Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Expensive new trains on the Midland main line will be slower than the current diesels

You may recall that it was announced last month that plans to electrify the line from St Pancras to Sheffield have been scrapped.

The line is currently electrified to Bedford. That will be extended to Kettering and Corby, but no further.

Services to Leicester, Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield will be provided by new bi-mode trains that will take power from the overhead lines as far as Kettering and use diesel engines north of there.

Then the other day there was this story from Chris Doidge, BBC Radio Derby's political reporter:
BBC Radio Derby's learned that the government's decision to scrap the electrification of trains between Derby and London will mean slower journeys. 
Three weeks ago, the government said its new bi-mode trains - that run on electric and diesel - would mean "quicker journey times", but now it's admitted that's not quite the whole story. 
Journey times will reduce - because lines are being straightened and junctions improved. 
The trains will actually be slower than the electric ones the government has scrapped.
Today I met an old friend who knows far more about railways than I do. He explained why this may be the case.

The overhead electrification from St Pancras to Bedford was erected to serve commuter trains not faster long-distance services.

As a result, the maximum speed for trains using it is 100mph. So, unless a lot of money is spent to upgrade this electrification, that will be the maximum speed of the bi-mode trains using electric power on this section of the line,

Yet the diesels currently providing the service can travel at up to 125mph.

I suppose the bi-mode trains could use diesel power throughout, but then there is not much point paying extra for them.

Mind you, as Chris Doidge went on to say:
The group which represents rail operators says the bi-mode trains are heavier, less powerful and more expensive to buy, more expensive to maintain and more expensive to operate than their electric cousins.
And that is not the bottom of this mess.

As I said in my post when electrification to Sheffield was cancelled, a great deal of work has already been carried out along the line to raise bridges to make room for overhead wires.

The Leicester Mercury has also reported this and quoted my old friend Simon Galton, leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Leicestershire County Council:
"We have already had the road closure and the disruption and for what – for the Government to scrap the scheme almost everyone else says is vital to the region. 
"The money that has already wasted adds insult to injury. 
"It would not surprise me if £50 million at least had been spent."
This whole affair has highlighted how hopelessly inefficient and centralised our current way of running the railways is. The Department for Transport is intimately involved in every decision.

In fact, the railways had far more autonomy when they were nationalised under British Rail.

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