The Anonymous Widower

Calls For Major Enhancement To Oxford And Didcot Route

The title of this post, is the same as that of an article in Issue 899 of Rail Magazine.

This is the introductory paragraph.

A major upgrade to the line between Didcot and Oxford is needed to deliver the benefits of East West Rail, according to a new report funded by the Department for Transport, Network Rail and local authorities.

Some points from the article.

  • At peak times the double-track railway is congested.
  • The route was planned for electrification, but it was cancelled.
  • By 2028 services between Cambridge and Bristol and Southampton via Oxford are possible.
  • Capacity through Oxford would increase to fifteen tph.
  • There will be three tph between Marylebone and Oxford by 2028, with two continuing along the Cowley Branch.
  • Services will also run between Birmingham Moor Street and Oxford and Bristol.
  • It is likely that there will be extra tracks on the route.
  • Grade separation is also possible at Didcot.
  • A service between Oxford and Swindon is proposed.
  • A new station at Grove is mentioned, as is improvements at Culham station.
  • The study supports an Oxford to Northampton service via Milton Keynes

One thing, that is not mentioned, is the promised rebuilding of Oxford station.

Conclusion

It is certainly a long wish list and would transform rail traffic through Oxford.

February 25, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Could Battery-Electric Hitachi Trains Work Chiltern Railways’ Services?

Before I answer this question, I will lay out a few specifications and the current status.

Hitachi’s Proposed Battery Electric Train

Based on information in an article in Issue 898 of Rail Magazine, which is entitled Sparking A Revolution, the specification of Hitachi’s proposed battery-electric train is given as follows.

  • Based on Class 800-802/804 trains or Class 385 trains.
  • Range of 55-65 miles.
  • Operating speed of 90-100 mph
  • Recharge in ten minutes when static.
  • A battery life of 8-10 years.
  • Battery-only power for stations and urban areas.

For this post, I will assume that the train is four or five cars long.

Chiltern Railways’ Main Line Services

These are Chiltern Railways services that run on the Chiltern Main Line.

London Marylebone And Gerrards Cross

  • The service runs at a frequency of one train per hour (tph)
  • Intermediate stations are Wembley Stadium, Sudbury & Harrow Road, Sudbury Hill Harrow, Northolt Park, West Ruislip, Denham and Denham Golf Club

The service is nineteen miles long and takes thirty minutes.

It should be possible to run this service with trains charged at one end of the route.

London Marylebone And High Wycombe

  • The service runs at a frequency of one tph
  • Intermediate stations are Wembley Stadium,  South Ruislip, Gerrards Cross and Beaconsfield
  • Some services terminate in a bay platform 1 at High Wycombe station.

The service is twenty-eight miles long and takes forty-two minutes.

It should be possible to run this service with trains charged at one end of the route.

London Marylebone And Aylesbury Via High Wycombe

  • The service runs at a frequency of one tph
  • Intermediate stations are Gerrards Cross, Seer Green and Jordans, Beaconsfield, High Wycombe, Saunderton, Princes Risborough, Monks Risborough and Little Kimble
  • This service usually terminates in Platform 1 at Aylesbury station.

The service is 43.5 miles long and takes sixty-six minutes.

It should be possible to run this service with trains charged at both ends of the route.

London Marylebone And Banbury (And Stratford-upon-Avon)

  • The service runs at a frequency of one tph
  • Intermediate stations for the Banbury service are Denham Golf Club, Gerrards Cross, Beaconsfield, High Wycombe, Princes Risborough, Haddenham & Thame Parkway, Bicester North and Kings Sutton.
  • Intermediate stations for the Stratford-upon-Avon service are Denham Golf Club, Gerrards Cross, Beaconsfield, High Wycombe, Princes Risborough, Haddenham & Thame Parkway, Bicester North and Kings Sutton, Banbury, Leamington Spa, Warwick, Hatton, Claverdon, Bearley, Wilmcote and Stratford-upon-Avon Parkway.

The Banbury service is 69 miles long and takes one hour and forty-five minutes.

The Stratford-upon-Avon service is 104 miles long and takes two hours and twenty-two minutes.

Running these two services will need a bit of ingenuity.

Leamington Spa And Birmingham Moor Street

  • The service runs at a frequency of one train per two hours (tp2h)
  • Intermediate stations for the service are Warwick, Hatton, Lapworth, Dorridge and Solihull.

The service is 23 miles long and takes forty-one minutes.

It should be possible to run this service with trains charged at one end of the route.

London Marylebone And Birmingham Moor Street

  • The service runs at a frequency of one tph
  • Intermediate stations for the service are High Wycombe, Banbury, Leamington Spa, Warwick Parkway and Solihull.

The service is 112 miles long and takes one hour and forty-four minutes.

It should be possible to run this service with trains charged at both ends of the route and also fully charged somewhere in the middle.

Distances from London Marylebone of the various stations are.

  • High Wycombe – 28 miles
  • Bicester North – 55 miles
  • Banbury – 69 miles
  • Leamington Spa – 89 miles
  • Warwick – 91 miles
  • Warwick Parkway – 92 miles
  • Solihull – 105 miles

Consider.

  • It looks like a fully-charged train from London Marylebone could reach Bicester North, but not Banbury, with a 55-65 mile battery range.
  • Travelling South, Bicester North could be reached with a fully-charged train from Birmingham Moor Street.

But it would appear to be too marginal to run a reliable service.

London Marylebone And Birmingham Snow Hill

  • The service runs at a frequency of one tph
  • Intermediate stations for the service are Bicester North, Banbury, Leamington Spa, Warwick, Warwick Parkway, Dorridge, Solihull and Birmingham Moor Street

The service is 112 miles long and takes two hours and a minute.

It should be possible to run this service with trains charged at both ends of the route and also fully charged somewhere in the middle.

London Marylebone And Kidderminster

Some services between London Marylebone and Birmingham Snow Hill are extended to Kidderminster.

The distance between Kidderminster and Birmingham Snow Hill is twenty miles and the service takes forty-two minutes.

London Marylebone And Oxford

  • The service runs at a frequency of two tph
  • Intermediate stations for the service are High Wycombe, Haddenham & Thame Parkway, Bicester Village, Islip and, Oxford Parkway.
  • The service runs into dedicated platforms at Oxford station.

The service is 67 miles long and takes one hour and nine minutes.

It should be possible to run this service with trains charged at both ends of the route and some supplementary charging somewhere in the middle.

Chiltern’s Aylesbury Line Services

These are Chiltern Railway‘s services that run on the London And Aylesbury Line (Amersham Line).

London Marylebone And Aylesbury (And Aylesbury Vale Parkway) via Amersham

  • The service runs at a frequency of two tph
  • Intermediate stations are Harrow-on-the-Hill, Rickmansworth, Chorleywood, Chalfont & Latimer, Amersham, Great Missenden, Wendover and Stoke Mandeville.
  • It appears that there is sufficient time at Aylesbury Vale Parkway in the turnround to charge the train using a Fast Charging system.

The Aylesbury service is 39 miles long and takes one hour.

The Aylesbury Vale Parkway service is 41 miles long and takes one hour and twelve minutes.

It should be possible to run both services with trains charged at both ends of the route.

 

Chiltern Railways’ Future Train Needs

Chiltern Railways will need to add to or replace some or all of their fleet in the near future for various reasons.

Decarbonisation

Chiltern are probably the passenger train operating company, with the lowest proportion of zero-carbon trains. It scores zero for zero-carbon!

Government policy of an extinction date of 2040 was first mentioned by Jo Johnson, when he was Rail Minister in February 2018.

As new trains generally last between thirty and forty years and take about five years to design and deliver, trains ordered tomorrow, will probably still be running in 2055, which is fifteen years after Jo Johnson’s diesel extinction date.

I feel that, all trains we order now, should be one of the following.

  • All-electric
  • Battery-electric
  • Hydrogen-electric
  • Diesel electric trains, that can be converted to zero-carbon, by the replacement of the diesel power, with an appropriate zero-carbon source.

Hitachi seem to be designing an AT-300 diesel-electric train for Avanti West Coast, where the diesel engines can be replaced with batteries, according to an article in the January 2020 Edition of Modern Railways.

Pollution And Noise In And Around Marylebone Station

This Google Map shows the area around Marylebone station.

Cinsider.

  • Marylebone station is in the South-East corner of the map.
  • The station is surrounded by some of the most expensive real estate in London.
  • A lot of Chiltern’s trains do not meet the latest regulations for diesel trains.
  • Blackfriars, Cannon Street, Charing Cross, Euston, Fenchurch Street, Kings Cross, Liverpool Street, London Bridge, Paddington, St. Pancras, Victoria and Waterloo stations are diesel-free or have plans to do so.

Will the residents, the Greater London Council and the Government do something about improving Chiltern’s pollution and noise?

New trains would be a necessary part of the solution.

New And Extended Services

Consider.

  • Chiltern plan to extend the Aylesbury Parkway service to Milton Keynes in connection with East West Rail. This service would appear to be planned to run via High Wycombe and Princes Risborough.
  • There has also been proposals for a new Chiltern terminus at Old Oak Common in West London to connect to Crossrail, High Speed Two and the London Overground.
  • Chiltern could run a service between Oxford and Birmingham Moor Street.
  • With the demise of the Croxley Rail Link around Watford, Chiltern could be part of a revived solution.
  • In Issue 899 of Rail Magazine in an article entitled Calls For Major Enhancement To Oxford And Didcot Route, it states that there will be three tph between Oxford and Marylebone, two of which will start from a new station at Cowley.

Chiltern certainly have been an expansionist railway in the past.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Chiltern ordering new trains.

As I said earlier, I suspect they wouldn’t want to order some new short-life diesel trains.

125 mph Running

Consider.

  • The West Coast Main Line has an operating speed of 125 mph.
  • East West Rail is being built for an operating speed of 125 mph.
  • Some parts of the Chiltern Main Line could be electrified and upgraded to 125 mph operation.

For these reasons, some of Chiltern’s new fleet must be capable of modification, so it can run at 125 mph, where it is possible.

100 mph Trains

Around half of Chiltern’s fleet are 100 mph trains, but the other half, made up of Class 165 trains only have a 75 mph operating speed.

Running a fleet, where all trains have a similar performance, must give operational and capacity improvements.

Increasing Capacity

Chiltern’s Main Line service to Birmingham is run using six Mark 3 carriages between a Class 68 locomotive and a driving van trailer.

These trains are 177.3 metres long and hold 444 passengers.

These trains are equivalent in length to a seven-car Hitachi Class AT-300 train, which I estimate would hold just over 500 passengers.

Changing some trains for a more modern design, could increase the passenger capacity, but without increasing the train length.

Aventi West Coast And High Speed Two

Chiltern’s services to Birmingham will come under increasing pressure from Avanti West Coast‘s revamped all-electric fleet, which within ten years should be augmented by High Speed Two.

It will be difficult selling the joys of comfortable diesel trains against the environmental benefits of all-electric zero-carbon faster trains.

Great Western Railway And Possible Electrification To Oxford

Chiltern’s services to Oxford will also come under increasing pressure from Great Western Railway’s services to Oxford.

  • When Crossrail opens, Paddington will be a much better terminal than Marylebone.
  • Crossrail will offer lots of new connections from Reading.
  • Great Western Railway could run their own battery-electric trains to Oxford.
  • Great Western Railway will be faster between London and Oxford at 38 minutes to Chiltern’s 65 minutes.

Will new trains be needed on the route to retain passengers?

Will Chiltern Have Two Separate Fleets?

Currently, Chiltern Railways have what is effectively  two separate fleets.

  • A Chiltern Main Line fleet comprised of five sets of six Mark 3 coaches, a Class 68 locomotive and a driving van trailer.
  • A secondary fleet of thirty-four assorted diesel multiple units of various ages and lengths, which do everything else.

But would this be their fleet, if they went for a full renewal to fully-decarbonise?

Would they acquire more Main Line sets to work the services to Birmingham, Kidderminster and perhaps some other Midlands destinations?

Do the Oxford services require more capacity for both Oxford and Bicester Village and would more Main Line sets be a solution?

What destinations will be served and what trains will be needed to work services from new destinations like Milton Keynes and Old Oak Common?

I can see Chiltern acquiring two fleets of battery-electric trains.

  • Chiltern Main Line trains based on Hitachi AT-300 trains with between five and seven cars.
  • Suburban trains for shorter journeys, based on Hitachi Class 385 trains with perhaps four cars.

Both would be fairly similar under the skin.

Conclusion On Chiltern Railways’ Future Trains

I am very much drawn to the conclusion, that Chiltern will have to introduce a new fleet of zero-carbon trains.

Electrification would be a possibility, but have we got enough resources to carry out the work, at the same time as High Speed Two is being built?

Hydrogen might be a possibility, but it would probably lead to a loss of capacity on the trains.

Battery-electric trains might not be a solution, but I suspect they could be the best way to increase Chiltern’s fleet and decarbonise at the same time.

  • Hitachi’s basic train design is used by several train operating companies and appears to be well received, by Train operating companies, staff and passengers.
  • Hitachi appear to be well-advanced with a battery-electric version.
  • Hitachi seem to have sold the concept of battery-electric AT-300 trains to Avanti West Coast to replace their diesel-electric Class 221 trains.

The sale of trains to Avanti West Coast appears to be very significant, in that Hitachi will be delivering a diesel-electric fleet, that will then be converted to battery-electric.

I like this approach.

  • Routes can be converted gradually and the trains fully tested as diesel-electric.
  • Electrification and/or charging stations can be added, to the rail network.
  • As routes are ready, the trains can be converted to battery-electric.

It would appear to be a low-risk approach, that could ensure conversion of the fleet does not involve too much disruption to passengers.

Possible Electrification That Might Help Chiltern Railways

These lines are or could be electrified in the near future.

Amersham Line Between Harrow-on-the-Hill and Amersham Stations

The only electrified line on the Chiltern Railways network is the section of the Amersham Line between Harrow-on-the-Hill and Amersham stations.

  • It is electrified using London Underground’s system.
  • It is fourteen miles long and trains take twenty-two minutes.
  • London Marylebone and Harrow-on-the-Hill is a distance of only nine miles
  • Aylesbury and Amersham is a distance of only fifteen miles.

Could this be of use in powering Children Railways’ trains?

The maths certainly look promising, as if nothing else it means the maximum range of one of Hitachi’s proposed battery-electric trains is fourteen miles further, which may enable Chiltern’s proposed service between London Marylebone and Milton Keynes to reach the 25 KVAC electrification at Bletchley.

But if the new trains were to use the London Underground electrification, they would have to be dual-voltage units.

As Hitachi have already built dual-voltage Class 395 trains for the UK, I don’t think, that this will be a problem.

Dorridge/Whitlock’s End And Worcestershire via Birmingham Snow Hill

In the February 2020 Edition of Modern Railways, there is a feature, which is entitled West Midlands Builds For The Future.

This is said about electrification on the Snow Hill Lines.

Remodelling Leamington is just one of the aspirations WMRE has for upgrading the Great Western’s Southern approach to Birmingham, which serves a number of affluent suburbs, with growing passenger numbers. “Electrification of the Snow Hill Lines commuter network is something which we are keen to explore.’ says Mr. Rackliff.

As well as reducing global carbon emissions, yhis would also help reduce air pollution in central Birmingham and local population centres. ‘From a local perspective, we’d initially want to see electrification of the core network between Dorridge/Whitlock’s End and Worcestershire via Birmingham Snow Hill as a minimum, but from a national perspective it would make sense to electrify the Chiltern Main Line all the way to Marylebone.’

Note the following distances from Dorridge.

  • Leamington Spa – 13 miles
  • Banbury – 33 miles
  • Bicester North – 47 miles
  • High Wycombe – 74 miles

It looks as if, electrification of the Snow Hill Lines would allow trains to travel from Bicester or Banbury to Birmingham Moor Street, Birmingham Snow Hill or Kidderminster.

Reading And Nuneaton via Didcot, Oxford, Banbury, Leamington Spa And Coventry

This route, which is used by CrossCountry services and freight trains, has been mentioned in the past, as a route that may be electrified.

Note the following distances from Didcot.

  • Oxford – 10 miles
  • Ayhno Junction – 27 miles
  • Banbury 32 miles
  • Leamington Spa – 52 miles
  • Coventry – 62 miles
  • Nuneaton – 72 miles

Electrifying this route would link together the following lines.

Note that Aynho Junction is only 36 miles from High Wycombe and 64 miles from London Marylebone.

Fast Charging At Terminal Stations

Chiltern Railways use the following terminal stations.

  • Aylesbury station, where a bay platform is used.
  • Aylesbury Parkway station
  • Banbury station, where a bay platform is used.
  • Birmingham Moor Street station, where all bay platforms are used.
  • Birmingham Show Hill station
  • High Wycombe station, where a bay platform is used.
  • Kidderminster station
  • London Marylebone station, where all platforms are used.
  • Oxford station, where two North-facing bay platforms are used.
  • Stratford-upon-Avon station

I suspect that something like Viviarail’s Fast-Charging system, based on well-proven third-rail technology could be used.

  • This system uses a bank of batteries to transfer power to the train’s batteries.
  • The transfer is performed using modified high-quality third-rail electrification technology.
  • Battery-to-battery transfer is fast, due to the low-impedance of batteries.
  • The system will be able to connect automatically, without driver action.
  • The third-rail is only switched on, when a train is present.
  • The battery bank will be trickle-charged from any convenient power source.

Could the battery bank be installed under the track in the platform to save space?

If Network Rail and Chiltern Railways would prefer a solution based on 25 KVAC technology, I’m sure that Furrer and Frey or another electrification company have a solution.

Installing charging in a platform at a station, would obviously close the platform for a couple of months, but even converting all six platforms at Marylebone station wouldn’t be an impossible task.

Possible Electrification Between London Marylebone And Harrow-on-the-Hill

Consider.

  • All trains to Aylesbury have to travel between London Marylebone and Harrow-on-the-Hill stations, which is nine miles of track without electrification. It takes about twelve minutes.
  • Trains via High Wycombe use this section of track as far as Neasden South Junction, which is give miles and typically takes seven minutes.
  • Leaving Marylebone, these trains are accelerating, so will need more power.

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the lines around Neasden.

Note.

  1. The Chiltern Railways tracks are shown in black.
  2. Two tracks continue to the North-West to Harrow-on-the-Hill and Aylesbury.
  3. Two tracks continue to the West to Wembley Stdium station and High Wycombe.
  4. Two tracks continue South-East into Marylebone station, running non-stop.
  5. The Jubilee Line tracks in the middle are shown in silver,
  6. The Metropolitan Line tracks are shown in mauve.

These pictures were taken of the two Chiltern tracks from a Jubilee Line train running between West Hampstead and Wembley Park stations.

Note, that the tracks have no electrification and there is plenty of space.

I feel that to accelerate the trains out of Marylebone and make sure that the batteries are fully charged, that these tracks should be electrified.

There is space on this section for 25 KVAC overhead, but would it be better to use an electrified rail system?

  • As you approach Marylebone there are several tunnels, which might make installation of overhead wires difficult and disruptive.
  • There are London Underground tracks and their third and fourth rail electrification everywhere.
  • Between Harrow-on-the Hill and Amersham stations, Chiltern and Metropolitan Line trains share the same track, which is electrified to London Underground standards and used for traction power by the Metropolitan Line trains.
  • Trains connect and disconnect to third-rail electrification, without any complication and have been doing it for over a hundred years.

On the other hand, there are arguments against third-rail systems like safety and electrical inefficiency.

Running Chiltern’s Routes Using A Battery-Electric Train

I will now take each route in order and look at how battery-electric trains could run the route.

London Marylebone And Oxford

Consider.

  • This route is 67 miles.
  • An out and back trip is 134 miles.
  • The route is probably too long for the proposed Hitachi battery-electric train, without some intermediate charging.
  • Trains currently wait in the bay platforms at Oxford for up to thirty minutes, which is more than enough time to fully-charge the train for return to Marylebone.

When I outlined this route, I said this.

It should be possible to run this service with trains charged at both ends of the route and some supplementary charging somewhere in the middle.

I’m discussing this route first, as it has the complication of needing some form of intermediate charging.

The obvious place for some intermediate charging would be High Wycombe station.

  • It is 28 miles from Marylebone
  • It is 38 miles from Oxford
  • Trains seem to stop for a couple of minutes at High Wycombe.

As trains would only need to pick up a half-charge at the station, would it be possible for a train passing through High Wycombe to be able to use a Fast-Charging system, to give the battery a boost?

As a Control and Electrical Engineer by training, I think that this is more than possible.

It leads me to believe that with Fast Charging systems at Marylebone, Oxford and High Wycombe, Hitachi’s proposed battery-electric trains can run a reliable service between Marylebone and Oxford.

London Marylebone And Gerrards Cross

Consider.

  • This route is just nineteen miles.
  • An out and back trip is thirty-eight miles.
  • Trains appear to use a reversing siding to change tracks to return to London. They wait in the siding for up to thirty minutes, which is more than enough time to fully-charge the train for return to Marylebone.

I am fairly sure, that this route could be run by trains charged at Marylebone station only.

However, if charging is needed at Gerrards Cross, there is plenty of time, for this to be performed in the reversing siding.

It might even be reversed with all charging taking place at Gerrards Cross, so that fast turnrounds can be performed in Marylebone station.

London Marylebone And High Wycombe

Consider.

  • This route is just twenty-eight miles.
  • An out and back trip is fifty-six miles.
  • Trains wait in the bay platform for up to thirty minutes, which is more than enough time to fully-charge the train for return to Marylebone.

Everything said for the Gerrards Cross service would apply to the High Wycombe service.

London Marylebone And Banbury

Consider.

  • This route is 69 miles.
  • An out and back trip is 138 miles.
  • The route is probably too long for the proposed Hitachi battery-electric train, without some intermediate charging.
  • Trains wait in platform 4 at Banbury for around thirty minutes, which is more than enough time to fully-charge the train for return to Marylebone.
  • Trains call at High Wycombe station.

As with the Marylebone and Oxford route, this route will need some intermediate charging and as with the Oxford service, High Wycombe is the obvious choice,

High Wycombe is only 41 miles from Banbury, which is well within range of Hitachi’s proposed battery-electric train.

London Marylebone And Stratford-upon-Avon

Consider.

  • This route is 104 miles.
  • An out and back trip is 208 miles.
  • The distance between Stratford-upon-Avon and Banbury is 35 miles.
  • The route is probably too long for the proposed Hitachi battery-electric train, without some intermediate charging.
  • Trains wait in Platform 1 at Stratford-upon-Avon for over thirty minutes, which is more than enough time to fully-charge the train for return to Marylebone.
  • Trains call at Banbury station, where they wait for several minutes.
  • Trains call at High Wycombe station.

As with the Marylebone and Oxford and Marylebone and Banbury routes, this route will need some intermediate charging and as with the Oxford and Banbury services, High Wycombe is the obvious choice,

But this route could also use the Fast Charging system at Banbury.

London Marylebone And Birmingham Moor Street

Consider.

  • This route is 112 miles.
  • An out and back trip is 224 miles.
  • The distance between Birmingham Moor Street and Banbury is 43 miles.
  • The route is probably too long for the proposed Hitachi battery-electric train, without some intermediate charging.
  • Trains wait in the bay platform at Birmingham Moor Street for thirteen minutes, which is more than enough time to fully-charge the train for return to Marylebone.
  • Trains call at Banbury and High Wycombe stations.

As with the Marylebone and Stratford-upon-Avon route, this route will need some intermediate charging and as with the Stratford-upon-Avon service, High Wycombe and Banbury are the obvious choice,

London Marylebone And Birmingham Snow Hill

Consider.

  • This route is 112 miles.
  • An out and back trip is 224 miles.
  • The distance between Birmingham Snow Hill and Banbury is 43 miles.
  • The route is probably too long for the proposed Hitachi battery-electric train, without some intermediate charging.
  • Trains wait in the bay platform at Birmingham Snow Hill for ten minutes, which is more than enough time to fully-charge the train for return to Marylebone.
  • Trains call at Banbury and High Wycombe stations.

As with the Marylebone and Stratford-upon-Avon route, this route will need some intermediate charging and as with the Stratford-upon-Avon service, High Wycombe and Banbury are the obvious choice,

London Marylebone And Kidderminster

Consider.

