The Anonymous Widower

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

Economics Of Very Light Rail Between Cromer And Sheringham

In Very Light Rail Research On Track, I reviewed an article of the same name on Railway Gazzette International.

The article ,mentioned that the route between Cromer and Sheringham stations could be run by very light rail vehicles.

Very Light Rail Vehicles

Very Light Rail vehicles are defined as weighing less than a tonne per linear metre.

  • Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) found the most efficient propulsion system, was diesel-electric hybrid with battery storage. Was it nicked from an LEVC taxi?
  • An eighteen metre long vehicle will hold 56 seating and 60 standing passengers.
  • Will turn round times at the end of a shuttle route be reduced to perhaps two minutes as the driver only has to walk eighteen metres?
  • The article doesn’t give any speed estimates for very light rail vehicles. But I suspect 50-60 mph would be possible, as this is the operating speed of a Class 399 tram-train and very much the speed of typical single-decker buses.

If seated passengers weigh 90 kilograms with baggage, bikes and buggies and standing passengers perhaps 75 kilograms, this gives a vehicle weight of around 27.5 tonnes.

I estimate that a three-car Class 755 train, with the same passenger load would weigh around 108 tonnes or about 98 tonnes empty, which is about a tonne and a half per linear metre. A single-car Class 153 train is about 1.8 tonnes per linear metre.

Very light rail vehicles appear to be considerably lighter.

Cromer And Sheringham Line

This section of the Bittern Line can be considered a branch of the main section of the line, which links Norwich and Cromer stations.

  • It is single-track.
  • There is a simple cross-over outside Cromer station
  • It is just over 3.5 miles long.
  • Sheringham station is a single platform, that has recently been extended to take four-car Class 755 trains.
  • The only intermediate station is West Runton, which is a single platform.
  • Cromer station has two platforms.
  • Trains take eight minutes to go between Sheringham and Cromer stations.
  • The average speed of the train between Sheringham and Cromer is just 26 mph.
  • The maximum speed of the route is given in Wikipedia as 75 mph. As it is fairly straight it could probably be improved.

As four trains per hour (tph) between Cromer and Sheringham would take a total of 64 minutes, it would seem to be impossible to run such a schedule with current trains, given that the driver would have to change ends eight times in an hour.

Cromer Station

This Google Map shows the two-platform Cromer station.

Note the Northern platform, which is directly connected to the route to Sheringham.

A Split Service

Operation of a split service could be as follows.

  • A shuttle using the Northern platform 2 to Sheringham via West Runton.
  • A service to Norwich using the Southern platform 1.

I suspect to save signalling costs, that the Sheringham service could be run for most of the time under the principle of one-train on the line.

Could Four tph Run Between Cromer And Sheringham?

I suspect that a driver in running shoes could squeeze four tph out of a three-car Class 755 train.

Consider.

  • Three-car trains would save 160 metres of walking over four-car trains.
  • The Class 755 trains are designed for quick stops and have fast acceleration.
  • Versions of the trains are to be fitted with batteries.
  • Two crew working together with some automation might mean that the driver doesn’t have to change ends.
  • Three tph would be easier, as it would give more time for the driver to change ends.
  • Automation with the crew having an override could surely be used.

I don’t believe it would be impossible for a system of operation for this shuttle to be run using a Class 755 train.

Certainly, three tph is easier, but four tph is much more passenger friendly.

Could Two tph Run Between Cromer And Norwich?

Currently, trains take fifty-seven minutes between Norwich and Sheringham, which means that two tph would be very complicated, but not impossible.

Running the Cromer and Sheringham section independently, would mean that the time between Cromer and Norwich could be as low as forty-six minutes.

For a start, this means that a single train could work an hourly service between Cromer and Norwich.

It probable means that two trains could run a two tph service, provided that they could pass at a suitable place, where there are two tracks, as at North Walsham or to the South of Hoverton & Wroxham station.

Possible Service Patterns

I think the ideal service pattern would be something like this.

  • Two tph between Cromer and Norwich.
  • Three or four tph between Cromer and Sheringhan.

Currently, there is an hourly service along the whole route, which needs two trains to operate.

Two tph to and from Norwich and a shuttle would only need one extra train.

Savings With Very Light Rail

There are various ways cost savings can be made.

Cost Of The Vehicle

Leasing a single very light rail vehicle will be much less than leasing even an ancient one-car Class 153 train.

Obviously, for a reliable service, a spare will be needed, if a company had several routes that could be developed using very light rail, then the spare could be shared.

It looks like Greater Anglia are also thinking about other routes, so this may be an economic proposition.

One Train On Line Operation

Cromer and Sheringham could be run with a single train shuttling between the two stations and the points set, so that no other train could use the track.

This must surely reduce signalling costs.

Track Access Charges

Lighter trains have lower track access charges.

This could be a substantial saving, especially if there were four tph in both directions.

Cost Of New Infrastructure

Some routes that will be proposed for very light rail operation will need bridges and embankments to be built.

If the maximum weight of the vehicle is lower, this must surely reduce costs, as lighter structures could be used.

Fast Turnround Times

One of the limiting factors in providing frequent services over a short branch line is the time it takes to turn the train at each end of the route.

But in a very light rail vehicle, which is only eighteen metres long, the driver can probably change cabs in under two minutes, which is of the order of the time it takes to load and unload the train with passengers.

The only high frequency shuttle service over a short route in the UK is the one between Stourbridge Junction and Stourbridge Town stations.

  • The route is just 0.8 of a mile long.
  • It is served by Class 139 trains, which are just 8.7 metres long and can carry 20–25 seated, 30–35 standing passengers.
  • Trains run every ten minutes
  • The turnround time appears to be about two minutes

It is reputed to be the shortest operational branch line in Europe.

I can’t see why, that in a well-designed very light rail vehicle that is only twice the length of a Class 139 train, that the turnround time could not be the same time of two minutes.

It probably can’t be any shorter, in case several people turn up in wheel-chairs at the same time.

If we look at the Cromer and Sheringham route, I can see the following timing being possible for a well-designed shuttle train on the route.

  • Cromer to West Runton – two minutes
  • Stop at West Runton – one minute
  • West Runton to Sheringham – two minutes
  • Turnround at Sheringham – two minutes
  • Sherington to West Runton – two minutes
  • Stop at West Runton – one minute
  • West Runton to Cromer – – two minutes
  • Turnround at Cromer – two minutes

Note.

  1. The round trip would take fourteen minutes.
  2. I have assumed that the train is running at around 50-60 mph.
  3. The West Runton stop could be by request.
  4. There is only one train on the route at all times.

The round trip could be scheduled at four tph.

It must surely be an affordable way to provide a service.

I would also do the following.

  • As at Stourbridge have a second train on standby, to guarantee a reliable service, rescue a failed train and perhaps double the capacity at busy times.
  • Services between Cromer and Sheringham would be free.
  • Cromer, West Runton and Sheringham would be part of a group called Cromer stations, like Birmingham stations and Manchester station. So to book to any of the stations, you’d buy a ticket to Cromer stations.

If the latter ideas didn’t attract passengers then nothing would.

Greater Anglia would get their revenue on the onward services from Cromer.

Could The Cromer And Sheringham Shuttle Be Extended To Holt?

If the train crosses the level crossing at Sheringham station, the track extends all the way to Holt on the North Norfolk Railway.

This Google Map shows the two stations at Sheringham on either side of the level crossing.

The National Rail station is on the East side, with the heritage railway on the West.

Some heritage railways are certified to be able to run scheduled services to and from the main rail network.

This may even be possible here, to allow a service between Cromer and Holt.

Although the North Norfolk Railway seem to run a frequent timetable, I’m sure if there was the necessary coming together, that a service that was beneficial to all parties could be arranged.

Conclusion

Very light rail could be very exciting!

February 2, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Very Light Rail Research On Track

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Railway Gazette International.

It details the progress on very light rail, which is defined as a vehicle with a weight of less than one tonne per linear metre.

It is a thorough article and very much a must-read.

It also details thirty-five rail routes in the UK and several cities, where the technology could be employed.

Some of the routes mentioned include, ones that I’ve covered on this blog, including.

  • Cromer – Sheringham – Part of Greater Anglia
  • Saxmundham – Aldeburgh – Part of Greater Anglia
  • Coventry – Nuneaton – Part of West Midlands
  • Liskeard – Looe – Part of Great Western
  • Plymouth – Tavistock – Part of Great Western
  • St Erth – St Ives – Part of Great Western
  • Henley-on-Thames – Twyford – Part of Great Western
  • Maidenhead – Marlow – Part of Great Western
  • Slough – Windsor & Eton Central – Part of Great Western
  • Truro – Falmouth- Part of Great Western
  • Watford – St Albans Abbey – Part of London Midland
  • Ashington – Blyth
  • Fleetwood – Poulton-le-Fylde

Note.

  1. On reading the full list, I wondered why Greenfood – West Ealing and Southall – Brentford weren’t included, but it’s probably because freight uses the lines.
  2. I particularly like the inclusion of Saxmundham – Aldeburgh and Watford Junction – St. Albans Abbey.

You can understand why the rail leasing company; Eversholt, has got involved, as they must see quite a few possible sales.

There is more information on the concept call Revolution on this page on the Transport Design International web site.

Some points that can be gleaned from this page.

  • One picture shows a coupler on the front of the vehicle. So can they work in multiple?
  • Vehicles will have low axle weights (around 4 tonnes),
  • Self-powered vehicles, with energy recovery and storage systems as standard,
  • Reduced infrastructure costs for installation, operation and maintenance.

The consortium is also aiming for a sub million pound price tag.

Conclusion

It is a bold plan, which is backed by some large companies and organisations with deep pockets.

 

 

 

January 31, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Eversholt Joins Very Light Rail Consortium

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

One of my previous clients; Cummins are involved. I used to provide analysis software for their factory in Darlington.

  • That factory, used to specialise in providing custom-built engines for smaller applications. So if say you wanted a diesel engine for a customised application, Cummins were the first place to go.
  • The factory was also geared up to making small numbers of these engines.
  • The company was very keen on getting quality right, which had actually led to my involvement.

I doubt Cummins would get involved in a project, that didn’t have a good chance of success.

I think the addition of Eversholt to the consortium could be beneficial.

Their traditional market is being eroded by new players looking for safe long-term investments funding some of the new trains.

But they have expertise in funding rail systems and Revelution VLR’s concept of very light rail running on a lightweight slab track could be something that they could fund, especially as a very light rail solution, must be cheaper than a traditional solution.

I shall be watching this consortium.

May 11, 2018 Posted by | Finance, Transport | , | 1 Comment