The Anonymous Widower

New MerseyRail ‘Connected’ Trains

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

It is an article that should be read, by anybody with an interest in either Merseyrail’s trains or modern urban rail networks in general. As Stadler, will be providing a fleet of trains for the Tyne and Wear Metro, I suspect a lot of the points made in the article can be expected to have parallels on that network as well.

What About The Signalling?

The article talks about the management of the signalling, but it says little about signalling in the future, although it does say that Merseyrail will be covered by a very high capacity digital network.

London’s Digital Signalling Revolution

In London, there are four tunnelled routes, that in a few years time will be running under full digital signalling.

  • Crossrail
  • East London Line
  • Northern and City Line
  • Thameslink

Note.

  1. Thameslink is already running upwards of twenty trains per hour (tph) using digital ERTMS signalling.
  2. Crossrail will be running 24 tph using digital ERTMS signalling.
  3. The East London Line currently handles 16 tph and will soon be handling 20 tph.
  4. The Northern and City Line will be going to digital ERTMS signalling, when it is applied to the Southern end of the East Coast Main Line.
  5. , In addition to the Circle, District, Jubilee, Metropolitan, Northern and Victoria Lines of the London Underground have digital signalling.
  6. Dear old Vicky is actually running 36 tph between two-platform stations at Brixton and Walthamstow Central.
  7. I wouldn’t bet against Vicky running the magic 40 tph, to become the most frequency line in the world.

All of these London systems, have one great advantage. In the tunnelled sections of the routes, there is generally only one class of fully digitally-equipped train, which must make system design and implementation easier.

Liverpool’s Digital Signalling Revolution

Consider.

  • As the article says, Merseyrail now has a world-class high-capacity digital network, that is accessible by all of its trains.
  • It has ordered 52 new Class 777 trains and has options for another sixty.
  • There are proposals to extend the Merseyrail network to Manchester, Preston, Skelmersdale, Warrington, Wigan and Wrexham.
  • The Northern Line runs at a frequency of 12 tph.
  • The Wirral Line runs at a frequency of 14 tph.
  • The loop Line has recently been relaid, so is probably high-quality track.

Compared to London’s tunnelled routes, the Northern and Wirral Lines are not handling a large number of trains.

But Liverpool now has a digital network to support the signalling and trains that could be upgraded to use it are arriving.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the maximum train frequency on Merseyrail is at least twenty tph or one train every three minutes.

What Would Twenty tph Do For The Wirral Line?

Currently, the following destinations are served by the Wirral Line and the services use the Loop under Liverpool City Centre.

Note.

  1. The current frequency around the Loop is 14 tph.
  2. Merseyrail is proposing to extend the Ellesmere Port service to Helsby, using battery-equipped Class 777 trains
  3. There is also an hourly service from Bidston to Wrexham Central in the Borderlands Line.
  4. I can see no technical reason why, the Bidston and Wrexham service could not be run using battery-equipped Class 777 trains and terminating in the Loop.

Surely, the ultimate twenty tph service on the Wirral Line would be as follows.

  • Chester – Four tph
  • Helsby via Ellesmere Port – Four tph
  • New Brighton – Four tph
  • West Kirby – Four tph
  • Wrexham Central – Four tph

All twenty tph would terminate in the Loop under Liverpool City Centre.

What Would Twenty tph Do For The Northern Line?

Currently, the following Northern destinations are served by the Northern Line.

And these Southern destinations are served.

Note.

  1. The current frequency, through the central section is 12 tph.
  2. There is a proposal, that I wrote about in Liverpool’s Forgotten Tunnel for the trains terminating at Liverpool Central station to use the Wapping Tunnel to connect to the City Line.
  3. There is a proposal to extend the Ormskirk service to Preston, using battery-equipped Class 777 trains.
  4. There is a proposal to extend the Kirkby service to Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale, using battery-equipped Class 777 trains.
  5. There must also be a possibility of a service that extends the Kirkby service to Wigan Wallgate, using battery-equipped Class 777 trains.

The service des appear to be biased towards the Northern end, with more possibilities there for extra trains than in the South.

This is why the plan to expand to the East through the Wapping Tunnel has evolved, as it gives the following possible destinations.

  • Manchester Oxford Road
  • Warrington Bank Quay
  • Warrington Central
  • Wigan North Western

Note.

  1. All destinations are currently served from Liverpool Lime Street by Northern.
  2. There must also be the possibility of a direct service to Liverpool Airport.
  3. There must also be the possibility of a service on the Canada Dock Branch to Bootle.

I can envisage between 12 and 16 tph through the Wapping Tunnel, which with the four tph to Hunts Cross could mean 16 to 20 tph on the Northern Line.

Conclusion

It would appear that a very frequent system can be developed on Merseyside, if frequencies common in London can be achieved.

 

August 23, 2020 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Possibly One Of The Best Underground Railways In A Smaller City In The World!

I took these pictures, as I took the Wirral Line between James Street and Lime Street stations.

I do compare them with the dingy inside of Essex Road station, which was refurbished by British Rail about the same time.

Merseyrail’s stations and trains are generally immaculate and that can’t be said for the dirty and tired infrastructure on the Northern City Line. As I indicated in the title of this post, t is one of the best underground railways under the centre of a smaller city. Liverpool would probably be regarded as a second size of city as it lacks the several millions of London, Paris or Berlin.

The tunnels of Merseyrail’s Northern and Wirral Lines, would have been probably been used as a model for British Rail’s proposed Picc-Vic Tunnel, that sadly never got to be built!

Manchester would be very different today, if it had an underground railway across the City to the standard of that in Liverpool or Newcastle.

This map clipped from Wikipedia show the proposed route of the Picc-Vic Tunnel.

Some of the other proposals included.

  • The tunnel would be twin bores and jus under three miles long.
  • The tunnel would be electrified with 25 KVAC overhead wires.
  • The rolling stock would have been Class 316 trains, which would have been similar to those on Merseyrail.
  • Train frequency could have been forty trains per hour (tph)

In some ways the specification was more ambitious than Crossrail, which might be able to handle 30 tph, at some time in the future. But Dear Old Vicky, which was designed at the same time, is now handling forty tph.

Wikipedia says the following routes could have run through the tunnel.

Note.

  1. The Styal Line now provides the link to Manchester Airport.
  2. The route map on the Wikipedia entry, shows only Bury and Bolton as Northern destinations. But surely fanning out the trains could have run to Barrow-in-Furness, Blackburn, Blackpool, Burnley, Clitheroe, Colne, Hebden Bridge, Kirkby, Preston, Rawtenstall, Tochdale, Southport, Stalybridge, Todmorden, Wigan and Windermere

The only problem, I could see would be that there would need to be a lot of electrification North of Manchester, some of which has now been done.

There have also been developments in recent years that would fit nicely with a system of lines running through the Picc-Vic Tunnel.

More Services In Manchester Piccadilly And Manchester Victoria Stations

If you look at Liverpool Lime Street station after the remodelling of the last few years, the station is now ready for High Speed Two.

You could argue, that it would be more ready, if the Wapping Tunnel connected services to and from the East to the Northern Line, as I wrote about in Liverpool’s Forgotten Tunnel, as this would remove a lot of local trains from the station.

The Picc-Vic Tunnel would have done the same thing for Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria stations and removed the local services.

This would have left more space for High Speed Two and other long distance services.

Northern Powerhouse Rail

The original plan also envisaged an East-West Tunnel at a later date. – Northern Powerhouse Rail?

But the creation of capacity by the diversion of local services from Manchester Victoria into the Picc-Vic Tunnel, would surely have enabled the station to be developed thirty years ago as a station on an improved TransPennine route.

Tram-Trains

The system would have accepted tram-trains, which hadn’t been invented in the 1970s.

Manchester Airport

Manchester Airport had only one runway in the 1970s and I think only a few would have believed, it would have expanded like it has.

The Picc-Vic Tunnel would create a superb service to the Airport, at a frequency upwards of six tph.

High Speed Two

The Picc-Vic Tunnel would have created the capacity in  for Manchester Piccadilly station and allowed High Speed Two services to use the station.

In The Rival Plans For Piccadilly Station, That Architects Say Will ‘Save Millions’, I talked about a radical plan for extending Manchester Piccadilly station for High Speed Two, that has been put forward by Weston Williamson; the architects.

This sort of scheme would also fit well with the Picc-Vic Tunnel.

Conclusion

Manchester was short-changed and not building the Picc-Vic Tunnel was a major mistake.

It would have created an underground railway in a similar mould to that of Liverpool’s, but it would probably have served a larger network.

They would probably be the best pair of underground railways for smaller cities in the world.

August 20, 2020 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Batteries On Class 777 Trains

In this article on Railway Gazette, which is entitled Merseyrail Class 777 arrives in Liverpool, there is this sentence.

There is space under one vehicle to house a battery weighing up to 5 tonnes within the axleload limit.

This matter-of-fact sentence, draws me to the conclusion, that these trains have been designed from the start to allow future battery operation.

Batteries are not an add-on squeezed into a design with great difficulty.

Battery Capacity

Energy densities of 60 Wh/Kg or 135 Wh/litre are claimed by Swiss battery manufacturer; Leclanche.

This means that a five tonne battery would hold 300 kWh.

Note that Vivarail find space for 424 kWh in the two-car Class 230 train, I wrote about in Battery Class 230 Train Demonstration At Bo’ness And Kinneil Railway, so it would appear that Stadler aren’t being over ambitious.

Kinetic Energy Of A Full Class 777 Train

The weight of a full Class 777 train is calculated as follows.

  • Basic empty weight – 99 tonnes
  • Battery weight – 5 tonnes
  • 484 passengers at 80 Kg – 38.72 tonnes

Which gives a total weight of 143.72 tonnes.

Intriguingly, the weight of a current Class 507 train is 104.5 tonnes, which is 500 Kg more than an empty Class 777 train with a battery!

If these weights are correct, I suspect Stadler have used some very clever lightweight design techniques.

For various speeds, using Omni’s Kinetic Energy Calculator, this weight gives.

  • 30 mph – 3.6 kWh
  • 40 mph – 6.4 kWh
  • 50 mph – 10.0 kWh
  • 60 mph – 14.4 kWh
  • 70 mph – 19.5 kWh
  • 75 mph – 22.4 kWh

Note.

  1. The average speed between Bidston and Wrexham General stations on the Borderlands Line is under 30 mph
  2. The operating speed on the Wirral Line is 70 mph
  3. The operating speed on the Northern Line is 60 mph
  4. The maximum speed of the trains is 75 mph.

Every time I do these calculations, I’m surprised at how low the kinetic energy of a train seems to be.

How Small Is A Small Battery?

One battery doesn’t seem enough, for a train designed with all the ingenuity of a product with quality and precision, that is designed to out-perform all other trains.

This is another paragraph from the Railway Gazette article.

According to Merseytravel, ‘we want to be able to prove the concept that we could run beyond the third rail’. By storing recovered braking energy, the batteries would help to reduce power demand and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions. All of the Class 777s will be fitted with small batteries to allow independent movement around workshop and maintenance facilities.

I am not quite sure what this means.

It would seem strange to have two independent battery systems in one train.

I think it is more likely, that the smaller battery can be considered the primary battery of the train.

  • After all in the depot, it looks after the train’s power requirement.
  • Does it also handle all the regenerative braking energy?
  • Is it used as a secondary power supply, if say the power is low from the electrification?
  • Could it be used to move the train to the next station for passenger evacuation in the event of a power failure?

I wonder if the power system is a bit like the average battery-powered device like a lap-top computer, smart phone or hybrid car.

  • The electrification and the regenerative braking charges the battery.
  • The battery provides the traction and hotel power for the train.

When the five tonne battery is fitted, does the train’s control system move power between the two batteries to drive the train in the most efficient manner?

I’ll return to factors that define the size of the small battery.

The small battery must be big enough for these purposes.

  • Handling regenerative braking at the operating speed.
  • Recovering a full train to the next station.
  • Keeping a train’s systems running, during power supply problems.
  • Moving a train around a depot

As the lines leading to depots are electrified, the train can probably enter a depot with a battery fairly well-charged.

As the new Class 777 trains have a maximum operating speed of 75 mph, I would suspect that the small battery must be able to handle the regenerative braking from 75 mph, which my calculations show is 22.4 kWh with a full train. Let’s call it 30 kWh to have a reserve.

Using Leclanche’s figures, a 30 kWh battery would weigh 500 Kg and have a volume of just under a quarter of a cubic metre (0.222 cubic metre to be exact!)

I suspect the operation of the small battery through a station would be something like this.

  • As the train runs from the previous station, the power from the battery will be used by the train, to make sure that there is enough spare capacity in the battery to accommodate the predicted amount of energy generated by regenerative braking.
  • Under braking, the regenerative braking energy will be stored in the battery.
  • Not all of the kinetic energy of the train will be regenerated, as the process is typically around eighty percent efficient.
  • Whilst in the station, the train’s hotel services like air-conditioning, lights and doors, will be run by either the electrification if available or the battery.
  • When the train accelerates away, the train’s computer will use the optimal energy source.

The process will repeat, with the battery constantly being charged under braking and discharged under acceleration.

Lithium-ion batteries don’t like this cycling, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see dome other battery or even supercapacitors.

A Trip Between Liverpool and Wrexham Central in A Class 777 Train With A Battery

The train will arrive at Bidston station with 300 kWh in the battery, that has been charged on the loop line under the city.

I will assume that the train is cruising at 50 mph between the twelve stops along the twenty-seven and a half miles to Wrexham Central station.

At each of the twelve stops, the train will use regenerative braking, but it will lose perhaps twenty percent of the kinetic energy. This will be two kWh per stop or 24 kWh in total.

I usually assume that energy usage for hotel functions on the train are calculated using a figure of around three kWh per vehicle mile.

This gives an energy usage of 330 kWh.

But the Class 777 trains have been designed to be very electrically efficient and the train is equivalent in length to a three-car Class 507 train.

So perhaps a the calculation should assume three vehicles not four.

Various usage figures give.

  • 3 kWh per vehicle-mile – 247.5 kWh
  • 2.5 kWh per vehicle-mile – 206 kWh
  • 2 kWh per vehicle-mile – 165 kWh
  • 1.5 kWh per vehicle-mile – 123.8 kWh
  • 1 kWh per vehicle-mile – 82.5 kWh

Given that station losses between Bidston and Wrexham Central could be around 24 kWh, it looks like the following could be possible.

  1. With a consumption of 3 kWh per vehicle-mile, a Class 777 train could handle the route, but would need a charging station at Wrexham Central.
  2. If energy consumption on the train could be cut to 1.5 kWh per vehicle-mile, then a round trip would be possible.

It should also be noted that trains seem to do a very quick stop at Wrexham Central station of just a couple of minutes.

So if charging were to be introduced, there would need to be a longer stop of perhaps eight to ten minutes.

But the mathematics are telling me the following.

  • The Class 777 train has been designed to weigh the same empty as a current Class 507 train, despite carrying a five tonne battery.
  • If power consumption can be kept low, a Class 777 train with a battery can perform a round trip from Liverpool to Wrexham Central, without charging except on the electrified section of line between Liverpool and Bidston.
  • Extra stops would probably be possible, as each would consume about 2 kWh

I feel that these trains have been designed around Liverpool to Wrexham Central.

Conclusion

Wrexham Central here we come!

Other routes are possible.

  • Hunts Cross and Manchester Oxford Road – 27 miles
  • Ormskirk and Preston – 15 miles
  • Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale – 6 miles
  • Ellesmere Port and Helsby – 5 miles
  • Kirkby and Wigan Wallgate – 12 miles

Chargers will not be needed at the far terminals.

February 4, 2020 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Liverpool’s Underground Trains

The Class 507 and Class 508 trains on Merseyrail‘s two main lines; the Northern and Wirral are some of the oldest on the UK rail network, as they date from the late 1970s.

But they don’t show their age, unlike the closely-related Class 313 trains running the services out of Moorgate, on the Northern City Line.

These trains will certainly last until they are replaced by the new Stadler trains in a couple of years.

But knowing Liverpool’s love of the past, I wouldn’t be surprised if a way is found for some to live on.

Many Liverpudlians still think that closure of the Liverpool Overhead Railway in 1956, was one of the worst decisions about the City’s transport.

I do wonder, if the Dockers’ Umbrella had made it to the 1960s and the first revival of the Liverpool’s fortunes, it would still be here today, like Hong Kong’s tramsLisbon’s historic trams, San Francisco’s cable-cars and Wuppertal’s Schwebebahn.

 

March 24, 2017 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts On Merseyrail’s New Trains

Merseyrail have ordered 52 new Stadler trains to replace, the 59 geriatric Class 507 and Class 508 trains on the Northern and Wirral Lines.

In some ways I was surprised, as with the possible takeover of tye Borderlands Line to Wrexham in Wales, I thought that Bombardier, may have had a good chance with Aventras with an onboard energy storage or IPEMU-capability.

Reports On The Internet

These are some useful articles that give more details.

  1.  Article in the Liverpool Echo, entitled Merseytravel reveals new £460m train fleet plans – with no train guards
  2. Article in Railway Gazette, entitled Stadler selected to supply bespoke Merseyrail train fleet
  3. Article in Rail News entitled Stadler wins contract to build new Merseyrail trains
  4. Article in Focus Transport entitled New Stadler Trains Announced for Merseyrail

These are my thoughts on the new trains.

The Loop

The Wirral Line trains run in a single-track circular loop tunnel under Liverpool (The Loop), which is a fairly unusual railway formation. But it works well and means that the three stations on The Loop can be single-platform.

The track in the Loop is being relaid in the first half of 2017 and this article on the Merseyrail web site describes the work.

This is a video of the rebuilding.

Note.

  • The tunnel has a diameter of 4.7 metres.
  • By comparison, the Crossrail tunnels have a diameter of 6.2 metres.
  • If you are relaying the track, you will make sure, that the track and platforms fit your current trains, which could run for another five years or more.
  • The tunnels and platforms will probably be sized, so that there is only a small gap between the train and platform.
  • The slab track chosen looks to be of the highest quality and similar to that which Transport for London are using on the Sub Surface lines, as described in this article in Rail Engineer.

So Liverpool is getting a world-class railway track on The Loop, which will fit its current rolling stock, like a glove.

It will also be very safe, as the gap between the trains and the platform could be very narrow.

They don’t say in the video, but will the tracks be arranged so that the trains align for step-across at the stations on The Loop?

The Tunnel Size Issue

If you have just rebuilt the track in the Loop, then this will have implications for the new trains needed for the lines.

The small size of the tunnel and the precision fit, mean that any new trains must be a similar height and width, as the current Class 507/508 trains.

The height of the Class 508 train is 3.58 metres and for comparison the height of a Class 378 train is 3.78 metres.

I don’t have a figure for a Bombardier Aventra, but I suspect that they are just too fat.

So it looks like that a small number of non-standard size trains need to be built to fit the slightly smaller size tunnels under Liverpool.

The Railway Gazette article says this about the trains ordered from Stadler.

There will be a mix of airline and facing seats, with more space for bicycles, pushchairs and persons with reduced mobility. The train body will be designed specifically for the Merseyrail network, with lower floors and a sliding step to provide near-level access.

It is interesting to note, that Stadler also won the order for the smaller trains on the Glasgow Subway, which I wrote about in Glasgow Subway Orders New Trains From Stadler.

As it looks like they will be specially built to fit the tunnels and the platforms, this has various implications.

  • Passengers in wheelchairs, pushing buggies or dragging large suitcases should be able to just wheel themselves into the train, which is described as lower floor.
  • All platforms, that the trains call at, must have the same critical dimensions.
  • Safety could be increased as the gap between train and platform could be very narrow.
  • Incidentally, the trains are reported to be fitted with automatic gap fillers, to make sure nothing drops through the gap.
  • Will the tracks in the Northern Line tunnel through Liverpool be renewed?

The trains had better be well-built as they’re going to have to last a long time. But if say extra trains were to be needed to increase frequency, capacity or routes, Merseyrail would probably just send an e-mail to Switzerland.

Platforms And Stations

Most new trains need modifications to platforms, to match the trains.

As it appears that the new trains are designed to fit the current platforms, I suspect that very little will need to be done before they arrive.

On my travels, I did notice on-going work at some stations, but this would fit either fleet of trains.

From the specification of the trains, it would appear that all of the driver-only-operation equipment is on the trains, rather than the platform, so station improvement money can be spent on passenger facilities like lifts and weather protection.

Any new stations that may be required could possibly be built to an affordable but very passenger-focused design.

Cost

Special trains don’t come cheap and these 52 trains roll in at a total of £450million or about nine millions a train.

Compare this with the price of £260million, that Transport for London paid for 45 similar-capacity Class 710 trains for the London Overground, which works out at just under six million a train.

The trains are apparently not leased, but paid for directly. The Rail News article, says this.

The 52 four-car trains will be publicly owned rather than leased from a ROSCo, and the finance needed will be raised in various ways, including by using a rail reserve that has already been established for this purpose, plus loans at ‘favourable interest rates’. Merseytravel said ‘such opportunities are currently being explored, such as a loan from the European Investment Bank’.

London financed the first London Overground trains in a similar way.

Capacity

The Railway Gazette article, says this on capacity.

The 65 m long four-car EMUs will have  the same number of seats as the existing three-car sets, but will be 4 m longer with wide through gangways to provide an increase in standing space. This will increase total capacity per EMU from 303 to 486 passengers.

Some of my observations.

  • It looks like each train is 64 metres long, with a car length of 16 metres, as opposed to 60 and 20 for the current trains.
  • I suspect that there is some interesting behavioural software out there, that is used to design people systems. So the interiors will work!
  • The current trains pack in five passengers in every metre of length, whereas the new trains pack in 7.6
  • Will it be a lot more packed in there? I don’t know, but the space between carriages is now available for passengers.
  • The same trains will be able to run on both the Northern and Wirral Lines.
  • Will the extra capacity in a single train, mean that most services will be run by a single four-car unit?

In the Peak, I suspect two trains could be coupled together, as they are now. However, they will couple together and uncouple much quicker and probably automatically.

On the other hand the trains themselves could increase capacity.

I’ll look at the Northern Line first.

In London, Thameslink, Crossrail and the East London Line, run similar services to those on Liverpool’s Northern Line, where services fan out from a central core.

I believe that if the Northern Line ran twelve trains per hour (tph) between Sandhills and Hunts Cross stations, that this would increase the capacity on that route. Twelve tph running all day, would need just 24 trains.

If in the Peak more trains were needed, extra services would be added to an appropriate route.

The Wirral Line is unique, in that trains from four destinations slot together to go under the Mersey, go round The Loop, before going back to Birkenhead and fanning out to where they started.

Currently, twelve tph run in The Loop and I suspect to provide this service all day needs just 24 trains.

Merseyrail have ordered 52 trains, which means there are just four trains to cover maintenance issues and increase services in the Peak.

London Overground Syndrome

All new and upgraded lines seem to suffer from London Overground Syndrome, where passengers see what they like and the original passenger forecasts prove to have been pessimistic.

On the East London Line, three-car trains were forecast to be the right size, but they had been designed to be lengthened and now after two upgrades, the trains are now five-cars long.

As this syndrome has been seen on the Borders Railway, the Nottingham Express Transit and other places, I would not be surprised to see it on Merseyrail’s Northern and Wirral Lines.

But the design of the trains, future-proofs the lines, should there need to be more capacity.

Provided, the signalling can accept the increased frequencies, more identical trains would be added to the fleet.

Or trains could be lengthened, by adding another car, so that the busiest routes perhaps ran five-car trains.

As it would only be a problem of success, I suspect, that the financing wouldn’t be a problem.

Extras In The Contract

The Railway Gazette article, says this on extra items included in the contract.

This headline figure also covers upgrades to the power supply, platforms and track, as well as refurbishment of the depots at Kirkdale and Birkenhead North and future maintenance of the new trains.

I’ve heard that Merseyrail’s power supply is a bit dodgy and probably needs updating. I’ve always wondered, if the trains would handle regenerative braking by the use of onboard energy storage.

Nothing is said except this in the Railway Gazette article.

At 99 tonnes, the EMUs will be lighter than the current 105 tonne trains, and energy consumption is expected to be 20% lower, including regenerative braking; options for energy storage are to be studied.

It will be interesting to see the specification of the new train.

Performance

The Railway Gazette article, says this on performance.

A new timetable will be introduced in 2021 once the existing Class 507 and 508 units dating from the 1970s have been withdrawn; the new trains’ better acceleration and braking is expected to enable Hunt’s Cross – Southport journey times to be reduced by 9 min.

The interesting thing, is that being nine minutes quicker between Southport and Hunts Cross, will bring the journey under the hour and mean that the service can be achieved using less trains.

It would also mean that all trains could go through the core to Hunts Cross, without having to turn trains at Liverpool Central.

Energy Storage

The trains will be fitted with regenerative braking, where the traction motors, act as generators to slow the train, turning the train’s energy into electricity.

There are three common ways of handling the electricity generated.

  1. Feed it back into the power network for other trains to use, as is done on the London Underground and on the extensive third-rail network in the South East.
  2. Store the energy on the train and reuse it, as has been demonstrated by Bombardier and is common in vehicles as diverse as high-performance cars, hybrid buses and trams in Seville.
  3. Feed the electricity into resistors on the roof of the train and turn it into heat.

I believe that option 3 is totally unacceptable and is akin to burning money.

Option 1 will probably require extensive modification to the power supply of the Merseyrail network, as the supply is not known to be of the best and there is no need to handle regenerative braking with the current Class 507/508 trains.

So will we see some form of energy storage on the trains? Birmingham’s trams will have on board energy storage in a few years, so the technology is on its way.

The Railway Gazette article, says that options for energy storage are to be studied.

As an Electrical and Control Engineer, I strongly believe that the cost cost-effective way to handle the regenerative braking energy is to store the energy on the trains.

On European gauge trains, equipment is often mounted on the roof, where there is plenty of space in the generous loading gauge.

But Merseyrail has the problem of the small tunnels.

Look at this picture of a Class 507/508 train entering a tunnel at James Street station.

Undergound Stations In Liverpool

 

Note how there is some space above the train in the tunnel entrance.

Imagine a train specifically-designed for these tracks, platforms and tunnels, with the bottom of the doors level with the platforms. Would this release more space for putting energy storage on the roof, as has been done with Seville’s trams?

If I am right with this speculation, onboard energy storage also enables the following.

  • Regenerative braking on the whole of the Merseyrail third-rail network.
  • Next station recovery of the trains, in case of power failure.
  • The ability to extend routes using stored energy.

In addition, trains with onboard energy storage have other maintenance and operational advantages.

More Destinations

The Railway Gazette article, says this on more destinations.

The 750 V DC third-rail EMUs will be capable of conversion to dual-voltage operation for use on 25 kV 50 Hz lines with a view to serving Skelmersdale, Warrington and Wrexham in the longer term.

If onboard energy storage is fitted with sufficient range, this would open up other possibilities and also make destinations like Preston much more affordable to implement.

Train-Tram Operation

Note that I said train-tram and not tram-train.

In Riding The Vogtlandbahn, I talked about riding a unique German railway in Zwickau, where the trains go walkabout from the main line station and travel through the city just like trams to a stop in the centre. This picture shows a train-tram at that stop.

At Zwickau Zentrum Tram/Train Stop

At Zwickau Zentrum Train/Tram Stop

You don’t need to guess, who made the train! It was of course Stadler and is not electric, but a diesel-multiple unit.

It is worth comparing weight and capacity of Liverpool’s new trains with Manchester’s trams.

The Railway Gazette article, says that the trains will weigh 99 tonnes and have a capacity of 486 passengers. This compares with the M5000 on the Manchester Metrolink, which weighs in at 80 tonnes for a double unit and carries 400 passengers.

So weight and capacity is not out of line with a typical large tram.

Trams need to have a door sill height, that gives level access between the tram and platform.

Level Access On The London Tramlink

Level Access On The London Tramlink

Not all trams and trains match the platform, as well as this example on the London Tramlink.

But, Liverpool’s new trains will be built to fit the current track and platforms, which after updating, will all be to the same height and designed to give step-free access..

Without doubt, the new trains could call at correctly-dimensioned tram-style stops, just as the train-trams do in Zwickau.

Tram-style sections of the route could be designed to the following principles.

  • Tram-style flush slab track, so passengers can just walk across the track.
  • Segregated tracks.
  • No electrification
  • Trains would run using onboard energy storage.
  • Low speed limit.
  • Rail-style signalling, whether trackside or in-cab.
  • Charging station, like a Railbaar if required.

Lines could be single-tracked with single-platform stops to make everything more affordable.


Train-Tram To Liverpool Airport

Could we see Merseyrail’s new trains leaving the rail lines at Liverpool South Parkway station, switch to onboard energy storage and continue to the Airport on a dedicated track without electrification?

This Google Map shows the station and the Airport.

Liverpool Airport And Liverpool South Parkway Station

Liverpool Airport And Liverpool South Parkway Station

Note.

  • The station is at the top of the map in a triangle of lines.
  • There must be various possibilities for a route between the station and the airport.
  • The train could call at the New Mersey Shopping Park.

From my knowledge of both areas, the Liverpool Airport route is no more difficult, than what was done in Zwickau.

Journey times to and from Liverpool Airport would be something like.

  • Liverpool South Parkway station – 5 minutes
  • Liverpool Central station – 18 minutes
  • Southport station – 54 minutes

If they followed Northern Line principles, the frequency would be four tph.

I may be wrong, but it looks like Merseyrail have acquired trains, that running as train-trams can fulfil the link to Liverpool Airport.

More Train-Tram Routes

The proposed Liverpool Airport link is a classic route extension using onboard energy storage, which is very similar to the extension of the Midland Metro through Birmingham City Centre.

So could any of the routes to current terminals, be extended using onboard energy storage and running as a tram.

Ellesmere PortNew Brighton, Southport and West Kirby stations all serve coastal towns, but despite this, they don’t seem the sort of places that cry out for a tram along the promenade.

Chester could possibly benefit, but I suspect this could be one very much for the future.

Skelmersdale could be a distinct possibility, as the scars of the rail routes to the old Skelmersdale station, from the two Northern Line termini of  Ormskirk and Kirkby, which are still visible on Google maps. This map from Wikipedia shows the old Skelmersdale Branch.

Skelmersdale Branch

Skelmersdale Branch

A new railway could be built simply, as it was in Zwickau.

  • Single-track
  • No electrification
  • Trains would run using onboard energy storage.
  • Tram-style stops.

The train could even go walkabout in Skelmersdale to serve important places.

As Kirkby station needs demolition and rebuilding, unless it gets Listed status, as a monument to the British Rail School Of Crap Design, there must be opportunities to give Kirkby and Skelmersdale a modern transport system to be envied.

If you think all of this speculation is outrageous fantasy, I suggest you visit Zwickau and ride the Vogtlandbahn.

The Ultimate Train-Tram Route

A lot of people, that I’ve met from Liverpool, mourn the passing of the Liverpool Overhead Railway or the Docker’s Umbrella.

Because of this, it has been suggested that a tram should run along the Mersey, past the main attractions of the Waterfront, connecting to the Northern Line at perhaps Sandhills and Brunswick stations.

This is one of those projects thast gets speculated about for years and then it gets implemented because it is integral to another project, like a massive development or a City getting the Olympic Games. Or in Liverpool’s case the Commonwealth Games, which is a distinct possibility in either 2022 or 2026!

As it runs through a World Heritage Site, it will have to be built without overhead wires and run on stored energy.

Canada Dock Branch

The Canada Dock Branch runs in an arc to the North and East of Liverpool city centre.

  • It is a freight route linking Liverpool Docks to routes out of the city.
  • The capacity of the route is being upgraded to 48 freight trains per day.
  • It is not electrified.
  • There are no passenger services.
  • The line runs close to both Liverpool’s main football grounds.
  • Are there any large developments, that would benefit from a train service along the route of the line?

With the development of the massive new dock at Liverpool2 and the pressure for more electrified freight trains, I think it is likely that the Canada Dock Branch will be electrified.

So could passenger services be reinstated on the line?

This Google Map shows the section of the Canada Dock Branch, where it curves round the two football grounds.

The station at the bottom left is Sandhills station, with Merseyrail’s Kirkdale depot to the North.

canadadock1

I don’t know whether there is a connection, but the lines cross in the region of the depot and if required one could probably be built.

I think it is likely, that if the Canada Dock Branch is electrified for freight reasons, then Merseyrail will look at running a service along the line.

  • It might terminate at Sandhills in the North.
  • It might terminate at Broad Green, Edge Hill or even Lime Street in the South.
  • Stations could be simple affairs, much like the one in the picture at Zwickau.

Whether they did propose a service would depend on traffic forecasts and possible costs.

The Commonwealth Games Line

Liverpool do spectaculars well and if they get the Commonwealth Games in either 2022 or 2026, I can see that the city could use the new Stadler trains to create a line for the Games, thaqt would be a legacy, that the city needs and wants.

Starting in the South by the Albert Dock and the Echo Arena, the line would go past the Three Graces at the Pierhead and then North to Everton’s new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock, which is being proposed as the main venue of the Games. From there it could continue to Liverpool’s Anfield Stadium, which will probably play some part in the Games.

The line would also connect or go close to the following.

I’m sure Liverpudlians will give it a suitable nickname.

Consider.

  • Much of the Southern part of the route is within the Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City World Heritage Site.
  • I think it would be possible to run the route using onboard storage.
  • Charging would be at each end of the route.
  • Catenary running could be used between the two football grounds, some of which could be on an electrified Cansada Dock Branch.
  • The Southern end could use on-street running with catenary to go up the hill to Hope Street , to serve both cathedrals.
  • After the Games, both Liverpool football grounds would have a tram connection to the Pierhead.

Designed properly, it could become one of the world’s most iconic tram lines.

Conclusions

Merseyside will be getting one of the best commuter railways in the world!

I also think, that these innovative trains will make other cities and train operators, think hard about the design of their railways and the trains.

 

 

December 18, 2016 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Bidston Station And The Borderlands Line

Whilst in Liverpool, I took the Wirral Line to Bidston station, where the Borderlands Line to Wrexham Central station connects to the Merseyrail third-rail network.

This Google Map shows the location of the station.

Bidston Station

Bidston Station

Some things surprised me at Bidston station.

  • The station had the feeling of a rural junction in deepest Lincolnshire or Devon, rather than one a few miles from the centre of one of the UK’s biggest cities.
  • When the train arrived from Wrexham it was much busier than I expected.
  • The junction between the two lines was laid out in lots of space.
  • The state of the station, which considering its location was very good with a large waiting room.

I could also understand, why various bodies say that the Borderlans Line could be run by trains with an IPEMU capability or to put it simply – on-board energy storage or batteries. Wikipedia says this under Proposed Battery Trains for the line.

A trial of a converted Electrostar train using energy from overhead wires and batteries when on non-electrified sections of track was undertaken in January and February 2015 on the Mayflower line. The train can travel up to 60 miles on energy stored in the batteries also recharging the batteries via the overhead-wires when on electrified track, at stations and via brake regeneration. A month later in March 2015, the introduction of battery powered trains was proposed for the Borderlands line by Network Rail.

The document suggested that consideration had been given to electrification and to running services further into Birkenhead ceasing termination at Bidston for greater connectivity. However these options were expressed as offering low value for money. They proposed that using battery powered rolling stock precluding full electrification of the line, providing a cheaper method of increasing connectivity into the electrified Birkenhead and Liverpool sections of the Wirral line. From the document:

“In the longer term, potential deployment of rolling stock with the ability to operate on battery power for part of their journey may provide the ability in an affordable manner to improve the service offering between the Wrexham – Bidston route and Liverpool.
Trains could operate on batteries on unelectrified sections of the track and take power from an electric pick-up on the electrified sections. Adoption of these types of trains would preclude full line electrification.

My thoughts on this are as follows.

New Infrastructure

Obviously, I only looked at Bidston station, but it would appear that except for perhaps signalling and electrificastion changes, that the station could accept trains with an IPEMU-capability tomorrow.

For instance, there would need to be electrification for some distance down the Borderlands Line, so that a train arriving from that direction with low batteries, wou;dn’t get stalled, if another train had failed in the station.

I don’t know the answer, but as Merseyrail is an island of third-rail electrification, Merseyrail are probably capable of calling on competent third-rail experts, either in-house or from a regional contractor.

New Stations

Plans exist for new stations on the line.

Whether the line is fully-electrified or served by trains with an IPEMU-capability is irrelevant, with stations probably being designed to be suitable for either.

One suggestion is for a new station at Woodchurch close to Junction 3 of the M53.

This Google Map shows the motorway junction.

Junction 3 Of The M53

Junction 3 Of The M53

Note how, the Motorway and the Borderlands Line go either side of the North Cheshire Trading Estate.

There is also plans for a station at Deeside Industrial Park, which looks like it could have a railway line already.

Another possibility would be to improve Shotton station, so that it was a genuine interchange between the Borderlands Line and the North Wales Coast Line.

This Google Map shows the area.

Shotton Stations

Shotton Stations

Note Hawarden Bridge station on the other side of the River Dee, which is also on the Borderlands Line.

Capacity In Liverpool On The Wirral Line

The single-track loop of the Wirral Line under Liverpool, that serves James Street, Moorfields, Lime Street, Central and James Street agin, is soon to be relaid with new track to go along with its recently-refurbished station, that can handle two three-car Class 508 trains, running as a six-car unit.

With modern signalling, it would probably have a limit of upwards of twenty trains per hour (tph), giving a train under the Mersey in both directions at least every three minutes.

Currently, the service on the Wirral Line includes.

  • 4 tph to Chester
  • 2 tph to Ellesmere Port
  • 4 tph to New Brighton
  • 4 tph to West Kirby

Capacity seems to be adjusted to that needed by running a mixture of three and six-car trains.

But there is undoubtedly spare capacity in Liverpool’s loop of stations.

And if more capacity is needed between Birkenhead and Liverpool, then running extra trains to new destinations on the West side of the Mersey is a simple way to increase it.

Wrexham would be an ideal destination, especially if at least two tph were provided on the route.

Freight Issues

There would appear to be a few freight trains, but none of a high frequency.

Wrexham to Liverpool Timings

Currently Wrexham Central to Bidston takes a couple of minutes over the hour. West Kirby trains, also take 34 minutes to go from Bidston round the loop under Liverpool

So this would probably mean that if you got the timings right, you could get from Wrexham Central to Liverpool Lime Street in about eighty minutes.

As Chester to Liverpool Central takes forty-one minutes, eighty minutes is rather slow between Wrexham and Liverpool.

So could electric trains do the route in under the hour?

If the line was fully electrified, judging on the Chester timings, that this is certainly the case.

Trains Needed Between Liverpool And Wrexham

As the round trip to and from Liverpool would probably take two hours, it would appear that two trains would be needed to provide an hourly service, with four trains nbeeded for 2 tph.

As there is a short platform at Wrexham Central station, trains would probably have a maximum length of three-cars.

IPEMU Range

Wrexham Central to Bidston stations, is about thirty miles, so based on Bombardier’s rumoured figures of sixty kilometres a charge, going out and back to Wrexham might be a bit on the long side.

So I wouldn’t be surprised to see the single-track line between Wrexham General and Wrexham Central stations given third-rail electrification, to make sure that trains with an IPEMU-capability can work the line.

If extra stations are added to the Borderlands Line and Shotton station is rebuilt as an interchange with North Wales, I could see that the extra cost of third-rail electrification to Shotton would have a high value.

As Shotton is only about twenty miles from Wrexham, it might be possible to bridge the gap between Shotton and Wrexham using onboard power.

Costs

This is said about electrification costs of the Borderlands Line in Wikipedia.

Network Rail’s conclusion was that full line electrification is only feasible if it could be delivered for less than £100,000 for each km per single track. The twin track line would be £200,000 per line km, giving a total figure of £8.7 million, which is far below the estimate of full line electrification of £66 million. Another consideration is whether a new pattern of service delivers significant net benefits.

The new Stadler trains being purchased for MerseyRail are costing £460 million for 52 trains, according to this article in the Railway Gazette, which works out at about nine million pounds a train.

So if two trains are needed to provide an hourly service to Wrexham, the cost of the extra trains will be significant.

The Railway Gazette article also says this about the trains.

At 99 tonnes, the EMUs will be lighter than the current 105 tonne trains, and energy consumption is expected to be 20% lower, including regenerative braking; options for energy storage are to be studied.

The 750 V DC third-rail EMUs will be capable of conversion to dual-voltage operation for use on 25 kV 50 Hz lines with a view to serving Skelmersdale, Warrington and Wrexham in the longer term.

So I suspect, it’s put up the money and take your choice.

Conclusion

It would certainly be possible to electrify the Borderlands Line either using third-rail or overhead and I’m certain that any prudent transport authority would go for an optimal solution, especially as extending to Wrexhan will need extra trains.

I could see an holistic solution being applied to the Boasderlands Line.

  • At least two tph to Wrexham Central station.
  • New stations at Beechwood, Deeside Industrial Park and Woodchurch.
  • A rebuilt Shotton station.
  • Partial third-rail electrification.
  • Use of onboard energy storage to power trains on lines without electrification.

As it would be a project, where benefits were to both Merseyside and North Wales, funding would probably have several options.

 

 

 

 

 

December 17, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 4 Comments

Undergound Stations In Liverpool

I took these pictures so I would have a record of the underground stations, as they are at the present time.

They are all clean, modern stations, that can handle two Class 507/508 trains, working as a six-car.

The pictures give a good idea of the size of the tunnels, which are 4.70 metres in diameter.

Compare this to other underground railways.

  • Crossrail – 6.20 metres.
  • Victoria Line – 3.81 metres.
  • Northern City Line – 4.90 metres.
  • Waterloo and City Line – 3.89 metres.

I would think that like the Northern City Line in London, that they may have the problem that trains need to be specially built for the tunnels.

So would this rule out a train like an Aventra, which has been designed to work in the larger tunnels of Crossrail?

 

 

December 17, 2016 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | Leave a comment