Belgium: No to hydrogen trains

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Adlington

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From the International Railway Journal:
A study into alternatives to diesel traction on the Belgian rail network has found that full electrification or a combination of partial electrification and battery operation are the two most viable options, with hydrogen requiring more development before it can be implemented.

The study, completed by research group Transport & Mobility Leuven (TML) on behalf of Belgium’s Federal Mobility and Transport Public Service (FPS Mobility and Transport), strongly recommended completely removing diesel trains from the network in the long run, even if diesel trains are able to meet tougher emissions standards than the existing fleet.

TML found that the maintenance and other costs were considerably higher for hydrogen trains, due in part to the low durability and limited lifespan of the fuel cells. Although there were no extra costs for extra rail infrastructure, they would require a network of hydrogen production, transport and refuelling stations. TML says this would result in higher costs, especially while the hydrogen industry remains small-scale. The environmental benefits could also be overstated due to the amount of energy lost during synthesis, and the storage of hydrogen compared with the use of electric energy.
The Belgian rail network has 3536 kilometres of track, of which 2950 km are electrified.
 
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HSTEd

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600 track kilometres? That's all the non electrified track they have?
 

MarcVD

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Yes we don't have that much unelectrified trackage left. 6 lines in fact, served by a pool of 96 DMUs. Two are being electrified right now, one will be commissioned in June 2021 (Mol Hamont) and the other one in December 2022 (Mol Hasselt). 3 remain in the region of Ghent (to Grammont, Renaix, and Eeklo). And one in Charleroi, to Couvin. Two of those lines, though (Renaix and Couvin) have tunnels that are too low for catenaries and have somewhat limited traffic (one train per hour each way) so may be for them the cost of electrification will be hard to justify.

Also, the pool of DMUs is only 20 years old now, thus not life expired, so may be for the remaining lines the electrification will wait until new rolling stock is necessary. Unless, of course, someone finds a way to replace the diesel engines by electric ones, with pantographs and batteries for the unelectrified sections, like the tunnels mentioned above...
 

AlexNL

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tunnels that are too low for catenaries
The British have been able to electrify a tunnel that opened in 1886: the Severn Tunnel between England and Wales. For this they used a rigid overhead conductor bar rather than wires, because of the clearances.

Perhaps a solution like that could be used in those tunnels as well.
 

duesselmartin

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are the tunnels double tracked? Then a solution could be to single the line inside the tunnel. Otherwise one has the expense of increasing the bore.
 

MarcVD

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are the tunnels double tracked? Then a solution could be to single the line inside the tunnel. Otherwise one has the expense of increasing the bore.

One is double track, and for this one it should indeed not be very complicated. One has interleaved tracks, and the two last ones are single track.
 

OxtedL

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Mol to Hamont is about 30km of single track.

Mol to Hasselt is about 40km, including maybe 10km of double track.
 

Bikeman78

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Yes we don't have that much unelectrified trackage left. 6 lines in fact, served by a pool of 96 DMUs. Two are being electrified right now, one will be commissioned in June 2021 (Mol Hamont) and the other one in December 2022 (Mol Hasselt). 3 remain in the region of Ghent (to Grammont, Renaix, and Eeklo). And one in Charleroi, to Couvin. Two of those lines, though (Renaix and Couvin) have tunnels that are too low for catenaries and have somewhat limited traffic (one train per hour each way) so may be for them the cost of electrification will be hard to justify.

Also, the pool of DMUs is only 20 years old now, thus not life expired, so may be for the remaining lines the electrification will wait until new rolling stock is necessary. Unless, of course, someone finds a way to replace the diesel engines by electric ones, with pantographs and batteries for the unelectrified sections, like the tunnels mentioned above...
There will be a lot of spare DMUs when Antwerpen to Hamont switches to electric trains. Some peak trains were formed of four units. I recall there was a time when DMUs ran stopping trains on electrified routes around Oudenaarde and Kortrijk.
 

MarcVD

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There will be a lot of spare DMUs when Antwerpen to Hamont switches to electric trains. Some peak trains were formed of four units. I recall there was a time when DMUs ran stopping trains on electrified routes around Oudenaarde and Kortrijk.

They still do. The fleet of AR41 based in Charleroi for the line to Couvin exceeds the needs for this line, so those AR in excess are regularly used on all-electrified lines to Erquelinnes or La Louviere...
 

Bikeman78

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They still do. The fleet of AR41 based in Charleroi for the line to Couvin exceeds the needs for this line, so those AR in excess are regularly used on all-electrified lines to Erquelinnes or La Louviere...
I didn't know they went to Erquelinnes. I wonder what will happen to the spare DMUs based at Hasselt. It's pointless electrifying a route if you just run the DMUs under the wires on another line. Perhaps they will try to sell some to another country.
 

plugwash

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The British have been able to electrify a tunnel that opened in 1886: the Severn Tunnel between England and Wales. For this they used a rigid overhead conductor bar rather than wires, because of the clearances.
On the other hand the moorgate line has a power system transition and an island of third rail because even with tricks they couldn't fit catenary in the tunnels and keep a decent loading gauge for mainline trains.
 

43096

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The British have been able to electrify a tunnel that opened in 1886: the Severn Tunnel between England and Wales. For this they used a rigid overhead conductor bar rather than wires, because of the clearances.

Perhaps a solution like that could be used in those tunnels as well.
I can't believe someone is praising British electrification!

Elsewhere Britain couldn't be bothered to electrify the final bit into Bristol because it might have cost a bit, so instead we've strapped diesel engines underneath the trains so we can carry on burning diesel for the next 30 years, and carry around the extra weight under the wires that have been put up, so using even more energy.
 

37424

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I can't believe someone is praising British electrification!

Elsewhere Britain couldn't be bothered to electrify the final bit into Bristol because it might have cost a bit, so instead we've strapped diesel engines underneath the trains so we can carry on burning diesel for the next 30 years, and carry around the extra weight under the wires that have been put up, so using even more energy.
Well if Network Fail hadn't have gone what was it 3 times over the original budget there might have been more progress, which there still could be in future and engines eventually removed from some of the IET fleet, or even a move to battery or hybrid for shorter off wire runs.

In any case not really relevant to this thread, back to the thread yes you can see why remaining electrification/battery would be more viable for the Belgium network.
 

gysev

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There is in fact one more non electrified line: Aalst - Burst, but that has only a reduced timetable and only runs on schooldays. As for the other lines:

- Gent - Eeklo has potential as a busy commuter line and could be electrified. However, this is complicated by a swing bridge at Gent and the unconvenient detour around the city centre.

- Gent - Ronse (Renaix in French) is quite busy with at times a half-hourly service. Elektrification could be an option although the low tunnel at Louise-Marie (south of Oudenaarde) is an obstacle.

- Gent - Geraardsbergen (Grammont is French) is the best candidate for electrification: a hilly line with a lot of stops in a densly populated area. The line could alse be used as an alternative for freight trains to avoid the congested Gent - Wetteren - Schellebelle line. There are up to 6 pairs of steel trains per day and regular limestone trains (up to 3 per week) that could use the line. Last week, Infrabel announced a major investment in the line to augment the number of block sections.

- Charleroi - Couvin could well become the last non-electrified line in Belgium with a passenger service. However, talk of closing the line beyond Walcourt is something that doesn't go away. If that becomes the choice made, the line could be electrified to "sweeten" the pill. Beyond Walcourt, the line would remain as an industrial siding to a large quarry just north of Philippeville.

All other non-electrified lines are freight-only and most see a limited number of trains. The longest are Diest - Tessenderlo (1 or 2 trains per day) and the two lines along the canal north of Gent - both are quite busy but electrification is unlikely.

As for the picture: this is one of the few services on the often overlooked Aalst - Burst line.
 

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Bikeman78

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Well if Network Fail hadn't have gone what was it 3 times over the original budget there might have been more progress, which there still could be in future and engines eventually removed from some of the IET fleet, or even a move to battery or hybrid for shorter off wire runs.

In any case not really relevant to this thread, back to the thread yes you can see why remaining electrification/battery would be more viable for the Belgium network.
It's interesting to note that the OHL on the recently electrified line from Herantals to Mol looks very similar to that in the rest of Belgium. Not reinventing the wheel probably kept costs down.

- Charleroi - Couvin could well become the last non-electrified line in Belgium with a passenger service. However, talk of closing the line beyond Walcourt is something that doesn't go away. If that becomes the choice made, the line could be electrified to "sweeten" the pill. Beyond Walcourt, the line would remain as an industrial siding to a large quarry just north of Philippeville.
I didn't know that. Philippeville, Mariembourg and Couvin look as big as Walcourt. The trains seemed quite well used when I last used the line which was 20 years ago in steam heated carriages. I'd assume that passenger numbers have gone up rather than down since then.
 

TheSeeker

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As for the picture: this is one of the few services on the often overlooked Aalst - Burst line.
The line seems to be quite an anomaly given it only runs a school service. Pre-Covid I went on a walking tour of the line with some friends who live nearby. Is it connected to the rest of the network? It was not clear from the guide.
 

Quakkerillo

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Yes; from all platforms of Aalst, you can get to all platforms of Burst, so it is fully connected to the rest of the network.
 
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