The Anonymous Widower

Comparing Trams And Tram-Trains In Manchester And Sheffield

In Could A Class 399 Tram-Train With Batteries Go Between Manchester Victoria And Rochdale/Bury Bolton Street/Rawtenstall Stations?, I discussed how Class 399 tram-trains might be used on a route in the Manchester area.

This was my conclusion.

Could we see tram-trains running from Bury Bolton Street, Hebden Bridge, Rawtenstall and Rochdale into Manchester Victoria and then taking to the existing tram network?

If you’ve ever been to Karlsruhe, as I have to see the Class 399 tram-trains German cousins, you wouldn’t rule out anything.

That would include tram-train services to Blackburn, Buxton, Chester, Glossop, Hebden Bridge, Sheffield, Southport and Wigan.

So how do Manchester’s M4500 trams, Sheffield’s Supertrams compare to the Class 399 tram-train?

Body Construction

  • M4500 – Aluminium
  • Supertram – Steel
  • Class 399 – Lightweight Stainless Steel

Does the Class 399 use lightweight stainless steel to give enhanced crash protection and better corrosion resistance?

Sections, Doors and Length

  • M4500 – 2, 4 and 38.4 metres
  • Supertram – 3, 4 and 34.8 metres
  • Class 399 – 3, 4 and 37.2 metres

Capacity

  • M4500 – 60 or 66 seats, 149 standing, 209/215 maximum
  • Supertram – 86 seats, 155 standing, 241 maximum
  • Class 399 – 88 seats and 150 standing, 238 maximum

The M4500 is a bit less because it is a shorter vehicle with less standing space.

Entrance Height

  • M4500 – 0.98 metres
  • Supertram – 0.42 metres
  • Class 399 – .425 metres

The Supertram and the Class 399 have obviously been built to be able to use the same tram platforms in Sheffield.

Wikipedia says this about standard UK platform height.

The standard height for platforms is 915 mm with a margin of +0,-25 mm

But it would appear that the M4500 is not far from the UK standard height, but the Class 399 is 0.465 metres too low.

Consider.

  • The entrance height of a Greater Anglia Class 755 train, which is a bi-mode FLIRT is 0.96 metres.
  • On the South Wales Metro, variants of Class 399 tram/trains and Class 755 trains will share platforms.

So Stadler must have a nifty solution to overcome the platform height difference for these two trains, which is similar to that in Manchester between a Class 399 tram-train and an M4500.

If it’s on the tram-train, then Stadler have a solution, that will allow Class 399 tram-trains to run on the Manchester Metrolink.

The datasheet for the Class 399 tram-train says this about the suspension of the tram-train.

Smooth and silent operation with secondary air suspension and resilient wheels.

Secondary air suspension is not new on trains, as it certainly featured on British Rail Mark 3 coaches from the 1970s, which have a legendary smooth ride. It can still be seen between the bogie and the coach on many Bombardier trains, which trace their ancestry to British Rail designs.

The picture shows the bogie on a Class 378 train.

Note the air-suspension above the frame of the bogie.

Some cars use secondary air suspension with computers to control the amount of air in each rubber bag to improve the ride and road-holding.

Transport for London measure the pressure in the suspension and use this to calculate train loading. I described this application in Is This The Hippest Train Status Displays?

Could the air bags be pumped up to raise the train and and reduced in pressure to drop it a few centimetres?

There are certainly suspension engineers, in the automotive and motor-sport industries, who have relevant experience and could suggest a solution.

All this speculation is a bit like Lew Grasde’s quote on the film Raise the Titanic on which he lost a lot of money.

Raise The Titanic?  It would have been cheaper to lower the Atlantic!

Here it’s a bit of the reverse as if the tram-trains can be adjusted to the platform height, then hundreds of platforms don’t need to be rebuilt.

Suppose the platforms were built to fit an existing tram or train.

  • On the Manchester Metrolink the platforms would fit the M4500 trams.
  • On the Sheffield Supertram, the platforms would fit the Supertrams.
  • On the South Wales Metro, the platforms would fit the Welsh variant of the Class 755 train.

The Class 399 tram-trains running in Sheffield have their suspension adjusted on mnufacture and in the depot, so that there is level access between tram-train and platform.

Could the same tram-trains be adjusted so that they fit the Manchester Metrolink platforms, which are higher?

If they can, then Manchester has got a source of off-the-shelf tram-trains.

The picture shows a Class 399 tram-train at Rotherham Parkgate. Note the level access at the orange door in the foreground.

Manchester would need a different colour as Chelsea Blue wouldn’t be appropriate.

The intriguing idea, is can the same Class 399 tram-trains run in both Manchester and Sheffield, with the tram-train’s computer adjusting the ride height to suit the different height of platforms?

At present the answer is probably no, as if they could then there wouldn’t be dual-height platforms at Rotherham Central station.

Note the slopes down on both sides of the tracks from the high-level train platforms in the background, to the low-level tram platforms in the foreground.

It all depends on whether the suspension design is possible.

If it is, which I doubt, it would get round the bit problem of platforms on tram-train systems.

Weight

  • M4500 – 30.7 tonnes
  • Supertram – 46.5 tonnes
  • Class 399 – .66.1 tonnes

The Class 399 tram-train is a heavy beast so raising it by much might be difficult, as you changed from Sheffield to Manchester heights.

Operating Speed

  • M4500 – 80 kph
  • Supertram – 80 kph
  • Class 399 – .100 kph

Conclusion

I am convinced that just as Sheffield’s Supertram can work happily with Class 399 tram-trains, Stadler have ways and means of making Manchester Metrolink’s M4500 trams work with the tram-trains.

If the Class 399 tram-train is compatible with both tram networks, this will be a great advantage in designing new tram-train routes.

It would also mean that one day, a tram-train service could run from Cathedral in Sheffield to Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester via the Hope Valley Line.

I suspect that a lot of local services from the two cities will be run by tram-train services, that cross the cities.

 

 

 

 

March 10, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

What Would Tram-Trains With A Battery Capability Do For The Sheffield Supertram?

