No Wires to Hull

Plans to electrify the railway from Selby to Hull have been dropped in favour of a new fleet of bi-mode trains.

Some people are not impressed.

Labour MP for Hull North, Diana Johnson, said she was “very angry” at the decision.

“If they are really sincere about the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ then Hull has to be included in infrastructure investment,” she said.

Grandstanding MPs aside, the decision to invest in bi-mode trains which can take advantage of electrified sections of the route while being able to run on diesel power to serve destinations off the wires is probably with wise one now that the concept has proved viable.

Back in the old days of the 1960s and 70s, when long-distance trains were locomotive-hauled, they simply changed engines where the wires ended. So an Inter-City from London to North Wales would be electrically-hauled as far as Crewe, then a diesel would take the train forward.

All that ended when everything went over to fixed-formation unit trains. Now services from London to places like Chester or Hull must be formed of diesel sets running under the wires for almost the entire journey because they need diesel power for those last few miles. At the moment Virgin Trains even uses part of the class 221 “Voyager” fleet on services that are completely under the wires just so they have diesel-powered trains available for weekend diversions.

Now that technology has reached the level where it’s possible to equip a high-speed multiple unit with both diesel engines and transformers without carrying around too much dead weight, bi-mode trains change that equation. Great Western’s  new inter-city fleet is entirely bi-mode, which means they can enter service before the long-delayed electrification is completed,  as well as reaching “off the wires” destinations like Camarthen or Weston Super-Mare which aren’t proposed for electrification. They’re also looking like an optimum solutuon for places like Hull which are close to but not on the electrified network.

This entry was posted in Travel & Transport and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to No Wires to Hull

  1. Synthetase says:

    “it’s possible to equip a high-speed multiple unit with both diesel engines and transformers without carrying around too much dead weight”

    This is the nugget of the issue for me. However you define “too much,” dead weight is precisely what a diesel engine, its cooling system and fuel tank is, when the train is running under wires. More energy is required to stop and start, and when you add that up over a lifetime of journeys, it’ll be a lot of wasted fuel and more cost passed on to passengers.

    Having said that, I think the major fall-out over this is likely to be continuous delays in actually finishing the electrification projects that have been promised. Purchasing new bi-mode rolling stock because the electrification project is a few years behind schedule is likely to give them decades (the lifetime of the stock) to ignore the issue, because “the trains can run on diesel power to cover the gaps”.

  2. Tim Hall says:

    Even if bi-mode trains don’t turn out to be quite the magic bullet they seem to be, one can hardly blame the Department of Transport for getting cold feet on further electricification given the full-spectrum omnishambles that the Great Western scheme has become.

  3. Synthetase says:

    True, but I do feel a sense of treating the symptoms and not the disease.