The Anonymous Widower

The New Trimley Freight Loop And Trimley Station

Felixstowe Port is the UK’s largest container port and it generates a lot of freight traffic on the Felixstowe Branch Line.

So a 1.4 km. loop is being added to the line at Trimley to enable more freight trains to enter and leave the port.

I took these pictures as I went to and from Trimley station.

This Google Map shows the section of line, that will effectively be doubled.

I do have a few thoughts on various issues.

How Many Extra Freight Trains Will Be Possible?

This page on the Network Rail web site, is entitled Felixstowe Branch Line Works To Unlock More Freight And More Reliable Passenger Services.

This is said.

The work on the branch line in this area will support up to 10 additional trains in each direction to move goods to and from the Port of Felixstowe.

I assume the frequency is in trains per day.

I would assume that with careful scheduling of the freight trains, one train per hour (tph) will be able to move reliably to and from each of the two rail freight terminals at the Port.

There are certainly upwards of thirty scheduled trains per day to and from the Port at the present time, so another ten will obviously need the ability to run two tph both ways for most of the day.

Is The Loop Long Enough?

Network Rail are working towards the UK network being able to handle freight trains up to a maximum length of 775 metres.

At a length of 1.4 km, the loop may not be long enough to accommodate two maximum length trains, if perhaps something goes wrong on the Great Eastern Main Line, like a track or signalling failure.

I would hope Network Rail have done their track planning!

Passenger Services

The Network Rail web page implies that passenger services will be more reliable.

So how would a freight loop improve passenger services?

I suspect that just as the number of freight paths each way will be a reliable two in every hour, the number of passenger paths will also be doubled.

The second path in the hour would be useful for two reasons.

  • If say there was a train or signalling failure, then the service can be recovered once the fault is fixed using the second path.
  • If demand on the branch were to increase substantially or a boost was needed for a special event, Greater Anglia could put on a second service.

Greater Anglia have ordered 38 Class 755 trains and they will be running direct routes to five destinations from Ipswich, so I suspect the operator could station a spare train at Ipswich to deal with disruptions, like the inevitable level crossing accidents that happen in East Anglia.

Will The Felixstowe Branch Line Ever Be Electrified?

This picture is from the Network Rail web page.

It illustrates why ports are not keen to electrify.

Containers do get dropped and a single mistake by a crane driver or the controlling automation could shut the rail terminal.

Class 66 locomotives may be an environmental disaster, but they are an affordable and reliable locomotive for ports and freight operators.

New locomotive types like the Class 88 locomotive are being ordered, which could work a port without electrification and change to and from electrification at a safe distance outside the port. The Class 88 locomotives can even do this at line speed.

There would also be no point in electrifying the Felixstowe branch line without electrifying the route all the way between Felixstowe and Nuneaton, which is the route a lot of freight trains take.

I think it is more likely, that innovative locomotive engineers will design a locomotive capable of pulling the longest trains on electricity or diesel, efficiently across the country. After all, using large environmentally unfriendly diesel locomotives is not a problem confined to the UK, so there are millions to be made, by designing the right locomotive for today.

 

July 10, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Charting An Electric Freight Future

The title of this post, is the same as the title of an informative article in the April 2018 Edition of Modern Railways, which was written by Julian Worth, who has many years experience of the rail freight industry.

This is a very comprehensive article looking at the future of motive power for freight trains.

These are points from the article, with some added comments of my own.

2040 And A Diesel-Free Rail System

Government ministers have said that by 2040, the UK will have a diesel-free railway, which will reduce emissions and especially particulates.

This page on the Government web site is entitled Let’s Raise Our Ambitions For A Cleaner, Greener Railway, which gives the text of a speech by the Rail Minister; Jo Johnson.

This is part of what he said.

And that’s why I am today announcing a new ambition.

I would like to see us take all diesel-only trains off the track by 2040.

If that seems like an ambitious goal – it should be and I make no apology for that.

After all, we’re committed to ending sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.

If we can achieve that, then why can’t the railway aspire to a similar objective?

Rail may be less carbon intensive than road transport.

That’s why modal shift’s so important.

As an engineer. I feel it is a challenge that is acceptable.

The Diesel Locomotives Are Getting Old!

The ubiquitous Class 66 locomotives, don’t meet the latest emission standards, but in addition, by the late 2020s, they will be getting to thirty years old.

Other locomotives like Class 59 locomotives will be even older.

Replacement locomotives will be needed, as maintenance costs will be getting too high.

The Last-Mile Electric Locomotive

Electric locomotives with a last-mile capability away from electrification like the Class 88 locomotive could be favoured.

  • They could be used for terminal work and short-distance movements.
  • They would have a 25 KVAC capability.
  • They could possibly have a 750 VDC capability, to work on the third-rail network.
  • They would meet all the emission standards, when running on diesel.

Julian Worth suggests that the last-mile capability could be provided by a battery.

Although, this would be environmentally-friendly and better in urban areas, I think that any onboard power, should be able to take a train into and out of the Port of Felixstowe, London Gateway and the other major ports.

I met a manager of the Port of Felixstowe a few years ago and they don’t like 25 KVAC wires in a dock, as containers do occasionally get dropped.

Most lines into ports and inland terminals, don’t appear to be too challenging and I’m sure that an uprated Class 88 locomotive could be built, that would handle entry and exit to all the ports and terminals in the UK.

Do We Need A Freight Electrification Strategy?

Julian Worth suggests we need one for the next couple of decades.

He makes some good points.

  • Electric traction current is cheaper than diesel fuel.
  • Availability of modern electric locomotives should be better than a diesel.
  • Diesels may be restricted in urban areas. It could be a vote winner in Mayoral elections in the large Metropolitan areas.

He finishes this with this statement.

Crucially, switching to electric locos from around 2030 would not entail premature replacement of the current fleet and would represent necessary asset renewal in modern equivalent form.

Just imagine the outcry from the Green Movement, if these ageing diesels were to be replaced with modern diesel locomotives..

Undoubtedly, we need a well-thought out freight strategy.

GB Railfreight

This article in Rail Magazine is entitled GB Railfreight In ‘Locomotive Acquisition’ Talks.

So at least one freight company is looking for new motive power. GB Railfreight has a fleet of seventy-eight Class 66 locomotives with other locomotives in the ageing category. Some of their work like hauling the Caledonian Sleeper needs well-presented reliable locomotives, so perhaps they need to update their image.

It will be interesting to see what type and class of locomotive they buy.

Rail Freight Has Changed

Coal to power stations used to be the dominant freight on UK railways.

But n0t any more! Thank goodness!

The major freight on UK railways is intermodal or trains of containers from port to inland terminal and vice versa.

There is also a large growth in construction materials, miuch of it going from quarries in the West Country and the Peak District to the South East of England. To send this any other way than by train, would surely be madness.

There also seems to be an increasing number of trains carrying new vehicles to and from the Continent. More will surely start to use the Channel Tunnel.

Julian Worth says this, after summarising the freight flows.

This suggests modest extensions of electrification might permit much of the construction and intermodal businesses, together with most automotive traffic, to be electrically hauled throughout.

He then goes on to say that the big gap is Felixstowe to Peterborough, Nuneaton and Birmingham.

The Port of Felixstowe

I partly grew up in the town and never thought the port would grow to the size, it is today.

I also remember in the 1980s, when only the odd intermodal train was to be seen on the Felixstowe Branch Line.

  • Now, a dozen trains in each direction on every day take the route between Felixstowe and the Midlands.
  • The Felixstowe Branch Line is being upgraded to raise the number of trains from the port from 33 to 48.
  • The Great Eastern Main Line and the routes through North London are close to capacity.
  • The direct route via Peterborough is a lot shorter than the London route.

Julian Worth states, that the number of trains between Felixstowe and the Midlands could rise to as high as fifty every day.

Routes That Should Be Electrified For Freight

Julian Worth suggests that the following routes should be electrified.

Route 1 – London Gateway to Thames Haven Junction

If you electrify Felixstowe to the Midlands, this will remove some diesel freight trains from London.

It would be stupid to replace them with diesel freight trains from London Gateway. So it would be fairly logical to electrify the connecting route to London Gateway.

This Google Map shows London Gateway and the rail connection to the electrified London, Tilbury and Southend Railway.

Note.

  1. The electrified London, Tilbury and Southend Railway, runs North-South at the extreme left of the map.
  2. The connecting spur curves East on what appears to be a new chord before accessing sidings on the North side of London Gateway.
  3. There would appear to be a lot of space to expand the port.
  4. The rail spur to the port is double track.
  5. It looks like their are sat least five sidings for handling freight trains.
  6. The sidings are double-ended, so last-mile capable electric locomotives could run round trains, without the need for electrification.

It would have appeared to have been designed for electrification.

Full details on London Gateway’s plans for rail access are given here in the Wikipedia entry for London Gateway, under Rail Terminal.

This is a quick summary.

In other places Wikipedia says the port is highly-automated.

I am led to the conclusion, that the Gospel Oak to Barking Line will see a high number of electric freight trains in the future.

I’m not surprised that Julian Worth says the spur currently handles sixteen trains per day and is set to grow significantly.

I certainly wouldn’t buy a house on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.

Route 2 – Nuneaton To Birmingham Lawley Street

If Felixstowe to Nuneaton is electrified, then this extends the electrification to the massive Lawley Street Freightliner Terminal, which is in central Birmingham.

This diagram from Wikipedia shows the route.

Note.

  1. Lawley Street Freightliner Terminal, is on the short spur at the top of the diagram.
  2. iThis electrification would also complete a fully-electrified route between Birmingham New Street station and Sansted Airport, so CrossCountry could use electric trains on that route, instead of the current Class 170 train, which is often overcrowded.
  3. Would the electrification open up opportunities for more electrified local services in Birmingham?

Julian Worth says that this twenty miles carries thirty-two trains per day.

Would electrifying this route also have environmental benefits in terms of pollution?

Route 3 – Basingstoke To Southcote Junction and Oxford to Denbigh Hall Junction

This route, which connects the Port of Southampton with the West Coast Main Line, would require forty-two miles of electrification.

Consider.

  • It would create a fully-electrified route from Southampton to the West Coast Main Line.
  • Julian Worth says it carries forty-eight trains per day.
  • I also think, he is assuming that the Great Western Electrification extends to Oxford, which surely it will do in the next few years.
  • Dual voltage locomotives would be needed.
  • It would require electrification of part of the East West Railway.

The East West Railway is to be built as a privatised railway and I’m sure if the sums were right, they would electrify the route from Oxford to Denbigh Hall Junction.

If the Western end of the East West Railway were to be electrified, this must increase the options and operating speed for passenger trains on the route.

Route 4 – Merehead/Whatley to Newbury

Consider.

  • Merehead and Whatley are both Quarries of the Mendip Hills.
  • The line is double-track and seventy-two miles long.
  • Julian Worth says that this route carries twenty-eight stone trains per day.
  • Many trains are double-size.
  • In a four hour period, using Real Time Trains I found,three stone trains that weighed 4,800 tonnes and had a maximum speed of 45 mph and four stone trains that weighed 2,000 tonnes and had a maximum speed of 60 mph, using the route from the Mendips to London.

With all that heavy traffic, it strikes me that their are only two ways to power these trains on the route.

  • Very powerful diesel locomotives, possibly working in pairs.
  • Very powerful 25 KVAC electric locomotives, which would need electrification, able to supply lots of amps.

Mendip Rail currently run these services using Class 59 locomotives, which have the following characteristics.

  • Built in North America between 1985 and 1995.
  • They were the first privately-owned locomotives on the UK main line.
  • They have the ability to creep to shift heavy loads on gradients.
  • They have a maximim speed of 60-75 mph.
  • They are towered by a 2.5 MW diesel engine.

This extract from Wikipedia illustrates their power.

On 26 May 1991 Kenneth J Painter (59005) (with assistance from Yeoman Endeavour) set the European haulage record, with a stone train weighing 11,982 tonnes and 5,415 feet (1,650 m) long. However the so-called ‘mega train’ experiment was not very successful, as a coupling in the centre of the train broke.

It would appear, there was nothing wrong with the locomotives.

By the late 2020s, these locomotives will be over forty years old and although they could probably soldier on for another ten or even twenty years, the cost of maintenance will increase and reliability could decrease. You don’t want a 4,800 tonne stone train blocking the Reading to Taumton Line.

I suspect too, that it is unlikely that this important stone traffic will decrease. This is said in the Wikipedia entry for Mendip Rail.

Mendip Rail’s class 59s work services between various destinations which have changed over time according to demand and specific contracts. They have worked regularly over southern railway tracks, for example to the former Foster Yeoman terminals at Eastleigh and Botley, as well as delivery aggregates for construction work on the Thames Barrier, Second Severn Crossing, Channel Tunnel and most recently Heathrow Terminal 5, which required 3 million tonnes of stone.

Mendip Rail hauls about 4.5 million tonnes of stone from Torr Works each year, and about 2.5 million tonnes from Whatley Quarry.

I suspect that these stone flows will continue and there will come a time in the not-to-distant future, where new locomotives will be required.

  • The Class 59 locomotives were built for these stone trains and have a maximum tractive effort of 507 kN at just 7 mph.
  • A large electric Class 92 locomotive has a maximum tractive effort of only 400 kN.

But I suspect that engineers can design an electric locomotive, that can handle these trains either by themselves or working in a pair.

So there will be a choice between a very powerful diesel locomotive or a very powerful electric one.

  • Will those that live by the railway and environmentalists accept new diesel locomotives?
  • Electric locomotives would require the line to be electrified.
  • Electrification would allow Great Western Railway to run their Class 800 trains more efficiently using the wires.
  • Would those who live by the railway, accept the electrification of the line?

It’s a difficult choice.

Route 5 – Felixstowe to Ipswich. Haughley Junction to Peterborough and Helpston to Nuneaton

Consider

  • This would be a big project, as it would require 146 miles of new electrification.
  • But the return could be worthwhile, as currently the route handles twenty trains per day and once the Felixstowe Branch Line has more double track, this figure could rise to fifty-six trains per day.
  • At Ipswich, Peterborough and Nuneaton, the route connects to fully-electrified lines.

My project management knowledge tends to electrifying this line from East to West as almost three separate projects.

  1. Felixstowe to Ipswich
  2. Haughley Junction to Peterborough
  3. Helpston to Nuneaton

It could even be five, if Helpston to Nuneaton was split into two at either Leicester or the Midland Main Line.

I have three general questions.

  • When the gauge clearance was undertaken a few years ago, were bridges raised to accommodate wires as well?
  • Will the natives object to fifty trains per day?
  • Will the line be  resignalled to handle the greater number of trains?

Once the full route is electrified, the number of trains to and from Felixstowe , that used the Great Eastern Main Line and the routes through London would drop. Obviously, some trains like those between Felixstowe and Wales and the West Country would still need to use the London routes.

But overall, this would allow a mixture of the following.

  • Higher passenger train frequencies on the North London Line
  • Higher passenger train frequencies on the Gospel Oak To Barking Line
  • More freight trains to and from London Gateway could use the cross-London routes.

The last point would mean, that electric locomotives would need to have access to London Gateway.

I will detail my thoughts on Felixstowe to the Midlands electrification in the next three sub-sections.

Route 5A – Felixstowe to Ipswich

Electrifying between Felixstowe and Ipswich shouldn’t be the most challenging of projects.

  • The route is fairly flat.
  • The route is double track, except for part of the Felixstowe Branch Line.
  • The line was cleared for the largest containers a few years ago.
  • Doubling of the Felixstowe Branch Line around Trimley and the removal of some level crossings should start this year.
  • There should be an adequate 25 KVAC power supply at Ipswich.

I have two extra questions.

  • Will the partial doubling of the Felixstowe Branch, prepare the line for electrification?
  • Has a scheme been designed to take electrification to the port?

But there will be benefits.

  • Some freight trains that use the Great Eastern Main Line and the electrified routes through London, could be hauled all the way. by electric locomotives.
  • If Felixstowe station was to be electrified, Greater Anglia could run five-car Class 720 electric trains instead of Class 755 bi-mode trains on the branch, if required.
  • Class 755 bi-mode trains on the Ipswich to Lowestoft service, would be able to use the electrification between Westerfield and Ipswich stations.
  • Noise and vibration could be reduced.

It is just over a dozen miles of elwctrification, so isn’t the largest of projects.

Route 5B – Haughley Junction to Peterborough

Like the first section between Felixstowe and Ipswich, this section is also not very challenging.

  • The route is fairly flat.
  • The route is double track.
  • The line was cleared for the largest containers a few years ago.
  • Ely is being remodelled to remove a bottleneck.
  • Ely to Soham improvements seem to have been dropped, but will surely happen.
  • Haughley Junction needs to be remodelled.
  • Network Rail are already removing level crossings.
  • There should be an adequate 25 KVAC power supply at Haughley and Peterborough.

I have an extra question.

  • Will the route between Cambridge and Chippenham Junction be electrified?

But there will be benefits.

  • Electric freight between Felixstowe And The East Coast Main Line as far as Scotland.
  • Greater Anglia could run their service between Colchester and Peterborough with a Class 720 electric train.
  • Greater Anglia’s service between Ipswich and Cambridge would do more running under wires.

The electrification might even enable some useful electrified diversion routes.

Route 5C -Helpston to Nuneaton

I don’t know this section of the route, as well as I know the two other sections.

  • The route is double track.
  • There is a busy level crossing in the middle of Oakham.
  • There should be an adequate 25 KVAC power supply at both ends of the route.

It would appear that the route goes through Leicester station on the Midland Main Line.

As the electrification of the Midland Main Line has been postponed, how will this section of the route be handled?

But there will be benefits.

  • Electric freight between Felixstowe And The Midlands
  • Fewer freight trains would need to go via London
  • Some passenger services, like Birmingham-Stansted Airport, could be run using electric trains.

Completing all three sections will open up new possibilities for both freight and passenger services.

Route 6 – Hare Park Junction to Leeds Stourton

This is a freight route , which can be followed this way.

Electrification of this eighteen mile route, would allow freight trains with electric traction to reach the Stourton terminal.

The electrification could also be extended to Leeds station, so that passenger services on the Hallam Line, run by bi-mode trains would have an electrified route into Leeds.

Route 7 – Mountsorrel to Syston Junction and Manton Junction to Corby

Mountsorrel Quarry is one of the biggest granite quarries in Europe. It is not on the railway anymore, but is connected to the Midland Main Line at

Barton upon Soar, by a mineral conveyor.

These two short lengths of electrification connect Mountsorrel to the electrified portion of the Midland Main Line to London and by using the Felixstowe to Nuneaton route, there is access to the East and West Coast Main Lines.

Julian Worth says that thirty trains per day use the route.

Looking on Real Time Trains, they are not the mega-trains of the Mendips, but they seem to go all over England.

Route 8 – Whitacre Junction to Birch Coppice

Birch Coppice is a freight terminal and it is connected to the Birmingham Lawley Street to Nuneaton Line at Whitacre Junction, by a six mile rail link.

As in Julian Worth’s plan, the Birmingham Lawley Street to Nuneaton Line will have been electrified, it will be an logical section of wires to install.

Summarising The Routes

Summarising the routes, you get the following, once all the proposals are added to the UK’s electrified network.

  • There is a major East-West route from Felixstowe to Birmingham, that connects to the two major North-South routes; East and West Coast Main Lines and East Anglia’s Great Eastern Main Line.
  • The Reading to Taunton Line now provides an  route to the South-West for electric trains.
  • The massive quarries in the Mendips and at Mountsorrel are connected to the main electrified network.
  • The ports of Felixstowe, London Gateway and Southampton are connected to the main electrified network.
  • The inland depots of Birch Coppice, Birmingham Lawley Street and Leeds Stourton  are connected to the main electrified network.

Others may well be added.

For instance, an electrified connection to Liverpool2  along the Canada Dock Branch, which runs in places through densely-packing housing and has been looked at for a passenger service by Merseyrail.

Installing The Electrification

Traditionally, electrification schemes have been done using money directly from the Treasury.

To say, performance in recent years has been mixed would be an understatement!

With my experience of project management, I have my theories about the poor performance, but as I have no serious data to back them up, I will not put most of them in this post.

I will say however, that my observations of the electrification of the Gospel Oak to Barking Line have led me to the conclusion, that there are not enough competent engineers, surveyors and technicians to install the current low-level of new electrification.

However, recent statements and documents from Chris Grayling about how the Southern rail access to Heathrow is to be financed, might suggest a model for electrification.

This Press Release on the Department of Transport web site, starts with these two paragraphs.

Private companies have been asked to come forward with ideas to deliver a new southern rail link to Heathrow Airport.

The link will be one of the first projects under government plans to invite third parties – such as local authorities and private sector companies – to invest in the rail network, over and above the £47 billion the government is already planning for the next 5 years.

The idea is that a private consortium would do the following.

  • Design, build and finance a new line, station or other piece of railway infrastructure.
  • Maintain it for a number of years.
  • Charge train operators a charge for using the infrastructure, in much the same way as Network Rail charge every train for track access.

If the sums add up, I suspect it is model that will work for electrification.

I will take the Felixstowe Branch Line, that I know well as an example.

The benefits of electrification on this line could be as follows.

  • Freight trains from the Port of Felixstowe using electrified lines from Ipswich, could be able to use electric haulage, which might be more affordable.
  • Greater Anglia could run Ipswich to Felixstowe services using trains running solely on electricity.
  • There would be less pollution and possibly less noise and vibration.
  • Electrification might allow faster operating speeds on the branch, which in turn would allow more freight and passenger trains.
  • The hourly passenger service between Ipswich and Felixstowe might be able to be doubled in frequency.

Currently, after the dualling at Trimley has been finished, the branch is planned to handle an hourly passenger train and around fifty freight trains per day.

It strikes me that if the contracts and charges have the right balance, that a deal could be struck with a competent consortium.

It would have the following parts.

  • The consortium would design, finance and install the electrification.
  • Installing the electrification would be done, without disturbing the passenger and freight traffic.
  • The consortium would maintain the electrification for an agreed number of years.
  • Electrification access charges would be modelled on track access charges and agreed with a regulator, such as the Office of Road and Rail.
  • Failure to provide a working electrified railway, would incur penalty charges to operators.

I feel the model could work.

  • The consortium would use best practice from around the world.
  • The consortium might encourage innovative design and working.
  • The  consortium would make sure it had the best engineers, technicians and equipment to keep the electrification in tip-top condition, as that is the best way to maximise return on capital, against a fixed income.
  • The Office of Road and Rail would ensure safety, quality and reliability.

I also feel, that one of the ways to get the electrification installed in a professional manner and then operational at an agreed date, is to get the project management right.

Too much of what I’ve seen on electrification in the UK, reminds me of the phrase – It’ll be alright on the night!

A consortium, which has to raise and justify the money it needs, can’t rely on this mantra and must be sure that if a scheme is going to cost £100 million, then.

  • The initial budget must be correct.
  • The electrification can be installed for that sum.
  • Sufficient contingency is included.

Get the first project, seriously wrong and they won’t get another of the many electrification projects in the pipeline.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 25, 2018 Posted by | Finance, Travel, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment