05:05.Oh, the joys of early starts. Here’s Heathrow terminal 2 as I wait for Austrian airlines 06:00 flight to Vienna.As airport terminals go T2 is one of the better ones, even if it can be a long walk to your gate. I’m flying from B47, which is a long way from the main terminal. To get there you disappear deep underground and cross a large chunk of the airport via travelators.05:48.Having bumped into another colleague at the gate we’re now on board and waiting for take-off. The musak on the plane is the Viennese waltz used in “2001, a space odyssey” when the Pan-Am space shuttle is docking with the space station. Hopefully, my flight will be less problematic. Next stop, Vienna!09:32We had a pretty good flight, although much of mainland Europe was covered in cloud. Ironically, this made the numerous power stations we passed even more obvious.Now we’re stuck in our chauffeured limo which has taken 25 mins to move 200 metres! The queues to get out of the airport car parks are horrendous!10:03.We’re still in the limo. Having finally escaped the airport we’re now enjoying a tour of industrial Vienna (docks, chemical plants etc) en-route to the hotel.10:33.Finally, we’ve arrived at the hotel. Nice!11:27Journalists from various EU countries have all gathered at the hotel, now we’re being bussed to Siemens HQ for lunch.12:33Chance to eat before the hard work starts. The foods very good and beats the sandwiches that are a staple of so many UK events.13:00.The presentations are underway. The first one I’m attending is on autonomous trams. Siemens have one test system running in Potsdam, but (like the concept of driverless cars) it would be many years before a successful system could be developed and rolled out – if at all. The concept is far more suitable for closed systems rather than unpredictable streets. Think of Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester!The second presentation is an interesting one on ‘digital solutions for seamless transportation’. How technology is allowing people to access the information they need to choose integrated transport options.The mining and analysis of data from peoples travel plans is fascinating! I’ve now learned that the band Depeche Mode has a strong following in the former East Berlin because the band gave a concert there before the wall came down and this fan base can still be seen in data today!15:11.The third and final session of the day is “Seamless digital chain in material supply – the easy spares app”. How a mobile phone app can identify parts of a vehicle, find the spare part number and order it for you – amongst other things!
Another day, another early start. Right now I’m sat on a train to Leeds on a frosty but sunny morning that promises to be a glorious day weather-wise. Sadly I’m sans coffee as I left the house slightly later than planned. I had to power walk to Halifax station, arriving with a minute to spare. That defect will be remedied when I reach Leeds!
I’m on my way to Peterborough to meet up with an old friend and colleague from RAIL magazine to do a job for said mag. Years ago Pip and I used to do regular features for RAIL which involved travelling on new trains and seeing what they were like from a passengers perspective. The series carried on for many years and now we’re bringing it back. This time we’re going to be checking out the new (ish) Siemens built Class 700s built for Thameslink/Great Northern services. You’ll be able to read about it in RAIL soon so I won’t be blogging in detail about the trip, but you might get a few teasers!
My connection at Leeds worked without problem and I’m now happily ensconced on LNER’s 07:15 from Leeds to Kings Cross as far as Grantham. I now have coffee and a sandwich, so all’s well with the world…
After a rapid change of trains at Grantham I’m now on an East Midlands Trains Class 158 heading for Peterborough. According to the screens, this service is from Mansfield Woodhouse to Norwich, which is a service I never even knew existed! I’d have thought it would have originated from Sheffield. Still, you learn something new every day!
I rather like the refurbed EMT 158s. They’re a comfortable train, although I know some folk don’t like the high-back seats.v
We’re hard at work, honest! We’ve tried out 4 class 700s, two 12-car and two 8-car. Here’s Pip Dunn checking the technical details on our way to London.
Job done, it’s time to begin the trek North from Peterborough, this time it’s on a rammed LNER service heading for Leeds. I was going to hang around and get some pictures but the weather’s changed completely from this morning full sun to being cloudy and cold, so hardly an incentive to hang around…
I decided to take a short break in Doncaster to get a couple of pictures and (as it’s Friday) visit this little gem on the station for a ‘swifty’ before heading home.
Last train of the day now. I missed an earlier one by seconds as our platforms were too far apart. Now I’m on the 17:97 to Brighouse which is a rammed 2-car ex-Scotrail Class 158. There’s 10 of us stood in the vestibule by the toilets and aisle in the passenger saloon resembles a sardine can.
On December 6th Siemens unveiled their first of their new regional train platform – the Mireo – at their Wildenrath test centre.
The first order is for 24 3-car Mireo’s. This has been placed by Baden-Württemberg, who have bought the trains which will be operated by DB Regio from June 2020 when the fleet is due to be used on the Rhine Valley network, operating regional services on the Offenburg – Freiburg – Basel/Nuennburg (Switzerland) route during the week and on the Kaiserstuhl region from Freiburg to Endingen/Breisach on Sundays. Here’s a selection of pictures from the event.
Each 3-car Mireo has space for 27 bicycles in a multi-purpose area. All doors are equipped with a sliding platform that automatically bridges the gap between train and platform to allow easier access.
More about the Mireo
The Mireo’s lightweight welded integral aluminum monocoque construction helps weightsaving, as do the articulated bogies. As much as possible, components have been installed underfloor or on the roof, leaving the interior area fully available for passengers with space for bicycles, strollers, and wheelchairs as required. The interior can be converted again and again with minimal effort, whilst the cantilever seating design permits cost-effective cleaning of the passenger area.
Siemens will offer a Hybrid version of the train, as this diagram explains.
The Mireo will be provided in anything from 2 to 7 car formations.
On Friday 23rd I attended the official opening of Siemens new rail bogie service centre which has been built at their existing gas turbine manufacturing facility in Lincoln. The facility allows Siemens to carry out bogie overhauls ‘in house’.
A disused building dating from 1874 has been converted for the purpose at a cost of £8 million. Work involved relaying and strengthening 5000 square metres of floor space before installing cranes and other equipment needed to overhaul the bogies. 32 people are currently employed at the facility which began production in September, overhauling spare bogies for the Eurostar e320 trains built by the company. Bogies from the Desiro City fleet of Class 700/707/717 trains will also be overhauled on the site, which has room to be expanded if demand requires it.
Here’s a selection of pictures from my visit.
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Morning folks! Welcome to another dull day in Lincolnshire. Well, weather-wise anyway! I’m just about to head into town before the press trip to have a look at Siemens new £8m railway bogie overhaul facility. After which I’ll be wandering around Lincs for a few hours as I gradually make my way home. So, expect a variety of pictures and comments throughout the day…
What a grey day.
Thank God I’m working indoors today!
Well that was an interesting few hours. Siemens showed us around their factory at Lincoln, part of which was vacant space but that had a long history. The company’s converted 5000m2 space in an 1874 building, spending around £8 million to build their new Bogie Service Centre. I’ll blog about the centre separately, so here’s a taster.
The bogie of a Eurostar Velaro e320 that’s just arrived. After doing 1.5 million km the bogies are sent for overhaul. This one’s about to go through the cleaning process which involves the use of dry ice. This is more environmentally friendly than the traditional method of water jet washing.
One of the two halls in the 1874 building that’s been brought back into use.
A newly overhauled Velaro e320 bogie undergoing a final inspection before being sent back to Eurostar
I’ve left Lincoln and I’m currently on a train towards Sheffield. By co-incidence I caught it with a journalistic colleague from Today’s Railways UK who was heading to Saxilby. He’d also been at the Siemens event. So, happy 39th Birthday Robert Pritchard!
I’m on the move again after stopping off to do a bit of research for future articles (Honest Guv!) by visiting the Mallard pub on Worksop station. Is this the only station pub that has an annual conned competition? It’s a cosy one room bar that has a wide range of drinks and four hand pumped ales.
I caught another Northern service from Worksop to Sheffield which was pretty busy. A lot of people were heading for the fleshpots of Sheffield (did you really just write that?: Ed) to enjoy the end of the working week. Hence this detritus left behind. Mind you, I’m not sure what the excuse for a similar shot was yesterday. Maybe it’s a Worksop thing?
So, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Besides, it would be rude not to pay homage to one of the best station pubs in the UK: the Sheffield Tap.
Waiting for my train which is delayed by a delayed TPE service. The ripples spread…
Well, that was a saga! My Cross-country service kept slipping as the old days of four tracks approaching Sheffield are long gone. Now services are squeezed through two, so it was caught in the queue just trying to get into the station. When it arrived it turned out to be 2 x 4 cars, leading to a mad scramble as passengers tried to find out which set they had reservations in (the PIS screens on the platforms don’t tell you the train formation), which added to the stress and delays. Cue some unhappy passengers because of it. Still, there should be some indicator on the outside of the coach to tell you which it is, no? No. It’s blank. So are the PIS screens in the saloon. You have no idea! Cue doubly pissed-off passengers! Meanwhile, in the vestibules, there’s a lot of students sitting around on bags of washing they’re taking home to mum…
We’ve left Wakefield Kirkgate 20 mins late, so that’s my connection down the drain…
My XC service lateness was of little consequence as the train I *should* have connected with was running late – and then cancelled! I’m now on another delayed service, the 19:36 which is running 10 mins late.
I’m finally back in Halifax, so I’m going to draw this blog to a close. It’s been a fascinating and frustrating day, now I’ve got a few days to put my thoughts into words, both in a blog and for RAIL magazine. Enjoy your weekend.
Yep, the working week’s ended as it began, with murky weather here in the Pennines. Today’s a bit of a mixture. I’ve been working at home editing pictures this morning. I’ve been playing catch-up with archive pictures as I realised that there were dozens of shots from a press trip to Germany in June that I hadn’t uploaded. Back then a group of us went to see Siemens in Germany as they’d arranged a preview of trains they would be displaying at the Innotrans trade fair later in the year. We were treated to a tour of the factory at Krefeld to see the Class 717s being built for the UK, the first Mireo being assembled, the production of Velaro’s for DB and also the Rhine-Ruhr Express units. We were also treated to the chance to travel on one of the RRX units which was at the Wildenrath test track. You can find all the pictures in this gallery on my Zenfolio website. Here’s a shot of the RRX on test.
This afternoon I’m heading over to Huddersfield to visit ACoRP towers, then this evening Dawn and I are popping up to the fabulous Moorcock Inn for a meal. We’ve been wanting to try the restaurant menu there for ages. We’ve often had the delicious bar snacks but wanted to try the full dining experience as it’s had such rave reviews, like this one from Jay Rayner. As it’s our 1st wedding anniversary on Sunday, we thought this was an ideal time. Expect this blog to be updated throughout the day….
I left home later than expected to to having to sort out flight changes for our New Zealand trip (we now get an extra day!) and a press invite that could see me back in Germany next month. The walk to the station was a bit dreary due to the gloomy weather, as you can see from this shot I took on the way.
I’m now bouncing and screeching my way to Huddersfield. Not actually me you understand, just the Pacer I’m sat on!
Having caught up with some paperwork and reading at the ACORP office I’ve had a bit of a wander. Oh, by the way, the 2bd part of my round Britain by rail trip for RAIL magazine hit the newsagents shelves on Wednesday.
Whilst I was notching around Huddersfield I couldn’t resist popping into the wonderfully restored ‘Kings Head’ pub on the station.
The work has earned it an award – and deservedly so.
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I’m heading back to London under leaden skies which feels really rather strange after such a long run of sunny days. The weather’s still warm but I was rather hoping that there would be some rain to bring relief to the parched fields which haven’t seen any for well over a month. Sadly, there’s no sign of that. Yet…
I was up at the ungodly hour of 04:30 as I’ve an early appointment to judge a London station for the ACoRP awards. I’m in the capital for the annual press lunch held by Siemens, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone. The earliness of my appointment meant I couldn’t use Grand Central so I’m on the 07:15 LNER service from Leeds which is worked by one of the company’s (soon to be displaced) HST’s. Here it is before departure.
There was fun and games beforehand as the 06:44 LNER service to London was cancelled so the following 07:00 was rammed. I decided to catch this one instead so that I could get a seat & snooze for a while!
The weather here in London’s still cloudy but the sun’s making valiant efforts to break through! Meanwhile, I’ve swapped steeds and boarded one of the newest additions to the UK fleet, the Siemens built Class 700s. These things are real people movers! They provide much needed capacity in the peaks when older trains were overwhelmed. This one’s forming the 09:51 to Cambridge North, it’s quiet return working as it’s brought 1000s into work already.
I’m only using at far as an old stomping ground – Finsbury Park, whee I’ll be changing to catch one of the oldest passenger trains on the UK network, the Class 313s. These venerable 3-car units were introduced in 1976 when the suburban lines out of Kings Cross and Moorgate were first electrified. They still operate services to Hertford North and Welwyn Garden City, but not for much longer. Their replacements (a derivative of the Siemens Class 700s known as the Class 717) are on their way from Germany…
The 313s have served the railways well. I used to be a regular traveller on them when I lived in Crouch End, but now they’re tired, run down, dirty and unsuitable for today’s volume of passengers. Here’s the one I’m on now, 313031. They’ve changed little in 40 years other than by having their original low-backed seats replaced by this version.
Bugger! We’ve ground to a halt just outside Hornsey station due (according to the driver) a tresspasser on the line ahead of us at Oakleigh Park! I’m really not having much luck this week. An LNER express has drawn up and stopped beside us, having encountered the same problem – although it’s difficult to see through the filthy windows on my train!
On the move again!
Visit over, I’m now off to the Dorchester Hotel for the Siemens press lunch.
Phew – what a busy day! The lunch was excellent. Not just because of the food (which was very good) and the ambience of the restaurant, what was far more important was the discussions that could be had between all those who attended.
I stayed later than intended because of it, then had to hot-foot it to Kings Cross, where I managed to catch LNER’s 17:03 to Leeds, which was rammed as the first stop was Peterborough.
To their credit, Network Rail amended the PIS to reflect what was happening in the World Cup tonight.
Back in the late 1980’s I used to travel to Peterboro regularly to say with a friend. The trains were busy then. Now the service has doubled, the formations strenghtened – and they’re still rammed!
Fortunately for me sufficient folk disembarjed at Peterborough that I managed to find a seat to Leeds
Morning folks, it’s 06.51 here in Dusseldorf and I’m getting ready for another busy day with Siemens. I’ll try and blog through the day as the pace should be a little slower than yesterdays whirlwind. First, here’s a link to my Zenfolio website where I’ve managed to add some of the first pictures. Today we’re off to the Wildenrath test track to ‘play’ with some trains.
The first tough decision has come early, what to have dor breakfast here in the Radisson Blue. Talk about being spoiled for choice…
Oooh! OK, the fish it is…
S’cuse me whilst I tuck in…
14:00 (German time).
We’re now on a coach headingfor the airport after an interesting morning whizzing around the Wildenrath test track aboard one of Siemens new r-car Desiro HC (high capacity) EMUs which will run Rhine-Ruhr Express services from December 2018. The two centre cars of each set are double-deck vehicles. Here’s what they look like from the inside.
Now the fun starts! I’m about to board my flight from Dussledorf to Heathrow, then hot-foot it to Euston to meet Dawn to swap my brogues for walking boots and waterproofs before heading up the WCML to catch up with the team heading iff to do “3peaksbyrail”. It’s unlikely i’ll make it to Crewe in time to meet them at the start, so I’ll have to chase them as far as Bangor (or even Holyhead, where the train will be serviced whilst the walkers ascend Snowdon). Wish me luck…
16:32. Bugger, not a good start. Our plane’s been delayed by air traffic control. We won’t be pushing back for another 20 mins and it’ll take at least another 15 after that before we’re in the air…
16:50 (UK time)
Landed! In the end we were allowed to leave a bit earlier. The flight’s taken an hour so i’ve literally landed at the same time as taking off thanks to the time difference…
I sped through passport control here at terminal 5. There’s plenty of biometric gates & few passengers! Now I’m kicking my heels by the baggage carousel, waiting for my suitcase. There’s no chance of making the Crewe connection now so the pressure’s off. Now all I’ve got to do is get to Bangor before the train collects the weary climbers after they’ve come down from Snowdon.
At least I get to have a more than a few fleeting moments with my other half now!
Still kicking my heels in baggage reclaim. An “incident” has delayed them apparently..
My bag finally arrived at 17:52. I’ve opted for Heathrow Express as I want to make up time.
Catching the Express wasn’t cheap but it was a good move as I got to meet Dawn at Euston with an hour to spare before her train back to Yorkshire. I have to admit, I couldn’t have done this without her love and support. We swapped all my conference gear for outdoor clothing, a sleeping bag and (vitally) midge spray! The hour passed in a flash. I left Dawn at Kings Cross, then made my way to Euston.
I’m now speeding towards North Wales aboard a Virgin Pendolino, working the 21:10 Euston-Preston. I’ll be leaping off at Crewe but right now I have a table seat in the unreserved coach U which is giving me chance to charge up some of my batteries ready for the trip. The 3 Peaks stock is old mark 2 stock so charging stuff up is a challenge to say the least!
Phew! This is the final leg now. I’m on Arriva Trains Wales 00:15 from Crewe to Holyhead as far as Bangor. It’s a 2-car 158 fitted with power sockets and wifi. Unfortunately (tonight) it’s also been fitted with a group of loud and obnoxious young drunks. Yep, they’re the one’s who noticed I was taking a picture!
Thankfully, they got off at Chester so I’m enjoying the fact there’s only four of us left in the coach, allowing me to hog power sockets & suck up enough juice that I’m amazed this 158s keeping time!
Whilst I was waiting at Crewe the ‘Caledonian Sleeper’ called on its way to Fort William. As that’s where I’m headed it was rather tempting, but it would have been a cheat on a grand scale!
Here we go again for my second trip of the year to Dusseldorf and visit to Siemens. I suspect I’m going to be Arabica powered over the next few days, it’s only 06.36 and I’m already on my second cup here at terminal 5!
The next couple of days are going to be very busy but I hope to have time to post an update – a process made much easier now that the expensive mobile phone roaming charges have been removed thanks to EU legislation. Talking of the EU, i’m going to resist the temptation to comment on the Brexitshambles right now because if I get started on that I’ll probably miss my flight.
After being bussed around what seemed the entire perimeter of Heathrow i’m now occupying seat 27A on BA936.
The weather’s looking good too, let’s hope it’s the same in Germany. Here’s the view from my plane.
See you on the other side…
12.24 (UK time).
Phew! It’s already been a busy day. We wasted on time on arrival as Siemens whisked us straight to their press preview at Krefeld. The morning was spent getting a briefing on Siemens products, including their new high-speed train, the Velaro Novo.
Capable of 250 to 360 km/h, the Novo is an update to the Velaro platform, which uses 30 percent less energy than previous Velaro models, it’s reckoned this translates to average savings of 1,375 tons of CO2 a year. Thanks to its lightweight construction, the train’s weight has been reduced by 15 percent. At the same time, available space for passengers has been increased by ten percent.
I’ll have more details later,
Earlier this week I was a guest of Siemens and GTR, who allowed the press to have a look at the new Class 717 trains Siemens are building to replace the 42 year old, BR built Class 313s that work services from London Moorgate to Hertford North and Welwyn Garden City. The 313s are the oldest trains still in daily passenger service on the UK mainland. Having travelled over 150 million miles in their careers, they’re overdue retirement.
Their replacements will be 25 6-car variants of the Desiro City. GTR already operate them as the Class 700s on Thameslink and Great Northern services in 8 and 12 car formations but the 717s are different in several ways. The main difference is that, because they have to work though the old single bore tunnels to Moorgate, they need to have a door in the cab front to allow passengers to be evacuated in an emergency. Unlike the 313s which use an old wooden ladder, the 717s are fitted with a folding staircase which can be deployed in seconds, either by train crew or passengers.
Here’s a video of the staircase being deployed.
It’s safe to say the 717s are an enormous step-change from the old 313s as they’ll have air-conditioning, plug sockets, free wifi, a passenger information system (PIS) and an area for persons of reduced mobility. As the seats are cantilevered off the side of the body they’ll also have a lot more luggage space as well as be a lot easier to keep clean. The seating arrangements are also more spacious as they’re 2+2 not 3+2. Plus, there’s no chance of the seat squabs being thrown out of the hopper windows by vandals as often used to happen on the 313s! As the 717s are 6 cars with open gangways and not 2 3 cars coupled together they can carry a lot more passengers (albeit with less seats). Here’s the numbers.
313s: Seated 462. Standing 384. Total 846.
717s: Seated 362. Standing 581. Total 943.
As someone who used to live on the route and used these trains regularly I think this is the right balance. There’s no point in having more seats on a train if you can’t get on it to get to work and have to wait for the next one! But in the off-peak there should still be sufficient seats.
Other differences include the fact that, whilst the 313s maximum speed is 75mph, the 717s is 85mph. GTR told me that the higher speed, along with the 717s quicker acceleration and better braking will allow some minutes to shaved off the present timetable in the future. Also, the 25 717s will be covering 21 diagrams, so the slack in the fleet will allow for extra service to be introduced at some point. Reliability is a factor too. The MTIN figures (Miles per Technical Incident = failure rate) for the 313s is 6,000 whilst the 717s will be at least 10,000.
Right, enough of the number crunching. Meanwhile, over in Germany we started our day at Siemens Krefeld factory where the 717s are being built. First on the agenda was a briefing by Siemens (the train builders, GTR (the operators) and Rock Rail (the financiers). Here’s Richard Carrington, Siemens Project Director, rail systems giving us a run through of the project.
After a thorough briefing on the 717s, gave us a tour of the production line. Here’s the birth of a 717. After the individual aluminium sections are welded together the windows and doorways are cut out.
This is the upside down underframe of a 717 . Workers are positioning and welding in place brackets and other components. These used to be positioned using templates. Now, lasers mounted overhead mark out the positions.
In a building known as the ‘Cathedral’ the different body-shell parts (sides, floor, roof and ends) are welded together.
Once the bodyshell is complete it’s cleaned down before being taken to the paint shop where it’s given the livery of the company it’s going to be used/owned by.
Afterward the paint job’s been applied the shell is transferred to the fitting out line for final assembly. In this next picture you can see what’s behind all the cosmetic panels passengers will never see.
The next picture shows Sabri Esslimani, the factory’s Head of Assembly explaining the computer controlled inventory and monitoring system to RAIL magazine’s Paul Stephen and Modern Railways Philip Sherratt.
Here’s two cars from 717015 on the assembly line. A few months before, this area and the bays to the right would have been full of Class 700 vehicles. The big TV screen in the foreground records how the construction of each car’s progressing.
One of the cars from 717014 in final assembly, having its seats fitted.
Before leaving Krefeld for Wildenrath we were given the opportunity to try out the emergency ramp on one of the lead cars of 717013 which was ready to leave the factory. It’s a far better system than the little wooden ladders used in the 313s and capable of evacuating 30 people per minute. Even so, I hope I’ll never need to use one of these for real!
Here’s the group, including staff from Siemens, Rock Rail and GTR.
The next part of the day was a chance to see the 717s on the test track at Wildenrath (a former RAF airfield) which has several different loops for train testing, the largest of which is just over 6km. Sets 717001-012 were already at the centre, with several inside the 410m long shed that had been built as part of the Class 700 programme. Here’s 717005 and 004.
Outside the shed were 717007 and 002.
The highlight of the trip was the chance to travel on and explore a completed set, then take turns to drive it around the test track! Here’s the cab layout of the set concerned, 717003. As you can see it’s very different to a 700/707 cab due to the gangway. Some of the controls have been mounted on the door which closes off the cab from the gangway when it’s not in use. When it is, the door’s swung out at an angle before being locked in place.
Here’s a look through the train, as you can see, it’s a step-change in quality from the 40 year old class 313s.
I’ve added some more pictures here to show details of the seats. Here’s a standard pair showing how much space is underneath them because of the way they’re cantilevered off the body side
Tip-up seats adjacent to one of the doors.
A Priority seat (that’s marked multiple times) right next to the wide doors.
Finally, 717003 whizzing around the test track. Soon these will be a common sight on the ECML between Hertford, Welwyn and London. GTR told me that as each 717 is accepted into service a pair of 313s will come off lease and be returned to the ROSCO until all 44 Class 313s used by GTR are replaced
If you want to see more pictures from the trip, follow this link to a gallery on my Zenfolio website.