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Author Topic: 5 x Class 319 Flex to come to Wales  (Read 502 times)
John R
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« on: July 17, 2017, 01:20:11 PM »

http://gov.wales/newsroom/transport/2017/170717-welsh-government-announce-extra-rolling-stock-to-improve-rail-services/?lang=en

Economy and Infrastructure Secretary Ken Skates has today announced the addition of 5 extra 4-carriage trains to boost and improve rolling stock available in Wales.

A few comments:-

Vivarail must be disappointed that the 319 Flex has been chosen over the D Train.

With the need to take units out of service for PRM compliance, and also to resource a half hourly service to Ebbw Vale (if the newly redoubled track is to be taken advantage of once available next year), it will be interesting to see how much capacity increase in the valleys is possible. (Is the new Chester to Liverpool service to be operated by the W&B franchisee? If so that will need a further two units at the very minimum.)

Nevertheless a small positive step, although really the Welsh Government was staring down a barrel on the subject of rolling stock procurement, and it feels like the minimum possible to me.


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Tim
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« Reply #1 on: July 17, 2017, 02:30:28 PM »

Small positive step and journey times ought to be better than they would be with the slower D-trains (??)

I agree that small improvements like this are merely delaying the big decisions about valley line stock. Is electrification completely off the table for these routes?.   
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Rhydgaled
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« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2017, 08:40:45 PM »

With the need to take units out of service for PRM compliance, and also to resource a half hourly service to Ebbw Vale (if the newly redoubled track is to be taken advantage of once available next year), it will be interesting to see how much capacity increase in the valleys is possible. (Is the new Chester to Liverpool service to be operated by the W&B franchisee? If so that will need a further two units at the very minimum.)
I am not aware of a launch date for any extra Ebbw Vale services, but the Chester-Liverpool via Halton Curve service has been promised for December 2018 and probably to be operated by Wales & Borders. What I have read elsewhere is that 4-car class 150 formations are/were expected to work that, so four units needed. If four of the flex units are used daily on services currently booked for pairs of Pacers/150s that is eight units released; four for the Halton curve, two for PRM mods and two for strenthening perhaps. That last bit is all un-informed supposition on my part.

I agree that small improvements like this are merely delaying the big decisions about valley line stock. Is electrification completely off the table for these routes?.
The last official announment as far as I'm aware was that the UK government would fund GWML electrification to Swansea (which is now delayed but no cancelation announcment has been made) along with a contribution of something between 100m and 200m towards the cost of ValleyLines electrification, with the whole lot (including the Vale Of Glamorgan line I believe) authorised if the money could be found from other sources (perhaps the Cardiff 'City Deal' and some EU funding). I think I read somewhere that the EU money will not be available after 2023, which presumably means electrification needs to start before then, but I would be very surprised if any work is done before the end of the current Network Rail control period.

That leaves the next Wales & Borders franchise with a dilema; the current ValleyLines fleet (Pacers and 150s mostly, with a 153 or three in the mix) aren't PRM compliant for operation into 2020. Given that electrification should be on its way, the sensible thing would be to replace the Pacers and most of the 150s with EMUs; but We'll be very lucky if any Welsh electrification (apart from the GWML Paddington to Cardiff) has been switched on by December 2019. Making the 150s compliant with the PRM regulations will be costly and could require a long lease, which might run beyond the 2023 target date for electrification. I personally think the best option therefore is to grant a derrogation for just over half the 150s, allowing them to be replaced by EMUs when the time comes. As for the Pacers, a larger order for the flex units would enable their withdrawal by 2020, with the flex units able to take advantage of the electrification as it is rolls out. Once the ValleyLines themselves are all done, the flex units could then be replaced by EMUs and cascaded onto Swansea/Cardiff-Cheltenham and Cardiff-Hereford services where they could make use of their bi-mode capability (electrification of those routes is certainly off the table for the time being) but (assuming they are like a 150 inside) would need better interiors for those longer journeys.
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Don't DOO it, keep the guard (but it probably wouldn't be a bad idea if the driver unlocked the doors on arrival at calling points).
welshman
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« Reply #3 on: July 17, 2017, 09:00:43 PM »

Informed speculation.
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John R
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« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2017, 09:47:49 PM »

In terms of the Ebbw Vale line there is speculation elsewhere that the doubling is paused, so maybe the Welsh Government will not have the potential embarrassment of another NR enhancement that can't be utilised because of a lack of rolling stock (6 car platforms, Tir Phil passing loop).

I suspect that while the business case for the Halton Curve reopening envisages 4 car trains, in the first instance 2 car units will be operated.  It always takes time for travel patterns to change, particularly commuting, and with available rolling stock still being at a premium for the first year, that would probably be a sensible move. 

I agree that the rolling stock for the next franchise is still extremely doubtful. There is an opinion though that any Class 150 stock once PRM modified will find work for many years, so I'm not sure that only doing half would fit with the lessor's intentions. Besides, there is no indication yet that any derogations will be permissible. Whilst I suspect some might be allowed for a few months whilst new stock is delivered, I don't think a two or three year period of grace for rolling stock that is likely to be reused beyond that date will be.

So I think all the Class 150/158 will be modified by the deadline.  The elephant in the room is what is going to replace the Pacer stock, and how will it be ready in time?  The betting now has to be on further 319 Flex's being ordered, as they or the D train appear the only viable options within the timescales once the franchise is let, and the Welsh Government has nailed its colours to the 319.  My only doubt in this argument is the CAF assembly plant recently announced, where there will be a strong political benefit to placing an order with it.  Though that would mean an extension on Pacer lifespans beyond 1/1/20. 
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Rhydgaled
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« Reply #5 on: July 18, 2017, 10:56:18 AM »

I agree that the rolling stock for the next franchise is still extremely doubtful. There is an opinion though that any Class 150 stock once PRM modified will find work for many years, so I'm not sure that only doing half would fit with the lessor's intentions. Besides, there is no indication yet that any derogations will be permissible. Whilst I suspect some might be allowed for a few months whilst new stock is delivered, I don't think a two or three year period of grace for rolling stock that is likely to be reused beyond that date will be.
The issue is that, outside the ValleyLines, the Wales & Borders franchise has VERY, VERY FEW short-distance services where class 150s are suitable. Unless there are service frequencies improvements on certain routes or a new, non-electrified, metro network in the Swansea area the number of 150s required could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Class 150s are uncomfotable inner-suburban stock which should not be permitted (except in an emergency if the booked unit fails) on any service which ommits calls at any station on its route or with a journey time exceeding one hour.

So I think all the Class 150/158 will be modified by the deadline.  The elephant in the room is what is going to replace the Pacer stock, and how will it be ready in time?  The betting now has to be on further 319 Flex's being ordered, as they or the D train appear the only viable options within the timescales once the franchise is let, and the Welsh Government has nailed its colours to the 319.  My only doubt in this argument is the CAF assembly plant recently announced, where there will be a strong political benefit to placing an order with it.  Though that would mean an extension on Pacer lifespans beyond 1/1/20.
The Flex units are the best option I can see for Pacer replacement in Wales in my opinion, particularly if they can be given an outer-suburban interior suitable for journeys over an hour from Cardiff/Swansea to Cheltenham and Hereford. Where CAF might come in is the new EMUs to replace the 150s on the ValleyLines and/or trams for Cardiff Bay (I hope not the ValleyLines proper to Merthyr etc. where journey times dictate that the very limited seating (lots of standing room) of a tram is inappropriate). There will also be a need to bolster the long-distance fleet, and CAF's mark 5 coaches are currently the only long-distance stock on the shelf other than 125/140mph intercity units. Perhaps they could also modify their class 397 design slightly (with end-doors on all coaches) to make an alternative to mark 5s, but sadly their units so far don't have unit-end gangways (UEGs) which I think should be a requirement on all new units for Wales & Borders. Only Hitachi's 385s offer UEGs at the moment and they are only really an option for the ValleyLines (once electrified), unless Hitachi can do a diesel version with an intercity door layout.

My other big worry, along with swarms of ex-Valleys 150s cascading onto long runs like Pembrokeshire to Swansea, is the mark 3 sets. There is not going to be any PRM-compliant stock available with an intercity door layout before the mark 4s come off-lease in 2020, since new units take too long to build. The only options are a downgrade in quality (using flex units or similar), an expensive rebuild of stored mark 3s to PRM standards to replace the current mark 3s (leaving the next TOC with a micro-fleet of mark 3s) or a derrogation until new stock or mark 4s are available unless CAF can squeese in a batch of mark 5s in time for the 2020 deadline.
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Don't DOO it, keep the guard (but it probably wouldn't be a bad idea if the driver unlocked the doors on arrival at calling points).
John R
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« Reply #6 on: July 18, 2017, 11:07:17 AM »

I'm not suggesting that all the ATW Cl 150s end up in Wales post 2020.  Just that the lessors will not want to scrap them, so will PRM them on the expectation that they will find a use somewhere.  It's a different matter whether or not the next W&B franchisee and WAG choose to lease them.

I'm not sure I agree though that Class 150s should not be used on any service which exceeds an hour or omits stations.  I would suggest, as an example, that they are reasonably well suited for the Cardiff - Taunton run, even though they take around 2 hours and skip some stations.  Most journeys actually undertaken will be much less than an hour, and the layout and doors are more optimal for Bristol commuter traffic than Class 158s.

And by your measure they won't even be permitted on the majority of Valley Line services, which are more than an hour end to end.  Wink
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