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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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 26 February 2009 09:30 PM
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captainirf

Posts: 7
Joined: 17 October 2007

Can anybody tell me what the bi-mode version is for?

And why do the prime movers both electric and diesel not have their own traction motors?

Edited: 27 February 2009 at 08:22 AM by captainirf
 01 March 2009 11:29 PM
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z315870

Posts: 65
Joined: 30 May 2003

Thanks to those contributors who have set me right on TASS - one further question on that is why is it necessary when the trains are theoretically capable of working in free tilt mode (I understand they were tested in France in this mode)? How clever/stupid is free tilt - what are its limitations?

Getting back to the thread - it seems that there is going to be a running debate about how much British engineering and technical effort will be going into IEP now that Agility is likely to be building the trains - and this is not going to be resolved until Agility announce their plans in more detail. If the preservation of UK jobs was an issue for the DfT when it decided on the preferred bidder, then the DfT must know something we don't, and we'll just have to wait and see.

We still haven't heard from anyone who is in the know as to how this very complex range of vehicles is going to be designed and built without the usual miserable catalogue of disasters that new trains seem to rack up in the first few years of service in this country. I mention no names because all recent builds have been culpable in some way or another, not to mention other systems on the railways (customer information springs to mind immediately!).

Having said that, I was let down by a CIS in Berlin a couple of days ago, so at least the UK is not the only culprit.

The gist of this thread is meant to be "what is being done to ensure that IEP is not an engineering disaster?". I don't know how successful the Javelin units have been so far, and really we don't know an awful lot about Hitachi trains in this country, so I for one don't know what to expect. Does anyone know how Hitachi's design process works? What approach do they take?

-------------------------
Dr Joe Silmon PhD MEng CEng MIET
Committee Member, Railway TPN
 01 March 2009 11:41 PM
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z315870

Posts: 65
Joined: 30 May 2003

Can anybody tell me what the bi-mode version is for?

The purpose of the bi-mode train is, as I understand it, to provide through services along routes which are not fully electrified. One example of this might be King's Cross to Aberdeen - there is OLE as far as Edinburgh, but not beyond. Currently these services are operated by HSTs, so for 400 miles of the route, we have a diesel train running under wires. The bi-mode IEP is supposed to address this travesty.

One wonders whether it might not be more sensible to simply have a rake of coaches propelled by an electric loco, which detaches at Edinburgh (following the earlier example) and is hauled by a diesel loco for the rest of the journey. If we modernised coupling/uncoupling operations to make them quicker then there wouldn't be an undue wait.

My understanding is that a desire for distributed traction has meant that locos are out. However, if there is going to be a DC traction bus the entire length of the train, I don't see why you couldn't have an EMU which can have attached to it a pantograph-transformer-converter vehicle (for electrified lines) or a diesel "generator" vehicle for non-electrified lines. You could then distribute power without having to haul around 40-50 tonnes of unused power equipment wherever you go. It would also mean, with some clever planning, that you could make more use of the traction units and get them to pay for themselves quicker.

why do the prime movers both electric and diesel not have their own traction motors?


I imagine it's because these vehicles are already quite heavy, containing a transformer or a diesel engine plus the heavy frames needed to provide modern levels of crashworthiness (the end vehicle is always a bit beefier nowadays). The spec for IEP includes some very strict limits on axleload, because it's meant to be a challenge to the manufacturers to advance the limits of what can be done.

-------------------------
Dr Joe Silmon PhD MEng CEng MIET
Committee Member, Railway TPN
 03 March 2009 06:35 PM
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amillar

Posts: 1918
Joined: 28 May 2002

Originally posted by: z315870
We still haven't heard from anyone who is in the know as to how this very complex range of vehicles is going to be designed and built without the usual miserable catalogue of disasters that new trains seem to rack up in the first few years of service in this country.

Hmmm..."anyone who is in the know" will presumably have been connected with these designs that you are suggesting are a "miserable catalogue of disasters". You may therefore find a certain reluctance to respond to your posting. Perhaps a rephrasing would be in order?

I am also not clear why anyone involved with managing a large commercial project would want to discuss their management style in an open public forum? You can certainly canvas for public opinion, but informed opinion is likely to be considered (by those who could give it) commercially confidential. Personally if I felt I could improve the project management of this project I would be offering my services to Agility at £X00 per hour, not posting my thoughts here! Sadly I don't...

Rightly or wrongly, public debate on engineering projects tends to be unproductive (unless, for example, there have been multiple fatalities); those who understand the problems have no reason to discuss them in public (and generally plenty of reasons, primarily commercial, not to), ergo those who are free to talk about the problems tend not to have all the facts available. You are of course right in that there is a public interest angle to this particular project, but my personal view is that the issue of how the public's interest is protected is more of a socio-political rather than an engineering management problem. In other words, we might enjoy a nice whinge here (and often do), but if we actually want to CHANGE the way the railways are run from outside the higher echelons of the industry our route can only be through parliament by political, not through engineering debate. Or work within a rail company and bid for the projects.

-------------------------
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
 03 March 2009 07:13 PM
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z315870

Posts: 65
Joined: 30 May 2003

Perhaps a rephrasing would be in order?

I don't feel I necessarily need to rephrase what I've said - but I will certainly clarify, in case of offence being taken, that I wasn't trying to say that the entire designs have been disastrous, but rather that there have been some specific reliability disasters associated with modern builds. There have also been some really great achievements, and it'd be unfair not to say so.

I am not going to pontificate (version 1 of this post came out a bit stuffy) but I will say this:

There are proven methods for sound design which are published in books, taught in universities and used by industries around the world. I don't think that it's necessary to have expensive design processes which are proprietary secrets, when good methods already exist in the public domain. I think the problem for rail has been that the industry structure is not conducive to the proper execution of these processes.

Now I must apologise because I think I am probably guilty of having started this thread out of excitement and it has come across as though I wanted to get the inside gen (purely because of personal interest) on how the project will unfold, which is something we are not likely to find out. I wasn't trying to seek very detailed information, just to get a discussion going on the approach to design that needs to be taken for complex projects. Perhaps it is time to start a new, more general debate which will not be restricted to views on any one particular project.

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

Edited: 03 March 2009 at 10:04 PM by z315870
 05 March 2009 04:22 PM
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sprucer

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"I don't see why you couldn't have an EMU which can have attached to it a pantograph-transformer-converter vehicle (for electrified lines) or a diesel "generator" vehicle for non-electrified lines. "

Joe,

This is basically what the Bombardier/Siemans bid was.
Every car has a couple of motored axles and a DC-AC converter. A DC link runs down the train.

Then, as you say, you put a pantograph-transformer-converter vehicle at both ends for the London Edinburgh trains, or a generator/converter at each end for the Great Western.

A Bi - mode train for the Aberdeen run is one of each.

Cheers,
Rob
 05 March 2009 05:45 PM
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z315870

Posts: 65
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I think I may have phrased my suggestion badly. What I am talking about would be a rake of motored coaches which would have driving cabs at each end, and then you would couple up the power plant to it. So when you're on an electrified line you couple up a transformer vehicle to feed the train's DC link, and just before you run out of wires (Say at Edinburgh), you take off the transformer vehicle and couple up a diesel generator vehicle instead, to feed the DC link.

The same set of coaches would therefore be running under electric power from the Grid from King's Cross to Waverley, and then switch over to diesel power (but still with distributed electric traction) for the final run to Aberdeen.

This would, of course, require a measure of operational flexibility on the part of the train operator and Network Rail, but it would ensure a greater utilisation of the generator/converter units. If we go one step further, using modern safety-critical control system technology and battery storage on the EMU rake, we could have a dynamic changeover of traction units whilst the train is en route (i.e. uncoupling and coupling at speed). I know that rail industry folk reading this will probably be horrified, but the technology exists now, and IEP was supposed to be about innovation!!!!

-------------------------
Dr Joe Silmon PhD MEng CEng MIET
Committee Member, Railway TPN
 07 March 2009 06:02 PM
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ess1uk

Posts: 128
Joined: 20 April 2007

Originally posted by: z315870
If we go one step further, using modern safety-critical control system technology and battery storage on the EMU rake, we could have a dynamic changeover of traction units whilst the train is en route (i.e. uncoupling and coupling at speed). I know that rail industry folk reading this will probably be horrified, but the technology exists now, and IEP was supposed to be about innovation!!!!


doubt very much that would EVER be allowed
it would be a nightmare from a track safety point of view for anyone working on or near the line, how would you know when it was going to happen?
 08 March 2009 07:29 PM
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z315870

Posts: 65
Joined: 30 May 2003

Track workers wouldn't need to know when uncoupling/coupling was about to happen - they would be well out of the way as per the usual 10-second rule, before any moving vehicle approached, coupling/uncoupling or otherwise. I think you'd need drivers in each vehicle anyway, so the usual safety procedures could be followed. The real challenge would be from a signalling/speed control point of view, but the technology does exist.

However, I agree that the industry in this country is too resistant to new ideas to allow something like this to happen.

-------------------------
Dr Joe Silmon PhD MEng CEng MIET
Committee Member, Railway TPN
 09 March 2009 08:21 AM
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sprucer

Posts: 9
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"I agree that the industry in this country is too resistant to new ideas "

But Joe, speaking as someone in the "Industry", what's in it for us?

In order to make money and stay in business, we have to make things that i) people want to buy and ii) will be accepted by the regulatory authorities.

Do you think that Bombardier/Siemens would have won this order if they had offered a new, untried system, that may not even be allowed on the railway? They would have laughed us out of town.

I worked on the bid. The customer didn't want "new ideas".

They wanted to know the pedigree of all out equipment, i.e. where it had been used before. For example, I had to justify the decision to use asynchronous motors and IGBTs, despite the fact that this is what everyone uses nowadays.

There's no point in developing new systems that no-one wants to buy, there have been too many of those over the years. Have you ever wondered why most of our companies are foreign owed?
 09 March 2009 10:45 AM
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z315870

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When I said "the industry" I didn't just mean the manufacturers. It would be silly to expect manufacturers to experiment when the entire future of their company might depend on the success of one large order - I fully accept that. The manufacturers submitted bids which they believed fulfilled the specification they had been given. My issue here is really with the specification, the strategy behind it, and the rest of the railway which supports the train - in all of these areas, I think we in the UK are well behind the rest of the world in the level of imagination and innovation.

What I really meant was that at the very highest levels, it seems that there isn't much enthusiasm for even evaluating radical solutions that might bring large-scale benefits. For all the government's talk of sustainability and CO2 reductions, I don't think they actually realise that if we want to make a real impact on the way people travel, the capacity of the railways is going to have to double or triple in a very short time. Achieving this without also doubling or tripling the number of routes and stations is something which requires a high level of innovative technology - not just a "state of the art" solution but a risky, untried, futuristic solution.

The question then arises, "how do we ensure that this solution is going to work?" Well, the answer is, "we can't be 100% certain" but there are many proven ways of getting to a satisfactory level of confidence. It all depends on how much we know at the start about what is required. If you have full knowledge of the requirements, you should be able to build anything and have it work - but of course it may cost a lot of money or take 20 years to build. These problems feed back into the set of requirements, though.

The dynamic coupling and uncoupling example is just one suggestion which is guaranteed to provoke instant debate. I haven't done any evaluation to find out whether it would be cost-effective or even if it would actually make operational sense, but then, that's not my job. The point I'm making is that somebody, somewhere, SHOULD be evaluating ideas as radical, if not more so, than this, with a serious view to implementing those ideas, should they prove to be of benefit. This kind of evaluation needs to take place, performed by professional engineers, at the highest levels of the industry (which means the DfT now, since they seem determined to micro-manage the railways).

-------------------------
Dr Joe Silmon PhD MEng CEng MIET
Committee Member, Railway TPN
 17 March 2009 07:53 PM
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ess1uk

Posts: 128
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so the SET will now be able to run at 140mph with minor modifications to the train's bogies and suspension.
why wasn't it specified to begin with?
if it is supposed to be replacing the IC225 then it should be cable of 225Kph to begin with??
the class 395 run at 140mph on HS1 which is a 186mph line
 17 March 2009 09:26 PM
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z315870

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...and the feature creep begins!

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Dr Joe Silmon PhD MEng CEng MIET
Committee Member, Railway TPN
 12 April 2009 09:30 AM
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ess1uk

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is this a good thing?
 12 April 2009 06:47 PM
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z315870

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No, feature creep isn't a good thing - it's the enemy of good engineering. How can an engineering team design a good product when the customer keeps coming back and saying "Actually, it would be really cool if we could have this <insert new feature here> ".

I would expect that the change in speed capability will be the first of many such changes in the project. Sometimes it's necessary because requirements do change, but there also has to be an element of control to ensure that you do end up with a coherent working product at the end!

-------------------------
Dr Joe Silmon PhD MEng CEng MIET
Committee Member, Railway TPN
 13 April 2009 08:29 AM
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ess1uk

Posts: 128
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Originally posted by: z315870

No, feature creep isn't a good thing - it's the enemy of good engineering. How can an engineering team design a good product when the customer keeps coming back and saying "Actually, it would be really cool if we could have this <insert new feature here> ".



I would expect that the change in speed capability will be the first of many such changes in the project. Sometimes it's necessary because requirements do change, but there also has to be an element of control to ensure that you do end up with a coherent working product at the end!


sorry
just meant is it not a good thing that it will be capable of 140mph?
agree with you about if you change the design continually you never finish, but is that not what happens with cars?
how else do you end up with a new version every couple of years?
some projects i have worked on have been over designed and had hidden features exactly because the engineers knew the customer would come back a few months later and say "we like, but can it .....?"
these features were often already built in and just needed turning on in software, but they still charged full development costs!! canny
someone has obvioulsy had a similar idea, else how come it can so suddenly go from 125 to 140??
 13 April 2009 09:53 PM
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z315870

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I think it's diligent engineering to anticipate changes or additions to the requirements - especially when dealing with a customer who doesn't know much about the product they're buying - such as the DfT, who I'm sure will be ready to admit that they aren't the organisation best placed to know how to specify a train, being as they don't own, operate, manufacture or maintain any rolling stock at present!

It might be a good thing to have an IEP capable of 140 mph - but it'll never be allowed to run at that speed until cab signalling is installed. That'll require a costly modification to the trains (unless they get it to begin with, I don't know) and, more importantly, likely a total resignalling of any line where 140 mph running is desired.

There are already two mature fleets in this country (Class 91/Mk IV and class 390) which are capable of 140 mph, but the older fleet has been in service 20 years with no sign of these signalling upgrades. So I'd question how useful it will be, especially in the light of the recent developments in High Speed rail. If many millions will be spent building new high speed rail links, will it be necessary for our inter-city routes to have a very costly upgrade for the sake of a 15 mph speed increase? I would imagine not.

Having said that, cab signalling offers so many opportunities for improved safety through Automatic Train Protection that I think all main line trains in this country should have had it for years!

I don't think the car industry indulges in feature creep - they can't afford to. Yes, the features included on a particular platform will change every couple of years, but these are after-the-fact modifications rather than changes during the platform's design process. When a car enters production, its design process is already complete (including the testing of prototypes, something the rail industry sadly doesn't have the time to do under current conditions) - and the engineers will most likely be working on the next platform for production in 5 years plus. Once you have a product you are already selling, it's OK to modify the design. An example would be the Electro/Turbostar platform developed by ADtranz (originally) during that quiet period in the late 90s when nobody was ordering trains. More than 10 years after the initial order, new variations based on the same platform are being built (377/5 for Thameslink, 172 for London Midland/London Overground).

-------------------------
Dr Joe Silmon PhD MEng CEng MIET
Committee Member, Railway TPN
 17 April 2009 05:23 PM
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ess1uk

Posts: 128
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so following that logic
since it seems that everyone like the HST why was it not possible to simply update the design using the latest technology?
ie build a mk2 HST ??
the mk3 carriages are good but need better doors and retention toilets, and the power cars have been re-engined so surely it would have been possible??
 17 April 2009 05:55 PM
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z315870

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Following my logic? I'm flattered - but I don't think that the powers that be are necessarily thinking that far ahead, especially since high speed is by no means a dead cert for the next 20 years. Therefore there *might* be some use in increasing the speed capability, but whether this comes to anything is anyone's guess.

Before the DfT took over the IEP, there was a move by FirstGroup to get hold of some new trains for Great Western, and they were referred to as HST2 or HST-R (replacement). However, I think that the spec for IEP goes beyond a like-for-like replacement to trying to advance the state of the art in some areas. The requirement for vehicle mass, for example, is deliberately ambitious.

Yes, the HST is a legendary train, but it is 1970s technology and there's only so much of that you can change via refitting. They just don't conform to modern requirements, for example on disabled access. Also, the distributed traction concept, whilst making the design more complex and expensive, will provide more capacity for energy recapture and also allow for trains to switch between diesel and electric power, which the HSTs can't do.

This means that really we have to look beyond a mark II HST, attractive as that concept might sound (although it would be bad news for those of us who believe in electrification).

It's a shame because the mark III vehicles are some of the most comfortable we've ever had in this country (although personally, I'd take a mark IIa any day - no air conditioning to go wrong, bouncy comfy seats and bags of luggage room, and no airline seats). However we must make progress, I suppose!

-------------------------
Dr Joe Silmon PhD MEng CEng MIET
Committee Member, Railway TPN
 17 April 2009 06:27 PM
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ess1uk

Posts: 128
Joined: 20 April 2007

Originally posted by: z315870
Yes, the HST is a legendary train, but it is 1970s technology and there's only so much of that you can change via refitting. They just don't conform to modern requirements, for example on disabled access. Also, the distributed traction concept, whilst making the design more complex and expensive, will provide more capacity for energy recapture and also allow for trains to switch between diesel and electric power, which the HSTs can't do.

i was not thinking so much of refitting but more of a new build but using an updated HST design
take all the best bits of the HST and throw away all the rubbish bits
learn from the mistakes made on the original version and all the mods that were made
fit wider doors etc
could work??
hey what do i know??
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