Rough-riding GWR IETs

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For various reasons I have been taking jaunts around the Great Western network over the last few days, but had not needed to use services provided by the Class 8xx units until today, and goodness me the ride was notably appalling. In particular, the 1030 from Bristol Temple Meads to London Paddington (I was riding in unit 800 031, part of a 2×5 coach formation) set up a disturbing combination of high-frequency lateral and vertical vibration between Chippenham and Wootton Bassett that was most unpleasant, indeed it was a relief to get off the thing at Swindon. It reminded me of days of yore spent travelling in the Driving Motor Brake Second of the Southern Region diesel-electric units, or a slightly more up-to-date comparison, sat in the lower saloon of a badly-tuned Volvo B7 double-deck bus. For a sustained period every panel in the coach was vibrating, including the luggage racks; empty seats further down the coach were clearly observed to be flexing in a different direction to the bodyshell, accompanied by mysterious thuds and clunks from somewhere underneath the coach. There was a also a noticeable ‘snatch’ as power was applied or disengaged.

Initially I put this down to a rogue unit but after concluding matters in Swindon I had to head to Stroud, via another 5-car unit which banged and thumped its way through pointwork and, despite the lower prevailing speeds on this line, there was a repeat of the high-frequency perturbations which again set various panels and fittings rattling persistently. The sinuous curves at the top of the valley towards Stroud were negotiated by a series of lurching clunks rather than a smooth traversal. The journey back was just as rough.

What prompted this post was comparing todays experience with yesterday, when I travelled from Great Malvern to Temple Meads on a Class 158 that was positively serene in contrast, handling the junctions at Gloucester, Westerleigh and Bristol Parkway with nary a quiver. Or even later on today, having got back into Swindon just missing a Bristol train, an 1813 service terminating at Parkway was displayed. “That’ll do” I thought, not really expecting anything, until EMUs 387 150 & 156 hove into view. These provided a smooth and unperturbed ride, commendably getting me to Bristol Parkway in a tad under 25 minutes, a decent showing compared to IET timings and refreshingly free of unlooked-for ride exceedences.

I do not wish to reopen the HST v IET debate, apart from anything else it is not really comparing like with like. I think the 8xx has the potential to be an outstanding train but I do feel that some dynamics engineers need to start paying close attention to the interactions of the suspension with the track, if only to reduce component wear and tear. I gather some of these units are subject to a 27 year contract; good luck with that, they will shake themselves to bits long before then!

(“Blame the track” cry the rolling stock designers and engineers, “Tsk, tsk” says a certain Mr. Philip Rees...)

Am I asking too much to hope that an IET at 125mph provides a ride as smooth as a Class 158 at 90mph or a Class 387 at 110mph? If that is too much to ask, why?
 
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DanNCL

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It’s not just the GWR ones, LNER’s 800s and 801s, and TPE’s 802s have the same issues with poor ride quality.

Am I asking too much to hope that an IET at 125mph provides a ride as smooth as a Class 158 at 90mph or a Class 387 at 110mph? If that is too much to ask, why?
387s aren’t exactly great for ride quality either!
 

fgwrich

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The ride quality at full linespeed is also pretty dire, particularly over stretches of long pointwork eg. Dolphin Junction. A lot of shakes, bangs and rattles over that stretch. How Hitachi has made something with a ride quality so poor is beyond me - though the worst riding vehicles I've found are those with the 'lightweight' track friendly bogies.
 
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387s aren’t exactly great for ride quality either!
As someone of a certain generation that recalls 4-CIGs battering their way up and down the Brighton line, todays experience of 387s at high speed was not so bad! Certainly much more pleasurable than the earlier journeys on the 8xx’s!!!

How Hitachi has made something with a ride quality so poor is beyond me
And beyond me, it’s disappointing in a way. I guess I had an expectation that Japanese involvement would lead to a step-change in quality equivalent to the car industry 30 or 40 years ago. I still think the train is fundamentally sound, it just needs the sort of fettling and detail tweaking that the Japanese were once renowned for.
 
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superalbs

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The ride quality at full linespeed is also pretty dire, particularly over stretches of long pointwork eg. Dolphin Junction. A lot of shakes, bangs and rattles over that stretch. How Hitachi has made something with a ride quality so poor is beyond me - though the worst riding vehicles I've found are those with the 'lightweight' track friendly bogies.
Which vehicles have these?
 

24Grange

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I have noticed it to - a sickening hip shattering sideways jolt, with a audible "bang" almost over any pointwork. Especially felt on the non-padded seats. Don't what ever you do sit over a bogie! Strange, as I have travelled also on the same manufacturers javelins and they are smooth as silk, which can't be completely all due to the HS1 track.
 

59CosG95

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I have noticed it to - a sickening hip shattering sideways jolt, with a audible "bang" almost over any pointwork. Especially felt on the non-padded seats. Don't what ever you do sit over a bogie! Strange, as I have travelled also on the same manufacturers javelins and they are smooth as silk, which can't be completely all due to the HS1 track.
Have the 80X's been fitted with yaw dampers? The 'smooth as silk' 395s are only that smooth because they had them fitted after complaints of poor ride quality - whether that's on the classic lines in Kent or HS1, I don't know.
 

supervc-10

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I had my first ride in a 80x unit the other week- a Hull Trains 802 from King's Cross to Darlington. Whilst I felt the seats were fine (although not as good as the TPE 185 I changed to) the ride wasn't great at all.
My brother, who knows absolutely nothing about trains, complained the other day about an LNER Azuma throwing things off the tables (he was very upset that he'd lost most of a bottle of beer... typical student!).

When someone who knows absolutely nothing about trains and purely views them as mode of transportation complains about something, then there's got to be something to it. In contrast, the Avanti 390 I'd taken down to London from Manchester rode smooth as silk, although they do bang and clatter a lot, it just seems that the harshness doesn't get transmitted to the cabin.
 

ChrisC

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What prompted this post was comparing todays experience with yesterday, when I travelled from Great Malvern to Temple Meads on a Class 158 that was positively serene in contrast, handling the junctions at Gloucester, Westerleigh and Bristol Parkway with nary a quiver. Or even later on today, having got back into Swindon just missing a Bristol train, an 1813 service terminating at Parkway was displayed. “That’ll do” I thought, not really expecting anything, until EMUs 387 150 & 156 hove into view. These provided a smooth and unperturbed ride, commendably getting me to Bristol Parkway in a tad under 25 minutes, a decent showing compared to IET timings and refreshingly free of unlooked-for ride exceedences.
This isn’t just an issue when comparing older trains with an IET.
I though exactly the same thing the first time I travelled on one of Northerns Class 195 units. I had travelled on a very smooth EMR 158 for an hour and then changed trains to a 195. Everything looked very modern and good when I boarded but once the train set off I found it quite alarming how rough the ride was especially over points. I was sitting near the front over the bogies but I wasn’t expecting such a rough ride on a new train.
 

irish_rail

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In slight defence of the IETs here, the ride on HSTs at speed was pretty lively at times, personally I'd say more so than the 80xs.
 

py_megapixel

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They seem to vary a lot. At first I was quite dismissive of people who complained about the ride quality, but it turned out the few units I'd been on were somehow the better ones. A few days ago on a trip from Gloucester to Stroud there were so many bumps that it was sometimes hard to believe that we were running on a smooth metal rail and not a road (I've had better rides from some E400MMCs!). This was especially true having just got off a Voyager, which for all their flaws - and they have many - do seem to ride reasonably well.

I do still think I prefer long distance trips on an IET over the same trip on an HST with that awful gaudy mixture of FirstGroup colours splattered all over the walls, though...
 

lxfe_mxtterz

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In slight defence of the IETs here, the ride on HSTs at speed was pretty lively at times, personally I'd say more so than the 80xs.
Haven't travelled on an IET yet, so can't comment on that, but I'd agree about the ride quality of the HSTs.

I've always found the section between Dunbar and Newcastle quite rough on a HST - one southbound journey was particularly good at catapulting items off tables!
 

i4n

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I have noticed it to - a sickening hip shattering sideways jolt, with a audible "bang" almost over any pointwork. Especially felt on the non-padded seats. Don't what ever you do sit over a bogie! Strange, as I have travelled also on the same manufacturers javelins and they are smooth as silk, which can't be completely all due to the HS1 track.
The 395s have got much better since they did some modification to them (dampers somewhere I think). Before they did that they had some really bad shimmying and circular type oscillations especially noticeable at in the tunnel at the London end of line heading towards Stratford from Ebbsfleet
 

fgwrich

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The trailer vehicles in a 9 car formation (4 and 6) have the lightweight inside-frame bogies

Those are the ones. The others feel harsh and heavy, those vehicles seem to oscillate as well.

I would also say though that poor ride quality of Hitachi products isn’t just a IET thing, having experienced a large number of the ScotRail 385 fleet. Again - avoid sitting over the bogie or near a air vent (the flat roofs seem to bring the same deep droning noise + air vent whistling).
 

LowLevel

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This isn’t just an issue when comparing older trains with an IET.
I though exactly the same thing the first time I travelled on one of Northerns Class 195 units. I had travelled on a very smooth EMR 158 for an hour and then changed trains to a 195. Everything looked very modern and good when I boarded but once the train set off I found it quite alarming how rough the ride was especially over points. I was sitting near the front over the bogies but I wasn’t expecting such a rough ride on a new train.

Class 158 is probably the best riding train in the UK, the BREL bogies under them are superb and were designed to manage far more than a lightweight aluminium 90 mph DMU.
 

RailWonderer

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Class 158 is probably the best riding train in the UK, the BREL bogies under them are superb and were designed to manage far more than a lightweight aluminium 90 mph DMU.
Agreed, when I take a 158/9 to/from Waterloo and a 450/444 the other way, the difference, even compared to solid Desiro ride quality, is major. Same for when you get off a Northern 158 and onto a TPE 185. Nothing else even comes close.

With the track maintenance charges in mind they aren't willing to spec trains with heavier bogeys, and will not bother to add yaw dampers unless the ride is absolutely unbearable.
 
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railfan100

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Agreed, when I take a 158/9 to/from Waterloo and a 450/444 the other way, the difference, even compared to solid Desiro ride quality, is major. Same for when you get off a Northern 158 and onto a TPE 185. Nothing else even comes close.

With the track maintennace charges in mind they aren't willing to spec trains with heavier bogeys, and will not bother to add yaw dampers unless the ride is absolutely unbearable.
Could not agree more the Class 158\9 ride is just superb, it is such a shame that these bogies were not used on a full generation of later EMU's and DMU stock. When comparing the ride quality to say Class 195 units it feels as if the CAF design is totally inferior and if you close your eyes on both trains you would think you were in the much newer train in respect of the Class 158\9 the way it rides. These bogies ride much better than the newest of stock. The Class 158 as a wider design also is just way ahead of its time and only weighing give or take 37 tons per car.
 

D365

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Have the 80X's been fitted with yaw dampers? The 'smooth as silk' 395s are only that smooth because they had them fitted after complaints of poor ride quality - whether that's on the classic lines in Kent or HS1, I don't know.
Surely they had them from the start - the Class 318s needed yaw dampers fitting in order to uprate them to 90mph.

Class 80x definitely has yaw dampers fitted, I was discussing this earlier today as it happens.
 

Domh245

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Surely they had them from the start - the Class 318s needed yaw dampers fitting in order to uprate them to 90mph.

Class 80x definitely has yaw dampers fitted, I was discussing this earlier today as it happens.

I think units without dampers are the exception, not the norm. Certainly seems to be the case that anything 'quick' (75mph) has had yaw dampers at least - after all they are primarily used to damp high speed oscillations so you'd be a brave person to introduce a high(ish) speed unit without them

As for the 395s, this photo of 395002 at Kasado in August 2007 (around the same time of first drag over NR metals) shows yaw dampers fitted
 
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With the track maintenance charges in mind they aren't willing to spec trains with heavier bogeys, and will not bother to add yaw dampers unless the ride is absolutely unbearable.
I understand the need to keep costs down, I’m wondering where the inflection point is when the perceived savings are outweighed by increased wear and tear/shortened component life. From my journey yesterday morning in particular, sooner or later the interior trim panels, lighting fittings and seat mountings will be working themselves loose, not to mention fatiguing effects on the bodyshell superstructure. Heaven knows what other components underneath the vehicle were getting seven bells clouted out of them!

I don’t know if the rail industry has a methodology for quantifying ride quality. Certain factors could be measured empirically, e.g. vertical and lateral accelerations/decelerations, frequency vibrations and suchlike.
 

DB

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Unfortunately most of the latest units/stock don't seem to ride especially well. The IEPs ride nowhere near as well as Mk3s and Mk4s, or 185s. The 195s and 331s are notably worse then 158s and 333s, and the Mk5s are about on a par with the IEPs.
 

northernbelle

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In slight defence of the IETs here, the ride on HSTs at speed was pretty lively at times, personally I'd say more so than the 80xs.
Agreed. I hear some of the comments about IET ride quality but HSTs were pretty awful along the B&H with a lot of 'shockwave' type riding up and down and squeaky gangways to highlight the fact. I find, on the whole, it's much easier to read or watch a screen on an IET.

I think the best ride quality out there is the mid-80s BR stock - Sprinters, 32x EMUs etc. I suspect the days of silky smooth ride quality are long gone with the need for lightweight rolling stock which no doubt results in a compromise in ride quality. It's the difference between a heavy Rolls Royce type car and a lightweight Vauxhall Corsa.
 

AverageTD

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Quite a diverse array of opinions here. I personally find the IET's ride quality rather good, it seems to follow the Siemen's ritual of having a firm but smooth ride quality, which I prefer to the rather bouncy Mark 3s and their derived MUs. I'm glad I'm not the only one who noticed the 195s poor ride quality, it seemed far less smooth than both the 331 and 397 at comparable speeds. I completely agree with the 158s in terms of comfort, not quite sure how BREL pulled it off though. I wouldn't go as far as calling them the best riding trains in the UK but they're certainly up there.
 

py_megapixel

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Quite a diverse array of opinions here. I personally find the IET's ride quality rather good, it seems to follow the Siemen's ritual of having a firm but smooth ride quality, which I prefer to the rather bouncy Mark 3s and their derived MUs.
In many ways I find Desiros to be the opposite of IETs when it comes to ride quality. Desiros feel beautifully smooth (and I do mean beautifully smooth - you can sometimes barely tell if you're moving or not) when seated or when standing still, but when you start walking down the train you notice a sort of wallowing motion which makes me more prone to falling over than on any other train in the country (besides perhaps a Pendolino at full tilt, pun intended). In contrast, I have no issue walking end to end on an IET without even slipping, but sat in a seat there is constant bumping and juddering - not what I'd describe as "smooth" in the slightest!
 

cav1975

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I have noticed it to - a sickening hip shattering sideways jolt, with a audible "bang" almost over any pointwork. Especially felt on the non-padded seats. Don't what ever you do sit over a bogie! Strange, as I have travelled also on the same manufacturers javelins and they are smooth as silk, which can't be completely all due to the HS1 track.
I was going to bring that up. The 395s were terrible to ride on in the London tunnel sections of HS1 when introduced. It took Hitachi a good couple of years to sort them out so it is surprising that they don't appear to have remembered that aspect of their corporate experience. Of course on GWR the roughness is probably amplified by the notorious DfT seat choice.
 

northernbelle

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I was going to bring that up. The 395s were terrible to ride on in the London tunnel sections of HS1 when introduced. It took Hitachi a good couple of years to sort them out so it is surprising that they don't appear to have remembered that aspect of their corporate experience. Of course on GWR the roughness is probably amplified by the notorious DfT seat choice.
I'm on an IET now going up the B&H - the ride quality is far and away better than when the HSTs ran along here. It's firmer and a little bit more juddery, but certainly not the roller-coaster wallowing and teeth-banging lurches we used to get with the Mark 3s.
 
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