The Anonymous Widower

Ashington Blyth and Tyne Line Reopening Mulled Over In Six ‘Quick Win’ Rail Projects For Northern Transport

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

This is the first paragraph.

A series of ‘quick wins’ have been identified to fix the “current crisis” in the north’s transport network in a report by the IPPR.

What are the quick wins?

This page on the IPPR website gives access to the report which is entitled Quick Wins For The North’s Transport Network.

These quick wins are given in the report.

Reopening Of The Ashington, Blyth And Tyne Railway For Passenger Services

This summary is given.

North of Newcastle, and along the North East coast, there is an area with great potential but numerous challenges. This area contains several small and medium-sized towns: Blyth (population 37,000) and Ashington (population 28,000) are the largest (Centre for Towns 2017). The public sector dominates in terms of employment (education, health and public administration provide one-quarter of jobs), and the areas’ private sector is largely in the ‘everyday economy’ of retail (5,900 jobs) and food and beverage services (4,130 jobs) (ONS 2018c). The Port of Blyth handles 2 million tonnes of freight each year, and there are some significant development sites for renewable energy in the area (Port of Blyth 2018).

The history of the area is a vital consideration for its transport infrastructure. The area boomed during the industrial revolution as coal mining and port towns grew – Ashington was once considered the world’s largest coal-mining village (Whitfield 2018). The Ashington-Blyth and Tyne railway line once connected a number of Northumberland settlements between Ashington and Newcastle – it was not a single route, but a small network, built in 1840 to link the collieries to the River Tyne, and was opened up to passengers in 1841 (NCC 2015). But in 1964, passenger services were withdrawn under the ‘Beeching Axe’,although it has remained open for freight.

This idea has been talked about for years and I wrote about it in Northumberland Unveils £3.5m Rail Project To Bring Back Passenger Services.

This is a project, where it is probably time to stop talking and get the planning started, before updating the railways.

Surely, if it can be done for £3.5m, it must be good value. I suspect it will cost more, but not as much as Network Rail’s estimate of £191m.

Leeds/Bradford Airport Parkway Rail Station

Consider.

  • Leeds Bradford Airport handles four million passengers per year.
  • It has no direct rail access.
  • It has direct services to airports like New York.
  • It connects via hub airports like Heathrow and Schipol to a wide number of destinations.
  • It could capture more of the localo air passengers with better connections.

The proposal is to build a Parkway station the Harrogate Line, between Horsforth station and Bramhope Tunnel.

  • It would be a 1.3 kilometre drive in a shuttle bus to the Airport.
  • The station would serve as a Park-and-Ride station for Leeds, Harrogate and other destinations.

This Google Map shows the area.

Note.

  1. The Airport is in the North-West corner.
  2. Horsforth station is in the South-East corner.
  3. The Harrogate Line runs North South from Horsforth station.

The new Park-and-Ride station could be built on any convenient location near to the Airport.

It looks to be a simple plan, that has been costed at £23m.

Consider these points about the Harrogate Line.

  • It is only thirty-six miles.
  • Services take around seventy minutes between Leeds and York via Harrogate
  • It appears to be double-track
  • The operating speed is sixty mph between Leeds and Harrogate.
  • It doesn’t appear to be very busy.

I suspect it would be a good idea to iimprove this line, so that Northern’s Class 170 trains can stretch their legs.

If there was a Park-and-Ride station at Leeds Bradford Airport would First TransPennine want to run a service to the Airport?

I can see this plan, stimulating a lot of rail improvements between Leeds and York.

Supporting The Development Of Hydrogen Trains

The IPPR report says this.

Transport for the North plans to work toward the roll-out of hydrogen trains.

Consider.

  • The North has a lot of routes, where hydrogen-powered trains could be used.
  • Alstom are converting trains to hydrogen-power at Widnes in the North-West.
  • Hydrogen is or can be produced by petro-chemical companies in the North.

I feel that increasingly, the North will have another big problem, for which hydrogen could be a solution.

Currently, there is a massive expansion of offshore windpower, which will produce a lot of electricity at awkward and random times, when it won’t have an obvious use.

So it will need to be stored!

One sensible method energy storage is to use the electricity to electrolyse water or brine to produce hydrogen and other gases. The hydrogen is then stored and can be burnt or used in a fuel cell to generate heat and/or electricity.

I can see a lot of innovation being employed to create hydrogen filling stations for users, such as companies with large fleets of smaller vehicles, railway companies, emergency power sup lies and other applications.

Unlike the production of hydrogen using steam-reforming of methane, electrolysis using renewable energy doesn’t produce any carbon dioxide.

Tees Valley Rail Interventions

The report talks of these interventions.

  • Darlington station upgrade.
  • Middlesbrough station upgrade.
  • Teesport To Northallerton gauge clearance.

