleet to cover for train shortages? Think level crossing accidents!
  • Will any have a luxury interior, so they can be used as special event trains and shuttles? Think Edinburgh to St. Andrews for the Open or Manchester to Aintree for the Grand National!
  • Will any be bought for use in non-passenger roles? Think 100 mph parcel carriers bringing goods into and out of big city stations at three in the morning!
  • Will any be bought by Network Rail for engineering purposes? Think testing and checking overhead and third-rail electrification!

Uses will be demand-led and I suspect some will be very surprising.

Operators have never had a train that is both a 100 mph electric train and a 90 mph diesel train, which is available, affordable and proven.

I shall discuss a few of the ideas in detail.

Parcels Trains

Currently, Royal Mail uses the closely-related Class 325 trains to move parcels traffic around the country. These trains have the following specification.

  • They are four-car electric units.
  • They can run as four, eight and twelve car units.
  • They are 100 mph dual-voltage trains.
  • Each car can carry twelve tonnes.
  • They use the same running gear as the Class 319 trains.

If they have a problem it is that they can only run on electrified lines, so they seem to be confined to the West and East Coast Main Lines.

Royal Mail and their train operator DB Cargo UK, might be interested in some more trains. They might even have use for some Class 319 Flex trains for routes with no or partial electrification.

In A Station At Doncaster Sheffield Airport, I talked of Peel Group’s plans to develop the Airport.

I said this.

It should also be stated that Doncaster Sheffield Airport has air cargo ambitions.

Consider.

  • It has a massive runway, that was able to accept the Space Shuttle in an emergency.
  • The airport has lots of space for cargo terminals.
  • The largest cargo planes, that exist only in the minds of Airbus and Boeing engineers would be welcome.
  • The Great Northern and Great Eastern Joint Railway, which is a major freight route between the South East and the North passes the airport.
  • Plans exist to create a network of high speed package carrying trains. I’d use Doncaster Shjeffield Airport as a hub.
  • Amazon already fly freight to and from the Airport. Deliveries could leave the United States in the evening and be in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Manchester  for a morning delivery.

It looks like the Peel Group have a plan to create a transport interchange for both passengers and freight for a cost of millions, not billions. But it were to be worth spending billions, I’m certain that they can obtain it.

Could Class 319 trains be the trains delivering the parcels to main-line stations all over the country for onward distribution?

There must also be specialist and possibly perishable cargoes like fish and flowers, perhaps between Cornwall and London. Some of the cargoes now go in the large space in the locomotives of the InterCity 125s , but these trains are being phased out.

Could a Class 319 Flex train substitue with honour?

The Luxury Go-Anywhere Shuttle Train

Look at the venues for the Open Championship and they seem to be tucked away. But supposing there was an all Class 319 Flex train fitted with all First Class seating and a bar, it would make a very good alternative to get spectators to the venue in style.

Other venues within the trains range would include.

  • Aintree, Ascvot, Chelternham, Doncaster, Epsom, Goodwood, Haydock Park, Newbury, Newmarket, Sandown Park and York racecourses.
  • Glastonbury for the Festival
  • Henley for the Regatta.
  • Important football and rugby matches.

Travel First Class in any InterCity 125 and you realise the standard that can be applied to a Mark 3 coach.

Reserve Trains

Greater Anglia are often short of a train or two, with the cause often being a level crossing accident.

Their way round the problem is to hire in two Class 68 locomotives and some elderly coaches.

But surely, a better way, would be to have an appropriate number of Class 319 Flex trains available for hire with a driver!

They could deputise for a 100 mph electric train and an up to 90 mph diesel train.

Network Rail Use

Network Rail have a highly-instrumented InterCity 125 called the New Measurement Train, which is used to test the condition of the tracks all over the UK.

But it can only test those tracks where an InterCity 125 train is allowed.

If Network Rail ever need to create a smaller version of the train and especially one to test both overhead and third-rail electrification systems, a Class 319 train would be a candidate.

Conclusion

Porterbrook’s Sales and Marketing Department are going to have fun!

 

 

 

 

 

April 28, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

An Idea From India

This article from Global Rail News is entitled India’s Minister for Railways launches glass-roof scenic rail cars.

Why not?

Scotrail’s plans for shortened HST train sets to go between the major cities will hopefully carried out with style and a great deal of respect for the scenery.

For a start, will the seats be arranged like these in Chiltern’s Mark 3 coaches.

Note that the picture was taken in Standard Class.

There can’t be more stylish, comfortable and practical rides in a train of this Class anywhere in the world.

What is not shown is the cheery staff with the snacks and drinks trolley.

All of this too comes from a subsidiary of Deitsche Bahn and it is far superior to anything I’ve ridden in Germany.

I wonder if windows can be put in the roof of a Mark 3?

Probably! Engineers  certainly have ways of making Mark 3 coaches do anything they want

But there’s always the option of connecting cameras to the train’s wi-fi.

 

April 21, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

So Where Will Greater Anglia’s Old Trains Go?

The title of this post is the title of this article in the East Anglian Daily Times.

It is a good question to ask, as when all Greater Anglia‘s new trains have arrived in 2020 or so, there will be a lot of trains needing good homes.

The article comes to these conclusions.

I don’t disagree greatly, but I do feel that because of the continued fast growth of the UK rail network, that other outcomes could happen.

Mark 3 Coaches

Passengers like the Mark 3 coach and Chiltern Railways have shown that the coaches can be refurbished to a very high standard, that meets all current and future regulations.

I feel that at least some coaches will get the Chiltern treatment, as there are routes, where they could work economically, between a locomotive and a driving van trailer (DVT). The key to this could be that Greater Anglia will release sixteen DVTs in good condition.

Class 321 Trains

Greater Anglia has over a hundred of these four-car trains and thirty of these will have been upgraded under the Renatus project.

If the Class 319 Flex train is a success, could we see some of these trains given the same treatment as I talked about in Could There Be A Class 321 Flex Train?

If the Class 321 Flex train were to possess the same hill-climbing ability that is proposed for the Class 319 Flex train, then there could be a whole fleet of trains suitable to work the Valley Lines from Cardiff, without any further electrification.

It will come down to a political decision, as to whether to electrify the Valley Lines and use new rolling stock or appropriately refurbished cascaded Class 321 trains.

 

March 6, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 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 | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Can Mark 3 Coaches Come To The Rescue?

The Mark 3 coach is one of the mainstays of UK railways.

  • Chiltern Railways use thirty one coaches on Birmingham and Oxford services from Marylebone.
  • CrossCountry have thirty-eight coaches as part of InterCity 125s.
  • East Midlands Trains have over a hundred as part of InterCity 125s
  • Greater Anglia use one hundred and thirty coaches between Liverpool Street and Norwich.
  • Great Western Railway have over four-hundred and fifty coaches as past of InterCity 125s.
  • Virgin Trains East Coast have over a hundred coaches as part of InterCity 125s.

It should be said, that some are in better condition than others and very few meet the latest access regulations.

But even the table hides a few strength and problems.

Chiltern Trains

Chiltern Trains run their Mark 3 sets with a driving van trailer (DVT) and a Class 68 locomotive on some Birmingham and Oxford services.

  • Marylebone to Birmingham Moor Street is a two trains per hour (tph) service and the journey takes ten minutes under two hours.
  • Marylebone to Oxford is a two tph service and the journey takes a few minutes over an hour.

The Birmingham service needs eight trains for a 2 tph service.

The Oxford service would need six trains for a 2 tph service, but if the journey could be under the hour, there could be a reduction in the number of trains needed.

If Chiltern decided to run a 2 tph service between Oxford and Birmingham, as I suggested in Where Next For Chiltern?, this would need another four trains.

This leads me to say.

  • As Chiltern only have six sets of Mark 3 coaches, they will have to use Class 168 trains for some of the services.
  • Probably by clever timetabling, they would  need at least a dozen trains to run a quality two tph service on both routes.
  • They would probably like all their services to Birmingham and Oxford to share a common train type, for operational and marketing reasons.

So where do Chiltern find another probably ten trains?

  • The Class 68 locomotives would have to be hired.
  • There are up to a dozen DVTs in storage at Long Marston according to Wikipedia, so creating some for the trains, might be a reasonably predictable refurbishment.

But where do they find the sixty coaches needed?

This article from Rail Magazine in June 2012, is entitled Making the Mk 3s even better, describes Chiltern’s methods.

This is an extract.

Economics dictate that it is cheaper to rebuild the Mk 3s than to order brand new DMUs. Indeed, because of track access and fuel costs, if a LHCS formation is more than five coaches (as they are in Chiltern’s case), then the costs favour locomotive-hauled trains. 

The freedom to be able to do this is also a factor for Chiltern. The franchise is owned by Deutsche Bahn, which also owns the coaches. This means that vehicles can be tailored to exactly what the operator wants, rather than thinking about the re-sale value. No expensive engineering will be needed, again because this is what Chiltern wants.

Note the trains are in the same ownership as Chiltern; Deutsche Bahn.

As a passenger, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

The product looks, feels and tastes good!

Greater Anglia

Greater Anglia could be a good source of quality Mark 3 coaches.

  • Greater Anglia have 130 of them, which are leased from Porterbrook.
  • The trainsare due to be replaced by new Flirt electric multiple units during 2019/2020.
  • The trains have recently been refurbished and have been fitted with wi-fi and retention toilets.

The problem is that they are still slam-door stock and don’t meet the latest access regulations.

But this is not a great problem, as Chiltern have form in updating Mark 3 coaches to meet the latest standards.

Greater Anglia are also replacing fifteen sets of carriages with just 10 electric multiple units, which will provide Norwich in ninety minutes at 3 tph, as opposed to the current service of Norwich in two hours at just 2 tph.

Incidentally, just eight trains are needed to provide the current service, so Greater Anglia could have a few spares.

So it looks to me, that immediately each Flirt is in service, there will be a Mark 3 set sitting in Crown Point ready to go on its next task.

But as just ten Flirts will be replacing fifteen Mark 3 sets, it looks to me, Chiltern might be able to raid Greater Anglia’s stock of spare trains earlier than has so far been thought.

Suppose three trains could be released, this would release twenty-four refurbished coaches and three DVTs.

If another DVT could be sources from Long Marston, then there would be another four rakes of coaches for refurbishment to Chiltern’s standards.

One of the great advantages of modifying the Greater Anglia coaches, is that they have all been refurbished to a high standard, so I suspect that all the mechanicals and structure of the coaches are in virtually in as-new condition.

This page on the Greater Anglia web site, gives full details of the refurbishment.

This is said.

The significant refresh will see all of the train operator’s MkIII fleet enhanced, with improvements throughout for both First Class and Standard carriages including, plug points; new LED lighting; new carpets; new tables; new seat covers; upgraded environmentally-friendly controlled emission toilets with new floors and new taps; re-painting of the carriage interior saloon and vestibule panels, walls and ceilings.

It also appears that Greater Anglia set up a special work-shop in Crown Point TMD to do the update.

Could Greater Anglia have stolen a copy of Chiltern’s rule-book? More likely, they used the same consultant.

After a recent trip in one of these coaches with a friend, I wrote The Power Of Three! To say she was impressed, could be an understatement!

Chiltern just need to fit the new doors and their own interiors.

The Various InterCity 125 Coaches.

There are several ideas as to what to do with the various High Speed Trains formed from two Class 43 locomotives and an appropriate number of Mark 3 coaches.

This according to Wikipedia is Abellio’s Scotrail’s plan.

Abellio ScotRail will also introduce 9 four-car (2+4) and 17 five-car (2+5) refurbished High Speed Trains by December 2018 on longer-distance services between Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness. Scotrail will receive the first locomotives and carriages late 2017, with the refurbishment program taking place at Brush Loughborough (power cars) and Wabtec Doncaster (carriages) between late 2017 and May 2019.

There have been rumours that Great Western Railway will do something similar with a few more trains.

As the InterCity 125s will each be shortened by a few coaches this will release more coaches for use by other operators.

Lots Of Mark 3 Rakes Of Coaches

There are probably enough Mark 3 coaches in excellent condition and DVTs, that can be refurbished, to create perhaps another twenty-five rakes of between five-car and eight-car Mark 3 coaches, tailored to an individual customer’s need.

All of the design work has been done and proven by Chiltern or their contractors.

Obviously, you wouldn’t fit the doors and do the final parts of the refurbishment, until you actually had a customer, but it looks to me, that Porterbrook, who own the Greater Anglia Mark 3 coaches, seem to be doing a bit of speculation. Obviously, they have a plan in there to make money, as ROSCOs don’t do charity!

There is also this article from Rail Magazine, which is entitled Refurbished Mk 3s for Tornado.

It describes how, a rake of Greater Anglia’s Mark 3 coaches, will be acquired to be used with the new-build steam locomotive 60163 Tornado. One would even be fitted with a water tank to extend the range of the engine. Surely, a Mark 3 can handle that sort of weight.

Porterbrook have done well in the last few months out of a speculative order for Class 387 trains, that helped tide some train companies through rolling-stock shortages.

So have they seen a market niche to create an affordable train for longer routes based on Mark 3 coaches hauled by a Class 68 locomotive or perhaps a Class 88 electro-diesel locomotive.

Consider.

  • It would meet all the access and environmental regulations.
  • It would probably be quieter than a shortened InterCity 125.
  • According to the Rail Magazine article, track access charges are affordable.
  • As Chiltern and Greater Anglia are showing, it would deliver a superb customer experience.
  • Chiltern like the package and could be a customer or do something similar themselves.
  • It would be ideal for some of CrossCountry’s long routes like Aberdeen to Plymouth.
  • It would be ideal for an open-access operator, developing a new route.
  • Virgin West Coast might like it for Euston to Holyhead.
  • With a faster version of the Class 88 locomotive, it might have a maximum speed in excess of 100 mph.

It would do anything a Class 800 train can do, at probably a more affordable purchase price, lower track access charges and  an earlier delivery date.

Conclusion

Their is something behind Porterbrook’s decision to refurbish Greater Anglia’s Mark 3 coaches, when  they knew there was a good chance they would be replaced by new trains, as the clapped Class 90 locomotives certainly couldn’t do London to Norwich in ninety minutes, as mandated in the new East Anglian franchise.

I suppose that Abellio could have been keen to upgrade the coaches, as the interiors were very much on the tatty side and the upgraded coaches would hold the fort until the Flirts arrived, without too much grief.

On the other hand, if the Great Western Electrification gets later and Abellio ScotRail lose their source of shortened InterCity 125s, locomotive-hauled Mark 3s to a high standard would be a very acceptable and affordable alternative.

I must also ask this question.

Could Greater Anglia’s Mark 3 coaches have been refurbished, so that to fulfil Scotrail’s requirements, all that needs to be done is the following?

  • Fit doors that are compliant with the access regulations.
  • Shuffle the coaches to the length and First and Standard Class capacities required.
  • Give the rake of coaches a Scotrail livery.
  • Couple a Class 68 or Class 88 locomotive on one requisite end.

I suspect the negotiation would be quite convivial, as both Greater Anglia and Scotrail are owned by Abellio.

The only problem would be that Scotrail need 9 four-car and 17 five-car trains and there may not be enough DVTs. However, some sets could be to the original plan of shortened InterCity 125s.

Scotrail certainly have a Plan B, if the Great Western Electrification gets even more pear-shaped.

Appendix – Posted on December 24th, 2016

In the January 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, under a heading of Pennine Pretendolino, there is a picture of a Class 68 locomotive hauling, the jokily named spare rake of Mark 3 coaches to Laira depot for attention, so that it can be used for driver training purposes by TransPennine Express, prior to the arrival pg the new Mark 5A coaches from CAF.

The Pretendolino is described under rolling stock on the Virgin Trains entry in Wikipedia. This is said.

Following the loss of a Class 390 Pendolino in the Grayrigg derailment, a Mark 3 set with a Driving Van Trailer was leased with a Class 90 hired from English Welsh & Scottish as required. In 2008 Virgin looked at leasing two Class 180[49] but decided to retain the Mark 3 set. Nicknamed the Pretendolino, this received re-upholstered seating, power points, wi-fi and a full external re-paint at Wabtec, Doncaster in 2009.[50] Virgin used this set with a Class 90 locomotive hired from Freightliner on a Euston to Crewe (via Birmingham) service on Fridays only until December 2012. From 9 December 2013 it was utilised to operate a London Euston -Birmingham New Street train on Thursdays and Fridays only, until its withdrawal in October 2014. The Mk.III set was also occasionally hired out as a private charter train. It was used in the filming of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and can be seen at King’s Cross station at the end of the film. It is currently in use as a ‘hot spare’ with Abellio Greater Anglia

Like most of its siblings, it is showing a very strong survival instinct and keeping well away from the scrapyard.

Over the last year or so, I’ve ridden to and from Ipswich in the train several times, as it has been filling in whilst, the operator was updating their own Msrk 3 coaches.

 

 

 

December 13, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 2 Comments

Where Next For Chiltern?

Chiltern Railways have now got their Marylebone to Oxford service up and running.

Wikipedia gives a list of their future plans. Included are the following.

  • Platform lengthening.
  • Restoration of former tracks.
  • Remodelling Banbury, which has already been done.
  • Building of the West Hampstead Interchange.
  • Development of services between Aylesbury and Milton Keynes.
  • Creation of a Chiltern Metro.
  • Reopening various branch lies.

In addition there has been talk of electrification and opening a route along the New North Line to Old Oak Common.

Building On Oxford

As of yesterday, as I wrote in Oxford To Marylebone Opens For Business, they now have a two-platform terminus at Oxford station.

I can’t believe they have made this investment there, without other plans to use it. Wikipedia says this about the platforms at Oxford station.

The scheme also includes two new platforms at Oxford station, to be built on the site of the disused parcels depot. The new platforms will initially be five carriages in length, but provision will be made for them to be extended southwards to eight carriages.

A two platform terminus like this, will have a large capacity, when fully developed.

  • Two of Chiltern’s Class 68 locomotive hauled sets of Mark 3 coaches could be accommodated at the same time.
  • Two shorter trains could be handled in one platform at the same time.
  • Rebuilding plans for Oxford station would improve passenger handling.
  • The two-platform underround terminus at Moorgate handles 12 tph.

It could probable handle the proposed two trains per hour (tph) for the East West Rail Link with ease.

I can’t believe that these two platforms, won’t become a vibrant mini-station within Oxford station.

But where will trains and passengers go?

Expansion At Birmingham Moor Street

Birmingham Moor Street station is one of those stations, that spent decades in the wildeness and has now become an important alternative station.

Wikipedia says this about Proposed Future Developments concerning expansion of the station.

The currently disused third bay platform would be reopened, and an additional new fourth bay platform would be opened to accommodate the new services.

This is also said about HS2.

The High Speed 2 terminus in Birmingham is planned to be built on an adjacent site and will likely be linked to Moor Street, though have a separate name (either Fazeley Street or Curzon Street). The station and high-speed line is proposed to be completed by the mid-2020s.

So it looks as if Moor Street will become a more important Birmingham station for commuters and a gateway to high speed vservices from the city.

Services Between Oxford And Birmingham

Currently around two tph run between Oxford and Birmingham.

  • Typically, they call at places like Banbury, Leamington Spa, Coventry and Birmingham International.
  • Services are run by Cross-Country.
  • Services take between sixty and seventy minutes.
  • Services continue to places like Bournemouth, Manchester Piccadilly and Newcastle.

I’ve travelled on the route several times.

  • It tends to be overcrowded.
  • Service quality is not of the quality, you get with Chiltern, London Midland or TransPennine Express.

I think there could be a niche for an extra service between Oxford and Birmingham,, just as Chiltern hope and probably know, there’s room for one between London and Oxford.

  • Services would go between the bay platforms at Oxford and Birmingham Moor Street.
  • The Banbury remodelling must have helped the timetabling of the service.
  • A Chiltern quality service would be provided.
  • Two tph would leave at the same minutes past the half-hour.
  • Services could call at Banbury, Leamington Spa, Warwick, Warwick Parkway and Solihull, or whatever was appropriate.
  • Journey time could be sixty minutes or just under.
  • 2 tph on an hourly service would need four trains to run a service all day.
  • The Oxford Birmingham route would get four tph.

The only loser would be Cross-Country, who might lose passengers to the new service.

But then like Chiltern, they are ultimately owned by Deutche Bahn.

But, you can’t run a service without trains.

From 2019, Greater Anglia will start to receive new twelve-car Flirts for Liverpool Street to Norwich services. Currently, to run this service Greater Anglia uses 15 sets of eight Mark 3 carriages, with Class 90 locomotives and driving van trailers. In the last couple of years, all have been superbly refurbished with the addition of wi-fi and retention toilets. All the trains need is to fit sliding doors, as Chiltern have done for their Mark 3 coaches and replace the Class 90 with a Class 68 locomotive.

This would enable, Chiltern to offer a Mark 3 -only service between Marylebone and Birmingham and Oxford and the release of other trains for the Oxford to Birmingham service.

As every operator is short of trains and delivery timescales slip, it might be worth looking at the availability of suitable trains.

  • According to Wikipedia, as many as twelve driving van trailers could be in store at Long Marston. How many could be brought back into service?
  • Greater Anglia are replacing fifteen sets of Mark 3 carriages and a DVT, with ten electric Flirts, that will increase the frequency from 2 tph to 3 tph. Could this mean that one or two sets could be released before the Flirts enter service?
  • Hopefully, InterCity 125s will start to be available, as they are replaced with Class 800 trains from Summer 2017.

There are also other possibilities if events go to plan.

This is certainly a development to file under Watch This Space.

 

 

 

December 12, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Power Of Three!

I went to Ipswich for the football yesterday with a friend.

We travelled both ways in one of Greater Anglia’s refurbished rakes of Mark 3 coaches.

My friend doesn’t travel by long distance train that often and remarked both ways, that the ride was exceptionally smooth!

The design of Terry Miller and his team has worn well in the forty years they have been in service.

We might think of railway coaches as rather mundane everyday objects, but this design will outlive us all!

 

November 20, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | 2 Comments

Are Train Coaches Making A Comeback In The UK?

There were two stories yesterday, where new coaches to be built by Spanish company CAF.

Both sets of coaches probably use the same basic bodyshell, running gear and electrical and heating services, so once CAF designed the sleeper trains, they probably have developed a vehicle that could be used for any profitable purpose.

At present the Caledonian Sleeper uses two types of coach; a sleeping car and a lounge/seated sleeper car and these are being replaced with an identical number of coaches.

But little has been said about the design and make-up of the new coaches.

I suspect, that we will see lounge cars with large windows, so that the Scottish countryside can be enjoyed in style, if the weather permits.

The new coaches will be compared to British Rail’s legendary Mark 3 coach.

  • I’m also sure that CAF have set out to design a coach, that rides better.
  • The new coach must also be capable of running at 200 kph., as Mark 3s do every day in large numbers.
  • Will the coaches pass the cement lorry test, as a Mark 3-derived multiple unit did at Oxshott?

The 1960s design of the Mark 3 has set a very high bar.

Even less has been said about the five car rakes of coaches for TransPennine Express.

But in common with the other rakes of coaches in mainline service in the UK on Chiltern and the East Coast Main Line, and in East Anglia, they would need some means of driving the train from the other end, which is currently done with a driving van trailer.

A DVT is very much a solution of the 1970s, although it does have advantages in that the empty space can be used for bicycles, surfboards and other large luggage. Hence, the van in the name.

If you look at CAF’s Civity train, it is very much a stylish modular design and I’m sure CAF, have the expertise to build a stylish driving cab into some of the new coaches they are building.

I therefore think we will be seeing these five-car rakes of coaches for TransPennine Express, with a driving cab at one end.

One of the big advantages of this approach is that trains can be pulled and pushed by any suitable and available locomotive.

Operators wouldn’t be tied to one particular power unit, so as more electrification is installed, they could change to something more suitable.

You also have the possibility of designing the coach with the driving cab as perhaps a buffet/observation car or using it for First Class, so that the other coaches are very much a standard interior.

The approach also has the advantage that if you need a longer train, you just couple another coach into the rake.

I’m sure that CAF have designed a rake of coaches that has impressed TransPennine Express, otherwise they wouldn’t have ordered the coaches.

Some people might think that going back to coaches is a retrograde step.

Consider.

  • Chiltern run an excellent service with coaches.
  • Deutsche Bahn still uses lots of rakes of coaches.
  • Rakes of coaches are more flexible than fixed-length multiple units.
  • The most appropriate locomotive can be used.
  • Some passengers might think, that coaches give a better ride than multiple units.

But I suspect the biggest factor in the revival of coaches, is that a rake of stylish new coaches and a Class 68 locomotive are more affordable than a new Class 800 train. They are also available earlier.

Imagine going across the Pennines from Liverpool to York in the buffet/restaurant/observation/driving car of one of these new trains, enjoying a  Great Western Pullman Dining experience, as the countryside goes by.

If it is done, it would set a high standard for other train operators.

May 24, 2016 Posted by | Food, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

More Electric Multiple Unit Refurbishment

I am not a great fan of the Class 321 electric multiple units, that I seem to use, when I travel all over Essex and Suffolk.

On my regular trips to Ipswich, I much prefer to take the trains formed of a rake of Mark 3 coaches hauled by a Class 90 electric locomotive.

However like many of the UKs electric multiple units, the Class 321 are based on the smooth-riding Mark 3 coach.

As in recent years, a some of these like the Class 319 and 455 have been refurbished, it is no surprise that Eversholt Leasing has decided to update its fleet of thirty Class 321 trains, to make them more attractive to train operating companies.

This article in the Railway Gazette describes the project to upgrade these trains, into a new variant called the Class 321 Renatus.

It would appear to me, that these 100 mph trains will find gainful employment all over the UK Rail network, as more lines are electrified.

June 4, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment