The Anonymous Widower

Wi-fi On A Train In A Deep Tunnel Under London

I’ve just been using wi-fi on a Class 717 train between Essex Road and Moorgate stations.

Is this the first railway line deep underneath the surface of London to have wi-fi installed?

I shall be interested to see, if I use the line more, as an alternative way to get to Moorgate from my house.

April 30, 2019 Posted by | Computing, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Wi-Fi And Power Sockets On A Class 717 Train

In A First Ride In A Class 717 Train, I didn’t take any pictures of the power sockets, as I didn’t see them.

This picture from a second trip, rectified the error.

There is one 13 amp socket  under a pair of seats and you will need a plug.

It is my belief that a USB socket is better, as this armrest installation on a Class 230 train shows.

It is certainly a better place, as the wires can be short and can be kept out of the way.

The wi-fi performed well, but Great Northern seemed to want me to register. I never do, as it just gives them an excuse to send you junk mail.

Conclusion

The wi-fi installation can be improved.

It has to, as according to this article on Rail Magazine, Class 710 trains have USB sockets.

My ideal train would have.

  • Free wi-fi with no registration.
  • USB sockets in the armrests.
  • 4G booster, so if the train has a signal, you do.

The current systems can be greatly improved.

 

January 30, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Why Do UK Train Operating Companies Dislike Siemens Trains?

This post was suggested by this article on Global Rail News, which is entitled TransPennine Express Class 397 Fleet Taking Shape.

The following sections describe how the various train companies are replacing their trains built by Siemens.

TransPennine Express

TransPennine Express (TPE) currently have two fleets of Siemens trains; Class 350 and Class 185 trains.

Class 350 trains

TPE currently has a fleet of ten four-car Class 350 trains, which were built by Siemens and are used on electrified services between Manchester Airport and Scotland. They are being replaced by twelve five-car Class 397 trains.

The comparison between the two trains gives clues as to why the fleet is being replaced.

  • The Class 397 trains are 125 mph capable, which means they can mix it with the Virgin’s Class 390 Pendelinos of a similar performance.
  • The Class 350 trains are only capable of 110 mph.
  • The fleet needed to be increased in number to handle services between Liverpool and Scotland.
  • The five-car Class 397 trains fit the capacity needed for the Scottish routes better than the four-car Class 350 trains.
  • The Class 350 trains don’t have wi-fi/4G and power-points to the current standard on some of the latest trains, like the Aventra.

I’ve not ridden in these trains, so I can’t comment on their quality.

I suspect it’s that the Class 397 trains have the 125 mph capability and adding another 110 mph train from Liverpool to Scotland would be too much for the West Coast Main Line to handle.

If you look at the current scheduled times of Virgin and TPE between Wigan North Western and Glasgow and Scotland, you get the following.

  • Virgin – Wigan North Western to Glasgow – 2 hours 31 minutes
  • TPE – Wigan North Western to Glasgow – 2 hours 46 minutes
  • Virgin – Wigan North Western to Edinburgh – 2 hours 39 minutes
  • TPE – Wigan North Western to Edinburgh – 2 hours 53 minutes

So it looks like the new 125 mph trains could save around fifteen minutes on a journey between North West England and Scotland. In addition to the quicker journey time for passengers, it might mean that TPE can use their trains more efficiently.

Nothing has been said, but I suspect that the new Class 397 trains can couple and uncouple automatically, as the Class 395 trains do regularly.

This would allow TPE to run a service like this.

  • Two five-car trains start independently from Liverpool and Manchester Airport.
  • The trains would couple together at Wigan North Western or Preston.
  • They would then run to Carstairs at 125 mph.
  • The trains would then split.
  • One train would go to Glasgow and the other would go to Edinburgh.

The Southbound service would reverse the process.

In the 1960s, I travelled from Glasgow to Manchester on a service like this. T remember, that I was very late into Manchester, as we were delayed at Carstairs by the late arrival of the train from Edinburgh.

It looks to me, that TPE have decided to replace their Class 350 trains, with a faster and more flexible fleet, that can be run according to passenger demand.

Class 185 Trains

TPE also have a fleet of fifty-one three-car Class 185 trains, that were built by Siemens in 2005-2006.

These trains were in some ways very badly-specified for the route and have some deficiencies.

  • There are not enough of them and they suffer badly from overcrowding.
  • They are 100 mph trains, which means they are inadequate on the West Coast and East Coast Main Lines.
  • They lack wi-fi and power sockets.
  • They are diesel trains, that sometimes work on electrified lines, like Liverpool to Manchester and Leeds to Newxastle.

It is no surprise that TPE have decided to replace twenty-two of the Class 185 trains with Class 68 locomotive-hauled Mark 5 coaches and Class 802 trains.

  • This gives a twenty-seven percent increase in the number of carriages.
  • The Class 802 trains are 125 mph capable, so will be very handy for Liverpool to Newcastle and in a few years time to Edinburgh.
  • The coaches are also built to be capable of 125 mph, but they would need faster locomotives to run at that speed.
  • The new fleet will have the wi-fi and power sockets that passengers require.

This new fleet will certainly be better suited to TPE’s needs.

Greater Anglia

Greater Anglia are replacing all their trains, including their fleet of twenty-one four-car Class 360 trains, that were built by Siemens in 2002-2003.

However, in the August 30th Edition of Rail Magazine, there is an article entitled Trio Of Class 360 Desiros Reach Norwich For GA Timing Test.

It appears that, as the fastest trains in Greater Anglia’s fleet, they are being tested in case the new Class 745 trains are not ready before January 1st, 2020, when the Mark 3 coaches have to be retired.

South Western Railway

South Western Railway have a mixed fleet, which includes a lot of trains built by Siemens.

Class 707 Trains

South Western Railway (SWR) are still taking deliveries from Siemens of a fleet of thirty five-car Class 707 trains, that they inherited from South West Trains.

However, they have decided to replace the trains and their Class 455 trains with new Aventras.

I think that the main reason for having a fleet of 100 mph suburban trains, is that they get lots of advantages when it comes to creating passenger-friendly timetables.

 

But there are other reasons.

  • SWR have said that all their trains will have toilets. The Class 707 trains don’t.
  • The new fleet contains a lot of ten-car trains, whereas the Class 707 trains are all five cars.
  • If all the trains are identical, this must give advantages with respect to management of trains and staff.

It looks to me, that South West Trains choice of fleet wasn’t in tune with SWR’s philosophy.

The Return Of The Class 442 Trains

Surprisingly, SWR are bringing back thirty-year-old Class 442 trains for the London to Portsmouth routes.

SWR probably need more trains to augment their forty-five Class 444 trains and a hundred plus Class 450 trains, which were all built by Siemens around the turn of the millennium.

Refurbishing the Class 442 trains is probably more affordable than ordering more trains from Siemens.

They can also be fitted with wi-fi, which the Class 444 and Class 450 trains lack.

West Midlands Trains

West Midlands Trains will takeover from London Midland in December 2017.

Currently, London Midland operate seventy-seven four-car Class 350 trains, built by Siemens in 2004-2014.

West Midlands Trains have promised to introduce 225 new carriages on Euston services.

As these trains work on the West Coast Main Line will they be 125 mph units like the Class 397 trains, so they can mix it with the Pendelinos?

Whatever happens, it does seem that the 100-110 mph Class 350 trains without wi-fi, may be living on borrowed time.

Thameslink

Thameslink is now a rail line run exclusively by Class 700 trains, built by Siemens in the last few years.

The trains were ordered without wi-fi and passengers are often critical of the trains.

In my opinion, the trains are inferior to Crossrail’s Class 345 trains, which have both wi-fi and 4G connectivity.

Conclusions

When I travel in a train that Siemens have built for the UK network, I often feel disappointed and think that they could have done better.

Perhaps the exceptions are South Western Railway’s Class 444 and Class 450 trains, but they lack wi-fi. These trains were built some years ago before it had been invented.

Wi-Fi

The Department for Transport now insists that passengers get free wi-fi and Crossrail is throwing in 4G connectivity as well.

I’m not sure, if there’s a Siemens train in the UK with wi-fi.

But then most trains in Germany have very poor wi-fi in my experience.

Could the design of Siemens trains make fitting of wi-fi and UK-sized power sockets difficult?

Contracts

Most trains these days are leased on long-term contracts, which includes maintenance. Could this cause problems with updating trains?

With the old BR-era trains, there are several depots and factories where trains can be updated and Bombardier seem to update their old tranis regularly at Derby. So is Siemens unprepared to update its older trains on the UK network?

The Aventras Are Coming

The first Class 345 trains are appearing with a quiet and smooth ride, excellent performance and wi-fi and 4G connectivity.

Siemens will have to raise their game to compete.

 

September 6, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Even Vauxhall Corsas Have 4G Wi-Fi

This is the case according to adverts at the side of the pitch in the England Slovakia game at Wembley tonight.

I don’t drive, so I don’t care, but it appears that this increasingly features on cars.

Bombardier have fitted this feature to Crossrail’s Class 345 trains, so will we see it increasingly fitted to all trains, taxis and buses?

It’ll certainly be something that passengers on public transport will expect.

September 4, 2017 Posted by | Computing, Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Kent On The Cusp Of Change – Elimination Of Slow Trains

The Kent On The Cusp Of Change article in the July 2017 Edition of Modern Railways discusses the improvements that may be made by the new franchisee of the Southeastern franchise.

Southeastern‘s current fleet includes.

The slower 75 mph trains are generally older and lack customer-friendly features like wi-fi and good information screens.

The article says that Class 465 trains are still used on the Maidstone East Line and possibly on Tunbridge Wells stoppers.

I can confirm in my trip to Longfield Station, that they are still used on that route.

Running these slow trains in with the faster 100 mph units like the Class 375/377 trains, is like allowing milk-floats on motorways.

It could be that the reason, stations on the Maidstone East Line only get two trains per hour (tph), is because some services are or could be run by the slow Class 465 trains.

Implications For The Maidstone East Line

Currently, Maidstone East to Ashford International station takes about thirty minutes.

Given that modern trains like Southeastern’s  Class 375 and Class 377 trains and Thameslink’s Class 700 trains are also very much better and faster at carrying out a station stop, could it be that even if the train stopped everywhere on the Maidstone East Line, that substantial savings in time could be made?

Could this mean, that Thameslink’s future Cambridge to Maidstone East service could be extended to the much better connected Ashford International?

I think it could be mathematically possible and it would mean that all the intermediate stations on the Maidstone East Line would have a doubling of service frequency to 4 tph.

This is a simple example in the Southeastern area, but in how many other places on their network, do the 75 mph trains cause timetabling problems.

It is my belief, that all trains incapable of operating at 100 mph, should either be modified so they can operate at 100 mph or be scrapped.

The Minimum Train Specification

A minimum electric train specification should probably be something like this, to satisfy passengers and train operating companies.

  • 100 mph capability
  • Designed for a fast station stop with minimum dwell-time
  • Regenerative braking
  • Efficient traction motors
  • Wi-fi in all classes
  • The capability to fit boosters for 4G signals.

Southeastern’s Class 465 trains fail on all points.

Metro Operations

But surely, they are OK when running a Metro service like Victoria to Dartford?

Currently, this service takes 49 minutes with eleven stops.

This means that a train takes two hours to go from Victoria and Dartford and back, so to achieve the required service frequency of 2 tph, four trains will be needed.

But supposing a modern train is used on this route. Train manufacturers will claim that a modern train saves about two to three minutes a stop.

So if two minutes a stop is saved, modern signalling is used to advantage and the driver uses the extra speed and acceleration with alacrity, I feel that the forty-nine minute journey could be brought down sufficiently, so that the round trip would be under an hour.

Not only would passengers see a faster service of under thirty minutes in a much better equipped train, but the operator could run the 2 tph service with just two trains instead of four and a big saving in electricity.

The operator may have to alter staff practices because of the faster journey, but I doubt it would be anything controversial.

Could Class 707 Trains Be Used On The Southeastern Franchise?

The Class 707 trains, which are unwanted by South Western Railway are 100 mph units and are probably up-to-scratch for the train operator.

But they may need to be retrofitted with wi-fi.

I suspect, that one of the conditions of the new Southeastern franchise, is that free wi-fi is offered. Now that Crossrail is throwing in 4G access, I suspect all bidders will offer this too!

Conclusion

All trains incapable of running a service at 100 mph should be eliminated, just as the two operators;Greater Anglia and South Western Railway, are planning to do.

There’s going to a lot of slow trains going cheap!

See Also

These are related posts.

To know more read Kent On The Cusp Of Change in the July 2017 Edition of Modern Railways.

 

 

 

June 30, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 18 Comments

Bombardier’s Giant Spanner In The Works

On The 10:35 From Liverpool Street To Shenfield, I talked to several passengers and one thing that impressed a couple was the built-in 4G mobile-phone capability of the trains.

So much wi-fi on trains is tedious to use and the operator wants to get you to register, so they can bombard you with spam.

For this and other reasons, I rarely use wi-fi.

Now that Bombardier have fitted 4G to Crossrail’s Aventras, will every new train in the UK, be fitted with this capability?

You bet it will! Or the train won’t sell!

I actually, think that 4G capability could be a train feature that appeals to many older travellers., who I suspect generally aren’t the heaviest users of bandwidth, but also want instant access at all times.

4G all the time gives you this.

June 29, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Wi-Fi Becoming A Curse?

I usually only switch wi-fi on when I need it, on my Samsung phone. And when I don’t, I switch it off immediately.

Yesterday, I forgot to switch it off and this morning as the bus went through the Angel, the phone had switched itself to an O2 advert and it was trying to get me to install fourteen copies of updated apps.

I immediately, switched wi-fi off and didn’t install any updated apps, as in fact, I only use one app and that never seems to update itself.

How many people just update all the apps, they’re asked to do and inadvertently load a piece of malware, that empties their bank account?

Remember, it is in your phone service provider’s interest that you keep updating, as this generally increases your bill.

I also have no financial details on my mobile phone. Anybody who does, deserves to lose all their money!

 

 

 

November 23, 2016 Posted by | Computing, World | , , | 6 Comments

Don’t Get A Mask To Rob A Bank – Just Buy The App

This is the title of an article in The Sunday Times.

It talks about an App called Blackshades, that can be bought for three hundred pounds, that enables a thief to seize control of a victim’s computer and steal their passwords.

Hopefully, I’m protected but it’s a frightening concept. My passwords aren’t stored on the computer, but in my Mark 1, 1947-vintage core store, which is the safest place for them.

It also says that infiltrating a smart-phone or tablet can be easier than targetting desktops, saying that many criminals set up malicious hotspots in public places.

For that reason, I only use wi-fi in trusted locations and usually have it switched off on my smart phone. I never use wi-fi that wants my e-mail address as giving it usually ensures, I’ll get marketing e-mails, which I class as spam.

I also check my bank account and credit cards every day or so, so that if I’m robbed, I know it first.

From what I can ascertain, I think that contactless payments are pretty safe, especially in London, where there are billions of transactions because of public transport.

So I use contctless wherever I can locally!

November 13, 2016 Posted by | Computing, Finance | , , , , | Leave a comment

Will Crossrail And Its Class 345 Trains Set Mobile Connection Standards For The UK?

Search for “Class 345 trains 4G” or “Class 345 trains wi-fi” and you find reports like this on London Reconnections about the Class 345 train.

This or something like it, is said in several of these reports.

According to the accompanying press notes both free wifi and 4G services will be delivered on board, as will multiple wheelchair and luggage spaces.

It would be very embarrassing for London’s flagship multi-billion pound project, if it wasn’t correct.

So it would appear that I could board a Class 345 train at Shenfield and watch a video all the way to Heathrow or Reading.

But where does this leave Thameslink?

Their Class 700 trains have been designed without wi-fi, 4G and power-sockets as I said in By Class 700 Train To Brighton And Back.

But at least Siemens felt that the Department for Transport, who ordered the trains, were out of step with reality and  appear to have made provision to at least fit wi-fi.

This article on Rail Engineer is entitled Class 707 Breaks Cover and it describes the Class 707 train, which is a sister train to the Class 700. This is said about the two trains and wi-fi and toilets.

Thameslink (or the Department for Transport which ordered the trains) decided not to include Wi-Fi in the Class 700s, a questionable decision that has now apparently been reversed. Fortunately, Siemens had included the technology framework in the design so, hopefully, the upgrade will not require too much effort. Suffice it to say that South West Trains has included Wi-Fi in its specification for Class 707s.

Reversing the story, Thameslink Class 700s are all fitted with toilets. However, South West Trains has decided not to include toilets in its Class 707 specification given that the longest journey time is less than one hour and their inclusion would reduce the overall capacity of the trains.

So it appears that Siemens may have future-proofed the trains.

This article on the Railway Gazette describes the third fleet of the Siemens trains; the Class 717 trains for Moorgate services. This is said.

Plans for the installation of wi-fi are being discussed with the Department for Transport as part of a wider programme for the GTR fleet.

So at least something is happening.

But how close will mobile data services get to the ideal that customers want.

  • 4G everywhere from the moment you enter a station until you leave the railway at your destination station.
  • Seamless wi-fi, so you log in once and your login is valid until you leave the railway.

It will be tough ask to achieve, as it must be valid on the following services.

  • Crossrail
  • Thameslink
  • London Overground
  • London Underground
  • All train services terminating in London.

And why not all buses, trams and taxis?

On a related topic, I believe that for safety and information reasons, all bus and tram stops and railway stations must have a quality mobile signal and if it is possible wi-fi.

One life saved would make it all worthwhile.

 

October 11, 2016 Posted by | Computing, Transport | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Wi-Fi On New Thameslink Class 700 Trains

Modern Railways in February is stating that the new Class 700 trains for Thameslink won’t have wi-fi.

I was told by a Furst Great Western employee that wi-fi will be important in the future to attract passengers onto the railway.

Some companies like Chiltern now offer free wi-fi to all passengers and this will become a norm in the next few years over much of the network.

The omission of wi-fi on the Class 700 trains will have to be rectified.

I did find this link, where someone is trying to get the notes from the Department for Transport on why the trains were specified this way.

Perhaps the reason is that free wi-fi would attract too many commuters onto the trains and they’d have to buy more trains to reduce the overcrowding.

 

January 31, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , | Leave a comment