The Anonymous Widower

Manchester Piccadilly Through Platforms Become ‘A Station Within A Station’

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Railway Gazette.

This was the introductory paragraph.

Following what Network Rail describes as ‘a major rethink’, the two through platforms at Manchester Piccadilly which handle up to 14 trains/h are to be managed independently from the rest of the station.

Measures to be taken include.

    • A dedicated Customer Service team.
    • Better customer information screens.
  • An improved satellite lounge with lots of facilities.
  • Platforms will be fitted with windbreaks.
  • Improved train stopping procedures to cut train dwell times.

Network Rail is also going to run a design contest to see if anybody has any other ideas.

I shall be interested to see how this works out.

March 18, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , | 2 Comments

Ready To Charge

The title of this post is the same as that of this article in Issue 898 of Rail Magazine.

This is the sub-title of the article.

Vivarail could be about to revolutionise rail traction with its latest innovation

The article details their plans to bring zero-carbon trains to the UK.

These are a few important more general points.

  • The diesel gensets in the trains can be eco-fenced to avoid unning on diesel in built-up areas.
  • The Transport for Wales trains could be the last Vivarail diesel trains.
  • A 100 kWh battery pack is the same size as a diesel generator. I would assume they are almost interchangeable.
  • Various routes are proposed.
  • In future battery trains will be Vivarail’s focus.
  • At the end of 2020, a battery demonstration train will be dispatched to the United States.
  • Two-car trains will have a forty-mile range with three-cars managing sixty.
  • Trains could be delivered in nine to twelve months.

The company also sees Brexit as an opportunity and New Zealand as a possible market.

Modifying Other Trains

The article also states that Vivarail are looking at off-lease electric multiple units for conversion to battery operation.

Vivarail do not say, which trains are involved.

Vivarail’s Unique Selling Point

This is the last two paragraphs of the article.

“Our unique selling point is our Fast Charge system. It’s a really compelling offer.” Alice Gillman of Vivarail says.

Vivarail has come a long way in the past five years and with this innobvative system it is poised to bring about a revolution in rail traction in the 2020s.

Conclusion

Could the train, that Vivarail refused to name be the Class 379 trains?

  • There are thirty trainsets of four-cars.
  • They are 100 mph trains.
  • They are under ten years old.
  • They meet all the Persons of Reduced Mobility regulations.
  • They currently work Stansted Airport and Cambridge services for Greater Anglia.
  • They are owned by Macquarie European Rail.

I rode in one yesterday and they are comfortable with everything passengers could want.

The train shown was used for the BEMU Trial conducted by Bombardier, Network Rail and Greater Anglia.

The only things missing, for these trains to run a large number of suitable routes under battery power are.

  • A suitable fast charging system.
  • Third rail equipment that would allow the train to run on lines with third-rail electrification.
  • Third rail equipment would also connect to Vivarail’s Fast Charge system

As I have looked in detail at Vivarail’s engineering and talked to their engineers, I feel that with the right advice and assistance, they should be able to play a large part in the conversion of the Class 379 fleet to battery operation.

These trains would be ideal for the Uckfield Branch and the Marshlink Line.

If not the Class 379 trains, perhaps some Class 377 trains, that are already leased to Southern, could be converted.

I could see a nice little earner developing for Vivarail, where train operating companies and their respective leasing companies employ them to create battery sub-fleets to improve and extend their networks.

February 16, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Open Letter To Jamie Burles Of Greater Anglia

I will open by saying that this letter is not a complaint about your company, as you, like all your passengers and staff are just suffering collateral damage from the overwhelming incompetence of the real culprit.

I have been supporting Ipswich Town, off and on, since my parents retired to Felixstowe around 1960, when the next door neighbour used to take me to Portman Road.

In 2007, after living together in Suffolk for nearly forty years, my wife died of a squamous cell carcinoma of the heart, followed in 2010, by our son, who died at just thirty-seven of pancreatic cancer. I am coeliac and because of all this grief, I neglected my health, which caused me to have a serious stroke. Luckily, the only lasting problem, I suffered was a partial loss of vision, which meant I was unable to drive.

So I sold up in Suffolk and moved back to London, where I had been born in 1947.

For a couple of years, things went well coming out to Ipswich for matches by train. Typically, on a match day I would have a gluten-free lunch in London and catch the reliable 12:30 Norwich express and just arrive in my seat a few minutes before kick-off.

I should note, that there is only one reliable place for a coeliac like myself, who needs gluten-free food to eat in Ipswich and that is Pizza Express. But you can only eat so much pizza! I can get gluten-free sandwiches in Marks and Spencer, but as with the pizza, it means walking to the centre of town and at seventy-two now, that is not such an easy proposition, as it once was.

Over the last six years, the journey has got worse. The much longer journey  time on replacement buses, means I can’t eat properly or do any of the other things , I need to do in life on an average Saturday.

Consider.

  • Football may be important to me, but it is not that important.
  • I should say, that sometimes, I go via Cambridge, when replacement buses are in operation for a change, as I can have a meal in the city with friends or buy sandwiches in the Marks & Spencer in the station.
  • In all these years of disruption, it always seems that if Ipswich are at home on the Saturday, there would be a busification of the service, whereas on other Saturdays a full service operated.

When I first started coming out from London to see matches, there were quite a few supporters on the trains from London, including one guy in a wheel-chair. Over the years many seem to have fallen by the wayside, because of the constant disruption.

I had hoped that this season, Network Rail’s deplorable project management of the Great Eastern Main line, which often results in surprise closures,  would have been consigned to history.

But if ever, there have been more closures this season and the latest batch of nine closures starting on Saturday, are the last straw as far as I am concerned.

Saturday’s closure was particularly inconvenient, as Kings Cross was closed and the West Anglia Main Line was running a reduced service, so in the end, I had a late breakfast at St. Pancras and took Southeastern Highspeed to Ebbsfleet where a friend and fellow Ipswich season ticket holder, who lives nearby, gave me a lift  to the match. The home-to-home round trip , was actually almost as long, as that on the previous Saturday’s trip to Tranmere.

Looking at the next few Saturday Ipswich home games, I see the following.

  • Peterborough – 1st February – Normal service (?)
  • Burton Albion – 15th February – Buses
  • Oxford United – 22nd February – Buses
  • Coventry – 7th March – Buses
  • Portsmouth- 21th March – Buses
  • Rochdale – 18th April – Buses

I probably speak with more authority, than most, as the company I started in Ipswich; Metier Management Systems, is recognised as one of the companies, that changed project management completely, in the last three decades of the twentieth century. At times, half the major projects in the world were being planned and managed by software I wrote in a Suffolk attic.

I rate, Network Rail’s performance over the last few years in the wider UK, as one of the worst project management disasters I have known, alongside Berlin’s Brandenburg Airport, the legendary hospital built the wrong way round, and the Boeing 737 MAX.

January 26, 2020 Posted by | Sport, Transport | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Hitachi Trains For Avanti

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in the January 2020 Edition of Modern Railways.

The Bi-Mode Trains

Some more details of the thirteen bi-mode and ten electric Hitachi AT 300 trains are given.

Engine Size and Batteries

This is an extract from the article.

Hitachi told Modern Railways it was unable to confirm the rating of the diesel engines on the bi-modes, but said these would be replaceable by batteries in future if specified.

I do wonder if my speculation in Will Future Hitachi AT-300 Trains Have MTU Hybrid PowerPacks? is possible.

After all, why do all the hard work to develop a hybrid drive system, when your engine supplier has done it for you?

Would Avanti West Coast need a train that will do 125 mph on diesel?

The only place, they will be able to run at 125 mph or even higher will be on the West Coast Main Line, where they will be running under electric power from the pantograph.

If I were designing a bi-mode for 90 mph on diesel and 125 mph on electric, I would have batteries on the train for the following purposes.

  • Handle regenerative braking.
  • Provide hotel power in stations or when stationery.
  • Provide an acceleration boost, if required, when running on diesel.
  • Provide emergency power, if the wires go down in electric mode.

I’m sure MTU could work out a suitable size of diesel engine and batteries in an MTU PowerPack, that would meet the required performance.

Or maybe a smaller diesel could be used. An LNER Class 800 train has 1680 kW of installed power to maintain 125 mph. But the Great Western Railway versions have 2100 kW or twenty-five percent more, as their routes are more challenging with steeper gradients.

For the less challenging routes at a maximum of 90 mph between Crewe, Chester, Shrewsbury and North Wales, I wonder what level of power is needed.

A very rough estimate based on the speed required could put the power requirement as low as 1200-1500 kW.

As the diesel engines are only electrical generators, it would not effect the ability of the train to do 125 mph between Crewe and London.

There looks to be a virtuous circle at work here.

  • Lower maximum speed on diesel means smaller diesel engines.
  • Smaller diesel engines means lighter diesel engines and less fuel to carry.
  • Less weight to accelerate needs less installed power.
  • Less power probably means a more affordable train, that uses less diesel.

It looks to me, that Hitachi have designed a train, that will work Avanti West Coast’s routes efficiently.

The Asymmetric Bi-Mode Train

It looks to me that the bi-mode train  that Avanti West Coast are buying has very different performance depending on the power source and signalling

  • 90 mph or perhaps up to 100 mph on diesel.
  • 125 mph on electric power.with current signalling.
  • Up to 140 mph on electric power with in-cab digital signalling.

This compares with the current Class 221 trains, which can do 125 mph on all tracks, with a high enough operating speed.

The new trains’ different performance on diesel and electric power means they could be called asymmetric bi-modes.

Surely, creating an asymmetric bi-mode train, with on-board power; battery, diesel or hydrogen, sized to the route, means less weight, greater efficiency, less cost and in the case of diesel, higher carbon efficiency.

Carbon Emissions

Does the improvement in powertrain efficiency with smaller engines running the train at slower speeds help to explain this statement from the Modern Railways article?

Significant emissions reduction are promised from the elimination of diesel operation on electrified sections as currently seen with the Voyagers, with an expected reduction in CO2 emissions across the franchise of around two-thirds.

That is a large reduction, which is why I feel, that efficiency and batteries must play a part.

Battery-Electric Conversion

In my quote earlier from the Modern Railways article, I said this.

These (the diesel engines) would be replaceable by batteries in future if specified.

In Thoughts On The Next Generation Of Hitachi High Speed Trains, I looked at routes that could be run by a battery-electric version of Hitachi AT-300 trains.

I first estimated how far an AT-300 train could go on batteries.

How far will an AT-300 train go on battery power?

  • I don’t think it is unreasonable to be able to have 150 kWh of batteries per car, especially if the train only has one diesel engine, rather than the current three in a five-car train.
  • I feel with better aerodynamics and other improvements based on experience with the current trains, that an energy consumption of 2.5 kWh per vehicle mile is possible, as compared to the 3.5 kWh per vehicle mile of the current trains.

Doing the calculation gives a range of sixty miles for an AT-300 train with batteries.

As train efficiency improves and batteries are able to store more energy for a given volume, this range can only get better.

I then said this about routes that will be part of Avanti West Coast’s network.

With a range of sixty miles on batteries, the following is possible.

  • Chester, Gobowen, Shrewsbury And Wrexham Central stations could be reached on battery power from the nearest electrification.
  • Charging would only be needed at Shrewsbury to ensure a return to Crewe.

Gobowen is probably at the limit of battery range, so was it chosen as a destination for this reason.

The original post was based on trains running faster than the 90 mph that is the maximum possible on the lines without electrification, so my sixty mile battery range could be an underestimate.

These distances should be noted.

  • Crewe and Chester – 21 miles
  • Chester and Shrewsbury – 42 miles
  • Chester and Llandudno – 47 miles
  • Chester and Holyhead – 84 miles

Could electrification between Crewe and Chester make it possible for Avanti West Coast’s new trains to go all the way between Chester and Holyhead on battery power in a few years?

I feel that trains with a sixty mile battery range would make operations easier for Avanti West Coast.

Eighty miles would almost get them all the way to Holyhead, where they could recharge!

Rlectrification Between Chester And Crewe

I feel that this twenty-odd miles of electrification could be key to enabling battery-electric trains for the routes to the West of Chester to Shrewsbury, Llandudno and Holyhead.

How difficult would it be to electrify between Chester and Crewe?

  • It is not a long distance to electrify.
  • There doesn’t appear to be difficult viaducts or cuttings.
  • It is electrified at Crewe, so power is not a problem.
  • There are no intermediate stations.

But there does seem to be a very large number of bridges. I counted forty-four overbridges and six underbridges. At least some of the bridges are new and appear to have been built with the correct clearance.

Perhaps it would be simpler to develop fast charging for the trains and install it at Chester station.

Conclusion On The Bi-Mode Trains

It appears to me that Avanti West Coast, Hitachi and Rock Rail, who are financing the trains have done a very good job in devising the specification for a fleet of trains that will offer a good service and gradually move towards being able to deliver that service in a carbon-free manner.

  • The initial bi-mode trains will give a big improvement in performance and reduction in emission on the current Voyagers, as they will be able to make use of the existing electrification between Crewe and London.
  • The trains could be designed for 125 mph on electric power and only 90-100 mph on diesel, as no route requires over 100 mph on diesel. This must save operating costs and reduce carbon emissions.
  • They could use MTU Hybrid PowerPacks instead of conventional diesel engines to further reduce emissions and save energy
  • It also appears that Hitachi might be able to convert the trains to battery operation in a few years.
  • The only new infrastructure would be a few charging stations for the batteries and possible electrification between Chester and Crewe.

I don’t think Avanti West Coast’s ambition of a two-thirds reduction in CO2 is unreasonable and feel it could even be exceeded.

Other Routes For Asymetric Bi-Mode Trains

I like the concept of an asymetric bi-mode train, where the train has the following performance.

  • Up to 100 mph on battery, diesel or hydrogen.
  • Up to 100 mph on electrified slower-speed lines.
  • 125 mph on electrified high-speed lines, with current signalling.
  • Up to 140 mph on electrified high-speed lines, with in-cab digital signalling.

I am very sure that Hitachi can now tailor an AT-300 train to a particular company’s needs. Certainly, in the case of Avanti West Coast, this seems to have happened, when Avanti West Coast, Hitachi, Network Rail and Rock Rail had some serious negotiation.

LNER At Leeds

As an example consider the rumoured splitting and joining of trains at Leeds to provide direct services between London and Bradford, Harrogate, Huddersfield, Ilkley, Skipton and other places, that I wrote about in Dancing Azumas At Leeds.

In the related post, I gave some possible destinations.

  • Bradford – 13 miles – 25 minutes – Electrified
  • Harrogate – 18 miles – 30 minutes
  • Huddersfield – 17 miles – 35 minutes
  • Hull – 20 miles – 60 minutes
  • Ilkley – 16 miles – 26 minutes – Electrified
  • Skipton – 26 miles – 43 minutes – Electrified
  • York – 25 miles – 30 minutes

Note, that the extended services would have the following characteristics.

They would be run by one five-car train.

  1. Services to Bradford, Ilkley and Skipton would be electric
  2. Electrification is planned from Leeds to Huddersfield and York, so these services could be electric in a few years.
  3. All other services would need independent power; battery, diesel or hydrogen to and from Leeds.
  4. Two trains would join at Leeds and run fast to London on the electrified line.
  5. Services would probably have a frequency of six trains per day, which works out at a around a train every two hours and makes London and back very possible in a day.
  6. They would stop at most intermediate stations to boost services to and from Leeds and give a direct service to and from London.

As there are thirty trains per day between London and Leeds in each direction, there are a lot of possible services that could be provided.

Currently, LNER are only serving Harrogate via Leeds.

  • LNER are using either a nine-car train or a pair of five-car trains.
  • The trains reverse in Platforms 6 or 8 at Leeds, both of which can handle full-length trains.
  • LNER allow for a generous time for the reverse, which would allow the required splitting and joining.
  • All trains going to Harrogate are Class 800 bi-mode trains.

Note that the Class 800 trains are capable of 125 mph on diesel, whereas the average speed between Harrogate and Leeds is just 35 mph. Obviously, some of this slow speed is due to the route, but surely a train with a maximum speed of 90-100 mph, with an appropriate total amount of diesel power, would be the following.

  • Lighter in weight.
  • More efficient.
  • Emit less pollution.
  • Still capable of high speed on electrified lines.
  • Bi-mode and electric versions could run in pairs between Leeds and London.

LNER would probably save on track access charges and diesel fuel.

LNER To Other Places

Could LNER split and join in a similar way to other places?

  • Doncaster for Hull and Sheffield
  • Edinburgh for Aberdeen and Inverness
  • Newark for Lincoln and Nottingham
  • York for Middlesbrough and Scarborough.

It should be noted that many of the extended routes are quite short, so I suspect some train diagrams will be arranged, so that trains are only filled up with diesel overnight,

GWR

Great Western Railway are another First Group company and I’m sure some of their routes could benefit, from similar planning to that of Avanti West Coast.

Splitting and joining might take place at Reading, Swindon, Bristol and Swansea.

South Western Railway

South Western Railway will need to replace the three-car Class 159 trains to Exeter, that generally work in pairs with a total number of around 400 seats, in the next few years.

These could be replaced with a fleet of third-rail Hitachi trains of appropriate length.

  • Seven cars sating 420 passengers?
  • They would remove diesel trains from Waterloo station.
  • All South Western Railway Trains running between Waterloo and Basingstoke would be 100 mph trains.

I wonder, if in-cab digital signalling on the route, would increase the capacity? It is sorely needed!

Southeastern

Southeastern need bi-mode trains to run the promised service to Hastings.

  • Trains would need a third-rail capability.
  • Trains need to be capable of 140 mph for High Speed One.
  • Trains need to be able to travel the 25 miles between Ashford International and Ore stations.
  • Trains would preferably be battery-electric for working into St. Pancras International station.

Would the trains be made up from six twenty-metre cars, like the Class 395 trains?

The Simple All-Electric Train

The Modern Railways article, also says this about the ten all-electric AT-300 trains for Birmingham, Blackpool and Liverpool services.

The electric trains will be fully reliant on the overhead wire, with no diesel auxiliary engines or batteries.

It strikes me as strange, that Hitachi are throwing out one of their design criteria, which is the ability of the train to rescue itself, when the overhead wires fail.

In Do Class 800/801/802 Trains Use Batteries For Regenerative Braking?, I published this extract from this document on the Hitachi Rail web site.

The system can select the appropriate power source from either the main transformer or the GUs. Also, the size and weight of the system were minimized by designing the power supply converter to be able to work with both power sources. To ensure that the Class 800 and 801 are able to adapt to future changes in operating practices, they both have the same traction system and the rolling stock can be operated as either class by simply adding or removing GUs. On the Class 800, which is intended to run on both electrified and non-electrified track, each traction system has its own GU. On the other hand, the Class 801 is designed only for electrified lines and has one or two GUs depending on the length of the trainset (one GU for trainsets of five to nine cars, two GUs for trainsets of 10 to 12 cars). These GUs supply emergency traction power and auxiliary power in the event of a power outage on the catenary, and as an auxiliary power supply on non-electrified lines where the Class 801 is in service and pulled by a locomotive. This allows the Class 801 to operate on lines it would otherwise not be able to use and provides a backup in the event of a catenary power outage or other problem on the ground systems as well as non-electrified routes in loco-hauled mode.

This is a very comprehensive power system, with a backup in case of power or catenary failure.

So why does it look like Hitachi are throwing that capability out on the trains for Avanti West Coast.

There are several possibilities.

  • The reliability of the trains and the overhead wire is such, that the ability of a train to rescue itself is not needed.
  • The auxiliary generator has never been used for rescuing the train.
  • The West Coast Main Line is well-provided with Thunderbird locomotives for rescuing Pendelinos, as these trains have no auxiliary generator or batteries.
  • Removal of the excess weight of the auxiliary engine and batteries, enables the Hitachi AT-300 trains to match the performance of the Pendelinos, when they are using tilt.

Obviously, Hitachi have a lot of train performance statistics, from the what must be around a hundred trains in service.

It looks like Hitachi are creating a lightweight all-electric train, that has the performance or better of a Pendelino, that it achieves without using tilt.

  • No tilt means less weight and more interior space.
  • No auxiliary generator or batteries means less weight.
  • Wikipedia indicates, that Hitachi coaches are around 41 tonnes and Pendelino coaches are perhaps up to ten tonnes heavier.
  • Less weight means fast acceleration and deceleration.
  • Less weight means less electricity generated under regenerative braking.
  • Pendelinos use regenerative braking, through the catenary.
  • Will the new Hitachi trains do the same instead of the complex system they now use?

If the train fails and needs to be rescued, it uses the same Thunderbird system, that the Pendelinos use when they fail.

Will The New Hitachi Trains Be Less Costly To Run?

These trains will be lighter in weight than the Pendelinos and will not require the track to allow tilting.

Does this mean, that Avanti West Coast will pay lower track access charges for their new trains?

They should also pay less on a particular trip for the electricity, as the lighter trains will need less electricity to accelerate them to line speed.

Are Avanti West Coast Going To Keep The Fleets Apart?

Under a heading of Only South Of Preston, the Modern Railways article says this.

Unlike the current West Coast fleet, the Hitachi trains will not be able to tilt. Bid Director Caroline Donaldson told Modern Railways this will be compensated for by their improved acceleration and deceleration characteristics and that the operator is also working with Network Rail to look at opportunities to improve the linespeed for non-tilting trains.

The routes on which the Hitachi trains will operate have been chosen with the lack of tilt capability in mind, with this having the greatest impact north of Preston, where only Class 390 Pendelinos, which continue to make use of their tilting capability will be used.

Avanti West Coast have said that the Hitachi trains will run from London to Birmingham, Blackpool and Liverpool.

All of these places are on fully-electrified branches running West from the West Coast Main Line, so it looks like there will be separation.

Will The New Hitachi Trains Be Faster To Birmingham, Blackpool And Liverpool?

Using data from Real Time Trains, I find the following data about the current services.

  • Birmingham and Coventry is 19 miles and takes 20 minutes at an average speed of 57 mph
  • Blackpool and Preston is 16.5 miles and takes 21 minutes at an average speed of 47 mph
  • Liverpool and Runcorn is 3.15 miles and takes 15 minutes at an average speed of 52 mph

All the final legs when approaching the terminus seem to be at similar speeds, so I doubt there are much savings to be made away from the West Coast Main Line.

Most savings will be on the West Coast Main Line, where hopefully modern in-cab digital signalling will allow faster running at up to the design speed of both the Hitachi and Pendelino trains of 140 mph.

As an illustration of what might be possible, London to Liverpool takes two hours and thirteen minutes.

The distance is 203 miles, which means that including stops the average speed is 91.6 mph.

If the average speed could be raised to 100 mph, this would mean a journey time of two hours and two minutes.

As much of the journey between London and Liverpool is spent at 125 mph, which is the limit set by the signalling, raising that to 135 mph could bring substantial benefits.

To achieve the journey in two hours would require an overall average speed of 101.5 mph.

As the proportion of track on which faster speeds, than the current 125 mph increase over the next few years, I can see Hitachi’s lightweight all-electric expresses breaking the two hour barrier between London and Liverpool.

What About The Pendelinos And Digital Signalling?

The January 2020 Edition of Modern Railways also has an article entitled Pendolino Refurb Planned.

These improvements are mentioned.

  • Better standard class seats! (Hallelujah!)
  • Refreshed First Class.
  • Revamped shop.

Nothing is mentioned about any preparation for the installation of the equipment to enable faster running using digital in-cab signalling, when it is installed on the West Coast Main Line.

Surely, the trains will be updated to be ready to use digital signalling, as soon as they can.

Just as the new Hitachi trains will be able to take advantage of the digital signalling, when it is installed, the Pendellinos will be able to as well.

Looking at London and Glasgow, the distance is 400 miles and it takes four hours and thirty minutes.

This is an average speed of 89 mph, which compares well with the 91.6 mph between London and Liverpool.

Raise the average speed to 100 mph with the installation of digital in-cab signalling on the route, that will allow running at over 125 mph for long sections and the journey time will be around four hours.

This is a table of average speeds and journey times.

  • 100 mph – four hours
  • 105 mph – three hours and forty-eight minutes
  • 110 mph – three hours and thirty-eight minutes
  • 115 mph – three hours and twenty-eight minutes
  • 120 mph – three hours and twenty minutes
  • 125 mph – three hours and twelve minutes
  • 130 mph – three hours and four minutes

I think that I’m still young enough at 72 to be able to see Pendelinos running regularly between London and Glasgow in three hours twenty minutes.

The paragraph is from the Wikipedia entry for the Advanced Passenger Train.

The APT is acknowledged as a milestone in the development of the current generation of tilting high speed trains. 25 years later on an upgraded infrastructure the Class 390 Pendolinos now match the APT’s scheduled timings. The London to Glasgow route by APT (1980/81 timetable) was 4hrs 10min, the same time as the fastest Pendolino timing (December 2008 timetable). In 2006, on a one off non-stop run for charity, a Pendolino completed the Glasgow to London journey in 3hrs 55min, whereas the APT completed the opposite London to Glasgow journey in 3hrs 52min in 1984.

I think it’s a case of give the Pendelinos the modern digital in-cab signalling they need and let them see what they can do.

It is also possible to give an estimate for a possible time to and from Manchester.

An average speed of 120 mph on the route would deliver a time of under one hour and forty minutes.

Is it possible? I suspect someone is working on it!

Conclusion

I certainly think, that Avanti West Coast, Hitachi and Network Rail, have been seriously thinking how to maximise capacity and speed on the West Coast Main Line.

I also think, that they have an ultimate objective to make Avanti West Coast an operator, that only uses diesel fuel in an emergency.

 

 

January 1, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Minister Quotes Definitive Dates For Final Northern Pacer Withdrawals

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

Class 142 Pacers are expected to be withdrawn by Northern by February 17 2020, with all the ‘144s’ out of service by May 17 2020, according to Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris.

This is a mess and a mess, where the main culprits are not those usually blamed by the unfortunate travellers; Northern Rail  and the Government.

  • Network Rail made a terrible hash of installing electrification, mainly it appears to some bad surveying, some bad management decisions and their hiring of Carillion.
  • CAF for the late delivery of Class 195 and Class 331 trains.
  • Porterbrook and their contractor for the late delivery of Class 769 trains.

There was a similar problem on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line as Bombardier were having problems with the computer systems on the Class 710 trains, which came into service several months after the electrification was finally complete.

So Bombardier put their hands up and paid for a free month’s travel on the line.

Surely, those that are responsible for the Pacers still being in service, should follow Bombardier’s  lead.

 

October 31, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Did Someone Try To Steal The Electrification?

I arrived at Ipswich station to come back to London at 09:30 this morning and finally arrived home at 15:00. The journey had taken at least four times longer than it should.

This article on Railnews, which has a subtitle of Overhead Line Damage Disrupts Great Eastern, explains the problem.

The wires between Colchester and Marks Tey stations were damaged at around four in the morning and trains didn’t run again until about 1700.

This is a paragraph that adds more details.

overhead line damage was discovered between Colchester and Marks Tey. Network Rail workers reported shortly before 04.45 that overhead line equipment was tripping, and a train driver reported ‘visible damage’ to the power lines.

I eventually came home by this route.

  • I took a train to Class 153 train to Cambridge.
  • Another electric train took me to to Tottenham Hale,.
  • It was then two buses home.

It was a completely wasted day.

What puzzles me is that the damage to the wires appears to have happened, when no trains were running. So that seems to indicate they either just fell down for no apparent reason or someone was up to no good.

Years ago, I did some work for British Rail and they talked about all sorts of groups getting up to all sorts f tricks to steal copper. signalling cable.

The crooks would even repeatedly cut fibre optic signalling cables, in the hope it would be replaced by copper, so they could nick that!

I shall await the report of what happened yesterday with interest!

Greater Anglia Were Short Of Trains

I took this picture, when I arrived at Ipswich.

It shows the Ipswich to Cambridge service that gives a good connection to the train from London. For several years, it has been a smart three-car Class 170 train. This is a rwo-car Class 156 train.

  • Greater Anglia were also apologising for the connecting Lowestoft service being just a one car; Class 153 train.
  • It appeared to me, that Greater Anglia has sent nearly all of their Class 170 trains to Wales.
  • And yet again, Greater Anglia are looking after their Norwich customers and heaping all the inadequate rolling stock on Ipswich.
  • Are the new Class 755 trains and their drivers ready?

It looks to me, to be a management cock-up.

Train For Cambridge Anybody?

This was my train to Cambridge.

As I said, it was normally a three-car Class 170 train, but this is an inadequate Class 153 train, which went they ran between Ipswich and Cambridge generally ran in pairs.

Gerald Fiennes and Delia Smith at Dullingham

At least I only had to wait ten minutes at Cambridge for my Tottenham Hale train.

Greater Anglia’s Response

The staff at Ipswich did their best, but there did seem to be a biit of bad leadership from somewhere as at one point, it was announced that a London train would be running and I don’t think it did.

To make matters worse, as we ran into Cambridge, we passed two brand new Class 755 trains in the sidings. Are they parked their ready to start the service?

This article on the East Anglian Daily Times is entitled We’re Completely Stuck – it’s A Joke’ – Rail Passengers’ Anger At Train Chaos.

It shows a large degree of management failure.

Planning For The Future

The electrification on the Great Eastern Main Line appears to be notoriously unreliable.

Network Rail must get it better! But they don’t seem to be doing a good job, as I have had pain getting to Ipswich for six years, whilst they are updating the wires!

I believe that the best insurance for the train services would be to do the following, as soon as possible.

  • Increase services on the Ipswich and Cambridge route to two trains per hour (tph) using four-car Class 755 trains. One would be direct and the other would have a change at Ely.
  • Increase services on the Norwich and Cambridge route to two tph using four-car Class 755 trains. One would be direct and the other would have a change at Ely.
  • Start running the London and Lowestoft service using four-car Class 755 trains.
  • Make sure that, it is possible to run routes with pairs of Class 755 trains.
  • Ensure, that Class 755 trains can run London and Norwich via Cambridge.

As an example yesterday, a six-car Class 755 formation formed of two three-car trains shuttling between Ipswich and Cambridge, would probably have solved the problem.

But I do think that East Anglia’s rail problems might be best served by running a new direct service between London Kings Cross and Norwich.

As I have said several times, the Kings Cross and Cambridge and/or Kings Lynn service needs to be upgraded to 140 mph trains to make the most of the 140 mph running on the Southern section of the East Coast Main Line.

So why not run the following services?

  • Hourly between Kings Cross and Kings Lynn via Cambridge.
  • Hourly between Kings Cross and Norwich via Cambridge.

The trains could be Hitachi AT-300 trains with a battery capability sufficient to take the train North of Ely.

Conclusion

Did someone try to steal the electrification?

I will await the answer as to what happened with interest.

October 26, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sunday Train Services To Improve Across Region – But Not On All Routes

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on the East Anglian Daily Times.

This is the first paragraph.

An hourly service is being introduced on three Suffolk rail routes seven days a week from December.

The improved routes are.

  • Ipswich and Cambridge
  • Ipswich and Lowestoft
  • Lowestoft and Norwich.

There will also be an extra Sunday train between Ipswich and Felixstowe.

It is also reported that Greater Anglia can’t start their planned hourly service between Ipswich and Peterborough, as Network Rail haven’t done the work yet!

This service is one of Greater Anglia’s new flagship services and will be very important.

  • It connects Ipswich and Bury St. Edmunds to Ely and Peterborough on an hourly basis.
  • With other services it creates a two trains per hour (tph) service between Ipswich and Bury St. Edmunds.

Network Rail need to get this one sorted.

September 26, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Progress At Syon Lane Station – 18th September 2019

The builders are now digging on both platforms at Syon Lane station.

The posters at the station give the impression that brick towers might be built.

But it looks to my untrained eye, that the foundations being dug don’t appear to be deep enough.

Waiting at the station for my train, I wondered, if they are going to put a set of stairs and a life on both platforms to give step-free access to the existing road bridge.

  • The towers would be shorter and height costs money.
  • There would be no need to build and lift in an additional bridge, as pedestrians would use the existing pavement.
  • It might be possible to do all the work without closing the railway.
  • This would meet all the step-free regulations.

There certainly seems to be no work going on further down the platform, where it appeared some trees were cleared.

It’ll all come clear in a few weeks and I suspect it will meet the generally high standards of Network Rail.

 

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

World’s First Solar-Powered Trains Are Coming To England

The title of this post, is the same as that on this article on Lonely Planet.

This is the first paragraph

The first ever solar unit to directly supply a railway line with electricity has been put in place in England, paving the way for the world’s first solar-powered trains

I am not sure yet about this technology., powering large sections of the UK’s railways.

But the technology does have applications, if it is combined with energy storage.

Boosting Power With Third-Rail Electrification

Third-rail electrification has a problem, in that it needs to be fed with power every few miles. Inevitably, as timetables get busier, there are areas, where there is not enough power to supply the trains.

These systems can provide that fill-in power.

Note that 25 KVAC overhead electrification doesn’t have the problem, as the wires themselves distribute the electricity.

This means that the Great Western Main Line electrification is only supplied with power from the electricity grid at three places; the two ends and one in the middle.

Electrification In Visually-Sensitive Places

Look at this picture of Brunel’s magnificent Wharncliffe Viaduct.

It has been recently electrified and some groups object to the electrification of Grade I Listed structures like this.

Most modern electric trains can be dual-voltage and can work on both electrification systems used in the UK; 25 KVAC  overhead and 750 VDC third rail. They can also change between electrification systems at maximum speed

So could we see selective use of solar-powered third-rail electrification in visually-sensitive areas?

Possibly! But battery/electric trains may be a better alternative!

Charging Battery-Electric Trains

There are some branch lines, that will be served by battery-electric trains in the future.

These solar-powered systems could be used to provide the energy to charge the batteries for the return journey.

Powering Remote Stations

Stations are increasingly needing better electricity supplies with more lighting and various ticket and parking machines, and charging for electric cars will become more important.

Solar power systems and batteries could be used.

Conclusion

Solar power will be increasingly used on the railways, with a large number of stations like Blackfriars and the recently-opened White Hart Lane.

But that will happen, irrespective of the result of the Aldershot trial, as many stations are easy places to install solar panels, either on the roof or redundant spaces.

This Google Map shows one of my local stations; Haggerston.

It was rebuilt and reopened in April 2010, so solar panels were probably not thought about for the station.

From my helicopter, it appears that the stations at  Dalston Junction, Hoxton and Shoreditch High Street, which were all built at the same time, don’t have solar rooves either.

Perhaps Transport for London and/or Network Rail should rent their roof areas to companies, who run solar farms?

I’m sure there’s a mutually beneficial deal in there somewhere!

As to powering trains, I’m sure they that Riding Sunbeams has a place on third-rail networks, where power needs boosting.

However, electric trains with batteries might be a better option in other applications.

August 29, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Irlam Station To Go Step-Free

This document on the Government web site is entitled Access for All: 73 Stations Set To Benefit From Additional Funding.

Irlam station is on the list.

These pictures show the station and the current subway.

The station was a total surprise, with a large pub-cafe and a lot of visitors and/or travellers sitting in the sun.

I had an excellent coffee and a very welcoming gluten-free blueberry muffin!

This Google Map shows the station.

It is one of those stations where commuters have to cross the railway either on the way to work or coming home.

So a step-free method of crossing the railway is absolutely necessary.

The Current And Future Rail Service

As the station lies conveniently between Liverpool and Warrington to the West and Manchester and Manchester Airport to the East, it must be a station with tremendous potential for increasing the number of passengers.

At the moment the service is two trains per hour (tph) between Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Oxford Road stations.

  • Oxford Road is probably not the best terminus, as it is not on the Metrolink network.
  • When I returned to Manchester, many passengers alighted at Deansgate for the Metrolink.
  • On the other hand, Liverpool Lime Street is a much better-connected station and it is backed up by Liverpool South Parkway station, which has a connection to Merseyrail’s Northern Line.
  • The current service doesn’t serve Manchester Piccadilly or Airport stations.

A guy in the cafe also told me that two tph are not enough and the trains are often too short.

Merseyrail work to the same principle as the London Overground and other cities of four tph at all times and the frequency certainly draws in passengers.

Whilst I was drinking my coffee, other trains past the station.

  • One tph – Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Airport
  • One tph – Liverpool Lime Street and Norwich

Modern trains like Northern’s new Class 195 trains, should be able to execute stops at stations faster than the elderly diesel trains currently working the route.

So perhaps, after Irlam station becomes step-free, the Manchester Airport service should call as well.

As Liverpool Lime Street station has been remodelled, I can see a time in the not too distant future, when that station can support four tph, that all stop at Irlam station.

The Manchester end of the route could be a problem, as services terminating at Oxford Road have to cross the busy lines of the Castlefield Corridor.

So perhaps all services through Irlam, should go through Deansgate, Manchester Oxford Road and Manchester Piccadilly stations to terminate either at the Airport or perhaps Stockport or Hazel Grove stations.

But would this overload the Castlefield Corridor?

Battery/Electric Trains

If you look at the route between Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Oxford Road stations, the following can be seen.

  • Only about thirty miles between Deansgate and Liverpool South Parkway stations is not electrified.
  • The section without electrification doesn’t appear to be particularly challenging, as it is along the River Mersey.

It is my view, that the route between Liverpool and Manchester via Irlam, would be an ideal route for a battery/electric train.

A train between Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Airport stations would do the following.

  • Run from Liverpool Lime Street station to Liverpool South Parkway station using the installed 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • Drop the pantograph during the stop at Liverpool South Parkway station.
  • Run from Liverpool South Parkway station to Deansgate station using battery power.
  • Raise the pantograph during the stop at Deansgate station.
  • Run from Deansgate station to Manchester Airport station, using the installed 25 KVAC overhead electrification.

The exact distance between Deansgate and Liverpool South Parkway stations is 28.2 miles or 45.3 kilometres.

In 2015, I was told by the engineer riding shotgun on the battery/electric Class 379 train, that that experimental train was capable of doing fifty kilometres on battery power.

There are at least four possible trains, that could handle this route efficiently.

  • Porterbrook’s proposed batteryFLEX train based on a Class 350 train.
  • A battery/electric train based on the seemingly unwanted Class 379 train.
  • A battery/electric version of Stadler’s Class 755 train.
  • I believe that Bombardier’s Aventra has been designed so that a battery/electric version can be created.

There are probably others and I haven’t talked about hydrogen-powered trains.

Battery power between Liverpool and Manchester via Irlam, appears to be very feasible.

Tram-Trains

As my train ran between Manchster and Irlam it ran alongside the Metrolink between Cornbrook and Pomona tram stops.

Manchester is very serious about tram-trains, which I wrote about in Could A Class 399 Tram-Train With Batteries Go Between Manchester Victoria And Rochdale/Bury Bolton Street/Rawtenstall Stations?.

Tram-trains are often best employed to go right across a city, so could the Bury tram-trains go to Irlam after joining the route in the Cornbrook area?

  • Only about thirty miles between Deansgate and Liverpool South Parkway stations is not electrified.
  • The route between Liverpool and Manchester via Irlam doesn’t look to be a very challenging line to electrify.
  • The total distance bettween Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Victoria station is only about forty miles, which is a short distance for a tram-train compared to some in Karlsruhe.
  • Merseyrail’s Northern Line terminates at Hunts Cross station, which is going to be made step-free.
  • There is an existing step-free interchange between the Liverpool and Manchester route via Irlam and Merseyrail’s Northern Line at Liverpool South Parkway station.
  • Class 399 tram-trains will have a battery capability in South Wales.
  • Class 399 tram-trains have an operating speed of 62 mph, which might be possible to increase.
  • Stadler make Class 399 tram-trains and are building the new Class 777 trains for Merseyrail.

I think that Stadler’s engineers will find a totally feasible and affordable way to link Manchester’s Metrolink with Liverpool Lime Street station and Merseyrail’s Northern and Wirral Lines.

I can envisage the following train service running between Liverpool and Manchester via Irlam.

  • An hourly service between Liverpool Lime Street and Nottingham, as has been proposed for the new East Midlands Franchise.
  • A four tph service between Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Airport via Manchester Piccadilly.
  • A tram-train every ten minutes, linking Liverpool Central and Manchester’s St Peter’s Square.
  • Tram-trains would extend to the North and East of Manchester as required.
  • All services would stop much more comprehensively, than the current services.
  • Several new stations would be built.
  • In the future, the tram-trains could have an interchange with High Speed Two at Warrington.

Obviously, this is just my speculation, based on what I’ve seen of tram-train networks in Germany.

The possibilities for the use of tram trains are wide-ranging.

Installing Step-Free Access At Irlam Station

There would appear to be two ways of installing step-free access at Irlam station.

  • Add lifts to the existing subway.
  • Add a separate bridge with lifts.

These are my thoughts on each method.

Adding Lifts To The Existing Subway

Consider.

  • The engineering would not be difficult.
  • Installaton would probably take a number of weeks.
  • There is good contractor access on both sides of the railway.

There are similar successful step-free installations around the UK

The problem is all about, how you deal with passengers, whilst the subway is closed for the installation of the lifts.

Adding A Separate Bridge With Lifts

Consider.

  • There is a lot of space at both the Eastern and Western ends of the platform to install a new bridge.
  • Adding a separate bridge has the big advantage, that during the installation of the bridge, passengers can use the existing subway.
  • Once the bridge is installed, the subway can be refurbished to an appropriate standard.

Passengers will probably prefer the construction of a new bridge.

In Winner Announced In The Network Rail Footbridge Design Ideas Competition, I wrote how the competition was won by this bridge.

So could a factory-built bridge like this be installed at Irlam station?

There is certainly space at both ends of the platform to install such a bridge and the daily business of the station and its passengers would be able to continue unhindered, during the installation.

I’m also sure, that the cafe would be happy to provide the daily needs of the workforce.

Conclusion

From a station and project management point-of-view, adding a new factory-built bridge to Irlam station is the easiest and quickest way to make the station step-free.

It also appears, that Network Rail have made a wise choice in deciding to put Irlam station on their list of stations to be made step-free, as the station could be a major part in creating a new high-capacity route between Liverpool and Manchester.

This could also be one of the first stations to use an example of the new bridge.

  • Installation would be quick and easy.
  • There is no site access problems.
  • There station can remain fully open during the installation.
  • All stakeholders would probably be in favour.

But above all, it would be a superb demonstration site to bring those from stations, where Network Rail are proposing to erect similar bridges.

July 6, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment