Update 10 June – Northern and CAF engineers have now carried out temporary modifications to yaw dampers on their new trains, and a permanent solution will follow. Immediate good news is that most of the trains are now quickly and safely coming back into service. Northern’s recent (10 June) press statement is here, but if you want to know what the heck is a yaw damper, read on below!
Metal fatigue hits new trains (from our recent newsletter). At the end of May we understand about 30 of Northern’s CAF-built new trains were out of service including some of the “195s” used on our line. The problem is cracks on the brackets attaching a gadget called a yaw damper to the train body. A yaw damper is designed to stop the bogie wobbling from side to side as it rolls along. This transmits an oscillating force to the mounting and body, leading to metal fatigue, and ultimately cracking Lightweight aluminium used in construction is more prone to metal fatigue than steel. Yaw damper problems have also hit Hitachi high speed trains run by LNER, GWR and TransPennine Express, though it was cracks in jacking points that took those trains out of service recently. The issue is not new. British Rail had to redesign damper mountings on our familiar Class 158 units 30 years ago. It’s about designing components to reduce concentration of stress – avoiding sharp corners etc. Have modern train designers not learnt lessons?
Repairs will take time. It’s fortunate that with fewer passengers, for now, Northern can manage with shorter trains. As we write this most Calder Valley trains seem to be correct.
These ScotRail “TurboStar” Class 170 diesel trains built around 15 years ago are a lot more modern than most of what currently runs on the Calder Valley Line. We hear that they could be taking over Leeds-Brighouse-Manchester-Southport services (along with the Harrogate Line) in a couple of year’s time, displaced by Scotland’s electrification programme. So is this another case of Northern England having to make do with cast-offs, this time from further north rather than down south?
Such a view would be unfair. Arriva promises that, whilst acquiring 281 brand-new carriages, they will refurbish all older units as new. This means modernising, complete with free wi-fi and compliant access, not just any 1999-2005 vintage Turbostars, but also our ancient Class 150s that in their present state really are a step back into the grim
1980s. (That such transformation is possible has been demonstrated by South West Trains with its 30-year old Class 455 electrics.) Our guess is that”150s”will still be running Leeds-Halifax-Huddersfield services in five years time but there is every reason to hope they will look and feel much more like modern trains. They will keep one current advantage
doors part way along the carriage to facilitate quicker boarding and alighting at busy times compared with later”super sprinter”and “express”types. The 170s also have the doors advantage, plus higher power that HADRAG hopes will help improve journey times on the Brighouse-Manchester route.
Of course the really good news for all Calderdale stations apartfrom Brighouse-is that most trains via Bradford and Halifax will become Northern Connect services employing brand new”Civity”Class 195 trains being built in Spain”as we speak”, to quote Northern boss Alex Hynes. We expect the 195s to have all mod cons including tables, leg room and a decent view out of the window!