IEP, electrification, commonsense.. seeder wiring!

Discussion in 'Infrastructure & Stations' started by DXMachina, 24 Oct 2011.

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  1. DXMachina

    DXMachina Member

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    I read this forum from an environmental / ecological / planning interest rather than a conventional railway enthusiast viewpoint.

    I'm aware of the debate over whether to give future intercity trains all-electric power or additional diesels to enable them to move off-grid to places the authorities don't want to electrify

    I'm aware that lugging diesel engines around when running electrically is a waste of power... but equally that running diesels under the wires is environmentally and economically bad news and that this logic informs the choice of dual-power trains, while most rail professionals would rather see the railway electrification system spread more widely and lighter all-electric trains underneath it.

    I also understand that having dual-mode trains will reduce the temptation to electrify further

    So, here's my thought.
    Diesel trains presumably use enormous amounts of energy & fuel for acceleration to line speed then throttle back to cruise at a much lower kilowattage when running at a steady speed.

    Set the trains up so they can switch between electric and diesel power in motion, or vice-versa. Then string up 2 to 3 miles of overhead power heading away from every station they stop at, and up any major inclines on their routes

    The electricity - vs - diesel fuel savings from this negligible amount of electrification would be proportionately greater than electrifying the whole line through, the performance benefits of having electric power for acceleration compared to onboard diesel would mean better timings, and less diesel wear'n'tear and pollution

    AND - if proven to save money soon every major station off the electrified network that served stopping dual-mode trains would have a few miles of catenary.

    At which point it becomes viable for local operators to campaign to link the sections, or to wire up local branch lines. Some places would no doubt remain as islands cut off from the main network but if those islands grew the use of diesel fuel to power trains could be progressively reduced, until its economically straightforward to bridge the links and remove the diesel pods from the trains or remove their number (Ie, a train that always reaches 125mph electrically doesnt need 4500 diesel horsepower,it can carry fewer diesels and maintain the same acceleration profile)

    .. and after a while it'd be freight operators calling for infill electrification projects too

    What do you think?
     
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  3. heenan73

    heenan73 Member

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    Can't see the point.

    Other than the wide open spaces on inter-city routes, the cost of setting up islands of electrification would be as much (or more) than doing the whole thing; assuming you electrified with the intention of eventually filling in, plus you'd still have lard-butt bimodes trundling around under wires as well as away from them.

    Over a thirty year period, your total route costs would be much higher than total electrification from day 1 - and very, very far from green.

    With any infrastructure, doing it properly is almost invariably better than farting around in bits and pieces.
     
  4. DXMachina

    DXMachina Member

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    well thats fair enough

    I look at issues from my professional viewpoint - I'm an accountant. I see things in matters of standard costing (compare electrical running costs for the electrified proportion to diesel running costs over the same mileage, compare to lifetime install+operate costs for the electrification, go/no-go based on provable payback)

    It seemed to me that comparing the known costs per kw/hour of diesel and electric propulsion you might find sections of the network where there'd be a payoff from electrification even if not linked to the greater powered network.

    And the whole objective would be to prove the economics of electrification and set the process in chain slowly while enabling dual-modes to operate at their peak efficiency - so of course it should be designed to play a full part in a complete route wire-up, with power feeds positioned where they would anyway be needed

    I've read on these boards concerns about the possibility of electrifying through certain tunnels and along exposed seafronts. This seemed to me a good way to get a percentage of the benefits of electric power without facing the more horrendous capital costs of some parts of a whole-route strategy

    I should have mentioned regenerative braking under electric operation which I understand is widely used where possible.
     
  5. Chris125

    Chris125 Established Member

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    It wouldnt be greener, cheaper, or indeed better in any real way im afraid. There's a very good reason electrification is put up en-masse - its by far the most efficient way of doing things.

    Chris
     
  6. HSTEd

    HSTEd Established Member

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    As the above posts make clear, scattering "islands" of overhead wiring across non electrified routes will not help that much due to the fact you would have to provide hardened supply points at each island to prevent the massive grid instabilities that plague rural electrification.
    A continuous line can go 30km or more between substations using autotransformer equipment so you can place them where a sufficiently rugged supply is available.

    The only major cost cutting measure that makes sense would be the low cost "hybrid" catenary that I found a DfT report about, using buried wooden or FRP utility poles to hold the "hybrid" equipment that would enable running speeds of up to 90mph.

    90mph would be sufficient for many secondary routes in the "InterCity" network, indeed I wonder what the top speed is on large parts of the Aberdeen and Inverness lines, as well as teh Cornish Main Lines.
     
  7. 142094

    142094 Established Member

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    As you have said, this is probably the main point - the cost of the extra supply stations would no doubt greatly reduce any saving made from not fully electrifying the line.
     
  8. bluenoxid

    bluenoxid Established Member

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    Depends how the power was delivered but by the time you have transmitted it either underground or overground, you have spent a lot of money doing it.

    That is not to say your idea is not being considered on a small scale. In areas where it is particularly difficult, it is being considered to create neutral sections where the wire is there but not live.
     
  9. Nym

    Nym Established Member

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    They could of course link all of these seeding islands together, just hang the line over the track so it doesn't take up any extra space...
     
  10. dggar

    dggar Member

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    There's an old joke that says there are three types of accountant.

    those that can count and those that can't.
     
  11. dalmahoyhill

    dalmahoyhill Member

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    That was brave of you to admit you were an accountant!

    I would concur with the other posters, I don't think it stacks up, it possibly appears as a lowest capital cost but I reckon the whole life cost would blow it out of the water.

    As some posters said you need direct grid connections for each section. Grid connections cost a bomb. Electrification along the whole route with the connections spread equally is cheaper.
    As Adonis rightly said electrification costs have been historically high due to small one off projects. A rolling 5 year programme using electrification trains substantially reduces the cost per km.

    Multiple site set ups to install short sections cost more money. A large cost of the WCML upgrade was the cost and difficulty of short possessions. I deal with difficult access and short possessions with my job and can tell you that's where the costs lie. For electrification a large rolling programme is likely to be cheaper per km, than short sections of bespoke electrification.

    Service patterns may mean you want some stopping some non stop services. On most main lines its not actually that far between stations so i imagine the non electrified gaps wouldnt be that big.

    The DOT looked at omitting electrification through low bridges or tunnels to reduce the costs. A typically DOT dippy idea alongside biofuels being the dominant fuel source. Modern railways hints that it thinks the DOT electrification policy may be dictated by IEP rather than the other way around. That someone in the DOT will protect it at all costs rather than cancel it. That might be why they came up witb the idea. As far as i am concerned, do it properly or not at all. no half measures.

    I am not a mechanical engineer but I am pretty sure drag at 125mph still requires substantial power to maintain the velocity.

    Forward planning. You have a long term security of supply issue. Fuel isn't cheap and the future outlook is ever increasing oil costs. Unless china and BRIC countries implode and masses of cheap oil is found high oil prices are here to stay and we have to get them for more and more unsavoury countries. Russia has already held the Ukraine the ransom. Electrification at least provides a spread of fuel sources. Nucelar, and hopefully renewables.

    As for the IEP itself.

    I suggest trying to pick up a copy of Modern Railways it performs a hatchet job of IEP. Just a few of the minor problems:q

    Lugging around diesel engines with very long bodied carriages lead to very high track access charges, its much higher than a electric unit or equivalent.
    The cost of a bespoke train is much higher than a off the shelf EMU or loco.
    It is being procured under a form of PPP. which means the trains are rented for 30 years.
    A audit by Lord Adonis said the alternatives hadnt been investigated in detail. I.E. electrifying whole routes or loco hauled options past the wires.
    IEP tries to cover too many bases, it has a electric, hybrid and a commuting version that will still have the same body as the intercity.

    So my conclusion would be, full electrifcation with electric only units the way forward, cancel IEP. For services beyond the wires, loco haulage, or a change of trains.
    Perhaps even something like a new non tilt pendolino or refurbished MRK3 carriages/ or new carriages with a TRAXX or eurosprinter electric loco would be the cheapest new stock.
     
  12. table38

    table38 Established Member

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    Nevertheless it is this independent sort of thinking that could one day lead to a solution that would be of major benefit!

    I had a similar idea using batteries, and "charging up" the train while it was stopped at stations, or having short sections of electrification akin to water troughs :)

    Personally I'd solve the problem by just permanently coupling a 185 up to a 350 - job done!
     
  13. 142094

    142094 Established Member

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    The next technological advances will be something to do with hydrgen fuel cells or a new way of producing diesel without the environmental damage it does now.
     
  14. HSTEd

    HSTEd Established Member

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    Hydrogen fuel cells will never be a practical motive powersource for trains, it becomes far easier to use your hydrogen to produce methanol (from atmospheric carbon dioxide) and either use that in spark ignition engines or use the various synthetic fuel routes from methanol to paraffins suitable for diesel engines.
    You also need to produce your hydrogen in a non fossil dependent manner, the most practical on a large scale being nuclear energy, especially as you are competing for hydrogen with the chemical and eventually metallurgical industries.

    Electrification is the future, just a question of how cheaply it can be done.
     
  15. route:oxford

    route:oxford On Moderation

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    You mean a bit like the Ballater Battery Unit. Recharged with "White" NoSHEB electricity and introduced in 1958.
     
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