The Anonymous Widower

Hitachi Class 385 Trains, Batteries And Charging Stations

This article in the International Railway Journal is entitled JR Kyushu battery EMU to enter service in October.

This is said.

JAPAN’s Kyushu Railway Company (JR Kyushu) announced on August 24 that its pre-series Dual Energy Charge Train (Dencha) battery-assisted EMU will enter revenue service on the 11km Orio – Wakamatsu section of the Chikuho Line on October 19.

The two-car 819 series set draws power from the 20 kV ac 60Hz electrification system to feed a bank of onboard batteries, which give the train a wire-free range of up to 90km.

At least it can do 11 km. This is said about the train’s manufacture.

The 819 series is based on the existing 817 series EMU and was built by Hitachi at its plant in Kudamatsu in Yamaguchi prefecture.

Note the word Hitachi!

Hitachi call it a BEC819 train and it is one of their ubiquitous A-trains.

On the Hitachi Rail Europe web site, three new trains are mentioned.

All are A-trains and on all pages, the word battery is mentioned under power supply.

So will Scotrail’s new Class 385 trains have a battery capability?

Probably not initially!

But Hitachi have obviously been doing a lot of research into battery trains and the JR Kyushu is the first practical application.

Scotland’s rail system outside Edinburgh and Glasgow is not electrified, but it is well-known that Scotland’s Government would like more electrified services and also links to places like Leven and St. Andrews.

Both of these places, and there are probably others as well, are a few miles from a main line, that is very likely to be electrified.

So could we see a battery train charged as the JR Kyushu train on a main line, serving these branch lines on battery power?

I feel that the chance of this happening is very high.

Put a charging station, like a Railbaar at the terminal station and it could be done as soon as the train is built.


April 21, 2017 Posted by | Energy Storage, Transport | , , , | 4 Comments

Could Third-Rail Tram-Trains Work The Epsom Downs Branch?

The Epsom Downs Branch is a single-track branch line from Sutton to Epsom Downs station.

Currently, it has a service to Victoria of around two trains per hour (tph), but it doesn’t seem to generate much business.

In 2015-16, Epsom Downs station had 112,000 passengers, whereas Sutton station had 7,111,000.

As the three stations on the branch are all single-platform stations with few facilities, can it be viable to run Class 377 and Class 455 trains on the branch?

When the London Tramlink arrives in Sutton, I wonder if the branch would be more suited to be running by trams.

But as the line is electrified with the standard 750 VDC third-rail system, is it one of those places, that could it be served by a third-rail tram-train, as I proposed in The Third-Rail Tram-Train?

I think the answer is in the affirmative.


  • The tram service could terminate at the proposed Streatham Common Interchange station.
  • It takes less than ten minutes to go between Sutton and Epsom Downs
  • In the Peak or when more capacity is needed, Class 377 trains could still run the service.
  • The tram-trains could provide a step-free service.

Running the service with tram-trains, would give one big advantage; the ability to run a service to the Royal Marsden Hospital, which according to this document from the hospital is not the best, when it comes to public transport.

A  single-track branch from the Epsom Downs Branch could start South of Belmont station and tram-trains running on batteries could serve both the Royal Marsden Hospital and the Institute of Cancer Research.

This Google Map shows Belmont station and the hospital.


  • The rail line from Belmont station to Epsom Downs station running down the West side of the map.
  • There are two prisons in the South East corner of the map.
  • The road from Belmont to the Hospital may only be half a mile, but it is up a steep hill.
  • Why is every train arriving at Belmont station, not met by a shuttle bus to the Royal Marsden Hospital?
  • There is one train per hour through Belmont station in both directions.

A silent battery tram-train  without any overhead wires, climbing up on the railway line and then turning East across Banstead Common calling at the prisons en route to the Hospital, might be acceptable to the Planning Authorities. It would surely be less intrusive than some of cars and vans, I saw rushing through the Downs.

I would think that the hospital needs a frequency of four trains per hour to Sutton, in addition to the current sewrvices between Sutton and Epsom Downs.

A charging station, like a Railbaar, at the end of the short branch might be needed, to make sure that the gradients were conquered.

These pictures show Belmont station and the walk to the Royal Marsden Hospital.

Knowing, what I now know of the Royal Masrsden Hospital, it wouldn’t be my choice of hospital.

I don’t think, I’vw seen a hospital with such terrible access by public transport!



April 16, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Could Third-Rail Tram-Trains Be Used To Increase Services In South London?

I ask this question, as some of the frequencies on suburban lines in South London aren’t up to their equivalent in the North.

Sutton Loop Line

As an example, Sutton Common station on the Sutton Loop Line of Thameslink, has this Off Peak service according to Wikipedia.

The typical off-peak service from the station is 2 trains per hour to Wimbledon (clockwise around the loop) and 2 trains per hour to Sutton (anticlockwise).

Other stations on the loop with this level of service include Haydons RoadMorden SouthSt. Helier, South Merton, TootingWest Sutton and Wimbledon Chase.

On the other side of the loop via Mitcham Junction station, the service is augmented by London Victoria to Epsom services, running at two trains per hour (tph).

People might say, that the solution to the poor service at stations on the Sutton Loop Line is just to run four tph in both directions round the loop.

But that would probably mean the Snow Hill Tunnel with its capacity of 24 tph, will become overloaded.

Thameslink’s Route To Sevenoaks

Crofton Park station on Thameslink’s route to Sevenoaks station has this Off Peak service according to Wikipedia.

Two trains per hour to West Hampstead Thameslink and Sevenoaks.

The passengers moan about it as I wrote in The Natives Are Getting Restless In Crofton Park.

They want four tph now!

But again they can’t have them, as it’s the capacity of the Snow Hill Tunnel.

Transport For London’s Philosophy

Transport for London, have released a report on the Bakerloo Line Extension that they call the Option Selection Summary Report.

It is one of those worthy documents, you get from analysing the data from consultations.

But it is full of several nuggets, which although not directly associated with the Bakerloo Line could be very important for passengers coming from or venturing to South London.

They have also provided this helpful map, which lays out possible actions and improvements.

Rail Improvements South Of The Thames

It seems to me that TfL are following a plan to add more transport hubs to their network South of the Thames.

Currently, the following are important interchanges between Underground, Overground, trains, Tramlink and buses.

  • Bromley South
  • Clapham Junction
  • East Croydon
  • Greenwich
  • Lewisham
  • Wimbledon
  • Woolwich


  1. East Croydon will benefit in a large way from Thameslink, but so will Greenwich and Woolwich in a smaller way.
  2. Clamham Junction and Wimbledon will be stations on from Crossrail 2, if it’s ever built.
  3. Lewisham will become the terminus of the Bakerloo Line.

The map and other sources also show other stations becoming important transport hubs or connections.

  • Brixton, where all the lines in the area are in a single station.
  • Brockley
  • Catford, where the current Catford and Catford Bridge stations become one station.
  • Crystal Palace, which will soon get extra services from Whitechapel and Highbury and Islington stations.
  • Orpington
  • Penge
  • Streatham Common
  • Sutton

London Bridge station shouldn’t be ignored, as after Thameslink is completed, it will be an efficient interchange between the North-South Thameslink services and the Southeastern services between Charing Cross/Cannon Street and the wider South-East.

Put all of these proposals together and could third-rail tram-trains be a useful addition to transport in South London?

I will detail a few possible routes.

Onward From Beckenham Junction To Bromley South or Orpington

In Could Beckenham Junction To Birkbeck Be Run Using Third-Rail Tram-Trains?, I detailed how third-rail tram-trains could be used between Harrington Lane tram stop and Beckenham Junction station to create more capacity.

If run by tram-trains, this service could be extended to Bromley South or Orpington.

Orpington station has four bay platforms facing towards London and Beckenham Junction.

This map from shows the track layout at the station.

The tracks reduce from four to two at Orpington station, which probably means that tram-trains should probably not go further than Orpington station.

Bromley South station is another possibility for a terminus for tram-trains and this map from, shows the station layout.

The tram-trains would probably use the two Northern tracks.


At present there are the following services between Birkbeck and Beckenham Junction stations.

  • 2 trains per hour between London Bridge and Beckenham Junction
  • 6 trams per hour between East Croydon and Beckenham Junction

Looking at the frequencies, I suspect that if two of the trams per hour, were tram-trains and ran to Bromley South and Orpington, this could be accommodated in the timetable.

I think that this route would have the following advantages.

  • Bromley South and Orpington stations would be valuable interchanges to Southeastern’s and Thameslink’s Kentish destinations.
  • Running tram-trains between Birkbeck and Beckenham Junction stations as tram-trains on a double-track line, must improve capacity and reliability.
  • Bromley town centre has been touted as an extension to Tramlink.

Bromley South station, might not be Bromley town centre, but it is only a short walk.

However, if it were needed, I suspect that a single-track spur to serve the town centre could be created to the West of Bromley South station.

This Google Map shows the Southern end of Bromley High Street and Bromley South station.

It could probably use battery power to pull up the short hill to Bromley town centre.

  • The terminal tram stop could be at the South end of the pedestrianised area.
  • The on-street route would be single-track, bi-directional and electrically dead.
  • A second tram stop could be provided by Bromley South station.
  • The maximum frequency to a single platform would probably be two trams per hour.

In some ways, the town centre tram stop is a bay platform for Bromley South station, that can only be used by tram-trains with a battery capability.

Onward From Harrington Road To Crystal Palace

It was always hoped that Tramlink could be extended to Crystal Palace station and this has been developed as Route 5.

The Wikipedia entry for Harrington Road tram-stop says this.

Transport for London once had plans to extend the Tramlink system to Crystal Palace. These plans were known as Extension D or Tramlink route 4, and would have involved a junction to the north of Harrington Road, with the extension joining the existing railway in the opposite direction to the current line 2.

The planned extension to Crystal Palace was formally dropped by Transport for London in 2008.

But using tram-trains could make this a more flexible low-cost option.

  • Battery power could be used to go to the terminus at Crystal Palace Parade.
  • Battery trams would be very easy to install in a park, if required.
  • A charging station, like a Railbaar, could be provided at the terminus, if the battery running looked like needing assistance.
  • Tram-trains could go past Crystal Palace to a station with a suitable bay platform.

This Google Map shows the route.

Note Crystal Palace in the North West corner, by the running track and Birkbeck station in the South East.

New tram stops have been proposed at Penge Road and Anerley Road and as the lroute will be run by tram-trains, I suspect that an innovative island station design could serve both tram-trains and trains.

Crystal Palace station, which in a couple of years will have six tph from the well-connected Whitechapel, would benefit from a Tramlink connection.

Onward From Elmers End To Catford

Elmers End station has six trams per house from East Croydon.

This Google Map shows the station.

Note how it connects to the Hayes Line and I doubt if it would be difficult to allow through running of tram-trains between East Croydon and stations to the North on the Hayes Line.

The logical Northern terminus would probably be in a new Catford Interchange, which Transport for London have talked about to combine Catford and Catford Bridge stations.

This Google Map shows the two stations and Catford town centre.

A tram-train could probably run on batteries to the town centre, perhaps with a terminus at Catford Broadway by Lewisham Town Hall and the Broadway Theatre.

But with the right design of the new interchange, the tram-train could go further North to a station with a handy bay platform, if that was deemed necessary.

Increasing The Frequency On The Sutton Loop Line

As I said earlier stations on the Western side of the loop, generally get about two tph in both directions, but those on the Eastern side get an extra two tph going between Victoria and Epsom.

The trains on the line are typically eight-car trains of a variety of types. Capacity may be a problem, but a line like this needs at least four tph all day.

There could also be a case for an extra station to serve St. George’s Hospital and perhaps another as part of the development at Hackbridge.

There is a Hackbridge Masterplan on Wikipedia. This is the first paragraph.

The London Borough of Sutton is working to make Hackbridge the ‘UK’s first truly sustainable suburb’. There has been a regeneration scheme in Hackbridge which has a number of developments on many sites. These are mentioned as part of the Hackbridge Regeneration. Detailed plans include proposals for new eco-friendly homes, more shops, leisure and community facilities, jobs, sustainable transport and pedestrian/ cycle initiatives, improved networks and open spaces.

It all sounds good to me. This is a Google Map of the area.



Note the rail line going up the map with Hackbridge station about a quarter of the way up.At the top of the map, is an icon indicating the BedZed Pavilion.

If they are truly into green transport, it strikes me, that there needs to be another station between Hackbridge station and Mitcham Junction station, which is the next one to the North. As the Tramlink through Mitcham Junction runs down the eastern side of the site and has a stop at Beddington Lane on the north east corner, I would also feel that there scope for extensions to the through Hackbridge.

So for frequency and environmental reasons, I think there is a strong case to improve the Sutton Loop Line.

The obvious way to increase the service would be to have two tph start and finish in a bay platform, at the proposed Streatham Common transport interchange. Not only would it provide four tph on the whole loop, but if the trains were scheduled correctly, all stations on the loop would have the following services to Blackfriars.

  • 2 tph direct.
  • 2 tph with a change at Streatham Common.
  • 2 tph direct via Sutton
  • 2 tph via Sutton with a change at Streatham Common.

With good design the change at Streatham Common could be a walk across the platform.

I don’t think that the extra services would need to be eight-car trains, but why use tram-trains?

The tram-trains major advantage is that they could go walkabout to perhaps serve some of the new developments or hospitals like St. Helier or the Royal Marsden.

Using The Sutton Loop Line As A Reversing Loop For Trams From Croydon

This Google Map shows Mitcham Junction station.

I don’t think it would be too difficult to add chords to the junction, so that a tram-train coming from Croydon could transfer from Tramlink to the Sutton Loop Line. The tram-train would then go round the loop including passing through Wimbledon station on the opposite face of the Tramlink platform.

After returning to Mitcham Junction, the tram-train would return to Croydon.

It may seem a long way round, but there’s probably only a couple of minutes in it.

But it would need a chord at Streatham Common for the tram-trains to by-pass the station.

This Google Map shows the location of the proposed Streatham Common interchange.

The current Streatham Common station is in the East, The interchange would be built, where the lines cross.

The chord would be built to the South of where the two lines of the Sutton Loop meet, at the bottom of the map.

The track could be adjusted, so that tram-trains could go round the loop both ways.

Will The Victoria-Epsom Service Call At Streatham Common Interchange?

Stops with  modern trains are much quicker than they used to be only a few years ago.

So If the design of Streatham Common station and the timetable could allow a fast interchange, it might improve journey times for those living on the Wimbledon side of the Sutton Loop Line, which don’t get direct services from Victoria.

The Proposed Tramlink Extension To Sutton

The proposed Tramlink route Between  South Wimbledon And Sutton is possibly a worthwhile extra public transport link to throw into the mix. It is described under Extension A in the Wikipedia entry for Tramlink. This is said.

In July 2013, Mayor Boris Johnson affirmed that there is a reasonable business case for Tramlink to cover the Wimbledon – Sutton corridor. A map has been released showing the planned route. It would leave the existing route just to the east of Morden Road and head along the A24 and A297 to Rosehill Roundabout, then the B2230 through Sutton town centre, ending at the station. A loop via St Helier Hospital and a possible extension to Royal Marsden Hospital also are shown.

This is a map of the route.


So how would third-rail tram-trains using the Sutton Loop Line affect the proposed Tranlink Extension to Sutton?

  • There are at least four tph in both directions on the Sutton Loop Line.
  • The trams will reach Sutton, but only running as trains.
  • St. Helier Hospital is not served.
  • Tram-trains could possibly serve the Epsom Downs Branch, in addition to the direct services to Victoria.

I describe how third-rail tram-trains could serve the Epsom Downs Branch and the Royal Marsden Hospital in Could Third-Rail Tram-Trains Work The Epsom Downs Branch?







April 16, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Third-Rail Tram-Train

I’ve never seen anybody propose a third-rail powered tram-train, but that is probably because everybody has assumed quite rightly, that you couldn’t power a tram by using third-rail electrification. It’s just too dangerous! But is it so dangerous on a segregated track?

In February 2016 I wrote Brummies Go For Battery Trams and it is now ienvisaged that Midland Metro‘s trams will be running services under battery power in 2019.

Battery power is used for trams in several places around Europe and the rest of the World and is becoming a proven technology. Is there any reason why a battery tram-train, can’t be powered by third-rail electrification, when it is running as a train?

The Class 399 Tram-Train

The Class 399 tram-train is under test in Sheffield, to prove that it can run passenger services in the UK.

These tram-trains can handle either 25 KVAC or 750 VDC from overhead wiring. I also think, they are also clever enough to work out what voltage they are getting and configure themselves accordingly.

Since, I originally wrote this post, KeolisAmey Wales  have ordered thirty-six tram-trains from the same Citylink family as the Class 399 trains.

Stadler, whose Valemcia factory built the Class 399 tram-trains, will also be building trains for Merseyrail’s network, which will run using 750 VDC third-rail electrification.

Would it be reasonable to assume, that Stadler will be able to design an appropriate pick-up shoe for the Class 399 tram-train, so that it can run on a 750 VDC third-rail network?


A battery system would also be needed, but I believe that this will be generally offered by all tram and tram-train manufacturers, as trams and tram-trains will be running increasingly in heritage or sensitive areas.

Charging The Batteries

Batteries would normally be charged, when the tram-train is running on an electrified line, under power from the third-rail system.

The MetroCentro in Seville, works without catenary and has a fast charging system  at the two end stops.

There is no reason to believe that a Class 399 tram-train with batteries, couldn’t work with a fast charging station like a Railbaar.

Tram-Trains For The South Wales Metro

Since, I originally wrote this post, KeolisAmey Wales  have ordered thirty-six tram-trains from the same Citylink family as the Class 399 trains, for running on the South Wales Metro.

These tram-trains will be fitted with batteries.

Would A Third-Rail Tram-Train Have A Pantograph?

This would be a matter for the operator.

But there is one UK tram network; the London Tramlink in Croydon, which is surrounded by an extensive third-rail electrified network.

The ability to run on both types of 750 VDC systems might be an asset and enable new services to be created without any extra electrification, by using a small amount of battery power to change from one system to another.

Changing Between Third-Rail And Overhead Electrification

This map from shows the track layout at Mitcham Junction station.

Suppose a link were to be provided, so that tram-trains could come from the South, pass through Mitcham Junction station and then cross over to the tram tracks for Wimbledon.

These pictures show the area.

As the link would have no electrification, the power changeover would be as follows.

  • Arrive in Mitcham Junction station, using third-rail power.
  • Raise and isolate the third-rail shoe.
  • Switch to battery power.
  • Proceed using the link to Mitcham tram stop.
  • Raise the pantograph and switch to overhead power.

A reversed procedure would be used in the opposite direction.

Range On Third-Rail Power

The range of a Class 399 tram-train running on third-rail power, would be more limited by the train-tram’s speed of 100 kph and interaction with other services, rather than any electrification issues.

The range will probably be the same as the German cousins of the Class 399 tram-trains on the Karlsruhe Stadtbahn. These trams run on both 750 VDC and 15 KVAC, to places up to fifty kilometres from the Centre of Karlsruhe.

As a simple example, a third-rail tram-train running on the London Tramlink, could certainly use third-rail lines to access Gatwick Airport.

Range On Battery Power

In Out Of The Mouths Of Brummies, which describes an interview with those involved in the Midland Metro battery train project, I published this quote about battery trams.

Since then there has been lots of work and we’re now comfortable that battery technology has advanced sufficiently for it to be viable.

Under test conditions with plain straight track a tram could travel 20 km catenary-free. In practice, this would be rather less for a fully laden tram ascending the 9% gradient on Penfold Street. The longest catenary-free run we’ve envisaged is around 2 km, and we’re comfortable we can achieve that.

I think until Birmingham proves otherwise, 2 km. would be a sensible range for a tram or tram-train running on a full battery.

Compatibility Issues With Other Rail Vehicles And Platforms

This to me is a matter of design, but after the Sheffield tram-train trial and the analysis of platform solutions in Europe, I suspect that we’ll come up with a solution that works.

I think it is true to say, that many of our trains are badly matched to the platforms, but as this picture of a Class 378 train on the London Overground shows, the gap is becoming easier to mind.

I think too, we have an advantage over Europe, in that our loading gauge is smaller and our trains are closer in size to a modern tram or tram-train.

We are also good at innovative access solutions, as this picture from Canonbury station shows.

We may have a problem with using double-deck trains, but I believe that good design can minimise the problems of good access to both trains and tram-trains at the same platform.


The applications will be limited by battery range and by the gradients of the line.

In Southampton – A City Built For Cars, I describe how if they built their proposed Solent Metro around third-rail tram-train technology, they could transform the city.

In Could Beckenham Junction To Birkbeck Be Run Using Third-Rail Tram-Trains?, I show how third-rail tram train-technology , could be used to create more capacity at Beckenham Junction station.

In Could Third-Rail Tram-Trains Be Used To Increase Services In South London?, I show how third-rail tram-train technology, could be used to expand the London Tramlink.

In Could Third-Rail Tram-Trains Work The Epsom Downs Branch?, I show how third-rail tram-train technology, could serve the Royal Marsden Hospital.

In The Cranleigh Line, I suggest that third-rail tram-train technology could be used on this route.


Technically, I feel that a Class 399 tram-train capable of running on third-rail electrified lines is possible.

But it would have to run on battery power or 750 VDC overhead, when running as a tram.



April 14, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Class 319 Flex Train And A Railbaar

When I wrote Could There Be A Battery-Powered Class 319 Flex Train?, not much information had been published on the Railbaar, but a Railbaar could be another tool to use with a Class 319 Flex train.

This is a paragraph from the advance copy I have of Porterbrook’s brochure for the Class 319 Flex train.

By way of an example, Porterbrook determined that the most arduous route would be Manchester Piccadilly to Buxton, which has a steep gradient and multiple stops along its 25 mile route (8 miles of which is electrified). This analysis was included to give confidence that the Class 319 Flex would be comparable to existing Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) technology across a range of different routes, stopping patterns and gradients.

Elsewhere in the brochure, they say this.

A large battery option was shown to be heavy, would require a lot of space and have long recharge times.

On the other hand, they have stated that batteries could be used to augment diesel power.

Challenging Rail Lines Up Steep Gradients in the UK

Lines like the Buxton Line are not unusual in the UK. The following challenging.

  1. Bromsgrove to Barnt Green up the infamous Lickey Incline – non-stop
  2. Bolton to Blackburn up the Ribble Valley Line – 4 intermediate stops
  3. Blackburn to Clitheroe up the Ribble Valley Line – 3 intermediate stops
  4. Rose Grove to Colne up the East Lancashire Line – 5 intermediate stops
  5. Exeter St. Davids to Barnstaple up the Tarka Line – 10 intermediate stops
  6. Plymouth to Gunnislake up the Tamar Valley Line – 7 intermediate stops
  7. Cardiff Central to Aberdate up the Aberdare Branch of the Methyr Line – 13 intermediate stops
  8. Cardiff Central to Ebbw Vale Town up the Ebbw Valley Railway – 5 intermediate stops
  9. Cardiff Central to Merthyr Tydfil up the Merthyr Line – 13 intermediate stops
  10. Cardiff Central to Rhymney up the Rhymney Line – 16 intermediate stops
  11. Cardiff Central to Treherbert up the Rhondda Line – 16 intermediate stops

Our Victorian engineers never let a steep gradient get in the way of where they wanted to build a railway.

Could These Lines Be Electrified?

Only the Lickey Incline (1) is currently being electrified. This is a description of the incline from Wikipedia.

The Lickey Incline, south of Birmingham, is the steepest sustained main-line railway incline in Great Britain. The climb is a gradient of 1 in 37.7 (2.65% or 26.5‰ or 1.52°) for a continuous distance of two miles (3.2 km)

Youtube has a great deal of modern and historic video of the Lickey Incline. Some recent footage shows freight trains climbing the incline with the assistance of a banking engine at the rear.

I doubt if the two lines in Devon (5 and 6) will ever be electrified, The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England will never allow overhead wiring gantries to despoil the landscape along the routes, some of which is in a National Park.

If the Class 319 Flex train does a good job with the three Lancashire Lines around Blackburn (2,3 and 4), the decision to electrify will be pushed a decade or more into the future. I could certainly see, Bombardier, Stadler and perhaps a couple of other companies building a train based on the experience with a Class 319 Flex train, as a replacement.

Politicians will decide whether the Cardiff Valley Lines (7 to 11) are electrified, but I have a feeling that someone somewhere will have a better alternative to full traditional electrification.

The Cardiff Valley Lines

Consider these facts about the rail service on the Cardiff Valley Lines

  • The lines are a vital lifeline to those that live in the South Wales Valleys.
  • The area is not without its attraction, for those who like to be in the hills.
  • Traffic on the lines varies throughout the day.
  • Traffic up the Valleys is highest in the evening commuting Peak and after a big sporting event in Cardiff.
  • Four-car trains are needed on the route.
  • The current diesel trains are elderly and unreliable.
  • There are plans to open new lines and stations and extend some of the existing lines further to the North.

But above all jobs and business and housing developments are needed in the Valleys.

An improved rail service could benefit a large number of people and interests.

The Class 319 Flex Train

The Class 319 Flex train started operational service  thirty years ago as a 100 mph express commuter train running on the Thameslink route from Bedford to Brighton.

It may be a comparatively old train, but it has the following characteristics.

  • It is based on the legendary Mark 3 coach, as used on the InterCity 125.
  • It is four-cars.
  • It is a dual-voltage train.
  • Two rail-proven MAN diesels and an ABB alternator provide electric power away from electrification.
  • It is a 100 mph train on an electrified main line.
  • It has a speed of around 90 mph on diesel power.
  • Drivers have told me, that the brakes are superb.
  • It has a good reputation for reliability.
  • It meets all the current disabled regulations.

But about all, like all Mark 3-based stock, it scrubs up well to any desired standard. In What Train Is This?, I showed the interior of a refurburbished thirty-year-old Class 150 train. Unrefurbished examples are typical of the stock that work the challenging lines.

Use Of A Railbaar With A Class 319 Flex Train

Porterbrook have said that the train’s electrical layout with a DC busbar connecting all xars, lends itself to adding a battery, which could be charged using the diesel power.

A typical layout of the Class 319 Flex train could be as follows.

  • DTOC – A driving car with a diesel engine/alternator set underneath.
  • PMOS – A motor car with a pantograph.
  • TOSL – A trailer car with a toilet.
  • DTOS – A driving car with a diesel engine/alternator set underneath.

I suspect that the battery would go under the TOSL.

The connection points for a Railbaar would be on the uncluttered roof of this car.

Railbaar would be a good add-on for a Class 319 Flex train, working an extension or branch line from an electrified line.

Possible Class 319 Flex Train Problems

The Class 319 train has two possible problems; the body is made of steel and the braking is not regenerative.

Despite being steel, their weight at 140 tonnes is lighter than many aluminium bodied trains, but they don’t have all the equipment like air-conditioning.

On the other hand, a similar train to a Class 319, survived the Oxshott Incident, where a 24-tonne cement mixer truck fell off a bridge onto the roof of the train.

Some Class 321 trains, which are similar to the Class 319 train, have been rebuilt with regenerative braking, so if that becomes a necessity for the Class 319 Flex train, I suspect an engineering solution is possible. Especially, as there is over a hundred Class 321 trains, which will be coming off-lease soon.

The Class 319 Flex Train And The Cardiff Valley Lines

There are eighty-six Class 319 trains, so there would be no problems finding a donor train to convert into a trial train for the Cardiff Valley Lines, if the Class 319 Flex train performs successfully on the Buxton Line.

  • On the Buxton Line, trains climb 150 metres in 15 kilometres from the electrified station at Hazel Grove to Buxton.
  • On the Merthyr Line, trains climb 168 metres in about 30 kilometres from Cardiff to Merthyr Tydfil.

So it looks like Buxton is steeper, but the Merthyr Line is longer.

I suspect that a Class 319 Flex train will go into service on a trial basis in South Wales, to test performance and customer reaction.

If nothing, it will help define the specification for the trains that can work the Cardiff Valley Lines.

Energy Needed To Raise A Train To Merthyr Tydfil

I will make these assumptions.

  • Merthyr Tydfil has an altitude of 179 metres.
  • Cardiff Central station has an altitude of 11 metres.
  • The train must be raised 168 metres
  • A Class 319 train has a weight of 140 tonnes.
  • A Class 319 train has a seated capacity of 319.
  • A suitable battery would weigh about 2 tonnes.

Raising an empty  four-car train similar to a Class 319 train, from Cardiff Central to Merthyr Tydfil will require 23,856,000 Kg-m or 65  KwH of energy.

Assuming a full load of 319 passengers at 80 Kg a time and that adds another 4,287,360 Kg-m or 12 KwH of energy.

My calculations are very rough.

The passengers get out at the top, so they are not energy that will be regenerated on the way down.

An Electrification Scheme For The Cardiff Valley Lines

The Cardiff Valley Lines were built with the main purpose of bringing coal from the valleys to the port of Cardiff for distribution and export by ship.

Now passengers are much more important, with commuting , leisure and tourism prominent.

Coming down is never a problem and a battery electric train with good brakes could handle a full load of passengers with few problems.

Going up is the problem, as the evening peak or a big rugby match in Cardiff can result in a full train having to be hauled up the valleys.

Similar problems are encountered on all the lines in my list to a certain extent, but without seeing the figures, I suspect the Cardiff Valley Lines are some of the most challenging.

Porterbrook have said, that they are not against using batteries on a Class 319 Flex train as a boost on difficult climbs.

So I think that a Class 319 Flex train fitted with an appropriate-sized battery could be a starting point.

But there is one big problem with a Class 319 Flex train. The Class 319 trains do not have regenerative braking, which could be used to charge the batteries on the way down from the valleys.

However, the very similar Class 321 train is being fitted with regenerative braking, so a possible Class 321 Flex train could charge the batteries on the way down.

When the train arrived in Cardiff, it could attach to a Railbaar to make sure that when it left to climb up into the valleys, the batteries were fully charged.

I think that in all these ramblings, there will be a solution, where all the various technologies come together in a bespoke solution.

  • Four-car train.
  • Electric drive.
  • 25 KVAC overhead to work electrified routes on the South Wales Main Line, at 100 mph.
  • Onboard rail-proven diesel engines and alternators, which would be used accordingly and probably automatically!
  • Two diesel power units would be used, so that one failure wouldn’t leave a stranded train.
  • Batteries with a capacity of around 100 KwH
  • Powerful regenerative braking
  • Railbaars in Cardiff and other low-altitude terminal stations, could be used if diesel charging can’t be used.
  • Well-driven trains to an energy efficient timetable.

Obviously, any electrification of the Cardiff ends of the routes would be welcome and less diesel-power would be needed.


Railbaar would be a good add-on for a Class 319 Flex train, working an extension or branch line from an electrified line.

A Class 319 Flex train with a battery and regenerative braking could be very useful on challenging routes like the Cardiff Valley Lines.

With these applications,  strategically placed Railbaars could add to the resilience and efficiency of the system.

The bespoke solution, that I have outlined, is very close to the specification of a Class 319 Flex train with a battery and regenerative braking.

I can’t wait to ride a Class 319 Flex train on a proving run to Merthyr Tydfil.






April 12, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Southampton – A City Built For Cars

These pictures show Southampton as I walked between Southampton Central station and the Town Quay for the ferry to Hythe.

The last few pictures are when I walked back.

This Google Map shows the layout of Southampton

Note how the city sits between the two rivers; the Itchen in the East and the Test going to the West.

Crossing the Itchen is a modern Itchen Bridge, which was built in 1977, that takes the A3025 into and out of the City.

, To the East of the bridge two stations; Woolston and Sholing on the West Coastway Line can be seen.

From Woolston station, the West Coastway Line, curves Northwards and follows the East bank of the River Itchen through Bitterne station, which can be picked out at the top of the map, East of the River Itchen.

The West Coastway Line then joins the South Western Main Line at St. Denys station.

This Google Map shows Bitterne and St. Denys stations.

After going along the river for a short distance and passing Northam Depot, the line splits, as this Google Map shows.

One branch goes South past St. Mary’s stadium and the other turns West and takes Southampton Tunnel to Southampton Central station.

I wrote about the upgrading of Southampton Tunnel in Boxing Clever, where I said this about how the project was performed.

I particularly liked the way that the 1847 Southampton Tunnel  was made larger. Rather than use the traditional approach and closing the tunnel for two to three months, as they did when they upgraded Ipswich Tunnel, they did it a track at a time closing for only three weekends and over Christmas 2009, saving a year on the project.

It is my belief that we can save a lot of money on infrastructure projects, like roads, railways, hospitals ands schools by thinking things through with a great deal more innovation, enterprise and by borrowing good and proven ideas and methods from other countries and industries.

The Wikipedia entry for Southampton Tunnel, has a section called Tunnel Development, which says this about those works.

During the period Sunday 27 December 2009 to Sunday 3 January 2010, the tunnel closed for the track to be lowered to achieve W10 (freight container) route clearance. Previously, Hi Cube intermodal container traffic had to be carried on special low wagons with areas which could not be loaded, resulting in both traffic planning issues and lower train capacity. Additionally, all container trains were restricted to 20 mph when passing through the tunnel because of the limited clearances at the top edges of the loaded containers. Since rebuilding no speed or loading restrictions apply to the tunnel and container trains can travel at up to the line speed of 40 mph, the limit for the tunnel. The work meant containers could be transported more easily by rail from the Port of Southampton.

In some ways the Southampton Tunnel sums up the problems with the UK’s railways. The Victorian layout doesn’t really support the needs of modern transport. And especially freight transport!

The railways will have to live with the updated Southampton Tunnel, as I doubt there is an alternative route to get intermodal container traffic between Southampton Container Terminal and the rest of the UK.

I will finish my East-West journey across Southampton by showing this Google Map, which shows Southampton Central station and the Docks that lie to its West.

Note Millbrook station to the North of the Docks. It doesn’t appear to be a very busy station.

I shall now return to the Itchen Bridge along the Waterfront.

Note the following can be seen on this map.

  • The Itchen Bridge
  • St. Mary’s Stadium
  • Southampton Central station.
  • Red Funnel Ferries on Town Quay
  • The Ocean Terminal.
  • The West Quay Shopping Centre

There are also vast areas of surface car parks.

A Metro For Southampton

Southampton is a city, where I believe that too much emphasis has been placed on access to the City by car.

But the skeleton of an urban railway is still there, as this map of the railway lines through Southampton shows.

To be fair, the chance may have been missed when the Itchen Bridge was built in 1977. I suspect that at that time in Germany for example, the bridge would have been future proofed for trams to be added at a later date.

But the thoughts at the time in the UK, were that trams were of the Past and not of the Present.

This Google Map, which shows the Itchen Bridge, with St. Mary’s Stadium on the West Bank and Woolston station on the East.

If you look at this map carefully, the rail corridor to the old Southampton Terminus station is still there and about two hundred metres North of the station, a train in South West trains livery can be seen. The line is obviously used for some purpose by Northam Depot.

If I look at various rail systems, I’ve seen all over the UK, it would appear that the following could be done.

Reopen The Rail Line To Southampton Terminus

The line from St. Denys station to Southampton Terminus station could be reopened with possible stations at Northam and St. Mary’s Stadium.

St. Denys is a four-platform station and it could act as a cross-platform interchange between services going to and from Southampton Terminus and Central.

Run West Coastway Services To Southampton Terminus And London Waterloo Services To Southampton Central


  • The South Western Main Line is at capacity with freight and passenger services.
  • The West Coastway Line is less busy.

So why not run West Coastway services to Southampton Terminus?

Remodel St. Denys Station

St. Denys is a four-platform station and it could act as a efficient cross-platform interchange .

  • Platform 1 – Services from Southampton Central to London
  • Platform 2 – Services to Southampton Central
  • Platform 3 – All services between the West Coastway and Southampton Terminus


  1. By making Platform 3 bi-directional, this means that trains using the West Coastway Line don’t have to cross the main line if they terminate at Southampton Terminus.
  2. Travellers going West would just walk across the platform, whereas those going East would use the bridge.
  3. Provision would be made to allow services to go between the West Coastway Line and Southampton Central.
  4. Provision would be made to allow trains to access Northam Depot.

There is probably a better layout, but by careful design and the opening up of Southampton Terminus, Southampton would be given extra capacity.

A Cross-City Tram

Every time, I’ve gone to Soiuthampton, I’ve always seemed to walk halfway across the City.

Looking at the map, there must be scope for a tram route.

This article in the Romsey Advertiser is entitled Plans for multi-million pound tram project in Romsey are being investigated.

This is said about the route.

Phase one of the “Solent Metro” network would see trams run from Eastleigh past the airport, down to a new station at Southampton St Mary’s, on to an interchange at Royal Pier, then back up to Westquay and Southampton Central railway station.

The plan also envisages the network – which could be trams or a light railway – being extended west to Romsey and from there back to Eastleigh, and eastwards to Segensworth.

Southampton certainly needs something that connects the Waterfront to the West Quay Shopping Centre and Central station, hopefully with a good connection to St. Mary’s Stadium.


My preference would be for a tram-train system, where tram-trains started at places like Bournemouth, Eastleigh, Fareham, Fawley, Lymington, Portsmouth and Romsey as trains and then went walkabout as trams in the City Centre.

At the East, the tram trains would change mode in the vicinity of the old Southampton Terminus station and proceed to St. Mary’s and St. Denys stations as third-rail electrified trains

This Google Map shows the old Southampton Terminus station, which is now a casino.

The rail line goes North to St. Mary’s Stadium, Northam Depot and St. Denys station. To the South it goes as far as the Waterfront, where it finishes just to the East of the Ocean Terminal.

In the West they would need to join the South Western Main Line in the area of Southampton Central station.

The Google Map shows the area.

I’m sure that a more than adequate connection could be arranged after what I have seen in places like Karlsruhe.

There would of course be only one way for the the tram-trains to cross between Southampton Terminal and Southampton Central stations and that would be on battery power. I’m certain if Birmingham  do it across a City with much more of a gradient, as they intend, then Southampton could do it across the Waterfront.

Serving The Cruise Ships

The plan from the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership detailed in the Romsey Advertiser mentions running the trams or light rail service to the Royal Pier, where they would reverse.

This Google Map shows the Ocean Terminal, with a handy cruise ship alongside.

Note how the rail line that runs down behind St. Mary’s stadium continues to the dockside, just to the East of the Ocean Terminal.

If tram-trains were working the routes around Southampton, they could all terminate by the Ocean Terminal and thus give cruise passengers access to tourist attractions like Bournemouth, The New Forest and Portsmouth, in addition to the whole of Southampton City Centre.

I’m sure those clever engineers from Stadler can come up with a third-rail version of a Class 399 tram-train, that had enough battery power to traverse across Southampton. Especially, if a charge station like a Railbaar was installed at the Ocean Terminal to charge waiting tram-trains.


The possibilities at Southampton to improve public transport in the City are endless.









April 12, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

Railbaar In Rail Engineer

In January 2016, I wrote How To Charge A Battery Train, in which I described a Swiss idea called Railbaar.

This article in Rail Engineer is entitled RailBaar – Rapid Charge Station and it describes the technology in detail.

The article gives the impression, that respected Swiss company; Furrer+Frey, have a product that is ready to be rolled out.

This is said.

Furrer+Frey feels that the system could be a game changer, dramatically reducing the cost of electrification, and thus the feasibility of new electrification projects.

Read the article and see if like me, you agree with Furrer+Frey, like I do.

The Felixstowe Branch Line

I will use the twelve mile long Felixstowe Branch Line as an example, because I know the branch line well and spent some miserable days trapped in the town as a teenager because of the inadequate rail service to Ipswich.

The train service is better now, but it would be better if every thirty minutes one of Greater Anglia’s new Aventras was to shuttle along the branch.

But the line is not electrified and there is very little change it will happen.

Bombardier showed with their Class 379 BEMU trials in January 2015, that a four-car and probably a five-car version of the Avenytra could be fitted with a battery that would take the train reliably between Ipswich and Felixstowe.

But the problem with say electrifying a platform at Ipswich station and charging the train there, is that the battery needs to be sized to do two trips along the branch line.

By using a charging station like Railbaar at both ends of the line, the train would always leave the station with a full charge.

Currently, trains between Felixstowe and Ipswich take 26 minutes, so if the battery could be charged in four minutes, then a train could do a return trip in an hour.

This would mean that two trains would be needed to provide a two trains per hour service.

Sudbury And Colchester Town

Greater Anglia have indicated that they might  replace the shuttle between Sudbury and Marks Tey stations, with a direct service between Sudbury and Colchester Town stations.

They could run this service with bi-mode Stadler Flirts.

On the other hand,  the Gainsborough Line between Marks Tey and Sudbury is only eleven miles long, which is well within the range of a train running on stored energy.

It currently takes nineteen minutes for a train to go between Marks Tey and Sudbury, so a battery train would have twenty-two minutes in every hour for charging.

Operation could be as follows.

  • 10:00 Leave Colchester Town running on current electrification.
  • 10:08 Call Colchester station.
  • 10:16 Arrive Marks Tey station with a full battery, after charging it on the main line.
  • 10:35 Arrive Sudbury station after running from Marks Tey on battery power.
  • 10:40 Leave Sudbury station after charging the batteries using a Railbaar.
  • 11:59 Arrive Marks Tey station after running from Sudbury on battery power.
  • 11:02 Leave Marks Tey station, raise the pantograph and travel to Colchester.
  • 11:10 Call Colchester station.
  • 11:18 Arrive back at Colchester Town station.


  • The trains pass each other on the main line.
  • I have used the times for the current trains.
  • Only one Railbaar would be needed at Sudbury.

,Perhaps Aventras and with a faster charge at Sudbury could save a few minutes.

Aventras And Railbaar

The Aventra has a slightly unusual and innovative electrical layout.

This article in Global Rail News from 2011, which is entitled Bombardier’s AVENTRA – A new era in train performance, gives some details of the Aventra’s electrical systems. This is said.

AVENTRA can run on both 25kV AC and 750V DC power – the high-efficiency transformers being another area where a heavier component was chosen because, in the long term, it’s cheaper to run. Pairs of cars will run off a common power bus with a converter on one car powering both. The other car can be fitted with power storage devices such as super-capacitors or Lithium-Iron batteries if required.

This was published six years ago, so I suspect Bombardier have improved the concept.

So in a battery version of the Aventra would this mean that the pantograph is on the car with the high-efficiency transformer and the battery is in the second car?

So if the train is going to work with Railbaars, then the contact points on the roof of the train for the Railbaar would be on the car with the batteries.

All of the 25 KVAC and its handling is in one car and all the batteries and their charging is in another, with the only connection being the common power bus connecting everything on the train.

I suspect that with careful positioning of the Railbaar at each end of the route and an aid for the driver so that the train is positioned accurately and it would create a reliable charging system.

Obviously, there is nothing to stop, the trains charging their batteries, when they are using overhead wires or third rails.


So what do we know about using batteries on trains to work routes?


  • Bombardier showed in their trial, that a battery train can run the eleven miles of the Mayflower Line, starting with a full battery.
  • Batteries are getting more powerful and more affordable every year.
  • The Bombardier Aventra would be ideal for a Railbaar-type charging system.
  • Battery trains can charge their batteries running on electrified lines.
  • The bus version of Railbaar is in use charging electric Volvo buses at a rate of 360 kW. See the Opbrid web site.
  • The physics of steel wheel on steel rail is efficient, as George Stephenson knew.

Put this all together and I think that by the end of 2018, we’ll be seeing Aventra trains, running services on a twenty mile branch line without electrificaton.



April 11, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Reopening The Fawley Branch Line

The Fawley Branch Line is a freight-only branch line alongside Southampton Water in Hampshire.

Under Future in the Wikipedia entry for the Line, this is said.

On 16 June 2009 the Association of Train Operating Companies announced it was looking into the reopening of the railway as far as Hythe, with a possibility of a further extension to Fawley if agreement could be reached with Esso, which owns the land where Fawley railway station once stood.

A lot more detail is also given, which has these major points.

  • Reopening of all former stations along the line.
  • A new station in Totton called Totton West, sited just west of the junction with the main line.
  • A new train service from Fawley or Hythe to Totton and on via Southampton Central, Southampton Airport Parkway, Eastleigh, Chandlers Ford and Romsey before returning to Southampton Central, Totton and Fawley or Hythe, also serving other intermediate stations.
  • Hourly train service.
  • Possible future electrification

The section to be reopened would be about seven miles in length.

This Google Map shows the area of the branch line.

Fawley Branch Line

Fawley Branch Line

It starts at Totton and there used to be stations at Marchwood, Hythe, Hsardley and Fawley.

Rolling Stock

The current proposals talk about using diesel trains, which would probably be Class 158 or Class 159 trains.

Given that Totton station is on the electrified South Western Main Line, other trains that can work on partly electrified lines may be able to work services on the Fawley Branch Line.

Class 319 Flex train could use electric power on the main line and diesel power on the branch.

Battery trains like an Aventra with onboard energy storage, could use electric power on the main line, where they would also charge the batteries. Batteries would then be used on the branch, with a possible top-up charge from something like a Railbaar at Hythe station.

A Trip To Hythe

To look at the Fawley Branch Line, whilst I was in Southampton, I took a trip on the ferry to Hythe and had a look round.

The Fawley Branch Line passes through Hythe about two hundred metres from the water.

This Google Map shows Hythe.

The railway can be picked out as the green scar going across the bottom of the map.

I’m not sure, where the new Hythe station would go.

The Design Of The Line

This picture shows where the Fawley Branch Line joins the main line.

It all looks pretty tidy and in good condition, so making the connection to the main line wouldn’t be too difficult.

The quoted route from Fawley or Hythe via Totton, Southampton Central, Southampton Airport Parkway, Eastleigh, Chandlers Ford to Romsey is only electrified between Totton and Eastleigh, as the Fawley Branch Line and the Eastleigh to Romsey Line are not electrified.

But it is an interesting route, as one of its effects will be to double the frequency of services between Eastleigh and Romsey, where it is probably needed to serve new housing.

I reckon that it would take about forty-five minutes to go from Fawley to Romsey or vice-versa.

It would also be a route for using some form of train with new technology.

  • A bi-mode train able to use third-rail electrification would be a possibility.
  • A Class 319 Flex train would manage the route with ease.
  • Perhaps, a battery train based on a third-rail multiple unit could make the route.

The battery train could be very suitable for the route, as an hourly service would need two trains, which would have around fifteen minutes to charge their batteries at either end of the route.

Current Status

Currently, the project is on hold, but given the location, where some very nice waterfront housing might be built, circumstances could change.



February 17, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Is The Levenmouth Rail Link Going To Be Scotland’s Next New Railway?

I ask this question as this article in Global Rail News was asking the same question, with a title of Levenmouth – Scotland’s next railway?.

According to the article, the figures look good, for the reopening of the Levenouth Rail Link,  with a Benefit Cost Ration of 1.3, which compares well with the figure of 0.96 for the successful Borders Railway.

This is also said in the Wikipedia entry for the Fife Circle Line under Future Services.

A Leven rail link would provide better services to support major industrial sites at Fife Energy Park, Methil Docks, the Low Carbon Park (under construction), Diageo, the businesses along the Leven Valley (including Donaldsons) and major retailers in Leven located close to the line (Sainsbury, B&Q, Argos, etc.). Levenmouth is an area of high deprivation and Fife Council estimates that an hourly train link (using the Fife Circle services)to Edinburgh would increase job vacancies by 500% since commuting for work would become possible.

There is one big difference between the Borders Railway and the Levenmouth Rail Link.

On a journey to Scotland’s capital from Leven, the travellers have to cross the large water.barrier of the Firth of Forth.

Is The Firth Of Forth A Psychological Barrier?

Does the Forth act as both a psychological batter, as well as a physical barrier to travel?

I don’t know for sure, but I hear the same sort of comments from my friends in Edinburgh about Fife, as North Londoners make about South London and probably South Londoners make about the North.

The much larger Thameslink project may get all the publicity and criticism, but London’s most modern cross-river link just keeps on giving.

The East London Line  And The Levenmouth Rail Link

You might argue, what has the East London Line  got to do with the Levenmouth Rail Link?

I believe that because of the geography of the two areas, with a major waterway between two centres of population, that the massive underestimation of passenger numbers, that occurred in East London could also happen across the Forth.

Luckily, that just as Marc Brunel provided a high-quality crossing under the Thames, the Victorians did this for the Firth of Forth.

Although, it could be argued that the Scottish crossing is more iconic and you get a better view.

As an aside, if the Forth Bridge, which opened in 1890 is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, surely Marc Brunel’s much older Thames Tunnel, should be similarly acknowledged.

Local Rail Services Across The Firth Of Forth

At present the local services across the bridge are four trains per hour on the Fife Circle Line.

That is not a high capacity service, given the line is not electrified.

If the Levenmouth Rail Link were to be rebuilt, it would connect to the Fife Circle  and surely, it would mean that more trains could be timetabled to and from Edinburgh, via the new station at Edinburgh Gateway, which gives access to Edinburgh’s trams, the Airport and services to Glasgow and the West of Scotland.

Would those along the Levenmouth Rail Link respond to a new railway, as those who live in Hackney did to the East London Line?

I would be very surprised if they didn’t!

Rebuilding The Levenmouth Rail Link

The Levenmouth Rail Link is a classic branch line, with not much complication. Published plans show the following.

This Google Map shows the junction with the main line.


Glenrothes with Thornton station is in the South-West corner of the map on the Fife Circle Line.

  • Trains go West from the station to Edinburgh on the Fife Circle Line via Cowdenbeath and Dunfermline.
  • There is a triangular junction to the East of the station.
  • Trains go South from this junction to Edinburgh via Kirkcaldy.
  • Trains go North from this junction to Perth, Dundee and Aberdeen.

To the North of this junction, the line splits, with trains for Leven, branching off to the East.

This map from Wikipedia shows the stations on the Fife Circle Line

Note that the junction where the Fife Circle Line splits South of Markinch station, is the one shown in the Google Map.


The Fife Circle and the Edinburgh to Aberdeen Line are not electrified and there are no scheduled plans to do so, other than the aspiration of having more lines with electric services.

But various factors will effect the types of trains between Edinburgh and Perth, Dundee and Aberdeen.

  • Distances are not hundreds of miles.
  • Virgin’s electro-diesel Class 800 trains will be working between Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
  • Could Hitachi build electro-diesel versions of their Class 385 trains, as they share design features with the Class 800 trains?
  • Will Hitachi add energy storage to Class 385 trains?
  • Abellio are rumoured to be introducing trains with energy storage in East Anglia. Would this expertise be used by Abellio ScotRail?

I think we could see a cost-effective strategy implemented, that included electric trains, but a limited amount of overhead wiring.

  • Edinburgh to Dalmeny – Electrified
  • The Forth Bridge could be left without wires, if it were thought too sensitive for the Heritage Taliban.
  • North Queensferry to Perth – Electrified
  • Ladybank to Dundee – Not electrified
  • Fife Circle via Cowdenbeath and Dunfermline – Electrified
  • Levenmouth Rail Link – Not electrified


  1. As Stirling and/or Dunblane will be electrified, will Stirling to Perth be electrified?
  2. Between Dalmeny and North Queensferry, diesel or battery power would be used on local services.
  3. I have flown my virtual helicopter round the Fife Circle and it doesn’t look that electrification would be a nightmare.
  4. The Levenmouth Rail Link could be run by battery trains, with a charging station, like a Railbaar, at Leven station.

Appropriate trains would provide all services.


Obviously, what services are introduced depends on passenger traffic.

But after a quick look at the lines, I suspect that the Levenmouth Rail Link fits well with current services on the Fife Circle.

Bear in mind too, that reopening the St. Andrews Rail Link , could be a possibility.


The railways North from the Forth Bridge in the East and Stirling and Dunblane in the West to Perth and Dundee could be much improved. I would do the following.

  • Some short lengths of electrification.
  • Bi-mode or battery versions of Class 385 trains.

All trains going over the Forth Bridge, should have large windows. The Bridge Visitor Centre must also have easy access with perhaps a free shuttle bus from Dalmeny station.

One of Scotland’s major assets, must be made to work for its living.



November 18, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment