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Author Topic: Topics to concentrate on in the future - the rail future  (Read 463 times)
grahame
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« on: May 20, 2019, 08:37:30 am »

At RailFuture on Saturday, the members present were asked to vote for one (extended in discussion to two) topics that the organisation should concentrate looking at for the future.  Please forgive the bright colours here - done to make it as readable as possible from the rough picture on my phone.



I'm afraid I asked for a "write in" extra topic - encouraging people to make best use of existing services, and I could have added another - being something of a transport campaigner trainer organisation.

With just a couple of votes each (electorate of about 60 people) nothing came in really high - most votes were "new stations and routes" and "climate change".  Several topics with zero or one vote ... three for my "write-in" which as it was called at the end, not on the screen and people had to hold their votes back was a couple more than I expected.
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ChrisB
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« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2019, 11:04:58 am »

Didn't one topic get the dizzying 18 (or was it 13?) votes? Can't remember which....
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grahame
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« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2019, 11:30:28 am »

Didn't one topic get the dizzying 18 (or was it 13?) votes? Can't remember which....

Yes - I think "openings" and "climate" were those two.

My comment "couple of votes each" in the post above could be read 2 ways ... I meant that each person present was able to vote for only a couple of categories, rather than the categories getting just a couple.

In the verbals / voting, the "openings" was - I swear - at one point referred to as re-openings at which I took a deep breath but know what was meant. In most cases new lines / services will reuse old routes and trackbed locations simply because they make geographic sense, but we should not exclude new alignments ... oh help, that will turn into an HS2 discussion.

The whole thing was, I suspect, intended to be just indicative and as such serves reasonably well from the sentiment in the room - the core members who made the international journey to Wales, and the Cymry a gwragedd cymreig in who's patch we met.
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broadgage
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« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2019, 12:16:50 pm »

IMHO, climate change is the most important issue.
Could reasonably be considered as TWO issues.

Firstly making the railway more resilient to the effects of climate change, higher rainfall and therefore more flooding, higher temperatures and thus greater risks of heat induced failures of rolling stock and infrastructure, and increased wind speeds blowing obstructions onto the track and damaging infrastructure.

Secondly, reducing national carbon emissions by greening rail transport and encouraging rail over driving and flying.

Electrification is important, but could be considered as being part of the above.
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A proper intercity train has a minimum of 8 coaches, gangwayed throughout, with first at one end, and a full sized buffet car between first and standard.
It has space for cycles, surfboards,luggage etc.
A 5 car DMU is not a proper inter-city train. The 5+5 and 9 car DMUs are almost as bad.
Red Squirrel
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« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2019, 02:34:36 pm »

I was intrigued by 'Electrification and the alternatives'... what would the alternatives be? In reality I presume they are OHLE, battery or (heaven help us) hydrogen, but it is hard to see any future fleet of trains that doesn't use electric motors...
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broadgage
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« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2019, 03:19:33 pm »

I was intrigued by 'Electrification and the alternatives'... what would the alternatives be? In reality I presume they are OHLE, battery or (heaven help us) hydrogen, but it is hard to see any future fleet of trains that doesn't use electric motors...

I think that HMG are still clinging to the hydrogen idea in the hope that they can avoid electrification, and also appease NIMBYs.
Battery power has a future IMHO for branch lines and for short stretches of generally electrified routes. The Forth bridge and the sea wall at Dawlish come to mind.
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A proper intercity train has a minimum of 8 coaches, gangwayed throughout, with first at one end, and a full sized buffet car between first and standard.
It has space for cycles, surfboards,luggage etc.
A 5 car DMU is not a proper inter-city train. The 5+5 and 9 car DMUs are almost as bad.
Red Squirrel
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« Reply #6 on: May 20, 2019, 03:55:28 pm »

...and also appease NIMBYs.

...and, arguably, fossil energy companies - who like hydrogen because it gives them something to do with their fuel distribution networks.
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Lee
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« Reply #7 on: May 20, 2019, 04:09:16 pm »

Personally, I think that Railfuture has 3 major problems to overcome in this part of the world, let alone more generally. These are to become visibly relevant, credibly relevant, and demographically relevant:

1) The disastrous Draft December 2006 FGW Timetable spawned a whole host of local, grass roots anti-timetable cuts campaigns, a number of which transformed into respected user groups of today. These groups made crucial media contacts during that process, and have become the go-to people for comment, views and analysis when the press have a local rail story. How often do you see a Railfuture spokesperson quoted by comparison? I think they have been crowded out of the media spotlight in recent years, and have some serious ground to make up to become visibly relevant again.

2) If you are a member of the public who happens to be interested in rail groups in the area, and you search online to find out more, then you will tend to find a relatively coherent mix of websites and news stories regarding local rail user groups and community rail organisations that together explain who they are, and what their largely realistic, achievable or at least possible aims are. When it comes to Railfuture though, you will often get links to the newsletters, and these don't seem to be able to pass without some form of comment along the lines of "I propose ripping up the road to South Molton/Tiverton/Insert Name Here and putting the rails back" or similar.

Now, many of us would love nothing more than to live in a time and place where that kind of thing is readily possible, but I'm afraid it certainly isn't in the time and place most of us inhabit. As a result, such people tend to be regarded as crayonistas at best, and out and out fantasists at worst. Railfuture really does need to tackle the knock-on effect this creates in terms of how it is perceived by outsiders if they are to become credibly relevant again.

3) As grahame has alluded on more than one occasion, try as they might, Railfuture seem to unable to break the demographic headlock on membership in general and meeting attendance in particular that white males of retirement age appear to exert on the organisation. By comparison, user groups and community rail organisations already are far more diverse, and are becoming even more so with each day that passes. Railfuture has to find a way of developing in the same manner if it is to become demographically relevant again.

This is why I am extremely heartened that grahame has been elected. He is a sixtysomething white male, so he should be able to gain the trust of his peers, but he also has a track record of setting up a diverse and hugely successful campaign that both turned into an organisation that launched community rail across the TransWilts area, and also revitalised existing rail user groups and helped create new ones on his patch, doing so with a focus on achieving realistic, credible aims but with nonetheless impressive results. Not to mention playing a huge role in creating, developing and constantly evolving this very online forum that we've all come to enjoy so much.

Railfuture could have chosen no-one better in my opinion, and I just hope they have the vision to allow him to help guide them along the road to survival and future prosperity that they must now travel down.
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martyjon
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« Reply #8 on: May 20, 2019, 05:05:50 pm »

Just an idea but is it feasible.

Take a branch line like the St. Ives. Looe or Windsor lines.

Convert a displaced LU or 3rd rail unit to run on a battery pack.

At each terminus set up a charging point comprising of a short (say 2-3 metres) stretch of 3rd rail and a treadle.

As the train approaches the stop block the pick up shoe rides onto the stretch of third rail, the leading bogie depresses the treadle and switches on the power to charge/top-up the batteries.

On leaving the this time rear bogie releases the treadle and thus switches off the current.

No plugging in or out needed.
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Celestial
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« Reply #9 on: May 20, 2019, 05:12:01 pm »

Just an idea but is it feasible.

Take a branch line like the St. Ives. Looe or Windsor lines.

Convert a displaced LU or 3rd rail unit to run on a battery pack.

At each terminus set up a charging point comprising of a short (say 2-3 metres) stretch of 3rd rail and a treadle.

As the train approaches the stop block the pick up shoe rides onto the stretch of third rail, the leading bogie depresses the treadle and switches on the power to charge/top-up the batteries.

On leaving the this time rear bogie releases the treadle and thus switches off the current.

No plugging in or out needed.


I think it's an excellent idea, though I recall the response was that GWR wouldn't want yet another type of unit to maintain. 

Does anyone else think these would be ideal for some of the west country branches, eg Looe, St Ives, Falmouth in battery form.  Vivarail says it can do 60 miles between charges, and then fully recharge in 7 minutes. Even though turnarounds are tight, if they can accelerate faster that would give another couple of minutes for a top-up each end.

Environmentally friendly, quieter than diesel, and could release another few units to strengthen services elsewhere - what's not to like?   (I'm even tempted to say the Severn Beach line, as that could benefit from faster acceleration given the number of stops, but that might be a step too far.)
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grahame
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« Reply #10 on: May 20, 2019, 06:14:45 pm »

... and I just hope they have the vision to allow ...

Lee, so many thanks for that.   You are spot on in the issues you highlight, and I could add one or two more, a lot of detail, and some corollaries and implications.   

I considered - very - carefully whether or not to stand for the RailFuture board.   And I have stood (and in the end been elected) having formed a view that there is very much for the place for them, all be it updated from what you might consider the traditional place, and in the knowledge that their continuing core team understands, appreciates, shares and supports the need to address these issues.   My election statement ('manifesto') said as much, and I think clearly, and it was then very much up to the membership (characterised as you describe) to either read into it and support it, or reject the rebirth (if you call it that) which I advocated.

I am delighted to have received 277 votes - as something of an unknown outside our own area and without an organisation such as a political party to back me,  I feel that's a remarkable vote of support in what I said. The top four candidates were spread between 289 and 324 votes - they are already well established and excellent, knowledgable people as mention above who all share (I think) an appreciation of the issues and the goals to address them.  The sixth candidate was way back - 139 votes - also welcome known there; the gulf between his vote and mine indicates a predominant preference of my vision over his, and tells me that the rank and file voters, too, see the need move forward on these matters.

Had the voting been reversed ... had I been a poor sixth, I would have taken heed of the views of the membership and walked away from a current active role in an organisation who's controlling membership (control is with the members as this is a realistic annual vote) had a vision at odds with mine.

The vision is there; an initial and brief period of learning and then implementation.   Board meeting in under 2 weeks, branch meeting in Bristol on 10th June, National event on 22nd June.

answers on other posts to be separate as I think the thread may need splitting soon!

It is/was ... however ... notable that after the election, my intent is to learn, take things in, be significantly quieter that normal while I find my feet and learn somewhat. However, I round myself involved even that afternoon in three significant items.   Including being the one to shove "encouraging use of current rail" onto the "looking forward" agenda, speaking to "influencing franchise bids" for the workshop group I was in (with the answer starting "we didn't like the question") - that was five minutes to the room as a whole about getting the service you want in the future, and with their key press officer helping the representative of a local group to think about strategy.   

Such actions / interventions required huge confidence steps from me - remember all three were unprepared - to a room of apparently stuffy but actually very well informed, thoughtful, and quick thinking old me. And I suspect that it's that confidence that I have being one of those stuffy old me than allowed me to do it.   A clue to the issue / logjam that the people not of the same mix or background would find overpowering.   Such is also familiar here on the Coffee Shop ... "I don't post because everyone knows so much more than me" [paraphrased] from a near-lurker, and the whole moderator's team response that you 'need to' make your inputs, ask your questions.  And that's especially the case at RailFuture too; online here, you have no clue as to people's background age, ethnicity, in some cases gender - you treat them, as we all are as people - RailFuture at personal physical meetings has a stronger barrier, and a higher one, to everyone being able to participate.

 
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grahame
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« Reply #11 on: May 20, 2019, 06:38:15 pm »

OK - some comments on "electrification and alternatives" which some of the posts in this thread have majored on. See how it goes, but I may suggest they be split off into a thread in "looking forward", as that will make it much cleaner to follow.

"Electrification" and "Climate" were taken in the discussion at the meeting as somewhat different approaches to the same or a similar issue. "And alternatives" is there ... not particularly because that there are any major alternative players suggested, but because the objective is climate and environment clean propulsion, and electrification merely the / a way to deliver it.  As I was taught, you go for the benefit, not the feature - or you specify the desired outcome and let the experts work out how it's best reached.

Batteries for secondary lines ... ah yes.    Technical solutions in which the trains are driven by electric motors, with the power coming at times of driving from various sources, are no longer a surprise.  We already have classes 800 and 802 in the GWR area, and we're going to have class 769 too. Clean where they can be, fossil fuel to generate the electricity where they aren't yet.  We're staring to look toward trains with significant battery arrays too - a train under the wires from Liverpool Street to Norwich which completes its run to Cromer and Sheringham on batteries isn't fare fetched, and the new Birmingham trams (which ironically I first saw when I met with RailFuture directors to learn about the job of a board member) are running on overhead line equipment, powering not only the tram while running, but also charging the battery so the trams can run where there is no live catenary.

Taking this latter model, charging at route end may be possible on some services - battery range and time taken to charge putting certain constraints on timetabling just at the moment. Ironically, steam train schedules had routine gaps in them to allow locomotive servicing, diesel managed to make things more efficient by eliminating that, and just at the moment we're back to it as an issue for battery electric trains (and buses).

Charging at route end - little bits where the train is connected to electric - is one approach.  An alternative is to have the train connected to the electricity via overhead for most of the way, but have short sections where that's not possible either missing the electrification gubbins, or having neutral sections.    Listening on Saturday, Transport for Wales are electrifying the core valley lines, except for 55 neutral sections under bridges, etc, where batteries will be used.   100% live electrics along a route means you need to spend, spend for the most awkward 5%.  The Welsh solution electrifies 95%, leaving out the 5% that would send the cost further through the roof.

Better stop typing - this is a long way from the RailFuture Future!
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broadgage
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« Reply #12 on: May 20, 2019, 07:15:52 pm »

Just an idea but is it feasible.
Take a branch line like the St. Ives. Looe or Windsor lines.
Convert a displaced LU or 3rd rail unit to run on a battery pack.
At each terminus set up a charging point comprising of a short (say 2-3 metres) stretch of 3rd rail and a treadle.
As the train approaches the stop block the pick up shoe rides onto the stretch of third rail, the leading bogie depresses the treadle and switches on the power to charge/top-up the batteries.
On leaving the this time rear bogie releases the treadle and thus switches off the current.
No plugging in or out needed.

Excellent idea.
I would go for about 10 metres of conductor rail, say about half a coach length so as to give a bit more latitude regarding the exact stopping point.
I would place this conductor rail between the running rails in order to better protect it against being touched whilst live.

Voltage would probably be about 750 volts DC as on the Southern.
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A proper intercity train has a minimum of 8 coaches, gangwayed throughout, with first at one end, and a full sized buffet car between first and standard.
It has space for cycles, surfboards,luggage etc.
A 5 car DMU is not a proper inter-city train. The 5+5 and 9 car DMUs are almost as bad.
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