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Topic Title: InterCity Express Programme - and a new train builder for the UK?
Topic Summary: Engineering discussion for Britain's most high profile trains for 30 years
Created On: 13 February 2009 10:26 AM
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 13 February 2009 10:26 AM
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z315870

Posts: 65
Joined: 30 May 2003

According to several news websites, the Agility Trains consortium, made up of John Laing, Hitachi and Barclays, has been announced as the Department for Transport's preferred bidder for the InterCity Express Programme. This project is intended to deliver state-of-the art replacements for the ageing HST fleet, and infrastructure enhancements to complement the new vehicles.

This is an exciting time for anyone who is interested in the engineering and manufacture of rolling stock. Many IET members are likely to be involved in the design process, so I thought it would be good to start a general discussion thread on the subject.

I would like to start by posing this question:

How do Professional Engineers ensure that this procurement exercise, worth £7,500 million pounds, is delivered on time, on budget and that it works "out of the box"?

Too many government procurement projects, and too many rail engineering projects, have foundered because not enough effort was put into the early stages of the design process. If you need proof of this, try assessing the technology around you next time you travel by train. Do you think every little piece is working as it should be, and interfacing properly with its neighbours?

Getting the specification right, especially the functionality and any constraints, is the most important part of the design process. Making changes late in the project because you didn't tie the spec down earlier is a very costly way of solving problems. The difficulty is that often the different stakeholders have conflicting requirements which don't get resolved.

It would be great to hear from members who have been involved in the specification and bidding of this project. I think it would also be productive if members outside IEP could contribute their views, experiences and solutions of project issues from all sectors of industry.

I look forward to any replies (and I'll refrain from saying what I think is the answer, for the moment - anyone who knows me will already know anyway).

-------------------------
Dr Joe Silmon PhD MEng CEng MIET
Committee Member, Railway TPN
 13 February 2009 02:15 PM
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sedgwicknc

Posts: 107
Joined: 20 October 2001

I'm a railway passenger type, rather than a railway engineering type or enthusiast. Thus the replacement of the Intercity 125 trains was (TV and truly) news to me at 10pm last night.

What was even more news is that the replacement trains are to have the same top speed of 125mph; this after 30+ years since coming into service and presumably more than 30+ years of technological advancement. This is to say nothing of society's ever greater demand for speedy transport and ever-increasing competition for long-distance railways from airlines.

This IET forum thread pricked my interest further, and so I lookup up on Wikipedia and found this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N...st_Coast#Current_fleet

Amazingly, we have an Intercity 225. The first amazement is the switch from mph to kph: it's actual an Intercity 140; not such a marked improvement on the 125 as one might, at first, think.

But never mind. We are now replacing a 125mph train with a 125mph train, when we have a 140mph train (electric-, not diesel-powered). And the new train supports both electric and diesel power, presumably at greater expense as well as greater functionality. [Note aside: yesterday's TV news coverage, emphasising the reduced journey times from improved acceleration (but same top speed), also struck me as in the same 'interesting' category of marketing speak as the 225/140.]

Eventually, I expect, the Intercity 225/140 will need replacement, and could be replaced, on power-source terms, by the new 125mph trains. However, this would be at the 'cost' of increased journey times.

So, I question whether this a sensible decision for the top-speed specification for the new trains (at £7.5bn), or are there aspects that I (railway passenger, not engineer) do not yet know, or do not fully understand?

Best regards

-------------------------
sedgwicknc
 13 February 2009 08:51 PM
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z315870

Posts: 65
Joined: 30 May 2003

You have raised some interesting points - and I do know the answers for some of your questions.

What was even more news is that the replacement trains are to have the same top speed of 125mph; this after 30+ years since coming into service and presumably more than 30+ years of technological advancement.


I think that this has probably got more to do with the kind of infrastructure these vehicles are being designed for. The phrase "inter-city" is now used internationally as a term for train services with a rough speed range of 100-150 mph. Beyond these speeds you really can't do without a dedicated "high speed" railway, where speeds can be 200 mph or more. All the routes on which the HSTs and 91/Mark IV sets (225 to the layman) work are mixed-traffic routes. It's very difficulty to get your express services any faster when they have to compete for space with freight and inter-regional/suburban passenger services.

The government is also looking at the possibility of building proper "high-speed" railways which would mean that the IEP will be very much a second-string service, as opposed to the flagship that the HSTs were in the late 70s.

Eventually, I expect, the Intercity 225/140 will need replacement, and could be replaced, on power-source terms, by the new 125mph trains.


I believe the later phases of the IEP build will be intended to replace the 91/Mark IV sets. There are several flavours of IEP train - not all will be bi-modal - some will be pure diesel and some pure electric.

We are now replacing a 125mph train with a 125mph train, when we have a 140mph train (electric-, not diesel-powered).


This is not the only instance, either! The class 395 "Javelin" sets, 91/Mark IV sets and the Alstom Pendolinos are all capable of a 140 mph maximum. Only the "Javelins" run at their design speed and that is only on the High Speed 1 line between St. Pancras and Kent - a dedicated high speed railway.

The reason these 140 mph trains are not running to their design speed is that UK regulations require in-cab signalling before trains can be permitted to run at speeds greater than 125 mph. Cab signalling is a good idea, but it's VERY expensive to implement.

I think that the tag "225" rather than "140" was chosen for marketing reasons.

Although 125 mph isn't truly High Speed in the modern sense of the word, it is important to remember that the HSTs run on mixed traffic railways, all of which are well over 100 years old, and that they still hold the world record for the fastest diesel train (according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L...rd_for_railed_vehiclesText, although two manufacturers have since claimed higher speeds). The TGV and most other "high-speed" trains run on purpose-built routes and are therefore easier to run at high speed.

-------------------------
Dr Joe Silmon PhD MEng CEng MIET
Committee Member, Railway TPN
 18 February 2009 10:28 AM
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amillar

Posts: 1918
Joined: 28 May 2002

Originally posted by: z315870
This is an exciting time for anyone who is interested in the engineering and manufacture of rolling stock.

Not for those of us who work for a certain company that very publicly failed to win the contract - I am glad I am not in the rolling stock division. (Although I suppose it does depend on how you define the word 'exciting'!)

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert

Edited: 18 February 2009 at 11:47 AM by amillar
 18 February 2009 10:53 AM
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z315870

Posts: 65
Joined: 30 May 2003

Well, there is an ancient curse "may you live in interesting times".

I used to work for Bombardier's rolling stock division, but I won't make any comment about that online. I can understand that you must be disappointed you didn't win the bid, though. Won't it affect Services division as well as Mainline? I imagined that part of the bid would have been the maintenance contract?

I think, though, that all engineers must feel a little bit of excitement at the thought that the form and function of the next HST is being decided now - and I am very keen to find out more about how it's going to turn out, and what design principles the engineers are using to ensure that everything works out of the box. Commuter trains and metros are one thing, but these will be the flagship long-distance trains for the next few decades, and they have big boots to step into. Isn't that even a little exciting?

-------------------------
Dr Joe Silmon PhD MEng CEng MIET
Committee Member, Railway TPN

Edited: 18 February 2009 at 11:19 AM by z315870
 18 February 2009 12:26 PM
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amillar

Posts: 1918
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Originally posted by: z315870
Won't it affect Services division as well as Mainline?

I honestly don't know (and it probably wouldn't be a career enhancing move to comment if I did!). I work in signalling, so am completely out of this other than calming my mother down over the phone and convincing her that I wasn't about to be made redundant! My point, of course, was that since any excitement is mainly UK based (overseas markets having already been through this process), we should counterbalance this with an awareness that there has also been an impact on UK industry (rightly or wrongly). Or, more to the point, I think if I was to suggest in Derby right now that this was exciting news I would probably wake up in hospital!

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 18 February 2009 01:12 PM
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z315870

Posts: 65
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I understand that there is still a great big skills shortage in engineering at all levels, so anyone who is made redundant because of Bombardier's losing out on the IEP bid should be able to get a new job fairly quickly.

