The Anonymous Widower

A Train With A Geo-Fence

This article on Rail Advent is entitled New Train For Wrexham to Bidston Line Begins Testing.

The testing of Vivarail‘s Class 230 train for Transport for Wales, is taking place along the Cotswold Line, prior to entering service.

This is the most significant paragraph in the article.

The train is also geo-fenced so that the gensets are never used in stations or sensitive areas, although, the batteries are extremely quiet anyway.

From personal experience of battery trains, including Vivarail’s prototype in Scotland, battery trains are very quiet.

May 26, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

Automated Vegetation Monitoring Technology Deployed In Train Cabs

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

Transport for Wales has worked with technology company One Big Circle Ltd to fit trains with ‘smart’ cameras designed to automatically record, analyse and report lineside vegetation risks.

This is surely, a simple application of technology, that will spot vegetation problems, before they cause serious trouble.

April 10, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts On The Actual Battery Size In Class 756 Trains And Class 398 Tram-Trains

A Freedom of Information Request was sent to Transport for Wales, which said.

Please confirm the battery capacity and maximum distance possible under battery power for the Tram/Train, 3 & 4 Car Flirts.

The reply was as follows.

The batteries on the new fleets will have the following capacities: –

  • Class 756 (3-car) Flirt – 480 kWh
  • Class 756 (4-car) Flirt – 600 kWh
  • Class 398 tram-trains – 128 kWh

I will now have thoughts on both vehicles separately.

Class 756 Trains

In More On Tri-Mode Stadler Flirts, I speculated about the capacity of the batteries in the tri-mode Stadler Flirts, which are now called Class 756 trains, I said this.

I wonder how much energy storage you get for the weight of a V8 diesel, as used on a bi-mode Flirt?

The V8 16 litre diesel engines are made by Deutz and from their web site, it looks like they weigh about 1.3 tonnes.

How much energy could a 1.3 tonne battery store?

The best traction batteries can probably store 0.1 kWh per kilogram. Assuming that the usable battery weight is 1.2 tonnes, then each battery module could store 120 kWh or 360 kWh if there are three of them.

I also quoted this from the July 2018 Edition of Modern Railways.

The units will be able to run for 40 miles between charging, thanks to their three large batteries.

Since I wrote More On Tri-Mode Stadler Flirts in June 2018, a lot more information on the bi-mode Stadler Class 755 Flirt has become available and they have entered service with Greater Anglia.

Four-car trains weigh around 114 tonnes, with three-car trains around a hundred. I can also calculate kinetic energies.

How Good Was My Battery Size Estimate?

These are my estimate and the actual values for the three batteries in Class 756 trains

  • My estimate for Class 756 (3- & 4-car) – 120 kWh
  • Class 756 (3-car) Flirt – 160 kWh
  • Class 756 (4-car) Flirt – 200 kWh

So have Stadler’s battery manufacturer learned how to squeeze more kWh into the same weight of battery?

In Sparking A Revolution, I talked about Hitachi’s bullish plans for battery-powered trains, in a section called Costs and Power.

In that section, I used Hitachi’s quoted figures, that predicted a five tonne battery could hold a massive 15 MWh in fifteen years time.

If Stadler can get the same energy density in a battery as Hitachi, then their battery trains will have long enough ranges for many applications.

Class 398 Tram-Trains

In Sheffield Region Transport Plan 2019 – Tram-Trains Between Sheffield And Doncaster-Sheffield Airport, I showed this map of the route the trams would take.

I also said this about the tram-trains.

The distance between Rotherham Parkgate and Doncaster is under twelve miles and has full electrification at both ends.

The Class 399 tram-trains being built with a battery capability for the South Wales Metro to be delivered in 2023, should be able to reach Doncaster.

But there are probably other good reasons to fully electrify between Doncaster and Sheffield, via Meadowhall, Rotherham Central and Rotherham Parkgate.

The major work would probably be to update Rotherham Parkgate to a through station with two platforms and a step-free footbridge.

Currently, trains take twenty-three minutes between Rotherham Central and Doncaster. This is a time, that the tram-trains would probably match.

If you adopt the normal energy consumption of between three and five kWh per vehicle mile on the section without electrification between Rotherham Parkgate and Doncaster, you get a battery size of between 108 and 180 kWh.

It looks to me, that on a quick look, a 128 kWh battery could provide a useful range for one of Stadler’s Class 398/399 tram-trains.

Class 398 Tram-Trains Between Cardiff Bay and Cardiff Queen Street Stations

The distance between these two stations is six chains over a mile,

Adding the extra bit to the flourish might make a round trip between Cardiff Queen Street and The Flourish stations perhaps four miles.

Applying the normal energy consumption of between three and five kWh per vehicle mile on the section without electrification between Cardiff Queen Street and The Flourish, would need a battery size of between 36 and 60 kWh.

Conclusion

The battery sizes seem to fit the routes well.

 

 

March 11, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ready To Charge

The title of this post is the same as that of this article in Issue 898 of Rail Magazine.

This is the sub-title of the article.

Vivarail could be about to revolutionise rail traction with its latest innovation

The article details their plans to bring zero-carbon trains to the UK.

These are a few important more general points.

  • The diesel gensets in the trains can be eco-fenced to avoid unning on diesel in built-up areas.
  • The Transport for Wales trains could be the last Vivarail diesel trains.
  • A 100 kWh battery pack is the same size as a diesel generator. I would assume they are almost interchangeable.
  • Various routes are proposed.
  • In future battery trains will be Vivarail’s focus.
  • At the end of 2020, a battery demonstration train will be dispatched to the United States.
  • Two-car trains will have a forty-mile range with three-cars managing sixty.
  • Trains could be delivered in nine to twelve months.

The company also sees Brexit as an opportunity and New Zealand as a possible market.

Modifying Other Trains

The article also states that Vivarail are looking at off-lease electric multiple units for conversion to battery operation.

Vivarail do not say, which trains are involved.

Vivarail’s Unique Selling Point

This is the last two paragraphs of the article.

“Our unique selling point is our Fast Charge system. It’s a really compelling offer.” Alice Gillman of Vivarail says.

Vivarail has come a long way in the past five years and with this innobvative system it is poised to bring about a revolution in rail traction in the 2020s.

Conclusion

Could the train, that Vivarail refused to name be the Class 379 trains?

  • There are thirty trainsets of four-cars.
  • They are 100 mph trains.
  • They are under ten years old.
  • They meet all the Persons of Reduced Mobility regulations.
  • They currently work Stansted Airport and Cambridge services for Greater Anglia.
  • They are owned by Macquarie European Rail.

I rode in one yesterday and they are comfortable with everything passengers could want.

The train shown was used for the BEMU Trial conducted by Bombardier, Network Rail and Greater Anglia.

The only things missing, for these trains to run a large number of suitable routes under battery power are.

  • A suitable fast charging system.
  • Third rail equipment that would allow the train to run on lines with third-rail electrification.
  • Third rail equipment would also connect to Vivarail’s Fast Charge system

As I have looked in detail at Vivarail’s engineering and talked to their engineers, I feel that with the right advice and assistance, they should be able to play a large part in the conversion of the Class 379 fleet to battery operation.

These trains would be ideal for the Uckfield Branch and the Marshlink Line.

If not the Class 379 trains, perhaps some Class 377 trains, that are already leased to Southern, could be converted.

I could see a nice little earner developing for Vivarail, where train operating companies and their respective leasing companies employ them to create battery sub-fleets to improve and extend their networks.

February 16, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Would It Have Been Better To Scrap HSTs, Abandon Class 769 Trains And Use Stadler Bi-Mode Flirts Instead?

I have ridden for several hours in Greater Anglia'[s new Class 755 trains and they seem to make good trains for scenic rural lines.

From December 16th, we’ll be seeing them work between Stansted and Norwich, which will show their mettle as true bi-modes working a partially-electrified route.

By mid-next year they will be working the following partially-electrified routes.

  • Liverpool Street and Lowestoft
  • Colchester and Peterborough
  • Norwich and Stansted
  • Ipswich and Cambridge
  • Sudbury and Colchester Town

I think that about forty percent of these routes are electrified and they also include a lot of 100 mph lines.

ScotRail

These Greater Anglia routes are not unlike some of the ScotRail Inter7City routes, which are to be run by shorterned four- and five-car HSTs.

Both trains have been late because of training and other issues, but delivery of the HSTs seems to have got stuck round various remanufacturing problems at Wabtec.

Would ScotRail have done better to follow their sister company Greater Anglia and buy some Class 755 trains to their specification?

Consider the advantages of the Inter7City over the Class 755 train.

  • Nostalgia
  • Well-known engineering
  • Comfortable

They could have been obtained at an affordable price.

But they do come with disadvantages.

  • Forty years old
  • Two big diesel engines
  • They are rather dark and dingy inside.

The Class 755 trains also have the following advantages.

  • They would help to remove diesel power from Edinburgh, Glasgow Queen Street and Stirling stations.
  • They have large picture windows ideal for looking at lakes and mountains.
  • Some seats are raised for a better view.
  • They are genuine 100 mph trains, which could be uprated to 125 mph, so would be ideal for incursions on the fast routes to England.
  • They’re probably ready to fit ERTMS.
  • They come in various lengths.
  • They are able to be modified for battery-electric operation.
  • I suspect hydrogen operation will be possible in the future.

But the biggest advantage is that they could extend Scotland’s electric network by using the bi-mode capability.

Think.

  • Fife Circle
  • Borders Railway
  • West Kilbride
  • Perth
  • West Highland Line

I think Scotland could really get to love these trains.

Great Western Railway

I could see a case for running shortened HSTs in the far South West, where GWR call them Castles, mainly on nostalgia and tourism grounds, but Class 755 trains would surely be better running the following partially-electrified services.

  • Henley and Paddington
  • Oxford and Gatwick via Reading
  • Oxford and Paddington
  • Cardiff and Taunton
  • Cardiff and Portsmouth Harbour

Often, they would be replacing Class 156 or Class 769 trains.

  • Some would need to be fitted with third-rail equipment.
  • The Gatwick services could be given an airport interior.
  • I suspect a 125 mph capability is available.
  • The Class 769 trains seem to be late in arriving.

I have no doubt in my mind, that the new Stadler trains are much better than the refurbished British Rail trains.

Transport For Wales

Transport for Wales have ordered a selection of bi-mode and tri-mode Flirts.

They must have good reasons for buying a selection of trains, rather than buying more Flirts.

Probably cost!

All these routes could be run using bi-mode Flirts

  • Cardiff and Holyhead
  • Birmingham International and Holyhead
  • Manchester Airport and Llandudno
  • Crewe and Chester
  • Chester and Liverpool Lime Street
  • Milford Haven and Manchester Piccadilly
  • Birmingham International and Aberystwyth via Shrewsbury
  • Birmingham International and Pwllheli via Shrewsbury
  • Heart of Wales Line
  • Conwy Valley Line

Some of these routes are partially electrified and use lines with a 125 mph operating speed.

Answering The Question In The Title

I very much feel that bi-mode Flirts would be better trains than shortened HSTs and Class 769 trains.

  • They are new trains.
  • They can use electrification, where it is present.
  • The appear to be capable of uprating to 125 mph.
  • They have good viewing for scenic routes because of large windows and some raised seats.
  • They are comfortable with a good ride.
  • They are able to be modified for battery-electric operation.
  • I suspect hydrogen operation will be possible in the future.

I  suspect their one downside is cost.

Conclusion

Bi-mode and tri-mode Flirts and other similar trains will proliferate and within ten years we’ll have seen the last of pure diesel trains in the UK.

I suspect that most of the shortened HSTs will have gone by 2030.

 

December 2, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Did Someone Try To Steal The Electrification?

I arrived at Ipswich station to come back to London at 09:30 this morning and finally arrived home at 15:00. The journey had taken at least four times longer than it should.

This article on Railnews, which has a subtitle of Overhead Line Damage Disrupts Great Eastern, explains the problem.

The wires between Colchester and Marks Tey stations were damaged at around four in the morning and trains didn’t run again until about 1700.

This is a paragraph that adds more details.

overhead line damage was discovered between Colchester and Marks Tey. Network Rail workers reported shortly before 04.45 that overhead line equipment was tripping, and a train driver reported ‘visible damage’ to the power lines.

I eventually came home by this route.

  • I took a train to Class 153 train to Cambridge.
  • Another electric train took me to to Tottenham Hale,.
  • It was then two buses home.

It was a completely wasted day.

What puzzles me is that the damage to the wires appears to have happened, when no trains were running. So that seems to indicate they either just fell down for no apparent reason or someone was up to no good.

Years ago, I did some work for British Rail and they talked about all sorts of groups getting up to all sorts f tricks to steal copper. signalling cable.

The crooks would even repeatedly cut fibre optic signalling cables, in the hope it would be replaced by copper, so they could nick that!

I shall await the report of what happened yesterday with interest!

Greater Anglia Were Short Of Trains

I took this picture, when I arrived at Ipswich.

It shows the Ipswich to Cambridge service that gives a good connection to the train from London. For several years, it has been a smart three-car Class 170 train. This is a rwo-car Class 156 train.

  • Greater Anglia were also apologising for the connecting Lowestoft service being just a one car; Class 153 train.
  • It appeared to me, that Greater Anglia has sent nearly all of their Class 170 trains to Wales.
  • And yet again, Greater Anglia are looking after their Norwich customers and heaping all the inadequate rolling stock on Ipswich.
  • Are the new Class 755 trains and their drivers ready?

It looks to me, to be a management cock-up.

Train For Cambridge Anybody?

This was my train to Cambridge.

As I said, it was normally a three-car Class 170 train, but this is an inadequate Class 153 train, which went they ran between Ipswich and Cambridge generally ran in pairs.

Gerald Fiennes and Delia Smith at Dullingham

At least I only had to wait ten minutes at Cambridge for my Tottenham Hale train.

Greater Anglia’s Response

The staff at Ipswich did their best, but there did seem to be a biit of bad leadership from somewhere as at one point, it was announced that a London train would be running and I don’t think it did.

To make matters worse, as we ran into Cambridge, we passed two brand new Class 755 trains in the sidings. Are they parked their ready to start the service?

This article on the East Anglian Daily Times is entitled We’re Completely Stuck – it’s A Joke’ – Rail Passengers’ Anger At Train Chaos.

It shows a large degree of management failure.

Planning For The Future

The electrification on the Great Eastern Main Line appears to be notoriously unreliable.

Network Rail must get it better! But they don’t seem to be doing a good job, as I have had pain getting to Ipswich for six years, whilst they are updating the wires!

I believe that the best insurance for the train services would be to do the following, as soon as possible.

  • Increase services on the Ipswich and Cambridge route to two trains per hour (tph) using four-car Class 755 trains. One would be direct and the other would have a change at Ely.
  • Increase services on the Norwich and Cambridge route to two tph using four-car Class 755 trains. One would be direct and the other would have a change at Ely.
  • Start running the London and Lowestoft service using four-car Class 755 trains.
  • Make sure that, it is possible to run routes with pairs of Class 755 trains.
  • Ensure, that Class 755 trains can run London and Norwich via Cambridge.

As an example yesterday, a six-car Class 755 formation formed of two three-car trains shuttling between Ipswich and Cambridge, would probably have solved the problem.

But I do think that East Anglia’s rail problems might be best served by running a new direct service between London Kings Cross and Norwich.

As I have said several times, the Kings Cross and Cambridge and/or Kings Lynn service needs to be upgraded to 140 mph trains to make the most of the 140 mph running on the Southern section of the East Coast Main Line.

So why not run the following services?

  • Hourly between Kings Cross and Kings Lynn via Cambridge.
  • Hourly between Kings Cross and Norwich via Cambridge.

The trains could be Hitachi AT-300 trains with a battery capability sufficient to take the train North of Ely.

Conclusion

Did someone try to steal the electrification?

I will await the answer as to what happened with interest.

October 26, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pacers To Continue Into 2020, Operators Confirm

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

Operators have confirmed that their Pacer diesel multiple-units will remain in service into early 2020, in spite of previous announcements that the unpopular four-wheeled vehicles dating from the 1980s would be withdrawn before enhanced PRM accessibility requirements come into force on January 1 2020.

The article then summarises the situation in the three operators running Pacers.

Northern

Some Pacers used by Northern will continue in service into 2020, because of late delivery of new Class 195 diesel trains and Class 331 electric trains.

They are also still awaiting delivery of eight Class 769 trains, which are very late into service.

Great Western

Great Western has said, that some Pacers will continue in service around Exeter.

No reason is given, but it does appear that because of non-delivery of electrification to Oxford and the late arrival of Crossrail, Great Western they still need Class 165 and Class 166 trains to work services for London commuters.

They are also still awaiting delivery of nineteen Class 769 trains.

Transport For Wales

Transport for Wales are in the same position as Great Western, in that the Class 769 trains, they ordered have still not been delivered.

The Operator Will Get The Blame!

Obviously, the operator will get the blame, but I would argue that all three have at least tried hard to avoid this crisis, as they knew the Pacers would have to be on their way to the scrapyard at the end of 2019.

  • If CAF had delivered their trains for Northern on time, things would be much better in the North.
  • If Porterbrook and their engineers had delivered the Class 769 trains on time, all three operators would be in a better position.

Hopefully, in a few months, the new trains will have been delivered and the Class 769 trains will have been created and in service.

 

October 24, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Transport for Wales Is Invading England

There is an article in the July 2019 Edition of Modern Railways, which is entitled TfW Targets Swansea To Bristol Services.

This is the first paragraph.

Transport for Wales Rail Services is aiming to start an open access service between Swansea and Bristol Temple Meads, commencing in December 2020.

These are characteristics of the proposed service.

  • Hourly service
  • Calls at Neath, Port Talbot Parkway, Bridgend, Cardiff Central, Newport, Severn Tunnel Junction and Filton Abbey Wood stations.
  • Sixteen services per day will run Monday to Saturday in both directions, with twelve services on Sundays.
  • Trains will be Class 170 or Class 175 diesel trains.

Looking at current times of sections of the route, I suspect that services could take a few minutes under two hours and would need four trains.

Reasons given for planning the service include.

  • Long-term political pressure.
  • Welsh ministers abandoning plans for the £1.6 billion M4 Relief Road around Newport.
  • Cross-Severn road traffic has increased after abolition of tolls.
  • Main roads on either side of the Severn are congested.
  • Increased house sales in South Wales to people who work in the Bristol area.

Incidentally, before I read the article, if you asked me, I’d have thought there would be a direct service.

My only thought about the service, is that as there will be electrification between Bristol and Cardiff, why not run a proper fast bi-mode train like a Hitachi Class 800 train or a Stadler Class 755 train. The latter of which Transport for Wales have on order, for delivery in 2023.

The Class 755 train or its Welsh cousin, could be an interesting option.

  • The distance without electrification between Cardiff and Swansea is 46 miles.
  • Transport for Wales tri-mode version of the Class 755 train could have three batteries and a diesel engine in the four slots in the powrpack car.

Could it have the capability of jumping the gap.

Birmingham Services

The article also says that, Transport for Wales are also planning to extend their services that terminate at Birmingham to Coventry.

  • Holyhead and Birmingham New Street takes three hours.
  • Aberystwyth and Birmingham New Street takes three hours
  • Pwllheli and Birmingham New Street takes five hours

As Birmingham and Coventry takes twenty minutes or perhaps a convenient hour to go to Coventry and return with a relaxed turnround, does the extension make these three long services simpler to operate?

Extra positioning services from Crewe to Coventry in the morning and return in the evening are also proposed.

These would  also suggest that improving the ease of operation of these services is the reason for the extension to Coventry.

Liverpool Services

The article also says that these services to Liverpool will be added in 2022.

  • An hourly service to Llandudno.
  • A two-hourly service to Cardiff.

It isn’t said, if one of these services is an extension to the recently launched Liverpool and Chester service.

Conclusion

The Welsh are getting ambitious.

 

 

June 27, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Importance Of Battery Range: Stadler’s FLIRT BMU For Greater Anglia

The title of this post is the same as a sub-section of this article on Railway News, which is entitled Stadler Presents New FLIRT Akku For The First Time.

This is said.

By contrast, Stadler recently unveiled its bi-mode (electric-diesel) FLIRT for Greater Anglia (U.K.) at InnoTrans 2018. When asked why Greater Anglia went for a diesel-electric option rather than a battery-electric option to bridge the non-electrified gaps in the network, Railway-News was told that the non-electrified distances in the U.K. are currently too great for battery-operated trains to cope with. As battery technology improves, this will hopefully change, making diesel and the need for electrification obsolete

Does this infer the following?

  1. Greater Anglia would have preferred to use battery-electric trains.
  2. It is possible to swap the diesel engines in the power-pack for battery modules.
  3. It could be possible to swap a diesel generator for a hydrogen fuel cell.

Option three might be difficult, as you need somewhere to put the hydrogen tank within the limited UK loading gauge.

Conclusion

I think it is highly likely that as battery technology improves and Stadler are able to package it better for the Class 755 trains, that Greater Anglia will change some of their Class 755 trains to battery-electric operation.

June 20, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Chester To Liverpool Via Runcorn

This new service between Chester and Liverpool Lime Street stations via Runcorn station and the Halton Curve, started a couple of weeks ago.

I took these pictures of the journey.

Note.

  1. The service was busy, as everybody seemed to be going to Liverpool to prepare for the evening’s match.
  2. The Class 150 train kept up a good speed, which indicates that Network Rail didn’t cut quality on the link.
  3. Runcorn is about the halfway point of the journey.
  4. The route is electrified between Runcorn and Liverpool Lime Street stations.
  5. The Class 150 train was a bit tired.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see a hybrid train working this route.

Operation would be as follows.

  • All these trains work be capable of 100 mph using 25 KVAC overhead electrification between Liverpool Lime Street and Runcorn stations.
  • Power changeover would be at Runcorn station.
  • Between Runcorn to Chester stations is only about fourteen miles.. This will be well within battery range in a few years.

Transport for Wales will be obtaining trains from a crowded market.

More Halton Curve Services

Under Planned Improvements in the Wikipedia entry for Transport for Wales, this is said.

Introduction of a new hourly Liverpool to Llandudno and Shrewsbury service, and a new two-hourly Liverpool to Cardiff Central service from December 2022.

Adding these to the current hourly service, this would mean that two trains per hour (tph) would normally run between Liverpool Lime Street and Chester stations, with three trains in every alternate hour.

I think that, there would be a marketing advantage in running hybrid trains on these routes. Hydrogen would be ideal, as these would not need recharging like battery trains after a long trip.

To go through the single-track Halton Curve appears to take trains about five minutes, so up to eight tph could probably be feasible, which would mean four tph between Liverpool and Chester via Runcorn in both directions.

If Trains for Wales are going to compete with the Merseyrail electric services, they need a four tph frequency in both directions.

Flexible Ticketing

Currently, if you want to buy a ticket between the Chester and Liverpool Lime Street, you have to buy an appropriate ticket for your chosen route.

Surely, tourists and others might like to do the out and back journeys by a different route.

If London Underground and some train companies can share ticketing, then surely Merseyrail and other train companies can do the same.

Conclusion

This new service will be surprisingly well-used and needs an iconic hybrid train.

  • Diesel is not appropriate for the long term, although in Northern Connect Between Chester And Leeds To Start In May, I did report a rumour that Class 769 trains might be running between Chester and Leeds.
  • Hydrogen is non-polluting and has a longer range, that could make services between Liverpool and Holyhead possible.
  • Battery will probably need a charging infrastructure.

My money is on hydrogen power.

 

 

June 2, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments