The economics of electrification in the age of bi-modes

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Nottingham59

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In the past, it was necessary to electrify a whole line, or a whole section of a line to a teminating station (e.g. Bedford-Corby) before you could realise the economic benefits of electrification. Now that bimode passenger trains are available for almost all types of journey, I'm interested in how this affects the economics of electification projects.

It seems to me that you can now do electrification in much smaller chunks and still get the benefit, as Network Rail acknowledge in their description of the Colton Jn to Church Fenton scheme here: https://www.networkrail.co.uk/runni...rade/york-to-church-fenton-improvement-scheme. (NR say "Fully electrifying the line will allow bimode trains to use electric traction, reducing emissions.") I don't know how many trains per hour use that section, but it must be quite busy.

There are other places where electrification is (probably) going ahead, such as Kettering to Market Harborough, but the economics appear only to work because of the feeder station at Braybrooke. Mkt Harborough to Wigston has the same four trains per hour. Does that not justify electrification? How many trains per hour do you need to give a BCR greater than say 2.0? How much difference do station stops make, with their need for acceleration back up to line speed? And if you do electrify to Wigston, would it be worth electrifying Leicester station as well? Or is that a whole load of extra cost for very little benefit?

So I guess I'm asking, where should be electrified next? Does electrification now give a higher returns for suburban services, or for high speed lines? And given that rolling stock can be cascaded around the country in less time than the 15-20 years that electrification schemes take to get built, current rolling stock should not constrain electrification decisions. My nomination is the line through Birmingham Moor St from Stourbridge to Tysley - six trains per hour and lots of station stops. Are there any non-electrified lines with more traffic and better economics than that?
 
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GRALISTAIR

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If the B in BCR used to generate the Business Case in future gives considerable weighting to carbon reduction it changes things quite a bit. But yes, bimodes help in my opinion if the planning and cascading are done well.
 

HSTEd

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So I guess I'm asking, where should be electrified next? Does electrification now give a higher returns for suburban services, or for high speed lines? And given that rolling stock can be cascaded around the country in less time than the 15-20 years that electrification schemes take to get built, current rolling stock should not constrain electrification decisions. My nomination is the line through Birmingham Moor St from Stourbridge to Tysley - six trains per hour and lots of station stops. Are there any non-electrified lines with more traffic and better economics than that?

Probably not many, but you have to understand just how dry the well turns once mass use of electrodiesels is taken into account.
Unless each and every single peice of track in a scheme can justify the expense on it's own merits, the scheme will be descoped.

There are precious few places left on the network with track like that.

The network effect is dead.
 

Mikey C

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If the B in BCR used to generate the Business Case in future gives considerable weighting to carbon reduction it changes things quite a bit. But yes, bimodes help in my opinion if the planning and cascading are done well.
For urban areas, removing diesels to improve local air quality will also be a massive consideration.

When cities start introducing ULEZ zones to remove diesel road vehicles, DMUs will start looking politically unacceptable. Even if the Chiltern mainline isn't fully electrified, there will be a lot of political pressure to remove DMUs from the London and Birmingham ends of the line
 

cle

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The Kettering to Corby stretch begs this, as it's such a small piece and not otherwise useful - vs having continued up the Mainline. It does have interesting implications for shorter branches off of electric mainlines - Windermere, Barrow even, Shrewsbury via Wolves, Scarborough and Middlesbrough, Crewe to Chester... I'm sure there are some more. Some shorter than others!
 

Wyrleybart

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The problem actually lies with the passenger timetable over a given stretch of line and the benefits that electrification would bring. Take Neville Hill to Church Fenton as an example, I believe Northern, TPE and XC have a regular timetable over the route as well as some LNER services. Sure TPE class 802s are bimodes and could save some carbon emissions and oil consumption by raising their pans, similarly the LNER if their Azumas were the right variety. However XC and Northern services are pretty much services which continue their journeys beyond Leeds - York, so would actually need to be Bi mode to continue

Obviously timetables could change in some cases, and were the stretch of line electrified then York - Leeds could become an EMU service spilt from say the Leeds-Blackpool, which could continue as a DMU diagram.

In the case of the XC timetable practically all trains between Manchester and Birmingham save for start and end of service, continue to Bournemouth, Bristol, Exeter or Paignton. This means ll trains have to be weither diesel or Bimode. However, if the XC timetable were seriously recast and Manchester was served by trains to Coventry and Bromsgrove with connections onto other services, then those trains could become electric traction. but would bimodes be viable as an alternative ?
 

thenorthern

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Bi-mode trains are heavier and require a lot more maintenance than trains which are only electric.
 

Sad Sprinter

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We also forget its not just London bound expresses, but all the regional and suburban services along a route than can be electrified, not to mention freight. Imagine if the entire ex-Western Region was electrfied, aside from Paddington to Penzance/Swansea/Bristol it would allow the electrification of Cardiff to Taunton, Swansea to Cheltenham, Plymouth to Penzance... Similarly with the Midland Mainline, the scope to electrify a whole plethora of regional routes across South Yorkshire and the East Midlands opens up.
 

37424

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The Kettering to Corby stretch begs this, as it's such a small piece and not otherwise useful - vs having continued up the Mainline. It does have interesting implications for shorter branches off of electric mainlines - Windermere, Barrow even, Shrewsbury via Wolves, Scarborough and Middlesbrough, Crewe to Chester... I'm sure there are some more. Some shorter than others!
I don't think use can particularly use that criteria with other branch lines. The Corby electrification is partly an outer suburban electrification scheme to Kettering allowing intermediate stops to be removed from the express trains to allow them to be speeded up and increase capacity, but as there are through trains to Corby it makes sense to electrify and terminate at Corby rather than Kettering. I wouldn't say that the same applies to Windermere.

Bi-modes are generally more expensive than straight electric trains, but it does offer the opportunity to electrify in a more piecemeal way without having to do massive scheme's all at once, it can reduce a lot of diesel under the wire running, but on the other hand it might weaken the case for parts of some routes. So for instance it may give a very strong case electrification of the TPE core route between Manchester and York, but much less so for extending electrification of the full route to such as Middlesbrough, Scarborough, Hull etc.

Going forward other than the TPE core route, and given we have a very good Inter-City Bi-mode train, I would switch electrification more to the busiest commuter routes into the cities which can offer a high bin a sprinter ratio.
 
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edwin_m

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Probably not many, but you have to understand just how dry the well turns once mass use of electrodiesels is taken into account.
Unless each and every single peice of track in a scheme can justify the expense on it's own merits, the scheme will be descoped.
That may be true for intercity but the vast majority of suburban routes are likely to remain with pure EMUs and DMUs. The weight penalty of diesel engines is more significant on that type of journey where starts and stops are more frequent and acceleration is important for journey times and capacity. The 769 has demonstrated that retrofitting diesel engines isn't as easy as it first appeared, and there has been no significant interest in bi-mode multiple units for suburban duties.

Bi-mode also runs head-on into decarbonisation. The diesel engine is by far the most compact source of on-board power, and a hydrogen by-mode would have to find space for the gas tanks as well as the fuel cell, booster batteries and the transformer for electric mode. I'm not sure if a battery train is counted as bi-mode for the purposes of this thread - it has some merits as an electric range extender but with less off-wire capability than diesel or hydrogen and again a space/weight penalty as well as the cost of the batteries. Concensus in the industry is that the vast majority of decarbonisation will be achieved by electrification.
 

LNW-GW Joint

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Bi-mode trains are heavier and require a lot more maintenance than trains which are only electric.

And are also more expensive to buy/fund. The bi-mode option is not "free".
We are still buying large numbers of diesel-only trains (Northern, WMR, TfW), so those trains are going to be running under wired sections for their lifetime.
Northern's Manchester-Cumbria DMU service is under wires for at least 75% of its route (90% in the case of Windermere).

Bi-modes work both ways.
Their existence means that Cardiff-Swansea and Mkt Harborough-Sheffield wiring could be cancelled almost without penalty as far as DfT was concerned.
But it might mean that some day XC bi-modes could run electrically on the WCML/ECML without any extra wiring at all.

As it stands, York-Church Fenton wires will only affect the 2tph TPE services operated by bi-mode 802s, and a tiny number of similar LNER services from Leeds.
Even TPE will continue to use diesel traction on its other services, and XC/NT have no bi-mode capability.
 

43066

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In the past, it was necessary to electrify a whole line, or a whole section of a line to a teminating station (e.g. Bedford-Corby) before you could realise the economic benefits of electrification. Now that bimode passenger trains are available for almost all types of journey, I'm interested in how this affects the economics of electification projects.

It seems to me that you can now do electrification in much smaller chunks and still get the benefit, as Network Rail acknowledge in their description of the Colton Jn to Church Fenton scheme here: https://www.networkrail.co.uk/runni...rade/york-to-church-fenton-improvement-scheme. (NR say "Fully electrifying the line will allow bimode trains to use electric traction, reducing emissions.") I don't know how many trains per hour use that section, but it must be quite busy.

There are other places where electrification is (probably) going ahead, such as Kettering to Market Harborough, but the economics appear only to work because of the feeder station at Braybrooke. Mkt Harborough to Wigston has the same four trains per hour. Does that not justify electrification? How many trains per hour do you need to give a BCR greater than say 2.0? How much difference do station stops make, with their need for acceleration back up to line speed? And if you do electrify to Wigston, would it be worth electrifying Leicester station as well? Or is that a whole load of extra cost for very little benefit?

So I guess I'm asking, where should be electrified next? Does electrification now give a higher returns for suburban services, or for high speed lines? And given that rolling stock can be cascaded around the country in less time than the 15-20 years that electrification schemes take to get built, current rolling stock should not constrain electrification decisions. My nomination is the line through Birmingham Moor St from Stourbridge to Tysley - six trains per hour and lots of station stops. Are there any non-electrified lines with more traffic and better economics than that?

Isn’t there a good argument to the effect that, now a great deal has been spent on modern, high performance bimodes, there’s no longer any real economic benefit to *any* further electrification?

In terms of the environment, given how much money these schemes can cost, even when done on a small scale, wouldn’t it be more cost effective to spend the same money trying to reduce emissions in other sectors?
 

plugwash

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In the past, it was necessary to electrify a whole line, or a whole section of a line to a teminating station (e.g. Bedford-Corby) before you could realise the economic benefits of electrification. Now that bimode passenger trains are available for almost all types of journey,
The issue I see with this argument is that there are a bunch of surplus commutor/regional EMUs either sitting around off-lease or coming to the end of their leases but there are no surplus bi-modes sitting around and the project to convert surplus EMUs into bi-modes hasn't exactly been a great success. So unless a route is already running bi-modes the benefit of partial electrification is unlikely to be seen for years, whereas full electrification of commuter/regional routes allows DMUs to be replaced with EMUs quickly.,
 

Mikey C

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And are also more expensive to buy/fund. The bi-mode option is not "free".
We are still buying large numbers of diesel-only trains (Northern, WMR, TfW), so those trains are going to be running under wired sections for their lifetime.
But then they don't have to spend their whole lives operating the routes they do; as more lines (say around Birmingham and Manchester) get electrified, they can get cascaded to replace older DMUs elsewhere on the secondary routes where electrification is unlikely.
 

HSTEd

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Bi-mode also runs head-on into decarbonisation. The diesel engine is by far the most compact source of on-board power, and a hydrogen by-mode would have to find space for the gas tanks as well as the fuel cell, booster batteries and the transformer for electric mode. I'm not sure if a battery train is counted as bi-mode for the purposes of this thread - it has some merits as an electric range extender but with less off-wire capability than diesel or hydrogen and again a space/weight penalty as well as the cost of the batteries. Concensus in the industry is that the vast majority of decarbonisation will be achieved by electrification.

The cheapest way, given the existing political framework, to decarbonise rail will simply be to take the "easy", and largely illusory option, of just using biodiesel or puchasing carbon offsets for diesel emissions.

And given that the consensus among the industry was that the new magical wiring train and high output plant would make electrification so cheap that even third rail renewals would be abandoned in favour of the one true gantry..... I am extremely skeptical.
It's just like the consensus that the majority of the modernisation would be electrification in advance of the Modernisation plan.
 

WAO

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The economics of electrification have not changed; electric operation has lower marginal costs that can win over the higher infrastructure cost if enough use is made. The original Weir Report quoted a triggering annual ton-mile figure, I believe.

This is still true for Bi-modes but rightly favours the intensively used main route ahead of the lightly used branch. The Bi-modes actually increase electrically hauled mileage.

Pure suburban routes intensively used still support electrification; there are many opportunities around regional cities.

WAO
 

Snow1964

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Bi-mode trains are heavier and require a lot more maintenance than trains which are only electric.

The whole life costs are also different.
Generally diesel trains tend to be replaced at about 30 years, but electric trains often do 40 years (there are exceptions, and easy to find examples), but if you look over last 50 years, it is a fairly good rule of thumb.

Many bi-modes are built with lower power on diesel, so have to be careful comparing like with like, and not a medium power diesel train vs a rapidly accelerating electric train.

One item often forgotten is than in an electric area, diesel trains often have to make longer trips to refuel whereas an electric train could be available for shortish return trip during that time, so might need bigger fleet with diesel.
 

plugwash

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Many bi-modes are built with lower power on diesel
This is surely one of the benefits of bi-modes, you can get away with a lower-power diesel engine than in a pure diesel train because on the fastest parts of the route you can run on electric.
 

quantinghome

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This is surely one of the benefits of bi-modes, you can get away with a lower-power diesel engine than in a pure diesel train because on the fastest parts of the route you can run on electric.
Certainly. This would tend to benefit routes which are served by slower but fairly long branches off a main line which are not intensively used but would be costly to electrify. Things like Plymouth-Penzance, Carnforth-Barrow and Northallerton-Middlesbrough. The problem is that under the previous transport secretary bi-modes were being touted as a replacement for full electrification of main lines, as seen on GWML, MML and Transpennine. Thankfully the light appears to be dawning.
 

edwin_m

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This is surely one of the benefits of bi-modes, you can get away with a lower-power diesel engine than in a pure diesel train because on the fastest parts of the route you can run on electric.
Until you decide to cancel the electrification of some of the 125mph sections and have to pay Hitachi a shedload of money to dial up the engine power.
 

Mikey C

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Until you decide to cancel the electrification of some of the 125mph sections and have to pay Hitachi a shedload of money to dial up the engine power.
Electrification of the mainline to Exeter and beyond was never in the spec though, it was GWR who chose to buy the 802s

I'm not sure any of the Graylinged or delayed sections of the GWR electrification were 125mph stretches?
 

edwin_m

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Electrification of the mainline to Exeter and beyond was never in the spec though, it was GWR who chose to buy the 802s

I'm not sure any of the Graylinged or delayed sections of the GWR electrification were 125mph stretches?
The 802s had the engines on full power from new, along with larger fuel tanks and some other changes.

Isn't there some 125mph running between Chippenham and Bath? There is certainly the 1 in 100 climb through Box for eastbound trains.
 

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I'm not sure any of the Graylinged or delayed sections of the GWR electrification were 125mph stretches?
Isn't there some 125mph running between Chippenham and Bath? There is certainly the 1 in 100 climb through Box for eastbound trains.
Indeed there is, I've just checked the sectional appendix which seems (to my untrained eye) to show about 5 miles of both lines after the end of electrification being at 125mph; roughly speaking Thingley Junction - Western portal of Box Tunnel.
 

D6975

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Electrification of the mainline to Exeter and beyond was never in the spec though, it was GWR who chose to buy the 802s

I'm not sure any of the Graylinged or delayed sections of the GWR electrification were 125mph stretches?
I think it was the all-electric 801/0s that he was referring to, which were cancelled/amended in favour of bimode 800/3s. (these were to have run to TM and Swansea but cancellation of Chippenham-TM and Cf-Swan put the kybosh on that)
 

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It would be interesting for somebody to compare the annualised running costs and energy consumption of an all-electric versus hybrid train on an electrified route. It strikes me that the industry / Government have gone hybrid mad without ever explaining the true costs ... Over to somebody with better spredsheet skills than I ...
 

PG

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It would be interesting for somebody to compare the annualised running costs and energy consumption of an all-electric versus hybrid train on an electrified route. It strikes me that the industry / Government have gone hybrid mad without ever explaining the true costs ... Over to somebody with better spredsheet skills than I ...
I'm of the opinion that the government didn't care (about the costs), they just wanted to save face!
 
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