  • This route is 132 miles.
  • An out and back trip is 264 miles.
  • The distance between Kidderminster and Banbury is 63 miles.
  • The route is probably too long for the proposed Hitachi battery-electric train, without some intermediate charging.
  • Trains call at Banbury and High Wycombe stations.

As with the Marylebone and Stratford-upon-Avon and Birmingham routes, this route will need some intermediate charging and as with the Stratford-upon-Avon and Birmingham services, High Wycombe and Banbury are the obvious choice,

London Marylebone And Aylesbury Via High Wycombe

Consider.

  • The route is 43.5 miles
  • An out and back trip is 87 miles.
  • The route is probably short enough for the proposed Hitachi battery-electric train, to run the route without intermediate charging.
  • This service usually terminates in Platform 1 at Aylesbury station, where trains wait for up to thirteen minutes, which is more than enough time to fully-charge the train for return to Marylebone.
  • The train will also be fully-charged at Marylebone.

It looks that this route could be easily handled with charging at both ends of the route, but if there has been a charging error, the train can obviously make a pit-stop at High Wycombe to give the battery a top-up.

London Marylebone And Aylesbury Via Amersham

Consider.

  • The route is 39 miles
  • An out and back trip is 78 miles.
  • The route is probably short enough for the proposed Hitachi battery-electric train, to run the route without intermediate charging.
  • This service usually terminates in Platform 3 at Aylesbury station, where trains wait for up to twenty minutes, which is more than enough time to fully-charge the train for return to Marylebone.
  • The train will also be fully-charged at Marylebone.

It looks that this route could be easily handled with charging at both ends of the route, but if there has been a charging error, the train can obviously make a pit-stop at High Wycombe to give the battery a top-up.

London Marylebone And Aylesbury Vale Parkway Via Amersham

Consider.

  • The route is 41 miles
  • An out and back trip is 82 miles.
  • The route is probably short enough for the proposed Hitachi battery-electric train, to run the route without intermediate charging.
  • This service usually terminates in Platform 1 at Aylesbury Vale Parkway station, where trains wait for up to nine minutes, which is more than enough time to fully-charge the train for return to Marylebone.
  • The train will also be fully-charged at Marylebone.

It looks that this route could be easily handled with charging at both ends of the route, but if there has been a charging error, the train can obviously make a pit-stop at Aylesbury to give the battery a top-up.

Leamington Spa And Birmingham Moor Street

Consider.

  • The route is 23 miles
  • An out and back trip is 46 miles.
  • This service usually terminates in a bay platform at Birmingham Moor Street station, where trains wait for up to twenty minutes, which is more than enough time to fully-charge the train for return to Leamington Spa.

I am fairly sure, that this route could be run by trains charged at Bitmingham Moor Street station only.

New And Extended Services

These services are planned or have been mentioned as possibilities.

London Marylebone And Milton Keynes Via High Wycombe, Princes Risborough, Aylesbury And Aylesbury Vale Parkway

This is the new service that Chiltern will start running in the next few years.

Consider.

  • I estimate the distance between Aylesbury Vale Parkway and Bletchley, where 25 KVAC overhead electrification starts is 18 miles, with Milton Keynes a further three miles.
  • The distance between Marylebone and Bletchley via High Wycombe would be 63.5 miles.
  • The route is probably short enough for the proposed Hitachi battery-electric train, to run the route without intermediate charging.
  • Charging would normally be in Milton Keynes and Marylebone, with a certain amount of charging from the 25 KVAC between Bletchley and Milton Keynes.

It looks that this route could be handled with charging at both ends of the route, but if there has been a charging error, the train can obviously make a pit-stop at High Wycombe or Aylesbury to give the battery a top-up.

Birmingham Moor Street And Oxford

Consider.

  • Birmingham Moor Street station could have more South-facing bay platforms.
  • Birmingham Moor Street station is only a short walk from the new High Speed Two station at Birmingham Curzon Street.
  • Oxford station has two North-facing bay platforms.
  • Oxford station and Aynho Junction is only twenty miles and well within battery range, if High Wycombe and Banbury is electrified.
  • Banbury and Oxford currently takes 23 minutes.
  • Banbury and Birmingham Moor Street currently takes 44 minutes

It looks like a Birmingham Moor Street and Oxford service would take one hour and seven minutes.

London Marylebone And The Cowley Branch

This proposed service is probably about four to five miles further on from Oxford station.

There may be problems with how the track is laid out, but with a charging station at the end of the branch, I doubt that distance would be a problem.

Croxley Rail Link Proposal

I said this earlier.

With the demise of the Croxley Rail Link around Watford, Chiltern could be part of a revived solution.

The original plan died a long time ago, but could there be a simpler Chiltern-based solution?

  • Rebuild the railway between Croxley and Watford High Street stations.
  • Build new stations at Watford Vicarage Road and Cassiobridge.
  • A single track link would be more affordable could certainly handle two tph and possibly four.
  • Chiltern would run a two tph service between Watford Junction and Aylesbury stations.
  • The service would call at Watford High Street, Watford Vicarage Road, Cassiobridge, Croxley, Rickmansworth, Chorleywood, Chalfont & Latimer, Amersham, Great Missenden, Wendover and Stoke Mandeville.

I’m sure a more comprehensive scheme than the original one can be devised.

Important Stations

These are some of the more important stations and a few notes.

Aylesbury

As Chiltern develops the network in the next few years, these services could run to and/or through Aylesbury station.

  • One tph – London Marylebone and Aylesbury via High Wycombe
  • One tph – London Marylebone and Aylesbury via Amersham
  • One tph – London Marylebone and Aylesbury Vale Parkway via Amersham
  • One tph – London Marylebone and Milton Keynes via High Wycombe and Aylesbury Vale Parkway (new service)

I could also see a two tph service between Watford Junction and Aylesbury via Amersham.

Summing all this up means that two tph go via High Wycombe and four tph go via Amersham.

This Google Map shows Aylesbury station.

Note.

  1. Platforms are numbered 1 to 3 from South to North.
  2. Trains going South via High Wycombe call in Platforms 1 or 2.
  3. Trains going South via Amersham call in Platforms 2 and 3
  4. Trains going North call in Platforms 2 and 3.

These pictures show the station.

It is a spacious station, with step-free access and I feel that it could handle more services.

Banbury

I am sure that Banbury station, will be an important charging point for Chiltern’s battery-electric trains going North of Banbury.

This Google Map shows the layout of the recently-refurbished Banbury station.

Note.

  1. Platforms are numbered 1 to 4 from West to East.
  2. Trains going North call in Platforms 1 or 2.
  3. Trains going South call in Platforms 3 or 4.
  4. The Marylebone and London service usually turns back in Platform 4 after waiting there for over half-an-hour.
  5. Northbound Stratford-upon-Avon services generally use Platform 1, but most others generally use Playform 2.
  6. Southbound Stratford-upon-Avon services generally use Platform 4, but most others generally use Playform 3.

It looks to me, that Banbury station could handle the charging of trains as they pass through, as all of Chiltern’s services that serve destinations to the North of Banbury, stop at the station.

Hitachi are saying, that one of their proposed battery-electric trains needs ten minutes to be fully-charged.

So there may need to be some adjustment to the time-table to lengthen the stops at Banbury, to give ten minutes of charging time.

Alternatively, a few miles of electrification could be centred on Banbury, perhaps between Aynho Junction and Leamington Spa, which is a distance of twenty-six miles, which takes one of Chiltern’s trains around twenty-three minutes.

This would surely give enough time to fully-charge the batteries, but would also benefit CrossCountry, if they should go the battery-electric route.

I have followed the route between Aynho Junction and Leamington Spa in my helicopter and it would appear to be a fairly straight and uncomplicated route. I would say, it is about as difficult to electrify, as the Midland Main Line between Bedford and Kettering/Corby, which appears to have been one of Hetwork Rail’s better electrification projects, which should be delivered on time and has been installed without too much disruption to trains and passengers.

High Wycombe

It looks to me, that High Wycombe station will be an important charging point for Chiltern’s battery-electric trains going North to Oxford and Banbury.

Unlike Banbury, High Wycombe has not seen many changes over the years.

This Google Map shows High Wycombe station.

Note.

  1. Platforms are numbered 1 to 3 from South to North.
  2. Platform 1 is a bay platform that faces London.
  3. Platform 2 is the Westbound platform.
  4. Platform 3 is the Eastbound platform.
  5. High Wycombe has five tph in both directions, with an upgrade to six tph possible, after two tph run to the Cowley Branch.

The frequency of the trains through High Wycombe station could probably be handled by a Fast Charging system, but it would be tight to fit all current five services into an hour. It would appear to preclude any extra services going through High Wycombe, as there just isn’t enough time in an hour.

For this reason, I think that High Wycombe station needs full electrification, so that all passing trains can top up their batteries.

This gives the interesting possibility, that a train leaving High Wycombe for London with a full battery, would probably have enough charge in the battery to travel the 28 miles to London Marylebone and return. The train could always have a top-up at Marylebone.

So how far would the electrfication, through High Wycombe run?

Given that for operational reasons, it is probably best that pantographs are raised and lowered in stations, it is probably best if the various routes were electrified to the next station.

  • The Chiltern Main Line route would be electrified as far as Banbury station, where all trains stop. The distance would be 41 miles.
  • The Oxford route would be electrified as far as Bicester Village station, where all trains stop. The distance would be less than two miles from the Chiltern Main Line
  • The Aylesbury route would be electrified as far as Princes Risborough station, where all trains stop. This would be included in the Chiltern Main Line electrification.

It looks to me, that just 43 miles of double-track electrification would enable Hitachi’s proposed battery-electric trains to reach all parts of the Chiltern network.

Distances of the various destinations from the electrification are as follows.

  • Birmingham Moor Street – 43 miles
  • Birmingham Snow Hill – 43 miles
  • Kidderminster – 63 miles
  • Marylebone – 28 miles
  • Milton Keynes – 27 miles
  • Oxford – 38 miles
  • Oxford – Cowley – 43 miles
  • Stratford-upon-Avon  35 miles

Only Kidderminster could be tricky, but not if the Snow Hill Lines are electrified through Birmingham.

Electrification of the Chiltern Main Line between High Wycombe and Banbury with a number of Fast Charging systems in selected stations, would be my preferred option of enabling Hitachi’s proposed battery-electric trains to work the Chiltern network.

These pictures show High Wycombe station.

It does appear that the bridge at the Western end of the station my need to be modified, so that overhead wires can be threaded underneath.

Conclusion

Quite unexpectedly, I am pleasantly surprised.

Chiltern Railways’ current network can be run by Hitachi’s proposed battery-electric AT-300 trains.

  • Fast charging systems will be needed at Aylesbury, Aylesbury Vale Parkway, Banbury, Birmingham Moor Street, Birmingham Snow Hill, Gerrards Cross, High Wycombe, Kidderminster, Marylebone, Milton Keynes and Oxford.
  • Banbury and High Wycombe will need to be able to top-up trains as they pass through.
  • No large scale electrification will be needed. Although any new electrification will be greatly accepted!

As I indicated earlier, I would electrify the core part of the Chiltern Main Line route between High Wycombe and Banbury.

It would probably be a good idea to electrify a few miles at the Southern end of the line, where it runs into Marylebone station.

  • Marylebone and Harrow-on-the-Hill.
  • Marylebone and West Ruislip
  • Old Oak Common and West Ruislip.

I would use third-rail electrification to be compatible with London Underground and because of the automatic connection and disconnection.

But most surprisingly, there are already generous turnround times at most terminal stations, which give enough time to charge the trains.

It’s almost, as if Chiltern are preparing for battery-electric trains.

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 21, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Reading For Lunch On TfL Rail

On Sunday, TfL Rail took over the services between Paddington and Reading via Maidenhead.

The pictures show that there is still a lot of work to do to get a complete step-free Western Branch of Crossrail.

I walked to Carluccio’s at Reading, which is about a kilometre. It would be closer, if Reading had decent maps like other civilised towns or cities.

These are my comments about the new TfL Rail service.

Competitive Ticketing On TfL Rail

I would expect services on TfL Rail will be competitively priced and some details are given on this page on the TfL web site, which is entitled TfL Rail Will Operate Services To Reading From 15 December.

Freedom Passes

I can use my Freedom Pass all the way to Reading for a cost of precisely nothing.

  • There are lots of places along the line, where holders might go to enjoy themselves.
  • Freedom Pass holders can take children with them on some rail services in London. Will they be able to do this on TfL Rail?
  • Freedom Pass holders like to extract maximum benefit from their passes.

But it won’t be long before canny holders, realise that other places like these are just an extension ticket away.

  • Basingstoke – £4.50
  • Henley-on-Thames – £2.65
  • Marlow – £3.10
  • Newbury or Newbury Racecourse – £4.50
  • Oxford – £6.65
  • Winchester – £11.55
  • Windsor – £1.90
  • Woking – £9.75

I included Winchester, as that is where my granddaughter lives.

Will Freedom Pass holders take advantage?

  • This is not a rip-off offer, but a chasm in the fare regulations.
  • There are some good pubs and restaurants by the Thames.

They will take advantage in hoards.

Reverse Commuters

On my trip to Harrogate, I met a guy, who told me, that Reading has difficulty attracting workers for high-tech businesses.

I suspect that the new service might encourage some reverse commuting.

Will some Freedom Pass holders take advantage?

  • I know a lot of people still working, who commute within London on a Freedom Pass.
  • Not all Freedom Pass holders are pensioners. For instance, I would have been eligible because I lost my Driving Licence, when my eyesight was ruined by a stroke.

As the pictures show, there is a lot of offices going up around the station in Reading.

Access To The Thames

The route between Paddington and Reading gives access to the River Thames at the following places.

  • Windsor from Slough
  • Marlow from Maidenhead
  • Henley from Twyford.
  • Reading
  • Oxford from Reading

I wouldn’t be surprised to see the route being used extensively by leisure travellers to explore and visit London’s principle river.

Connection To Central London

When Crossrail opens to Central London, this must surely result in a large increase in cummuter, leisure and tourist traffic.

Indian Sub-Continent Families

There are a lot of people with roots in the Indian sub-continent living along the route between Paddington and Reading.

Note that Southall station is one of a small group of English stations with bilingual signage. At Southall the signs are in both English and Punjabi.

I feel, that strong family, cultural and religious ties will mean, that this large group will use the trains of TfL extensively in their daily lives.

Train Frequency

It was a Sunday, and the train had perhaps sixty percent of the seats taken.

I have this feeling that this route could suffer from London Overground Syndrome and that passenger numbers will rise much higher than the most optimistic forecasts, because of the factors I outlined in previous sections.

  • Competitive Ticketing On TfL Rail
  • Freedom Passes
  • Reverse Commuters
  • Indian Sub-Continent Families
  • Access To The Thames
  • Connection To Central London

This leads me to predict that this line will need a full four trains per hour (tph) service as far as Reading before the end of 2021 and not just in the Peak Hours.

Connections To The Branches

On my journey to and from Reading,, I didn’t see any trains on the four branches, that have the following frequencies.

  • Greenford – Two tph
  • Windsor – Three tph
  • Marlow – One tph
  • Henley – Two tph

Surely, as the current TfL Rail service has a frequency of two tph to Reading, it should interface better with the Greenford and Henley branches.

It appears to me, that there is scope for a better timetable and increased frequency on some of the branches.

Or is the current timetable geared to making profits in the cafes and coffee stalls at the interchange stations?

My timetable would be as follows.

  • Greenford – Four tph
  • Windsor – Four tph
  • Marlow – Two tph – Timed to be convenient for Reading services.
  • Henley – Two tph – Timed to be convenient for Reading services.

If the Crossrail and branch service are both four tph or better and there are reasonable facilities, I suspect that will work reasonably well.

But the higher the frequency the better!

Train Performance

On my trip, the Class 345 train was stretching its legs to the West of West Drayton and I recorded a speed of 90 mph.

Their performance doesn’t seem to be much slower than Great Western Railways 110 mph Class 387 trains.

Ticketing

From what I’ve seen, ticketing on this line needs to be augmented.

What is currently, in place will work for Londoners and those that live close to the line.

But would it work for tourists and especially those for whom English is not their first language, who want to visit Oxford and Windsor?

There would appear to be a need for a ticket which allowed the following.

  • Use of TfL Rail between West Drayton and Reading.
  • Slough and Windsor
  • Maidenhead and Marlow
  • Twyford and Henley
  • Reading and Oxford

Could it be called a Thames Valley Ranger?

The alternative would be to bring all the routes into London’s contactless payments system.

But would this mean complicated wrangling over ticket revenue between TfL Rail and Great Western Railway?

There certainly needs to be a simple ticketing system at Slough, so that passengers can purchase a return to Windsor.

The only ways at present are.

  • Buy a ticket at Paddington to Windsor.
  • Leave Slough station and buy a return ticket to Windsor.

Something much better is needed.

Crossrail To Oxford

Because of Network Rail’s l;ate delivery of the electrification West of Reading, the services have ended up as less than optimal.

I think eventually, services to Oxford, will be reorganised something along these lines.

  • Crossrail will be extended to Oxford.
  • Fast services to and from London would be the responsibility of Great Western Railway. The frequency would be at least two tph.
  • CrossCountry fast services would continue as now.
  • Stopping services to and from London would be the responsibility of Crossrail
  • Stations between Reading and Oxford, with the exception of Didcot Parkway would only be served by Crossrail.

The Crossrail service to Oxford would have the following characteristics.

  • Four tph
  • The service would terminate in a South-facing bay platform at Oxford station.
  • Pssible battery operation between Didcot Parkway and Oxford.
  • The service would have a dedicated pair of platforms at Reading.

There would possibly be a ticketing problem, but as there would be separation of fast and stopping services, I feel that a good solution can be created, which would allow changing between the fast and stopping services at Reading. So commuters from somewhere like Cholsey could either go Crossrail all the way to and from London or change to a faster train at Reading.

Conclusion

I am led to the conclusion, that this service will be overwhelming popular.

But the ticketing leaves much to be desired.

 

December 17, 2019 Posted by | Food, Transport | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The East-West Rail Link Plans For Services Between Reading And East Anglia

This report on the East-West Rail web site is entitled Eastern Section Prospectus and gives full details of their proposals for the train services along the East-West Rail Link.

This post is particularly about services to Reading and the report says this about services between Reading and East Anglia.

Proposed Core Train Services

This is a sentence.

It has been assumed that, by this stage, a half hourly service will operate on the Central and Western sections between Oxford – Cambridge.

The report then goes on to add.

25 minutes are added to the Oxford journey time to represent the option of one service being extended to / from Reading with a Reading – Oxford non-stop.

So that looks like there will be a core hourly service between Reading and Cambridge, which will take 98 minutes.

The report then goes on to detail how various towns and cities in East Anglia will be connected to Reading.

Bury St. Edmunds

2h16 hourly with cross-platform changes at Cambridge and new A14 Parkway station.

Great Yarmouth

3h14 hourly direct

Ipswich

2h43 hourly with cross-platform changes at Cambridge and new A14 Parkway station.

Lowestoft

3h30 hourly with change at Norwich and cross platform change at Reedham.

Norwich

2h40 hourly direct

Trains For The Route

It looks like there will be two direct hourly train services.

  • Reading and Great Yarmouth via Cambridge and Norwich, which will take three hours and fourteen minutes.
  • Oxford and Ipswich via Cambridge and Bury St. Edmunds, which will take two hours and nineteen minutes.

The long term service pattern, envisages extending the Oxford and Ipswich service to Manningtree, which would add twenty-five minutes.

These are long services and given the overcrowding that happens on the current service between Norwich and Liverpool, I would think that the trains should be as follows.

  • At least four or five cars.
  • An on-board buffet.
  • At least 100 mph operation.

I also think the trains should be bi-mode trains, able to use 25 KVAC overhead electrification or onboard power.

How Many Trains?

It looks like the Reading and Great Yarmouth service would be a seven-hour round trip, which would need seven trains.

The future Oxford and Manningtree service would be a six-hour round trip, which would need six trains.

So add in an allowance for maintenance and a spare, I suspect the fleet should be sixteen trains.

 

July 15, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bedwyn, Didcot Parkway And Oxford Services After Crossrail Opens To Reading

When Crossrail opens to Reading as it is rumoured with happen in December 2019, what will happen to the Great Western Railway (GWR) services to Bedwyn, Dicot Parkway and Oxford?

The Current Services

These services currently run to these destinations from London Paddington station.

  • Bedwyn station has an hourly service, that goes non stop between London and Reading and then calls at all stations between Reading and Bedwyn.
  • Didcot Parkway station has a two trains per hour (tph) stopping service, that stops at most stations, including those between Reading and Didcot Parkway.
  • Oxford station has a two tph fast service.
  • Reading station has a two tph stopping service, that stops at most stations.
  • The Didcot Parkway and Reading services give London and Reading a four tph electric service.
  • Other trains stop at important stations and there are some shuttle trains serving Reading, Didcot Parkway and Oxford.

Recent developments have included

  • Oxford and Bedwyn services now generally seem to run from the main station.
  • The fast Oxford services now run by Class 802 trains.

GWR are also testing running Class 802 trains to Bedwyn.

Future Services To Bedwyn

The turnback facility at Bedwyn station has been upgraded, so that it can take a five-car Class 802 train.

When some sighting and safety issues are settled, it is likely that Class 802 trains will take over services to Bedwyn.

  • Five-car bi-mode Class 802 trains will be used.
  • Trains will not stop between London and Reading.
  • Trains will stop at all station between Reading and Bedwyn.
  • Trains will run on electric power between London and Newbury.
  • Trains will run on diesel power between Newbury and Bedwyn.

Will the current seventy minute time be reduced by the faster trains, running at higher speed between London and Reading?

Battery Trains To Bedwyn

In Hitachi Plans To Run ScotRail Class 385 EMUs Beyond The Wires, I wrote about how batteries could be added to Class 385 trains, so they could run services without electrification.

Consider.

  • Class 802 and Class 385 trains are both both members of Hitachi’s A-Train family, sharing many features and systems.
  • Newbury to Bedwyn and back is about thirty miles.
  • Batteries could be charged between London and Newbury.

I very much feel that if Hitachi apply battery technology to the Class 802 trains, that Bedwyn could be an ideal test destination.

Extension Of Bedwyn Services To Marlborough

In A Station For Marlborough, I wrote about a local plan to open a new station in the twon of Marlborough, which would be on a single track branch, that leaves the main line to the West of Bedwyn.

Class 802 trains with a battery capability, would be the ideal trains for this extension.

Future Services To Oxford

GWR have started running bi-mode Class 802 trains to Oxford at a frequency of two tph

  • Services stop at Slough and Reading.
  • I have seen nine-car trains on this route.
  • Trains run on electric power between London and Didcot Parkway
  • Trains run on diesel power between Dicot Parkway and Oxford.

The service is augmented with a diesel shuttle between Oxford and Didcot Parkway.

  • This service runs at a frequency of two tph
  • One train every two hours is extended to Banbury.
  • This service is the only way to get to the intermediate stations of Appleford, Culham and Radley.

I very much feel that services between London and Oxford can be improved.

Four tph To Oxford

If train companies feel that Reading is worth four tph on Crossrail between the city and London, surely Oxford needs a four tph GWR service to the capital.

  • Two would be fast trains stopping only at Reading and Slough.
  • Two would stop at Slough and all stations between Reading and Oxford.
  • Bi-mode Class 802 trains would be used.
  • Trains run on electric power between London and Didcot Parkway
  • Trains run on diesel power between Dicot Parkway and Oxford.

Note.

  1. All intermediate stations would have a direct two tph service to London, Reading and Oxford.
  2. Currently, many journeys involve a long wait or a change at Didcot Parkway.

In addition, no station between Reading and Didcot Parkway gets a worse service than they do now, with the Class 387 trains to Didcot Parkway.

Battery Trains To Oxford

If Hitachi develop them, why not?

A Reading And Oxford Shuttle

I very much believe that important commuter routes need a frequency of four tph, as this enables a Turn-Up-And-Go service and encourage passenger numbers. Especially on a route like Reading and Oxford, where there is a lot of new housing being built.

If two tph are run between London and Oxford, stopping at all staions between Reading and Oxford, perhaps the way to give this service would be to run a shuttle between Reading and Oxford using bi-mode Class 769 trains.

  • A two tph shuttle would give four tph at all intermediate stations.
  • Trains would run on electric power between Reading and Didcot Parkway.
  • Trains would run on diesel power between Didcot Parkway and Oxford.
  • Some or all trains could be extended to Banbury.
  • I estimate that four trains would,d be needed for two tph.

Oxford would only be getting the quality of railway system a city of its size and standing needs.

Conclusion

There is a lot of scope to improve the train services in the Thames Valley, whether or no Crossrail takes over the Reading services.

 

 

April 21, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hitachi Battery Trains On The Great Western Railway

The slow pace of the electrification on the Great Western Main Line has become a big stick with which to beat Network Rail.

But are rolling stock engineers going to pull Network Rail out of their hole?

On page 79 of the January 2018 Edition of Modern Railways, Nick Hughes, who is the Sales Director of Hitachi Rail Europe outlines how the manufacturer is embracing the development of battery technology.

He is remarkably open.

I discuss what he says in detail in Hitachi’s Thoughts On Battery Trains.

But here’s an extract.

Nick Hughes follows his description of the DENCHA; a Japanese battery train, with this prediction.

I can picture a future when these sorts of trains are carrying out similar types of journeys in the UK, perhaps by installing battery technology in our Class 395s to connect to Hastings via the non-electrified Marshlink Line from Ashford for example.

This would massively slice the journey time and heklp overcome the issue of electrification and infrastructure cases not stacking up. There are a large number of similar routes like this all across the country.

It is a prediction, with which I could agree.

I conclude the post with this conclusion.

It is the most positive article about battery trains, that I have read so far!

As it comes direct from one of the train manufacturers in a respected journal, I would rate it high on quality reporting.

Hitachi Battery Train Technology And Their UK-Built Trains

The section without electrification on the Marshlink Line between Ashford International and Ore stations has the following characteristics.

  • It is under twenty-five miles long.
  • It is a mixture of double and single-track railway.
  • It has nine stations.
  • It has a sixty mph operating speed.

As the line is across the flat terrain of Romney Marsh, I don’t think that the power requirements would be excessive.

In the Modern Railway article, Nick Hughes suggests that battery technology could be installed in Class 395 trains.

The Class 395 train is part of a family of trains, Hitachi calls A-trains. The family includes.

In Japan, another member of the family is the BEC819, which is the DENCHA, that is mentioned in the Modern Railways article.

As a time-expired electrical engineer, I would think, that if Hitachi’s engineers have done their jobs to a reasonable standard, that it would not be impossible to fit batteries to all of the A-train family of trains, which would include all train types, built at Newton Aycliffe for the UK.

In Japan the DENCHAs run on the Chikuhō Main Line, which has three sections.

  • Wakamatsu Line – Wakamatsu–Orio, 10.8 km
  • Fukuhoku Yutaka Line – Orio–Keisen, 34.5 km
  • Haruda Line – Keisen–Haruda, 20.8 km

Only the middle section is electrified.

It looks to me, that the Japanese have chosen a very simple route, where they can run on electrification for a lot of the way and just use batteries at each end.

Bombardier used a similar low-risk test in their BEMU Trial with a Class 379 train in 2015.

So How Will Battery Trains Be used On the Great Western?

On the Great Western Main Line, all long distance trains and some shorter-distance ones will be Class 80x trains.

The size of battery in the DENCHA can be estimated using a rule, given by Ian Walmsley.

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.

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

So the energy needed to power the DENCHA, which is a two-car battery train on the just under twenty miles without electrification of  the Chikuhō Main Line in a one way trip would be between 112 and 187 kWh.

A Battery-Powered Class 801 Train

The Class 801 train is Hitachi’s all-electric train, of which Great Western Railway have ordered thirty-six of the closely-related five-car Class 800 train and twenty-one of the nine-car units.

The difference between the two classes of train, is only the number of generator units fitted.

  • Trains can be converted from Class 800 to Class 801 by removing generator units.
  • Bi-mode Class 800 trains have a generator unit for each powered car.
  • The all-electric Class 801 train has a single generator unit, in case of electrical power failure.
  • When trains couple and uncouple, the train’s computer system determines the formation of the new train and drives and manages the train accordingly.

If I was designing the train, I would design a battery module, that replaced a generator unit

This leads me to think, that a five-car Class 801 train, could have one generator unit and up to four battery modules.

  • The computer would decide what it’s got and control the train accordingly.
  • The generator unit and battery power could be used together to accelerate the train or at other times where high power is needed.
  • If the batteries failed, the generator unit would limp the train to a safe place.
  • The number of battery units would depend on the needs of the route.

It would be a true tri-mode train; electric, diesel and battery.

I will now look at some routes, that could see possible applications of a battery version of Class 80x trains.

Cardiff To Swansea

I’ll start with the most controversial and political of the cutbacks in electrification.

At present plans exist to take the electrification on the Great Western as far as Cardiff Central station, by the end of 2018.

The distance between Cardiff Central and Swansea stations is forty-six miles, so applying the Ian Walmsley formula and assuming the train is five-cars, we have an energy usage for a one-way trip between the two cities of between 690 and 1150 kWh.

As the Class 80x trains are a modern efficient design, I suspect that a figure towards the lower end of the range will apply.

But various techniques can be used to stretch the range of the train on battery power.

  • From London to Cardiff, the line will be fully-electrified, so on arrival in the Welsh capital, the batteries could be fully charged.
  • The electrification can be continued for a few miles past Cardiff Central station, so that acceleration to line speed can be achieved using overhead wires.
  • Electrification could also be installed on the short stretch of track between Swansea station and the South Wales Main Line.
  • There are three stops between Cardiff and Swansea and regenerative braking can be used to charge the batteries.
  • The single generator unit could be used to help accelerate the train if necessary.
  • There are only two tph on the route, so efficient driving and signalling could probably smooth the path and save energy.
  • Less necessary equipment can be switched off, when running on batteries.

Note. that the power/weight and power/size ratios of batteries will also increase, as engineers find better ways to build batteries.

The trains would need to be charged at Swansea, but Hitachi are building a depot in the city, which is shown in these pictures.

It looks like they are electrifying the depot.

Surely, enough electrification can be put up at Swansea to charge the trains and help them back to the South Wales Main Line..

The mathematics show what is possible.

Suppose the following.

  • Hitachi can reduce the train’s average energy consumption to 2 kWh per carriage-mile, when running on battery power.
  • Electrification at Cardiff and Swansea reduces the length of battery use to forty miles.

This would reduce the battery size needed to 400 kWh, which could mean that on a five-car train with four battery modules, each battery module would be just 100 kWh. This compares well with the 75 kWh battery in a New Routemaster bus.

Will it happen?

We are probably not talking about any serious risk to passengers, as the worst that can happen to any train, is that it breaks down or runs out of power in the middle of nowhere. But then using the single generator unit, the train will limp to the nearest station.

But think of all the wonderful publicity for Hitachi and everybody involved, if the world’s first battery high speed train, runs twice an hour between Paddington and Swansea.

Surely, that is an example of the Can-Do attitude of Isambard Kingdom Brunel?

Paddington To Oxford

The route between Paddington and Oxford stations is electrified as far as Didcot Parkway station.

The distance between Didcot Parkway and Oxford stations is about ten miles, so applying the Ian Walmsley formula and assuming the train is five-cars, we have an energy usage for the return trip to Oxford from Didcot of between 300 and 500 kWh.

If the five-car train has one generator unit,four battery modules and has an energy usage to the low end, then each battery module would need to handle under 100 kWh.

There are plans to develop a  South-facing bay platform at Oxford station and to save wasting energy reversing the train by running up and down to sidings North of the station, I suspect that this platform must be built before battery trains can be introduced to Oxford.

If it’s not, the train could use the diesel generator to change platforms.

The platform could also be fitted with a system to charge the battery during turnround.

Paddington To Bedwyn

The route between Paddington and Bedwyn is electrified as far as Reading station, but there are plans to electrify as far as Newbury station.

The distance between Newbury and Bedwyn stations is about thirteen miles, so applying the Ian Walmsley formula and assuming the train is five-cars, we have an energy usage for the return trip to Bedwyn from Newbury of between 390 and 520 kWh.

As with Paddington to Oxford, the required battery size wouldn’t be excessive.

Paddington To Henley-on-Thames

The route between Paddington and Henley-on-Thames station is probably one of those routes, where electric trains must be run for political reasons.

The Henley Branch Line is only four miles long.

It would probably only require one battery module and would be a superb test route for the new train.

Paddington To Weston-super-Mare

Some Paddington to Bristol trains extend to Weston-super-Mare station.

Weston-super-Mare to the soon-to-be-electrified Bristol Temple Meads station is less than twenty miles, so if  Swansea can be reached on battery power, then I’m certain that Weston can be reached in a similar way.

Other Routes

Most of the other routes don’t have enough electrification to benefit from trains with a battery capability.

One possibility though is Paddington to Cheltenham and Gloucester along the Golden Valley Line. The length of the section without electrification is forty-two  miles, but unless a means to charge the train quickly at Cheltenham station is found, it is probably not feasible.

It could be possible though to create a real tri-mode train with a mix of diesel generator units and battery modules.

This train might have the following characteristics.

  • Five cars.
  • A mix of  generator units and battery modules.
  • Enough generator units to power the train on the stiffest lines without electrification.
  • Ability to collect power from 25 KVAC overhead electrification
  • Ability to collect power from 750 VDC third-rail electrification.

Note.

  1. The battery modules would be used for regenerative braking in all power modes.
  2. The ability to use third rail electrification would be useful when running to Brighton, Exeter, Portsmouth and Weymouth.

The train could also have a sophisticated computer system, that would choose power source according to route,timetable,  train loading, traffic conditions and battery energy level.

The objective would be to run routes like Paddington to Cheltenham, Gloucester to Weymouth and Cardiff to Portsmouth Harbour, as efficiently as possible.

Collateral Advantages

Several of the routes out of Paddington could easily be worked using bi-mode Class 800 trains.

  1. But using battery trains to places like Bedwyn, Henley, Oxford and Weston-super-Mare is obviously better for the environment and probably for ticket sales too!
  2. If places like Bedwyn, Henley and Oxford are served by Class 801 trains with a battery option, it could mean that they could just join the throng of 125 mph trains going in and out of London.
  3. Battery trains would save money on electrification.

I also suspect, that the running costs of a battery train are less than those of using a bi-mode or diesel trains.

Conclusion

Hitachi seem to have the technology, whereby their A-train family can be fitted with batteries, as they have done it in Japan and their Sales Director  in the UK, has said it can be done on a Class 395 train to use the Marshlink Line.

We may not see Hitachi trains using batteries for a couple of years, but it certainly isn’t fantasy.

Great Western Railway certainly need them!

 

 

 

December 25, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Where Next For Chiltern?

Chiltern Railways have now got their Marylebone to Oxford service up and running.

Wikipedia gives a list of their future plans. Included are the following.

  • Platform lengthening.
  • Restoration of former tracks.
  • Remodelling Banbury, which has already been done.
  • Building of the West Hampstead Interchange.
  • Development of services between Aylesbury and Milton Keynes.
  • Creation of a Chiltern Metro.
  • Reopening various branch lies.

In addition there has been talk of electrification and opening a route along the New North Line to Old Oak Common.

Building On Oxford

As of yesterday, as I wrote in Oxford To Marylebone Opens For Business, they now have a two-platform terminus at Oxford station.

I can’t believe they have made this investment there, without other plans to use it. Wikipedia says this about the platforms at Oxford station.

The scheme also includes two new platforms at Oxford station, to be built on the site of the disused parcels depot. The new platforms will initially be five carriages in length, but provision will be made for them to be extended southwards to eight carriages.

A two platform terminus like this, will have a large capacity, when fully developed.

  • Two of Chiltern’s Class 68 locomotive hauled sets of Mark 3 coaches could be accommodated at the same time.
  • Two shorter trains could be handled in one platform at the same time.
  • Rebuilding plans for Oxford station would improve passenger handling.
  • The two-platform underround terminus at Moorgate handles 12 tph.

It could probable handle the proposed two trains per hour (tph) for the East West Rail Link with ease.

I can’t believe that these two platforms, won’t become a vibrant mini-station within Oxford station.

But where will trains and passengers go?

Expansion At Birmingham Moor Street

Birmingham Moor Street station is one of those stations, that spent decades in the wildeness and has now become an important alternative station.

Wikipedia says this about Proposed Future Developments concerning expansion of the station.

The currently disused third bay platform would be reopened, and an additional new fourth bay platform would be opened to accommodate the new services.

This is also said about HS2.

The High Speed 2 terminus in Birmingham is planned to be built on an adjacent site and will likely be linked to Moor Street, though have a separate name (either Fazeley Street or Curzon Street). The station and high-speed line is proposed to be completed by the mid-2020s.

So it looks as if Moor Street will become a more important Birmingham station for commuters and a gateway to high speed vservices from the city.

Services Between Oxford And Birmingham

Currently around two tph run between Oxford and Birmingham.

  • Typically, they call at places like Banbury, Leamington Spa, Coventry and Birmingham International.
  • Services are run by Cross-Country.
  • Services take between sixty and seventy minutes.
  • Services continue to places like Bournemouth, Manchester Piccadilly and Newcastle.

I’ve travelled on the route several times.

  • It tends to be overcrowded.
  • Service quality is not of the quality, you get with Chiltern, London Midland or TransPennine Express.

I think there could be a niche for an extra service between Oxford and Birmingham,, just as Chiltern hope and probably know, there’s room for one between London and Oxford.

  • Services would go between the bay platforms at Oxford and Birmingham Moor Street.
  • The Banbury remodelling must have helped the timetabling of the service.
  • A Chiltern quality service would be provided.
  • Two tph would leave at the same minutes past the half-hour.
  • Services could call at Banbury, Leamington Spa, Warwick, Warwick Parkway and Solihull, or whatever was appropriate.
  • Journey time could be sixty minutes or just under.
  • 2 tph on an hourly service would need four trains to run a service all day.
  • The Oxford Birmingham route would get four tph.

The only loser would be Cross-Country, who might lose passengers to the new service.

But then like Chiltern, they are ultimately owned by Deutche Bahn.

But, you can’t run a service without trains.

From 2019, Greater Anglia will start to receive new twelve-car Flirts for Liverpool Street to Norwich services. Currently, to run this service Greater Anglia uses 15 sets of eight Mark 3 carriages, with Class 90 locomotives and driving van trailers. In the last couple of years, all have been superbly refurbished with the addition of wi-fi and retention toilets. All the trains need is to fit sliding doors, as Chiltern have done for their Mark 3 coaches and replace the Class 90 with a Class 68 locomotive.

This would enable, Chiltern to offer a Mark 3 -only service between Marylebone and Birmingham and Oxford and the release of other trains for the Oxford to Birmingham service.

As every operator is short of trains and delivery timescales slip, it might be worth looking at the availability of suitable trains.

  • According to Wikipedia, as many as twelve driving van trailers could be in store at Long Marston. How many could be brought back into service?
  • Greater Anglia are replacing fifteen sets of Mark 3 carriages and a DVT, with ten electric Flirts, that will increase the frequency from 2 tph to 3 tph. Could this mean that one or two sets could be released before the Flirts enter service?
  • Hopefully, InterCity 125s will start to be available, as they are replaced with Class 800 trains from Summer 2017.

There are also other possibilities if events go to plan.

This is certainly a development to file under Watch This Space.

 

 

 

December 12, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Oxford To Marylebone Opens For Business

I took these pictures, at Oxford station today, as the Great and Good opened the Chiltern’s new service to Oxford.

Compare the pictures, with these, I took on the 1st of December.

It does appear a lot of work has been done, in the intervening ten days.

December 12, 2016 Posted by | News | , | 2 Comments

Improving Train Services Through Oxford

As the Didcot Parkeay to Oxford electrification is now going to be delayed until the mid-2020s, I thought this article in the Oxford Times offered an interesting solution.

It proposes that Chiltern’s Marylebone to Oxford service goes on to Didcot Parkway.

December 5, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , | 1 Comment

A Walk From Oxford Station – 1st December 2016

This walk was a repeat of A Walk From Oxford Station, that I took in March 2015.

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You wouldn’t notice much from the pictures, but being there I noticed changes.

It was all so much better organised, with a new bridge and extra tracks for Chiltern services.

December 2, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment