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Author Topic: Is rail electrification the future, or the past  (Read 7722 times)
Red Squirrel
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« Reply #15 on: October 29, 2017, 07:07:27 pm »

Stick with the electricity. With more new build nuclear, and increased wind/solar, to generate it.

Can't agree about nuclear. Wind, solar and other renewables, backed by storage, will very soon be producing electricity at a fraction of the stated cost of nuclear. And the stated cost is an infinitesimal fraction of the true cost, which tends to infinity given that you have to store the waste, at a cost, forever.
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« Reply #16 on: October 29, 2017, 07:19:26 pm »

Is C Grayling, and obviously his DfT team, right? or should we still be installing overhead power system, upgrading tunnels, etc?

He's just kicking the can down the road. The idea that spare energy from wind and solar can be used to produce hydrogen or charge batteries would be fine if there was any spare energy from wind and solar. There is no moment in time that gas or nuclear are not topping up renewables - as I write, the top-up amounts to 75% of the total electricity being used in the UK. Wind is chipping in 8%, and it's dark, so no solar. Most of the rest is provided by our interconnector with France, our off-shore nuclear plant.

Batteries would power slower local stoppers, but they are heavy, and need recharging, which demands significant power at the terminus unless you want to trickle charge overnight. Hydrogen isn't heavy, but the infrastructure to support the idea doesn't exist to a sufficient size to make anything other than a token contribution. Look what happened to the hydrogen powered ferry in Bristol as soon as the Green City circus left town.

Why use power to charge batteries and produce hydrogen when the power could be delivered to the train directly by OHLE? You lose the pollution from the cities and cut out the middle man, and the consequent energy losses, if you string up cables, and the technology is tried and tested.

What we really need is a transport minister who will grow a pair, and crack on with electrification. All this talk of batteries and hydrogen will simply mean, at the rate of adoption of new technology in railways outside London, that we will still be riding around on diesel trains 50 years from now - probably the same ones we are riding on today. The HSTs were supposed to be a stop-gap until electrification could be done. We should now continue electrification as a stop-gap measure until we have the next generation technology, whatever it may be. If we are going to have anything powered by battery, it would make sense to start with road vehicles.
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« Reply #17 on: October 29, 2017, 11:04:19 pm »

I recently heard Chris Grayling questioning the need for electrification for Cardiff-Swansea and London Midland line. Whilst initially fuming, firmly believing we should electrify the whole network over 20-30 years, he then commented on new technologies including battery trains and hydrogen power.

At this point, my firm belief in electrification evaporated, why should we spend billions of pounds when stopping services can be powered by battery, and log distance services can powered by hydrogen? Both offer clean power, electrical tractiona n and performance.

Is C Grayling, and obviously his DfT team, right? or should we still be installing overhead power system, upgrading tunnels, etc?

Bear in mind that electrification per-se is not necessarily particularly expensive. The expensive bit is resignalling and sorting out the trackbed and civil engineering of a 150 year old, intensively used railway, that has been largely maintained on a "make-do-and-mend" basis since the outbreak of WW2. This is compounded by the fact that electrification is usually accompanied by a programme of capacity improvement with track and station improvements, often putting back capacity that was rationalised out in the BR-era, Filton Bank and Huyton & Roby re-quadrupling being a case in point. This has been compounded by an implementation of electrical safety rules that impose clearances much greater than is justified by physics and experience. Finally, where civil engineering is required, e.g. bridge replacements, the planning system, Network Rail and utilities often make bridge replacement more expensive than is strictly necessary.

Electric rolling stock is simpler, cheaper, lighter, does less damage to track, is faster to accelerate, quieter, does not pollute its immediate surroundings, is preferred by the traveling public. Everyone's a winner. OHLE is not particularly expensive to maintain once it has been installed, the Government is in a position to borrow cheaply on a long-term basis and be paid back over long time-frames. On that basis a long-term rolling programme of electrification seems like a very sensible idea.
 
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Henry
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« Reply #18 on: October 30, 2017, 07:48:36 am »


 Being an 'old southern man' I still favour the 3rd Rail option.

 Less obtrusive, but not liked by trespasser's on the line.
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ellendune
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« Reply #19 on: October 30, 2017, 08:05:05 am »


 Being an 'old southern man' I still favour the 3rd Rail option.

Less obtrusive, but not liked by trespasser's on the line.

Quite apart from the safety considerations.  The cost of the substations is far more because the transmission power losses are higher, which means that you need substations much more frequently along the line, and because it uses DC. Even then the power losses are greater.  The trains are also non-standard and more expensive. 

Unless you went for the old L&Y side contact (not used anywhere in the UK now) ice is the perennial problem in Winter.
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Bmblbzzz
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« Reply #20 on: October 30, 2017, 08:58:15 am »

I recently heard Chris Grayling questioning the need for electrification for Cardiff-Swansea and London Midland line. Whilst initially fuming, firmly believing we should electrify the whole network over 20-30 years, he then commented on new technologies including battery trains and hydrogen power.

At this point, my firm belief in electrification evaporated, why should we spend billions of pounds when stopping services can be powered by battery, and log distance services can powered by hydrogen? Both offer clean power, electrical tractiona n and performance.

Is C Grayling, and obviously his DfT team, right? or should we still be installing overhead power system, upgrading tunnels, etc?

Bear in mind that electrification per-se is not necessarily particularly expensive. The expensive bit is resignalling and sorting out the trackbed and civil engineering of a 150 year old, intensively used railway, that has been largely maintained on a "make-do-and-mend" basis since the outbreak of WW2. This is compounded by the fact that electrification is usually accompanied by a programme of capacity improvement with track and station improvements, often putting back capacity that was rationalised out in the BR-era, Filton Bank and Huyton & Roby re-quadrupling being a case in point. This has been compounded by an implementation of electrical safety rules that impose clearances much greater than is justified by physics and experience. Finally, where civil engineering is required, e.g. bridge replacements, the planning system, Network Rail and utilities often make bridge replacement more expensive than is strictly necessary.

Electric rolling stock is simpler, cheaper, lighter, does less damage to track, is faster to accelerate, quieter, does not pollute its immediate surroundings, is preferred by the traveling public. Everyone's a winner. OHLE is not particularly expensive to maintain once it has been installed, the Government is in a position to borrow cheaply on a long-term basis and be paid back over long time-frames. On that basis a long-term rolling programme of electrification seems like a very sensible idea.
 
It could... but I was having a (totally non-railway) discussion with someone recently who opined that Margaret Thatcher's greatest legacy was the prevalent opinion that governments should borrow as little as possible.
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Henry
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« Reply #21 on: October 30, 2017, 09:07:08 am »


 Was that before or after she started selling off Britains asset's ?
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Red Squirrel
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« Reply #22 on: October 30, 2017, 10:12:49 am »

There is no moment in time that gas or nuclear are not topping up renewables - as I write, the top-up amounts to 75% of the total electricity being used in the UK. Wind is chipping in 8%, and it's dark, so no solar. Most of the rest is provided by our interconnector with France, our off-shore nuclear plant.

That's true. As I write, we're meeting 9% of demand from solar and wind; yesterday we were getting 31%. But the scope for growing renewables is enormous, makes economic sense, and is likely to continue apace with or without political backing. At the moment the cost per kWh of solar is half the contracted cost per kWh for Hinkley C. Not much use when it's dark, as you've pointed out, but here's the thing: within two years the cost of solar backed by batteries will be less than the contracted cost of Hinkley power. Even setting aside my not entirely tongue-in-cheek assertion that the true cost of nuclear electricity is infinite, you'd have to have nonlinear priorities to go ahead with Hinkley.

I have met people who genuinely don't think there's enough solar energy impinging on this island to meet our energy needs. Even when you point out that without the sun, the temperature here would be -271oC, they're unmoved. There's no convincing some people...
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Bmblbzzz
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« Reply #23 on: October 30, 2017, 10:24:32 am »

Of course the sun is simply the ultimate in off-shored, outsourced nuclear power.  Cheesy
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simonw
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« Reply #24 on: October 30, 2017, 10:25:42 am »

This country is blessed with multiple forms of natural power, and whilst I am advocate of nuclear power, I am not an advocate of nuclear power at any price.

Until the Nuclear industry can price its product correctly, as a country we should invest in solar, tidal and wind power, and look at short term methane storage when we have an excess.

Whilst I am not sure if we every produce more natural power than we need, it must be close in the small hours of the night.
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Tim
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« Reply #25 on: October 30, 2017, 10:26:09 am »

The approach ought to be to do the Cost:Benefit analysis and electrify when the benefits outweigh the costs.  When there is alternative technology then the C:B analysis will give a different answer.

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chrisr_75
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« Reply #26 on: October 30, 2017, 02:48:36 pm »

Is C Grayling, and obviously his DfT team, right? or should we still be installing overhead power system, upgrading tunnels, etc?

He's just kicking the can down the road. The idea that spare energy from wind and solar can be used to produce hydrogen or charge batteries would be fine if there was any spare energy from wind and solar. There is no moment in time that gas or nuclear are not topping up renewables - as I write, the top-up amounts to 75% of the total electricity being used in the UK. Wind is chipping in 8%, and it's dark, so no solar. Most of the rest is provided by our interconnector with France, our off-shore nuclear plant.

Batteries would power slower local stoppers, but they are heavy, and need recharging, which demands significant power at the terminus unless you want to trickle charge overnight. Hydrogen isn't heavy, but the infrastructure to support the idea doesn't exist to a sufficient size to make anything other than a token contribution. Look what happened to the hydrogen powered ferry in Bristol as soon as the Green City circus left town.

Why use power to charge batteries and produce hydrogen when the power could be delivered to the train directly by OHLE? You lose the pollution from the cities and cut out the middle man, and the consequent energy losses, if you string up cables, and the technology is tried and tested.

What we really need is a transport minister who will grow a pair, and crack on with electrification. All this talk of batteries and hydrogen will simply mean, at the rate of adoption of new technology in railways outside London, that we will still be riding around on diesel trains 50 years from now - probably the same ones we are riding on today. The HSTs were supposed to be a stop-gap until electrification could be done. We should now continue electrification as a stop-gap measure until we have the next generation technology, whatever it may be. If we are going to have anything powered by battery, it would make sense to start with road vehicles.

But let's not forget that batteries and, perhaps to a lesser degree, H power generation could be remote and do not necessarily need to be installed within individual vehicles if we had the means to subsequently distribute the power generated from or stored within. I agree that stringing a few poles and wires up at relatively modest cost, can surely only be a good thing? IMHO it would make much more sense to continue electrifying as many routes as possible and canning HS2, rather than the other way round. For the cost of HS2 the entire network could probably be wired up with a few £billion leftover in small change.
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Red Squirrel
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« Reply #27 on: October 30, 2017, 03:22:22 pm »

...perhaps to a lesser degree, H power generation could be remote and do not necessarily need to be installed within individual vehicles

Think of hydrogen as a way of storing energy, rather than as a fuel, and bear in mind that you lose about 80% of the energy you started with. The main advantage of hydrogen is that it has a good energy density and is fairly portable. Hydrogen is a bit like electric steam locomotives - not completely bonkers, but only appropriate in special circumstances:



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Electric train
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« Reply #28 on: October 30, 2017, 05:08:20 pm »

Railway electrification is the long term answer; what is needs is a 20 - 30 year strategy with correct delivery and funding plan and not the recent political knee jerk we get every time a general election comes along.

That way the railway industry can plan the build and introduction of electrification
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« Reply #29 on: October 30, 2017, 07:09:03 pm »

Electric rolling stock is simpler, cheaper, lighter, does less damage to track, is faster to accelerate, quieter, does not pollute its immediate surroundings, is preferred by the traveling public. Everyone's a winner.
Exactly. The reduced track wear is probably down to the reduced weight, which also will reduce the amount of energy needed to move the train. Battery trains would presumably have the same advantages over diesel in terms of acceleration, sound and pollution on and around the railway, but not the weight saving. A battery EMU is probably simpler than a DMU, but more complicated than a normal EMU. Plus the useful life of the batteries is likely to be significantly less than the useful life of the train, so you have an additional cost replacing the batteries when the first lot can no longer hold a full charge.

Railway electrification is the long term answer; what is needs is a 20 - 30 year strategy with correct delivery and funding plan
Agreed. We do not currently appear to have the means to electrify the railway quickly, but spread over 30 years (longer if the entire network, even the West Highland and Heart Of Wales Line, is to be done eventually) it should be acheivable.
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