Deltics in Retrospect – Part 2

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The 22 ‘Deltics’ lasted 20 years in high-speed main line service between London and Edinburgh, until they were replaced by the equally successful HSTs. The English Electric Type 5, later Class 55 has achieved as much fame and respect in the eyes of rail and engineering enthusiasts as the equally famous steam locomotives of Class A3 ‘Flying Scotsman’ and Class A4 ‘Mallard’ steam era 4-6-2 pacific locomotives.

D9019 at Bury on ELR

D9019 “Royal Highland Fusilier” at work on the East Lancashire Railway in the 1990s, seen here at Bury in classic two-tone green, but with full height yellow warning panels.                 © Rodger Bradley

Aside from their innovative engine design, and impressive power output, they turned in some quite remarkable performances with heavy trainloads over long distances. One of the most impressive was that of D9008 (55 008) “The Green Howards”, which, in 1978 hauled 10 coaches (343 gross tons) between York and London at an average speed of 97 mph – start to stop! (This is on record by a J. Heaton of the Railway Performance Society).

Thankfully 6 of the class have been preserved and are operating on a number of heritage lines, from the East Lancashire Railway, Great Central, Keighley & Worth Valley, and Severn Valley, amongst others, to numerous rail tours around the country.

Half of the preserved examples are now available for running on the main lines once again, although one of their number D9016 “Gordon Highlander” is undergoing a major overhaul, but back in the late 1990s it was used, along with sister locomotives on charter rail tours and specials, including the Venice Simplon Orient Express.

It is perhaps something of an irony that 16 of the class were scrapped at BREL’s Doncaster Works between January 1980s and August 1983, just as BREL was building the Class 58 freight locomotive, and Doncaster Works itself was finally closed in 2007 – though it had been run down for some years before.

When the class was built at Vulcan Foundry, the railway industry was still home to major engineering concerns – not least of which were the works at Newton-le-Willows, where these 22 locomotives were completed to the order from English Electric. Oddly perhaps, the order was placed through English Electric’s Bradford electrical works, and not from the nearby Dick, Kerr works at Preston, which had a long established relationship with the company, and where the original Deltic was built.   The production version, with the design ‘tweaks’ to the bodysides and appearance, were completed at just under two locomotives per month between March 1961 and April 1962, and were to have an operating life of just 20 years.

D9015 - Tulyar - cropped

D9015 “Tulyar” on a normal express service, at high-speed on the East Coast Main Line, where they were the definitive high-speed train of their day. The locomotive is in full original livery in this view. © RPB/GEC Traction Collection

Build & Operations

The Deltics were all built at the Vulcan Foundry, Newton-Ie-Willows, between March 1961 and April 1962, though the order was placed with English Electric for their construction in 1960. Listed here are the building dates:

DELTIC Running numbers

From new the Deltics were allocated to three depots; Finsbury Park in North London, Gateshead in the North East and Edinburgh Haymarket in Scotland.

The original allocations up to and including 1964 were:

  • 34G Finsbury Park – D9001 /3/7/9/12/18/20;
  • 52A Gateshead – D9002/5/8/11/14/17;
  • 64B Haymarket (Edinburgh) – D9000/4/6/10/13/16/19/21.

The allocations in 1978 were:

  • FP Finsbury Park – 55001/3/7/9/12/15/18/20;
  • GD Gateshead – 55002/58/11/14/17;
  • HA Haymarket (Edinburgh) – 55004/6/10/13/16/19/21/22.

Essentially they remained at these locations until their withdrawals began in 1980.

By June1961 the first six locomotives had commenced regular long distance passenger workings, but rostered in true steam locomotive style, since a Finsbury Park Deltic would work the down ‘Aberdonian’ on Sundays, returning the following day with the up ‘Flying Scotsman’. Similarly, Scottish Region Deltics worked out on the 11.00am Edinburgh to King’s Cross as far as Newcastle, returning with 11.00am ex King’s Cross. Later, their range was extended to work through to London and return on th e ‘Talisman’ and ‘Aberdonian’ services. Working what were traditional steam locomotive diagrams alongside English Electric Type 45, was undoubtedly an under-utilisation of Deltic power.

The first impressions of Deltic capability was displayed with some substantial accelerations of the principal East Coast services in the summer timetables introduced from June 18, 1962. It was widely recognised that the inclusion of a six hour timing between London and Edinburgh was an achievement on a par with the pre-war lightweight, streamlined ‘Coronation’ train – but. the Deltic diagram included no less than six such workings. The trains concerned in the in initial speed up were the ‘Elizabethan’, ‘Flying Scotsman’ and ‘Talisman’, the last two covering the 268.35 miles between King’s Cross and Newcastle in just one minute over four hours; an average speed of 66.8mph. Other named trains included in the accelerations were the ‘ Heart of Midlothian’, ‘Tees Tyne Pullman’, ‘ Yorkshire Pullman’, ‘Car-Sleeper Limited ‘ and the ‘Anglo Scottish Car Carrier’. Of these, the up ‘Tees Tyne Pullman’ was booked to provide the fastest average over the 44.1 miles from Darlington to York of 75.6mph. Of the night runs, some of these provided examples of the most dramatic accelerations, including no less than 77 minutes for the down ‘Car Sleeper Limited’ between London and Edinburgh with Deltic haulage. Deltics were also booked for both the 8.20pm down ‘Mail’ from King’s Cross, and the corresponding 8.20pm up train from Newcastle. With an average rostered load of over 450 tons, these services were accelerated by 40 and 33 minutes respectively.

D9013_The_Black_Watch(8191899366) copy

D9013 “The Black Watch” (later 55 013) in BR two-tone green livery and ½ height yellow warning panel enters Kings Cross in July 1966 with “The Flying Scotsman” from Edinburgh Waverley complete with the then new headboard which was carried for only a few years. By Hugh Llewelyn CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24383446

The pattern of high speed Deltic hauled services was continued into the winter of 1962 and beyond, their reliability and availability built into a reputation for all round performance a success second to none. Of the pilot scheme diesels, many were dropped, though despite the early unreliability of the medium speed engines with electric transmission, a BR report of 1965 came down firmly in favour of that arrangement. Even so, the Deltics remained, a lone example of the successful mating of a high-speed diesel engine with electric transmission.

Standardisation in 1967 kept these 22 locomotives in the BR fleet as Class 55,and with the emphasis on higher powers, the National Traction Plan listed a basic main line stud to comprise classes; 20, 25, 27, 31, 33, 37, 40, 45, 46, 47, 48, 50, 52 and 55, to be achieved by 1974. An interesting inclusion was the Class 48, an improved Brush Type 4 that never materialised.

By the time of this particular spate of rationalisation, the Deltics had of course eliminated steam from all the principle East Coast workings, and operated intensive cyclic diagrams, and broke completely from steam traditions in not being allocated to any particular depot or Region, working throughout as required. With the introduction of the Brush Type 4 locos, much secondary work was taken from the Class 40s, the Deltics early stable mates, and occasionally, the Brush types would deputise for Deltics in the relatively rare event of a failure of the latter.

The_'Napier'_Bellow_-_55_009_(14675011249) copy

Class 55 English Electric ‘Deltic’ diesel locomotive No. 55 009 “Alicydon” roars up Holloway Bank out of Kings Cross with an Inter-City express for the North East in the mid 1970s. The green livery has gone, and full height warning panels in use. By Barry Lewis CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44987568

Mechanically, the Deltics were required to achieve a standard life expectancy of 25 years, even allowing for the fact that they were the most intensively worked of all the BR diesel types. From new this meant that they would become life expired in 1986-7, and al though the rate of deterioration was virtually nil over a period of ten years, between say 1966 and 1976, in the last couple of years of operation withdrawal began to increase steadily. The last were taken out of service in May 1982. It is interesting to note that the first five years of the life of the Deltic engines – the running in period were guaranteed by the makers. With the introduction of the IC 125s, or HSTs on the East Coast main line the Deltics were gradually relegated to lesser duties, including excursions and inter-regional running, being latterly quite frequent visitors to the LMR. On 28th February, 1981, Deltic No 55022 (D9000), Royal Scots Grey, had completed 20 years service, the first of the class to do so, perhaps not surprisingly since it was the first production loco to enter service. In the event the occasion was marked by loco No, 55022 working the 12.20 King’s Cross to York with a special headboard provided by the Deltic Preservation Society, and a photographic exhibition was opened at the National Railway Museum by Deputy Keeper Mr P. W. B. Semmens. One loco is officially preserved at the NRM, 55002 The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.

Liveries

There were two main liveries carried by the Deltics, with some detail variations. The first schemes carried by these locomotives were what might be termed the standard green livery for diesel types as introduced with the first pilot scheme classes of 1957-8. The first BR schedule covering the painting of diesel locomotives in green livery was issued in 1956, and although some of the details were not really applicable to the Deltics, the basic treatment and processes were the same. It is interesting to note that in that first schedule, the green livery included a black roof (specification 30, item 36), and steam style express passenger lining and transfers – the lining being in orange and black at waist and skirt level on the body sides.

D9000

D9000 (later 55022) – the first of the class in original colours, captured on 17th August 1987 at a TMD open day – possibly Tyseley in Birmingham Photo: By Peter Broster CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31876267

The Deltics were initially painted to the modified specification 30A, and covered by a schedule produced at the time of their introduction in 1961-2. This divided the painting processes into a number of areas, but those of principal interest to the modeller are of course the superstructure (exterior surfaces), roof, bogies, running gear and underframe. Wheels, axles and bogie frames were given one coat of primer to specification30A, item 1, and one coat of black lacquer, to item 40 of the same specification- though not of course to the wheel treads! Brake gear and exterior surfaces of the main framing .was treated to a final coat of general purpose black. Bufferbeams and stocks (with the exception of the short section of fairing covering part of the stocks) were red to Specification30A, item 9, with the colour a close match to BSS 2660-0-005. On top of this was a single coat of varnish. All exterior surfaces of the fuel and water tanks were given a coat of general purpose black whilst the battery boxes were given two coats of Black Acid Resisting Varnish (Specification 30A, item 4l).

Driving cab positions

Cab interior of Deltic in build. © RPB/GEC Traction Collection

Following various preparatory processes, the main livery areas of the body side panels were treated to one coat of primer, one coat of grey undercoat, one of locomotive green sealer/undercoating paint and a final coat of locomotive green enamel. This latter was Specification30A, item 34, and extended over the entire loco bodyside panels from skirt to gutters. A deep skirt or valance on the lower bodyside stopping just short of theca b door entrance sills, was picked out in a lighter colour, known as Sherwood Green. This was carried completely around the locomotive, and following the application of running numbers and crest, a single coat of locomotive exterior varnish was applied.

The roof area between the gutters was grey, and described officially as Diesel Locomotive Roof Paint, Specification 30A item 57. Cab windscreen and side window surrounds were picked out in white, originally with small yellow warning panels applied to each nose end, surrounding the four character train indicator boxes. The colour was to BSS2660-0-003, and most of the class although built without having warning panels had them applied later, only D9020 and D9021 had them painted on from new. Other non-standard details displayed originally included white buffer heads and drawgear on some members of the class; similarly axlebox end covers were picked out in yellow, as were the equalising beams on D9020 Nimbus – for a time. Window surrounds and boiler room air intake grille beadings were bright finished metal.

Block style running numbers were carried under each of the four cab side windows, in white, and below these were affixed crests of the type first introduced in 1956. Nameplates were carried on the bodysides mid-way between the cabs, and were cast in brass, with the lettering raised from a red background. Though before the locomotives received names a large crest was carried on the bodyside in the nameplate position. Soon after the Deltics were introduced, no more than two years to be precise, the first application of standard Rail Blue livery was made to a Brush/Sulzer Type 4 locomotive, and this standard rapidly became established on principal main line types.

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English Electric Deltic class 55 diesel locomotive No. 55 012 “Crepello” arriving at Kings Cross with an express from the North East. 1976 By Barry Lewis – CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44987576

On the Deltics, the use of Rail Blue to BR Specification 53, item 13, covered the entire body, including the roof areas. It was alleviated only by the yellow nose, which itself was more extensive than the earlier warning panel, over-running the corners for a few inches. The underframes and bogies remained the conventional black. In recent years however, there has been a trend away from the rather dull uniform appearance of BRs blue locos, initiated largely on the Eastern Region, and resulting in a number of Deltics sporting white cab window surrounds again.

During the change over period from green to blue livery in 1968-69, D9005/17/18 had full yellow ends whilst still in green livery: D9010 also in green, had the new double arrow symbol. In the standard form on blue liveried locomotives this was 2 foot 6 inches long, and fixed under the cab side windows at each of the four corners, with the asymmetric running number behind each cab door. The ‘D’ prefix was dropped at this time also, and with the introduction of the ‘TOPS’ re-numbering scheme in 1972, the 6 inch high numbers of Class 55, in white, were positioned behind the cab doors on the driver’s side only.

The last variation on the Deltics livery has been the repainting for preservation of D9002 (55002), King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, in the original standard two-tone green livery. A pleasing comparison with the standard Rail Blue, and perhaps with just a twinge of nostalgia, it doesn’t appear quite as dull as it did in the early 1960s, when steam was still to a great degree, supreme!

Life After Service & Preservation

No less than 6 of this unique class have been preserved, two D9009 and D9019 are operational for main line service, one D9002, is on permanent display at the National Railway Museum, whilst the remaining three (D9000, D9015, D9016) are under restoration or overhaul. Two of the cabs from D9008 “The Green Howards”, and D9021     “Argyll & Sutherland Highlander” are also preserved as static exhibits.

DELTIC preservedAfter withdrawals took place in the 1980s, British Rail banned all privately owned diesels from operating on its network, but the work towards securing and returning to operational service a member of this historic design began. However, despite an occasional run out to open days, and a trip for D9002 to its final resting place at the National Railway Museum in 1982, nothing further was seen of a Deltic in full service mode until after the privatisation of BR in the 1990s.

DP2 on Yorkshire Pullman trial run

The prototype DP2, with its new English Electric 2,700hp 16CSVT engine hauling then Yorkshire Pullman on a trial run. © RPB/GEC traction Collection

Whilst heritage railways had always been a home for these and many ex BR diesel types, it was not until the arrival of open-access train operations in the 1990s, that, for a fee, the owners of these powerful machines could take to main line running again, under Railtrack, and today, Network Rail.

Of course, as we are all aware, there was a spare Deltic body that gave birth to another famous English Electric diesel design – intriguingly at first carrying the number DP2 – later of course becoming the British Rail Class 50, with a new design of 4-stroke, 2,700hp diesel engine from the same maker. These are described in some detail in the post from the link below.

More useful links:

 

 

 

 

 

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HS2 Hits the Buffers

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So now we know – too costly, and at least another 5 to 7 years to go before Birmingham is reached.  Controversial from the beginning, and 10 years in the making – a bit like Crossrail – the cost has seemingly outweighed the benefits.  It was begun in 2009, and yet now seems to be at an end, due to the ever increasing budget overspends.  HS1 – the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL) was also very much delayed, and the connection to the Chunnel was initially at an embarrassingly low speed, until the train emerged on the French side of the Channel.  The UK it seems, is still waiting to catch up with the rest of Europe when it comes to high-speed, high-tech trains.

What surprises me, and perhaps many others, is that we have had the technology – be it, power control electronics, signalling systems, infrastructure technology – for over 30 years, and the last high-speed main line (excluding HS1) was completed in 1990.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, British Railways managed to electrify the West Coast Main Line (WCML) from London to Manchester and Liverpool, and then to Birmingham – completed by 1967.  This was at a time when the technology and techniques were new, novel, untried and untested on a UK main line, and complete in just 8 years – 2 years LESS than it has taken work on the single route from London to Birmingham for HS2 to even begin construction.  On top of that, the west coast route was electrified to Glasgow by 1974 – just 15 years after work began.

OK, maybe I am comparing apples and oranges in some areas, and the WCML was not an entirely new railway, but maybe that is offset by the fact that in the 1960s, the technology was brand new, and the railway was much more complex than it is today.

According to the latest report – before the latest delays were announced – the new high-speed railway would not reach Crewe (where no interchange station was planned) until 2031, and Manchester Piccadilly by 2035.  That’s a full 26 years after HS2 Ltd was set up, and 22 years after the Act of Parliament gave it the go-ahead, and now if the 5-year delay is included, that means Crewe by 2036 and Manchester by 2040.

It seems it’s not just money that is affected by inflation, but major infrastructure project time lines – what took 15 years in the 1960s/70s, takes around 40 years in the 21st Century!  Oh, yes, and there’s the cost spiral too from around £55 billion in 2015 to £88 billion in 204? – an increase of 60%.

Back in 2014 HS2 Ltd submitted its case for the new route as both an engine for growth and rebalancing Britain – the report was quite thorough, but with little by way of reference to the environment as a whole.  Of course, it was not possible 5 years ago to see the growth in importance of climate change – although it was possible to estimate a significant growth in the UK population by 2040.  Maybe HS2 Ltd was not aware of the connection between the two.

HS2 Key Principles 2014

But one of the key principles mentioned in the document, and an aspect of the project that is not being addressed is transport integration.  HS2 is about separation, and it is not a network of rail routes – it is just a number of new links between centres of population, with almost no attention paid to freight transport.

It goes on to suggest that the Crewe hub, with links to Liverpool, will be “transformative” for businesses.  What it does not say is how, or even take account of current information systems technology where business travel is being rendered unnecessary.

Transformative for business

Fascinating statement here, where it states that having the link to Manchester will make it easier to work in both London and Manchester, with a 60 minute reduction in journey time.  In 2014, the authors of this report were clearly unaware of the ability of people to work on trains, whether by using the on-board WiFi, or any of the various sophisticated ‘telepresence’ systems, that allow people to be present in meetings from different locations.

The element of the rail infrastructure that demands much more attention is the East-West routes to link Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds and Newcastle – NOT a link from London to Birmingham.  This diagram in the 2014 HS2 document shows the right place to start:

East West & North South

Still, all that seems to be behind us now, with the Government review likely to be underway soon, progress of this project has now followed the pattern of most UK train journeys in the 21st Century – delayed or cancelled.

Useful Links:

Alstom Proposed HS2 Train Design

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Electric Traction Revolution?

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60 years ago on the 27th Nov
ember this year, Britain’s pioneer 25Kv a.c. electric locomotive was officially handed over to British Railways. Then numbered E3001, it
was to be the first of a long series of successful 
locomotive designs for the West Coast Main
Line (WCML). Within this series there have
 come to be seven basic designs, and a number of sub-divisions of the classes ALl to AL7. Although the last of these was never actually
 introduced under the old title of AL7, but
 designated Class 87 with the new “TOPS”
 locomotive codes, the family likeness remains
 very strong despite the detail alterations to the appearance of the latest type.

gec092

87005 – the final design of the 1st generation electric traction for British Rail, provided the motive power for the completion of the 400+ miles of route from London to Glasgow in 1974.

The choice of 25kV a.c. electrification to be used on B.R. was the subject of exhaustive investigation and comparative examination with other arrangements. Indeed, as there was no a.c. overhead
 main line contact system in regular operation, B.R. decided in 1951
 to convert the Lancaster-Morecambe-
Heysham section to 50 cycle, 6,600 volt, to
 evaluate the potential. The only alternative to 
an untried a.c. system was the l500v d.c. arrangements favoured by the former LNER for its Manchester-Sheffield-Wath and Liverpool St.-Shenfield lines.

However, by the time of the announcement in 1955 of B.R.’s multi-million pound modernisation and re-equipment programme, a not inconsiderable degree of experience of operation of an a.c. system had been acquired. It was perhaps the potential of the system, using 25,000V from the National Grid, rendering it economically superior to the d.c. system that finally won the day.

The decision was announced on 6th March 1956, that 25Kv a.c. would be the system of electrification used by British Railways on the WCML between London (Euston), Manchester and Liverpool, and additionally on the East Coast Main Line (ECML), between London (King’s Cross) and York and Leeds. The optimism generated through the Modernisation Plan for the electrification of two main routes was relatively short lived however. By 1959, it was seen that this would not be possible within the time limits proposed in the 1956 White Paper, and consequently a re-appraisal of the Modernisation Plan provided for the introduction of diesel
 traction “without prejudice to eventual electrification” on the main line where this was to be deferred. Another factor in this re-evaluation was the enthusiasm with which the private car, road building, and the removal of some restrictions on licensing of road haulage, and goods transport.

Another interesting statistic is the total route mileage electrified in Britain. There is a Wikipedia entry that states: “In 2006, 40%—3,062 miles (4,928 km) of the British rail network was electrified, ….”   But, in a BR publication (“Railway Electrification – A Discussion Paper”), dated May 1978, the route mileage electrified was 2,341 miles, or 21% of the total network.

So, does that mean that between 1978 and 2006, the increase in the electrified network was only 721 miles, and the 2006 total route mileage was just over 7,600 miles, but 38 years earlier the route mileage was 11,100 miles. A reduction in the size of the network of 3,500 miles, and at the same time adding just under 400 miles to the electrified main lines with the East Coast Main Line project – delayed from 1956.

There was of course a Department of Transport / BRB report on the subject of main line electrification in 1981, which offered a number of options to expand the network. From the perspective of the 25kV a.c. schemes, the final report’s “Option II’ – the ECML, Midland Main Line, Glasgow to Edinburgh, and Edinburgh to Carstairs was the option followed.   This was described in the report’s accompanying table as a “modest” expansion of the network. Ironically the recently completed electrification from Preston to Blackpool was included in the “Base Case”, and for completion in 1984 – a mere 35-year delay for that particular line. Slightly less of a delay was incurred by the Western Region (now GWR) main line out of Paddington. That scheme was included in the more advanced “Option III” ‘Medium Case’ for completion by 1996 to Bristol, and by 2002 to Plymouth – ah well, some of it got completed, but all has been hampered by the tragedy of privatisation.

87034 - William Shakespeare at Carlisle

Penultimate days of British Rail operations, with the classic motive power for the West Coast Main Line, here seen at Carlisle in the late 1980s.

 

 

Today we are still waiting on the possibilities of the HS2 / HS3 developments, and have pressed ahead in the last 10 years or so with the Paddington to South Wales, Midland Main Line, Glasgow to Edinburgh central belt, and a number of smaller connecting lines. These latter have mainly been around big cities; Manchester, Leeds, etc., with additional links to Blackpool, and specialist lines such as that connecting London with Heathrow Airport, or the Crossrail projects.

Looking back at the 1978 BR discussion paper, the current routes and electrified network was covered then by Options B and C for the Inter City Routes strategy. Had the strategy been implemented back then as Option C – the electrified network would have reached 5,300 miles, some 2,200 more than was achieved by 2006. However, the real issues that delayed the strategy was the lack of will to invest, and the mounting subsidies paid to BR during the later 1970s and 1980s.

So this was Richard Marsh’s plan in 1978:

InterCity Route Miles Strategy


In the nearly 40 years since, some work has been done, but the UK’s once extensive railway industry – both private and BR’s own workshops – has largely disappeared, and any achievements have been wholly dependent on the success of imported technology. One of the most telling observations in the 1978 discussion paper was in the concluding paragraphs, where the BRB stated:

“A railway system needs to be provided which enables our successors to run an economic transport system in the year 2000 and beyond If railway electrification is to be part of that, as now seems probable, a start needs to be made now. If the country has available the capital for regeneration of industry and preparation for the energy conditions of the next century, it would require only a very small proportion of this investment to convert the main public bulk transportation system to electric power.”

In that same booklet, it was pointed out that the UK was well behind in the proportion of its network that was electrified, coming 17th out of 21 countries, from Norway to Belgium and Japan.

Table A1

Today we are still waiting on the possibilities of the HS2 / HS3 developments, and have pressed ahead in the last 10 years or so with the Paddington to South Wales, Midland Main Line, Glasgow to Edinburgh central belt, and a number of smaller connecting lines. These latter have mainly been around big cities; Manchester, Leeds, etc., with additional links to Blackpool, and specialist lines such as that connecting London with Heathrow Airport, or the Crossrail projects.

By 2016/17 that position had changed, and the UK had slipped 3 places to 20th, or second from bottom, and yet the % of the network now electrified had risen to 33%.

Country Network Length Electrified length % Electrified
 Switzerland 5,196 5,196 100%
 Luxembourg 275 275 100%
Sweden 10,874 8,976 83%
 Belgium 3,602 2,960 82%
Italy 16,788 13,106 78%
 Netherlands 3,055 2,314 76%
Japan 27,311 20,534 75%
 Bulgaria 4,030 2,880 71%
 Austria 5,527 3,826 69%
 Norway 3,895 2,622 67%
 Portugal 2,546 1,633 64%
Poland 19,209 11,874 62%
Spain 15,949 9,699 61%
France 29,273 15,687 54%
Germany 38,594 20,500 53%
Russia 85,500 43,700 51%
 Slovakia 3,626 1,587 44%
 Hungary 7,945 2,889 36%
 Czech Republic 9,567 3,237 34%
United Kingdom 16,320 5,357 33%
Romania 10,774 3,292 31%

Source of table: (Wikipedia) List_of_countries_by_rail_transport_network_size

So according to this latest table, another 5,120 miles of route have been electrified in the UK since 1978. By far the longest route to receive its 25kV a.c. overhead contact system was the East Coast Main Line, from London (Kings Cross) to Edinburgh, which was completed in 1991 – so that was another 400 miles. After that, there was a plan to electrify the route from London (St Pancras) to Sheffield – although that’s only reached as far north as Leicestershire, before being controversially abandoned. The completion of the Channel Tunnel was the driver to construct a high-speed link between the tunnel and London (Waterloo), and with minor extensions added a further 100 miles by the time HS1 was opened in 2003.

The Western Region main line, or after privatisation, the GWR main line from London (Paddington) to Bristol and South Wales has only been completed in the last couple of years – but only as far as Bristol Parkway. The piecemeal, stop-start nature of progress on electrification of main lines since the mid 1990s has spectacularly affected interoperability across the whole network. The latest trains on the old Western Region main line to Bristol are hybrids, and have to operate as diesel trains in the non-electrified sections, obviously at lower speeds. The plan to electrify the main line to South Devon, Plymouth and possibly Penzance is not even on the horizon in the 21st Century.

The additional 4,000+ miles that have been electrified since 1978 includes the completion of the Edinburgh to Glasgow corridor, and the link to the West Coast Main Line at Carstairs, together with numerous other ad-hoc changes and extensions. This activity included work to extend the overhead out of London (Liverpool Street) into East Anglia; Cambridge and Kings Lynn.

In 1981, the Government published a final report advocating the case for main line electrification, and in a couple of key points made a recommendation that more, and not less electrification at a faster rate would offer best value for money. These are two of the key paragraphs that make those points:

Para 13 - 1981 DoT ReviewPara 14 - 1981 DoT Review

So how did we do? Well, not so good really.

Currently, in 2019, Crossrail – which links in to the GWR main line west of London – is still not complete, and the plans for a route between Oxford and Cambridge, and a north-south Crossrail2 are still only on the drawing board. The very latest activity on the London (Euston) to Birmingham – HS2 – is looking more likely to be cancelled than progressed, whilst the demand for increased electrification between Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and beyond is growing by the day. The so-called Northern Powerhouse Rail is clearly an essential need, to link the economic centres in the North of England, which, between Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds/Bradford, and Tyneside/Wearside has a population of well over 7 million.

In February 2019, “The Engineer” carried out a poll of its readers to see what form of motive power would be 1st choice to replace the diesel trains – all of which will be gone by 2040. In the poll some 43% of respondents advocated full electrification.

Another 29% were in favour of batteries+hydrogen power, with another 12% advocating pure hydrogen powered trains.

If the recent progress of electrification is anything to go by, I doubt if any of these will progress very far, and we will, as usual be subject to the same uncertain, start-stop process that we have seen for the past 20 years. But, electrification is, and remains the only sustainable option – both in energy cost, and environmental impact.

So, 60 years on from the handover at Sandbach in Cheshire, in November 1959, we have come so far, but there is still a long way to go. The ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail’ proposals include some aspects of planned 25kV electrification from the 1950s, 1960s, and late 1970s, and the line from Manchester to Leeds is more than 40 years late. There has been very limited activity on rail, and especially electrification work over the past 20 years, and today’s ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail’ ideas are not a fitting reflection of the work completed in 1959.

Northern Powerhouse Rail Map

The lines shown on this map in light green are for new electrified routes, and the connection from Manchester to Leeds was identified as needing electrification almost 40 years ago – and it is still pending!

Useful Links:

 

Azuma_and_HST_at_Leeds_station_(geograph_6187255)

One of the new generation Azuma high-speed trains alongside one of the remaining IC125 (HST) sets at Leeds Station. By Stephen Craven, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79978602 

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Frecciarossa 1000 – Ferrari of the Rails

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Italian State Railways (FS), will be the operator of the fastest ever high-speed service in Europe, once the latest Frecciarossa series begin running.   The new trains, designed and built in Italy are a development of the “Frecciarossa 1000” – but maybe the Ferrari of the rails is a more fitting epithet.

Saying that they will be the “fastest ever high-speed trains in Europe” – you have to bear in mind that’s comparing them with the ICE trains, TGV, and ts derivatives.  Hitachi, as the successful bidder, in partnership with Bombardier were also involved directly with the world’s first high-speed trains – the “Shinkansen” in Japan.

 

This week (4th June), FS, placed an order for 14 of these new trains in a composite contract with Hitachi and Bombardier, worth €575 million, which includes a 10-year maintenance agreement.  Each train is 200 metres long, and designed to operate at up to 360 km/h, carrying 460 passengers.  Other facilities include onboard Wi-Fi, a meeting room and bistro area.

High-speed rail across Europe continues to expand, and the current breed of tilting trains across Italy are certainly eyecatching.  Back in 2017, the Venice bound Frecciarossa was captured at Verona, just as the ETR 610 in Swiss livery was on its return trip westbound for Geneva.   Verona is on the route of the designated high-speed corridor between Milan and Venice, so perhaps when the deviation and infrastructure works between Brescia and Verona are completed, the ETR1000s may operate regularly on this line.

Frecciarossa and SBB ETR 610 at Verona - August 2017

Today’s high-speed rail in Italy, seen at Verona Porta Nuova in August 2017, an ETR 500 Frecciarossa alongside the SBB ETR 610, which is returning from Venice to Geneva. (Photo: Rodger Bradley)

The original ETR1000 series started life in 2012, but it was not until 2015 that the first 8-car sets were approved for service in Italy, between Milan and Rome, and Torino.  They were built then by a consortium of Bombardier and AnsaldoBreda, and in 2015, Hitachi bought Ansaldo.

All 14 of the latest high-speed trains will be built in Italy.  They have a reduced noise and vibration characteristic compared to previous models, with a very low environmental impact, generating only 28 micrograms the CO2 emissions per passenger/kilometre.  On top of this, it is claimed that the materials used in the building of this new gereration is close to 100%.

The Bombardier/Hitachi partnership is also bidding for the UK’s own high-speed train order – for the HS2 project – and recently released an image of what the design could look like.

New HS2 train design image - Hitachi-Bomb copy

 

Of course, both Hitachi and Bombardier are lready involved in the UK, be it new builds, or support and maintenance, including the Class 800 series of trains, now running n the GWR main line and on the East Coast Main Line.  These are all derived from Hitachi’s “A-Train” concept, and have been very successful, although restricted to a maximum of 125mph.  (With ETCS and in cab signalling, the max line speed is increased to 140mph).

But even the latest  Class 800/2  “Azuma” designs running in LNER colours on the East Coast Main Line, still have a bit of ground to make up on Frecciarossa 1000.

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