For the first time in forty years, the UK sees a new mixed traffic Locomotive type enter service. They will run a lot of services which previously classes 47 and 37 worked, and find new types of operations which perhaps are higher tonnage or faster or intermodal.
Good luck to the 68s, they seem to be the usual air conditioner noise type things, with a kind of continental super speed train front end coupled to the UK's rather messy array of cables and pipes.
What though could we expect to be working other diesel lines in future? Speed is the new black with even the conservative party supporting a lift of average speeds and the introductin of the *wasteful* HS2 london super commuter route. For years many services had been slower thatn they were in the early 1980s because of the removal of locomotive hauled services, and the introduction of more stops in the hunt of passengers and subsidies along the way. Finally on many routes the capacity became saturated by either physical means -no more diagrams possible, as in many London commuter services- or because passenger demand for those type of slow, and often expensive services had waned/
Loco hauled is by no means a solution for all services, especially not lower speed, frequent stoppers. Much as though syphon bashers would like to sit in load five and hear a grumbling tractor grind its way to Rimmey, Shap, Mallaig or Kyle, many of these routes are better served by 156s which are arguably more reliable, and cheaper to operate, and in fact when you take motive power and rolling stock into account, have had a remarkably long career now and it is not coming to an end any time.
However there are many routes where multiple units just do not have the power and of note, tractive effort to make for a service which is anywhere near as fast as loco or power car hauled trains. 156s are 20 minutes to half an hour slower on the Oban to Glasgow route than 37s , and that is comparing the unit being worked really hard to the 37 having a little jaunt with notch 8 rarely achieved over most of the 74 miles or so on the actual WHL.. Units are great and economic when there is a slow stopping service with either a single two or three car or as is the norm for many 156, 158 and laterly 182s and so on, a brace of the single MUs. Beyond that and loco hauled is more reliable and flexible because rolling stock can be added one at a time, and specialist stock like break vans with significant bike and parcel cages, or restaurtant cars and so on can be added. Indeed over the course of two decades, demands change so this flexiubility to dial in or out services versius just bums on seats gives TOCs or national operators a broad opportunity to match customer needs, capacity and routes to different stock set variuants. Stock can of course also be converted to electric multiple units too, when the wires or third rail stretch themselves along routes, or if older multiple units become unservicable. Rail economists from Loughborough and the formerly public Scotrail, are in agreement that a rake of six mark ones or twos, and five mark 3s, are more fuel economic than running multiple units. Also there is then a trade off between tieing up your tractive power and the related miles per causalty and miles per service to your stock, so the trade off above 200 passengers or so is usually in the point at which it is more sense to have loco hauled.
The issue with multipile units is that they carry less horse power per passenger and this is as true of the latest generation of higher speed and titling 200 series units, the voyagers and so on, as with I suspect the new intercity high speed express class 800, which I very much doubt from the spec will actually achieve current IC 125 diagram speeds on their diesel routes. Both the 200 main types and the 158s and 170s had major issues during introduction and require a proactive maintenance schedule to keep their availability high. Higher speed engines slung down in the dusty, wet and snowy under carriage areas of rolling stock are subject to a lot of thermal cycling, dust, humidity and so on, so they come with unforseen teething issues in the real world or conjested rail routes and demands for frequent stops. Moreover this goes out over their life cycle, with some of the earliest third generation stock already being phased out (not in fact that it did not last as long as what it replaced, it is probably just more delapedated than the loco hauled roilling stock when it was phased out)
Class 68s will undoubtedly be working on DRS operated passenger services where an express element is required, but only if enough of them can be released from the more profitable frieght diagrams, for which there is allegedly a current shortage of motive power. The question we have raised before, is just how much horse power do you really need to run some of these semi fast and 70mph route expresses, and how much do you need to work an average engineering permanent way train? The answer to that is already very well proven, type three is ample, and even the type two and a half class 31 was good enough for much of it, as long as ETH wasnt needed. With the demands for higher powered ETS as it is now, and the ability to work faster when needed, we could say that around 2200 hp would be the new area for a type 4 mixed traffic loco, which could be a jack of all trades up to 90mph at least. If the EU would only allow a relaxation, and Brexit may well do so, for locomotive emmissions, then there is now a plethora of compact power units of mid speed to higher speed which could fit very nicely in this power band, while also allowing for space for a secondary generator for ETS or alternatively, a hybrid battery power pack system.
What would then be my ideal train set for working semi fasts of the future? Likely to be things like the welsh routes, the cross country routes in england, the SW, the NE and just about anywhere north of the soon to be 25Kv Edin/Glas Corridor. Firstly the 68 will fill a near future need for non class 800 services to places like Lincoln, hull and Scarborogh in the East, West Wales and N Wales, the West Country and in Scotland Aberdeen and Inverness. This is on THROUGH services where an EMU is likely to be dragged north, the demise of class 90 within sight now regrettably as a passenger loco on the main trunk routes. I can see that if competition for diagrams on routes actually made more a market of the whole monopolistic qausi private TOC situatioin we have now, then some bright sparks like Virgin would want to offer very much faster intercity regional services which could out compete car and bus for journey time. In Scotland and on much of the transpennine XC routes, you could do this today by cutting out stops and running 50 year old locos and stock.
What we need apart from just more brute horse power per passenger, is actually trains that tilt and that is what virgin forsaw with the original concept of the 220. If they had only dared make the sets have an IC 125 style pwer car with a tilting mechanism then they could have had a real runner, or if they had dual moded them, or even triple moded them with third rail shoes, then this would have been a route beater which could compete on different XC express services. Instead they opted for a somewhat underpowered set up, which had a lot of teething problems and the whole titling thing is at last note, switched off. The trains seem to be operating with more stops when they do get to diesel sections, while otherwise they whizz along at top speed under the wires. Class 800 will do gosh 140 mph, so it's back to the future, from 1989 when we had 140nph, non tilting services on the ECML and not even as fast as the APT went on the WCML. I suspect that they will languish in terms of acceleration under diesel power, and always be making up for time once under the wires of the GWR or ECML. " Zings" as we called them, 125s, are being given a last lease of life while the 800s are introduced, the wires go up on Bristol and Cardiff, and also therer after on diesel only services in deep GWR cider country. This tends to suggest that 800 is known to be slower on diesel already, while it will of course be 12% faster where 25kv, long straights and track ATP allow. To improve other journey times outside those long ECML and GWR straights which allow for safe 140mph running, we will as BR knew back in the 1960s and virgin followed suit in the late 1990s, need to tilt.
Tilting locomotives are not actually that new, it is just that these rather heavier elements have been burried in the middle of experimental and pre production train sets, like the APT E and P. The Aussies have a train which allegedly tilts, but it seems like this is just a minor comfort title achhieved on the air suspension, because it is barely noticeable in any of the footage of the trains which operate the long and twisting route up to Darwin. An HST power car of its day, in rather traditional build with an advanced power unit for the time (more HP per tonne than a deltic non turbo unit) so today we could expect to do it all a lot lighter. For example we can think that we achieve the same type of horse power in 8 cylinders from a VP based fantasy power unit, and many other offerings are out there in mid speed marine (often called high speed when in traction, above 1000 rpm,) An HST power car is amazingly light in fact at an RA5 rated 79 tonnes fuelled. You can imagine fitting a good deal of tilting equipment, a smaller engine and an emergency lithium battery bank for reservce power for tilting and air reseroir in the same weight. Also we have major advances in applying tractive effort and avoiding wheel slip. At horse power per tonne per passenger then we quite quickly come up in an economy for having a single power car per four passenger coaches when speeds well in excess of 100mph with good pick up times are required. A six car 170 formation for example has only around 1800 hp available for tractive effort. and carries more weight and probablky uses more fuel per passenger than a 125 working a slower service for its capaibility.
So my set is as follows. DMV,. TSO, TSO, TR and DBFST. The power car has a small V8 installed instead of the v 12 or v16s currently used , but with less emissions nonsence on its exhaust. This driver motor vehicl then also contains space for parcels and bicycles and a small extra gaurds cubicle for operation from there or in need of security. There are then a first coach with a formation of two more which share bogies, and then a double bogied dirver brake, battery first and second class trailer. This houses recirculative braking to charge its batteries which are in turn used to provide most of the ETS for journeys, being charged from ETS head power at terminii and depots prior to journeys. I fancy usiung APT style hydrokinetic drum turbine brakes on the three middle cars, and having a battery pack in the first TSO to provide emergency tilt power and shunt / recovery power to the locomotive power car in event of power unit failure. The TR would be a Voyager style buffet car. The whole thing is a five car set but in effect when operated as pairs the sets would be shorter than a 10 car HST, more like a rake of 8 mrk threes witha single Cl 47 loco such that they fit most all platforms across the main line network. There would also be provision to dump the "DVTs" ie trailer driver push pull cars, and merge two setts with two common TSOs thus increasing seating capacity and areodynamics.
I envisage this being a dual mode set by design, such that one of the TSO is actually a MSO when using either 25kv or in a third rail variant. I can also imagine that every car could carry a battery pack allowing for fully hybrid operations such that short stretches like the run to Lincoln from the ECML, or around non overhead sections in London and other cities, could be achieved without switching the Power unit on, or swithcin it off indeed to reduce emissions in cities which is becoming a big issue in terms of particulates and low level ntirous oxide in particular. With a power car and an electric motor vehicle in formation, hybrid power could also provide additional tractive effort on stopping serrvices or on notorious gradients like the Lickey bank, the Manchester Vic exit or the Glasgow QS tunnel.
As with the 220s the aim is not always to be running at top speed to reduce journey times, but to be decreasign the need to brake and pick uip by a given percent factor on curve sections such as the transpennine or Scottish routes. a 20% average improvement in speed through curves equates on some routes to a significantly better route time because of the electro mechanical qualities of motive power and also this uses less fuel due tp the large reduction in acceleration required coming out of curved sections, and avoiding field diversion cutting in when slowing down for a curved section.
Making trains which tilt rather than straightening lines is really the only practical solution to the demand for faster services, that and diverting freight services to slower routes to greatly improve high speed capacity. However the conservatives like many very left wing governments have bought into HS2 and its vast expense, in order to feed the city of london with a new breed of super commuter and render Manchester, Brimingham and Derby suburbs to the great big smoke. It is not hoardes of investors and SMEs fighting for tommorrows new super App or mobile device they are really trying to achieve, but rather to facilitate access to credit for minor banks and supply the stock market and other finanical institutions with more bright people who would otherwise be priced out of living in London at what they want to pay them. HS2 is not a great opportunity to revitalise the North, it is an admission and surrender to the power of the financial industry node that London has become, and the need to have a bigger populace to feed it beyond its current leafy confines in the home counties. In terms of facilitating more branch offices and sub suppliers in the North, this is probably basing tommorrow's strategy on yesterday's business culture. Very shortly it will not matter about where you work, or being able to press the flesh more than once a month if at all, it will be what you can super duper do from broad band anywhere, Business will not be done over Claret and Stilton lunches in the Strand, or by miliatary style departments regimented by sergeant majors, it will be conducted on merit and in Cyberspace more and more., Also HS2 may be so expensive to travel on that the benefit of Brimingham becoming a suburb with cheaper house prices than Surbiton is eradicated with the sky high price of a season ticket.
Politically zand economically what we need is more regional intra connectivity, and inter non SE region connectivity, Leeds Manchester, Liverpool Newcastle, Aberdeen Glasgow, Inverness Edinburgh, Plymouth Bristol. We need shorter journey times and to compete on getting people from their suburbian homes to other city centres and round about festooned industrial estates far quicker than the car will achieve in todays conjestion. People need to be able to give up their rubbish local job and be able to hop on a train and within 40 mins arrive at a new, better paid job in a city centre. Cars in cities like Leeds and Manchester are becoming increasinly obsolete for travel to the centres during rush hours from the commuter belts or between each city. We have the opportunity in the NW and Scotland to dump many of the stupid stopping services and run intercity non stop services which make it really easy to go centre to centre, while even beating car journey times when the destination is outside the city centre. For all the transpennine routes and the Scottish routes this is achievable with class 67 and 68 today, but could be made even faster with tilting services
The entire fleet of protoype APTs cost a piddling 74 million pounds, and despite all the bad press, thousands of travellers enjoyed faster services on intercity 225 and therafter, pendolinos from direct application of the technologies proven in the prototype fleet of trains. Little known to may outside the rail industry, is that the 225s could be converted to tilting, and the Pendelinos were built by Fiat traction originally, who bought out many patents from BRE in the 1980s in order to speed up travel on the twisting routes in Italy. Class 800 is a good solution for replacing 225s and may be a passable 'reach' solution for Cardiff, Swansea and Hull, but the real sweet spot is to have tilting express diesel trains in terms of benefit for money invested. We also need to be considering where emissions happen rather than how much per average mile travelled, and incentivise dual mode and battery hybrid technologies such rolling stock remains flexible and helps meet the demands for cleaner air in our urban areas, while also reducing our over all CO2 footprint if the climatologists not paid for by the oil and coal industry prove of course to be right,.