The Anonymous Widower

Rolling Stock Leaser Beacon Rail Acquires 78-Train Fleet

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

European rolling stock leaser Beacon Rail has acquired the 352-vehicle fleet of Bombardier Class 220 and Class 221 Voyager’s from subsidiaries of Lloyds Bank and the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

The diesel-electric multiple units are currently in passenger service on the Virgin West Coast and the Arriva Cross Country franchises.

Is it just a tidying up by two banks of their asset portfolios or is there something more behind the transaction?

Beacon Rail Leasing is a ROSCO  or specialist train leasing company and this is their mission statement.

The Mission of Beacon Rail Leasing is to be the leading provider of high utility rolling stock to the Pan-European operator base. Management’s goal is to provide the company’s equity investors with superior returns by being the best managed and most efficiently operated rail operating lease company in the Pan-European Market.

So do they have a long-term plan for these trains?

In Modern Trains From Old, I write about three articles in the February 2017 Edition of Modern Railways.

This is a relevant extract from the previous post.

Bi-Modus Operandi

This is the title of an article by Ian Walmsley in the magazine, who makes the case for adding an extra coach with a pantograph to the Class 220, 221 and 222 and effectively creating a bi-mode train.

The idea is not new and I wrote about it in The Part-Time Electric Train, after a long editorial comment in Modern Railways in 2010.

If anything, the case for convcersion is even better now, as quality high-speed bi-mode trains are desperately needed.

As the article suggests, they could sort out some of the other problems with the trains.

There are quite a few suitable trains.

  • Class 220 trains – 34 trains of four cars.
  • Class 221 trains – 43 trains of a mix of four and five cars.
  • Class 222 trains – 27 trains of a mix of four, five and seven cars.

All are 125 mph trains.

ROSCOs are always looking for innovative ways to make money.

So perhaps Beacon have got together with Eversholt Rail Group, who are the owner of the Class 222 trains and Bombardier, the manufacturer of all three classes of trains to create a series of affordable 125 mph bi-mode trains.

I have no idea if these trains will be updated, but on the 20th of July, this document, which is entitled Rail update: bi-mode train technology, was published by the Department of Transport.

This is said about the new East Midlands franchise.

The next operator will be required to deliver modern, fast and efficient trains. This includes a brand new fleet of bi-mode intercity trains from 2022, delivering more seats and comfort for long-distance passengers. The provision of these trains will replace plans to electrify the line north of Kettering to Sheffield and Nottingham, improving journeys sooner, without the need for wires and masts on the whole route, and causing less disruption to services. We do not intend to proceed with plans to electrify the line from Kettering to Sheffield and Nottingham, and there will be further investment to come to ensure Sheffield is HS2-ready.

Ian Walmsley’s proposal of adding an extra coach, wouldn’t deliver brand-new bi-mode intercity trains, but it could deliver refurbished Class 222 trains with the following characteristics for the new East Midlands franchise.

  • More seats in one or more extra carriages.
  • One extra carriage would have an automatic pantograph to access the 25 KVAC overhead wires.
  • Trains could probably be any length from five-cars upwards, that the operatir wanted.
  • Refurbished interiors.
  • Wi-fi, 4G and power sockets.
  • Ability to run on electricity South of Kettering.
  • Diesel power North of Kettering
  • Update the current rheostatic to regenerative braking using energy storage in both electric and diesel mode.
  • 125 mph operating speed.
  • A modern and efficient electrical and control system.


  1. I suspect that some features and equipment from the new Aventra would be incorporated.
  2. The trains might cost a bit more to lease, but they would generate more revenue and ultimately profits.
  3. But the biggest advantage of going this route, is that the concept can be tested by building a single carriage and inserting it into a refurbished test train.
  4. After the concept is proven and a go-ahead is given, trains could be built steadily. It should also be said that Bombardier did a superb job in lengthening London Overground’s Class 378 trains twice!
  5. An efficient control system could reduce the amount of time the diesel engines were running.

Similar conversions could be performed on the Class 220 and Class 221 trains.


It will be interesting to see what happens.

July 27, 2017 Posted by | Energy Storage, Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Where Is London Midland Going?

This excellent article on Rail News is entitled Franchising timetable slips again.

This is the first two paragraphs.

THE Department for Transport’s franchising timetable is slipping again, possibly because of delays introduced by the snap General Election.

The winner of the West Midlands franchise should have been announced in June, ready for the new contract to start in October.

It is now getting very tight for a new West Midlands franchise, currently held by London Midland,  to start in October.

The Current Fleet

The current fleet is a mixture of diesel and electric multiple units, most of which are in reasonable condition, although it does need a certain amout of updating and the addition of some new or refurbished trains.

  • I don’t think any of the trains have wi-fi, whereas some of their competitors have it installed.
  • The several Class 153 trains probably need replacing or augmenting with larger units.
  • More 100 mph electric units are probably needed for the West Coast Main Line.
  • More Class 350 trains from TransPennine Express must be a possibility.
  • I wouldn’t be surprised to see some Class 769 trains going to the new franchise to work partially-electrified routes.

But the train fleet doesn’t look like it will need a massive number of replacement trains.

Planned And Proposed Lines Around Birmingham

The next few sections detail some of the developments either in progress or proposed.

The Chase Line

The Chase Line electrification should be complete by May 2018 and this will need more electric trains.

Although, I do wonder if the new franchise might use the new electrified route to introduce new services.

The Cross City Line

The Cross-City Line electrification to the newly-rebuilt Bromsgrove station should allow a new three trains per hour (tph) electric service to start across Birmingham in May 2018.

Unless of course, the electrification is late.

The Camp Hill Line

The Camp Hill Line is another cross-Birmingham route and effectively acts as a loop for the Cross-City Line.

It is a long term aim of Birmingham to reopen this line to passengers and the new franchise could include this line in their plans.

Wikipedia talks of a £170million pound scheme to reopen the line with the following features.

  • Three tph
  • Three new stations
  • A connection to Moor Street.

But as the line is open to freight and long distance passenger traffic, I do wonder if now that responsibility for this line has been devolved, that something simpler could be done in the short term to increase services across Birmingham.

Kenilworth Station

Kenilworth station should open this year on the Coventry to Leamington Line.

It will probably open with single-car Class 153 trains, which will probably be totally inadequate.

I wonder if the Coventry and Leamington Line could run back-to-back services with the Coventry to Nuneaton Line, thus creating a Leamington to Nuneaton service via Kenilworth, Coventry and Coventry Arena.

The North Warwickshire Line

The North Warwickshire Line links Birmingham with Stratford-on-Avon and has an alternative name of the Shakespeare Line.

Plans exist to extend this line South to Honeybourne station on the Cotswold Line.

Under Possible Future Development in the Wikipedia entry for the Warwickshire Line, this is said.

The Shakespeare Line Promotion Group is promoting a scheme to reopen the 9 miles (14 km) of line south of Stratford to Honeybourne where it would link to the Cotswold Line. Called the “Avon Rail Link”, the scheme (supported as a freight diversionary route by DB Schenker) would make Stratford-upon-Avon station a through station once again with improved connections to the South, and would open up the possibility of direct services to Oxford and Worcester via Evesham. The scheme faces local opposition. However, there is a good business case for Stratford-Cotswolds link.

I think we’ll see something in the new franchise about developing this line, as there is a lot of potential for a train operator.

  • Direct services between Stratford-on-Avon and Oxford, where there is a connection to Bicester Village. Tourists would love that!
  • Connection of the housing development at Long Marston to Birmingham.
  • Could Stratford-on-Avon or Honeybourne become the terminus of a service from Leamington, Coventry and Nuneaton.

It would also give DB Schenker, their freight diversion.

A Bi-Mode Train For The West Midlands

The lines around Birmingham are very much like those around Liverpool and Manchester, with a mix of electrified and non-electrified lines.

More trains are needed and needed very soon to make the most of the following.

  • New stations like Bromsgrove and Kenilworth.
  • New electrification like the Chase Line to Rugeley and the Cross-City Line to Bromsgrove.
  • Reopened lines like the Camp Hill Line.
  • Capacity on electrified lines through Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton.

I suspect that an ideal train for the West Midlands would have the following characteristics.

  • 100 or even 110 mph on 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • Perhaps 90 mph on diesel power.
  • Possibly a range of perhaps a dozen miles on batteries.
  • Four coaches.
  • A modern interior.
  • Wi-fi

This specification could have been written for one of Porterbrook’s Class 769 trains. Batteries might need to be added, which is something Porterbrook may do if a customer needs the feature.

But it doesn’t have to be a rebuilt train from the 1980s, as I suspect Class 755 trains, which are bi-mode Stadler Flirts as ordered by Greater Anglia would do the job well.

And who’s in the mix to run the new West Midlands franchise? Abellio, who recently won the new Greater Anglia franchise.

So could we see some flirting around Birmingham?

Regional Services

The current franchise runs services to Liverpool, but not Manchester.

Applications in the past have been made to run to Preston and I suspect that the new franchise will seek to improve services to Crewe, Liverpool, Manchester, Manchester Airport and Preston, although some of these routes will be opposed by Virgin.

As Manchester Airport seems to be developing as a rail hub, perhaps we’ll see the new franchise serving the important airport!


It will be interesting to see the plans of the new franchise, when they are announced.

But as this brief analysis and speculation shows, I think that there will be an order for new or refurbished bi-mode trains.


July 5, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 6 Comments