The Anonymous Widower

First Steps To Faster Trains Is Delivered

This is the title of an article in the Hastings and St. Leonards Observer, that has been signed by Amber Rudd.

About Amber Rudd

Amber Rudd is the Home Secretary and in this year’s General Election, she retained the Hastings and Rye constituency with a majority of just 346 votes.

As I doubt she wants to commit political suicide, I therefor consider that what is said in the article is very close to what is intended to happen about the delivery of faster trains between London and Hastings.

London To Hastings In 66 Minutes

This is the first two paragraphs of her article.

Last week I invited Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to visit Ashford International to hear an update on my campaign to secure a high speed rail link between our communities and London St Pancras.

Specifically, I want to see journey times, which are currently around 100 minutes between Hastings and London, reduced to 66 minutes.

The sixty-six minutes is mentioned again later in the article.

Would a politician be so definite about her aims, unless she knew that it was deliverable?

Or is it lucky to say sixty-six in Hastings?

So how feasible is London to Hastings in 66 minutes?


  • Southeastern’s Highspeed services between St. Pancras and Ashford, generally take between 37-38 minutes for the journey, with some trains a few minutes faster.
  • The Marshlink Line between Ashford and Hastings is about 26¼ miles in length
  • The operating speed is quoted in Wikipedia as 60 mph.
  • There are some serious level crossings.

So could a train go from Ashford to Hastings in twenty-eight minutes to meet Amber Rudd’s quoted target of 66 minutes?

26¼ miles in 28 minutes works out a an average speed of 56.25 mph.

I would give that time a 9/10 for feasibility.

The problem would be the level crossings on the line, so if Network Rail were to remove these and improve the track a bit, I feel that this could even score highly for reliability.

Currently, there doesn’t appear to be many trains passing through and even if the service was doubled to two trains per hour in both directions, I don’t think they would trouble the timetable compiler.

Track Changes At Ashford

Amber Rudd’s article then says this about track changes at Ashford.

This was a very encouraging meeting. I am pleased to announce that the commitment has been made to supporting the development of a proposed track layout at Ashford International which would allow trains from Hastings, Rye, Bexhill and Eastbourne to travel direct to London St Pancras

Work will now begin towards the necessary track connections to join-up the Marshlink and the High Speed 1 line to London.

This change would help make possible the direct service to St Pancras with a journey time of 81 minutes from Hastings.

That seems to be a plan. But where does the 81 minutes come from?

The current Class 171 trains take around 42 minutes between Hastings and Ashford, so 38+42 would say that 81 minutes is a reasonable claim.

This document on the Network Rail web site, is the Technical Appendix of the South East Route: Kent Area Route Study.

This map was extracted from the document.

This shows the changes needed to connect HS1 to the Marshlink Line.

Diesel-Electric Or Battery-Electric Trains?

Amber Rudd’s article says this about the trains.

Accompanying the track changes at Ashford, hybrid rolling stock – trains running on diesel-electric or battery-electric power – would make these quick journey times a reality.

This fits in with what is said in the Technical Appendix to the  Kent Area Route Study.

The diesel electric train mentioned in the Technical Appendix is a Class 802 train. Production and delivery of these is underway for Great Western Railway, so we’re not talking about an untried class of train.

But there may be problems running trains carrying diesel fuel in the HS1 tunnels.

The battery-electric train mentioned in the Technical Appendix is the IPEMU based on a Class 379 train.

This train is not in production yet and the picture shows the test train, that ran in Essex nearly two years ago.

The Technical Appendix says this about the IPEMU.

In 2015, industry partners worked together to investigate
battery-electric traction and this culminated with a
practical demonstration of the Independently Powered
Electric Multiple Unit IPEMU concept on the Harwich
Branch line in Anglia Route. At the industry launch event,
the train manufacturers explained that battery
technology is being developed to enable trains to run
further, at line speeds, on battery power, indeed, some
tram lines use this technology in the city centres and many
London buses are completely electric powered.

The IPEMU project looked at the feasibility of battery power
on the Marshlink service and found that battery was
sufficient for the train to run from Brighton to Ashford
International and back but there was insufficient charge to
return to Ashford International on a second round trip. A
solution to this could be that the unit arrives from Ashford
International at Brighton and forms a service to Seaford and
back before returning to Ashford International with a
charged battery.

The IPEMU demonstration train was a Class 379, a similar
type to the Class 377 units currently operated by Southern, it
was found that the best use of the battery power was to
restrict the acceleration rate to that of a modern diesel
multiple unit, such as a Class 171 (the current unit type
operating the line) when in battery mode and normal
acceleration on electrified lines.

Note the following from Network Rail’s text.

  • Brighton to Ashford is about 60-70 miles.
  • Acceleration should be limited.
  • The Class 377 train would not be suitable for HS1, as it is only a 100 mph train.

It is my opinion, that a battery-electric train with the following characteristics could be designed.

  • Five to eight cars.
  • 140 mph on HS1 using 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • 100 mph on the East Coastway Line between Brighton and Hastings using 750 VDC third-rail electrification.
  • Class 171 train performance using batteries on the Marshlink Line.
  • A battery range of sixty miles to allow a fully charged train to go from Ashford to Hastings and back.

Effectively, it’s a dual-voltage high speed train, that can also run on battery power.

How Would A Battery Train Operate?

A train working from St. Pancras to Hastings would go through the following operations.

  • Run from St. Pancras to Ashford along HS1, as the current Class 395 trains do using the 25KVAC overhead power.
  • Stop in Platform 2 at Ashford station and switch to battery power.
  • Run to Hastings on battery power.
  • Run to Aahford on battery power.
  • Stop in Platform 2 at Ashford station and switch to 25 KVAC overhead power.
  • Run from Ashford to St. Pancras along HS1 using the 25 KVAC overhead power

The battery would be charged on HS1 and using the third-rail electrification at Hastings.

How Big Would The Battery Need To Be?

The test IPEMU had a battery capacity of 500 kWh and based on what is said in the Technical Appendix was capable of perhaps 150 miles on battery power.

This works out as a consumption of under one kWh per car per mile.

So a six-car train would need perhaps 200 kWh to do a single trip on the 26¼ mile Marshlink Line. Providing of course it was fully charged before starting the journey.

Could Hitachi Modify a Class 395 Train To Have A Battery Option?

Hitachi have been developing battery trains for several years.

I believe that if Bombardier can create and test a battery-electric version of a Class 379 train, in under a year, then Hitachi could do the same with any of their A train family, which includes Class 800/801/802/395 trains.

This page on the Hitachi web site is entitled AT300 – INTERCITY HIGH SPEED.

The page has a picture of a Class 395 train and it has this caption.

The Class 395 is the first High Speed commuter train in the UK and part of Hitachi’s family of AT300 units. Its introduction to HS1 in 2009 continues to be a success story and it has set new standards for performance in High Speed trains in the UK.

Underneath the picture, it gives a Technical Outline for the trains, where this is said.

Power Supply: (25kVAC / 750 Vdc / Battery)

This may only be for train hotel power, but certainly the trains can use batteries.

Conclusion On The Type Of Train

I have no reason to believe that St. Pancras to Hastings copuldn’t be run by either type of train.

Although there is the problem of whether trains carrying diesel can go throyugh the HS1 tunnels.

The new operator for the Southeastern Franchise will chose the deal they liked.

Destination Stations

The Technical Appendix to the Kent Area Route Study proposes three possible destination stations.


Hastings station has some advantages.

  • It may be easier for operational reasons.
  • Using Platform 1 would allow cross-platform interchange with trains going West.
  • Only minimal signalling and track changes are needed.
  • A 25-30 minute dwell time at the station is good for recovery after a late arrival.

The big disadvantage is that Bexhill will not be served.


Stakeholders would like the service to go to Bexhill station.

Train operation doesn’t appear to be as simple as at Hastings.


Eastbourne station also offers advantages.

  • There could be a 20-25 minute dwell time at Eastbourne, which would help in service recovery.
  • Sic-car trains would offer signification extra capacity between Hastings and Eastbourne, where it is needed.
  • The line between Bexhill and Eastbourne was resignalled in 2015.
  • Eastbourne to St. Pancras would be a good alternative route in times of perturbation.
  • With extra work at Hampden Park station, it could provide a faster route to Brighton and Gatwick Airport.

The only disadvantage is that an extra train would be needed to run the service.

Conclusion On The Destination

All three stations could be a suitable destination.

I feel that if the choice of trains favours battery-electric, that Eastbourne might have a useful advantage in recharging the batteries.

Track Improvements

The Technical Appendix to the Kent Area Route Study proposes various track improvements in various places from Ashford to Brighton.

It looks like Network Rail are preparing the infrastructure for faster services all along the South Coast.


Amber Rudd has put her name to a well-worked article.






November 10, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts On Highspeed to Hastings

Since I wrote Kent On The Cusp Of Change – Highspeed To Hastings, a couple of months ago, several things have happened.

And Now There Are Three!

Trenitalia has pulled out of bidding for the new Southeastern franchise as reported in this article in the International Rail Journal.

This leaves just three bidders.

  • A joint venture of Abellio, East Japan Railway Company and Mitsui
  • Govia
  • Stagecoach

The same joint venture were recently awarded the West Midlands franchise.

The new franchise will be awarded in August 2018, with services starting in December 2018.

Electrification Has Been Abandoned

Major electrification schemes have been abandoned, so I suspect it will be even more unlikely that Ashford to Hastings will be electrified.

The Aventras Are Coming

Class 345 trains have started to appear on Crossrail and it is my opinion that they are a fine train.

In An Exciting New Aventra, I laid out the philosophy of the new trains and in How Long Will It Take Bombardier To Fulfil Their Aventra Orders?, I discussed how Bombardier will build the trains, at a rate of twenty-five carriages a month.

The rate comes from this article in The Guardian, which is entitled Full speed ahead for train builders as minister pulls plug on electrification, where I found this useful nugget of information, from the General Manager of Bombardier’s Derby plant.

Building trains in an “ergonomically correct” fashion, he says, means completing and testing the carriage’s constituent parts, then assembling them, rather than wiring them up afterwards – and also takes the risk away from a production line which boasts a rate of 25 carriages per week.

It sounds like Bombardier’s engineers have been drinking and swapping ideas, with Toyota’s production engineers a few miles down the road at Burnaston.

The New South Eastern Franchise

So do we have any clues as to what the new South Eastern franchise will be doing?

South Western Railway

South Western Railway‘s routes have a similar pattern to those of the South Eastern franchise, with an intense suburban network and longer distance services.

You could also argue that Greater Anglia isn’t much different.

Both these other franchises have are replacing their suburban trains with new 100 mph trains with all the trimming like wi-fi and toilets.

Both have chosen a mix of five and ten-car Aventras.

This would appear to give the following advantages.

  • The 100 mph trains with excellent acceleration and smooth regenerative braking help to make services faster and more frequent.
  • A near identical fleet will help maintenance and crew training.
  • It is easier to get the train-platform interface better, if only one class of train calls at a station.
  • Platform compatibility with Crossrail and Crossrail 2.

I suspect that the new South Eastern franchise will think on similar lines.

The Networkers Must Be Going

Southeastern currently has a total of 674 Networker carriages, most of which will surely be moved on by the new franchise holder.

I believe that these trains with their 75 mph speed and average performance, is not high enough for efficient timetabling of services and that consequently the new franchise holder will probably replace these trains with 100 mph units.

One choice would be to use a mix of new five and ten-car Aventras as chosen by Greater Anglia and South Western Railway. Replacing Networker carriages with the same number of Aventra carriages would take around six months of production at Bombardier.

The Aventras must be high on the list of new trains, as some of the new trains, may have to use the same platforms as Crossrail, if the line is extended from Abbey Wood station.

The Extra High Speed Trains

To serve Hastings and increase the number of Highspeed services, the new franchise holder, will have to obtain some more trains that can use High Speed 1.

Some of these trains will need the ability to travel on the Marshlink Line between Ashford and Hastings.


  • It probably wouldn’t be a good idea to have two different types of trains working to Ashford on High Speed 1.
  • Class 800 trains, which are closely related to the Class 395 trains have onboard diesel power and might have energy storage to handle regenerative braking.
  • Class 395 trains are getting towards ten years old and are approaching the need for a refresh.
  • Hitachi have built trains with onboard energy storage in Japan.
  • Diesel fuel might not be allowed in the tunnels of High Speed 1.
  • Hitachi would probably be very disappointed to not get this order.

More Class 395 trains fitted with either onboard energy storage must be the favourite.


Kent will get Aventras to improve suburban services and more Class 395 trains with batteries for Highspeed services.


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

Trains Along The South Coast

I had lunch today with an old friend who lives near Bosham station in West Sussex.

They indicated that the train service along the South Coast to Brighton wasn’t the best.

So I thought, I’d have a bit of an explore on Wikipedia.

The route between Ashford International and Weymouth stations can be divided into four sections.

Weymouth To Southampton – The South Western Main Line

The South Western Main Line runs between Weymouth and Southampton Central stations.

  • There are twenty stations.
  • The operating speed is 100 mph.
  • The line is fully electrified.
  • The line is double-track, except for between Dorchester South and Moreton stations.
  • There would only appear to be one level crossing at Brockenhurst station.

it is a high quality electrified line, where a well-driven train can keep up a good time.

The fastest trains take an hour and twenty minutes between Weymouth and Southampton with nine stops.

Southampton To Brighton – The West Coastway Line

The West Coastway Line runs between Southampton Central and Brighton stations.

Following the line on Google Maps, the line could probably have an increased speed limit, but the problem is obvious in the number of level crossings.

Timings on the line are as follows.

  • Southampton Central to Brighton takes one hour forty-five minutes.
  • Portsmouth to Brighton takes one hour twenty minutes.
  • Portsmouth to Southampton takes forty minutes.

These times are for faster journeys without changes.

Brighton To Hastings – The East Coastway Line

The East Coastway Line runs between Brighton and Hastings stations

Fastest journeys between Brighton and Hastings take an hour.

Hastings To Ashford International – The Marshlink Line

The Marshlink Line runs between Hastings and Ashford International stations.

  • There are nine stations.
  • The operating speed is 60 mph.
  • The line is double-track with sections of single-track.
  • The line is not electrified.
  • There are several level crossings.

Fastest journeys between Ashford Internsational and Hastings take forty minutes.

The May 2017 Edition of Modern Railways has an article entitled Kent Capacity Constraints Highlighted.

One sub-section is entitled High Speed To Hastings and it lists options as to how high-speed services could be run to Hastings via Ashford International station and the Marshlink Line.

  1. Electrify Ashford To Hastings At 25 KVAC
  2. Electrify Ashford To Hastings At 750 VDC
  3. Use Class 802 Electro-Diesel Trains
  4. Use Class 395 Or Class 801 Trains With Batteries

I examined the options in full detail in Options For High Speed To Hastings.

Class 313 Trains

When I travel to the area I inevitably find that I’m travelling in a Class 313 train.

  • The trains entered service in 1976.
  • The trains are the oldest electric multiple units in service on the British mainland.
  • The trains are only three cars.
  • The trains have no toilets.
  • The trains have a maximum speed of 75 mph.

Their biggest problem, is that because the trains have such a poor performance, all routes on which they are likely to run have to be geared to a train running at 75 mph, that is not the quickest at executing a stop at a station.

It should be remembered that the time a train takes to stop at a station, unload and load passengers and then restart and accelerate to linespeed, is a major factor in determining the schedule on a route with a lot of stations.

Train manufacturers and operators have been doing a lot of work to reduce this time and a modern train could be almost a minute or even more quicker than a Class 313 train, at each stop.

Wikipedia says this about the introduction of the Class 313 trains, which replaced more modern and faster Class 377 trains.

The 313s commenced operations with Southern on 23 May 2010, providing a two-trains-per-hour service between Brighton and Seaford, and some trains between Brighton and Lewes, Hove, West Worthing and Littlehampton.[12] From 13 December 2010, their operation expanded to stopping services from Brighton to Portsmouth Harbour and the Littlehampton to Bognor Regis shuttle.

The decision to use 313s on the Coastway lines has been controversial, as they are much older than the 377s and have fewer on-board passenger facilities.

The rail union RMT criticised the move and many publications including the BBC have questioned the introduction of 35-year-old trains with no lavatories in place of much newer units. These trains are deployed on services that operate predominantly over short distances, such as Brighton to Hove and Brighton to Seaford, and some longer (but stopping) services that provide predominantly local links that run alongside 377s on faster services.

The introduction of 313s on the Coastway routes facilitated the delivery of additional capacity on high-demand suburban routes in South London, where 10-car trains services are to be introduced combined with platform lengthening.

This report on the BBC gives more details.

The Major Problems Along The South Coast

Summarising the previous sections, the major problems on the route can be summarised.

  • The Class 313 trains with their poor performance are not fit for purpose.
  • The numerous level crossings significantly reduce the operating speed of the route.
  • The lack of electrification on the Marshlink Line is a serious obstacle to better London-Hsstings services via HS1.

I would also question, if there is sufficient capacity along the line, especially as there are now three Premier League clubs along its route.

In the following section, I shall detail what is proposed and a few extra actions, that I feel should be taken.

Improve The Marshlink Line

The May 2017 Edition of Modern Railways has an article entitled Kent Capacity Constraints Highlighted.

One sub-section is entitled High Speed To Hastings and it lists options as to how Southeastern  High-Speed services could be run to Hastings via Ashford International station and the Marshlink Line.

  1. Electrify Ashford To Hastings At 25 KVAC
  2. Electrify Ashford To Hastings At 750 VDC
  3. Use Class 802 electro-diesel trains
  4. Use Class 395 Or Class 801 trains With Batteries.

As to which option is chosen, Modern Railways says this.

The option to use a ‘hybrid’ electric/self-powered (diesel or battery) train is suggested as being a ‘more cost-effective way forward’, with linespeed improvements then delivered in an incremental way.

I examined the options in full detail in Options For High Speed To Hastings.

If the improvement was comprehensive, it would give the following advantages.

  • High-Speed services from St. Pancras to Hastings.
  • Journeys from Ashford International to Portsmouth, Southampton, Bournemouth and Weymouth would be all electric and if desired could be without a change of train.
  • Better connectivity along the South Coast to Continental services at Ashford International station.
  • A secondary route from London to Brighton in case of closure of the Brighton Main Line.

If an off-the-shelf solution like Class 802 trains were to be used, the improvements could be delivered in a timely manner.

Remove As Many Level Crossings As Possible

Removal of level crossings is a sensitive issue, but from Southampton to Ashford International, they are a serious limit on the operating speed of the trains.

But it is not just the trains that suffer, but road traffic as well.

Consider Hampden Park station, where Wikipedia says this about the level crossing.

The level crossing at Hampden Park is thought to be one of the busiest in the country, with an average fourteen train movements an hour off-peak, and this can lead to significant traffic congestion on adjacent roads.

As some services actually cross it twice to call at Eastbourne station, this level crossing certainly needs to be eliminated.

Improved Stations

Several of the stations have been upgraded, but I believe that step-free access and longer platforms are needed at quite a few stations.

Brighton and Hove Albion are now one of three Premier League football teams along the South Coast and Falmer station needs to be improved, so that higher-capacity trains can serve the ground on match days.

The Plans Of South Western Railway

The May 2017 Edition of Modern Railways also gives details of the plans of the new South Western Railway franchise from December 2018.

This is said.

A direct service will link Portsmouth, Southampton and Weymouth, while there will be a second hourly semi-fast service between Portsmouth and Southampton offering a total of 29 additional services between the cities on Mondays to Saturdays.

Wikipedia also says that there will be another thirty five Monday to Saturday services between London and Portsmouth, with more on Sundays.

Services Between London And Portsmouth

Currently, on a typical day there are sixty-nine down services and seventy-one up services. So as thirty-five extra services are going to be provided, then that means there will be a twenty-five percent increase in services between London and Portsmouth.

So would this mean that London to Portsmouth has a frequency of five trains per hour (tph), as against three tph for Southampton?

As South Western Railway will be introducing additional Portsmouth to Weymouth services, will this mean that there will be two fast routes to London from Weymouth?

  • A direct train.
  • One with a change at Havant on to Portsmouth Direct Line services.

South Western Railway have certainly thought long and hard.

The Class 313 Trains Will Go To The Scrapyard

With all the fast 100 mph trains rushing between Ashford International and Brighton and Portsmouth and Weymouth, the Class 313 trains will be worse than inadequate and the best place for them will be the scrapyard.

I just wonder though if South Western Railway’s unwanted but new Class 707 trains could replace the Class 313 trains along parts of the South Coast.

  • They are 100 mph trains, probably with a good stopping performance, which could save a minute at every stop.
  • They are five-car units.
  • They have toilets.

As an illustration of the difference the new trains could make, the current Portsmouth to Brighton service takes around one hour twenty minutes with twenty stops.

A rough estimate indicates that Portsmouth to Brighton could be under an hour with new 100 mph trains.

The only problems would be that they couldn’t work a Marshlink Line without electrification and services along the South Coast are provided by three different companies.


A lot of improvement is possible in services along the South Coast.

Adjusting current timings for new trains with a better stopping performance could give the following sectional timings.

  • Ashford International to Hastings – 35 minutes
  • Hastings to Brighton – 60 minutes
  • Brighton to Portsmouth – 60 minutes
  • Portsmouth to Southampton – 35 minutes

I believe that an Ashford International to Southampton time of three hours is possible.

This is a similar time as going via London and using HS1.


May 23, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Options For High Speed To Hastings

The May 2017 Edition of Modern Railways has an article entitled Kent Capacity Constraints Highlighted.

One sub-section is entitled High Speed To Hastings and it lists options as to how high-speed services could be run to Hastings via Ashford International station and the Marshlink Line.

Before I list the options, I’ll list a few facts and questions about the current service to Hastings, the various lines and stations.

Ashford International Station

This Google Map shows Ashford International station.

Note the Marshlink Line goes off the map to the East of the two small roundabouts at the bottom.

The biggest factor that needs to be considered is that some form flyover or dive-under may be needed so that trains can run between the Marshlink Line and the two platforms on the North side of the station, where Highspeed services to and from St. Pancras International call.

Will All Highspeed Services Using The Marshlink Line Stop At Ashford International Station?

Consider the following.

  • Passengers might like to go between places on the South Coast, like Hastings and Brighton, and Europe, by changing at Ashford International station
  • If a voltage change were needed, Ashford International station is already used for this purpose.

I would think it unlikely that services would not stop at Ashford International station.

Class 395 and Class 80x Trains

The Class 395 trains and the various forms of Class 800 trains are all members of Hitachi’s A-Train family.

The Class 395 trains have the following features.

  • Dual voltage
  • 6-car sets.
  • 140 mph on HS1
  • 100 mph on DC Lines
  • Automatic coupling and uncoupling.

The Class 800 and Class 802 trains have the following features.

  • Electro-diesel
  • 25 KVAC only.
  • 5- and 9-car sets.
  • 140 mph on HS1 (Stated in Modern Railways)
  • 100 mph on diesel power only.
  • Automatic coupling and uncoupling (assumed)

The only difference between Class 800 and Class 802 appears to be the size of the full tanks and manufacturing site.

I would think it unlikely, that Hitachi could not produce a Class 80x train with the following features.

  • Electro-diesel
  • Dual voltage
  • 6-car sets
  • 140 mph on HS1
  • 100 mph on diesel power only.
  • 100 mph on DC Lines

The trains could even have a Class 395 style interior.

Looking at the Class 395 and Class 80x trains, I suspect that these trains could be built, so that they could automatically couple and uncouple with each other.

This coupling ability would be important.

  • Hastings and Thanet services could couple and uncouple at Ashford International.
  • Class 80x trains could be used instead of Class 395 trains for operational reasons.
  • It would make it easier to rescue a stalled train.

There is also this document on the IEP Trains web site, which is entitled Technical & Build Specifications Of The IEP Trains, contains a lot of useful information.

  • Five-car electro-diesel trains have three power units.
  • Nine-car electro-diesel trains have five power units.
  • Electric trains have a small generator that can be used to slowly move a train stranded by overhead power failure to a safe place for passengers to disembark.

Nothing is said about batteries, but Hitachi have run battery trains in Japan.

I would be very surprised, if the A-train family was not designed, so that it could incorporate batteries, when the technology has been sufficiently developed

The Current London  To Hastings Timings

Fastest timings I can find are as follows.

  • London Cannon Street to Hastings – 1 hour 48 minutes
  • London Charing Cross to Hastings – 1 hour 51 minutes
  • London St. Pancras to Hastings – 1 hour 36 minutes, which a change at Ashford International
  • London Victoria – 2 hours 1 minute.

I think the surprising time is the one with a change at Ashford International.

It takes 37 minutes between St. Pancras and Ashford International and 40 minutes from Ashford International to Hastings, but passengers are allowed nineteen minutes to change trains.

Could Timings On The Marshlink Line Be Improved?

The Marshlink Line has a maximum operating speed of just 60 mph, whereas the East Coastway Line between Hastings and Brighton has an oiperating speed of 90 mph.

Other improvements are needed to improve the timings and oiperation of the line.

  • Removal of a couple of level crossings.
  • Provision of a passing loop at Rye.
  • Some platform lengthening to handle the longest trains that would use the line.

It doesn’t appear impossible to reduce St. Pancras to Hasting timings by several minutes.

Are More Class 395 Trains Needed For Other Routes?

I ask this question, as if they are, then surely a combined order for new trains  would be better value.

The Various Options

I shall now look at the various options mentioned in the article in turn.

Option 1 – Electrify Ashford To Hastings At 25 KVAC

This would cost between £250million and £500million.

It would allow the current Class 395 trains to work through to Hastings and as far as Brighton or even Southampton if required.

Voltage changeover would take place at a convenient station, such as Ore.

But how would various groups react to 25 KVAC catenary being strung up all over Romney Marsh?

Option 2 – Electrify Ashford To Hastings At 750 VDC

This would cost between £100million and £250million.

As with Option 1, it could use the current Class 395 trains.

Option 3 – Use Class 802 Electro-Diesel Trains

Class 802 trains could be an interesting option.


  • According to the Modern Railways article, Class 802 trains would have the same 140 mph performance, as the Class 395 trains on HS1.
  • Both trains are Hitachi A trains.
  • Class 802 trains would run on diesel between Ashford International and Hastings.
  • Class 802 trains would probably be fitted with third-rail equipment to work onward from Hastings.
  • No electrification of the Marshlink Line would be required.
  • St. Pancras to Hastings could be under seventy minutes.
  • Three trains would be needed to provide an hourly service to Hastings.
  • A crude estimate gives that one six-car Class 802 train would cost around £12.5million.

I think this option has a big advantage in that if it were possible to run twelve-car trains from St. Pancras to Brighton via Eastbourne, Hastings, Ebbsfleet International and Stratford International stations, the route might offer valuable alternative routes.

Option 4 – Use Class 395 Or Class 801 Trains With Batteries

Either of Class 395 or Class 801 trains could probably be fitted with batteries with sufficient range to take the train between Ashford and Hastings.


  • Both trains would have 140 mph performance on HS1.
  • Trains would run on batteries between Ashford International and Ore.
  • The Marshlink Line is not the most taxing of railways, with only six stops.
  • Trains would probably be fitted with third-rail equipment to work onward from Hastings.
  • No electrification of the Marshlink Line would be required.
  • St. Pancras to Hastings could be under seventy minutes.
  • To ensure sufficient battery power to bridge Hastings to Ashford, trains could if necessary reverse at Seaford or Brighton.

As with Option 3, it has the advantage of providing an alternative London to Brighton service.


All options require the following to be done.

  • Create an efficient connection between HS1 and the Marshlink Line.
  • Improve the operating speed on the Marshlink Line.
  • Remove a couple of level crossings on the Marshlink Line.
  • Create a passing loop at Rye.
  • Perform some platform lengthening.

As Options 1 and 2 require electrification and cost more, I would feel they are unlikely to proceed.

The choice between Options 3 and 4 would depend on what Hitachi offer and what the required number of trains cost.

Option 3 based on a Class 802 train would definitely work and could probably be proven with a test run of one of the GWR or VTEC Class 800 prototypes.

But these Class 800/801/802 trains are designed so that the diesel engines can be removed, when they are no longer needed. So could Hitachi replace the diesel engine with a battery pack charged at either end of the route on the 25 KVAC of HS1 or the 750 VDC of the East Coastway Line between Hastings and Brighton.

It’s all about selling trains and a company that had a 140 mph or 225 kph high-speed electric train, that could do perhaps 25 miles or 40 kilometres on batteries, would have a valuable addition to their product range.



May 8, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Will Southern Fit On-board Energy Storage To Class 377 Trains?

When I wrote Will London Overground Fit On-board Energy Storage To Class 378 Trains? in March, I didn’t look very hard at Southern’s collection of over two hundred Class 377 trains, of which forty-six are dual-voltage units.

I then read this article on the Railway Technical web site, which is entitled Southern’s 377/6 takes shape in Litchurch Lane. This is said in the article.

Regenerative braking capability was provided on the trains from the beginning but it was not used.

Things have improved in the last few years and some parts of the network can accept returned power, but the article adds this caveat.

If the train detects that the line is unable to take the extra voltage, the regenerated power is dumped into an on-board resistor grid.

So it would appear that the Class 377 trains could benefit from the addition of on-board energy storage.

How much of the electricity bill it would save, is I suspect known to the accountants and it should be a fairly simple analysis to see if on-board energy storage were to be fitted all or some of Class 377 trains.

But converting a small number of trains, would give Southern a train capable of replacing the Class 171 trains on London Bridge to Uckfield and the Marshlink Line.

Class 377 trains with an IPEMU capability on these routes might give operational benefits.

  • London to East Grinstead is already run by Class 377 trains. So the same trains could be used on both branches, which must be a benefit for the operator, in terms of driver and staff training.
  • Class 377 trains already run to the end of the electrification at Ore from Brighton, Eastbourne and Cannon Street, so it might be advantageous for both operator and passengers to continue some or all of these services to Ashford.
  • Rye and the other stations on the Marshlink Line would get a direct electric service to London.

The only problem is that Hastings wouldn’t get a high-speed service to St. Pancras.

April 3, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | 1 Comment

How Long Would An IPEMU Take From St. Leonard’s To St. Pancras International?

If an IPEMU is going to be used between St. Leonard’s and St. Pancras International station, there are two possibilities.

  • A 110 mph IPEMU based on existing Class 387 trains.
  • A 125 mph IPEMU based on a purpose-built Aventra. Ian Walmsley stated in the April 2016 Edition of Modern Railways that a 125 mph Aventra is possible.

This compares with the 143 mph and 100 mph speeds of a Class 395 train on high speed and classic lines respectively.

For this estimate, I will make the following assumptions.

  • St. Leonards takes four minutes longer than Hastings.
  • The baseline time from St. Pancras to Ashford is 38 minutes in a Class 395 train.
  • Times on the high speed section are in proportion to the train speed.
  • The baseline time from St. Leonard’s to Ashford is 46 minutes in a Class 171 train.
  • All trains on the unelectrified section are limited to 100 mph.

Times From St.Leonards to Ashford

The Class 171 train takes 46 minutes, but it is only a benchmark, as few would go to Ashford and then get on a Class 395 train on High Speed 1.

The Class 395 train and the IPEMUs would be quicker as they would save a couple of minutes at each of the typical five stops, because of their faster acceleration.

Two minutes a stop would save ten minutes.

Times From Ashford to St. Pancras

Doing a simple calculation based on train speed gives the following times.

  • Class 395 train – 38 minutes
  • Class 387 IPEMU – 48 minutes
  • Aventra IPEMU – 43 minutes.

Times from St. Leonards to St. Pancras

Adding the two times together gives.

  • Class 395 train – 74 minutes
  • Class 387 IPEMU – 84 minutes
  • Aventra IPEMU – 79 minutes.

With Hastings it will be four minutes less.

In Wikipedia, there is a section called Future for the entry for the Marshlink Line. This is said.

The line is strategically important, as electrification and junction improvements would mean that High Speed 1 trains could travel directly from St Pancras International to Hastings. Amber Rudd, Member of Parliament for Hastings, has campaigned for electrification works to start by 2017. The aim is to reduce times to London from Hastings to 68 minutes, and from Rye to under an hour. This would require remodelling Ashford International station so the existing Marshlink line could connect to HS1, installing power systems, and adding a passing loop at Rye, all in addition to requiring new trains.

I think that the aim of 68 minutes from London to Hastings is a modest one, but as my crude estimate was only six minutes longer, I think the 68 minutes is totally attainable, especially as my times from St. Leonards to Ashford are just based on current timings and taking off a couple of minutes for each stop.

But if the Marshlink Line could be significantly improved, then time reductions of several minutes could well be achieved.

March 29, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Along The Marshlink Line

After writing Will We See IPEMUS in Hastings?, I thought it would be a good idea to see, if there were any other reasons, why running longer IPEMUs on the Marshlink Line would be a good idea.

So I took a Class 395 train from St. Pancras International station to Ashford International station along High Speed One.

From Ashford International, I took the Marshlink Link to Hastings station, in one of the services run by Southern using Class 171 trains.

These are my observations from the trip.

Class 171 Trains

These are two-car modern diesel multiple units with a top speed of 160 kph and they can be coupled together to make longer trains.

They are totally adequate for the current service between Ashford International and Brighton via Hastings, Bexhill, Eastbourne and Lewes.

Class 387 Trains With An IPEMU Capability

I believe that if battery trains or IPEMUs are used to provide an electric service on the Marshlink Line, that only Class 387 trains can be delivered in a reasonable timescale.

  • The Class 387 train is a cousin of the Class 379 train, which was used to create the demonstrator.
  • The Class 387 train is a four-car 175 kph train, that can be run in 4, 8 or 12 car formations.
  • The capability of the train on battery power, would be more than adequate to go between Ashford International and Hastings.
  • There are over twenty Class 387 trains in service, that will start to be replaced this year with new Class 700 trains.
  • Another twenty trains are on order for Porterbrook.
  • Because of the late delivery of the Great Western electrification, quite a few trains have no home to go to.
  • Southern are very familiar with Class 387 trains.

The main thing that would need to be done, would be to add an appropriate battery pack to the number of trains needed for a Brighton to Ashford or St. Pancras service.

As a battery pack was designed over a year ago, I’m sure Bombardier have this under control.

This article in Rail Technology Magazine, talks about how Bombardier are doing extensive tests on battery systems in Mannheim.

Ashford International Station

This Google Map shows the various lines through Ashford International station.

Lines Around Ashford International Station

Lines Around Ashford International Station


  • High Speed One goes through the station calling at the long island platforms 3 and 4, or on the flyover, as appropriate.
  • The Ashford to Ramsgate Line goes off to the North East.
  • The Marshlink Line goes south alongside the white teardrop, which is the Ashford Designer Outlet.

There are three alternatives for Marshlink Line trains.

  • Currently, trains from the Marshlink Line terminate in Platform 1. This could continue.
  • Trains could go to and from London on High Speed 1
  • Trains could go to and from London on classic lines.

I suppose there could be a mixture of all three.

I don’t know if it is possible to run trains between High Speed One and the Marshlink Line, but I can’t believe that it would be impossible to arrange, as Network Rail have mentioned Hastings to St. Pancras services via High Speed One in some of their reports.

Ham Street Station

Ham Street station is a simple affair on a double-track section, with two staggered platforms.

I took these pictures of the station.

This is a Google Map of the station.

Ham Street Station

Ham Street Station

it would appear that quite a few houses have been built recently.

The station doesn’t appear to be of the same quality as the houses.

Appledore Station

This Google Map shows the Appledore station.

Appledore Station

Appledore Station

It is simple affair, with very few houses locally.

  • Appledore itself is two miles away.
  • It has two staggered platforms.
  • There is a level crossing.
  • There is no footbridge.

South of the station the line becomes single-track and the Dungeness Branch goes off to Dungeness and Lydd.


A proportion of the freight traffic on the Marshlink Line serves the Dungeness Nuclear Power Station using the Dungeness Branch.

The Google Map shows the area of Dungeness.



At one time, the line had several stations including one at Dungeness.

Other than the power station, there is just a few houses, Lydd Airport, a nature reserve and a few tourist attractions like the iconic Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway.

The only other things that could effect the area, is a possible building of Dungeness C Nuclear Power Station and other energy related developments, like a cross-Channel energy link or support for wind turbines.

So to say that the Dungeness Branch will never be developed with a passenger train service, is a bit like saying human beings will never set foot on Mars.

I’ve never been down to Dungeness, although C flew to Beauvais near Paris in the 1960s from the Airport using an airline called Skyways (?).

Rye Station

Rye station is the only substantial station on the unelectrified part of the Marshlink Line.

This Google Map shows the station.


I visited Rye in 2015 and wrote Lunch At Rye, where I found it a charming little town, lacking in information.

The station has a passing loop, a footbridge and a booking office, and it probably would need little work for longer trains.

However, there was evidence of general tidying up and the relaying of track.

Evidence Of Work At Rye

Evidence Of Work At Rye

In fact, this was virtually the only work, that I saw anywhere on the Marshlink Line.

Winchelsea, Doleham And Three Oaks Stations.

Of these three stations, we only stopped at Winchelsea station.

Except for well-maintained single platform, there is not much there.

Doleham and Three Oaks stations are also fairly basic, with Three Oaks only able to handle a single carriage.

From Ore To Hastings

Ore station is the next station after Three Oaks and it is fully electrified from the station all the way to Eastbourne and Brighton.

An Article In Rye News

This article in Rye News is entitled More give than take on Marshlink, was written by Stuart Harland who is chairman of the Marsh Link Action Group.

It gives a summary of the work needed to allow Class 395 trains to Bexhill.

As we know from the Network Rail presentation to MLAG last year, the physical issues to be resolved are:

  • electrification of the Marshlink line
  • signalling at Bexhill;
  • remodelling of the track layout at Ashford;
  • the dualling/ passing loop at Rye
  • the two level crossings at East Guldeford where input is awaited from the Highways Agency to remove the need for two level crossings on the A259

All of this needs funding, as do the additional Javelin units built by Hitachi.


So how does using Class 387 trains with an IPEMU capability affect this list.

  • Electrification of the Marshlink Line would not be needed.
  • The signalling at Bexhill, can already handle eight-car Electrostars, like the Class 387 train, so I would assume modifications would be simpler, if at all.
  • The remodelling of the track layout at Ashford would only need to connect Platforms 1 and 2 to High Speed One.
  • The passing loop at Rye seems capable of accepting two four-car Class 171 Turbostar trains, which are closely related to Class 387 Electrostar trains.
  • The level crossing problems would remain, but the speeds could be kept to those used now.
  • New trains would not need to be purchased from Hitachi.

In addition, there would need to be work done to make sure that all stations and signalling on the Marshlink Line could accept the length of train, that Southern want to run between |St. Pancras and Hastings.


Class 387 IPEMUs could easily provide service on the Marshlink Line and  the cost of the work would be very much reduced compared to using Class 395 Javelin trains, with the biggest expense probably being adding the battery packs to the Class 387 trains.





March 22, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Will We See IPEMUs In Hastings?

I have just been pointed to this article in the Hastings Observer, which is entitled Hybrid trains alternative to electrifying 1066 country railway. This is said.

Battery-powered high-speed trains were proclaimed as the way to decrease rail journey times in 1066 country at a transport summit today (Friday, March 18).

Hybrid Javelin trains would eliminate the need to electrify the Marshlink but still reduce the time it takes to get to London, according to transport representatives at Sussex Coast College.

Network Rail’s senior strategic planner in the south east Paul Best explained how they are proposing an ‘incremental approach’ to electrifying the railway between Ashford and Bexhill.

He said they can increase speed limits in certain places but also look into using hybrid trains with a battery so they can be used on the normal track and electric line from St Pancras to Ashford, which would reduce journey times

So let’s look at this statement in detail. Note that I use Independently-Powered Electric Multiple Unit or IPEMU instead of battery trains.

I think it will be unlikely, that if this comes to pass, that the trains will be Class 395 trains, colloquially known as Javelins.

  • I don’t think Hitachi could deliver their made-in-Japan product for some time due to busy production schedules.
  • Hitachi have not disclosed any plans for a battery variant of a Class 395 train.
  • Paul Best of Network Rail isn’t reported as mentioning Javelins.

Hitachi may be able to deliver such a train in the future and I may be wrong about their capabilities.

I think if we see Paul Best’s hybrid trains working between St. Pancras and 1066 country, then there is only one proven train; an IPEMU or battery-powered version of the Class 387 train.

  • Soon, there could be several of the trains sitting in sidings or being built at Bombardier’s factory in Derby.
  • All or most of the Class 387 trains are owned by Porterbrook. Leasing companies are not charities and like their assets to sweat.
  • Bombardier and Network Rail demonstrated the IPEMU technology in public service over twelve months ago.
  • Class 387/2 trains destined for Gatwick Express have been extensively tested on the West Coast Main Line. Has their 200 kph capability been explored?
  • Southern, who have lots of experience of running Class 387 trains, are responsible for the services between Hastings and Ashford International.
  • Adding the required signalling and certifying the Class 387 trains for HS1, shouldn’t be a difficult problem.
  • Jumping the electrification gap of the Marshlink Line, is well within the capability of a Class 387 train with an IPEMU capability.

The only problem I can see, is that they are only a 110 mph train as opposed to the 140 mph of the Class 395 train, when that train runs on HS1. So would this cause route planning problems? But then the line can accommodate slower freight trains.

But I did say the following in Will Southern Create A South Coast Express Using IPEMUs?, about an electrified service on the Marshlink Line.

Using IPEMU trains would simplify the job and mean no electrification would be needed.

It would appear that Network Rail are thinking along similar lines.

The High Speed Battery Train

Are Bombardier creating a genuine high speed train with a 200 kph capability and the ability to run for at least fifty miles on battery power.

  • Bombardier certainly have the experience to build a 200 kph train for the UK, in that both Class 221 trains and Class 222 trains were built by Bombardier.
  • If they had to settle for the 175 kph of the current Class 387 train, that wouldn’t be too serious a problem. Especially, if they could squeeze the extra 25 kph in a few years, with an upgrade.
  • Class 387 trains have been running on Thameslink since December 2014.
  • A lot of technology like LED lights, regenerative braking, efficient air-conditioning and automatic train control systems are available to make trains use less electricity.
  • The battery technology has been reported as going through extensive testing in Mannheim.

Without doubt Bombardier can produce a 175 kph (110 mph) train based on the Class 387 train and they could be able to stretch that to a 200 kph (125 mph) one!

That would be some train!

The IPEMU Market

If they can produce a high speed train with an onboard energy storage, it is not a speculative product without a market.

In addition to the Marshlink Line, all of these lines have a proportion of running at around 160 kph or over and then an extension, that is not electrified.

  • Liverpool Street to Lowestoft – This route is in the new Greater Anglia franchise.
  • Liverpool Street to Yarmouth via Cambridge, Ely and Norwich.
  • Liverpool Street to Peterborough via Cambridge.
  • Ipswich to Cambridge, Ely and Peterborough.
  • Kings Cross to Grimsby, Hull and Lincoln.
  • Kings Cross to Hartlepool, Middlesbrough and Sunderland.
  • Liverpool to Newcastle and Edinburgh via Manchester, Huddersfield and Leeds.
  • Liverpool to Hull via Warrington, Manchester, Sheffield and Doncaster.
  • Blackpool to Leeds via Preston and the Calder Valley Line.
  • St. Pancras to Corby and Leicester
  • Euston to Barrow, Blackpool, Chester, Huddersfield and Shrewsbury
  • Paddington to Bedwyn, Henley, Marlowe, Newbury, Oxford and Windsor

In addition, there are some routes , which could be served, with some short stretches of electrification or a means of charging the train at the terminus.

  • Waterloo to Exeter via Salisbury.
  • York to Scarborough
  • Edinburgh to Tweedbank
  • Settle to Carlisle
  • Carlisle to Newcastle.

And then there’s all the branch lines!


Could we be witnessing a rail revolution powered by batteries?

I certainly think we are and have thought so for some time.

Who’ve have thought that Network Rail would spill the beans in Hastings about a rather charming line across the Romney Marsh?








March 19, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Will Southern Create A South Coast Express Using IPEMUs?

This post is pure speculation on my part,which I’ve written to illustrate the capabilities of an IPEMU.

What is an IPEMU?

Many rail passengers in the UK, have ridden in one of Bombardier’s fairly ubiquitous Electrostar trains. Here’s a short list of some of the types and the services they run.

A Class 379 was used to create the IPEMU or Independently Powered Electric Multiple Unit and a year ago, I rode this train in public service between Manningtree and Harwich.

A battery pack had been added to the four-car train, which was charged up, when the train is running on an electrified line; third rail or overhead and the energy can then be used to propel the train on a line without electrification.

I was told by the engineer sitting opposite me,monitoring train performance on a laptop, that this Class 379 IPEMU had the following characteristics.

  • A range of upwards of sixty miles on battery power.
  • Similar performance on battery or direct power.
  • Virtually identical driving experience.

I would also add that the passenger experience was virtually identical.

Network Rail and Bombardier have put a lot of time, effort and money into the IPEMU. They believe, that IPEMUs and their battery power will have the following applications.

  • Providing affordable electric services on branch lines or other lines that are difficult to electrify.
  • Moving trains around in depots and sidings that have not been electrified.
  • Train recovery and diversion, when the power fails.
  • Used in conjunction with regenerative braking, IPEMU technology saves electricity.

Obviously, Bombardier very much believe in the technology, as their new train; the Aventra has been designed to use energy storage.

IPEMU is an acronym, that will increasingly be used with trains.

The Class 387 Train

Southern, who operate a lot of services south of London are users of Class 387 trains.

The Class 387/1 trains will be replaced by Class 700 trains, as they arrive from Germany.

Unfortunately, due to the well-documented problems of Network Rail’s electrification, it looks like a lot of these twenty-nine trains could be put into storage.

I believe that some of these trains will be given an IPEMU capability to be used to provide electric train services on certain lines.

As they are closely related to the Class 379 train used for the prototype, I feel that most of the technical problems have been solved.

Along The South Coast From Southampton to Ashford

The South Coast from Southampton to Ashford is covered by two separate rail routes.

If you want to travel between say Hastings and Worthing, you will have to change trains at Brighton.

This usually means a wait of a few minutes and a change of platform.

Any sane person would believe that if a single train could run all the way from Southampton to Ashford, this would be better for many reasons.

  • The train company would probably need less trains.
  • Passengers wouldn’t have to change trains at Brighton.
  • There could probably be a simpler interchange between Coastway and Brighton Main Line services at Brighton station, which might release platform space.
  • Both Coastway routes are limited to speeds below 80 mph and are fairly straight, so perhaps with some improvements, faster services could be introduced.

Until recently, the only trains capable of going from Ashford to Southampton would have been diesel multiple units, but as the only part of the route that is not electrified is the Marshlink Line from Ore to Ashford, it would now be possible to run the service using an IPEMU variant of a Class 387 train.  The train would charge its on-board batteries between Southampton and Ore and at Ashford and then use battery power to bridge the gap of about thirty miles on the Marshlink Line.

As IPEMUs have a range of sixty miles, then it would seem that there should be few problems in running the trains between Ashford and Ore.

This approach has benefits.

  • The Class 387 train is an 110 mph electric train with regenerative braking, so services could be faster.
  • GTR has quite a few of the standard Class 387 trains in service, so the company and their drivers probably know them well.
  • GTR could say they have removed a number of diesel trains and they are a greener company.
  • Network Rail would only have to update the track and signalling of the Marshlink Line for four-car trains and wouldn’t need to electrify any of the route.

Currently, to go from Ashford to Southampton takes three hours forty-five minutes and it is quicker to go via St. Pancras and Waterloo. But with a 110 mph train and no changes, timings must be possible in the region of three hours.

I suspect that with some selected track improvements, a limited-stop service could be a real South Coast Express.

There certainly is some scope and I’ll detail each improvements on the main East and West Coastways separately,

The Marshlink Line

The Marshlink Line is not fully double-tracked, has several level crossings and a low speed limit, which if improved, would probably be welcomed.

The Marshlink Line Action Group web site has an extensive report about improving the line, of which this is an extract, from a report which discusses extending the Class 395 train service from Ashford to Hastings.

The basics of the project are substantially as presented last year with line speeds generally expected to be 60-90 mph from Ashford to Doleham and 40-60 mph onwards to Hastings. But the ongoing big question for NR (and of concern to MLAG from an environmental point of view and compatibility with rolling stock in the surrounding lines) is whether the power source would be third rail (as MLAG would prefer) or overhead. NR acknowledges the difficulty of overhead power along the Marsh with gantries having to be built on (obviously) marsh land and with the strong winds. Whichever, some 30 miles of track would need to be laid but, apparently, only about half a mile of dualled track to the west of Rye.

Incidentally, there has been talk about running Class 395 trains from St. Pancras to Eastbourne via HS1 to Ashford and the Marshlink Line. It would undoubtedly be a fast service, but it has some inherent disadvatages.

  • The Marshlink Line would need to be electrified, probably with 25KVAC overhead wires.
  • Some people might object to the wires across the marshes?
  • Would it need some extra Class 395 trains to be purchased?
  • Would it mean that one franchise was encroaching on the territory of another?

On the other hand, using IPEMU trains would simplify the job and mean no electrification would be needed.

However, it would probably be a good idea to make sure that as much dualled track was created, to maintain an efficient service on the line in the future.

The Willingdon Chord And Eastbourne

There has been talk about reinstating the Willingdon Chord, which could shorten the line by making it possible for trains to by-pass Eastbourne, But the locals fear, that Eastbourne would lose services.

However, surely some fast long-distance services along the South Coast could by-pass the town.

A skilled compiler of timetables could probable devise one for Eastbourne, that gave the town, faster and better services to Brighton, Southampton and London.

Lewes And The Wealden Line

It is an aspiration of many to reinstate the Wealden Line, as a new route to London to take pressure off the Brighton Main Line.

In Musical Trains In Sussex, I gave my reasons for believing that the Uckfield Branch could be run using Class 387 IPEMUs.

I also believe that if the Wealden Line is reinsatated that it will use the same type of train.

Obviously, Network Rail and Southern, will make sure that the Wealden Line project doesn’t conflict with a desire to run fast trains along the South Coast.

Hove Station

Hove station is a busy one with up to eight services an hour passing through in both directions, to and from Victoria and Gatwick Airport as well as Brighton.

There were aspirations that in the future to add the London Bridge to Littlehampton via Hove service to Thameslink. The service would use the Cliftonville Curve to access the Brighton Main Line, as it does now.

This would give all stations on the West Coastway Line between Hove and Littlehampton, two trains per hour through to London Bridge and beyond

Except for the Future Developments section in the Wikipedia entry for Hove station, I can’t find any more about this proposal.

The Arundel Chord

One piece of infrastructural that gets mentioned is a chord at Arundel that would connect the West Coastway Line to the Arun Valley Line between Angmering and Ford stations.

If it were to be built, it would create another route between Brighton and Three Bridges using the eastern part of the West Coastway and the Arun Valley Line.

Westward From Littlehampton

My only experience of the western end of the West Coastway line, was missing a train and having to wait an hour on a freezing and deserted Bosham station for the next train.

The service could probably benefit from a rethink.


Brighton is the major interchange between the two Coastway services and the Brighton Main Line with its Gatwick Express, Victoria and Thameslink services.

Brighton station certainly needs improvement to cope with the large increase in capacity to the city, that Thameslink and its new Class 700 trains will bring.

Each twelve-car Class 700 train, will have a capacity approaching 1,800 passengers and there will be four of these trains to and from Central London and beyond every hour.

Obviously, the trains won’t be full at Brightpon and not all passengers will be walking to and from the station, so there needs to be better connections to buses and the two Coastway Lines.

At present, it takes a few minutes and a platform change to pass through Brighton if you’re going between services at the station.

  • Brighton Main Line, Gatwick Express and Thameslink services.
  • East Coastway services
  • West Coastway services.
  • Great Western Railway services to the West.

The platform layout at Brighton doesn’t look as if it was designed to make train services for passengers and train companies efficient.

So surely, if Coastway services could be linked, so that they came into the station, set down and picked up passengers before going out in the other direction, this would be a more efficient way to organise trains at the station.

It would also make the interchange between Coastway and Brighton Main Line services easier and hopefully, just a walk across a platform.

A reorganised Brighton could probably contribute several minutes to the savings in journey times along the Coastway.

This Google Map shows Brighton station and the two Coastway Lines coming into the station.

Brighton Station And The Coastways

Brighton Station And The Coastways

I don’t think it would be an affordable or even a sensible solution, to combine the two Coastways together north of Brighton station.

The Wivelsfield Alternative

But Network Rail have come up with an alternative solution, so that the two Coastways can be connected together.

Just sixteen kilometres north of Brighton is Wivelsfield station. It is possible to access the East Coastway Line just south of the station at Keymer Junction, which unfortunately is not grade-separated and probably needs to be to improve Eastbourne services from Victoria.

Wikipedia has a section on the future of Wivelsfield station, which says this.

In Autumn 2015 Network Rail released the Sussex Area Route Study, where two options for the proposed grade separation of Keymer Junction are detailed, both of which would transform the station dramatically. Option 1 is the minimal option and creates a new platform 0 on the west side of the station served by a 3rd track from the new flyover line from Lewes. Option 2 is much more ambitious and builds on option 1 by adding an additional 4th platform on the east side of the station as well, served by a 4th track on the line to Lewes. Whilst this would enable each line to the south to have a dedicated platform the primary benefit would be that the existing platforms could be used to turn back trains in either direction as needed without blocking the main lines.

As services can access the West Coastway Line through the Cliftonville Tunnel to Hove, which is a couple of miles north of Brighton station, it would appear that the two Coastways could be connected, with a reverse at Wivelsfield.

The route would be.

This is not a complete solution, as there would have to be a way to get to Brighton station, by probably changing at Lewes, Wivelsfield or Hove.

A Brighton Metro

In a trip to Brighton, I travelled to Seaford using the East Coastway and the Seaford Branch. Even on a Sunday morning in February, the three-car Class 313 train was pretty full, especially around the University of Sussex at Falmer station.

So could the half-hourly Brighton-Seaford service be extended to the west of the City to perhaps Hove, Littlehampton or even Bognor Regis?

It would surely generate its own traffic across the city, which could help to reduce Brighton’s bad traffic jams. Stations could be.

I think if you can sort out Brighton station or create the Wivelsfield alternative, you could run a four trains per hour stopping service across the city for as far as you want.

Perhaps the slower stopping trains would go via Brighton and the semi-fast services would go via Wivelsfield.

It’s a problem, that I suspect Network Rail have thought through fully!

Train Movements At Brighton

The only problem would be that the combined Coastway Line would need to cross the throat of the station, probably in a flat junction.

Say the Joint Coastway Line had the following services at Brighton.

  • 2-4 trains per hour between Seaford and Littlehampton/Bognor, that would stop at all stations including Brighton.
  • 2-4 trains per hour between Ashford International and Portsmouth Harbour and/or Southampton Central, that would stop at major stations only.

These would come into a platform or platforms on the Eastern side of the station, which would mean any train going to or coming from the West Coastway, would have to cross the Brighton Main Line to London.

The services to and from London after Thameslink is fully opened could be.

  • 3 trains per hour to Victoria.
  • 4 trains per hour on Thameslink

I’m no signalling expert, but I do feel that much more onerous train movements are coped with in stations like Manchester Piccadilly, Paddington and Waterloo.

Note the four trains per hour frequency on Thameslink (two from Cambridge and two from Bedford) Surely, if Coastway services are four trains per hour, then all services should have a pattern, so journeys like Seaford to Cambridge, involved just a walk across a platform at Brighton.

I’m sure some clever train scheduler can come up with an optimal pattern of changing trains at Brighton, especially if some trains used the alternative route via Wivelsfield.

But my feeling is that as Brighton is such an important station, that all Coastway services must either terminate or stop in the station.

At least there does not appear to be significant freight running on the Coastways.

Capacity At Brighton Station

The Thameslink Program and its Class 700 trains, will probably increase passengers through Brighton station.

Knowing the quality of Network Rail’s passenger transport modelling, I would not bet against Thameslink being so successful between London and Brighton, that additional services have to be added.

As the Thameslink trains will be new and they serve lots of destinations in London and beyond, I think it is a given, that passengers from places like Eastbourne and Worthing, might use Thameslink instead of their local direct route, changing at either Brighton or Gatwick Airport.


Improvement of the Coastways, is just one part of an evolving plan for rail and air services in Kent, Surrey and Sussex.

As there are important lines in the area that are not electrified, I’m certain that IPEMUs will play a part in this development.

After all, the technology works and we will soon have lots of Class 387 trains sitting in sidings.


February 6, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Affordable Electrification

In First Great Western’s Pragmatic Large And Little Solution To The Problems Of Great Western Electrification, I put forward a theory that First Great Western were thinking pragmatically and using new innovative trains to provide services on their network.

The Large And Little Approach

I called it a Large (Class 800 train or similar) and Little (IPEMU) approach. In the related article I was assuming that the IPEMU or Independently Powered Electrical Multiple Unit was based on a Class 387 train, but as Electrostars are being succeeded by Aventras, the IPEMU could equally well be based on the newer design.

So how will these trains affect electrification in other parts of the country?

Also in the September 2015 Edition Modern Railways are three articles, where a Class 800 or an IPEMU could be the solution.

  1. Hull Trains are reported looking for a bi-mode fleet to run their Hull services, as they would bridge the unelectrified seventy miles of line between Selby and Hull. Their specification seems to have been written for the Class 800 train.
  2. Services to Blackpool have also been approved, which if the electrification is not ready in time, is a route that could be handled by a Class 800 or an IPEMU.
  3. Roger Ford is also talking about Open Access Hotting Up. Some of the routes would be ideal for either a Class 800 or an IPEMU, as lots of places without a decent service to London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow or other large cities, are thirty or so miles off a main electrified line. Places like Yarmouth, Lowestoft, Sudbury, Cromer, Lincoln, Skegness, Wisbech, Windermere, Chester and Burnley come to mind.

Part-Time Electric Trains

Both the Class 800 trains and an IPEMU, are effectively part-time electric trains.

The Class 800 is an electric train with an on-board diesel engine for use, where there are no overhead wires. It will thus be able to go between London and the South West in a few year’s time, by using electric power between London and Newbury and diesel power eldsewhere. As more and more of the line is electrified, more of the journey will be done under electric power.

The IPEMU uses an on-board battery, charged when working under the overhead wires to effectively serve the same purpose as the diesel engines of the Class 800, and provide power on sections of the line without overhead wires.

Common to both types of train will be a sophisticated control system, that puts the pantograph up and down depending on whether the train is running under electrified wires.

So as more and more overhead wires are installed, the trains become much more full-time electric trains.

When a Class 800 is no longer needed to use its diesel engines, they can be removed to convert the train into an all-electric Class 801 train.

With the IPEMU, you just remove the batteries.

So one of the big advantages of these two trains, is that you never end up with a surplus of trains, that are no use anywhere else on the network.

We’re always going to have a need for 200 kph high-speed electric trains for long-distance services and four-car electric trains will find plenty of work all over the network.

Thoughts On IPEMU Trains

I also think, that as the years pass, IPEMU technology will get better and much more efficient with a longer range when running on the batteries. Drivers and computerised train management systems will also learn how to coax the maximum range out of the trains.

Also with Bombardier switching production to the new lighter and more efficient Aventra train, which according to this article on Global Rail News, is designed so that lithium-iron batteries can added as required. This is said.

AVENTRA can run on both 25kV AC and 750V DC power – the high-efficiency transformers being another area where a heavier component was chosen because, in the long term, it’s cheaper to run. Pairs of cars will run off a common power bus with a converter on one car powering both. The other car can be fitted with power storage devices such as super-capacitors or Lithium-Iron batteries if required.

The prototype train based on a Class 379 train, weighs in at forty tonne a car, as against the planned weight of thirty-five tonne for an Aventra. The article also says this.

Bombardier’s EBI Drive 50 Driver Assistance System enables drivers to achieve an economical driving style and energy savings of up to 15%. Regenerative dynamic braking saves yet more, as does the use of ‘intelligent’ air conditioning and a ‘Smart Stabling’ system to shut unused vehicles down when out of service but come back online quickly when required.

So what sort of range will an Aventra set up to run as an IPEMU, have on batteries, bearing in mind that the heavier and less-efficient prototype can do sixty miles. But does it really matter what the train can do on batteries, if you can provide short lengths of overhead wire and have intelligent systems on the train to put the pantograph up and down accordingly.

I believe that there is probably an opportunity to create the ultimate Aventra IPEMU within a few years.

This could enable services like.

  1. London to Yarmouth via Cambridge, Thetford and Norwich
  2. London to Salisbury and Exeter
  3. Ipswich to Cambridge and Peterborough
  4. Manchester to Sheffield
  5. Newcastle to Carlisle

In my list, there would seem to be a large number of routes in East Anglia. But then Anglia Greater Anglia were part of the trials of the Class 379 IPEMU test train.

Aventra And Aventra IPEMU Compared

If what I gleaned on my tip in the Class 379 IPEMU at Manningtree is true, the performance difference between the two trains will be minimal.

I also believe that from a passenger’s view, the trains will be identical.

The big difference comes, when you convert a line for the two trains.

Suppose you want to run either train on say a branch line like Felixstowe, which is a dozen miles off an electrified line with a station at the end.

Obviously, you would need to modify stations, track, bridges and tunnels accordingly, so they fitted the new trains and any freight traffic on the route. You would probably make enough space, for overhead wires, even if you were not fitting them at this time.

If the line was only going to be served by the IPEMU variant and there was to be no other electric traffic, the wires would not need to be installed.

Once the line was complete with signalling and fully inspected and certified, the trains would be able to run.

If the trains to be used were to be the IPEMU variant, you would be running test services on the line long before you would with conventional trains.

In how many places would the use of these trains provide a modern service without the expense and time-scale of full electrification, which seems to be riddled with all sorts of cost-elevating problems?

Case Study 1 – Edinburgh To Inverness

I’m including this as it is a journey I have done in the cab of an InterCity 125. I took a video.

The journey takes three hours thirty three minutes with stops along the way.

At present only a small amount of the route close to Edinburgh is electrified, but by 2018, the line will be electrified as far as Dunblane.

When the new Class 800 trains are delivered, these trains will run this route from London, as my train had done.

As there is now so little electrification between Edinburgh and Inverness, these trains will probably take the same time on introduction, but as more electrification is commissioned, the time through the Highlands will drop.

They will at least get up from London to Edinburgh in a faster time, than they do now, as they will take full advantage of the fully electrified route.

Other very long routes would probably benefit from the use of Class 800 trains.

  1. Aberdeen to Penzance
  2. Bournemouth to Manchester
  3. Liverpool to Norwich
  4. Cardiff to Manchester
  5. London Euston to Holyhead

Many like London to Holyhead have long stretches of electrified line.

One great advantage, is that if say the route gets electrified in the future, you can use Class 801 electric trains, to give passengers the same or better level of service.

Case Study 2 – Carlisle To Newcastle

I have listed that IPEMU trains would be able to run between Carlisle to Newcastle.

So I will look at this line as a case study.

I don’t know the Tyne Valley Line well, but it is about sixty miles long and has electrified lines at both ends. Traditional electrification may require a lot of bridge and station reconstruction to accommodate the overhead wires, whereas an IPEMU could use the line without any modifications to infrastructure, as it can use any line that the current Class 156 trains on the line can. There would of course be a need to make sure that at both ends of the line, there was sufficient electrification to fully charge the train for its return journey.

So the cost of replacing diesel trains on this line with modern electric ones, would be solely the cost of the new trains, and perhaps the cost of a small amount of electrification in the stations and the stabling sidings at each end of the line.

In this case, I suspect Network Rail would breathe a big sigh of relief, if they didn’t have to electrify this line, with all its logistical and possibly environmental problems.

How many lines in the UK, could be given new electric passenger trains in this way?

Infrastructure Problems

Much of the infrastructure problems delaying and increasing the costs of electrification is dealing with inadequate Victorian infrastructure like the flying buttesses at Chorley and Farnworth Tunnel.

Some of these infrastructure problems have to be fixed as they are in danger of collapse and others offer inadequate clearance for modern freight trains.

I also heard from drivers in Liverpool, that they notice the quality of the land as they drive the Class 319 trains over Chat Moss. It caused Stephenson a lot of trouble and also didn’t help in the erection of the overhead wires between Liverpool and Manchester.

So perhaps we should adopt a pragmatic approach to putting up the overhead wires.

For instance, if IPEMU trains had been a standard UK train, when the electrification between Liverpool and Manchester was designed, would engineers have decided not to electrify across Chat Moss, as the batteries could be used?

Visual Intrusion Of Electrification

I think too, we shouldn’t underestimate the lack of visual intrusion if say a picturesque branch line was to be served by an IPEMU rather than by a traditional electric train. The Windermere branch and some lines in South Wales may well be better served by a more visually acceptable IPEMU.

Case Study 3 – The Windermere Branch

So will we see the electrification on the ten mile long, Windermere branch cut back and IPEMU serving this branch? According to this government document, the project will cost sixteen million pounds. Buying trains is often quoted at a million pounds a carriage, so would the budget be better spent on buying two or three  IPEMU for First TransPennine?

There are other reasons, why this could happen.

  1. First TransPennine is owned by the same company as First Great Western and they have the same problems over electrification as their West Country cousins. So will we see the same pragmatism in both companies?
  2. There would be no infrastructure work required at all on the branch and the electric trains could serve any desired point to the south like Preston, Liverpool, Manchester and Crewe.
  3. This area is very special to a lot of people and it only wants someone with deep pockets and no sense, who objects to electrification to cause Network Rail to blow the whole budget on legal fees. Replacing one diesel train with a quieter battery train probably doesn’t cause these problems.
  4. Remember too, that working from the overhead line, the Class 387 is an 110 mph train, that could mix it with the Class 390 Pendolinos on the West Coast Main Line.
  5. Network Rail probably don’t want to do the electrification of the Windermere branch, as it will consume resources that could be better deployed elsewhere.

So if I was in charge, I wouldn’t electrify the Windermere branch, but use IPEMU trains. Windermere would get smart new electric trains and Network Rail would have one less job to do.

The Big Beast Enters The Jungle

Sir Peter Hendy has now been made the Chairman of Network Rail.

In my view, he is an excellent choice and he will make a difference to the perceived shambles that is Network Rail’s record on electrification.

He has certainly got proven qualities that will help him in his new job.

  1. Anybody who can work with Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone and not get fired, must have the knack of dealing with politicians.
  2. In the creation of Crossrail and the London Overground, he seems to have got on well with train companies and Network Rail, despite some of them having to give way on decisions, that meant they lost revenue and profits.
  3. From what I’ve heard from workers and engineers, project management in Transport for London is pretty good and projects regularly come in on time and under budget.
  4. On the Over/Underground innovative infrastructure solutions like the Circle Line becoming a spiral and the Clapham Kiss are encouraged.

The way a company or organisation behaves starts at the top.


I like tram-trains and I’ve seen them working successfully all over Germany. In their simplest form, they allow trams on a self-contained tram network like Croydon, Manchester or Sheffield to transfer onto the heavy rail network and run as trains to another town or city. The tram-train trial in Sheffield, where Class 399 tram-trains will run between Cathedral and Rotherham Parkgate, is fairly simple, but some tram-train networks in Germany like Kassel and Karlsruhe stretch for over a hundred miles.

There is no reason, why extensive tram-train networks could not be developed in some UK cities and towns. How about?

  • Birmingham
  • Blackpool
  • Cardiff
  • Edinburgh
  • Nottingham
  • Sheffield

Obviously the trial in Sheffield must be successful.

If a city has a modern tramway, I feel that to use it as a base for tram-trains, has many advantages.

  • Affordable electrification on rural and secondary routes
  • Increasing the number of trams running through city centres and on parts of the network needing an increase in capacity.
  • Tramway running to difficult to reach local attractions and locations
  • Relieving capacity problems in stations by putting some lines on a much better-routed tramway, like say through a Shopping Centre, past a sports ground or along the coast.
  • In some places in Germany, tram-trains have even released the main station for redevelopment for other uses.
  • Also in Germany, I have a feeling that tram-trains have been used to link two separate tram networks by using a connecting heavy rail route. Think Manchester and Sheffield along the Hope Valley Line.

In addition, we could even make a particular type of tram-train a standard and develop methods of standardised tramway construction.

But would say Yarmouth accept the same system as Blackpool? Or Liverpool the same one as Manchester?

Tramway construction in this country has a bad reputation, as systems like Birmingham, Nottingham, Sheffield and Edinburgh have been delivered late and have caused excessive grief during construction. It is worth comparing these unhappy experiences with the current progress of the Wimbledon Line Enhancement Programme on the London Tramlink. It is a tricky project to provide a new terminal platform within Wimbledon station. Work started on July 13th this year and the new platform is scheduled to open in October.

We must get our project management of tramway construction and enhancement right!

Case Study 4 – Tram-Trains In Blackpool

Blackpool Tramway used to be much larger and is one that could be grown by the use of tram-trains.

This report on the BBC, talks about Balfour Beatty withdrawal from the project to electrify the lines around the North-West, which includes Blackpool.

Modern Railways in September is also reporting that the Liverpool to Blackpool North service will be split to allow Class 319 electric trains to work the southern part of the route.

Let’s hope this hiatus results in a sensible solution for Blackpool.

Included in the report of the North of England Electrification Task Force is a proposal in Tier Two to electrify Burnley to Colne  and Kirkham to Blackpool South.

These two routes meet at Preston, so why not use a tram-train to connect Colne to Blackpool. The line is mainly single-track and around Burnley, there are some massive viaducts, which probably would be expensive to electrify to main line standards.

So electrifying this route to allow tram-trains to serve it, would probably be more affordable. The route would be as follows.

  • Colne to Rose Grove – Single-line tramway
  • Rose Grove to Kirkham via Preston – Double track electrified heavy rail
  • Kirkham to Blackpool South – Single-line tramway
  • At Blackpool South the tram-train would join the Blackpool tramway.

There would also be possibilities to use tram-trains on the former Fleetwood Branch to link the town to Preston.

In the long term, I believe that tram-trains emanating from Blackpool and Preston could make use of some of the disused or rather badly-served rail lines in the area.

Could the Ormskirk to Preston Line be served by tram-trains working from Blackpool, thus improving connection between Preston and Blackpool and the area of Lancashire north of Liverpool and around Southport?

Around the turn of the Century, Blackpool was a decaying resort living on former glories, with a rather quaint tram going up the coast, no direct rail service to London and only a fleet of decrepit trains taking visitors and residents to Preston and beyond.

Now fifteen years later, it has a modern tramway, that compares well with any in the world and it is due to get electrified services to Preston, the rest of the North West and London, if the electrification project can be rescued.

Adding tram-trains into the town to increase connectivity can only be good for Blackpool, Preston and the Greater North West. They would also have the benefit of taking two lines off the list of lines to be electrified.

Power Stations

If we look at the IPEMUs, they will have a range of at least 60 miles. So suppose an IPEMU wanted to go from perhaps fifty miles one side of an electrified station like Crewe to fifty miles the other side. Could the train sit at the platform at Crewe, whilst passengers are unloaded and loaded with its pantograph up to charge the battery for the next part of the journey? Or perhaps its journey could be arranged so that for a short distance, the train ran along an electrified line?

I thin engineers will come up with innovative ideas to get power to IPEMUs.

Suppose for example, a branch line from an electrified main line was say about thirty miles long, which as the train would have to go out and back from the main line, this might be towards the range limit of an IPEMU. Perhaps by electrifying a few miles at the main line end of the branch, the branch would now be well within the range of an IPEMU. As the electric power would be taken from the main line, there would be no problems getting power to the short length of overhead wire.

Case Study 5 – London to Yarmouth Via Cambridge And Norwich

Could this route be run by an IPEMU?

The journey is effectively in four parts.

  1. London to Ely – Electrified
  2. Ely to Norwich – Not Electrified
  3. Norwich Station – Electrified
  4. Norwich to Yarmouth – Not Electrified

The longest section that is non-electrified is the section between Ely and Norwich at just over fifty miles.

Yarmouth is just twenty miles from Norwich, so it would appear that if the wait at Norwich station is sufficient to charge the battery, then a London to Yarmouth service via Cambridge, Cambridge Science Park and Ely would be a feasible service for an IPEMU. The only infrastructure needed might be to electrify some extra platforms at Norwich and the bay platforms at Cambridge.

I think that this case study shows the flexibility and capabilities of an IPEMU, AND illustrates why Abellio Greater Anglia (AGA) were very keen to help out in the trial of the Class 379 IPEMU. They knew that it was likely that a four-car IPEMU could start from London or Cambridge, stop at the new Cambridge Science Park station, Ely and Thetford and reach Norwich, where after charging batteries it would proceed to Yarmouth and return to Norwich. Most of the journey to Norwich could possibly be done at a line speed of upwards of 70 mph, thus comfortably outperforming the current diesel multiple unit in terms of time, frequency and comfort. The service could also bring Yarmouth into the electrified network and give the town a direct connection to London. AGA would be rewarded in extra passengers bringing in more revenue.

Knowing the area well, I think that if two trains an hour ran each way between Cambridge and Norwich, the locals would be very pleased.

Whilst looking at Norwich the distances of Cromer, Sheringham and Lowestoft from the city are twenty, thirty and twenty-five miles respectively. So all four major destinations on the branches from Norwich could be served by IPEMUs.

Case Study 6 – Ipswich to Cambridge and Peterborough

To be fair to Ipswich and Suffolk, I will also look at how IPEMUs could be used between Ipswich and Cambridge and Peterborough

Ipswich to Cambridge is electrified at both ends, so the IPEMU trains would just have to bridge the gap between Haughley Junction and Cambridge, which is a distance of about thirty miles. At both ends of the line they would fully charge their batteries.

Ely to Peterborough is not electrified for about thirty miles, so even if an Ipswich to Peterborough IPEMU didn’t pick up power at Ely, it could probably travel direct from Haughley to Peterborough under battery power.

The two branch lines at Ipswich to Felixstowe and Lowestoft are twelve and fifty miles long respectfully, so although Felixstowe would be easily served by an IPEMU, unless some form of charging could be provided at Lowestoft, serving Lowestoft is probably not possible.

But then Suffolk people are very resourceful and as the county is pretty flat, so I suspect they’ll find some way of getting the standard IPEMU between Ipswich and Lowestoft.

One way might be for the Lowestoft trains to actually go between Ipswich and Norwich via Lowestoft. Trains would leave Ipswich and Norwich at times, so that they arrived in Lowestoft a few minutes apart. The trains would then leave in a few minutes to the alternate start point.

An advantage of this routing, is that towns like Beccles and Halesworth, would get a direct connection to Norwich and those on the Norwich to Lowestoft Line would get a direct connection to Ipswich.

So both trains would travel a distance of seventy-five miles over some very flat countryside, which could probably be managed by an Aventra IPEMU.

If the Felixstowe branch was to be electrified, this would cut a couple of miles off the non-electrified route.

This analysis is probably totally wrong, but I suspect that Network Rail have a cunning plan to get IPEMUs from Ipswich to Lowestoft.

The only other line in East Anglia run with diesel trains is the twelve-mile long Gainsborough Line from Marks Tey to Sudbury. It therefore could be easily served using a single IPEMU, This would give the possibility of all London and local passenger services in East Anglia being served by electric trains.

Saying they were an all-electric railway, would not be a negative marketing point for AGA or their successors. But perhaps more importantly, what would it save in running and maintenance costs?

Extending Local Networks With IPEMUs

In the earlier Case Studies 5 and 6, I showed how a network of lines running electric trains could be created around Cambridge, Ely, Ipswich and Norwich, using IPEMUs.

So are there any other hubs, which have a network of local lines converge, where IPEMUs could be used to create an electric network or expand an existing one?

The following cities have networks of local lines and are on electrified major routes.

  • Birmingham
  • Edinburgh
  • Glasgow
  • Leeds
  • Liverpool
  • Manchester
  • Peterborough

In the next few years the following places should be added.

  • Bristol
  • Cardiff
  • Middlesbrough
  • Nottingham

In some places like Cardiff and Leeds, the local networks are being developed by traditional electrification,  and in others like Nottingham, tram-trains may play a big part, but could IPEMUs be used as I showed they could be in East Anglia?

Case Study 7 – Bristol

This entry in Wikipedia entitled Rail Services in the West of England gives details of all the myriad lines that exist or did exist in the Bristol area.

This page on the Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways shows a rather jolly map of railways around the city.

There have also been plans for a Greater Bristol Metro for some time, that ties all of the lines together.

Once Bristol Temple Meads station and some of the lines are electrified, it might be possible to use IPEMUs to serve some of the branch lines, as most of them are less than twenty miles long.

Electro-Diesel Freight Locomotives

Nobody except possibly the operators, love the Class 66 locomotive, which is extensively used for freight in the UK. It doesn’t meet the latest EU regulations and it’s noisy and unloved by the drivers to whom I’ve spoken.

Electrifying freight routes like Felixstowe to Nuneaton, would allow operators to send freight trains between Felixstowe and the Midlands, North and Scotland, using electric haulage all the way.

Next year, we’ll see the first of the new electro-diesel locomotives; the Class 88, which is an electric locomotive, that can use an on-board diesel engine, where there are no overhead wires.

How will these and other locomotives using similar technology affect the costs and need for electrification?

In the case of any electrified route to a port like Felixstowe or London Gateway, overhead wires in the port can present a problem, which an electro-diesel locomotive solves, as it uses the on-board diesel, anywhere near the sidings in the port.

Future Electrification

In England and Wales, there are several big electrification projects in progress in addition to the Great Western.

  • Gospel Oak to Barking Line
  • East Anglia and Freight Routes From Felixstowe
  • Trans Pennine from Liverpool to Hull
  • Midland Main Line/Electric Spine
  • Secondary and Branch Lines In The North
  • South Wales Valleys
  • Waterloo to Salisbury and Exeter
  • Ashford to Hastings and Eastbourne
  • Hurst Green and Uckfield
  • Reading to Gatwick

I’ll now discuss each in detail with respect to the pragmatic attitude that seems to be being taken by train operating companies and Network Rail.

Gospel Oak to Barking Line

The problems on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line (GOBLin) are summed up as follows.

  • Not enough passenger capacity
  • Too many environmentally-unfriendly Class 66 locomotives pulling freight trains through the area.

The line is also being extended to Barking Riverside, where given the infrastructure in the area, the new extension will be fully electrified. So the layout of the line is effectively a twelve mile or so non-electrified line connected to fully electrified lines at both ends.

As new Aventra trains are being delivered for the line, why not add batteries to the GOBlin part of the order so that these trains can run as IPEMUs, thus just leaving the problem of the freight locomotives.

The money saved could be used to improve some of the stations, with full step-free access, longer platforms,better shelters and other facilities.

Incidentally, this line would surely make a very good test track for the Aventras with batteries. If the trains were available tomorrow, they could probably start running after a few modifications to the platforms and electrification of the platform the trains use at Barking station.

The Class 66 locomotive problem will only be solved by full electrification, but an interim solution would be to use Class 88 locomotives on the GOBlin.

I think Network Rail would file abandonment of full electrification under Relieved, as electrifying this line is going to be difficult with all the viaducts and bridges and the need to run lots of replacement buses across a congested city to get passengers to work, rest and play. There is an article on the Railfuture web site, which describes how the electrification might be performed. This is a paragraph.

It is expected that NR will electrify first one half of the line and then the other half, and that whilst electrification is in progress on each half, that part of the line will be closed and the service provided by rail replacement bus. Whilst electrification is in progress LOROL will be able to run longer trains on the remaining half of the line with the existing stock, provided platform lengthening is completed early whilst work proceeds. Therefore if electrification keeps to current plans and if TfL could source electric stock (possibly temporarily, until the new stock is available) when electrification is completed, overcrowding will only be a problem for a period of a year between now and the start of electrification.

It sounds like a lesson in how to organise chaos.

Changing the trains to Aventra IPEMU would also release eight Class 172 diesel trains, for cascade to other routes all over the country on delivery of the new trains.

Obviously, the GOBlin needs to be fully electrified for freight trains, but if the passenger train problem has been solved, this could surely be done at a slower pace, without closing the line, for more than the odd day or two at weekends.

Also if all stations were made step-free before the full electrification, there would be some easier routes for passengers to use to by-pass the works.

East Anglia and Freight Routes From Felixstowe

East Anglia in general suffers from similar problems to the GOBlin of not enough quality passenger  train capacity and large numbers of freight trains, mostly going to and from the Port of Felixstowe.

The main routes are electrified from London to Ipswich, Norwich, Cambridge and Ely, but there are several large gaps in the electrification.

  • Ely to Ipswich
  • Ely to Norwich
  • Ely to Peterborough
  • Ipswich to Cambridge
  • Ipswich to Felixstowe
  • Norwich to Yarmouth

In addition, there are branch lines that need better trains or are being talked about for reopening.

  • Ipswich to Lowestoft
  • March to Wisbech
  • Marks Tey to Sudbury
  • Norwich to Cromer
  • Norwich to Lowestoft

I haven’t included it, but given the right trains would it be possible to re-open Sudbury to Cambridge via Haverhill? Perhaps, as a single track or even a tramway.

There is also a new station at Cambridge Science Park being built and I believe this needs direct services to Norwich and Ipswich.

I believe most, if not all, of the main line gaps could be bridged and the branch lines could be served by IPEMUs. These trains would also open up the possibility of direct services between London and Bury St. Edmunds, Lowestoft, Thetford, Yarmouth and perhaps a few other places. In recent memory both Lowestoft and Yarmouth had direct services to and from London.

I feel that Norwich in Ninety will require faster trains with better acceleration on the route. These would probably be nine-car Class 801 electric trains. Would perhaps, a couple of electro-diesel Class 800 trains be added, to run London to Norwich and Yarmouth via Cambridge, Ely and Thetford?

It might appear that this would remove a lot of the need for completing the electrification in East Anglia, but I believe two lines should be electrified.

The Felixstowe branch line, which serves the Port of Felixstowe should probably be electrified, so that engine changes at Ipswich are avoided for freight trains that are being hauled all the way by an electric  or electro-diesel locomotive.

The line from Peterborough to Ely should also be electrified, as this would provide a valuable electrified diversion route for the East Coast Main Line. Such a diversion would have been invaluable last Christmas, when Kings Cross was closed, due to overrunning engineering work. A twelve coach shuttle could have been run between Liverpool Street and Peterborough via Cambridge and Ely.

As I showed in Case Studies 5 and 6, all other lines in East Anglia could be run by IPEMUs.

At some point in the next couple of decades, Network Rail will tackle the biggest bottleneck on the railways of the UK; the Digswell viaduct. This will obviously need line closures and if Ely to Peterborough is electrified, a shuttle can be run bypassing the trouble.

Trans Pennine Routes from Liverpool to Hull

The routes across the Pennines are both complex and comprehensive. This map shows the current and planned electrification.

Northern Electrification Map

Northern Electrification Map

At present Network Rail is attempting to electrify the lines shown in yellow and to be frank, is not really performing on time and on budget.

In Crossrail Of The North, I said this.

Is it farther between Liverpool and Hull or from London to Norwich?

Actually, they are about the same being around two hundred kilometres for both.

But compare the train times between the two city pairs.

Liverpool to Hull takes three and a quarter hours, with at least one change, whereas London to Norwich takes five minutes under two hours.

We;re not far off now, before Network Rail publish their Norwich in Ninety plans. In this recent article in the Eastern Daily Press, this is said.

Recommendations from a task force which has been pressing for improvements – which includes £476m of infrastructure investment and new trains to be demanded in the next operator contract – were supported by chancellor George Osborne in the autumn statement.

So what are they doing about the similar problems of speeding up the myriad rail routes across the Pennines?

The problems across the Pennines are in addition to the timing problems, one of inadequate capacity in the Class 185 trains, that run on most of the long distance routes. They may have a 100 mph top speed, but these three-car trains are definitely budget trains, specified by the Treasury.

The first solution is for the operator; First TransPennine Express to do what its sister company First Great Western has done and get some trains, that can do the job that the infrastructure will allow.

These are the various routes run by First TransPennine Express.

Much of the North Transpennine Route from Liverpool to Newcastle and Hull via Manchester and Leeds, is electrified, although the Manchester to Leeds section and the three branches to Hull, Scarborough and Middlesborough are not.

The South TransPennine Route, is only electrified round Manchester, whereas on the TransPennine NorthWest Route only the branches to Blackpool, Barrow and Windermere are without electrification.

Timings are generally slow and I do hope that Network Rail are coming up with the track improvements that will speed up the journeys. They seem to have been able to find savings between London and Norwich, so can they do the same across the Pennines?

Perhaps Liverpool to Hull in Hundred would be a catchy target?

As some parts of the route are electrified, a Large and Little solution to the trains may also be appropriate.

The Large component could be a variant of the standard electro-diesel Class 800, of an appropriate size and layout. I suspect that the standard five-car train being built at Newton Aycliffe for First Great Western and Virgin Trains East Coast might be a good starting point. In the September edition of Modern Railways, there is a headline of Bi-Modes for TPE? Translated out of jargon, that is saying will TransPennine Express get Class 800 trains or similar?

Electro-diesel trains would be specified, as I can’t see the Northern Electrification being finished in the near future. But when it is finished, the diesel engines will just be removed to convert the trains to the electric Class 801.

The Little component would be the IPEMU. It would probably be needed as some of the destinations and branches may not accept the larger train.

In the Future section for the Wikiedia entry for First TransPennine Express, this is said.

In June 2014 the DfT confirmed that there will be two separate franchises in the north of England, one providing intercity rail services and a second providing local rail services. There are proposals to transfer theManchester Airport to Blackpool North, Preston and the Lancaster to Barrow-in-Furness, Oxenholme to Windermere and the York to Scarborough and Doncaster to Cleethorpes services to the Northern franchise and transfer the Nottingham to Liverpool portion of the Norwich to Liverpool service currently operated by East Midlands Trains to the TransPennine franchise.

So before I leave TransPennine Routes, I had better look at what this might mean.

It looks like the Scarborough, Cleethorpes, Windermere and Barrow branches will become part of Northern Rail.

I showed earlier that the Windermere branch would be an easy trip for an IPEMU and this could run over the electrified network from there to Manchester Victoria, Piccadilly and Airport, Liverpool and hopefully, Blackpool.

The Barrow branch would also be possible for an IPEMU as it is well under sixty miles for a return trip from Carnforth, so this would mean that one of the most scenic rail routes in the UK, wouldn’t ruin the countryside by electrification.

The Scarborough branch is forty-two miles long, so it is too long for the current predicted performance of a IPEMU. If a simple method of charging the train at Scarborough station could be developed, then this route would probably be feasible.

The Cleethorpes Branch is probably possible with an IPEMU.

So I come to the conclusion, that although electrification of the TransPennine routes, would be nice and will eventually be done, the same high-quality passenger service across the Pennines, you would get with electric trains, can be obtained with a Large and Little mixture of new Class 800 and IPEMU trains.

Midland Main Line/Electric Spine

The Midland Main Line and the closely-related Electric Spine is one project that will be electrified conventionally, although there would be scope for perhaps using a mix of Class 800 and Class 801 trains,so that new services can be added out of St. Pancras.

Once resources are released from the Great Western Main Line, I would start to electrify North from Bedford to Corby, Derby and Nottingham.

One issue in Nottingham, is where the tram-trains that have been proposed will go. As the tram-trains when they run on heavy rail line can use the standard overhead lines at 25KVAC, there could be scope for some meaningful co-operation.

Another issue was thrown in, when I wrote Ilkeston Station In A Few Year’s Time. Network Rail have a major project on the Erewash Valley Line, which has been upgraded and may become a high-speed by-pass for high speed electric trains to Chesterfield and Sheffield, as electrifying the line through Derby and the World Heritage Site of the Derwent Valley might prove a difficult project.

So I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bedford to Sheffield electrified first and electro-diesel Class 800 trains used to serve Derby and Nottingham, until those branches on the line were fully electrified.

Secondary and Branch Lines In The North

This is virtually every line that isn’t electrified north of a line from the Humber to the Mersey.

Depending on the line and its relationship to electrified lines and major centres of population, different solutions will be proposed by engineers as they look at the alternatives.

  • Full Electrification
  • Using high-quality diesel trains, like the Class 172 trains displaced from the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.
  • Running an IPEMU on the line, as I proposed earlier for between Carlisle and Newcastle.
  • Conversion to Tram or Tram-Train Operation

The engineers are going to have fun on this one, as new or refurbished modern trains running on electric power are delivered all over the North.

In the report of the North of England Electrification Task Force, the various lines were grouped into three tiers in order of priority.

Tier One included. The comment at the end, is my view of what is possible.

  • Calder Valley – Leeds to Manchester and Preston via Bradford and Brighouse – Full Electrification
  • Liverpool to Manchester via Warrington Central – Full Electrification
  • Southport/Kirkby to Salford Cresent – Full Electrification
  • Chester to Stockport – See Note 1
  • Northallerton To Middlesbrough – Full Electrification
  • Leeds to York via Harrogate – Full Electrification
  • Selby to Hull – Full Electrification
  • Sheffield (Meadowhall) to Leeds via Barnsley/Castleford – Full Electrification – See Note 4
  • Bolton to Clitheroe – Possible IPEMU
  • Sheffield to Doncaster/Wakefield Westgate (Dearne Valley) – Full Electrification – See Note 4
  • Hazel Grove to Buxton – Possible  IPEMU
  • Warrington to Chester – See Note 1

Tier Two included.

  • Manchester to Sheffield and South East Manchester Local Services – Partial Electrification with Possible IPEMU
  • York to Scarborough – See Note 3
  • Bishop Auckland/Darlington to Saltburn and Sunderland –  See Note 3
  • Barnsley to Huddersfield – IPEMU when Huddersfield and Sheffield are electrified. – See Note 4
  • Sheffield to Lincoln via Retford – Partial Electrification with Possible IPEMU – See Note 4
  • Chester to Crewe – See Note 1
  • Burnley to Colne & Kirkham to Blackpool South – Tram-Train or IPEMU
  • Knottingley to Goole – IPEMU

Tier Three included.

  • Barrow to Carnforth – IPEMU
  • Pontefract to Church Fenton
  • Hull to Scarborough –  See Note 3
  • Omskirk to Preston – Tram-Train or IPEMU
  • Carlisle to Newcastle – IPEMU
  • Skipton to Carlisle – Full Electrification or Cascaded DMUs
  • Barton on Humber – See Note 2
  • Cumbrian Coast – Full Electrification or Cascaded DMUs
  • Doncaster to Gilberdyke – See Note 2
  • Cleethorpes to Thorne (Doncaster) – See Note 2
  • Middlesbrough to Whitby – See Note 3
  • Skipton to Heysham – Possible IPEMU

The various notes are as follows.

  1. Chester is the centre of a busy network and probably needs full electrification, especially if the North Wales Line to Holyhead is electrified. Although that line could use Class 800 trains.
  2. Humberside is a mass of small railways and I wouldn’t discount a very innovative solution being found for the area.
  3. Teesside is trying to develop a Tees Valley Metro and this could be partially electrified and see use of IPEMU
  4. Routes to Sheffield might also be served using tram-trains. I would also connect Sheffield’s trams to those in Manchester and Nottingham using tram-trains running along the electrified connecting heavy rail lines.

And after the North there’s the South, the Midlands, Wales and Scotland.

South Wales Valleys

This follow-on project after the Great Western electrification to Cardiff and Swansea, will electrify the Valley Lines in South Wales. This project will probably be done in a very conventional manner, especially, as the Welsh seem to have got much of the bridges, stations and other infrastructure ready for electrification.  I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that IPEMUs running on battery power aren’t the best trains at climbing hills.

It would now appear that tram-trains are entering the plans and who’s to say if IPEMUs creep into the project somewhere.

Waterloo to Salisbury and Exeter

Waterloo to Salisbury and Exeter on the West of England Main Line is not a wholly electrified journey, as the third-rail stops at Basingstoke.

As the Class 800 train is closely related to the Class 395 train that works the high-speed commuter services out of St. Pancras, which is configured to use third-rail electricity collection, I wonder whether the solution to getting electric trains to Salisbury and Exeter is to create a third-rail variant of the Class 800.

Ashford to Hastings and Eastbourne

Electrification has been promised on the Marshlink Line to allow High Speed services from Hastings and Eastbourne to St. Pancras using HS1.

As with electrification to Salisbury and Exeter, more third-rail electrification is probably not going to be performed.

But could an electro-diesel variant of the Class 395 train be built to serve Hastings and Eastbourne.

Probably not, as the certification costs would be high for a small number of units.

But I would hope that engineers are looking at ways to bridge the gap between Ashford and Hastings. It would certainly be possible with a dual-voltage IPEMU!

Hurst Green and Uckfield

The route between Hurst Green and Uckfield on the Oxted Line is current served by Class 171 diesel trains. As the Aventra is built to a similar size as these trains, to run this line with IPEMUs would probably be just a matter of delivering the trains and driver and staff training.

If the Ashford to Hastings and Eastbourne route was also converted to electric trains, as I showed was possible in the previous section, a total of ten 2-car and six 4-car Class 171 trains would be released for service elsewhere. I think too that Southern would become an electric-only train operating company.

Reading to Gatwick

Reading to Gatwick along the North Downs Line is effectively in three sections.

  • Reading to Guildford – 19 miles
  • Guildford to Redhill – 25 miles
  • Redhill to Gatwick – 4 miles

Of the forty-eight miles of the line, just nineteen miles are electrified using third rail.

it would appear that a dual-voltage IPEMU with third-rail pickup, would give a faster electric service along the route.

It would appear that Surrey County Council would like to improve this line and perhaps with a look at stations, level crossings and speed restrictions, the service on this line could be considerably improved by using IPEMUs.

No electrification work would be necessary, although filling easy gaps in the third-rail would give more improvement.

This route looks like it has been specially designed for an IPEMU.

A dual-voltage IPEMU could also extend the route at either end.


Innovate like crazy using proven trains and methods!!!

Some things have surprised me in this analysis.

  1. The Aventra IPEMU has a specification, range and capability, that is very well-matched to lots of sections of the UK rail network, that either need electrification and/or new electric trains.
  2. A mix of Class 800 electro-diesel and Class 801 electric trains will be found working on lots of lines.
  3. A large number of high quality diesel multiple units are available for cascade. Many could go to replace the dreaded Pacers all over the country.
  4. South of the Thames is as far as passenger trains are concerned is virtually a diesel-free zone.

The first two points mean that a lot of the difficult electrification can be done in nice warm factories in Newton Aycliffe and Derby. So perhaps we might see a line improved using the following project structure.

  1. Stations, bridges and tunnels are modified to fit both the passenger and freight trains that will run on the route. If there is a chance that electrification might happen eventually, then clearances would be improved accordingly.
  2. All stations would be upgraded to the modern standards of accessibility and customer facilities. Many like the new Custom House station for Crossrail would be built in factories.
  3. The chosen trains would then be introduced on the line.
  4. Finally, the overhead wires would be erected, if that has been decided is appropriate.

The first phase of the project is the difficult one, as there is some truly horrendous Victoria infrastructure out there and much of it is Listed and infested with bats, great crested newts and other protected wildlife.

Get this sort of project structure right and there might be a chance that we’d find an affordable way to do electrification!

As improved stations are delivered early, passengers may still be being carried in dreaded Pacers, but at least they’ll have a modern, customer-friendly interface to the railway.

Hopefully, by the time that full electrification is implemented, all local problems wil have been solved and the electrification is a much easier business.






August 30, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment