The Anonymous Widower

What Would Tram-Trains With A Battery Capability Do For The Sheffield Supertram?

I asked this question in a slightly different form in Is The Sheffield Rotherham Tram-Train Showing Signs Of London Overground Syndrome?, where I said this.

Sheffield could do a lot worse, than replace the Siemens-Duewag trams with Class 399 tram-trains. Especially, as the South Wales Metro, will be buying thirty-six similar vehicles with batteries.

What would tram-trains with a battery capability do for Sheffield, Rotherham and the neighbouring towns?

We don’t know much about Stadler’s proposed tram-trains for the South Wales Metro.

  • They look to be very similar externally to the Class 399 tram-trains.
  • They will be able to work using 25 KVAC electrification on the South Wales Main Line.
  • They will be able to work the two-mile long Butetown Branch Line on battery power.
  • Whether they will have a 750 VDC capability has not been said.

A tram-train with batteries would certainly offer other possibilities.

On my trip to Rotherham, I met a guy of about my age, who was a resident of Sheffield. He  was proud of the city’s trams and was trying out the tram-train for the first time.

He also suggested two possible extensions.

  • Royal Hallamshire Hospital
  • A tram-train to Doncaster.

There have also been plans at times to run tram-trains to Dore & Totley and Penistone stations.

So how would tram-trains with batteries help for these routes?

Royal Hallamshire Hospital

On this page of the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals web site, this is said about getting to the hospital by tram.

Supertram does not serve the Northern General Hospital. It can be used to reach the Royal Hallamshire, Jessop Wing, Charles Clifford and Weston Park Hospitals, although please be aware that there is still a 10-15 minute uphill walk from the nearest stop (University). We would recommend that anyone who experiences difficulty walking long distances choose some alternative means of travelling to hospital.

This Google Map shows the area.

Note.

  1. The University tram stop is in the North-East corner of the map and is marked by a blue dot, marked with University of Sheffield.
  2. The Royal Hallamshire Hospital is in the South-West corner of the map.

This Google Map shows the University of Sheffield tram stop and how the tram route turns East to go to and from the city centre.

If the terrain allows it, a short extension might be possible to be built to the West along Glossop Road.

  • As in Birmingham City Centre, the tram-trains could run on batteries, without any overhead wires.
  • Charging could be provided at the terminal station which could be a few minutes walk to the hospital.
  • The hospital and the university could be a good terminus for tram-trains from Rotherham and the East.

This is a typical extension, that is made easier and more affordable by the use of trams with a battery capability.

Connecting The Supertram To Heavy Rail

The Sheffield Supertram was designed before tram-trains existed, but even so there would seem to be several places, where the two systems could be connected.

The design of the Class 399 train-trams also makes the connections easier to design and build.

  • The tram-trains can take tight turns.
  • There are various innovative solutions, that allow the pantograph to ride from one electrification system to the other.
  • If the tram-trains have batteries, this helps the electrification system changeover.

As more tram-train systems are installed, the library of solutions will get larger.

Tram-Train To Doncaster

There is a two trains per hour (tph) Northern service that goes between Sheffield and Doncaster, stopping at Meadowhall, Rotherham Central, Swinton, Mexborough and Conisbrough.

  • One train continues to Hull and the other to Adwick.
  • The service takes forty minutes from Doncaster to Sheffield.
  • The service goes past the Rotherham Parkgate tram-train stop.
  • The service takes about twenty minutes to go from Rotherham Parkgate to Doncaster, which is a distance of around 11.5 miles.

There is surely scope to extend the tram-train service to Doncaster to improve links between Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster.

This Google Map shows the Rotherham Parkgate tram-train stop.

Note how the tram-train stop is effectively a siding alongside the double-track Dearne Valley Line, that links Rotherham Central with Leeds and York. It also has a link to Doncaster via the short Swinton-Doncaster Line.

Space would appear to have been left to convert the line through the tram-train stop to a loop. With an additional cross-over at the Eastern end of the stop, it would be possible to extend the tram-train service beyond its current terminal.

I have a map, which shows that the routes to Doncaster and along the Dearne Valley Line to where it crosses the Leeds-Doncaster Line could be electrified in the early 2020s.

If this electrification is carried out, then the tram-train service could easily be extended to Doncaster.

On the other hand, as Rochester Parkgate to Doncaster is around 11.5 miles and the route will have 25 KVAC overhead electrification at both ends, would it be possible for a tram-train with batteries to bridge the gap in the electrification?

Comparing a three-section Class 399 tram-train with a two-car battery/electric Class 230 train shows that the two vehicles have similar lengths, weight and passenger capacities.

As Vivarail have managed to fit 400 kWh of batteries under a Class 230 train, I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least 200 kWh of batteries squeezed under a Class 399 tram-train.

So would 200 kWh of battery power be sufficient to take a Class 399 tram-train between Rotherham Parkgate and Doncaster?

It should be noted that the total power of a Class 399 tram-train is 870 kW, so it wouldn’t be possible if the tram-train was on full power all the time.

But.

  • The route is along the River Don and appears to be not very challenging.
  • Regenerative braking can be used at the three stops and any other stops due to red signals.
  • The initial acceleration at both ends could be accomplished under a short length of electrification.
  • The tram-trains will probably have been designed to use the lowest level of energy possible.
  • The tram-train could run in a low energy mode, when under battery power.

Stadler also know that handling a route like this on battery power would be an important sales feature all round the world.

Tram-Train To Dore & Totley

Running a tram-train service to Dore & Totley station in the South West of Sheffield seems to keep being mentioned.

When it was planned that HS2 was going to Meadowhall, this document was published. This was said about connecting Dore & Totley station to HS2.

Improved rail access to Meadowhall from south-west Sheffield could also be considered – for
example, a frequent service between Dore & Totley and Meadowhall could be included.

Proposed future transport schemes include the tram-train project; if successful, this could be extended to allow further interchange possibilities at the HS2 station.

But HS2 is now going to the main Sheffield station.

This will probably mean.

  • The route between Sheffield and Chesterfield will be upgraded and electrified, with I suspect extra tracks.
  • The electrified lines will pass through Dore & Totley station.
  • HS2 will need frequent connecting services from all over South Yorkshire into Sheffield station.

Dore & Totley and the stations on the Hope Valley service have a truly inadequate erratic hourly service to both Sheffield and Manchester.

There are two compatible solutions.

  • A four tph regional solution of a train between perhaps Hull and Manchester stopping at Doncaster, Rotherham Central, Sheffield and a few stations on the Hope Valley Line.
  • A higher frequency Sheffield solution of a train between perhaps Doncaster and the stations near to Sheffield on the Hope Valley Line.

The first service would be an advanced bi-mode train, whilst a tram-train with batteries could be ideal for the second

.Consider using a tram-train with batteries  on the second service.

  • It could use batteries on the Hope Valley Line to avoid electrification.
  • It would serve Sheffield and Meadowhall stations.
  • It could use heavy rail or tram routes in between the two major stations.
  • It could provide a high frequency service between the two major stations.

There are a lot of possibilities and the transport planners will know the best things to do, with respect to traffic.

Tram-Train To Penistone

In Riding The Penistone Line, I described a trip on the Penistone Line.

This was my conclusion.

Tram-trains like the Class 399 tram-train could easily climb the hill to Penistone to provide a perhaps two trains per hour service to Sheffield.

But the line would need to be electrified or hybrid diesel tram-trains, as in Chemnitz will need to be used.

So perhaps Northern‘s plan for the Northern Connect service, which would use more powerful Class 195 diesel multiple units, might be better suited to the Penistone Line.

I think the heavy rail solution will be used.

Conclusion

I think that tram-trains with batteries will find a few worthwhile uses in the wider Sheffield area.

 

October 31, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Penistone Line And Rotherham Tram-Train Trials

The Penistone Line Tram-Train Trial

The Penistone Line from Sheffield to Barnsley, Penistone and Huddersfield was the line originally selected for the tram-train trial.

In the Wikipedia entry for the line, this is said about the tram-train trial.

On 18 March 2008, the Department for Transport released details of a proposal to trial tram-trains on the Penistone Line, the first use of such vehicles in the UK. The trial was to start in 2010 and last for two years. Northern Rail, the operator of passenger services on the line, asked potential manufacturers to tender for the design and construction of five new vehicles, which Northern Rail would subsequently lease. In addition, Network Rail planned to spend £15m modifying track and stations to make them compatible with the new vehicles.

However, it was announced on 15 September 2009 that a city tram-train trial between Rotherham and Sheffield would replace the Penistone Line scheme.

More about the trial is said in this article on Rail News, which is entitled Penistone Line Is Chosen For £24m Tram Trains Trial. In particular, this is said.

One of the biggest initial tasks is to set a specification for the building of the five diesel-electro hybrid tram trains at a cost of £9 million. The trains will have to be equipped with braking systems suitable for on-street running and a Train Protection Warning System which is required for running on lines with ‘heavy’ rail passenger and freight trains.

The article was written in 2008 and Chemnitz hybrid Citylink tram-trains didn’t enter service until 2016.

So was the trial on the Penistone Line a disaster before it even started?

It had the following problems.

  • It was expecting a diesel-electric hybrid tram to be designed and built before 2010.
  • A long distance was involved.
  • The track-work needed to connect to the Sheffield Supertram could have been incredibly complicated.
  • The first all-electric Citylink tram-trains weren’t delivered to Karlsruhe until May 2014, which was seven months late.

For these and other reasons, I think that the decision of the trial to be delayed and to use Rotherham, was a prudent decision.

The Rotherham Tram-Train Trial

Consider these characteristics of the current trial, between Cathedral and Rotherham Psrkgate.

  • The tram-trains are virtually standard Karlsruhe Citylink tram-trains, adapted for UK 25 KVAC and painted blue!
  • A simple chord connecting the two systems.
  • A few miles of electrification, that could be powered by either 750 VDC or 25 KVAC.
  • Modification of the recently-built Rotherham Central station.
  • Building of a new terminal tram stop at Rotherham Parkgate.

It’s a simple plan, but one that covers a lot of design possibilities and has few, if any, risky elements, that haven’t been done in the UK or Karlsruhe.

The following can be tested.

  • The Class 399 tram-trains on the Sheffield Supertram network and an electrified main line.
  • Passenger entry and exit at Rotherham Central station and all over the Supertram network.
  • Operation under both 750 VDC or 25 KVAC.
  • Signalling systems on both tram and main line networks.

The one thing that can’t be tested is a diesel hybrid tram-train as they have in Chemnitz, as they haven’t ordered any!

But if they did want to order some, they could easily be tested between Cathedral and Rotherham Parkgate.

Conclusion

The original plan to use the Penistone Line and diesel-electric tram-trains was impossible.

Network Rail might have got this one right at the second attempt.

They could even run a UK version of the Chemnitz hybrid tram-train on the test route between Sheffield and Rotherham.

 

October 18, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Riding The Penistone Line

The Penistone Line from Sheffield to Barnsley, Penistone and Huddersfield was the line originally selected for the tram-train trial.

I wrote about the tram-train trials in The Penistone Line And Rotherham Tram-Train Trials.

Sheffield To Penistone

I took these pictures between Sheffield and Penistone

Note.

  1. Barnsley Interchange is a combined train and bus station, that does the town proud.
  2. There are several level crossings, including one in the middle of Barnsley.
  3. Some stations are rather basic.
  4. The Class 144 train, I rode is totally inadequate for the line.

The line certainly needs improvement to stations and trains.

Penistone Station

Penistone station is an unusual station, in that it is a two-platform station without any form of bridge, subway or controlled level crossing.

Note that to cross the line, passengers just walk across on a uncontrolled pedestrian crossing.

This Google Map shows the layout of the station.

It certainly has a lot of space and possibilities.

Wikipedia says this about services to the station.

On Monday to Saturday, trains operate every hour in each direction towards Huddersfield and Sheffield via Barnsley. On Sundays, these run every two hours each way.

There are proposals by Alliance Rail to run a 4 trains-per-day service between Huddersfield and London Kings Cross, via Worksop, Sheffield and Penistone, giving Penistone a direct train to London 4 times a day.

So Alliance Rail, think the station has possibilities too!

Conclusion

Tram-trains like the Class 399 tram-train could easily climb the hill to Penistone to provide a perhaps two trains per hour service to Sheffield.

But the line would need to be electrified or hybrid diesel  tram-trains, as in Chemnitz will need to be used.

So perhaps Northern‘s plan for the Northern Connect service, which would use more powerful Class 195 diesel multiple units, might be better suited to the Penistone Line.

 

October 13, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment