The Anonymous Widower

Rock Rail Wins Again!

This article on the Railway Gazette, is entitled Abellio Orders East Midlands Inter-City Fleet.

The order can be summarised as follows.

  • The trains will be Hitachi AT-300 trains
  • There will be thirty-three bi-mode trains of five cars.
  • The trains will be 125 mph capable.
  • Unlike the similar Class 802 trains, the trains will have 24 metre long cars, instead of 26 metres.
  • The new trains will have an extra diesel engine.
  • The new trains will cost a total of £400 million.

A few of my thoughts.

I shall constantly refer to an earlier post called Vere Promises East Midlands Bi-Modes In 2022.

Cost Of The Trains

In the earlier post, I calculated that the five five-car AT-300 all-electric trains, ordered by First Group for London and Edinburgh services cost four million pounds per car.

Thirty-three trains at this four million pounds per car, works out at £660 million, which is sixty-five percent higher than the price Abellio is quoted as paying.

Abellio are actually paying just £2.42 million per car or forty percent less First Group.

So are Abellio buying a cut price special?

As Abellio East Midlands Railway will be competing up against LNER’s Azumas on some journeys, I can’t see that running a second class train would be a sound commercial decision.

I am left to the conclusion, that Abellio have got a very good deal from Hitachi.

What Diesel Power Is Used?

In a five-car Class 802 train, there are three MTU 12V 1600 R80L diesel engines, each of 700 kW , which gives a total power of 2,100 kW.

If the Abellio train needs this power, with four diesel engines, each must have 525 kW.

Not sure yet, but this could save a couple of tonnes in weight.

I doubt that Hitachi are dissatisfied with the performance of the MTU diesel engines in the current Class 800, 801 and 802 trains, as there are no media reports of any ongoing problems. So I feel that they could go with the same supplier for the trains for Abellio East Midlands Railway.

If you type “Class 800 regenerative braking” into Google, you will find this document on the Hitachi Rail web site, which is entitled Development of Class 800/801 High-speed Rolling Stock for UK Intercity Express Programme.

The only mention of the R-word is in this paragraph.

An RGS-compliant integrated on-train data recorder (OTDR) and juridical recording unit (JRU), and an EN-compliant energy
meter to record energy consumption and regeneration are fitted to the train.

If you search for brake in the document, you find this paragraph.

In addition to the GU, other components installed under the floor of drive cars include the traction converter, fuel tank, fire protection system, and brake system.

Note that GU stands for generator unit.

The document provides this schematic of the traction system.

Note BC which is described as battery charger.

Braking energy doesn’t appear to be re-used to power the train, but to provide hotel power for the train.

I talk about this in more detail in Do Class 800/801/802 Trains Use Batteries For Regenerative Braking?.

In my view, it is an outdated design compared to some of those seen in the latest road vehicles and trains from other manufacturers.

This is a sentence from the Railway Gazette article.

According to Hitachi, the EMR units will be an ‘evolution’ of the AT300 design supplied to other UK operators, with 24 m long vehicles rather than 26 m, and a slightly modified nose profile.

So does that evolution include regenerative braking to batteries on the train.

This could have advantages.

  • improved acceleration and smoother braking
  • Less electricity and diesel consumption.
  • No running of diesel engines in stations.

I’m only speculating, but could the batteries or supercapacitors be under the car without a diesel engine? A balanced design might make this the middle car of the train

There must also be the possibility, that instead of using MTU diesel engines, the trains use MTU Hybrid PowerPacks.

Why shouldn’t Hitachi get their respected supplier to do as much of the hard work as possible?

Train Length

A five-car Class 222 train, which work the Midland Main Line now, consists of two 23.85 metre and three 22.82 metre cars. So it is 116.16 metres long.

The article says the cars in the new trains will be 24 metres long,,so a new train will be 1220 metres long or 3.84 metres longer.

This will probably mean that there will be no need for costly and disruptive platform lengthening at a couple of stations.

Capacity

Abellio have stated that passengers like having a table and that they will be offering a catering service

So will we see most seats having a table?

Chiltern have proved it’s a philosophy that works for all stakeholders!

This means that capacity comparisons with the current trains will be difficult, as you’re comparing apples with oranges.

Hopefully, we’ll get more details soon!

Splitting And Joining

I would assume the new trains will have the ability to split and join an route like the other Hitachi trains.

This could be very useful in organising trains in the limited number of paths South of Kettering.

A ten-car train might leave St. Pancras as two five-car units running as a pair. It could split at East Midlands Parkway station and one train could go to Nottingham and the other to Derby. Coming South the two trains would join at East Midlands Parkway.

A Nose Job

I’m intrigued by the phrase “slightly different nose profile” in the extract I quoted earlier.

Have Hitachi’s champion origamists found a way of designing a train which can split and join with both an aerodynamic nose and a corridor connection?

After their experience with the Class 385 train and its curved windows, I suspect Hitachi have learned a lot. Could for instance one end of the five-car train have a Class 800-style nose and the other an improved Class 385-style front end?

Trains would mate blunt-to-blunt, so the Southern train would always point towards London and the Northern train would always point towards Sheffield.

I used to have a friend, who learned origami skills at Hiroshima in the 1950s, whilst doing National Service in the Army.

I don’t think my proposal is impossible, but I’l admit it’s unusual!

  • The blunt end might have a pair of doors, each with a flat window, thus giving the driver an uninterrupted view, when driving from that end.
  • When the trains connected the doors would open and swing forward. The gang way would unfold probably from under the cab The driver’s desk would probably fold away, as the two cabs wouldn’t be needed in a ten-car train.
  • Connect and disconnect would be totally automatic.

Effectively, two five-car trains would convert into a ten-car train.

The Number Of Trains

In my earlier post, I estimated that Abellio East Midlands Railway would buy 140 bi-mode carriages.

This works out as 35 trains, as against the thirty-three actually ordered.

This is close enough to say, that these new trains are only for main line services and will not be used on the electric services to Corby, which I estimate will be another seven 240 metre-long electric trains

A Complete Fleet Renewal

This is a paragraph from the Railway Gazette article.

Abellio UK Managing Director Dominic Booth said the new trains would ‘form the centrepiece of our ambitious plans for a complete replacement of all the trains on the East Midlands Railway’, representing ‘a more than £600m investment to really improve the region’s railway’.

When Abellio say renewal, they mean renewal.

So will Bombardier or another manufacturer receive a consolation prize of the seven high-capacity 240 metre long electric trains for the St. Pancras and Corby service?

A version of the Abellio part-owned, West Midlands Trains‘s, Class 730 train, would surely do just fine.

The Role Of Rock Rail

The trains will be leased from Rock Rail.

The Rock Rail web site gives this insight.

Rock Rail’s game changing approach to rolling stock funding has:

  • Enabled long term institutional investors to invest directly into a new sector.
  • Driven better value for government, operators and passengers.
  • Extended the market for infrastructure finance.

Rock Rail works closely with the franchise train operators and manufactures to ensure a collaborative approach to design, manufacture and acceptance of the new state of the art trains on time and to budget as well as to manage the long-term residual value and releasing risks.

It’s obviously an approach that has worked, as they have been behind three rolling stock deals at they have funded trains for Moorgate services, Greater Anglia and South Western Railway in recent months.

The Abellio East Midlands Railway makes that a fourth major fleet.

Take a few minutes to explore their web site.

Rock Rail say their backers are institutional investors. So who are these faceless institutions with deep pockets.

I have seen Standard Life Aberdeen mentioned in connection with Rock Rail. This Scottish company has £670 billion of funds under management and it is the second largest such company in Europe.

Companies like these need secure long term investments, that last thirty to forty years, so that pension and insurance funds can be invested safely to perhaps see us through retirement. I know that some of my pension is invested in a product from Standard Life Aberdeen, so perhaps I might ultimately own a couple of threads in a seat cover on a train!

As the Government now insists everybody has a pension, there is more money looking for a safe mattress!

Rock Rail allows this money to be used to purchase new trains.

Rock Rail seem to be bringing together train operators, train manufacturers and money to give train operators, their staff and passengers what they want. I seem to remember that Abellio did a lot of research in East Anglia about the train service that is needed.

Conclusion

Abellio have made a very conservative decision to buy trains from Htachi, but after my experiences of riding in Class 800, 801 and 802 trains in the last few months, it is a decision, that will satisfy everyone’s needs.

Unless of course, Hitachi make a horrendous mess of the new trains!

But the four fleets, they have introduced into the UK, have only suffered initial teething troubles and don’t seem to have any long term problems.

There are some small design faults, which hopefully will be sorted in the new trains.

  • Step-free access between train and platform.
  • The carriage of bicycles and other large luggage.

The second will be more difficult to solve as passengers seem to bring more and more with them every year.

July 31, 2019 Posted by | Finance, Transport | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Institutional Investors ‘See Energy Storage As Most Interesting Renewable’ Option

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Energy Storage News.

This is the first two paragraphs.

A new poll has identified energy storage as the most promising technology for institutional investors keen on renewable assets, amid plans by many to ramp up allocations.

Nearly two-thirds of all asset owners and managers quizzed by the firm chose batteries and other energy storage technologies as the renewables subsector with the greatest potential.

I suggest you read the rest.

The last paragraph talks of Arlington Energy building a portfolio of 1GW of energy storage and gas peaker projects and has raised £200million for starters.

If I was an engineer involved in the development of nuclear power, I would be seriously thinking of looking for a new challenge.

 

February 20, 2019 Posted by | Finance, World | , | Leave a comment

Wind Farms Sale Is Breath Of Fresh Air After Merger Setback

The title of this post, is the same as that as an article in the Business pages of The Times.

This is the first paragraph.

Selling stakes in two wind farms for £635million will provide funds to reduce debt and to launch up to £200million of share buybacks, SSE said yesterday.

Amongst the purchasers of the stake in the wind farms is an unnamed British pension fund.

So yet again, we’re seeing pension funds investing our future in wind farms.

It is a trend that will continue, as pension funds look for safe places to put the massive funds they have under management.

  • We need the electricity the farms produce.
  • The engineering of wind farms will get better, and farms will be more reliable and produce electricity economically for years longer.
  • The farrms will probably get the best of maintenance, as pension funds will protect their investment.

In addition to wind, I suspect pension funds and insurance companies will invest in other large renewable energy schemes like solar and wave power and energy storage.

Schemes, such as those I mentioned in Exciting Renewable Energy Project for Spennymoor, will surely be ones that will appeal to the funds.

Conclusion

Pension funds and insurance companies with their massive funds are becoming a major force in vutting carbon emissions.

I suspect that this is not just a UK trend, but one with a world-wide dimension, that includes a lot of the EU, the Far East, North American and Australia.

February 3, 2019 Posted by | World | , , , , | Leave a comment

Victoria Asks The Question

Victoria Derbyshire asked this morning how George Osborne’s pension changes will affect you.

They won’t effect me, but they will effect those companies that provide the dreaded annuities, as I won’t be buying one!

I will be putting money into a peer-to-peer lender like Zopa, to provide me with a flexible income.

Suppose you had £50,000 invested in Zopa and it was generally lent out at 5% for five years. This money would be safeguarded by Zopa.

Once it was fully lent out, you would get an interest payment of £2,500 each year and capital repayments of £10,000 a year.

So in other words, you could withdraw £12,500 a year with no trouble.  But if you didn’t and left it to accumulate in Zopa you would be earning more money.

Obviously, you would have to pay tax on your earnings, but the idea of using Zopa or one of their ilk, as an annuity could turn out to be a good one.

There is a rumour doing the rounds, that peer-to-peer lenders will be starting to productise their offerings, by creating specialist ISAs and flexible on-demand deposit accounts.

April 4, 2014 Posted by | Finance, World | , , | Leave a comment

Not A Good Budget For An Insurance Company Fat Cat Who Smokes Heavily!

I have never understood why pensioners had to buy an annuity to give themselves an income in the last years of their lives.

In fact after hearing Adrian Chiles talking about his ideas for pensions, I vowed that unless it was a capital offence, I wouldn’t buy one!

So George Osborne did the honest thing and has made it that no-one will have to buy one any more. It’s all reported here in Citywire. Here’s the summary.

The government has unveiled a landmark overhaul of pensions drawdown and has abolished the 55% tax on pre-retirement pension withdrawals, meaning no one will have to buy an annuity.

From April 2015 people will be able to access pension savings as they wish at the point of retirement, subject to their marginal rate of income tax, rather than the current 55% charge for full withdrawal.

This had two immediate consequences.

Insurance company shares dropped as reported here in the Guardian.

George Osborne was put on a stop list of those, who aren’t entitled to buy insurance.

But well done George, as he also put the tax up on fags, although he was gentle with beer and cider.

 

March 19, 2014 Posted by | Finance, News | , , | 1 Comment

Government Waste Paper

I recently received a letter from the Department of Work and Pensions, to say that my pension was going up.

Government Waste Paper

Government Waste Paper

As like many pensioners in the UK, I get my pension paid directly into my bank account, surely this mass destruction of trees to send something, I didn’t read, was a waste of taxpayers money.

After all, I would notice that my pension had gone up, when I check my bank statement.

What percentage of these letters and booklets were actually read? It must be less than one percent.

March 3, 2014 Posted by | World | , | Leave a comment

Winter Fuel Payments

A former minister, Paul Burstow is suggesting that winter fuel payments be means-tested. It’s here on the BBC.

I’m over 65 and get a state pension, winter fuel payments, free travel in London through my Freedom Pass and discounts in lot of places including on National Rail through my Senior Railcard.

I would like to get a statement each year, as to how much I’ve received.  I could then give an equivalent amount to charities of my choice. Probably, I’d to that on my birthday to celebrate cheating the Devil for another year.

If the government didn’t pay me, they’d only blow in on some ridiculous project.

January 3, 2013 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Pension Scam

I’ve also received a text message saying.

Hi, as you have a frozen pension, you can get a large cash payment within 4 weeks, to get it started today reply ‘CASH’ to this text.

It was unsigned. That told me it was a scam, as if my pension manager wants me urgently, he comes round on his bike, or gives me a call on the land-line.

The grammar is all wrong too.  one of the advantages of an education system, that no longer teaches how to form sentences correctly, is that it’s easier to spot frauds.

And my grammar isn’t perfect!

December 26, 2012 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

Applying Control Engineering Principles To Pensions

Pensions are a nightmare and more rubbish is talked about them than any other financial matter, except possibly credit cards.

I’m in some ways typical, but the size of my pension pot is not typical.

When I worked for Metier, our wonderful accountant, Brian, set me up with a pension that I can live on.

I also have an income from the cash I got from selling the stud.

And when the DWP sorts it out I’ll have my State Pension.

So basically, I have a fixed sum coming in each month, from which I take my living expenses. Which of course varies on a month by month basis.

So at the end of each month I have a current account, which either has a small surplus or perhaps a small deficit. If it’s a surplus, the money goes into my Zopa account and if it’s a deficit, I withdraw a proportion of the payments made in at the first of the month.

So Zopa acts like a  deposit account, that pays a reasonable rate of interest. The great thing, is that it costs me nothing to transfer money to and from Zopa.

There is of course a slight risk with Zopa, but I’ve used it long enough to have developed a philosphy that minimises bad debt.

Effectively, I’m using Zopa to damp out the fluctuations in cash flow, just as a control engineer might add damping to a feedback system.

October 31, 2012 Posted by | Finance | , , | Leave a comment

The Department Of Work And Pensions Doesn’t Believe In Speed

I was sixty-five on the sixteenth of August and still haven’t had a sniff of a pension, despite several phone calls and a few letters.

I’m not someone who is in desperate need of the money, but surely if I was, it would be causing me great difficulties.

After all, it’s not if my pension age sneaked up on them and they’ve had my details since I started getting winter fuel payments a couple of years ago.

It’s a complete disgrace!

 

October 29, 2012 Posted by | Finance, World | | 3 Comments