The Anonymous Widower

Could Battery-Electric Trains Be Used To Fight Cable Theft On Third-Rail Electrified Lines?

This article on the Network Rail web site is entitled What We’re Doing To Beat The Thieves.

These two paragraphs introduce the article.

Cable theft costs us millions of pounds each year. The total cost to the economy – taking into account the impact of freight delays to power stations and supermarkets, and on passengers who miss appointments or have their day ruined – is even higher.

The theft of metal is a big problem for the railway as thieves target signalling cables, overhead power lines and even metal fences to sell for scrap.

I took these pictures of cables on a trip to Hayes station, where the electrification is third-rail.

 

They all seem to be big and fat and are almost solid copper. Note that the cables are fat as they are carrying 750 VDC, so they need to be so, to carry the power for the trains, which can be several megawatts.

This explains, why thieves love these cables lying around and easy to access.

I should also say from personal experience, that with the right tools, it is easy to cut cables like these. When I worked at Enfield Rolling Mills in one summer in the early 1960s, I was asked by an electrician to help him dismantle the power cables to a machine. He cut through one with ease with an ordinary hacksaw, whilst I held it, with a couple of clamps.

I suspect modern day cable thieves have more advanced tools than we did sixty years ago.

A rail network like the UK, generally has four main types of lines that are electrified using third rails.

  • Main Lines, where trains run at 100 mph plus.
  • Branch Lines, which are generally shorter and trains run more slowly.
  • Sidings and depots.
  • Junctions

Note.

  1. Main Lines are probably easier to protect using security cameras, drones and surveillance devices on trains.
  2. As trains are also more frequent and faster, this must make cable thefts less likely to happen on Main Lines.
  3. Branch Lines and especially rural ones, that may be quiet for long periods could be very difficult to protect.
  4. Judging by the amount of graffiti on trains put on in sidings and depots, these are not easy to protect.
  5. Junctions are complex, often with lots of cables, so could be magnets for thieves.

It should also be noted that there are phone apps, that can be used by the thieves to know when a train is coming.

So could it be possible to cut cable theft, by using battery-electric trains, that didn’t need electrification in theft-prone areas like branch lines, sidings, depots and junctions?

November 22, 2022 Posted by | Energy, Transport/Travel | , | 3 Comments

Optimal Prediction of Sand For Adhesion

This project was one of the winners in the First Of A Kind 2022 competition run by Innovate UK.

In this document, this is said about the project.

Project No: 10039258

Project title: Optimal Prediction of Sand For Adhesion
Lead organisation: GOVIA THAMESLINK RAILWAY LIMITED
Project grant: £153,228

Public description: Train services are affected by seasonal variables particularly leaf fall between September and
December. They can also be compromised by wet weather, icy and snowy conditions at a regional
or very localised level on a particular route. Maintaining wheel-rail contact to ensure adequate and
safe braking requires the use of sand in low adhesion conditions. Sand is dispensed to trains in
response to a combination of train service plans and of weather forecast. However, not all trains
are currently able to be replenished during overnight stabling and servicing with attendant risks of
delays and damage to trains and infrastructure. Also, there is a high level of safety risk when sand
replenishment on trains is carried out on a third-rail yard.

“Optimal Prediction of Sand for Adhesion” (OPSA) lead by Govia Thameslink Railway, the major
Train Operating Company on third rail in the UK, will deliver a more efficient and cost-effective
means of predicting the dispensing of sand to trains to ensure services are not compromised by
adhesion losses and train sets are not required to be removed from planned operating diagrams
because of inadequate on board sand supplies. The algorithm developed as a results of this project
will base the estimates on an integrated framework that includes the forecast adhesion, track
maintenance and the expected speed profile in order to capture the change in weather and the seasonal factors.

The algorithm developed represents a cost effective solution to predict the use of sand and
schedule the maintenance of trains enhancing in turn safety and reducing the impact of delays on
the timetable. The algorithm will be developed including direct measure of sand dispersion, braking,
wheel slip and line speed diagram also accounting for human behaviour effects such as driving
style.
Govia Thameslink Railway has engaged with Cranfield University to deliver the disruptive
innovation proposed in this project. The algorithm will enable a more efficient train scheduling
improving public performance measure (PPM) addressing train delay targeting in particular the
25% of delay up to 15 minutes cause by several concurrent issues including train rescheduling and
the National Rail Passenger Survey satisfaction.

My Thoughts And Conclusions

November 18, 2022 Posted by | Computing, Transport/Travel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Battery EMUs Envisaged In Southeastern Fleet Procurement

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

This is the first paragraph.

Southeastern has invited expressions of interest for the supply of new electric multiple-units with an optional battery capability for operation away from the 750 V DC third-rail network.

This article on bidstats is entitled Supply Of And Maintenance Support For New Rolling Stock For Southeastern, and gives more details.

These are my thoughts.

Southeastern HighSpeed Services

There would appear to be no changes in this contract to the Class 395 trains, that work on High Speed One, as this is said in the bidstats article.

Full compatibility with Southeastern infrastructure (excluding High Speed 1 infrastructure)

which appears to rule out running on High Speed One.

In addition, this article on Rail Magazine is entitled Southeastern’s Class 395 Javelin Train Sets Are To Receive A £27 million Facelift.

Southeastern Have Both 75 and 100 mph Trains

In addition to their Class 395 trains, Southeastern have the following trains in their fleet.

Note.

  1. Running a mixed fleet of 75 and 100 mph trains can’t be very efficient.
  2. The Class 465 and 466 trains are the oldest trains and date from 1991-1994.
  3. They are often to be seen in ten-car formations of 2 x 465 trains and a Class 466 train.
  4. Another twelve Class 707 trains are planned to join Southeastern.

I would expect the Class 465 and Class 466 trains to be replaced first.

What Length Will The New Trains Be?

If you look at the new suburban electric trains, they have the following lengths.

Note.

  1. Southeastern already run five-car trains as pairs.
  2. A significant proportion of existing suburban trains are five-car trains.
  3. Great Western, Hull Trains, LNER, Lumo and TransPennine Express run five-car Hitachi trains, with more companies  to follow.
  4. A pair of five-car trains make a pair of a convenient length for most platforms.

I would be fairly confident, that the new trains will be five-car trains, with the ability to run as pairs.

What Will Be The Operating Speed Of The New Trains?

To match the speed of the Class 375 and Class 707 trains, I would expect them to be 100 mph trains.

The Quietness Of Battery-Electric Trains

All of the battery-electric trains I have ridden, have been mouse-quiet, with none of the clunking you get for a lot of electric trains.

This is said in the bidstats article says this about the interiors

Interiors suitable for metro & mainline operation.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of these trains on commuter routes to attract passengers.

Battery Power

This is said in the bidstats article about battery power.

Inclusion of options for traction batteries with capability for operation in depots and sidings without the need for external power supply, and with the capability to operate on the main line where power supply is not available due to isolations or incidents, or for non-electrified line sections of up to 20 miles.

Although Merseyrail’s new Class 777 trains are not in service yet, I find it interesting that the proposed Southeastern trains will be similarly-fitted with a small battery for depot and siding operation.

The twenty mile battery range is specific and I wonder if it will be used innovatively. I suspect it could be a bit longer in the future, as battery technology improves.

Possible Electrified Routes Using Battery Power

These are a few possibilities.

The Hoo Branch

In Effort To Contain Costs For Hoo Reopening, I discussed running electric trains to a proposed Hoo station.

I made these two points.

  • Hoo junction to Hoo station is no more than five or six miles.
  • There are also half-a-dozen level crossings on the route, which I doubt the anti-third rail brigade would not want to be electrified.

It would appear that a battery-electric train with a range of twenty miles would handle this route easily.

  • Charging would be on the nearly thirty miles between Hoo junction and Charing Cross station.
  • No charging would be needed at Hoo station.

There may be other possibilities for new routes locally to open up new housing developments.

The Sheerness Line

The Sheerness Line has the following characteristics.

  • It is double-track
  • It is electrified
  • It is less than eight miles long.
  • For most of the day, the service is one train per hour (tph)
  • There are two tph in the Peak.
  • Would two tph attract more passengers to the line?
  • Does the power supply on the Sheerness Line limit the size and power of trains that can be run on the line?
  • Is there a need for one train per day to London in the morning and a return in the evening?
  • Could the Sheerness Line be run more economically with battery trains. providing a two tph service all day?

The Isle of Sheppey needs levelling up, perhaps 100 mph trains to London using battery power on the Sheerness Line, might just make a difference.

The Medway Valley Line

The Medway Valley Line has the following characteristics.

  • It is double-track
  • It is electrified
  • It is less than twenty-six and a half miles long.
  • For most of the day, the service is two tph.
  • In the Peak there are HighSpeed services between Maidstone West and St.Pancras International stations.

If electrification was removed between Paddock Wood and Maidstone West stations, the HighSpeed services could still be run and battery-electric trains with a twenty mile range could still run the Tonbridge and Strood service.

The Marshlink Line

The Marshlink Line has the following characteristics.

  • It is mainly single-track with a passing loop at Rye station.
  • It is not electrified
  • It is 25.4 miles between the electrified Ashford International and Ore stations.
  • Services are irregular and less than one tph.

If the proposed battery-electric train had a range of thirty miles, it should be able to handle the Marshlink Line.

The service between Eastbourne and Ashford International stations would need to be moved between the Southern and Southeastern operations.

The Uckfield Branch

The Uckfield Branch has the following characteristics.

  • It is a mixture of single- and double-track.
  • It is not electrified South of Hurst Green Junction.
  • It is 24.7 miles between the electrified Hurst Green Junction and Uckfield station
  • Services are one tph.

If the proposed battery-electric train had a range of thirty-miles, it should be able to handle the Uckfield Branch, with a charging system at Uckfield station.

Will Battery-Electric Trains Allow Some Lines To Have Their Electrification Removed?

There are several reasons, why electrification might be removed.

  1. It is on a line, where the electrification needs upgrading.
  2. It is on a line, where there are lots of trespassers.
  3. Possibly at a level-crossing or a stretch of track with several.
  4. Possibly in a tunnel, with a large inflow if water.
  5. It is a depot or siding, where safety is important to protect the workforce.

Obviously, the electrification would not be removed unless  battery-electric trains can handle all possible services.

These are surely some possibilities for electrification removal.

The Hayes Line

The Hayes Line has the following characteristics.

  • It is double-track
  • It is electrified
  • It is less than eight miles to Ladywell Junction, where the branch joins the main line at Lewisham.
  • It is currently run by Class 465 and Class 466 trains, which will likely be changed for the new trains with a battery capability.
  • Services are four tph.

If the proposed battery-electric train had a range of twenty-miles, it would be able to handle the route between Ladywell junction and Hayes station.

Erith Loop, Crayford Spur and Slade Green Depot

This map from Cartometro.com shows the Erith Loop, the Crayford Spur and the Slade Green Depot.

Note.

 

Not many trains take the Erith Loop or the Crayford Spur.

  • The distance between Slade Green and Barnehurst is less than a mile-and-a-half.
  • Dartford station is off the South-East corner of the map.
  • The distance between Barnehurst and Dartford is less than three miles.
  • The distance between Slade Green and Crayford is less than two miles-and-a-half.
  • The distance between Crayford and Dartford is less than two miles.
  • The main line through Slade Green would need to remain electrified, as electric freight trains use the line.

I suspect, that quite a lot of electrification could be removed here, much to the disgust of the copper thieves.

It might even be possible to build on top of the depot.

 

 

November 14, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Effort To Contain Costs For Hoo Reopening

The title of this post, is the same as that of an article in the April 2022 Edition of Modern Railways.

This is the first paragraph.

Medway Council is working with Network Rail and other industry players in an effort to make restoration of a passenger service to Hoo on the Isle of Grain branch feasible. The Council was awarded £170 million from the Housing Infrastructure Fund in 2020 to support schemes to facilitate building of 12,000 new houses in the area, with £63 million of the HIF money for reinstatement of services on the Hoo Branch.

The article mentions, this new infrastructure.

  • A new station South of the former Sharnal Street station.
  • Works to level crossings, of which there are six between Gravesend station and proposed site of the new Hoo station.
  • A passing place at Hoo Junction, where the branch joins the North Kent Line.
  • A passing place at Cooling Street.

Note.

  1. The single-platform Bow Street station cost £8 million.
  2. The single-platform Soham station cost nearly £22 million, but it has a bridge.
  3. Reopening the Okehampton branch and refurbishing Okehampton station cost £40 million.

I think costs will be very tight.

Possible Train Services

This is said in the article about the train service on the branch.

While third rail electrification was originally proposed, this idea has been discarded in favour of self-powered trains on the branch, such as battery-operated trains. Possible destinations include Gravesend, Northfleet or Ebbsfleet for interchange with trains going to London, or extension of London to Dartford or Gravesend services over the branch, using hybrid third-rail/battery trains.

Consider.

  • Merseyrail will be using battery-electric trains to provide services to the new Headbolt Lane station, as permission was not available for extending the existing third-rail track.
  • Electrification would probably cost more than providing a charging system at Hoo station.
  • Turning the trains at Gravesend, Northfleet or Ebbsfleet could be difficult and a new bay platform would probably break the budget.
  • Both Dartford and Gravesend have two trains per hour (tph), that could be extended to the new Hoo station.
  • Hoo junction to Hoo station is no more than five or six miles.
  • There are also half-a-dozen level crossings on the route, which I doubt the anti-thord rail brigade would not want to be electrified.
  • The Dartford services have a possible advantage in that they stop at Abbey Wood station for Crossrail.
  • It may be easier to run services through Gravesend station, if the terminating service from Charing Cross were to be extended to Hoo station.
  • A two tph service between London Charing Cross and Hoo stations, with intermediate stops at at least London Bridge, Lewisham, Abbey Wood and Dartford would probably be desirable.

I feel that the most affordable way to run trains to Hoo station will probably be to use battery-electric trains, which are extended from Gravesend.

It may even be possible to run trains to Hoo station without the need of a charging system at the station, which would further reduce the cost of infrastructure.

Possible Trains

Consider.

  • According to Wikipedia, stopping Gravesend services are now run by Class 376, Class 465, Class 466 and Class 707 trains.
  • Real Time Trains indicate that Gravesend services are run by pathed for 90 mph trains.
  • Class 376, Class 465 and Class 466 trains are only 75 mph trains.
  • Class 707 trains are 100 mph trains and only entered service in 2017.

I wonder, if Siemens designed these trains to be able to run on battery power, as several of their other trains can use batteries, as can their New Tube for London.

In Thoughts On The Power System For The New Tube for London, I said this.

This article on Rail Engineer is entitled London Underground Deep Tube Upgrade.

This is an extract.

More speculatively, there might be a means to independently power a train to the next station, possibly using the auxiliary battery, in the event of traction power loss.

Batteries in the New Tube for London would have other applications.

  • Handling regenerative braking.
  • Moving trains in sidings and depots with no electrification.

It should be born in mind, that battery capacity for a given weight of battery will increase before the first New Tube for London runs on the Piccadilly line around 2023.

A battery-electric train with a range of fifteen miles and regenerative braking to battery would probably be able to handle a return trip to Hoo station.

An Update In The July 2022 Edition Of Modern Railways

This is said on page 75.

More positive is the outlook for restoration of passenger services on the Hoo branch, where 12,000 new houses are proposed and Medway Council is looking to build a new station halfway down the branch to serve them. As the branch is unelectrified, one idea that has been looked at is a shuttle with a Vivarail battery train or similar, turning round at Gravesend or another station on the main line.

Steve White worries that this could mean spending a lot of money on infrastructure work and ending up with what would be a sub-optimal solution. ‘Do people really want to sit on a train for 10 minutes before having to get out and change onto another train? I don’t think so. Ideally what you want is through trains to London, by extending the Gravesend terminators to Hoo.’

That would require a battery/third rail hybrid unit, but Mr. White thinks that is far from an outlandish proposal; with Networker replacement on the horizon, a small bi-mode sub-fleet could dovetail neatly with a stock renewal programme. Medway Council and rail industry representatives are working on coming up with a solution for Hoo that could do what it does best; facilitating economic regeneration in a local area.

Note that Steve White is Managing Director of Southeastern.

I’ll go along with what he says!

Conclusion

I believe that a well-designed simple station and branch line could be possible within the budget.

A battery-electric upgrade to Class 707 trains could be a solution.

But the trains could be very similar to those needed for Uckfield and to extend electric services in Scotland.

May 2, 2022 Posted by | Design, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

ORR’s Policy On Third Rail DC Electrification Systems

The title of this post is the same as that of a document I downloaded from this page on the Office of Rail and Road web site.

It is one of the most boring legal documents, that I have ever read and I have read a few in my time.

As I read it, effectively it says that new third-rail electrification is banned because of Health and Safety issues, which take precedence.

But only once in the document is new technology mentioned, that might make third-rail safer and that is a reference to the Docklands Light Railway, where the third rail is shielded.

I am an Electrical Engineer and I was designing safety systems for heavy industrial guillotines at fifteen as a vacation job in a non-ferrous metals factory.

One design of an ideal electric railway would have battery-electric trains, that were charged in stations by third-rail. The third-rail would only be energised, when a train was over the top and needed to be charged. In effect the train would act as an all-enclosing guard to the conductor rail.

Electrification Of The West Of England Main Line

The West of England Main Line runs between Basingstoke and Exeter via Salisbury. It is one of the longest, if not the longest main lines in England, that is not electrified.

It would probably need to be electrified with 750 VDC third-rail electrification, as that standard is used between London Waterloo and Basingstoke.

In Solving The Electrification Conundrum, I described a system being developed by Hitachi, that would use battery-electric trains that were charged by short sections of electrified line every fifty miles or so. For reasons of ease of installation and overall costs, these short sections of electrification could be third-rail, that was electrically dead unless a train was connected and needed charging. These electrified sections could also be in stations, where entry on to the railway is a bit more restricted.

Conclusion

The Office of Rail and Road needs to employ a few more engineers with good technical brains, rather than ultra-conservative risk-averse lawyers.

As a sad footnote, I live in East London, where trespassers are regularly electrocuted on the railway. But usually, it is when idiots are travelling on top of container trains  and inadvertently come into contact with the overhead electrification.

July 10, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Gatwick Rail Service Could Link Far Reaches Of The South East

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Surrey Live.

Despite being reported on Surrey Live and the fact that Gatwick is in Sussex, the plan has been proposed by Kent County Council’s Rail Project Manager.

The plan would extend the existing Great Western railway line – which runs from Reading to Gatwick via Redhill – to mid and east Kent.

The article suggests the service could go between Reading and Canterbury West stations.

This table sums up the connectivity.

I have a few thoughts.

The Terminal Stations

The suitability of the two proposed terminals can be summed up.

  • Reading has been designed as a terminal station, with five bay platforms, three of which can be used by Gatwick services.
  • Canterbury West has not been designed as a terminal station and has no bay platforms.

Perhaps Ashford International station would be a better Eastern terminal?

  • It has Eurostar services.
  • Trains can terminate in Platform 1 and go to Tonbridge.
  • It has lots of car parking.

Dover Priority and Ramsgate could also be possibilities as they have terminal platforms.

Connecting At Gatwick Airport

It looks like a combined service might get complicated in the Redhill/Gatwick area.

  • Trains between Reading and Gatwick go via Redhill station, where they reverse.
  • There is no direct route between Tonbridge and Gatwick, so trains will probably have to reverse at Redhill, to go between Tonbridge and Gatwick.

Would a service between Reading and Ashford, that reversed twice at Redhill and once at Gatwick, be rather tricky to operate? Or even unpopular with passengers?

This Google Map shows Redhill station and the lines leading South from the station.

Note.

  • Redhill station at the top of the map.
  • The Brighton Main Line running North-South in the middle of the map.
  • The North Downs Line to Guildford and Reading curving West from the station.
  • The Redhill and Tonbridge Line to Tonbridge and Ashford leaving the map in the South-East corner.

I suspect that adding extra tracks in a very crowded area will be very difficult.

What Do The Timings Show?

A quick calculation, which is based on current timings, can give a journey time for between Ashford and Gatwick Airport.

  • Ashford and Tonbridge – Southeastern timing – 38 minutes
  • Tonbridge and Redhill – Southern timing – 35 minutes
  • Reverse at Redhill – GWR timing – 4 minutes
  • Redhill and Gatwick – GWR timing – 8 minutes

This gives a total of eighty-five minutes.

  • Google says that you can drive it in sixty-three minutes.
  • If you took the train today, between Ashford International and Gatwick Airport stations, the fastest rail journey is around 110 minutes with a change at St. Pancras International.

It does look though that a faster train between Kent and Gatwick Airport could be competitive, as going via London certainly isn’t!

Could Simplification And Automation Provide A Solution?

Consider.

  • The Ashford International and Tonbridge timing, that I have used includes five stops.
  • The Tonbridge and Redhill timing, that I have used includes five stops.
  • How much time would be saved by only stopping at Tonbridge between Ashford International and Gatwick?
  • Could automation handle a fast reverse at Redhill, where passengers couldn’t board or leave the train?
  • Would a driver in each cab, allow the reverses to be done faster?

Trains going between Reading and Ashford International, would call at the following stations between Guildford and Tonbridge.

  • Dorking Deepdene
  • Reigate
  • Redhill
  • Gatwick Airport
  • Redhill – A quick Touch-And-Go.
  • Tonbridge
  • Paddock Wood

If two minutes a stop could be saved at each of the nine omitted stops and at each reverse, this would save twenty minutes East of Gatwick, which would give the following timings.

  • Gatwick and Tonbridge – 27 minutes
  • Gatwick and Ashford International – 65 minutes

Timings would be compatible with driving.

West of Gatwick, the service would be as the current GWR service.

  • After arriving at Gatwick from Ashford, the train would reverse.
  • En route it would reverse at Redhill, to continue to Reading.

Passengers wanting to go between say Tonbridge and Redhill, would use this reverse at Redhill to join and leave the train.

It would be an unusual way to operate a train service, but I feel it could be made to work, especially with the right automation and/or a second driver.

Trains For The Service

The service can be split into various legs between Ashford and Reading.

  • Ashford and Tonbridge – Electrified – 26.5 miles – 38 minutes
  • Tonbridge and Redhill – Electrified – 20 miles – 35 minutes
  • Redhill and Gatwick – Electrified – 7 miles – 8 minutes
  • Gatwick and Redhill – Electrified – 7 miles – 8 minutes
  • Redhill and Reigate – Electrified – 2 miles – 4 minutes
  • Reigate and Shalford Junction – Not Electrified – 17 miles – 20 minutes
  • Shalford Junction and North Camp – Electrified – 9 miles – 11 minutes
  • North Camp and Wokingham – Not Electrified – 11 miles – 14 minutes
  • Wokingham and Reading – Electrified – 7 miles and 9 minutes

Note.

  1. Ashford, Tonbridge, Redhill, Gatwick, Guildford, Wokingham and Reading are all fully-electrified main line stations.
  2. Most of the route and the two ends are electrified.
  3. All electrification is 750 VDC third rail.
  4. All sections without electrification are less than twenty miles.

This route would surely be ideal for a battery electric train.

As both the Heathrow and Gatwick Express services are run using Class 387 trains and the Stansted Express has used Class 379 trains for the last few years, similar trains to these might be an ideal choice, if they could be fitted with battery power and the ability to use 750 VDC third-rail electrification.

The facts seem to be on the side of this service.

  • There are spare Class 387 trains and some more will be released by c2c in the next few years.
  • Greater Anglia will be replacing their Class 379 trains with new Class 745 trains.
  • A Class 379 train was used to test the concept of battery electric trains.
  • Both class of trains could be fitted with third-rail gear.

Either of these trains could be used for the service.

As they are 100 or 110 mph trains with good acceleration, they might even save a few minutes on the journey.

Infrastructure Changes

I suspect they could be minimal, once it was worked out how to handle the three reverses in the Gatwick and Redhill area.

Conclusion

I think it would be a feasible plan to run an Ashford and Reading service via Gatwick.

I would also decarbonise the route at the same time, as it must be one of the easiest routes in the country to run using battery electric trains.

  • There is electrification at both ends and in the middle.
  • The longest stretch of track without electrification is just seventeen miles.
  • All charging could be done using existing electrification.
  • There are platforms at both ends, where trains can get a full charge.
  • There are trains available, that are suitable for conversion to battery trains for the route.
  • No extra infrastructure would be needed.
  • Battery electric trains would allow extension of the route to Oxford in the West.

How many extra passengers would be persuaded to take the train to Gatwick, by the novelty of a battery electric Aurport Express?

Marketing men and women would love the last point!

 

 

September 19, 2020 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Mathematics Of Fast-Charging Battery Trains Using Third-Rail Electrification

In Vivarail Unveils Fast Charging System For Class 230 Battery Trains, I talked about how Vivarail are proposing to fast-charge their Class 230 trains.

  • The trains are fitted with special high-capacity third rail shoes.
  • Third-rail electrification is laid in stations.
  • The third rail is powered by a bank of bstteries, that are trickle-charged from the mains or perhaps even solar power.
  • When the train connects to the rail, the rail is made live and a fast transfer takes place between third-rail and train.

So how much electricity could be passed to a train during a stop?

The most powerful locomotive in the UK, that can use 750 VDC third-rail electrification is a Class 92 locomotive.

According to Wikipedia, it can produce a power output of 4 MW or 4,000 kW, when working on third-rail electrification.

This means, that in an hour, four thousand kWh will be transferred to the train using conventional third-rail electrification.

Or in a minute 66.7 kWh can be transferred.

In Vivarail’s system, because they are transferring energy between batteries, enormous currents can be passed.

To illustrate how batteries can can deliver enormous currents here’s a video of  a guy using two car batteries to weld things together.

These currents are possible because batteries have a low impedance and when the battery on the train is connected to the battery bank on the station, the two batteries will equalise their power.

If we take the example of the Class 92 locomotive and conventional electrification, this would be able to transfer 200 kWh in three minutes or 400 kWh in six minutes.

But I believe that battery-to-battery transfers could be at a much higher current

Thus in a typical one or two minute stop in a station, upwards of 200 kWh could be transferred to the train.

On this page of their web-site, Vivarail say this.

Due to the high currents required for the train Vivarail uses a carbon ceramic shoe able to withstand the heat generated in the process – without this shoe the charge time would make operational running unfeasible.

The devil is always in the details! From what I’ve seen and heard about the company, that would fit!

 

July 12, 2019 Posted by | Energy, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Would Third-Rail Tram-Trains Affect The Design Of The Proposed Streatham Interchange Station?

Transport for London’s proposal for the Bakerloo Line Extension comes with a very nice map of the various projects that will be carried out to improve rail services in South London.

It is all good stuff and most is easily explained.

There is a little yellow box, which has a title of Streatham Common and contains the words.

Potential new interchange hub.

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the rail lines around Streatham and Streatham Common stations.

 

Streatham Interchange station has been proposed and could be at the major junction to the North of Streatham Common station.

Trains on the following routes could call.

  • Thameslink services on the Sutton Loop Line, through Wimbledon and Sutton.
  • Various Southern services between London Bridge and Victoria in the North and Caterham, Croydon, Epsom and Sutton in the South.
  • Fast services between Victoria and the Brighton Main Line pass through.

I have also seen speculation on respected web sites, that the Overground will be extended to the new Streatham Common  Interchange.

I suspect Transport for London’s plans will improve the lot of many travellers.

Third-Rail Tram-Trains To Streatham

If Streatham Interchange is going to be an important hub, then surely, it should be served by the Tramlink.

Third-Rail tram-trains would be able to run from any of these power sources.

  • Overhead electrification on tramways.
  • Third-rail electrification on rail tracks.
  • Batteries on any tracks, including those without any electrification.

Most power changeovers would take place at tram-stops or stations. Although, I suspect that changing bertween battery and third-rail power would be automatic.

Third-rail tram-trains could run into Streatham Interchange on any standard third-rail track and could use any platform, be it a through platform or a bay one, that is used by standard trains.

These are the two obvious routes.

Use The Sutton Loop Line From Mitcham Junction Station

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the track layout at Mitcham Junction station and Tramlink between Mitcham and Beddington Lane tram stops.

 

Note that the black tracks are the Sutton Loop Line with Mitcham Eastfields station to the North and Hackbridge station to the South.

I think it would be possible, from what I have seen on other tram-train systems, to link the Sutton Loop Line to Tramlink, so that tram-trains could go between Bedddington Lane and a proposed Streatham Interchange.

A tram-train going between Croydon and Streatham Interchange would do the following.

  • Stop in Beddington Lane tram stop.
  • Drop the pantograph and change to battery power.
  • Proceed to Mitcham Junction station.
  • Connect to third-rail electrification.
  • Run as a train to Streatham Interchange.

In the opposite direction, the sequence would be reversed.

Use The Sutton Loop Line From Wimbledon Station

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the track layout at Wimbledon station.

Haydons Road station is on the Sutton Loop Line going towards the proposed Streatham Interchange.

This picture shows a Thameslink train in Platform 9 and a tram in Platform 10b at Wimbledon station.

I think it could be possible to make Platform 10b into a bi-directional Tramlink platform to connect to Streatham Interchange.

Currently, twelve trams per hour turn at Wimbledon and I suspect that this needs two terminating platforms.

Conclusion

Connecting tram-trains at Wimbledon to the Sutton Loop Line may be tricky, but it should be easier at Mitcham Junction.

However, so long as Streatham Interchange has enough capacity for Tramlink services, there shouldn’t be a problem.

 

 

 

September 9, 2018 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cost Studies Could See Electrification Comeback

This post was updated on the 1st May 2021.

The title of this post is the same as that of an article by Roger Ford in the September 2018 Edition of Modern Railways

There are now two studies into the cost of railway electrification.

Both arudies expected to be completed in October.

The article gives some examples of electrification costs per single track kilometre (stkm).

  • A sustained rolling program – £1million/stkm
  • Great Western Main Line – £3million/stkm
  • Northern England – Below £2million/stkm.
  • Cumbernauld-Springburn – £1.2million/stkm
  • East Coast Main Line – £500,000/stkm (At current prices)

The article finishes with these words.

£1million/stkm would be a feasible target.

That the Department for Transport has commissioned the independent review suggests electrification could still be on the agenda.

Roger is very much a respected commentator and his conclusions are more likely to be spot on, than wide of the mark.

Does Running Electric Trains On A Route Count As Electrification?

I ask this question deliberately, as over the last few years several schemes have been proposed to electrify perhaps two miles of line to a new development or city or town centre.

The Midland Metro is being extended to Wolverhampton station by building a tram line, that will be run using battery power on the existing trams.

Another example of this type of line is the extension of the Gospel Oak to Barking Line to Barking Riverside. After reading all the documentation, I have found that electric trains are mentioned several times, but electrification is not. As Bombardier Aventras probably can run on battery power, does this mean that the extension will be built without wires?

May 2021 Update – It now looks like the route is being fully electrified.

There are also some electrified branch lines, where the overhead electrification is unadulterated crap, that was erected over fifty years ago and has been got at by the steel moths.

Could we see the electrification on these branches removed to save on replacement and maintenance costs and the trains replaced by battery trains charged on the electrified main lines?

Recent Developments

I think various developments of recent years will help in the containing of electrification costs.

Batteries On Trains

It is my belief that batteries on trains could revolutionise the approach to electrification.

In my view, batteries are the only way to handle regenerative braking, which cuts energy costs.

This means, that if no trains using a route, return their braking energy through the electrification, then costs are saved by using simpler transformers.

Adequate battery capacity also gives other advantages.

  • Bombardier are fitting remote wake-up to Aventras. I wrote about this in Do Bombardier Aventras Have Remote Wake-Up?
  • Depots and sidings can be built with only limited electrification.
  • Hitachi use batteries charged by regenerative braking to provide hotel power for Class 800 trains.
  • Batteries are a simple way of moving trains in a Last Mile application on perhaps a short branch line.
  • Battery power can be used to rescue a train, when the electrification fails.

Reports exist of Alstom, Bombardier, CAF, Hitachi, Siemens and Stadler using or researching the use of batteries in trains.

May 2021 Update – All Merseyrail’s Class 777 trains and East Coast Trains’ Class 803 trains will have small batteries for all purposes except traction.

Hydrogen Power

I am becoming more enthusiastic about hydrogen power, which is primarily being developed by Alstom.

  • The UK could produce a lot of hydrogen easily from electrolysis of either brine to produce chlorine or water to produce hydrogen and oxygen.
  • Wind power would be a convenient way to provide the electricity needed.
  • Alstom are starting a project at Widnes to convert redundant Class 321 trains to hydrogen power.

A hydrogen powered Class 321 train would appear to be a powerful concept.

  • The trains will still be able to run on electrification.
  • The trains are pollution-free.
  • The trains make extensive use of batteries.
  • Alstom quote ranges of several hundred kilometres.
  • It would appear that the trains will still be capable of 100 mph after conversion.
  • Class 321 trains can be updated with quality interiors.

I believe these trains could find a solid market extending electrified routes.

Porterbrook’s Class 769 Trains

The Class 769 trains have been a long time coming, but companies have ordered 35 of these bi-mode upgrades of Class 319 trains.

  • They will be capable of 100 mph on electricity
  • They will be capable of 90 mph-plus on diesel
  • They will be able to use 25 KVAC overhead or 750 VDC third rail electrification.
  • They have been designed with a powerful hill-climbing capability.

Looking at the orders, some need the hill-climbing capability and GWR’s proposal to use the trains on the dual-voltage Reading-Gatwick route is a sensible one.

Bombardier’s 125 mph Bi-Mode Aventra With Batteries

I think that this train and others like it will be the future for many rail routes in the UK and around the world.

I will use the Midland Main Line as an example of the use of this type of train.

In a few years time, this important route will have the following characteristics.

  • A high proportion of 125 mph running.
  • Electrification between St. Pancras and Kettering/Corby
  • Possibly, electrification between Sheffield and Clay Cross courtesy of High Speed Two.

Full electrification would be difficult as part of the route is through a World Heritage Site.

But Bombardier’s train would swap power source intelligently as it powered its way along at 125 mph.

May 2021 Update –Hitachi got the order and their Class 810 trains appear to be capable of being converted into Hitachi Intercity Tri-Mode Battery Trains, which are described in this Hitachi infographic.

Note the claim of fuel and carbon saving of at least twenty percent.

Stadler’s Electric/Diesel/Battery Hybrid Train

This version of Greater Anglia’s Class 755 train, has been ordered for the South Wales Metro.

It can run on the following power sources.

  • 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • Onboard diesel generators.
  • Batteries

An intelligent control system will select the best power source.

With a central power pack between passenger cars, the design of this train is slightly quirky.

  • It is a 100 mph train with lots of acceleration.
  • I’m sure it could be equipped for 750 VDC electrification.
  • The power pack can be configured for different operators and types of routes.
  • Stadler are quite happy to sell small fleets of trains into niche markets.
  • It is a member of the successful Flirt family of trains, which are selling all over the world.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of these trains sold to the UK.

Hitachi’s Class 800 Trains and Class 802 Trains

Hitachi’s Class 800 trains are already running on the Great Western Railway.

  • They have an operating speed of 125 mph on both electricity and diesel.
  • TransPennine Express have ordered nineteen Class 802 trains.
  • Hull Trains have ordered five Class 802 trains.

I have gone from London to Swansea and back in a day in Class 800 trains and they the new trains seem to be performing well.

They will get even better, as electrification is extended to Cardiff.

May 2021 Update –Hitachi are developing battery-electric and tri-mode versions of these trains.

100/125 mph Bi-Mode Trains

In the previous sub-sections I have talked about four new bi-mode trains, that can run using electrification and under their own power.

  • Class 321 Hydrogen
  • Porterbrook’s Class 769 Train
  • High Speed Bi-Mode Aventra
  • Tri-Mode Stadler Flirt
  • Hitachi’s Class 800 Trains and Class 802 Trains

The designs are different, but they have common features.

  • An operating speed of at least 100 mph on electrified lines.
  • 90 mph-plus operating speed, when independently powered.
  • An out-and-back range of at least 200 miles away from electrification.
  • Proven designs from large families of trains.

Only one new route for these trains has been fully disclosed and that is Greater Anglia’s new Liverpool Street-Lowestoft service.

  • There will be three round trips a day between Lowestoft and London, using Class 755 trains.
  • North of Ipswich, diesel power will be used.
  • South of Ipswich, electric power will be used and trains will join the 100 mph queues to and from London.
  • Extra trains North of Ipswich, will use additional Class 755 trains, shuttling up and down the East Suffolk Line.

As the Class 755 trains and the express Class 745 trains on London-Ipswich-Norwich services will share the same team of drivers, it is an efficient use of bi-mode trains to extend an electric network.

Several of the proposed electrification schemes in the UK in addition to allowing electric trains, will also open up new routes for bi-mode and tri-mode trains.

  • Stirling to Perth electrification would allow bi-mode trains to run between Glasgow and Aberdeen via Dundee.
  • Leeds to York electrification would improve TransPennine bi-mode performance and allow electric trains access to Neville Hill TMD from the East Coast Main Line.
  • Sheffield to Clay Closs electrification for High Speed Two would also improve bi-mode performance on the Midland Main Line.

I think it should be born in mind, that the rolling out of the Class 800 trains all over the GWR, seems to have generated few bad reports, after a few initial problems.

In Thoughts On The Introduction Of Class 800 Trains On The Great Western Railway, I came to this conclusion.

There’s nothing much wrong operationally or passenger-wise with the Class 800 trains, that will not be put right by minor adjustments in the next couple of years.

So perhaps extending an electric network with quality bi-mode trains works well.

Used creatively bi-mode trains will increase the return on the money invested  in electrification.

Tram-Trains

I first saw tram-trains in Kassel in 2015 and I wrote about them in The Trams And Tram-Trains Of Kassel.

We are now embracing this technology in a trial in Sheffield using new Class 399 tram-trains.

I believe that, the UK is fertile territory for this technology.

  • KeolisAmey Wales haven’t waited for the results of the Sheffield trial and have already ordered thirty-six tram-trains with batteries for the South Wales Metro.
  • It also looks as if the West Midlands are planning to use the technology on an extension of the Midland Metro to Brierley Hill.
  • Glasgow are investigating a tram-train route to Glasgow Airport.

Although Network Rail and the Department for Transport seem to be only lukewarm on the technology, it does appear that local interests are much more enthusiastic.

In my view, the South Wales Metro is going to be a game changer, as it uses existing tracks, virtually standard tram-trains, electric/diesel/battery trains and a modicum of street running to transform a city’s transport system.

Intelligent Pantographs

I have read that the electro-diesel Class 88 locomotive can change between electric and diesel modes at line speed.

As a Control Engineer, I don’t believe it would be an impossible problem for a train powered by a mixture of 25 KVAC overhead electrification and diesel, battery, hydrogen or some other fuel to raise and lower a pantograph efficiently, to take advantage of any overhead wires that exist.

The raising and lowering could even be GPS controlled and totally automatic, with the driver just monitoring.

Ingenious Electrification Techniques

In Novel Solution Cuts Cardiff Bridge Wiring Cost, I wrote about how two simple techniques; an insulating coating and surge arresters, saved about ten million pounds, by avoiding a bridge reconstruction.

How much can be saved on electrification schemes by using simple and proven techniques like these?

Better Surveying And Site Information

A lot of the UK’s railways are like long Victorian buildings.

If you’ve ever tried to renovate a cottage that was built around the middle of the nineteenth century, you will understand the following.

  • It is unlikely you will have any accurate plans.
  • Some of the construction will be very good, but other parts will be downright shoddy.
  • You have no idea of the quality of the foundations.
  • If the building is Listed you’ll have a whole new level of bureaucracy to deal with.

Now scale your problems up to say a ten mile stretch of rail line, that needs to be electrified.

Instead of dealing with a cottage-sized plot, you may now be dealing with the following.

  • A double track railway with four train per hour (tph) in both directions.
  • A site that is several miles long.
  • Access to the work-site could be difficult.

So just surveying what has to be done and making sure you have details on any unforeseen underground structures like sewers, gas and water mains and old mine workings, can be a major undertaking.

Reading local newspaper reports on the Gospel Oak to Barking electrification, you get the impression the following happened.

  • Various overhead gantries were built to the wrong size.
  • A sewer was found, that had been missed by surveyors.
  • It was wrongly thought that the bridge at Crouch Hill station had sufficient clearance for the electrification. So much more work had to be done.

At least there weren’t any mine workings in East London, but as you can imagine these are a major problem in areas in the North.

Surely, nearly twenty years into the 21st century, we can avoid problems like these.

Discontinuous Electrification

Low bridges and and other structures crossing the tracks, can be  a big and expensive problem, when it comes to electrifying railway lines.

In the proposed electrification of the lines for the South Wales Metro, look at these statistics.

  • A total of 172 km. of track will be electrified.
  • Fifty-six structures were identified as needing to be raised.

The cost savings of eliminating some of this bridge raising would not be small.

In the July 2018 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article entitled KeolisAmey Wins Welsh Franchise.

This is said about the electrification on the South Wales Metro.

KeolisAmey has opted to use continuous overhead line equipment but discontinuous power on the Core Valley Lnes (CVL), meaning isolated OLE will be installed under bridges. On reaching a permanently earthed section, trains will automatically switch from 25 KVAC overhead to on-board battery supply, but the pantograph will remain in contact with the overhead cable, ready to collect power after the section. The company believes this method of reducing costly and disruptive engineering works could revive the business cases of cancelled electrification schemes. Hopes of having money left over for other schemes rest partly on this choice of technology.

In the final design, KeolisAmey have been able to use this discontinuous power solution at all but one of the fifty-six structures.

These structures will be checked and refurbished as required, but they would be unlikely to need lengthy closures, which would disrupt traffic, cyclists and walkers.

Each structure would need a bespoke structure to create a rail or wire on which the pantograph, would ride from one side of the structure to the other. But installing these would be a task of a much smaller magnitude.

There must be a lot of scope for both cost and time savings.

I think in the future, when it comes to electrifying existing lines, I think we’ll increasing see, this type of discontinuous electrification used to avoid rebuilding a structurally-sound bridge or structure.

I also think, that experience will give engineers a more extensive library of solutions.

Hopefully, costs could be driven downwards, instead of spiralling upwards!

Complimentary Design Of Trains And New Electrified Routes

In recent years two major electric rail projects have been planned, which have gone much further than the old philosophy of just putting up wires and a adding fleet of new trains.

I believe that the Crossrail Class 345 trains and the tunnel under London were designed to be complimentary to each other to improve operation and safety and cut operating costs.

But the interesting project is the South Wales Metro, where discontinuous electrification and battery power have been used to design, what should be a world-class metro at an affordable cost.

Too many electrification schemes have been designed by dull people, who don’t appreciate the developments that are happening.

Conclusion On Recent Developments

UK railways are doing better on electrification than many think.

Possible Developments

These are ideas I’ve seen talked about or are my own speculation.

Intelligent Discontinuous Third Rail Electrification

New third rail electrification is not installed much these days, due to perceived safety problems.

I have seen it proposed by respected commentators, that third rail electrification could play a part in the charging of train batteries.

Discontinuous third-rail electrification is already used extensively, at places like level crossings and where a safe route is needed for staff to cross the line.

But it is done in a crude manner, where the contact shoes on the train run up and down the sloping ends of the third rail.

As a time-expired Control Engineer, I’m fairly sure that a much better, safer system can be designed.

On the South Wales Metro, where discontinuous overhead electrification is to be used, battery power will be used to bridge the gaps.

Supposing trains on a third-rail electrified route, were fitted with batteries that gave the train a range of say two kilometres. This would give sufficient range to recover a train, where the power failed to a safe evacuation point.

The range on battery power would mean that there could be substantial gaps between sections of electrification, which would be sized to maximise safety, operational efficiency and minimise energy use.

Each section of electrification would only be switched on, when a train was present.

Train drivers could also have an emergency system to cut the power in a particular section, if they saw anything untoward, such as graffiti artists on the line.

Third Rail Electrification In Stations

I have seen it proposed by respected commentators, that third rail electrification could play a part in the charging of train batteries.

When you consider that trains often spend fifteen or twenty minutes at a terminal station, it could make it easier to run electric or bi-mode trains with batteries on branch lines.

The rail would normally be switched off and would only be switched on, when a train was above and connected to the rail.

As a time-expired Control Engineer, I’m fairly sure that a safe system can be designed.

Third Rail Electrification On Viaducts

To some overhead electrification gantries on top of a high viaduct are an unnecessary eyesore.

So why not use third-rail electrification, on top of viaducts like these?

Trains would need to be able to swap efficiently and reliably between modes.

Gravity-Assisted Electrification

For a country with no really high mountains, we have quite a few railways, that have the following characteristics.

  • Heavily-used commuter routes.
  • Double-track
  • A height difference of perhaps two hundred metres.

These are a few examples.

  • Cardiff Queen Street to Aberdare, Merthyr Tydfil, Rhymney and Treherbert
  • Exeter to Barnstaple
  • Glasgow Central to East Kilbride
  • Manchester to Buxton

All are in areas, where putting up overhead gantries may be challenging and opposed by some campaigners.

As an example consider the Manchester to Buxton route.

  • The height difference is 220 metres.
  • One of Northern’s Class 319 trains weighs 140.3 tonnes.
  • These trains have a capacity of around 320 passengers.
  • If each passenger weighs 90 Kg with baggage, bikes and buggies, this gives a train weight of 167.3 tonnes.

These figures mean that just over 100 kWh of electricity would be needed to raise the train to Buxton.

Coming down the hill, a full train would convert the height and weight into kinetic energy, which would need to be absorbed by the brakes. Only small amounts of new energy would need to be applied to nudge the train onto the hill towards Manchester.

The brakes on trains working these routes must take a severe hammering.

Supposing, we take a modern train with these characteristics.

  • Four cars.
  • Electric traction.
  • 200 kWh of battery capacity to handle regenerative braking.

Such a train would not be a difficult design and I suspect that Bombardier may already have designed an Aventra with these characteristics.

Only the uphill line would be electrified and operation would be as follows.

  • Climbing to Buxton, the train would use power from the electrification.
  • On the climb, the train could also use some battery power for efficiency reasons.
  • The train would arrive at Buxton with enough power left in the batteries to provide hotel power in the stop at Buxton and nudge the train down the hill.
  • On the descent, regenerative braking would be used to slow the train, with the energy created being stored in the batteries.
  • On the level run to Manchester, battery power could be used, rather than electrification power to increase efficiency.

How efficient would that be, with respect to the use of electricity?

I would also investigate the use of intelligent third-rail electrification, to minimise visual impact and the need to raise any bridges or structures over the line.

Gravity is free and reliable, so why not use it?

We don’t know the full

Conclusion On Possible Developments

Without taking great risks, there are lots of ideas out there that will help to electrify routes in an affordable manner.

Conclusion

I very much feel we’ll be seeing more electrification in the next few years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 26, 2018 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Overhead Third Rail In Berlin Hauptbahnhof

Increasingly, railway engineers are turning to overhead third rail to carry the train power.

The pictures show the installation in the Berlin Hauptbahnhof.

February 13, 2018 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | Leave a comment