Log in to the online community

Want to post a reply? You'll need to log in  Having trouble logging in? Read our help guide
Ditching Electric, Reverting to Diesel.
Zoomup
4098 Posts
12 Replies
Chris Pearson
3197 Posts

People may be mithering about the price of gas and I see that two more suppliers went bust this week, but it is bound to have a knock on effect on the price of leccy. The price cap isn't much use if companies which are inadequately hedged have to pay more than the price that they can get.

BTW, has anybody got any idea about Utility Point? They owe me about £200, but although an e-mail has been received, I have heard nothing further. What seems strange is that Neon Reef is still supplying my leccy. Same address, same directors! 😡

broadgage
977 Posts

Have been reading of this this on a railway forum.

I doubt that diesel locomotives will be cheaper to run than electric locomotives for any significant time.

Red diesel fuel is available for about 80 pence a liter in bulk.

In an efficient diesel generator each liter can produce 5 kwh, or perhaps 4 kwh under less favourable conditions.

That suggests an operating cost for FUEL ALONE of about 16 pence to about 20 pence per kwh for a diesel locomotive. 

Network  rail charge about 12.5 pence a unit for traction current, a clear saving. Some train operators have elected not to pay this flat rate, but instead chose to pay the actual “day ahead” spot price for electricity, plus a network rail markup for distribution costs. That could prove very expensive indeed at times, but I doubt that it would REMAIN more expensive than diesel fuel.

Electric locomotives are cheaper to maintain thereby saving expensive labour, but it is hard to put a direct value on this.

AJJewsbury
3068 Posts

Rather inappropriate pictures - an Airedale & Wharfdale line passenger train, and what looks like something from quite another continent.  Hardly gives confidence in DM's grasp of the principles.

And as ever the headlines don't seem to entirely be supported by the facts - “The cost of operating each electric train has surged by more than 200 per cent” when what it seems really happened is just the electricity costs have gone up that much - all the other operating costs (driver wages, track access charges, rollingstock lease/depreciation etc) presumably haven't gone up anything like as much, so the overall increase in operating costs would be much diluted.

The interesting bit seems to be “The maximum price of approximately 80% of the total electricity used to power trains in Britain is fixed until around April 2024.” - i.e. it sounds like few railfreight operators are in a similar position to some of the smaller gas suppliers who went bust recently - i.e. failed to hedge their energy purchases.

I can't see it causing a massive change in rail traction - as far as I'm aware there aren't many spare diesel locos laying around waiting for work and new ones will take ages to commission, so a wholesale swapping from electric to diesel isn't really plausible.

It does highlight our dependency on unreliable imported fossil fuels however (whether gas to generate electricity or any other) so the sooner we're self-sufficient in energy (preferably renewables) the better. At least electric hauled trains have the option of switching between different ultimate fuel sources (gas, nuclear, wind, hydro, biomass, etc etc) - diesel locos are much more limited when the price of oil rockets (as it undoubtedly will if the gas price stays high).

   - Andy.

Zoomup
4098 Posts

We should use smaller trains. Less air resistance and less fuel used, more efficient, especially if not fully loaded.

example:

 

garywwess
17 Posts

diesel cheaper than electric…  i have a million quid here, just need your bank details..  ohh and santas real..

broadgage
977 Posts

Diesel fuel can be cheaper than mains electricity, and has been on a few days when spot electricity prices reached record levels.

I would not expect that grid electricity would REMAIN more expensive than diesel fuel for any extended time.

Also the equipment, whether a diesel generating set or a locomotive costs money to buy and more money to maintain.

When the equipment already exists the position is clearly more favourable. For example the spending of significant capital on diesel generating plant for use a few days a year at times of high grid electricity prices is most unlikely to be viable.

If however the capital has already been sunk on diesel generating plant for say standby purposes, then use for a few dozen hours a year might be worthwhile. Maintenance and depreciation wont be significantly increased by such limited use, which also turns over fuel stocks and reduces risk of it spoiling.

broadgage: 
 

Diesel fuel can be cheaper than mains electricity, and has been on a few days when spot electricity prices reached record levels.

I would not expect that grid electricity would REMAIN more expensive than diesel fuel for any extended time.

Do British trains run on grid electricity? Or do they have their own generating plant?

Almost all transport operators hedge their fuel costs. Airlines do it years in advance. Why wouldn't train operators do it? I can't see how you could possibly run a rail freight operation without hedging your energy costs. 

Gideon
48 Posts

I suppose that if a rail network wants to use regerative braking (especially if it has done for 40+ years), it might not want to be coupled to a grid with tight voltage & frequency constraints? Come to that, even the traction load is going to be pretty brutal, especially watching the sparks fly as the shoe bumps along our southern live rail. And all the wet leaves on the line… 

broadgage
977 Posts

Peter Bernard Ladkin: 
 

broadgage: 
 

Diesel fuel can be cheaper than mains electricity, and has been on a few days when spot electricity prices reached record levels.

I would not expect that grid electricity would REMAIN more expensive than diesel fuel for any extended time.

Do British trains run on grid electricity? Or do they have their own generating plant?

Almost all transport operators hedge their fuel costs. Airlines do it years in advance. Why wouldn't train operators do it? I can't see how you could possibly run a rail freight operation without hedging your energy costs. 

Yes UK trains do use grid electricity and have done so for many years.

mapj1
4321 Posts

you may find the following govt report on the carbon footprint of UK rail has some relevant numbers. 

Headline figures.. passanger trains dominate the ‘leccy bill’ at  just under 4000GW hr per year.

Freight is a lot less electric.

In 2018-19 passenger services consumed:3,976 million kWh of electricity Increase of 9.1% compared to 2017-18  469 million litres of diesel Decrease of 5.3% compared to 2017-1

in 2018-19 freight services consumed:75 million kWh of electricity Increase of 12.7% compared to 2017-18  153 million litres of diesel Decrease of 6.7% compared to 2017-18

 

 

Mike 

PS edit.

Another source of useful figures is the 2012 Ricardo report into the efficiency of diesel trains.in 2012 one of their recommendations was very similar to the sort of thing in a modern car.

Technology Package #6 (idle stop/start, gas exchange system upgrade and small genset for freight locomotives) –Overall this is the most attractive retrofitting solution of those considered for improving the efficiency of the GB rail fleet by applying it to all 450 Class 66 freight locomotives–TP #6 consists of an idle stop/start system to improve idle fuel consumption, a small diesel genset to provide cabin comfort when the traction engine is off and a gas exchange system upgrade to improve higher load fuel efficiency–The payback period is under 1 year and it could save 89 million litres of diesel per year which equates to savings of £53 million per year at £0.60/litre of diesel.

As far as I know, this has not been adopted

 

I often have wondered what a diesel electric or a electric loco costs from a capital point of view. There are a number of new steam builds going on at the moment for, say, £2-3M (same cost as a non UK built electric loco?) and surely there comes a point where burning some local ‘eco’ fuel (maybe sewage gas for example) plus the increased labour for maintenance is going to be cheaper than importing both electric loco‘s and fuel?

UK balance of payments is dire, yet we seem content is acquiring everything from outside the UK. According to the IMF the UK net worth in 2020 was -$3225678 million… note the minus sign. It sounds dire. (https://data.imf.org/regula.asps?key=61545853). 


Although I am electrical engineer not an accountant!

[PBL] Do British trains run on grid electricity

[broadgage] Yes UK trains do use grid electricity and have done so for many years.

Interesting. Swiss rail is almost entirely electric and has been for a century. But they have their own power stations. Gideon supposed a very good reason for that, as shown by the following example. On 22 June 2005 they had a system-wide power outage. They had apparent instances of regenerative braking in Ticino, far more than there were actually trains on the track, as far as I remember, and it tripped the supply there, which started a trip cascade. Later in the year, Carsten Weber explained what happened at a Workshop I was running. Took him about 40 minutes. At the end, he said “and that took 8 seconds.”

Share:

Log in

Want to post a reply? You'll need to log in  Having trouble logging in? Read our help guide