I asked this question in a slightly different form in Is The Sheffield Rotherham Tram-Train Showing Signs Of London Overground Syndrome?, where I said this.

Sheffield could do a lot worse, than replace the Siemens-Duewag trams with Class 399 tram-trains. Especially, as the South Wales Metro, will be buying thirty-six similar vehicles with batteries.

What would tram-trains with a battery capability do for Sheffield, Rotherham and the neighbouring towns?

We don’t know much about Stadler’s proposed tram-trains for the South Wales Metro.

  • They look to be very similar externally to the Class 399 tram-trains.
  • They will be able to work using 25 KVAC electrification on the South Wales Main Line.
  • They will be able to work the two-mile long Butetown Branch Line on battery power.
  • Whether they will have a 750 VDC capability has not been said.

A tram-train with batteries would certainly offer other possibilities.

On my trip to Rotherham, I met a guy of about my age, who was a resident of Sheffield. He  was proud of the city’s trams and was trying out the tram-train for the first time.

He also suggested two possible extensions.

  • Royal Hallamshire Hospital
  • A tram-train to Doncaster.

There have also been plans at times to run tram-trains to Dore & Totley and Penistone stations.

So how would tram-trains with batteries help for these routes?

Royal Hallamshire Hospital

On this page of the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals web site, this is said about getting to the hospital by tram.

Supertram does not serve the Northern General Hospital. It can be used to reach the Royal Hallamshire, Jessop Wing, Charles Clifford and Weston Park Hospitals, although please be aware that there is still a 10-15 minute uphill walk from the nearest stop (University). We would recommend that anyone who experiences difficulty walking long distances choose some alternative means of travelling to hospital.

This Google Map shows the area.

Note.

  1. The University tram stop is in the North-East corner of the map and is marked by a blue dot, marked with University of Sheffield.
  2. The Royal Hallamshire Hospital is in the South-West corner of the map.

This Google Map shows the University of Sheffield tram stop and how the tram route turns East to go to and from the city centre.

If the terrain allows it, a short extension might be possible to be built to the West along Glossop Road.

  • As in Birmingham City Centre, the tram-trains could run on batteries, without any overhead wires.
  • Charging could be provided at the terminal station which could be a few minutes walk to the hospital.
  • The hospital and the university could be a good terminus for tram-trains from Rotherham and the East.

This is a typical extension, that is made easier and more affordable by the use of trams with a battery capability.

Connecting The Supertram To Heavy Rail

The Sheffield Supertram was designed before tram-trains existed, but even so there would seem to be several places, where the two systems could be connected.

The design of the Class 399 train-trams also makes the connections easier to design and build.

  • The tram-trains can take tight turns.
  • There are various innovative solutions, that allow the pantograph to ride from one electrification system to the other.
  • If the tram-trains have batteries, this helps the electrification system changeover.

As more tram-train systems are installed, the library of solutions will get larger.

Tram-Train To Doncaster

There is a two trains per hour (tph) Northern service that goes between Sheffield and Doncaster, stopping at Meadowhall, Rotherham Central, Swinton, Mexborough and Conisbrough.

  • One train continues to Hull and the other to Adwick.
  • The service takes forty minutes from Doncaster to Sheffield.
  • The service goes past the Rotherham Parkgate tram-train stop.
  • The service takes about twenty minutes to go from Rotherham Parkgate to Doncaster, which is a distance of around 11.5 miles.

There is surely scope to extend the tram-train service to Doncaster to improve links between Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster.

This Google Map shows the Rotherham Parkgate tram-train stop.

Note how the tram-train stop is effectively a siding alongside the double-track Dearne Valley Line, that links Rotherham Central with Leeds and York. It also has a link to Doncaster via the short Swinton-Doncaster Line.

Space would appear to have been left to convert the line through the tram-train stop to a loop. With an additional cross-over at the Eastern end of the stop, it would be possible to extend the tram-train service beyond its current terminal.

I have a map, which shows that the routes to Doncaster and along the Dearne Valley Line to where it crosses the Leeds-Doncaster Line could be electrified in the early 2020s.

If this electrification is carried out, then the tram-train service could easily be extended to Doncaster.

On the other hand, as Rochester Parkgate to Doncaster is around 11.5 miles and the route will have 25 KVAC overhead electrification at both ends, would it be possible for a tram-train with batteries to bridge the gap in the electrification?

Comparing a three-section Class 399 tram-train with a two-car battery/electric Class 230 train shows that the two vehicles have similar lengths, weight and passenger capacities.

As Vivarail have managed to fit 400 kWh of batteries under a Class 230 train, I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least 200 kWh of batteries squeezed under a Class 399 tram-train.

So would 200 kWh of battery power be sufficient to take a Class 399 tram-train between Rotherham Parkgate and Doncaster?

It should be noted that the total power of a Class 399 tram-train is 870 kW, so it wouldn’t be possible if the tram-train was on full power all the time.

But.

  • The route is along the River Don and appears to be not very challenging.
  • Regenerative braking can be used at the three stops and any other stops due to red signals.
  • The initial acceleration at both ends could be accomplished under a short length of electrification.
  • The tram-trains will probably have been designed to use the lowest level of energy possible.
  • The tram-train could run in a low energy mode, when under battery power.

Stadler also know that handling a route like this on battery power would be an important sales feature all round the world.

Tram-Train To Dore & Totley

Running a tram-train service to Dore & Totley station in the South West of Sheffield seems to keep being mentioned.

When it was planned that HS2 was going to Meadowhall, this document was published. This was said about connecting Dore & Totley station to HS2.

Improved rail access to Meadowhall from south-west Sheffield could also be considered – for
example, a frequent service between Dore & Totley and Meadowhall could be included.

Proposed future transport schemes include the tram-train project; if successful, this could be extended to allow further interchange possibilities at the HS2 station.

But HS2 is now going to the main Sheffield station.

This will probably mean.

  • The route between Sheffield and Chesterfield will be upgraded and electrified, with I suspect extra tracks.
  • The electrified lines will pass through Dore & Totley station.
  • HS2 will need frequent connecting services from all over South Yorkshire into Sheffield station.

Dore & Totley and the stations on the Hope Valley service have a truly inadequate erratic hourly service to both Sheffield and Manchester.

There are two compatible solutions.

  • A four tph regional solution of a train between perhaps Hull and Manchester stopping at Doncaster, Rotherham Central, Sheffield and a few stations on the Hope Valley Line.
  • A higher frequency Sheffield solution of a train between perhaps Doncaster and the stations near to Sheffield on the Hope Valley Line.

The first service would be an advanced bi-mode train, whilst a tram-train with batteries could be ideal for the second

.Consider using a tram-train with batteries  on the second service.

  • It could use batteries on the Hope Valley Line to avoid electrification.
  • It would serve Sheffield and Meadowhall stations.
  • It could use heavy rail or tram routes in between the two major stations.
  • It could provide a high frequency service between the two major stations.

There are a lot of possibilities and the transport planners will know the best things to do, with respect to traffic.

Tram-Train To Penistone

In Riding The Penistone Line, I described a trip on the Penistone Line.

This was my conclusion.

Tram-trains like the Class 399 tram-train could easily climb the hill to Penistone to provide a perhaps two trains per hour service to Sheffield.

But the line would need to be electrified or hybrid diesel tram-trains, as in Chemnitz will need to be used.

So perhaps Northern‘s plan for the Northern Connect service, which would use more powerful Class 195 diesel multiple units, might be better suited to the Penistone Line.

I think the heavy rail solution will be used.

Conclusion

I think that tram-trains with batteries will find a few worthwhile uses in the wider Sheffield area.

 

October 31, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Reason Why The UK Is Fertile Territory For Tram Trains

The UK has several modern tram systems. If you look at the cross section of trams you get the following figures.

I wonder why Nottingham is twenty-five centimetres narrower!

If you look at the Class 399 tram-train, it has a width of 2.65 metres and a height of 3.67 metres.

So no wonder, there has been no problems with Class 399 tram-trains running on the Sheffield Supertram as trams!

Various trains that run local rail networks include.

  • Class 142 – Width 2..8 metres – Height 3.86 metres
  • Class 150 – Width 2.8 metres – Height 3.8 metres
  • Class 222 – Width 2.73 metres
  • Class 319 – Width 2.82 metres – Height – 3.58 metres
  • Class 345 – Width 2.78 metres – Height N/A
  • Class 378 – Width 2.80 metres – Height 3.78 metres
  • Class 700 – Width 2.80 metres – Height N/A
  • Class 769 – Width 2.82 metres – Height 3.58 metres
  • Mark 4 Coach – Width 2.73 metres – Height 2.79 metres

These are some figures from German trains.

  • DBAG 641 – Width 2.90 metres – Height 3.7 metres
  • BD Class 420 – With 3.08 metres
  • ICE 3 – Width 2.95 metres – Height 3.89 metres

I’ll look at various issues.

Tram And Train Height

I think this is not a big issue.

If a tram or electric train can run on a particular track, then there should be no height problems running a tram-train over the route, providing overhead wires can be erected.

UK Tram And Train Width

It would appear that the maximum width of UK trains is 2.82 metres. In some stations, where there is only one class of train, level access is possible.

The picture shows a Class 378 train on the London Overground.

This is not one of the best I’ve seen, but there is no reason, why someone in a wheelchair shouldn’t be able to wheel themselves into every train at every station.

This is in the train operating company’s interest, as one of the things that delays trains, is getting someone in a wheelchair on and off the train with a portable ramp.

If we take the UK train width of 2.82 metres and compare that to the width of a Class 399 tram-train, which is 2.65 metres, that means that there is seventeen  centimetres difference or eight and a half centimetres on each side of the train.

If the platform can be arranged to be level, that is not a large gap. It’s probably about the same size as this gap in this picture.

Shown is a Class 399 tram-train at a tram stop on the Sheffield Supertram.

Continental Tram And Train Width

But on the Continent, where the trains are wider and the loading gauge is bigger, the gap will be larger.

Trains on the Continent also often have a significant step up as this picture shows.

Shown is an Italian High Speed train.

If the EU wanted to improve train travel for the disabled, those in wheelchairs, those with buggies and the elderly, they should make it compulsory for all trains to have level access from the platform.

It’s very rare to find level access on the Continent and not that easy in parts of the UK.

Gap Fillers

But things are getting better, as this picture shows.

Shown is a Stadler Flirt with a rather nifty automatic gap filler.

Merseyrail’s New Class 777 Trains

Gap fillers will be fitted to Merseyrail‘s new Class 777 trains, which are being built by Stadler.

The Class 777 trains and the current Class 507 trains have the same width of 2.82 metres, but the new Stadler trains have an eighteen centimetre lower floor.

The picture shows a Class 507 train at one of Liverpool’s underground stations.

Eighteen centimetres wouldn’t be far away from the height of the step in the picture.

The design must also allow both classes of trains to be in service at the same time, to ease introduction of the new Class 777 trains.

Talk about Swiss precision!

South Wales Metro

This document on the KeolisAmey web site details their plans for the new Wales and Borders Franchise.

For services around Cardiff and on the Cardiff Valley Lines, KeolisAmey Wales intend to acquire the following fleet.

  • 11 – four-car Stadler Flirt DEMU
  • 7 – three-car Stadler Flirt Tri-mode MU
  • 17 – four-car Stadler Flirt Tri-mode MU
  • 36 – three-car Stadler Citylink Metro Vehicles

Note.

  1. The Stadler Flirts look very similar to Greater Anglia‘s Class 755 trains, that by the time of delivery of these trains for Wales, will have proven themselves on the mountains of East Anglia.
  2. The tri-mode multiple units will be able to run on electric, diesel or battery power.
  3. The Stadler Citylink Metro Vehicles look very similar to Sheffield Supertram‘s Class 399 tram-trains, that are providing a tram service in Sheffield and will soon be running on the rail network to Rotherham.
  4. It is an all-Stadler fleet.

This is a clip from the KeolisAmey document.

This looks like a visualisation of one of the Flirts, as the Citylink tram-trains have flat sides.

I will be very surprised if Stadler don’t provide the Cardiff area, with one of the best step-free networks in the world.

Conclusion

The UK’s standard tram width of 2.65 metres and our small loading gauge must make it easier to design tram-train systems for the UK.

 

 

 

 

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June 6, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Penistone Line And Rotherham Tram-Train Trials

The Penistone Line Tram-Train Trial

The Penistone Line from Sheffield to Barnsley, Penistone and Huddersfield was the line originally selected for the tram-train trial.

In the Wikipedia entry for the line, this is said about the tram-train trial.

On 18 March 2008, the Department for Transport released details of a proposal to trial tram-trains on the Penistone Line, the first use of such vehicles in the UK. The trial was to start in 2010 and last for two years. Northern Rail, the operator of passenger services on the line, asked potential manufacturers to tender for the design and construction of five new vehicles, which Northern Rail would subsequently lease. In addition, Network Rail planned to spend £15m modifying track and stations to make them compatible with the new vehicles.

However, it was announced on 15 September 2009 that a city tram-train trial between Rotherham and Sheffield would replace the Penistone Line scheme.

More about the trial is said in this article on Rail News, which is entitled Penistone Line Is Chosen For £24m Tram Trains Trial. In particular, this is said.

One of the biggest initial tasks is to set a specification for the building of the five diesel-electro hybrid tram trains at a cost of £9 million. The trains will have to be equipped with braking systems suitable for on-street running and a Train Protection Warning System which is required for running on lines with ‘heavy’ rail passenger and freight trains.

The article was written in 2008 and Chemnitz hybrid Citylink tram-trains didn’t enter service until 2016.

So was the trial on the Penistone Line a disaster before it even started?

It had the following problems.

  • It was expecting a diesel-electric hybrid tram to be designed and built before 2010.
  • A long distance was involved.
  • The track-work needed to connect to the Sheffield Supertram could have been incredibly complicated.
  • The first all-electric Citylink tram-trains weren’t delivered to Karlsruhe until May 2014, which was seven months late.

For these and other reasons, I think that the decision of the trial to be delayed and to use Rotherham, was a prudent decision.

The Rotherham Tram-Train Trial

Consider these characteristics of the current trial, between Cathedral and Rotherham Psrkgate.

  • The tram-trains are virtually standard Karlsruhe Citylink tram-trains, adapted for UK 25 KVAC and painted blue!
  • A simple chord connecting the two systems.
  • A few miles of electrification, that could be powered by either 750 VDC or 25 KVAC.
  • Modification of the recently-built Rotherham Central station.
  • Building of a new terminal tram stop at Rotherham Parkgate.

It’s a simple plan, but one that covers a lot of design possibilities and has few, if any, risky elements, that haven’t been done in the UK or Karlsruhe.

The following can be tested.

  • The Class 399 tram-trains on the Sheffield Supertram network and an electrified main line.
  • Passenger entry and exit at Rotherham Central station and all over the Supertram network.
  • Operation under both 750 VDC or 25 KVAC.
  • Signalling systems on both tram and main line networks.

The one thing that can’t be tested is a diesel hybrid tram-train as they have in Chemnitz, as they haven’t ordered any!

But if they did want to order some, they could easily be tested between Cathedral and Rotherham Parkgate.

Conclusion

The original plan to use the Penistone Line and diesel-electric tram-trains was impossible.

Network Rail might have got this one right at the second attempt.

They could even run a UK version of the Chemnitz hybrid tram-train on the test route between Sheffield and Rotherham.

 

October 18, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Class 399 Tram-Trains In Service

On my two day trip to Sheffield, I reckon that I saw six of the seven Class 399 tram-trains in service on the Supertram.

These pictures were taken on a quiet Saturday morning trip from the station to Herdings Park.


Current Service

Currently, the Class 399 tram-trams are running on the Purple Route from Cathedral to Herdings Park, which is generally tun at a frequency of  two trams per hour.

If you arrive in Sheffield station and don’t feel like walking up the hill, you take any of the trams from the  stop on the station side of the tracks.

But take a tram going to Cathedral and over the two and a bit days I was in Sheffield, it was always a Class 399 tram-train.


Comparison With Current Fleet

The Class 399 tram-trains and the existing Siemend-Duewag Supertram are surprisingly similar in several ways.

  • Both have three sections and four doors on either side.
  • The Siemens tram is 34.8 metres long, whereas the Class 399 is 37.2 metres long.
  • The Siemens tram weights 46.5 tonnes, whereas the Class 399 is a lot heavier at 66.1 tonnes.
  • The Siemens tram has installed power of 1108 kW, whereas the Class 399 has just 870 kW.
  • The Siemens tram has room for 86 sitting and 155 standing passengers, whereas the Class 399 has room for 88 and 150 respectively.
  • The seats and their arrangement are vaguely similar.
  • Neither tram has wi-fi.

The big  difference other than the tram-train capability and what that entails, is that the Class 399 tram-train is faster with a 100 kph top speed, as against the 80 kph of the Siemens tram.

Other differences are detailed in the next sub-sections.

Step-Free Access

Getting on and off both trams is step-free and I saw people in wheel-chairs on both vehicles. One was easily pushed into a Class 399.

These pictures show the steps inside the two trams.

There is only a single-step on the Class 399 tram-train, whereas the Siemens tram has more.

Neither tram is a hundred percent step-free.

Weight

Note that the weight of the Class 399 tram-train is more than that of the Siemens tram.

As the two vehicles are of a similar size, could this mean that any of the following causes the weight increase.

  • The electrical equipment needed to handle 15/25 KVAC power.
  • The weight of the two extra traction motors.
  • Strengthening for main line operation.

As someone, who has ridden for a few hours in both the Karlsruhe and Sheffield variants of the Citylink tram-train, they certainly don’t ride badly.

Performance

The current Siemens tram has 1108 kW of power and a weight of 46.5 tonnes, which gives an installed power/weight ratio of 23.8 kW/tonne.

The Class 399 tram-train has 870 kW of power and a weight of 66.1 tonnes, which gives an installed power/weight ratio of 13.1 kW/tonne.

So it would appear that the Class 399 tram-trains may not have the acceleration and hill-climbing capability of the Siemens trams.

However look at this data sheet on the Stadler Rail Espana web site for the Class 399 tram-train.

It clearly shows that the tram has four bogies and the text says that three are motored and one is a trailer. So this means that the central car is not a trailer and that power must be distributed along the tram, which probably puts the power to the rail in a more efficient way.

I did speak to a driver and he told me that on some of the hills the Siemens trams will strruggle with a full load, but the Class 399s can go up the hills at 40 mph.

The Class 399 tram-trains are very similar to the Stadler tram-trains in Karlsruhe, where the hills are much stiffer than Sheffield.

So it would appear that the layout of six smaller motors in a more modern vehicle probably does the trick.

Energy Efficiency

The question has to be asked if, as the Class 399 tram-trains have twenty-one percent less installed power, does this result in a saving of electricity use?


Comparison With Karlsruhe’s Tram-Trains

The Karlsruhe and Sheffield tram-trains are both variants of the Vossloh Citylink tram-train, that is now built by Stadler at Valencia in Spain.

The tram-trains in Karlruhe would appear to be very similar to the Class 399 tram-train, with a few small technical differences.

  • They work on 750 VDC and 15 KVAC overhead wires, whereas the Class 399 can work on 750 VDC and 25 KVAC.
  • As an electrical engineer, I wonder if the electrical systems are the same in both tram-trains and both can work 750 VDC and 15-25 KVAC, so they could work cross-border routes between say Germany and France.
  • They have couplers to work in multiple.
  • They have different passenger door arrangements.
  • The driver’s cab windows have different arrangement.

These pictures show Karlsruhe’s tram-trains.

Imagine these trams in Supertram colours on the streets of Sheffield.

Take a close look at picture 4.

You will notice that the Karlsruhe tram-trains have an obvious coupling and it can be assumed that they can work in ,multiple, although I don’t seem to have seen it happening.

Picture 4, also shows passengers apparently sitting in the back cab of the tram-train.

The fifth picture was taken from sitting inside the tram-train looking backwards, over the folded-down driver’s desk.

This feature wasn’t being used in Sheffield and this could be for one the following reasons.

  • The Class 399 tram-trains don’t have the feature installed.
  • There has been a Health and Safety decision.
  • It takes perhaps ten minutes to fold up the driver’s desk and this would slow the timetable.

It’s a pity , as this feature of German trams is very common and popular.


Comparison With Class 144 Train

The Class 399 tram-trains and Northern’s Class 144 train will share routes and on some routes the tram-trains may even take over from the Pacers.

So how do the two trains compare?

  • The Class 399 has room for 88 sitting and 150 standing passengers, whereas the Pacer has 99 seats in a two-car and 157 in a three-car train.
  • The Class 399 weighs 66.1 tonnes, whereas a two-car Pacer weighs 49.2 tonnes and a three-car weighs 72 .7 tonnes.
  • The Pacer has a toilet.
  • The Class 399 is air-conditioned, whereas the Pacer relioes on waste heat from the engine.
  • The Pacer is a 75 mph train, but seems to operate most of the time at 60 mph
  • The Class 399 has installed power of 870 kW, whereas the Pacer has just 336 kW.
  • The Pacer is thirty-year-old crap, that should have been strangled at birth, whereas the Clas 399 is a modern unit.

You could argue, that I’m being biased, as the tram-train can’t operate without electrification.

But it can!

Chemnitz or Karl Marz Stadt as the East Germans renamed it. also runs Stadler Citylink tram-trains, which are similar to the Class 399 tram-trains.

But the tram-trains in Chemnitz are different in that instead of being dual-voltage like Sheffield and Karlsruhe, they have a diesel-generator to power them away from the 750 VDC overhead wires.

This data sheet gives a few details of the Chemnitz Hybrid tram-train. The data sheet doesn’t specify the power of the diesel powerpack, but the much heavier Class 769 train uses two rail-proven MAN diesel engines of 390 kW each.

In this article on Rail News, which is entitled Penistone Line Is Chosen For £24m Tram Trains Trial, the original trial is described and this is said.

One of the biggest initial tasks is to set a specification for the building of the five diesel-electro hybrid tram trains at a cost of £9 million.

The article was written in 2008 and hybrid Citylink tram-trains didn’t run in Chemnitz until 2016.

So the original proposal envisaged using hydrid diesel tram-trains.

Why not use them in Sheffield?


Operational Details

The Class 399 tram-trains have other features that became apparent on my observations.

Battery Use

Passing a Class 399 tram-train, I took this picture.

The Battery Point On A Class 399 Tram-Train

I hadn’t thought about it before, but batteries on a tram must have similar uses to those in any vehicle.

  • Starting up the vehicle.
  • Raising the pantograph, on an electric tram, train or locomotive.
  • Opening the powered doors.
  • Providing lighting and other important services in a power failure.
  • Being able to move the vehicle a short distance in case of a complete overhead power failure.
  • With a dual-voltage vehicle, it must be there in case the changeover isn’t successful.

But with a tram-train, battery operation surely opens up the possibility of changing between the tram and heavy rail lines using very simple track without electrification, points and cross-overs.

The driver would do the following.

  • Pan down on one network.
  • Use battery power to move perhaps fifty or a hundred metres to the other system.
  • Raise the pantograph on the other network.

Provided the driver obeys the rules and the signals, it should be a safe transfer.

Regenerative Braking

This article on the Railway Gazette is entitled Karlsruhe orders Vossloh tram-trains.

These tram-trains were the first of the Citylink family of tram-trains, of which the Class 399 tram-trains are a member.

This is said.

The three-section steel-bodied tram-trains will incorporate extensive crashworthiness design elements and provision for regenerative braking. Top speed will be 80 km/h, with the four bogies having pneumatic secondary suspension. The air-conditioned interior will have 104 seats cantilevered from the sides for easy cleaning.

How do the Citylink tram-trains handle the regenerative braking?

Two methods are possible.

  • They return the braking energy to the overhead wires.
  • They store it in their battery for reuse.

In the Wikipedia entry for the Supertram, there is a section called Overhead Wiring. This is said.

The contact wires are twin cadmium copper ones, twin wires being necessary because of the high installed power rating of the trams (1 megawatt). The regenerative braking on the tram feeds current back into the wires.

So any braking energy can be returned to the wires.

But as the Railway Gazette article dates from 2011, I wonder if the trams have been developed to use battery storage?

How Far Could The Tram-Train Go On Battery Power?

I’ll assume the following.

  • A New Routemaster bus battery of 75 kWh can be fitted to the Class 399.
  • Running on an easy track, the Class 399 could need  5 kWh for each car-mile.

This would give a range of five miles.

Note.

  1. The stiffer the route the smaller the range.
  2. Battery capacity should increase through the years.
  3. Battery cost should decrease through the years.
  4. Charging stations can be fitted at station stops.

The only certainties are that practical battery range will increase and battery cost will decrease.

Conclusions

These tram-trains have been well worth waiting for.

If I was in charge of the Sheffield Supertram and a decision was made to replace the original Siemens trams, I would think seriously about going to Stadler for a replacement fleet.

If the fleet was all Class 399 tram-trains, this could offer other savings.

  • The lower-power of the Class 399 tram-trains might cut electricity use.
  • Regenerative braking using onboard batteries saves electrification costs.
  • Would expensive twin cadmium copper contact wires still be needed?
  • One tram type would save costs in maintenance and staff training.

New must-have features like wi-fi and 4G boosters could be added, as the technology has now been developed, since the Siemens trams were built.

 

October 15, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 6 Comments

A Trip To Gainsborough

I wrote about Gainsborough in A Town With Two Stations And Infrequent Rail Services, so when I was in Sheffield, I had to go and have a look at the town.

From Sheffield To Gainsborough Central

I left Sheffield on the 08:09 train to Cleethorpes and arrived at Gainsborough Central on time at 09:01.

I took these pictures on the way.

Note.

  • The route is double-track.
  • The terrain is flat with no tunnel,
  • There are seven intermediate stations and several level crossings.
  • There is an interchange  at Worksop station with the Robin Hood Line to Nottingham.
  • There is an interchange at Retford station with the East Coast Main Line.

Our Class 144 train handled the route with ease at a steady sixty mph or so.

Gainsborough Central Station

Gainsborough Central station only has a train service on a Saturday.

As the pictures show, the facilities are basic. Although there is plenty of parking.

Gainsborough Central station illustrates the the problems of providing step-free access at some stations.

Consider.

  • With modern trains or trams, all the tools are there to enable anybody to board and leave the train easily.
  • At present, someone in a wheelchair or pushing a buggy would just use the crossing shown in picture four.
  • The three services a week, probably don’t attract many passengers.
  • How many passengers have used the bridge recently?

This is a station, that cries out for a well-designed solution to ensure safety.

Marshall’s Yard

Marshall’s Yard is a Shopping Centre by Gainsborough Central station.

The Shopping Centre is a comprehensive one, with a wide range of shops and a few cafes and restaurants.

  • I bought an excellent gluten-free breakfast at Root
  • I was surprised to see an M & S food store.
  • There were several middle-range specialist chain stores.

It was certainly busy.

It strikes me, that a more frequent train service to the station might be in the interest of everyone.

Walking Between Gainsborough Central And Lea Road Stations

It took me about half-an-hour and I took these pictures as I walked.

I would have taken more, but I was walking directly into the sun and couldn’t see much!

Gainsborough Lea Road Station

Gainsborough Lea Road station is an unusual station, as these pictures show.

I would assume British Rail asked the local agricultural building manufacturer to design and build the wooden disabled ramp on the Lincoln-bound platform.

A couple of years ago I was coming down from Edinburgh to London in an Inter-City 125, when because of engineering works, we were diverted through Gainsborough Lea Road station.

From Gainsborough Lea Road To Sheffield

The two routes from Gainsborough to Sheffield join between Gainsborough and Retford and these are pictures of the return journey.

I timed this journey, so that I would arrive in Sheffield, to get to Bramall Lane in good time, for the Ipswich match. There were a lot of football supporters on the train, as Rotherham were also at home and the poor old Pacer was creaking at the seams.

It certainly proved to me, that the trains working between Lincoln and Sheffield are totally inadequate for the task.


Improving The Service Between Sheffield And Lincolnshire

The service between Sheffield and Lincolnshire needs improvement.

New Trains

New trains on the services are desperately needed and I will be interested to see in a couple of years, what trains are running the services.

The football crowds on the Saturday, showed that a two-car train is sometimes inadequate.

I suspect that Northern will run new Class 195 trains on the Sheffield to Lincoln route.

  • These are 100 mph trains, as opposed to the 75 mph of the Class 144 trains.
  • I suspect the trains will have wi-fi and power sockets.
  • Three-car units are on order.

They should be a great improvement.

Improved Stations

The stations are rather variable, with some like Retford and Worksop of a high quality, but others a bit more suspect.

Is there also a need for extra stations to serve new developments?

Extra Services

The current times from Sheffield are as follows.

  • Worksop – 30 minutes
  • Retford – 41 minutes
  • Gainsborough Lea Road – 56 minutes

It is reasonable to assume that the Class 195 trains will better these times by a few minutes.

Consider.

  • The passenger demand will probably be higher, close to Sheffield.
  • Worksop station has a turnback facility.
  • It is likely, that a Class 1895 train could go from Sheffield to Worksop and back, within an hour.

I, therefore feel that an extra service from Sheffield to Worksop may well be possible.

Tram-Train To Worksop

In Class 399 Tram-Trains In Service, I discussed the Class 399 trains that are now running in Sheffield.

The performance of the Class 399 tram-trains is such, that they could be able to achieve the one hour time for a complete journey to Worksop.

If a suitable route from the Supertram at Sheffield to Worksop could be identified and electrified, I don’t see why Sheffield’s new Class 399 tram-train couldn’t run to Worksop.

This Google Map shows where the Sheffield to Workshop rtoute passes alongside the Supertram Depot.

Note.

  1. The Sheffield to Workshop route is the two tracks at the top of the map.
  2. The Meadowhall Branch of the Supertram is the two tracks at the bottom of the map.
  3. The Nunnery Depot is in between.

I believe it would be possible to arrange a connecting pair of track, so that tram trains could go between the two routes.

Use Of Hybrid Tram Trains

I have assumed that the tram-train route will need to be electrified, but this isn’t necessary.

Chemnitz or Karl Marz Stadt as the East Germans renamed it. also runs Stadler Citylink tram-trains, which are similar to the Class 399 tram-trains.

But the tram-trains in Chemnitz are different in that instead of being dual-voltage like Sheffield and Karlsruhe, they have a diesel-generator to power them away from the 750 VDC overhead wires.

This data sheet gives a few details of the Chemnitz Hybrid tram-train. The data sheet doesn’t specify the power of the diesel powerpack, but the much heavier Class 769 train uses two rail-proven MAN diesel engines of 390 kW each.

Conclusion

The service between Sheffield and Lincolnshire needs to be improved.

This could be done traditionally using Class 195 trains or creating a tram-train extension.

 

 

October 14, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 2 Comments

Progress On The Sheffield-Rotherham Tram-Train – October 13th 2017

It is only a couple of weeks since I wrote Progress On The Sheffield-Rotherham Tram-Train and progress seems to have accelerated in that time.

The Class 399 tram-trains are now running between Cathedral and Herdings Park, as I reported in Class 399 Tram-Trains In Service.

Progress On The Tinsley Chord

I took these pictures at Tinsley Chord, where the track connects theMeadowhall branch of the Supertram to the freight line to Rotherham.

There isn’t really much to see, as trees obscure any good view from the road.

This Google Map shows the area.

Note.

  • The Tinsley Viaduct carrying the M1 cutting across the bottom-left corner of the map.
  • Blackburn Meadows, with the Water Treatment Plant and Biomass Power Station, at the North of the map.
  • The Blackburn Meadows Way linking into Meadowhall.
  • The freight line to Rotherham runs to the outh of this road.
  • The Supertram running along the West side of the motorway.

The Tinsley Chord, that links the tram and freight lines is hidden under the viaduct.

I did get some more pictures later.

The Tinsley Chord appears to be double-track, where it will join the existing tram line.

The Wires Are Going Up

These pictures show that the wires are going up between the freight line and Rotherham Central station.

The gantries seem much more main line than tram.

But the Class 399 tram-trains, won’t care if they contain 750 VDC or 25 KVAC. Changing the volts is a lot easier than changing the catenary.

Rotherham Station

These pictures show the current state of Rptherham Central station.

Note.

  • The wires are going up.
  • The low-level platform extensions need to be completed.
  • Trains will use the high end of the platforms and tram-trains the low end.

Karlsruhe have much worse platform height problems, as they have two generations of tram-trains and German trains that need low platforms to cope with.

Walking To The Parkgate Shopping

I thought about using a taxi, but in the end, I walked to the Parkgate Shopping, as the weather was sunny.

I did manage to get an idea of the distance in a thirty minute walk.

Parkgate Shopping

Parkgate Shopping is the sort of shopping centre I rarely visit.

I am a guerrilla shopper, who decides what he needs and then chooses where to go and buy it. Being a coeliac, food shopping usually requires a couple of shops. One of these must be a Marks and Spencer, as their gluten-free staples like bread, biscuits, beer and muesli are better than most.

These days, I don’t drive, but a couple of doctors have told me, they reckon I could get my licence back.It’s just that not having a car, removes a whole chunk of hassle from your life. I don’t want it back!

I also often create shopping with a visit to either a friend, a restaurant, a museum or perhaps even a dentist.

I’ll often plan my day, so I come home via somewhere like the Angel, Moorgate, Eastfield or King Cross, where I pick up my supper.

Parkgate might be a place to go if it fitted my target requirements and I lived locally.

But it would need decent public transport like Meadowhall down the riad.

The Tram Stop At Parkgate Shopping

These pictures show the railway that passes Parkgate Shopping and the tram-train stop being built.

The stop needs finishing and a route to the stops would need to be created.

But it looks like the designers have developed a simple one platform stop capable of handling the required three trains an hour.

Conclusion

The project appears to be coming towards the end.

There are several things that need to be completed.

  • The catenary.
  • The connection of the tracks at the Tinsley Chord.
  • Rotherham Central station pltforms
  • Parkgate Shopping tram stop.

Then it would need to be tested.

If I have a question about the project, I wonder how they managed to be so late and over budget, as IS reported in this article in the Guardian, which is entitled Sheffield to Rotherham Tram-Train Is Five Times Over Budget, Says NAO.

My gut instinct tells me, that there are a few problems with this project, that would have been avoided by a little bit more thought before it started.

But I think it’ll come out alright on the end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 13, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Progress On The Sheffield-Rotherham Tram-Train

I took these pictures in Sheffield and Rotherham, whilst trying to take pictures of Class 399 tram-trains.

Note.

  1. The heavy-weight gantries for the electrification, which I suspect would support 25 KVAC electrification.
  2. It appears simple bi-level platforms are being built at Rotherham Central station.
  3. Could a stop being put at the New York stadium?

It certainly doesn’t seem to be an expensive system.

Single Or Double Track Electrified At 25 KVAC

The heavy rail route which is both single and double-track is electrified using standard 25 KVAC electrification.

Simple Voltage Changeover

In Karlsruhe, a ceramic rod is used to connect the overhead wires of different voltages. The pantograph of the tram-train runs on this rod, as the vehicle passes between the two voltages.

The different voltages would be handled automatically on the tram-train.

Kinetic energy or a battery will take the tram-train over the very short dead section.

I didn’t see it, but I suspect a similar system is used on the Tinsley Chord in Sheffield, where the two voltage systems meet.

The advantage of this simple system, is that voltage changeover can be completely automatic, with the driver only monitoring the changeover.

 

Simple Bi-Level Platform Extensions

This technique is used in Karlsruhe, where they have myriad problems due to various classes of tram-trains and conventional trains.

Modern construction methods will certainly help here.

How Did Network Rail Manage To Spend So Much Money?

The only feasible positive explanation is that this tram-train trial is being very comprehensive and covers all possible UK operations.

  • The tram-trains are tested on 25 KVAC at Rotherham.
  • Single and double-track.
  • The tram-trains are tested on 750 VDC all over Sheffield.
  • The tram-trains are tested on sharp curves and climbing hills on the Sheffield Supertram network.
  • The voltage changeover is thoroughly tested on the Tinsley Chord.
  • Platform designs get a rigorous test.

If the tram-train passes these tests and the regulators and operators like it, it’ll be passed for the UK network.

Is The Rotherham Trial A Tram-Train Or A Train-Tram?

When going from Sheffield to Rotherham, the Class 399 train, starts as a tram and changes to a train on the Tinsley Chord.

But when going from Rotherham to Sheffield, the vehicle starts as a train and changes to a tram.

So I suppose it’s both and it changes over where the voltage changes on the Tinsley Chord.

But just as in the Rotherham trial, provided there is an overhead wire with an acceptable voltage, the Class 399 tram-trains can run on any track, be it for trams or trains.

On What Routes Could A Class 399 Train Run?

There are several possibilities.

Extending An Existing Tram Network On A Heavy Rail Line

The tram-train runs normally on a standard tram line and then the route is extended on a heavy rail line, which is electrified with 25 KVAC overhead wires.

This is what is being done at Rotherham.

More possibilities exist in Sheffield and probably on other systems like Birmingham, Blackpool, Edinburgh, Manchester and Nottingham.

Creating A Tram Link Across A Town Or City

Suppose a town or city has two electrified stations on opposite sides. Perhaps one handles trains from the West and the other handles trains from the East.

If a tram route can be created between the two stations, which is connected to the lines at the station, then tram-trains can run across the town or city.

This has been done in Karlsruhe and other European cities, but I doubt we’ll see a cross-city link like this in the UK for a decade or two.

Creating A Tram Link Between Two Electrified Lines

This is similar to the previous application, except that the tram route might be in a rural area.

One possibility might be from Cambridge to Marks Tey along a rebuilt Stour Valley Railway.

Running A Branch On A Heavy Rail Line As A Tram

Creating a branch line to tram standards should be cheaper than creating it to heavy rail standards.

The proposed Glasgow  Airport Tram-Train could be built this way, by building a tram track from the Inverclyde Line to the Airport.

The branch would have the following characteristics.

  • Segregated single-track from the Inverclyde Line
  • 750 VDC overhead electrification.
  • Low floor tram-trains.
  • Simple stations.

The tram-trains could run as normal electric trains from Glasgow Central station to West of Paisley St. James station, where they would take to the branch line and run as trams to the Airport.

As the performance of a Class 399 tram-train is not much slower than the current Class 314 trains that work some services on the Inverclyde Line, I feel that fitting the tram-train service into the service pattern on the line would be possible.

I estimate that a round trip from Glasgow Central to the Airport could be done within an hour, which would mean that to provide an adequate four tram-trains per hour, would require four vehicles.

Two other airports could be served in this way; Leeds and Liverpool

  • Leeds Airport would require electrifying as far as Horsforth station, where a tram track would lead to the Airport.
  • I suspect that the tram-trains could not only connect Leeds to the Airport, but Bradford as well.
  • Liverpool Airport from Liverpool Lime Street services would change to a tram at Liverpool South Parkway station.

I think we’ll be seeing tram-trains used for services like these.

Consider these points.

  • A suitable station on the electrified network is needed as a terminus.
  • A suitable junction must be possible between the branch and the electrified network.
  • Any number of stops could be built on the branch.
  • Simple tram-style 750 VDC overhead wires can be used, which would be less visually intrusive.

Some schemes will be simple like perhaps the Slough to Windsor and Eton Line and others would be more complicated.

Conclusion

In a year or so’s time, we’ll know if tram-trains are another method of expanding and improving the UK’s rail network.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 22, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

Is There Progress At Last On The Sheffield Tram-Train?

Coming through Sheffield, I took these pictures of the Tram-Train Project.

Some of the chord to connect the trams to the freight line is visible and the Class 399 tram-trains are all lined up ready to go.

April 10, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , | Comments Off on Is There Progress At Last On The Sheffield Tram-Train?

Comparing West Anglia Four-Tracking And Sheffield Tram-Train Projects

This article on Rail Technology Magazine is entitled Delayed Sheffield tram-train completion date finally set.

This project was announced in 2015 and the Class 399 tram-trains were delivered in 2016. So you’d think it would be nearing completion, with the tram-trains tested and the track complete. But no! The link will open in Summer 2018.

But the West Anglia Four-Tracking has not even been announced and the Orange Army is already hard at work to squeeze in the extra tracks along the West Anglia Main Line.

Both construction projects have one important thing in common. They need new track to be laid on land already owned by Network Rail or supporting local authorities, with modifications to the overhead electrification and signalling.

So why has one started before it has been announced and the other has taken for ever to get out of the starting blocks?

Wrst Anglia Four-Tracking has been talked about seriously for over ten years, so Network Rail have had a long time to finalise their design.

So do Network Rail need something like a dozen years to go from the start of design to full on construction?

Perhaps they were caught on the hop with the Gospel Oak to Barking Electrification and hadn’t got a design together?

If a project takes a long time to go from initial design to construction, all of the good engineers, managers and workers move on to something they might see completed in their lifetime. So the project has to be restarted time and time again with new people.

Crossrail was different in that when the politicians said build it, the team was created, who will see it through from design to the trains running throyugh the tunnels.

Let’s hope HS2 gets the same treatment as Crossrail, so that in 2026 we can all experience London to Birmingham in the blink of an eye.

February 23, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment