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Author Topic: Rail - future of wider use?  (Read 1089 times)
Trowres
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« on: July 09, 2021, 11:49:28 pm »

Having wandered off the subject of coal, the general gist of this thread seems to be that the railway, in its current form, is woefully inadequate to be more than a marginal substitute for road traffic and other transport modes that are making various parts of the world rather uncomfortable.

I get a similar message from others setting rail policy or running the railway.

Is it time to retire?
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grahame
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« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2021, 05:52:46 am »

Having wandered off the subject of coal

I have split this into a separate topic - it was at http://www.firstgreatwestern.info/coffeeshop/index.php?topic=23619.msg308569#msg308569 - far too big and important a subject to hide away.

Quote
Is it time to retire?

Hmmm .. I HAVE  retired and find myself far more active in these activities than I was before.  Perhaps now is the time - with many changes happening - to review where rail is best, where it no longer works out well.   We should bear in mind that passenger journeys pre-covid were at a record high, even though the network is only half of what it was 100 years ago - hardly a sign of failure.

Can we learn from history?  Where has rail been significantly used in the past?

Still core uses
Mass flow passenger movements
Heavy materials freight
Mass freight flows

Much restricted / much less use now
Travel to / from airports
Days out / excursions

Traffic largely or totally lost
Really long distance passenger travel
Local freight and goods
Reaching all the communities - local passenger stations
Travel to international (ferry) terminals
Troop movements and wartime activities
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broadgage
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« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2021, 01:25:58 pm »

I would certainly HOPE for much more use of rail for both passengers and goods.

If significant numbers of car drivers are to be tempted out of cars and onto trains, then "the railway" needs to improve.
More capacity in particular. In recent years I have heard too many people vow "never again" after paying hundreds of pounds to stand for hours on a new shorter train.

As regards freight, I can see a future for express parcels by train with final delivery by a hopefully electric van. Possibly with sorting on the train. For example, say 500 packages for the "West of England" are put on the train at Paddington. En-route these packages are sorted into those to be off loaded at Taunton, Exeter, Plymouth or wherever for van delivery.

In the longer term I expect considerable use of drones to take packages the last few miles, with the long distance segment by rail. I feel that society is not ready for this just yet though.

Defective drone kills child by dropping package onto them from a height= "Child killed by drone. Ban killer drones".

Child run over and killed by a van= "Oh dear, what a sad accident"
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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 (Diesel Multiple Unit) is not a proper inter-city train. The 5+5 and 9 car DMUs are almost as bad.
Rhydgaled
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« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2021, 02:05:57 pm »

I would certainly HOPE for much more use of rail for both passengers and goods.

If significant numbers of car drivers are to be tempted out of cars and onto trains, then "the railway" needs to improve.
More capacity in particular. In recent years I have heard too many people vow "never again" after paying hundreds of pounds to stand for hours on a new shorter train.
I agree, but there's capacity and then there's capacity. Longer trains would help and, if the nation/world can put COVID behind us and start encouraging rail use again, I certainly feel Hitachi should be asked to build additional class 800/801 intermediate coaches (but no more driving vehicles with cabs) as part of completing the GWML (Great Western Main Line) electrification to Oxford and Bristol. However, seeing where we were pre-COVID (passenger journeys at a record high, as mentioned above), in many areas there is not much scope to run more trains. Does the existing railway network have anywhere near enough capacity to make a significant dent in the amount of traffic seen on our motorways? That, I guess, is why we have HS2 (The next High Speed line(s)), but in capacity terms is even that enough? And in terms of the greenhouse gas impact (lots and lots of highly-polluting concrete, plus a bit of land use impact), HS2 is too much new construction - at least on the timescales we need to hit net-zero by 2050.

As regards freight, I can see a future for express parcels by train with final delivery by a hopefully electric van. Possibly with sorting on the train. For example, say 500 packages for the "West of England" are put on the train at Paddington. En-route these packages are sorted into those to be off loaded at Taunton, Exeter, Plymouth or wherever for van delivery.
It's a nice idea, but who's going to pay for the staff to unload the packages from the vans onto the trains and vice-versa? Isn't that why all the little branch lines (many of which lost their passenger services first) were closed in favour of just driving the van all the  way from A-to-B? Why not have a wagon that the van driver can just drive the van onto instead? It wouldn't be as efficient in terms of capacity or energy (you would have to accomodate the weight and volume of the van after all, not just that of the goods) but if it was that easy to tranship freight between modes wouldn't there be more traditional freight trains going through the channel tunnel instead of the Le Shuttle trains transporting HGVs?
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ellendune
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« Reply #4 on: July 10, 2021, 05:24:38 pm »

As regards freight, I can see a future for express parcels by train with final delivery by a hopefully electric van. Possibly with sorting on the train. For example, say 500 packages for the "West of England" are put on the train at Paddington. En-route these packages are sorted into those to be off loaded at Taunton, Exeter, Plymouth or wherever for van delivery.
It's a nice idea, but who's going to pay for the staff to unload the packages from the vans onto the trains and vice-versa? Isn't that why all the little branch lines (many of which lost their passenger services first) were closed in favour of just driving the van all the  way from A-to-B? Why not have a wagon that the van driver can just drive the van onto instead? It wouldn't be as efficient in terms of capacity or energy (you would have to accomodate the weight and volume of the van after all, not just that of the goods) but if it was that easy to tranship freight between modes wouldn't there be more traditional freight trains going through the channel tunnel instead of the Le Shuttle trains transporting HGVs?

I think we need to be more realistic here.  We are not going back to the 1950's here.  But the parcel operators all use hubs and it is the trunk movement of parcel traffic between these hubs that seems to be the most likely rail traffic.  Much of it is shifted at night (not the most popular HGV work?) and in reasonably large loads. 
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broadgage
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« Reply #5 on: July 11, 2021, 03:13:05 pm »

Regarding my suggestion for parcel deliveries, I believe that one extra person on the train paid by the parcel firm could do this.

Parcells loaded at Paddington, in bulk for assorted West country destinations. The on board sorter than picks out those for Taunton, placing these all in one trolley. With a ramp this trolley is offloaded at Taunton and left on the platform. The drivers of the delivery vans than collect the packages and place them in their vehicles for final delivery, after sorting them into say 4 groups for different vans for destinations West, South, North, or East from Taunton.

Repeat for other destinations.

Courier firms already apply barcoded labels to routing and tracking purposes, this could incorporate the information needed for quick sorting. EG LPAD--TAU» (Taunton - next trains)--4

LPAD-- means put on train at Paddington.
TAU-- means off load at Taunton.
4--means put on van 4 at Taunton.

By say Plymouth, relatively few packages would remain, and these could be pre-sorted by the courier firms employee who alights at Plymouth. If possible select for this work an employee who lives in Plymouth.
The train manager could put the remaining parcels out at the correct stations.
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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 (Diesel Multiple Unit) is not a proper inter-city train. The 5+5 and 9 car DMUs are almost as bad.
4064ReadingAbbey
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« Reply #6 on: July 11, 2021, 03:18:50 pm »

I would certainly HOPE for much more use of rail for both passengers and goods.

If significant numbers of car drivers are to be tempted out of cars and onto trains, then "the railway" needs to improve.
More capacity in particular. In recent years I have heard too many people vow "never again" after paying hundreds of pounds to stand for hours on a new shorter train.

As regards freight, I can see a future for express parcels by train with final delivery by a hopefully electric van. Possibly with sorting on the train. For example, say 500 packages for the "West of England" are put on the train at Paddington. En-route these packages are sorted into those to be off loaded at Taunton, Exeter, Plymouth or wherever for van delivery.

In the longer term I expect considerable use of drones to take packages the last few miles, with the long distance segment by rail. I feel that society is not ready for this just yet though.

Defective drone kills child by dropping package onto them from a height= "Child killed by drone. Ban killer drones".

Child run over and killed by a van= "Oh dear, what a sad accident"
The trouble is that distribution, whether for Morrison, Tesco or Amazon doesn't work like that.

The big 'warehouses' are not really warehouses, but sorting centres ('fulfilment centres') for goods which come in by the lorryload from many points of the compass, in the case of the supermarkets the items are picked and placed in 40 tonne trucks for delivery to one supermarket and in the case of Amazon the items are then picked and placed in vans for local delivery. Each of these vans will make probably about two delivery runs per day. The whole operation is very efficient in terms of speed of stock turnover, capital invested, reliability and flexibility and will be even less polluting at the point of use when the delivery vans are replaced by electric vehicles.

As for sorting items on a train - the Travelling Post Offices went years ago and the idea will not return. Modern sorting/picking centres are computer controlled, almost fully automatic and are very fast - just the boxing up is manual. The selection of the final local distribution run is done at this point and the items are scanned to monitor their progress through the system. Manual sorting no longer exists.

There are NO concentrated flows from one point to another in this business model for which rail is suitable, with the notable exception of a few well publicised long distance flows for supermarkets.

As for the 'straw man' argument one has to ask oneself 'Where do the '500 packages' being loaded at Paddington for the West Country come from?' There is little or no manufacturing or container 'break bulk' facilities anywhere near Paddington which could supply such packages — and certainly no company will put goods on a lorry or van and deliver them to Paddington through a Low Emission Zone when in the time taken to reach Paddington the truck could be west of Swindon.

Drones are an irrelevance – look at the requirements on, for example, this government website: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/drones-are-you-flying-yours-safely-and-legally
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broadgage
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« Reply #7 on: July 11, 2021, 05:38:57 pm »

So is the general view that nothing much can be done to get more freight onto rail and off the roads ?
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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 (Diesel Multiple Unit) is not a proper inter-city train. The 5+5 and 9 car DMUs are almost as bad.
eightonedee
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« Reply #8 on: July 11, 2021, 06:21:56 pm »

Quote
So is the general view that nothing much can be done to get more freight onto rail and off the roads ?

Not without fundamental changes in the freight distribution system (which is shaped by geography and economics, beyond most to influence, much as governments like to think they influence the latter!) and vast investment in infrastructure.

But there might be the odd niche some bright entrepreneur could exploit.
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grahame
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« Reply #9 on: July 11, 2021, 07:29:08 pm »

Quote
So is the general view that nothing much can be done to get more freight onto rail and off the roads ?

Not without fundamental changes in the freight distribution system (which is shaped by geography and economics, beyond most to influence, much as governments like to think they influence the latter!) and vast investment in infrastructure.

But there might be the odd niche some bright entrepreneur could exploit.

If there were still 6,900 stations with facilities to deal with freight (see http://www.metadyne.co.uk/D_ml_stations.html ) then we would have a network for parcels by rail, final delivery by cargo cycle.   But that 6900 number is from 85 years ago. 
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REVUpminster
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« Reply #10 on: July 11, 2021, 07:38:19 pm »

The station parcel offices have been replaced by the local supermarket where you can now collect parcels.
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Rhydgaled
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« Reply #11 on: July 12, 2021, 10:11:07 am »

So is the general view that nothing much can be done to get more freight onto rail and off the roads ?
Not in the way it was done traditionally with travelling post offices etc. But with van traffic supposedly on the rise could there be some prospects for introducing the 'rolling motorway' concept - but for vans instead of HGVs (ideally you would do both, but whenever I've looked I've not been able to find both HGV dimensions and UK (United Kingdom) loading guage dimensions to see if the two could be made compatible)?
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« Reply #12 on: July 12, 2021, 11:16:28 am »

The station parcel offices have been replaced by the local supermarket where you can now collect parcels.

Many stations now have lockers from which you can collect your parcel as well, though they were ideally suited to commuters so perhaps their adoption will slow down now?
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« Reply #13 on: July 19, 2021, 12:15:50 pm »

The station parcel offices have been replaced by the local supermarket where you can now collect parcels.

Many stations now have lockers from which you can collect your parcel as well, though they were ideally suited to commuters so perhaps their adoption will slow down now?

Certainly useful, but the parcels are delivered by road to these lockers, which is rather missing the point of wider use of rail.
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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 (Diesel Multiple Unit) is not a proper inter-city train. The 5+5 and 9 car DMUs are almost as bad.
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