I think that every employee needs to equip themself with a set of skills they can easily sell to another employer, should their current one prove unsatisfactory or need to make redundancies. We can't divorce ourselves as engineers and technicians from the fact that our companies are businesses and are dependent on markets to make money.

I also have read that Agility Trains is going to build a new assembly plant somewhere in the UK, and put together an engineering team here too. If that is true then, if anything, there will be a net creation of jobs in rolling stock. IEP or no IEP, there is still a lot of business for Bombardier and its competitors to look for over the coming ten years or so. A lot of rolling stock doesn't completely meet modern disabled access requirements and will need to be replaced. When that happens there will be big orders which need to be met.

-------------------------
Dr Joe Silmon PhD MEng CEng MIET
Committee Member, Railway TPN
 18 February 2009 06:37 PM
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amillar

Posts: 1918
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Originally posted by: z315870
I understand that there is still a great big skills shortage in engineering at all levels, so anyone who is made redundant because of Bombardier's losing out on the IEP bid should be able to get a new job fairly quickly.

See other threads on this forum. My phone is ringing constantly with recruiters trying to place staff, the market for engineers is incredibly small in the UK just at the moment. (The well publicised shortages are mostly at technician levels, not engineer levels. And many of those are predicted rather than existing right now.) If you personally know of plenty of jobs available I think you will find that many here would like to hear from you!!!!

I think that every employee needs to equip themself with a set of skills they can easily sell to another employer, should their current one prove unsatisfactory or need to make redundancies. We can't divorce ourselves as engineers and technicians from the fact that our companies are businesses and are dependent on markets to make money.

Absolutely. Hence I would not say that this decision is right or wrong, merely that it has implications.


I also have read that Agility Trains is going to build a new assembly plant somewhere in the UK, and put together an engineering team here too. If that is true then, if anything, there will be a net creation of jobs in rolling stock.

Being hotly debated at the moment. The trains will be assembled in the UK from kits of parts built (and engineered)in Japan. It is generally assumed throughout the rail industry that there will therefore be a net loss of UK jobs as compared to a UK engineered and built train. (I can't personally comment as to how much of a Bombardier train would have actually been UK engineered / manufactured as I don't know.)

IEP or no IEP, there is still a lot of business for Bombardier and its competitors to look for over the coming ten years or so. A lot of rolling stock doesn't completely meet modern disabled access requirements and will need to be replaced. When that happens there will be big orders which need to be met.

Yes, and this is ongoing. It's just considered by some to be unfortunate that a flagship project went to overseas supply, unfortunately the press release was badly handled in trumpeting 'British led'.

Don't get me wrong, in my part of the business we supply 50% to the UK market and 50% overseas, I am in no way in favour of protectionism. Also I didn't want to hijack your thread. But like it or not this decision does have major implications for the UK rail equipment engineering industry. To come back to your original post "many IET members are likely to be involved in the design process" I guess this is the one that started me off, because my response is "not as many as there might have been"!

Sorry, but the rail industry is not just about technology and exciting whizzy stuff, almost everything that happens in it also has huge social implications.

Anyway, I'll stop butting in now and leave you to it.

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 18 February 2009 08:01 PM
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ess1uk

Posts: 128
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even if these new trains come as a kit of parts from Japan, they will still need kit made in UK
AWS, TPWS, etc.

IC225 was conceieved after the aborted APT project, and used much of the technology, even meant to tilt at one stage, just look at the profile of the coaches, but this was never enabled

the out going Chairman of Network Rail Sir Ian McAllister said he would prefer to swap the Pendolinos and IC225 sets from WCML to ECML and vice versa as it would mean they would both work better, how true that is i could not comment on.
 18 February 2009 10:49 PM
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z315870

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I agree with Andy Millar that railway projects have huge social implications. I think we can relate that to this project not only in terms of the employment created where the trains are built/serviced, but also in terms of the social and economic benefits gained by having a train this country can finally be proud of (when were we last able to say that?).

And we will only be proud of them when the trains work "out of the box" and provide consistent high quality, reliable service for at least 30 years - hence my starting this thread.

I'm not going to comment in detail on the sources of Bombardier's vehicle equipment, because having left the company nearly four years ago, it's bound to be out of date if I say where they buy all their stuff from. However if their sources are similar to when I worked there, it is fair to say that the bulk of the high value components are manufactured overseas and sent here for assembly. Several major subsystems were manufactured in other countries by specialist Bombardier subsidiaries.

I think it will be a sad thing if there is little or no UK engineering function for IEP's construction. Unless they do a very thorough job of requirements capture, the core engineering team needs UK people who have an intrinsic understanding of the special requirements of the UK network. We all know we have rather a quirky and unusual railway and I believe that British engineers are the best placed to address that in a new build - but only if they apply their superior domain knowledge to a proper design process. The performance of some of the new trains we have seen over the past few years, from all manufacturers, leads me to believe that entrenched railway engineers have not been applying systems engineering processes effectively - if they had been, then all our trains would perform wonderfully. If trains had the same reliability rates as aircraft, which have been systems-engineered for about 30 years, we would be well on the way to a world-class service.

I take your point, ess1uk, about the UK-specific signalling equipment and so forth, although I think we need to put that in perspective and remember that these components are a small proportion of the value of the project. Andy is right to point out that it will be a significant loss if the majority of the engineering is done in Japan - that is probably where most of the money will go, and if that is not done in the UK then we will lose out big-time. I guess we just have to keep a lookout to see what happens.

I'm not sure if swapping the Pendolinos and the Mark IV sets would be a great idea - the mark IV sets would be restricted to 110 mph at most unless you spend millions retrofitting the tilt equipment which was left out of the build, not to mention the onerous TASS system, which appears to me (bearing in mind I am not a signalling engineer, please correct me if I'm wrong) to be a symptom of the "health and safety Taliban" as the APT never had a similar system - just a balise-based speed signalling system which was like a semi-ATP for tilt.

Unless the Mallard refurbishment project has provided the mark IVs with significantly more comfortable seats in Standard class, the East Coast can keep them and welcome!

I think we should have cab signalling along both these lines though, so that at least the trains can go at their design speed!

-------------------------
Dr Joe Silmon PhD MEng CEng MIET
Committee Member, Railway TPN
 18 February 2009 10:50 PM
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z315870

Posts: 65
Joined: 30 May 2003

By the way I didn't acknowledge my ignorance of the scarcity of engineering jobs - last time I picked up an issue of IET Careers was a few months back, but it has been consistently bemoaning a skills shortage for as long as I can remember!

-------------------------
Dr Joe Silmon PhD MEng CEng MIET
Committee Member, Railway TPN
 19 February 2009 07:38 PM
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mwl001

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The TASS system is intended to provide protection against overturning (the margin between the permitted speed and the speed at which a train will overturn is smaller when running at 'Enhanced Permissible Speeds'). There are also a number of locations where a train would be foul of a structure if it tilted and the system ensures that the train is upright and locked on approach to such structures, initiating a brake application if it isn't.

I don't know how similar risks were addressed with the APT but I do know it also had track mounted balises (although possibly not called balises) that provided some speed control. There are still some APT Balises on the West Coast.

-------------------------
mwl001
 21 February 2009 03:15 PM
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posorio

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The UK railway needs to be electrified, the BR 125 and 165s can still hold for a while.
This will ensure jobs.
They BR trains were properly engineered and are being properly maintained.
On the other hand the Class 332 Heathrow Express service had to be interrupted during the recent snow episode.
The Siemens trains cannot cope with the snow...
We can buy foreign equipment, but we must be sure there is the technology transfer.
For that the engineers need to get out of their offices and get their hands dirty again.


-------------------------
Pedro Osorio
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 22 February 2009 05:52 PM
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z315870

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In response to Mr Osorio's post:

I think you have some good points there, but I must protest at a couple of inaccuracies in your post.

The UK railway needs to be electrified, the BR 125 and 165s can still hold for a while.


I agree that electrification is needed, but I think we need to acknowledge that the BR designs are not up to modern standards. The HSTs weren't designed for modern access requirements, and even the 225 sets were built before the latest raft of access requirements were thought up. I'm not sure where the 165s fit into this - they are a class of train which is not going to be replaced by IEP.

They BR trains were properly engineered


That depends on what you define as engineering. Traditionally, trains in this country have been designed incrementally, that is to say they have been constructed as modifications or evolutions of existing designs. This has the advantage that the new vehicles are based on some proven technology, but the MAJOR drawback that any in-built failures or shortcomings in the old design are sometimes brought through to the new one. I believe it's much better to use a systems engineering approach where you define the design based on the requirements, not on the last build of vehicles you sold. The wheel does not have to be re-invented, but it's important to consider the requirements, not just sell a train which is convenient to build if it's not right. The Desiros are a case in point - the inter-regional class 350/1 trains, which serve both Liverpool and Birmingham airports, have no luggage racks at all and no standbacks in the vestibules.

On the other hand the Class 332 Heathrow Express service had to be interrupted during the recent snow episode. The Siemens trains cannot cope with the snow...


I think you will find that several brands of train were unable to cope with the snow. We don't have snow very much in this country, so it's almost acceptable that the network shuts down unless we want to spend millions on snow-blasting equipment.

We can buy foreign equipment, but we must be sure there is the technology transfer. For that the engineers need to get out of their offices and get their hands dirty again


Technology transfer from proprietary companies is pie in the sky - you will never get this, because the companies need to keep their trade secrets in order to remain competitive. It's sad we don't have a full vehicle engineering base in this country (supplying all the subsystems as well as the integration) - the only solution is for some bright individuals to start their own company in the UK supplying all the equipment and assembly from scratch. I think you'd need to work miracles to make it competitive, but if anyone is starting such a company in the UK then I would like to hear from you!

-------------------------
Dr Joe Silmon PhD MEng CEng MIET
Committee Member, Railway TPN
 22 February 2009 07:23 PM
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ess1uk

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It's sad we don't have a full vehicle engineering base in this country (supplying all the subsystems as well as the integration) - the only solution is for some bright individuals to start their own company in the UK supplying all the equipment and assembly from scratch. I think you'd need to work miracles to make it competitive, but if anyone is starting such a company in the UK then I would like to hear from you!


Don't know where you would find the money to start up a company to do this at the moment, but bet there would be no shortage of skilled work force at the moment
 23 February 2009 09:03 AM
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deleted_1_ruthsmart

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It's not just the train builders involved. As a supplier to rolling stock manufacturers and sub system providers this decision affects my business directly and we spent last week telephoning around to try and found out what Hitachi's plans were for the on board electrical systems, but without success :-(
Does anyone have any contacts at Hitachi that they could pass on to me ????
Thanks
 23 February 2009 01:50 PM
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sprucer

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Joined: 22 April 2002

Ruth,
I imagine that everything will be designed abroad, and almost everything will be built abroad.

Sure, some of the parts will be put into the train at a depot in the UK, but I doubt any actual engineering will be done here.

But then I worked on the bid for Bombardier so I'm still narked by the whole thing!

 23 February 2009 05:55 PM
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sprucer

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Joe,
The TASS system IS "a balise-based speed signalling system which was like a semi-ATP for tilt. "

And it works well.

Cheers,
Rob


 24 February 2009 08:28 PM
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ess1uk

Posts: 128
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is there any mention of tilt on the IEP/Super Express???
it seems to be doing everything else
 26 February 2009 01:48 PM
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sprucer

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No, there is no mention of tilt.

The train is meant for The East Coast Main Line and the Great Western primarily - they are pretty straight I think so tilt is not required. The Midland Mainline needs loads of work just to increase the speed above 110mph anyway.

The pendilinos should be in service on the WCML until 2030 or so anyway.
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