The Anonymous Widower

Solving The Electrification Conundrum

The title of this post, is the same as an article in the July 2021 Edition of Modern Railways.

This is the introductory sub-heading.

Regional and rural railways poses a huge problem for the railway to decarbonise.

Lorna McDonald of Hitachi Rail and Jay Mehta of Hitachi ABB Power Grids tell Andy Roden why they believe they have the answer.

These are my thoughts on what is said.

Battery-Electric Trains

The article starts by giving a review of battery-electric trains and their use on routes of moderate but important length.

  • Some short routes can be handled with just a charge on an electrified main line.
  • Some will need a recharge at the termini.
  • Other routes might need a recharge at some intermediate stations, with a possible increase in dwell times.

It was in February 2015, that I wrote Is The Battery Electric Multiple Unit (BEMU) A Big Innovation In Train Design?, after a ride in public service on Bombardier’s test battery-electric train based on a Class 379 train.

I also wrote this in the related post.

Returning from Harwich, I travelled with the train’s on-board test engineer, who was monitoring the train performance in battery mode on a laptop. He told me that acceleration in this mode was the same as a standard train, that the range was up to sixty miles and that only minimal instruction was needed to convert a driver familiar to the Class 379 to this battery variant.

It was an impressive demonstration, of how a full-size train could be run in normal service without connection to a power supply. I also suspect that the partners in the project must be very confident about the train and its technology to allow paying passengers to travel on their only test train.

A couple of years later, I met a lady on another train, who’d used the test train virtually every day during the trial and she and her fellow travellers felt that it was as good if not better than the normal service from a Class 360 train or a Class 321 train.

So why if the engineering, customer acceptance and reliability were proven six years ago, do we not have several battery electric trains in service?

  • There is a proven need for battery-electric trains on the Marshlink Line and the Uckfield Branch in Sussex.
  • The current Class 171 trains are needed elsewhere, so why are no plans in place for replacement trains?
  • The government is pushing electric cars and buses, but why is there such little political support for battery-electric trains?

It’s almost as if, an important civil servant in the decision process has the naive belief that battery-electric trains won’t work and if they do, they will be phenomenally expensive. So the answer is an inevitable no!

Only in the South Wales Metro, are battery-electric trains considered to be part of the solution to create a more efficient and affordable electric railway.

But as I have constantly pointed out since February 2015 in this blog, battery-electric trains should be one of the innovations we use to build a better railway.

Hydrogen Powered Trains

The article says this about hydrogen powered trains.

Hybrid hydrogen fuel cells can potentially solve the range problem, but at the cost of the fuel eating up internal capacity that would ideally be used for passengers. (and as Industry and Technology Editor Roger Ford points out, at present hydrogen is a rather dirty fuel). By contrast, there is no loss of seating or capacity in a Hitachi battery train.

I suspect the article is referring to the Alstom train, which is based on the technology of the Alstom Coradia iLint.

I have ridden this train.

  • It works reliably.
  • It runs on a 100 km route.
  • The route is partially electrified, but the train doesn’t have a pantograph.
  • It has a very noisy mechanical transmission.

Having spoken to passengers at length, no-one seemed bothered by the Hindenburg possibilities.

It is certainly doing some things right, as nearly fifty trains have been ordered for train operating companies in Germany.

Alstom’s train for the UK is the Class 600 train, which will be converted from a four-car Class 321 train.

Note.

  1. Half of both driver cars is taken up by a hydrogen tank.
  2. Trains will be three-cars.
  3. Trains will be able to carry as many passengers as a two-car Class 156 train.

It is an inefficient design that can be improved upon.

Porterbrook and Birmingham University appear to have done that with their Class 799 train.

  • It can use 25 KVAC overhead or 750 VDC third-rail electrification.
  • The hydrogen tanks, fuel cell and other hydrogen gubbins are under the floor.

This picture from Network Rail shows how the train will appear at COP26 in Glasgow in November.

Now that’s what I call a train! Let alone a hydrogen train!

Without doubt, Porterbrook and their academic friends in Birmingham will be laying down a strong marker for hydrogen at COP26!

I know my hydrogen, as my first job on leaving Liverpool University with my Control Engineering degree in 1968 was for ICI at Runcorn, where I worked in a plant that electrolysed brine into hydrogen, sodium hydroxide and chlorine.

My life went full circle last week, when I rode this hydrogen powered bus in London.

The hydrogen is currently supplied from the same chemical works in Runcorn, where I worked. But plans have been made at Runcorn, to produce the hydrogen from renewable energy, which would make the hydrogen as green hydrogen of the highest standard. So sorry Roger, but totally carbon-free hydrogen is available.

The bus is a Wightbus Hydroliner FCEV and this page on the Wrightbus web site gives the specification. The specification also gives a series of cutaway drawings, which show how they fit 86 passengers, all the hydrogen gubbins and a driver into a standard size double-deck bus.

I believe that Alstom’s current proposal is not a viable design, but I wouldn’t say that about the Porterbrook/Birmingham University design.

Any Alternative To Full Electrification Must Meet Operator And Customer Expectations

This is a paragraph from the article.

It’s essential that an alternative traction solution offers the same levels of performance and frequency, while providing an increase in capacity and being economically viable.

In performance, I would include reliability. As the on-board engineer indicated on the Bombardier  test train on the Harwich branch, overhead electrification is not totally reliable, when there are winds and/or criminals about.

Easy Wins

Hitachi’s five-car Class 800 trains and Class 802 trains each have three diesel engines and run the following short routes.

  • Kings Cross and Middlesbrough- 21 miles not electrified – Changeover in Northallerton station
  • Kings Cross and Lincoln – 16.6 miles not electrified – Changeover in Newark Northgate station
  • Paddington and Bedwyn – 13.3 miles not electrified – Changeover in Newbury station
  • Paddington and Oxford – 10.3 miles not electrified – Changeover in Didcot Parkway station

Some of these routes could surely be run with a train, where one diesel engine was replaced by a battery-pack.

As I’m someone, who was designing, building and testing plug-compatible transistorised electronics in the 1960s to replace  older valve-based equipment in a heavy engineering factory, I suspect that creating a plug-compatible battery-pack that does what a diesel engine does in terms of power and performance is not impossible.

What would be the reaction to passengers, once they had been told, they had run all the way to or from London without using any diesel?

Hopefully, they’d come again and tell their friends, which is what a train operator wants and needs.

Solving The Electrification Conundrum

This section is from the article.

Where electrification isn’t likely to be a viable proposition, this presents a real conundrum to train operators and rolling stock leasing companies.

This is why Hitachi Rail and Hitachi ABB Power Grids are joining together to present a combined battery train and charging solution to solve this conundrum. In 2020, Hitachi and ABB’s Power Grids business, came together in a joint venture, and an early outcome of this is confidence that bringing together their expertise in rail, power and grid management, they can work together to make electrification simpler cheaper and quicker.

I agree strongly with the second paragraph, as several times, I’ve been the mathematician and simulation expert in a large multi-disciplinary engineering project, that went on to be very successful.

The Heart Of The Proposition

This is a paragraph from the article.

The proposition is conceptually simple. Rather than have extended dwell times at stations for battery-powered trains, why not have a short stretch of 25 KVAC overhead catenary (the exact length will depend on the types of train and the route) which can charge trains at linespeed on the move via a conventional pantograph?

The article also mentions ABB’s related expertise.

  • Charging buses all over Europe.
  • Creating the power grid for the Great Western Electrification to Cardiff.

I like the concept, but then it’s very similar to what I wrote in The Concept Of Electrification Islands in April 2020.

But as they are electrical power engineers and I’m not, they’d know how to create the system.

Collaboration With Hyperdrive Innovation

The article has nothing negative to say about the the collaboration with Hyperdrive Innovation to produce the battery-packs.

Route Modelling

Hitachi appear to have developed a sophisticated route modelling system, so that routes and charging positions can be planned.

I would be very surprised if they hadn’t developed such a system.

Modular And Scalable

This is a paragraph from the article.

In the heart of the system is a containerised modular solution containing everything needed to power a stretch of overhead catenary to charge trains. A three-car battery train might need one of these, but the great advantage is that it is scalable to capacity and speed requirements.

This all sounds very sensible and can surely cope with a variety of lines and traffic levels.

It also has the great advantage , that if a line is eventually electrified, the equipment can be moved on to another line.

Financing Trains And Chargers

The article talks about the flexibility of the system from an operator’s point of view with respect to finance.

I’ve had some good mentors in the area of finance and I know innovative finance contributed to the success of Metier Management Systems, the project management company I started with three others in 1977.

After selling Metier, I formed an innovative finance company, which would certainly have liked the proposition put forward in the article.

No Compromise, Little Risk

I would agree with this heading of the penultimate section of the article.

In February 2015, when I rode that Class 379 train between Manningtree and Harwich, no compromise had been made by Bombardier and it charged in the electrified bay platform at Manningtree.

But why was that train not put through an extensive route-proving exercise in the UK after the successful trial at Manningtree?

  • Was it the financial state of Bombardier?
  • Was it a lack of belief on the part of politicians, who were too preoccupied with Brexit?
  • Was it that an unnamed civil servant didn’t like the concept and stopped the project?

Whatever the reason, we have wasted several years in getting electric trains accepted on UK railways.

If no compromise needs to be made to create a battery-electric train, that is equivalent to the best-in-class diesel or electric multiple units, then what about the risk?

The beauty of Hitachi’s battery-electric train project is that it can be done in phases designed to minimise risk.

Phase 1 – Initial Battery Testing 

Obviously, there will be a lot of bench testing in a laboratory.

But I also believe that if the Class 803 trains are fitted with a similar battery from Hyperdrive Innovation, then this small fleet of five trains can be used to test a lot of the functionality of the batteries initially in a test environment and later in a real service environment.

The picture shows a Class 803 train under test through Oakleigh Park station.

This phase would be very low risk, especially where passengers are concerned.

Phase 2 – Battery Traction Testing And Route Proving

I am a devious bastard, when it comes to software development. The next set of features would always be available for me to test earlier, than anybody else knew.

I doubt that the engineers at Hyperdrive Innovation will be any different.

So I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the batteries in the Class 803 trains can also be used for traction, if you have the right authority.

We might even see Class 803 trains turning up in some unusual places to test the traction abilities of the batteries.

As East Coast Trains, Great Western Railway and Hull Trains are all First Group companies, I can’t see any problems.

I’m also sure that Hitachi could convert some Class 800 or Class 802 trains and add these to the test fleet, if East Coast Trains need their Class 803 trains to start service.

This phase would be very low risk, especially where passengers are concerned.

Possibly, the worse thing, that could happen would be a battery failure, which would need the train to be rescued.

Phase 3 – Service Testing On Short Routes

As I indicated earlier, there are some easy routes between London and places like Bedwyn, Lincoln, Middlesbrough and Oxford, that should be possible with a Class 800 or Class 802 train fitted with the appropriate number of batteries.

Once the trains have shown, the required level of performance and reliability, I can see converted Class 800, 801 and Class 802 trains entering services on these and other routes.

Another low risk phase, although passengers are involved, but they are probably subject to the same risks, as on an unmodified train.

Various combinations of diesel generators and batteries could be used to find out, what is the optimum combination for the typical diagrams that train operators use.

Hitachi didn’t commit to any dates, but I can see battery-electric trains running on the Great Western Railway earlier than anybody thinks.

Phase 4 – Service Testing On Medium Routes With A Terminal Charger System

It is my view that the ideal test route for battery-electric trains with a terminal charger system would be the Hull Trains service between London Kings Cross and Hull and Beverley.

The route is effectively in three sections.

  • London Kings Cross and Temple Hirst junction – 169.2 miles – Full Electrification
  • Temple Hirst junction and Hull station – 36.1 miles – No Electrification
  • Hull station and Beverley station – 8.3 miles – No Electrification

Two things would be needed to run zero-carbon electric trains on this route.

  • Sufficient battery capacity in Hull Trains’s Class 802 trains to reliably handle the 36.1 miles between Temple Hirst junction and Hull station.
  • A charging system in Hull station.

As Hull station also handles other Class 800 and Class 802 trains, there will probably be a need to put a charging system in more than one platform.

Note.

  1. Hull station has plenty of space.
  2. No other infrastructure work would be needed.
  3. There is a large bus interchange next door, so I suspect the power supply to Hull station is good.

Hull would be a very good first destination for a battery-electric InterCity train.

Others would include Bristol, Cheltenham, Chester, Scarborough, Sunderland and Swansea.

The risk would be very low, if the trains still had some diesel generator capacity.

Phase 5 – Service Testing On Long Routes With Multiple Charger Systems

Once the performance and reliability of the charger systems have been proven in single installations like perhaps Hull and Swansea stations, longer routes can be prepared for electric trains.

This press release from Hitachi is entitled Hitachi And Eversholt Rail To Develop GWR Intercity Battery Hybrid Train – Offering Fuel Savings Of More Than 20%.

The press release talks about Penzance and London, so would that be a suitable route for discontinuous electrification using multiple chargers?

These are the distances between major points on the route between Penzance and London Paddington.

  • Penzance and Truro – 35.8 miles
  • Truro and Bodmin Parkway – 26.8 miles
  • Bodmin Parkway and Plymouth – 26.9 miles
  • Plymouth and Newton Abbot – 31,9 miles
  • Newton Abbot and Exeter – 20.2 miles
  • Exeter and Taunton – 30.8 miles
  • Taunton and Westbury – 47.2 miles
  • Westbury and Newbury – 42.5 miles
  • Newbury and Paddington – 53 miles

Note.

  1. Only Newbury and Paddington is electrified.
  2. Trains generally stop at Plymouth, Newton Abbott, Exeter and Taunton.
  3. Services between Paddington and Exeter, Okehampton, Paignton, Penzance, Plymouth and Torquay wouldn’t use diesel.
  4. Okehampton would be served by a reverse at Exeter.
  5. As Paignton is just 8.1 miles from Newton Abbot, it probably wouldn’t need a charger.
  6. Bodmin is another possible destination, as Great Western Railway have helped to finance a new platform at Bodmin General station.

It would certainly be good marketing to run zero-carbon electric trains to Devon and Cornwall.

I would class this route as medium risk, but with a high reward for the operator.

In this brief analysis, it does look that Hitachi’s proposed system is of a lower risk.

A Few Questions

I do have a few questions.

Are The Class 803 Trains Fitted With Hyperdrive Innovation Batteries?

East Coast Trains‘s new Class 803 trains are undergoing testing between London Kings Cross and Edinburgh and they can be picked up on Real Time Trains.

Wikipedia says this about the traction system for the trains.

While sharing a bodyshell with the previous UK A-train variants, the Class 803 differs in that it has no diesel engines fitted. They will however be fitted with batteries to enable the train’s on-board services to be maintained, in case the primary electrical supplies have failed.

Will these emergency batteries be made by Hyperdrive Innovation?

My experience of similar systems in other industries, points me to the conclusion, that all Class 80x trains can be fitted with similar, if not identical batteries.

This would give the big advantage of allowing battery testing to be performed on Class 803 trains under test, up and down the East Coast Main Line.

Nothing finds faults in the design and manufacture of something used in transport, than to run it up and down in real conditions.

Failure of the catenary can be simulated to check out emergency modes.

Can A Class 801 Train Be Converted Into A Class 803 Train?

If I’d designed the trains, this conversion would be possible.

Currently, the electric Class 801 trains have a single diesel generator. This is said in the Wikipedia entry for the Class 800 train about the Class 801 train.

These provide emergency power for limited traction and auxiliaries if the power supply from the overhead line fails.

So it looks like the difference between the powertrain of a Class 801 train and a Class 803 train, is that the Class 801 train has a diesel generator and the Class 803 train has batteries. But the diesel generator and batteries, would appear to serve the same purpose.

Surely removing diesel from a Class 801 train would ease the maintenance of the train!

Will The System Work With Third-Rail Electrification?

There are three routes that if they were electrified would probably be electrified with 750 DC third-rail electrification, as they have this electrification at one or both ends.

  • Basingstoke and Exeter
  • Marshlink Line
  • Uckfield branch

Note.

  1. Basingstoke and Exeter would need a couple of charging systems.
  2. The Marshlink line would need a charging system at Rye station.
  3. The Uckfield branch would need a charging system at Uckfield station.

I am fairly certain as an Electrical Engineer, that the third-rails would only need to be switched on, when a train is connected and needs a charge.

I also feel that on some scenic and other routes, 750 VDC third-rail electrification may be more acceptable , than 25 KVAC  overhead electrification. For example, would the heritage lobby accept overhead wires through a World Heritage Site or on top of a Grade I Listed viaduct?

I do feel that the ability to use third-rail 750 VDC third-rail electrification strategically could be a useful tool in the system.

Will The System Work With Lightweight Catenary?

I like the design of this 25 KVAC overhead electrification, that uses lightweight gantries, which use laminated wood for the overhead structure.

There is also a video.

Electrification doesn’t have to be ugly and out-of-character with the surroundings.

Isuspect that both systems could work together.

 

Would Less Bridges Need To Be Rebuilt For Electrification?

This is always a contentious issue with electrification, as rebuilding bridges causes disruption to both rail and road.

I do wonder though by the use of careful design, that it might be possible to arrange that the sections of electrification and the contentious bridges were kept apart, with the bridges arranged to be in sections, where the trains ran on batteries.

I suspect that over the years as surveyors and engineers get more experienced, better techniques will evolve to satisfy all parties.

Get this right and it could reduce the cost of electrification on some lines, that will be difficult to electrify.

How Secure Are The Containerised Systems?

Consider.

  • I was delayed in East Anglia two years ago, because someone stole the overhead wires at two in the morning.
  • Apparently, overhead wire stealing is getting increasingly common in France and other parts of Europe.

I suspect the containerised systems will need to be more secure than those used for buses, which are not in isolated locations.

Will The Containerised Charging Systems Use Energy Storage?

Consider.

  • I’ve lived in rural locations and the power grids are not as good as in urban areas.
  • Increasingly, batteries of one sort or another are being installed in rural locations to beef up local power supplies.
  • A new generation of small-footprint eco-friendly energy storage systems are being developed.

In some locations, it might be prudent for a containerised charging system to share a battery with the local area.

Will The Containerised Charging Systems Accept Electricity From Local Sources Like Solar Farms?

I ask the question, as I know at least one place on the UK network, where a line without electrification runs through a succession of solar farms.

I also know of an area, where a locally-owned co-operative is planning a solar farm, which they propose would be used to power the local main line.

Will The System Work With Class 385 Trains?

Hitachi’s Class 385 trains are closely related to the Class 80x trains, as they are all members of Hitachi’s A-Train family.

Will the Charging Systems Charge Other Manufacturers Trains?

CAF and Stadler are both proposing to introduce battery-electric trains in the UK.

I also suspect that the new breed of electric parcel trains will include a battery electric variant.

As these trains will be able to use 25 KVAC overhead electrification, I would expect, that they would be able to charge their batteries on the Hitachi ABB  charging systems.

Will The System Work With Freight Trains?

I believe that freight services will split into two.

Heavy freight will probably use powerful hydrogen-electric locomotives.

In Freightliner Secures Government Funding For Dual-Fuel Project, which is based on a Freightliner press release, I detail Freightliner’s decarbonisation strategy, which indicates that in the future they will use hydrogen-powered locomotives.

But not all freight is long and extremely heavy and I believe that a battery-electric freight locomotive will emerge for lighter duties.

There is no reason it could not be designed to be compatible with Hitachi’s charging system.

In Is This The Shape Of Freight To Come?, I talked about the plans for 100 mph parcel services based on redundant electric multiple units. Eversholt Rail Group have said they want a Last-Mile capability for their version of these trains.

Perhaps they need a battery-electric capability, so they can deliver parcels and shop supplies to the remoter parts of these islands?

Where Could Hitachi’s System Be Deployed?

This is the final paragraph from the article.

Hitachi is not committing to any routes yet, but a glance at the railway map shows clear potential for the battery/OLE-technology to be deployed on relatively lightly used rural and regional routes where it will be hard to make a case for electrification. The Cambrian Coast and Central Wales Lines would appear to be worthy candidates, and in Scotland, the West Highland Line and Far North routes are also logical areas for the system to be deployed.

In England, while shorter branch lines could simply be operated by battery trains, longer routes need an alternative. Network Rail’s Traction Decarbonisation Network Strategy interim business case recommends hydrogen trains for branch lines in Norfolk, as well as Par to Newquay and Exeter to Barnstaple. However, it is also entirely feasible to use the system on routes likely to be electrified much later in the programme, such as the Great Western main line West of Exeter, Swansea to Fishguard and parts of the Cumbrian Coast Line.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and mine would be driven by high collateral benefits and practicality.

These are my thoughts.

Long Rural Lines

The Cambrian, Central Wales (Heart Of Wales), Far North and West Highland Lines may not be connected to each other, but they form a group of rail routes with a lot of shared characteristics.

  • All are rural routes of between 100 and 200 miles.
  • All are mainly single track.
  • They carry occasional freight trains.
  • They carry quite a few tourists, who are there to sample, view or explore the countryside.
  • All trains are diesel.
  • Scotrail have been experimenting with attaching Class 153 trains to the trains on the West Highland Line to act as lounge cars and cycle storage.

Perhaps we need a long-distance rural train with the following characteristics.

  • Four or possibly five cars
  • Battery-electric power
  • Space for a dozen cycles
  • A lounge car
  • Space for a snack trolley
  • Space to provide a parcels service to remote locations.

I should also say, that I’ve used trains on routes in countries like Germany, Poland and Slovenia, where a similar train requirement exists.

Norfolk Branch Lines

Consider.

  • North of the Cambridge and Ipswich, the passenger services on the branch lines and the important commuter routes between Cambridge and Norwich and Ipswich are run by Stadler Class 755 trains, which are designed to be converted to battery-electric trains.
  • Using Hitachi chargers at Beccles, Bury St. Edmunds, Lowestoft, Thetford and Yarmouth and the existing electrification, battery-electric Class 755 trains could provide a zero-carbon train service for Norfolk and Suffolk.
  • With chargers at Dereham and March, two important new branch lines could be added and the Ipswich and Peterborough service could go hourly and zero carbon.
  • Greater Anglia have plans to use the Class 755 trains to run a London and Lowestoft service.
  • Could they be planning a London and Norwich service via Cambridge?
  • Would battery-electric trains running services over Norfolk bring in more visitors by train?

Hitachi may sell a few chargers to Greater Anglia, but I feel they have enough battery-electric trains.

Par And Newquay

The Par and Newquay Line or the Atlantic Coast Line, has been put forward as a Beeching Reversal project, which I wrote about in Beeching Reversal – Transforming The Newquay Line.

In that related post, I said the line needed the following.

  • An improved track layout.
  • An hourly service.
  • An improved Par station.
  • A rebuilt Newquay station with a second platform, so that more through trains can be run.

I do wonder, if after the line were to be improved, that a new three-car battery-electric train shuttling between Par and Newquay stations could be the icing on the cake.

Exeter And Barnstaple

The Tarka Line between Exeter and Barnstaple is one of several local and main lines radiating from Exeter St. David’s station.

  • The Avocet Line to Exmouth
  • The Great Western Main Line to Taunton, Bristol and London
  • The Great Western Main Line to Newton Abbott, Plymouth and Penzance
  • The Riviera Line to Paignton
  • The West of England Line to Salisbury, Basingstoke and London.

Note.

  1. The Dartmoor Line to Okehampton is under development.
  2. Several new stations are planned on the routes.
  3. I have already stated that Exeter could host a charging station between London and Penzance, but it could also be an electrified hub for battery-electric trains running hither and thither.

Exeter could be a city with a battery-electric metro.

Exeter And Penzance

Earlier, I said that I’d trial multiple chargers between Paddington and Penzance to prove the concept worked.

I said this.

I would class this route as medium risk, but with a high reward for the operator.

But it is also an enabling route, as it would enable the following battery-electric services.

  • London and Bodmin
  • London and Okehampton
  • London and Paignton and Torquay

It would also enable the Exeter battery-electric metro.

For these reasons, this route should be electrified using Hitachi’s discontinuous electrification.

Swansea And Fishguard

I mentioned Swansea earlier, as a station, that could be fitted with a charging system, as this would allow battery-electric trains between Paddington and Swansea via Cardiff.

Just as with Exeter, there must be scope at Swansea to add a small number of charging systems to develop a battery-electric metro based on Swansea.

Cumbrian Coast Line

This is a line that needs improvement, mainly for the tourists and employment it could and probably will bring.

These are a few distances.

  • West Coast Main Line (Carnforth) and Barrow-in-Furness – 28.1 miles
  • Barrow-in-Furness and Sellafield – 25 miles
  • Sellafield and Workington – 18 miles
  • Workington and West Coast Main Line (Carlisle) – 33 miles

Note.

  1. The West Coast Main Line is fully-electrified.
  2. I suspect that Barrow-in-Furness, Sellafield and Workington have good enough electricity supplies to support charging systems  for the Cumbrian Coast Line.
  3. The more scenic parts of the line would be left without wires.

It certainly is a line, where a good case for running battery-electric trains can be made.

Crewe And Holyhead

In High-Speed Low-Carbon Transport Between Great Britain And Ireland, I looked at zero-carbon travel between the Great Britain and Ireland.

One of the fastest routes would be a Class 805 train between Euston and Holyhead and then a fast catamaran to either Dublin or a suitable rail-connected port in the North.

  • The Class 805 trains could be made battery-electric.
  • The trains could run between Euston and Crewe at speeds of up to 140 mph under digital signalling.
  • Charging systems would probably be needed at Chester, Llandudno Junction and Holyhead.
  • The North Wales Coast Line looks to my untrained eyes, that it could support at least some 100 mph running.

I believe that a time of under three hours could be regularly achieved between London Euston and Holyhead.

Battery-electric trains on this route, would deliver the following benefits.

  • A fast low-carbon route from Birmingham, London and Manchester to the island of Ireland. if coupled with the latest fast catamarans at Holyhead.
  • Substantial reductions in journey times to and from Anglesey and the North-West corner of Wales.
  • Chester could become a hub for battery-electric trains to and from Birmingham, Crewe, Liverpool, Manchester and Shrewsbury.
  • Battery-electric trains could be used on the Conwy Valley Line.
  • It might even be possible to connect the various railways, heritage railways and tourist attractions in the area with zero-carbon shuttle buses.
  • Opening up of the disused railway across Anglesey.

The economics of this corner of Wales could be transformed.

My Priority Routes

To finish this section, I will list my preferred routes for this method of discontinuous electrification.

  • Exeter and Penzance
  • Swansea and Fishguard
  • Crewe and Holyhead

Note.

  1. Some of the trains needed for these routes have been delivered or are on order.
  2. Local battery-electric services could be developed at Chester, Exeter and Swansea by building on the initial systems.
  3. The collateral benefits could be high for Anglesey, West Wales and Devon and Cornwall.

I suspect too, that very little construction work not concerned with the installation of the charging systems will be needed.

Conclusion

Hitachi have come up with a feasible way to electrify Great Britain’s railways.

I would love to see detailed costings for the following.

  • Adding a battery pack to a Class 800 train.
  • Installing five miles of electrification supported by a containerised charging system.

They could be on the right side for the Treasury.

But whatever the costs, it does appear that the Japanese have gone native, with their version of the Great British Compromise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 9, 2021 Posted by | Design, Energy, Hydrogen, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

London To Glasgow Train Journey Record Bid Fails By Just 21 Seconds

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on ITV.com.

These are the first three paragraphs.

An attempt to break the 36-year-old record for the fastest train journey between London and Glasgow has failed.

Avanti West Coast’s Royal Scot train arrived at Glasgow Central 21 seconds behind the record of three hours, 52 minutes and 40 seconds set by British Rail in December 1984, according to rail expert Mark Smith, who was onboard.

Mr Smith, founder of Seat61.com, wrote on Twitter that a temporary speed limit on the track in Carstairs, South Lanarkshire, “cost us 90 seconds”.

It appears to be a valiant attempt that failed by a small margin.

I have a few thoughts.

The Trains

The British Rail 1984 record was set by an Advanced Passenger Train (APT) and today’s run was by a nine-car Class 390 train.

  • The design speed of the APT was 155 mph and that of a Class 390 train is 140 mph.
  • Service speed of both trains was and is 125 mph.
  • Record speed of the APT was 162 mph and that of a Class 390 train is 145 mph.
  • Both trains employ similar tilt technology to go faster.

At a brief look the performance of these two trains is very similar.

The InterCity 225

The InterCity 225 train is the ringer in this race to the North.

  • The design speed is 140 mph.
  • The service speed is 125 mph
  • The record speed of an InterCity 225 is 161.7 mph.
  • The train doesn’t use tilting technology.
  • The train was built after the APT around 1990.
  • The train holds the record between London Kings Cross and Edinburgh at thirty seconds under three-and-a-half hours.
  • To rub things in, one of these trains, even holds the London Euston and Manchester Piccadilly record.

But there can’t be much wrong with the InterCity 225 trains as a few are being brought back into service, whilst LNER are waiting for ten new bi-mode trains to be delivered.

Hitachi Class 80x Trains

The various variants of Class 800 trains run to Edinburgh and I’m sure they will run to Glasgow.

  • The design speed is 140 mph.
  • The service speed is 125 mph

If an InterCity 225 can go between Edinburgh and London in around three-and-a-half hours, I can’t see why these trains can’t.

Especially, as Hitachi seem to be able to produce versions like the Class 803 and Class 807 trains, which appear to be lighter and more efficient, as they don’t have any diesel engines.

A Small Margin

I said earlier that it was only a small margin between the times of the APT and the Class 390 train. But why was the InterCity 225 able to run between Kings Cross and Edinburgh at thirty seconds under three-and-a-half hours?

This section in the Wikipedia entry for the Class 91 locomotive is entitled Speed Record. This is the first paragraph.

A Class 91, 91010 (now 91110), holds the British locomotive speed record at 161.7 mph (260.2 km/h), set on 17 September 1989, just south of Little Bytham on a test run down Stoke Bank with the DVT leading. Although Class 370s, Class 373s and Class 374s have run faster, all are EMUs which means that the Electra is officially the fastest locomotive in Britain. Another loco (91031, now 91131), hauling five Mk4s and a DVT on a test run, ran between London King’s Cross and Edinburgh Waverley in 3 hours, 29 minutes and 30 seconds on 26 September 1991. This is still the current record. The set covered the route in an average speed of 112.5 mph (181.1 km/h) and reached the full 140 mph (225 km/h) several times during the run.

It looks from the last sentence of this extract, that the record run of the InterCity 225 train ran up to 140 mph in places, whereas the record run of the APT and today’s run by a Class 390 train were limited to 125 mph.

The Signalling

In the Wikipedia entry for the InterCity 225 train, the following is said.

Thus, except on High Speed 1, which is equipped with cab signalling, British signalling does not allow any train, including the InterCity 225, to exceed 125 mph (201 km/h) in regular service, due to the impracticality of correctly observing lineside signals at high speed.

Note.

  1. I have regularly flown my Cessna 340 safely at altitude, with a ground speed of around two hundred miles per hour.
  2. High Speed One has an operating speed of 186 mph.
  3. Grant Schapps, who is Secretary of State for Transport has a pilot’s licence. So he would understand flight instruments and avionics.

So why hasn’t a system been developed in the thirty years since trains capable of running at 140 mph started running in the UK, to allow them to do it?

It is a ridiculous situation.

We are installing full digital ERTMS in-cab signalling on the East Coast Main Line, but surely a system based on aviation technology could be developed until ERTMS  is ready. Or we could install the same system as on High Speed One.

After all, all we need is a system, to make sure the drivers don’t misread the signals.

But then the EU says that all member nations must use ERTMS signalling.

Didn’t we just leave the EU?

Conclusion

By developing our own in-cab digital signalling we could run trains between London and Scotland in around three-and-a-half hours.

The Japanese could even have an off-the-shelf system!

ERTMS sounds like a closed shop to give work to big European companies, who have lobbied the European Commission.

June 17, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Councillors Approve Train Station For Inverness Airport

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

These are the first two paragraphs.

Planning permission has finally been granted for a two-platform train station at Inverness Airport.

The plans were “reluctantly” granted by the Highland Council, as much debate over the Petty Level crossing which is to be removed as a consequence.

Ir certainly looks like there were strong arguments over the level crossing.

This Network Rail visualisation shows the station from a virtual helicopter hovering over the Airport.

And this Google Map shows the Airport from the South-West

Note.

  1. The link road to the A96 crossing the railway in both images. But from opposite directions.
  2. In the Network Rail visualisation you can see the roundabout, where the link road joins the A96 in the top left corner.
  3. The current railway is only single track, but Network Rail will be doubling it.
  4. From these images and this document on the Network Rail web site, I can deduce this about the station.
  5. The station will have two platforms that will be capable of handling six-car trains.
  6. The footbridge is shown with lifts.
  7. The station will be able to be used as a Park-and-Ride for Inverness.

I suspect there will be a shuttle bus to the Airport terminal.

Travel Between London And Inverness

I’ve been to Inverness twice and and in both cases, I’ve gone by train.

  • The first time, I went by a  day train from Edinburgh. And I was in the cab courtesy of East Coast. I wrote about it in Edinburgh to Inverness in the Cab of an HST.
  • The other occasion, I took the Caledonian Sleeper to Inverness and that is a civilised way to go.

I feel that on this route very keen competition could develop.

Advantages Of Flying

Flying to Inverness Airport has these advantages.

  • A shorter journey time.
  • A greater choice of destinations.
  • Destinations in the sun.
  • After the new station is built it will be rail connected all the way to Aberdeen.

This Google map shows Inverness and Inverness Airport.

Note.

  1. The city of Inverness is at the Southern end of the Moray Firth.
  2. With all the water, I suspect the airport can be a good neighbour as far as noise and pollution are concerned.
  3. The Airport would have good access to green hydrogen and electricity from renewable sources.
  4. Even the Airport train and all the ground-handling equipment could run on hydrogen.

I feel that the Airport could sell itself as an environmentally-friendly way to the Highlands, when sufficient numbers of zero-carbon aircraft are available.

  • You should be able to fly in from Amsterdam, Birmingham, Brussels, Geneva, London, Manchester etc. and not feel any environmental guilt.
  • Airbus’s proposed hydrogen-powered ZEROe Turbofan is quoted as having a range of 2,000+ nautical miles,
  • That distance would put a lot of the sun in range of Inverness Airport.
  • Smaller feeder airliners could connect to other airports in the North of Scotland and the islands.

Inverness Airport will not be beaten without a fight.

Advantages Of Trains

Taking the train to Inverness has the following advantages.

  • Luxury
  • Zero Carbon-Footprint
  • The possibility of an overnight trip on a sleeper train.
  • The scenery through the Highlands.

I also believe that it would be possible  to design a hydrogen-powered luxury train. I laid out my ideas in LNER Seeks 10 More Bi-Modes.

I believe a train could have this specification.

  • 140 mph operation on 25 KVAC overhead electrification. This was done by British Rail almost forty years ago.
  • Ability to use full digital in-cab signalling. This is on its way and already working in some applications.
  • 110 mph operation on hydrogen. Hitachi are planning 100 mph battery trains, so it should be possible.
  • 400 mile range on one filling of hydrogen. This is working in Germany.
  • Ability to be upgraded to higher speeds on electric power, should the East Coast Main Line be upgraded for higher speeds in the future. The train manufacturers are probably ahead of track designers with this one.

I believe a sub-seven hour time would be possible between London and Inverness.

Conclusion

This is the sort of route, where rail and air will have a hard fight for supremacy.

 

 

May 6, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

London Euston Cat-Astrophe Averted For Train-Surfing Puss

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

Except for the headline, the BBC resisted the urge to use more feline puns in the story.

March 3, 2021 Posted by | News, Transport | , , , , | 2 Comments

Boeing 737 Max Cleared To Fly In Europe After Crashes

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

The aircraft may be cleared to fly, but will passengers want to fly in it?

I certainly won’t be flying on any airline, that has any of these aircraft in their fleet.

But then I prefer train travel.

January 27, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Is The Eastern Leg Of High Speed Two Under Threat?

This page on the High Speed Two web site is entitled HS2 Phase 2b Eastern Leg.

These are the opening three paragraphs.

Earlier this year the government made clear in its response to the Oakervee Review its commitment to Phase 2b of HS2, ensuring we boost capacity, improve connectivity between our regions and share prosperity.

As part of this, the government plans to present an Integrated Rail Plan for the North and Midlands by the end of the year, informed by an assessment from the National Infrastructure Commission, which will look at how to deliver HS2 Phase 2b, Northern Powerhouse Rail, Midlands Rail Hub and other rail programmes better and more effectively.

In the meantime, the government has asked HS2 Ltd to pause work on the Eastern Leg. We recognise that this causes uncertainty and our Eastern Leg community engagement teams remain in place to support you.

The page then says that the work on the Western Leg should proceed, with the aim of a Western Leg Bill in early 2022.

In Northern Powerhouse Rail – Significant Upgrades Of The East Coast Main Line From Leeds To Newcastle (Via York And Darlington) And Restoration Of The Leamside Line, I showed that the current and future upgrades to the East Coast Main Line, required by the East Coast Main Line, Northern Powerhouse Rail and High Speed Two, will greatly reduce the times on services from London Kings Cross to Doncaster, Yorkshire, the North East and Scotland.

I said this on timings on the East Coast Main Line.

  • London Kings Cross and Doncaster could be around an hour.
  • London Kings Cross and Leeds could be around one hour and thirty minutes, using the current Doncaster and Leeds time, as against the one hour and twenty-one minutes for High Speed Two.
  • London Kings Cross and York could be around one hour and twenty-three minutes, using the current Doncaster and York time, as against the one hour and twenty-four minutes for High Speed Two.
  • Timings between York and Newcastle would be the same fifty-two minutes as High Speed Two, as the track will be the limitation for both services.
  • High Speed Two’s timing for York and Newcastle is given as fifty-two minutes, with York and Darlington as twenty-five minutes.
  • London Kings Cross and Darlington could be around one hour and forty-nine minutes
  • London Kings Cross and Newcastle could be around two hours and sixteen minutes.
  • London Kings Cross and Edinburgh would be under three-and-a-half hours, as against the proposed three hours and forty-eight minutes for High Speed Two.

LNER’s Azuma cavalry will hold the fort for as long as is needed.

I’ll now look at how various stations, will be affected if the Eastern Leg of High Speed Two is not built, until a couple of decades in the future.

Leeds

Current Long Distance Services At Leeds Station

Leeds station has the following long distance services in trains per hour (tph)

  • CrossCountry – 1
  • LNER – 2
  • TransPennine Express – 5

It is a bit thin compared to say Birmingham or Manchester.

Northern Powerhouse Rail And Leeds

Northern Powerhouse Rail has plans for Leeds with these services to other Northern cities.

  • Hull – two tph in 38 minutes
  • Manchester – six tph in 25 minutes
  • Newcastle – four tph in 58 minutes
  • Sheffield – four tph in 28 minutes.

From what they have written, the following could also be possible.

  • Bradford – six tph in a few minutes
  • Liverpool – four or more tph in 51 minutes
  • Manchester Airport – four or more tph in 35 minutes

It is an ambitious plan.

High Speed Two And Leeds

High Speed Two is planning to run the following trains to Leeds in every hour.

  • Birmingham Curzon Street and Leeds – 200 metre train
  • Birmingham Curzon Street and Leeds via East Midlands Hub – 200 metre train
  • London Euston and Leeds via Old Oak Common and East Midlands Hub – 200 metre train
  • London Euston and Leeds via Old Oak Common and East Midlands Hub – 400 metre train
  • London Euston and Leeds via Old Oak Common, Birmingham Interchange and East Midlands Hub – 400 metre train

Timings will be as follows.

  • Birmingham Curzon Street and Leeds – 49 minutes.
  • London Euston and Leeds – One hour and 21 minutes.

There will be about 1000 seats per hour between Birmingham Curzon Street and Leeds and 2500 seats per hour Between London Euston and Leeds.

High Speed Two And Leeds Via Manchester

This report on the Transport for the North web site, is entitled At A Glance – Northern Powerhouse Rail.

This map shows Transport for the North’s ideas for connections in the West linking Crewe, Liverpool, Manchester, Manchester Airport, Warrington and Wigan.

A black line goes East from Manchester to link it to Leeds via Huddersfield and Bradford.

  • This is proposed as a route shared between High Speed Two and Northern Powerhouse Rail.
  • High Speed Two are promising that London Euston and Manchester will be timed at one hour and eleven minutes.
  • London Euston and Manchester will have a frequency of three tph and will all be 400 metre High Speed Two Full Size trains, with about a thousand seats.
  • Northern Powerhouse Rail have an objective of a twenty-five minute journey time between Manchester and Leeds.

I would also build the Manchester and Leeds route with the following characteristics.

  • As a full-size tunnel capable of taking High Speed Two Full Size trains and the largest freight trains.
  • Intermediate and underground stations at Huddersfield and Bradford.
  • It could be built as a base tunnel, like the similarly-sized Gotthard base tunnel in Switzerland.
  • The Swiss tunnel has a maximum operating speed for passenger trains of 125 mph.

If it can be built for a reasonable cost and in a reasonable time-scale, it could be a way of doing the following.

  • Creating a straight 150 mph plus route across the Pennines, with a capacity of 18 tph.
  • Running high-capacity fast trains between London Euston and Leeds via Manchester Airport and Manchester.
  • Running freight trains between the two sides of the Pennines.
  • Creating a high frequency route between Liverpool and Hull via Manchester Airport, Manchester, Huddersfield and Bradford and Leeds.

The passenger service between Liverpool and Hull could be the world’s first high speed metro.

If the London Euston and Manchester trains, were to be extended to Leeds, London Euston and Leeds would take one hour and thirty-six minutes, which would only be fifteen minutes slower, than is promised for the route going via the Eastern Leg of High Speed Two.

London Kings Cross And Leeds

When the in-cab digital signalling is complete between London Kings Cross and Leeds, I am fairly confident that with a few other improvements and more zoom from the Azumas, that a London Kings Cross and Leeds time of one hour and fifty minutes will be possible.

But will two nine-car or pairs of five-car trains per hour (tph), be enough capacity? Especially, as pairs of five-car trains will split and join to serve a wider catchment area, which will harvest more passengers.

LNER will in a couple of years have an extra path every hour into Kings Cross.

I would feel that best use of this path would be to run between London Kings Cross and Edinburgh via Leeds and Newcastle.

  • Leeds and Newcastle could be the only intermediate stops.
  • Leeds would be the ideal place to change to Northern Powerhouse Rail for anywhere in the North of England.
  • My estimates, say it could run between London Kings Cross and Edinburgh in around three-and-a-half hours.
  • It would run non-stop between London Kings Cross and Leeds, Leeds and Newcastle and Newcastle and Edinburgh.

It would increase capacity, between the four major destinations on the route; London Kings Cross, Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh.

It could start running, once the digital signalling and current improvements to the East Coast Main Line are complete.

London St. Pancras And Leeds

I discussed, Northern Powerhouse Rail’s plan for Sheffield and Leeds in Northern Powerhouse Rail – Connecting Sheffield To HS2 And On To Leeds.

This could see the following new infrastructure.

  • Electrification between Clay Cross North Junction and Sheffield station of the route shared by the Midland Main Line and High Speed Two.
  • Electrification through Sheffield and on to Leeds, via the Wakefield Line
  • New stations for High Speed trains at Rotherham and Barnsley Dearne Valley.

I could see East Midlands Railway taking advantage of this route, with their new Class 810 trains and running a regular Leeds and St. Pancras service.

  • It would call at Wakefield Westgate, Barnsley Dearne Valley, Rotherham and Meadowhall. between Leeds and Sheffield stations.
  • It would take twenty-eight minutes between Leeds and Sheffield, if it met Northern Powerhouse Rail’s objective.
  • Perhaps one of the two tph between London St. Pancras and Sheffield could be extended to Leeds.

As the current time between London St. Pancras and Sheffield, is a few minutes under two hours, I can see a time of comfortably under two-and-a-half hours between London St. Pancras and Leeds.

A Summary Of Journey Times Between London And Leeds

I can summarise my estimates, between London and Leeds.

  • High Speed Two – Direct via Eastern Leg – One hour and twenty-one minutes.
  • High Speed Two – via Manchester – One hour and thirty-six minutes.
  • East Coast Main Line – via Doncaster – One hour and thirty minutes.
  • Midland Main Line – via Derby and Sheffield – Two hours and twenty minutes.

The direct High Speed Two route is the fastest., but others could be viable alternatives for some passengers.

Bradford

Consider.

  • Under current plans Bradford won’t be getting any high speed service from High Speed Two.
  • The best it can get under current plans is several direct services per day, between Bradford Forster Square and London Kings Cross in perhaps two hours.
  • The layout of the city and its two stations doesn’t give good connectivity.

Bradford, Harrogate, Huddersfield and Skipton could probably be served by trains to and from London Kings Cross that join and split at Leeds.

But if Northern Powerhouse Rail goes for a tunnel between Manchester and Leeds with Bradford as an underground station, it could be served by High Speed Two services going between London Euston and Leeds via Manchester.

I would estimate that if London Euston and Leeds via Manchester took around one hour and thirty-six minutes, London Euston and Bradford could take around an hour-and-a-half.

Darlington

I can summarise my estimates, between London and Darlington.

  • High Speed Two – Direct via Eastern Leg – One hour and forty-nine minutes.
  • High Speed Two – via Manchester and Leeds – Two hours and six minutes.
  • East Coast Main Line – via Doncaster – One hour and forty-nine minutes.

Improvements on the East Coast Main Line, needed to enable and speed-up High Speed Two services to York, Darlington and Newcastle; will speed up East Coast Main Line services to Darlington.

Edinburgh

I can summarise my estimates, between London and Edinburgh.

  • High Speed Two – Direct via Western Leg – Three hours and Forty minutes.
  • High Speed Two – via Manchester and Leeds – Three hours and forty-eight minutes.
  • East Coast Main Line – via Doncaster – Three hours and thirty minutes.

Improvements on the East Coast Main Line, needed to enable and speed-up High Speed Two services to York, Darlington and Newcastle; will speed up East Coast Main Line services to Newcastle.

Harrogate

Consider.

  • Under current plans Harrogate won’t be getting any high speed service from High Speed Two.
  • The best it can get under current plans is several direct services per day, between Harrogate and London Kings Cross in perhaps two hours.

Bradford, Harrogate, Huddersfield and Skipton could possibly  be served by trains to and from London Kings Cross that join and split at Leeds.

Huddersfield

  • If Huddersfield is served by underground platforms beneath the current Huddersfield station, a lot of what I said for Bradford would apply to Huddersfield.
  • The timings would probably be around an-hour-and-a-half from London Euston.

Bradford, Harrogate, Huddersfield and Skipton could possibly be served by trains to and from London Kings Cross that join and split at Leeds.

Hull

Hull is an interesting destination.

  • Reaching Hull from the current High Speed Two network will need a change at Leeds or another station.
  • Using Northern Powerhouse Rail’s objectives on timings, London Euston and Hull via Manchester on High Speed Two, would be a few minutes under two-and-a-half hours.
  • I strongly feel, that London Kings Cross and Hull via Selby could be reduced to below two hours.

Hull would also make a superb Eastern terminal station for both Northern Powerhouse Rail and a High Speed Two service from London via Manchester and Leeds.

You pays your money and takes your choice.

Middlesbrough

Reaching Middlesbrough from the proposed High Speed Two network will need a change at York or another station.

But a time of two hours and twenty minutes, should be possible using the East Coast Main Line via Doncaster.

Improvements on the East Coast Main Line, needed to enable and speed-up High Speed Two services to York, Darlington and Newcastle, will speed up East Coast Main Line services to Middlesbrough.

Newcastle

I can summarise my estimates, between London and Newcastle.

  • High Speed Two – Direct via Eastern Leg – Two hours and seventeen minutes.
  • High Speed Two – via Manchester and Leeds – Two hours and thirty-four minutes.
  • East Coast Main Line – via Doncaster – Two hours and sixteen minutes.

Improvements on the East Coast Main Line, needed to enable and speed-up High Speed Two services to York, Darlington and Newcastle; will speed up East Coast Main Line services to Newcastle.

Nottingham

I will compare average speeds on the Midland Main Line between London St. Pancras and Nottingham and on the East Coast Main Line, between London Kings Cross and Leeds.

Currently.

  • London St. Pancras and Nottingham services, over the 126 mile route, take one hour and fifty minutes. which is an average speed of 69 mph.
  • London Kings Cross and Leeds services, over the 186 mile route, take two hours and thirteen minutes, which is an average speed of 94 mph.

Note.

  1. The two routes are of similar character and are fairly straight with large sections of 125 mph running and quadruple tracks.
  2. The East Coast Main Line to Leeds  is fully electrified, whereas the Midland Main Line is only partially electrified.
  3. Both routes have a small number of stops.
  4. In a few years time, services on both routes will be run by different members of the Hitachi AT-300 train family.

I don’t feel it would be unreasonable to assume that a London St. Pancras and Nottingham service could be run at an average speed of 94 mph, if the Midland Main Line were upgraded to the same standard as the East Coast Main Line.

This could mean a time of around one hour and twenty-one minutes between London St. Pancras and Nottingham, or a saving of twenty-nine minutes.

Is that possible?

  • The new Class 810 trains, will have four engines instead of the normal three for a five-car AT-300 train. Will they be able to be closer to the 125 mph line-speed on diesel power, where it is available on the Midland Main Line.
  • The trains will be able to use electrification between London St. Pancras and Market Harborough.
  • There have been hints, that more electrification may be installed on the Midland Main Line.
  • Hitachi have announced a battery electric version of the AT-300 train called a Regional Battery Train, where one or more of the diesel engines are replaced by battery packs.
  • The new trains will be ready to accept in-cab ERTMS digital signalling, so they could be able to run at up to 140 mph, if the track were to be upgraded.

I certainly feel, that substantial time savings could be possible between London St. Pancras and Nottingham.

Eighty-one minutes would be very convenient, as it would comfortably allow a three hour round trip, which would mean just six trains or more likely pairs of trains would be needed for the current two tph service.

Eighty-one minutes would not be the fifty-two minute service promised by High Speed Two!

But!

  • The new trains are planned to be introduced from 2023.
  • Who knows, when High Speed Two will arrive at the East Midlands Hub station?
  • They won’t need any new substantial infrastructure to replace the current trains.

I also suspect the new trains will have more seats, but, the capacity of the Class 810 train, has not been published.

Nottingham could also be served by a high speed service from London Kings Cross via Grantham, which I estimate would take about one hour and twenty minutes.

Sheffield

A lot of what I said for Nottingham can be applied to Sheffield.

  • Currently, London St. Pancras and Sheffield services, over the 165 mile route, take two hours, which is an average speed of 82.5 mph.
  • High Speed Two is promising a journey time of one hour and twenty-seven minutes.
  • An average speed of 90 mph, would mean a journey time of one hour and fifty minutes.
  • This would allow a four hour round trip, which would mean just eight trains or more likely pairs of trains would be needed for the current two tph service.

It would be very convenient for the operator.

It looks like if pairs of trains were to be run on both the Nottingham and Sheffield routes, that twenty-eight trains would be needed to run both services.

This fits well with a fleet size of thirty-three trains.

The only caveat, is that to get the required journey times, it might be necessary to rebuild and electrify the tracks, between Sheffield and Clay Cross North Junction.

  • These tracks will be shared with the future Sheffield Branch of High Speed Two.
  • It would only be 15.5 miles of double-track to rebuild and electrify.
  • It could be rebuilt to allow 140 mph running. Several minutes could be saved!

The electrification could allow Hitachi’s Regional Battery trains to be able to run the Sheffield service.

These trains would certainly be a way of avoiding the tricky electrification of the Derby and Clay Cross section of the route, which goes through the World Heritage Site of the Derwent Valley Mills.

Sheffield could also be served by a high speed service from London Kings Cross via Doncaster, which I estimate would take about one hour and thirty minutes.

Skipton

Consider.

  • Under current plans Skipton won’t be getting any high speed service from High Speed Two.
  • The best it can get under current plans is several direct services per day, between Skipton and London Kings Cross in perhaps two hours.

Bradford, Harrogate, Huddersfield and Skipton could possibly  be served by trains to and from London Kings Cross that join and split at Leeds.

Sunderland

Reaching Sunderland from the proposed High Speed Two network will need a change at York or another station.

But a time of two hours and thirty minutes, should be possible using the East Coast Main Line via Doncaster.

Improvements on the East Coast Main Line, needed to enable and speed-up High Speed Two services to York, Darlington and Newcastle, will speed up East Coast Main Line services to Sunderland.

York

I can summarise my estimates, between London and York.

  • High Speed Two – Direct via Eastern Leg – One hour and twenty-four minutes.
  • High Speed Two – via Manchester and Leeds – One hour and forty-two minutes.
  • East Coast Main Line – via Doncaster – One hour and twenty-four minutes.

Improvements on the East Coast Main Line, needed to enable and speed-up High Speed Two services to York, Darlington and Newcastle; will speed up East Coast Main Line services to York.

I believe strongly, that York would be about as fast from London, by either of the direct routes, but both would serve different intermediate destinations.

Conclusion

My first conclusion is a surprising one, but the promised timings from High Speed Two and the current timings in the timetable make it clear.

To achieve the required timings for High Speed Two, major improvements must be made to existing track and these improvements will mean that existing services will be competitive with High Speed Two on time.

These improvements fall into this category.

  • Improving the East Coast Main Line between York and Newcastle, will make East Coast Main Line services to York, Darlington, Durham and Newcastle competitive with High Speed Two services.
  • Improving the East Coast Main Line between York and Newcastle, may also mean that London Kings Cross and Edinburgh will be faster than the High Speed Two service between London Euston and Edinburgh.
  • Electrifying the route shared between Sheffield and Clay Cross North Junction, will speed up London St. Pancras and Sheffield services and make them more competitive with High Speed Two.

I suspect there may be similar mutual improvements on the Western leg of High Speed Two.

Other smaller conclusions from my analysis of the improvements include.

  • These improvements will create some extra capacity on the East Coast and Midland Main Lines, by removing bottlenecks and improving line speeds.
  • Electrification, even if it is only partial or discontinuous, will improve services on the Midland Main Line.
  • Some places like Harrogate, Middlesbrough and Skipton will never be served directly by High Speed Two, but are easily served by East Coast Main Line services from London Kings Cross.
  • Northern Powerhouse Rail is very much part of the North-South capacity for England.
  • In-cab ERTMS signalling will play a large part in increasing capacity and line speeds.

Perhaps in our planning of High Speed Two, we should plan all the routes in the North and Midlands in a much more holistic way.

If we look at the capacity between London and the North, I feel that with the addition of Phase 1 of High Speed Two to Birmingham in 2029-2033 and hopefully Phase 2a soon afterwards, that Phase 2b will not be needed for reasons of speed and capacity until years later.

So, I would pause most construction of the Eastern Leg of High Speed Two until Phase 1 and Phase 2a are complete.

I would make exceptions for the following.

  • Improvements to the shared section of the East Coast Main Line and High Speed Two, between York and Newcastle.
  • Building a high speed connection between Leeds and York for the use of Northern Powerhouse Rail and the East Coast Main Line.
  • Rebuilding and electrification of the shared section of the Midland Main Line and High Speed Two, between Clay Cross North Junction and Sheffield.
  • Improve and electrify the route between Sheffield and Leeds.

But I would continue with the design, as I feel that East of Leeds is very much sub-optimal at the present time.

The route of the Eastern leg of High Speed Two would be safeguarded.

 

 

 

 

December 7, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Could The Madrid And Lisbon High Speed Line Become Iconic?

This article on Railway Gazette International is entitled ADIF AV Agrees EIB Loan As Extremadura High Speed Link Makes Progress.

This sentence in the first paragraph gives details of the route.

The loan will support completion of the 282 km high speed line between Talayuela, Plasencia Cáceres, Mérida and Badajoz.

It will carry both passengers and freight and eventually link Madrid and Lisbon.

The article shows a spectacular bridge under construction.

So I got out my helicopter and decided to go and look for the bridge.

These are some sections and stations along the line.

The Railway Gazette article says this about the route to the East of Plasencia.

East of Plasencia however, land acquisition and preparatory works have proceeded more slowly. On this section, broad gauge tracks are to be laid as far as Talavera de la Reina, where there would be a junction with the conventional network and a gauge-changer. Passenger trains would then continue over 1 435 mm gauge tracks to join the existing Toledo – Madrid high speed line south of the capital.

Note.

  1. As I started from the East, it’s the other way round.
  2. If there is a gauge change and Iberian (broad) gauge to the West of Talavera de la Reina, is this to make it easier to connect to the Portuguese network?
  3. On the other hand, I thought, that all European-funded lines, as this one is, are supposed to be standard gauge.
  4. Will freight trains use gauge-change to get through?

As the Spanish do gauge-change well, I suspect they know what they’re doing, even if I don’t!

Two Routes From Madrid

Consider.

  • Currently, trains between Madrid and Talavera de la Reina, use a single track line.
  • The only sections of double-track are in stations and on the approaches to Madrid, after the trains pass Humanes de Madrid EMU depot.
  • Plans appear to exist to link the new high speed route to Madrid, by using the existing Madrid and Toledo high speed line.
  • This would reduce journey times and possibly increase capacity.

This Google Map shows the area between Msdrid and Toledo.

Note.

  1. The current single-track line between Madrid and Talavera de la Reina leaves the map in the South-Western corner.
  2. The line goes to the West of Villa Luenga de la Sagra and Yuncler before going to Madrid in a NNE direction.
  3. The Madrid and Toledo high speed line, runs diagonally in a SSW direction from the North-East corner of the map.
  4. The high speed line passes to the West of Cobeja and Pantoja.

Looking at the map, I don’t think it would be impossible to create a link between the two lines.

The Area Is Mainly Agricultural

This Google Map shows the mainly agricultural nature of the land.

Between Madrid and Talavera de la Reina, it also appears to not be very challenging and there doesn’t appear to be a major river, that would need to be crossed.

This should make construction easier!

Talavera de la Reina

This Google Map shows the railway station at the city of Talavera de la Reina.

Note.

  1. Madrid is to the East using standard gauge tracks.
  2. Badajoz is to the West using broad gauge tracks. Or does the standard gauge continue?
  3. The gauge change will be needed somewhere and it looks like it will happen here.

I can’t find any work here concerned with building the new high speed tracks.

Oropesa de Toledo

This Google Map shows the railway station in the town of Oropesa de Toledo.

There is no sign of the high speed line.

 

 

Note.

  1. The high speed line stops rather abruptly. Will it continue in a tunnel?
  2. The current single-track railway, at the top of the map.
  3. The border between the two provinces at the right of the map.

No clues as to the gauge of the high speed lines.

Navalmoral de la Mata

The current line goes through the municipality of Navalmoral de la Mata.

This Google Map shows the station.

There appeared to be no sign of the new high speed line. On one of my maps it is shown to the North.

The Eastern End Of The High Speed Line

The first sight of the new high speed line was at the border of Extremadura.

Note.

  1. The high speed line stops rather abruptly. Will it continue in a tunnel?
  2. The current single-track railway, at the top of the map.
  3. The border between the two provinces at the right of the map.

No clues as to the gauge of the high speed lines.

Casatejada

This Google Map shows the municipality of Casatejada.

Note.

  1. The route of the new high speed line to the North.
  2. Wikipedia doesn’t say much about it.

It may have a station, but it doesn’t have too many trains.

The section of the high speed line ends just to the West of Casatejada, as this Google Map shows.

This section of the high speed line would seem to go all the way to the Eastern edge of Extremadura, which I showed in a previous section.

La Bazagona

This Google Map, shows the area of La Bazagona.

Note.

  1. The current railway curving across the map to the South-East corner.
  2. The two circle farms.
  3. Is a new community being built here?

It certainly looks like a new station is being built to serve the area.

West Of La Bazagona

Consider.

  • West of La Bazagona, except for the current line, that goes via Monfrague, Mirabel and Cañaveral.
  • My European railway atlas, indicates the new high speed route goes between Monfrague and Plasencia and calls at a station called Plascencia Fuenteduñas.
  • I can’t locate Plascencia Fuenteduñas.

This Google Map shows the area to the West of La Bazagona.

Note.

  • La Bazagona is in the South-East corner of the map.
  • Plasencia is creeping into the map in the North-West corner.
  • The location of the current Monfrague station appears as a white dash and dot  and to the West of the North-South road.

The current railway runs East West between La Bazagone  and Monfrague.

Monfrague

This Google Map shows that except for a tobacco factory, there’s not much near Monfrague station.

On other maps, where it is to a smaller scale, the station and the surrounding buildings appear as a dash and a dot.

It appears the station only has one train per day. But it was December, when I checked.

Mirabel

Mirabel is a municipality on the current line, that is shown in this Google Map.

From Wikipedia it appears to be worth a visit.

A Diversion of the Current Route

Between Mirabel and Cañaveral, the old route takes a diversion to the East.

The railway goes to the West of the lake.

The green label indicates, it’s a hiking area.

The High Speed Line Becomes Visible Again

Since La Bazagona, I have followed the current route, but this Google Map shows where construction starts again for the new high speed line.

Note,

This is an enlargement of the South-West corner of the map.

Note the new high speed line, which stops abruptly.

North and South Of Venta El Caldero

This map shows the construction to the North of Venta El Caldero.

And this map shows the construction to the South of Venta El Caldero.

Note.

  1. The scar new railway is to the East of the A66 road.
  2. The railway construction stops abruptly North of Venta El Caldero.

Grimaldo is in the South-West corner of the map.

Grimaldo To Cañaveral

This Google Map shows the route of the high speed line from Grimaldo to Cañaveral.

Note how the scar of the railway construction is to the East of the A66 Motorway.

Cañaveral

This Google Map shows Cañaveral station on the current line and the track of the new high speed line.

This map illustrates how the new high speed line is so much more direct, which in itself will save time.

From Cañaveral To The Tagus

This map shows the scar of the construction of the high speed line from Cañaveral to the Tagus.

Note.

  1. The River Tagus across the bottom of the map.
  2. Cañaveral is in the North-East corner of the map.
  3. The scar of the railway construction running North-Easterly across the map.

A lot of the features, as the railway crosses the River Tagus, will come clearer in the next section.

Crossing The Tagus

This Google Map shows where the railway crosses the River Tagus.

 

This second map shows the Northern end of the bridge on a larger scale.

Is this bridge a double deck bridge with a road underneath a rail track?

Almonte River Railway Viaduct

This Google Map shows the viaduct over the Almonte river.

Note.

  1. It is the Eastern bridge on the map.
  2. It will carry a double-track high speed railway.
  3. At 384 metres it is the longest railway arch bridge in the world.
  4. It is seventy metres high, so the views should be good.
  5. It is 54 metres longer than the Silver Jubilee bridge over the Mersey.

The other bridge to the West is shown in this Google Map.

It appears to be a double-deck bridge, with a road on top of as single track railway.

This third Google Map clearly shows the arch.

 

It certainly is a bridge I want to experience.

The Old And New South Of The Almonte

I had to include this Google Map.

Note.

  1. The old and the new bridges over the Rio Almonte.
  2. The current railway meanders about.
  3. A lot of the track-bed of the new railway is complete.

There would appear to be a viewpoint and parking to explore the area.

Cáceres

This Google Map shows the joining of the old and new lines to the Nothe of the Cáceres

Note.

  1. The most Westerly line is the scar of the conscruction of the new high speed line.
  2. Next to it, is the current line.

The lines would appear to join to go through Cáceres. This must surely mean, they are the same gauge.

This second map shows the station in the city of Cáceres.

Reading Wikipedia, it looks to be the sort of place for an overnight stop or more.

Building The New Line South Of Cáceres

A new double-track High Speed Line is being built alongside the existing single track, as this Google Map shows.

Note.

  1. The road is the A66.
  2. The new railway is on the Western side, with the old one on the East.

This second map, taken in the same area, appears to show rail and railway being constructed along the same route.

The third map shows a tunnel on the route.

It goes straight through a range of mountains.

Aljucén

This Google Map shows the track layout at Aljucén.

Note.

  1. Aljucen station is on the East bank of the river.
  2. The North branch of the railway goes North to Caceres.
  3. The South branch of railway goes West to Badajoz.

Trains between Caceres and Badajoz, may go East to Mérida to reverse.

Mérida

As I said, the city of Mérida is to the East of Aljucén.

This Google Map shows the area between Aljucén and Mérida .

This second map, shows the large railway yard and the station at Mérida .

Note how the railway splits into two at the West of the station. One line takes the North side of the river and the other the South.

Onward To Badajoz

The Railway Gazette article says this about the section of the railway between Cáceres and Badajoz.

By late November, the 58∙8 km of double track between Plasencia and Cáceres was complete, while a single track has been built over the 80 km between Cáceres, Mérida and Badajoz. At Montijo, between Mérida and Badajoz, a junction is to be built to link the high speed line and the adjacent conventional line, which is to be electrified as part of work to modernise the east-west route across Extremadura between Badajoz and Puertollano.

Puertollano is to the East.

  • The city lies on the main high speed rail line between Madrid and Seville.
  • Trains take four hours between Puertollano and Badajoz.
  • It has a solar thermal power station.

It looks to me, that if I was going to Badajoz, I’d fly to Seville and take the train, with a change at Puertollano.

Guardiana del Caudillo

This Google Map around Guadina del Caudillo station is typical of much of the route between Aljucén and Badajoz.

It appears that a double-track high speed railway is being built alongside the current single track.

Badajoz

This Google Map shows the current single-track railway passing North-West South-East through the city of Badajoz.

Note.

  1. Portugal is a few miles to the North-West.
  2. The station appears to be in the centre of the city.

This second map shows the border.

Note.

  1. The single-track curving around the South-West corner of the map.
  2. Underground water must be good, as they’re farming in circles.

Given the closeness of Badejoz to the border, the Spanish city could be a good place to break a journey.

Conclusion

This high speed line would appear to be easier to build than High Speed Two in some ways.

  • A rail route already exists and in many places, the Spaniards are using a similar route.
  • The population density appears low.
  • The route is only about as long as London and Sheffield.

On the other hand, there are some tunnels and hills and some substantial river crossings.

Writing, this has made me want to visit, this part of Spain, where I’ve never been.

I would fly to Lisbon and gradually work my way back, stopping in places like Badajoz, Caceres and Toledo, before taking a train back to London.

Could The Madrid And Lisbon High Speed Line Become Iconic?

I think it could, as it will be a line with beautiful scenery between two of Europe’s must-visit capitals.

December 6, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Greater Anglia Trains Hit 10-year High For Punctuality

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on North Norfolk News.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Greater Anglia has recorded its best figures for punctuality in a decade, latest figures have revealed.

More than nine out of every ten trains ran on time in November, helping the company achieve its best punctuality result for 10 years and second-best of the past 20 years.

That is very good, with punctuality figures very close to a hundred percent.

What the article doesn’t mention, is that Greater Anglia’s trains in Norfolk and Suffolk are now typically step-free, with those in wheelchairs to be able to roll in without a ramp.

How much has this feature contributed to the outstanding punctuality?

December 6, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Diesel-Battery Hybrid TER Train To Be Tested Next Year

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

These are the two introductory paragraphs.

Testing of a Coradia Polyvalent electro-diesel regional trainset fitted with a battery hybrid traction system is to begin early next year and passenger services are planned for 2022, Alstom has announced.

Two of the trainset’s four diesel engines are to be replaced by lithium-ion batteries, which will be used to recover and store braking energy for reuse. It is hoped that this will reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 20%, as well as reducing operating and maintenance costs.

Other points from the article.

  • Testing is planned for 2021, with service entry, the year after.
  • There are 300 of these Polyvalent trains in service.
  • TER trains will stop using diesel by 2030.
  • France intends to run its last diesel train in 2035.

It looks like Alstom are using a similar approach to that of Hitachi in the UK.

It looks like the French are ahead of us in the decarbonisation timetable for rail.

December 2, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Northern Powerhouse Rail – Significant Upgrades Of The East Coast Main Line From Leeds To Newcastle (Via York And Darlington) And Restoration Of The Leamside Line

In this article on Transport for the North, which is entitled Northern Powerhouse Rail Progress As Recommendations Made To Government, one of the recommendations proposed for Northern Powerhouse Rail is significant upgrades to the East Coast Main Line and reopening of the Leamside Line.

Northern Powerhouse Rail’s Objective For The Leeds and Newcastle Route

Wikipedia, other sources and my calculations say this about the trains between Leeds and Newcastle.

  • The distance between the two stations is 106 miles
  • The current service takes around 85 minutes and has a frequency of three trains per hour (tph)
  • This gives an average speed of 75 mph for the fastest journey.
  • The proposed service with Northern Powerhouse Rail will take 58 minutes and have a frequency of four tph.
  • This gives an average speed of 110 mph for the journey.

This last figure of 110 mph, indicates to me that a faster route will be needed.

These are example average speeds on the East Coast Main Line.

  • London Kings Cross and Doncaster – 156 miles – 98 minutes – 95.5 mph
  • London Kings Cross and Leeds – 186 miles – 133 minutes – 84 mph
  • London Kings Cross and York  – 188.5 miles – 140 minutes – 81 mph
  • London Kings Cross and Hull – 205.3 miles – 176 minutes – 70 mph
  • York and Newcastle – 80 miles – 66 minutes – 73 mph

I also predicted in Thoughts On Digital Signalling On The East Coast Main Line, that with full digital in-cab ERTMS signalling and other improvements, that both London Kings Cross and Leeds and York would be two-hour services, with Hull a two-and-a-half service.

  • London Kings Cross and Leeds in two hours would be an average speed of 93 mph.
  • London Kings Cross and York in two hours would be an average speed of 94.2 mph.
  • London Kings Cross and Hull in two-and-a-half hours would be an average speed of 94.2 mph.

I am fairly certain, that to achieve the required 110 mph average between Leeds and Newcastle to meet Northern Powerhouse Rail’s objective of four tph in under an hour will need, at least the following.

  • Full digital in-cab ERTMS signalling
  • Completion of the electrification between Leeds and York.
  • Ability to run at up to 140 mph in places.
  • Significant track upgrades.

It could also eliminate diesel traction on passenger services on the route.

High Speed Two’s Objective For The York and Newcastle Route

At the present time, High Speed Two is not planning to run any direct trains between Leeds and Newcastle, so I’ll look at its proposed service between York and Newcastle instead.

  • Current Service – 80 miles – 66 minutes – 73 mph
  • High Speed Two – 80 miles – 52 minutes – 92 mph

Note.

  1. High Speed Two will be running three tph between York and Newcastle.
  2. Northern Powerhouse Rail have an objective of 58 minutes for Leeds and Newcastle.

High Speed Two and Northern Powerhouse Rail do not not have incompatible ambitions.

Current Direct Leeds And Newcastle Services

These are the current direct Leeds and Newcastle services.

  • TransPennine Express – 1 tph – Liverpool Lime Street and Edinburgh
  • TransPennine Express – 1 tph – Manchester Airport and Newcastle.
  • CrossCountry – 1 tph – Plymouth and Edinburgh

Timings appear to be between 81 and 91 minutes.

What Would A Leeds And Newcastle In Under An Hour Do For London Kings Cross And Edinburgh Timings?

This question has to be asked, as a 58 minute time between Leeds and Newcastle will mean that timings between York and Newcastle must reduce.

York And Newcastle at various average speeds give the following times.

  • 73 mph (current average) – 66 minutes
  • 80 mph – 60 minutes
  • 90 mph – 53 minutes
  • 92 mph – 52 minutes (High Speed Two promise)
  • 100 mph – 48 minutes
  • 110 mph – 44 minutes

If any speed over 90 mph can be averaged between York and Newcastle, this means that with a London and York time of under two hours the following times are possible.

  • London Kings Cross and Newcastle in under three hours. – High Speed Two are promising two hours and seventeen minutes.
  • London Kings Cross and Edinburgh in under four hours. – High Speed Two are promising three hours and forty minutes.

Consider.

  • An InterCity 225 achieved a time of under three-and-a-half hours between London and Edinburgh. in 1991.
  • That record journey was at an average speed of 112 mph.
  • There must be opportunities for speed improvements North of Newcastle.
  • Train and signalling technology is improving.
  • High Speed Two is promising three hours and forty minutes between London and Edinburgh.

I can see a fascinating rivalry between trains on High Speed Two and the East Coast Main Line, developing, about who can be faster between London and Edinburgh.

Current Projects Between Leeds And Newcastle

These projects are in planning or under way on the section of the East Coast Main Line between Leeds and Newcastle.

Phase 2 Of The East Coast Main Line Power Supply Upgrade

Phase 1 between London and Doncaster should have been completed, if the covids allowed and now work can be concentrated on Phase 2 to the North of Doncaster.

This page on the Network Rail web site describes the project. These paragraphs are the introduction to Phase 2.

Phase 2 of the project will involve the installation of feeder and substations along the route, capacity upgrades, new 132kv connection at Hambleton junction and upgrades to existing power supply connections.

The second phase of the project is currently in design stages and dates for carrying out the work are still being finalised.

Phase 2 will be delivering upgraded power to the East Coast Mainline railway between Bawtry and Edinburgh.

This project may not improve speeds on the railway, but it will certainly improve reliability and reduce the use of diesel power.

I do wonder, that as the reliability of the East Coast Main Line increases, this will reduce the need for the electric Class 801 trains, to have diesel engines for when the power supply fails.

It is known, that the Class 803 trains, that are under construction for East Coast Trains, will have only a small battery for emergency use.

A sensible weight saving would surely improve the acceleration and deceleration of the trains.

York to Church Fenton Improvement Scheme

This page of the Network Rail web site, describes the project. These paragraphs introduce the project.

Our work between York and Church Fenton is in preparation for the Transpennine Upgrade, which will provide more capacity and faster journeys between Manchester Victoria and York, via Leeds and Huddersfield.

The five mile stretch between Church Fenton and Colton Junction – the major junction where trains from Leeds join the East Coast Main Line towards York – sees over 100 trains each day, with up to one freight or passenger train passing through every five minutes. This is one of the busiest stretches of railway in the North.

The work will include.

  • Modernising the signalling.
  • Replacing about five miles of track between Holgate (York) and Colton Junction.
  • Completing the eleven miles of electrification between York and Church Fenton stations.

I estimate that when the project is completed, there will be only around thirteen miles of track without electrification between Church Fenton station and Neville Hill TMD in Leeds.

The route between Church Fenton and Garforth stations, is shown in this map clipped from High Speed Two.

Note.

  1. York is just off the North-East corner of the map.
  2. Garforth is in the South-West corner of the map.
  3. Shown in orange is the new route of High Speed Two from East of Leeds towards York.
  4. Shown in blue is existing tracks, that will be used to take High Speed Two Trains to York and further North.
  5. The rail line running North-South on the edge of the map is the Selby Diversion, which opened in 1983 and  was built to avoid possible subsidence from the Selby coalfield.
  6. The pre-Selby Diversion route of the East Coast Main Line goes South from the join of the blue and orange sections of High Speed Two.
  7. At Church Fenton station, this route splits, with one route going West through Micklefield, East Garforth and Garforth stations to Neville Hill TMD and Leeds.
  8. The main road going North-South is the A1 (M).

It seems to me, that High Speed Two’s and Northern Powerhouse Rail’s plans in this area, are still being developed.

  • There has been no decision on the electrification between Church Fenton and Neville Hill TMD.
  • How do Northern Powerhouse Rail trains go between Leeds and Hull?
  • How do Northern Powerhouse Rail trains go between Leeds and York?
  • How do High Speed Two trains go between Leeds and York?

I suspect, when the full plans are published, it will answer a lot of questions.

Darlington Station Remodelling

A remodelling of Darlington station is under consideration.

I outlined this in £100m Station Revamp Could Double Local Train Services.

This was my conclusion in the related article.

I think that this will happen.

    • The Tees Valley Line trains will be greatly improved by this project.
    • Trains will generally run at up to 140 mph on the East Coast Main Line, under full digital control, like a slower High Speed Two.
    • There will be two high speed platforms to the East of the current station, where most if not all of the High Speed Two, LNER and other fast services will stop.
    • There could be up to 15 tph on the high speed lines.

With full step-free access between the high speed and the local platforms in the current station, this will be a great improvement.

It will create a major interchange, where high speed trains from High Speed Two, LNER and Northern Powerhouse Rail will do the following.

  • Approach at 140 mph or more.
  • Perform a controlled stop in the station.
  • Drop and pick-up passengers.
  • Accelerate back up to linespeed.

The station stop will be highly-automated and monitored by the driver.

One of the objectives would be to save time for all fast trains.

Capacity And Other Problems Between Leeds And Newcastle Listed In Wikipedia

These problems are listed in a section called Capacity Problems in the Wikipedia entry for the East Coast Main Line.

The North Throat Of York Station Including Skelton Bridge Junction

On the thirty mile stretch of the East Coast Main Line, between York and Northallerton stations, the route is mainly four tracks.

But three miles North of York there is Skelton Bridge over the River Ouse, which is shown in this Google Map.

Zooming closer, I clipped this second Google Map.

Note.

  1. There are actually two bridges over the River Ouse.
  2. The East bridge is a double-track bridge and is the original stone arch bridge.
  3. The West bridge was added later and I suspect has little architectural merit.
  4. The tracks on both sides of the bridge are extremely complicated.

If you look at the timings, trains seem to take one of two timings between York and Northallerton.

  • 17-18 minutes, which is almost an average speed of 100 mph.
  • 27 minutes, which is 67 mph.

Incidentally, one of Drax’s long biomass trains managed a time of 27 minutes.

Would going faster save any minutes?

  • A 110 mph average would give a time of 16.4 minutes
  • A 120 mph average would give a time of 15 minutes
  • A 125 mph average would give a time of 14.4 minutes
  • A 140 mph average would give a time of 12.9 minutes

On the face of it, it doesn’t appear that there are very large time savings, to be achieved.

On the other hand, if all trains can pass through Skelton Bridge and its complicated junction, without slowing, delays will be minimised and timetables can be faster.

But there is an anomaly in all the express trains that pass through York station. All stop, except those planned for East Coast Trains. In fact, their trains won’t stop between Stevenage and Newcastle.

The obvious solution to the Skelton Bridge problem, is to do what British Rail didn’t have the courage to do, when they electrified the East Coast Main Line in the 1980s. And that is to demolish the bridge and build a stylish modern four-track bridge!

It would eliminate many of the things, that could go wrong and would surely improve reliability. This could help to maintain a higher operating speed.

But would it be allowed by the Planning Authorities and English Heritage?

Hopefully, it doesn’t matter!

  • I am a Control Engineer and mathematical modeller, who has programmed some immensely complex systems in the last fifty-five years.
  • I have also flown light aircraft on instruments for many hours, where you control the plane according to what Air Traffic Controllers and the instruments tell you.

My experience tells me that, it would be possible to control a busy junction, like Skelton Bridge safely, by a well-programmed computer system helping the driver, arrive at the junction at the right time to go straight through.

I also believe that if modern in-cab digital ERTMS signalling can handle twenty-four tph on Thameslink going to and from scores of stations, then it can handle Skelton Bridge Junction.

In Could ERTMS And ETCS Solve The Newark Crossing Problem?, I proposed a similar solution to the problem at Newark.

Use Of The Leamside Line

Wikipedia says this about capacity to the South of Newcastle.

South of Newcastle to Northallerton (which is also predominately double track), leading to proposals to reopen the Leamside line to passenger and freight traffic.

I could have included it in the previous section, but as it such a important topic, it probably deserves its own section.

Looking at maps, reopening is more than a a possibility. Especially, as reopening is proposed by Northern Powerhouse Rail and mentioned in the title of this post.

I discussed the Leamside Line in detail in Boris Johnson Backs Station Opening Which Could See Metro Link To County Durham, which I wrote in June this year.

These are some extra thoughts, that update the original post.

Ferryhill Station

I was prompted to write the related post, by something Boris Johnson said at PMQs and it was mainly about Ferryhill station.

In the latest copy of this document on the Government web site, which is entitled Restoring Your Railway: Successful Bids, a new station at Ferryhill has been successful. Another bid in the same area to restore rail services between Consett and Newcastle has also been successful.

This map shows the East Coast Main Line as it goes North South between Durham and Darlington.

Note.

  1. Ferryhill is in the South-West of the map opposite the sand-pits in the South-East
  2. The East Coast Main Line runs North-South between the village an d the sand-pits.
  3. Follow the railway North and you come to Tursdale, where there is a junction between the East Coast Main Line and the Leamside Line.
  4. The East Coast Main Line goes North-Westerly towards Durham and Newcastle.
  5. The Leamside Line goes North to Washington and Newcastle.
  6. There is also the Stillington Freight Line going South-Easterly to Sedgefield and Stockton from Ferryhill.

Could Ferryhill be a useful interchange to local services connecting to Newcastle, Sunderland and Washington in the North and Hartlepool, Middlesbrough and Stockton in the South?

The Leamside Line As An East Coast Main Line Diversion

I didn’t discuss using the line as a diversion for the East Coast Main Line in my original post, but if the infrastructure is to the required standard, I don’t see why it can’t take diverted traffic, even if it is also used for the Tyne and Wear Metro.

It should be remembered, that to create extra capacity on the East Coast Main Line between Peterborough and Doncaster, the route of the Great Northern and Great Eastern Joint Railway, was upgraded. I first wrote about this line six years ago in Project Managers Having Fun In The East and the route seems to be working well. It is now being augmented by the addition of the £200 million Werrington Dive Under. See Werrington Dive-Under – 8th November 2018, for more details of this project, which will speed up all trains on the East Coast Main Line.

After the undoubted success of the upgrade  of the Great Northern and Great Eastern Joint Railway, surely the team responsible for it, should be given the task of devising a similar plan for the Leamside Line, to take pressure off the East Coast Main Line between Newcastle and Northallerton.

Sharing The Leamside Line

The Tyne and Wear Metro also has its eyes on the Leamside Line for an extension.

It should be noted that the Extension To Wearside, uses the Karlsruhe Model to allow the Metro trains to share with freight and other passenger trains.

The new Stadler trains will probably make this even easier, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a reopened Leamside Line handling a varied assortment of trains of all types.

The Sunderland Example

Sunderland station is a station, which has both Metro and mainline services from the same platforms.

Could a station at Washington be built to similar principles, so that some long distance services to Newcastle used this station?

A Terminal Station On The Leamside Line

Newcastle station may be a Grade One Listed station, but it is built on a curve and would be a nightmare to expand with more platforms.

Sunderland station is already used as a terminal for London trains, so would it be sensible to provide a terminal at somewhere like Washington?

My Final Thought  On The Leamside Line

Reopen it!

A Few Random Final Thoughts

This post has got me thinking.

Newcastle Station Capacity

I have seen reports over the years that Newcastle station, is lacking in capacity.

  • There could be extra services, as High Speed Two is proposing two tph from London Euston stations and one tph from Birmingham Curzon Street station.
  • There may be extra services because of Northern Powerhouse Rail, which has an objective of four tph from Leeds station.
  • There may be extra services because of new services to Ashington and Blyth.
  • There may be extra services because of new services to Consett.

Note.

  1. The first two services could use two hundred metre long trains.
  2. Some platforms can accept 234 metre long Class 800 trains.
  3. The last two services might use the Metro platforms.

As the station has twelve platforms, I feel with careful operation, that the station will have enough capacity.

This Google Map shows the station.

And this second Google Map shows the station, its position with relation to the Tyne and the lines rail routes to and from the station.

Note.

  1. Trains from the South arrive over the King Edward VII Bridge and enter Newcastle station from the West.
  2. Trains from England to Scotland go through the station from West to East and then go straight on and turn North for Berwick and Scotland.
  3. Next to the King Edward VII Bridge is the blue-coloured Queen Elizabeth II Bridge, which takes the Tyne and Wear Metro across the Tyne, where it uses two platforms underneath Newcastle station.
  4. The next bridge is the High Level Bridge, which connects the East end of the station to the rail network, South of the Tyne. It connects to the Durham Coast Line to Teeside and the Leamside Line.

History has delivered Newcastle a comprehensive track layout through and around Newcastle station.

  • Services from the East can be run back-to-back with services from the West.
  • The Metro and its two underground platforms removes a lot of traffic from the main station.
  • There are seven through platforms, of which at least three are over two hundred metres long.
  • There are four West-facing bay platforms and one facing East.

But most intriguingly, it looks like it will be possible for trains to loop through the station from the South, by perhaps arriving over the King Edward VII bridge and leaving over the High Level bridge. Or they could go the other way.

Could this be why reoopening the Leamside Line is important?

LNER’s Extra Paths

The sentence, from an article entitled LNER Seeks 10 More Bi-Modes, in the December 2020 Edition of Modern Railways   indicates that more capacity will be available to LNER.

Infrastructure upgrades are due to prompt a timetable recast in May 2022 (delayed from December 2021) from which point LNER will operate 6.5 trains per hour, out of Kings Cross, compared to five today.

I suspect that LNER could use the half path to run a one train per two hour (tp2h) service to Hull.

  • Currently, London Kings Cross and Hull takes a few minutes under three hours.
  • Currently, Doncaster and Hull takes around 55 minutes.
  • I have estimated that once full digital in-cab signalling is operational, that London Kings Cross and Hull could take a few minutes under two-and-a-half hours.

The full path to Hull could be shared with Hull Trains to provide an hourly service between London Kings Cross and Hull.

LNER could do something special with the full extra path.

Consider.

  • Some train operating companies have said, that they’ll be looking to attract customers from the budget airlines.
  • There could be a need for more capacity between London Kings Cross and all of Edinburgh, Leeds and Newcastle.
  • Faster services would be attractive to passengers.
  • York and Leeds will be fully electrified or trains could be fitted with batteries to bridge the thirteen mile gap in the electrification.

A limited-stop service between London Kings Cross and Edinburgh via Leeds could be an interesting addition.

  • The train would only stop at Leeds and possibly Newcastle.
  • One objective would be a time under three-and-a-half hours between London Kings Cross and Edinburgh.
  • What time could be achieved between London Kings Cross and Leeds?

It would certainly give High Speed Two a run for its money!

A New Elizabethan

I can remember The Elizabethan, which was a steam-hauled non-stop express between London and Edinburgh between 1953 and 1961.

I have laid out my ideas for a modern express train of the same name in A New Elizabethan.

It could be an interesting concept, to increase capacity between London and Edinburgh.

As I indicated in the previous section, LNER certainly have a path, that could be used to their advantage.

High Speed Two

The East Coast Main Line and High Speed Two have a lot in common.

  • The two routes will share tracks between a junction near Ulleskelf station and Newcastle station.
  • High Speed Two Classic Compatible trains could be based on Hitachi AT-300 train technology.
  • High Speed Two Classic Compatible trains would probably be able to run on the East Coast Main Line between London Kings Cross And Edinburgh.
  • Trains from both routes will share platforms at York, Darlington, Durham and Newcastle stations.
  • I would hope that the signalling systems on both routes are compatible.

From a project management point of view, this commonality means that in an ideal world the new route of both High Speed Two and Northern Powerhouse Rail, and the upgrades to the East Coast Main Line should be planned together.

I believe there are still details on the design of the joint route, that have not been disclosed, or perhaps not even decided.

  • Will between Church Fenton station and Neville Hill depot be electrified?
  • How will Northern Powerhouse Rail connect Leeds and Hull stations?
  • How will Northern Powerhouse Rail connect Leeds and York stations?
  • Will High Speed Two connect Leeds and York stations?
  • What will be the operating speed of the joint section of the East Coast Main Line?
  • What will be the capacity in trains per hour of the joint section of the East Coast Main Line?
  • Will Newcastle station need an extra platform to handle three High Speed Two tph from London Euston

Two projects have been discussed in this post.

  • The unlocking of the bottleneck at Skelton Bridge.
  • The reopening of the Leamside Line.

I feel that these projects are important and will probably be needed for efficient operation of High Speed Two.

Other early projects could include.

  • Upgrading and electrification of the chosen route between Leeds and Hull,
  • Installation of the chosen system of in-cab ERTMS digital signalling on the route.
  • Electrification between Church Fenton station and Neville Hill depot.

I would deliver these and other joint projects early, so that travellers see a positive benefit from High Speed Two before the main work has even started.

High Speed East Coast

I wonder what is the maximum speed of the Class 80x trains, that are the backbone of services on the East Coast Main Line.

Consider.

  • It is known, that with in-cab digital ERTMS  signalling, these trains will be capable of 140 mph, but could they go even faster.
  • High Speed Two Classic Compatible trains will be capable of 225 mph.
  • Will Hitachi’s offering for these trains, be based on the Class 80x trains?

I would think, that it is fairly likely, that the existing Class 80x trains could be updated to an operating speed in the range of 150-160 mph.

In Thoughts On Digital Signalling On The East Coast Main Line, I said this.

The combined affect of both track and signalling improvements is illustrated by this simple calculation.

    • As Dalton-on-Tees is North of Doncaster, the route between Woolmer Green and Doncaster should be possible to be run at 140 mph
    • Woolmer Green and Doncaster stations are 132.1 miles apart.
    • Non-stop York and London Kings Cross trains are currently timed at 70 minutes between Doncaster and Woolmer Green stations.
    • This is an average speed of 113.2 mph.

If 140 mph could be maintained between Doncaster and Woolmer Green, the section of the journey would take 56.6 minutes, which is a saving of 13.4 minutes.

I can do this calculation for higher speeds.

  • 150 mph would take 52.8 minutes
  • 160 mph would take 49.5 minutes
  • 170 mph would take 46.6 minutes
  • 180 mph would take 44 minutes
  • 200 mph would take 39.6 minutes

Note.

  1. Eurostar’s latest Class 374 trains are capable of operating at 200 mph.
  2. A Class 395 train, which is closely related to the Class 80x trains, has attained a record speed of 157 mph.

There may be worthwhile time savings to be made, on some of the straighter sections of the East Coast Main Line.

Other improvements will also be needed.

Note, that I am assuming, that the Digswell Viaduct section would not be updated, as it would cause too much disruption.

I also believe that by using selective joining and splitting at Edinburgh, Leeds and perhaps Doncaster, Grantham, Newark or York, that a very comprehensive network of direct trains to and from London can be built from Grantham Northwards.

Beverley, Bradford, Cleethorpes, Glasgow, Grimsby, Harrogate, Huddersfield, Hull, Lincoln, Middlesbrough, Nottingham, Perth, Redcar, Sheffield, Skipton, Sunderland and Washington could all be served at an appropriate frequency.

  • Some like Bradford, Glasgow, Harrogate, Hull, Lincoln and Middlesbrough would have several trains per day.
  • Others might have a much more limited service.

What sort of timings will be possible.

  • London Kings Cross and Doncaster could be around an hour.
  • London Kings Cross and Leeds could be around one hour and thirty minutes, using the current Doncaster and Leeds time, as against the one hour and twenty-one minutes for High Speed Two.
  • London Kings Cross and York could be around one hour and twenty-three minutes, using the current Doncaster and York time, as against the one hour and twenty-four minutes for High Speed Two.
  • Timings between York and Newcastle would be the same fifty-two minutes as High Speed Two, as the track will be the limitation for both services.
  • High Speed Two’s timing for York and Newcastle is given as fifty-two minutes, with York and Darlington as twenty-five minutes.
  • London Kings Cross and Darlington could be around one hour and forty-nine minutes
  • London Kings Cross and Newcastle could be around two hours and sixteen minutes.
  • London Kings Cross and Edinburgh would be under three-and-a-half hours, as against the proposed three hours and forty-eight minutes for High Speed Two.

High Speed East Coast would be a serious and viable alternative to High Speed Two for the Eastern side of England and Scotland.

Conclusion

This is an important joint project for Northern Powerhouse Rail, High Speed Two and the East Coast Main Line.

Project Management Recommendations

This project divides neatly into several smaller projects..

  • Upgrade the power supply on the East Coast Main Line.
  • Finish the York to Church Fenton Improvement Scheme
  • Remodel Darlington station.
  • Install of in-cab ERTMS digital signalling.
  • Complete the electrification between Neville Hill TMD and York.
  • Solve the problem of Skelton Bridge and its complicated track layout.
  • Reopen the Leamside Line.

Most of these projects are independent of each other and all would give early benefits to the East Coast Main Line.

When complete, we’ll see the following timing improvements.

  • Leeds and Newcastle will drop from 85 minutes to 56 minutes, with an increase in frequency from three to four tph.
  • York and Newcastle will drop from 57-66 minutes to 52 minutes.
  • There could be ten minutes savings on Edinburgh services.

Passengers and operators would welcome this group of projects being started early.

 

 

 

 

November 30, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments