As there wasn’t much of interest to photograph in Oxford, I grabbed myself some gluten-free sandwiches and a drink in Marks and Spencer at the station and took a train to my next destination, Birmingham New Street.
I’ve never done that trip before on the Cross Country Route via Banbury and it was an easy journey of about an hour.
I missed photographing all of the work near Harbury, which is reported here on the BBC. It was a major landslip that closed the railway for some weeks.
As we approached Birmingham, the train seemed to take a circuitous route into Birmingham and at one point, the train passed behind Birmingham City’s football ground.
We were on the Camp Hill Line, which is being proposed for passenger services, according to Wikipedia.
At least such a project would probably be appreciated in Birmingham.
Oxford station is being upgraded in two ways.
A New Southern Platform
According to this section on Further Expansion in Wikipedia, a new Southern platform is to be created on the Long Stay car park to the South of the station. This is said.
The new platform was to have been brought into use during 2011.
When I last looked this morning, we are now in 2015.
Project Evergreen 3
Chiltern Railways are implementing Project Evergreen 3 to bring services from Marylebone to Oxford. Wikipedia says that this is being done at Oxford station.
The scheme also includes two new platforms at Oxford station, to be built on the site of the disused parcels depot. The new platforms would initially be five carriages in length, but provision will be made for them to be extended southwards to eight carriages.
All this should be done by 2016. This article on Modern Railways gives more details about the proposed Chiltern service.
So when I arrived at Oxford station, I expected it to be a hive of activity. These are the pictures I took.
There isn’t even a man in an orange suit trying to look busy! Although the platforms were!
Perhaps this is how Oxford would like to welcome visitors? Hoping perhaps they might stay away!
I think one of the toughest jobs in the world must be a Project Manager in Network Rail. Passengers are rightly complaining that stations are cramped and need building or rebuilding and sometimes it’s impossible to get anything done for whatever reason. Then you have politicians on all sides complaining and saying it’s a total disgrace!
Hopefully Sir Peter Hendy and his new broom will go in to projects like Oxford station with all guns blazing and tell a few home truths.
I’m sure, if Oxford doesn’t want an updated station, then there are some nice projects in Birmingham, where the money would be appreciated.
One of the major new features of the modernisation is the viaduct that eases the bottleneck West of Reading. This article on the BBC web site describes the start of the construction.
I recorded this video as the train I was on went over the Viaduct.
In some ways this probably shows why the upgrading of the Great Western Main Line is such a big project.area to the West of Reading station.
There’s certainly quite a bit of steelwork and overhead wire in the immediate
There is no sign of the overhead wires that will be needed for Crossrail and the electrification of the Great Western Main Line.
To be fair to the comntractors, there was a lot of activity past Reading, so perhaps for various reasons the stretch near London has been left to last. Perhaps they want to get all the trackwork like the Action Dive-Under and the Stockley Flyover completed first!
There may have been lots of steelwork and a few wires between Reading and Didcot, but there wasn’t anything on the Cherwell Valley Line to Oxford.
With electrification being high on everybody’s consciousness, the schemes to electrify the Great Western and Midland main lines have been getting all the attention. Similarly, the works in the North West and Scotland have been proceeding apace and gaining publicity but the scheme to electrify the railway from Walsall to Rugeley has managed to stay ‘under the radar’.
The scheme is, in fact, a significant step in the direction of developing the public transport system in the West Midlands by improving services on what was a relatively-forgotten part of the network. Due to be completed by December 2017, the project will allow electric trains to run between Birmingham New Street and Rugeley via the Cannock lines, providing passengers with a more reliable, efficient and greener service.
In fact, the scheme will revitalise a line which, not so many years ago, had no regular passenger services at all.
It goes on to describe how the scheme is progressing with a lot of cooperation between the various parties and not much of the usual drama.
So it would seem that not all electrification projects end up in trouble.
I shall go and take a look!
There is one fly in the ointment, though and it is detailed here in Wikipedia. This is relevant paragraph.
Gavin Williamson, Conservative MP for South Staffordshire, has campaigned to limit the speed of trains through Great Wyrley and Cheslyn Hay when the line is complete. He has written to transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin, requesting confirmation that trains travelling through these areas will not exceed a speed of 45 mph. He has also requested that “environmental mitigation measures” be put in place to reduce the potential impact of the electrification on residents in South Staffordshire. Network Rail had previously said that electric trains are quieter, greener and cleaner, reducing carbon emissions.
So, if in the future, you are fed up with your electric train crawling along, send your complaints to the local MP.
Last Friday I took several pictures at Whitechapel station. They included this one looking down into the Overground station from the bridge between the two Metropolitan/District line platforms.
I titled it You Don’t See Much Looking Down, which as you’re looking through wired glass at an angle is true. Today, I took this picture from the same place.
If you look up, you’ll see steelwork erected behind the retaining wall of the station. All hopefuly will be revealed on Wednesday morning.
Whilst at the station, I took a few pictures from the Westbound Metropolitan/District line platform.
It’s almost as the builders of the station are teasingly revealing their new creation, in an elaborate striptease.
Oxford is going to be a big rail hub with over the next few years the following projects being completed or at least underway.
1. Chiltern Railways from Oxford Parkway to Oxford station. Services to Oxford Parkway station will start on October 26th 2015, with services to Oxford city centre starting in spring 2016. I’ll believe the last part of that, when a Chiltern Railways train takes me to Oxford. When I visited in March 2015, little seemed to be happening at Oxford station in preparation for the arrival of this service.
3. Chiltern Railways from Oxford station to the Science Park on the Cowley branch.
4. Electrification between Didcot and Oxford.
5. The creation of the East-West Rail Link
But according to the August 2015 of Modern Railways, they are having severe problems in the area North of the station, which I explored in a walk in March 2015. This is said.
On top of that, there is a hint of exasperation with the local authorities about the glacial pace of the planning process: it took two and a half years to get approval for a pedestrian crossing to replace a footbridge for Chiltern’s mew line to the city centre, because allotment holders used to wheeling barrows of compost across the line were complaining about the new up-and-down route they would have to take over the bridge. New railway staff accomodation in Oxford is mired in similar planning mud.
Cambridge have upgraded their railways in recent years, and although they have had delays on the new Cambridge North station, there doesn’t seem to have been the same planning mud.
The question has to be asked if the good burghers of Oxford would prefer that money was spent on improving transport infrastructure in more welcoming places. The writer obviously feels strongly as he goes on to say this.
While not wishing to stand in the way of democracy , Network Rail is pointing out that there is a window of opportunity for modernising the route to Oxford that could be lost unless local authorities embrace it wholeheatedly. With NR’s spending plans under pressure, there is a danger that Oxford will be put in the “too difficult” pigeonhole and the caravan will move on. Then it would really be back to the 1970s, with changing at Didcot becoming the best option to reach Paddington at some times of day.
I had a friend who lived in Oxford and he used to say that the Council liked to keep cars out of the City. Perhaps, it is more fundamental than that, and the Council would prefer to keep everybody out of the city, so they can continue to lead their cloistered lives, untroubled by the Twentieth Century, let alone the twenty-first.
Do the same people, who blame Network Rail for their well-documented problems, like these at Oxford and those at Manchester, fully support the improvements in the first place or do they really want money to be spent on their own pet projects?
We certainly need a planning system that allows people to air their views and protest, but also one that takes more account of the good of the majority after all contra-arguments have been rejected.
This article from the Manchester Evening News entitled Ordsall Chord delay: Town hall chief blasts single objector holding up £85m Piccadilly-Victoria rail link, is a superb example of how external factors contribute to delays in not getting vital rail and road infrastructure built and increase the costs, when they do get built.
I will not judge this case one way or the other, but one of the reasons for bad economic progress in the North is poor and outdated rail infrastructure. So surely, it would have been better to have got this argument out of the way a couple of years ago.
I do wonder in this country, how many projects don’t ever get started because organisations like Network Rail feel it is better not to have a fight and leave the inadequate status quo alone.
They will probably be very similar to the new Class 345 trains for Crossrail, which are also Aventras.
It probably doesn’t make much difference to London Overground, as there probably isn’t going to be any problems about running both trains on the same line, if they need to.
The bigger winners may well be Bombardier, who according to this article in the Derby Telegraph are investing in a new production, testing and office complex.
Bombardier might want to build a few of the trains for the Overground before those for Crossrail, so they can see how they perform in service