On Saturday and Sunday, I did four trips on the Calder Valley Line
- From Leeds to Burnley Manchester Road
- From Burnley Manchester Road to Manchester Victoria
- From Manchester Victoria to Hebden Bridge
- From Hebden Bridge To Leeds
The pictures aren’t as comprehensive, as I would like, but at times the rain was very heavy.
The Route And Trains
This diagram clipped from Wikipedia, shows the route of the Calder Valley Line.
- Since the opening of the five hundred metre long Todmorden Curve last year, there is now a direct hourly service between Blackburn and Manchester Victoria via Accrington, Burnley Manchester Road and Todmorden. I used this valuable new service on Sunday.
- Brighouse station reopened in 2000 on a link between the Calder Valley Line and the Huddersfield Line.
- The Huddersfield Line is being electrified.
- Low Moor station is being built and should open next year.
There is not much electrification.
- Leeds to York is either electrified or will be in conjunction with the Huddersfield Line electrification.
- Other routes between Leeds and the other Bradford station; Forster Square are electrified.
- Manchester Victoria station is electrified.
- Preston station is electrified and hopefully will be electrified to Blackpool North station.
The trains are a mixture of diesel Class 150 and Class 158 trains, run by Northern Rail. The Class 150s are a bit small and uncomfortable for the route and the top speeds of 75 mp for the Class 150s and 90 mph for the Class 158s, are probably not fast enough, especially as the two ends of the line have higher speed limits.
Wikipedia has a section on the Future of the Calder Valley Line. This is said.
Improvements to the line are proposed as part of Network Rail’s Northern Hub plans, which would allow for more frequent services on the line. Some services via Bradford would also be extended to Chester,Crewe, Liverpool and Manchester Airport. The Chester & Liverpool services have since been incorporated into the new Northern Rail franchise agreement – awarded to Arriva Rail North in December 2015 and due to start in April 2016, these will be marketed under the “Northern Connect” brand and operated by new 100mph DMUs once delivered. The Manchester Airport trains will follow one the Ordsall Curve is completed in 2018.
Low Moor station, between Bradford Interchange and Halifax, is due to be re-opened in 2016. A business case is being developed to re-open Elland station between Halifax and Brighouse.
There is no mention of electrification, for which the earliest dates are quoted as somewhere in the period from 2019-2024.
But there is this article is on the Shields Gazette web site, with a title of Electrification of the Calder Valley is ‘top priority’ says Rail Minister.
This article is backed up by other statements, so Network Rail and the Government are thinking seriously about electrification of the Calder Valley Line.
Network development and/or electrification is happening at both ends of the Calder Valley Line and I’ll look at both.
Network Development in Leeds and Bradford
The new stations survey mentions these new stations.
- East Leeds Parkway – This will be a Parkway station on the Selby Line and will also be a terminus for services from the West, that now terminate in Leeds.
- Elland – This will be between Halifax and Brighouse.
- Haxby – This will be on the York to Scarborough Line
- Crosshills – This will be on the Airedale Line
As I said earlier Low Moor station is being built. It will be on the unelectrified line between Bradford Interchange and Halifax. If Elland station is reopened, then it will be the other side of Halifax towards Brighouse. To serve both these new stations trains will have to serve the following stations.
- Bradford Interchange
- Low Moor
This is a modification to the current hourly service from Bradford Interchange to Huddersfield via Brighouse.
In the next few years hopefully, Huddersfield will be electrified, but there is no chance that this route into Bradford Interchange will be electrified at the same time. It would probably be pointless, as Bradford Interchange station, unlike Bradford Forster Square station is not electrified.
To make matters a lot more complicated, the stupid fact that Bradford has two entirely separate stations, means the following.
- There is no train, that calls at both Leeds and Bradford and goes on to Huddersfield and Manchester.
- There is no train, that calls at both Leeds and Bradford and goes on to Halifax and Hebden Bridge.
- There will be no direct train between Leeds and Low Moor.
I think other journeys of less than twenty or thirty miles in the Leeds-Bradford area will probably be either impossible or much more complicated than they should be.
Also, at the moment, two of the Leeds-Bradford routes are electrified and the Calder Valley Line is not.
The only new electrification in the area planned, will be the fast route on the Huddersfield Line from Leeds to Huddersfield via Dewsbury.
To help in comprehension, this is a Google Map, showing how the Calder Valley Line links into Bradford Interchange.
Bradford Forster Square Station is in the North-East corner of the map, with Bradford Interchange below it.
Note how the Calder Valley Line comes in from Leeds in the east, before doing a turn to the north and Bradford Interchange station. After reversing in the station, trains leave the station in a southerly direction towards the new Low Moor station and onto the West. Because of the dark scar below the line, I wonder if in the past, there has been a connection by-passing the station.
It’s a mess!
The solution needs to be four-fold.
- Electrify Leeds to Huddersfield via Dewsbury. This is being done.
- Electrify the Calder Valley Line from Leeds through Bradford and Low Moor as far as Halifax.
- Electrify the link between the Calder Valley Line and the Huddersfield Line through Brighouse.
- Sort out the absurd situation of the two Bradford stations.
This would enable the West Yorkshire Metro to expand its network of electric trains in the area. It could even use IPEMUs, which would charge their batteries on the electrified core network and then provide services to other towns and cities.
- Scarborough via York and Haxby
- Sheffield via Doncaster
- Ripon via Harrogate – I wrote about this in North Yorkshire Proposes Rail Expansion
- Colne via Skipton and a new section of track. – I wrote about this in The Todmorden Curve Has Helped A Campaign For More
I’m sure that the West Yorkshire Metro can be ambitious and will have other and better ideas.
Network Development in Lancashire
Currently, there is a lot happening at the other end of the Calder Valley Line.
- The Todmorden Curve has opened and a new hourly service runs between Blackburn and Manchester Victoria.
- Manchester Victoria station is becoming a top class station and an electrified hub for services spreading out from Manchester.
- Manchester Victoria to Liverpool Lime Street is now electrified.
- Manchester Victoria to Blackpool North via Bolton and Preston is being fully electrified.
- The Ordsall Curve is finally being built to link Manchester Piccadilly and Victoria stations.
- Merseyrail is acquiring a new fleet of trains, which may include IPEMUs.
With the devolution of local rail services to local bodies, I suspect other things will happen.
Northern Connect is a new sub-brand that will be introduced by Arriva Rail North.
Services in the sub-brand using the Calder Valley Line include.
- Chester to Leeds via Warrington, Manchester Victoria and the Calder Valley
- Blackpool North to York via Preston and Leeds
- Bradford to Manchester Airport via the Calder Valley.
Will the first two services call at Bradford Interchange and will the third call at Leeds?
According to the January 2016 Edition of Modern Railways, these routes will be worked by new diesel multiple units.
The Chester and Manchester Airport services may need to be delayed until after the Ordsall Chord is opened.
But whatever happens Arriva Rail North will be running more services on the Calder Valley Line.
For commercial reasons, they would like to do the following.
- Run faster services.
- Run more frequent services.
- Run services with smart new trains.
- Run services with electric trains.
All except the last could be possible in the next few years.
The Current Infrastructure
The Calder Valley Line between Halifax and Burnley is summed up by Wikipedia like this.
For the section between Halifax and Burnley the line uses the valley of the River Calder, which in fact comprises two separate valleys with rivers of the same name, that of West Yorkshire and the Lancashire River Calder thus giving the services their name; it also follows the Rochdale Canal from Todmorden into Manchester. Since the route crosses the Pennines, there are many tunnels to negotiate en route.
I counted twelve tunnels and at least two major viaducts. The tunnels include at least three over a thousand metres, one of which; the Summit Tunnel is over 2.6 miles long.
The Summit Tunnel is one of the oldest rail tunnels in the world, is lined with 23 million bricks and has been used continuously since it opened in the 1840s.
This Google Map shows the challenging nature of the line.
Note how the line threads its way between the hills and houses and uses a tunnel to get through.
It must be a nightmare on which to work.
As if the hills, valleys and rivers wasn’t enough, stuck in the middle of the line is the Grade II Listed Hebden Bridge station. I wrote about it in Hebden Bridge and feel that the heritage lobby will strongly resist any changes to this station.
In fact, electrification across the Pennines could bring out all the environment lobby, who feel views are more important, than jobs and prosperity.
I have a feeling, that any sane electrification engineer will look at this line between Manchester Victoria and Halifax and between Blackburn and Todmorden and say that electrifying the line is just not on!
He or she would also feel that leaving the sleeping giant of the Summit Tunnel lie would be best.
But apart from that, the line seems sound and in good order.
Electric Trains On The Calder Valley Line
If electrification of the Calder Valley Line is a top priority of politicians how can that be squared with the undoubtedly difficult nature of the work that would be required to electrify the line.
So what can be electrified?
- As I said earlier, there will be strong pressure to electrify around Leeds and Bradford. to perhaps as far as Halifax and Brighouse.
- I also suspect that electrifying from the West Coast Main Line at Preston to Blackburn would be relatively easy.
So this would leave the these gaps of lines and routes without electrification.
- Blackburn to Halifax – Around thirty miles
- Manchester Victoria to Halifax – Around thirty-five miles
- Blackburn to Manchester Victoria – Around forty miles
All of these runs would be totally within the range of an IPEMU.
Preston to Blackburn electrification, might also allow IPEMUs to take over the following routes.
- Blackpool South to Colne and possibly on to Skipton on a new section of track.
- Blackpool North to Settle
- Manchester Victoria to Clitheroe via Blackburn
So I believe it is possible for the Calder Valley Line to get electric trains, without the cost and disruption of installing the overhead wires.
It is a picturesque ride around the Todmorden Curve, over valleys on high viaducts and through traditional stone-built villages and towns, with the hills of the Pennines in the background and quite a bit of water alongside the rail line.
The line has improved greatly in the last few years and there are lots of tidy stations, with seats, shelters and information boards. The only larger ones are Burnley Manchester Road, Todmorden and Rochdale.
Despite the early hour on a Sunday, there were quite a few passengers and the train was about three-quarters full at Manchester Victoria.
Thinking back to my first time by train to Burnley in 2011, the rail link has improved dramatically.
- A smart new station has been built.
- The Todmorden Curve has been opened to provide a direct train service to Manchester.
- An hourly service links Burnley and Manchester Victoria via the curve.
From reports, I’ve read, the line is well-used.
This question has to be asked – Could the line be electrified?
Look at some of the pictures and they show the challenging nature of electrifying the line.
- From Burnley to Todmorden, there are a number of well-built Victorian stone over-bridges.
- Also on this stretch there are at least two high stone viaducts.
- There are several tunnels, includin the Summit Tunnel, which is 2.6 km. long and has been in continuous use since the 1840s.
- Many stations have been upgraded or rebuilt recently.
- Also in this area, some new bridges across the line for new roads and the Metrolink, seem to appear to be rather low.
Also, look as this section of the line between Burnley and Todmorden.
Note how the rail line curves between the hills and the houses, using tunnels and viaducts to get go on its way.
It’s one of those lines, where you’d try to find an alternative to traditional electrification. If it’s not space, it’s heritage issues and there would be lots of bridges, viaducts and tunels to rebuild.
Go west from Burnley and the line has a couple of high viaducts and a couple of tunnels, but the East Lancashire Line seems to get easier west of Blackburn station, with a line over mainly flat countryside with plenty of space on either side. At Preston it connects to the electrified West Coast Main Line.
Electrifying from Preston to Blackburn, would open up several routes to the use of IPEMU trains.
- Blackpool South to Colne – A substantial part of the route of the fifty mile route from Blackpool South to Colne would be electrified and from the performance figures I’ve seen, this route would be an easy one for something like an IPEMU-variant of a four-car Class 387 train.
- Burnley to Manchester – The service I rode from Burnley to Manchester starts at Blackburn and finishes in a fully electrified Manchester Victoria. So to answer my original question about whether the route could be electrified, there is actually no need to electrify, as IPEMUs could easily link two electrified terminals over that distance.
- Manchester to Clitheroe – Look at the Ribble Valley Line on Wikipedia and there are five viaducts and three tunnels listed, in a line of around thirty miles. However, the good news is three-fold. The line has been well looked after, it’s promoted as a tourist attraction and soon, it will be electrified from Manchester as far as Bolton. I can’t see why with a small top-up at Blackburn, that this route couldn’t be run by an IPEMU.
- Blackpool North to Settle – This route is run as a tourist train called DalesRail on Sundays in the Summer, when it goes all the way to Carlisle. An IPEMU could certainly run a service between Blackpool North and Settle, but I doubt it could stretch all the way to Carlisle along the Settle-Carlisle Line, as there are some massive gradients on that line.
- Blackpool North to Leeds – This route along the Calder Valley Line via Hebden Bridge, Halifax and Bradford would be totally within range of an IPEMU, once Blackburn to Preston is electrified. If necessary, Leeds to Bradford could be electrified as well. A train fit for the Northern Powerhouse, powered by batteries and built in Derby!
This all illustrates how an IPEMU can benefit from even short sections of electrification. Blackburn to Preston would be under twenty miles of electrification without troublesome viaducts and tunnels across fairly flat country and it opens up several routes to new electric trains.
It’s funny, but if you are going to use IPEMU trains, you electrify all the lines, that you can electrify and maintain with ease and leave all the difficult bits to the battery feature in the trains.
I’d gone to Burnley for the football via Leeds, as the West Coast Main Line seemed to be partly closed and I also wanted to take a look at the recently-opened Apperley Bridge station, which I wrote about in The New Apperley Bridge Station.
The trains across the Pennines on Saturdays are an hourly service at xx:08 from York to Blackpool North, that calls at New Pudsey, Bradford Interchange, Halifax and Hebden Bridge, on the section of route I would travel.
The train was busy and I was unable to get any decent pictures, but my 12:08 departure dropped me on time in Burnley Manchester Road station at 13:11. I wrote about the scenic qualities of the route before in The Scenic Route From Leeds To Manchester.
Burnley Manchester Road station doesn’t have a taxi rank, but I was able to hi-jack an empty one and the driver took me to my Premier Inn just north of the town centre and Turf Moor for a fiver.
It was a hard-fought match and a goalless draw was a fair result.
The Premier Inn is a useful one, as it is only a few minutes walk down and up the hill to Turf Moor.
One of the staff told me, that they get a lot of walkers and cyclists using the hotel as a half-way point on the nearby Leeds and Liverpool Canal.
The station is a simple design, based around an existing bridge and uses ramps rather than lifts for step-free access.
It must make for a more affordable design. The new Kirkstall Forge station is reported to be being built using similar principles.
This Google Map shows the Location of Apperley Bridge station.
The station has been built by the wetsmost of the two branches. The Avenue leading away to the North doesn’t lead to the country seat of a man of means or breeding, but to what appears to be a large sewage works.
The two stations are reported in this web page as costing sixteen million pounds for the pair.
But judging by the heavyweight construction, the good-sized shelters, Network Rail have future proofed this station for a lot more passengers than they will expect in the next year.
This is said.
Recent Network Rail reports have looked at ways of increasing capacity on the line. Because of the difficulty of lengthening platforms at Shipley, it will be hard to introduce longer trains (i.e. 5 or 6 carriages) as is being proposed on the neighbouring Wharfedale Line. It is therefore proposed to run more trains per hour between Leeds and Keighley, with a new platform at Keighley to accommodate this. A new station atApperley Bridge opened in 2015 and Kirkstall Forge is due to open in January 2016, with both stations located between Leeds and Skipton via Shipley.
Could it be that the two new stations will also divert commuters into Leeds from Shipley?
Wikipedia appears to suggest that Shipley station has access problems, so perhaps diverting passengers to a new fully-accessible station increases capacity on the line.
This Google Map shows that Shipley station isn’t your bog-standard two-platform station.
I only know of one other station built in the middle of a triangular junction; Liverpool South Parkway. But that station was designed that way.
Incidentally, a guy at Appleby Bridge station told me, that it can take an hour to drive into Leeds in the rush hour from the village, but the train takes less than ten minutes.
I don’t like the concept of most of the HS2 stations.
Euston, isn’t too bad, as the HS2 platforms are alongside those for the main station and I suspect that when and if I see it in reality, I will be able to arrive in the station on perhaps a London Midland train from Bletchley or Tring and just walk across to the HS2 platforms.
At some of our better interchange stations like Reading, to change trains, you go up escalators to a wide overbridge and then walk across to the escalator for the platform of your departing train. The design also allows seats and cafes in a totally non-claustrophobic environment. I have a feeling that the new London Bridge will raise the bar of this type of station even higher!
To my mind the designs for HS2 station at Birmingham is absolute rubbish and truly terrible. Birmingham is developing a local train, tram and bus network centred on New Street station, so instead of HS2 arriving into this hub, it arrives at a separate station some distance away and many passengers will have to get a tram to connect to their ongoing service.
As HS2 will run very large trains, imagine say a thousand Chelsea fans arriving on HS2 to go to a match at Villa Park and needing to get a train from New Street. You save masses of time by using HS2 and then waste it queuing for a tram.
But if HS2 arrived directly into New Street, a lot of the problems would be solved with a short walk.
In Birmingham there is no space in New Street itself, but why shouldn’t HS2 arrive in an underground station beneath New Street? Or in my preferred solution, in a giant double-ended station stretching right under the City Centre.
As they’ve got a redundant piece of Grade 1 Listed railway memorabilia, they’ll use that instead. The heritage lobby should crawl back into its hole!
But at Leeds, HS2 have put forward a new proposal, where HS2 meets the existing station in a giant version of the way trams met the train at Nottingham.
This is the only picture I can find of the proposal. It’s in an article in Global Rail News.
Passengers arriving in Leeds would just walk to the front of the train and then they’d be over the platforms of the existing Leeds station. If that is too difficult, then I’m sure we’ll see a few travalators.
It is a much better layout than that proposed for Birmingham.
Interchange between HS2 and local services must be a short walk, assisted by lifts, escalators or travalators as required.
I have been browsing the local papers in the North, to see the area’s reaction to the award of the new Northern and TransPennine franchises.
This article in the Liverpool Echo is entitled 4,000 more seats in £1.2bn boost for North West trains, which seems a very positive headline. This is the first paragraph.
Nearly 4,000 more seats on Liverpool and Manchester services during the morning peak and a new, direct Liverpool to Glasgow service were among the promised benefits of a trains package announced today.
They use a lot of positive language and only have a slight worry about what it will mean for fares.
This extract from another article, may be a bit parochial, but it is proud of Liverpool’s involvement in formulating the winning bids.
Merseytravel – who were involved in drawing up the specifications for the bidders – said there was a commitment to four fast services an hour between Lime Street and Manchester and two per hour between Liverpool, Leeds and York, as well as more services to Preston.
There will also be an early Northern service from Lime Street to Manchester Airport (arriving no later than 4.45am), and daily services to Manchester Airport via both Newton-le-Willows and Warrington Central.
It is also positive and just as I found in the city, when they introduced the Class 319s electric to Manchester Victoria, Merseysiders seem to be looking forward to better services.
Coverage on the Manchester Evening News, like this article entitled Hundreds of new carriages promised as Arriva and FirstGroup win Greater Manchester rail franchises, seems to be more cynical and snipes at Arriva for other issues. It doesn’t have the practical tone of the Liverpool reporting.
For instance, the Liverpool reporting stresses the much better service to Glasgow, Edinburgh and Newcastle, but despite Manchester will get a doubling of Scottish services, it isn’t given the same prominence.
Across in Leeds, the Yorkshire Post has an article entitled December 10: New age of the train – or not? This said.
Unlike previous deals which did not foresee the untapped potential of this region’s railways, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has used this opportunity to insist that the new franchise-holders invest in new rolling stock to help ease overcrowding on rush-hour trains. Yet it remains to be seen whether these operators, and their partners, can deliver the “world class rail service” envisaged by Mr McLoughlin and which is so integral to the much-vaunted Northern Powerhouse which aims to improve connectivity between major cities.
It looks to me that the Yorkshire character is shining through.
So on this quick look Liverpool is more positive and Manchester and Leeds are a tad negative.
Could it be that of the three cities, Liverpool is very proud of its locally-managed franchise, Merseyrail and are those in the area bigger train users than people to the East?
I also suspect, that at present, Liverpool with the electric trains to Manchester, has benefited most from rail dvelopment in the last few years.
This report on the BBC is entitled Network Rail to restart electrification of train lines. This is said.
The electrification of two railway lines is to be restarted after the projects were halted so a review could be carried out, the government says.
Work on the TransPennine Express Railway – between Manchester and York – and Midland Mainline – from London to Sheffield – was paused in June.
Sir Peter Hendy, chair of Network Rail, said the “temporary pause” had “given us the space to develop a better plan”
The Aventra IPEMU
Looking at the electrification of the two lines in posts over the previous few days, I have come to the conclusion that properly engineered battery trains built by Bombardier in Derby called Aventra IPEMUs (Independently Powered Electrical Multiple Units) could charge their batteries on existing sections of electrification and jump the gaps at speeds of up to at least 110 mph and possibly 125 mph, by running on batteries.
If that sounds like something that is too good to be true, I don’t believe it is! I was impressed when as a paying passenger, I rode the prototype train between Manningtree and Harwich.
For those who think that a battery train is just so-much Mickey Mouse-technology, note that the battery supplier; Valence is linked to Tessla; the electric vehicle manufacturer. A review of their latest car is on Autocar. The biggest problem with the car is not the power, range and performance, but the time it takes to charge the car from a typical supply. In addition to the overhead wire or third rail of the railway, an Aventra IPEMU has to charge the battery, the train will also charge the batteries using the regenerative braking system.
The TransPennine Line
On the TransPennine Line from Liverpool to Newcastle, the only gap in the electrification is the forty-three miles between Leeds and Manchester.
Aventra IPEMUs have a range of sixty miles, so Liverpool to Newcastle would be electric all the way and could be faster by up to thirty minutes on the current three hour journey.
Read Jumping The Electrification Gap Between Leeds And Manchester for full details on what it would entail.
The Midland Main Line
On the Midland Main Line, the electrification reaches from St. Pancras to Bedford.
As Corby, Kettering and Leicester are all within an Aventra IPEMU’s range from Bedford, these places could be served by these trains, once a certain amount of track and station work had been completed.
Read Thoughts On Midland Main Line Electrification for full details.
Delivering The Projects
The BBC article says this about the schedule.
The TransPennine upgrade is expected to provide capacity for six “fast or semi-fast trains” per hour between Manchester, Leeds and York , reducing journey times by up to 15 minutes.
The Manchester to York section of the work is now planned to be completed by 2022.
Once completed, the whole line from Liverpool to Newcastle will be fully electrified, the Department for Transport added.
The electrification of Midland Mainline north of Bedford to Kettering and Corby will now be completed by 2019, and the line north of Kettering to Leicester, Derby, Nottingham and to Sheffield will finish by 2023.
My project management knowledge and observations of Network Rail, say that to get electric trains to Kettering and Corby by 2019, would be a very tight schedule to perform on a working railway using conventional electrification!
But if it were needed to replace the current Class 222 trains with Aventra IPEMUs, it would just be a matter of certifying the line for the new Aventra IPEMUs and training the drivers and other staff.
There would be little or no work outside in the elements and all of the electrification would effectively be done in a comfortable warm factory at Derby!
I also feel that if say Network Rail said that the projects would be delivered on a particular date, that the risk of non-delivery would be very small.
Aventra IPEMUs can’t be delivered earlier, as the Derby factory will be jammed solid with production of Aventras for Crossrail.
On the other hand to prove the concept, would Bombardier modify a Class 387 train to create an IPEMU variant to run in passenger service between St.Pancras and Corby. Note that there have already been rumours of Class 387 IPEMU variants for Great Western Railway.
I wouldn’t be surprised if such a train is created, as it would be a superb way to identify any problems, train staff, prove the credibility of battery trains to a sceptical public and even deliver electric trains earlier.
A Cunning Plan
There are twenty seven Class 387 trains running on the Thameslink route at the moment, that will be replaced by Class 700 trains between 2016 and 2018.
As the Great Western Main Line won’t be electrified to Newbury, Swindon and Oxford until 2019 or whatever, there does seem to be the possibility of some very new Class 387 trains going into storage.
But as they are very similar to the Class 379 that was used for the IPEMU demonstrator, I do wonder if those clever engineers at Bombardier could convert some of these 110 mph trains into an IPEMU variant that could be used on services on TransPennine and the Midland Main Line.
If there were any spare Class 379 trains, I’m sure that other train companies would find a use for them! Especially, if Bombardier developed a plug-in battery system for the trains, so they could be used to prove if IPEMUs improved the lot of passengers on secondary lines.
You have to make your assets sweat.
I may be wrong, but I can’t see any other way to meet the schedule that has been published, unless some form of IPEMU is used to bridge the gaps in electrification..
It could be said that the North needs fast electric trains now and George Osborne needs them by 2020, as he has an election to win!
It might not matter much to most people if the trains didn’t run until say August 2020, but George Osborne would be unlikely to win an election in May 2020, if the trains were not delivered and running smoothly.
The Battery High Speed Train
An Aventra uses a modern version of the same bogies that are used in the Class 222 trains, which are capable of 200 kph. As the Class 387 train, which is a version of the Electrostar, can travel at 110 mph, I wouldn’t rule out that the more modern Aventra could run at 200 kph or 125 mph. Obviously, this speed would probably only be attainable in places on the East Coast Main Line.
Example times between York and Newcastle include.
- East Coast InterCity 225 – 56 minutes
- East Coast InterCity 125 – 62 minutes
- Transpennine Class 185 – 67 minutes
So if the performance on the line of an Aventra IPEMU was the same as an InterCity 225, then this would knock eleven minutes of the trip to Newcastle
Acceleration on batteries would be the problem, not maintaining a high speed. that had been built up whilst running under the wires.
When jumping the gap in the electrification between Leeds and Manchester, as the train will have been running from either Liverpool or York, I would suspect that it would set out over the Pennines with a full load of electricity.
Manchester To Leeds Electrification Gap
The Manchester to Leeds electrification has now been paused and it is likely that it will not be completed in the next ten years.
The line has its problems as the three-car Class 185 trains, that work the line, are totally inadequate for the route.
There are two major routes between Leeds and Manchester.
- The Huddersfield Line via Dewsbury, Huddersfield and Stalybridge.
- The Calder Valley Line via Bradford Interchange, Halifax, Hebden Bridge, Todmorden and Rochdale.
The shortest distance by rail between Manchester and Leeds is just 43 miles. When I saw this, I didn’t believe it, but it’s all in this article in the Guardian.
So this means that if you want to run an electric train between Liverpool and Manchester to Leeds, York and Newcastle, the Aventra IPEMU would bridge the gap with ease.
The demonstration version of the Aventra IPEMU was a modified Class 379 Train and had a range of sixty miles on batteries.
So even this modified Stansted Express would have been able to bridge the gap on both routes with ease.
A fully engineered production Aventra IPEMU would be unlikely to have a shorter range on batteries.
So Aventra IPEMUs create a fully-electrified TransPennine route from Preston, Liverpool and Manchester in the West to Leeds, York and Newcsastle in the East.
Destinations In The West
These are all current Western destinations for Transpennine Express.
- Barrow – On an unelectrified branch line from an electrified Carnforth.
- Blackpool North – On an unelectrified branch line from an electrified Preston.
- Liverpool – On a direct line from Manchester that is completely electrified
- Liverpool via Warrington – On a direct line from Manchester that is partially electrified.
- Manchester Airport – Electrified from Manchester
- Windermere – On an unelectrified branch line from an electrified Oxenholme.
All could be served by using Aventra IPEMUs.
I suspect it would also be possible to serve Chester.
I’m not sure how Aventra IPEMUs would affect slower services like York to Blackpool North across the Pennines, but I suspect they would be faster than the current diesel multiple units.
With the franchises being reallocated, I suspect that it will be done in such a way, that the trains across the Pennines give a much better service.
Destinations In The East
These are all current Eastern destinations for Transpennine Express.
Cleethorpes – Probably too far, but the Class 185 trains could run the service as they do now!
Hull – Hull is perhaps fifty miles East of the East Coast Main Line and I believe that a solution can be found to do this on an out-and-back basis.
Middlesbrough – This is a few miles from Darlington
Newcastle – Electrified all the way from Leeds
Scarborough – The York to Scarborough Line is forty two miles long and I believe that a solution can be found to do this on an out-and-back basis.
Whether Aventra IPEMUs can do the return trip from the East Coast Main Line on an out-and-back basis to Hull and Scarborough, depends very much on how the range of the trains work out, when the production trains are delivered. I suspect Bombardier know and have either calculated it or proven it on a test rig, but obviously they are keeping it quiet and sticking with the sixty miles total range obtained with the Demonstrator.
If they can’t make it, I suspect that they can provide some form of charging at the Eastern termini.
I do suspect that because of the reorganisation of the two franchises we may see some extra destinations in the East.
Times Across The Pennines
At present times on the major routes are.
Liverpool to Newcastle – 3 hours
Liverpool to Hull – 2 hours 30 minutes with a change at Leeds
As I indicated earlier there is eleven minutes to take off the Newcastle journey and the change at Leeds probably wastes ten minutes on the Hull trip.
Other factors would have an effect.
- The time spent on a stop by the Aventra IPEMU will be less than that of the current Class 185 trains.
- If diesel multiple units on the two TransPennine routes can also be replaced with Aventra IPEMUs, then these trains would be less likely to slow the fastest expresses.
- The Aventra IPEMUs are faster than the current trains.
- Network Rail will probably be able to do some small amount of trackwork to speed trains up in places.
I have no idea what the eventual TransPennine time will be, but it will be a few minutes less than today’s times.
Different parts of the country seem to have there own preferred ways of expanding their transport network.
Only London can probably afford large projects like Crossrail or Crossrail 2, but several cities like Manchester, Cardiff and Nottingham can make good cases for sensible projects that cost from say a hundred million pounds up to a billion. Projects in this category would include.
The costs I have quoted are probably only indicative, as Network Rail have had their problems lately. But I just wanted to show that trains and trams don’t come cheap.
Underneath these large and medium sized projects, there are a large assortment that generally get chosen to suit the problems of an area. For example.
1. East Anglia got the Bacon Factory Curve at Ipswich to sort out delays to all traffic caused by the large number of freight trains going into and out of the Port of Felixstowe.
2. Lancashire got the Todmorden Curve to allow direct trains from Blackburn and Burnley to Manchester Victoria.
3.Warwickshire received funds to develop new stations at Coventry Arena, Bermuda Park and Kenilworth.
So as I said at the start of this post different areas of the country see their own priorities and attempt to get schemes funded.
Sheffield and Manchester for example might promote schemes based on their tram networks, and Leeds and Liverpool might want to expand their successful rail networks.
It is interesting to look at this page, which is a list of current projects on the West Yorkshire Metro.
Improvements at major stations in the area are listed and there is even a project to identify places for new stations.
So as I said in the title of this post, it looks like West Yorkshire is hoping new and improved stations will be a successful, practical and affordable way of bringing more traffic to the network.
They do have a project on the possible introduction of tram-trains in the City. The web site just says this.
Development of a tram-train network for the Leeds city region would be through conversion of existing heavy rail routes and construction of some on-street alignments.
Further consideration will be given following the outcome of a trial in South Yorkshire.
Like many other cities and areas are probably doing, to wait for the trial between Sheffield and Rotherham to show if tram-trains are viable in the UK, is a very good idea.
If what I have seen in Germany is any indication of how the Vossloh tram-trains are introduced and perform, I suspect we’ll be seeing quite a few of their UK variant, the Class 399 tram-train.
There has been two major announcements about electrification of railways in recent weeks.
In this article on the BBC, they lay out the twelve lines in the north that have been prioritised for electrification in the report of the North of England Electrification Task Force. They are in all parts of the North.
- Calder Valley
- Liverpool to Manchester via Warrington Central
- Southport/Kirkby to Salford Crescent
- Chester to Stockport
- Northallerton to Middlesbrough
- Leeds to York via Harrogate
- Selby to Hull
- Sheffield Meadowhall to Leeds via Barnsley/Castleford
- Bolton to Clitheroe
- Sheffield to Doncaster/Wakefield Westgate
- Hazel Grove to Buxton
- Warrington to Chester
If the project goes ahead soon after completion of the current electrification project in the North West, it will take another large step towards creating a modern electrified railway in the north.
Joining the electrification together on a map, shows that after it is all completed there will effectively be two major east-west routes that are fully electrified.
The Huddersfield Line will allow electric trains to run from Liverpool to Hull, York and Newcastle, via Manchester, Huddersfield, Leeds and Doncaster, with a choice of two routes between Liverpool and Manchester. After all the work is completed there will be six fast trains an hour between Leeds and Manchester.
I was surprised that one of my favourite rail lines, the Calder Valley Line was also prioritised for electrification along with all its branches. But according to their correct methodology the line scored highest of all lines considered in the report. It is very much a scenic line and I recently took it from Leeds to Manchester, as it wound its way over the Pennines and through towns, like Bradford, Halifax, Hebden Bridge and Rochdale. Electrification will speed the journey and add capacity to the route. It will be a good home for more of those refurbished Class 319 trains and will link Preston, Blackpool and Manchester in the east with Leeds in the east. But perhaps more importantly, it will bring faster electric trains to all those towns dotted across the Pennines. Only knowing the area from occasional football matches in places like Burnley, Blackburn and Barnsley, I would not try to quantify the economic benefits. But I have a feeling that those who made the predictions would have erred on the low side!
The other lines prioritised for electrification fall into two distinct groups.
The Western or Lancashire/Cheshire group is a set of extensions to the current North West Electrification radiating out of the Northern Hub and includes Liverpool to Manchester via Warrington Central, Southport/Kirkby to Salford Crescent, Chester to Stockport, Bolton to Clitheroe, Hazel Grove to Buxton and Warrington to Chester. It virtually leaves only a few smaller lines to be electrified in the area.
The Eastern group is generally a set of extensions off the East Coast Main Line or the soon-to-be electrified Midland Main Line and includes Northallerton to Middlesbrough, Leeds to York via Harrogate, Selby to Hull, Sheffield Meadowhall to Leeds via Barnsley/Castleford and Sheffield to Doncaster/Wakefield Westgate. As with the Western group, it leaves very few important lines that are not electrified.
Looking at all this electrification, I think it has all been very well-thought through and the Task Force has chosen well. If you look at the Tier Two and Three lines that will follow these twelve Tier One schemes, it certainly seems to have been touched by the hand of a good project manager, who has arranged the schemes so that the teams can efficiently do one after another.
There was also a report in Modern Railways entitled Felixstowe Wires Study, which contained the following.
Network Rail is to conduct a study into the possibility of wiring the busy cross-country freight route from the port to Birmingham, with the results feeding into its Initial Industry Plan for Control Period 6 (2019 to 2024), due to be announced in September 2016.
The Modern Railways report also talks about looking into the eastern end of the East West Rail Link, a new station at Addenbrookes and the possible reopening of the March to Wisbech branch.
Both the North of England and the East Anglian reports seem to be the sort of comprehensive and intelligently-written reports, that have been severely lacking in the last few decades from UK rail companies. The work being proposed seems to be lacking in any political vanity, but geared very much to commuting, leisure, freight and bringing investment and infrastructure to places that need it.
I can’t help feeling though that if you look at all of the electrification schemes proposed for the North, there is a very strong focus on leisure.
For instance, increased frequency, capacity and comfort on the Calder Valley Line, will help those commuting into Leeds and Manchester, but the line will also carry a large amount of all sorts of leisure traffic like walkers, shoppers and families just taking a scenic train ride. As a lady said to me, when I travelled from Leeds to Manchester last week, the train is so much easier than the M62.
This leisure focus continued with adding the Barrow to Carnforth, Settle to Carlisle, the Carlisle to Newcastle, York to Scarborough, Hull to Scarborough, Cumbrian Coast Line and a few others into the program. I never thought I’d ever see some of these lines ever mentioned with the e-word.
Quite frankly all of this electrification should have been planned and implemented years ago, so it’s very much a case of better late than never. The big irony, is that some of the British Rail built, nearly thirty-years-old, Class 319 trains, will be returning to the county of their creation to move tourists and business passengers all over Yorkshire and the rest of the North.
It looks to me, that if you’re interested in a job with a future, then they’ll be plenty of work in railway electrification for quite a few years.
Or you could open a quality B & B near to a picturesque station in the North!