The Anonymous Widower

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 | , , , , , , , , | 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 | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 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 | , , , , , , | 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 | , , , , , | 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 | , , , , , , , , | 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 | , , | Leave a comment

Can Class 230 Trains Work On Third Rail Electrified Lines?

London Underground’s D78 Stock used to share tracks between Gunnerbury and Richmond stations with London Overground’s Class 378 trains.

So the answer to my question used to be yes and I suspect that the Class 230 trains could be configured, so that they could still run on third-rail electrified lines.

Running A Service Using Class 230 Trains

Now that West Midlands Trains have ordered three Class 230 trains for the Marston Vale Line, I think we can see how operators could use the trains.

  • The operator has enough trains to run the service, even if one train is out of service for routine maintenance or repair.
  • The trains are stored overnight in a convenient siding or terminal station.
  • The trains will be supported by probably a well-designed service vehicle and if needed a fuel bowser.
  • The trains will be refurbished to a high standard, with wi-fi, power sockets and universal access toilets.
  • Vivarail have talked about on-board drinks machines.
  • Drivers and support staff would probably come from the local area.

You could even envisage a train with an onboard ticket machine.

Would A Third-Rail Ability Be Any Use?

Consider the following lines.

Bromley North Branch Line

The Bromley North Branch Line is a short branch line between Grove Park and Bromley North stations.

  • Service is three trains per hour from Mondays to Saturdays.
  • There is no service on Sundays.
  • Bromley North station is Grade II Listed and has a ticket office.
  • The branch is double-track and fully electrified with one intermediate station.
  • The service is run by a two-car Class 466 train, which travels to the line each morning.
  • The Class 230 train has a higher passenger-focused specification than the twenty-year-old Class 466 train.

I believe that one Class 230 train could run the existing service, but as Bromley North station has two platforms, that two trains could run a four trains per hour service.

I also believe that the Grade II Listed station could be released for sympathetic development, by doing the following.

  • Improving the automatic ticketing facilities and perhaps putting ticket machines on the trains.
  • Closing the ticket office.
  • Putting staff on the platform to assist passengers who need help.

The station could become a transport hub with cafes and stops catering for the needs of train travellers and those using the many buses serving the station.

The South Eastern franchise is up for renewal in the next couple of years, and I think that those bidding will have ideas about what to do the the Bromley North Branch Line.

Lymington Branch Line

The Lymington branch line  runs between Brockenhurst and Lymington Pier.

  • Service is normally two trains per hour between Brockenhurst and Lymington Pier
  • The branch is single track and fully electrified.
  • The service is run by a Class 158, Class 159 or Class 450 train.
  • Brockenhurdst has a comprehensive four trains per hour service  between London/Southampton and Bournemouth.

I believe that one Class 230 trains could run the existing service. With the addition of a passing loop, two trains may be able to run a four trains per hour service.

Sheerness Line

The Sheerness Line runs from Sittingbourne station to Sheerness station across the Isle of Sheppey.

  • Service is normally two trains per hour between Sittingbourne and Sheerness.
  • There are extra services between Victoriia and Sheeness in the Peak.
  • The branch is partly double-track and fully electrified with four intermediate stations.
  • Sheerness station has two platforms.
  • The shuttle service is run by a two-car Class 466 train.
  • Sittingbourne has a comprehensive six trains per hour service to and from London, with extra peak hour services.

As with the Bromley North Branch Line, the Class 230 train has a higher passenger-focused specification than the current Class 466 train.

I believe that two Class 230 trains could run the existing service, but as Sheerness station has two platforms and the route is partly double-track, that an extra train or two, could see the service upgraded to three or even four trains per hour.

Conclusion

I suspect that we’ll see Class 230 trains considered for lines with third-rail electrification.

 

 

 

October 20, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Could Third-Rail Tram-Trains Work The Epsom Downs Branch?

The Epsom Downs Branch is a single-track branch line from Sutton to Epsom Downs station.

Currently, it has a service to Victoria of around two trains per hour (tph), but it doesn’t seem to generate much business.

In 2015-16, Epsom Downs station had 112,000 passengers, whereas Sutton station had 7,111,000.

As the three stations on the branch are all single-platform stations with few facilities, can it be viable to run Class 377 and Class 455 trains on the branch?

When the London Tramlink arrives in Sutton, I wonder if the branch would be more suited to be running by trams.

But as the line is electrified with the standard 750 VDC third-rail system, is it one of those places, that could it be served by a third-rail tram-train, as I proposed in The Third-Rail Tram-Train?

I think the answer is in the affirmative.

Consider.

  • The tram service could terminate at the proposed Streatham Common Interchange station.
  • It takes less than ten minutes to go between Sutton and Epsom Downs
  • In the Peak or when more capacity is needed, Class 377 trains could still run the service.
  • The tram-trains could provide a step-free service.

Running the service with tram-trains, would give one big advantage; the ability to run a service to the Royal Marsden Hospital, which according to this document from the hospital is not the best, when it comes to public transport.

A  single-track branch from the Epsom Downs Branch could start South of Belmont station and tram-trains running on batteries could serve both the Royal Marsden Hospital and the Institute of Cancer Research.

This Google Map shows Belmont station and the hospital.

Note.

  • The rail line from Belmont station to Epsom Downs station running down the West side of the map.
  • There are two prisons in the South East corner of the map.
  • The road from Belmont to the Hospital may only be half a mile, but it is up a steep hill.
  • Why is every train arriving at Belmont station, not met by a shuttle bus to the Royal Marsden Hospital?
  • There is one train per hour through Belmont station in both directions.

A silent battery tram-train  without any overhead wires, climbing up on the railway line and then turning East across Banstead Common calling at the prisons en route to the Hospital, might be acceptable to the Planning Authorities. It would surely be less intrusive than some of cars and vans, I saw rushing through the Downs.

I would think that the hospital needs a frequency of four trains per hour to Sutton, in addition to the current sewrvices between Sutton and Epsom Downs.

A charging station, like a Railbaar, at the end of the short branch might be needed, to make sure that the gradients were conquered.

These pictures show Belmont station and the walk to the Royal Marsden Hospital.

Knowing, what I now know of the Royal Masrsden Hospital, it wouldn’t be my choice of hospital.

I don’t think, I’vw seen a hospital with such terrible access by public transport!

 

 

April 16, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Could Beckenham Junction To Birkbeck Be Run Using Third-Rail Tram-Trains?

Look at this map from  carto.metro.free.fr, which shows the lines to the west of Beckenham Junction station.

Lines To The West Of Beckhenham Junction Station

Lines To The West Of Beckhenham Junction Station

At Beckenham Junction station, there are the following platforms.

  • Two through platforms.
  • Two Westward-facing bay platforms for trains.
  • Two Westward-facing bay platforms for the Tramlink.

But the real problem of operation of the section of line through Beckenham Junction station is that, both the main line and tram line to Birkbeck station are bi-directional, which must limit capacity.

Running Using Third-Rail Tram-Trains

Suppose that the trams going to Beckenham Junction were tram-trains capable of running on both 750 VDC  overhead and third-rail electrification, with a limited range of perhaps 2 km. on batteries.

The following would be done.

  • The current Tramlink line would be for all Westbound tram-trains and trains.
  • The current heavy rail line would be for all Eastbound tram-trains and trains.
  • Both tracks betweeen Birkbeck and Beckenham Junction would have third rail electrification.
  • There would be no electrification of any sort between Harrington Road tram stop and Birkbeck station.
  • All trams using the line would have a tram-train capability, dual 750 VDC pick-up and batteries.
  • All trains using the line would be as now.
  • Birkbeck, Avenue Road and Beckenham Road stations would revert to traditional stations.
  • All platforms would need to be adjusted to give step-free access to the two types of vehicles.

I suspect that Beckenham Junction station could also be remodelled to have bay platforms, that could accept both trains and tram-trains.

The Current Services

The typical off-peak service frequency is:

  • 4tph (trains per hour) to London Victoria (Southeastern)
  • 2tph to London Bridge via Crystal Palace (Southern)
  • 4tph to Orpington (Southeastern)

These train services would be unaffected, except that they could stop in Birkbeck, Avenue Road and Beckenham Road stations, if required.

The tram services would be generally unaffected, although they would need to cross over from the Eastbound line into Beckenham Junction, as trains do now.

Tram-Train Operation

Consider how a third-rail tram-train would operate between Croydon and Beckenham Junction.

  • It would run as a normal tram using the overhead electrification to Harrington Road tram stop.
  • At Harrington Road tram stop, the pantograph would be lowered and the tram-train would run to Birkbeck station on battery power.
  • The tram-train would then lower the third-rail shoe and run to Beckenham Junction on the third rail electrification.

This Google Map shows Harrington Road tram stop and Birkbeck station.

The distance between the two is probably under a kilometre.

Advantages

I can’t believe that creating a double-track railway, that can be used by both tram-trains and say Class 377 trains, doesn’t have advantages.

  • The passing loops on the tram line would not be needed, as Eastbound and Westbound trams would be on different lines.
  • The double-tracking should reduce train delays.
  • It would allow the tram frequency to Beckenham Junction to be increased., which might enable a whole lot of possibilities.
  • Tram-train services could be extended to Bromley South station.

I do feel though that the biggest advantages might be enabled, if Birkbeck, Avenue Road and Beckenham Road became single island platforms between the tracks. This would enable.

  • Same platform interchange.
  • Train passengers going East could change to a tram-train going West and vice-versa.
  • A single lift could be installed at Birkbeck, Avenue Road and Beckenham Road stations for step-free access.

There are certainly possibilities to improve the line.

The Bakerloo Line Extension To Hayes and Beckenham Junction Stations

If this happens, which is looking inreasingly likely, there may be advantages in using tram-trains to Beckhenham Junction and Bromley.

Conclusion

By replacing the trams to Beckenham Junction station with tram-trains, capable of running on both 750 VDC types of electrification and with a limited battery capabilty, would simplify operation at Beckhenham Junction and enable Tramlink services to be extended to Bromley South station.

 

 

 

 

 

April 15, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 3 Comments

The Third-Rail Tram-Train

I’ve never seen anybody propose a third-rail powered tram-train, but that is probably because everybody has assumed quite rightly, that you couldn’t power a tram by using third-rail electrification. It’s just too dangerous! But is it so dangerous on a segregated track?

In February 2016 I wrote Brummies Go For Battery Trams and it is now ienvisaged that Midland Metro‘s trams will be running services under battery power in 2019.

Battery power is used for trams in several places around Europe and the rest of the World and is becoming a proven technology. Is there any reason why a battery tram-train, can’t be powered by third-rail electrification, when it is running as a train?

The Class 399 Tram-Train

The Class 399 tram-train is under test in Sheffield, to prove that it can run passenger services in the UK.

These tram-trains can handle either 25 KVAC or 750 VDC from overhead wiring. I also think, they are also clever enough to work out what voltage they are getting and configure themselves accordingly.

Since, I originally wrote this post, KeolisAmey Wales  have ordered thirty-six tram-trains from the same Citylink family as the Class 399 trains.

Stadler, whose Valemcia factory built the Class 399 tram-trains, will also be building trains for Merseyrail’s network, which will run using 750 VDC third-rail electrification.

Would it be reasonable to assume, that Stadler will be able to design an appropriate pick-up shoe for the Class 399 tram-train, so that it can run on a 750 VDC third-rail network?

Batteries

A battery system would also be needed, but I believe that this will be generally offered by all tram and tram-train manufacturers, as trams and tram-trains will be running increasingly in heritage or sensitive areas.

Charging The Batteries

Batteries would normally be charged, when the tram-train is running on an electrified line, under power from the third-rail system.

The MetroCentro in Seville, works without catenary and has a fast charging system  at the two end stops.

There is no reason to believe that a Class 399 tram-train with batteries, couldn’t work with a fast charging station like a Railbaar.

Tram-Trains For The South Wales Metro

Since, I originally wrote this post, KeolisAmey Wales  have ordered thirty-six tram-trains from the same Citylink family as the Class 399 trains, for running on the South Wales Metro.

These tram-trains will be fitted with batteries.

Would A Third-Rail Tram-Train Have A Pantograph?

This would be a matter for the operator.

But there is one UK tram network; the London Tramlink in Croydon, which is surrounded by an extensive third-rail electrified network.

The ability to run on both types of 750 VDC systems might be an asset and enable new services to be created without any extra electrification, by using a small amount of battery power to change from one system to another.

Changing Between Third-Rail And Overhead Electrification

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

Suppose a link were to be provided, so that tram-trains could come from the South, pass through Mitcham Junction station and then cross over to the tram tracks for Wimbledon.

These pictures show the area.

As the link would have no electrification, the power changeover would be as follows.

  • Arrive in Mitcham Junction station, using third-rail power.
  • Raise and isolate the third-rail shoe.
  • Switch to battery power.
  • Proceed using the link to Mitcham tram stop.
  • Raise the pantograph and switch to overhead power.

A reversed procedure would be used in the opposite direction.

Range On Third-Rail Power

The range of a Class 399 tram-train running on third-rail power, would be more limited by the train-tram’s speed of 100 kph and interaction with other services, rather than any electrification issues.

The range will probably be the same as the German cousins of the Class 399 tram-trains on the Karlsruhe Stadtbahn. These trams run on both 750 VDC and 15 KVAC, to places up to fifty kilometres from the Centre of Karlsruhe.

As a simple example, a third-rail tram-train running on the London Tramlink, could certainly use third-rail lines to access Gatwick Airport.

Range On Battery Power

In Out Of The Mouths Of Brummies, which describes an interview with those involved in the Midland Metro battery train project, I published this quote about battery trams.

Since then there has been lots of work and we’re now comfortable that battery technology has advanced sufficiently for it to be viable.

Under test conditions with plain straight track a tram could travel 20 km catenary-free. In practice, this would be rather less for a fully laden tram ascending the 9% gradient on Penfold Street. The longest catenary-free run we’ve envisaged is around 2 km, and we’re comfortable we can achieve that.

I think until Birmingham proves otherwise, 2 km. would be a sensible range for a tram or tram-train running on a full battery.

Compatibility Issues With Other Rail Vehicles And Platforms

This to me is a matter of design, but after the Sheffield tram-train trial and the analysis of platform solutions in Europe, I suspect that we’ll come up with a solution that works.

I think it is true to say, that many of our trains are badly matched to the platforms, but as this picture of a Class 378 train on the London Overground shows, the gap is becoming easier to mind.

I think too, we have an advantage over Europe, in that our loading gauge is smaller and our trains are closer in size to a modern tram or tram-train.

We are also good at innovative access solutions, as this picture from Canonbury station shows.

We may have a problem with using double-deck trains, but I believe that good design can minimise the problems of good access to both trains and tram-trains at the same platform.

Applications

The applications will be limited by battery range and by the gradients of the line.

In Southampton – A City Built For Cars, I describe how if they built their proposed Solent Metro around third-rail tram-train technology, they could transform the city.

In Could Beckenham Junction To Birkbeck Be Run Using Third-Rail Tram-Trains?, I show how third-rail tram train-technology , could be used to create more capacity at Beckenham Junction station.

In Could Third-Rail Tram-Trains Be Used To Increase Services In South London?, I show how third-rail tram-train technology, could be used to expand the London Tramlink.

In Could Third-Rail Tram-Trains Work The Epsom Downs Branch?, I show how third-rail tram-train technology, could serve the Royal Marsden Hospital.

In The Cranleigh Line, I suggest that third-rail tram-train technology could be used on this route.

Conclusion

Technically, I feel that a Class 399 tram-train capable of running on third-rail electrified lines is possible.

But it would have to run on battery power or 750 VDC overhead, when running as a tram.

 

 

April 14, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments