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House of Commons Transport Committee "Trains fit for the future?" Report

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jfowkes

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Link to press release and report: https://committees.parliament.uk/co...must-set-out-clear-strategy-for-rail-network/

The House of Commons Transport Select Committee have published a report about rail strategy, chiefly concerning decarbonisation.

I haven't had a chance to read it yet but their own headlines are:
  • A 30 year rolling programme of electrification should be set out
  • Important new advances in battery and hydrogen technology should feature prominently
  • Following previous electrification overspending, Network Rail and the industry should be subject to greater cost scrutiny
Noel Dolphin on Twitter has also done a summary: https://twitter.com/NoelDolphin/status/1374254073994698757?s=19

It looks positive to me, if only because of the recognition that a rolling program of electrification is required. But I'm not in the industry or even a particularly well informed layperson. I'm interested to know what others think.
 
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OldNick

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I welcome any positive long term strategy.

The last thing I want to see is a massive nationwide short-termist cost cutting exercise (as we appear to be seeing with Network Rail and the Army) to attempt to balance the books for Covid. Sure rail use might be reduced for now, but we have to keep a long term view.
 

Roast Veg

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  • A 30 year rolling programme of electrification should be set out
  • Important new advances in battery and hydrogen technology should feature prominently
  • Following previous electrification overspending, Network Rail and the industry should be subject to greater cost scrutiny
Don't these three seem somewhat at odds, particularly (3) against (1) and (2)? The low hanging fruit for electrification has broadly been picked already.
 

jfowkes

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Don't these three seem somewhat at odds, particularly (3) against (1) and (2)? The low hanging fruit for electrification has broadly been picked already.
Yes, I did think that. Probably best to read the report before drawing any conclusions though. Apparently there is a recognition that the high costs of recent projects are at least partly due to the lack of a decent skills or manufacturing base. So point 3 could just be "we think costs will start coming down in a rolling programme but keep an eye on it".

I am concerned that point 2 means they're still banking on hydrogen or batteries saving us all from having to put wires up.
 

LNW-GW Joint

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The findings about train accessibility are rather harsh, blaming the TOCs for not meeting the 2020 deadline despite 10 years' notice.
In most cases it was because the DfT/SG/WG refused to allow the TOC spend for the train upgrades/replacement in reasonable time.

Overall it seems a good report, but TSC reports don't often make the DfT change tack.
The electrification comparison with Germany's rolling plan is striking - more electrification at half the cost.
They've mentioned 3rd rail extensions, another prod in an area the ORR don't want to know.
They also forgot that 3rd rail was being installed well into the 1990s on Merseyrail (Chester/Ellesmere Port extension).
 

Domh245

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I am concerned that point 2 means they're still banking on hydrogen or batteries saving us all from having to put wires up.

A little: Reading the conclusions/recommendations:

19. Although the rail industry requires a long-term strategy for decarbonising the rail network, it is important that the strategy is sufficiently flexible to incorporate alternative technologies, such as hydrogen and battery, and other new technologies that might be developed. When and if it is demonstrated that clean, green and cost-effective alternatives to electrification can deliver the energy required by freight and high-speed passenger services, they should be introduced to decarbonise the rail network.(Paragraph 87)

20.The long-term rail decarbonisation strategy must explain the process by which the development of alternative technologies will be reviewed and how such technologies can be incorporated into the network strategy, if they reach the necessary level of development.(Paragraph 88)

The full report mentions TDNS and 5 yearly reviews of technology available, giving them a chance to crack on with the "no regret" electrification whilst not ruling out batteries/hydrogen for future, less well used lines. Whether the department agrees with this view in it's response is yet to be seen!

Network Rail recognised that battery and hydrogen technology were rapidly developing and could have an impact on the economic and technological assumptions underpinning the TDNS, and thus potentially change the optimum balance of decarbonisation technologies.121 Network Rail’s proposed approach was to focus first on the so-called ‘no-regret’ electrification schemes on the more intensively used parts of the network (see paragraph 50). This could allow time for further developments in battery and hydrogen technology to potentially change the business case behind the balance of technologies and encourage greater utilisation of these alternative technologies. Network Rail proposed that the technological assumptions built into TDNS would be refreshed on a “five yearly basis to factor in any future changes in technology.”122 The RIA agreed that this was a sensible strategy
 

Carlisle

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Sure rail use might be reduced for now, but we have to keep a long term view.
True, but virtually all businesses in all sectors affected by COVID will share that viewpoint, can they all be saved?
 

yorksrob

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The emphasis on electrification sounds like a good step forward.

In terms of trains "fit for the future" one would hope for some improvement in passenger comfort.
 

mr_moo

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To be fair, the Great Western Electrification is a fairly good example of how not to do electrification. That caused some very deep wounds in the DfT which have taken time to heal, but with the upcoming climate change conference in Scotland, greater focus on climate change issues and carbon emission reduction, when physics finally gets some attention again there's only one solution for the majority of lines. Yes, some smaller branches may find that battery and/or hydrogen is a lifesaver for them, especially against blanket 'no diesel' statements, but electrification is the clearl the stand-out winner.

Note also that this government loves to re-announce stuff as much as it can to avoid actually doing anything (other than giving money to its cronies), so included in this document I'd guess (not read it myself yet) would be previous schemes which were 'paused', such as Chippenham to Bristol and Didcot to Oxford, but even if they are in there, it's great that someone's picked them up again.

Really impressed they identify that this should not become just another study and that we really should get on with building!
 

Domh245

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Note also that this government loves to re-announce stuff as much as it can to avoid actually doing anything (other than giving money to its cronies), so included in this document I'd guess (not read it myself yet) would be previous schemes which were 'paused', such as Chippenham to Bristol and Didcot to Oxford, but even if they are in there, it's great that someone's picked them up again.

This is just a committee report, so there's no announcements by Government in it, only questions for them to answer (due 23/5) off the back of questioning & response from stakeholders. The response may hint at some schemes, but I wouldn't expect any official announcements any time soon
 

LNW-GW Joint

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Roger Ford has a piece in April Modern Railways looking at electrification costs.
The GW "factory train" is idle as contractors on current projects are preferring to use road-rail kit to install bases, masts and wires.
It's turning out faster and cheaper, as it is if you also get the contractor to design the solution as well as install it.
MML wiring contractor (SPL) has designed the bases and masts so they are far more standardised than they were on GW.
What apparently killed GW was having to redesign the factory train to meet OHLE spec changes, and having to repeatedly visit sites where work was incomplete.
If the GW extensions ever get done, it is likely to use new construction methods.
However, it also means they are not "shovel ready".
In another piece, Roger shows that DfT (ie us) is paying a significant long-term price for converting the full GW IEP fleet to bi-mode, as a result of the cancelled electrification.
 

Class83

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The emphasis on electrification sounds like a good step forward.

In terms of trains "fit for the future" one would hope for some improvement in passenger comfort.
This is the really important part, if you want to increase rail's modal share, it has to be comfortable relative to other options. Outside of London, where driving is an alternative, 5 across seating doesn't wash, the 350/2s are good trains spoilt by poor seats, we simply need longer trains. Regular standing except on <10 minute metro services isn't going to attract customers. Unlike in the 1980s most cars have aircon, a 150 or 156 doesn't, even 158s are iffy on a hot day. Getting rid of the pacers was necessary, but not sufficient.
 

yorksrob

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This is the really important part, if you want to increase rail's modal share, it has to be comfortable relative to other options. Outside of London, where driving is an alternative, 5 across seating doesn't wash, the 350/2s are good trains spoilt by poor seats, we simply need longer trains. Regular standing except on <10 minute metro services isn't going to attract customers. Unlike in the 1980s most cars have aircon, a 150 or 156 doesn't, even 158s are iffy on a hot day. Getting rid of the pacers was necessary, but not sufficient.

Indeed. On the plus side, TPE seems to have become a largely 6/5 carriage operation on the core - something which would have gone a long way towards making it a bearable option in pre-covid days. This needs to be kept up.
 

DerekC

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Roger Ford has a piece in April Modern Railways looking at electrification costs.
The GW "factory train" is idle as contractors on current projects are preferring to use road-rail kit to install bases, masts and wires.
It's turning out faster and cheaper, as it is if you also get the contractor to design the solution as well as install it.
MML wiring contractor (SPL) has designed the bases and masts so they are far more standardised than they were on GW.
What apparently killed GW was having to redesign the factory train to meet OHLE spec changes, and having to repeatedly visit sites where work was incomplete.
If the GW extensions ever get done, it is likely to use new construction methods.
However, it also means they are not "shovel ready".
In another piece, Roger shows that DfT (ie us) is paying a significant long-term price for converting the full GW IEP fleet to bi-mode, as a result of the cancelled electrification.
As has been said on this forum many times before, anyone who wants to know about GW electrification and the reasons for its high cost should read the RIA Electrification Cost Challenge report - available here:

https://www.riagb.org.uk/RIA/Newsroom/Stories/Electrification_Cost_Challenge_Report.aspx

Here's an extract from the Exec Summary:
"The RIA Electrification Cost Challenge ..... will: • Set out the benefits of electrification for passengers and customers, and how it supports the Government’s Decarbonisation Challenge; • Summarise UK electrification strategy since 2007; • Discuss the Great Western Electrification Project (GWEP) and the reasons that it failed; • Highlight the lessons that have been learnt; and • Highlight evidence that electrification can be, and is being, delivered for between 33%-50% of the costs of some recent projects using examples from around the UK and internationally."
"The main recommendations identified in the report, include: Cost 1. To establish a 10 year rolling programme of electrification to progressively lower the long-term operating costs of the railway towards European norms and to support investment in people, process and plant. 2. To endorse electrification as the first choice in a hierarchy of options for decarbonising the rail network. 3. To ensure future projects adopt a realistic programme and risk apportionment. 4. To use the Rail Method of Measurement to allow comparison between projects on a consistent basis. Standards 5. Future projects should use proven systems that comply with the relevant standards. 6. Avoid developing and obtaining approval for new systems as part of a project. 7. Review the Network Rail (NR) standards suite and risk allocation to support output specification. 8. Implement a ‘standards freeze’ for the duration of a project. Foundations 9. Have an appropriate level of design maturity before commencing foundation installation. Masts 10. Future procurement should allow for alternative designs that deliver outcome requirements, including life cycle reliability and maintainability against the benchmark of NR Master Series. Overhead Line Equipment (OLE) 11. To maximise value for money, the procurement process should allow for proven compliant proprietary designs to deliver outcome requirements, including life cycle reliability and maintainability against the benchmark of NR Master Series, rather than mandating the use of NR Master Series in major electrification schemes. Power Supply 12. At the optioneering stage, future projects should ensure that all options for traction power supplies are considered, including distribution and traction power storage options. Clearances to Bridges and Structures 13. Wherever possible, future projects should secure all necessary consents, such as via a Transport Works Order, and undertake route clearance in advance of OLE works, even if this means extending the programme. 14. Sufficient detailed design should be undertaken at GRIP 3 (Option Selection) Plant 15. The recommendation to establish a ‘rolling programme’ of electrification would both reduce the competition for scarce plant by allowing forward planning and create the incentive to, over time, invest in more productive plant, process and skills to further optimise delivery"
Sorry - can't get the formatting inside a quote box to work better than this!
 
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Mikey C

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40.As well as keeping costs lower, witnesses also told us that a long-term rolling programme of rail electrification could help to boost UK productivity.57 For instance, it could create long-term and highly skilled jobs outside of London and the South East, helping to meet the Government’s “levelling up” aspirations. The RIA said: “If we employ an apprentice tomorrow to start doing electrification or low-carbon rolling stock, they will have 30 years of work in front of them. That is a good thing.”58 The benefits of long-term highly skilled employment would not be limited to the engineers delivering electrification schemes but would also be spread amongst the wide supply chain.

Ticking all the electoral boxes that the government might listen to :E
 

Nicholas Lewis

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Roger Ford has a piece in April Modern Railways looking at electrification costs.
The GW "factory train" is idle as contractors on current projects are preferring to use road-rail kit to install bases, masts and wires.
It's turning out faster and cheaper, as it is if you also get the contractor to design the solution as well as install it.
MML wiring contractor (SPL) has designed the bases and masts so they are far more standardised than they were on GW.
What apparently killed GW was having to redesign the factory train to meet OHLE spec changes, and having to repeatedly visit sites where work was incomplete.
BR's MK3a OLE design was standardised and 35 years ago we were installing foundations and masts on ECML at a good pace with far inferior plant to what is available today how did we go so far backwards. Granted with today H&S requirements those days are gone but not forgotten as MML have demonstrated. GW electrification was an utter disaster but even when all warnings signals were flashing red NR never got a grip of the project and the final nail was driven into railway electrification. My belief is MML successful delivery will enable a restart of electrification and in a written question from Labours Shadow SoS Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi the Sos Chris Heaton Morris said this

https://members.parliament.uk/member/4638/contact

Q. To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, which parts of the rail network he plans to electrify in (a) 2021, (b) 2022, (c) 2023 and (d) 2024.


A. Further electrification of the rail network will play an important role in achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The Department’s forthcoming Transport Decarbonisation Plan will set out the necessary scale and pace of rail decarbonisation between now and 2050, informed by the Network Rail-led Traction Decarbonisation Network Strategy.

Electrification schemes will be developed through the Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline (RNEP). We intend to publish a RNEP Update, and will do so as soon as possible.

https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-transport
 

chiltern trev

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Link to press release and report: https://committees.parliament.uk/co...must-set-out-clear-strategy-for-rail-network/

The House of Commons Transport Select Committee have published a report about rail strategy, chiefly concerning decarbonisation.

I followed the above link and it took me to a page which linked to a documnt split over many pages.

If you require all the document in one go, in a single pdf, go here --> page with pdf download - Trains Fit For The Future
 

24Grange

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I'm always amazed by the delight and utter comfort of the seats on national express coaches ( and they recline!) compared to the "torture" of new rail stock ( 800, 700 etc) . I would have thought a motorway coach had much more intense regulation for fire retardant foams and crash worthiness than a railway carriage. They seem to have deliberately designed the trains to be as uncomfortable as possible and cram customers in , like a five minute ride on a tube train - not for a 4 hour plus ride from Paddington to Penzance.

Thinking back to sinking into the upholstery of a bench seat in a mk1 compartment and even the joy of walking up to the buffet car of an HST for a bacon sandwich - standards of customer comfort have fallen through the floor ( whilst rail fares have gone through the roof) _ most times its a luxury to have the trolley up and down the train for most of the full journey in a 800 on GWR ( They are either trapped in the wrong unit, or can't get past the luggage in the aisle in a crowded train). Journey times have not really lessened ( to many increasing stops), incessant announcements meaning you can't relax (sort it.... again and again and again....) and a airline seat that doesn't line up with the windows.

They are of the opinion that the railways exist for and run for the convenience of the railway - definitely not the poor paying customers.
Railways at least for the short term need to encourage customers back - not assume they can pack them in like cattle, charge them the earth and assume they are just going to turn up and "lump it" to go back to the office. People are going to be voting with their feet - especially if they are only in the office in the future 1 or 2 days a week.
 

Irascible

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The seats on coaches are airline by default ( although I've always wondered why they don't face backwards, like RAF transport aircraft ) but yes I agree - I'm a long term rail user because I love the experience, but that love is these days limited to 30 year old DMUs and when they go it'll be NX or rental car unless something improves. Other transport modes manage comfort over large numbers of seats, there's absolutely no reason rail can't.

In economic terms it can't be good for productivity & therefore GDP if your journey to and from a place of work leaves you with lingering fatigue from discomfort. Making up random numbers, if a seat costs an extra £1k to buy, lasts 20 years - I'm assuming seat maintenance cost is the same for any seat - & is used by 4 travellers a day on average it'd cost about an extra 3p on a ticket. Charge me 50p then & give me something amazing.
 
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SamYeager

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In economic terms it can't be good for productivity & therefore GDP if your journey to and from a place of work leaves you with lingering fatigue from discomfort. Making up random numbers, if a seat costs an extra £1k to buy, lasts 20 years - I'm assuming seat maintenance cost is the same for any seat - & is used by 4 travellers a day on average it'd cost about an extra 3p on a ticket. Charge me 50p then & give me something amazing.
Now multiply your estimate by the number of seats in a coach times the total number of coaches needed by a typical operator. Taking your example prices and assuming 48 seats per coach and 100 coaches then we're talking about an extra £4.8 million up front for the fleet.
 

johnnychips

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^ But @Irascible was using guesswork numbers. Is it really £1000 more for a comfy fireproof seat than a basic fireproof seat? The train builders should go to DFS :)
 

Bevan Price

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There is some dreamland thinking about batteries. Yes, they will have some limited applications for relatively low speed / short distance lines. But, I predict that it will probably never be possible to get sufficient power for high speed long distance trains whilst having an acceptable weight of batteries. All batteries are dependent on types of chemical reaction, and there are scientific limits about the amount of energy that can be extracted from chemical reactions. In addition, some of the reactions producing the most energy are so fast and explosive that it seems implausible that they could ever be safely controlled for use in batteries.
(Think, for example, sodium + water, but even worse....)
 

Master29

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Now multiply your estimate by the number of seats in a coach times the total number of coaches needed by a typical operator. Taking your example prices and assuming 48 seats per coach and 100 coaches then we're talking about an extra £4.8 million up front for the fleet.
Individually yes but think about the number of National Express coaches nationwide and surely compared to inter city services they must be similar or surely more on the coach side.
 

Purple Orange

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This is an interesting extract from the report:

When and how to start

49.Investment in the railway is traditionally structured around five-year funding cycles known as a control period. The next cycle—Control Period 7—begins in 2024. We heard evidence that the Department should not wait until 2024 to start implementing its rail decarbonisation programme.73
50.Witnesses advocated a rolling programme of electrification beginning with so-called “no regret schemes”.74 The Taskforce defines these as projects which have a strong economic case for electrification which will not change in the short to medium term. Typically these schemes are on the most intensively used parts of the rail network not currently electrified.75 The business case for electrification on these intensively used lines is unlikely to diminish as alternative technology develops, because they are used so much that electrification will always be cost effective.76 Network Rail told us that the Department should “crack on” with no-regret schemes.77 Network Rail have sent a list of these schemes to the Department for consideration.
I.e. start a rolling programme of electrification ASAP, identify ‘no regret’ routes and get on with doing it. My initial thoughts were Trans Pennine Mainline (underway), complete Midland Mainline and short sections of unelectrified lines exist around city networks.
 

RPI

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There is some dreamland thinking about batteries. Yes, they will have some limited applications for relatively low speed / short distance lines. But, I predict that it will probably never be possible to get sufficient power for high speed long distance trains whilst having an acceptable weight of batteries. All batteries are dependent on types of chemical reaction, and there are scientific limits about the amount of energy that can be extracted from chemical reactions. In addition, some of the reactions producing the most energy are so fast and explosive that it seems implausible that they could ever be safely controlled for use in batteries.
(Think, for example, sodium + water, but even worse....)
You make a good point, but there could be the the case for a self charging hybrid on a slightly heavier scale than the Parry people mover (139), though this doesn't eliminate emissions it reduces them significantly.
The Looe branch could benefit from something similar (in fact it could easily manage with a 139 in the winter months!), a relatively flat line with a massive gradient at one end, the diesel engine would no doubt be required to help going up the gradient towards Liskeard but the run down it could aid with charging too, something based on D stock would probably be ideal as the Looe branch is also totally self contained.
 

Wyrleybart

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GW electrification was an utter disaster but even when all warnings signals were flashing red NR never got a grip of the project and the final nail was driven into railway electrification. My belief is MML successful delivery will enable a restart of electrification and in a written question from Labours Shadow SoS Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi the Sos Chris Heaton Morris said this
IMHO you are negatively generalising. The final nail has never been driven into railway electrification, and what has been achieved in Scotland in the last few years bears witness. In actual fact, the branch to Grangemouth has been electrified but the Freightcos don't use it. I believe this week DBC have worked the train with a 66 from Grangemouth to Mossend to be replaced by 2x90 for the trunk haul to Daventry. We have heard many times from them that it is uneconomical to change engines on freight flows but they cannot have it both ways. A shunt / trip loco should handle the traffic for the customers at Grangemouth, possibly through some kind of collaborative arrangement. The loco could probably be a battery electric design (New Clayton ???) which could stand under the 25kV to recharge between shunts, obviously understanding that hardly any of the sidings at Grangemouth are currently accessible to straight electric locos.

It is no use complaining that the UK network isn't sufficiently "green" if the TOCs and FOCs don't use it. Roger Ford recently wrote about three biggest TOC offenders running diesels under the wires. The counter attack might be the appallingly glacial introduction of the class 769s to service, but this leaves one to ponder on whether the battery 331s pencilled in for Windermere might have beaten the 769s into proper service had they been authorized, instead of three more 195s.
 
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