The Anonymous Widower

Will Hitachi Announce A High Speed Metro Train?

As the UK high speed rail network increases, we are seeing more services and proposed services, where local services are sharing tracks, where trains will be running at 125 mph or even more.

London Kings Cross And Cambridge/Kings Lynn

This Great Northern service is run by Class 387 trains.

  • Services run between London Kings Cross and Kings Lynn or Cambridge
  • The Class 387 trains have a maximum operating speed of 110 mph.
  • The route is fully electrified.
  • The trains generally use the fast lines on the East Coast Main Line, South of Hitchin.
  • Most trains on the fast lines on the East Coast Main Line are travelling at 125 mph.
  • When in the future full digital in-cab ERTMS signalling is implemented on the East Coast Main Line, speeds of up to 140 mph should be possible in some sections between London Kings Cross and Hitchin.

I also believe that digital signalling may be able to provide a solution to the twin-track bottleneck over the Digswell Viaduct.

Consider.

  • Airliners have been flown automatically and safely from airport to airport for perhaps four decades.
  • The Victoria Line has been running automatically and safely at over twenty trains per hour (tph) for five decades. It is now running at over 30 tph.
  • I worked with engineers developing a high-frequency sequence control system for a complicated chemical plant in 1970.

We also can’t deny that computers are getting better and more capable.

For these reasons, I believe there could be an ERTMS-based solution to the problem of the Digswell Viaduct, which could be something like this.

  • All trains running on the two track section over the Digswell Viaduct and through Welwyn North station would be under computer control between Welwyn Garden City and Knebworth stations.
  • Fast trains would be slowed as appropriate to create spaces to allow the slow trains to pass through the section.
  • The driver would be monitoring the computer control, just as they do on the Victoria Line.

Much more complicated automated systems have been created in various applications.

The nearest rail application in the UK, is probably the application of digital signalling to London Underground’s Circle, District, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan Lines.

This is known at the Four Lines Modernisation and it will be completed by 2023 and increase capacity by up to twenty-seven percent.

I don’t think it unreasonable to see the following maximum numbers of services running over the Digswell Viaduct by 2030 in both directions in every hour.

  • Sixteen fast trains
  • Four slow trains

That is one train every three minutes.

Currently, it appears to be about ten fast and two slow.

As someone, who doesn’t like to be on a platform, when a fast train goes through, I believe that some form of advanced safety measures should be installed at Welwyn North station.

It would appear that trains between London Kings Cross and King’s Lynn need to have this specification.

  • Ability to run at 125 mph on the East Coast Main Line
  • Ability to run at 140 mph on the East Coast Main Line, under control of full digital in-cab ERTMS signalling.

This speed increase could reduce the journey time between London Kings Cross and Cambridge to just over half-an-hour with London Kings Cross and King’s Lynn under ninety minutes.

The only new infrastructure needed would be improvements to the Fen Line to King’s Lynn to allow two tph, which I think is needed.

Speed improvements between Hitchin and Cambridge could also benefit timings.

London Kings Cross And Cambridge/Norwich

I believe there is a need for a high speed service between London Kings Cross and Norwich via Cambridge.

  • The Class 755 trains, that are capable of 100 mph take 82 minutes, between Cambridge and Norwich.
  • The electrification gap between Ely and Norwich is 54 miles.
  • Norwich station and South of Ely is fully electrified.
  • Greater Anglia’s Norwich and Cambridge service has been very successful.

With the growth of Cambridge and its incessant need for more space, housing and workers, a high speed train  between London Kings Cross and Norwich via Cambridge could tick a lot of boxes.

  • If hourly, it would double the frequency between Cambridge and Norwich until East-West Rail is completed.
  • All stations between Ely and Norwich get a direct London service.
  • Cambridge would have better links for commuting to the city.
  • London Kings Cross and Cambridge would be less than an hour apart.
  • If the current London Kings Cross and Ely service were to be extended to Norwich, no extra paths on the East Coast Main Line would be needed.
  • Trains could even split and join at Cambridge or Ely to give all stations a two tph service to London Kings Cross.
  • No new infrastructure would be required.

The Cambridge Cruiser would become the Cambridge High Speed Cruiser.

London Paddington And Bedwyn

This Great Western Railway service is run by Class 802 trains.

  • Services run between London Paddington and Bedwyn.
  • Services use the Great Western Main Line at speeds of up to 125 mph.
  • In the future if full digital in-cab ERTMS signalling is implemented, speeds of up to 140 mph could be possible on some sections between London Paddington and Reading.
  • The 13.3 miles between Newbury and Bedwyn is not electrified.

As the service would need to be able to run both ways between Newbury and Bedwyn, a capability to run upwards of perhaps thirty miles without electrification is needed. Currently, diesel power is used, but battery power would be better.

London Paddington And Oxford

This Great Western Railway service is run by Class 802 trains.

  • Services run between London Paddington and Oxford.
  • Services use the Great Western Main Line at speeds of up to 125 mph.
  • In the future if full digital in-cab ERTMS signalling is implemented, speeds of up to 140 mph could be possible on some sections between London Paddington and Didcot Parkway.
  • The 10.3 miles between Didcot Parkway and Oxford is not electrified.

As the service would need to be able to run both ways between Didcot Parkway and Oxford, a capability to run upwards of perhaps thirty miles without electrification is needed. Currently, diesel power is used, but battery power would be better.

Local And Regional Trains On Existing 125 mph Lines

In The UK, in addition to High Speed One and High Speed Two, we have the following lines, where speeds of 125 mph are possible.

  • East Coast Main Line
  • Great Western Main Line
  • Midland Main Line
  • West Coast Main Line

Note.

  1. Long stretches of these routes allow speeds of up to 125 mph.
  2. Full digital in-cab ERTMS signalling is being installed on the East Coast Main Line to allow running up to 140 mph.
  3. Some of these routes have four tracks, with pairs of slow and fast lines, but there are sections with only two tracks.

It is likely, that by the end of the decade large sections of these four 125 mph lines will have been upgraded, to allow faster running.

If you have Hitachi and other trains thundering along at 140 mph, you don’t want dawdlers, at 100 mph or less, on the same tracks.

These are a few examples of slow trains, that use two-track sections of 125 nph lines.

  • East Midlands Railway – 1 tph – Leicester and Lincoln – Uses Midland Main Line
  • East Midlands Railway – 1 tph – Liverpool and Norwich – Uses Midland Main Line
  • Great Western Railway – 1 tph – Cardiff and Portsmouth Harbour – Uses Great Western Main Line
  • Great Western Railway – 1 tph – Cardiff and Taunton – Uses Great Western Main Line
  • Northern – 1 tph – Manchester Airport and Cumbria – Uses West Coast Main Line
  • Northern – 1 tph – Newcastle and Morpeth – Uses East Coast Main Line
  • West Midlands Trains – Some services use West Coast Main Line.

Conflicts can probably be avoided by judicious train planning in some cases, but in some cases trains capable of 125 mph will be needed.

Southeastern Highspeed Services

Class 395 trains have been running Southeastern Highspeed local services since 2009.

  • Services run between London St. Pancras and Kent.
  • Services use Speed One at speeds of up to 140 mph.
  • These services are planned to be extended to Hastings and possibly Eastbourne.

The extension would need the ability to run on the Marshlink Line, which is an electrification gap of 25.4 miles, between Ashford and Ore.

Thameslink

Thameslink is a tricky problem.

These services run on the double-track section of the East Coast Main Line over the Digswell Viaduct.

  • 2 tph – Cambridge and Brighton – Fast train stopping at Hitchin, Stevenage and Finsbury Park.
  • 2 tph – Cambridge and Kings Cross – Slow train stopping at Hitchin, Stevenage, Knebworth, Welwyn North, Welwyn Garden City, Hatfield, Potters Bar and Finsbury Park
  • 2 tph – Peterborough and Horsham – Fast train stopping at Hitchin, Stevenage and Finsbury Park.

Note.

  1. These services are run by Class 700 trains, that are only capable of 100 mph.
  2. The fast services take the fast lines South of the Digswell Viaduct.
  3. South of Finsbury Park, both fast services cross over to access the Canal Tunnel for St, Pancras station.
  4. I am fairly certain, that I have been on InterCity 125 trains running in excess of 100 mph in places between Finsbury Park and Stevenage.

It would appear that the slow Thameslink trains are slowing express services South of Stevenage.

As I indicated earlier, I think it is likely that the Kings Cross and King’s Lynn services will use 125 mph trains for various reasons, like London and Cambridge in well under an hour.

But if 125 mph trains are better for King’s Lynn services, then they would surely improve Thameslink and increase capacity between London and Stevenage.

Looking at average speeds and timings on the 25 miles between Stevenage and Finsbury Park gives the following.

  • 100 mph – 15 minutes
  • 110 mph – 14 minutes
  • 125 mph – 12 minutes
  • 140 mph – 11 minutes

The figures don’t appear to indicate large savings, but when you take into account that the four tph running the Thameslink services to Peterborough and Cambridge stop at Finsbury Park and Stevenage and have to get up to speed, I feel that the 100 mph Class 700 trains are a hindrance to more and faster trains on the Southern section of the East Coast Main Line.

It should be noted, that faster trains on these Thameslink services would probably have better acceleration and and would be able to execute faster stops at stations.

There is a similar less serious problem on the Midland Main Line branch of Thameslink, in that some Thameslink services use the fast lines.

A couple of years ago, I had a very interesting chat with a group of East Midlands Railway drivers. They felt that the 100 mph Thameslink and the 125 mph Class 222 trains were not a good mix.

The Midland Main Line services are also becoming more complicated, with the new EMR Electric services between St. Pancras and Corby, which will be run by 110 mph Class 360 trains.

Hitachi’s Three Trains With Batteries

Hitachi have so far announced three battery-electric trains. Two are based on battery packs being developed and built by Hyperdrive Innovation.

Hyperdrive Innovation

Looking at the Hyperdrive Innovation web site, I like what I see.

Hyperdrive Innovation provided the battery packs for JCB’s first electric excavator.

Note that JCB give a five-year warranty on the Hyperdrive batteries.

Hyperdrive have also been involved in the design of battery packs for aircraft push-back tractors.

The battery capacity for one of these is given as 172 kWh and it is able to supply 34 kW.

I was very surprised that Hitachi didn’t go back to Japan for their batteries, but after reading Hyperdrive’s web site about the JCB and Textron applications, there would appear to be good reasons to use Hyperdrive.

  • Hyperdrive have experience of large lithium ion batteries.
  • Hyperdrive have a design, develop and manufacture model.
  • They seem to able to develop solutions quickly and successfully.
  • Battery packs for the UK and Europe are made in Sunderland.
  • Hyperdrive are co-operating with Nissan, Warwick Manufacturing Group and Newcastle University.
  • They appear from the web site to be experts in the field of battery management, which is important in prolonging battery life.
  • Hyperdrive have a Taiwanese partner, who manufactures their battery packs for Taiwan and China.
  • I have done calculations based on the datasheet for their batteries and Hyperdrive’s energy density is up with the best

I suspect, that Hitachi also like the idea of a local supplier, as it could be helpful in the negotiation of innovative applications. Face-to-face discussions are easier, when you’re only thirty miles apart.

Hitachi Regional Battery Train

The first train to be announced was the Hitachi Regional Battery Train, which is described in this Hitachi infographic.

Note.

  1. It is only a 100 mph train.
  2. The batteries are to be designed and manufactured by Hyperdrive Innovation.
  3. It has a range of 56 miles on battery power.
  4. Any of Hitachi’s A Train family like Class 800, 802 or 385 train can be converted to a Regional Battery Train.

No orders have been announced yet.

But it would surely be very suitable for routes like.

  • London Paddington And Bedwyn
  • London Paddington And Oxford

It would also be very suitable for extensions to electrified suburban routes like.

  • London Bridge and Uckfield
  • London Waterloo and Salisbury
  • Manchester Airport and Windermere.
  • Newcastle and Carlisle

It would also be a very sound choice to extend electrified routes in Scotland, which are currently run by Class 385 trains.

Hitachi InterCity Tri-Mode Battery Train

The second train to be announced was the Hitachi InterCity Tri-Mode Battery Train, which is described in this Hitachi infographic.

Note.

  1. Only one engine is replaced by a battery.
  2. The batteries are to be designed and manufactured by Hyperdrive Innovation.
  3. Typically a five-car Class 800 or 802 train has three diesel engines and a nine-car train has five.
  4. These trains would obviously be capable of 125 mph on electrified main lines and 140 mph on lines fully equipped with digital in-cab ERTMS signalling.

Nothing is said about battery range away from electrification.

Routes currently run from London with a section without electrification at the other end include.

  • London Kings Cross And Harrogate – 18.3 miles
  • London Kings Cross And Hull – 36 miles
  • London Kings Cross And Lincoln – 16.5 miles
  • London Paddington And Bedwyn – 13.3 miles
  • London Paddington And Oxford – 10.3 miles

In the March 2021 Edition of Modern Railways, LNER are quoted as having aspirations to extend the Lincoln service to Cleethorpes.

  • With all energy developments in North Lincolnshire, this is probably a good idea.
  • Services could also call at Market Rasen and Grimsby.
  • Two trains per day, would probably be a minimum frequency.

But the trains would need to be able to run around 64 miles each way without electrification. Very large batteries and/or charging at Cleethorpes will be needed.

Class 803 Trains For East Coast Trains

East Coast Trains have ordered a fleet of five Class 803 trains.

  • These trains appear to be built for speed and fast acceleration.
  • They have no diesel engines, which must save weight and servicing costs.
  • But they will be fitted with batteries for emergency power to maintain onboard  train services in the event of overhead line failure.
  • They are planned to enter service in October 2021.

Given that Hyperdrive Innovation are developing traction batteries for the other two Hitachi battery trains, I would not be the least bit surprised if Hyperdrive were designing and building the batteries for the Class 803 trains.

  • Hyperdrive batteries are modular, so for a smaller battery you would use less modules.
  • If all coaches are wired for a diesel engine, then they can accept any power module like a battery or hydrogen pack, without expensive redesign.
  • I suspect too, that the battery packs for the Class 803 trains could be tested on an LNER Class 801 train.

LNER might also decide to replace the diesel engines on their Class 801 trains with an emergency battery pack, if it were more energy efficient and had a lighter weight.

Thoughts On The Design Of The Hyperdrive innovation Battery Packs

Consider.

  • Hitachi trains have a sophisticated computer system, which on start-up can determine the configuration of the train or whether it is more than one train running as a longer formation or even being hauled by a locomotive.
  • To convert a bi-mode Class 800 train to an all-electric Class 801 the diesel engines are removed. I suspect that the computer is also adjusted, but train formation may well be totally automatic and independent of the driver.
  • Hyperdrive Innovation’s battery seem to be based on a modular system, where typical modules have a capacity of 5 kWh, weighs 32 Kg and has a volume of 0.022 cu metres.
  • The wet mass of an MTU 16V 1600 R80L diesel engine commonly fitted to AT-300 trains of different types is 6750 Kg or nearly seven tonnes.
  • The diesel engine has a physical size of 1.5 x 1.25 x 0.845 metres, which is a volume of 1.6 cubic metres.
  • In How Much Power Is Needed To Run A Train At 125 mph?, I calculated that a five-car Class 801 electric train, needed 3.42 kWh per vehicle-mile to maintain 125 mph.
  • It is likely, than any design of battery pack, will handle the regenerative braking.

To my mind, the ideal solution would be a plug compatible battery pack, that the train’s computer thought was a diesel engine.

But then I have form in the area of plug-compatible electronics.

At the age of sixteen, for a vacation job, I worked in the Electronics Laboratory at Enfield Rolling Mills.

It was the early sixties and one of their tasks was at the time replacing electronic valve-based automation systems with new transistor-based systems.

The new equipment had to be compatible to that which it replaced, but as some were installed in dozens of places around the works, they had to be able to be plug-compatible, so that they could be quickly changed. Occasionally, the new ones suffered infant-mortality and the old equipment could just be plugged back in, if there wasn’t a spare of the new equipment.

So will Hyperdrive Innovation’s battery-packs have the same characteristics as the diesel engines that they replace?

  • Same instantaneous and continuous power output.
  • Both would fit the same mountings under the train.
  • Same control and electrical power connections.
  • Compatibility with the trains control computer.

I think they will as it will give several advantages.

  • The changeover between diesel engine and battery pack could be designed as a simple overnight operation.
  • Operators can mix-and-match the number of diesel engines and battery-packs to a given route.
  • As the lithium-ion cells making up the battery pack improve, battery capacity and performance can be increased.
  • If the computer, is well-programmed, it could reduce diesel usage and carbon-emissions.
  • Driver conversion from a standard train to one equipped with batteries, would surely be simplified.

As with the diesel engines, all battery packs could be substantially the same across all of Hitachi’s Class 80x trains.

What Size Of Battery Would Be Possible?

If Hyperdrive are producing a battery pack with the same volume as the diesel engine it replaced, I estimate that the battery would have a capacity defined by.

5 * 1.6 / 0.022 = 364 kWh

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, which is not very challenging.

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

As a figure of 3.42 kWh per vehicle-mile to maintain 125 mph, applies to a Class 801 train, I suspect that a figure of 3 kWh or less could apply to a five-car Class 800 train trundling at around 80-100 mph to Bedwyn, Cleethorpes or Oxford.

  • A one-battery five-car train would have a range of 24.3 miles
  • A two-battery five-car train would have a range of 48.6 miles
  • A three-battery five-car train would have a range of 72.9 miles

Note.

  1. Reducing the consumption to 2.5 kWh per vehicle-mile would give a range of 87.3 miles.
  2. Reducing the consumption to 2 kWh per vehicle-mile would give a range of 109.2 miles.
  3. Hitachi will be working to reduce the electricity consumption of the trains.
  4. There will also be losses at each station stop, as regenerative braking is not 100 % efficient.

But it does appear to me, that distances of the order of 60-70 miles would be possible on a lot of routes.

Bedwyn, Harrogate, Lincoln and Oxford may be possible without charging before the return trip.

Cleethorpes and Hull would need a battery charge before return.

A Specification For A High Speed Metro Train

I have called the proposed train a High Speed Metro Train, as it would run at up to 140 mph on an existing high speed line and then run a full or limited stopping service to the final destination.

These are a few thoughts.

Electrification

In some cases like London Kings Cross and King’s Lynn, the route is already electrified and batteries would only be needed for the following.

  • Handling regenerative braking.
  • Emergency  power in case of overhead line failure.
  • Train movements in depots.

But if the overhead wires on a branch line. are in need of replacement, why not remove them and use battery power? It might be the most affordable and least disruptive option to update the power supply on a route.

The trains would have to be able to run on both types of electrification in the UK.

  • 25 KVAC overhead.
  • 750 VDC third rail.

This dual-voltage capability would enable the extension of Southeastern Highspeed services.

Operating Speed

The trains must obviously be capable of running at the maximum operating speed on the routes they travel.

  • 125 mph on high speed lines, where this speed is possible.
  • 140 mph on high speed lines equipped with full digital in-cab ERTMS signalling, where this speed is possible.

The performance on battery power must be matched with the routes.

Hitachi have said, that their Regional Battery trains can run at up to 100 mph, which would probably be sufficient for most secondary routes in the UK and in line with modern diesel and electric multiple units.

Full Digital In-cab ERTMS Signalling

This will be essential and is already fitted to some of Hitachi’s trains.

Regenerative Braking To Batteries

Hitachi’s battery electric  trains will probably use regenerative braking to the batteries, as it is much more energy efficient.

It also means that when stopping at a station perhaps as much as 70-80% of the train’s kinetic energy can be captured in the batteries and used to accelerate the train.

In Kinetic Energy Of A Five-Car Class 801 Train, I showed that at 125 mph the energy of a full five-car train is just over 100 kWh, so batteries would not need to be unduly large.

Acceleration

This graph from Eversholt Rail, shows the acceleration and deceleration of a five-car Class 802 electric train.

As batteries are just a different source of electric power, I would think, that with respect to acceleration and deceleration, that the performance of a battery-electric version will be similar.

Although, it will only achieve 160 kph instead of the 200 kph of the electric train.

I estimate from this graph, that a battery-electric train would take around 220 seconds from starting to decelerate for a station to being back at 160 kph. If the train was stopped for around eighty seconds, a station stop would add five minutes to the journey time.

London Kings Cross And Cleethorpes

As an example consider a service between London Kings Cross and Cleethorpes.

  • The section without electrification between Newark and Cleethorpes is 64 miles.
  • There appear to be ambitions to increase the operating speed to 90 mph.
  • Local trains seem to travel at around 45 mph including stops.
  • A fast service between London Kings Cross and Cleethorpes would probably stop at Lincoln Central, Market Rasen and Grimsby Town.
  • In addition, local services stop at Collingham, Hykeham, Barnetby and Habrough.
  • London Kings Cross and Newark takes one hour and twenty minutes.
  • London Kings Cross and Cleethorpes takes three hours and fifteen minutes with a change at Doncaster.

I can now calculate a time between Kings Cross and Cleethorpes.

  • If a battery-electric train can average 70 mph between Newark and Cleethorpes, it would take 55 minutes.
  • Add five minutes for each of the three stops at Lincoln Central, Market Rasen and Grimsby Town
  • Add in the eighty minutes between London Kings Cross and Newark and that would be  two-and-a-half hours.

That would be very marketing friendly and a very good start.

Note.

  1. An average speed of 80 mph would save seven minutes.
  2. An average speed of 90 mph would save twelve minutes.
  3. I suspect that the current bi-modes would be slower by a few minutes as their acceleration is not as potent of that of an electric train.

I have a feeling London Kings Cross and Cleethorpes via Lincoln Central, Market Rasen and Grimsby Town, could be a very important service for LNER.

Interiors

I can see a new lightweight and more energy efficient interior being developed for these trains.

In addition some of the routes, where they could be used are popular with cyclists and the current Hitachi trains are not the best for bicycles.

Battery Charging

Range On Batteries

I have left this to last, as it depends on so many factors, including the route and the quality of the driving or the Automatic Train Control

Earlier, I estimated that a five-car train with all three diesel engines replaced by batteries, when trundling around Lincolnshire, Oxfordshire or Wiltshire could have range of up to 100 miles.

That sort of distance would be very useful and would include.

  • Ely and Norwich
  • Newark and Cleethorpes
  • Salisbury and Exeter

It might even allow a round trip between the East Coast Main Line and Hull.

The Ultimate Battery Train

This press release from Hitachi is entitled Hitachi And Eversholt Rail To Develop GWR Intercity Battery Hybrid Train – Offering Fuel Savings Of More Than 20%.

This is a paragraph.

The projected improvements in battery technology – particularly in power output and charge – create opportunities to replace incrementally more diesel engines on long distance trains. With the ambition to create a fully electric-battery intercity train – that can travel the full journey between London and Penzance – by the late 2040s, in line with the UK’s 2050 net zero emissions target.

Consider.

  • Three batteries would on my calculations give a hundred mile range.
  • Would a train with no diesel engines mean that fuel tanks, radiators and other gubbins could be removed and more or large batteries could be added.
  • Could smaller batteries be added to the two driving cars?
  • By 2030, let alone 2040, battery energy density will have increased.

I suspect that one way or another these trains could have a range on battery power of between 130 and 140 miles.

This would certainly be handy in Scotland for the two routes to the North.

  • Haymarket and Aberdeen, which is 130 miles without electrification.
  • Stirling and Inverness, which is 111 miles without electrification, if the current wires are extended from Stirling to Perth, which is being considered by the Scottish Government.

The various sections of the London Paddington to Penzance route are as follows.

  • Paddington and Newbury – 53 miles – electrified
  • Newbury and Taunton – 90 miles – not electrified
  • Taunton and Exeter – 31 miles – not electrified
  • Exeter and Plymouth – 52 miles – not electrified
  • Plymouth and Penzance – 79 miles – not electrified

The total length of the section without electrification between Penzance and Newbury  is a distance of 252 miles.

This means that the train will need a battery charge en route.

I think there are three possibilities.

  • Trains can take up to seven minutes for a stop at Plymouth. As London and Plymouth trains will need to recharge at Plymouth before returning to London, Plymouth station could be fitted with comprehensive recharge facilities for all trains passing through. Perhaps the ideal solution would be to electrify all lines and platforms at Plymouth.
  • Between Taunton and Exeter, the rail line runs alongside the M5 motorway. This would surely be an ideal section to electrify, as it would enable battery electric trains to run between Exeter and both Newbury and Bristol.
  • As some trains terminate at Exeter, there would probably need to be charging facilities there.

I believe that the date of the late 2040s is being overly pessimistic.

I suspect that by 2040 we’ll be seeing trains between London and Aberdeen, Inverness and Penzance doing the trips without a drop of diesel.

But Hitachi are making a promise of London and Penzance by zero-carbon trains, by the late-2040s, because they know they can keep it.

And Passengers and the Government won’t mind the trains being early!

Conclusion

This could be a very useful train to add to Hitachi’s product line.

 

 

 

March 9, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Future Of West Midlands Trains’s Class 350 Trains

Currently, West Midlands Trains have four sub-fleets of Class 350 trains.

  • Class 350/1 – 30 trains – Leased from Angel Trains
  • Class 350/2 – 37 trains – Leased from Porterbrook
  • Class 350/3 – 10 trains – Leased from Angel Trains
  • Class 350/4 – 10 trains –  Leased from Angel Trains

Note.

  1. All are 110 mph trains
  2. The trains are capable of being modified for 750 VDC third-rail electrification.

Under Future the Wikipedia entry for Class 350 trains says this.

West Midlands Trains announced that they would be replacing all 37 of their 350/2 units for Class 350/4 units cascaded from TransPennine Express and brand new Class 730 units which both can travel up to speeds of 110 mph.

In October 2018, Porterbrook announced it was considering converting its fleet of 350/2s to Battery electric multiple units for potential future cascades to non-electrified routes.

As West Midlands Trains have ordered 45 Class 730 trains for express services, it looks like they will be expanding services on the West Coast Main Line and around the West Midlands.

But it does appear that as many as thirty-seven trains will be returned to Porterbrook.

Class 350 Trains With Batteries

I believe that if fitted with batteries, these trains would meet or be very near to Hitachi’s specification, which is given in this infographic from Hitachi.

 

Note that 90 kilometres is 56 miles.

Could West Midlands Trains Run Any Services With Class 350 Trains With Batteries?

I think there are some possibilities

  • Birmingham New Street and Shrewsbury – 30 miles without electrification between Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton – Charging facility needed at Shrewsbury.
  • Birmingham New Street and Hereford via Worcester – 41 miles without electrification between Hereford and Bromsgrove – Charging facility needed at Hereford.
  • Leamington Spa and Nuneaton via Coventry – 19 miles without electrification – Charging on existing electrification at Coventry and Nuneaton.
  • The proposed direct Wolverhampton and Walsall service, that i wrote about in Green Light For Revived West Midlands Passenger Service.

There may also be some services added because of the development of the Midlands Rail Hub and extensions to London services,

Who Has Shown Interest In These Trains?

I can’t remember any reports in the media, about any train operator wanting to lease these trains; either without or with batteries.

Conclusion

It does all seem a bit strange to me.

  • As a passenger, I see nothing wrong with these trains.
  • They are less than twenty years old.
  • They are 110 mph trains.
  • They have 2+2 interiors, with lots of tables.
  • They could be fitted with batteries if required.

But then, all of those things could be said about Greater Anglia’s Class 379 trains.

 

July 20, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Birmingham-Black Country-Shrewsbury

On the Midlands Connect web site, they have a page, which is entitled Birmingham-Black Country-Shrewsbury.

This is the introductory paragraph.

We’re examining the case to increase services from three to four per hour, made possible by capacity released post-HS2.

They then give the outline of their plans, which can be summed up as follows.

  • Services on the corridor are slow and unreliable.
  • Network Rail say the service is in danger of acute overcrowding.
  • Services will be increased from three trains per hour (tph) to four.
  • A direct hourly service from Shrewsbury, Wellington and Telford to London will be introduced.
  • Services to Birmingham International will be doubled.
  • The economic case will be examined for speeding up services between Shrewsbury and Birmingham from 56 to 45 minutes, via track upgrades and possible electrification.

It seems a safe, and not overly ambitious plan.

These are my thoughts.

Shrewsbury’s Unique Position

These are distances and times from important stations.

  • Birmingham International – 51 miles and 83 minutes
  • Birmingham New Street – 42.5 miles and 71 minutes
  • Chester – 42.5 miles and 53 minutes
  • Crewe – 33 miles and 53 minutes
  • Hereford – 51 miles and 59 minutes
  • Telford – 14 miles and 21 minutes
  • Wellington – 10 miles and 13 minutes
  • Welshpool – 20 miles and 25 minutes
  • Wolverhampton – 30 miles and 50 minutes

In Sparking A Revolution, I quoted this Hitachi-specification for a battery-electric train.

  • Range – 55-65 miles
  • Performance – 90-100 mph
  • Recharge – 10 minutes when static
  • Routes – Suburban near electrified lines
  • Battery Life – 8-10 years

I can’t see any problem, for a train with this specification being able to reach Shrewsbury from Birmingham International, Birmingham New Street and Crewe on battery power.

In Hitachi Trains For Avanti, I quote an article with the same title in the January 2020 Edition of Modern Railways as saying this.

Hitachi told Modern Railways it was unable to confirm the rating of the diesel engines on the bi-modes, but said these would be replaceable by batteries in future if specified.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Shrewsbury served from Birmingham and Crewe by fast electric trains, that used battery power. Avanti West Coast certainly seem to have that thought in mind.

Zero Carbon Trains Between Shrewsbury And Wales

It will be a formidable challenge to run battery trains from Shrewsbury to the Welsh destinations.

  • Aberystwyth – 81.5 miles
  • Cardiff – 107 miles
  • Carmarthen – 185 miles
  • Holyhead – 133 miles
  • Milford Haven – 225 miles
  • Swansea – 121.5 miles

Note.

  1. These are challenging distances for battery-electric trains.
  2. South Wales destinations served via Newport and Cardiff could use the electrification on the South Wales Main Line.
  3. Many of these services start from East of Shrewsbury and can use the electrified lines that connects to Birmingham New Street and Manchester Piccadilly.

Unless someone like Riding Sunbeams, makes a breakthrough, I can’t see battery-electric trains running to Welsh destinations from Shrewsbury.

Transport for Wales New Trains

Transport for Wales have ordered seventy-seven new Class 197 trains, and these diesel trains will be used for services through Shrewsbury, mainly on services to Birmingham New Street and Birmingham International stations.

  • If these trains are similar to Northern’s Class 195 trains, they will be diesel multiple units with a noisy mechanical transmission.
  • I was surprised in these days of global warming that Transport for Wales didn’t buy something more eco-friendly, as they have for South Wales and the services around Chester.
  • The transmission of the Class 197 trains has not been disclosed.

Perhaps, CAF are going to do something innovative.

  • The CAF Civity is a modular train, with either electric or diesel power options.
  • The diesel-powered options use MTU engines.
  • A logical development would be to use an MTU Hybrid PowerPack to reduce diesel consumption and emissions.
  • This PowerPack would also reduce noise, as it has an electric transmission.
  • I wonder, if CAF can raid their parts bin and fit a pantograph, so where 25 KVAC overhead electrification is available, it can be used.
  • If CAF can convert a bog standard diesel multiple unit into a hybrid diesel-electric-battery multiple unit, by performing a heart transplant, it is a neat way of keeping new diesel Civities running until a later date.
  • Remember that Northern and West Modlands Trains have another seventy-four similar new diesel Civities in operation or on order. With trains having a forty year life, they don’t fit with an early phasing out of diesel.

I have no idea, what is actually happening, but my engineer’s nose tells me to expect a surprise from CAF.

Increasing Birmingham And Shrewsbury Services From Three Trains Per Hour To Four

Four trains per hour or one train every fifteen minutes seems to be a preferred frequency on several UK suburban lines.

These services seem to provide four tph or better on most, if not all of their routes.

  • Birmingham Cross-City Line
  • London Overground
  • Merseyrail
  • Tyne and Wear Metro

Four tph seems to be a very handy Turn-Up-And-Go frequency that encourages people to use rail services.

So I am not surprised to see Midlands Connect wanting four tph between Birmingham and Shrewsbury.

Currently, the following services seem to operate between Shrewsbury and Birmingham.

  • Avanti West Coast – 2 trains per day (tpd) – Shrewsbury and London Euston via Birmingham New Street and Birmingham International.
  • Trains for Wales – 1 train per two hours (tp2h) – Holyhead and Birmingham International via Birmingham New Street.
  • Trains for Wales 1 tph – Aberystwyth/Pwllheli and Birmingham International via Birmingham New Street
  • West Midlands Trains – 2 tph – Shrewsbury and Birmingham New Street – One semi-fast and one stopper.

Note.

  1. All services call at Wolverhampton, Telford and Wellington.
  2. Shrewsbury and Birmingham New Street is a 3.5 tph service.
  3. Shrewsbury and Birmingham International is a 1.5 tph service.

It relies heavily on services from Trains for Wales, who probably don’t put Shrewsbury and Birmingham services at the top of their priorities.

I remember, when local services in the North-East of London were run by Greater Anglia from Norwich. Moving some services to Transport for London, brought about a large improvement

Quite frankly, the current service is best described as pathetic.

Should Trains for Wales Services Terminate As Shrewsbury?

I suspect some local politicians in Shrewsbury and Birmingham, think it would be best to adopt this sort of strategy.

  • All Welsh services terminate at Shrewsbury.
  • Birmingham and Shrewsbury mandate West Midlands Trains and Avanti West Coast to provide a frequent service between Shrewsbury and Birmingham.

It might be the way to go, but many travellers from the Marches, would probably want direct connections to Birmingham, Birmingham Airport and in the future High Speed Two.

Introducing A Direct Hourly Service From Shrewsbury, Wellington And Telford To London

On the face of it, it looks like a much needed service to and from Shrewsbury.

  • It will be hourly.
  • Initially it will use Class 221 diesel multiple units, but these will be replaced with bi-mode Class 805 trains.
  • The current infrequent service calls at Watford Junction, Rugby, Coventry, Birmingham International, Birmingham New Street, Sandwell and Dudley, Wolverhampton, Telford Central and Wellington.
  • There are also six other stations between Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton, which might like an improved service.
  • The service will be run by Avanti West Coast.

There might also be the possibility of using battery power between Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury, which is only thirty miles each way.

But there are other collateral benefits.

  • The service increases the frequency between Shrewsbury and Birmingham New Street stations by one tph to 4.5 tph
  • The service increases the frequency between Shrewsbury and Birmingham International by one tph to 2.5 tph.
  • The service increases the frequency between Wolverhampton and London Euston by one tph.
  • The service increases the frequency between Sandwell and Dudley and London Euston by one tph
  • The service increases the frequency between Birmingham New Street and London Euston by one tph.
  • The service increases the frequency between Birmingham International and London Euston by one tph.
  • The new service will provide an hourly quality connection to High Speed Two at Birmingham International for stations between Shrewsbury and Coventry.
  • It appears that the Class 390 trains to Birmingham New Street and being replaced by new Class 807 trains, so Birmingham will have three out of four tph, run by new trains.
  • The new Shrewsbury service , has a similar calling pattern to that of the current Scottish service through Birmingham. Will it replace that service, when High Speed Two opens?

Note.

  1. Midlands Connect’s objective of four tph between Shrewsbury and Birmingham has been met.
  2. Several stations get a better direct service to London.
  3. Connectivity to High Speed Two is improved.
  4. Birmingham New Street and London is now a Turn-Up-And-Go frequency of four tph.
  5. The Class 805 train will also mean that Avanti West Coast could be zero-carbon in Birmingham. Especially, if it used battery power between Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury stations.

The hourly direct service between Shrewsbury and London will make a lot of difference to train services between Shrewsbury and Birmingham.

Avanti’s London Euston and Birmingham New Street Service

Consider.

  • There are two tph that terminate in Birmingham New Street station, that take 88-89 minutes, from London Euston
  • There is one tph that goes through Birmingham New Street station to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Preston, or Shrewsbury, that takes 82-84 minutes, from London Euston.
  • Currently, the two terminating trains are Class 390 trains, whereas the through train can be a Class 221 train as well.
  • Through trains are allowed  5-10 minutes to pass through Birmingham New Street.
  • Trains that terminate at Birmingham New Street station are allowed 20-30 minutes to arrive and leave.
  • Avanti West Coast have said, that they will be running Class 807 trains between London and Birmingham New Street.

It doesn’t seem to be the best use of scarce platform resources in a busy station to park a train there for half-an-hour.

In Will Avanti West Coast’s New Trains Be Able To Achieve London Euston and Liverpool Lime Street In Two Hours?, I came to the conclusion that the Class 807 trains have been designed as simple, fast, lightweight all-electric trains with no heavy batteries, diesel engines on tilt mechanism.

  • I think they’ll be able to shave a few minutes on the timings between London Euston and Birmingham New Street station.
  • I would suspect that they will match the 82-84 minutes of the through trains
  • The ultimate would be if they could do a round trip between London Euston and Birmingham New Street in three hours.
  • Two tph run by what would effectively be a London-Birmingham shuttle would need just six trains.

It might mean new methods of manning the trains, to reduce turnround times.

Doubling Of Services Between Shrewsbury And Birmingham International

The hourly direct London and Shrewsbury Avanti West Coast service will raise the current 1.5 tph service between Shrewsbury and Birmingham International to 2.5 tph, so will be a good start.

  • Perhaps Trains for Wales could find the missing 0.5 tph.
  • West Midlands Trains might be able to squeeze in another train.

But I suspect that the crowded line between Birmingham New Street and Birmingham International is the problem.

Shrewsbury And Birmingham In Forty-Five Minutes

This is the last objective and saving eleven minutes on this route would suggest that the best way would surely be to fully electrify the route.

  • Between Wolverhampton and Birmingham International stations is fully electrified.
  • Electric trains have faster acceleration and deceleration, so would probably achieve the required savings if they stopped more than five times.
  • From my virtual helicopter it doesn’t appear to be the most challenging of routes to electrify.
  • Only about thirty miles of double track would need to be electrified between Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury stations.
  • Both Trains for Wales and West Midlands Trains would have to obtain new electric trains.
  • Avanti West Coast have already got bi-mode Class 805 trains, that could use the electrification.

But will Trains for Wales go along with Midlands Connect, when they tell them to get electric or bi-mode trains to work between Shrewsbury and Birmingham International stations?

It is because of dilemmas like this, that I feel that electric trains using battery or hydrogen power, when away from electrification can be a very good alternative.

  • There is no major disruption raising bridges for the electrification.
  • Stations don’t need to be closed for electrification.
  • The trains have all the comfort and performance of electric trains.
  • Costs and timescales can be reduced.
  • When running on battery or hydrogen power, these trains are very quiet, as there is no pantograph noise.

To run battery-electric trains between Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton, the only infrastructure needed would be a method of charging the train at Shrewsbury station.

This Google Map shows the Southern end of Shrewsbury station.

Note.

  1. The platforms are built over the River Severn.
  2. The five-car Class 221 train in Virgin livery sitting in Platform 5.
  3. When this train leaves it will turn left or to the East for Wolverhampton and Birmingham.
  4. Trains can turn right for Wales.

It is a very unusual station layout.

  • Platform 5 is one of a pair of bay platforms; 5 & 6, that can access either Wales or Birmingham.
  • Outside of the bay platforms are a pair of through platforms; 4 & 7, that can also access Wales or Birmingham, but they can also access Chester by going through the station.
  • The 115 metre long Class 221 train fits easily in the bay platform 5.
  • The 130 metre long Class 805 train would probably need to use Platform 4 or 7.

But with well-planned electrification, it would be ideal for charging electric trains as they pass through or turned back!

Once the train reaches Wolverhampton, it will connect to electrification again.

Shrewsbury And High Speed Two

Currently, Shrewsbury has three connections to stations, where it would be convenient to take a High Speed Two train.

  • Birmingham International, which is 51 miles and 83 minutes away. Plus a ride on a people mover for High Speed Two.
  • Birmingham New Street, which is 42.5 miles and 71 minutes away. Plus a walk to Birmingham Curzon Street for High Speed Two.
  • Crewe, which is 33 miles and 55 minutes away.

Passengers will make their own choice.

Could Shrewsbury Have A Classic-Compatible High Speed Two Service To Manchester Piccadilly?

London To Shrewsbury, Now And Post-High Speed Two

Travel On Monday

If I want to go to Shrewsbury next Monday, one fast journey is taking the 09:10 from Euston and changing at Crewe, which gives a journey time of two hours and thirty-two minutes.

I can also get a train with a change at Birmingham International that takes seven minutes longer.

Travel On High Speed Two

After High Speed Two opens to Birmingham Curzon Street and Interchange in Phase 1 what sort of times to Shrewsbury can be expected?

I estimate the following.

  • Travelling via Birmingham Curzon Street could produce a time of around one hour and fifty minutes, if you’re lucky with the trains.
  • Travelling via Crewe could produce a time of one hour and thirty minutes, if you’re lucky with the trains.
  • Travelling via Interchange could produce a time of around one hour and fifty-five minutes. or forty-four minutes faster.

If I was going to Shrewsbury after High Speed Two has opened, I would probably change at Birmingham Curzon Street, if the walk to New Street station was still within my capabilities, as there will be a Turn-Up-And-Go frequency of four tph between Birmingham New Street and Shrewsbury stations.

Looking at the Midlands Connect objectives, these help with linking Shrewsbury with London.

  • Increasing services between Birmingham and Shrewsbury to four tph, as it’s Turn-Up-And-Go!
  • The direct hourly service to London from Shrewsbury, Wellington and Telford might be the quickest way to London by changing at Birmingham New Street/Curzon Street or Interchange.
  • Doubling the service between Shrewsbury and Birmingham International, may be a good move, as Interchange, which will be connected to Birmingham International by a high capacity people mover, will have five tph between London Euston and Old Oak Common stations.
  • Saving eleven minutes between Shrewsbury and Birmingham will certainly help.

Travelling between London and Telford, Wellington and Shrewsbury will be much improved.

 

June 27, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A Trip Around The West Midlands

Today, I did a trip around the West Midlands, using five different trains.

Tain 1 – 19:10 – Chiltern – London Marylebone To Leamington Spa

This was one of Chiltern’s rakes of Mark 3 coaches hauled by a Class 68 locomotive.

I like these trains.

  • They are comfortable.
  • Everybody gets a table and half sit by a big window.
  • There is more space than Virgin Train’s Class 390 trains.
  • They may be slower, but they are fast enough for most journeys I make.

The train arrived seven minutes late at Leamington Spa at 11:32.

Train 2 – 12:02 – West Midlands Trains – Leamington Spa To Nuneaton

This is a new West Midlands Trains service, via the new station at Kenilworth and Coventry.

The trains are Class 172 trains, that used to run on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.

Note.

  1. The have been repainted and refreshed.
  2. The seat cover on the driver’s seat is a relic of the London Overground.
  3. The train now has a toilet.

The train was about half-full and I got the impression, that the new service had been well-received.

The train arrived on time at Nuneaton at 12:38.

Train 3 – 12:54 – West Midlands Trains – Nuneaton to Rugeley Trent Valley

The train was a Class 350 train and it arrived eight minutes late at 13:29.

These pictures show Rugeley Trent Valley station.

It is very minimal with just a shelter, a basic footbridge and no information on how or where to buy a ticket.

Passengers deserve better than this!

Train 4 – 13:43 – West Midlands Trains – Rugeley Trent Valley to Birmingham New Street

This is a new West Midlands Trains electric service.

Compared to the Leamington Spa to Nuneaton service, passengers were spread rather thinly in the train.

The train was a Class 350 train and it arrived five minutes late at 14:44.

Train 5 – 15:55 – Chiltern – Birmingham Moor Street to London Marylebone

Another comfortable Chiltern Railways train back to London, which arrived four minutes late at 17:47.

Customer Service

Customer service and especially that from West Midlands Trains was rather patchy.

  • Leamington Spa station was rebuilding the entrance, but staff were around.
  • Nuneaton station was very quiet.
  • Rugeley Trent Valley station needs a lot of improvement.
  • The two Birmingham City Centre stations were much better.

I actually had to travel ticketless from Rugeley Trent Valley to Birmingham New Street, as the Conductor on the train didn’t check the tickets.

But Virgin Trains were very professional at Birmingham New Street.

Service Pattern

I have some observations on the service patterns.

  • For comfort reasons, I would prefer that Chiltern ran Mark 3 coaches and Class 68 locomotives on all Birmingham services.
  • In the future, it looks like Leamington Spa and Nuneaton needs at least a half-hourly service.
  • There definitely needs to be more services on the Chase Line.

There also is a serious need for staff and better facilities at Rugeley Trent Valley station.

No-one even a hardened member of the SAS would want to spend thirty minutes changing trains there on a blustery and cold winter’s day.

Conclusion

I tried two new services today, that started on the May 2019 timetable change.

  • A diesel service between Leamington Spa and Nuneaton via Kenilworth and Coventry.
  • An electrified service between Rugeley Trent Valley and Birmingham New Street.

The first would appear to be what passengers want, but the second needs a bit of promoting.

 

May 24, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Abbey Line Passing Loop Proposed

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in the June 2019 Edition of Modern Railways.

Bricket Wood station used to be an important station on the Abbey Line, with grand buildings and a passing loop to allow trains to run a teo trains per hour (tph) service as opposed to the current inconvenient train every forty-five minutes.

Consultants have now said that a traditional passing loop, with a second platform and a bridge would cost up to £10million, which is probably not viable.

The Penryn Solution

The article says this about the consultants’ alternative solution.

The platform at Bricket Wood be lengthened such that trains stop at different ends of a single platform, similar to the solution adopted in Penryn on the branch line from Truro to Falmouth, which would help to minimise costs.

This Google Map shows Penryn station.

Note the long single platform in the station.

This section in the Wikipedia entry called Signalling, gives a full explanation of the method of operation at Penryn.

Truro-bound trains use the northern end of the station (Platform 2), arriving before the Falmouth-bound train, which will pass through the new loop and to the southern end of the platform (Platform 1), allowing the Truro-bound train to continue its journey north. This gives a rare situation in the United Kingdom where trains run on the right, instead of on the left as is usual in this country. Trains are scheduled to depart simultaneously for Truro and Falmouth.

Bricket Wood station already has a platform, that can take a comfortably take a four-car Class 319 train, as this Google Map shows.

Consider.

  • I estimate from Google Maps, that the single platform at Bricket Wood station is currently around 190 metres long.
  • Looking at the map, it might be possible to add another ten metres or so to the platform length.
  • The current Class 319 trains are 79.5 metres long or 159 metres for a pair.
  • It wouldn’t matter, if for reasons of safety, the front of the trains were allowed to extend for perhaps ten metres past the end of the platform.
  • There also appears to be space to put a second track alongside the current single track.

I also suspect, that Network Rail have track design software, that can precisely calculate the size and position of the points, so that the manoeuvre can be safely executed every time.

I very much feel, that a design can be produced, that will staff, passengers and regulators.

Can This Proposal Handle More Than Two tph?

If you look at the timings of the train, it takes eight minutes to run these legs.

  • Watford Junction and Bricket Wood
  • Bricket Wood and St. Albans Abbey

The times are identical, irrespective of direction.

If times are the same after installation of the novel loop. A train will take sixteen minutes plus however much time, it takes to turnback the train to get back to Bricket Wood.

As trains will be running every thirty minutes and both trains will leave Bricket Wood at the same time, the train must be able to run the out-and-back journey from Bricket Wood in thirty minutes or less.

  • The out and back legs both take eight minutes.
  • This means that the turnback time must be less than fourteen minutes.

Currently, turnback times are fourteen minutes or less.

  • If you look at four tph, there is a train every fifteen minutes. As each leg is eight minutes long, it would appear another method of operation will have to be used.
  • If you look at three tph, there is a train every twenty minutes. Would it be possible to turn back the trains in under four minutes? It might be possible, but it would be a tough call.

I would suspect, that for a reliable service, the proposed method of operation has a maximum frequency of two tph.

I suspect, that the only way to get more than two tph, would be to fully double track the route, with two platforms at all stations on the route.

Does The New Track Need To Be Fully-Electrified?

There would be around two hundred metres of new track and if electrification were to be installed, a pair of the current Class 319 trains could provide a two tph service.

Surely Network Rail can manage to put up this amount of new electrification without massive cost and time overruns?

Despite being over thirty years old, the Class 319 trains scrub-up well as these pictures show.

But what could be done if electrification was deemed to be outside the budget? Or it was decided that new zero-carbon trains should be used on the Abbey Line?

Battery trains are coming and there are several trains that can use both electric and battery power under development, in the UK, Europe, China and Japan.

Battery Power On The Abbey Line

Bricket Wood station is 3.5 miles from the Watford Junction end of the Abbey Line and perhaps three miles from the St. Albans end.

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, which is not very challenging, as is the Abbey Line.

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

So if a four-car electric-battery hybrid train was to handle the whole of the 6.5 mile route, it would need a battery of between 156-260 kWh to go between Watford Junction and St. Albans Abbey stations and back. It would also need charging at one or both ends of the route.

But supposing trains used the current electrification between Watford Junction and Bricket Wood stations to both power the train and charge their batteries.

  • The trains would only be doing six miles on batteries, so the battery would be between 72-120 kWh.
  • Trains would raise and lower their pantographs at Bricket Wood station.
  • No new electrification would be required.
  • If trains needed to top-up their batteries, they would do this using the electrification in the two terminal stations.

It might even be preferential to remove electrification between St. Albans Abbey and Bricket Wood stations to save maintenance costs and improve safety.

Could West Midlands Trains’ Class 730 Trains Be Used?

The current franchise holder; West Midlands Trains has ordered a large fleet of Class 730 trains for services between London and the West Midlands and for local electric services in the West Midlands.

Included are thirty-six three-car trains for working suburban services across Birmingham. These have twenty-four metre long cars, so are eight metres shorter than the four-car Class 319 trains, so they are another possibility, unless their longer car length would cause problems in the Bricket Wood manoeuvre.

Should The Abbey Line Be Transferred To Transport for London?

There have been suggestions in the past, that the route be transferred to Transport for London.

I’ll leave the politics aside, but electric-battery hybrid versions of London Overground’s Class 710 trains, which will soon be serving Watford Junction station would probably be ideal.

As they are dimensionally similar to the Class 319 trains, they may also be able to work the route under electric power.

Conclusion

There are certainly, several affordable ways to improve the Abbey Line.

My preferred solution would be go for the Penryn solution, using a fleet of Class 319 trains.

  • Penryn seems to be working well.
  • Track would need to be re-laid through Bricket Wood station, to add the passing loop.
  • About two hundred metres of extra electrification would need to be erected.
  • There would probably need to be some modification to the signalling, as there was at Penryn.
  • Three trains as a minimum, would be needed, two for the service and one as a spare or as maintenance cover.
  • West Midlands Trains already have fifteen Class 319 trains, so finding a viable fleet in top-class condition, shouldn’t be difficult.
  • If slightly shorter trains could be needed, the trains might be able to be shortened to three-car trains.
  • Staff training would be minimal.
  • The current trains are liked by drivers.
  • The trains would be zero-carbon.
  • The current trains are in very good condition.
  • The current trains even have toilets, which are probably not needed on a six-and-a-half mile journey
  • If say in ten years time, new trains are needed, I suspect there will be fleets of suitable electric multiple units, less than eighty metres long.

It is probably the most affordable solution.

 

 

May 24, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Have Transport for London Got A Plan To Finish Work On The Gospel Oak To Barking Line?

This article on CityMetric is entitled London’s Gospel Oak to Barking Line Might Be About To Lose All Its Trains To Birmingham.

These two paragraphs outline the problem with the Class 172 and Class 710 trains on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.

Under Tf’L’s original plans for the GOBLIN, this would have been OK – the current diesel Class 172s were supposed to stay until the new electric Class 710s were in power. But there’s a big shortage of diesel trains in the UK, so the Department for Transport insisted that the 172s went to the West Midlands Railway franchise to boost services around Birmingham. TfL – under the previous mayor, who you may remember from certain gameshows and zipwires – signed up to transfer the trains early.

But the trains aren’t early. Two of the eight 172s on the GOBLIN have already been sent to the West Midlands, which leaves the GOBLIN service a mess because it requires all six trains to run a peak service. TfL is desperately trying to keep the trains running day-to-day by cancelling weekend services.

TfL need to cancel some weekend services, so that they can service the trains properly. I could imagine that of the six trains, that remain in North London, which run in the week, three would work Saturday and three would work Sunday.

Today, they are shuttling between South Tottenham and Gospel Oak stations.

  • The journey takes fourteen minutes.
  • There is a crossover at South Tottenham station, which allows trains to reverse there.
  • I think that two or three trains are providing a two train per hour (tph) service.

I went to South Tottenham station, this morning and there were some fractious relations between customers and staff, but nothing too fractious!

There were also posters on the wall of the station saying that on most weekends until the 20th of January, there would only be services between South Tottenham and Gospel Oak stations.

Closures between South Tottenham and Barking stations are on the following days.

  • 24th December 2018
  • 25th December 2018
  • 26th December 2018
  • 29th December 2018
  • 30th December 2018
  • 31st December 2018
  • 1st January 2019
  • 5th January 2019
  • 6th January 2019
  • 13th January 2019
  • 19th January 2019

The whole line will also be closed on the 20th January 2019.

Note that from now until the 6th January 2019, the trains will only be running for five days out of fourteen. Is this high degree of closure, so that the Class 172 trains can be fully serviced?

It looks to me that TfL are succeeding in providing a two tph service to the West of South Tottenham station.

Note that only Harringay Green Lanes and Crouch Hill stations aren’t direct or out-of-station interchanges.

If you look at the stations to the East of South Tottenham station, you find the following.

To increase services in the area, a Rail Replacement Bus is being run between Walthamstow Central and Barking stations.

The proposed level of service at weekends, should enable.

  • Enough time to maintain the six trains needed for the four tph weekday service on the whole line.
  • Three trains at the weekend to enable a two tph service between South Tottenham and Gospel Oak station.
  • Any outstanding work to be completed on the stations between Barking and South Tottenham stations.

I’m sure that it used to say on Wikipedia, that the new four-car Class 710 trains would be introduced gradually into the fleet.

This would certainly be possible, as the new trains became available and each one that entered service could release a Class 172 train for West Midlands Trains.

 

 

December 24, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 4 Comments

RSC Urges GWR To Provide Stratford Improvements

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in Issue 860 of Rail Magazine.

This is the first paragraph.

The Royal Shakespeare Company and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust have written a joint letter to Great Western Railway Managing Director Mark Hopwood, urging him to improve services between London and Stratford-upon-Avon should GWR retain the Great Western franchise.

Stratford-upon-Avon station may have step-free access, but the services are not of a level for such an important tourist destination.

  • 2 trains per hour (tph) to Birmingham Snow Hill and Stourbridge Junction.
  • 1 train every two hours to Leamington Spa with some continuing to London Marylebone.

It really isn’t enough trains.

Coventry And Stratford-upon-Avon

In 2021 Coventry will be the UK City Of Culture, so surely there should be a direct rail link between one of the most important cities of the West Midlands and one of its biggest cultural attractions.

But no there isn’t a direct link, despite the rail lines being in place.

You have to change at Leamington Spa. But the journey only takes a reasonable 70 minutes.

I have read somewhere, that West Midlands Trains are going to link up these two services.

  • Nuneaton and Coventry
  • Coventry and Leamington Spa

This would create a single service between Nuneaton and Leamington Spa stations..

Could this service be extended to Stratford-upon-Avon?

  • They are acquiring eight Class 172 trains from London Overground, to run services in Warwickshire.
  • All the tracks are in place.
  • The service would connect the West Coast Main Line and the Chiltern Main Line to Stratford-upon-Avon.

How long would it take?

These are current average times for the three legs

  • Nuneaton to Coventry – 22 minutes
  • Coventry to Leamington Spa – 12 minutes
  • Leamington Spa to Stratford – 35 minutes

This totals to 69 minutes.

  • There are thirteen stations stops, one of which is a reverse at Leamington Spa station.
  • There will be a need to add a few minutes for turnround at Nuneaton and Stratford-upon-Avon stations.
  • The Class 172 trains are 100 mph trains, whereas the current Class 153 trains are only 75 mph trains.
  • Much of the track has an operating speed of 100 mph.

If a round trip can be done in under three hours, the following number of trains would be needed.

  • One tph would need three trains.
  • Two tph would need six trains.

The number of trains are actually the same that would be needed, if the routes were run as three separate sections. But by joining them together passengers don’t need to change trains.

With the faster trains, I do wonder if a round trip of two hours is possible, which would mean that just four trains would be needed for a two tph service.

Hopefully, a better service will be in place before Coventry is UK City of Culture.

An Improved Chiltern Service

Chiltern Railways don’t have the capacity on the Chiltern Main Line to run more direct services to Stratford, but I feel they could improve the current service.

If you are going to Stratford from Marylebone, most of Chiltern’s Birmingham services offer a one-change route to Stratford. But it is not always the same interchange station and I have found routes with changes at Birmingham Moor Street, Dorridge and Leamington Spa.

The Chiltern service to Stratford could be improved by just ensuring that to go between Marylebone and Stratford, you always changed at the same station and waited just a few minutes.

This map from Wikipedia, shows the rail connections around Leamington Spa.

Note the lines to Stratford and Coventry.

The direct service to Stratford is one train every two hours, whereas the service to Coventry is two trains per hour running fifteen minutes apart.

As I said earlier, perhaps what is needed is a unified Nuneaton to Stratford service, which ideally should do the following.

  • Run every thirty minutes.
  • Be timed to connect with Chiltern’s London trains at Leamington Spa.
  • Run a bit quicker than the current Class 153 trains.

The problem would be that a Chiltern service would be replaced with one run by West Midlands Trains.

Avon Rail Link

Under Possible Future Development in the Wikipedia entry for Stratford-upon-Avon station, 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. There is, however, a good business case for Stratford-Cotswolds link.

This is the scheme, that has prompted, the letter from the RSC and SBT to GWR.

The link would connect Stratford to Oxford, Reading and Paddington.

I suspect that you could argue that it would create a useful railway in an arc connecting the Thames Valley to the West Midlands.

A lot of things said about the East West Rail Link, would probably apply to this railway.

Honeybourne station on the Cotswold Line between Worcester and Oxford, would be the Southern end of the Avon Rail Link, where a connection to the privately-owned herotage raily; the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway, has been allowed for by Network Rail.

This section entitled North From Honeybourne on the Wikipedia entry for the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway, says this about building the extension.

The section between Stratford and Stratford Racecourse has been utilised to improve road access around the town, especially the A4390, making reinstatement of rail to the main station at Stratford extremely difficult.

Given the local opposition, it looks like it will be a struggle to get this line built.

Conclusion

There are three ways to improve rail access to Stratford-upon-Avon.

  • The relatively easy and quick, enhancement of the rail services in Warwickshire.
  • Provide better one-change routes using Chiltern Railways.
  • The more difficult re-connection of Stratford to the Cotswold Line at Honeybourne.

As the last project will take years to implement, I feel, it is important that services to Stratford from Birmingham, Coventry, Leamington Spa and the West Midlands are substantially increased.

I also believe that the responsibility of providing a local service between Leamigton Spa and Stratford should be given to West Midlands Trains.

 

August 31, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 8 Comments

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 | Transport | , , , , | 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 | Transport | , , , | 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 | Transport | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment