The Anonymous Widower

Freedoming

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been asked out to lunch, coffee or a drink by several old and new friends, who live in towns and cities outside of London’s Zone 6 boundary.

I have also visited several places for my own purposes.

The Zone 6 boundary is important, as I can travel there using my Freedom Pass.

So to get to these towns, I need to buy an extension ticket from the Zone 6 boundary.

Some of these are extremely good value if you use a Senior Railcard,

  • Bishops Stortford – £7.00
  • Hertford East – £5.80
  • Uckfield – £9.25
  • Woking – £5.35

These prices are all for Off Peak Day Returns.

What Are My Objectives?

I am not really sure at the moment, but I do like travel, good food, visiting museums and galleries, looking at old and modern engineering.

So it may just be a load of old rubbish, but it will also be fun!

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

Retrofitted Hydrogen Fuel Cell EMU Concept Presented

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Global Rail News, that was published in April 2014.

This is the first two paragraphs.

The possibility of retro-fitting diesel multiple units (DMUs) to run on hydrogen fuel cell technology has been put to the test as part of an RSSB and Network Rail-funded innovation research programme.

Fuel Cell Systems, which has worked alongside the University of Birmingham and Hitachi Rail Europe, says the six-month study has demonstrated the feasibility of installing hydrogen fuel cell technology on DMUs as an alternative to electrification.

It strikes me that some serious people are involved in this project.

The report on the project was published in June 2016 and it is stored here on the University pf Birmingham web site.

 

June 26, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Brightline Hopes To Extend Fast-Train Service To Tampa

The title of this post is the same as that of this article in MyPalmBeachPost.

Brightline certainly seems to be ambitious.

This is the second paragraph.

Gov. Rick Scott said Friday that, in response to “an unsolicited proposal” from Brightline, the Florida Department of Transportation will seek bids from private companies interested in running high-speed trains from Orlando to Tampa.

I don’t know Florida, but it does seem to me, that Brightline is aiming to cover most of the state.

 

 

June 24, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Elon Musk Goes Underground With High-Speed Trains

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in the Business section of last Friday’s Times.

This is the first paragraph.

Futuristic electric trains will soon be whizzing under the streets of Chicago at up to 150 mph after Elon Musk’s tunnelling company was chosen by the city to build a new high-speed commuter link.

Currently, the Blue Line train takes about forty-five minutes for the eighteen miles at a cost of five dollars.

Heathrow Airport is eighteen miles from the City of London and Crossrail will do the trip for thirty-three minutes when it opens, next year for a cost of under a tenner.

So what is Musk proposing?

  • A journey time of twelve minutes.
  • Passengers will ride in skates, which will carry up to sixteen people on concrete tracks.
  • Skates will run at a frequency of 120 per hour for 20 hours a day.
  • The fare would be twenty-five dollars.
  • The system would cost about a billion dollars.

It is a technically ambitious proposal.

There’s more in this section called Chicago in the Wikipedia entry of The Boring Company.

A competition to build a high-speed link from downtown Chicago to the soon-to-be-expanded O’Hare Airport had been reduced to just two bidders by March 2018. The Boring Company was selected in June 2018 and will now negotiate a contract to be presented to the Chicago City Council. Construction is to be entirely financed by The Boring Company, which is subsequently to maintain and operate the link. The system will transport passengers in automated electric cars carrying 16 passengers (and their luggage) through two parallel tunnels running under existing public way alignments, traveling from block 37 to the airport in 12 minutes, at speeds reaching 125 to 150 miles per hour (200 to 240 km/h), with pods departing as often as every 30 seconds

It states it is two parallel tunnels!

Comparison With London’s Crossrail

Crossrail will effectively do the same job in London and a comparison between the two systems may produce some interesting conclusions.

Capacity

Musk’s system will have an hourly capacity of 1920 passengers per hour, based on 120 skates each carrying sixteen people.

Crossrail are talking of six trains per hour, each with a capacity of 1,500 people or 9000 passengers per hour.

I think that Crossrail will need to increase capacity, as Heathrow expands and longer trains and higher frequencies are possible.

But if Musk’s system is a runaway success, can it be expanded easily.

Journey Time

Musk’s system has a journey time of 12 minutes, as against Crossrail’s of 33 minutes

But Crossrail will stop up to ten times!

Intriguingly, the twelve minute is not the headline speed of 125 to 150 mph, but a slower 90 mph.

Routes

Little has been said of the route for Musk’s system, except that it goes between Downtown and O’Hare Airport.

Heathrow to the City of London, also goes direct to London’s major shopping area and the new business area of Canary Wharf.

It is also integrated with London’s existing Underground, Overground and rail lines at several places.

Does Musk’s system have a route structure, that won’t appeal to a lot of possible users?

Musk’s Thinking

This is an extract from the Future Goals section of the Wikipedia entry for The Boring Company.

According to Tesla, Inc. and SpaceX board member Steve Jurvetson, tunnels specifically built for electric vehicles have reduced size and complexity, and thus decreased cost. “The insight I think that’s so powerful is that if you only envision electric vehicles in your tunnels you don’t need to do the air handling for all carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, you know, basically pollutants for exhaust. You could have scrubbers and a variety of simpler things that make everything collapse to a smaller tunnel size, which dramatically lowers the cost … The whole concept of what you do with tunnels changes.

The philosophy is not unlike that of Crossrail.

  • I believe that Crossrail has been designed holistically, using the best tunnel and train technology.
  • The tunnel power supply is a simple end-to-end rail.
  • The Class 345 trains have batteries to make best use of electricity and provide emergency power.
  • The batteries will handle regenerative braking, thus minimising heat-producing electric currents in the tunnel.
  • Platform-edge doors and aerodynamic trains reduce mechanical energy losses.
  • The electric trains do not emit anything into the tunnel, except perhaps a small amount of hot air.

I suspect that Crossrail’s tunnel section will be a very energy-efficient railway.

Conclusion

Summing up both systems we get.

Musk’s system is.

  • A billion dollar cost.
  • Twelve minute journey time.
  • A vehicle every thirty seconds.
  • Only for the few, who want to go from O’Hare to Downtown, who can pay a premium fare.
  • Limited capacity.

A Crossrail-like solution would be.

  • Perhaps a ten billion dollar cost.
  • Twenty minute journey time.
  • A train every few minutes.
  • For everyone, who wants to travel from O’Hare to most places in Chicago with possibly a change, at a normal fare.
  • Expandable capacity.

Musk’s system will appeal to the rich and those who like novelty, but I don’t think it is a long-term solution and just like London, Chicago will eventually have a modern railway  linking it to the wider Chicago area.

Where Musk is right, is that he believes that tunnelling methods can be improved and become more affordable.

This will mean that more audacious railway schemes will be built.

 

 

June 19, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is The United States Catching Railway Mania?

This article on Global Rail News is entitled Brightline Looks To Replicate Model In Other US Regions.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Brightline, the United States’ only privately-owned, operated and maintained intercity passenger railway, has revealed it is looking to replicate its model in other areas of the country.

The announcement comes less than six months after Brightline’s first service was launched between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, Florida, and weeks after the service was extended to Miami.

Brightline must be doing alright!

Especially, as they are going to start construction of their extension from West Palm Beach to Orlando.

Talking to an American friend today, she said that Orlando to Miami is a long drive. I wouldn’t know, as I’ve only been to Florida twice and that was to Key West with C and a conference near a couple of theme parks. On the latter trip, I got to see the Space Shuttle take off!

Brightline’s concept seems sensible.

  • Higher-speed diesel-electric train.
  • Trains consist of two SCB-40 locomotives and four coaches initially.
  • Speeds up to 125 mph.
  • Level disabled access
  • Wi-fi
  • Orlando to Miami is planned in three hours.
  • 7-12 services per day.

The concept has echoes of an InterCity 125, built to modern standards.

If we can find several routes to run InterCity 125 trains, surely Brightline’s plan to duplicate the Florida service can find many places in the wide expanses of the United States.

But this is not the only rail project, that I’ve covered on this blog lately.

The Texas Bullet Train

I covered the Texas Bullet Train in August 2017.

  • This will run between Dallas and Houston.
  • A speed of 205 mph
  • A journey time of 90 minutes.
  • Based on Japanese Shinkansen technology.
  • Could start in 2020.

See Texas Central Railway on Wikipedia for more details.

Vivarail D-Train To Be Tested In US Cities

On the face of it to use a Vivarsil Class 230 train in the United States seems a crazy idea.

Wikipedia says this about the concept.

During March 2018, it was announced that plans were being developed to take a Class 230 to the United States, in order to demonstrate how they could provide a low-cost rolling stock option for new passenger services.

The idea would be to run them on freight lines with temporal separation from freight trains.

The Rise Of Metro, Light Rail And Trams In The United States

I haven’t been to the United States this century and in those days, Metro, light rail and tram systems were fairly thin on the ground.

In those days, I drove and I think I’ve only ridden on systems in Boston and New York.

What surprised me, was that Wikipedia now lists about over a hundred rail transit systems around the United States, several of which are expanding.

Even cities built for the car, like Dallas, Houston and Los Angeles have systems.

Temporal Separation In Salt Lake City

The TRAX light rail system in Salt Lake City, is a system with three lines, forty-five miles of track and fifty stations.

This is a paragraph from Wikipedia.

TRAX uses former Denver and Rio Grande tracks as well as street trackage to service Salt Lake City. Between the hours of midnight and six in the morning, Union Pacific freight trains use much of the trackage, up to just past 2500 S to service a number of industries along the line.

How many other areas in the United States can use techniques like this?

Conclusion

Perhaps the United States is going through a Modern equivalent of Railway Mania.

This time though, it is not driven by a frenzy of get rich quick investors, but more by the following.

  • Serious investors like Pension Funds looking for places to put money to get a return for thirty to forty years.
  • Brightline talks of city-pairs, where it is too-far to drive and too close to fly, like Orlando-Miami and Dallas-Houston.
  • Dallas-Houston will link two cities with light rail networks. Others will follow this model, if it’s successful.
  • Increasing highway and airport congestion must help rail.

But the biggest driver could be the new technology coming on stream from the rail industry, which makes setting up systems easier, less disruptive and more affordable.

 

June 14, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

London To Novara

I flew from between London City and Milan Linate airports and then it was a coach and train to Novara.

These are the various legs of my journey.

Home To London City Airport

I took the following route.

It took just fifty minutes.

It is my closest airport.

London City Airport to Milan Linate Airport

I flew with British Airways Cityflyer.

  • The Airport was busy and there were delays at security.
  • We left a few minutes late.
  • The plane was an Embraer 190 SR.
  • I had a default aisle seat, but the guy in the window seat didn’t come, so I had room to spread about.
  • Some got a free snack, but they had no gluten-free, so BA gave me an extra water from Thirsty Planet.

I took these pictures during the flight.

The flight was more expensive than easyJet or Ruanair, but more refined and not as expensive as British Airways from Heathrow.

It was a route, I’d use again.

Milan Linate Airport To Milan Centrale Station

This was a five euro transfer in a coach from the airport to Milan Centrale station.

As I’d bought the ticket for the bus from a guy by the baggage reclaim, it was a painless business.

Wikipedia says this about Milan Central station.

Milano Centrale has high speed connections to Turin in the west, Venice via Verona in the east and on the north-south mainline to Bologna, Rome, Naples and Salerno. The Simplon and Gotthard railway lines connect Milano Centrale to Bern and Geneva via Domodossola and Zürich via Chiasso in Switzerland.

The station is also an important stop on the Milan Metro.

Looking up on Loco2.com, it would appear that most major cities in Italy have an hourly direct service to and from Milan Central.

Many are high speed trains, like the French TGV, which are called Freciarossa.

My journey between aiirport and station took forty minutes.

Unless I need a specific train, I rarely buy a ticket until I get to the station in Italy.

You can either go straight on to your destination on the next train, or dump your luggage in the left luggage lockers and take a couple of stops on the Metro to the cathedral to have a quick look at Milan.

Milan Centrale Station To Novara Station

To get to Novara station, I used the hourly express commuter service, that goes to Turin.

Note.

  1. The hour’s journey took about an hour and cost me five and a half euros.
  2. My train ran to the timetable.
  3. Usually, you can board a train about fifteen minutes before it leaves.
  4. The Italians paint a lot of rails white. It keeps them cool!

I arrived in Novara about five hours after I took off from London City Airport, so the total journey time coul;d have been under seven hours.

 

May 29, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

£250m Bypass Will Destroy Woodland

The title of this post, is the same as that of an article in today’s copy of The Times.

This is the first paragraph.

A four-mile bypass will be built partly in the South Downs National Park under a plan that conservation groups fear will set a precedent for development in other protected areas.

This map shows the route of the proposed bypass.

The route may be the best solution, but I believe we need to be more radical.

Overcrowded and inadequate roads exist all along the South Coast of England and in many other scenic places in the UK.

I think we need to develop a philosophy to solve the problems of roads in these crowded places.

Building a four-mile bypass at Arundel, may be needed, but we should do many other things to ease traffic congestion and improve transport capacity.

So what do I believe we should do?

We could introduce negative measures like road pricing or other restrictions, but I believe there are positive things we could do.

Broadband

You might think, what has broadband got to do with reducing the need to build roads.

I believe that as more houses and businesses get very high speed broadband, this will reduce the number of journeys taken.

Mobile Phone Coverage

I am not sure, what effect excellent mobile phone coverage will have on traffic, but it certainly will have one.

Cycling

We will all be cycling more and one of the consequences of excellent mobile phone coverage will be the growth of park-it-anywhere bike schemes like ofo and Mobike.

I think a few years time, many short distance journeys will be done by bicycle.

But expect some Luddite councils to legislate against ofo, Mobike and their ilk!

Rail

Fast forward five years and a train journey in an area like along the South Coast or in East Anglia or the West Country, will be very different.

  • Digital signalling will increase the capacity of all lines and mean that most stations will have at least four trains per hour (tph) in both directions.
  • Digital signalling will also allow more routes.
  • Advances in train design will mean that journeys are faster.
  • Ticketing will use contactless bank cards or mobile phone payment systems.
  • Trains will be a much more comfortable and work-friendly experience, with wi-fi, 4G and power sockets.
  • Track layouts will be improved and level crossings will be removed., to allow trains to operate more efficiently.
  • Improved information on trains and stations.
  • The improved dwell times of modern trains, will allow new stations to be added without degrading services.

The biggest development along the South Coast, will be an improved service between Ashford and Portsmouth/Southampton/Bournemouth.

  • Existing tracks will be used, with the addition of short stretches of new track at possibly Brighton and Eastbourne.
  • Line speeds will be at least 100 mph.
  • Most stations will have a Turn-Up-And-Go four tph service.

There will also be other improved routes to and from London and Gatwick Airport for many of the coastal towns.

This improvement in rail services will be impossible with a rail company like Govia Thameslink Railway providing services.

  • They are more conservative, than the RMT.
  • They look after their core commuter traffic, at the expense of other passengers.
  • The franchise is just too big.

However, digital signalling will allow Open Access Operators to compete and create new services geared to customers needs.

Thameslink

The current Thameslink service will have the following characteristics, when it is completed in December 2019.

  • Twenty-four tph through London.
  • A well-designed track layout at Bermondsey that unlocks London’s North-South railway.
  • Services at a level of at least two tph to many stations in Kent, Surrey and Sussex.
  • A set of uncomfortable Class 700 trains, designed by a moronic civil servant in the Department of Transport.

The major Thameslink upgrade was designed totally without vision and charisma.

However, the basics and possibilities are there to do the following.

  • Increase the frequency to thirty tph through the Central London core.
  • Increase the frequency on the Brighton Main Line through Gatwick, substantially, by using digital signalling.
  • Rebuild the trains, with what passengers need.
  • Add extra services all along the South Coast.
  • Develop a massive rail-air interchange station at Gatwick.

I believe that Gatwick could develop into the busiest station in the UK.

I also think, that anybody going between London and the South Coast, will have a frequency of at least four tph from their local station, using either a direct service or a single change at Gatwick.

Freight

This Google Map shows the A27 through Arundel.

Note the number of trucks on the roads.

Where are they going?

The bypass would get the trucks out of Arundel, but would it just encourage more to use the South Coast route as a bypass for the crowded M25?

We need a proper philosophy for freight in this country.

  • As much freight as possible should be by rail.
  • Trucks should be for short distance or specialist needs only.

Does Southampton Docks have good enough access to the UK rail network?

I think not, especially as it would be very difficult to increase freight traffic through Southampton Central station, due to the restriction of the double-track Southampton Tunnel.

Conclusion

There is a lot to do, before we spend £250million n a bypass.

 

 

 

May 14, 2018 Posted by | Computing, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

OLE Upgrades Complete At Anglia As Part Of £46m Transformation

The title of this article, is the same as that of this article on Rail Technology Magazine.

I hope this is actually the case.

  • I’ve had enough of rail replacement buses, when trying to get to football at Ipswich on a Saturday.
  • For at least the last three years, I’ve probably seen more away matches, than those at Portman Road.
  • Three hours each way to Ipswich, effectively means, the only pleasurable thing you do is see the match.
  • This work has probably hit attendances at both Norwich and Ipswich.
  • I’ve renewed my season ticket fort next season, but if it is as thin on home matches as this one has been, it will be my last season of travel.

What puzzles me, is why can’t Network Rail adjust their work schedule, so that at least important matches like the two Derbies have trains?

But then you wouldn’t rate Network Rail highly for Project Management!

 

May 8, 2018 Posted by | Sport, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Huge Outlay On Motorways Despite Reduction In Traffic

The title of this post, is the same as a small news item in The Times on Friday.

According to the Commission on Travel Demand, individuals used cars and other vehicles fourteen percent less than they did in 2002.

Reasons given include internet shopping, Netflix and flexible working.

They also say that many in their teens and early twenties shunning car ownership altogether.

There is a graph in the article, which shows that the reduction has been largest in Greater London. That seems to fit with my observations.

  • I’ve chatted to several youngsters , who have no intention of learning to drive for some years. It’s all just too costlyin the Capital and there are few places to park securely.
  • I’m also sure, that my road which is wide and has cars parked on both sides, is less crowded than when I moved here nearly ten years ago. Now, when I get a parcel delivery, there is always space for the van outside.
  • In Dalston, we have also benefited from the Overground and lots of new buses, although the frequency of the latter hasn’t increased.
  • I wouldn’t underestimate the fact that those of a certain age, like myself, get free public transport in Greater London.
  • There has also been a tremendous increase in the use of bicycles for commuting.

I don’t think that all parts of London have seen as much reduction as the North and East.

It always seems that traffic is busy, when I go to Chelsea, Westminster or the West End. But I don’t think we can stop, those with large 4x4s going to the local Waitrose and Harrods.

I also think, that Crossrail will reduce traffic across a whole swathe of London from Ealing to Ilford via Paddington, the West End and the City.

It will be a well-designed stylist railway with trains every few minutes.

According to the article, Metropolitan areas are also seeing a reduction in car use.

Although, they haven’t got as comprehensive, a public transport network as London, over the last ten years, several large metropolitan areas have improved public transport considerably.

Traffic also seems to have reduced slightly in what the report calls shire towns, resort and rural.

I would put this down to the three factors said earlier by the article; internet shopping, Netflix and flexible working.

The only places not showing a less significant decline is districts with industry and new towns.

But a lot of these have been built for car use.

Conclusion

It is a thought-provoking article.

Given that Greater London has shown the biggest decline in traffic and it has the most comprehensive public transport system in the UK, the question has to be asked if more money is spent on public transport, could it reduce the amount of money spent on the roads!

I would do the following.

  • Build more welcoming new stations with adequate parking like, Apperley Bridge , Bromsgrove, Cambridge North, IlkestonKenilworth, Kirkstall Forge and Maghull North.
  • Update some of the worst stations in the country to a modern standard.
  • Put more seats on busy routes.
  • Increase train frequency where possible.
  • Make certain everybody who wants to, can work flexibly from home.
  • Use more sophisticated and better managed home delivery systems.
  • Build HS2 as fast as possible.
  • Develop more rail-based freight solutions.
  • Make it possible to get to most Airports by public transport.

Hopefully, with local mayors and other devolved bodies, we’ll see more areas of the country taking the decisions they need.

May 5, 2018 Posted by | Computing, Travel | , , , | 2 Comments

Good Advice About The May 2018 Rail Timetable Changes

Several of the train operating companies don’t seem to have published their timetables, that will become current on May 20th, 2018.

I found this page on the Settle-Carlisle web site, which is entitled May 2018 Timetable.

This is said.

The current timetable for daily services on the Leeds-Settle-Appleby-Carlisle route ends on Saturday, 19 May.

To help you plan your journeys post 19 May, we have put train times on the timetable page.

This is the first major change to train times for many years with extra services and new train departure times.  Please check the new times applicable from 20 May carefully.

Printed timetables are not yet available.  We are working hard to get the Settle-Carlisle line guide and timetable ready so it is available before the timetable change.

Northern’s printed timetable may not be available until 1 June but we anticipate the Settle-Carlisle lineguide and timetable will be in stations, tourist information centres etc before the start of the new timetable.

This would appear to be good advice, that applies to all train operating companies.

It does seem that what is said on nationalrail.co.uk seems sensible.

Best of luck with your journeys on the 21st of May.

April 30, 2018 Posted by | Travel | | Leave a comment