The Anonymous Widower

Solar Power Could Make Up “Significant Share” Of Railway’s Energy Demand

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

This is the first three paragraphs.

Solar panels could be used to power a sizeable chunk of Britain’s DC electric rail network, a new report has suggested.

Climate change charity 10:10 and Imperial College London’s Energy Futures Lab looked at the feasibility of using solar panels alongside the track to directly power the railway.

The report claims that 15 per cent of the commuter network in Kent, Sussex and Wessex could be powered directly by 200 small solar farms. It suggested that solar panels could also supply 6 per cent of the London Underground’s energy requirements and 20 per cent of the Merseyrail network.

In another article in today’s Times about the study, this is said.

Installing solar farms and batteries alongside lines also could provide the extra energy needed to power more carriages on busy routes that otherwise would require prohibitively expensive upgrades to electricity networks.

Note the use of batteries mentioned in the extract from The Times. This would be sensible design as power can be stored, when the sun is shining and used when it isn’t!

If you want to read the full report, click here!

I will lay out my thoughts in the next few sections.

Is This Technique More Applicable To Rail-Based Direct Current Electrification?

All of the routes mentioned for application of these solar farms,; Southern Electric (Kent, Sussex and Wessex), London Underground and Merseyrail are electrified using one of two rail-based direct current systems.

Consider the following.

Powering The Track

In the September 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article entitled Wires Through The Weald, which discusses electrification of the Uckfield Branch in Sussex, as proposed by Chris Gibb. This is an extract.

He (Chris Gibb) says the largest single item cost is connection to the National Grid, and a third-rail system would require feeder stations every two or three miles, whereas overhead wires may require only a single feeder station for the entire Uckfield Branch.

It would appear that as rail-based direct current electrification needs a lot of feeder stations along the line, this might be better suited for solar power and battery electrification systems.

Consider.

  • Most of the feeder stations would not need a connection to the National Grid.
  • Solar panels generate low direct current voltages, which are probably cheaper to convert to 750 VDC than 25 KVAC.
  • In installing electrification on a line like the Uckfield Branch, you would install the extra rails needed and a solar farm and battery system every two or three miles.
  • With the situation mentioned in the extract from The Times, you might add a solar farm and battery system, to a section of track, where more power is needed.
  • For efficiency and safety, power would only be sent to the rail when a train was present.

I trained as an Electrical Engineer and I very much feel, that solar power and battery systems are better suited to powering rail-based electrification. Although, they could be used for the overhead DC systems we use in the UK for trams.

Modular Design

Each of the solar farm and battery systems could be assembled from a series of factory-built modules.

This would surely make for a cost-effective installation, where capacity and capabilities could be trailored to the location.

Regenerative Braking

Modern trains use regenerative braking, which means that braking energy is converted into electricity. The electricity is handled in one of the following ways.

  1. It is turned into heat using resistors on the train roof.
  2. It is returned through the electrification system and used to power nearby trains.
  3. It is stored in a battery on the train.

Note.

  1. Option 1 is not efficient.
  2. Option 2 is commonly used on the London Underground and other rail-based electrification systems.
  3. Option 2 needs special transformers  to handle 25 KVAC systems.
  4. Option 3 is efficient and is starting to be developed for new trains and trams.

If batteries are available at trackside, then these can also be used to store braking energy.

I believe that using solar farm and battery systems would also enable efficient regenerative braking on the lines they powered.

But again, because of the transformer issue, this would be much easier on rail-bassed direct current electrification systems.

Could Wind Turbines Be Used?

Both solar farms and wind turbines are not guaranteed to provide continuous power, but putting a wind turbine or two by the solar farm would surely increase the efficiency of the system, by generating energy in two complimentary ways and then storing it until a train came past.

Wind energy could also be available for more hours in the day and could even top up the battery in the dark.

In fact, why stop with wind turbines?

Any power source could be used. On a coastal railway, it might be wave or tidal power.

Could Hydrogen Power Be Used?

I think that hydrogen power could be another way to create the energy needed to back up the intermittent power of solar farms and wind turbines.

I put a few notes in Hydrogen-Powered Railway Electrification.

 

Would The Technique Work With Battery Trains?

Most certainly!

I haven’t got the time or the software to do a full simulation, but I suspect that a route could have an appropriate number of solar farm and battery systems and each would give the battery train a boost, as it went on its way.

Would The Technique Work With 25 KVAC Electrification?

It would be more expensive due to the inverter involved to create the 25 KVAC needed.

But I feel it would be another useful tool in perhaps electrifying a tunnel or a short length of track through a station.

It could also be used to charge a train working a branch line on batteries.

Would The Technique Work With Dual Voltage Trains?

Many trains in the UK can work with both third-rail 750 VDC third-rail and 25 KVAC overhead electrification.

Classes of trains include.

  • The Class 319 trains built for Thameslink in the 1980s.
  • The Class 345 trains being built for Crossrail.
  • The Class 387 trains built for various operators.
  • The Class 700 trains recently built for Thamelink.

There are also other classes that could be modified to run on both systems.

Provided they are fitted with third-rail shoes, there is no reason to stop dual-voltage trains running on a line electrified using solar farms and batteries.

The technique could surely be used to electrify a branch line from a main line electrified using 25 KVAC.

Consider Henley Branch Line.

  • It is four-and-a half miles long.
  • It is not electrified.
  • It connects to the electrified Great Western Main Line at Twyford station.
  • The line can handle trains up to six-cars.
  • All services on the line are worked by diesel trains.

Services consist of a shuttle between Henley-on-Thames and Twyford, with extra services to and from Paddington in the Peak and during the Regatta.

Network Rail were planning to electrify the line using 25 KVAC overhead electrification, but this has been cancelled, leaving the following options for Paddington services.

  • Using battery trains, possibly based on the Class 387 trains, which would be charged between Paddington and Twyford.
  • Using Class 800 bi-mode trains.
  • Using Class 769 bi-mode trains.

All options would mean that the diesel shuttle continued or it could be replaced with a Class 769 bi-mode train.

An alternative would be to electrify the branch using third-rail fitted with solar farm and battery systems.

  • All services on the line could be run by Class 387 trains.
  • Voltage changeover would take place in Twyford station.

There are several lines that could be served in this way.

Installation Costs

I’ll repeat my earlier quote from the Modern Railways article.

He (Chris Gibb) says the largest single item cost is connection to the National Grid, and a third-rail system would require feeder stations every two or three miles, whereas overhead wires may require only a single feeder station for the entire Uckfield Branch.

If you were going to electrify, the twenty-four non-electrified miles of the Marshlink Line, with traditional Southern  Electric third-rail, you would need around 8-12 National Grid connections to power the line. As the Romney Marsh is probably not blessed with a dense electricity network, although it does have a nuclear power station, so although putting in the extra rails may be a relatively easy and affordable project, providing the National Grid connection may not be as easy.

But use solar farm and battery systems on the remoter areas of the line and the number of National Grid connections will be dramatically reduced.

Good National Grid connections are obviously available at the two ends of the line at Hastings and Ashford International stations. I also suspect that the electricity network at Rye station could support a connection for the electrification.

This could mean that six to eight solar farm and battery systems would be needed to electrify this important line.

I obviously, don’t have the actual costs, but this could be a very affordable way of electrifying a remote third-rail line.

Which Lines Could Be Electrified Using Solar Farm And Battery Systems?

For a line to be electrified and powered by solar farm and battery systems, I think the line must have some of the following characteristics.

  • It is a line that is suitable for rail-based direct current electrification.
  • It is not a particularly stiff line with lots of gradients.
  • It is in a rural area, where National Grid connections will be difficult and expensive.
  • It has a connection to other lines electrified by rail-based systems.

Lines to electrify are probably limited to  Southern Electric (Kent, Sussex and Wessex), London Underground and Merseyrail.

I also suspect there are several branch lines that could be reopened or electrified using rail-based electrification.

Conclusion

It’s a brilliantly simple concept that should be developed.

It is well suited to be used with rail-based direct current electrification.

It would be ideal for the electrification of the Uckfield Branch.

 

December 6, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 2 Comments

What Will Happen To The Class 379 Trains?

Greater Anglia’s fleet of thirty Class 379 trains are being replaced by by a brand new fleet of Class 745 Stadler FLIRT EMUs which will be fixed 12-car trains on Stansted Express services and Class 720 Bombardier Aventra EMUs on Cambridge services.

These trains have a high specification.

  • Four-car trainsets.
  • Ability to work as four, eight and twelve-car trains.
  • 2+2 seating in Standard Class.
  • 2+1 seating in First Class.
  • Plenty of luggage space.
  • Wi-fi and power sockets.
  • Full compliance with all Persons of Reduced Mobility rules.
  • 100 mph capability.
  • Regenerative braking.

I also suspect the following is true about the trains.

  • The ability to run on 750 VDC third rail electrification could be added reasonably easily.
  • Lithium-ion batteries to give a limited range, can be fitted.
  • The top speed could be upgraded to the 110 mph of the closely-related Class 387 trains.
  • The trains have end gangways and could be certified to run through the core route of Thameslink, like the Class 387 trains.

So they would appear to be a very useful train.

So what will happen to the trains?

This is my speculative list of possible uses.

Continued Use By Greater Anglia

In some ways it’s strange that these reasonable new trains are being replaced on Stansted and Cambridge services.

They are being replaced by Stadler Class 745 trains, which like the Class 379 trains are 100 mph trains.

In the next decade or so, the West Anglia Main Line is to be upgraded with extra tracks and services will be faster.

So are performance upgrades available for the Class 745 trains, which will deliver these improved services?

If Stadler are late with their delivery of the Class 745 trains, the  Class 379 trains will continue to be used on Stansted and Cambridge services.

This is discussed in this article in Rail Magazine, which is entitled Contingency Plans In Place For Greater Anglia’s Main Line Fleet.

But surely, this would only delay their cascade to other operators.

According to Wikipedia, all of the replacement Class 745 trains, are scheduled to enter service in 2019, which should mean that the Class 379 trains should be available for cascade to other operators, sometime in 2020.

St. Pancras to Corby

Under Future in the Wikipedia entry for Corby station, this is said.

It is planned that a half-hourly London St Pancras to Corby service will operate from December 2019 using new Class 387 trains, once the Midland Main Line has been electrified beyond Bedford as part of the Electric Spine project. Network Rail has also announced that it plans to re-double the currently singled Glendon Junction to Corby section as part of this scheme.

In the December 2017 Edition of Modern Railways there is an article, which is entitled Wires To Corby Now in 2020.

This is the first paragraph.

Carillion is to deliver electrification of the Midland Main Line to Corby, but electric services will not start until December 2020, a year later than previously envisaged.

The article also states the following.

  • A fourth track is to be installed between Bedford and Kettering.
  • Track and wires are to be updated so that new 125 mph bi-mode trains can run between St. Pancras and Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield.
  • Improvements to the current electrification South of Bedford.

Everything should be completed, so that the new bi-mode trains could enter service from 2022.

It should be noted that Wikipedia says this about the Future of the East Midlands Trains franchise.

The franchise is due to end in August 2019. The Invitation to Tender is due to be issued in April 2018, which will detail what improvements bidders for the franchise must make. The contract will then be awarded in April 2019.

This could give the following project schedule on the Midland Main Line.

  • April 2019 – Award of new East Midlands franchise.
  • August 2019 – New East Midlands franchise starts.
  • December 2020 – Electric services to Corby start.
  • December 2022 – Bi-mode services to Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield start.

These dates would fit well with the retirement of the Class 379 trains by Greater Anglia in 2020.

Current timings between Corby and London are 71 minutes with four stops. I don’t think it would be unreasonable to assume that the improved track and new trains would be designed so that the timings between Corby and London would be reduced to under an hour, with a round trip of two hours.

If this can be achieved, then just four trains of an appropriate length will be needed to meet the required two tph timetable.

  • Four-car services would need four trains.
  • Eight-car services would need eight trains.
  • Twelve-car services would need twelve trains.

It might not be possible to run eight and twelve car services due to platform length restrictions.

If the two hour round trip could be achieved by an existing Class 387 or an uprated Class 379 trains, then either of these trains would be a shoe-in for the route.

Otherwise we’ll be seeing something faster like a Class 801 train.

But if services are to start in 2020, there would be a problem to manufacture the trains in the available time, as the contract will only have been awarded in April 2019.

I think that St. Pancras to Corby is a possibility for Class 379 trains, which may need to be uprated to 110 mph. On the other hand, Class 387 trains wouldn’t need to be uprated.

West Midlands Trains, who have a similar need, have ordered 110 mph Aventras.

  • So perhaps the new East Midlands franchise will do the same.
  • This would be more likely, if Bombardier come up with the rumoured 125 mph bi-mode Aventra.
  • Or they could buy a mixture of Class 800 and 801 trains.

I don’t think the Class 379 trains will work St. Pancras to Corby.

Battery Services

A Class 379 train was used for the BEMU trial, where a battery was fitted to the train and it ran for a couple of months between Manningtree and Harwich, using overhead power one way and battery power to return.

Was this class of train chosen, as it was one of the easiest to fit with a battery? After all it was one of the later Electrostars.

This article on the Railway Gazette from July 2007 is entitled Hybrid Technology Enters The Real World. It describes the experimental conversion of a Class 43 power-car from a High Speed Train into a battery-assisted diesel-electric power-car.

A second article in the Railway Gazette from October 2010 is entitled First New Stansted Express Train Rolls Out. It describes the Class 379 train in detail. This is an extract.

Although part of the Electrostar family, the Class 379 incorporates a number of technical changes from the original design developed in the late 1990s, making use of technologies which would be used on the Aventra next-generation Electrostar which Bombardier is proposing for the major Thameslink fleet renewal contract.

The body structure has been revised to meet European crashworthiness requirements. The window spacing has changed, with the glass bolted rather than glued in place to enable faster repairs. The couplers are from Dellner, and the gangways from Hübner. Top speed is 160 km/h, and the 25 kV 50 Hz trains will use regenerative braking at all times.

The last statement about regenerative braking is the most interesting.

To my knowledge electric trains that use regenerative braking had never run on the West Anglia Main Line before and that to handle the return currents with 25 KVAC needs special and more expensive transformers. The obvious way to handle regenerative braking at all times without using the electrification is to put an appropriately sized battery on the train.

If Bombardier have done this on the Class 379 train, then it might be a lot easier to fit a large battery to power the train. This would explain why the trains were chosen for the trial rather than a train from a more numerous variant.

The result was a trial of  which few, if any,negative reports can be found.

The result was a trial of  which few, if any,negative reports can be found.

Class 379 Train Performance On Batteries

Little has been said about the performance of the train.

However, in this document on the Network Rail web site, which is entitled Kent Area Route Study, this is said.

In 2015, industry partners worked together to investigate
battery-electric traction and this culminated with a
practical demonstration of the Independently Powered
Electric Multiple Unit IPEMU concept on the Harwich
Branch line in Anglia Route. At the industry launch event,
the train manufacturers explained that battery
technology is being developed to enable trains to run
further, at line speeds, on battery power, indeed, some
tram lines use this technology in the city centres and many
London buses are completely electric powered.

The IPEMU project looked at the feasibility of battery power
on the Marshlink service and found that battery was
sufficient for the train to run from Brighton to Ashford
International and back but there was insufficient charge to
return to Ashford International on a second round trip. A
solution to this could be that the unit arrives from Ashford
International at Brighton and forms a service to Seaford and
back before returning to Ashford International with a
charged battery.

The IPEMU demonstration train was a Class 379, a similar
type to the Class 377 units currently operated by Southern, it
was found that the best use of the battery power was to
restrict the acceleration rate to that of a modern diesel
multiple unit, such as a Class 171 (the current unit type
operating the line) when in battery mode and normal
acceleration on electrified lines.

|Ashford to Brighton is 62 miles, so a round trip would be 124 miles.

The document doesn’t say anything about how many stops were made in the tests, but I’m sure that Bombardier, Greater Anglia and Network Rail have all the data to convert a Class 379 into a viable IPEMU or Independently Powered Electric Multiple Unit.

As to how long it takes to charge the battery, there is an interesting insight in this article from Rail Magazine, which is entitled Battery-Powered Electrostar Enters Traffic. This is said.

It is fitted with six battery rafts, and uses Lithium Ion Magnesium Phosphate battery technology. The IPEMU can hold a charge for 60 miles and requires two hours of charging for every hour running. The batteries charge from the overhead wires when the pantograph is raised, and from regenerative braking.

The two-one ratio between charging and running could be an interesting factor in choice of routes.

What About The Aventra?

I quoted from this article in the Railway Gazette from October 2010 earlier.  This is said.

Although part of the Electrostar family, the Class 379 incorporates a number of technical changes from the original design developed in the late 1990s, making use of technologies which would be used on the Aventra next-generation Electrostar.

So would it be a reasonable assumption to assume, that if batteries can be fitted to a Class 379 train, then they could also be fitted to an Aventra?

This article in Global Rail News from 2011, which is entitled Bombardier’s AVENTRA – A new era in train performance, gives some details of the Aventra’s electrical systems. This is said.

AVENTRA can run on both 25kV AC and 750V DC power – the high-efficiency transformers being another area where a heavier component was chosen because, in the long term, it’s cheaper to run. Pairs of cars will run off a common power bus with a converter on one car powering both. The other car can be fitted with power storage devices such as super-capacitors or Lithium-ion batteries if required.

This was published six years ago, so I suspect Bombardier have refined the concept.

But it does look that both battery variants of both Class 379 trains and Aventras are possible.

Routes For Battery Trains

What important lines could be run by either a Class 379 train or an Aventra with an appropriate battery capability?

I will refer to these trains as IPEMUs in the remainder of this post.

I feel that one condition should apply to all routes run by IPEMUs.

The 2:1 charging time to running time on battery ratio must be satisfied.

East Coastway And Marshlink Lines

As Network Rail are prepared to write the three paragraphs in the Kent Area Route Study, that I quoted earlier, then the East Coastway and Marshlink Lines, which connect Brighton and Ashford International stations, must be high on the list to be run by IPEMUs.

Consider.

  • All the route, except for about twenty-four miles of the Marshlink Line is electrified.
  • Brighton and Ashford International stations are electrified.
  • Some sections have an operating speed of up to 90 mph.
  • Brighton to Hastings takes 66 minutes
  • Ashford International to Hastings takes 40 minutes
  • There is a roughly fifteen minute turnround at the two end stations.

The last three points, when added together, show that in each round trip, the train has access to third-rail power for 162 minutes and runs on batteries for 80 minutes.

Does that mean the 2:1 charging to running ratio is satisfied?

I would also feel that if third-rail were to be installed at Rye station, then in perhaps a two minute stop, some extra charge could be taken on board. The third-rail would only need to be switched on, when a train was connected.

It looks to me, that even the 2015 test train could have run this route, with just shoe gear to use the third-rail electrification. Perhaps it did do a few test runs! Or at least simulated ones!

After all, with a pantograph ready to be raised to rescue a train with a flat battery, they could have run it up and down the test route of the Mayflower Line  at a quiet time and see how far the train went with a full battery!

Currently, many of the train services along the South Coast are run by a fleet of Class 313 trains, with the following characteristics.

  • There are a total of nineteen trains.
  • They were built in the late 1970s.
  • They are only three cars, which is inadequate at times.
  • They are 75 mph trains.
  • They don’t have toilets.
  • The trains are used on both the East Coastway and West Coastway Lines.

Replacing the trains with an appropriate number of Class 379 trains or Aventras would most certainly be welcomed by passengers, staff and the train companies.

  • Diesel passenger trains could be removed from the route.
  • There could be direct services between Ashford International and Southampton via Brighton.
  • One type of train would be providing most services along the South Coast.
  • There would be a 33% increase in train capacity.
  • Services would be a few minutes quicker.
  • For Brighton’s home matches, it might be possible to provide eight-car trains.
  • The forty-year-old Class 313 trains would be scrapped.

The service could even be extended on the fully-electrified line to Bournemouth to create a South Coast Seaside Special.

London Bridge To Uckfield

I looked at Chris Gibb’s recommendation for this line in Will Innovative Electrification Be Used On The Uckfield Line?

These actions were recommended.

  • Electrification of the branch using 25 KVAC overhead.
  • Electrification of tunnels with overhead conductor rail.
  • Dual-voltage trains.
  • Stabling sidings at Crowborough.

How would this be affected if IPEMUs were to be used?

The simplest way to run IPEMUs would be to install third-rail at Uckfield to charge the train.

Current timings on the route are as follows.

  • London Bridge to Hurst Green – electrified – 32 minutes
  • Hurst Green to Uckfield – non-electrified – 41 minutes
  • Turnaround at London Bridge – 16 minutes
  • Turnaround at Uckfield – 11 minutes

Hurst Green station is the limit of the current electrification.

Adding these times together, show that in each round trip, the train has access to third-rail power for 91 minutes and needs to on batteries for 82 minutes.

It looks like the 2:1 charging to running ratio is not met.

To meet that, as the round trip is three hours, that means that there probably needs to be two hours on electrification and an hour on batteries.

So this means that at least eleven minutes of the journey between Hurst Green and Uckfield station needs to be electrified, to obtain the 2:1 ratio.

It takes about this time to go between Crowborough and Uckfield stations.

  • Crowborough will have the new sidings, which will have to be electrified.
  • The spare land for the sidings would appear to be to the South of Crowborough station in an area of builders yards and industrial premises.
  • Crowborough Tunnel is on the route and is nearly a kilometre long.
  • The route is double-track from Crowborough station through Crowborough Tunnel and perhaps for another kilometre to a viaduct over a valley.
  • The viaduct and the remainder of the line to Uckfield is single track.
  • The single track section appears to have space to put the gantries for overhead electrification on the bed of the original second track.

If you apply Chris Gibb’s original recommendation of 25 KVAC, then electrification between Crowborough and Uckfield station, might just be enough to allow IPEMUs to work the line.

  • The sidings at Crowborough would be electrified.
  • About half of the electrification will be single-track.
  • Crowborough Tunnel would use overhead rails.
  • Power could probably be fed from Crowborough.
  • The regenerative braking would be handled by the batteries on the trains.
  • Changeover between overhead power and batteries would be in Crowborough station.
  • Buxted and Uckfield stations wouldn’t be complicated to electrify, as they are single-platform stations.

I very much feel that running IPEMUs between London Bridge and Uckfield is possible.

Preston to Windermere

The Windermere Branch Line is not electrified and Northern are proposing to use Class 769 bi-mode trains on services to Windermere station.

Current timings on the line are as follows.

  • Windermere to Oxenholme Lake District – non-electrified – 20 minutes
  • Oxenholme Lake District to Preston – electrified – 40 minutes

If you add in perhaps ten minutes charging during a turnaround at Preston, the timings are just within the 2:1 charging ratio.

So services from Windermere to at least Preston would appear to be possible using an IPEMU.

These trains might be ideal for the Windermere to Manchester Airport service. However, the Class 379 trains are only 100 mph units, which might be too slow for the West Coast Main Line.

The IPEMU’s green credentials would be welcome in the Lakes!

The Harrogate Line

This is said under Services in the Wikipedia entry for Harrogate station, which is served by the Harrogate Line from Leeds.

The Monday to Saturday daytime service is generally a half-hourly to Leeds (southbound) calling at all stations and to Knaresborough (eastbound) on the Harrogate Line with an hourly service onwards to York also calling at all stations en route.

Services double in frequency at peak time to Leeds, resulting in 4 trains per hour (tph) with 1tph running fast to Horsforth. There are 4 tph in the opposite direction between 16:29 and 18:00 from Leeds with one running fast from Horsforth to Harrogate.

Evenings and Sundays an hourly service operates from Leeds through Harrogate towards Knaresborough and York (some early morning trains to Leeds start from here and terminate here from Leeds in the late evening).

Proposals have been made to create a station between Harrogate and Starbeck at Bilton, whilst the new Northern franchise operator Arriva Rail North plans to improve service frequencies towards Leeds to 4 tph from 7am to 7pm once the new franchise agreement starts in April 2016.

I believe that the easiest way to achieve this level of service would be to electrify between Leeds and Harrogate.

  • IPEMUs might be able to go between Harrogate and York on battery power.
  • Leeds and York are both fully electrified stations.
  • If a link was built to Leeds-Bradford Airport, it could be worked on battery power and the link could be built without electrification.
  • The electrification could be fed with power from Leeds.
  • There is also the two-mile long Bramhope Tunnel.

Full electrification between Leeds and Harrogate would allow Virgin’s Class 801 trains to reach Harrogate.

I’m fairly certain that there’s a scheme in there that with minimal electrification would enable IPEMUsy to reach both a new station at Leeds-Bradford Airport and York.

Conclusion

These routes show that it is possible to use IPEMUs to run services on partially-electrified routes.

As I said earlier, the 2:1 ratio of charging to running time could be important.

Airport Services

Class 379 trains were built to provide fast, comfortable and suitable services between London Liverpool Street and Stansted Airport.

Because of this, the Class 379 trains have a First Class section and lots of space for large bags.

Surely, these trains could be found a use to provide high-class services to an Airport or a station on a high-speed International line.

But there are only a limited number of UK airports served by an electrified railway.

Most of these airports already have well-developed networks of airport services, but Class 379 trains could provide an upgrade in standard.

In addition, the following airports, may be served by an electrified heavy rail railway.

All except Doncaster Sheffield would need new electrification. For that airport, a proposal to divert the East Coast Main Line exists.

Possibilities for airport services using IPEMUs, based on Class 379 trains with a battery capability would include.

Ashford International

The completion of the Ashford Spurs project at Ashford International station will surely create more travellers between Southampton, Portsmouth and Brighton to Ashford, as not every Continental traveller will prefer to go via London.

Class 379 IPEMUs,with a battery capability to handle the Marshlink Line would be ideal for a service along the South Coast, possibly going as far West as Bournemouth.

Birmingham

Birmingham Airport is well connected by rail.

I think that as train companies serving the Airport, have new trains on order, I doubt we’ll see many Class 379 trains serving the Airport.

Bristol

Various routes have been proposed for the Bristol Airport Rail Link.

In my view, the routes, which are short could be served by light rail, tram-train or heavy rail.

As the proposed city terminus at Bristol Temple Meads station would be electrified and the route is not a long one, I’m pretty sure that a Class 379 IPEMU could work the route.

But light rail or tram-train may be a better option.

Gatwick

Gatwick Airport station is well served by trains on the Brighton Main Line, running to and from Brighton, Clapham Junction, East Croydon, London Bridge, St. Pancras and Victoria, to name just a few.

Gatwick also has an hourly service to Reading via the North Downs Line, which is only partly electrified.

In my view, the North Downs route would be a classic one for running using Class 379 IPEMUs.

  • The Class 379 trains were built for an Airport service.
  • Four cars would be an adequate capacity.
  • No infrastructure work would be needed. But operating speed increases would probably be welcomed.
  • Third-rail shoes could be easily added.
  • Several sections of the route are electrified.
  • Gatwick Airport and Reading stations are electrified.

Currently, trains take just over an hour between Reading and Gatwick Airport.

Would the faster Class 379 IPEMUs bring the round trip comfortably under two hours?

If this were possible, it would mean two trains would be needed for the hourly service and four trains for a half-hourly service.

There may be other possibilities for the use of Class 379 trains to and from Gatwick Airport.

  • Luton Airport keep agitating for a better service. So would a direct link to Gatwick using Class 379 trains be worthwhile?
  • Class 379 IPEMUs  could provide a Gatwick to Heathrow service using Thameslink and the Dudding Hill Line.
  • Class 379 IPEMUs could provide a Gatwick to Ashford International service for connection to Eurostar.

I also feel that, as the trains are closely-related to the Class 387/2 trains used on Gatwick Express, using the Class 379 trains on Gatwick services would be a good operational move.

Also, if Class 379 IPEMUs were to be used to create a South Coast Express, as I indicated earlier, two sub-fleets would be close together.

Leeds-Bradford

Earlier I said that the Harrogate Line could be a route for IPEMUs, where services could run to York, if the Leeds to Harrogate section was electrified.

A spur without electrification could be built to Leeds-Bradford Airport.

Based on current timings, I estimate that a Bradford Interchange to Leeds-Bradford Airport service via Leeds station would enable a two-hour round trip.

An hourly service would need two trains, with a half-hourly service needing four trains.

Manchester

Manchester Airport is well connected by rail and although the Class 379 trains would be a quality upgrade on the current trains, I think that as Northern and TransPennine have new trains on order, I doubt we’ll see many Class 379 trains serving the Airport.

Conclusion

Looking at these notes, it seems to me that the trains will find a use.

Some things stand out.

  • As the trains are only capable of 100 mph, they may not be suitable for doing longer distances on electrified main lines, unless they are uprated to the 110 mph operating speed of the Class 387 trains.
  • The main line where they would be most useful would probably be the East and West Coastway Lines along the South Coast.
  • Converting some into IPEMUs would probably be useful along the Marshlink and Uckfield Lines, in providing services to Gatwick and in a few other places.

I also feel, that Aventras and other trains could probably be designed specifically for a lot of the routes, where Class 379 trains, with or without batteries, could be used.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 6, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Will Innovative Electrification Be Used On The Uckfield Line?

Chris Gibb’s report into the Govia Thameslink Railway franchise recommended electrification of the Uckfield Line. The September 2017 Edition of Modern Railways has a detailed examination of the proposals.

Reasons For Electrification

Various reasons are given for the electrification.

  • Removing diesel trains from London Bridge station.
  • Operational flexibility.
  • More capacity
  • Stabling and refuelling considerations with the current Class 171 trains at Selhurst depot.
  • Increasing operational efficiency.

The Class 171 trains would probbly be better suited to other routes.

25 KVAC Ovhead Electrification

One of Chris Gibb’s recommendations is to use 25 KVAC overhead rather than 750 VDC third-rail electrification in an area, where third-rail is the norm.

He states that this is on cost grounds.

  • Third-rail needs a feed to the National Grid every two to three miles.
  • Overhead wires might need just one.
  • DC has higher transmission losses, than AC.

He also suggests the following.

  • Changeover between the existing third-rail and the new overhead systems would be South of Hurst Green Junction.
  • The three tunnels on the route would be electrified using overhead conductor rail.
  • Dual-voltage trains would be needed, which would change system on the move.
  • Class 377 or Class 700 trains would be used.

He also indicxates that Class 379 trains would be available from 2020.

Stabling At Crowborough

Chris Gibb suggests building stabling for four twelve-car trains at Crowborough for the following reasons.

  • It would improve crew efficiency.
  • Itwould give more time overnight for maintenance and train cleaning.
  • It would eliminate 75,000 miles of empty running a year.
  • It would give a £3.6 million a year cost saving.
  • It would give more space at Selhurst depot.

This sounds like a good idea.

Project Management And Finance

Chris Gibb gets very innovative about how the project should be managed, by suggesting that SNCF do the design for the electrification and then directly hire the contractor, bypassing Network Rail.

He also suggests an innovative way of financing the project, using private finance.

The Government’s Response

Chris Gibb recommendations of electrification and the stabling of trains at Crowborough have been accepted by the Government.

Conclusion

Surely, if private finance and planning permission can be obtained, this project should go ahead.

August 24, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 2 Comments

Discontinuous Electrification Using IPEMUs

In Basingstoke To Exeter By Electric Train, I started to work through, how short lengths of third-rail electrification could be used to power an electric train with an IPEMU-capability.

Third-Rail Electrification

This picture shows typical third-rail electrification at Kidbrooke station in South East London.

Electrification At Kidbrooke Station

 

Note the following about the station and the electrification.

  • The two tracks are between two platforms connected by a footbridge, which is a typical layout for hundreds of stations. Some stations might use a subway for connection.
  • The two 750 VDC conductor rails are placed together in the middle of the track, well away from the passengers.
  • There is a gap in the third rail, which I assume is for staff or emergency services personnel to cross the track in an emergency.

It is a simple and very safe layout.

With many years of installing third-rail systems in stations, Network Rail has the expertise to create safe systems in stations with island or just a single platform.

A Typical Electrical Multiple Unit

The Class 377 train is a typical modern electrical multiple unit common on third-rail routes.

  • There are a total of 239 trainsets in service with lengths of three, four and five cars.
  • The trains can work in combinations of two and three trainsets.
  • The trains are a member of Bombardier’s Electrostar family.
  • The slightly older Class 375 trains can be converted into Class 377 trains.
  • The first trains entered service in 2003, so they still have many years of life.
  • Some of the trains are dual-voltage and all could be equipped to use 25 kVAC overhead line equipment.
  • They have a top speed of 90 mph.
  • Bombardier have stated that these trains can be given an IPEMU-capability.

In addition everything said about the Class 377, can also be said about the later Class 379 and Class 387 trains, although these trains are faster.

The traction current supply to the trains has a very comprehensive design, that ensures trains get the electricity they need. Wikipedia says this.

All units can receive power via third-rail pick-up which provides 750 V DC. There are eight pick-up shoes per unit (twice the number of previous generation 4-car Electric multiple units), and this enables them to ride smoothly over most third-rail gaps. The units in the 377/2, 377/5 and 377/7 sub-classes are dual-voltage, and are fitted with a pantograph to pick up 25 kV AC from overhead lines. On these units the shoe mechanism is air-operated so that when powered down, or working on AC overhead lines, they are raised out of the way. 

You don’t hear many reports of trains being gapped these days, when they are unable to pick-up electricity at somewhere like a level crossing.

So there could be a large number of electrical multiple units available with an IPEMU capability, which could be ostensibly 25 kVAC units, but could also pick up electricity from a 750 VDC third-rail.

A Charging Station At Oxted

I feel that Network Rail has the expertise to fit short lengths of third-rail electrification into stations, so that IPEMUs could pick up power, when they are stopped in the station.

These pictures show the recent installation of third-rail in the bay Platform 3 at Oxted station.

Note how the conductor rail is enclosed in a yellow shield.

Could this installation at Oxted, have been done, so that IPEMUs can run a shuttle to Uckfield?

Staff at the station didn’t know, but said the platform is used to terminate or park the occasional train from East Grinstea

d

IPEMUs To Lowestoft

Imagine such an installation at a station like Lowestoft, which has been suggested as a destination for trains with an IPEMU-capability.

Two Class 156 At Lowestoft

The picture shows two Class 156 trains at Lowestoft station.

Surely, two lengths of 750 VDC third-rail can be fitted between the tracks.

  • The electrified lines would be no closer to passengers, than the third-rail installation at Oxted.
  • The power supply would only be needed to supply electricity to charge the batteries.
  • When no train was in the platform, the electricity supply to that platform would be switched off.
  • The waiting time in the station would need to be sufficient to make sure the battery had enough charge to get to the overhead wires at Ipswich or Norwich.
  • There would be little or no modification to the structure of the station.
  • There would be no electrification needed between Lowestoft and both Ipswich and Norwich.

The biggest problem would be installing the power supply, but it would only be a transformer and rectiofier to provide 750 VDC. It would not have to cope with all the problems of regenerative braking, as the IPEMU capability of the train would take care of that.

It would appear that by using trains with an IPEMU-capability and well-proven simple technology at Lowestoft, the town can be provided with direct electric train services to Ipswich, Norwich and London.

At present the only trains with sufficient speed to not be a restriction on the Great Eastern Main Line, that can be given an IPEMU-capability are Class 379 and Class 387 trains. But Bombardier told Modern Railways, that a 125 mph Aventra is possible.

It would appear that the infrastructure modifications could be very affordable too!

The major cost would be the extra trains, but hopefully an increase in passenger numbers because of the better service would create the cash flow to lease them!

Perhaps the biggest advantage of using IPEMU trains to Lowestoft, is that electrification of the tracks through a beautiful part of East Anglia will not need to be performed.

It should also be said, that what works for Lowestoft, would also work for services to Sheringham and Great Yarmouth.

The technique would also work for branch lines from an electrified main line, where the out and back distance was more than the range of an IPEMU running on batteries. Examples would include.

  • York to Scarborough
  • Doncaster to Hull
  • Edinburgh to Tweedbank
  • Peterborough to Lincoln
  • Manchester to Sheffield

But there are many more lines, where a charging station would bring much-needed electric trains to all over the UK.

Longer Lines

Some longer lines,  where both ends are electrified and the distance is less than sixty miles, like Norwich to Cambridge and Carlisle to Newcastle, could be served by an IPEMU with sufficient range, that was charged at both ends of the line.

So that leaves longer lines over sixty miles, with no electrification at either end or just one electrified end.

Many, but not all, are through beautiful countryside and would the heritage lobby accept miles of overhead line gantries, marching through the hills and valleys.

I believe that on some longer lines, by using short lengths of third-rail electrification in selected stations, services could be run by electric trains with an IPEMU-capability.

Imagine an electric train an IPEMU-capability, approaching a station on a typical fast line with perhaps a 90 mph speed limit, like say the West of England Main Line, which is not electrified past Basingstoke.

  • As the IPEMU applies its brakes, all of the energy generated by the regenerative braking would be stored in the train’s on-board energy storage, ready to be used to accelerate the train back up to line speed after the station.
  • When the train makes contact with the third rail in the station, if the battery is not full, it can start to charge the battery from the rail.
  • Once the battery is full, the charging would stop.
  • On starting away from the station, the train could use power from the third rail, until it lost contact, after which it would use the energy stored on the train.

I think it should be possible that the train would leave the station with a full battery.

I would suspect that Bombardier and Network Rail are doing all sorts of calculations to find the best strategy, so that IPEMUs can be used to avoid the problems and costs of electrification.

Lines that could be electrified in this way would be ones, where trains stop at several stations along the route. Electricity supply at the stations, is no problem these days, as it could be connected to the mains or to some form of local generation.

It could be a very green concept!

Lines that could be electrified in this way would include.

Selected stations would be fitted with charging and the trains would stop accordingly.

I’ve included the Far North Line because I believe it is possible to electrify the line in this way provided you could get a good enough electricity supply to the required number of stations. Obviously, you may decide not to do it, as you may have enough quality diesel trains.

Conclusion

If you could run electric trains on the Far North Line using charging at stations,  you could run electric trains on any line in the UK.

 

 

 

April 30, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Will Southern Fit On-board Energy Storage To Class 377 Trains?

When I wrote Will London Overground Fit On-board Energy Storage To Class 378 Trains? in March, I didn’t look very hard at Southern’s collection of over two hundred Class 377 trains, of which forty-six are dual-voltage units.

I then read this article on the Railway Technical web site, which is entitled Southern’s 377/6 takes shape in Litchurch Lane. This is said in the article.

Regenerative braking capability was provided on the trains from the beginning but it was not used.

Things have improved in the last few years and some parts of the network can accept returned power, but the article adds this caveat.

If the train detects that the line is unable to take the extra voltage, the regenerated power is dumped into an on-board resistor grid.

So it would appear that the Class 377 trains could benefit from the addition of on-board energy storage.

How much of the electricity bill it would save, is I suspect known to the accountants and it should be a fairly simple analysis to see if on-board energy storage were to be fitted all or some of Class 377 trains.

But converting a small number of trains, would give Southern a train capable of replacing the Class 171 trains on London Bridge to Uckfield and the Marshlink Line.

Class 377 trains with an IPEMU capability on these routes might give operational benefits.

  • London to East Grinstead is already run by Class 377 trains. So the same trains could be used on both branches, which must be a benefit for the operator, in terms of driver and staff training.
  • Class 377 trains already run to the end of the electrification at Ore from Brighton, Eastbourne and Cannon Street, so it might be advantageous for both operator and passengers to continue some or all of these services to Ashford.
  • Rye and the other stations on the Marshlink Line would get a direct electric service to London.

The only problem is that Hastings wouldn’t get a high-speed service to St. Pancras.

April 3, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | 1 Comment

The Uckfield Branch Is Almost Ready For Longer Trains

These are some of the pictures, that I took on the Uckfield Branch of the Oxted Line.

I can’t believe that they’ve spent all this money, just to run an eight, ten or twelve car train formed by formations of Class 171 trains.

Increased Services To Uckfield

On my trip, the line seemed exceedingly busy for one with just a single service an hour. When coming back North, I was passed by a Class 171 train going South, somewhere South of Ashurst station, which prompted me to take the picture of the passing loop.

So it would seem that my observations, ehich also included the sight of a long string of Class 171 trains at South Croydon, could point to Southern  testing or training drivers on the line, to see if they can operate a more frequent service to Uckfield. After all, if the service were to be every half-hour to Uckfield, logic says, this would generate more business.  They’ve certainly got the capacity at Uckfield with a new station with a long twelve-car platform and a large car park, which is now free to all users at weekends.

There is also an electrified two trains an hour service from East Grinstead to Victoria, which calls at Oxted station. There is probably scope, if you get the service pattern right, to get a two trains per hour service from both Oxted Line termini that serves London Bridge, Victoria and Farringdon for Crossrail, either direct or with one very easy change.

An Uckfield To Oxted Shuttle

Could Southern be planning to link a two train per hour service from Oxted to Uckfield, with the East Grinstead trains, to effectively give passengers on the Uckfield Branch, a two train per hour service to London? Perhaps, they will be using an Oxted to Uckfield shuttle to fill in the gaps between the London trains, as I suspect there aren’t the paths available for all Uckfield trains to go to a London terminus.

There would just be an easy interchange at Oxted or East Croydon.

Timings could be adjusted so that.

  • A Southbound Victoria to East Grinstead service would allow cross platform interchange to the Oxted to Uckfield shuttle.
  • The Northbound East Grinstead to Victoria service would call at Oxted a couple of minutes after the shuttle arrived.

As Southern know the traffic numbers and passenger behaviour, I’m sure they’ll get the timings right.

The Bay Platform Puzzle At Oxted Station

On Sundays, the service on the Uckfield Branch is just a diesel shuttle between Oxted and Uckfield, with a same platform interchange to the East Grinstead to Victoria service at Hurst Green station.

So why have Network Rail electrified the bay platform at Oxted Station?

There are three possible reasons.

  1. Network Rail are just future-proofing the Uckfield Branch, so that if it is electrified, they can still run the Sunday shuttle.
  2. The East Grinstead branch is very busy at times and an East Grinstead to Oxted shuttle could be used to give passengers access to the less busy Uckfield services.
  3. There is the possibility, that the Oxted branch will be served by an IPEMU in the future. This platform is being prepared, so it can charge the train’s on-board energy storage.

With respect to reason three, Oxted to Uckfield would also be a very good test track for IPEMUs and driver training, especially as there is only one passenger train an hour in both directions.

Hopefully, the reason will become clearer when the May 2016 timetable changes are announced. Although, nothing is known at present!

Trains To Work The Uckfield Branch

In my view there are only two trains that could work the line.

  • Class 171 trains in an appropriate formation and as I wrote in Strings Of Class 171 Trains On Test, they certainly have acquired enough of these trains.
  • Electrostar trains with an IPEMU capability.

I’d always assumed that Electrostar IPEMUs would be based on Class 387 trains, as Southern run them on Thameslink and Gatwick Express. Porterbrook have also ordered twenty from Bombardier.

But after writing Are The TOCs Arguing Over The Class 387 Trains?, and getting a tip-off (Thank you! John!) , I took a look at the closely related  Class 377 trains and wrote Will Southern Fit On-board Energy Storage To Class 377 Trains?

The Class 377 train is an interesting possibility for conversion to an IPEMU for use by Southern.

  • Bombardier has said that it could convert other recently-built Electrostars to IPEMUs
  • The trains have regenerative braking, but it is not always used according to this article on railway-technical.com.
  • Southern have over two hundred Class 377 trains in various sub-types with three, four and five car sets.
  • Class 377 trains already work the East Grinstead Branch of the Oxted Line.

Because of the issue of the wasting of regenerative braking energy, there could be a financial case to convert some or all of Southern’s Class 377 trains to IPEMUs, whether they are used as such or not!

A mixture of the diesels and IPEMUs would also be an alternative.

I’ll now look in detail at the three alternatives. For this analysis, I’m assuming that Southern will want to improve the service with these objectives.

  • At least two trains per hour from Uckfield to Oxted.
  • Passengers can travel to and from both London Bridge and Victoria from both branches of the Oxted Line, with an easy change.
  • Longer trains to Uckfield.
  • Improved numbers of passengers using the trains between the Oxted Line and London.

I’m certain, that Southern could also have the long term objective of becoming an electric train only company, with all the positive operational and marketing benefits that that will give them.

They may also want to show that there is a demand for more capacity from the area to London, so that they can push for a reopening of the Wealden Line to Lewes.

Class 171 Trains To Uckfield

This solution works, as it has been running for years and given that Southern will soon have more trains, twelve car platforms, improved stations and car parking on the branch, it is an option they could implement for the May 2016 timetable change.

Electrostar IPEMUs To Uckfield

There are two ways this could be done.

Electrostar IPEMUs could work the whole line from London Bridge to Uckfield, charging their batteries on the London Bridge to Oxted section of the route. This would mean that the change to access Victoria would not always be a simple one at Oxted. It could involve a platform change at East Croydon.

I think a better alternative would be for Electrostar IPEMUs to work the current hourly London Bridge to Uckfield service and use another Electrostar IPEMU to work a shuttle between Oxted and Uckfield to fill in the half-hours and provide two trains per hour. It would charge the batteries in the bay platform at Oxted. This would not need another path between Oxted and London Bridge.

There are issues that must be settled before Electrostar IPEMUs can run to Uckfield.

  • The technology has been shown to work on a four-car Electrostar, but will it work on a two or three train formation?
  • How do you recover a failed Electrostar IPEMU from the Uckfield Branch? Southern wouldn’t want one incident to ruin everything!
  • Will IPEMUs be created from Class 387 trains or Class 377 trains? The latter trains already work the East Grinstead Branch.

Because of the problems with the availability of Class 387 trains, I suspect Class 377 trains could be converted.

But whatever train is used, there would be tremendous kudos for the company that ran the first successful battery trains in the UK.

A Mixture Of Class 171 And Electrostar IPEMUs To Uckfield

One of the problems of running an intensive train service, is what do you do when a train fails? Sod’s Law also states, it will always fail at the worst time, in the most difficult place on the network.

In other words, an IPEMU will one day, fail with a flat battery or some other IPEMU fault at Uckfield station. Another train or a Thunderbird locomotive will have to go in and pull the train out.

To facilitate this, all trains run by Southern have the same Dellner couplings. Wikipedia says this about the couplings, when highlighting the difference between Class 170 and Class 171 trains.

The Class 171 Turbostar is a type of diesel multiple unit (DMU) train built by Bombardier Transportation (previously ADtranz) at its Litchurch Lane Works in Derby, England, which is identical to the Class 170, except for the replacement of the BSI (Bergische Stahl Industrie) coupler with a Dellner coupling. This provision was made to allow emergency joining with Class 377 DC third-rail electric units.

Remember that some of Southern’s Class 171 trains have been converted from Scotrail’s Class 170 trains.

As a Class 377 train is an Electrostar train, it would appear that a Class 171 train could easily rescue a stalled Electrostar IPEMU or vice-versa.

So could a conservative and safety-first approach, see an hourly London Bridge to Uckfield service worked by Class 171 trains, with a shuttle from Uckfield to Oxted run by a Electrostar IPEMU?

The East Grinstead Branch

The East Grinstead Branch of the Oxted Line has a two trains per hour service to Victoria worked by Class 377 trains.

Would there be any benefits on running Class 377 trains with an IPEMU capability on this line?

  • If identical trains worked the Uckfield Branch, there must surely be operational advantages  and benefits in the training of drivers and other staff.
  • If the Oxted line is one of those with a poor power system, then there would be cost  savings on electricity.

It would not appear that there are other connections, that can use the IPEMU capabilities of the trains, except fantasy ones, like running down the Bluebell Line to Sheffield Park.

Conclusion

I believe we could see an improved service to Uckfield with the May 2016 timetable change.

I think that the service will still be run initially by Class 171 diesel multiple units, but that when they are available, Electrostar IPEMUs could be tried out on the Uckfield Branch possibly as a shuttle between Oxted and Uckfield.

As passenger numbers increase and IPEMU reliability and acceptance is proven, I suspect that this line could be one of the first in the UK to be run solely by IPEMUs.

 

 

 

March 30, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Future-Proofing The Uckfield Branch

The Uckfield Branch of the Oxted Line was open today, so as in A Trip To Uckfield, I had to use a Rail Replacement Bus from Crowborough, I took a train to Uckfield station and back from London Bridge. These are some of the pictures I took at Uckfield station.

I can’t disagree with what I said in the previous post.

The platform work is certainly being done to a standard and length, that should be good enough, if the Uckfield Branch is used to create a second Brighton Main Line, by extending the line past Uckfield to Lewes on the route of the former Wealden Line.

All of the platforms I have seen on the Oxted Branch seem to be capable of taking a twelve-car train.

Uckfield’s Long Single Platform

Although, I suspect that Uckfield itself could be a bit longer, especially as workers still seemed to be extending it further to the North.

I would think, that this long platform would enable two eight-car trains to be parked in the station, if there was a need in the Peak or because one of the trains had failed.

It’s just more future-proofing.

Oxted’s Bay Platform

Platform 3 at Oxted station is a South-facing bay platform, which is used to provide shuttle and other services down the two branches. In the last couple of years, it has been electrified, which is just more future-proofing, in case it was required to run an electrified shuttle to East Grinstead.

IPEMUs To Uckfield?

The Oxted Line is electrified from London Bridge as far as Hurst Green station, where the two branches split.

  • The East Grinstead Branch is electrified.
  • Uckfield Branch is not and is about twenty miles long.

As a typical Electrostar IPEMU based on say a Class 387 train, would probably have a range of at least fifty to sixty miles, it would appear that IPEMUs could work the London Bridge or Victoria to Uckfield service.

  • Between London Bridge and Hurst Green the trains would take thirty-two minutes, getting power from the third-rail electrification. Batteries would also be charged on this leg.
  • Between Hurst Green and Uckfield, they would take forty-two minutes and rely on battery power.

I suspect too, that third-rail IPEMUs could charge their batteries fully before they left London Bridge.

Platform 3 at Oxted station might also be useful for charging an IPEMU running a shuttle service on the Uckfield Branch.

In my view, the work done on the Uckfield Branch in recent months has created a line, that would be an ideal route for IPEMUs to provide the service.

  • Platforms have been sufficiently lengthened.
  • Signalling can probably already cope with the longer trains.
  • There is no more electrification required.

All that is needed is to add an IPEMU-capability to the required number of Class 387 trains and train the staff.

How Long Is An IPEMU?

There is one mathematical and marketing problem, that must be solved before trains are run.

Class 387 trains come in sets of four-cars and on Thameslink, typically run in formations of four-, eight- or twelve-cars.

What is the optimal length to run services on the Uckfield Branch, as determined by passenger demand?

And can this length of train be provided?

I’ve not seen anything for instance, which says how many IPEMUs can form a single train.

But I suspect that Bombardier wouldn’t design a train, without a multiple-working capability.

And of course, the Uckfield Branch has been future-proofed for twelve cars.

I suspect that the capacity of the Uckfield Line will be determined more, by the size of the car parks.

Onward To Lewes

This article in the Uckfield News is entitled £100k Budget pledge for Uckfield to Lewes rail line study.

So it is possible that the Uckfield Branch could be extended by about ten miles to Lewes, along the route of the disused Wealden Line.

Intriguingly, as Lewes is fully electrified an IPEMU train going from London Bridge to Lewes would do less distance on batteries than a train going from London Bridge to Uckfield and back.

One of the problems with extending past Uckfield, is that the trains would have to cross the B2102 by the station in the middle of Uckfield.

This used to be a level crossing and I’m certain, that this option will not be reinstated for safety reasons. It has to be said, that as an IPEMU could cross on battery power, there might be a better solution, than a traditional level crossing.

But IPEMUs have another advantage, in that they could use a short underpass without electrification. I just wonder whether that some clever design could squeeze the railway line under the road.

Conclusion

If the passenger demand is there, there would appear nothing in the design of the upgrade to the Uckfield Line, to stop IPEMUs being used to fulfil that demand.

 

 

February 22, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 3 Comments

A Trip To Uckfield

February 5, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 2 Comments