The Anonymous Widower

Is The United States Catching Railway Mania?

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

This is the first two paragraphs.

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

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

Brightline must be doing alright!

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

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

Brightline’s concept seems sensible.

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

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

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

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

The Texas Bullet Train

I covered the Texas Bullet Train in August 2017.

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

See Texas Central Railway on Wikipedia for more details.

Vivarail D-Train To Be Tested In US Cities

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

Wikipedia says this about the concept.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Temporal Separation In Salt Lake City

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

This is a paragraph from Wikipedia.

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

 

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

A Reason Why The UK Is Fertile Territory For Tram Trains

The UK has several modern tram systems. If you look at the cross section of trams you get the following figures.

I wonder why Nottingham is twenty-five centimetres narrower!

If you look at the Class 399 tram-train, it has a width of 2.65 metres and a height of 3.67 metres.

So no wonder, there has been no problems with Class 399 tram-trains running on the Sheffield Supertram as trams!

Various trains that run local rail networks include.

  • Class 142 – Width 2..8 metres – Height 3.86 metres
  • Class 150 – Width 2.8 metres – Height 3.8 metres
  • Class 222 – Width 2.73 metres
  • Class 319 – Width 2.82 metres – Height – 3.58 metres
  • Class 345 – Width 2.78 metres – Height N/A
  • Class 378 – Width 2.80 metres – Height 3.78 metres
  • Class 700 – Width 2.80 metres – Height N/A
  • Class 769 – Width 2.82 metres – Height 3.58 metres
  • Mark 4 Coach – Width 2.73 metres – Height 2.79 metres

These are some figures from German trains.

  • DBAG 641 – Width 2.90 metres – Height 3.7 metres
  • BD Class 420 – With 3.08 metres
  • ICE 3 – Width 2.95 metres – Height 3.89 metres

I’ll look at various issues.

Tram And Train Height

I think this is not a big issue.

If a tram or electric train can run on a particular track, then there should be no height problems running a tram-train over the route, providing overhead wires can be erected.

UK Tram And Train Width

It would appear that the maximum width of UK trains is 2.82 metres. In some stations, where there is only one class of train, level access is possible.

The picture shows a Class 378 train on the London Overground.

This is not one of the best I’ve seen, but there is no reason, why someone in a wheelchair shouldn’t be able to wheel themselves into every train at every station.

This is in the train operating company’s interest, as one of the things that delays trains, is getting someone in a wheelchair on and off the train with a portable ramp.

If we take the UK train width of 2.82 metres and compare that to the width of a Class 399 tram-train, which is 2.65 metres, that means that there is seventeen  centimetres difference or eight and a half centimetres on each side of the train.

If the platform can be arranged to be level, that is not a large gap. It’s probably about the same size as this gap in this picture.

Shown is a Class 399 tram-train at a tram stop on the Sheffield Supertram.

Continental Tram And Train Width

But on the Continent, where the trains are wider and the loading gauge is bigger, the gap will be larger.

Trains on the Continent also often have a significant step up as this picture shows.

Shown is an Italian High Speed train.

If the EU wanted to improve train travel for the disabled, those in wheelchairs, those with buggies and the elderly, they should make it compulsory for all trains to have level access from the platform.

It’s very rare to find level access on the Continent and not that easy in parts of the UK.

Gap Fillers

But things are getting better, as this picture shows.

Shown is a Stadler Flirt with a rather nifty automatic gap filler.

Merseyrail’s New Class 777 Trains

Gap fillers will be fitted to Merseyrail‘s new Class 777 trains, which are being built by Stadler.

The Class 777 trains and the current Class 507 trains have the same width of 2.82 metres, but the new Stadler trains have an eighteen centimetre lower floor.

The picture shows a Class 507 train at one of Liverpool’s underground stations.

Eighteen centimetres wouldn’t be far away from the height of the step in the picture.

The design must also allow both classes of trains to be in service at the same time, to ease introduction of the new Class 777 trains.

Talk about Swiss precision!

South Wales Metro

This document on the KeolisAmey web site details their plans for the new Wales and Borders Franchise.

For services around Cardiff and on the Cardiff Valley Lines, KeolisAmey Wales intend to acquire the following fleet.

  • 11 – four-car Stadler Flirt DEMU
  • 7 – three-car Stadler Flirt Tri-mode MU
  • 17 – four-car Stadler Flirt Tri-mode MU
  • 36 – three-car Stadler Citylink Metro Vehicles

Note.

  1. The Stadler Flirts look very similar to Greater Anglia‘s Class 755 trains, that by the time of delivery of these trains for Wales, will have proven themselves on the mountains of East Anglia.
  2. The tri-mode multiple units will be able to run on electric, diesel or battery power.
  3. The Stadler Citylink Metro Vehicles look very similar to Sheffield Supertram‘s Class 399 tram-trains, that are providing a tram service in Sheffield and will soon be running on the rail network to Rotherham.
  4. It is an all-Stadler fleet.

This is a clip from the KeolisAmey document.

This looks like a visualisation of one of the Flirts, as the Citylink tram-trains have flat sides.

I will be very surprised if Stadler don’t provide the Cardiff area, with one of the best step-free networks in the world.

Conclusion

The UK’s standard tram width of 2.65 metres and our small loading gauge must make it easier to design tram-train systems for the UK.

 

 

 

 

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June 6, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

London Tram Enhancements Included In Growth Fund

The title of this post is the same as that of this article in Metro Report International.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Transport for London is to finance around one-third of the cost of double-tracking the Elmers End branch of the tram network, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan announced on May 21.

TfL is to provide £3·3m from its Growth Fund towards the estimated £9m estimated project cost. In addition to double-tracking the short branch, this would add a second tram platform to the Elmers End terminus. TfL says that this would enable service improvements and ‘address reliability issues’ on the network.

This map from carto.metro.free.fr, shows the track layout between the Arena tram stop and Elmers End station.

My thoughts on the various works follow.

Double-Tracking

From the map, it doesn’t appear that a very large amount of track needs to be doubled.

This Google Map shows some of the single track section of the route.

Note the passing loop to the South of Elmers End is visible, at the top of the map.

It would also appear that there is space to add the second track, which used to exist when the tram line was the Addiscombe Line.

These pictures, which were taken from a tram, show the section of line in the map.

I suspect that a second track linking the double track at Arena to the passing loop South of Elmers End can be created.

Electrification Or Battery

Battery trams will soon be running on many tram networks around the world, including Birmingham in the UK.

Tramlink has a problem, in that they have two types of trams.

  • Twenty-four CR4000 delivered before 2000.
  • Twelve Variobahn delivered after 2010.

Because of their age, I think the CR4000 trams might be difficult to be fitted with batteries.

But Munich already has Variobahn trams fitted with batteries.

If battery power were needed just on the route to Elmers End, I think it would not be an economic decision to fit all trams with batteries.

Obviously, if in the future, more trams were to be ordered, there may be other routes, where batteries are ideal.

I don’t think, there will be any issues about putting up more wires.

Being able to use the current trams on the new track to Elmers End would be very convenient

For these and other reasons, I suspect this line will be electrified.

The New Elmers End Platform

Elmers End is the only one of the four Tramlink termini with a single platform, as Beckenham Junction, New Addington and Wimbledon all have two platforms.

So a second platform at Elmers End would surely make running a service easier, when things go a bit awry.

The need was illustrated as my tram left Elmers End. We stopped for a couple of minutes in the passing loop just outside the station to let another tram enter the platform.

After the proposed works, the two trams would have passed on the double-track to the East of the Arena tram stop.

This Google Map shows the platforms at Elmers End station.

 

These pictures show the station and in particular, the current single tram platform.

Note.

  1. Platform level is such, that platform-to-tram is step-free.
  2. The current platform has a cross-platform interchange with the Northbound Platform 2 on the Hayes Line.
  3. It would appear, that there is space alongside for a second platform, although it might mean the loss of some car parking spaces.
  4. Some equipment might need to be moved.
  5. The footbridge could probably need to be made step-free.
  6. There is space to add the gantries for the electrification.

The original Addiscombe Line had a platform on the other side of the tracks as shown in the map earlier in this post.

I doubt this old layout will be used, as a flat junction would be rather difficult to operate and a flyover would be expensive.

Could we see a staggered platform layout, so that both platforms are accessible from Platform 2?

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the track arrangement at New Addington.

The line appears to be singled a convenient distance from the terminus and then it splits again just outside the platforms.

Beckenham Junction and Wimbledon, both use a similar track layout.

If a layout similar to this were to be applied at Elmers End, it would have the collateral benefit of reducing the current three sets of points to two.

A single track, would also be easy to squeeze through the gap into Elmers End, provided there was space for the points before the platforms.

I believe this layout, would work with staggered platforms.

Would The Elmers End Platforms Be Made Longer?

Wikipedia talks about expanding Tramlink. Under Phase C of Trams 2030, this is said.

Furthermore, if extra capacity is required, tram stops could be lengthened to serve either longer trams or two trams coupled together on services between Wimbledon and Beckenham Junction or Elmers End.

I think that Elmers End will be future-proofed.

An Increase In Frequency To Elmers End

The Wikipedia entry for Elmers End station, says this about current tram frequencies under Services.

Trams depart from the station every 12 minutes; this service falls to four trams per hour during the early morning and evenings. Each tram travels towards Croydon town centre; trams on Route 1 continue to West Croydon tram stop, before travelling back as Route 2 to Beckenham Junction, while trams on Route 4 continue to Wimbledon.

A second platform would surely allow the five trams per hour frequency to be doubled to ten trams per hour, if this was thought necessary.

These trams would either be turned in Croydon or continue to Wimbledon.

Some might use a proposed diverting loop in Dingwall Road, by East Croydon station.

More Trams

If more trams are needed, I’m sure Stadler would oblige with a few new Variobahn trams.

Future Expansion

I also think, that because after the Elmers End scheme is completed, all the Tramlink termini will have two platforms, this will make it much easier to expand the system.

Conclusion

It seems a relatively simple scheme with no serious construction problems.

 

 

 

 

 

May 23, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Blankenberg Station

The Coast Tram connects to the Belgian Railway network at Knokke, Blankenberge, Oostende and De Panne.

These pictures show Blankenberge station and tram interchange.

Blankenberge station and the tram stop are undergoing a degree of rebuilding and landscaping.

Note.

  • The trams are metre gauge.
  • They were a bit thin on the ground, as there was a strike.
  • Many of the trams were covered in advertising, which made it difficult to see out.

I had taken a train from Bruges to Blankenberge.

May 16, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

New Istanbul Tram Line To Be Catenary-Free

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

This is the first two paragraphs.

Contractor Dogus Construction has selected Alstom to supply a full APS ground-level power supply solution for the Eminönü-Alibeyköy tram line in Istanbul.

Choosing Alstom’s street-level power rail solution means that the 10km-long line will be entirely catenary-free.

I suspect, catenary-free will become the norm, either using systems like in Istanbul or batteries like the Midland Metro.

April 5, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Study Concludes There Is Demand For A Light Rail System In Bath

The title of this post is the same as that of this article in Global Rail News.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Plans to bring a light rail system to the historic city of Bath, UK, have taken a step closer after it received backing from a preliminary study.

The study was produced by consultants Atkins and followed suggestions from the public to look at the potential for a new tram system, according to Bath and North East Somerset council.

Consider.

  • Atkins are one of best consultants in the world, with lots of experience.
  • Many Continental cities, the size of Bath have a tram network
  • Darmstadt with a population twice that of Bath has nine tram lines.
  • Tram systems in historic towns and cities can be built without catenary, using batteries for motive power.
  • Smaller lightweight tram systems are being developed.

So I’m not surprised that, it was recommended that Bath get a tram network.

But if Bath can develop a viable tram network, then surely any town or city with the right set of problems and needs should be looking at trams.

My list of possible cities and large towns, where trams could start by connecting the the railway station to the main town centre would include.

  • Cambridge
  • Colchester
  • Coventry
  • Huddersfield
  • Ipswich
  • Leicester
  • Middlesbrough
  • Norwich
  • Wigan

There must be loads more.

 

 

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

The Great Electric Air Race Has Begun

The title of this post is the first sentence of this article in The Independent, which is entitled Electric Planes: Could You Be Flying On A Battery-Powered Aircraft By 2027?.

This is the full first paragraph in an article by respected travel writer; Simon Calder.

The great electric air race has begun. Three European industry heavyweights have teamed up against a US startup and Britain’s biggest budget airline to develop the first commercial electric aircraft.

So is such an aircraft feasible?

When you consider that the three European heavyweights are Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens, I suspect that the proposed project is serious.

It should also be said that the companies are not aiming for an all-electric aircraft, but a hybrid plane with a very efficient on-board generator and a two-tonne battery.

The key to success will probably include.

  • Batteries with a very high energy density.
  • A highly-efficient and quiet gas turbine, that generates a lot of energy.
  • Radical air-frame design to take advantage of the technology.

In my view, the batteries will be the key, but making more efficient batteries with high charge densities will also do the following.

  • Improve the range and performance of battery and hybrid road vehicles like buses, cars and trucks.
  • Improve the range and performance of trains and trams.
  • Transform energy storage, so wind and solar power can be stored and used in times of high demand.
  • Allow every house, apartment or office to have its own affordable energy storage.

In all of these applications, the weight of the battery will be less of a problem.

This leads me to the conclusion, that we may see smaller electric plasnes in a few years, but the technology that will make it possible, may well improve other modes of transport so much, that electric planes are never an economic proposition.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens!

I think most travellers and members of the oublic will benefit in some ways.

 

December 3, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exploring Dublin’s Trams

Dublin’s trams are called the LUAS and the consist of two lines; the Green and the Red.

Currently, there are two upgrades taking place.

  • The Green Line is being extended so there is an interchange with the Red in the centre of the City.
  • New six-segment articulated trams are being added to the system.

I was told that the extended Green Line will be running in a couple of weeks.

These are some or the pictures I took.

Note that I bought a €7.20 day ticket to use the trams.

I feel that the new layout with the Red and Green Lines crossing at the junction of O’Connell and Abbey Streets is good.

This Google Map shows the area.

Note that O’Connell Street links up with the widest bridge, where the Green Line will cross the Liffey going North.

Going South the tram uses the next bridge to the East, which I think is newly-built.

I think that it would be prudent, if you stayed at a hotel in Dublin, to choose one on either tram line.

December 1, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

World’s First Hydrogen-Powered Tram Runs In China

The title of this post is the same as this article on Global Rail News.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Rolling stock manufacturer CRRC has announced that the world’s first hydrogen-powered tram has been put into passenger operation in China.

The three-carriage hybrid electric tram enter service in the city of Tangshan, Hebei, on October 26.

It seems to have the following characteristics.

  • Three cars
  • 66 seats
  • 70 kph.
  • 40 km range.

It all sounds very tram-like.

It does seem there’s a lot of train and tram manufacturers thinking about hydrogen power.

 

November 7, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 1 Comment

CAF Secures Tram Contracts In The United States

The title of this post is the same as this article in Global Rail News.

The sale of two batches of trams is not that remarkable, but this is an extract from the article, about the vorder for Seattle.

The trams will have a 100 per cent low floor and come with onboard energy storage to run on catenary-free sections of the network.

Trams with these characteristics are becoming increasingly common.

October 4, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment