The Anonymous Widower

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

New Passenger Rail Routes In The West Midlands

Looking for possible privately-funded rail projects, I have come acrossseveral proposed rail route re-openings and improvement schemes in the West Midlands on Wikipedia.

Birmingham-Peterborough Line

The Birmingham-Peterborough Line is a major route between Birmingham and the East.

I am including it, as there are aspirations to add new stations at Castle Bromwich and Fort Parkway.

Between Birmingham and Nuneaton must be a candidate for in-fill electrification, especially as this section has two freight terminals.

Camp Hill Line

The reopening of the Camp Hill Line across Birmingham has been a long term ambition of the City Council for years.

The current status of the proposed development of the Camp Hill Line is given in Wikipedia under Future Plans.

This is the last part of that section.

In 2017, the newly elected Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street pledged to get work started on restoring services to the line by 2020. And officials were said to be investigating the business case for a fourth station at Balsall Heath (previously called Brighton Road) This would mean Lifford and Camp Hill would be the only stations not to be reopened.

In August 2017, West Midlands Trains announced plans as part of their franchise deal that the line would reopen by December 2019 as part of a £1 billion investment in the West Midlands. This included a new station at Moseley.

In February 2018, Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, said that the viaduct would not be needed, as Hereford to Birmingham New Street trains could be diverted along this line, meaning that extra capacity at Birmingham New Street was not required to open this line.

Note that the original completion date for this scheme was 2025 and it has now been moved forward to December 2019.

The current scheme seems to include the following.

  • Four new stations at Balsall Heath, Moseley, Kings Heath and Hazelwell.
  • A possible connection into Birmingham Moor Street station.
  • Birmingham New Street to Worcester services would use the Camp Hill Line.

It seems that this scheme provides a rail service to a new part of the city and also releases capacity at Birmingham New Street. I think there’s some Brummie cunning at work and that a simpler scheme is being created, that could involve.

  • The new stations.
  • None or very little new electrification, track and signalling.
  • No connection to Moor Street station.
  • Services from Birmingham New Street to Kings Norton, Redditch and Bromsgrove using new Aventra trains running on batteries on the Camp Hill Line, which would call at all stations.
  • An improved Birmingham New Street to the new Worcester Parkway station using new CAF Civity diesel trains, along the Camp Hill Line.
  • Will CrossCountry’s Cardiff-Nottingham service be rerouted via the Camp Hill Line?

The New Street to Worcester services could be rerouted earlier, if it was necessary to squeeze more capacity out of New Street station.

Note that if all services stopped at Bromsgrove, when it gets its electric service on the Cross-City Line in May 2018, passengers for a lot of destinations, would surely change at Bromsgrove, rather than New Street!

Darlaston Loop

The reopening of the Darlaston Loop has been suggested by Andy Street, who is now Mayor of the West Midlands.

I suspect that this reopening fits within a larger overall scheme.

South Staffordshire Line

Network Rail and Midland Metro, both seem to have aspirations to run services on the South Staffordshire Line.

Re-opening Proposals in the Wikipedia entry gives full details of the proposals. Included are.

  • Freight trains on a single track.
  • Midland Metro on a single track with passing places.
  • National Rail services.
  • Tram-trains sharing with freight trains.

This is the last entry.

In September 2017, the new franchise operators, West Midlands Trains, plans to restore disused railway lines including the South Staffordshire Line which would be an extension of the existing Birmingham to Stourbridge Junction service which it plans to extend to Brierley Hill in the future.

On the Wikipedia entry for the Midland Metro, under Wednesbury and Merry Hill – Extension, this is said.

From Line 1 in Wednesbury, the Brierley Hill Extension (WBHE) would follow the disused South Staffordshire Line, through Tipton to the vicinity of the former Dudley Town station (which closed in 1964 and was later the site of a freightliner terminal), then on-street into Dudley town centre. It would leave Dudley alongside the Southern Bypass to access the railway corridor, leaving it at the approach to the Waterfront/Merry Hill area and Brierley Hill and then on to Stourbridge.

Centro has stated that the WBHE would provide 10 trams per hour, alternately serving Wolverhampton and Birmingham. Journey time from Brierley Hill to West Bromwich was stated as 31 minutes.

There are a lot of possibilities.

Various things might help in the design.

  • There is space for two tracks. It has been suggested that one is for trams and one for freight.
  • Midland Metro’s trams can run on battery power, so no electrification is required, if all other trains are diesel-powered.
  • Midland Metro’s trams and West Midlands Trains’s new diesel trains are both built by CAF, so are they compatible enough to share a track?
  • Modern signalling gets better and better.

I think we might see a very innovative plan for the use of this line.

Sutton Park Line

The Sutton Park Line is another line in the est Midlands area, that could be re-opened.

Re-opening in the Wikipedia entry gives full details of the proposals.

In February 2008 it was announced that Birmingham City Council, Network Rail and Centro were launching a feasibility study to assess the possibility of re-opening the line to passenger services. In January 2015 the line was put on hold for reopening to passenger trains. In April 2017, the proposals were being looked at again as part of a spin-off to the HS2 scheme. In December 2017, it has been proposed that the line could reopen as part of the Governments plans to reopen lines closed in the 1960s and later cuts by British Rail.

I would think, that one of the main reasons, this line is being reopened is that is connects several of the other suburban lines in Birmingham. It also allows freight trains to by-pass Birmingham New Street station.

Walsall-Wolverhampton Line

This is said about reopening a passenger service on the Walsall-Woverhampton Line in Wikipedia under Future Plans.

The West Midlands Combined Authority have announced their intention to restore a passenger service to the line by 2027, along with new stations at Willenhall and Darlaston James Bridge.

Note.

  1. At the present time, this route is for freight.
  2. It has had passenger services on and off for fifty years.
  3. It can be used as a diversion route around engineering works.

If a direct service were to be reinstated it would take just twelve minutes, as opposed to an hour via Birmingham New Street station.

It strikes me that this would be a simple route to upgrade.

Walsall and Wolverhampton stations are electrified.

The route is surely short enough to be handled by a battery-powered train.

Signalling is probably up-to-date.

There is also this report in the Wolverhampton Express and Star, which is entitled Spring Satement: £350m Housing Deal For The West Midlands, which says this.

The deal comes after ministers revealed plans to bring the line between the town and city back into use, including new railway stations at Willenhall and James Bridge, Darlaston.

Things seem to be happening on this route.

Possible New Stations

I’ll summarise the possible new and reopened stations.

Could a common design be created, so that the cost of stations is reduced?

Is There A Plan?

The West Midlands Combined Authority and the train operation company for the area; West Midlands Trains, seem at a first look, taken all the freight and disused routes and seeing how they can be linked into a network to the benefit of Birmingham.

But I think it is more than that!

The trains and trams are a varied fleet.

  • CAF Urbos trams. – Can be fitted powered with batteries
  • Bombardier Aventra trains in three- and five-car units. – Might be possible to be powered with batteries
  • CAF Civity diesel-multiple units in two- and four-car units.

Full details have not been given about the Aventras, but it could be that all trams and trains are capable of moving for perhaps a dozen miles under their own power. Obviously, the CAF Civitiies can go a lot further on diesel fuel.

I have some questions.

  • Could all these trains, mean that the lines can be added to the current network without installing too much electrification?
  • Is it only the South Staffordshire Line and the Darlaston Loop, where new track needs to be laid?
  • CAF are a company noted for innovation, who are opening a factory in Wales. Have they got a Spanish Surprise to help the WMCA create a world-class network?
  • Are architects and engineers working on a unique platform design, that all trains can share?
  • Could the Camp Hill Line and the Walsall-Wolverhampton Line have a passenger service, as soon as there are trains to run the service?

I wonder if there is a plan to bring in new routes continuously!

  • Electric trains  on the Chase Line to Rugeley Trent Valley station and to Bromsgrove station will be first in 2018.
  • Walsall and Wolverhampton using the Wallsall-Wolverhampton Line
  • New Street and Worcester using the Camp Hill Line.
  • New Street and Bromsgrove using new stations on the Camp Hill Line.
  • Coleshill Parkway tand Walsall using the Sutton Park Line.
  • Walsall and Stourbridge Junction using the South Staffordshire Line and diesel trains.
  • Wednesbury and Merry Hill using the South Staffordshire Line and trams.

Note.

  1. The early bonus of the new electrification.
  2. Walsall and Bromsgrove will develop into well-connected hubs.
  3. Euston and Walsall will be introduced by West Midlands Trains.
  4. As the network expands, new trains are delivered.
  5. Stations will be added continuously.
  6. All parts of Greater Birmingham will benefit.

Is this the way, Andy Street will market the network to his customers?

 

 

 

 

March 27, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is The West Midlands Going To Get A Tram-Train Line?

This article on Global Rail News is entitled Midland Metro Extension Receives £200m Boost From UK Government.

This is the first paragraph.

West Midlands mayor Andy Street has confirmed that £200 million from the UK government’s new ‘Transporting Cities Fund’ will be used to extend the Midland Metro to Brierley Hill.

The Brierley Hill Extension would use the currently disused South Staffordshire Line. It would link Wednesbury to Stourbridge, via Dudley, Brierley Hill and the Merry Hill |Shopping Centre.

Wikipedia says that ten trains per hour would run South of Wednesbury and five services would go to each of Birmingham and Wolverhampton.

The Need For Tram-Trains

The South Staffordshire Line is also wanted by Network Rail for use as a freight line.

Tram-trains would be the solution for a line-share.

  • The extension could be configured to suit Class 399 Tram-trains.
  • Class 399 tram-trains seem to be working well in Sheffield as trams.
  • In Rotherham the Class 399 tram-trains will co-exist with the heaviest of freight trains.
  • Dual-voltage tram-trains would allow electrification of the South Staffordshire Line with 25 KVAC at a later date if required.

The biggest advantage would be the cost savings, as both the tram-trains and the freight trains could use the same standard of track.

But I also feel that all the design problems for the extension will have been explored in a practical way in the Sheffield-Rotherham trial.

Should the Tram-Trains Terminate At Stourbridge?

The Global Rail News article doesn’t mention Stourbridge, but Wikipedia indicates it could be the terminus of the tram route.

If tram-trains are used on the route, then to run them as trains to Stourbridge Junction station may be a good idea.

Conclusion

This extension of the Midland Metro has a lot of possibilities.

I think that like the Midland Metro’s proposed use of battery trams, it shows that the West Midland Combined Authority is not afraid to be innovative.

 

 

November 21, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , | 2 Comments

Midland Metro’s £149m Extension To Open In 2021

The title of this post is the same as an article on Global Rail News.

This is the first two paragraphs.

A 2km extension of Transport for West Midlands’ Midland Metro has been given the go ahead in the UK.

The £149 million extension will link Grand Central, in Birmingham’s city centre, with the southern suburb of Edgbaston with five new stops served by up to 10 trams an hour at peak times.

This article in the Birmingham Mail, gives more details.

The locations of five new stops to be built in the next phase of the Midland Metro extension have been confirmed.

The line is being taken an additional 1.2 miles from outside New Street station to Hagley Road.

As previously mooted, there will be stops outside Town Hall Birmingham and at Centenary Square, in Broad Street, where passengers can access the ICC, Library of Birmingham and new HSBC UK head office.

The other stops will be opposite Brindleyplace at the corner of Granville Street, outside the Cineworld cinema in Broad Street and in front of office block 54 Hagley Road, close to the Morrisons supermarket.

I think that the design of the route has been kept fairly simple and also involves some pedestrianisation.

From New Street To Broad Street

This Google Map shows the first section of the route from the current terminus of the Midland Metro at Grand Central outside New Street station to the start of Broad Street.

The blue dot outside New Street station shows the Grand Central tram stop.

The route goes up the hill, to the stop at Birmingham Town Hall before twisting to go down Broad Street to stop in Centenary Square.

Along Broad Street

This Google Map shows Broad Street from the Symphony Hall to the Cineworld Cinema.

Three stops are on this section.

  • Brindleyplace
  • Granville Street
  • Cineworld Cinema

This visualisation shows the route at the cinema.

Note.

  • The view is looking towards Five Ways.
  • Overhead electrification is used on this section.

Will the route be pedestrian only?

Through Five Ways Roundabout And On To 54 Hagley Road

This Google Map shows the last section of the route.

The roundabout looks to have plenty of space to thread the tram lines through.

54 Hagley Road is the office tower in the South West corner of the map, on the South side of Hagley Road. Again there seems plenty of space.

Sections Without Wires

The route bwtween Grand Central and Hagley Road will use a mixture of overhead wiring and onboard energy storage to power the trams.

It has been stated that in the historic centre, the trams will not use wires, as in this visualisation.

It appears that there will be wired sections either side of this section without wires in the centre.

This will ensure, that the onboard energy storage is well-charged before entering the section.

Cost And Timescale

Comments on the Birmingham Mail article, think the line is expensive and it will take a long time to build.

Looking at the route the two tricky sections are around Paradise Street and Five Ways, as there will need to be a lot of reconstruction of the road network.

But the sections running on onboard energy storage should be a lot easier to build.

At £149 million for 3.38 kilometres, the extension will cost £44 million a kilometre.

Manchester Metrolink’s Trafford Park Line will cost £350 million for 5.5 kilometres or £64 million a kilometre.

Is the lower cost/km. of the Birmingham Extension due to the sections without wires?

I suspect, it’s probably more complicated than that!

Conclusion

It looks a good scheme.

My only reservation is what will drivers think about a pedestrianised Broad Street, if that is part of the design.

 

 

 

September 1, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Seville’s Elegant Trams

Seville’s tramway; the MetroCentro, by the cathedral is powered without using traditional overhead catenary.

Each double-sided stop has a high electrified rail on each side.

When the tram stops, it puts up a pantograph and then for a minute or so, it charges the batteries.

Seville’s Urbos trams are the same as in Birmingham, so will the Midland Metro be using the same elegant system to charge the batteries, that are now been fitted, so trams can run to Centenary Square in Birmingham and the railway station in Wolverhampton?

|Edinburgh also has another version of Urbos trams, so if Birmingham battery trams are successful, will we be seeing them North of the Border?

There’s only one thing wrong with Seville’s trams. Every one is wrapped in advertising, which makes it difficult to see out and look at the outstanding buildings.

How Does The Battery System Work?

CAF , who built the Urbos trams, have this page on their web site, which is entitled Greentech Tram.

The system uses two methods of storing electricity.

Supercapacitor Modules

A supercapacitor has the advantage that it can be quickly charged and discharged.

So as a tram only takes perhaps fifteen seconds to stop from full speed, the fast charging allows the regenerative braking energy to be stored.

On starting again, this energy can be discharged quickly from the supercapacitor to accelerate the tram.

This charging/discharging cycle does degrade the supercapacitor  and they would have to be replaced periodically.

Lithium-Ion Batteries

Lithium-ion batteries can hold greater amounts of electricity, but their charge and discharge rate is slower.

They can provide smaller amounts of power to keep the tram going at a constant speed after it has been accelerated.

A Sophisticated Control System

The page talks about a sophisticated control system that optimised the driving of the tram and the minimisation of energy.

The System Can Be Licenced From CAF

It should be noted that CAF will licence the system to other manufacturers.

Conclusion

By using two different storage systems with different characteristics, CAF are able to drive the tram along its 1.4 km route, charging at each stop.

 

 

 

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Tram 18, Where Are You?

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

It describe how Tram 18 is on its way to Zaragoza to be fitted with lithium-ion batteries, so that the UK’s first battery tram can start running in 2019, after the track is laid to Victoria Square in Birmingham and the railway station in Wolverhampton.

February 15, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Exploring The Route Of The Midland Metro Extension To Victoria Square

The extensions at both ends of the Midland Metro in Birmingham and Wolverhampton City Centres will be a first for the UK, in that they will be catenary-free and the trams will run on battery power.

This Google Map shows the area, where the initial extension will go in Birmingham City Centre.

birminghammetroextension

Places of interest are.

  • The cathedral is in the North-East corner.
  • New Street station is in the South-East corner.
  • Victoria Square and the Town Hall are just to the East of the middle.
  • Centenary Square is towards the West side.

This description comes from this page on the Metro Alliance web site.

840m of twin track from Birmingham Grand Central at Stephenson Street, up Pinfold Street through Victoria Square, Paradise St, past Paradise Circus into Centenary Square at Broad St.There will be an intermediate stop outside the Town Hall in Victoria Square, and we will interface with the Navigation Street link.

One of the problems at the moment, is that the development of Paradise Birmingham, seems to sit in the middle of the route.

These pictures show the area of Victoria Square and the route up from New Street station.

Note.

  • The steep hill of Pinfold Street.
  • The route seemed to have been prepared ready for the track to be fitted into the road surface.
  • Utilities seemed to have been moved.
  • When I took the pictures, the Midland Metro had parked a tram at the limit of the current track at the bottom of Pinfold Street.

Climbing The Hill

You can’t accuse Birmingham of lacking ambition, as Pinfold Street is a proper hill.

But then!

  • It is the only steep hill on the route to Centenary Square.
  • The tram will start the ascent with full batteries.
  • There will be no problems coming down.
  • This extension is only 840 metres in length.
  • The MetroCentro in Seville has used similar technology on a 1.4 km. route since 2007.
  • CAF have technology that charges batteries fast.
  • Battery technology has moved on in the last ten years.

If in practice, it does prove a difficult climb, overhead wires could be put on sufficient of the lower part of the up-track on Pinfold Street.

These wires wouldn’t be visible from Victoria Square, so wouldn’t effect the architectural integrity pf the area.

Onward to Edgbaston

According to this article in Rail Technology Magazine, the further four kilometre extension to Egbaston, is also intended to be catenary-free.

As the trams could be charged at Edgbaston, I think this could be possible.

But I doubt CAF would propose the use of batteries, if they hadn’t already proven the range, which is not outrageous.

The Next Step

I looked at a lot of the route of the first section to Victoria Square today, and it would appear that the roadway has been prepared for fitting the track.

So could we see an accelerated development of the first part of the extension?

It would be a good test of the technology, with little risk to the Midland Metrolink!

If the trams can’t make the hill on baqtteries, it would need to be wired, but you could always blame Spanish engineering.

Conclusion

It is a very well-designed scheme.

I wonder, if we’ll see Edinburgh batteries on their CAF trams?

 

 

 

January 25, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Cost Of Tram Batteries

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

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

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

This is said in the article about costs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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