Time to derail the crazy train

Christian Wolmar

Train companies are expecting 400,000 people to travel into London by train for the Royal Wedding, far more than normal on a Bank Holiday. Many of those coming from afar will be enjoying the ride on what is rather confusingly called a High Speed Train 125 which provides the backbone of Britain’s intercity services. These diesel trains, which actually have a locomotive at both ends,  are reliable and very popular, as they provide a comfortable ride with good seating and a spacious environment, but they are entering their fourth decade and need replacing.

The good news is that the Department of Transport is on the case. Last month Philip Hammond, the Secretary of State for Transport, confirmed that he was proceeding with the Intercity Express Project with, initially, an order 500 new coaches to be built by Hitachi to replace the ageing HSTs. More will follow.  The innovatory bit of the project is that most of these new trains will be bi-mode – in other words, they will be capable of being powered by electricity or the huge onboard diesel engines.

The bad news is that nobody – and I have talked to dozens of people and so to repeat, nobody – in the rail industry thinks this is a sensible or workable idea except, of course, Hitachi, and a couple of civil servants in the Department. The idea was presented as a clever solution to deal with the fact that Britian has a lower proportion of electrified railways than any major country in Europe. So once the wires run out, at say Edinburgh or, as planned, Cardiff, the train will proceed using its powerful diesel engines.

There are far too many obvious objections to this cunning plan to list here. Suffice to say, it is expensive and environmentally perverse to be carrying around three heavy diesel engines each five car train set weighing 20 tonnes each for use on only small sections of the journey. The alternative of having diesel locomotives waiting at the changeover point, a common solution on railways across the world,  was dismissed on the spurious grounds that it would take nine minutes to hook them up, whereas in truth it could be done in two or three.  Moreover, as travellers on the uncomfortable Voyager trains used on Arriva’s Crosscountry services know only too well, having big diesel engines humming loudly underneath the floor does not make for a relaxed journey.

To call the plan a dog’s breakfast is to insult the makers of Pedigree Chum. This  is a king size government procurement disaster, on a scale with the London Underground PPP or the PFI deals for hospitals, that will not only place an enormous burden on Britain’s taxpayers and rail passengers but make train travel less pleasant right up to the halfway mark of the present century. Europeans will laugh, again, at our incompetence. Oh, and yes, it is a PFI deal. In other words, the trains will be paid for by the hour, which supposedly puts the responsibilty for maintenance and breakdowns on the manufacturers but we all know that these arrangements end up being far more expensive than conventional deals.

Not surprisingly, a review by the former head of the Audit Commission, Sir Andrew Foster, found the whole exercise had been conducted with stunning incompetence by the Department, but his findings were ignored by ministers.

Mr Hammond has repeatedly said that civil servants are not the right people to specify new trains. Quite right, and yet this project has been drawn up by civil servants in the Department, with the help of a staggering £27m worth of consultancy bills. Time for Mr Hammond to act on his own advice and set up an independent rail agency staffed by railway professionals to procure railway equipment. They could start by ensuring the IEP order hits the buffer and just buy a few off the peg electric trains from major manufacturers. Simples.

  • Agreed. This policy has all the hallmarks of a giant screw up, and the British civil service’s weakness for being suckered by ‘clever’ solutions. Cross country are currently running at least 1 HST set between the south west and York instead of Voyager. The relief among regular passengers at getting to travel on a sensible, functional train is palpable. Let’s hope sense prevails.

  • Agreed. This policy has all the hallmarks of a giant screw up, and the British civil service’s weakness for being suckered by ‘clever’ solutions. Cross country are currently running at least 1 HST set between the south west and York instead of Voyager. The relief among regular passengers at getting to travel on a sensible, functional train is palpable. Let’s hope sense prevails.

  • struans

    Why not just stick pantographs on the existing class 43 power cars ? Just like the test that Hitachi organised [OK – they used a part of a passenger coach too for electrical equipment]. Electro-diesel trains in a flash. The power cars have electric traction motors already. In this time of spending constraint, wouldn’t this be a simple solution to extend these newly engined power cars for at least another 15 more years.

  • SteveB

    The HS125 is (or was until FGW revamped the seating) a very comfortable train, precisely because the noise is confined to the locomotives at either end. The Adelante was never popular because each carriage was noisy, and it was split into 5-coach sets without any means of interconnecting. Trying to make the new trains bi-mode means there is more to go wrong – much easier to couple Diesel locomotives or generators when the wires run out.

    The only bi-mode that should be contemplated is overhead and third-rail operation for the Cross-Country sets. In the meantime, concentrate on getting the Oxford – Coventry and Reading – Basingstoke lines electrified.

  • Rhydgaled

    Intercity 125s have an loco at both ends, not just one. The Intercity 225 (which is electric) on the other hand has a loco at one end and a special unpowered driving coach at the other, which controls the class 91 electric locomotive. If you can attach a locomotive to an Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) in 5 minutes then you can swap the class 91 electric locomotive for a diesel one in the 10 minutes the Paddington to Carmarthen and Pembroke Dock services spend sitting in Swansea station. This is even better than attaching a diesel loco to an EMU once the wires run out, as the weight of the electric power gear doesn’t need to be dragged around by the diesel. Both however are infinatly prefrable to the idiotic bi-mode idea which involves the weight of the diesel engines being on board while the train is running on electric power.

    I think the plan is that Intercity 125s will be extended to 2035 on some routes anyway and as their fuel ecconomy beats new diesel Intercity trains I say keep more of them. With bi-mode IEP, there’s also the issue that those diesel trains will be with us until 2050 at least, if you need bi-mode on the odd route, surely it is better to convert existing diesel trains to bi-mode, at least then they’ll reach end of life sooner giving us the chance to extend electrification further.

    In fact, without completly abandoning Hitachi (which since they were designated prefered bidder I don’t think you can do), the only options are to kill off the Pembroke Dock service (Hitachi’s trains will have carriges too long to fit through a tunnel on the line), retain Intercity 125s on those services or use my suggestion with Intercity 225s. In fact, perhaps the Intercity 225s could save us from the huge mistake that is bi-mode IEP. I think the 225s have the same size coaches (a little narrower at the top due to being designed to be retro-fitted with tilting equipment) as the 125s, so should fit wherever their diesel cousins do. That means you could perhaps save on enlarging some routes (for example the Severn Tunnel diversionary route, including Swindon to Cheltenham Spa) to take IEP and instead pay for electrification and use the 225s on these routes. Even then, there are only so many 225s. I have rough unproven ideas for most of the Great Western:

    All East Coast electrified services = Electric IEP
    Kings Cross – Aberdeen/Inverness = Electric IEP hauled by class 67 diesel locomotives beyond the wires (with a few timetable ajustments could perhaps share locos with the Sleeper services)
    Other East Coast services = Electric IEP hauled by diesel locomotives beyond the wires unless the layout at the last wired station prohibits this, in which case transfer the services and Intercity 125 rolling stock to the open access operators Hull Trains and/or Grand Central to save East Coast having to maintain a very small fleet of diesels for these few services
    Paddington – Oxford = Electric IEP
    Paddington – Oxford – Banbury = Electric IEP as far as Oxford with a connecting service to Banbury or Birmingham
    Paddington – Cheltenham Spa = Intercity 225
    Paddington – Cardiff Central = Electric IEP
    Paddington – Swansea = Intercity 225
    Paddington – Carmarthen/Pembroke Dock = Intercity 225 with locomotive exchanged for diesel at Swansea
    Paddington – Bristol Temple Meads = Electric IEP
    Paddington – Taunton, Devon and Cornwall via Bristol = Electric IEP terminating at Bristol with replacment direct services from London introduced via Westbury using Intercity 125s. Introduction of Intercity 125s on direct services between Bristol and Taunton, Devon and Cornwall, partly or wholy through increasing the number of Intercity 125s on what are currently Arriva CrossCountry services.
    Paddington – Taunton, Devon and Cornwall via Westbury = Life-extended Intercity 125s

    however this does not include a solution for the Cotswolds line. I have been informed that a diesel locomotive, or continued use of Intercity 125s, would be unsuitable on this route due to frequent stops. An added problem is the need to shorten the train at Oxford to avoid having far more coaches than necessary over the Cotswolds line. There are two possible solutions I can see, both of which involve Great Western having a small fleet to maintain. One is the bi-mode IEP, which dispite it’s serious flaws actually just about makes sence on this route and this route only. The other is to order several extra Pendolinos (perhaps with 6 or 7 cars rather than the present 9 or 11) for the West Coast services between Birmingham and Edinburgh and between Birmingham and Glasgow which currently use diesel Voyagers entirly under the wires. The class 221 Voyager fleet would then be lengthened by the addition of a pantograh car and, apart from those needed on West Coast services from Euston to North Wales and Chester, would then be run by Cross Country. Some of the class 220 Voyagers would also gain a pantograph car and be transfered to Great Western for the Cotswold line, these would be displaced from XC by the 221s removed from Birmigham to Scotland earlier and the increased use of Intercity 125s on XC services to Taunton, Devon and Cornwall suggested earlier. The remaining 220s with XC would also receive a pantograph car, however these would also have 3rd rail shoes for use on XC’s services into the southern 3rd rail area.

    While I have just suggested creating bi-mode Voyagers, making diesel trains into bi-modes is improving existing stock, however building new bi-modes and leaving the existing diesels un-improved is just plain daft. Even more crazy is the idea that even the electric trains will have a 16t to 20t diesel engine for a slow, emergency mode. All my mentions of electric IEP above for use on various services was for a true electric IEP, with not a diesel engine in sight (or sound, or anywhere near the train for that matter), not what the DfT mistakenly call an electric IEP.

    I hope I have shown that, with only the extra electrification of Swindon to Cheltenham (assuming the Welsh Assembly is pursuaded to pay for Cardiff to Swansea and Gloucester to Severn Tunnel Junction (it may be in England, but the services that would benifit from that bit of electrification are operated by the Wales franchise)), which hopefully can be paid for by not having to expand the loading guage of the Severn Tunnel diversionary route and Swansea to Carmarthen to IEP standards, the bi-mode IEP is totally un-necessary, as well as plain daft.

    Talking of plain daft and franchises, the two go together very well, particularly if you throw the rest of the baggage of privatisation in with the word franchises. British Rail’s subsidy would have been almost cleared by the increased patronage and fare rises sinces it’s sad demise, sombody should tell Sir Roy McNulty, sooner rather than later.

  • Anonymous

    It saddens me that there are so many obvious options on the table, which you don’t have to be a railwayman to comprehend and see that they are far, far more sensible than IEP. My thoughts:-

    Keeping 125s until I am of pensionable age (given I am only 34 at the moment) seems a retrograde step too far, sorry Rhydgaled….! Not saying though that a re-engineered carriage based on Mark 3 thinking couldn’t be developed. Trouble is who owns the intellectual property – I’d imagine it has been inherited by Bombardier, given they took over BREL???

    Pendolino? It has its critics, but with most of the gremlins ironed out and with the design now shaken down and well proven surely why aren’t people considering this as an option on electified routes. Putting bigger windows in on top of the extension to 11 car formations would solve two of the biggest criticisms – surely isn’t going to be reinventing the wheel.

  • Rhydgaled

    I am very am very concerned about climate change, and I’m sorry but we can’t afford to electrify fast enough to replace all the 125s now. Some of them will go, but given nobody seems to be able to build a 125mph diesel train with better (or even equal) fuel ecconomy than an IC125. Some are being extened to 2035 anyway, hopefully by then we’ll have enough wired routes to cover all diesel routes requiring over 100mph running with existing 220, 221 and 222 stock. We can, I think, avoid any further purchase of 110mph plus capable diesel stock, and with climate change the issue that it is, that can only be a good thing.

    Some have said the class 175 and 180, built by Alstom (before they shut their UK plant???) are based on BR coaches. As much as I like the idea of building new hauled coaching stock, Hitachi are the prefered bidder, and some have doubted they would want/be able to build locomotives. Whether they could be passified by ordering additional Javelin stock for the Oxford workings instead of IEP I don’t know, but that would be another micro-fleet for the GW maintenance teams.

  • Anonymous

    Well Christian – one plus point is that if IEP does become a monumental cock-up, then you will have another book to write! If common sense did prevail on the railways you’d be out of a job LOL!

  • Windsorian

    I do not claim to be an expert on train design, so perhaps I can ask if there is a problem with the all electric IEP trains ?
    I understand these will be used on routes wherever OLE is already complete.

    With the bi-mode IEP units, the diesel engines will nornally be turned off when under the wires, and will be only used on sections of track where OLE is not present. Also the failure of a single diesel engine will not stop the train from moving as the other 2 engines can keep the train slowly moving under its own power.

    Also, as OLE is later extended to the end of a rail line, the diesel engines can be removed from the bi-mode trains, making them all electric IEPs.

    So let us consider CWs suggestion on having diesel locomotives waiting at the changeover point for the Cardiff / Swansea / Carmarthen route.

    According to the NR timetable there are 21 weekday trains in each direction from Paddington to Swansea, with one of these trains proceeding on to Carmarthen.
    The distance from Cardiff Central to Swansea is 46 miles, with a maximum line speed of 75mph; there are 3 intermediate stops at Bridgend, Port Talbot Parkway and Neath.
    The present NR timetable –
    gives a Cardiff / Swansea journey time of 57mins with Swansea / Carmarthen taking an additional 55mins.

    Now, according to my calculations the Swansea / Carmarthen trains will require ONE diesel locomotive and the Cardiff / Swansea trains will require FOUR diesel locomotives. Plus ONE on stand-by in case of breakdowns and ONE in depot undergoing maintenance.

    This gives a total of SEVERN diesel locomotives (plus maintenance depot and additional drivers) required to service this short extension.

    So what do you have to say CW ???

  • Rhydgaled

    Cardiff to Swansea has some 90mph sections (and, for Intercity 125s only I think, the odd 100mph section). The number of diesel locos needed is why electrification MUST be extended to Swansea, not doing so is totally daft and very short sighted. Electrify Cardiff and Swansea and the case for bi-mode IEP evaporates just like that. Swansea to Carmarthen and Pembroke Dock (which with IEP would lose it’s service) can be done with just 2 or 3 diesel locomotives. As I already said, just swap the electric locomotive on an Intercity 225 for one of the 3 diesel locos at Swansea.

  • Peter

    IEP is a daft idea. I have never met anyone in the rail industry who wants this.

    What we need is a light, flexible, low cost train that is available now.

    The best way to get this would be to buy off the shelf hauled stock and use it in conjunction with electric and diesel locomotives, operating a push-pull service.

    Taking the Class 91 + Mk4 combination as a prototype, think how easy it would be for a train like this to be pushed to somewhere like Edinburgh where a diesel is already waiting in its platform. In 3 minutes or so it could be on the front of the train and away, with the electric simply left behind to shunt off when convenient – or better still ready to attach to an incoming southbound service.

    This kind of system worked well for years on the Bournemouth line and it is a scandal that this experience has been discounted.

    With more electrification later on, the electric could stay on the train all the time and the diesels would be available to do something else. With more demand, extra vehicles could easily be added.

    IEP is a recipe for a heavy, complex and inflexible train that will blight inter-city services for years to come. Yet the politicians seem set on carrying on regardless.

    Please will someone sound the alarms bells before it is too late!

  • Peter

    “the diesel engines can be removed from the bi-mode trains,”

    And replaced by? You can’t just remove a load like that from a vehicle.

    It will need a good deal of re-engineering.

  • Windsorian

    It was something I read somewhere; I’m trying to trace the source material and will post if I can find.

    Basically the article was saying the bi-mode IEP was the same basic design as the all electric IEP, but had under-floor bolt on diesel motors and fuel tanks; these could be removed if the line was later upgraded with OLE.

  • Windsorian

    Checked the Wales RUS (November 2008) and you are correct about the line speed; the 75mph was the Class 153 units.

    The decision process for refusing Cardiff / Swansea electrification is explained in the DfT appraisal doc. which makes quite damming reading – http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:7e18E7x3KYAJ:www.parliament.uk/deposits/depositedpapers/2011/DEP2011-0587.doc+electrification+cardiff+swansea&hl=en&gl=uk&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESjoQpaXHYFnKChvPGyvcIqbqISvNclgR9n7e5A6WfBv_pOzKtZp6NFb0FfUvkxvNETaGwyJeoIy3LgzbaChUw-xkjlIkjqz1Ep_-6eRSz0A02n3ADmrju48gGC0R_Nq3v4n-a3X&sig=AHIEtbR9c9An4Rr3SSvrpVJGNu1rzAlJ7g

    I cannot find confirmation that the IEP would terminate at Swansea and not proceed to Carmathen; after making his Commons statement on 1st March, Hammond answered MPs questions – Nia Griffith (Llanelli) asked about the possibility of using the bi-mode IEPs from London to serve Llanelli, Kidwelly and beyond (Carmathan ) to the the Irish ferries

    Mr Hammond replied that responsibility for franchised operations is shared between the UK Government, in respect of the through services from London, and the Welsh Assembly Government, in respect of locally originating services.
    However he would certainly consider her point as the bi-mode IEP train fleet would give greater flexibility.

  • Gordon

    As quoted already the Bournemouth Weymouth service was a slick “engine on top” operation, and what about the regular engine changes at Crewe or Birmingham New Street, when we used to run trains under the wires with an electric engine wherever possible and put on a diesel when moving away from the wires. They were swiftly done and that was with a shunter manually coupling up, To use the time lost for traction change is obscene. Offset it by the energy efficiency of keeping weight down and using the investment in electrification by the country, for maximum return by electric traction whenever possible. Not to mention the flexibility of being able to add extra coaches as required and to run a service when the wires are down by keeping the diesel on to final destination. Long distance travel should be pleasure, in proper coaches loco hauled(or pushed)

  • Ian Raymond

    Well said Christian. Unfortunately, I think those in power aren’t listening and don’t care to listen.
    But daft politicians besides, isn’t this something the industry itself should be shouting out about? It should surely say something that both amongst travellers and those who work in the industry the Mk III is regarded as being the best, but that unlike other sectors there isn’t the collective willpower of operators / owners / users to get together and say that something of similar quality is what is wanted…

  • Rhydgaled

    Sorry, my wording was not 100% clear, Carmarthen is included in the Intercity Express Programe, and would retain it’s service. The service to Pembroke Dock & Tenby, however, was ommited from the list of IEP destonations that I received as a reply to my from the DfT. Since there is a very tight curved tunnel on the Pembroke Dock line, I imagine this is the reason IEP won’t be going there. As for Irish ferries, that is a red herring, the service between Paddington and Pembroke Dock only runs on summer Saturdays and I’ve heard (and seen videos showing) that most passengers on the service disembark at Tenby, which I don’t think has ferries to Ireland. The main rail-served Irish ferry port in south Wales is Fishguard and that hasn’t been served by direct train from London for years, all we have now is 1 train a day from Cardiff connecting with the daytime superFerry sailing and a train from Swansea in the middle of the night serving the other superFerry sailing.

    It is clear to me that an Intercity 225 with the ability to swap the loco for a diesel (or be dragged by a diesel loco if you want to save a bit of time at the cost of having extra weight to drag) is in fact more flexible than a bi-mode IEP with it’s longer coaches preventing access to places like Tenby and enviromentally-perverse, brand-new, diesel engines that we’ll be stuck with until at least 2050.

  • Windsorian

    Looking back at the Foster Review Annex http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/rail/pi/iep/fosterreview/pdf/annex.pdf (pages 51/52) I see that the French have been operating bi-modes successfully for several years :-

    “The bi-mode sets tend to operate routes which radiate from major towns and cities, usually operating down main lines, but then continuing up lighter-used un-electrified branches. The bi-mode version is able to switch from electric to diesel power without stopping, though it is not clear whether it can do the reverse.
    After the success of the concept on lighter-used lines, orders were placed for 24 bi-mode sets for service on the Transilien service in Paris. Line P sees bimode sets running from Gare de l’Est as far as Gretz under electric power (a distance of around 50km), where the overhead line ends. From Gretz the trains continue a similar distance under diesel power to Provins, where they terminate.
    These trains are single class and have been very successful, posting punctuality figures of around 95%. The reduction in journey time has been between 5 and 10 minutes to Provins, reducing the journey from 90 minutes to 80. They have resulted in a ‘revolution’ on the line.”

    So if the French can do it, why not the UK ??

  • Fandroid

    If the bi-mode concept is so good, we can look forward to it being introduced in third-rail versions. First up should be the Reading-Gatwick line where there are electrified bits at both ends and in the middle. Next could be for Waterloo-Exeter, Bristol-Brighton, then perhaps the Uckfield and Hastings-Ashford lines, not to mention the Southampton, Eastleigh, Romsey circuit. If we went in for dual-voltage as well as bi-mode, Manchester-Bournemouth could be covered, which leads me on to think of all the possibilites for the original 25kv bi-modes on cross-country services and Trans-Pennine. Why bother extending the wires any further !

  • Windsorian

    So we can agree on the number of diesel locos required for hauling the IEPs from Cardiff to/from Swansea / Carmarthen, using the present NW timetable http://www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk/Documents/Custom/TTs%20Dec%20%2710/GW10D_TT02_WEB_%281%29.pdf perhaps you could reconsider your figure of 2 or 3 as this seems low to me.

    Also you made no provision for a standby loco (in case of breakdown) or for maintenance of the diesel locos.

    For my part I will sit down and review my original figure of 7 (posted 3 days ago) and see if I have over yolked the egg. I presume we are now agreed there are 21 weekday trains from Swansea to Paddington and back , one of which originates and returns to Carmarthen ??

  • Rhydgaled

    1. Burning diesel is bad for the enviroment
    2. Oil supplies are finite, and there are other things we need oil for than burning it
    3. Because oil supplies are finite, and we are getting through them at a hell of a rate, high demand for fuel will continue to raise the cost of diesel, making the trains more expensive to run over their 30 odd (at least) year life
    4. Diesel trains are more expensive to maintain, and less reliable than, electric trains
    5. Diesel engines are heavy, causing additional damage to the track and increasing the electricity comsumption of a bi-mode train considerablly over a plain electric version (at 16t to 20t each these engines would add alot of weight to the bi-mode trains).

    Just 5 reasons why we should be electrifying more and avoiding buying new bi-mode trains. Another reason is that the current Intercity 125 diesel trains we are looking to replace are more fuel efficent than the new bi-mode trains (and recent Intercity DMUs, the 180s, 220s, 221s and 222s). However, to make the best use of our current electrification it makes sence to lengthen our overcrowded and diesel-thirsty Voyager trains with dual-voltage (3rd rail DC and 25kv AC overhead) electric cars to turn them into bi-modes, which would also help keep the Derby train factory in business.

    I wonder if Wolmar knows what is going to happen regarding the sleeper services, will the coaches be power-door fitted for life beyond 2020 or will this be an oppertunity for a new order of loco-hauled coaches, which could be used in a new fleet of heavily updated Intercity 225 trains? Either way, when the sleeper stock comes up for replacment it should be taken as an opertunity for ordering a fleet of propper loco-push-pull Intercity trains.

  • Fandroid

    My post was supposed to be ironic, but having re-read Windsorian’s piece and checked the submission in the Foster Review, I have to admit that I can see that the concept may have some legs. However, I wouldn’t even know where to start in assessing the viability of such a beast. If we see bi-modes as a replacement for DMUs, then how do you balance maximisation of use of existing electric infrastructure against minimising the distance the unit carries the deadweight of diesel engines and fuel? In considering bi-modes, it is good to remember that a DMU already carries the weight of those engines and their fuel. All they lack is a transformer.
    I suspect that the IEP has gone through so many hoops and in and out of so many blind allies, that it’s lost sight of any hope of being a true HST replacement. As one industry commentator noted, the HST extended inter-city-style through London services to many strange outposts of the network (eg Newquay). Stretching the carriage length to 26m in the hope of (slightly) reducing overall weight, has meant that it cannot penetrate the further reaches. If we are looking for serious places to use bi-mode, then London Waterloo to Exeter actually looks a good possibility. It (now) has an hourly service and it’s difficult to see the third rail (or o/h wires) ever getting beyond Salisbury, if it even gets that far. The Cotswold Line is a very similar thing, as would be West Country services via Newbury. It’s the short hops beyond the wires that look ridiculous, eg Cardiff-Swansea.

  • Rhydgaled

    The Cotswold line is where bi-mode seems to make sense, quite a long distance under the wires (65ish miles) and then a fair distance beyond the wires (86 miles, very roughly, to Hereford). As you say it is other routes, such as Paddington to Swansea (146 miles of wires, only about 48 unwired track beyond Cardiff, and with at least 2 trains per hour benifiting (1 Intercity, if the sparks effect doesn’t warrant an increase in frequency, and 1 local-stopper (currently only every 2 hours but could well be increased)) if the wires are extended to Swansea) that are daft.

    As you point out though, the only weight a DMU doesn’t have that a bi-mode would is a pantograph (and maybe a third rail shoe as well) and a transfomer. This supports my what I said that fitting existing DMUs with a pantograph car to make them into bi-modes is probablly a good thing. However doing the opposite and fitting diesel engines to a new EMU (which is what IEP is) is plain stupid, especially when you have DMUs available (Voyagers from Birmingham to Edinbourgh and Glasgow run entirly under the wires, order a bunch of Pendolinos to displace them (and for ecconomy of scale throw in an order of Pendos for the Manchester to Edinbourgh and Glasgow services (set to be electrified by 2013 I think) and you have a source of bi-modes for the Cotswolds line).

    Services beyond Newbury have the opposite result of the Swansea trains, the latter are mostly under the wires with a daft curtailing of electrification at Cardiff whereas the other is only about 35 miles of wires plus anything up to and beyond 200 miles off-wire. With these distances the tiny advantage of running a bi-mode under the wires (most of the benifits of electric traction are down to weight and maintenance, both of which are lost by adding diesel engines) is I’m pretty sure outweighed by the superior comfort and fuel ecconomy (look at the Voyagers, 180s and Meridian’s, they have the same engines IEP is expected to have and their fuel ecconomy is dreadful) of an Intercity 125. Getting electrification to Taunton or Plymouth and swaping the loco on a push-pull train like an Intercity 225 between an electric and a deisel is the best I can hope for to eventually replace the Intercity 125s on this route.

    Paddington to Taunton and beyond via Bristol is another issue, with very long sections both wired and un-wired. I think routing these via Westbury with 125s as well and providing an 125 as a connecting service at Bristol from electric London to Bristol trains would be the best solution (these 125 connecting services could be some of CrossCountry’s existing services (prefrablly with the ones that extend furthest over non-electrified lines) with an upgrade from Voyager to Intercity 125 stock, which would provide further Voyagers for bi-mode operation to the Cotswolds line if there aren’t enough running Birmingham to Scotland with Virgin.

  • Windsorian

    I suspect you are being unduly pessimistic by suggesting that all Western electrification will stop in 2017 when it reaches Cardiff. Whilst this type of scaremongering is extensively used by the anti-HS2 brigade, it may not be fact.

    Commonsense dictates that wherever there is a commercial case, then electrifiction of suitable lines should continue; in this regard HS2 supporters like myself do not want to see classic funding cut if HS2 is given the go-ahead.

    Also I am wondering about the existing GWR signalling system and whether it will need upgrading with the introduction of OLE; is this finally the opportunity for ERTMS to be introduced on a large scale project ??

    I say this as I understand that the IEP is a derivitave of the Class 395 Hitachi Javelin already in use on HS1, and if ever there was a case for upgrading a UK Classic line to 140mph running and increased capacity – surely Brunel’s GWR is it ??

  • Rhydgaled

    ERTMS was supposed to be rolled out from 2017 ish on the Great Western, but that plan was published before the huge delays encounted on the Cambrian line ERTMS project (was supposed to be done a few years back I think but has only been operational for the past few weeks). Anyway, the Intercity 225 rolling stock which I suggest be moved to Great Western would equally be able to make use of 140mph running on if ERTMS is installed.

    While electrification will not necessarily stop in 2017 when it reaches Cardiff, if the bi-mode trains are built we will be stuck with them being very wastful under the wires, and with their awful fuel eccomony and noisy under-floor engines beyond the wires, until at least 2050. Because we would be stuck with the bi-modes, the direction the wires would extend after then would be unlikely to be towards Swansea, and Pembroke & Tenby would be without Intercity services. HS2 is going to impact on the rate of further electrfication if it is not stopped though, as there will be very little money left for the conventional railway.

  • Windsorian

    Once again I think you are being far too pessimistic; yes there have been delays with ERTMS installation on the Cambrian Line, however it now looks like it has been successfully installed and will be rolled out on other rural lines.
    The next big UK challenge for ERTMS is to install it on one of the major lines and the electrification of the GWML seems to be the right opportunity at the right time; these should go together like hand in glove.

    Looking through the Skyscrapercity Forum http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=1016189&page=26 I see that a new OLE specification “NR Series 1” is about to appear for 125 – 140mph trains http://content.yudu.com/Library/A1ql3q/RailEngineerJan2011/resources/index.htm?referrerUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.yudu.com%2Fitem%2Fdetails%2F270915%2FRail_Engineer_Jan2011%3Fedit_mode%3Don

    I must admit I cannot understand your suggestion that the Intercity 225 trains be moved to the GWML, particularly as these are cheaply built 20 year old technology and due for replacement. Perhaps a fair comparision between the energy efficiency of the old 225s and bi-mode Hitachi IEPs is called for ???

  • Rhydgaled

    ERTMS is not perfected yet on the Cambrian, they are experiencing some very lengthy delays although these are decreasing in frequency. I do however hope the problems get solved in time for ERTMS to be rolled out on Great Western alongside electrification, Great Western being first to recieve ERTMS is one of the lessor reasons I want to see 225s on Great Western, as it will finally allow them to use their 140mph top-speed. The RSSB figures I have seen show that an Intercity 225 works out at about the same efficentcy as Virgin’s Pendolinos. Also, the Pendolino figures included the effect of the power returned to the grid via the regenerative breaking system, meaning if regenerative breaking is installed to the class 91s in future (if it is possible) the Intercity 225 would become the most efficent Intercity train we have. A truely electric IEP (ie. one with no diesel engines at all, not even the backup one proposed) might, thanks to Hitachi’s experince with the bullet trains, be more effecient than the Intercity 225 and I have no problem with that, electric IEPs with no diesel engines at all would take over all East Coast’s services (dragged by 67s to off-wire destonations) and the Paddington to Cardiff, Oxford and Bristol Temple Meads services on Great Western if I had my way. There is however no way the bi-mode will even come close to the effecientcy of the 225, and the diesel engine planned for the electric IEP sets will probablly scupper their chances of being as effecient as 225s as well. As I keep saying, I can see no other option to retain the Pembroke Dock service other than to electrify to Swansea and move Intercity 225s to Great Western.

    225s are in no way due for replacment. The Intercity 125s can apparently be extended to 2035, that would make them 60 years old. Give the 225s that long and they will be due for replacment in 2050, possibly later thanks to electrics lasting longer than diesels. Even if you don’t give them as long as 125s (and I can’t see why you couldn’t), they should last at least until their older cousins go in 2035.

  • Paul Holt

    I suspect the answer to your question is the loading gauge i.e. French railways can take bigger trains than British railways.   This was a problem encountered with Eurostar, the UK loading gauge limiting its size and creating maintenance access problems.

    (Also check the history of the Great Central Railway.) 

  • Windsorian

    An interesting article in Modern Railways – Roger Ford on the roll out of ETCS / ETRMS, IEP and Swansea


  • Rhydgaled

    Thanks for that. Sounds like, whether 225s stay on East Coast or move to Great Western they should get ETCS, I’m pleased, 140mph sounds a bit more likely now.

    Also interesting that 70 bi-modes is the very minimum viable quantity, that means:

    a. Wiring to Swansea was probablly left out to help push their bi-mode idea
    b. Not wiring the Severn Tunnel diversionary route was linked with the provision of bi-modes to Swansea, no bi-modes on the Swansea route means they’d need extra bi-modes sitting out of use somewhere 6 days a week to allow for the diversion on the 7th. This makes the case for wiring the diversionary route much stronger.
    c. Wiring Swansea and the diversionary route leaves only services beyond Reading (via Westbury) to Taunton (and beyond), and beyond Bristol to Weston-Super-Mare (and beyond) as issues (which wouldn’t be a problem until IC125s have to go in 2035).

    There are only a few East Coast services beyond the wires each day, the exisiting class 67 fleet (perhaps the ones currently on standby for ECML Thunderbird duties, they’d still be available for such work most of the day) could handle that. Extending the current order of extra Pendolinios to include 20 new 7-car sets (for the Manchester – Edinborugh/Glasgow services that will be electrified in 2013 and the already electrified but diesel-run Birmingham – Edinborugh/Glasgow services) would provide a cacasade of 9 class 221 Voyagers to XC. XC would then be able to spare 9 class 220 Voyagers, which would be given an additional coach with a pantograph to turn them into bi-modes which would be introduced instead of the IEP bi-modes planned for the Cotswolds line. The rest of the Voyager fleet could gain pantograph cars as a follow-on from this. Alongside a few IC125s on Hereford runs these should cover the Cotswolds services. That only leaves beyond Swansea, and again existing diesels should cover it. Therefore we don’t need to buy anything new with diesel engines in it for any of these Intercity services, whether these diesel engines be in locomotives or multiple units.

  • Windsorian

    Some time ago I read an article saying that the diesel engines of IEP bi-mode trains would be removable, if the line was later fully electrified; unfortunately I have been unable to trace this original article.

    However I have now read this  http://www.greenwisebusiness.co.uk/news/ecofriendly-trains-to-be-manufactured-in-uk-2370.aspx   which in the last section “Electric Future”, seems to confirm that the diesel motors will be removable.

  • Anonymous

    That is indeed the case. I met with Hitachi a week ago and they confirmed that they would be able to remove the diesels engines if they were no longer needed. However, the idea is that there would be one ‘donkey’ diesel in each train to provide traction in the event of an eletrical failure and that one would presumably remain, while the other two would be removed. 

  • Windsorian

    Thanks Xian,  I’ve also been looking at this http://www.railforums.co.uk/showthread.php?t=42614   which suggests the 70 bi-mode 5 carriage IEPs will be divided equally between the GWML and ECML.

    Does this look right to you ??

  • Windsorian

    At various times Rhydgaled has made claims on this and other blogs about the energy efficiency of the IC225 (Class 91) trains :-

    “The RSSB figures I have seen show that an Intercity 225 works out at about the same efficentcy as Virgin’s Pendolinos. Also, the Pendolino figures included the effect of the power returned to the grid via the regenerative breaking system, meaning if regenerative breaking is installed to the class 91s in future (if it is possible) the Intercity 225 would become the most efficent Intercity train we have.”
    However Agility Trains do not agree as in their “Case for IEP”   http://www.agilitytrains.com/agilitytrains_caseforiep.htm   they claim in Section 5 :-

    “The Super Express Train is more fuel efficient; up to 25% less energy consumed per seat mile (comparing a 10 car bi-mode with an IC225 set)”

    To me this 25% claim looks about right on the basis that the bi-mode will have a 15% – 20% efficiency saving from regenerative breaking and a further 5% – 10% from weight reduction by using an aluminum shell rather than steel. However there is the weight of the diesel motors and fuel (x3) in the bi-mode varient, which surely Agility would have been aware of before publishing their claim ???

  • Rhydgaled

    The passage of mine you are quoting says that IC225s are would be the most efficent Intercity train we have IF they are fitted with regenerative breaking. Hitachi think they can beat the 225, but I’m guessing that could be a typo and they meant to say a 10-car bi-mode was 25% better than an IC125. Even if it isn’t a typo (and I’d be plesantly supprised if it isn’t) you say 15% – 20% of the saving is from regenerative breaking. I was saying the IC225s should be fitted with that technology, so they would cut their power use by 15%-20% too and would beat all present UK Intercity trains until the IEP comes along which would only be 5%-10% better (which an electric-only IEP could be capable of and will hopefully be better still).

    I have looked at some estimated figures I have found for the weight of the IEP bi-mode train, which only have 10 tonnes added for diesel cars over electric rather than the 20 tonnes Christian Wolmar sugggests. With 3 diesel cars and 2 other cars the 5-car bi-mode came out about the same (a bit under 4 tonnes more) compared to a class 220 Voyager with 2 extra carriges (I’m guessing a 5-car IEP has equivelent number of seats to a 6-car Voyager). If you have a link to official figures for the weight and/or fuel and electrificty economy I would be interested to read them, and might be able to come up with a better comparison.

    Whether or not the IC225 is beaten on low power use by an electric IEP, or even a bi-mode one, of equivelent capacity the fact is a pure electric IEP will get much further on X amount of electricity than the various bi-mode versions that are proposed at present.

  • Fandroid

    I wish you two guys would stop saying ‘breaking’ when you mean ‘braking’. Pedants corner I know, but the two meanings are so dramatically different that the errors distract from the arguments. 

  • Windsorian

    Fair comment – braking it is.

  • Beaverail

    Surely, the answer to all this, as unpalatable as it might be, would be to invite Deutche Bahn to take over rail passenger services in the UK. While they are by no means perfect themselves, they have capabilities that make UK rail “talent” look decidedly incompetent and infantile. Once the ICx trains start serving St. Pancras and the travelling public gets to see what the equipment and service look like, there is every possibility that momentum will build for a standardised European train design with its attendent benefits. Why are the UK bureaucrats trying to invent the wheel with an Asian vendor when the appropriate technology exists a few hundred miles away? Britain needs a viable rail system more than ever and it cannot be left to rank amateurs to make it happen. Enough, already!   

  • Trains are the major source for traveling in London. They are very reliable and popular and they provide very comfortable seating for traveling. But these are diesel trains and there is need of replacing in these trains. New coaches are now built of Hitachi and they will be capable of being powered by electricity. But its expensive cost is creating hurdles for its implementation. But we are hoping that this project will launched soon.

  • Alan Glover

    Journey time Bristol/ London 1934 was 1 hr 45 mins according to schedule9 Castle Class Steam Locos.
    Journey Time now ( 125s) is 1 hr 45 mins..
    If the Hitachi Trains last 30 years journey time will be 1 hr 45 mins in 2048.
    That is no improvement in 114 years.
    Also no food drink service ( no Buffet Cars)
    Sounds like a great step forward. not.