The Anonymous Widower

Improving The East London Line

I make no apologies for returning to this subject, but I use the East London Line of the Overground virtually every day and it is very much part of my daily life.

What also prompted me to think about this topic, was coming back from Birmingham into Marylebone and thinking how I would get home in the aftermath of a Friday rush-hour. At the time I was passing Dollis Hill station, where the Chiltern Line runs alongside the Jubilee And Metropolitan Lines.

Dollis Hill Station From A Marylebone-Bound Train

Dollis Hill Station From A Marylebone-Bound Train

It reminded me of the plan to create a proper Interchange between all of lines at West Hampstead. But I can’t expect all trains into Marylebone to stop there, so that I can get easily to Dalston on the North London Line.

So in the end, when I got to Marylebone, I took one stop to Baker Street to get the Metropolitan line to Whitechapel for the East London Line. But usually the Metropolitan was a disaster with no trains and no information, so in the end I took the Jubilee Line to London Bridge from where I got a bus home.

To put it mildly, I’d hit the usual problem. – Getting to and from the Bakerloo Line from East London. It just doesn’t interchange with anything useful within a couple of stops from say Whitechapel or Dalston Junction.

There are two major developments that will happen in the next few years to the East London Line. As the Eastern end of the North London Line from Highbury & Islington to Stratford is closely tied to the East London Line, related improvements to that line will also be covered.

1. Six-car trains 

As I indicated in this earlier post on improving the Overground, the East London Line could be easily upgraded to take twenty-four six-car trains in each direction. I said this in that post.

At the moment the East London Line has 16 four-car trains an hour in the core route, so 24 six-car trains will mean an increase of capacity of 2.25.

But the East London Line already has five-car trains, so the improvement in capacity will be just a factor of 1.8.

The history of the Overground and their Class 378 trains has been one of continuously adding new carriages, ever since they were introduced. I feel that by the end of this decade plans will be in place for a sixth carriage on the East London Line.

There are documents from Network Rail and Transport for London, that also show that six-car trains and higher frequencies will be operating on the North London Line.

I don’t know the economics of building trains, but I suspect that Bombardier would like all new trains to be Aventras, so that they only have one type in production. After all the next order from London Overground is for Aventras for the Lea Valley Lines.

So we might see an early order for sixth carriages or London Overground may go for a fleet that was 100% Aventras. The latter wouldn’t be a waste of a fleet of Class 378 trains, as Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds and Liverpool, would probably like to acquire a fleet of trains less than a decade old.

2. Crossrail

Crossrail will also interface to the East London Line at Whitechapel station and who can predict accurately how much the new line will increase passengers on the East London Line? I suspect that Transport for London’s forecasts will be wrong, just because you are dealing with East Londoners, who have all the flexibility and cunning in their transport plans of little furry animals, who want to enter your property. I think this is due to the legacy of East London having pretty terrible Underground and rail lines  until the last few years.

All of these extra passengers travelling on the East London Line will generate a series of actions that will need to be taken, which fall vaguely into two groups.

1. Extra Terminal Platforms At Both The North And South Ends

For operational reasons, it is probably better to have the same number of North and South terminal platforms at both end of the line.

At present the East London Line operates four separate services with one train every fifteen minutes in both directions.

  • Dalston Junction to West Croydon
  • Dalston Junction to New Cross
  • Highbury & Islington to Crystal Palace
  • Highbury & Islington to Clapham Junction

Which gives the current sixteen trains per hour, so if they keep to the current balancing rule and a four trains per hour, they’ll need two extra terminal platforms in both North and South.

I think it is probably right to assume that the terminus shouldn’t be too far away from Whitechapel. Currently, West Croydon and Clapham Junction take about 40 minutes, so much longer than this is probably not possible.

I suspect that the planners of Transport for London have some surprising ideas, when they have a few drinks on a Friday night.

2. New Stations And Interchanges

The Overground and the East London Line in particular always seems to have someone pushing for a new station or better interchange with other lines.

Current interfaces beween Overground and Underground lines are as follows.

Bakerloo Line – Harrow & Wealdstone, Queen’s Park, Wembley Central and Willesden Junction

Central Line – Shepherds Bush and Stratford

District Line – Gunnersbury, Kew, Richmond, West Brompton and Whitechapel

Hammersmith And City – Whitechapel

Jubilee Line – Canada Water, Stratford And West Hampstead


Northern Line – Camden Road-Camden Town

Piccadilly Line – None

Victoria Line – Highbury & Islington

I think, that there is scope for a lot more connections.

So what has been suggested and what would I like to see?

In alphabetical order we have.

Bakerloo Line Extension

The route of the Bakerloo Line Extension has not been decided yet, although TfL have received overwhelming support for the extension.

The three options for the extension all interchange with the East London Line.

Option 1 via Burgess Park, east to Peckham Rye and Catford Bridge,with the option of taking over the Hayes Line to terminate at Hayes, interchanges at Peckham Rye and Honor Oak Park.

Option 2 south to Camberwell Green, and then on to Herne Hill and Streatham Hill, with a branch at Tulse Hill which would take over the National Rail line to Beckenham Junction, interchanges at Crystal Palace and Norwood Junction

Option 3 a similar route to option 1, but after Burgess Park running via the Old Kent Road and New Cross before joining the Hayes line at Lewisham and terminating at Hayes, interchanges at New Cross.

So whatever option is chosen will effectively create a circular route round Central London with this route.

  • Highbury & Islington
  • Whitechapel
  • Surrey Quays
  • Crystal Palace, Honor Oak Park, Lewisham, New Cross, Norwood Junction or Peckham Rye
  • Elephant & Castle
  • Waterloo
  • Charing Cross
  • Piccadilly Circus
  • Oxford Circus
  • Baker Street
  • Marylebone
  • Paddington
  • Queen’s Park
  • Willesden Junction
  • Harrow & Wealdstone

The line could follow its old route and end up in Watford.

It would appear that this route is more useful than the current truncated one to Elephant & Castle.

Hopefully, it would go some way to making it easier to get from East London to Marylebone and other awkward to access places in North West London.

Chingford As A New Northern Terminal

Chingford station is a possible new northern terminal if the Dalston Eastern Curve is reinstated. Trains would go via the High Meads Loop at Stratford, the new Lea Bridge station and the Hall Farm Curve. This would mean that a new station could be created within easy walking distance of Stratford International station, which would also serve the Northern part of the Olympic Park. This Google Map shows how the High Meads Loop curves between Stratford International station and the Olympic Park.

Olympic Park And Stratford International Station

Olympic Park And Stratford International Station

An East London Line station at Stratford International would certainly ease problems getting to events at the Velopark.

Lea Bridge station could also connect to services up the Lea Valley, Bishops Stortford, Cambridge and Stansted Airport.

Chingford is a well-appointed station, linked to a bus station, that could probably be reached in forty minutes from Whitechapel.

Using Chingford as a terminal would also directly link much of the boroughs of Waltham Forest and Hackney on a single line and then link the stations directly to South London.

But Chingford has big advantages in that it is already run by London Overground and it has three platforms and some sidings to park trains. This Google Map shows the station.

Chingford Station

Chingford Station

Note the bus station to the North-East of the station and the extensive sidings on the approach to the station.

Using Chingford as a new northern terminal, would also intertwine the two sections of the Overground together, with direct same platform interchange at Hackney Central, Homerton, Hackney Wick and all stations after St. James Street on the Chingford branch.

Dalston Eastern Curve

In my view the Dalston Eastern Curve could be important, as it would enable direct services between the Eastern terminal of the North London Line at Stratford and any of the South London destinations.

Also, if the Hall Farm Curve were to be rebuilt to give the Chingford Branch a direct connection to Stratford, services could run between Chingford and Walthamstow Central, and South London, by using the High Meads Loop.

There will be opposition to rebuilding the curve, but the number of passengers, will decide the issue.

I have a feeling that because the Kingsland Shopping Centre is going to be upgraded and the owners of that have rights over the land, that we might see a decision one way or the other on this fairly soon. Although on the contrary, this article in the Hackney Citizen seems to be all about various delays and problems, with redevelopment of the Shopping Centre.

I would also think that a lot of the arguments in the Hackney Citizen article about development and car parking, are getting to be more and more irrelevant, as Eastfield is probably taking a lot of the business of the Dalston Kingsland Shopping Centre. In my mind, the sort of people moving into the flats being developed around Dalston Kingsland are probably not the sort of people, who would shop in the Centre. Unless of course, it was substantially upgraded! Could this be, why the proposed development incorporates quite a few residential properties?

The other thing that could kickstart work in this area, would be a decision to proceed with either Dalston Kingsland station or Crossrail 2.

An interesting point, is that if Transport for London believed that rebuilding the Dalston Eastern Curve is essential to handle the traffic on the East London Line, they would probably get their way and the Shopping Centre would have to be redeveloped.

I think there is a lot of horse trading going on in dark corners of various offices of Hackney Council, Transport for London, the developers; Criterion Capital and hopefully a decent architect.

Whatever happens, when and if Crossrail 2 is given the go aged, Criterion Capital won’t be taking a loss.

What the outcome will be, is anybody’s guess!

I know nothing that hasn’t been published on the Internet, but I have this feeling that the Dalston Eastern Curve will be reinstated. Or at least it won’t be compromised! No Project Manager worth his salt would do the latter!

Dalston Station For Crossrail 2

In this article called Crossrail 2 Through East London, I said this when I was discussing the Dalston stations.

I have heard from Michele Dix of Crossrail 2, that they are looking at a double-ended station to serve both Dalston Kingsland and Junction stations. This was said.

We have been working closely with the London borough of Hackney on the early development of the proposals for how Crossrail 2 could ultimately serve Dalston. The work to date has been based around delivering a double-ended station, with one end being at Dalston Junction, and the other at Dalston Kingsland, thereby allowing the Crossrail 2 station to link to both existing stations. As Mr. Miller rightly points out, the distance between the existing stations is well suited to the 250m long platforms that will be required for the Crossrail 2 station, and the greater interchange opportunities to London Overground services also deliver significant benefits.

I believe that there is an opportunity to create a world class station that subtly brings together all the good elements of the area. The only necessary demolition would be the unloved Dalston Kingsland station. TfL have told me off the record, that Kingsland station will be replaced fairly soon.


Highbury & Islington Needs Rebuilding

Highbury & Islington station has needed rebuilding ever since British Rail’s cheapskate design produced the inadequate Underground station, that came with the Victoria Line.

When the East and North London Lines get more and bigger services through Highbury & Islington, this can only result in more and more passengers using the inadequate escalators and tunnels to access the Victoria and Northern City Lines. The station won’t be able to cope, just as it can’t now when Arsenal play at home.

The first stage of the rebuilding has started, as contractors are replacing the ageing bridge that carries the road over the Overground lines. No firm plans have been published yet for the station, but it needs a large increase in both capacity and accessibility.

I have a feeling though, that this station has a lot of potential possibilities, that could be used to create a top-notch station. For instance, there is a second building and entrance on the other side of the road, which has been used for signalling equipment for the Victoria Line.

Maiden Lane Station

Maiden Lane station is an aspiration for Camden Council to serve the Kings Cross Central developments.

I discussed Maiden Lane station in this article in January and came to the conclusion, that the station might only be built as part of one the large developments in the area.

Using the station as a way of getting to Kings Cross and St. Pancras stations is probably not a possibility due to the distances involved.

Meridian Water As A New Northern Terminal

Angel Road station which will be renamed to serve the Meridian Water development, would be the most unlikely choice for a new northern terminal if the Dalston Eastern Curve is reinstated. Trains would go via the High Meads Loop at Stratford, the new Lea Bridge station and could possibly interface with a future Crossrail 2 at Tottenham Hale, Northumberland Park and Meridian Water itself.

New Entrances And Stations

Over the last few years, London has been going through a quiet ticketing revolution.

People are rarely using cash in a station to buy tickets and if rumours are right, the proportion of those using contactless bank cards for tickets is increasing rapidly. Over the last week or two, signs are up everywhere on the Underground, saying that ApplePay is now accepted.

I’ve not really seen an article anywhere discussing the effects of this cashless and booking office free ticketing.

I recently used the new entrance at Shepherds Bush station and it was just a gate line with a shelter over the top and a refuge for staff. Obviously, as that entrance has been built to serve the Westfield Shopping Centre,  There is also a similar entrance at Harold Wood station, serving the car park.

I think we’ll be seeing more of these short-cut entrance/exits at several stations. I proposed this for Highbury & Islington in this article in March 2013 and personally, I’d like one at Hackney Central on the Westbound platform, to give access to the buses on Graham Road.

The technology could also mean that complete stations could be built much more easily and quickly.

It will be interesting to see how architects use their imagination in the freer environment created by the new ticketing technology, to design exciting, practical and very passenger and staff friendly.

New Interchanges

The new ticketing technology may also open up opportunities to create new interchanges between lines.

Obviously, this will probably be more to do with interchanges between two surface railways, as anything where digging is involved will be very expensive and probably rules out most linking with the Underground.

With the recent building of the walkway between Hackney Downs and Hackney Central stations, Transport for London have shown that they won’t rule out connecting lines by any affordble and sensible method.

So are there any possibilities for new interchanges, made possible by the new technology linked to some imaginative thinking?

I think there are stations that could be improved in this way and they are in the text in their alphabetical position.

North Acton Station Connection To The Central Line

Development at North Acton station on the Central Line has for a long time talked about linking to the North London Line.

Just a few years ago, it would have needed a lot of expensive construction, but with the development of new ideas in ticketing, station architecture and the successful introduction of the walkway at Hackney, the cost will have been considerably reduced. This Google Map shows the area around North Acton station.

North Acton Station

North Acton Station

The North London Line is at the right of the image and at the top is the junction where the Dudding Hill Line branches off.

Whether it is now a station and interchange worth building is up to Transport for London, but modern techniques have opened up possibilities.

Old Oak Common As A New Northern Terminal

The yet to be developed, Old Oak Common station is a possible new northern terminal. As a completely new station, hopefully you’d get a perfect solution.

But I don’t think you’d want to have both Old Oak Common and Willesden Junction stations as terminals, but a lot of the reasoning, that applies to Willesden also applies to Old Oak Common.

There is not much point in predicting what will happen at Old Oak Common, but I suspect whatever is proposed will be worth waiting for.


Shoreditch High Street Station Connection To The Central Line

Shoreditch High Street station sits on top of the Central Line and Wikipedia in a section on plans for the station, says this about creating a connection between the two lines.

There have also been discussions of creating an interchange with the Central line between Liverpool Street and Bethnal Green which runs almost underneath the station. However, this would not be able to happen until after the Crossrail 1 project is complete, due to extreme crowding on the Central line during peak times.

It would appear from this detailed map of the London Underground and around Liverpool Street in particular, that trains can be turned back at both Liverpool Street and Bethnal Green stations, so as there are depots at both ends of the Central Line, once Crossrail was providing a bypass, construction might be possible, if the link was actually needed.

The Shoreditch area has also been talked about for some more platforms for Liverpool Street station. I found this article in the Architect’s Journal.

I put forward my idea in this article called An Idea For A New Station At Shoreditch High Street.

My idea is probably total crap, but who’d have thought the rickety North London Line and the orphaned branch of the Metropolitan Line, through the Thames Tunnel would have morphed from forgotten, crumbling and dirty assets into one of the best urban railways in Europe?

One thing I said in the previous post, when talking about a new station to handle traffic for Liverpool Street was this.

I think if a station gets built alongside or under Shoreditch High Street station, it will be nothing like any ideas, that might get talked about in the media now. One of the Foster/Farrell/Rogers fraternity could probably do something extraordinary here.

I think we’ll see something spectacular at Shoreditch High Street, with the Overground and possibly the Central Line in the thick of it.

Stratford As A New Northern Terminal

Stratford station is a possible new northern terminal if the Dalston Eastern Curve is reinstated.

It is a well-appointed station, linked to Crossrail and long distance services, buses and the shops at Eastfield, that could probably be reached in thirty minutes from Whitechapel.

I think that a platform could be found to terminate services, but using Stratford offers nothing that isn’t also solved by the opening of Crossrail. Also it doesn’t solve one of the main problems of the Stratford stations, which is the difficulty of getting to Stratford International. On the other hand, using Chingford as a terminal gives the possibility of a connection to the high speed station.

Willesden Junction As A New Northern Terminal

Willesden Junction station is a possible new northern terminal.

When the original plans for the East London Line were published a few years ago, I’m sure Willesden Junction was mentioned as a possible terminal.

It is a well-appointed station, linked to the Bakerloo and Watford DC Lines, that could be reached from Whitechapel in under forty minutes.

It already has a bay platform, which lies between the two North and South platforms, that could be used as a terminal, as it has been recently lengthened and upgraded. There is also another disused bay platform that might be reinstated. This Google Map show the station.

Willesden Junction Station

If Willesden Junction is made a terminal, this has other advantages, especially if it gets the standard service of four trains per hour.

As now there are effectively three Northern branches going to Highbury & Islington instead of two, there will be a fifty percent increase in services between Highbury & Islington and Whitechapel and South London, with an extra destination served directly.

The four trains an hour  to Willesden Junction, would increase the service frequency on the section of the North London Line between Dalston and Willesden. Various pronouncements from Transport for London have said that the frequency of trains on the North London Line should be increased.

If the Dalston Eastern Curve were to be reopened and four trains per hour went to either Chingford, Meridian Water or Stratford, this would effectively put an extra four trains per hour between Stratford and Willesden Junction.







August 1, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

A Pantomime Horse At The Cricket

There are several reports of a pantomime horse being spotted at Edgbaston in the cricket yesterday.

Surprisingly, I can’t find a picture in the papers.

August 1, 2015 Posted by | Sport | , | 2 Comments

Should We Increase Rail Freight To Avoid Calais And The Migrants?

The BBC has quoted the French Police Chief at Calais as saying that the number of trucks trying to use the ferries and Eurotunnel has dropped.

Is this because it’s now the Summer holidays and the drivers have flown to their holidays or could it be that at last the needs of freight transport between the UK and Europe are being increasingly fulfilled by the obvious alternative, that hopefully would be totally useless to the migrants? – Direct freight trains between UK and Europe.

I wrote on this in December 2014 calling the post, Would Reorganising Cross-Channel Freight Cut Illegal Migration?

I stand by what I said then.

You have to remember, that a lot of freight flows between the UK and Europe are large and predicable. This is a few freight categories that I know go by rail over the channel.

  1. Car components including complete engines for Ford and BMW.
  2. Complete vehicles. Four years ago, you didn’t see car trains on the Gospel Oak to Barking and North London Lines, but now they are quite common.
  3. Fresh fruit from Spain to the UK.
  4. Steel products for Tata Group between Wales and The Netherlands

Are cargoes like Scottish fish and meat from all parts of the UK something that will be going on that list? These would only need refrigerated containers, that you see all over the railways. With meat too, there are no welfare issues and as a beef farmer once told me, dead carcasses pack three times better in a refrigerated truck, than livestock.


I have also found this informative article on the DB Schenker web site. It isn’t dated unfortunately, but it makes a lot of general points. This is the first two paragraphs.

When the Channel Tunnel between Calais in northern France and Folkstone on the southeastern coast of England opened in 1995, many forecasted a bright future for rail freight transport between Great Britain and continental Europe. An enormous amount of effort and money went into the construction of the two-track rail tunnel. The high hopes for the groundbreaking project have not yet been met, however. In fact, only 1.1 million metric tons of freight was transported by rail via the tunnel under the English Channel in 2010, less than before the 50-km tunnel opened.

High prices in particular have prevented rail freight transport from making greater use of the tunnel. Competition between freight forwarders that use the truck shuttle has kept prices in check. Eurotunnel charges a higher, constant price for block trains, however, and as a result, only a few providers can afford the transfer.

The last part in particular blames the high charges and the charging method  of Eurotunnel. Governments should apply pressure here.

The article does talk about problems with the UK loading gauge, which hopefully are being fully addressed now.

At least thought freight trains between the UK and Europe can now get from Barking in East London to virtually anywhere in Europe.

Perhaps, the UK Government should use taxation and tax relief to encourage more freight flows across the Channel to go on freight trains.

The losers would be UK haulage firms and drivers, but they can’t find Cross-Channel trade very profitable and stress-free at the moment.

August 1, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Sainsburys Put Their Money On Crossrail

With the exception of the Tesco Extra at Goodmayes, the large Waitrose at West Ealing and the large Sainsburys at Whitechapel, Crossrail stations aren’t generally very close to large superstores, although at least nine are near to big shopping streets or centres.

As all stations and trains will be step-free, I’m surprised that we aren’t seeing more large supermarkets built close to stations.

But according to this article in the South London Press, Sainsburys have now opened a superstore by the Crossrail terminus at Abbey Wood.

Opening large supermarkets may be out of fashion, but I don’t think that the Abbey Wood Sainsburys will be the last on the line.

July 31, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

The View From Platform 1 At Birmingham Moor Street Station

Birmingham Moor Street station is one of my favourite stations, as it is rather a unique restoration and enlargement of an old Great Western Railway station.

I hope the restoration for Crossrail of Hanwell and West Drayton station please me as much.

My train was leaving from Platform 1, so I took these pictures whilst I waited.

Platform 1 and 2 are either side of the lines to Birmingham Snow Hill station and were opened in the 1980s and when the station was enlarged later the buildings were matched to the original terminus, which is Grade 2 Listed

The low-flying barrage balloon in most of these pictures is Birmingham’s Selfridge store.

July 31, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

A Short Trip On Birmingham’s Cross-City Line

The Cross-City Line In Birmingham, which runs from Lichfield to Redditch is the city’s equivalent of one of London’s Overground lines. It operates on similar principles, with a frequent service run by modern electric trains.

As I found myself at Five Ways station on the line, I thought I’d take a short tip to somewhere the other side of the city, before returning to New Street for my trip back to London from Moor Street.

I took these pictures on the journey.

I went as far as Gravelly Hill station, which is just past the infamous Spaghetti Junction, where the M5, M6 and A38 meet.

July 31, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

Walking The Route Of The Midland Metro Line One Extension

I’ve walked the Line One Extension of the Midland Metro between New Street and Snow Hill stations before, but I’ve never walked the proposed extension as far as Five Ways. I took these pictures on the route.

The Extension was planned to be opened to Centenary Square in 2017 and to Brindleyplace, Five Ways and Egdbaston later. Nothing much seems to be happening past New Street station, except for some utility works, which must be sorted before tram tracks and station are put over the top.

The walk is fairly easy, but the last section around Five Ways and to Five Ways station was designed using Birmingham’s 1960s philosophy of deling with traffic and pedestrians, that I’ve seen going to Birmingham City several times – Pedestrians should be channelled into dangerous areas, so they are run over and killed. This would of course make it less likely a driver will damage his car, by hitting one.

Birmingham could do a lot worse than extend the tram to Five Ways. Some of the running routes would be challenging and Birmingham’s many drivers would probably object, but if they want more visitors to the City, surely it is a price worth paying?

I do wonder about the costs of extending tram lines, as opposed to building new ones. Obviously, some costs like new trams and getting power to the trams will be minimised, but you’ve still got the costs of actually putting in the rails and divering utilities.

July 31, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Electrification Of Britain’s Railways Isn’t Easy

There are a lot of reports in the media talking about the delays in electrifying railways in the UK, like this report in the Yorkshire Post, which talks about the Trans Pennine and Midland Main Line schemes.

I have just found this report in the Rail Engineer, which talks about a forty-four day closure of the important Winchburgh Tunnel between Edinburgh and Glasgow to prepare for electrification as part of the Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Program. The report starts with this paragraph.

A legacy of the rapid early growth of Britain’s railway network is that the UK has one of the world’s most restrictive loading gauges. As a result, typically half of the cost of British electrification projects is the civil engineering work to adapt structures to provide clearance for wires and pantographs.

As anybody who’s ever got to grips with any old building, what it looks like on the surface is very different to what is underneath.

The project described in the article is challenging to say the least. This extract describes the building of the tunnel.

Winchburgh tunnel lies at the eastern end of a five- kilometre long cutting. It is 338 metres long and was opened in 1842, having taken two years to complete. When digging the cuttings and tunnel, the contractor, Gibb and Sons, removed 200,000 tons more rock than expected and consequently made a loss.

The tunnel was cut through dolerite rock, mudstone and shale. In the middle on the nineteenth century, these oil shale deposits once made West Lothian one of the world’s biggest oil producers. This shale was also a factor in an unfortunate accident during tunnel construction in 1839 when a man was severely burnt by firedamp.

The cutting is crossed by two streams, west of the tunnel. A twin four-foot diameter cast-iron inverted syphon was provided to carry Myers Burn under the railway. Swine Burn crosses the cutting on an aqueduct that had to be re-decked as part of the EGIP electrification works. Downstream of the aqueduct is a pumping station, which drains the cutting west of the tunnel. This is an area with significant drainage issues, some of which are addressed by the tunnel works.

So making it large enough for electrification wasn’t easy. As is typical on a project such as this, concrete slab track was used. You don’t see it much on UK railways, as where it is used is generally in tunnels and other places, where you have tight clearances.

In the Winchburgh tunnel slab track was used and they are also using an overhead rail system to get the power to the train.

In searching for a good article about slab track, I found this article on Balfour Beatty’s Rail web site, which is entitled Polyurethane Slab Track.

Balfour Beatty have worked with Herriot Watt University to create a method of using polyurethane to create a method for strengthening track in awkward places.

One example describes how a bridge was improved to cope with modern loads.

While George Stephenson was a forward thinker, even he didn’t predict freight trains running at 80mph with 25 tonne axle loads over his bridge. So he hadn’t calculated for those stresses. The bridge has done a good job of coping with them for 190 years, but it was getting a bit tired. 

The article also highlights that Network Rail has 25,000 masonry arches, so you can see why there must be a need for such a technique.

The technique has also been used to increase the headrom for electrification in a tunnel on the Midland Main Line.

It’s all impressive engineering.




July 31, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

St. Martin’s Queensway Tunnel

In looking on the Internet to see if anybody had ever proposed adding low-level platforms at Birmingham Moor Street station to access the local services out of Birmingham New Street station, I found this article in the Birmingham Post entitled Tunnel link between New Street and Moor Street stations set for facelift.

Now I’ve been to Birmingham many times and often I’ve walked between the two stations and I’ve never seen or heard anything about this tunnel.

Does it actually exist?

The article says this.

A city centre tunnel is set to get a £5.5 million facelift to improve the route between two of Birmingham’s busiest railway stations.

The St Martin’s Queensway Tunnel, which runs under the Bullring shopping centre, will be transformed into a well-lit attractive route for rail commuters.

Road crossings and the public areas outside the revamped New Street Station will also be improved to encourage people to walk between there and Moor Street station.

Currently about 1.4 million people a year walk through the dingy tunnel between the stations, but some have complained of feeling unsafe and it is also poorly signed for visitors to the city.

Some councils may spend £5.5million on imaginary projects, but I don’t think Birmingham would.

July 30, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

The Future Of The Midland Metro

The Test Match being in Birmingham this week, got me thinking about the new extension to the Midland Metro, I saw this week.

Unlike the tram systems in Blackpool, CroydonManchesterNottingham and Sheffield, the Midland Metro hasn’t really caught the public’s imagination and been a rip roaring success.

When I visit other places with trams, I often use them, even if like in Nottingham, it’s just to get up the hill. But I’ve never used the Midland Metro, unless my trip has been taken to ride on the tram. A section in Wikipedia entitled Line One (Birmingham City Centre) Extension starts like this.

The fact that the existing line does not run into Birmingham City Centre has been identified as one of the reasons why it has failed to attract the predicted patronage. The Birmingham City Centre Extension (BCCE) will extend Line 1 into the streets of central Birmingham. Originally it was planned to terminate the extension at Stephenson Street, adjacent to New Street railway station. In September 2013, Centro started consultation on proposals to extend the city-centre extension from New Street station to Centenary Square. This would be another stage towards extending the line to Five Ways the original planned destination. The plan was approved by Birmingham City Council in October 2013, allowing the line to add an additional stop at Birmingham Town Hall.

I have watched this project unfold from a distance and it doesn’t seem to have had the strongest leadership or most intelligent design, when and since it was first opened in 1999.

As my pictures earlier this week showed construction is well underway and hopefully the line will arrive at New Street station this year. Perhaps this line across the city centre will give the Midland Metro an uplift.

On a selfish note, when I go to Birmingham, the places I want to get to are the football grounds and Brindley Place for lunch with friends.

Aston Villa and Wolverhampton have good train access and Birmingham is through the terrible station at Bordesley, but A stop at Brindley Place is on the next part of the Line 1 extension, which won’t be built until 2017 at the earliest. I don’t think it has even been started and possibly even fully planned, judging by the several alternatives talked about in Wikipedia. At present the line is going to Five Ways station, which is shown on this Google Map of the city centre.

Midland Metro In Birmingham City Centre

Midland Metro In Birmingham City Centre

I’ve included Birmingham Moor Street station on this map, but it won’t be connected to this phase of Midland Metro extension. However, Birmingham Snow Hill station will be, but that is not on the main lines from Euston, Liverpool and Manchester.

Will the line finish at Five Ways or will it continue past Edgbaston Cricket Ground, Birmingham University  and the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital?

This second map shows the area between Five Ways and University station, with the cricket ground marked by a red arrow

Midland Metro Line 1 Extension And Edgbaston

Midland Metro Line 1 Extension And Edgbaston

Note the university, the hospital, the Alexandra Stadium and University station clustered together in the bottom left corner of this map.

It is worth noting that Five Ways and University stations are both on the Cross-City Line that goes from Redditch to Lichfield via New Street. It is the busiest commuter line outside London and has upwards of six services an hour in both directions. The frequency of the Midland Metro is one tram every eight minutes, so the Cross-City Line is only a little bit less frequent.

The Cross-City Line is currently being extended to Bromgrove and there are unfulfilled plans to reopen the Camp Hill Line, that my train from Oxford to Birmingham used.

There seem to be a lot of competing proposals for money to be spent in the West Midlands, so perhaps if a West Midlands Combined Authority was setup properly, then it could decide what happens.

Perhaps, then Birmingham would get the local transport system it needs and deserves. After all, I think it was very much short-changed in the 1960s with the creation of the unloved New Street station. Let’s hope the new station opening in September, solves at least some of those fifty year old problems.

One of the biggest problems is that Birmingham effectively has two independent sets of local rail lines, with no common interchange.

The Snow Hill Lines though Snow Hill and Moor Street were built by the Great Western Railway and are operated by diesel trains. They carry about twenty percent of the rail services into the city. According to this Future section in the Wikipedia entry for Moor Street station, there are plans for more local services out of Moor Street

There are also an extensive mainly electrified network centred on New Street, which includes the Cross-City and Chase Lines and some services on the West Coast Main Line.

The trouble is there is no obvious connections between the two sets of lines, as is described here in Wikipedia. This Google Map shows the two stations and the shopping centres in between.

Birmingham New Street And Moor Street Stations

Birmingham New Street And Moor Street Stations

It would seem to my untrained mind, that there must be possibilities for putting a low level station under Moor Street with platforms on the local lines through New Street. I can’t find any proposals or ideas on the Internet, but then I don’t probably know where to look.

One proposal that might help is the opening of the Camp Hill Line into Moor Street, as this would link up to the Cross-City Line at Kings Norton.

Birmingham seems to be a mass of railway lines, which an intelligent planner could probably use to create transport links in the Greater West Midlands.

In the meantime, the arrival of the Midland Metro to New Street station, the Cross-City Line reaching Bromsgrove and the electrification of the Chase Line to Rugeley, will bring more people into the city centre and hopefuly make interchange easier.

It does appear, that the electric services on the Cross-City Line and Chase Line may need more trains, but at least there will be plenty of Class 315 trains available for cascade from London.

July 30, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment


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