The Anonymous Widower

How Removing Level Crossings Can Get Complicated And Expensive

This article in the East Anglian Daily Times is entitled Multi-Million Pound Lift Could Boost Rail Link From Sudbury To Colchester.

Greater Anglia intend to improve the service on the Gainsborough Line by running direct services between Sudbury and Colchester Town stations.

One of the reasons for doing this, is that the increasing number of passengers travelling between Sudbury and Colchester will avoid changing trains at Marks Tey station.

This Google Map shows Marks Tey station.

Note.

  • The two platforms on the Great Eastern Main Line.
  • The single platform for the Gainsborough Line.
  • The footbridge over the main line.

As can be seen, the only step-free interchange with the Gainsborough Line is to and from trains going North to Colchester and Ipswich.

These pictures show the frootbridge and the Gainsborough Line platform.

It is not an ideal interchange for passengers other than the unencumbered, fit and healthy.

I suspect some passengers from Sudbury to London might even take a train to Colchester first and then use the lifts to change to a London train.

And then there’s the Car Parking!

Note in the Google Map, that the station has two car parks, one on each side of the line. So most using the car parks will have to cross the line on the footbridge.

Also note, that the car park on the Northern side of the station, is connected to the station using a pedestrian crossing over the single track rail line, that connects the Gainsborough Line to the Great Eastern Main Line.

According to the East Anglian article, this rail line is used twice a day. But when the Sudbury to Colchester Town service starts, it will be used twice an hour. Anf if this service is successful, I can see Greater Anglia wanting to run the service with a frequency of two trains per hour (tph), which would mean four tph going over the pedestrian crossing.

Understandably, Network Rail want to remove the pedestrian crossing.

This is a paragraph from the East Anglian article.

The national fund has £300m available – and Mr Burles said he estimated that the cost of the work at Marks Tey would be between £4m and £5m. It is at the top of Greater Anglia’s “wish list,” but political support would be necessary if the money was to be released.

As to the political support, the Gainsborough Line and Marks Tey are in a total of five constituencies; all of which are Conservative.

I suspect, Chris Grayling could be under severe pressure from this one.

Although you have to remember that to many civil servants in the Department of Transport, Suffolk is just an area, you pass through on the way to your weekend cottage in Norfolk.

 

 

August 16, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Railbaar In Rail Engineer

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

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

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

This is said.

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

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

The Felixstowe Branch Line

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sudbury And Colchester Town

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

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

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

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

Operation could be as follows.

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

Note.

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

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

Aventras And Railbaar

The Aventra has a slightly unusual and innovative electrical layout.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusions

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

Marks Tey Station And The Sudbury Branch

The Sudbury Branch or the Gainsborough Line, is one of those lines that abound all over the UK, to serve a major town stranded from the main line.

These pictures show my visit.

Note.

Incidentally, I was able to get to Sudbury from London for just £11.70, using my Freedom Pass to Shenfield and a ticket from there to Sudbury with my Senior Railcard.

The Future Of The Sudbury Branch

With the new franchise being awarded within a few weeks, I wonder what the plans are for Marks Tey station and the Sudbury Branch.

  • I can’t find anything about the building works at Marks Tey station.
  • The station certainly needs a proper bridge with lifts.
  • Marks Tey only has two trains per hour in each direction. Is that enough?
  • Trains are hourly between Marks Tey and Sudbury and for a weekday were fairly busy.
  • In an ideal world, trains would be twice an hour on the Sudbury Branch and would synchronise with trains on the Great Eastern Main Line.
  • The journey takes nineteen minutes between Sudbury and Marks Tey, which probably means that two trains are needed for a doubled frequency.

There is certainly a lot of potential for an improved service.

Two Trains Per Hour To Sudbury

The obvious way to achieve a two trains per hour service on the Sudbury Branch would be to use two trains. Although, this could be expensive as the line probably works currently under rules called One Train Working.

It would also need a passing loop on the single-track branch, two trains and two crews, so I think it could be discounted.

The line has a speed limit of 50 mph and it is not electrified. If the line was upgraded to increase this speed limit, it might be possible for a single train to shuttle twice between Marks Tey and Sudbury in an hour. Time could be saved, by using two drivers and changing them at Marks Tey. But the current time of nineteen minutes for the journey makes four trips in an hour impossible. It probably needs a time in the order of ten to thirteen minutes, which might be possible with a faster train after the track was upgraded to say 75 mph.

Electric trains accelerate faster and generally have shorter station dwell times, than the current Class 156 diesel trains.

So perhaps to electrify the line is an option, that would allow the desired service. But electrification of the line will be expensive and there will be a lot of opposition to having overhead gantries marching through the Suffolk countryside and on top of the Grade II Listed Chappel Viaduct.

An Aventra IPEMU To Sudbury

One solution that would work is to use something like a four-car Class 710 train, that are being built for the London Overground.

It would need to be an IPEMU, fitted with energy storage and there would probably need to be a short length of electrification in Platform 3 at Marks Tey station to charge the train after each trip to Sudbury.

A Suffolk Metro From Sudbury To Felixstowe

An alternative strategy may also be possible, which would require no new track, platforms or electrification.

The Felixstowe branch also needs new trains and could be run using a similar Aventra IPEMU from Ipswich.

So why not link the two services back-to-back to create a half-hourly service from Sudbury to Felixstowe, which called at the following stations?

  • Bures
  • Chappel and Wakes Colne
  • Marks Tey
  • Colchester
  • Manningtree
  • Ipswich
  • Westerfield
  • Derby Road
  • Trimley

The trains would charge their energy storage on the main line and the Felixstowe branch would not need a bay platform at Ipswich station.

The Sudbury and Felixstowe Branches are eleven and twelve miles long respectively, which means that if the trains charged their energy storage on the main line between Ipswich and Marks Tey, they would need to be able to do about twenty-five miles on their on-board energy storage, which is well within all estimates of the train’s range.

Currently, using three trains that would take 72 minutes of train time, but I suspect that time saved on the branches by an Aventra could make the trip in around an hour.

In Could Class 387 Trains Do Norwich In Ninety And Ipswich In Sixty?, I postulated that to achieve the Norwich in Ninety and Ipswich in Sixty targets, all trains North of Colchester, must be capable of running at 110 mph, so they don’t slow the crack East Anglian Expresses down.

This rule would probably have to apply to the Felixstowe to Sudbury trains.

This would be one of those train services where most are winners.

  • Passengers on the two branch lines get a two trains per hour direct service to Ipswich, Manningtree and Colchester, run using modern four-car electric trains.
  • Passengers using stations between Marks Tey and Ipswich would have extra trains to Ipswich and Colchester.
  • The train operator replaces two ageing diesel multiple units, with two brand-new electric multiple units with an IPEMU-capability.
  • Network Rail would have no electrification to install and only minimal changes to make to infrastructure, such as some general track improvement and platform lengthening.
  • It would probably help time-keeping, if the long-promised dualling of part of the Felixstowe Branch were to be done.
  • There might even be a case for reopening disused stations at Bentley, Ardleigh and Orwell and perhaps creating a couple of new ones.

What I have proposed is pure speculation, but it could be the first line of the Suffolk Metro.

Incidentally, I wouldn’t be surprised to see four-car Aventra IPEMUs working the following routes for the new East Anglian Franchise.

  • Cambridge to Norwich.
  • Ipswich to Bury St. Edmunds, Cambridge, Ely and Peterborough
  • March to Wisbech
  • Norwich to Cromer, Lowestoft, Sheringham and Yarmouth.

The only line, which would be outside their capability would be Ipswich to Lowestoft, which is just a bit long. But the Aventras would release Class 170 trains to provide a high quality service on this line.

There are several reasons, why I think that IPEMUs might be used in East Anglia.

  • The tests of the IPEMU technology were carried out by Abellio Greater Anglia on the Harwich branch. The drivers must know how good the IPEMU technology really is.
  • East Anglia has several branch lines for which using IPEMU technology, is an affordable way of introducing electric trains.
  • Network Rail have an appalling record, when it comes to electrification.
  • What is the state of the electrification  on the Braintree, Southminster and Harwich branches? It might be more affordable instead of replacing dodgy wiring to use a train with IPEMU technology.
  • Quite a few of these branches have capacity problems, which a four-car electric train would solve.
  • The invitation to tender for the franchise included the following – “extra points will be awarded to bidders who include plans to trial new technologies in rolling stock”
  • Providing free wi-fi across the franchise is mandated. Does anybody fancy doing this in a Class 153 or Class 156 train?

The new franchise is supposed to be awarded before the 21st of July, this year.

It will be interesting to hear the winner’s plans.

Onward To Cambridge

It is just a pity, that the Stour Valley Railway from Sudbury to Cambridge via Haverhill was closed in the 1960s.

In Sudbury To Cambridge – D-Train, IPEMU Or Tram-Train?, I looked at the various options for reopening the whole line to create a new route from Ipswich and Colchester to Cambridge via Marks Tey, Sudbury and Haverhill.

As trains from Sudbury to Felixstowe will probably be Aventra IPEMUs with a main line capability, these trains would be used through to Cambridge, which is about fifty miles from Marks Tey.

I think this line will eventually be rebuilt.

  • This is the sort of project a devolved East Anglian Authority would back.
  • It creates alternative routes to London and Cambridge.
  • It joins up well with the East West Rail Link and the prtoposed station at Addenbrookes Hospital.
  • It provides another commuting route for Cambridge.
  • It puts Haverhill back on the rail map.
  • It would complete rail links from Suffolk’s County Town of Ipswich to all parts of the county

Who knows what routes will be unlocked by the reopening of the Stour Valley Railway?

 

 

July 10, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 3 Comments