Sleeper trains future

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Peter Mugridge

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A number of you will recall the discussions last autumn on here about the future of the Sleeper trains and I was very hampered in expressing my ideas fully because it was awaiting publication?

Well... you can all now see the full details of my suggestions; Rail 692, pages 54 to 58... Those of you with postal subscriptions should have had your copies this morning; those without - it'll be in the newsagents on Wednesday.

They've dug up some pretty good archive photos to illustrate it as well.

Anyway... now we can debate my suggestions without restriction...
 
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first of all, brilliant article, it has some good info and suggestions in it. the only real thing I would have changed about your impression would have been to group the electric and the diesel power systems together in a single power car, while distributing the electric traction motors throughout the train, this should give better efficiency. the other thing I would suggest would be to have slab style ends (like a class 360/170/378) rather than the sloping ends (like pendolinos and voyagers) that the diagram implies, this may give slightly more passenger space with minimal intrusion into cab space and allow units to couple closer thus saving platform space as well. but otherwise I think its pretty good as it is.
 

Yew

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Can someone give a brief overview of what was said. Please tell me it doesn't involve sleeper MU's. as someone seriously has not though that through
 

Yew

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The idea of sleeping over a noisy diesel engine doesn't really work for me. Especially when there is no need of the acceleration they provide at night.
 

Rhydgaled

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the other thing I would suggest would be to have slab style ends (like a class 360/170/378) rather than the sloping ends (like pendolinos and voyagers) that the diagram implies, this may give slightly more passenger space with minimal intrusion into cab space and allow units to couple closer thus saving platform space as well. but otherwise I think its pretty good as it is.
I'm assuming you are talking EMUs, rather than some form of loco-hauled solution (or a multiple unit with motor equipment in the ends of carriges that prevent passengers walking through, like the coach next to the power car in a Eurostar set).

In that case, if you want slab ends rather than sloping ends (which judging by current rolling stock are only necessary if you want to go above 110mph) then I would strongly suggest fitting through-corridors (like a class 5-WES, 377, 444 or 350). I tend to dislike slab-ended stock like 170s and 150/1s that lack through corridor connections, you lose a lot of flexibility and they don't tend to look very nice compared to streamlined stock (Voyagers look nice, externaly, for example, while the ends of 175s are awfully dull) either.

I think sleepers, along with fast Intercity services that have a long way to go (London - Swansea, London - Plymouth, London - Newcastle, probablly all XC's Voyager and IC125 routes and likely London - Bristol qualifying as being a long way) should be loco-hauled myself, particularly if sections of line that lack electrification (hence requiring diesel power) are involved. Apart from that though, EMUs are probablly the way forward just about everywhere else.
 
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Peter Mugridge

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Good responses so far - exactly the sort of debate I was hoping for.

Generalvegitable - the bogies at each end would be powered from either end. The intermediate ( articulated ) bogies are unpowered in order to reduce noise within the berths as much as possible. This still gives 6 powered axles per unit ( 24 powered axles per full length formation ). The positioning of the electric and diesel at opposite ends is deliberate in order to equalise the weight distribution over the powered bogies. It does not reduce the berth capacity doing it this way.

Yew - it does, but the way I've done it would result in a smoother and quieter berth environment than is the case with the present Sleeper stock. The powered bogies are as far away from the berths as is physically possible, and the diesel end is further sound insulated from the berths by a luggage area.

Rhydgaled - this features power car type arrangements; no through gangway between units is possible so the sloping front makes little difference in that respect; the slope angle on these would be more akin to that of the old Blue Pullman sets than the Voyager / Pendolino types. Each unit is 5 cars long and contains the full range of facilities.



I'm shutting down for the night now and will respond further tomorrow.
 

AlexS

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The idea of sleeping over a noisy diesel engine doesn't really work for me. Especially when there is no need of the acceleration they provide at night.
I believe, though I could be wrong, that the engines Snapper refers to are donkey units to provide auxilliaries rather than traction power. It's fairly standard in quite a few locations.
 

asylumxl

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Having not read the article yet, I can't comment in any depth but the idea sounds good.

And I wouldn't even mind a sleeper DEMU TBH, as unlike some I do not require the silence of the vacuum of space to sleep.
 

junglejames

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I believe, though I could be wrong, that the engines Snapper refers to are donkey units to provide auxilliaries rather than traction power. It's fairly standard in quite a few locations.
I doubt thats what snapper was on about. He's a known MU lover of the highest order. Basically anything with a loco is automatically awful, and anything MU is automatically amazing. He would happily make us suffer with a voyager sound under our bed all night long.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Peter, without having read the piece yet, are you intending these to be a run off order from some type of ordianry MU?
If not, dare I suggest a fleet of unpowered sleeper coaches would be a lot cheaper? Afterall, we already have electric and diesel locos.
A new fleet of unpowered coaches would also be quieter and smoother than the current coaches!!

Again, thats without having read your article
 

Wath Yard

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A sleeper MU is certainly a good way of finally killing the sleeper service. Why not go the whole way and replicate what BR did with the internal Scottish sleepers in the 1990s and replace them with a 158! 150 years of railway operation obviously means nothing when we can have new, intrusive, impracticle trains instead. Maybe have rock hard, verticle beds that replicate the current InterCity experience and I'm sure if we were tied to them it would increase our likelihood of survival in the 1 in 10,000,000 chance of being involving in an incident where the train hit something bigger than a moth.
 

YorkshireBear

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A sleeper MU is certainly a good way of finally killing the sleeper service. Why not go the whole way and replicate what BR did with the internal Scottish sleepers in the 1990s and replace them with a 158! 150 years of railway operation obviously means nothing when we can have new, intrusive, impracticle trains instead. Maybe have rock hard, verticle beds that replicate the current InterCity experience and I'm sure if we were tied to them it would increase our likelihood of survival in the 1 in 10,000,000 chance of being involving in an incident where the train hit something bigger than a moth.
Have you read the article?
 

Peter Mugridge

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For those who have not read the article, please wait until you have before commenting.... many of your questions will be answered within the article... :)


Yew - yes, there are many advantages. Increased operational flexibility, reduced costs.

AlexS - there would be no engines, auxiliary or otherwise, or any traction motors underneath the carriages with the berths in them.

Asylumxl - I'm afraid, then, that the way I've designed this thing the noise from the diesel end would, if anything, be less noticable than the noise of the present 67 when running off the wires...

Junglejames - that is a matter for the railway to study, but the number of vehicles involved is large enough that the cost per carriage should not be unreasonably high even if it was a specific purpose design especially as it could be done in a modular style with standard bodyshell components in much the same way as most other modern units; just stick cab modules on the end bits... There is certainly no reason why the Sleeper unit design could not also be built as a high quality daytime InterCity unit; just put more windows in the sides and an open saloon interior. In fact that would be more or less like a mini-Eurostar but without the very high speed aspects...

Wath Yard - in their present form the Sleepers are simply not viable beyond the short term even though they have seen a 31% increase in custom in recent years; the complex shunting movements and the locomotive hire represent very high avoidable costs compared to the alternative of units. My article shows how a unit could be specially designed for Sleeper use in a way which would actually be quieter and smoother than the present stock.
 

junglejames

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Having now got round to reading the article. There is no doubting it would be cheaper to run, with no locos to hire in at all. However this comes at a price. As they say, you pay for what you get. North of Edinburgh, the train length given over to passengers (3 trains combined) will be a lot less than we currently have, as an extra 40 metres are added on at Edinburgh. Then you have the drivers cabs and the diesel engine to take into account on the sleeper units.
South of Edinburgh there will also be a reduction in space available by the time the cabs and engine spaces have been taken off. Also, with the FW seating coach on all the way from London, thats basically even less space available for cabins.
The end result being a lot less cabins (as youve already pointed out) and no lounge cars (this I think is a big selling point of the sleeper).
Also, having 4 units per train, you end up with 4 seating cars. What to do with the extra seating car?
You claim there wouldnt be a problem with having less berths, but I think it would cause a problem. At times the sleeper is fully booked, and if people frequently found themselves turned away (more so than at present) because of less berths, they may eventually decide that enough is enough, and just not bother.

Also, I disagree that this setup will give increased flexibility. MUs, especially with articulated vehicles, will surely provide a lot less flexibility. If you have a problem with 1 coach, thats often going to mean a full 5 car unit out of action.

Myself, I would keep the setup as it is, although I may introduce another class with pod type seats, to try and increase capacity, and attract a different type of passenger.

One thing I may try, is to take the sleepers off of the TOCs, and give them to an FOC. Saves on the costs of hiring locos, and could perhaps lead to better utilisation of the locos. It may not work, but certainly something I would look into.
 

dubscottie

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It will be a long way off yet... The £50 million the Scottish Parliament was going to give to the sleepers is gone.. To the water board!

I do like the idea of a Sleeper Franchise. All Scottish and GW sleepers under one umbrella and running into Waterloo International.

I read somewhere that Euston wont be able to take the sleepers shortly anyway. IIRC something to do with signal changes making shunting moves a nightmare..
 

tbtc

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A shame that this is descending into the usual loco-hauled-fanboy/ multiple-unit-fanboy stuff, regardless of what's been written in the article...

A sleeper MU is certainly a good way of finally killing the sleeper service. Why not go the whole way and replicate what BR did with the internal Scottish sleepers in the 1990s and replace them with a 158! 150 years of railway operation obviously means nothing when we can have new, intrusive, impracticle trains instead. Maybe have rock hard, verticle beds that replicate the current InterCity experience and I'm sure if we were tied to them it would increase our likelihood of survival in the 1 in 10,000,000 chance of being involving in an incident where the train hit something bigger than a moth.
TBF there's not really enough of a market for an internal Scottish sleeper service that justifies dedicated sleeper stock

For those who have not read the article, please wait until you have before commenting.... many of your questions will be answered within the article... :)
I've not seen it yet Peter, so I won't second-guess and make any comment until I do pick up a copy

Wath Yard - in their present form the Sleepers are simply not viable beyond the short term even though they have seen a 31% increase in custom in recent years
Does anyone know how that 31% increase has been made up? I'm thinking, was that predominantly from the Lowland service or the Highland service? At the moment we are treating the two as equivalent, but would it make more sense to focus more on one than the other? I presume that the two haven't *both* gone up by 31% of course.
 

Robbies

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I have read the article Peter as I have a yearly subscription to Rail. The article is very good and makes a good point about the better flexibility of using 5 car multiple units which I presume are going to be about the same size as a class 180 unit?

My only concern is if there is a demand for the sleeper service and if moving it to a specific multiple unit fleet is cost effective when the number of people I believe is dropping in using the sleeper service. Having said that with better advertising by a separate company running it, then hopefully the numbers will increase especially as it is a more environmental friendly way then using either a car or a plane and as you state you can sleep overnight on the service then be in either London, Edingburgh or Glasgow the next morning ready for work.
 

68000

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Peter, do you not own the copyright to post the words up here? I have read the article and I think it is an interesting concept and definitely deserves further investigation. Lets hope this encourages debate in RAIL letters pages as well.
 

junglejames

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I have read the article Peter as I have a yearly subscription to Rail. The article is very good and makes a good point about the better flexibility of using 5 car multiple units which I presume are going to be about the same size as a class 180 unit?
Nope. Each unit will be about 19 metres shorter than a 180.

My only concern is if there is a demand for the sleeper service and if moving it to a specific multiple unit fleet is cost effective when the number of people I believe is dropping in using the sleeper service.
The article points out that usage figures for the sleepers is increasing quite nicely. But the new units would provide less berths than at present.
The only way to provide for any future increase in demand if the new units are the route we go down, is to run more sleepers. Running 2 Highland sleepers each way per night, we will end up increasing costs, not reducing them.

The units are an interesting idea, and something to think about, but I dont think they are the right way to go. I think its being too radical in the wrong direction.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Lets hope this encourages debate in RAIL letters pages as well.
Oh ive no doubt it will do. But dont expect it to be sensible discussion!
Im afraid the latest letters pretty much sent me to despair.
'Class 47s- A very British Cock up'

I cant believe they let such obvious 'manufacturer wars' get into print.
 

Peter Mugridge

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Junglejames, the seating accomodation is roughly ½ carriage per unit, so pretty much in the same proportion as on the present stock. Also, I qualified my capacity remarks by saying it might be possible to get 11 rather than 10 cabins in each of the sleeping vehicles - a lot depends on exact measurements being made as to how the sliding interconnecting doors might affect wall thickness, for example. If you can get 11 cabins in rather than 10 then the number of cabins per 4 unit rake increases to 132, not far short of the number of cabins on an existing full length Caledonian rake.

dubscottie - if there is a switch to units, the signalling changes at Euston would be irrelevant anyway. At this stage I don't think we need to debate the question of which terminus again; after all if we cannot secure the future of the Sleeper itself then the question of a terminus becomes irrelevant doesn't it?

tbtc - I was under the impression that the 31% is an average, ie the total Caledonian figure. Yes - I think it would be very useful to know which train has seen the greater increase.

ainsworth74, that is correct - Wednesday 21st for the newsagents.

68000 - I am not sure about that, but even if I do it would probably be poor ettiquette for me to post the whole thing up while the magazine issue is still current, would it not? I am pretty sure it'll be online on Rail's website in due course anyway.

Robbies / junglejames - although usage is increasing I understand that on average the Sleepers do have spare capacity, especially midweek. With these units you can tweak things a bit ( one example relating to Glasgow and Edinburgh is in the article ) to match daily... should say nightly really shouldn't I?! ... demand more closely. Now, Fridays and Sundays are the busiest nights for obvious reasons and on those nights, if you planned things carefully, you could make use of the maintenance spares to run relief services on the busiest sections - something that is totally impossible at present. Doing this would require great care, though - you would need to be very sure indeed that you weren't going to have a failure on those two nights in each week! The day railway did it on a short term basis during the ash cloud disruption, running 100% briefly, although that is a bit different as there were no beds involved so cancellation was easier to work round. You can't plan on 100% day in day out, but it should be do-able for two nights a week with good planning.
 

michael769

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68000 - I am not sure about that, but even if I do it would probably be poor ettiquette for me to post the whole thing up while the magazine issue is still current, would it not? I am pretty sure it'll be online on Rail's website in due course anyway.
Most publications either buy ownership of the copyright outright, or require exclusive publication rights.
 

IanXC

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Just read the article (specially purchased copy ;) ) very interesting proposal.

For me the central remaining question in the future of the sleepers is the franchising arrangements. Whether the Scottish Government would agree is central, if agreement can be reached I see no reason why something as described, with new routes, could not happen.

My fear is that the replacement stock ends up being IEP bimode.
 
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