The Anonymous Widower

Class 88 Locomotive Heads On To The East Coast Main Line

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

This is the first three paragraphs.

Direct Rail Services has confirmed that one of its Class 88 broke new ground last week when it ran the length of the East Coast Main Line.

Last weekend, freight operator, DRS, ran a new diversionary route to enable the Class 88 locomotives to run almost the length of the ECML on electric power, as well as feeder routes that link up Daventry and Mossend.

The route normally follows the West Coast Main Line, but engineering work last weekend required a diversion.

That makes a second Class 88 locomotive story, where the locomotives are serving new routes, after ’88’ Makes Sizewell Debut.

Could it be that with new electrification coming on stream and more being planned, Direct Rail Services are researching what these locomotives can do?

The Route

As the Rail Advent article says, the route is electric all the way from Mossend to Daventry.

Mossend to Edinburgh via the Shotts Line.

  • Edinburgh to Stevenage via the East Coast Main Line.
  • Stevenage to Alexandra Palace via the Hertford Loop Line.
  • Alexandra Palace to Camden Road Central Junction via the East Coast Main Line.
  • Xamden Road Central Junction to Camden Junction via the North London Line.
  • Camden Junction to Daventry via the West Coast Main Line.

But it does go round the houses!

Note.

  1. The journey took fifteen hours and it arrived about two-and-a-half hours late.
  2. Edinburgh to Stevenage was timed to take seven hours, whereas passengers can do that journey in four-and-a half hours with a change.

With some strategic electrification would the train be able to cut across from the East Coast Main Line to reach Daventry?

The Future Of Direct Rail Services

Direct Rail Services have a mixed fleet of locomotives.

Only the last two types are modern locomotives, that are capable of hauling trains at 100 mph.

The Wikipedia entry also says this.

In September 2017, Direct Rail Services issued a tender for ten brand new diesel-electric locomotives.

Consider.

  • As Government policy is a zero-carbon UK by 2050, is that likely to change the tender to electro-diesel locomotives?
  • Direct Rail Services is owned by the Government,
  • The order from Rail Operations Group for Class 93 locomotives seems to have stalled.
  • Rail Operations Group have some ambitious plans for the use of the tri-mode 110 mph Class 93 locomotives, which I wrote about in Rail Operations Group Gets Serious About Thunderbirds Etc.
  • As any locomotives delivered in the next few years, will probably still be running in 2060, surely this conflicts with Government policy.

Perhaps, all three parties are working on a cunning plan to jointly order a common design.

 

 

 

 

 

May 23, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Class 319 Train Used In GB Railfreight Parcel Test At London Euston

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

GB Railfreight has used a Class 319 train during a successful trial of former commuter trains for express parcel delivery services.

Other points from the article.

  • Standard roll-cages can be loaded and offloaded at most major stations.
  • A substantial amount of cargo can be carried.
  • GBRf is talking to the Government about deliveries to hospitals.

It should be noted that the Class 325 trains that are used to move goods for Royal Mail are based on Class 319 trains.

  • Both trains are based on the legendary Mark 3 coach.
  • There are sixteen of these Royal Mail trains.
  • Each train is four cars.
  • Each car can hold up to twelve tonnes.
  • They are capable of 100 mph like the Class 319 trains.
  • Class 319 trains are being converted into bi-mode Class 769 trains for use by Rail Operations Group as parcel trains.

As there are still at least fifty Class 319 trains still available for modification, will it mean a more will be converted into parcels trains?

April 27, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts On Very Light Rail

The article on Railway Gazette International, which is entitled Very Light Rail Research On Track, a list of thirty-five rail lines, that could use the technology are given.

These are some of my thoughts.

Multiple Working

These are some examples of branch lines, where very light rail my be used.

  • Cromer  to Sheringham – 226,000
  • Liskeard to Looe – 118,000
  • St Erth to St Ives – 750,000
  • Twyford to Henley-on-Thames – 771,000
  • Maidenhead to Marlow – 300,000
  • Slough to Windsor & Eton Central – 2,024,000
  • Watford to St Albans Abbey – 167,000

Note.

  1. The first station is on the main line and the second is the terminus of the branch line.
  2. The figure is the number of passengers, who used the terminal station in 2018-2019

The numbers have quite a range and I’m sure that a single eighteen metre vehicle carrying 56 seated and 60 standing passengers, will not be big enough, even if it runs at a frequency of four trains per hour (tph) on some routes.

 

So I am convinced that the vehicles must be able to work in multiple.

One picture on this page on the Transport Design International web site, shows the vehicle with a coupler.

Increasing Passenger Numbers, Festivals And Sporting Events

Forecasting passenger numbers on a new rail service, is a very inexact science. I talk about London Overground Syndrome, which seems to occur regularly.

There are also the problems of festivals and sporting events of various kinds, where perhaps for a week or so traffic is much higher.

Extra very light rail vehicles can be added to the trains as required or even drafted in at times of high demand.

Automatic Coupling And Uncoupling

They must also be able to couple and uncouple quickly and automatically, as needs vary throughout the day and to rescue a stranded unit.

Transit Mode

Suppose a large event, like say the Open Golf was taking place near a station with an inadequate train service and for the duration of the event, a dozen very light rail vehicles were to be running a shuttle to the nearest major rail hub.

A method must be developed to bring the vehicles to the event. I suspect Rail Operations Group, who are the experts in rolling stock movements would have a simple solution, perhaps by using a diesel locomotive to tow them to and from central warm storage.

It could probably be argued, that a capability to build temporary stations is needed.

Automation

These very light rail vehicles are prime candidates for automation.

I can envisage a lot of routes being run automatically, with the driver in a supervisory role, very much as the Victoria Line has been run since it opened in 1968.

  • At each station, when they had ascertained that the passengers had all left and boarded the train safely, they would close the doors and activate a control to start the vehicle.
  • It would then move to the next station and stop in the right place.
  • The doors would then be opened automatically or by action of the crew.

Dear old Vicky has been doing this for over fifty years!

I also think, that with automation and CCTV, a system could be devised, where the driver stays in one cab all the time.

This would speed up operations.

Procedures For Running On Shared Tracks With Freight, Private And Heritage Railways

These suggested routes for very light rail are either freight, private or heritage railways.

  • Bodmin Parkway to Bodmin General
  • Kidderminster to Stourport
  • Ashington to Blyth
  • Sheffield to Stocksbridge
  • Paignton to Brixham
  • Totton to Hythe

I’m sure procedures can be devised, so that all traffic can run safely.

 

February 3, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Thoughts On The Design Of A High Speed Freight Shuttle

I am enthusiastic about the concept proposed by Rail Operations Group, that will see Class 769 trains running freight shuttles between London Gateway and Liverpool Street station, which I wrote about in A Freight Shuttle For Liverpool Street Station Planned.

But if you were starting from scratch, how would you design the ultimate freight shuttle train?

Consider these objectives.

The Amazon Objective

Amazon and their suppliers would like next day delivery for all of their customers.

Probably within a country the size of the UK, next day delivery can be achieved.

But I suspect that Amazon and their competitors would like anybody in the world to get as near as next day delivery as possible from anywhere in the world.

Giving worldwide next day delivery is obviously impossible, but giving it to as much of the world as is currently practical is clearly an Amazon objective.

We live in a I-Want-It-Now world!

Destinations To Be Served

I feel that places to be served by high speed light freight shuttles fall into various groups.

Major Cities

The proposed shuttle into Liverpool Street station will be the first of many.

Liverpool Street station is also an easy station at which to run such a service.

  • There is level access from the street for vehicles like electric vans and cargo bikes at Platform 10, using the old taxi cab road.
  • The station and the approaches are fully electrified.
  • Crossrail will release platform space at the station.

Three trains per day can probably be accommodated in the Off Peak hours, with more services during the night.

It would not be possible to fit a light freight facility into all city-centre stations, as easily as it appears to be at Liverpool Street.

But I do think light freight facilities of this type at the following stations could be possible..

  • Brighton
  • Bristol Temple Meads
  • Glasgow Central
  • Liverpool Lime Street
  • London Euston
  • London Paddington
  • Manchester Piccadilly
  • Nottingham

Some recently rebuilt stations like Birmingham New Street, would be very difficult, so I would recommend that all station developments, should take possible light freight facilities into account.

Logistics Parks, Ports And Airports

London Gateway is a large port and logistics facility, to the East of London.

This Google Map shows London Gateway.

The logistics park is still being developed to the North of the port, with the rail lines in between the two.

  • I have searched the rail lines and I can’t see anything like a loading bay for a freight shuttle, which surely will be something like a platform for passengers.
  • It is early days yet and this map could be a couple of years old.
  • There would also be space to the North of the rail lines for someone like Hermes, UPS or Yodel to build a large secure shed with a siding alongside, served by a platform, so that goods could be rolled into the trains.
  • It should be possible to electrify the siding, in a similar way to Platform 10 at Liverpool Street station.

It’ll all come clear, when the service starts.

Other ports like Felixstowe, Immingham, Liverpool and Southampton might also want to develop high speed light freight services as will the various logistics parks and freight terminals dotted around the country.

Most are served by rail connections, although in many cases like Felixstowe, London Gateway, Liverpool and Southampton, the last few miles need to use some form of independent power.

Could these light freight services connect to airports like Heathrow, Manchester and Stansted?

Retail Parks And Out-Of-Town Shopping Centres

Large retail groups, like Marks and Spencer, Sainsburys and Tesco have set up large distribution centres often in the centre of England, some of which have rail access.

Could major retail centres like Lakeside in Essex, Sheffield Meadowhill, Gateshead Metro Centre and others receive goods by rail.

Specialist Terminals

If you go to Montrose station, you can see the remains of sidings, where Scottish fish was loaded to be taken by rail to ports for export to places like New York.

But it is likely that specialist terminals will be setup to handle goods, such as seafood, flowers and Scotch whisky.

Some seasonal products like Cornish flowers would only need a part-time facility, but these would only be rudimentary.

Long Rural Routes

I can see the requirement for light freight deliveries increasing in all parts of the UK.

Some destinations are probably expensive for delivery companies.

But could an integrated delivery system be setup using the long rural rail routes.

  • Inverness and Wick
  • Inverness and Aberdeen
  • Glasow and Oban
  • Chester and Holyhead
  • Settle and Carlisle

Services might automatically roll pallets off and on at stations, which would then be handled locally by a purpose-built van or light truck.

  • Some services would start in London and the South-East, but others could start in the East Midlands or the Scotland’s Central Belt
  • Some services would connect with ferries to serve islands, like the Hebrides and the Orkneys.
  • A daily service might do wonders for business in rural areas.

London and Wick takes thirteen hours by passenger train. This would enable, somebody in Wick wanting an urgent part for a machine that has broken, to order it from London and certainly receive it within forty-eight hours.

Great Britain And Ireland Services

Services between Great Britain and Ireland will be a problem, as trains will have to unload on one side of the Irish sea onto trucks for delivery after the sea crossing.

Unless politicians do what I suggest in A Solution To The Northern Irish Problem!, which is to build a high speed rail system connecting Scotland and Northern Ireland.

  • The main crossing would be a bridge or a tunnel, where my preference would be for a bridge.
  • The main route would be Glasgow and Dublin via Stranraer and Belfast.
  • There would be a 125 mph connection between Carlisle and Stranraer
  • The Irish section of the route would be an electrified standard-gauge railway capable of running trains at 125 mph.
  • The route would handle passengers and freight.
  • There could a branch to Shannon, where some proposals have been made to create a deep water port.

I estimated that London and Belfast would take four hours, with an hour longer for Dublin.

But as this fixed link would probably not be built this century, as Ulster always says no, unloading on to trucks would probably be necessary for a long time.

Continental Services

Why not? Unlike Ireland, there’s a rail connection and it’s standard gauge!

Eurostar has shown that the same trains can run successfully on British, French, Belgian and Dutch railways and trains can now be fitted with systems to access the various electrification voltages.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Europe-wide high-speed light freight service for appropriate cargoes.

Summing Up Destinations

I can sum up the destinations as follows.

  • They will not be large grand affairs, in many cases.
  • There must be easy access for local transport, which will include a proportion of electric vehicles.
  • Destinations are generally within a few miles of an electrified main line.
  • Some services like Cornish flowers or Scottish seafood will need an independently-powered train, with a moderate range.

You can see why Rail Operations Group have chosen to use bi-mode Class 769 trains, as they will be ideal to connect to places perhaps a hundred miles from electrification.

New Or Refurbished Trains?

The proposed service is to be run with a Class 769 train, which is a bi-mode rebuild of a 1980s Class 319 train.

But would it be better to use a brand new train, rather than an old conversion?

In the future, if the experiment is a success, a new train will probably be designed, that will be based on the experience of the trials.

But at the moment modifying an old train, is probably a more affordable approach and one that carries less risk.

Operating Speed

The Class 769 train can operate at 100 mph on electrified lines and at around 90 mph, when relying on the diesel generators.

In High Speed Urban Freight Logistics By Rail, I talked about Rail Operations Group’s plans for running high speed freight services between Thames Gateway and the Central Belt in Scotland.

Surely, a faster train would be desirable for services along high speed lines.

Train Capacity And Interior

This will depend on the application and I suspect Rail Operation Group’s trial will show the optimum design.

But I wouldn’t be surprised to see trains based on British Rail’s standard length of eighty metres, as this would mean, they will easily fit so many existing stations without expensive modification.

If longer trains are needed for busy routes, then the trains could work in twos or threes, as many British Rail electric multiple units have done for decades.

Are Freight Shuttles Ideal Trains For Battery Power?

The train will not need the full air-conditioning and toilet services of a passenger train, which could mean.

  • Electrical power needed for services other than traction would be lower.
  • Underneath the train could be relatively free of equipment.

In addition, it should be noted.

  • Most routes will be run for the major part on electrified lines.
  • Charging technology for batteries at remote destinations could be easily provided.
  • Battery-electric trains have operational, environmental and marketing advantages over trains with diesel engines.

So why not efficiently fill space under the train with batteries?

For their initial service between London Gateway and Liverpool Street station, Rail Operations Group would probably only need to use diesel for less than a dozen miles.

Could Modified InterCity 125 Trains Be Used?

The fact that they are diesel is a major drawback, but there are other problems too!

  • Major structural work would be needed to create cargo doors.
  • I suspect that they may be too long.
  • They may not be very operator friendly.

Other companies have proposed them for high speed freight, but nothing has materialised so far.

Conclusion

Rail Operation Group’s thinking is spot on!

 

 

November 4, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 2 Comments

The New Light Freight Terminal At Liverpool Street Station

These pictures show the old cab road at Liverpool Street station, where the proposed light freight terminal will be developed.

The spacious cab road shut a few years ago and was moved to its current position in front of the station. Nowadays it is used mainly for deliveries to the station and the retail units, by Network Rail maintenance vehicles and sometimes by Rail Replacement Buses.

This second set of pictures show the exit of the cab road in Primrose Street, behind the station.

Note  these points about the old cab road.

  1. There is some nice ironwork and a vaulted ceiling, but nothing that would be damaged if electric vans and cargo bikes used the cab road to serve freight shuttles.
  2. The road surface and the brickwork all appear to be in good condition.
  3. By removing the barrier between the cab road and platform 10, there would be no problem loading and unloading trains.
  4. There is also a good wide passage leading from the old cab road to the main concourse of the station.

I suspect that the only functional building in the area, which is the Left Luggage Office, will have to be moved. But it might be better placed on the main concourse.

Platform 10 Looks Very Convenient For The Freight Shuttle

The closeness of Platform 10 and the old cab road makes the platform look very convenient for the terminus of freight shuttles from London Gateway

How Will The Freight Shuttles Travel Between London Gateway And Liverpool Street Station?

The route from London Gateway to Liverpool Street station will be as follows.

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the tracks, where the Gospel Oak to Barking Line crosses over the Great Eastern Main Line.

The train will join the Great Eastern Main Line here for a fast run into Liverpool Street station.

  • I suspect the train will switch to the fast lines using the crossovers shown in the map.
  • Note that the performance of a Class 769 train on electrified track, will be only slightly less than the expresses.

At Liverpool Street station, the train will run into Platform 10.

Will Liverpool Street Station Lose A Platform?

Currently, Platforms 9 and 10 are generally used for the London and Norwich services.

  • These trains run at a frequency of two trains per hour (tph).
  • They are formed of a rake of Mark 3 coaches topped sand tailed by a Class 90 locomotive and a driving van trailer.
  • They call at various stations en route including Chelmsford, Colchester and Ipswich and are very heavily used at peak times.
  • Entry to and exit from the trains is not of a modern standard and I suspect turnround times can sometimes must be very slow.

From next year, these trains will be replaced  by modern twelve-car Class 745 trains.

  • These trains have 757 seats, which I have read somewhere is more than the current trains.
  • The trains will have level access between train and platform at all stations.
  • I suspect turnround times will be shorter, due to the modern design.

Frequency between London and Norwich will also be increased yp three tph, by extending a service between London and Ipswich, which will be run by a Class 720 train.

Will it be possible to fit three tph into Platforms 9 and 10?

I suspect that it might be tight, as over the last few months, Norwich trains have sometimes  been using higher numbered platforms like 14.

So will the proposed three tph to Colchester, Ipswich and Norwich be moved to two higher numbered platforms.

This would enable platform 10 to be used by freight shuttle trains, but will the station be able to run all the services, with one platform less?

Current Services Into Liverpool Street Station

Current services from Liverpool Street station are as follows.

  • Six tph – GEML – TfL Rail – Shenfield
  • Three tph – GEML – Greater Anglia – Southend
  • Two tph – GEML – Greater Anglia – Norwich
  • One tph – GEML – Greater Anglia – Ipswich
  • One tph – GEML – Greater Anglia – Clacton
  • One tph – GEML – Greater Anglia – Colchester Town
  • One tph – GEML – Greater Anglia – Braintree
  • Four tph – WAML- London Overground – Chingford
  • Two tph – WAML- London Overground – Cheshunt
  • Two tph – WAML- London Overground – Enfield Town
  • Four tph – WAML- Greater Anglia – Stansted Airport
  • Two tph – WAML- Greater Anglia – Hertford East
  • Two tph – WAML- Greater Anglia -Cambridge

Totalling these up means the following.

  • 16 tph use the double-track West Anglia Main Line (WAML)
  • 15 tph use the four-track Great Eastern Main Line (GEML) as far as Shenfield.
  • 6 tph use the double-track GEML to the North of Shenfield.

It looks neatly balanced.

Would moving Norwich services to a pair of the higher-numbered platforms improve operation?

All WAML services would be in platforms 1 to 9, as against platforms 1 to 8 now!

All GEML services would be in platforms 10 to 18, as against platforms 9 to 18 now!

If platform 10 is used by the freight shuttles, this would make operational sense, as the shuttle will approach Liverpool Street along the GEML after joining at Manor Park station.

Future Services Into Liverpool Street Station

From 2021 or so, these could be the from Liverpool Street station.

  • Three tph – GEML – Greater Anglia – Southend
  • Three tph – GEML – Greater Anglia – Norwich
  • One tph – GEML – Greater Anglia – Clacton
  • One tph – GEML – Greater Anglia – Colchester Town
  • One tph – GEML – Greater Anglia – Braintree
  • Four tph – WAML- London Overground – Chingford
  • Two tph – WAML- London Overground – Cheshunt
  • Two tph – WAML- London Overground – Enfield Town
  • Four tph – WAML- Greater Anglia – Stansted Airport
  • Two tph – WAML- Greater Anglia – Hertford East
  • Two tph – WAML- Greater Anglia -Cambridge

Totalling these up means the following.

  • 16 tph use the double-track West Anglia Main Line (WAML)
  • 9 tph use the four-track Great Eastern Main Line (GEML) as far as Shenfield.
  • 12 tph from Crossrail will use the slow lines as far as Shenfield.
  • 3 tph use the double-track GEML to the North of Shenfield.

Crossrail has opened up capacity on the Great Eastern Main Line.

  • Currently, there are 15 tph on the GEML using platforms 9 to 15.
  • In 2021, there will be just 9 tph on the GEML using platforms 10 to 17.

There will be extra services to Lowestoft and Crossrail’s Peak Hour service to Gidea Park station.

But even so, I suspect there will be space for more services.

 

 

November 3, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 11 Comments

High Speed Urban Freight Logistics By Rail

The title of this article is the same as that of this article  on World Cargo News.

It describes from a freight operator’s point-of-view,  Rail Operation’s Group‘s plans to run freight services between London Gateway and Liverpool Street station, which I wrote about in  A Freight Shuttle For Liverpool Street Station Planned.

Points include.

  • Current operators are struggling to lower their carbon footprint.
  • Congestion is affecting delivery times.
  • Charges to use London’s ULEZ could add two hundred pounds per round trip to costs.
  • To enter London, trucks will need high visibility cabs in a couple of years time.
  • Last mile delivery would be by e-vans and cargo bikes.
  • This initial service is about proving the concept and identifying the best techniques.

The article also discloses that Rail Operations Group are planning to run a high-speed overnight freight service between London Gateway and the Central Belt in Scotland, using their modified Class 769 trains.

  • Journey time will be reduced from eleven-twelve hours by truck to five-and-a-half by rail.
  • The deadline for guaranteed overnight delivery will go from 20:00 to 23:00.
  • Trains will be running at 100 mph on electricity all the way.
  • If it works going North, surely it will work going South.

I can see Rail Operations Group needing a lot more trains, than the two they have ordered.

 

 

November 3, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 3 Comments

A Freight Shuttle For Liverpool Street Station Planned

Edition 889 of Rail Magazine has an article which is entitled London Gateway-Liverpool Street Freight Trial Planned.

Rail Operations Group are planning to run a freight shuttle between London Gateway and Liverpool Street station.

Trains will be Class 769 bi-mode trains.

  • The trains will be fitted with roller doors, roller cages and strengthened floors.
  • Three aervices will leave Thames Gateway at 0029, 1208 and 1856.
  • They will return from Liverpool Street at 0242, 1421 and 2100.
  • Services will use Platforms 9 and 10 in Liverpool Street station.

It seems a very detailed plan.

A few of my thoughts.

Journey Time

I would estimate that a time of about 45 minutes to an hour would be possible.

Use Of Platforms 9 and 10

These two platforms are generally used for the London and Norwich expresses via Colchester and Ipswich, but it appears that only one service is timed to arrive in times when the station is really busy.

Platform 10 is near to the old Cab Road and so there is good vehicle access from the back of the station.

Final Delivery

The article says that trucks would be used for the final deliveries, with battery vehicles planned for the future.

Would There Be Sufficient Capacity For Trucks In The Cab Road?

A Class 769 train has four twenty metre long cars, so capacity will be equivalent of four small-to-medium supermarket delivery articulated trucks.

You wouldn’t get artics into the Cab Road, but would you get enough small trucks in to pick up a complete train-load?

  • At night or in the evening, this would surely be possible!
  • However, in the afternoon, it would surely be too busy, for more than a couple of delivery vans.

I’m sure Karl Watts has a well-laid plan.

What Is The Role Of UPS In This Freight Service?

In the Wikipedia entry for London Gateway, this is said.

Development of the Logistics Park has followed the initial stages of development of the port. UPS is developing a 32,000 square metre package sorting facility on the site – one of the American firm’s largest ever infrastructure investments outside of the USA. Since March 2017,

UPS wouldn’t build a facility the size of thirty two football pitches and then send out a series of trucks to their biggest market in the City of London , only for the packets to get stuck in the  traffic.

I suspect that packets will be sorted into small easily-managed loads for delivery by electric vans, cargo bicycles or Shank’s Pony, from Liverpool Street station.

And Could Lidl Be In On The Act?

The Wikipedia entry for London Gateway also says this.

German grocery retailer Lidl has been operating out of the DP World London Gateway Logistics Centre, the first warehouse to be developed on the site.

This article in the Guardian is entitled Lidl In The Middle: Chain To Open First Store In Central London. This is said.

Lidl is to launch its first store in central London as it opens 40 new shops across the capital in the next five years.

Could Lidl be thinking of using such the proposed service to supply Central London stores?

  • Last mile delivery could be by electric vehicles.
  • Catching the 0029 train from London Gateway could be ideal.
  • Goods could be on the shelves by early in the morning.

I think that this could offer interesting possibilities.

Supermarket deliveries were also one of the cargoes proposed in the LaMiLo project that I talked about in The LaMiLo Project.

Why Use Bi-Mode Trains?

Consider.

  • Virtually all of the route is electrified, except for the last mile or so into the London Gateway.
  • It would be possible to electrify those last few miles and use electric trains.
  • Electric trains like unmodified Class 319 trains could be used for the service.

But cranes, containers and 25 KVAC overhead wires are a possible disaster waiting to happen, as a crane driver once told me!

When Will The Service Start?

The article says that the service could start in April or May.

Could There Be Other Services?

This is the last paragraph of the article.

Watts mentioned that other routes were a possibility for the business, suggesting that routes from the West Midlands to the Scottish Central Belt and the West Midlands to the West Country have been investigated. No dates have yet been given for any such trials.

I would also think, that there could be opportunities for moving high-value or perishable cargoes into major city centre stations in the middle of the night.

Suitable stations could be.

  • Birmingham New Street
  • Bristol
  • Edinburgh
  • Glasgow
  • Leeds
  • Liverpool Lime Street
  • Manchester Piccadilly

I am not being anti-Geordie, but Newcsastle might be a difficult station to unload cargoes from trains onto trucks!

Conclusion

If seems to me that Rail Operations Group are being innovative with trains.

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 7, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Roaming Around East Anglia – Freight Trains Through Newmarket

The East West Rail Consortium plan to change the route of freight trains to and from Haven Ports; Felixstowe, Harwich and Ipswich to the West of Kennett station.

In this document on the East-West Rail Consortium web site, this is said.

Note that doubling of Warren Hill Tunnel at Newmarket and
redoubling between Coldham Lane Junction and Chippenham Junction is included
in the infrastructure requirements. It is assumed that most freight would operate
via Newmarket, with a new north chord at Coldham Lane Junction, rather than
pursuing further doubling of the route via Soham.

How would these changes affect Newmarket and the horse-racing industry in the town?

How Many Freight Trains Are We Talking About?

This table shows the number of freight trains going through Kennett station on the 1st of March 2019.

  • 00  1  1
  • 01  1  0
  • 02  0  1
  • 03  2  1
  • 04  1  1
  • 05  1  1
  • 06  1  2
  • 07  1  1
  • 08  1  0
  • 09  1  0
  • 10  1  0
  • 11  0  0
  • 12  0  0
  • 13  2  2
  • 14  0  2
  • 15  1  1
  • 16  0  1
  • 17  1  1
  • 18  0  1
  • 19  1  1
  • 20  1  0
  • 21  1  2
  • 22  0  2
  • 23  0  0

In the table the first figure is the hour, the second figure is the number of freight trains going West and the third figure is the number of freight trains going East.

This gives a daily total of eighteen trains going West and twenty-one trains going twenty-one trains going East.

But these figures will increase!

At present, Network Rail are adding a passing loop on the Felixstowe Branch Line. This article on Rail Magazine is entitled £60.4m Felixstowe Branch Upgrade Under Way and says this about the upgrade.

Installing the new line will create capacity for up to ten additional freight trains, each the equivalent of 76 lorries.

Not all will come via Kennett, as some will go via London.

The Port of Felixstowe will get larger and other improvements on the route across Suffolk will increase the number of freight trains passing through Kennett station.

I estimate that it is very likely that in a few years there will be two trains per hour (tph) in both directions for every hour of the day.

Rerouting The Trains Through Newmarket

Currently, these freight trains go via Ely, but the plan of the East West Rail Consortium would be to reroute all these freight trains through the Warren Hill tunnel and Newmarket station.

I suspect the reasons for the change of route could include the following.

Accessing The East West Rail Link From Newmarket Is Easy And Quick

If as expected the East West Rail Link joins the London-Cambridge Line just South of Cambridge South station, then the trains would run through Dullingham, Cambridge and Cambridge South stations, when running between the East West Rail Link and Newmarket station.

The East West Rail Link Will Be An Efficient Railway

Drive on a new motorway and the curves are smooth with relaxed gradients.

A new railway will be like that too and less energy will be used to power trains along its length.

Increasing the Capacity Through Ely Is Difficult

There is a very complicated track layout at Ely and increasing the number of trains might be difficult or very expensive.

Freight Trains Will Use The East West Rail Link To Avoid London

Take going between the Haven Ports and Bristol or South Wales.

Currently, these trains tend to go via London and in a couple of years will have to share tracks with London’s intensive Crossrail network between Acton Main Line and Reading stations.

Using the East West Rail Link, the trains would join the Great Western Main Line at Didcot, a few miles West of Reading.

How many services will use the East West Rail Link to by-pass London?

Freight Trains Will Use The East West Rail Link To Get To The West Coast Main Line

Currently, these trains either go via London or take the slow cross-country route via Peterborough to Nuneaton for the West Coast Main Line.

If they use the East-West Rail Link, they can join the West Coast Main Line at Bletchley.

The East-West Rail Link Will Be An Important Freight Link

I think that as the years pass and more freight terminals are created, we will see more freight trains using the East-West-Rail-Link and many of these trains will go through Newmarket.

What Problems Would The Rerouting Create In Newmarket?

I can see these problems.

Noise And Vibration

Four freight trains per hour will create a lot of noise and vibration as they pass through.

Frightening The Horses

This Google Map shows a corner of the gallops at Newmarket.

Note how the railway from the East splits into two, to the West of the band of trees running down the map.

  • The top branch curves away to the North and goes through Soham to Ely.
  • The bottom branch curves away to the South and goes through Warren Hill Tunnel to Newmarket station and then on to Cambridge.

Alongside, the Southern route is the Al Bahatri all-weather gallop, which is an important facility for training racehorses. It can just be picked out as a sand-coloured line.

Currently, nearly all the freight trains take the Northern route to Ely, keeping them away from the Al Bahatri.

But, if the main freight route was through the town, as planned by the East West Rail Consortium, then at least four freight trains per hour would run alongside the gallop. There could also be four passenger trains per hour.

Railway Electrification

It is unlikely, that the railway through Newmarket will be electrified, but under a different government, this could happen.

It might add another dimension to disturbance through the town, as you get pantograph noise and occasional sparks and flashes. I don’t know how horses will react, but from my own experience years ago, they do react to electrical fields.

The Rail Freight Industry

Look at most freight trains on the UK’s railways and the locomotive on the front, is a noisy, smelly and polluting Class 66 or Class 70 locomotive.

You’ll see these American imports, which don’t meet the latest emission regulations, hauling freight trains, even when there are overhead wires for electric haulage.

Why?

Because rail freight companies are so driven by accountants, that they can’t be bothered to obtain more modern diesel locomotives, that are quieter, more powerful and less polluting.

The picture shows a modern Class 68 locomotive at Stratford. These are quieter and meet most of the noise and emission regulations.

Mitigating The Problems

I’ll deal with various methods, that could be used, starting with the easiest.

A Level Railway Through The Town

It looks like the Victorian engineers, who built the railway through the town, built it as level as possible, so that steam locomotives didn’t have to work so hard in the Warren Hill Tunnel, which I don’t think has a chimney for smoke.

Modern engineers will ensure that the railway is as level as possible, with gentle gradients and curves all the way between Kennett and Dullingham stations.

Passenger Trains With Batteries

Greater Anglia’s new Class 755 trains are powered by both overhead electrification and onboard diesel engines. The latter sit in a power pack in the middle of the train.

Not having seen or heard one of these Swiss-built trains in the metal, I can make no comment as to the noise and vibration of these trains, but they should be quieter than the current three-car Class 170 trains.

It does appear that passenger trains built in the last years are much quieter, as they are much more aerodynamically correct and slippery, so they generate less noise.

The new trains have also been ordered for the South Wales Metro. But the Welsh trains will additionally be fitted with batteries to avoid some difficult electrification in the Valleys.

So if the passenger trains prove to be noisy through the town, which I doubt they will be, there will be the option of adding batteries to avoid the use of diesel power.

It is my belief, that technology will ensure that passenger trains will not be a problem.

More Environmentally-Friendly Freight Locomotives

As I said earlier, smelly, noisy and polluting freight locomotives are a big problem.

This is not just a problem for places like Newmarket with special circumstances, but on railways like the London Overground and those in Central Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester,, where suburban electric railways have to accommodate heavy rail freight.

The railway locomotive manufacturers have designed solutions for the problem in recent years.

Stadler, who are an innovative Swiss company have started to manufacture a Class 93 locomotive, which can run on diesel, electric and/or battery power. I’m fairly sure, that one of the design goals of this locomotive is to be able to haul a heavy freight train between Felixstowe and Peterborough, using electric power where it is available and a mix of diesel and battery at other times.

At Newmarket if the new double-track was well-designed and almost level, I suspect that a Class 93 locomotive could haul a train between Kennett and Dullingham stations on battery power.

Locomotives of this type should be compulsory on all freight routes through sensitive areas.

The government must legislate, as left to themselves the rail freight companies will sit on their hands and wallets.

One of the conditions of a double-track railway through Newmarket, should be that only locomotives that meet the latest noise, vibration and pollution standards, like the Class 93 locomotive should be allowed.

Quieter 100 mph Freight Trains

Karl Watts, who is a disruptive innovator and CEO of the Rail Operations Group, has bought the first ten Class 93 locomotives and intends to use them to haul 100 mph freight trains, where the routes allow.

On the electrified Great Eastern Main Line between Ipswich and London, the operating speed is 100 mph. But freight trains trundle up and down at 75 mph, thus slowing all of the passenger services.

Watts plans to use the Class 93 locomotives with new 100 mph container wagons to run freight trains at 100 mph on this and other routes, which would increase the freight and passenger capacity of the line.

New 100 mph freight wagons will be smoother, quieter and used through Newmarket at an appropriate speed would remove a large proportion of the noise and vibration.

Again, it would need investment from the freight companies.

However, modern freight trains hauled by modern hybrid locomotives like the Class 93 could significantly remove noise and vibration.

Lengthen Warren Hill Tunnel

A second bore will be dug to double-track the kilometre long Warren Hill Tunnel.

Some rail tunnels have been extended with covers and this technique might be possible at the Newmarket station end of the tunnel. The techniques exist, so that housing or other developments can be built on top of the railway.

Techniques like this not only suppress noise and vibration, but create much needed housing.

Acoustic Barriers

You see these a lot in Germany to reduce noise and vibration from railway lines in sensitive area, but rarely in the UK.

Conclusion

It will be difficult to put a double-track railway through Newmarket, but I believe that using modern rolling stock and some advanced construction, that a solution can be found.

Newmarket should dig in its heels and only accept the best to force rail freight companies to get their act together.

Government too, should enforce the current regulations on diesel locomotives, which most of the current locomotives do not meet.

March 4, 2019 Posted by | Sport, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Rail Operations Group Gets Serious About Thunderbirds Etc.

The February 2019 Edition of Modern Railways has an article entitled Class 93 Tri-Oomph!, which has been written by Ian Walmsley.
This is the first paragraph.

Rail Operations Group has become known for the efficient haulage of EMUs around the country using very clever tranlation devices built into Europhenix converted Class 37 kicos. As I described in the March 2016 issue (“Lost in translation”) it looked at tens of millions of pounds worth of EMUs being dragged around unbraked, thought ‘this can’t be right’, and proceeded to make 50-year-old locomotives operate with state-of-the-art computer kit.

Rail Operations Group (ROG) had employed classicdisruptive innovation to create a new market, that was to everybody’s benefit.

As Ian reports, the company has grown a lot in the last few years and now does a lot more than just move new trains around.

  • Old trains are also moved.
  • Old trains are also stored safely.
  • Operations are all planned as a consultancy.

The company is already planning their next operational niche.

A Move Into Logistics

ROG is moving into logistics.

Ian talks about the inefficiency and polluting distribution system using trucks, that add to traffic congestion.
He talks about rail being a better way and then says this.

The difference with ROG is that the company is going to invest in two Class 769 (bi-mode 319s’) converted for parcel use, and while these are not my favourite trains, parcels are a lot less fussy than me about how long they take to get to top speed.
Using 769s’ means that your hubs can be almost anywhere; not necessarily on a 25 KVAC electrified siding, just close to a road system interchange area.

So what happens, if they don’t get a customer? The Class 769 trains will be delivered with seats, so they could be sub-leased for passenger use.

I wrote The Go-Anywhere Express Parcel And Pallet Carrier (HSPT) in May 2017, where I discussed the uses for this type of parcel carrier. This was my conclusion.

There is definitely a market for a HSPT.
If it does come about, it will be yet another tribute to the magnificent Mark 3 design!

As to the secondary use of these trains as passenger trains, there is nothing wrong with that. After all, we’ve all had our fill of the dreaded Rail Replacement Buses.

In Gospel Oak-Barking Fleet Plan Remains Unclear, I talked about the problems caused by late delivery of the new Class 710 trains.

The problem would have been eased, if two Class 769 trains in good condition could have been called up at a couple of days notice.

Surely, there are other applications.

  • I suspect that given the number of level-crossing accidents in the UK, they will find a lot of use.
  • I don’t think Porterbrook will mind, if ROG effectively offered a try-before-buy service to train operators.
  • There must also be a market for pop-up rail services to large sporting and cultural events.

Again, it appears ROG have found a niche and have invested in it.

Before leaving the subject of Class 769 trains, I must mention Brexit.

Could the trains find a use in a no-deal Brexit-world moving high-value freight from ports and airports to inland distribution centres?

Thoughts On The Class 93 Locomotive

These are some thoughts from the article.

Available Power

Ian starts by saying this about the operation of the Class 93 locomotive.

Apart from the obvious electric (4,000kW) and diesel (900kW), the third mode is a Lithium Titanate Oxide (LTO) battery (400kW), which can be used in conjunction with the diesel to give a power boost up to 1,300kW or 1,743hp in old money.
The extra oomph from the battery takes you from a Class 33 to a Class 37 in old locos but with minimal losses, and you don’t need full power for very long on most non-electrified routes.

I suspect there’s a clever control system, that optimises the use of the battery.

The Ultimate Thunderbird

The locomotive appears to have a unique feature of a variable height coupler, which enables it to haul rolling stock with all the five standard heights of coupler, that exist on UK railways.

How did this madness occur?

But as the locomotive can deal with them all, Ian argues that the Class 93 locomotive could be the ultimate Thunderbird or rescue locomotive.

Moving Trains In The Future

Ian argues that ROC’s collection of locomotives used for moving new and replaced trains is getting older and will soon be difficult to service.

The Class 93 locomotives would be ideal for this role.

But Ian sees this very much as a fallback position, if the locomotives do not find innovative new uses.

Ian finishes with this paragraph.

When we first saw Dr. Beeching’s new Freightliners(now ‘intermodal’) in the 1960s, they did 75 mph. They still do, but there are some really smart looking 100 mph flats available. Remember the path-ology. There are plenty of cross-country runs where a Class 37 equivalent is fine for the diesel bits, then pan up and 4,000kW is yours. Come on. Not excited by this? You must be in the wrong job.

As an example some freight trains go between Felixstowe and Birmingham, Liverpool or Manchester using the North London Line.

They are hauled all the way by a Class 66 diesel.

Put the containers on the smart looking 100 mph flats with a Class 93 locomotive on the front and the following happens.

  • The locomotive uses diesel between Felixstowe and Ipswich, with possibly some battery boost.
  • The locomotive uses electric power for most of the journey.
  • The locomotive might use diesel power at the destination for a short distance.
  • On the double-track 100 mph Great Eastern Main Line, the operating speed will not be far off the new Class 745 and Class 720 trains.
  • On the North London Line, the train will pass through some of the smartest parts of North London with lower levels of noise, vibration and pollution.
  • On the West Coast Main Line, the train will be able to mix it with the new Class 730 trains on the slow lines.

Greater Anglia have the trains to run more services between London and Ipswich.

How many more could they squeeze in, if all freight trains had a similar performance to their express services?

Consider now, freight trains taking the cross-country route from Felixstowe to the North and Midlands via Peterborough.

  • With track improvements at Haughley and doubling of the line between Kennett and Ely, I suspect that timings on the flat lands of East Anglia using hybrid power would be approaching those of Class 66 locomotive-hauled stock.
  • With a faster cruise on the East Coast Main Line, would the trains take the direct route on the slow lines, rather than the diversion through Lincoln?

The Class 93 locomotive could be the ultimate Felixstowe Flyer.

Could it also be the freight locomotive that passenger train operators want reight operators to use, as it keeps freight trains out of the way of passenger ones?

January 27, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rail Operations Seeks New Sites To Extend Storage Space

The title of this post, as the same as that of this article in Issue 869 of Rail Magazine.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Rail operations (UK) Limited is looking to lease more sites for storing off-lease trains.

Via ita Traxion business, the company has already leased Crewe South Yard and the Marks & Sencer Logistics site at Castle Donington.

Much of the rest of the article is an interview with Karl Watts, who is Chief Executive of Rail Operations (UK) Limited, where he outlines the train storage market. He appears to be a man, who builds a strategy around facts and then pounces.

To do this he would need to have.

  • Good advisers, with excellent knowledge of and contacts in the UK Rail and European rail industry.
  • Reliable financial backing.
  • The ability to give a good story to the media.

It appears, Karl could have used similar tactics, when he commissioned ten Class 93 locomotives from Stadler, that I wrote about in Stadler’s New Tri-Mode Class 93 Locomotive.

He puts forward some firm views and facts.

  • 4,000 vehicles are coming off-lease.
  • 46-47 miles of track will be needed.
  • 313s, 314s and 315s will be scrapped.
  • 317s, 319s, 321s and 442s will be re-engineered.

The customer gets what they want with appropriate servicing and maintenance.

 

 

January 4, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment