The Anonymous Widower

Speculation Increases Over Use Of HSTs

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

This is the second paragraph.

GWR and ScotRail are both introducing modified four and five-coach HSTs on various duties, with GWR’s operating regional services and ScotRail’s Inter7City sets to be used on its core inter-city routes.

I’ve yet to take a ride in either of the GWR oe Scotrail version of the trains and I shall be looking forward to riding both, later in the year.

I’ve only seem one close-up once at Dundee.

But they seem to be very slow in coming in to service.

Abellio Scotrail’s Proposed Fleet

Abellio Scotrail seem to have 54 Class 43 locomotives and 121 Mark 3 coaches, which according to Wikipedia, will be formed into 26 sets: 17 five-car and 9 four-car trains.

Routes include connecting Scotland’s seven cities.

GWR’s Proposed Fleet

Great Western Railway seem to have retained 24 Class 43 locomotives and 48 Mark 3 coaches, which will be formed into 11 four-car trains.

Routes include between Cardiff and Penzance.

Will These Short HSTs Be Successful?

A number of factors will come into play.

  • The trains are liked by passengers and drivers.
  • They are an ideal size for a lot of routes.
  • They have an excellent ride.
  • They have a lot of capacity for oversized baggage, like bicycles, surf boards, sporting equipment and even some urgent or perishable freight.

Only time will tell, but it is my view, they have a good chance of being a success.

Do Short HSTs Have Any Problems?

The two big problems are their age and that they are diesel-powered I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of the new franchises in the next few years, deciding to go all electric, with only a small number of diesel or hybrid trains.

Would Short HSTs be able to get an exception on heritage grounds?

The technology now is at a level, that by 2030, the UK railways could be diesel-free, with all trains electric, battery or zero-carbon hybrid.

Are There Any Other Routes Where Short HSTs Could Be Used?

I will break them down by franchis, in this incomplete list.

East Midlands Railway – Norwich And Derby

This new route for East Midlands Railway will be created by splitting the current service between Norwich and Liverpool Lime Street stations.

  • The route is 152 miles long.
  • I estimate that current trains will take three hours.
  • The service needs four-car trains at certain times.

Would it be possible for Short HSTs to do a Norwich and Derby round trip in six hours?

GWR – Cardiff And Portsmouth

If the Castles can work Cardiff and Penzance, could they work Cardiff and Portsmouth?

Scotrail – Far North Line

What has surprised me is that Abellio Scotrail are not going to use their Inter7City trains between Inverness and Wick stations on the Far North Line.

  • The distance is 174 miles
  • The current trip takes four and a quarter hours
  • The round trip is nine hours.

So could a short HST do the round trip in eight hours?

A single train could then run to the following schedule.

  • Leave Inverness at 0600.
  • Return from Wick at 1000.
  • Leave Inverness at 1400
  • Return from Wick at 1800

The train would arrive back in Inverness at 2200.

In Is This The Most Unusual Idea For A New Railway Service in The UK?, I wrote about a proposal to introduce Class 230 trains between Wick and Thurso at the far north of Scotland.

This Far North Metro, would sit well with a two train per day service to Inverness.

  • Mark 3 carriages have large windows for sightseeing.
  • A buffet and small bar could be provided.
  • The trains have space for parcels, urgent and perishable freight.
  • The service could link with the ferries to the Orkneys.

A subsidiary objective would be to bring some prosperity to a remote region.

Scotrail – Kyle Of Lochalsh Line

If Short HSTs can work their magic on the Far North Line, I just wonder if they could provide services on the Kyle Of Lochalsh Line.

  • The distance is 83 miles
  • The current trip takes two hours and forty minutes.

So could a short HST do the round trip in six hours?

As with the Far North Line, there would be a much improved service for both those that live along the line and the many visitors.

Transport for Wales – Cardiff And Holyhead

Transport for Wales run a two-hourly service between Cardiff and Holyhead stations. The rolling stock for some services will be a rake of four Mark 4 carriages, a Class 67 locomotive and a driving van trailer.

Isn’t this in effect a train with a similar purpose to a Short HST?

Obviously, Transport for Wales have got good reasons for not running Short HSTs on this route, but the choice of rolling stock does show similar thinking that led to the creation of the Short HST.

Transport for Wales – Heart Of Wales Line

The Heart Of Wales Line runs between Llanelli in West Wales and Craven Arms in England.

  • It is around 150 miles long.
  • Trains take a few minutes over four hours between Swansea and Shrewsbury stations.

It is one of those rail lines, that could be a serious tourism asset.

Would Short HSTs add to the experience?

Transport for Wales -North Wales Main Line

The North Wales Main Line is another line, where iconic Short HSTs might attract passengers.

Conclusion On Routes

There are certainly several places where Short HSTs could be gainfully employed.

Could Any Other Trains Be Used?

The specification could be something like this.

  • Four or five carriages.
  • Diesel, diesel bi-mode or hydrogen bi-mode.
  • Quality interior
  • 100, 110 or 125 mph top-speed.

Trains could be either new build or a rebuilt and/or refurbished older train.

Class 802 Train

Hitachi’s Class 802 train is in service.

  • It meets the specification.
  • It can seat somewhere between 326-342 passengers.
  • It can use electrification if it exists.

It would do a good job.

Class 755 Train

Stadler’s Class 755 train will soon be in service.

  • It meets the specification.
  • It is only a 100 mph train, but I suspect it can be uprated to 125 mph, as the electric version can handle this speed.
  • A four-car train  can seat 227 passengers.
  • It can use electrification if it exists.

It should do a good job.

Could HSTs Have Any Parcel Or Freight Applications?

This is always being suggested, but anything concerning freight or parcels must have the following characteristics.

  • They must be reliable.
  • They must be able to stick to a timetable.
  • They must have a hard-wearing interior, as they will have a hard life.
  • The small single doors would need to be replaced.
  • They must be able to accept standard freight pallets.
  • They must be quick and easy to load.

My biggest worry would be over the last two points. Would the trains just need three much modification to make them suitable for freight and parcels.

Could HSTs Have Heritage Applications?

Already a rake of Mark 3 coaches is going to be used with the  60163 steam locomotive.

But could HSTs in their own right find use in the heritage sector?

I think, that there could be space in the market for a few HSTs, which may have the sort of appeal to the younger generation, that steam trains had to my generation.

After all, I’ve had some of the best meals in my life in an HST.

Conclusion

They may be applications, but each will only use small numbers of trains.

So I’m afraid that some of these trains will go to scrap.

But then no-one can say, that they haven’t done well!

 

 

 

June 16, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

M4 Relief Road: Five Things The Planning Inspector Said

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

This is two of the introductory paragraphs.

Until First Minister Mark Drakeford cancelled it, despite the conclusions of a planning inspector.

After months of studying the evidence in a public inquiry, Bill Wadrup said there was a “compelling case” to build the relief road.

I have read a lot about this relief road and something definitely needs to be done to ease the problems of going between England and South Wales.

On the one hand my environmental and non-driving thoughts, lead me to conclude that the road shouldn’t be built and more transport should be transferred to rail.

But on the other hand, my economic thoughts say that it should be built.

What Happens Now?

In this second article on the BBC, this is said about the stance of the various politicians.

The plans have proved politically divisive too – there has been significant opposition in Labour and some ministers are thought to oppose the scheme.

Plaid Cymru is firmly against, while the newly-formed Brexit Party is backing the road.

Some Labour Newport politicians – particularly those from the Newport West constituency – have lobbied for the road to be built.

Labour AM Jayne Bryant said: “Air pollution is a serious public heath issue because of the congestion on the M4.

“The vast amount of traffic on the M4 around Newport is not local to Newport – that’s why public transport alone will not solve it.”

Plans for the scheme were revived in 2013 after the UK government offered borrowing powers that would allow for the upgrade.

Former Prime Minister David Cameron called the Brynglas tunnels “a foot on the windpipe of the Welsh economy” – and the UK government remains a supporter of the scheme.

Economics could mean that a new Welsh Government, will change their mind. Especially, if the M4 relief road becomes an election issue.

As I write this, news is expected of the closure of Ford’s Bridgend factory.

I doubt this is down to the state of the M4, but getting trucks to and from South Wales will become an increasing logistics nightmare. It may mean, that businesses thinking of setting up a Welsh factory will look elsewhere.

The Railway Must Be Key

The only alternative to the M4 is to make more use of the railway.

The Welsh Government is planning the following.

  • An extensive South Wales Metro, with new routes, trains and some new stations.
  • More Park-and-Ride stations on the South Wales Main Line.
  • Extension of Cardiff station.

But is it enough?

Probably not!

  • Does the double-track Severn Tunnel have enough capacity for all the trains to and from a hopefully-expanding Welsh economy?
  • Can freight trains get easily to and from the Channel Tunnel, Felixstowe, Liverpool, London and Southampton?
  • Is the rail route for travellers between South Wales and Heathrow an incentive to drive?
  • Are services between South Wales and Birmingham and Manchester a joke?

A lot of money needs to be spent!

And much of it in England not Wales!

Frederick Snow Was Right

In The Severn Barrage, I wrote about Frederick Snow’s plan for a tidal power station and airport in the Severn Estuary, based on a barrage.

I believe that if the Severn Barrage had been build correctly in the 1970s, that a new Southern M4 and rail route could have been built on top of the barrage.

Conclusion

It’s a mess!

In my view the most likely solution will be that traffic on the M4 gets so bad, that travellers and freight will move or get moved to rail.

 

I

 

June 6, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 4 Comments

If This Is The End For The £1.3bn M4 Relief Road, Radical Thinking Is Needed

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Wales Online.

The article is a good analysis of one of South Wales’ major transport problems; How do you relieve capacity on the ageing M4 around Newport?

I haven’t been on that section of road for perhaps twenty years or even longer, but I can’t ever remember the road, not being full of traffic.

Abolition Of Tolls Not The Smartest Move

This is a subsection of the article about the abolition of tolls on the Severn Crossing, where this is one sentence.

The abolitions of tolls, as predicted, have already driven a 20% rise in traffic levels on the existing M4, which will only put more pressure on its resilience.

Any sensible person could have told you that.

Surely, the extra capacity should have at least been planned before the tolls were abolished.

But then politicians like buying votes with unsustainable decisions that benefit their electorate.

As another example, look at the problems, Sadiq Khan’s fare freeze has caused Transport for London. But then you can’t expect a lawyer and politician to get their sums right. My late wife was a lawyer and many of our friends in Suffolk were in the same profession. Few had any clue about handling numbers properly.

June 4, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

£100m Train Test Complex Plans For Neath Valley Backed

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

This much-needed project, which some wag has called Project Hornby, seems to be moving on..

This brief description is from the article.

The complex would allow trains to be tested on special tracks – laid out on 4.5 mile (7.3km) and two mile (3.1km) ovals – at speeds of up to 100mph (160kph).

It will certainly test their ability to go round corners.

Hopefully, the test track will shorten the time, it takes new and updated trains into service.

May 10, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Global Centre Of Rail Excellence Takes A Step Forward With Formal Partnership Arrangements

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Wales Online.

This is the first two paragraphs.

The planned £100m Global Centre of Rail Excellence on the border of Neath Port Talbot and Powys will take a step closer to reality when councillors meet to formalise partnership arrangements next week.

Plans for the centre which were announced by the Welsh Government last summer involve a new facility to test trains in the UK.

In my view this centre is much needed, so that trains manufactured and modified in the UK, can be adequately tested in as short a time as possible.

Sending trains to be tested half-way across Europe, as currently sometimes happens, is not an efficient method of getting trains into service.

 

May 5, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Severn Toll Change

The title of this post is the same as that of a short article in the February 2019 Edition of Modern Railways.

This is the first paragraph.

There are concerns that the removal of toll charges on the M4 Severn Crossings on 17 December could result in a loss of rail freight traffic to road. The toll, for westbund vehicles only, was £16.70 per Heavy Goods Vehicle last year. It had been reduced from £20 in January 2018, when VAT ceased to be levied because the motorway bridges had passed from private to public ownership.

It now appears that it is now cheaper to get wine from Felixstowe to a warehouse in Avonmouth, by using a train to Cardiff and then using trucks, than by using a train to Bristol and a shorter truck journey.

Surely, the longer journeys by both diesel truck and probably diesel train, creates more carbon dioxide.

Obviously, the UK and Welsh Governments didn’t assess the carbon emission consequences of abolishing the tolls on the Severn Bridges.

I also wonder, if more people will now drive between South Wales and England, because of the incentive of a toll-free crossing, which will further increase carbon-dioxide emissions.

 

January 27, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 2 Comments

Cost Of Widening The Last Section Of The A465 Will Be More Than The Entire South Wales Metro

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

The article is a good example of comparing costs between road and rail and is well worth a read.

November 6, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

£18.75m Halton Curve Project Delayed A Further Six Months

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

I could just blame politicians for the latest project to be delayed, but it is not wholly their fault.

Train companies all over the UK, Europe and the Rest of the World have been ordering new trains at an unprecedented rate for the following reasons.

  • The replacement of clapped-out trains like Pacers.
  • Extra trains to provide extra services.
  • Faster trains to provide faster services.
  • Bigger or longer trains to provide more capacity.
  • New electric trains for newly electrified routes.
  • New trains often cost less to service and maintain.
  • Affordable finance for quality new trains is available in billions of pounds, euros and dollars of all kinds.

In addition a lot of trains are being updated with new technology like signalling, automatic systems and high-technology interiors.

All of these factors mean that there is a high level of train testing that needs to be done.

These test tracks are in Europe and listed in Wikipedia.

Note that Italy and Soain, who build substantial numbers of trains, don’t have a specialist testing centre.

I have read somewhere that each individual train has to be run for so many hours before it can be certified for service.

Consider

  • Bombardier is building 412 Aventras with lengths between three and ten cars.
  • CAF is building trains for Calodonian Sleeper, Keolis Amey Wales, Northern, TranPennine Express and West Midlands Trains.
  • Hitachi is building 182 Class 800/801/802 trains with length of five or nine cars.
  • Hitachi is building 80 Class 385 trains with lengths of 3/4 cars.
  • Siemens are building trains for Govia Thameslink Railway.
  • Stadler is building trains for Greater Anglia, Keolis Amay Wales and MerseyRail.

I haven’t done a detailed calculation must it must be at least 700 trains.

In addition there are various rebuilt and existing trains that will need to be tested.

  • ScotRail’s shorterned InterCity 125s
  • Porterbrook’s Class 769 trains.
  • Vivarail’s Class 230 trains.
  • Alstom’s Class 321 Hydrogen trains.
  • Crossrail Class 345 trains need further testing.

And there will be new orders for the following franchises and lines.

  • East Midlands.
  • London Underground Piccadilly Line.
  • South Eastern
  • West Coast Alliance

I haven’t done a detailed calculation but we must be talking of nearly a thousand new trains of which probably six hundred will be delivered in the next five years.

I’m no expert, but I feel that two short test tracks and short lengths of improvised test tracks in factories, isn’t enough to test all these trains and certify them for service.

I should also blow my own trumpet and I know that when I wrote project management software, I was probably the best programmer in the World, at automatically scheduling resources.

So I tend to know, an impossible scheduling problem, when I see one!

Conclusion

We do send trains to Europe to specialist centres like the one at Velim in the Czech Republic. But these centres are also used by other European manufacturers.

I am led to the inevitable conclusion, that we need more train testing facilities, in both the UK and mainland Europe.

The Welsh Government has come to the same conclusion and are planning a test track at Neath, which I wrote about in £100m Rail Test Complex Plans For Neath Valley.

What would help, would be if Chris Grayling oiled a few wheels with some money. It might even result in some Continental trains coming to Wales for specialist testing like curing them of dracophobia.

I would also have felt that CAF would be happy with a test track fifty miles away from their new factory in Newport.

Come on, Wales! Fire up the dragons and get started!

 

 

September 25, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

First D-Train With Transport for Wales In March 2019

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

This is the first paragraph.

The first Class 230 D-Train for Transport for Wales should be ready by March 2019, with all five in traffic from May 2019.

There are also other details.

The Train Formation

More details are given about the formation of the Class 230 trains.

  • The trains will be three cars.
  • The driving cars will have batteries.
  • The centre car will have four generators.

When the trains were D78 Stock on the London Underground, they ran as a six-car train formed of two half-trains containing.

  • DM – Driving Motor
  • T – Trailer
  • UNDM – Uncoupling Non-Driving Motor

The two UNDM cars were coupled together, to form the six-car train.

So is the formation of a Class 230 train as follows?

  • DM – Driving Motor with battery
  • T – Trailer with four generators
  • DM – Driving Motor with battery

I would suspect that the DM cars are identical.

Regenerative Braking

The trains will have regenerative braking, where the energy recovered will be stored in the batteries.

In the D78 Stock, the Trailer car wasn’t motored, so unless motors are fitted in this application, the two Driving Motor cars can almost be considered two identical battery locomotives with regenerative braking, that are solely responsible for moving the train.

The Trailer Car With Power

The Trailer Car in the middle of the train contains the four generators.

The Wikipedia entry for the Ford Duratorq engine, has a section for a 3.2 litre diesel engine, where this is said.

The 3.2 is an I5 engine used in the Ford Transit, the Ford Ranger, Ford Everest, Mazda BT-50 and the Vivarail D-Train.

The standard engine has a rating of 200 hp or 150 kW.

The Class 230 train would appear to have an installed power of 600 kW.

Interiors

The article says that everything the passenger will see inside the train is new!

Performance

This is a quote from Tristan Guyard of Transport for Wales.

On the Conwy Valley and Wrexham – Bidston routes, ‘230s’ will be quicker than most other new trains built in the UK at the moment. This is because of the high proportion of motored wheels and the use of batteries to provide additional power. When these trains come into service, we will be able to improve journey times and have a more flexible timetable as soon as 2019.

The Conwy Valley Line seems a stiff route, which might get a better service with a more powerful train.

The Wrexham-Bidston route currently takes 56 minutes to go South and 58 minutes to go North, which probably makes timetabling a half-hourly service a difficult job.

Will the Class 230 trains offer enough extra performance for these services?

Perhaps this is why they have four diesel power packs.

We will find out next year, what is the toughness of these remanufactured London Underground trains!

Thoughts On The Traction System

How Does The Power Compare To Other Trains?

How powerful is the 600 kW in the Class 230 train?

By comparison. a two-car Class 156 train, has 860 kW of diesel power.

On the other hand the three-car Class 230 train has regenerative braking using batteries.

Is The Class 230 Train A Serial Hybrid?

In a serial hybrid vehicle, a power source like a diesel engine charges the battery and the battery drives the vehicle and powers internal systems.

The classic serial hybrid vehicle is a New Routemaster bus, which is powered by a 138 kW diesel engine.

In this bus., the engine starts and stops to keep the energy in the battery within a particular range.

It is a very simple control system and is regularly used in many applications, where water or temperature levels are to be kept within range.

The layout of the Class 230 train with a central power car could easily provide power to the batteries in the two Driving cars.

The train’s control system would switch the engines on and off automatically as required.

If two diesel generators supplied the battery in each Driving Car, the train could even be considered a double serial hybrid.

So this should make the train reliable, as most components of the drive-train are duplicated.

Conclusion

I sometimes feel that the Class 230 train could end up as a heroic design failure.

But then the oldest trains in service on the UK’s rail network are the London Underground 1938 Stock on the Island Line.

London Underground rolling stock seems to have a longevity, that other trains seem to have been built without!

Or is it that as the elderly fleets of the Glasgow Subway, Merseyrail and the Northern City Line seem to keep soldiering on, that spending a large proportion of your working life underground, is good for trains?

 

July 5, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

£100m Rail Test Complex Plans For Neath Valley

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

This is the first three paragraphs.

Plans for a £100m rail testing complex to work on next generation train technology have been revealed in south Wales.

It is at an early stage but it could be built on the site of a mothballed opencast mine in Neath Port Talbot.

The preferred option would be to site it at the mothballed opencast mine at Nant Helen near the border with Powys and at the coal washery site next door at Onllwyn, which is still operational.

This Google Mao shows the masssive opencast mine near the village of nOnllwyn.

Note the rail connection at the Northern side of the mine.

Onllwyn has a Wikipedia entry, which says this.

With over 200 years of coal mining behind it, the parish was once home to five pits that employed hundreds of men. Now all that remains is a coal washery and coal processing plant. On the route of the former Neath and Brecon Railway, a freight only routes exists to the coal washery from the South Wales Main Line at Neath.

So at least it’s swapping an old industry, with one that could have a very sparking future.

As I said in Talgo Explores Options For Building UK Test Track.

So perhaps we do need another convenient test track!

The site would be even more convenient, if the South Wales Main Line were to be electrified, through Neath to Swansea.

 

 

June 25, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , | 2 Comments