RIA letter on Electrification

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GRALISTAIR

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Tell them that they are responsible for the bus replacement costs, provide them with the funding and the minimum service provision and if they complete ahead of the timeframe they get to keep any extra money, however if they overrun then they have to provide the extra money to cover the costs.
Brilliant- and all get a bonus not just the bosses. Very motivating imho
 
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najaB

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The difference being energy density. To carry enough hydrogen to give the same range as a tank of diesel fuel would require an extra vehicle to store it. Also the infrastructure isn’t in place at the moment for fuelling hydrogen as it is for diesel fuel so that cost would need to be taken into account.
All true. However the post I was replying to stated that a hydrogen-powered train couldn't pull a 4,000t train.
 

Maltazer

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The difference being energy density. To carry enough hydrogen to give the same range as a tank of diesel fuel would require an extra vehicle to store it.
We managed over 100 years with locomotives towing an extra vehicle to carry their fuel (tenders), so it would hardly be unprecedented.
 

edwin_m

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True but if a hydrogen tank got into a crash god forbid that would be awful/spectacular- not so much with a coal tender.
Unlikely to be any worse than an oil tank as the first wagon in a freight train, which is a risk we tolerate. If it was breached the hydrogen would dissipate upwards very quickly, unlike oil that would flow out and pool around the site. Petroleum vapour or LPG would create an explosive concentration nearer the ground and over a much longer period than hydrogen.
 

hwl

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The difference being energy density. To carry enough hydrogen to give the same range as a tank of diesel fuel would require an extra vehicle to store it. Also the infrastructure isn’t in place at the moment for fuelling hydrogen as it is for diesel fuel so that cost would need to be taken into account.
A lot more than than "an" extra vehicle. By the time you take into account the amount of steel needed to withstand the pressures the hydrogen is stored at (and add safety margins) then you are looking at several wagons.
 

HSTEd

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True but if a hydrogen tank got into a crash god forbid that would be awful/spectacular- not so much with a coal tender.
If the Hindenberg had been filled with methane (assuming it could still fly), there would be no film of it crashing and burning, because the camera crew would not have survived.

Hydrogen burns but its light weight tends to make it pillar like crazy.

A lot more than than "an" extra vehicle. By the time you take into account the amount of steel needed to withstand the pressures the hydrogen is stored at (and add safety margins) then you are looking at several wagons.
It's almost certain that hydrogen would have to be handled as a liquid cryogen for that reason.
Even then though it only has a specific gravity of about 0.08.
 

WAO

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As a Chemical Engineer, I am horrified by the idea of using hydrogen as a fuel in passenger carrying vehicles. It is a very small molecule capable of diffusing through flexible hoses. It can diffuse into metals making them brittle and subject to cracking and fracture particularly in a mobile vibrating environment where fatigue is an issue, making connecting networks risky. It has to be stored at high pressures, 350 - 700 bar - multiply by 15 to give psi! Its energy density is low so it needs typically four times the storage volume of diesel. The steel pressure vessels must be circular not rectangular and have thick heavy walls, up to 10% of diameter. It has wide flammability limits in air that other fuels do not have, making leaks likely to catch fire, with high flame speeds as opposed to hydrocarbons. Even if the above could be overcome, it must be a costly derived and manufactured fuel.

The words Abergele, Hawes Jn, Ais Gill, Quintinshill and Charfield spring to mind.

Don't even stand on the same platform, let alone travel on one.

WAO
 

edwin_m

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They used to make bombs from Hydrogen, is there any risk in am accident?
"Hydrogen bomb" typically refers to nuclear fusion, which won't happen unless there are temperatures and pressures similar to those in the centre of the sun. See previous posts for discussion of chemical burning/explosion of hydrogen.

As a Chemical Engineer, I am horrified by the idea of using hydrogen as a fuel in passenger carrying vehicles. It is a very small molecule capable of diffusing through flexible hoses. It can diffuse into metals making them brittle and subject to cracking and fracture particularly in a mobile vibrating environment where fatigue is an issue, making connecting networks risky. It has to be stored at high pressures, 350 - 700 bar - multiply by 15 to give psi! Its energy density is low so it needs typically four times the storage volume of diesel. The steel pressure vessels must be circular not rectangular and have thick heavy walls, up to 10% of diameter. It has wide flammability limits in air that other fuels do not have, making leaks likely to catch fire, with high flame speeds as opposed to hydrocarbons. Even if the above could be overcome, it must be a costly derived and manufactured fuel.

The words Abergele, Hawes Jn, Ais Gill, Quintinshill and Charfield spring to mind.
Hydrogen wasn't involved in any of those accidents. The chief culprits would have been gas for lighting/cooking (presumably coal gas in that era) plus hot coals from the locomotive, coal spilled from tenders and wagons, and of course wooden rolling stock.

Hydrogen storage and use obviously requires appropriate design measures and it's a non-starter if that isn't achieved. But the fact that it has been in daily service on buses, including in London, and is a serious contender for use in cars suggests that there are solutions to these problems and also that the safety issues aren't insurmountable. If hydrogen is safe on the roads, where there are hundreds of collisions every day, then it should be possible to make it safe on the railway where there are a few every year.

But none of this makes it an optimum fuel in the railway environment, except perhaps for low-traffic routes where electrification isn't viable. More electrification is the obvious way forward and the unknowns associated with hydrogen actually make electrification fairly low risk by comparison.
 

hwl

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"Hydrogen bomb" typically refers to nuclear fusion, which won't happen unless there are temperatures and pressures similar to those in the centre of the sun.
And there are enough of the right isotopes which won't happen naturally.
Fusion tends to use Lithium 6 & 7 rather than Hydrogen...
 

jfowkes

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While I agree that hydrogen is an unnecessary distraction from getting on with electrification: to those who say it can't work, what about the Alstom Coradia iLint trains? They seem to be successful in Germany.
 

WAO

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Hydrogen wasn't involved in any of those accidents. The chief culprits would have been gas for lighting/cooking (presumably coal gas in that era) plus hot coals from the locomotive, coal spilled from tenders and wagons, and of course wooden rolling stock.
Coal gas was c50% hydrogen and easy to light.

Ladbroke Grove saw a Mark 3 burnt out with deaths.

Trains need a lot more energy stored than buses.

The Hindenburg and R101 airships worked very well until they caught fire. Helium balloons are still flying.

WAO
 

hwl

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While I agree that hydrogen is an unnecessary distraction from getting on with electrification: to those who say it can't work, what about the Alstom Coradia iLint trains? They seem to be successful in Germany.
With a huge one off grant, cheap local Hydrogen source and poor electrical supply. The fueling rig cost around £12m and take 15 minutes to refuel per vehicle once per day hence the fleet size is very limited unless they want to buy another fueling rig.
Very much right place, right time.
 

cle

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Totally agree. However, in the all party northern sparks report of Circa 2015, it was not the highest priority as far as the north was concerned. Calder Valley in its entirety so through to Blackburn and Preston from Leeds as well as to Man Vic was seen as highest priority.
This is interesting as Calder is hilly, with lots of stops (commuter as well as regional).

For the north, it is also relatively high frequency, from Manchester Victoria to Rochdale in any case (with the added benefit of Rochdale being able to turn other services).

It could have really great potential to be even higher frequency as it serves some pretty important places, improve and they will come - and combined with the line speed works, journey times might end up being much improved. And patronage accordingly.

The issue is that services seem to extend to different places, even if the likes of Selby are gone - and there are the Brighouse and Tar Pit services too. Colne to Blackpool South another anomaly to tweak.

If everything was condensed into just Blackpool/Preston and Manchester to Leeds only (or maybe York if that was wired) - then wires would make a lot of sense.

Insane that Leeds-York isn’t wired.
 

edwin_m

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Ladbroke Grove saw a Mark 3 burnt out with deaths.
Because it was soaked with the contents of the fuel tanks. There have been a few other similar incidents over the years (Maidenhead 1995, Eccles 1984) but I don't think you can claim diesel fires as evidence of the dangers of hydrogen.

I won't repeat the replies of others in relation to airships.
 

WAO

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Because it was soaked with the contents of the fuel tanks. There have been a few other similar incidents over the years (Maidenhead 1995, Eccles 1984) but I don't think you can claim diesel fires as evidence of the dangers of hydrogen.

I won't repeat the replies of others in relation to airships.
Diesel is hard to ignite, hydrogen isn't. Please accept the Science.

The Mark 3 point is that it would still burn even though not of pre-grouping timber.
 

themiller

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Talk of hydrogen is all very well and may be workable for passenger trains but heavy freight needs serious power so, if you’re going down the hydrogen route, you’re saying no to freight! Conversely, if you electrify first freight, passenger traffic’s sorted.
 

Mikey C

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I get the emotion behind your comment but it's factually inaccurate. In the 1980s British Rail carried on doing what it had been doing since the 1950s: electrifying major commuter routes and the west and east coast main lines. In the 80s the wires extended out from Essex to the rest of East Anglia, to Norwich and Cambridge. The East Coast main line electrification was approved and started. And please no 'it was on the cheap, headspans useless in the wind etc' comments, we know that and it's been done to death in other forums. Then there was St Pancras to Bedford, and third rail electrification of the core remaining southern diesel routes (Hastings, East Grinstead, Weymouth). And the Ayrshire coast electrification, extending Glasgow's electric network far beyond the Clydeside conurbation.
Imagine if there'd been no BR privatisation and Railtrack in the 1990s. BR would have continued electrifying, perhaps Great Western or Midland main line in the 1990s, the other of those two in the 2000s, Transpennine too, perhaps cross country would have been done by now. We'd be arguing if it was worth electrifying beyond Plymouth rather than beyond Bristol.
Yes privatisation (or more accurately the fragmented structure) cocked up what would have been an ongoing process, and the railways had other pressing issues, but there was also a lack of political interest under Labour, the ambitious Adonis plan didn't emerge until they had been in power for 12 years.

And to be fair HS1 was built in the 2000s, so it wasn't as if the rail infrastructure was completely fossilised.
 

GRALISTAIR

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Talk of hydrogen is all very well and may be workable for passenger trains but heavy freight needs serious power so, if you’re going down the hydrogen route, you’re saying no to freight! Conversely, if you electrify first freight, passenger traffic’s sorted.
Very elegantly stated. That is what I was trying to say about 20 odd posts back. So thanks again.
 

najaB

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Talk of hydrogen is all very well and may be workable for passenger trains but heavy freight needs serious power...
With the decline of coal, most (or at least a significant proportion of) UK freight is intermodal which tends to bulk out before it masses out. You could likely deliver most services using a train that uses batteries to deliver the high power needed to get moving from a stand and a hydrogen-powered turbine to keep moving when up to speed.

Yes, it could be a diesel genset instead.
 

Class 170101

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Personally I'd prefer hydrogen to be 'burnt' in a power station which feeds the National Grid and the railway electrical propulsion systems rather directly to the train. I would imagine that Hydrogen can be more easily managed in a power station than on trains.

Additionally it should be pointed out that having a 'tender' carrying the hydrogen is wasting passenger carrying space, which on some lines all space is absolutely essential.
 

Domh245

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Personally I'd prefer hydrogen to be 'burnt' in a power station which feeds the National Grid and the railway electrical propulsion systems rather directly to the train. I would imagine that Hydrogen can be more easily managed in a power station than on trains.

Additionally it should be pointed out that having a 'tender' carrying the hydrogen is wasting passenger carrying space, which on some lines all space is absolutely essential.
Given that hydrogen doesn't naturally occur, that'd be a pretty odd way of doing it. Hydrogen is an 'energy vector', not unlike batteries, you put energy into it and then later take the stored energy and subsequently use it. The key advantage of hydrogen over a battery is it's specific energy - over 100 times greater, although the energy density is poor, hence the need to use compressed H2.

The only real use for hydrogen within the power sector is to act as a buffer for renewables, but this only becomes sensible when considering long term buffers or very high storage requirements.

As for the point about hydrogen 'tenders' wasting space, I'm not convinced this is as much of a problem as you suggest. If a line is in need of all the space it can get onboard a train, then it should be able to justify electrification in some idyllic future where the options are either electrifying or using some onboard decarbonised propulsion.
 

najaB

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Personally I'd prefer hydrogen to be 'burnt' in a power station which feeds the National Grid and the railway electrical propulsion systems rather directly to the train.
Aa @Domh245 says, hydrogen is an energy storage medium, not a fuel. The only way it makes sense to use it in a large-scale power plant is if there is an even larger power plant that has excess capacity. Hence why it will most likely be used to store excess renewable energy and/or as a sink for power from nuclear stations at night when usage is low.
 

Class 170101

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Given that hydrogen doesn't naturally occur, that'd be a pretty odd way of doing it. Hydrogen is an 'energy vector', not unlike batteries, you put energy into it and then later take the stored energy and subsequently use it. The key advantage of hydrogen over a battery is it's specific energy - over 100 times greater, although the energy density is poor, hence the need to use compressed H2.

The only real use for hydrogen within the power sector is to act as a buffer for renewables, but this only becomes sensible when considering long term buffers or very high storage requirements.
Aa @Domh245 says, hydrogen is an energy storage medium, not a fuel. The only way it makes sense to use it in a large-scale power plant is if there is an even larger power plant that has excess capacity. Hence why it will most likely be used to store excess renewable energy and/or as a sink for power from nuclear stations at night when usage is low.
Point still stands I wouldn't want it on a train directly.
 

InTheEastMids

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Point still stands I wouldn't want it on a train directly.
And yet this is happening in Germany as noted in posts above. So does your thinking mean that
1. You know of risks they don't, or believe their mitigation of risks is inadequate?
2. They have adequately mitigated the risks in ways you don't know, or don't understand?
3. You a simply have a lower tolerance of risk?

Genuinely interested in views on this from anyone who thinks hydrogen is too intrinsically unsafe to be used on the railway.
 

Meerkat

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And yet this is happening in Germany as noted in posts above. So does your thinking mean that
1. You know of risks they don't, or believe their mitigation of risks is inadequate?
2. They have adequately mitigated the risks in ways you don't know, or don't understand?
3. You a simply have a lower tolerance of risk?

Genuinely interested in views on this from anyone who thinks hydrogen is too intrinsically unsafe to be used on the railway.
Are there any tunnels on the German routes?
 

InTheEastMids

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Are there any tunnels on the German routes?
I don't know. Do you?

I can't quite tell from this kind of response whether I am supposed to infer that an H2 train in a tunnel can never be made safe? Or that it has not yet been shown safe, but can/will be? Or that the costs of delivering a safe,hydrogen workable railway make it uneconomic ?

They're 3 quite different positions, which is sort of why I'm asking for the collective wisdom...
 
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