The Anonymous Widower

RENFE To Launch Avlo Low-Cost High Speed Rail For Everyone

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

The title says it all and it looks like the Spanish are going the way of the French.

As High Speed Rail networks get larger,and able to handle more trains, it appears that the train operators, run out of premium passengers and turn to other markets.

SNCF have already launched a low-cost service called Ouigo, so it looks like the Spanish are following along similar lines.

In some ways is rail following air travel with low-cost companies offering a more affordable service.

On the whole, the UK, will find it more difficult to offer these services, as we don’t have the rail capacity. In part, this is due to the late development of high speed lines like High Speed Two.

But competitive services using a low-cost model are running or in development.

It should be noted that East Coast Trains and Hull Trains will be running similar new Hitachi trains to the dominant operator on the route; LNER.

But then Ryanair and easyJet fly similar planes to British Airways and Air France!


It does appear that low-cost operators are providing competition, just as they have done with the airlines.

December 28, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Engie Partners Innovate UK For £4 Million Energy Transition Competition

The title of this post is the same as this article on Current News.

  • This is an interesting link-up between the UK Government Agency; Innovate UK and the French energy giant; Engie.
  • Wikipedia defines energy transition as a long-term structural change in energy systems.
  • It is the first time Innovate UK has secured overseas private funding.
  • It aims to fund the very best of \british innovation in clean growth innovation.
  • Grants of between £100,000 and £1.2 million will be awarded.
  • There appears to be no mention of Brexit!

It looks to me, like a very strong endorsement of British innovation and the British energy industry by the French.

I also think, that if there is one industry where the British and the French should be linked, it is energy.

The UK has the following energy sources and resources.

  • Offshore and onshore oil and gas.
  • Redundant gas fields for carbon capture and storage.
  • Offshore and onshore wind.
  • Large areas of sea for offshore wind.
  • We have 8,183 MW of installed offshore wind capacity, which is the largest in the world.
  • The possibilities of tidal and wave power from a long Western coast.
  • Vast experience in building off-shore structures in some of the worst weather on the planet.
  • Interconnectors to Norway and Iceland to import their surplus geothermal and hydroelectric energy.

Could we become a renewable-energy powerhouse?

The French have the following.

  • Nuclear power, some of which will need replacing.
  • Only 500 MW of offshore wind.
  • More solar power than we have.
  • Easy connection to North Africa for solar power.

But in some ways, most important is the several interconnectors between the UK and France, with more planned.


Between the UK and France, with help from Ireland, Spain and Portugal, can develop a massive Western European renewable energy powerhouse, backed  by the following, non-renewable or external sources.

  • French nuclear power.
  • North African solar.
  • Icelandic geothermal power
  • Icelandic hydro-electric power
  • Norwegian hydro-electric power

It should be noted that in a few years, the UK will have joined Iceland, Norway and North Africa outside of the European Union.

I believe that Sovereign Wealth Funds, Hedge Funds, Pension Funds, Insurance Companies and other individuals, groups and organisations will increasingly see renewable energy as good places for long-term investment of their funds.

The two big problems are as follows.

  • What happens when all these renewable energy sources are producing more energy than we can use?
  • What happens when there is an energy deficit?

Energy storage is the solution, but the amount needed is massive.

In Airport Plans World’s Biggest Car Parks For 50,000 Cars, I looked at the mathematics in using car parks for electric cars for energy storage.

These are a few figures.

  • Electric Mountain is the UK’s largest electricity storage scheme with a capacity of 9.1 GWh.
  • The largest battery in the world is the Bath County Pumped Storage Station with a capacity of 24 GWh, which works on similar principles to Electric Mountain.
  • Building another Electric Mountain would cost £1350 million, if we could find somewhere to put it.

But supposing half the 35.5 million cars and light goods vehicles in the UK were replaced by new electric vehicles containing a battery of around 20 kWh, that would be a total storage of 355 GWh or nearly forty Electric Mountains.


Harnessing all of these batteries will be an enormous challenge, but it will be ideas like this, that will enable the world to go carbon neutral by 2050.

But I don’t think we’ll ever see Trump or Xi Jinping in an electric limousine..


June 21, 2019 Posted by | World | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spain – Luxembourg Rail Motorway Service Launched

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

This is the first paragraph.

A ‘rail motorway’ service carrying unaccompanied lorry trailers 1 219 km between Barcelona and Luxembourg was launched on February 19. 

This is the fifth such service to be operated across France and will be operated five times a week, with a sixth service to be added in April.

One of these services takes unaccompanied lorry trailers between Calais and a terminal near Perpignan, so you might wonder why this service doesn’t start in the UK.

The only place, that it could serve in the UK would be Barking, due to our antique loading gauge not being able to accept piggyback trailers.

So we can’t really link the UK to this freight network.

There is an excellent discussion on Rail Forums, which goes through the issues.


Barking is probably not the best place for a terminal for unaccompanied lorry trailers.

It is close to the heavily-congested M25, but surely trains of unaccompanied trailers could be assembled in other parts of the UK and taken to Barking.

But rail lines connecting Barking to the North include the North London and Gospel Oak to Barking Lines, both of which would need drastic gauge enhancement to take the traffic. As these routes are crowded London commuter routes, this work would go down like a whole squadron of lead balloons.

Specialist Freight

If you stood by the Gospel Oak To Barking Line for twenty-four hours, you would see some specialist freight trains going through, often carrying cars or vehicle components.

I think there will be growth in this sector, perhaps for high-value or perishable cargo, in purpose-built trains. But it would only take a few trucks off the roads.

There is also the problem, that a lot of specialist cargo is only one way.

  • Minis go from Oxford to Europe.
  • Ford cars and vans go from Europe to the UK.
  • Perishable fruit and vegetables go from Southern Europe to the UK.
  • Scotch whisky and seafood would go from Scotland to Europe.

I am certain, there is a profitable market niche here to pair compatible cargoes.

High Speed Parcel Traffic

Could we also see a network of overnight high speed parcel trains linking Europe’s major conurbations and commercial centres?


Neither specialist freight or high speed parcel trains will make much of a dent in the number of trucks, that will continue to clog the motorways to the Port of Dover.



February 20, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 2 Comments

UK Objects To Description Of Gibraltar As ‘British Colony’ In EU Law

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

This is the first three paragraphs.

The UK has objected to Gibraltar being described as a “colony” in European Union legislation allowing UK nationals to travel to the EU after Brexit.

The EU proposed allowing visa-free travel for Britons in November.

The Spanish government has since insisted a footnote be added describing Gibraltar as a “colony” and referring to “controversy” over its status.

The UK’s Ambassador to the EU objected.


February 1, 2019 Posted by | World | , , , | 2 Comments

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

Has The World Cup Draw Been Kind To England?

When the draw was made for the World Cup, I didn’t pay much attention.

Perhaps, I should because England and Belgium were drawn in one the last two groups, they are playing virtually last in every round of matches.

So they are getting a good look at those they might meet in the future.

I don’t know how much of an advantage it is! But we shall see!

July 1, 2018 Posted by | Sport | , , | Leave a comment

The Spanish Like Their Beer

I took these pictures in Spain

I actually drunk four or possibly five different varieties of gluten-free beer in my week in the country.

I was also surprised to see gluten-free Brewdog and beer from St. Peter’s in El Cortes Ingles.


July 2, 2017 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

The Beer In Spain Makes Up For The Lack Of Rain

Before I was diagnosed as a coeliac, I used to like my beer. For a few years afterwards, I could drink bottles of Guinness from Park Royal, but like the brewery they are now history.

But in this trip to Spain, I have drunk four different gluten-free beers and as I post this, I’m seinking a bottle of Estrella Damm Daura and very reasonable it is too!

I used to get it from Waitrose, but her upstairs got it replaced with the aptly named Celia.

One day, I intend to share a bed with a Celia, whilst we drink appropriately bamed bottles.

I’ll add that to my bucket list!

By the way Cecelias need not apply!


June 24, 2017 Posted by | Coeliac, Food | , | Leave a comment

From Madrid To London

As the hotel at Chamartin didn’t have a restaurant and there wasn’t any tea or coffee making facilities in the room, I went for an explore at about four and found the station opened at 04:30.

So as I didn’t have any soap or shampoo with me and my luxurious four-star hotel didn’t provide any, I went back to the station as soon as it opened, after a breakfast of an EatNakd bar.

As I was hungry, in the most strange of hotels, I decided that the best thing to do, was take a train to Barcelona, then a TGV to Paris, followed by a Eurostar home.

At least the train companies seem to have systems that men you can get a keenly priced ticket from a machine without an ego or communication problem.

I found out by a roundabout way, that contrary to my informant from Spanish Railways at the airport, there were no trains to Barcelona from Chamartin, but one left at 05:50 from Atocha.

So it was a taxi to Atocha station at a cost of twenty euros, which I could have done the previous night for nothing on my ticket from the airport. Talk about the airport information guy, being a Spaniard in the Works.

To add insult to injury, there were several hotels in the area of Atocha, one of which was a brand I trust!

I bought the ticket to Barcelona with ease for €59 and after going through a full airline style security check, I just made the AVE high speed train to Barcelona. It was a Siemens train and like it seems all of their products had been designed without litter bins, although it did have an ash tray.  The latter was unneeded as the train was non-smoking. I did get a reasonable drink in the buffet, but of course nothing to eat was gluten-free.

The change of train at VBarcelona was pretty quick, but I did need to buy another ticket from the ticket office, rather than an intelligent machine.  I also had to go through security again to get back on the platform, where I arrived to get the TGV Duplex to Paris. Just 25 mins after arriving at 08:55, I was on my way to Paris. There are four trains a day for Paris and I paid a full fare of €170. has a full description of the journey.

This railway line up the Spanish and French coasts to the Rhone valley, is one of the best train rides in Europe. I didn’t chose to be on the top deck of the train, but that is where I was allocated a seat.

The Pyrenees

The Pyrenees

This picture shows the snow-capped mountains just before Perpignan and this shows the Etang de Thau before Sete.

Etang de Thau

Etang de Thau

They don’t show in the picture, but there were lots of greater flamingoes in the lakes. I never realised that these birds were so common in France, until a holiday in the area in about 1975.

Once in Paris at 15:53, I didn’t hang about but just jumped on the RER at Gare de Lyon for Paris Nord and the Eurostar. An hour and twenty minutes after arriving in Paris, I was leaving.

I finally arrived in London at 18:30 or just thirteen hours forty minutes after leaving Madrid.

This journey will get quicker, as for quite a way along the south coast of France, the trains don’t run on high speed lines. I can’t find any references to the distances on the journey, although Madrid to Barcelona and Paris to London are given as 621 and 495 kilometres respectively. Map Crow gives the Barcelona to Paris distance at 831 kilometres. I know this isn’t accurate and is probably a bit short, but that gives a total of 1947 kilometres, so my journey was at an average speed of 142 kmh. This compares with an average speed of 200 and 220 kmh on the first and last legs from Madrid to Barcelona and Paris to London respectively.

If the centre section was capable of an end-to-end average of 200 kmh, then a time from Madrid to London of under ten hours should be possible, especially if it was one train all the way.


February 12, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Leaving Marrakech

I got to the airport in a rather scruffy Fiat taxi and then had the problem of buying a ticket.

There appeared to be only one place to buy a ticket and I spent about two hundred pounds getting a ticket to Madrid, where I hoped I could sort the mess of this holiday out. There were no easyJet or British Airways desks, as I suppose everybody buys their tickets over the web these days.  And there were no Internet terminals like you get in most big UK airports.The ticket desk didn’t take credit cards either, but at least the cash machine worked well. I can’t remember when I last paid cash for an airline ticket. If I ever have!

But it all worked and at 14:00 I was on my way in a smart Iberia RCJ-1000 to Madrid. I hadn’t flown in one of these before and it was certainly more comfortable, than the British Airways 737, I’d taken on the way to Marrakech.

I looked at the menu and noted that they had some gluten free snacks, so I thought I’d have some with some water.  But unfortunately, they weren’t carrying any gluten-free snacks and I couldn’t buy any water, as I didn’t have any Euro and they didn’t take any other currency.  They wouldn’t take a credit card for two euros either. However, the stewardess did bring me a free glass of water, with which to take my Warfarin.

I had thought that once in Madrid airport, some sanity would prevail, but the only ticket to London would cost me eight hundred euros.  They did say I could buy one cheaper from an Internet terminal. But the design of the terminal was totally for Spanish and must rate as one of the worst pieces of design, that I’ve ever seen.

So if nothing, I learnt that unlike with trains, don’t ever turn up at an airport without a ticket. I have done this before from Greece. But that was a couple of years ago and I did pay about two hundred odd euros for an easyJet ticket to London.

So I thought the best thing to do, was go to the centre of Madrid and find a hotel. The helpful guy at Spanish Railways advised me to go to Chamartin and sold me a ticket for a couple of euros.

February 11, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment