The Anonymous Widower

A Mysterious Attack On My Body

Last Friday, I went to Birmingham and looked at the extension of the West Midlands Metro to Fiveways and Perry Barr station before it is updated for the Commonwealth Games.

I also took a detour to Wolverhampton station to see how the new transport interchange is progressing.

I had travelled between Euston  and Wolverhampton on my least favourite trains – Alstom’s Class 390 trains.

  • The seats don’t align well with the windows.
  • The trains are cramped because of all the tilting mechanism.

These trains must a nightmare for anybody taller than my 1.70 metres or heavier than my sixty-two kilos.

But the biggest problem of these Pendolino trains is that Alstom updated the air-conditioning a few years ago for Virgin a few years ago and I find the air inside too dry.

I am glad to see that Avanti West Coast have ordered new Hitachi Class 807 trains for running to and from Liverpool.

In my few hours in Birmingham, I didn’t have much to eat or drink.

  • I had a hot chocolate from a stall outside Wolverhampton station.
  • I also took a box of Leon’s gluten-free chicken and a lemonade onto the train home.

I was fine until I got to about Watford, but about I felt a need for the toilet. I waited until Euston and then it seemed everything in my body went down the toilet in the station.

Saturday

I had slept well on Friday night going to bed after the ten o’clock news as I usually do.

I spent a very quiet Saturday mainly watching sport on the television and not leaving my house.

Sunday

After a good night’s sleep, I noticed things seemed to have gone a bit wrong with my left hand.

  • I couldn’t get my left arm to co-operate with putting on a shirt.
  • I had trouble opening a yoghurt pot, by gripping it in my left hand and ripping the top off with my right.
  • I couldn’t tie my shoe-laces and had to use a pair of slip on shoes.

But

  • At no time was I having any balance problems and bathed successfully,
  • I did manage to get to the shops at the Angel to get a few bits and pieces I needed.

In the end I phoned 111 and they decided, I should be looked at professionally in hospital.

Royal London Hospital

Once in A & E at the Royal London things started to get better.

  • A CT-Scan had shown no problems.
  • I had a negative Covid test.
  • They did a few blood tests.
  • They told me that I had an infection.

But remarkably after an hour or so, my hand had started working normally.

The only reason, I could think, was that the air in the hospital was fully climate-controlled, whereas at home, it was just hot and dry.

They kept me in overnight and after a couple of human-based checks in the morning sent me home in a taxi.

Conclusion

The whole episode does seem so like an incident I described in A Couple of Days in Hospital.

May 12, 2021 Posted by | Health, Transport | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The West Midlands Metro Reaches Towards Five Ways

Whilst I was in Birmingham today, I took a ride on the West  Midlands Metro as far as Library and then walked along the route as far as I could get.

I took these pictures,

Note.

  1. The tracks fit neatly into the road.
  2. There appears to be no poles for wires to the West of the Library.
  3. It looks like the trams will be running under battery power between Library and Five Ways.

A worker told me, that it could open in a couple of months.

Will Edinburgh trams use a similar system?

May 7, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 2 Comments

Tram-Train Operation To Continue In Sheffield As New Systems Proposed

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

Tram-trains will continue running in South Yorkshire beyond the end of the two-year trial period, with the Government believing it could act as an inspiration for similar schemes elsewhere.

The article also suggests that more than ten transport authorities want their own tram-train systems in cities including Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow.

November 10, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

New Wolverhampton Train Station Opens This Bank Holiday – After Multi-Million Pound Revamp

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Birmingham Live.

The title is the full story, except for the actual date of Monday, the 25th.

Wolverhampton station is getting a £150 million Interchange development to better connect trains, buses and trains and although, this is only the completion of a substantial part, in more normal times, I’d be on the train on Monday to see the new development.

I’ll just add it to a long list of places, I need to visit.

May 23, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , | Leave a comment

Silent Hydrogen Trains On The Cards For New Line Linking Burton And Leicester

The title of this post is the same as that on this article on Derbyshire Live.

The idea of using hydrogen power came about after some people worried about the noise of trains, if the full route were to reopen.

The Proposed Route

The proposed route that would be reopened is the Leicester and Burton-on-Trent Line.

  • The route is double-track.
  • It is around forty miles long.
  • It is still used by freight trains, so the track must be in serviceable condition.
  • There are no stations.

Sadly, when the route was closed to passengers in 1964, British Rail simplified Knighton Junction at the Leicester end of the line. Wikipedia says this.

At the Leicester end of the line, Knighton North Junction has been dismantled and the former course of the line to the junction has been sold and turned into an industrial estate. The line’s remaining connection with the Midland Main Line is Knighton South Junction, which faces southwards, away from Leicester station. Trains between Leicester and the line therefore have to reverse direction at the junction.

This Google Map shows, what’s left of the junction.

Note.

  1. Leicester is to the North
  2. Burton is to the North-West.
  3. Melton Mowbray and London are to the South.

It looks to me, that someone at British Rail made it absolutely certain, that the rail line could not be reopened to provide a passenger service between Leicester and Burton.

For a train to go between Leicester and Burton, it would either need to reverse as Wikipedia indicated, or the curve would have to be very tight.

There is only one class of passenger train, that can go round tight curves and that is a Class 399 tram-train!

So to enable trains to go direct around the corner, the option is either expensive disruptive demolition or use something like tram-train technology or a specially designed bendy train.

The Ivanhoe Line

The route was originally planned to be the second part of the Ivanhoe Line, but this was discontinued after rail privatisation.

Services on this line is an hourly service between Leicester and Lincoln Central stations.

  • Intermediate stations are Syston, Sileby, Barrow-upon-Soar, Loughborough, East Midlands Parkway, Beeston, Nottingham, Newark Castle, Collingham, Swinderby and Hykeham.
  • Services can get overcrowded, as the service is run by two-car trains.
  • Platforms would need to be lengthened for longer trains.

Extending this service to Burton station would surely be good for connectivity at and through Leicester.

The Association Of Train Operating Companies Plan For The Line

This is taken from the Wikipedia entry for the line.

In 2009 the Association of Train Operating Companies published a £49 million proposal (Connecting Communities: Expanding Access to the Rail Network) to restore passenger services to the line that would include reopening stations at Kirby Muxloe, Bagworth and Ellistown, Coalville Town, Ashby de la Zouch, Moira, and Gresley (for Swadlincote). There is also some support in the Leicester area for the line to have new stations to serve Leicester City F.C.’s stadium and the suburb of Braunstone.

Wikipedia also says, it could be developed as a no-frills line.

Possible New Stations In Leicester

I have mentioned new stations in Leicester, so here’s a few more thoughts.

Leicester Reversal Station

A friend said that to reverse the trains between Leicester and Burton, a station has been proposed to be built, south of Knighton Junction.

This Google Map shows the junction and the line to the South.

Only a single-platform station would be needed and it would be a simple and affordable solution to British Rail’s lack of vision of the future.

Leicester City Stadium

This Google Map shows the stadium.

Note the rail line passing to the South of the station.

It would appear that building a new station would not be the most difficult of projects.

But after the experience of Coventry City, who were relegated twice after Coventry Arena station opened, would eicester City want a station?

Braunstone Station

This Google Map shows the rail line running through Braunstone.

The rail line is at the top of the map.

Leicester Forest East Station

I wrote about this possible station in A Station At Leicester Forest East.

Burton Station

Intriguingly, Burton station is run by East Midlands Railway, who run no services to the town.

Services are provided by CrossCountry using a variety of long distance services.

The South Staffordshire Line connects Burton and Birmingham.

Part of this line is being converted to become an extension of the West Midlands Metro and Staffordshire County Council have looked at converting the whole route to tram-train operation to bring trams to Burton to promote tourism.

Hydrogen Power

I estimate that the distance between Lincoln and Burton is about a hundred miles.

Alstom are predicting a range of several hundred miles for their hydrogen trains for their Breeze train, which should mean a round trip to Lincoln from Burton will surely be in range.

Refuelling could be at a suitable place on the route.

In Delivering Hydrogen For Vehicles, I talk about how iTM Power are building hydrogen refuelling stations for road vehicles.

As the company is already building stand-alone hydrogen fuelling stations for fleets of buses in Birmingham and Pau, I’m sure that one for a fleet of trains is not a problem.

All their filling stations need is a small amount of space, a supply of tap water and a connection to the electricity grid.

It should be noted that Central Rivers Depot is four miles South of Burton.

Possibilities

There are a lot of possibilities to extend the Ivanhoe Line to Burton and even beyond using the South Staffordshire Line.

  • Battery or hydrogen trains can be used.
  • Stations can be added as required.
  • The route will connect to Eat Midlands Airport.
  • A solution for Knighton Junction an surely be devised.

Amazon are reported to be interested in the project, as they have a big depot at Coalville.

January 15, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Who Needs Wires?

I went to Birmingham today to look at the recently-opened  extension of the West Midlands Metro, which runs from outside Birmingham New Street station to Birmingham Library on battery power.

Note.

  1. Pavements, tram stop furniture and other details need to be finished.
  2. There no wires between near to New Street station and the Birmingham Library tram stop.
  3. The route is double-track.
  4. The stops all have two platforms.
  5. The route will be extended past Birmingham Library and on to new stops at Brinfleyplace, Five Ways and Edgbaston,
  6. The last three pictures show the pantograph being lowered outside New Street station.

These are my thoughts on other areas.

Battery Installation

The batteries appear to be on the roof of the two end sections of the trams.

They don’t appear to be very large, so it looks to me that CAF have taken great trouble with the design.

After all, the batteries were fitted to the trams by maintenance staff at West Midlands Metro, after one tram was converted in Spain.

Battery Operation

I observed the following.

  • Birmingham Library tram stop doesn’t appear to have a charging station.
  • Trams running towards Birmingham Library tram stop, drop the pantopgraph at New Street station.
  • Although I didn’t see it, trams going in the other direction, probably raise the pantograh at New Street station.
  • I would assume that trams leave New Street station for Birmingham Library,  with full batteries, that have been charged on the way from Wolverhampton.
  • Trams appear to have no problem climbing from New Street station to the Town Hall tram stop.
  • If required trams could coast down the hill to New Street station.

The operation on battery power appears to be very simple.

Note that there are three other tram systems, that use these CAF Urbos 3 trams, that use batteries; Granada, Luxembourg and Seville.

There will surely be others, judging by the quality I saw in Birmingham.

Noise On Battery Power

Like other battery-powered vehicles, that I’ve ridden, they seem to be very quiet, when running on batteries. I suspect, that with the pantograph safely down in its hole, a lot of clanking and screeching doesn’t happen.

The Location Of The Temporary Terminus

The Birmingham Library tram stop makes an excellent temporary terminus.

  • It is at the top of the hill, so will surely attract passengers, not wanting to walk all the way up.
  • It is not far from the library, conference hall, conference centre and the restaurants on Brindleyplace.
  • The tracks can be easily extended to Edgbaston.
  • There is a crossover to allow trams to be turned back in either platform.
  • There are also no need for wires at the tram stop.

I also think, that if there are no wires on the extension from Birmingham Library tram stop, that the building of the extension could be much simpler.

The New Extension Opened Early

I’m fairly certain, that the newly-opened section of track is completely without wires.

  • Did this simplify testing and allow the extension to open a few days early, once staff training had been completed?
  • It certainly allows revenue to be collected earlier.
  • Have the battery modifications to the trams been designed so that the full extension can be handled on battery power?
  • Does this mean that the route can be built and tested in sections, by just laying the track and testing it?

If this is the plan, it is rather elegant and could save construction costs and testing time.

Extending The Edinburgh Tram

Is a similar construction plan to be used on the Edinburgh trams for their extension?

The trams are all built by CAF, which must help..

Conclusion

Birmingham must now have one of the best City Centre tram in the world.

  • The batteries are charged on the long run between Birmingham and Wolverhampton.
  • The changeover between battery and overhead power happens at a busy stop, so doesn’t delay the tram.
  • There is sufficient power to climb the hill from New Street station to Birmingham Library.

It’s a much better system than the MetroCentro in Seville, which was also built by CAF. But that is now twelve years old and is only about as long as Birmingham’s current section without wires.

These pictures show the charging system in Seville from my post called Seville’s Elegant Trams.

Seville’s trams have to charge the battery at every stop and I suspect the technology could be used in the West Midlands if needed.

Are we also seeing an innovative construction method for a tram system?

  • An electrified core is built first.
  • Battery trains can be tested on an electrified line with the pantograph down.
  • The initial line is then extended, as required at the ends using plain track and battery operation.
  • The extension is done gradually in sections to allow full testing.

It should be possible to save construction time and project cost.

December 13, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Trams Tested On New Section Of West Midlands Metro

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on the South Wales Argus.

I don’t understand why test running of the battery trams on the West Midlands Metro has been reported in South Wales.

But it does report, that the UK’s first battery trams could be running in December.

August 31, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

More Innovation From CAF

CAF are noted for innovation in the design of their trains and particularly trams. I have read somewhere, that they spend a lot of money on Research and Development and it seems to show in their products.

  • In Seville’s Elegant Trams, I wrote about the MetroCentro in Seville, which is catenary-free and charges the batteries of the trams at stops, through an overhead rail.
  • Zaragoza trams use a similar system.
  • The Midland Metro is fitting batteries to its CAF Urbos 3 trams, to extend the system in Birmingham and Wolverhampton.
  • A second line for the Midland Metro could use tram-trains, so it can share the South Staffordshire Line with freight trains.
  • My engineering instinct tells me that the Midland Metro system is more advanced, than that installed in Spain.

This article on Global Rail News is entitled CAF Secures New Orders In Luxembourg, Germany and Sweden.

This is an extract from the article.

Luxtram has selected CAF to supply 12 trams for the second phase of Luxembourg City’s tram network, a catenary-free line which is currently under construction.

These Urbos 3 trams will cost €40 million and be powered through a ground-level charging system at stops.

So it looks like CAF have now added a new way of charging battery trams.

Will we be seeing this technology in the extension to the Edinburgh Tram and later extensions to the Midland Metro?

 

 

June 14, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

New Istanbul Tram Line To Be Catenary-Free

The title of this post, is the same as that in this article on Global Rail News.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Contractor Dogus Construction has selected Alstom to supply a full APS ground-level power supply solution for the Eminönü-Alibeyköy tram line in Istanbul.

Choosing Alstom’s street-level power rail solution means that the 10km-long line will be entirely catenary-free.

I suspect, catenary-free will become the norm, either using systems like in Istanbul or batteries like the Midland Metro.

April 5, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

A Walk Across Birmingham City Centre

I took this walk across Birmingham City Centre to look at the works on the Midland Metro Extension to Egbaston.

These are some of the pictures I took.

There’s certainly a lot of work going on.

It will be interesting to see how the trams get from New Street station to Victoria Square. It could be power up one hill and gravity down another.

The tram extension is to be finished in 2019.

March 31, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment