The Anonymous Widower

The National Infrastructure Commission Is Welcomed By Warwickshire

This article on Rail News is entitled Warwickshire rail campaigners welcome news of National Infrastructure Commission and it discusses the struggles of local campaigners trying to restore the rail line between Stratford-on-Avon and Honeybourne, on the North Cotswold Route. Wikipedia says this about the plans.

The Shakespeare Line Promotion Group is promoting a scheme to reinstate the 9 miles (14 km) “missing Link” between Honeybourne and Stratford. Called the “Avon Rail Link”, the scheme (supported as a freight diversionary route by DB Schenker) would make Stratford-upon-Avon railway station a through station once again with improved connections to the Cotswolds and the South. The scheme faces local opposition. There is, however, a good business case for Stratford-Cotswolds link.

Note this could also be a freight diversion route.

Last year, I went to Stratford-on-Avon and wrote Stratford Upon Avon Station Is Getting A Facelift.

I hinted at more services to come and linked to the Wikipedia comments above.

To return to the Rail News article, it says some interesting things like this.

A NIC could overcome one of the biggest hurdles that has existed for decades. For mainly no other reason the route from Stratford to Honeybourne straddles two government regional boundaries (West Midlands and South West) two Network Rail regions (Chiltern/West Midlands and Western), three County Councils, three District Councils and two Local Enterprise Partnerships.

Is anybody in charge? Perhaps the NIC will be. This is said on visitors to Stratford-on-Avon.

Stratford only attracts six per cent of visitors to the town to travel by rail, while the national average for visitors by rail to similar UK rail-connected tourist destinations is over double that, at 13 per cent.

As the line has a good case for reopening and Stratford-on-Avon station has been upgraded, perhaps this is a project that should be looked at seriously.

We are probably going to live in a new era if George Osbourn’s plans for business rate reform come to fruition, which might see progressive Councils developing infrastructure to enable business, housing and tourism opportunities.

Surely a reconstructed line from Stratford-on-Avon to Cheltenham would tick a few boxes.

There is a major prize at the Cheltenham end if Cheltenham Racecourse, which is one of the busiest in the UK, could be linked to the main line rail network at Cheltenham Spa station. The Google Map shows the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway going past the racecourse, where there is already a station.

Cheltenham Racecourse

Cheltenham Racecourse

Unfortunately, there is a supermarket which is partially blocking the route between the racecourse and Cheltenham Spa station.

These are the sort of problems that a National Infrastructure Commission should have the power to solve or dismiss as insoluble.

Watching National Hunt racing at Cheltenham is one of the  great sporting spectacles of the British Isles and a viable rail service to the course from London and Oxford needs to be created.

October 5, 2015 Posted by | Sport, Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Batteries Or Flywheels?

Hybrid buses and IPEMU trains need some form of energy storage.

Typical systems generally use batteries. Mechanical devices are discussed in this article in Transport Engineer.

Read the article.

October 5, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , | 2 Comments

What Really Happened At Walthamstow Central

I heard a lot of complaints about the closure of the Victoria Line in August. So I was pleased to see this article in Rail Engineer entitled Life is not a rehearsal… but pumping concrete can be!

As detailed by Transport for London this is a summary of what needed to be done.

Improvement work planned this summer by London Underground (LU) will lead to the operation of 36 trains per hour. From April 2016, this will provide a train every 100 seconds during peak hours, making the Victoria line the UK’s highest frequency railway and comparable with the very best in the world. All peak-time trains will run the full length of the line from Walthamstow Central to Brixton, giving a 40% capacity boost for customers northeast of Seven Sisters.

But it wasn’t that simple to achieve and the Rail Engineer article explains the main problem of a crossing at Walthamstow.

The trackwork kept pace with the times, but wasn’t shiny and, of course, it was out of sight. At Walthamstow – the end of the line – the track arrangement ended in a scissors crossover. For the non-pway engineers, this is a compact and complex track arrangement where terminating trains arriving at the crossover from the south in the northbound tunnel can be routed into either of the two platforms at Walthamstow Central, then routed back from either platform into the southbound tunnel.

Changing it wasn’t simple and they used every trick in the book to do the project.

  • A bespoke overhead crane was installed at the crossover, for ease of working, and after the job was completed it was left behind in the tunnel, so it could be used again if needed.
  • A number of demolition techniques were used to remove the old track and its concrete base.
  • They even wrapped the new track in polythene, so that no concrete got on the rails.
  • They had actually rehearsed the major concrete pouring which required fifty truck-loads of concrete in the open at Acton Depot.

The major outcome is that the speed of trains through the crossing has been raised from 20 mph to 35 mph, which is necessary to achieve thirty-six trains an hour through London.

Read the full article.

This is the sort of project that would make good television!

Except for one thing!

Nothing went wrong and the project was delivered thirty-six hours early.



October 5, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 1 Comment

The Class 319 Trains Keep Rolling On

Class 319 trains were built for Thameslink in the 1980s.

I was using the line to get from St. Pancras to Blackfriars and in a few years time, when twenty-four trains an hour run on the line, it’ll almost be like another Underground line across the city from North to South.

Class 319s are not the most attractive of trains and advertising doesn’t help. The good news is that are reliable 100 mph trains and with a refurbishment, they’ll last a few more years yet, as Northern Rail have shown.

October 5, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

A Tale Of Three Web Sites

I’m going away for a few days on Thursday and my aim originally was to fly to Hamburg and then take trains along the coast to Amsterdam.

So I tried to book a flight on the German Wings web site.

I couldn’t, as when I tried to put my address into the booking form, I couldn’t find the UK, United Kingdom, Great Britain or England in their list of countries. Don’t the Germans know, they lost the Second World War?

I thought it might be finger trouble, so as I was watching one of my least favourite football teams getting a superb thumping at the time, I tried once for each goal.

In the end, I gave up and booked Eurostar to Any Belgian station, as you can’t book it to Hamburg yet.

It used to be easier, as you could book a train to Any Dutch Station, but for some reason the Dutch stopped that convenient ticket. It’s now much easier to book tickets to Switzerland than The Netherlands.

This morning, I needed to do my winter clothes shopping. It was only a number of standard items from Marks and Spencer. I usually, buy one example of say the trousers or jumpers I want and then use the code on the ticket to buy more if they fit.

So after logging in, doing the purchase with a new Amex card and arranging delivery to my local store, the process was completed without hassle in a few minutes.

Why can’t all travel sites, be as easy to use as shops like Marks and Spencer, John Lewis and IKEA?

incidentally, I now use Amex a lot on the web, as they seem to have brought in a geographic security based on your Internet connection. The sites ask if they can use your Internet location and I suppose now, they can link that to my physical address.

It looks like a clever way to check on-line purposes. If my card and delivery address tie up to where my Internet connection is located, there must be a high probability, that I am making the purchases. I suppose, it could be someone, who has access to my house getting  hold of the card, but then I would be suspicious if products I hadn’t ordered ended up on my doorstep.

Banks and credit card companies should use tricks like this to secure on-line purchases, as anything password-based is likely to be derailed by the forgetful mind, unless it is written down. Which then breaks the security.

October 5, 2015 Posted by | Computing, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why I Won’t Use Uber

I don’t use taxis much at all.

I did in Blackburn on Saturday, as one was there, when I came out of Ewood Park and as trains to Preston, are fairly infrequent, I felt it might be quicker than finding a bus and I might catch an earlier train. I didn’t!

Other than that since the first of September, I’ve used taxis perhaps twice to come back home after arriving late at night in a rail station, just to save time. I usually get them off the rank at the station.

I use a mini-cab perhaps twice a year, to get to and from my son’s house on Christmas Day, which I book personally at the office around the corner from where I live.

The reason for this low usage is also because I have a dozen or so bus routes within two hundred metres and four of these are all night routes. And as London buses are ideal for parcels and shopping, when coming home with bags, I rarely need a taxi.

I would also put taxis in that category of wasted money, which is better spent on something more enjoyable like a proper lunch, rather than a drink and a banana.

But the main reason, I don’t use Uber is that it’s an app and I don’t want to put any apps on my smart phone, which I use exclusively for the web and to send and receive text messages.

I also don’t like giving my e-mail address and mobile phone number to companies or individuals willy-nilly, as so many companies like to send me unsolicited messages.

I’m certain, that apps will be the next security hole, that will be targeted by fraudsters.

As Uber has created lots of enemies for itself, I would put the Uber app at the top of the list of innocent trojans to get control of your phone, as fraudsters would like an app used by lots of users in insecure places.

People would also be much more careful with a financial app from their bank, financial advisor or credit card.

I think it is true to say, that in London, I am annoyed by traffic congestion which slows the buses and creates more air pollution.

Uber is helping to make this worse, as there are more and more mini-cabs in London.

Last week, I was on a bus that took an hour to get from Upper Street to Monument at ten in the morning, when the timetable says twenty-three minutes.

So I very much back Boris, who wants to limit the number of mini-cabs.


October 5, 2015 Posted by | Computing, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

These Protesters Give Nimbys A Bad Name

I did laugh when I saw this article about Crossrail 2 in the Metro.

It is the sort of selfish protest that gives protesters and Nimbys a bad name.

As someone, who has lived through the upgrading of the North and East London Lines to create the London Overground, I have seen how better transport links create prosperity for a wide range of people of all levels of wealth.

But then any poor people have been ridden out of Chelsea on a rail!

If I’m still alive when Crossrail 2 opens, I will take the line to Chelsea and stare at my betters. Probably with my tongue

On second thoughts I won’t, as Chelsea is jammed solid with Chelsea tractors. Protesters like those, will only be satisfied if they had a free motorway to the rest of

October 4, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Is Liverpool Planning To Invade Manchester By Train?

There is no love lost between the two North-Western cities of Liverpool and Manchester.

I must admit, that I do use the correct feelings towards Manchester, when I’m in Liverpool, as Liverpudlians like it!

In the October 2015 edition of Modern Railways, there is an article about Merseytravel looking for a new fleet of trains for their 750V DC network, which is entitled New Trains For Liverpool. This is said.

Merseytravel has indicated that it will be seeking ‘innovative proposals’ from manufacturers, with considerable emphasis being placed on the overall cost of operating the fleet rather than just the basic cost of the trains themselves. Options such as regenerative braking and onboard systems to store energy under braking to be used for acceleration will attract particular interest. The independently-powered EMU (IPEMU or battery train) concept evaluated earlier this year on a modified Class 379 in East Anglia ,might see an application here.

It does appear on a quick look, that a version of the new Aventra train, which comes with an IPEMU capability as standard might be suitable for Merseyrail, as the size and speed of the current Class 507 and 508 trains, don’t seem to be unusual like some trains of their age.

The trains would need to be dual voltage, so they could work on both electrical systems on Merseyside. But then Bombardier can handle that!

Surely, if the trains were IPEMUs, I can’t believe that Merseyrail would not use their capabilities to provide extra services to new destinations.

Ormskirk to Preston

In my meanderings yesterday, I twice passed the bay platform at Preston, which is the terminus of the Ormskirk Branch. This branch is a monument to the British Rail Crap Design School and  is detailed in the line’s History section in Wikipedia. This picture shows how I once changed trains at Ormskirk a couple of years ago.

Changing Trains At Ormskirk

Changing Trains At Ormskirk

Note the barrier between the two trains.

If Merseytravel’s new trains, were IPEMUs, they would be able to provide a continuous Liverpool to Preston service via Ormskirk.

Dual voltage trains would be needed so they could use the different power systems at the two ends of the line.

Kirkby to Wigan, Bolton and Manchester

The British Rail Crap Design School were not satisfied with one bad interchange, but they did the same at Kirkby station, thus cutting the Manchester to Liverpool route via Kirkby in half and necessitating a change of train for anybody going this way.

Just as at Ormskirk, where IPEMUs can extend the Ormskirk branch of the Northern Line to Preston, dual-voltage IPEMUs could be used to create an extension of the Kirkby branch  to Wigan, Bolton and Manchester.

IPEMUs would also enable the construction of a new station at Headbolt Lane between Kirkby and Rainsford, which is an aspiration of Merseytravel.

So IPEMUs would enable Liverpool to have another direct service to Manchester for invasion.

New Services to the North

Which services from Ormskirk and Kirkby get developed, would all be down to the traffic statistics.

But the engineering wouldn’t be much, that a competent small station builder couldn’t handle.

I’ve done the change at Ormskirk a couple of times, where in both cases I waited over thirty minutes.

In this modern age, that is as acceptable as piles!

New Services to the South

At its Southern End, the Northern Line joins the City Line at Hunts Cross station., so IPEMUs could travel to Manchester via Warrington Central, if that was what Merseytravel felt they should do.

I do feel that having another terminus like Warrington Central or even Chester might be worthwhile to increase capacity in the tunnel under Liverpool, where trains have to turn back at Liverpool Central.

But IPEMUs would be very helpful in this area, as apart from the line to Crewe, nothing is electrified.

Expanding the Wirral Line

There are various lines that are not electrified that connect to Merseyrail’s Wirral Line. The operation of IPEMUs has been proposed on one line; the Borderlands Line to improve connectivity between Wrexham and Liverpool. In a Proposed Battery Train section in the Wikipedia entry for the Borderlands Line, this is said.

A trial of an overhead-wire and battery powered converted Electrostar train was undertaken in January and February 2015 on the Mayflower Line. The train can travel up to 60 miles on energy stored in the batteries and also recharges the batteries via the overhead-wires when on electrified track, at stations and via brake regeneration. A month later in March 2015, the introduction of battery powered trains was proposed for the Borderlands Line by Network Rail.

The document suggested that consideration had been given to electrification and to running services further into Birkenhead ceasing termination at Bidston for greater connectivity. However these options were expressed as offering low value for money. They proposed that using battery powered rolling stock precluding full electrification of the line, providing a cheaper method of increasing connectivity into the electrified Birkenhead and Liverpool sections of the Wirral Line.

So if Merseytravel decides not to invade Manchester, they can always invade Wales.


I would feel that Merseytravel have got some planned uses for IPEMUs in mind.

I suspect that some of the uses will be rather surprising, but then the concept of an IPEMU does give transport planners a lot of flexibility and a go-anywhere capability.

This document on the Merseytravel web site is their plan of what they would like to do.

There’s certainly a lot of scope for IPEMUs, tram-trains, clever architects and capable construction companies to give Liverpool a world-class local railway network. For a start, they’re looking at stations in all these places.

Carr Mill
Chester-Crewe Line
Deeside Industrial Park
Edge Lane
Headbolt Lane
Maghull North
St James
Tarbock Interchange (or Halewood South)
Town Meadow
Warrington West

That is a large number of stations for only a small part of the UK.

It’s when I read documents like the Merseytravel report, that I think that local areas, should have more control of their transport infrastructure, as local people and their politicians often know the best way to spend the money.

Also when a new station or line is built in an area and most people are in favour, they think of it as their infrastructure and use it!

October 4, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 1 Comment

How To Catch Polluting Vehicles

I’ve just read about the EDAR pollution sensor in the Sunday Times.

Read more above the device on this page of the Hager Environmental and Atmospheric Technoogies web site.

I think they’ll sell a lot of these and in some ways it’s the best way to cut pollution caused by vehicles in cities.

Most drivers will make sure they;re legal!

October 4, 2015 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

Harold Wilson Liked The Muppets

Daniel Finkelstein in The Times is often entertaining. Yesterday, he told a story about how as a 14-year-old, he wrote to Harold Wilson to ask questions for an article in the Scout magazine he’d established for his troop.

He had just found the letter and it discloses that Harold liked The Muppets. He also read every newspaper except the Morning Star.

October 4, 2015 Posted by | World | , | Leave a comment


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