The Anonymous Widower

Thurso Company Powers Up UK’s First Green Train

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on the John O’Groat Journal.

Lithium-ion batteries for a hydrogen-powered Class 799 train are not the sort of product, you’d expect to be sourced from the Far North of Scotland.

June 29, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Speculation Increases Over Use Of HSTs

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

This is the second paragraph.

GWR and ScotRail are both introducing modified four and five-coach HSTs on various duties, with GWR’s operating regional services and ScotRail’s Inter7City sets to be used on its core inter-city routes.

I’ve yet to take a ride in either of the GWR oe Scotrail version of the trains and I shall be looking forward to riding both, later in the year.

I’ve only seem one close-up once at Dundee.

But they seem to be very slow in coming in to service.

Abellio Scotrail’s Proposed Fleet

Abellio Scotrail seem to have 54 Class 43 locomotives and 121 Mark 3 coaches, which according to Wikipedia, will be formed into 26 sets: 17 five-car and 9 four-car trains.

Routes include connecting Scotland’s seven cities.

GWR’s Proposed Fleet

Great Western Railway seem to have retained 24 Class 43 locomotives and 48 Mark 3 coaches, which will be formed into 11 four-car trains.

Routes include between Cardiff and Penzance.

Will These Short HSTs Be Successful?

A number of factors will come into play.

  • The trains are liked by passengers and drivers.
  • They are an ideal size for a lot of routes.
  • They have an excellent ride.
  • They have a lot of capacity for oversized baggage, like bicycles, surf boards, sporting equipment and even some urgent or perishable freight.

Only time will tell, but it is my view, they have a good chance of being a success.

Do Short HSTs Have Any Problems?

The two big problems are their age and that they are diesel-powered I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of the new franchises in the next few years, deciding to go all electric, with only a small number of diesel or hybrid trains.

Would Short HSTs be able to get an exception on heritage grounds?

The technology now is at a level, that by 2030, the UK railways could be diesel-free, with all trains electric, battery or zero-carbon hybrid.

Are There Any Other Routes Where Short HSTs Could Be Used?

I will break them down by franchis, in this incomplete list.

East Midlands Railway – Norwich And Derby

This new route for East Midlands Railway will be created by splitting the current service between Norwich and Liverpool Lime Street stations.

  • The route is 152 miles long.
  • I estimate that current trains will take three hours.
  • The service needs four-car trains at certain times.

Would it be possible for Short HSTs to do a Norwich and Derby round trip in six hours?

GWR – Cardiff And Portsmouth

If the Castles can work Cardiff and Penzance, could they work Cardiff and Portsmouth?

Scotrail – Far North Line

What has surprised me is that Abellio Scotrail are not going to use their Inter7City trains between Inverness and Wick stations on the Far North Line.

  • The distance is 174 miles
  • The current trip takes four and a quarter hours
  • The round trip is nine hours.

So could a short HST do the round trip in eight hours?

A single train could then run to the following schedule.

  • Leave Inverness at 0600.
  • Return from Wick at 1000.
  • Leave Inverness at 1400
  • Return from Wick at 1800

The train would arrive back in Inverness at 2200.

In Is This The Most Unusual Idea For A New Railway Service in The UK?, I wrote about a proposal to introduce Class 230 trains between Wick and Thurso at the far north of Scotland.

This Far North Metro, would sit well with a two train per day service to Inverness.

  • Mark 3 carriages have large windows for sightseeing.
  • A buffet and small bar could be provided.
  • The trains have space for parcels, urgent and perishable freight.
  • The service could link with the ferries to the Orkneys.

A subsidiary objective would be to bring some prosperity to a remote region.

Scotrail – Kyle Of Lochalsh Line

If Short HSTs can work their magic on the Far North Line, I just wonder if they could provide services on the Kyle Of Lochalsh Line.

  • The distance is 83 miles
  • The current trip takes two hours and forty minutes.

So could a short HST do the round trip in six hours?

As with the Far North Line, there would be a much improved service for both those that live along the line and the many visitors.

Transport for Wales – Cardiff And Holyhead

Transport for Wales run a two-hourly service between Cardiff and Holyhead stations. The rolling stock for some services will be a rake of four Mark 4 carriages, a Class 67 locomotive and a driving van trailer.

Isn’t this in effect a train with a similar purpose to a Short HST?

Obviously, Transport for Wales have got good reasons for not running Short HSTs on this route, but the choice of rolling stock does show similar thinking that led to the creation of the Short HST.

Transport for Wales – Heart Of Wales Line

The Heart Of Wales Line runs between Llanelli in West Wales and Craven Arms in England.

  • It is around 150 miles long.
  • Trains take a few minutes over four hours between Swansea and Shrewsbury stations.

It is one of those rail lines, that could be a serious tourism asset.

Would Short HSTs add to the experience?

Transport for Wales -North Wales Main Line

The North Wales Main Line is another line, where iconic Short HSTs might attract passengers.

Conclusion On Routes

There are certainly several places where Short HSTs could be gainfully employed.

Could Any Other Trains Be Used?

The specification could be something like this.

  • Four or five carriages.
  • Diesel, diesel bi-mode or hydrogen bi-mode.
  • Quality interior
  • 100, 110 or 125 mph top-speed.

Trains could be either new build or a rebuilt and/or refurbished older train.

Class 802 Train

Hitachi’s Class 802 train is in service.

  • It meets the specification.
  • It can seat somewhere between 326-342 passengers.
  • It can use electrification if it exists.

It would do a good job.

Class 755 Train

Stadler’s Class 755 train will soon be in service.

  • It meets the specification.
  • It is only a 100 mph train, but I suspect it can be uprated to 125 mph, as the electric version can handle this speed.
  • A four-car train  can seat 227 passengers.
  • It can use electrification if it exists.

It should do a good job.

Could HSTs Have Any Parcel Or Freight Applications?

This is always being suggested, but anything concerning freight or parcels must have the following characteristics.

  • They must be reliable.
  • They must be able to stick to a timetable.
  • They must have a hard-wearing interior, as they will have a hard life.
  • The small single doors would need to be replaced.
  • They must be able to accept standard freight pallets.
  • They must be quick and easy to load.

My biggest worry would be over the last two points. Would the trains just need three much modification to make them suitable for freight and parcels.

Could HSTs Have Heritage Applications?

Already a rake of Mark 3 coaches is going to be used with the  60163 steam locomotive.

But could HSTs in their own right find use in the heritage sector?

I think, that there could be space in the market for a few HSTs, which may have the sort of appeal to the younger generation, that steam trains had to my generation.

After all, I’ve had some of the best meals in my life in an HST.

Conclusion

They may be applications, but each will only use small numbers of trains.

So I’m afraid that some of these trains will go to scrap.

But then no-one can say, that they haven’t done well!

 

 

 

June 16, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Promoting The Highland Main Line

On Wednesday, the Highland Main Line Community Rail Partnership were in Kings Cross station promoting the Highland Main Line as a tourism destination.

I very much agree with the Partnership’s objective of encouraging more visitorsto the Scottish Highlands.

The Highland Main Line Community Rail Partnership Web Site

The Partnership were giving out an excellent brochure brochure which documents the wide range of attractions along the line between Perth and Inverness.

The Highland Main Line Community Rail Partnership web site has an on-line copy of the brochure.

The web site is also a valuable resource about the line and the area.

An Improving Domestic Rail Service

There is an approximately two-hourly service between Perth and Inverness and it is planned that this will be improved in the next couple of years.

  • Reducing journey times is an objective.
  • An hourly service is also an objective.
  • Inter7City trains, which are shortened, refurbished and modernised InterCity 125 trains will be introduced.

This service will enable visitors to base themselves close to one of the stations along the line and use the trains to visit other places.

Azumas To Inverness

LNER currently run InterCity 125 trains between London and Inverness

  • There is a single service each day in both directions.
  • The Northbound train leaves London at midday.
  • The Southbound train leaves Inverness just before eight in the morning.
  • The journey currently takes around eight hours.
  • The trains stop at all stations between Perth and Inverness.

The service needs two trains to run one train per day in both directions.

LNER have just launched the new Class 800 trains, which they are marketing as Azumas.

My observations show that Azumas could save between thirty and sixty minutes on the trip.

The following improvements will all help.

  • Improvements to the Highland Main Line.
  • Steo-free access between train and platform at all stations.
  • Faster acceleration and deceleration at all stops.
  • Electrification to Stirling and possibly as far as Perth.
  • As digital signalling is introduced South of Edinburgh, speeds of up to 140 mph could be possible.

Many of these improvements are currently planned and most will be completed by 2024.

This video was one I made travelling in the cab of an InterCity 125.

Will LNER invite to take one from an Azuma?

The Possibility Of Extra Services

The journey time between London and Inverness will surely get shorter in the next few years.

If say it was seven hours, then allowing an hour for cleaning, loading supplies and refuelling in Inverness would mean that a round trip from London would take fifteen hours.

  • A train leaving Kings Cross station at 07:00 would arrive in Inverness at 14:00.
  • The return journey would leave at 15:00 and be in London by 22:00.
  • A second service could start in Inverness and mirror the service starting in London.

The service would need two trains.

So it appears that by saving time on the journey, the possibility of extra services is opened up.

The Improved Sleeper Service

I have taken the current Caledonian Sleeper to Inverness and it is a spectacular ride through the Highlands in the early morning.

But the elderly trains are being replaced and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot more passengers decide to  use the sleeper to the Highlands.

Over the last few years, the Austrians, the Swedes and the Scots have all ordered new rolling stock for their sleeper trains and I believe that we’ll see a revival in this form of transport, throughout Europe.

A Caithness To Edinburgh Sleeper

This has been proposed and I wrote about it in Rail Sleeper Plan Between Caithness And Edinburgh.

This was my conclusion.

I feel that not next year, but once Scotland’s rail system is fully developed, with the shortened Inter-City 125s serving the longer routes and electric trains all over the Central Belt, that a Sleeper Train between Edinburgh and Thurso will be viable.

The proposed increase in capacity between London and Edinburgh, probably adds to the viability.

Sleeper One Way And Azuma The Other

I can see this becoming a popular way to visit Scotland.

  • It will be new trains both ways.
  • Both trains stop at all stations between Perth and Inverness.
  • The price of a sleeper ticket compares well with the cost of a reasonable hotel.

The combinations are many and varied.

Cycling

Cycling holidays seem to be increasing everywhere and Scotland is no exception.

On the West Highland Line between Gl;asgow and Oban, passengers with cycles are increasing in number, so Scotrail are converting redundant Class 153 trains into multi-purpose carriages to add capacity to the trains.

On the Highland Main Line, for those, who want to explore the area on their bicycles, the Inter7City trains should be able to provide enough space for bicycles in the back of the two Class 43 locomotives.

Conclusion

The more I look at the Highland Main Line, the more I think it has a rosy future.

All it needs to seal its future is a visit from Michael Portillo and his camera crew.

 

May 18, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 2 Comments

A First Ride In One Of LNER’s New Azumas

The Azuma is the name given by LNER‘s new Class 800 trains.

I rode in one today from Peterborough to Kings Cross after deliberately doing the trip the other way in an InterCity 125.

I took these pictures.

These are my thoughts.

The Brand-Name

The Azuma brand-name is one of those names, that was either thought-up for a fee of several million pounds by a specialist agency or it was thought up by a few serious real-ale drinkers in a comfortable pub, in front of a roaring fire or a blazing sun.

  • It is actually Japanese for East, so I doubt it will be controversial.
  • It is catchy and if say Simon Calder said that he liked the new Azuma, it might result in extra ticket sales.
  • It will differentiate LNER from their competitors running differently-liveried examples of the same Class 800 train.
  • Does it suggest speed in English, with the zoom in the middle?

LNER obviously like it, as Wikipedia says they retained the name, which was devised by the previous franchise holder; Virgin Trains East Coast.

Thinking through the history of the East Coast Main Line, I can only remember one class of locomotives or trains, that got a name; the Class 55 locomotive or Deltic. For those of my generation, Deltics are often iconic. In The Thunder of Three-Thousand Three-Hundred Horses, I describe a memorable trip behind a Deltic.

The Livery

The livery is distinctly cheeky, with an eye suggested around the front side-window!

The eye certainly stands out, which could be a good way to get extra seat sales.

It also appears that the livery has changed from the original Virgin East Coast design.

I like it!

The Interior

The interior is simple, practical and bright with some innovative touches.

  • I was in Standard and there were a reasonable number of good-sized tables, which is always welcome.
  • The seats seemed better than those fitted to the Class 800 trains on Great Western Railway (GWR).
  • The electronic seat registration status displays were clear and understandable.
  • I didn’t use the wi-fi or the charging points, but others were using them and one guy said they worked fine.
  • Our ticket collector had a moan and I suspect there are a few problems that will be corrected as necessary.

But then trains always get a lot better after their first major update.

Comparison With Great Western Railway’s Version

The general consensus between two other passengers and myself, was that the seats in the Azuma were more comfortable, than those of GWR’s Class 800 trains.

A Three Class Train

Like some other services in the UK, the Azuma is effectively a three-class train.

  • First Class
  • Standard Class with a table.
  • Bog Standard Class

I find it interesting that East Midlands Railway are promising that all seats will have tables, which already happens on some services on Chiltern Railways.

I wonder if LNER’s competitors; East Coast Trains, Grand Central and Hull Trains will offer more tables.

As a regular user of Chiltern Railways, I can see more tables being added to all main line services.

Performance

As the pictures show, I followed the train speed with the Speedview app on my phone.

After accelerating away from Peterborough 125 mph was held to Stevenage and then after slowing for the twin-track section over the Digswell Viaduct, the train maintained 100 mph for most opf the way until Kings Cross.

I think we will see improved performance onf the East Coast Main Line, with speeds increasing and journey times decreasing.

  • There are plans to add extra tracks between Huntingdon and Peterborough.
  • The flyunder at Werrington will be completed.
  • There are plans for improvements to the North at Newark, Doncaster and York.
  • Digital signalling will allow 140 mph running of Azumas and other Class 800 trains.
  • It has been suggested that capacity on the route would improve with 125 mph trains running to Kings Lynn.

If all operators were running Class 800 trains, this would surely increase capacity.

Splitting And Joining

This document on the Hitachi web site is entitled Development of Class 800/801 High-Speed Rolling Stock For UK Intercity Express Programme.

This is a sentence from the document.

It also incorporates an automatic coupling system that shortens the time taken to couple or uncouple trains while stopped at a station.

Their Kentish cousins have been at it for several years.

LNER have not disclosed how they will use splitting and joining, but there are possibilities, where two five-car trains leave London as a ten-car train and then split en route to serve two destinations.

  • London to Aberdeen and Inverness, splitting, at Edinburgh.
  • London to Harrogate or Skipton and Middlesborough, splitting at Leeds.
  • London to Lincoln and Hull, splitting at Newark.

Trains would join at the same stations, when returning South.

The splitting and joining has advantages over the current fixed-length InterCity 125 and InterCity 225.

  • A five-car Azuma, only needs a 130 metre long platform. So services to destinations like Lincoln, Middlesbrough, Scarborough and Sunderland without a long platform become possible without expensive platform extensions.
  • Train paths on the East Coast Main Line are being used more efficiently, as in some cases two destinations are served by one service into Kings Cross.

There are some disadvantages.

  • Travellers must make sure they get into the correct part of the train.
  • There is probably more staff on the train, as both five-car trains need a full crew.
  • Returning South, trains must keep to time precisely to the joining station, to avoid delaying another service.
  • All possible calling points on the East Coast Main Line, must be able to handle ten-car trains But as these are less than twenty metres longer than an InterCity 225, lengthening shouldn’t be a major exercise.

It’s probably best to consider the two five-car trains as separate services, which happened to be coupled together on the Southern section of the East Coast Main Line.

It should also be noted that several stations like Kings Cross, Doncaster, York and others have entrances in the middle of the platform, which is convenient for either the front or rear train.

Bicycles, Surf Boards And Oversized Luggage

I don’t think you get many surfboards on London to Leeds services, but a member of LNER’s staff told me, that during the recent Tour de Yorkshire, there were a lot of passengers with bicycles. This could be a problem on the Azuma,, as the nine-car train has only four spaces, with a five-car just two.

With the conversion of Scottish services to Azumas, I can see that luggage could be a problem.

I took this picture at Edinburgh, where this luggage is about to be swallowed by the locomotive of an InterCity 125.

I can see a time, when there will be a need to add another car to some nine-car trains, to make sure all the bicycles, surf boards and oversized luggage can be accommodated on the train.

  • Are LNER cutting themselves off from upmarket golf tours, where passengers travel between London and Gleneagles in First Class luxury?
  • GWR have a similar problem on South West England services and I think, it will get more serious in the next few years, as more people take up cycling and surfing.
  • It appears GWR have resorted to banning surf-boards.
  • ScotRail have opted to convert redundant single-car Class 153 trains, into multi-purpose additional carriages to enhance services on the West Highland Line.

I can also see a problem on the London to Inverness services. In Promoting The Highland Main Line, I wrote about the efforts of the Highland Main Line Community Rail Partnership to encourage more visitors to their iconic line and the surrounding area.

Many of the visitors that are attracted to the area, might come with bicycles, golf bags, climbing equipment and other oversized baggage.

So could we see an extra multi-purpose car added to some Azumas working between London and Scotland?

  • The Class 800 trains can be lengthened to as long as twelve cars.
  • Manufacturing of extra cars in the next few years, should be relatively easy.
  • Adding extra cars is a simple cut-and-paste, with the train software ascertaining the train formation.
  • Most platforms are probably long enough for at least ten-car trains.
  • A ten-car Class 800 formation is only fifteen metres longer than a nine-car InterCity 225.
  • There may be opportunities to carry high-value, urgent or perishable freight.

Obviously, the train operators’ needs to satisfy their markets and their finances will decide if extra cars are worth adding.

But I think, that we’ll see some ten-car Azumas on the London and Aerdeen, Edinburgh and Inverness routes.

Conclusion

The train appears to meet the specification, but as regards bulky luggage, it could be that the specification is lacking.

 

 

 

May 16, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hitachi Plans To Run ScotRail Class 385 EMUs Beyond The Wires

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

This is the first paragraph.

Hitachi are in discussions with the Scottish Government to run a Class 385 variant with underfloor batteries that could either be charged whilst under the wires or whilst stationary at the end of the route.

The article makes these points, about adding batteries to Class 385 trains.

  • It would be straightforward to add batteries to give a range of twenty miles on batteries.
  • Sixty miles would be possible but more difficult.
  • Experience gained with the DENCHA trains in Japan would be used.

The article concludes with this paragraph.

Hitachi’s proposal to operate battery trains in Scotland is at an early stage. However, with their use being recommended by the rail decarbonisation task force and the Scottish Government about to pass new climate change legislation, it may not be long before battery trains are operating in Scotland.

I think it should be noted that Hitachi’s order book is rather thin these days and it appears that innovative technology will sell new trains.

Alstom, Bombardier, CAF, Siemens, Stadler and Vivarail have all designed, demonstrated or sold trains, where batteries are used improve efficiency or extend range.

As Scotland has several routes, where battery trains could provide a service, perhaps Hitachi thought it was time to do some marketing, to make sure that they got any orders for battery trains.

Scotrail would probably prefer to have a battery train similar to their largest fleet of electric trains.

Electric Trains On The West Highland Line Between Glasgow And Mallaig/Oban

This might be considered as difficult as putting a London bus on the Moon.

But consider.

  • The West Highland Line is electrified as far as Helenburgh Central station.
  • Electrification to Helensburgh Upper station would probably not be a difficult project for Network Rail in Scotland.
  • Heleburgh Upper to Mallaig is just under 140 miles.
  • Hellensuburgh Upper to Oban is around 80 miles.
  • Crianlarich station, where the two routes divide is forty miles from Helesburgh Upper.
  • Fort William station is around halfway between Mallaig and Crianlarich.
  • Trains take several minutes to reverse at Fort William.

Vivarail have developed fast charging for battery trains, that I wrote about in Vivarail Unveils Fast Charging System For Class 230 Battery Trains.

If Hitachi can develop a Class 385 train with batteries, that has a range of perhaps sixty miles on a full battery, then I believe it would be possible to run an electric train service between Glasgow and Oban and Mallaig.

  • Charging stations would need to be able to fully charge the batteries in perhaps six minutes.
  • Trains would leave Hellensburgh Upper with a full battery and charging stations at Crianlarich and Fort William would top up the batteries.
  • The longest stretch is between Crianlarich and Fort William and it would probably need an additional charging station at perhaps Tulluch.

What would battery-electric trains to Oban and Mallaig do for tourism in the area?

Hitachi would have one of the most scenic and iconic test tracks in the world!

 

 

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

Boost For Borders In New Report

This report on the Scottish Government web site is entitled Borders Transport Corridors – Pre-Appraisal.

It is a comprehensive report with a helpful pag of recommendations.

Recommendations that apply to rail include.

Develop Forestry Route Network

Improve network of internal forestry tracks as well as its connections to roads and railway, including ‘low-tech’ timber
pickup facilities.

This seems sensible, as some of the forests on both sides of the Scottish order are mature and need to be cut down and replanted.

Increase Park and Ride Provision

Increase capacity of existing Park-and-Ride sites and implement new Park-and-Ride schemes for all modes at strategic locations [e.g. Interchanges and Key Employment Areas]

Every part of the UK seems to need more Park-and-Ride. The Borders is no exception.

Borders Railway Extension – South/West

Extend the Borders Railway to Hawick and/or Carlisle

Will it go all the way to Carlisle?

Consider.

  • The West Coast Main Line will need a capacity increase through Carlisle because of High Speed Two. These works could be combined with those on the Southern part of the Borders Railway.
  • Plans exist for a large freight interchange at Longtown on the former MoD site.
  • Linking the Tourist areas North and South of the Scottish Border by rail must be a good thing.
  • Extension to Carlisle would give those in the Scottish Borders access to High Speed Two at Carlisle, without a long trip via Glasgow.

For these reasons, I think that the Borders Railway will go to Carlisle.

Borders Railway Extension – South/East

Extend the Borders Railway towards East Coast Main Line (ECML) via Berwick-upon-Tweed

This surprised me, but it does complete the jigsaw.

Does it offer a freight route for moving the timber out of the area?

It woulde certainly offer a scenic route between Edinburgh and Newcastle.

New Rail Stations

New rail stations on the existing Borders Railway

This is surely building on the success of the current Borders Railway.

Extension of Borders Railway Services

Link Borders Railway and Fife Circle, providing interchange at Edinburgh Gateway; West Edinburgh; and potential future link to Glasgow.

Back-to-back services across a city are always a good idea, as they cut the need for terminal platforms

  • The Borders Railway and Fife Circle are both half-hourly services, so could be connected together, once suitable rolling stock is available.
  • This service would also connect the Borders to the Edinburgh Airport tram at Edinburgh Gateway.
  • With extra services, would the capacity of the Borders Railway will probably need to be increased?

Does the South East extension enable better services for the Borders beyond Edinburgh?

Conclusion

There are a lot of projects needing to be developed, but they will create a lot of economic activity in the Borders.

The two railway extensions to Hawick and/or Carlisle and Berwick-on-Tweed are the two most expensive projects, but both have English implications, so I don’t think Westminster will mind paying some of the cost.

March 12, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Spain Looking Both Ways On Brexit?

This article on the BBC is entitled Spain Brexit: PM Sánchez Threatens To Vote No Over Gibraltar.

The title says it all.

On the other hand, Spanish rail companies seem to be very keen to invest in the UK and also create new and innovative trains for the British market.

  • Amey, which is a subsidiary of the Spanish public company Ferrovial is heavily involved in big projects all over the UK, including the South Wales Metro.
  • The train builder; CAF, is supplying lots of trains and coaches for UK operators and building a factory at Newport in South Wales.
  • Another train builder; Talgo, is on the short list to build the trains for High Speed Two and is proposing to open a factory at Longannet in Scotland and a research centre at Chesterfield

It does appear, that big Spanish companies see the UK as a place to do business.

In connection with the Longannet factory, there is a feature article about the factory in Issue 866 of Rail Magazine.

This is the last paragraph.

As for Brexit, which is known to be a concern for other firms, Talgo said in a statement that its plans were “Brexit-free”, claiming there is a huge potential UK market as well as export opportunities.

The article also says that Talgo need more manufacturing capacity and the brownfield Longannet site, with its space and excellent access by rail and sea, fits their needs.

I also suspect that manufacturing in Scotland will help them secure sales in important English-speaking markets for their innovative high speed trains.

November 22, 2018 Posted by | Transport, World | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Spaniard In The Works!

Whilst it was pantomime season at Westminster today, with the usual fights over, who would be best at ruining this country, something more important was happening close by.

This article on Rail Magazine is entitled Talgo Names Longannet As Site Of New Train Factory.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Spanish train manufacturer Talgo plans to build trains in Longannet, in Scotland, after confirming that its preferred location for its UK factory will be at the site of the closed power station.

The company made the announcement at Westminster today (November 14), following an 18-month search for a UK site. It also confirmed that a Research and Development site would be built at Chesterfield, although it would not be drawn on the relationship between the two sites.

The article also says.

  • Up to a thousand will be employed at the Scottish site.
  • Construction starts in 2020.
  • Work on trains starts eighteen months later.
  • The factory will cost £40million.
  • The branch line to the power station could be developed and used by passenger trains.
  • The site was chosen because of good access by road, rail and sea.

The article is very much worth reading.

These are a few of my thoughts.

Did Or Does Brexit Affect The Investment?

Talgo are on the short-list for the trains for High Speed Two and have always said, that they would build the trains in the UK.

I suspect that if they were to be dropped from the short-list for High Speed Two or High Speed Two were to be cancelled, these would have a bigger effect. than Brexit.

What Are Talgo’s Strengths?

The company is strong on innovation and their trains are a bit different.

The picture of two of Talgo’s high-speed trains was taken in Seville.

I think it could be an AVE Class 102 train. They are nicknames pato in Spanish, which means duck!

I wonder why?

Talgo also makes trains, that can run on both Spanish and standard gauge, which enables trains to go direct between Madrid and Paris. The company is also targeting export orders in Russia and India.

They are very much an international company.

Why Choose Longannet?

If Talgo should get the order for the classic-compatible trains for High Speed Two, they have said the trains will be manufactured in the UK.

This article on Railway Gazette is entitled Joint Venture To Bid For HS2 Rolling Stock Contract.

This is an extract.

In November 2017 project promoter HS2 Ltd shortlisted Alstom, Bombardier Transportation UK, Hitachi Rail Europe, Patentes Talgo and Siemens for the rolling stock design, manufacturing and maintenance contract worth an estimated £2·75bn.

This would cover the supply of at least 54 trainsets with a maximum speed of 360 km/h for Phase 1 of HS2 between London and the West Midlands. The ‘classic compatible’ units would be able to run through from the new line onto existing infrastructure to serve destinations including York, Newcastle, Liverpool, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

The formal tendering process is due to start later this year, with the contract expected to be awarded in late 2019 and entry into service planned for 2026.

54 trains for a total of £2.75billion is not a small order.

And that is only this first order, as dedicated trains will be needed as well.

Talgo’s AVE Class 102 train already runs at 330 kph and trains can automatically join and split to make four hundred metre long trains, so they can probably demonstrate a train that would be suitable for High Speed Two.

Having a factory in Scotland would surely be a plus point in the bidding process.

Longannet also will have good access to the ports at Rosyth and Grangemouth, which could be a great help in importing anything from components or complete trains and perhaps exporting carriages and trains to places like Russia, which are easier by sea from Scotland, than from Spain.

Will Talgo Bid For Other Train Contracts?

Talgo have built 125 mph bi-mode trains in the past and there are other franchises that might need such a train.

  • Southeastern to add extra capacity to domestic services on High Speed One and serve Hastings.
  • Cross Country to replace their HSTs.
  • West Coast Main Line to replace Voyagers.
  • Midland Main Line to replace HSTs and Voyagers.

There could be other franchises and routes that could use their trains.

Conclusion

There’s a lot more to this announcement than meets the eye!

 

 

 

 

 

November 14, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Is This The Most Unusual Idea For A New Railway Service in The UK?

In Issue 864 of Rail Magazine there is an article about the Class 230 train demonstration in Scotland, that I wrote about in Battery Class 230 Train Demonstration At Bo’ness And Kinneil Railway.

This is a paragraph.

HITRANS Partnership Manager Frank Roach told RAIL that he was keen to interest Transport Scotland in using battery Class 230s to run shuttle services between Wick and Thurso.

I don’t live in the Far North of Scotland and I’ve never been further North on the mainland that Inverness, so I have no right to criticise the need for a new rail shuttle service between Thurso and Wick.

Consider.

  • Wick and Thurso are both towns with populations in the region of 7-8,000 people.
  • I suspect that if you live in Wick and want a new widget for your boiler, that it will be in Thurso. And of course, vice-versa!
  • Wick and Thurso get four trains per day to and from Inverness and the same number of trains each way between the two towns.
  • So it’s not very convenient if an elderly person, who can’t drive wants to go and visit their sibling or friend in the other town for the afternoon.

The two towns would appear to be twenty-nine minutes or twenty-one miles apart by rail.

The article also states that a battery-powered Class 230 train can run at up to sixty mph with acceleration similar to that of an EMU up to forty mph.

Each round trip would probably take an hour, so one train could provide an hourly service.

I would think, that using the fast charging system described in Charging A Battery-Powered Class 230 Train at Thurso and Wick stations, that a single train could shuttle all day between the two stations with an intermediate stop at Georgemas Junction station.

I suspect the Inverness and the shuttle services could interface seamlessly in something like the following way.

  • The shuttle train would arrive in Wick and connect to the charging system.
  • The Class 158 train from Inverness would arrive behind the shuttle.
  • The Class 158 train would go to Thurso and back.
  • The Class 158 train would leave for Inverness.
  • The shuttle train would resume its shuttling between Wick and Thurso.

The Class 158 would have taken over one cycle of the shuttle.

The only works needed other than the installation of the charging system, could be to lengthen the platform to accommodate the two trains.

To try to predict the number of passengers that would use this shuttle will be very difficult.

  • The train would have a high novelty value for the locals.
  • The train could run seven days a week.
  • The train could become a quirky tourist attraction.
  • Train operators might like to see it for ideas for their problem lines.
  • It might encourage a whole number of new ideas.

If say it happened at times, that the train was full, then it could probably be lengthened to by adding a trailer car.

A big beneficiary could be Vivarail.

They would have a service that was providing an hourly shuttle in a remote area, which could show off the features and benefits of the train.

  • Remote servicing.
  • No diesel fuel required.
  • Hourly running
  • Fast charging.
  • Operation in cold and inclement weather.
  • An unusual demonstration location.

There’s even the local Wick Airport to bring in interested parties.

This idea reminds me of a story I heard many years ago. GEC were attempting to sell an Air Traffic Control Radar to a Middle Eastern country.

  • The most convenient installation of this radar in the UK was at Prestwick Airport, so the GEC salesman arranged for GEC’s corporate HS 125 business jet to take the prospective purchasers.
  • It turned out to be a glorious autumn day.
  • As the Salesman returned with his guests to the plane, he was pulled aside by the pilot.
  • The pilot told him, that there was no greater sight in the world, than the Scottish Highlands on a day like this, so would he like the Arabs to be shown the views.
  • They then flew around the Highlands for thirty minutes or so before returning to London.

Was that the most unusual favour, that secured an order?

 

 

October 24, 2018 Posted by | Business, Transport | , , , , , | 6 Comments

London To Thurso Direct

According to Edition 863 of Rail Magazine, LNER are thinking of doing a demonstration run on this route to show off their new trains.

But is it such a daft idea?

In Rail Sleeper Plan Between Caithness And Edinburgh, I talked about a plan to operate a sleeper service on the route between Edinburgh and Thurso, which currently takes nine hours.

This journey time is definitely territory for those rail enthusiasts, who ride across America, Australia, Europe and Russia, but it is not for me.

But doing the route in day-long segments with a stop in a good hotel, in say Edinburgh and Inverness could open up an iconic tourism route to the Orkney Islands for an increasing number of intrepid travellers, many of whom, like me are past retirement age.

Travel on the Caledonian Sleeper to Inverness and you meet lots of foreign tourists from all over the globe.

On all days except Saturday, there are two services between Inverness and London; a day train to and from Kings Cross and a sleeper to and from Euston.

To go North on Day 1, you take eight hours on a direct train to Inverness, with after an overnight rest, you take four hours to Thurso.

Route Proving For The New Class 800 Trains

So if nothing else it is route proving for Class 800 trains on the service between Kings Cross and Inverness, which because it serves so many places on the Highland Main Line, is an important route to the area.

From the current schedule, it looks like the train will take twelve hours, so there will surely be a lot of driver training possibilities.

It surely, will be a good marketing exercise.

Highland Main Line Improvements

This archived document was produced by Transport Scotland.

This is the first paragraph.

Upgrading the Highland Main Line is one of the Scottish Government’s key priorities. The long-term goal of the project seeks to achieve a fastest journey time of 2 hours 45 minutes between Inverness and the Central Belt with an average journey time of 3 hours and an hourly service by 2025.

A time of three hours between Edinburgh and Inverness could be possible with electrification to Perth.

Far North Line Improvements

The Far North Line between Inverness and Thurso doesn’t appear to be built for speed, as it takes a train about four hours to do the journey.

  • It is 167 miles from Inverness to Thurso.
  • It is mainly single-track with passing places.
  • There are twelve services on the line most days, with fewer on Sundays.

It should also be said, that Caledonian Sleeper are thinking of running a service between Thurso and Edinburgh and/or Glasgow, as I reported in

In the Wikipedia entry for the Far North Line, there is a section called Future Expansion, where this is said.

For many years there have been proposals to bypass the Lairg loop[note  with a line across the Dornoch Firth, linking Tain (via Dornoch, more directly with Golspie. British Rail attempted to get funding for this when the road bridge was built, but the government declined.

Now this project would involve building a new bridge over the Firth, or making dual-purpose the bridge which now carries just the A9. Discussions have been held concerning the shortening of the Far North Line involving a bridge over the Dornoch Firth and the possible use of the trackbed of the former light railway. Nothing has yet come of these ideas.

If an hour could be knocked off the journey time, I suspect it would be very beneficial, to both the local population and visitors.

What Time Could Be Achieved?

I wouldn’t be surprised to see the time between London and Inverness reduced by the Class 800 trains in a couple of years, as the new trains will be able to use electricity South of Stirling and possibly Perth.

With the improvements to the Highland Main Line and better signalling on the East Coast Main Line, I could see a time between London and Inverness of under seven hours.

This would enable a civilised departure from London at say eight in the morning and still be in your castle, hotel or holiday cottage in time for dinner and a wee dram or several.

If improvements were made to the Far North Line, it might be possible to go from London to Thurso in ten hours.

Could The Class 800 Train Continue To Thurso?

A Class 800 train could continue to Thurso and LNER’s test run will probably prove whether it can or not!

It could arrive in Thurso, in time for the evening ferry to the Orkneys.

I think though, that the London service would not be extended to Thurso.

  • The train would have to be fully-replenished at Thurso for the trip South.
  • A nine-car train needed between London and Inverness would be too much capacity for the Inverness to Thurso section.
  • The current Inverness to London service starts at eight in the morning and passengers wouldn’t be happy to leave Thurso at three to go straight through to London.

But I can see the reduced journey time between London and Inverness attracting more passengers to the route.

Enter The Shortened High Speed Train

This article on Rail Magazine is entitled ScotRail HSTs Enter Traffic On October 15.

This is the second paragraph.

Branded Inter7City as they will serve Scotland’s seven cities, the refurbished HST will run initially between Aberdeen and Edinburgh. More routes will follow as more sets arrive from refurbishment.

It also says that the refurbished HSTs will offer.

  • More seats,
  • Increased luggage space.
  • At seat power sockets.
  • Hospitality.

I would also expect wi-fi, comfortable seats, tables and big windows.

With their four or five Mark 3 coaches and two Class 43 power cars each with a diesel engine of around 2,200 bhp, these trains must have superb acceleration.

I estimate that a fully loaded four-car train carrying 250 passengers, will weigh about three hundred tonnes. This gives a power to weight ratio of 11.2 kW/tonne

By comparison, the the original 2+8 sets of the InterCity 125s have a power to weight ratio of 7.3 kW/tonne.

I will also add some other power to weight ratios.

  • New Routemaster bus weighing twenty tonnes with 137 kW – 6.85 kW/tonne.
  • Hummer H2 weighing 2.9 tonnes with 293 kW – 101 kW/tonne.
  • Mini One weighing 1.2 tonnes with 75 kW – 62.5 kW/tonne

Incidentally, my Lotus Elan weighed about 1050 Kg when I was driving and had power of 121 kW. This gives a power to weight ration of 115 kW/tonne.

In Edinburgh to Inverness in the Cab of an HST, I described a memorable ride.

One thing I  noticed, was that the driver controlled the two engines with considerable precision, to make sure, the train was on time on what must be a challenging route, as it climbed, descended and twisted through the Highlands.

With the same amount of power in a train only half the length and weight, I suspect these trains could save time effortlessly, as a good driver in a sports car can on a twisting road.

Also, don’t underestimate the contribution, the replacement of the 1970s-style slam-doors with modern powered units, will contribute at every stop.

I looked at the actual times yesterday of the 12:00 between Kings Cross and Inverness and compared to my journey in the cab, there are less stops. So services are being speeded up and I suspect ScotRail’s trains stop more often.

Transport Scotland talked about a fastest time of two hour forty-five minutes between the Central Belt and Inverness.

When the route between Inverness and Perth has been fully modernised with passing loops, I have a feeling that times will be faster.

They will not only be an iconic forty-year-old train, but a tourist attraction in their own right, like Scottish mountains, tartan food and whisky.

Get Up In London And Go To Bed In The Orkneys

If LNER have an objective in testing London to Thurso with a Class 800 train,, it must be finding a civilised way, to be able to get between London and the Orkneys, by train and ship in both directions within a single day.

Consider.

  • The first train from Kings Cross to Edinburgh leaves just after 06:00.
  • There has been an aim to run services between the two capitals in under four hours for as long as I can remember.
  • Modern in-cab signalling is being rolled out on the East Coast Main Line to enable 140 mph running.
  • The last ferry to the Orkneys leaves from Scrabster near Thurso at 19:00

With the improvements to the Highland Main Line and electrification to Perth, three hours between Edinburgh and Inverness should be possible in a Class 800 train or a well-driven shortened HST.

This would give LNER options to get to Inverness at a reasonable hour of the day.

Run An Early Train From London To Inverness

This could be timed to leave London at 06:00 and it could be in Inverness at 13:00.

This would give a fast train on the Far North Line six hours, including transfer to move passengers between Inverness and Scrabster.

It looks that ScotRail have the train for the job, in the shape of the shortened HST.

They could also serve an early Scottish dinner, to prepare tourists, for what could be a breezy crossing.

Run A Pair Of Class 800 trains To Both Aberdeen And Inverness

LNER’s Class 800 trains come in two sizes; five-cars and nine-cars.

Two five-cars can run as a ten-car train, that can split and join as required, in under two minutes in a suitable station.

So could we see a pair of five-car Class 800 trains leave Kings Cross and run together to Edinburgh, where one train went to Dundee, Montrose, Stonehaven and Aberdeen and the other went to Stirling, Perth and Inverness.

Consider.

  • The first train from Kings Cross to Aberdeen leaves at 07:00 in the morning.
  • The journey takes six hours.
  • There are three trains per day between London and Aberdeen.
  • The last direct train that is not a sleeper service leaves just before 15:00.
  • As with the route to Inverness, the route to Aberdeen is not electrified.

I think this option has advantages

There would be an early morning service to Edinburgh and many of the large towns and cities in Eastern Scotland.

The service only uses one path on the East Coast Main Line between London and Edinburgh.

If traffic patterns and passenger numbers are favourable, other Aberdeen services could split and join.

Running a five-car train to Inverness earlier in the day, before the main train of the day, may be a way to provide an economic service to Thurso.

  • A five-car train would probably be more affordable to run.
  • The train would be stabled at Thurso overnight.
  • It would leave for Inverness, Edinburgh and london about 10:00.
  • At Edinburgh, it could join up with an Aberdeen train at around 16:00.

Time-tabled properly, it could result in Inverness and Aberdeen getting an extra train to and from London every day.

Change At Edinburgh

Plans by various rail companies for services include.

  • LNER will continue to run two trains per hour (tph) between Edinburgh and England.
  • LNER would like to run services between London and Edinburgh in under four hours.
  • TransPennine Express will run more services to Edinburgh.
  • ScotRail will run hourly services between the seven major cities in Scotland.
  • Edinburgh to Inverness and Inverness to Thurso should both to become three hour journeys.

Edinburgh will become a very well-connected city.

If Edinburgh to Thurso could be achieved  in six hours, then any service leaving Edinburgh after about 14:00 would catch the last ferry at Scrabster for the Orkneys.

When trains between London and Edinburgh, are regularly achieving the four-hour journey, there will be several trains, that will give a change in Edinburgh suitable for passengers individual preferences.

A single change at Edinburgh could be the preferable route for many.

Conclusion

Because LNER, ScotRail and other train companies now have a large fleet of very capable trains on order, there are several possibilities to create a world-class train service to connect Scotland fully both internally on the mainland and to important destinations in the islands and England.

The renaissance of the HST as a train to provide high-quality services has been astounding.

  • ScotRail are creating twenty-six shortened HSTs for use within Scotland.
  • GWR are creating eleven similar trains for use between Penzance and Cardiff.

I would be very surprised, if more HSTs are not refurbished to modern standards.

Germany may have the Volkwagen Beetle, but we have the High Speed Train.

Could we see them on the following routes?

  • Oxford and Cambridge
  • Waterloo and Exeter
  • North Wales Coast Line
  • Some Cross-Country services

There’s probably enough power-cars and coaches to make another fifty shortened HSTs, so if ScotRail’s trains are a success, I suspect we’ll see some imitation.

I suspect too, that just as engineers have found solutions to the problems in the coaches like the doors and the toilets, they will find a solution, that replaces the diesel engine in each power with some form of more eco-friendly hybrid power pack.

Consider.

  • MTU, which is a subsidiary of Rolls-Royce, are developing hybrid power packs for diesel multiple units.
  • There is a lot of space in the engine compartment of the power car.
  • On most routes, 90-100 mph running will be sufficient.

Hitachi converted a power-car to work in this way ten years ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 11, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment