The Anonymous Widower

Brummies Go For Battery Trams

The Midland Metro has several extensions in the planning stage and this article in Global Rail News is entitled Approval for catenary-free trams in Birmingham.

So the Metro’s Urbos 3 trams will be fitted with batteries to allow them to travel without the need for overhead wires on extensions to the current system.

It is not new technology as the trams’ builder; CAF have used Urbos 3 trams in Seville for some years.

The article in Global Rail News says this.

Birmingham will be the first city in the UK to use the technology. The batteries will be fitted to the roof of the vehicles and recharge when the tram moves back under the wires.

Routes identified for catenary-free operation include the entire Birmingham Centenary Square extension, the Birmingham-Edgbaston extension, the Birmingham Eastside extension, which will stop at the future Curzon Street HS2 station, and the Wolverhampton city centre extension.

Removing the need for overhead lines on these routes will save £650,000, ITA has said. However, the cost of procuring and installing the batteries isn’t yet known.

As Edinburgh Trams also use the same Urbos 3 trams, I wonder if Edinburgh will use similar technology to extend their tram system. The city had a lot of trouble putting up the wires, so surely a system without them may save money and time on the construction.

after the order for Arriva Rail North’s New Trains, CAF seem to be doing well in the UK.

February 12, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

Untangling The Brighton Main Line

I like difficult problems and getting more capacity out of the Brighton Main Line between London and Brighton is one of the most difficult problems on the UK rail network.

I have just read this document on the Government web site, which is entitled Brighton Main Line – Emerging Capacity Strategy for CP6.

Most of the problems are at the London end of the line and can probably be blamed on the fact that the Brighton Main Line was built by two companoes; the London Brighton and South Coast Railway and the South Eastern Railway.

There is this little history lesson in the document.

The London and South Western Railway, which operated today’s Wessex Route area for example, was able to grade separate almost all of its major junctions between London and Basingstoke in the Victorian era. The London, Brighton and South Coast Railway which operated the Brighton Main Line was unable to fund grade separation at key junctions. Even when further opportunities presented themselves for remodelling with stimulus funds in the 1930s, the by then amalgamated Southern Railway, despite developing plans for several grade separations, chose to prioritise the South West Main Line (delivering the grade separation of slow and fast lines north of Wimbledon).

The only sorting of the line done in recent years, was the creation of the Thameslink opening in the 1980s.

But as with many British Rail projects of the era, it was not done rigorously, with all major junctions, stations and other issues fully sorted.

A section in the document lists some of the bad points on the line and some possible solutions. Going South they are as follows.

Victoria Main Line Platforms

The document talks of a major reorganisation of the operation of the station. This is said.

The terminus of the BML, Victoria has seven terminating platforms available to Fast Line services although two of these are dedicated to the 4tph Gatwick Express service to simplify access for airport passengers. This leaves the remaining platforms to handle a higher volume of traffic. Development either side and above the station means the options for building additional platforms at the terminus are extremely limited.

Could it be that there has been a bit too much development around the station?

Clapham Junction Main Line Platforms

The document says this about Clapham Junction’s affect on services.

Clapham Junction is the key platform-based constraint on the route into Victoria. The station has single Up BML Fast and Down BML Fast platforms, and the majority of Fast Line services call here. The platforms have a booked dwell time of one minute and a platform re-occupation time of two minutes3 . This effectively pegs the maximum theoretical capacity of the BML Fast Lines into Victoria at 20tph – although when combined with constraints elsewhere on the route it is effectively less.

The solutions proposed at Clapham Junction station are complex and would probably be difficult to impl;ement given space and political considerations.

Windmill Bridge Junction

This is a major junction just North of East Croydon station, where one set of lines goes North-West through Selhurst and Clapham junction stations to Victoria and another set of lines goes North-East through Norwood Junction and New Cross Gate stations to London Bridge.

To complicate matters, Selhurst Depot lies in the junction, as this Google Map shows.

Windmill Bridge Junction

Windmill Bridge Junction

Selhurst station is at the top by the depot and East Croydon station is to the South.

The document says this should be done.

Grade separation of remaining flat junction conflicts (Down Victoria Fast with Up London Bridge Fast) and Up London Bridge slow with Down Victoria slow) under development.

Effectively, this means putting a flyover to separate trains going to London Bridge from those coming from Victoria.

At least the map shows that there is some green space between the two sets of lines.

East Croydon Station

This station is another station with not enough capacity. This is said in the document.

East Croydon has three Fast Line platforms but their use is complicated by the track layout at the London end of the station that involves conflicting moves between Up London Bridge fast and Down Victoria fast services at Windmill Bridge (listed above), as well as requiring reversible use of Platform 2.

The solution is mapped out in the document.

Scheme providing an additional 1 Line platforms and or 2 platforms under development. associated track layouts Scheme would also provide additional track East Croydon to Windmill Bridge Junction and track layout and signalling changes in the immediate East Croydon area including to relieve platform 4 and 5.

I think with all the development going on around East Croydon station, that this might help the addition of extra platforms. Wikipedia gives more details about the future development of East Croydon station.

South Croydon Junction

This junction just south of South Croydon station causes conflicts, where Oxted Line services conflict with down slow services.

This Google Map shows South Croydon station and the junction.

South Croydon Station And Junction

South Croydon Station And Junction

The document says this about a solution.

No viable solution currently available. Relief of other constraints may allow current layout to remain, as the flat junction constraint predominantly affects Slow Line services (although potentially constrains the pathing of services that use the Fast Lines north of Croydon).

But it is now probably more complicated as longer trains are proposed for the Uckfield Branch.

Stoat’s Nest Junction

The wonderfully-named Stoat’s Nest Junction is south of Purley station and causes the odd delay. The document talks about a solution.

A grade separation option for Up Slow to Up Fast moves under development.

It is probably a smaller but important project.

Gatwick Airport

There will be twenty trains an hour through the station at Gatwick Airport.

Given the investment being put into the station by Gatwick and the importance of the station as a hub, I feel that a way could be found to use the station to squeeze some more capacity out of the line.

Keymer Junction

Keymer Junction is south of Wivelfield station and causes delays =. The document says this about a solution.

Several options under consideration from grade separation to a third track option – case yet to be proven and would not be required if reliability and capacity uplift was focused on Gatwick inwards only.

This is one solution, that I think will be a bit different, as it could unlock capacity in Brighton and on the two Coastway Lines.

Crossrail 2

You may wonder how Crossrail 2 will affect the Brighton Main Line?

There are three stations in common between the two lines.

  • Victoria
  • Clapham Junction
  • Balham

Will passengers switch between the two lines at stations before Victoria?

If they do, the major effect will be to perhaps free-up Victoria station by a small amnlunt.


There would appear to be several places where capacity improvements can be made.

But don’t be surprised if something radical happens at Gatwick!

If a second runway were to be built at the airport, then this would need more capacity to London, which would have effects on the trains south of the airport.

February 10, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , | 2 Comments

The Rise Of Gatwick Airport

I used to hate Gatwick Airport, but now on my short flights to Europe, I often find myself using the Sussex airport, as it is usually an easier train ride, than Heathrow or Stansted.

The South East’s Next Runway

I am coming more to the conclusion, that despite the report of the Airports Commission, Heathrow Airport will never have a third runway, but Gatwick may get a second one, as they can start to plan, for when the deal to not build a second runway with Sussex County Council, runs out in 2019.

  • No serious candidate for London Mayor would win an election if they proposed a third runway at Heathrow.
  • Heathrow is surrounded by housing, whereas Gatwick is surrounded by more much open countryside.
  • The protests over another runway at Heathrow would be enormous.
  • In a few years time, Gatwick will have the better rail links and fifteen million people will live within an hour’s train journey of the Airport.

But the main reason is that building a second runway at Gatwick will be a lot easier. Just look at this Google Map of Gatwick Airport.

Gatwick Airport

Gatwick Airport

Note the following about the map and the expansion of Gatwick Airport.

  • The second runway will be built to the South of the existing runway.
  • There doesn’t appear to be much housing in the area of the proposed new runway.
  • The M23 Motorway and the Brighton Main Line run North-South to the East of the Airport.
  • A third terminal would be built near to the existing railway line.
  • Note in the map, that in addition to the single runway, the taxiway can be used as a runway, if say the runway is under repair or blocked.

The second runway would increase the capacity of the Airport to over 80 million passengers a year.

I’ve always believed that Gatwick could also build a North-South runway over the M23. This was proposed in the 1980s by pilots and with the capability of aircraft increasing all the time, I don’t rule it out at some time in the future.

The Biggest Airport Terminal In The World

I have argued in the past, that when Crossrail and Thameslink are completed, then the following airports and international rail stations will be connected together.

There will also be an easy link to HS2 for the North and Scotland.

As passengers will be increasingly savvy, in many cases they will organise their travel to what is best for them and not the travel agents, airlines and the airports.

I believe that London will sell itself, as a place to break that long journey, just as Singapore and Dubai have done for years.

As the North of England, Scotland and Wales always say, London always wins!

But then London is the capital of the world!

Rail Links To Heathrow Airport

Crossrail should give Heathrow Airport a world-class link to Central London, if they can sort out Crossrail’s access problems to the airport, that I wrote about in Heathrow Express And Crossrail.

The over-priced joke that is Heathrow Express will be on borrowed time once Crossrail opens in 2019.

But there will still be problems with rail access to Heathrow Airport.

  • Terminal 5 will not be connected to Crossrail.
  • Changing terminals at Heathrow is a chore.
  • Heathrow Express only takes passengers to and from Paddington.
  • There is no direct rail access to Reading for the West.
  • For some parts of London, the Piccadilly Line will still be the best way to go to and from the Airport.
  • Access to Continental rail services from Heathrow will be difficult.

You would never describe Heathrow as fully integrated into the the UK’s rail network.

Heathrow will of course argue, that links to Central London are excellent and that those continuing their journey will just change terminals and be on their way.

Obviously, improvements will come, but nothing important for passengers will happen, until Heathrow puts passengers first and drops it’s arrogant attitude, which thinks it is London’s only airport.

Rail Links To Stansted Airport

Stansted Airport has the Stansted Express from Liverpool Street, which runs about four times an hour.

I believe in the next few years, the following will happen.

  • Crossrail will arrive at Liverpool Street in 2019, giving one-change journeys to and from Heathrow.
  • The West Anglia Main Line will be four-tracked, allowing faster Stansted Express services.
  • An improved rail service will be provided to the increasingly important rail hub at Cambridge.
  • An extra Stansted Express service will run to Stratford via the new Lea Bridge station.
  • Stansted Express will probably get new air passenger-friendly trains.

But the biggest improvement of rail services to Stansted Airport will come, when and if Crossrail 2 is built, as this will make travel to the airport from all over London a lot easier, with just a single change at Tottenham Hale or Broxbourne.

I also wouldn’t be surprised to see some Crossrail 2 trains extended to Stansted. After all, the tracks exist and if the airport said to Transport for London, here’s a few million from our petty cash to run Crossrail 2 to Stansted, I’m sure TfL would oblige!

This would give Stansted Airport one-change services to Gatwick, Heathrow and Luton airports, Continental Rail Services and HS2.

Rail Links To Luton Airport

Luton Airport has its own Thameslink station at Luton Airport Parkway.

But also it has plans to expand, as is reported in this article in the Daily Mail, entitled Luton Airport reveals plans for direct rail line that would cut train journey from central London to just 20 minutes.

I think that Luton Airport could use something like Class 387/2 trains, as used on Gatwick Express with an IPEMU capability, so that they could use a branch line without any electrification to underneath the airport terminal.

Rail Links To Gatwick Airport

I found this article in TravelWeekly, which is entitled Gatwick outlines plans for a train departure to London every three minutes.

It gives a very good summary of the train services that will run to Gatwick after Thameslink is completed.

The planned hourly timetable would see:

•         Four dedicated Gatwick Express trains to Victoria
•         Six trains to Victoria – originating from East and West Coastway, Horsham/Littlehampton, and Three Bridges/Haywards Heath
•         Four trains to Bedford via London Bridge – originating from Gatwick and Brighton
•         Two trains to Cambridge via London Bridge – originating from Brighton
•         Two trains to Peterborough via London Bridge – originating from Horsham
•         Two trains to London Bridge – originating from Littlehampton/West Coastway, and Haywards Heath/Three Bridges.

That is a total of twenty trains to and from London and beyond and most of the South Coast from Southampton to Hastings.

How many better rail-connected airports are there anywhere in the world?

The article also quotes Guy Stephenson, the Airport’s Chief Commercial Officer as saying.

The new high frequency service that will serve Gatwick will transform rail journeys for our passengers, with capacity doubling and a train to London every three minutes.

Crucially, the new trains will be much more reliable and will be stacked with amenities suited to the needs of air travellers.  Combined with robust new track and signalling systems, Gatwick’s passengers will experience a really pleasant and dependable service.

Overall, the improvements to Gatwick’s rail service means that 15 million people will be brought within 60 minutes of Gatwick by rail – the best reach of any UK airport,

Reading the article, you might think that Thameslink should be called Gatwicklink!

According to this Press Release on the Gatwick Airport web site, Gatwick Airport are going to spend £120.5million on updating the rail station. This is an architect’s impression of the new station.


I also think that Gatwick could extend their Gatwick Express services.

I think we can also see development of Airport services to and from Gatwick Airport station based on the following existing services.

Will we be seeing a second Gatwick Express route from Ashford or Ebbsfleet to Reading via Gatwick Airport?


  • It would inevitably get known as the M25-on-rails.
  • It gives a large number of passengers a way to get to Gatwick and Continental Rail Services without going through Central London.
  • It could serve Heathrow, if they got their act together.
  • Surprisingly, I think this route will be quicker to go between Reading and Gatwick, than using Crossrail and Thameslink with a change at Farringdon.
  • The trains for such a service could be the same as the new Class 387/2 Gatwick Expresses, but with an IPEMU capability.

But it wouldn’t be just an Airport service, as I suspect that given adequate parking at stations, it would become a valuable cross-country route linking the rail hubs of Ebbsfleet, Gatwick and Reading. After all, North of London, the East West Rail Link is being created from Reading to Cambridge via Oxford, Milton Keynes and Bedford.

Southern also run a service from Milton Keynes to South Croydon via the West London Line. In the future this service will serve Old Oak Common station on Crossrail, HS2, the West Coast Main Line and the North London Line.

So will this service be extended from South Croydon to Gatwick and become a third Gatwick Express service?

These two additional Gatwick Express services would greatly increase or ease the airport’s links across the wider South East and to HS2 services out of Euston.

The only problem, is the overcrowding on the Brighton Main Line.


Gatwick will become the best rail-connected airport in the UK and will get a second runway!


February 10, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

The East London Line Closure Of The Week Of 13th February 2016

Some have raised questions, as to why it is necessary to close the East London Line next week for Crossrail works?

I have found this vaugely-dated document on the Crossrail web site entitled Whitechapel Station closures between 13 and 21 February 2016. It says this.

The programme of activities scheduled to take place between 01:00 on Saturday 13 February and 05:30 on Monday 22 February 2016 includes the following:

  • Ground reinforcement (piling) activity in the vicinity of the London Overground and London Underground platforms
  • Removing the staircases, walls and canopies in the vicinity of the Whitechapel Station and the former ticket hall.
  • Removing cables from the protection deck located over the London Overground, to the north of Durward Street • Removing part of the old pedestrian footbridge at the eastern end of Whitechapel Station
  • Station steelwork in the vicinity of London Overground
  • Concrete pours in the vicinity of the station.
  • There will be concrete lorries in Durward Street and activity on Whitechapel Road to support these concrete pours.


I can certainly understand, that if they have to close the railway for Health and Safety reasons, then so be it.

I can also understand, if they’ve found something unexpected in the old part of the Victorian station. We’ve all found that when we’ve renovated old buildings.

And of course, the closure is when it is, as it is half-term in Swanlea School, which helps with access.

But this whole closure is a puzzle to me, as Crossrail’s project management and also their handling of community relations and the media has been generally good.

According to someone locally to me in Dalston, this is an unexpected closure. If it is, then where is the story in the local press or on the BBC?

These days, with cameras and crews everywhere, why hasn’t there been an honest report on BBC London television?

I think Crossrail have rather mucked up here, as people are annoyed and if they’d given us the truth, people would be more understanding.

But then we’re in the East End, and if there was an Olympic event of ducking and diving, all the medals would be won, by someone from this area.


February 9, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

A Trip To Seaford

This morning, I took a trip to Seaford station on the Seaford Branch in Sussex via Brighton, to see if I could learn more about the East Coastway Line at Brighton.

I took these pictures.


  • The service from Brighton to Seaford is run by 3-car Class 313 trains.
  • The Class 313 trains are elderly, but well-maintained and lacking features that passengers expect these days, like wi-fi, information displays, adequate space for bicycles and fully-accessible toilets.
  • The train was fairly full on a cold but sunny, Sunday morning around Falmer station, where the University of Sussex and The Amex are located.
  • I was surporised at how many people arrived at Brighton on a Thameslink service.
  • Lewes station is being given a full upgrade.
  • Most other stations are simple affairs, that need some refurbishment.
  • It was sad to see the Port of Newhaven  so quiet.
  • I couldn’t identify the place, where the Wealden Line used to join the East Coastway.

Certainly the route has potential, which will probably be driven by traffic at Falmer station, which has already been upgraded to take 8-car trains.

The trains should be replaced by something like a four-car Class 377 or Class 387, that could run in pairs for busy days at the The Amex.

The question also has to be asked, if the new trains had an IPEMU capability, would it be more affordable to run the Seaford Branch, if the electrification were to be removed.


February 7, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Will Southern Create A South Coast Express Using IPEMUs?

This post is pure speculation on my part,which I’ve written to illustrate the capabilities of an IPEMU.

What is an IPEMU?

Many rail passengers in the UK, have ridden in one of Bombardier’s fairly ubiquitous Electrostar trains. Here’s a short list of some of the types and the services they run.

A Class 379 was used to create the IPEMU or Independently Powered Electric Multiple Unit and a year ago, I rode this train in public service between Manningtree and Harwich.

A battery pack had been added to the four-car train, which was charged up, when the train is running on an electrified line; third rail or overhead and the energy can then be used to propel the train on a line without electrification.

I was told by the engineer sitting opposite me,monitoring train performance on a laptop, that this Class 379 IPEMU had the following characteristics.

  • A range of upwards of sixty miles on battery power.
  • Similar performance on battery or direct power.
  • Virtually identical driving experience.

I would also add that the passenger experience was virtually identical.

Network Rail and Bombardier have put a lot of time, effort and money into the IPEMU. They believe, that IPEMUs and their battery power will have the following applications.

  • Providing affordable electric services on branch lines or other lines that are difficult to electrify.
  • Moving trains around in depots and sidings that have not been electrified.
  • Train recovery and diversion, when the power fails.
  • Used in conjunction with regenerative braking, IPEMU technology saves electricity.

Obviously, Bombardier very much believe in the technology, as their new train; the Aventra has been designed to use energy storage.

IPEMU is an acronym, that will increasingly be used with trains.

The Class 387 Train

Southern, who operate a lot of services south of London are users of Class 387 trains.

The Class 387/1 trains will be replaced by Class 700 trains, as they arrive from Germany.

Unfortunately, due to the well-documented problems of Network Rail’s electrification, it looks like a lot of these twenty-nine trains could be put into storage.

I believe that some of these trains will be given an IPEMU capability to be used to provide electric train services on certain lines.

As they are closely related to the Class 379 train used for the prototype, I feel that most of the technical problems have been solved.

Along The South Coast From Southampton to Ashford

The South Coast from Southampton to Ashford is covered by two separate rail routes.

If you want to travel between say Hastings and Worthing, you will have to change trains at Brighton.

This usually means a wait of a few minutes and a change of platform.

Any sane person would believe that if a single train could run all the way from Southampton to Ashford, this would be better for many reasons.

  • The train company would probably need less trains.
  • Passengers wouldn’t have to change trains at Brighton.
  • There could probably be a simpler interchange between Coastway and Brighton Main Line services at Brighton station, which might release platform space.
  • Both Coastway routes are limited to speeds below 80 mph and are fairly straight, so perhaps with some improvements, faster services could be introduced.

Until recently, the only trains capable of going from Ashford to Southampton would have been diesel multiple units, but as the only part of the route that is not electrified is the Marshlink Line from Ore to Ashford, it would now be possible to run the service using an IPEMU variant of a Class 387 train.  The train would charge its on-board batteries between Southampton and Ore and at Ashford and then use battery power to bridge the gap of about thirty miles on the Marshlink Line.

As IPEMUs have a range of sixty miles, then it would seem that there should be few problems in running the trains between Ashford and Ore.

This approach has benefits.

  • The Class 387 train is an 110 mph electric train with regenerative braking, so services could be faster.
  • GTR has quite a few of the standard Class 387 trains in service, so the company and their drivers probably know them well.
  • GTR could say they have removed a number of diesel trains and they are a greener company.
  • Network Rail would only have to update the track and signalling of the Marshlink Line for four-car trains and wouldn’t need to electrify any of the route.

Currently, to go from Ashford to Southampton takes three hours forty-five minutes and it is quicker to go via St. Pancras and Waterloo. But with a 110 mph train and no changes, timings must be possible in the region of three hours.

I suspect that with some selected track improvements, a limited-stop service could be a real South Coast Express.

There certainly is some scope and I’ll detail each improvements on the main East and West Coastways separately,

The Marshlink Line

The Marshlink Line is not fully double-tracked, has several level crossings and a low speed limit, which if improved, would probably be welcomed.

The Marshlink Line Action Group web site has an extensive report about improving the line, of which this is an extract, from a report which discusses extending the Class 395 train service from Ashford to Hastings.

The basics of the project are substantially as presented last year with line speeds generally expected to be 60-90 mph from Ashford to Doleham and 40-60 mph onwards to Hastings. But the ongoing big question for NR (and of concern to MLAG from an environmental point of view and compatibility with rolling stock in the surrounding lines) is whether the power source would be third rail (as MLAG would prefer) or overhead. NR acknowledges the difficulty of overhead power along the Marsh with gantries having to be built on (obviously) marsh land and with the strong winds. Whichever, some 30 miles of track would need to be laid but, apparently, only about half a mile of dualled track to the west of Rye.

Incidentally, there has been talk about running Class 395 trains from St. Pancras to Eastbourne via HS1 to Ashford and the Marshlink Line. It would undoubtedly be a fast service, but it has some inherent disadvatages.

  • The Marshlink Line would need to be electrified, probably with 25KVAC overhead wires.
  • Some people might object to the wires across the marshes?
  • Would it need some extra Class 395 trains to be purchased?
  • Would it mean that one franchise was encroaching on the territory of another?

On the other hand, using IPEMU trains would simplify the job and mean no electrification would be needed.

However, it would probably be a good idea to make sure that as much dualled track was created, to maintain an efficient service on the line in the future.

The Willingdon Chord And Eastbourne

There has been talk about reinstating the Willingdon Chord, which could shorten the line by making it possible for trains to by-pass Eastbourne, But the locals fear, that Eastbourne would lose services.

However, surely some fast long-distance services along the South Coast could by-pass the town.

A skilled compiler of timetables could probable devise one for Eastbourne, that gave the town, faster and better services to Brighton, Southampton and London.

Lewes And The Wealden Line

It is an aspiration of many to reinstate the Wealden Line, as a new route to London to take pressure off the Brighton Main Line.

In Musical Trains In Sussex, I gave my reasons for believing that the Uckfield Branch could be run using Class 387 IPEMUs.

I also believe that if the Wealden Line is reinsatated that it will use the same type of train.

Obviously, Network Rail and Southern, will make sure that the Wealden Line project doesn’t conflict with a desire to run fast trains along the South Coast.

Hove Station

Hove station is a busy one with up to eight services an hour passing through in both directions, to and from Victoria and Gatwick Airport as well as Brighton.

There were aspirations that in the future to add the London Bridge to Littlehampton via Hove service to Thameslink. The service would use the Cliftonville Curve to access the Brighton Main Line, as it does now.

This would give all stations on the West Coastway Line between Hove and Littlehampton, two trains per hour through to London Bridge and beyond

Except for the Future Developments section in the Wikipedia entry for Hove station, I can’t find any more about this proposal.

The Arundel Chord

One piece of infrastructural that gets mentioned is a chord at Arundel that would connect the West Coastway Line to the Arun Valley Line between Angmering and Ford stations.

If it were to be built, it would create another route between Brighton and Three Bridges using the eastern part of the West Coastway and the Arun Valley Line.

Westward From Littlehampton

My only experience of the western end of the West Coastway line, was missing a train and having to wait an hour on a freezing and deserted Bosham station for the next train.

The service could probably benefit from a rethink.


Brighton is the major interchange between the two Coastway services and the Brighton Main Line with its Gatwick Express, Victoria and Thameslink services.

Brighton station certainly needs improvement to cope with the large increase in capacity to the city, that Thameslink and its new Class 700 trains will bring.

Each twelve-car Class 700 train, will have a capacity approaching 1,800 passengers and there will be four of these trains to and from Central London and beyond every hour.

Obviously, the trains won’t be full at Brightpon and not all passengers will be walking to and from the station, so there needs to be better connections to buses and the two Coastway Lines.

At present, it takes a few minutes and a platform change to pass through Brighton if you’re going between services at the station.

  • Brighton Main Line, Gatwick Express and Thameslink services.
  • East Coastway services
  • West Coastway services.
  • Great Western Railway services to the West.

The platform layout at Brighton doesn’t look as if it was designed to make train services for passengers and train companies efficient.

So surely, if Coastway services could be linked, so that they came into the station, set down and picked up passengers before going out in the other direction, this would be a more efficient way to organise trains at the station.

It would also make the interchange between Coastway and Brighton Main Line services easier and hopefully, just a walk across a platform.

A reorganised Brighton could probably contribute several minutes to the savings in journey times along the Coastway.

This Google Map shows Brighton station and the two Coastway Lines coming into the station.

Brighton Station And The Coastways

Brighton Station And The Coastways

I don’t think it would be an affordable or even a sensible solution, to combine the two Coastways together north of Brighton station.

The Wivelsfield Alternative

But Network Rail have come up with an alternative solution, so that the two Coastways can be connected together.

Just sixteen kilometres north of Brighton is Wivelsfield station. It is possible to access the East Coastway Line just south of the station at Keymer Junction, which unfortunately is not grade-separated and probably needs to be to improve Eastbourne services from Victoria.

Wikipedia has a section on the future of Wivelsfield station, which says this.

In Autumn 2015 Network Rail released the Sussex Area Route Study, where two options for the proposed grade separation of Keymer Junction are detailed, both of which would transform the station dramatically. Option 1 is the minimal option and creates a new platform 0 on the west side of the station served by a 3rd track from the new flyover line from Lewes. Option 2 is much more ambitious and builds on option 1 by adding an additional 4th platform on the east side of the station as well, served by a 4th track on the line to Lewes. Whilst this would enable each line to the south to have a dedicated platform the primary benefit would be that the existing platforms could be used to turn back trains in either direction as needed without blocking the main lines.

As services can access the West Coastway Line through the Cliftonville Tunnel to Hove, which is a couple of miles north of Brighton station, it would appear that the two Coastways could be connected, with a reverse at Wivelsfield.

The route would be.

This is not a complete solution, as there would have to be a way to get to Brighton station, by probably changing at Lewes, Wivelsfield or Hove.

A Brighton Metro

In a trip to Brighton, I travelled to Seaford using the East Coastway and the Seaford Branch. Even on a Sunday morning in February, the three-car Class 313 train was pretty full, especially around the University of Sussex at Falmer station.

So could the half-hourly Brighton-Seaford service be extended to the west of the City to perhaps Hove, Littlehampton or even Bognor Regis?

It would surely generate its own traffic across the city, which could help to reduce Brighton’s bad traffic jams. Stations could be.

I think if you can sort out Brighton station or create the Wivelsfield alternative, you could run a four trains per hour stopping service across the city for as far as you want.

Perhaps the slower stopping trains would go via Brighton and the semi-fast services would go via Wivelsfield.

It’s a problem, that I suspect Network Rail have thought through fully!

Train Movements At Brighton

The only problem would be that the combined Coastway Line would need to cross the throat of the station, probably in a flat junction.

Say the Joint Coastway Line had the following services at Brighton.

  • 2-4 trains per hour between Seaford and Littlehampton/Bognor, that would stop at all stations including Brighton.
  • 2-4 trains per hour between Ashford International and Portsmouth Harbour and/or Southampton Central, that would stop at major stations only.

These would come into a platform or platforms on the Eastern side of the station, which would mean any train going to or coming from the West Coastway, would have to cross the Brighton Main Line to London.

The services to and from London after Thameslink is fully opened could be.

  • 3 trains per hour to Victoria.
  • 4 trains per hour on Thameslink

I’m no signalling expert, but I do feel that much more onerous train movements are coped with in stations like Manchester Piccadilly, Paddington and Waterloo.

Note the four trains per hour frequency on Thameslink (two from Cambridge and two from Bedford) Surely, if Coastway services are four trains per hour, then all services should have a pattern, so journeys like Seaford to Cambridge, involved just a walk across a platform at Brighton.

I’m sure some clever train scheduler can come up with an optimal pattern of changing trains at Brighton, especially if some trains used the alternative route via Wivelsfield.

But my feeling is that as Brighton is such an important station, that all Coastway services must either terminate or stop in the station.

At least there does not appear to be significant freight running on the Coastways.

Capacity At Brighton Station

The Thameslink Program and its Class 700 trains, will probably increase passengers through Brighton station.

Knowing the quality of Network Rail’s passenger transport modelling, I would not bet against Thameslink being so successful between London and Brighton, that additional services have to be added.

As the Thameslink trains will be new and they serve lots of destinations in London and beyond, I think it is a given, that passengers from places like Eastbourne and Worthing, might use Thameslink instead of their local direct route, changing at either Brighton or Gatwick Airport.


Improvement of the Coastways, is just one part of an evolving plan for rail and air services in Kent, Surrey and Sussex.

As there are important lines in the area that are not electrified, I’m certain that IPEMUs will play a part in this development.

After all, the technology works and we will soon have lots of Class 387 trains sitting in sidings.


February 6, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

More Steam Up For The Borders Railway Extension To Carlisle

This article on the BBC, which is entitled Call for Borders Railway extension to Carlisle renewed during Lamington work, is typical of many articles in papers like the Glasgow Herald and Scotsman, and on vartious media web sites.

In ‘Encouraging signs’ on Borders Railway Extension to Carlisle, I felt that as Network Rail are creating a hub to connect all the scenic routes in the Borderland together, that the Borders Railway should be extended to Carlisle and other routes should either be electrified or upgraded so that passenger services could be run by four-car electric trains or IPEMUs.

The failure of the Lamington viaduct and its closure until March, illustrates why we need more diversion routes, not just in the Borderlands, but everywhere it is feasible.

February 6, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

A Trip To Uckfield

In Musical Trains In Sussex, I looked at how Southern were moving trains around to provide more and better services for passengers.

I postulated that Southern could be introducing Class 387 trains with an IPEMU capability to replace Class 171 trains on the Uckfield Branch of the Oxted Line.

I also found that they were lengthening platforms on the branch, so I went to have a look and took these pictures of my trip.

I had caught a two-car Class 171 train at London Bridge station and the train took me to Crowborough, where I caught a Rail Replacement Bus to Uckfield.

A few thoughts.

  • The platform-lengthening doesn’t fall into the category of just enough and on most stations, it would appear that after extension ten or even twelve car trains could use the line.
  • A lot of the stations are just one platform with no bridge, as has been used in some stations on the Borders Railways.
  • My travelling companion; a Canadian lady with a dog called Chevy, had read that ten-car trains would be run on the line, but felt that four- or six-car would be sufficient.
  • The line is mainly single-track and if electrification was to be performed, it wouldn’t be the most difficult project.
  • I did find Uckfield rather a disappointing town, where I was unable to find anywhere sensible for lunch.
  • According to the conductor, we’ll know more about the line on the 19th of February, when the southern platform-lengthening is completed and work can be completed north of Crowborough.

The platform work is certainly being done to a standard and length, that should be good enough, if the Uckfield Branch is used to create a second Brighton Main Line, by extending the line past Uckfield to Lewes on the route of the former Wealden Line.

However, as the pictures show, there could be a significant problem to extend the railway across the road through Uckfield, unless the road and its significant traffic load could be diverted..

This is a Google Map of the station area.


Uckfield Station

It would appear that the station is rather hemmed in by buildings and the River Uck.

If we are talking about a normal dual-voltage Class 387 train, with its pantograph, it would need clearance under the bridge. But we are talking about an IPEMU version, that charges the batteries from a third rail and there is none at Uckfield.

So could the railway line be dropped sufficiently and the road surface be raised accordingly to create a low bridge, under which an IPEMU might squeeze, through a single-track tunnel

As there would be no electrified  lines in the station and under the road, it might just be possible, if slab track were to be used.

I think this illustrates one of the properties of an IPEMU. Because the trains do not always need to have a power supply, there are places where it is simpler to run an IPEMU, than a normal train.

One example that comes to mind is running trains on the Northern City Line into Moorgate, where the tunnels are a bit too narrow and the current rolling stock has to be of a unique design.


February 5, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 1 Comment

A Class 700 Train On Test

I took this picture of a Class 700 train just North of Norwood Junction station.

A Class 700 Train On Test

A Class 700 Train On Test

After halting for a minute or so, it turned off towards Crystal Palace.

During the day, I also saw a couple of bright-red Class 387/2 Gatwick Expresses running around. In one case, I felt that it wasn’t just an eight-car formation, but possibly a twelve-car. As I was in a waiting room at East Croydon station, I can’t be sure, but it certainly appeared to be a long train.

According to this page on the Thameslink web site, the Class 700 trains will start to be introduced on the 16th April 2016.

The Thameslink web page also says that the introduction of trains will be completed in June 2018. So give or take a month, that is twenty-five months to introduce sixty eight-car and fifty-five twelve-car trains. So that is a rate of somewhere between four and five trains per month.

At present the Thameslink service is run by three different types of trains.

  • Twenty-nine Class 387/1 trains, which are supposed to be going to the Great Western Railway, but can’t as there are no overhead wires.
  • Thirty-two Class 377 trains, which could go to Southeastern to improve their services. Clare Perry has promised new trains and these would fit.
  • Upwards of fifty Class 319 trains, which I suspect will do what Mark 3 based stock does best and fill in where operators have a shortage of trains. Handsome is as handsome does!

It does appear that as time progresses there will be a number of Class 387 trains, available to provide a quality service.

It’s why I think, thast some will be converted into IPEMUs.

And as GTR, have lots of experience and drivers for Class 387s, it would appear logical that Class 387 IPEMUs would be used to replace the Class 171 trains on the services on the Oxted Line and the Marshlink Line.


February 5, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Musical Trains In Sussex

This article from Rail Magazine is entitled Class 387/2s enter traffic with GTR.

It says that as Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) already has Thameslink drivers qualified to drive the trains and the training for drivers on Gatwick Express hasn’t been completed yet, then two of the new Class 387/2 trains for Gatwick Express have started to be used on Thameslink services to replace the ugly Class 319 trains.

The Class 700 trains, start to be delivered this spring on Thameslink and will obviously replace the remaining 319s first. But as numbers increase, what is going to happen to the displaced new Class 387/1 trains, currently running the route with the 319s?

Surely to park them in sidings, until the much-delayed Great Western Electrification is completed will be a scandal.

It is also complicated by the fact that after Bombardier finish the Class 387/2s for Gatwick Express, they are going to build another twenty-eight four-car trains to add to the collection in the sidings.

Unless of course, someone decides that they will be better off earning revenue.

It’s all gone rather quiet on the IPEMU front, except for a presentation in Derby by Network Rail to the IMechE, but surely if the technology works, wouldn’t it be better to fit batteries to some of these trains and use them on services, where IPEMUs are an alternative to full electrification.

GTR could even use a few of the IPEMU variant of the Class 387 train on their Southern franchise to replace their diesel Class 171 trains on the Oxted Line and the Marshlink Line.

Surely, if there was ever a low-risk strategy to try out these innovative IPEMU trains in revenue earning service, it is on these two lines.

  • GTR has a lot of experience with running and training drivers for Class 387 trains.
  • Both the Oxted and Marshlink lines need an increase in capacity.
  • I suspect, that modifications need to be done to allow four-car trains to run on the Oxted Line to Uckfield.
  • Four-car trains already run on the Marshlink Line.
  • GTR would end up with an all-electric passenger train fleet.

But surely the main reason, is that some modern diesel trains in good condition, would become available for cascade to places, where they are really needed.

I’ve just found this article on the Southern Railway web site, which is entitled Uckfield line platform extensions. It describes how all platforms on the line are being lengthened for twelve-car trains. This is said on timescales.

Permanent works started in September 2015 at some sites and they will start in the New Year for others. The stations will be completed on a staggered basis between February and July 2016.

The article also says that until February 19th, there will be a replacement bus service from Crowborough to Uckfield via Buxted.  So it is reasonable to assume that from the end of this month, that at least the last three stations on the line will be able to take longer trains. This surely says that if selective door opening is used on a few stations, then by the May 2016 timetable change, longer trains can be used on the Uckfield branch.

Progress on the platform lengthening seems tro be going well, as I wrote in A Trip To Uckfield.

But where are they going to get serviceable four-car trains, let alone twelve-car ones to run on the Uckfield branch?

Perhaps they are going to use two Class 37 locomotives and a few clapped-out coaches.

My devious mind thinks that running the two Gatwick Express trains on Thameslink, frees up two four-car Class 387 trains, which could go to a convenient depot to be fitted with their batteries and IPEMU capability.

After all, when Bombardier created the Class 379 demonstrator for the technology, they didn’t take the train out of service for more than a few months.

There is also this paragraph in Network Rail’s Route Specification for the South East published in April 2015, in a sub-section called Electification Strategy under Route Specification Sussex. This said.

For routes for which it is unlikely that a case can be made for conventional electrification, there could be an opportunity for alternative solutions to be considered in place of diesel traction, for example battery train operation through an Independently Powered Electric Multiple Unit (IPEMU).

Could Network Rail have decided that now is the time to facilitate IPEMU introduction on the two  lines in Sussex, that are not electrified?

Replacing two Class 387/1 trains with two Class 387/2 trains, releases the trains for modification.

At the end of the month, when the Class 387/2 trains are needed to start services on Gatwick Express, the modified Class 387/1 trains can be returned to service and run without using their IPEMU capability.

When the Class 700 trains are approved for Thameslink, the Class 387/1 with the IPEMU capability can go where they are needed.

As Network Rail are spending money on platform lengthening on the Uckfield Branch, I think we’ll be seeing some of the first IPEMUs serving it in the near future.

Politics says they’ll turn up before the First of May!


February 4, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | 2 Comments


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