The Anonymous Widower

Virgin Reports Record Modal Shift From Planes To Trains

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

This paragraph sums up the shift from plane to train.

The operator said rail had a 29 per cent share of the traffic during the 12 months to July this year, and that annual passenger numbers on the route have now reached 700,000, compared with 244,000 ten years ago.

Virgin seem to say it’s all down to them, but various factors with flying are having an effect.

  • Airport delays due to drones and other operational problems.
  • In the case of Glasgow, the lack of a rail link to the airport, might encourage passengers to go the whole way by train.
  • Improved Railcard offerings.
  • Climate change awareness and guilt.
  • Ryanair’s problems.
  • Glaswegians taking long haul flights from Scotland and Manchester, rather than London.
  • Better awareness of rail travel.

I also wonder, if Scotland’s extensive electrification and large numbers of new trains has convinced a lot more Scots to travel by train.

I should also say, that my Scottish friends seem to be using trains rather than flying more often.

Conclusion

Let’s hope that when West Coast Rail take over on December 8th, 2019, the upward trend of market share continues, as it is surely better for the planet.

November 11, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

First Trenitalia Awarded West Coast Partnership

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

There is all the usual good things about more seats and services, but little of the plans for the trains except these two paragraphs.

A new fleet of 13 electro-diesel and 10 electric trainsets will be introduced from 2022. These would replace the Bombardier-built Class 221 Super Voyager tilting DEMUs used by Virgin Trains, which will get an intermediate ‘refresh’ by the end of 2020. The new bimode units would be used on services between London and North Wales, while the electric sets would provide capacity for the additional services to Liverpool. Eliminating diesel operation on the electrified sections of the route is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by 61%

First Trenitalia will invest £117m to refurbish the current fleet of 56 Alstom Class 390 Pendolino trainsets, providing ‘more comfortable’ standard class seats and additional luggage space, along with improved passenger information systems and enhanced toilets. More than £70m has been committed to providing free on train wi-fi and 5G capability.

This is all to be expected, as the replacement of the Class 221 trains has been indicated and the Pendelinos or Class 390 trains are now 

I will look at what this train order means.

West Coast Rail

There is now a Wikipedia entry for West Coast Rail, which will be the operating name of the new company.

The New Fleet

West Coast Rail are introducing a new fleet of thirteen electro-diesel and ten electric trains will be introduced from 2022.

I would suspect the following.

  • Both types of trains will be the same length and will appear identical.
  • Performance of both types of train will be identical.
  • Electro-diesel trains can probably stand in for the electric versions.
  • The trains could be faster, have better acceleration and braking and be able to make faster station stops, than the current Class 390 trains.
  • The trains will be ready for digital signalling.

Hitachi must be the front-runner to supply the trains, as they have sold lots of trains to First Group and some of the trains are built in Italy.

The lengths and seating capacity of the various trains are as follows.

  • Nine-car Pendelino – 217.5 metres  with 469 seats.
  • Elrven-car Pendelino – 265.3 metres  with 589 seats.
  • LNER Nine-car Class 801 – 234 metres with 637 seats

Note

  1. The Hitachi Class 801 train is only seventeen metres longer than a nine-car Pendelino, but has 36% more seats.
  2. The Class 801 train is also shorter than an eleven-car Pendelino, but has 8% more seats.

From personal experience, the LNER Class 801 trains appear less cramped than a Pendelino.

London and Liverpool Services

I will look at the direct Virgin services between Euston and Liverpool Lime Street stations

  • Northbound trains leave at XX:07 and take two hours and 12-14 minutes for the journey.
  • Trains wait for 26-28 minutes in the platform at Liverpool Lime Street station.
  • Sorthbound trains leave at XX:47 and take two hours and 12-16 minutes for the journey.
  • Trains wait for 4-8 minutes in the platform at Euston station.

It looks to me, that Virgin are using the platform at Lime Street station to balance the service. It does mean that trains probably keep more reliably to the timetable, but it hogs the platform at Liverpool Lime Street

The round trip time is five hours, so for an hourly service five trains are needed.

This frequency could need a second platform at Liverpool Lime Street station, but the station has now been remodelled and at least one extra platform has been added.

A second train to Liverpool in an hour, will need another five trains or a total of ten trains.

So does this mean that Euston and Liverpool service gets a dedicated fleet of new trains?

  • Liverpool Lime Street station used to have length issues, so are the trains the maximum length for the station.
  • Will the trains have better performance that the Pendelinos?
  • Will the trains be able to run at 140 mph on in-cab signalling?
  • The current journey times, probably date from before Norton Bridge Junction was improved.
  • The current journey time is two hours and twelve minutes.

A new timetable is coming in December 2022! Will this timetable and the new trains and improvements enable a Euston and Liverpool round trip of four hours?

This would mean.

  • A time between London and Liverpool of around one hour and fifty minutes, with a ten minute turnround time.
  • Two tph would need just eight trains, or only three more trains than the present.hourly service.
  • A clockface timetable.
  • A more than doubling of capacity between London and Liverpool.
  • It might also be possible to run all services into the same platforms at both ends of the route!

If the last point is is correct, West Coast Rail will need one less platform at both Euston and Liverpool Lime Street stations. It should be noted that platform space at Euston is at a premium.

It would also mean that passengers will always go to the same platform at Euston and Lime Street, so this should reduce the scrum at Euston.

Will All The New Electric Trains Be Assigned To London And Liverpool Services?

The new electric trains will probably be faster, have better acceleration and shorter station dwell times than the Pendelinos, so will be able to go between London and Liverpool in a shorter time.

  • In a mixed fleet of new trains and Pendelinos, some trains would be slower.
  • The new trains have more capacity than the Pendelinos.
  • If a Pendelino had to replace a new electric train, it would most likely be late and would cause problems for the booking system.
  • A mixed fleet on a route, would probably increase the cost of staff and their training.
  • If eight trains are needed for the two tph service, a fleet of ten new trains would allow for one in maintenance and a spare.

For these reasons, I feel that the London and Liverpool services will get the whole fleet of new electric trains, thus releasing the five current bog-standard Pendelinos  on the route, to strength other services.

London and Manchester Services

If the London and Liverpool services could be speeded up, I suspect that the same could happen to London and Manchester services.

  • At the present time trains can do the round trip in four hours and forty minutes, so fourteen trains are needed for the current three tph.
  • The current Class 390 trains are probably capable of doing a round trip in four hours and thirty minutes, but this doesn’t fit a three tph timetable very well.
  • But it does fit a four tph service and it would need eighteen trains to run the service.
  • Manchester would get a thirty-three percent increase in capacity to and from London.

So if the five Class 390 trains released by the new trains on London and Liverpool services are moved to London and Manchester services, these services can be increased to four tph.

There is nothing to say it will happen, but it is pathetically possible and West Coast Rail will have enough Class 390 trains.

The addition of a fourth service will be driven by passenger numbers and perhaps a need to introduce a better service to and from the intermediate stops of Milton Keynes Central, Stoke-on-Trent, Crewe, Macclesfield, Wilmslow and Stockport

London And Blackpool Services

Currently, Virgin Trains run four trains per day between Euston and Blackpool North stations, with  two Class 390 trains used for the service.

The Wikipedia entry for West Coast Rail, says that some of the new trains will be used on the Blackpool service.

This may happen, but the new trains will certainly release some Class 390 trains from the London and Liverpool service to reinforce the Blackpool service.

Alternatively, better performance of the new trains, may enable two trains on the Blackpool route to run to a much more passenger-friendly timetable.

London And Birmingham Services

The Wikipedia entry for West Coast Rail, says that some of the new trains will be used on the Birmingham service.

I can’t see this happening, although all current diesel services, through Birmingham will be replaced by Class 390 trains or the new bi-mode trains.

Class 221 Train Replacement

The Railway Gazette article says this about the replacement of theClass 221 trains.

These would replace the Bombardier-built Class 221 Super Voyager tilting DEMUs used by Virgin Trains, which will get an intermediate ‘refresh’ by the end of 2020. The new bimode units would be used on services between London and North Wales. Eliminating diesel operation on the electrified sections of the route is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by 61%.

Currently, there are twenty Class 221 trains.

  • They are five-car trains
  • They are 116 metres long
  • They can operate at 125 mph
  • They have a tilting capability.

These paragraphs from Wikipedia describe their Operation.

Virgin Trains (West Coast) uses the Class 221 units primarily from London Euston to Scotland via Birmingham New Street (despite the route being electrified throughout) and, from London Euston to Shrewsbury and, London Euston to Chester and North Wales. They are also used by a few London Euston to West Midland services.

The trains to and from Scotland often operate as double units and alternate between Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley (in turn alternating with TransPennine Express trains to and from Manchester Airport). When longer trains are needed for some of the busier services, a Pendolino will run through from and to London Euston, and the Super Voyager then fills in for it on the London to West Midlands route.

The trains on the North Wales route sometimes operate as double units. They run from London Euston and Chester and terminate at any of Chester, Holyhead, Bangor or Wrexham.

Note that they normally run as double units, which are 232 metres long.

As a nine-car Hitachi Class 800/801/802 train is 234 metres long, they would probably be able to call at any station, where a pair of Class 221 trains can operate.

If the trains are always assumed to run in pairs, then this means that there are ten operational ten-car trains.

So it looks like West Coast Rail will be ordering three additional bi-mode trains, as cover or to develop new routes.

London And Chester Services

I doubt there will be a major improvement in train timings between Euston and Chester, unless the new trains will be able to run at 140 mph using in-cab signalling between Euston and Crewe on the West Coast Main Line.

I also think, that as the new trains will be bi-modes and will run between Euston and Crewe using the electrification, that the chances of electrifying between Crewe and Chester will have decreased.

Extra Services

The Wikipedia entry for West Coast Rail does give some details on extra services under Services.

Conclusion

With some rigorous mathematics and the addition of ten new electric trains, I believe West Coast Rail will be able to offer the following improved services.

  • London and Liverpool – two tph in perhaps one hour and fifty minutes.
  • London and Manchester – four tph in under two hours.

Will there be any other service improvements on this scale?

 

August 15, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 7 Comments