One of the main reasons for doing this, is that it will improve access to Teesport, which will bring wide benefits to the North.

Integration Of Traffic Management To Improve Air Quality

This is from the report.

Air quality is a major health problem across the world – especially in major cities. Vehicle emissions are the major contributor to this problem – particulate matter and nitrogen oxides cause numerous health problems, including asthma and lung cancer. Road transport accounts for at least 50 per cent of these emissions – and this is likely to be an underestimate (Cox and Goggins 2018). Clearly the volume of traffic is the principal cause, but so is the ‘stop/start’ of traffic flows, which tends to further increase emissions (O’Brien et al 2014). Exhaust fumes aren’t the only source – 60 per cent of particulate matter emissions come from the tyres and brakes.

Suggestions to reduce emissions include.

  • Freight priority schemes
  • Bus or cycle priority at signals to encourage transport modal change.
  • Change signal timings to improve air quality
  • Inform the public to change travel plans when air quality is poor.
  • Low emission zones

Some of these measures will go down like a lead balloon.

Tees Crossing

This is from the report.

Roads are essential for the internal operation of Tees Valley’s economy and in order to connect it to the wider North. Passenger rail connectivity remains poor and light rail is non-existent. The economy’s residential and employment centres are highly dispersed across its geography. A modern bus network might relieve pressure, but the deregulated and underfunded network has seen passenger numbers fall and services cut (Brown 2018). The level of freight activity in Teesport and Hartlepool mean that these ports are highly dependent on the road network as well as rail.

The proposed solution js to build another road bridge across the Tees.

Conclusion

It seems a package of sensible measures, but opposition to some may ean they are not implemented.

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 19, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Northumberland Unveils £3.5m Rail Project To Bring Back Passenger Services

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

The first three paragraphs describe the project.

A county council has unveiled a new plan to reintroduce direct trains between Newcastle and south-east Northumberland, bringing back passenger services to a current freight line in a £3.5m investment.

Northumberland County Council said it is “determined” to reintroduce the direct passenger services as it could boost the local economy by up to £70m, with more than 800,000 annual return journeys by 2038.

The trains would travel directly along a 20-mile freight route between Newcastle Central and Ashington in south-east Northumberland, and the council wants to submit formal proposals by the end of the year and commence passenger services in 2022.

Reinstating a twenty mile railway for £3.5million seems extremely good value, so I would assume that the money will take the project another phase down the tracks to a full reopening. I have seen figures quoted of hundreds of millions for the full project.

This article in the Newcasstle Chronicle, gives other information.

  • The line could be open by 2022.
  • The line passes through ten of the least affluent council wards in the country.
  • SENRUG,, who are a local passenger group, describe the reopening, as one of the easiest in the country.

In 2017, I wrote Class 319 Flex Trains And Reopening Newcastle To Ashington.

This map from SENRUG, shows the lines North of Newcastle to Ashington and Blyth.

Since I wroye the article about the lines, various things have happened.

  • Class 319 Flex trains are now Class 769 trains and will enter service within three or four months.
  • Network Rail have indicated that Ashington, Blyth and Tyne is a project they would welcome being built by a third-party, as I wrote in Network Rail Is Open For Business.
  • Vivarail and others are working on the concept of pop-up stations.

I think we can file the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne reopening under Watch This Space.

We also shouldn’t ignore the fact, that if this reopening is successful, there are several other rail projects in the UK, where passenger services can be added to existing freight and mothballed lines.

Is the Government and Network Railway sending in the Geordies first?

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

Exploring The Tyne And Wear Metro

The Tyne and Wear Metro is unique in the UK, in that it is a regional electric railway system, that is powered by 1500 VDC overhead electrification.

But what is not unique about the system is the affection shown by regular users. You get similar feelings on other local systems like these.

As they mature, other systems including the Manchester Metrolink, Midland Metro and the London Overground will be felt of by their passengers in a similar way.

My four examples and the Tyne and Wear Metro, have a lot more in common than just affection from their users.

  • All were created in their own unique ways in an era not noted for railway innovation.
  • Merseyrail has an unrivalled tunnel layout for a railway under a city.
  • The Docklands Light Railway is automated with a Train Captain on each train.
  • Glasgow’s Blue Trains were very-un-British at the time.
  • Local interests were very much involved in creating the systems.
  • The Tyne and Wear Metro was created for  Driver Only Operation.

All of these lines are seeking to add more branches and replace, update and augment the rolling stock, much of which is forty years old.

Does the age of te trains show Central Government contempt for important local railway systems, which are the lifeblood of communities?

Manchester’s Missing Tunnel

The tunnels under Liverpool and Newcastle, were part of a three pronged plan by to improve local transport in the North.

  • I remember from the 1960s, when I was at the University, the electric railway under the Mersey to Birkenhead and the Wirral. Modern it was not, but the innovative Loop and Link Project made it a lot better. Although, that project was never completed.
  • Newcastle had had Tyneside Electrics from the 1900s. In the 1970s the old system became the core of the Metro, with the addition of a central tunnel.

The third plan was to bore the Picc-Vic tunnel under Manchester to link Manchester Piccadilly and Victoria stations.

According to Wikipedia, it would have had the following characteristics.

  • Full-size twin-bore tunnels.
  • 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • Low-level stations at Piccadilly and Victoria.
  • Three intermediate stations at Market Street, Albert Square and Princess Street
  • Trains would have been similar to the Class 315 trains, which are still common in London.

It would have joined the suburban rail services together across the city.

How would Manchester have developed if this important tunnel had been built?

We will probably be able to partially answer this question, when the Ordsall Chord is fully operational, which will handle cross-Manchester long-distance and local trains.

It is my view that cancelling this tunnel was one of the great infrastructure mistakes of the period along with the cancellation of the Channel Tunnel and London’s Third Airport at Maplin. But then Harold Wilson believed everybody would have their own car and that railways were of the past and preferred to spend what little money the Government had on political projects, many of which were total failures.

We must protect ourselves from politicians, who have a political view that owes too much to the extreme left or right and be left to get on with our personal lives.

To my mind, it is no surprise that the cities in the UK with the best urban rail systems; London, Cardiff, Liverpool and Newcastle, have more local control. Now that Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds and Manchester have greater local control, will we see improvement?

Exploring The Metro

There are several main assets and factors that make up a railway system.

  • Tracks
  • Tunnels and Bridges
  • Electrification
  • Stations
  • Accessibility
  • Trains
  • Signalling
  • Operating Method
  • Ticketing

I shall now give my thoughts on these in detail.

Tracks

The branches of the Metro were all built for heavy rail trains and the Sunderland Branch even shares the tracks with Class 142, Class 180 and heavy freight trains.

This principle of building tracks for full-size trains, has been used on Merseyrail’s Northern and WirralLines, London’s Trameslink, Crossrail and East London Line and innumerable railways across the world.

Build a system for small-size trains and you paint yourself into a dead end. I doubt for instance, London will ever build another new Tube-size line across London.

As I explored the Matro, the tracks also seemed to be in generally good condition.

This picture taken at South Hylton station shows typical track in apparently good condition.

Tunnels And Bridges

Wikipedia has a section on the tunnels of the Metro. This is said.

The tunnels were constructed in the late 1970s, using mining techniques, and were constructed as single-track tubes with a diameter of 4.75 metres. The tunnels under Newcastle were mechanically bored through boulder clay and lined with cast iron or concrete segments. The tunnel under Gateshead, was bored through sandstone and excavated coal seams. Old coal mine workings, some of which dated from the Middle Ages had to be filled in before the tunnelling began.

This description of the Crossrail tunnels is on this page of their web site.

A network of new rail tunnels have been built by eight giant tunnel boring machines, to carry Crossrail’s trains eastbound and westbound. Each tunnel is 21 kilometres/13 miles long, 6.2 metres in diameter and up to 40 metres below ground.

The Crossrail tunnels have a walkway on either side, but they are only 1.25 metres larger in diameter than those of the Metro. So it would appear that there is not much difference in size of the important section in the middle, where the trains run.

It is worthwhile looking at the widths of various trains.

The last three figures are from Wikipedia.

Look at these pictures of some of the tunnels and bridges on the Metro.

The weather could have been betterfor photography.

I rode on all the branches of the Metro and, I get the impression that all the bridges and tunnels seem to have been built with a generous clearance in both width and height.

I very much feel that when the Metro was built that unlike some other lines, it was well-built to a heavy rail standard.

I wouldn’t be surprised to be told, that a battery-powered train based on say an Electrostar like the Class 379 BEMU demonstrator, could pass through all of the Metro.

Electrification

The electrification is a unique 1500 VDC overhead system, which is the same as was used on the Woodhead Line, which closed to passenger trains in 1970 and to goods in 1981.

Could it be that the Metro got this voltage, rather than the 25 KVAC used on similar systems in London and Glasgow suburban routes, as British Rail and their contractors had 1500 VDC expertise available in the North and all their 25 KVAC expertise was employed elsewhere?

The bridges and tunnels seem to have been built with the ability to handle the higher and more common voltage.

1500 VDC may have also saved on the cost of the installation, as they had a lot of gantries and brackets from the Woodhead Line.

These pictures show the simplistic nature of some of the electrification.

However, on the South Hylton Branch, which was built in the 2000s, it appears that better methods were used, as these pictures show.

The gantries and supports are certainly better than many you see on the Lea Valley Lines.

This picture shows 25 KVAC electrification at Walthamstow Central station.

Note the extra insulators to deal with the higher voltage.

Would it be possible and worthwhile to convert all of the Metro lines to 25 KVAC?

In theory this must be possible, but I think it is probably more important to first beef up the electrification gantries to the higher standard of the South Hylton Branch.

Consider.

  • A driver told me, that electrification failures are not unknown.
  • Trains running on 25 KVAC are more energy-efficient.
  • Trains could be built that would be able to run on both 1500 VDC and 25 KVAC, that use the same pantograph for current collection and automatically adjust to the voltage received.
  • Trains with batteries can be used on sections without electrification.
  • Mixed voltage systems are possible, that would have 25 KVAC electrification on some sections of track and 1500 VDC on others.
  • The passenger Health and Safety case would need to be established for the higher voltage.

The electrification could be designed holistically with any future trains to maximise reliability, electrical efficiency and operational flexibility, and minimise costs.

Obviously, during the changeover to new trains, all lines would need to be at 1500 VDC, so that the current rolling stock could be used as required.

Stations

These pictures show a selection of Metro stations.

The stations appear to be in generally good condition and vary from the the basic to well-preserved Victorian stations like Tynemouth and Whitley Bay.

The platforms are generally of an adequate length, which except for some stations in tunnels seem to have been built to accept three of the current trains working together, which would be a formation 83.4 metres long.

This would be long enough to accept one of any number of four-car trains running on the UK rail network, which are usually eighty metres long. London Overground’s, new Class 710 trains will be this length.

Sunderland Station

Sunderland station, is an important station on the Metro.

I describe the station and its operation in The Rather Ordinary Sunderland Station.

 

 

Accessibility

Stations are step-free, but this is often by the use of ramps and a few more lifts woulds be welcome.

Access from platform to train is generally good, as these pictures show.

Note the picture of the access to a Grand Central Class 180 train.

I suspect that when Northern replace their Class 142 trains, with brand new Class 195 trains on the services between Middlesbrough and Newcastle, that the step-free access will be good.

I think a lot of credit is due to the original designers of the Metro, who thought about what they were doing and seem to have created a system that fitted heavy rail trains, Metro trains and users requiring step-free access.

Trains

There are several sets of electric trains in the country, that continue to defy their age and are a tribute to their builders, refurbishers and operating companies, by providing a quality service to passengers and other stakeholders

  • Merseyrail’s Class 507 and Class 508 trains.
  • The Class 315 trains of TfL Rail and the London Overground.
  • The Piccadilly Line’s 1973 Stock trains.
  • South Western Railway’s Class 455 trains.
  • The trains of the Tyne and Wear Metro.

|These pictures show the trains for the Metro.

Note.

  1. The quality is not bad for nearly forty years of service.
  2. The lady in the last picture, sitting in the front of the train, watching the world go by.
  3. Standing is not difficult in the rush hour for this seventy-year-old stroke survivor.
  4. Information could be better.
  5. The Metro needs a new train wash.

Wikipedia says this about the Proposed New Fleet.

The proposed new fleet would consist of 84 trains to replace the existing 90 train fleet, as Nexus believe that the improved reliability of the newer trains would allow them to operate the same service levels with fewer trains. These are proposed to have longitudinal seating instead of the 2+2 bench seating arrangement of the present fleet, and a full width drivers cab instead of the small driving booth of the existing trains. The proposed new fleet is planned to have dual voltage capability, able to operate on the Metro’s existing 1.5 kV DC electrification system and also the 25 kV AC used on the national rail network, to allow greater flexibility. Battery technology is also being considered.

I’ll put my ideas at the end of this note.

Signalling

The Metro is unique in the UK, in that it uses the Karlsruhe model to mix Metro trains with heavy rail trains on the Southern branch to Sunderland and South Hylton.

If in the future modern signalling and trains are used on the Metro, an increasingly intricate set of routes could be designed.

Add in dual-voltage trains able to run on both the Metro’s 1500 VDC and the National network’s 25 KVAC and the possibilities will be even greater.

Operating Method

The trains are run in the same way as London Underground, with only a driver on the train, who does the driving and controls the doors.

Ticketing

As I always find outside London, ticketing is still in the Victorian era.

Will the Tyne and Wear Metro embrace a contactless card based on bank and credit cards?

Possible Future Expansion

Wikipedia gives a list of possible extensions under Proposed Extensions And Suggested Improvements.

These include.

Tyne Dock To East Boldon

Wikipedia says this.

Tyne Dock to East Boldon along a dismantled railway alignment through Whiteleas could easily be added, because two Metro lines are separated by only a short distance (1.61 miles). This would provide a service from South Shields to Sunderland via the Whiteleas area of South Shields.

If ever there was a route for a battery-powered train, this must be it.

Consider.

  • The route is less than two miles.
  • The route connects two electrified lines.
  • You can see the disused track-bed on a Google Map.
  • No electrification would be required.
  • The battery would be charged between South Shields and Tyne Dock and East Boldon and Sunderland.
  • Modern signalling would allow the route to be built as a single track if required, handling up to ten tph in both directions.
  • Single platform stations could be built as required.

I can certainly understand, why Wikipedia mentioned battery trains.

Washington

Wikipedia says this.

Washington either via the disused Leamside line or a new route. Present planning may lead to the Leamside line being opened at least as far as Washington as a conventional rail line for passengers as well as freight, although this could be shared with Metro trains in the same way as the line from Pelaw Junction to Sunderland.

Washington station would only be a short run of less than ten miles along a reopened Leamside Line.

  • If somebody else paid for 25 KVAC electrification of the Leamside Line, then dual-voltage trains could run the service.
  • If not, they could use battery-power.

Either way, Washington would get a Metro service.

If as I believe, the new trains on the Metro will be main line trains, then what is the point of running heavy rail services to the town, as the Metro would be able to serve more places and with a change at Newcastle station, you could get a train virtually anywhere.

The possibility must also exist if the Leamside Line is developed as a diversion of the East Coast Main Line, then the Metro could go as far South as Durham.

Blyth And Ashington

Wikipedia says this.

Blyth and Ashington, running on existing little-used freight lines. Northumberland Park station has been built to provide a link to a potential new rail service to these communities; if opened, it will not be a part of the Metro system.

Ashington is around fourteen miles from Northumberland Park station, which means that an return journey might be possible on battery-power.

In an article in the October 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, which is entitled Celling England By The Pound, Ian Walmsley says this in relation to trains running on the Uckfield Branch, which probably has a terrain not much different to the lines to Blyth and Ashington.

A modern EMU needs between 3 and 5 kWh per vehicle mile for this sort of service.

If the Metro trains could have a high energy efficiency, I think it would be reasonable to assume that 4 kWh per vehicle mile is attainable.

So a three car train, would need a battery of 14 x 2 x 3 x 4 = 336 kWh. That is not an unattainable figure for battery size.

Killingworth And Cramlington

Wikipedia says this.

A northward extension to Killingworth and Cramlington has been planned since the Metro was on the drawing board, but would require widening of the busy East Coast Main Line to four tracks, which would be expensive, and a new alignment involving street running.

Suppose the new Metro trains were modern trains, such as the latest offerings from Bombardier, CAF, Hitachi, Siemens, Stadler and others, that were able to do the following in addition to running on the Metro.

  • Use 25 KVAC electrification.
  • Operate at around or even over 100 mph.
  • Execute fast stops at a station.

Would they be able to perhaps run a four tph Metro service along the East Coast Main Line to Cramlington station?

I suspect with modern signalling and a couple of passing loops on the East Coast Main Line, the answer is yes!

This may eliminate the need for street-running.

West End Of Newcastle

Wikipedia says this.

Extending the Metro to the West End of Newcastle would require new track, involving tunnelling and bridging in rough terrain; this would be very costly and is perhaps least likely to receive funding, though would probably have the highest potential ridership.

In this article in the Newcastle Chronicle, which is entitled What Could Happen To The Metro, this is said.

A rail extension out of Central Station along the original Newcastle to Carlisle line could head along Scotswood Road to serve Newcastle’s west, while a bridge could then connect the city to the Metrocentre. This would be integrated with the Metro system. Building developments in Gallowgate have greatly reduced any chance of extending the Metro west from St James’ Park.

The railway alignment still seems to be there in places.

It would be another extension that would use battery-powered trains on sections, that don’t have electrification.

Ryhope And Seaham

Wikipedia says this.

Ryhope and Seaham, a proposal drawn up by Tyne and Wear Passenger Authority to use the existing Durham coast line south of Sunderland.

Sunderland to Seaham is about six miles, so is definitely in range of battery trains.

But that is being timid!

Sunderland to Middlesbrough is probably about thirty miles and I believe it will be possible to do those sort of distances on battery power alone, in a few years. Provided that the train could be recharged at Middlesbrough.

What would a four or six tph service between Middlesbrough and Newcastle Airport via Hartlepool, Seaham, Sunderland, Gateshead and Newcastle, do for the area?

Conclusion About Possible Future Expansion

In this section on expanding the Metro network, it has surprised me how many of the extensions could be done with dual-voltage or battery-powered trains.

  • Tyne Dock To East Boldon – Battery
  • Washington – Battery
  • Blyth And Ashington – Battery
  • Killingworth And Cramlington – Dual-Voltage
  • West End Of Newcastle – Battery
  • Ryhope And Seaham – Battery
  • Middlesbrough – Battery and Dual-Voltage

I think it shows how we must be careful not to underestimate tyhe power of battery trains. But then I’m one of the few people in the UK, outside of the residents of Harwich, who’s ridden a battery-powered four-car heavy rail train in normal service! Mickey Mouse, they are not!

New Trains

I’ll repeat what Wikipedia says this about the Proposed New Fleet.

The proposed new fleet would consist of 84 trains to replace the existing 90 train fleet, as Nexus believe that the improved reliability of the newer trains would allow them to operate the same service levels with fewer trains. These are proposed to have longitudinal seating instead of the 2+2 bench seating arrangement of the present fleet, and a full width drivers cab instead of the small driving booth of the existing trains. The proposed new fleet is planned to have dual voltage capability, able to operate on the Metro’s existing 1.5 kV DC electrification system and also the 25 kV AC used on the national rail network, to allow greater flexibility. Battery technology is also being considered.

I’ll now give my views on various topics.

Heavy Rail Train Or Lightweight Metro?

Will the trains be lightweight metro trains or variants of heavy rail trains like Aventras, Desiro Cities or A-trains to name just three of several?

The advantages of the heavy rail train are.

  • It could run at 90 or even 100 mph on an electrified main line.
  • It will meet crashworthiness standards for a main line.
  • It would likely be a design with a lot in common with other UK train fleets.
  • It could run into most railway stations.
  • If it was shorter than about sixty metres it could use all current Metro stations without station rebuilding.

On the other hand the lightweight metro train would be lighter in weight and possibly more energy-efficient.

Walk-Through Design

Wikipedia says this about the seating layout.

These are proposed to have longitudinal seating instead of the 2+2 bench seating arrangement of the present fleet.

Longitudinal seating has been successfully used on London Overground’s Class 378 trains.

  • This layout increases capacity at busy times.
  • It allows passengers to distribute themselves along the train and get to the right position for a quick exit.

But the biggest advantage, is that when linked to selective door opening, it enables a longer train to be used successfully in stations with short platforms.

London Overground use this facility on their Class 378 trains to overcome platform length problems at a few stations on the East London Line.

But train design is evolving.

Bombardier have shown with the Class 345 train, that you can have both in the same train. So in a three-car train, you might have two identical driver cars with longitudinal seating and a middle car with 2+2 bench seating.

Bombardier are able to get away with this, as they are maximising the space inside the train. I wrote about it in Big On The Inside And The Same Size On The Outside.

These pictures show the inside of one of Crossrail’s Class 345 trains.

Whoever builds the new Metro trains, they’ll probably have similar interiors.

Train Length

A trend seems to be emerging, where new fleets of trains are the same length as the ones they replace, although they may have more carriages.

This has happened on Greater Anglia, Merseyrail and West Midlands Trains.

It probably makes sense, as it avoids expensive and disrupting platform lengthening.

Currently, the Metro trains work in pairs, which means a train length of 55.6 metres. As the standard UK train carriage size for suburban multiple units is often twenty metres, then if the platforms can accept them, three-car trains would be possible for the new trains.

Longer trains would be possible in most stations, except for some in the central tunnel, which appear to have platforms around sixty to seventy metres long.

So perhaps four-car trains would be possible for the new trains, that would use selective door opening at the short platforms of the stations in the central tunnels.

Because the trains are walk-through, passengers can position themselves accordingly, for the station, where they will leave the train.

London Overground have also shown that selective door opening and walk-through trains can be used to advantage, when trains are lengthened to increase capacity.

Dual-Voltage

Obviously, the trains will have the capability of running on both 1500 VDC and 25 KVAC overhead wires, as the extension to Killingworth And Cramlington would need the latter, for a start.

The interchange between the two different voltages can be very simple, due to some technology developed for the
German cousins of the Class 399 tram-train. A ceramic rod separates the two voltages and the pantograph just rides over. The train or tram-train, then determines the voltage and configures the electrical systems accordingly.

Batteries

These would appear to be key to several of the proposed extensions.

Batteries also enable other features.

  • Movement in depots and sidings without electrification.
  • Emergency power, when the main power fails.
  • Handling regenerative braking.
  • Remote train warm-up.

In a few years time, all trains with electric drive will have batteries, that are probably around 75-100 kWh.

Operating Speed

To work efficiently on the East Coast Main Line, 90 mph or even a  100 mph operating speed will be needed.

Note that Crossrail’s Class 345 trains, which will generally work routes very similar to the Metro, have a 90 mph operating speed.

These faster trains will result in an increased service.

Currently, trains between Newcastle Airport and South Hylton take 65 minutes with sixteen stops.

Modern trains have the following features.

  • Minimised dwell times at stations.
  • Smooth regenerative braking and fast acceleration.
  • Driver Advisory Systems to improve train efficiency.
  • Higher safe speeds in selected sections.
  • Trains are designed for quick turnrounds at each end of the route.

In addition, train operators are organising station staff to minimise train delays.

Put it all together and I’m pretty certain, that this route could be done comfortably in under an hour.

So the same number of trains are able to do more trips in every hour.

Handling Tight Curves

Under Electrics, Wikipedia says this about the ability of the trains to handle tight curves.

Metro has a maximum speed of 80 km/h (50 mph), which it attains on rural stretches of line. The vehicles have a minimum curve radius of 50 m (55 yd), although there are no curves this tight except for the non-passenger chord between Manors and West Jesmond.

Could this chord be avoided by different operating procedures?

Serving Newcastle Station

Northern’s services from Newcastle station are.

  • 1 tph – Northbound on the East Coast Main Line to Cramlington and Morpeth with services extended to Chathill at peak hours.
  • 1 tph – Southbound along the Durham Coast Line to Middlesbrough calling at Heworth, Sunderland, Seaham, Hartlepool, Seaton Carew, Billingham, Stockton andThornaby, with an extension to James Cook University Hospital and Nunthorpe.
  • 1 tph – Westbound on the Tyne Valley Line to Carlisle calling at MetroCentre, Prudhoe, Hexham, Haydon Bridge, Haltwhistle, Brampton and others at alternate hours.
  • Westbound slow service on the Tyne Valley Line to Hexham calling at Dunston, MetroCentre, Blaydon, Wylam, Prudhoe, Stocksfield, Riding Mill, Corbridge and terminating at Hexham, with an extension to Carlisle at peak hours.
  • 1 tph – Newcastle to Metro Centre calling at Dunston only during the day.

Pathetic is probably a suitable word.

When Greater Anglia have their new trains, services between Ipswich, Norwich, Colchester, Bury St. Edmunds, Lowestoft and Yarmouth, will be at least two tph and sometimes three and four on most routes.

Newcastle To Sunderland Via Sunderland

Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough surely need a four tph rail connection along the Durham Coast Line.

I believe that dual-voltage Metro trains with a battery capability could run between Middlesbrough and Newcastle at a frequency of four tph.

If they can’t, I’m certain that a suitable train could be procured.

If the new Metro trains are correctly-configured heavy-rail trains, then surely a go-anywhere express version can be built.

  • Identical train bodies, cabs and traction systems to new Metro trains
  • An interior geared to the needs of passengers.
  • Four or five cars with selective door opening.
  • Ability to run on Metro tracks using 1500 VDC overhead wires.
  • Ability to run on 25 KVAC overhead wires.
  • Batteries for regenerative braking, emergency power and distances up to two miles.
  • Diesel or preferably hydrogen power pack.
  • Sufficient range to keep going all day.
  • 90-100 mph capability.

As the trains would have an identical cross-section to the new Metro trains, they could do any of the following at Newcastle.

  • Terminate at Newcastle station.
  • Go through Newcastle station to Metrocentre, Hexham, Carlisle, Morpeth or some other destination.
  • Go through the tunnel of the Metro to Newcsastle Airport.
  • Go through the tunnel of the Northumberland Park station to link to the North-East.

I believe that such a train could run as an express to link the whole conurbation from Middlesbrough to Morpeth together.

Newcastle To Carlisle Via Metrocentre and Hexham

The train that i just proposed would be ideal for this route.

I also believe that Metrocentre needs at least six tph connecting it to the centre of Newcastle and the Metro.

The proposed West End of Newcastle branch of the Metro looks to be a necessity, to provide some of this frequency.

What Is The Point Of Northern?

With the right trains, all of the local services in the Tyne-Wear-Tees area can be satisfied by a Metro running modern trains making the maximum use of modern technology.

This model already works in Merseyside, so why not in the North-East? And Manchester, Leeds and South Yorkshire!

A Tees Valley Metro

I have always been keen on the creation of a Tees Valley Metro. I wrote about it in The Creation Of The Tees Valley Metro.

Get the design of the trains on the Tyne and Wear Metro right and they could work any proposed Tees Valley Metro.

Conclusion

I think that Nexus will get some very interesting proposals for their new trains, which will open up a lot of possibilities to extend the network.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Class 319 Flex Trains And Reopening Newcastle To Ashington

In Reopening Newcastle To Ashington, I suggested that Class 319 Flex trains might be useful in reopening the route to passenger trains.

This map is taken from on the South East Northumberland Rail User Group (SENRUG) web site.

ashingtonnewcastle

The East Coast Main Line is shown in red, with the proposed reopened line in a thick orange.

I have since heard from SENRUG and this is a summary of their e-mail.

  • The line from Newcastle to Ashington takes freight along its entire length.
  • The route between Newcastle and Bedlington and the Choppington Branch is a diversionary route for HSTs.
  • The new Hitachi Class 800 trains will be able to use the Bedlington-Choppington route.
  • SENRUG are promoting Ashington to Butterwell as an extension to the route and a further HST diversion.

The e-mail finishes with this sentence.

Northern tell us the reason why they don’t want electric trains on the Morpeth branch (which is wired) is because they need to consolidate maintenance expertise at Heaton Depot and need flexibility to switch units around from route to route. Thus any new stock for the Ashington route also has to travel on the 3 other routes, all of which also take freight and inter-city type services.

Come in the Class 319 Flex train, the Teessiders, Tynesiders and Wearsiders need you!

  • Newcastle-Morpeth would be run using electric power, with all other lines from Newcastle  using two 390kW rail-proven MAN diesel engines.
  • The trains have a performance as good if not better than a Class 156 train.
  • The trains are four-car and meet all regulations.
  • Back-to-back services through Newcastle, such as Ashington to Sunderland or Middlesborough and Morpeth to Hexham, would be possible.
  • The trains could also work Middlesbrough – Newcastle – Hexham – Carlisle via the Leamside Line, if Northern wanted to open the line in 2019.
  • Northern get their route flexibility from Newcasstle, as the trains could work any route from the city.
  • The standard Class 319 trains have mixed it with big freight trains for thirty years on the Bedpan (Bedford to Brighton via St. Pancras).
  • They can go anywhere that an HST or a Class 156 train can go. So does that include some lines of the Metro?
  • When on the East Coast Main Line, they can up pantograph and cruise at 100 mph, just as they do on the West Coast Main Line now.
  • If any lines have steep gradients, the trains are designed for the 1-in-60 climb up to Buxton after a United-City Derby.

But the biggest advantage of the train, must be that as planners have ideas for new services, so long as the track and signalling are up-to-scratch, it’s just a case of Have Track, Will Travel!

As Northern were part of the writing of the specification for the Class 319 Flex train, I can’t believe that they didn’t take what they could do in the North East into account.

Consider.

  • Northern are developing a similar network using a mix of Class 319 and Class 319 Flex trains linking Blackpool, Liverpool, Manchester and Preston, based at Allerton Depot in Liverpool.
  • There have been proposals for new stations on the East Coast Main Line between Newcastle and Berwick-on-Tweed. 100 mph Class 319 trains would be ideal for a stopping service between Newcastle and Berwick.
  • Are there possibilities to run services into North Yorkshire?
  • Class 319 Flex trains could work Newcastle to Carlisle.
  • Bishop Auckland, Northallerton, Saltburn, Sunderland and Whitby could be worked from Midlesbrough.

Northern could stable an appropriate mix of Class 319 and Class 319 Flex trains at a convenient depot, deploying as required using the electrified East Coast Main Line.

Could Northern be developing an electric hub concept, as what could happen in the North East could mirror what is happening in the North West?

  • Central depot on an electrified main line, with good high-speed electrified connections to all routes served.
  • A number of four-car 100 mph electric trains- At present they have a total of thirty Class 319 trains.
  • A number of four-car 100 mph bi-mode trains. – At present they have a number of Class 319 Flex trains in development.
  • New routes could be developed using the bi-mode Flex trains.
  • If electrification happens on a route, the electric trains might take over.

But Northern have forty-three Class 331 electric trains on order.

These are three and four car 100 mph trains.. Northern probably have plans for these trains, but they could supplement the fleet at either hub, as routes get more numerous and passenger numbers increase.

A similar electric hub could develop at Leeds.

It looks to be a very flexible philosophy.

At some point in the future, it could happen that all Class 319 trains are the Flex variant and they work in tandem with a bog-standard four-car 100 mph electric multiple unit.

 

March 7, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Reopening Newcastle To Ashington

In No-Frills Mini Trains Offer Route To Reopening Lines That Beeching Shut, one of the lines mentioned in the original Times article that might be suitable for reopening is the Blyth and Tyne Line between Newcastle station and a new Ashington station in the North East.

This map is taken from their web site.

ashingtonnewcastle

The East Coast Main Line is shown in red, with the proposed reopened line in orange.

Reopening the line would be a lot simpler than many others.

  • Most if not all of the track is intact and used by freight trains.
  • Some of the  route is only single-track.
  • Stations would need to be rebuilt or built from scratch.
  • To work the desired frequency of two tph would probably need two units.
  • Digital signalling would be needed, as there are freight trains on the same lines.

As there are electrified lines in the area, it might be an ideal line for a pair of Class 319 Flex trains, which could run on diesel, where there was no electrification.

Judging by the map, the service could call at the following stations coming North from Newcastle

There would be two terminals at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea and Morpeth.

I also think that there is scope for more routes and stations.

Conclusion

It all looks very feasible.

 

 

February 17, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , | 2 Comments