The Anonymous Widower

Could Modern Technology And Developments Improve the Abbey Line?

The Abbey Line runs between Watford Junction and St. Albans Abbey stations.

It has a few problems.

Frequency

The track layout means that trains generally run every forty-five minutes, which is not very passenger friendly.

The line needs at least a half-hourly service and it would appear from Wikipedia and other sources, that this could be achieved by re-instating the passing loop at Bricket Wood station.

Elderly Trains

West Midlands Trains have promised new trains for the line, to replace the current Class 319 train.

Although, these Class 319 trains are much better than their arge, as I said in A Very Smart Class 319 Train.

As West Midlands Trains, use these trains for services on the West Coast Main Line, it probably helps with staffing and maintenance.

But these trains are being replaced by five-car Class 730 trains. Will the shittle train be replaced by another Aventra?

Reliability

Search the Internet for “Abbey Line St. Albans” and you find news stories with headlines like these.

  • No Abbey Flyer Trains Between St. Albans And Watford
  • Abbey Line Breaks Down Again
  • St. Albans Abbey Flyer Users Fund Raising To Improve Train Line
  • No Trains On St Albans Abbey Flyer Line After Fault With Shut

It would appear that the Abbey Line has a reliability problem.

A Simple Solution

The simplest possible solution to improve the line with a half-hourly service would be as follows.

  • Reinstate the passing loop at Bricket Wood station.
  • Acquire a fleet of three Class 730 trains of an appropriate length.

This Google Map shows Bricket Wood station.

Note the single platform with a single track.

There would appear to be plenty of space for a passing loop on the opposite side to the platform..

The Class 730 trains are Bombardier Aventras and I believe strongly, that all Aventras have batteries. So surely this is just the place to be innovative, with the use of battery technology?

The loop would be built without electrification and the track layout would be such that two trains could easily pass using battery power. Pantographs would be raised and lowered as required.

Suppose the loop started in the middle of the platform and perhaps extended for two hundred metres in the Watford direction..

  • The two trains would arrive at the station, with one on each side of the entry to the loop.
  • The Watford-bound train, would switch to battery power in the station and use the loop to pass the other train to continue towards Watford.
  • The Watford-bound train could either switch back to overhead power as soon as it regained the electrified track or wait until it is safely in the next station.
  • When the line is clear, the St. Albans-bound train would continue on its way, using overhead power.

It might also be possible for trains to go towards St. Albans using the overhead power and towards Watford on battery power, with all changeovers of power source taking place at the terminal stations, where turn-round time will be several minutes.

These are some pictures of Bricket Wood station.

My only worry is that the platforms may only be big enough for six-car trains.

Perhaps, to avoid lengthening the platforms at Bricket Wood station, two three-car Class 730 trains could be used?

Use of the five-car trains would probably require electrification of the loop, a second platform and a footbridge, which would be a much more expensive solution.

A Class 769 Train Solution

The Class 769 train is a bi-mode version of the Class 319 train. So could these work the simple passing loop without electrification?

At four-cars, they may be short enough to work the route without building a second platform at Bricket Wood station.

But the solution would probably need the current platform to be extended to accommodate two trains.

They would use diesel power to go through the passing loop.

Passengers would effectively get a twice as frequent service, using similar trains to the current ones.

A Class 230 Train Solution

As West Midlands Trains are also using Class 230 trains on the Marston Vale Line, which can work on electric, diesel and battery power, I can’t see any reason, why these trains couldn’t be used on the Abbey Line.

They would use diesel or battery power to navigate the loop without electrification.

These trains are affordable, short in length and are designed for remote servicing, but is capacity  and speed sufficient?

A Tram-Train Solution

The same Stadler tram-trains with batteries, that are being used on the South Wales Metro could also be used on the Abbey Line.

They would operate as trains, in the same ways as the Aventras, using batteries to navigate a passing loop without electrification.

This solution would have the disadvantage of West Midlands Trains introducing another type of train, but the tram-trains could go walkabout in Watford and/or St. Albans at the two ends of the route.

Under Past Proposals in the Wikipedia entry for the Abbey Line, this is said about a possible conversion to light rail.

In October 2009 Secretary of State for Transport Lord Adonis announced a plan to increase frequency on the line by allowing Hertfordshire County Council to lease the line from Network Rail and converting it to light rail from 2011. It was hoped that this would be possible for the same amount of subsidy the line received, as the new infrastructure required, such as a passing loop would be cheaper for light rail than heavy rail. Longer-term proposals envisaged extensions into Watford town centre via Clarendon Road and High Street, and St Albans city centre, possibly as far as St Albans City railway station, and possible re-instatement of the line to Hatfield.

This Google Map shows Watford Junction station

Note.

  1. The Abbey Line leaves the map in the North East corner.
  2. Clarendon Road runs South from the middle of the map.

I think it would be possible to build a bridge to take the trams over the railway.

There could even be a high-level platform for the tram-trains above the station with connections to the current heavy rail platforms.

What I have outlined here, is a classic use of a tram-train to allow trains on a heavy rail route, to extend to a town or city centre, by operating as trams.

Could Thr Abbey Line Be Linked To The Troubled Croxley Rail Link?

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the lines at Watford Junction.

Note.

  1. The Abbey Line goes North from Platform 11.
  2. The lines shown in orange are the Watford DC Line of the London Overground, that go to London via Watford High Street station.
  3. The dotted purple line is the proposed route of the Croxley Rail Link.

I can’t find any references on the Internet to the possibility of a connection between the Abbey Line and the Croxley Rail Link.

I doubt that Metropolitan Line trains could go to St. Albans.

  • They are too long at 133 metres.
  • Extensive modifications to the track and platforms would be needed.
  • They lack the batteries to navigate the proposed passing loop.

But Stadler’s tram-trains might be able to go to Croxley station.

  • They are under forty metres long.
  • They weigh under seventy tonnes, which could help in the bridge design.
  • They could work the Abbey Line using the overhead power.
  • Batteries would enable using the proposed passing loop at Bricket Wood station.
  • I’m sure that Stadler’s innovative engineers could make their tram-trains run on third and London Underground rail electrification.
  • Battery power could be used on some of the route between Watford High Street and Croxley stations.

I’m sure that after sorting out Cardiff Bay, Stadler’s engineers will welcome the challenge of Watford Junction.

Developments At Watford Junction Station

Over the last few years, there have been various plans about improving train services through Watford Junction station.

  • It has been proposed that Crossrail is extended through the station.
  • The Bakerloo Line will be extended and it has been proposed that it terminate at Watford Junction.
  • West Midlands Trains will add extra services.
  • How will HS2 affect services on the West Coast Main Line?

In addition there are plans for more car parking and other developments at the station.

It strkes me that there is a possibility that an innovative architect will come up with a striking scheme, that could enable bridges for trams across the West Coast Main Line.

Conclusion

There are various possibilities to improve the Abbey Line, brought about by recent innovations in the use of batteries on trains and tram-trains.

In all cases, the line gets a half-hourly frequency from new trains.

On the other hand, as with the Croxley Rail Link, there seems to be a lot of ideas and plans in Watford, but no real leadership to get anything built at an affordable cost!

 

 

June 24, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 2 Comments

Kenilworth Station – 1st May 2018

Kenilworth station opened yesterday on the last day of April 2018.

The design is slightly different.

  • There are two footbridges.
  • There are two lifts
  • There is one track and platform, but with obvious space to add a second track and platform.
  • There is adequate car and cycle parking.

But most surprisingly, it has a combined cafe and booking office, where I had a quick cup of quality chocolate and could have used one of the many sockets to charge my phone.

Currently the service at the station is a one train per hour (tph) shuttle using a one-coach Class 153 train between Coventry and Leamington Spa stations.

The capacity of the route will be doubled, when the train is replaced with a two-car Class 172 train, that will be cascaded from the London Overground, when new Class 710 trains can work the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.

It could be at least doubled again, by adding the second track and platform through Kenilworth station, which would allow trains to pass and a frequency of at least two tph.

There must also be possibilities to extend the service at both Coventry and Leamington Spa.

Leamington Spa To Nuneaton

It might seem logical to extend the service at Coventry along the Coventry to Nuneaton Line to Nuneaton station, where there is the bay platform, that Coventry lacks.

  • This would mean that the service would have to cross the tracks of the West Coast Main Line.
  • Coventry to Nuneaton takes twenty-two minutes
  • Coventry to Leamington Spa takes nineteen minutes.
  • The Class 172 trains, thatwill be working the route are 100 mph trains, whereas the current Class 153 trains, are twenty-fivw mph slower.

If the problem of crossing the West Coast Main Line could be solved, I suspect that a two tph service between Nuneaton and Leamington Spa stations could be run with only two trains.

CrossCountry

CrossCountry services between Bournemouth and Manchester Piccadilly stations, pass through Kenilworth station.

If the second platform is built at Kenilworth, could these trains stop?

Kenilworth Castle

Kenilworth Castle is a ten minute walk from the station.

Will the station bring more visitors?

Conclusion

Kenilworth station will become increasingly important.

 

May 1, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 1 Comment

New Passenger Rail Routes In The West Midlands

Looking for possible privately-funded rail projects, I have come acrossseveral proposed rail route re-openings and improvement schemes in the West Midlands on Wikipedia.

Birmingham-Peterborough Line

The Birmingham-Peterborough Line is a major route between Birmingham and the East.

I am including it, as there are aspirations to add new stations at Castle Bromwich and Fort Parkway.

Between Birmingham and Nuneaton must be a candidate for in-fill electrification, especially as this section has two freight terminals.

Camp Hill Line

The reopening of the Camp Hill Line across Birmingham has been a long term ambition of the City Council for years.

The current status of the proposed development of the Camp Hill Line is given in Wikipedia under Future Plans.

This is the last part of that section.

In 2017, the newly elected Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street pledged to get work started on restoring services to the line by 2020. And officials were said to be investigating the business case for a fourth station at Balsall Heath (previously called Brighton Road) This would mean Lifford and Camp Hill would be the only stations not to be reopened.

In August 2017, West Midlands Trains announced plans as part of their franchise deal that the line would reopen by December 2019 as part of a £1 billion investment in the West Midlands. This included a new station at Moseley.

In February 2018, Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, said that the viaduct would not be needed, as Hereford to Birmingham New Street trains could be diverted along this line, meaning that extra capacity at Birmingham New Street was not required to open this line.

Note that the original completion date for this scheme was 2025 and it has now been moved forward to December 2019.

The current scheme seems to include the following.

  • Four new stations at Balsall Heath, Moseley, Kings Heath and Hazelwell.
  • A possible connection into Birmingham Moor Street station.
  • Birmingham New Street to Worcester services would use the Camp Hill Line.

It seems that this scheme provides a rail service to a new part of the city and also releases capacity at Birmingham New Street. I think there’s some Brummie cunning at work and that a simpler scheme is being created, that could involve.

  • The new stations.
  • None or very little new electrification, track and signalling.
  • No connection to Moor Street station.
  • Services from Birmingham New Street to Kings Norton, Redditch and Bromsgrove using new Aventra trains running on batteries on the Camp Hill Line, which would call at all stations.
  • An improved Birmingham New Street to the new Worcester Parkway station using new CAF Civity diesel trains, along the Camp Hill Line.
  • Will CrossCountry’s Cardiff-Nottingham service be rerouted via the Camp Hill Line?

The New Street to Worcester services could be rerouted earlier, if it was necessary to squeeze more capacity out of New Street station.

Note that if all services stopped at Bromsgrove, when it gets its electric service on the Cross-City Line in May 2018, passengers for a lot of destinations, would surely change at Bromsgrove, rather than New Street!

Darlaston Loop

The reopening of the Darlaston Loop has been suggested by Andy Street, who is now Mayor of the West Midlands.

I suspect that this reopening fits within a larger overall scheme.

South Staffordshire Line

Network Rail and Midland Metro, both seem to have aspirations to run services on the South Staffordshire Line.

Re-opening Proposals in the Wikipedia entry gives full details of the proposals. Included are.

  • Freight trains on a single track.
  • Midland Metro on a single track with passing places.
  • National Rail services.
  • Tram-trains sharing with freight trains.

This is the last entry.

In September 2017, the new franchise operators, West Midlands Trains, plans to restore disused railway lines including the South Staffordshire Line which would be an extension of the existing Birmingham to Stourbridge Junction service which it plans to extend to Brierley Hill in the future.

On the Wikipedia entry for the Midland Metro, under Wednesbury and Merry Hill – Extension, this is said.

From Line 1 in Wednesbury, the Brierley Hill Extension (WBHE) would follow the disused South Staffordshire Line, through Tipton to the vicinity of the former Dudley Town station (which closed in 1964 and was later the site of a freightliner terminal), then on-street into Dudley town centre. It would leave Dudley alongside the Southern Bypass to access the railway corridor, leaving it at the approach to the Waterfront/Merry Hill area and Brierley Hill and then on to Stourbridge.

Centro has stated that the WBHE would provide 10 trams per hour, alternately serving Wolverhampton and Birmingham. Journey time from Brierley Hill to West Bromwich was stated as 31 minutes.

There are a lot of possibilities.

Various things might help in the design.

  • There is space for two tracks. It has been suggested that one is for trams and one for freight.
  • Midland Metro’s trams can run on battery power, so no electrification is required, if all other trains are diesel-powered.
  • Midland Metro’s trams and West Midlands Trains’s new diesel trains are both built by CAF, so are they compatible enough to share a track?
  • Modern signalling gets better and better.

I think we might see a very innovative plan for the use of this line.

Sutton Park Line

The Sutton Park Line is another line in the est Midlands area, that could be re-opened.

Re-opening in the Wikipedia entry gives full details of the proposals.

In February 2008 it was announced that Birmingham City Council, Network Rail and Centro were launching a feasibility study to assess the possibility of re-opening the line to passenger services. In January 2015 the line was put on hold for reopening to passenger trains. In April 2017, the proposals were being looked at again as part of a spin-off to the HS2 scheme. In December 2017, it has been proposed that the line could reopen as part of the Governments plans to reopen lines closed in the 1960s and later cuts by British Rail.

I would think, that one of the main reasons, this line is being reopened is that is connects several of the other suburban lines in Birmingham. It also allows freight trains to by-pass Birmingham New Street station.

Walsall-Wolverhampton Line

This is said about reopening a passenger service on the Walsall-Woverhampton Line in Wikipedia under Future Plans.

The West Midlands Combined Authority have announced their intention to restore a passenger service to the line by 2027, along with new stations at Willenhall and Darlaston James Bridge.

Note.

  1. At the present time, this route is for freight.
  2. It has had passenger services on and off for fifty years.
  3. It can be used as a diversion route around engineering works.

If a direct service were to be reinstated it would take just twelve minutes, as opposed to an hour via Birmingham New Street station.

It strikes me that this would be a simple route to upgrade.

Walsall and Wolverhampton stations are electrified.

The route is surely short enough to be handled by a battery-powered train.

Signalling is probably up-to-date.

There is also this report in the Wolverhampton Express and Star, which is entitled Spring Satement: £350m Housing Deal For The West Midlands, which says this.

The deal comes after ministers revealed plans to bring the line between the town and city back into use, including new railway stations at Willenhall and James Bridge, Darlaston.

Things seem to be happening on this route.

Possible New Stations

I’ll summarise the possible new and reopened stations.

Could a common design be created, so that the cost of stations is reduced?

Is There A Plan?

The West Midlands Combined Authority and the train operation company for the area; West Midlands Trains, seem at a first look, taken all the freight and disused routes and seeing how they can be linked into a network to the benefit of Birmingham.

But I think it is more than that!

The trains and trams are a varied fleet.

  • CAF Urbos trams. – Can be fitted powered with batteries
  • Bombardier Aventra trains in three- and five-car units. – Might be possible to be powered with batteries
  • CAF Civity diesel-multiple units in two- and four-car units.

Full details have not been given about the Aventras, but it could be that all trams and trains are capable of moving for perhaps a dozen miles under their own power. Obviously, the CAF Civitiies can go a lot further on diesel fuel.

I have some questions.

  • Could all these trains, mean that the lines can be added to the current network without installing too much electrification?
  • Is it only the South Staffordshire Line and the Darlaston Loop, where new track needs to be laid?
  • CAF are a company noted for innovation, who are opening a factory in Wales. Have they got a Spanish Surprise to help the WMCA create a world-class network?
  • Are architects and engineers working on a unique platform design, that all trains can share?
  • Could the Camp Hill Line and the Walsall-Wolverhampton Line have a passenger service, as soon as there are trains to run the service?

I wonder if there is a plan to bring in new routes continuously!

  • Electric trains  on the Chase Line to Rugeley Trent Valley station and to Bromsgrove station will be first in 2018.
  • Walsall and Wolverhampton using the Wallsall-Wolverhampton Line
  • New Street and Worcester using the Camp Hill Line.
  • New Street and Bromsgrove using new stations on the Camp Hill Line.
  • Coleshill Parkway tand Walsall using the Sutton Park Line.
  • Walsall and Stourbridge Junction using the South Staffordshire Line and diesel trains.
  • Wednesbury and Merry Hill using the South Staffordshire Line and trams.

Note.

  1. The early bonus of the new electrification.
  2. Walsall and Bromsgrove will develop into well-connected hubs.
  3. Euston and Walsall will be introduced by West Midlands Trains.
  4. As the network expands, new trains are delivered.
  5. Stations will be added continuously.
  6. All parts of Greater Birmingham will benefit.

Is this the way, Andy Street will market the network to his customers?

 

 

 

 

March 27, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vivarail To Supply Three D-Trains To West Midlands Trains

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

This order has been a long time coming and the three Class 230 trains will be used by West Midlands Trains on the Marston Vale Line, from December 2018.

Whether they will be diesel or battery versions of the Class 230 trains is not stated.

March 1, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Enlightening Facts On Battery Trains

This article In Rail Magazine is entitled Vivarail Targets Summer Running For New Battery Unit.

The article says some enlightening things about the battery version of the Class 230 train.

  • Four batteries are provided on the two-car train.
  • The total battery capacity is 106 kWh.
  • An eight minute recharge is needed at the end of each run.
  • A ten minute recharge gives a range of fifty miles.

Nothing is said of the speed and acceleration of the train on battery power.

How would these figures fit Vivarail’s order for three trains from West Midlands Trains to serve the Marston Vale Line?

  • The route is approximately twenty-five miles long.
  • Trains currently take forty-three minutes with ten stops.
  • Overhead electrification could be available at both ends of the line, as both Bedford and Bletchley station are on 25 KVAC  main lines.

Do the sums!

February 22, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

What A Waste Of Space!

This picture shows two two-car Class 170 trains working together as a four-car unit.

Look at how much space is wasted in the length of this train, by the two middle cabs!

If these Class 170 trains were to be replaced with a four-car train, this would surely increase the capacity of the train, as there would be more space to put seats!

It should be noted that West Midlands Trains have ordered some four-car CAF Civity trains.

 

December 29, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Big On The Inside And The Same Size On The Outside

This morning, I took a ride in one of London Overground’s Class 378 trains to Shoreditch High Street station, so that I could have Leon’s version of a Full English Breakfast and a real mug of tea, in their restaurant in Spitalfields. And all for £5.25!

Afterwards, I walked the short distance to Liverpool Street station and took one of Crossrail’s new Class 345 trains to Stratford station.

As the Class 345 train was more or less empty, I was able to take these pictures of the inside.

Several design features are noticeable.

  • The wide flat floor
  • The walk-through design of the train.
  • The wide aisle in the centre.
  • The seats cantilevered from the side of the train.
  • The heating under the seats.
  • The spacious lobbies.
  • The large windows.
  • The way the body sides bulge outwards to create more width at just below shoulder height.

The design seems to create more room for passengers and because of the wide aisle and large windows, the room might even look more spacious than it actually is.

It is certainly a more pleasing train to ride in, than the Class 378 train, I rode ealier, which is very much one of the better trains from the previous generation.

Later I rode on one of Thameslink’s Class 700 trains.

  • The lobbies are wide.
  • Seats obscure the view, as they are not aligned with the windows.
  • The heating takes up space along the side of the train.

But as the sides of the train don’t seem to be so curved, the aisle between the seats seems to be narrower. A lady wheeling a case between the seats would have hit people, if anybody had been sitting in the seats.

I should ride in a full Aventra in the Peak and see if my everybody appears to have more space. I did later!

On the 19th of December, I rode from Romford to Liverpool Street in an Aventra during the morning Peak.

  • The train was perhaps three-quarters full.
  • For some parts of the journey, all seats were taken, but the standees didn’t seem to have too much trouble standing in the smooth-riding train.
  • Only a few were strap-hanging and several were using the backs of seats for support.

It did seem to be a better experuience than other commuter trains.

Others ideas and consequences have emerged in recent months.

Aventras Have Underfloor Heating

The Greater Anglia Class 720 trains have underfloor heating as I detailed in Aventras Have Underfloor Heating.

Underfloor heating would appear to release space for passengers. Especially when it is coupled with seats cantilevered from the sides of the train.

Aventras Have No Doors Between Cars

Tthis article on Global Rail News, which is entitled First look around Greater Anglia’s Bombardier Aventra mock-up, says this.

There will be no doors separating vehicles.

There is just a wide lobby, where the cars are joined together.

This shows the join in a Class 345 train.

Regularly in busy times on London Overground’s Class 378 trains or London Underground’s S Stock, similar areas are full with people.hanging on to the vertical handles or wheelie cases.

It’s a design that seems to work well and again it makes more space available for passengers.

Aventras Can Have 2+3 Seating

This picture shows the inside of Greater Anglia’s Aventra mockup.

Could the 2+3 seating be wider and more comfortable, as Aventras seem to be wider inside at shoulder height, due to the innovative body design?

Note the power sockets in the front of the seats.

Aventra Car Length And Number of Cars Is Flexible

The first two fleets of Aventras ordered had different length cars and different number of cars.

Orders have now been placed for trains with twenty and twenty-two metre length cars and three, four, five, seven, nine and ten cars.

It also seems that it is very simple to change train length by adding and removing cars as required.

Greater Anglia

Greater Anglia have stated that they are ordering ten-car Aventras with similar train lengths to twelve-car sets of their current rolling stock.

Lengths and passenger capacity are given as follows in Wikipedia.

  • Ten-car Class 720 – 243 metres – 1,145 seats
  • Twelve-car Class 321 – 239.4 metres – 927 seats
  • Twelve-car Class 360 – 244.08 metres – 840 seats

This looks like an over thirty percent increase in seats in a train around the same length, with the following advantages

  • Little if any expensive platform extensions. Especially at Liverpool Street station.
  • Trains will fit existing depots and sidings.
  • Nearly all trains will be fixed formations.

The only disadvantage is that Greater Anglia won’t be providing any First Class seats. Judging by the lack of complaints, few seem to be bothered.

But being less complicated, it would probably be a more affordable train to run and maintain.

In this Greater Anglia example, another factor helps.

The Aventra will only have two cabs, whereas three Class 321 or Class 360 trains will have six.So the length released by four cabs is available for passengers.

c2c

It would appear that the c2c order, where ten-car Aventras replace twelve-car Electrostars, is another application of the same philosophy, that was used by Greater Anglia.

This is an extract from c2c’s Press Release.

The Aventra is one of the fastest-selling trains in the UK rail industry, and these new trains will be manufactured at Bombardier’s factory in Derby. Each new train, which will operate in a fixed set of 10-carriages, will include over 900 seats, plus air-conditioning, wifi, plug sockets and three toilets onboard. Each new carriage is larger and contains more seats than on c2c’s current trains, so each 10-carriage new train provides capacity for 15% more passengers onboard compared to a current 12-carriage c2c train.

So three x four-car trains working as a twelve-car train are replaced by one ten-car train, just as with Greater Anglia. Note the claimed fifteen percent capacity increase!

West Midlands Trains

West Midlands Trains have ordered three sets of Aventras.

  1. 16 x five-car 110 mph trains for long-distance services.
  2. 29 x five-car 110 mph trains for electrified suburban services.
  3. 36 x three car 90 mph trains for Redditch to Lichfield Trent Valley.

Consider.

  • Fleet 1 will probably be used to augment the Class 350 trains in pairs on long distance services.
  • Could these work in pairs that split and join en route to save paths into Euston?
  • Fleet 3 will be direct replacements for the Class 323 trains and will probably work in pairs.
  • Would a five-car train have a similar capacity to two three-car trains working as a pair?
  • Would some of the five-car trains in Fleet 2 be fitted with diesel powere-packs or batteries, so they could run services on lines without electrification?

West Midlands Trains must have a plan, or there will be a large number of trains sitting in sidings.

Conclusion

It looks to me like Bombardier have designed a train, where more passengers can be accommodated, without sacrificing passenger comfort.

December 18, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 2 Comments

A Detailed Look At A Three-Car Aventra

In Bombardier and CAF To Make 413 Carriages For New West Midlands Franchise, I wondered if the three-car Aventras ordered by West Midlands Trains had a battery capability.

The Train Weight

I need a good estimate of the weight of a typical Aventra carriage.

Wikipedia gives the following values.

  • Bombardier Aventra – A nine-car Class 345  train weighs less than 350 tonnes, which gives a figure of 39 tonnes per car.
  • Siemens Desiro City – A twelve-car Class 700 train weighs 410 tonnes, which gives a figure of 34 tonnes per car.
  • Bombardier Electrostar – A five-car Class 378 train weighs 159.5 tonnes, which gives a figure of 32 tonnes per car.

Bombardier seem to play their weight figures close to their chest, so I’ll just use a figure of 35 tonnes per car. But it does appear that Aventras, could be heavier than Electrostars.

The Battery Weight

I tend to think in terms of New Routemaster hybrid bus batteries, which have a capacity of 75 kWh.  Surely hybrid bus batteries are fairly common and if you were needing a battery for a new application, it might be where you will start.

The best estimate I can make is that a 75 kWh battery weighs about 600 Kg. I will use this until I find a better figure.

Could the weight of the battery explain the increase in weight between an Electrostar and an Aventra?

The Gangway Weight

One thing that could add to the weight of the Aventras of West Midlands Trains, is the fact that they will be built with a gangway.

Will they be able to split and join automatically in a couple of minutes?

Aventras Have A Lot Of Traction Motors

From what I’ve seen on the Internet, it appears that Aventras have a lot of powered bogies.

A Three-Car Aventra

I think that a three-car Aventra would have a formation something like.

  • DMSLW – Driver Motor Standard – Wheelchair and Universal Access Toilet
  • PMS – Pantograph Motor Standard
  • DMS – Driver Motor Standard

Note.

  1. I estimate it would have about 230 Standard Class seats in a traditional layout. or perhaps 150 in a Metro layout.
  2. There would be a couple of wheelchair spaces.
  3. Would a toilet be provided on the train? Crossrail puts them in the stations! Does Birmingham?
  4. Each car would be fully motored.
  5. Could each car have its own battery, so they handled their own regenerative braking efficiently?
  6. All the cars would be connected together by an electrical bus fed from the pantograph car.
  7. West Midlands Trains have said the new trains will be 90 mph units.

The capabilities are not unlike the current Class 323 trains.

The Aventras have advantages over the older trains.

  • They are articulated, which gives more space.
  • They are wider inside due to thin, strong car sides and underfloor heating.
  • Design of lobbies has improved.
  • A mixed traditional/metro interior can be used as in Crossrail’s Class 345 trains.

They could also be designed to a slightly longer length if required. But this might have operational and depot issues.

I expect Bombardier will have used every trick and dodge to get this order.

What Size Of Battery Is Needed To Handle Regenerative Braking?

I’ll do the calculation for one car with perhaps a hundred passengers running at 90 mph or 145 kph.

I’ll assume each passenger weighs 80 Kg with all their baggage, which gives a one-car mass of 43 tonnes.

The amount of energy in that one car is a very surprising figure of just 10 kWh.

How Far Could A Three-Car Aventra Go On Battery Power?

In an article in the October 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, which is entitled Celling England By The Pound, Ian Walmsley says this in relation to trains running on the Uckfield Branch.

A modern EMU needs between 3 and 5 kWh per vehicle mile for this sort of service.

The three-car Aventra will be an efficient train, but it will have features like air-conditioning, so I suspect that a figure of 4 kWh per car-mile will be achievable, if the following is done.

  • Air-conditioning is very intelligent and efficient.
  • The train is very well insulated.
  • All electrical equipment on the train like lights, toilets and doors are efficient.
  • Operation ensures batteries are fully charged before entering battery sections.
  • Pantograph operation will be intelligent to snatch a sneaky charge on a short length of electrification.
  • Regenerative braking energy is stored on the train.

3 kWh per car-mile may even be possible.

Suppose the battery in each car had a capacity of 75 kWh. This would give the following ranges with various energy consumption rates.

  • 3 kWh – 25 miles
  • 4 kWh – 19 miles
  • 5 kWh – 15 miles

It certainly is important to get the train as energy efficient as possible.

Increasing the battery capacity will increase the range proportionally.

This would mean that a very efficient train with a double-size battery could go fifty miles without wires.

Where Practically Could These Trains Run?

There are several possibilities.

Camp Hill Line

The Camp Hill Line is an obvious possibility.

A lot is said about the reopening in Future Plans in the Wikipedia entry for the line.

This is the latest part of the section.

In August 2017, West Midlands Trains announced plans as part of their franchise deal that the line would reopen by December 2019 as part of a £1 billion investment in the West Midlands. This included a new station at Moseley.

There has also been speculation in the railway press, that chords will be created to allow trains on the line to run directly into Birmingham Moor Street station.

Moor Street Station

If these trains were to run into Birmingham Moor Street station would the bay platforms at the station be electrified?

This would allow the trains batteries to be charged before returning along the Camp Hill Line.

But it would open up interesting possibilities.

With electrification at stations like Stratford-upon-Avon and Leamington to charge the batteries, could services South of Birmingham be run by three-car Aventras running on batteries?

Both |Stratford-upon-Avon and Leamington Spa are under forty miles by road from Birmingham,

I think it could be theoretcally possible, but West Midlands Trains are acquiring a lot of diesel trains.

Extending Existing Electric Services

From May 2018, the electric services on the Cross City Line will run between Bromsgrove and Lichfield Trent Valley stations.

Could trains running on batteries extend services?

Conclusion

Three-car Aventras are an interesting possibility.

I think we’ll be seeing a lot of them around the UK.

October 19, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 1 Comment

Bombardier and CAF To Make 413 Carriages For New West Midlands Franchise

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

This is said.

Future operator West Midlands Trains has made a £680 million order with Bombardier and CAF for 413 carriages.

Bombardier will manufacture 36 three-car and 45 five-car Aventra trains at its Derby site, while CAF will produce 12 two-car and 14 four-car Civity trains. In total, 107 new trains will be delivered.

The electric three-car Aventras will operate on metro services, the electric five-car units for outer suburban and long distance, while CAF’s DMUs will run on dedicated services to the towns and cities around Birmingham.

These are my thoughts on the various parts of the order.

The Three-Car Aventras

The thirty-six three-car Aventras will probably replace the twenty-six Class 323 trains, which lack wi-fi and other passenger-friendly features.

It should also be noted that the Aventra has a slightly unusual and innovative electrical layout.

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, which is probably more to do with spreading weight around the train for better dynamics than anything else!

Obviously for West Midlands Trains, there is no need for 750 VDC, but will there still be a pair of power cars?

So it looks like there may be a reorganisation of the electrical system in the trains.

A few other points.

  • I am surprised that some of the trains aren’t six-cars, as every other set of new trains seem to be single and double lengths.
  • According to Wikipedia, the trains will have end gangways.
  • The trains are air-conditioned and have free wi-fi and power sockets.

Hopefully, the full specification and Tops-number will be disclosed soon.

Are Batteries An Inherent Part Of The Operation Of Three Car Aventras?

Suppose each car in the train was a self-contained power car.

  • Each car could also have  a 75 kWh battery, which is the size of one on a New Routemaster hybrid bus.
  • Regenerative braking would be efficient as it would use the battery in the same car.
  • Batteries can be topped up using the 25 KVAC overhead wires.
  • Passenger services like power-points would be powered from the battery.

If we assume that each car needs 5 kW to do a mile, this would give the train a range away from the wires of 15 miles.

Would it be possible for trains to run on the Camp Hill Line and the proposed Camp Hill Chords into Birmingham Moor Street station solely using battery power?

I think it is possible and after the battery-powered trams on the Midland Metro, it’s another case of emphasising the B in Birmingham.

The Five-Car Aventras

These will probably be vaguely similar to the other two five-car Aventras; Class 701 and Class 720.

Differences highlighted in the various articles and Wikipedia include.

  • According to Wikipedia, the trains will have end gangways.
  • The trains will be 110 mph units.

Both are firsts for Aventras.

I don’t think it will be long before a train operator buys an Aventra capable of 125 mph.

The CAF Civity Trains

The CAF Civity are a mixture of two-car and four-car units and will be used to replace some older diesel multiple units and augment some of the more modern Class 170 and Class 172 trains.

Class 230 Trains

West Midlands Trains have also ordered three Class 230 trains for the Marston Vale Line.

The route has the following characteristics.

  • It is roughly twenty-four miles long.
  • Trains take just over forty minutes for the journey between Bletchley and Bedford stations.
  • There are plans to extend the service to Milton Keynes Central station.
  • It is a diesel island in a sea of electrified lines.

 

Wikipedia says this about the Infrastructure.

Apart from a short length of single track at both ends, the line is double track, and is not electrified (barring short lengths at either end). It has a loading gauge of W8 and a line speed of 60 miles per hour (97 km/h). The line’s signalling centre is at Ridgmont.

I would suspect that two trains are needed to provide an hourly service, so buying three trains gives a spare, that might augment the services at busy times.

The flexibility of the Class 230 trains will give a choice of operating modes.

  • Using 25 KVAC overhead electrification at the ends.
  • Using onboard diesel power.
  • Using batteries charged at the ends of the route.

I suspect that the most efficient will be a mix of all three.

The trains are also designed for remote servicing, so they could be based in a siding at Bedford, Bletchley or Wolverton and supported by a well-designed service vehicle and a fuel bowser.

Conclusions

West Midlands Trains seem to have gone for a sensible Horses-for-Courses solution.

I have a feeling that their concept for the Marston Vale Line will be used elsewhere.

 

October 18, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Govia Loses The West Midlands Rail Franchise

This article on the BBC is entitled London Midland loses West Midlands rail franchise.

The new lead partner in a company called West Midlands Trains is Abellio.

This page on the Government web site gives full details.

There is also this interactive map, which details changes by line.

The next few sections detail a few points.

Four Hundred New Carriages

West Midlands Trains are promising four hundred new carriages.

Currently, there are 476 carriages serving the routes they will be taking over. The trains that are modern include.

  • 77 x four-car Class 350 trains – 308 carriages – Built in 2004-2014
  • 17 x two-car Class 170 trains – 34 carriages – Built in 1999-2000
  • 6 x three-car Class 170 trains – 18 carriages – Built in 1999-2000

This is a total of 360 carriages.

This group probably lack wi-fi, which could be retrofitted.

It looks to me, that the West Midlands are going to be seeing a hell of a lot more trains.

Abellio should know what trains to buy, as they’ve just spent nearly a billion on new trains for Greater Anglia and are introducing a large fleet of Hitachi electric trains in Scotland.

Are we going to see a complete fleet change, as is happening with Greater Anglia and South Western Railway?

I think it will be very likely that the new train will be an Aventra or similar, with the following characteristics.

  • Based on four or five car units.
  • Ability to work in pairs.
  • Possibly some longer ones. of eight or ten cars for busy routes.
  • Walk-through design.
  • Large lobbies and wide doors.
  • Ability to stop at a station and get started quickly. Could save up to two minutes every stop.
  • 100 mph capability.
  • Some bi-mode or trains to work independently for perhaps thirty miles are needed.

They could be very similar to the Class 720 trains ordered by Greater Anglia or the Class 710 trains ordered by London Overground, if Aventras are chosen.

I will look at a simple example on the Cross-City Line  between Lichfield Trent Valley and Redditch stations.

This currently takes 83 minutes with twenty-two stops. This would probably give a three-hour round trip. So on a rough estimate, to provide this service on a two trains per hour (tph) basis, would require six trains or twelve, if each of the current Class 323 train is a pair of six-cars.

Running a five-car Aventra or similar, which would save over a minute a stop and would be faster, would probably bring the round trip time down to under two hours. So two tph, would need just four trains.

The capacity of the Aventra would be greater at over 800 passengers as opposed to 500 in the pair of Class 323 trains.

Birmingham To Rugeley Trent Valley

The electrification on the Chase Line is being extended to Rugeley Trent Valley and new electric services should start from May 2018.

Wolverhampton To Walsall Line

The Wolverhampton To Walsall Line is an oddity in that is electrified and doesn’t have a passenger service.

In the Wikipedia entry for the line under Future Plans, this is said.

The West Midlands Combined Authority have announced their intention to restore a passenger service to the line using either conventional trains or tram-trains. Along with new stations at Willenhall and Darlaston James Bridge.

So will these plans be implemented in the next few years?

Birmingham To Bromsgrove

The new electric trains would also be able to serve the newly electrified route to Bromsgrove station from May 2018.

Does The B In Birmingham Stand For Battery?

If Bombardier or Hitachi get their energy storage working, then the new trains would be able to continue to Worcester from Bromsgrove, as it’s only fourteen miles.

Birmingham is getting battery trams, so is it getting battery trains?

Battery trains would certainly be able to work the Camp Hill Line.

But it will be interesting to see if battery trains can sneak through on other routes in the centre of Birmingham.

The Snow Hill Lines

The Snow Hill Lines across Birmingham are the classic cross-city line that should be electrified, as you don’t want to have diesel trains in the centres of cities.

My thoughts.

  • In the current financial climate, large scale electrification is not going to happen.
  • Battery trains wouldn’t help, as there is no electrification with which to charge the batteries.
  • Traditional bi-modes aren’t much use either, as they’d run on diesel all the time.

The only alternative is probably more efficient diesel-electric hybrid trains that incorporate regenerative braking with batteries.

Could these trains be coupled with limited electrification in the centre around the Snow Hill Tunnel?

There’s a solution in there somewhere and I suspect that West Midlands Trains have used it.

Leamington To Nuneaton via Kenilworth And Coventry

This route via the new Kenilworth station will be getting an hourly service.

It’s only nineteen miles each way with scraps of electrification at Nuneaton and Coventry.

Could an Aventra or similar with batteries do this trip?

Conclusion

The West Midlands are getting a much better train service.

August 10, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment