This article from Rail Technology Magazine is entitled Vivarail trial start date delayed from October to February.
The article goes on to say there are problems with the approval process.
There are now three new types of trains, that appear to be late in appearing in public service.
- Vivarail’s Class 230 train.
- The Class 399 tram/train in Sheffield.
- Bombardier’s first production train with on-board energy storage.
The delays may all be for different reasons, but could a problem like a shortage of properly qualified approval staff be a common cause.
He has an unusual theme in his arts column in The Times today.
The strapline says it all.
When we cut rural bus routes we cut our vital culture and tourism.
That’s so right!
Rread Ed Conway on Page 30 of The Times today.
He reckons that China is heading for a Lehman Brothers style crash.
I’m posting this on a 38 bus.
The title of this article on the BBC is Trump names Gen James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis as defence secretary.
It needs no comment!
This walk was a repeat of A Walk From Oxford Station, that I took in March 2015.
You wouldn’t notice much from the pictures, but being there I noticed changes.
It was all so much better organised, with a new bridge and extra tracks for Chiltern services.
Things can go wrong in a deep rail line does do happen and even the Channel Tunnel, there have been incidents.
I am not being alarmist, but as each Class 345 train can carry 1,500 passengers and twenty-four trains per hour will be going through the line for much of the time, there will be an awful lot of people underground at times.
If you look at the specification of a Class 345 train, it has features surely will help recovery if a train breaks down.
I found this snippet on the Internet which gives the formation of the new Class 345 trains.
When operating as nine-car trains, the Class 345 trains will have two Driving Motor Standard Opens (DMSO), two Pantograph Motor Standard Opens (PMSO), four Motor Standard Opens (MSO) and one Trailer Standard Open (TSO). They will be formed as DMSO+PMSO+MSO+MSO+TSO+MSO+MSO+PMSO+DMSO.
This formation and the train design could have positive implications for safety.
- It looks to me that the train will be two half-trains. Can they be driven independently, as Class 373 trains in the Channel Tunnel can?
- Half-trains must get around some train failures. If say the pantograph fails on one half-train, the other half-train can take the train to a suitable place like the next station to evacuate the passengers.
- The trains will also be walk through, so let’s assume that a passenger’s laptop catches fire, passengers can be moved to another safe part of the train.
I suspect that all the experience of running electric trains in long tunnels for several decades, will have been used in the design of Class 345 trains.
My biggest worry as an electrical engineer and a Londoner, is a complete electrical failure in the capital.
They don’t happen often, but this article on the BBC is entitled Blackout hits London’s Soho on Black Friday.
It describes London’s power failure of last week.
Power failures do happen, so what happens if a computer virus or extreme weather blacks out London?
I have just read this article in Rail Engineer, which is entitled Crossrail – approaching the final stages.
This is said about the power supply in the tunnels.
The Crossrail route will be powered by a 25kV overhead line system using a Cariboni 110mm deep rigid overhead conductor bar throughout the tunnels. Although from a different manufacturer, this design concept is similar to the one being installed in the Severn Tunnel that doesn’t require weights and pulleys.
In the central section, 25kV traction power for the Crossrail trains will be provided by two new bulk supply points from National Grid 400kV, at Pudding Mill Lane in the east and Kensal Green to the west. Super grid transformers have been installed and fitted with fans and additional coolants.
A 22kV high-voltage network will be installed in the central section from Royal Oak Portal in the west to Limmo Peninsula in the east with an 11kV high-voltage non-traction spur to be installed from Limmo through to Plumstead. This network will supply mains power to each Crossrail station, shaft and portal within the central section.
- It is a very simple power layout, for the trains, with a continous overhead rail providing power.
- There is only two feed points for the overhead power to the trains, but these feed points seem to be of a robust design.
- Trains in the middle will be fed by power coming a long way in the conductor rail.
- Conductor rail must be a more robust power supply to the trains, than the typical overhead wires.
- All Crossrail stations and shafts will use Crossrail’s own dedicated power supply.
The article though doesn’t mention two things.
- How is an emergency power failure handled?
- How is the power from regenerative braking fed back into the power network?
I’ll deal with the power failure first.
It would appear that a Central London power failure such as last Friday should have little effect on an independently-powered Crossrail. I wouldn’t expect anything less.
But there are always unexpected reasons, why a train may be isolated without power. So how does a train get to the next station or evacuation shaft, with its valuable load of passengers?
With respect to the regenerative braking, the power is usually fed into the overhead wires and used by another train nearby.
But, I do wonder if Crossrail will be doing things differently, as I like to think of the line as the latest and most energy-efficient of train lines.
Both the braking and failure problems are made easier, if the train is fitted with an on-board energy storage system or batteries in everyday parlance.
A fully-loaded Crossrail train going at its maximum speed of 145 kph will have an energy of 105 KwH, so if it stored this energy on the train when it brakes and stopps, it could use it when it accelerated away.
In some ways, this relegates the overhead rail to providing top up power as the train proceeds through the tunnel.
It also means that the train has energy to proceed to the next station or a safe place, if the overhead power should fail.
I have no evidence that this is actually the case, but Bombardier have said that the train will have a remote wake-up facility, so that the driver will turn up and find a train ready for action. Try doing that without an on-board power source.
Bombardier are only stealing ideas, from some of the latest cars, if I’m right.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Crossrail’s Class 345 trains are fitted with on board energy storage. The storage would handle.
- Regenerative Braking
- Emergency get you to safety power.
- Remote wake-up of trains.
The design would also mean that the Crossrail and its new trains would be more energy efficient.
On this morning, I explored the three branches of the Great Western Main Line, that are closest to London, to look at the progress of electrifying their connecting stations on the main line.
I then repeated the trip to add in two more branches.
All the branches are described in order from London.
This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the area in the photographs, at the Southern end of the Greenford Branch Line.
Notes and queries.
- The pictures of the lines were taken from a footbridge over the line, behind the Access Self Storage.
- The lines in the map show an older layout.
- The track in the bay platform 5 has access to both tracks on the Greenford Branch, which means that two trains could work the line to provide a four trains per hour (tph) service.
- The Up Slow line has access to both tracks on the Greenford Branch and to the new West Ealing sidings.
- The island for Platforms 4 and 5 appears to be more or less complete.
- Platform 3 needs to be lengthened.
- There are signs of foundations for the footbridge, past the end of the current Platform 3 and in the construction works beyond Platform 5.
- Will the Bay Platform 5 be double-sided? There’s no foundations for a bridge on the Platform 4/5 island.
- Will Platforms 1 and 2 be reconstructed or removed?
I suspect that the station is ready for a four tph diesel shuttle to Greenford, but the Bay Platform 5 can’t be wired until the bridge is in place.
A few facts and thoughts.
- The service is not possible at present, as there are no wires in the Bay Platform 5 at West Ealing station, where the trains would need to charge their storage between trips.
- Trains would probably wait between three and five minutes at West Ealing station, which would be more than enough to top up the batteries.
- The bay platform at Greenford station and platforms at the other stations will probably need lengthening, but there would probably be little other infrastructure work.
- Incidentally, there is a tunnel on the branch, where blocks of housing have been built over the line, so electrification of the line could be difficult, unless provision was made, when the housing was built.
- Without doubt, the track layout at West Ealing has been designed, so that two trains could provide a four tph service.
- Two four-car trains could probably be parked in the bay platform. This could give operational flexibility.
Passenger routes between main line and Greenford Branch services would be as follows.
- With Eastbound services on the main line, the change would a very easy walk of a few metres across the island platform.
- With Westbound services on the main line, use of the bridge would be needed. But it looks like the footbridge has been positioned at the optimal position for both services and passengers joining or leaving the railway at West Ealing station.
As there will be frequencies of at least 8 tph on the main line and 4 tph on the branch, waiting will be a maximum of fifteen minutes.
The West Ealing Sidings
The pictures show the Orange Army swarming all over the new West Ealing Sidings, which will provide stabling for the new Class 387 trains.
I also took these pictures of the sidings as I returned to London.
Incidentally, as I passed through Old Oak Common on the way back to London, there were upwards of six of the new trains squatting in Hitachi’s new depot for the Class 800 trains.
If in the future, there is a variant of these trains with on-board energy storage, these sidings are certainly conveniently placed for the Greenford Branch.
Traffic On The Brentford Branch Line
I’d never seen any traffic here before and I only included the pictures, as Hounslow Council have aspirations for a passenger service on this line, that I wrote about in Could The Golden Mile In Houslow Get A Station?
If it was decided to open the Brentford Branch Line to passenger trains, then Class 387 trains with on-board energy storage would be a possibility to provide services.
A Heathrow Connect Class 360 Train in Platform 5 At Hayes and Harlington Station
I didn’t expect to see this.
But there were signalling issues, so they appeared to be using the Class 360 train as a shuttle to Heathrow.
Electrification At Slough Station And On The Windsor Branch
- There are overhead gantries over Platform 1 at Slough station, which is the bay platform for the Windsor Branch Line.
- There is a line of overhead line gantries on the outside of the curve, as the Windsor Branch Line leaves Slough.
- The gantries on the branch are lighter than those on the main line.
- The Class 166 train in the picture had three-cars, so the platform could probably be lengthened for a four-car Class 387 train.
As there appears to be no work anywhere else on the branch, I have to assume, that the electrification doesn’t go very far along the Windsor Branch Line.
This Google Map shows the lines at the start of the Windsor Branch Line.
There are two main tracks at the start of the Windsor Branch.
The track closest to the blue building, is the actual branch.
- It is a single track that goes between Windsor and Eton Central station and the Bay Platform 1 at Slough station.
- Trains take six minutes for the journey.
- The current frequency is three tph.
- The bay platform 1 and a short length of the branch could be electrified.
The track furthest from the blue building is a long spur off the Down Main, that allows trains to be moved to and from the Windsor Branch Line.
- It appears to be long enough for train to be parked on the spur.
- It appears that the spur is being electrified for about a couple of hundred metres.
- The spur could be extended or reconfigured to become a passing loop.
There also appears that there is a crossing that allows trains to move to and from the bay platform 1.
Could Electric Trains With On-Board Energy Storage Work The Windsor Branch?
Operation of the Windsor Branch would be as follow with a train fitted with on-board energy storages.
- Trains enter the branch by going to the end of the spur and reversing into the bay platform 1.
- Trains charge their on-board energy storage in Platform 1.
- Trains run to and from Windsor using on-board energy, charging after each trip.
- Trains leave the branch by going to the end of the spur and reversing onto the Down Main.
I have a feeling that if needed, that with small modifications, four tph might be possible, using two trains.
One of the possibilities unlocked by four tph could be to use the train to get passengers to the town from a Park-and-Ride site, beside Junction
Windsor And Eton Central Station
I took these pictures of Windsor and Eton Central station.
It certainly has several quality food outlets.
Electrification At Maidenhead Station And On The Marlow Branch
- Platform 5 is almost fully-electrified and the wires curve away onto the Marlow Branch.
- Platform 4 and its connection to the Marlow Branch appears to be fully electrified.
- There is a reversing siding to the West of the station in there somewhere.
- There is an unfinished gap in the electrification of all lines to the East of Maidenhead station.
I wouldn’t think it would be long before all the electrification work is finished at Maidenhead station.
Could Electric Trains With On-Board Energy Storage Work The Marlow Branch?
So how will the various services to and from Maidenhead and on the Marlow Branch be handled, if Class 387 trains with on-board storage were available?
- Between London and Maidenhead services would be worked using overhead power.
- Between Maidenhead and Bourne End, services would be worked using on-board energy storage, that would be charged in Platform 5 at Maidenhead or on the main line to and from London.
- Between Bourne End and Marlow, the trains couldn’t run as they are too long and a two-car Class 166 would work the service and connect at Bourne End.
From the layout of the overhead wiring, I suspect that which of Platforms 4 or 5 is used at Maidenhead is flexible and which is actually used by a particular service would depend on many factors.
Electrification At Twyford Station And On The Henley Branch
The two slow platforms 3 and 4 at Twyford station, which will be used by Crossrail and Platform 5 which is used by the Henley Branch trains, show no signs of electrification, although work has been done on the fast platforms 1 and 2.
In the December 2016 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article by Roger Ford entitled Electrical Clearances: The Plot Thickens.
As the stations either side of Twyford, which are Maidenhead and Reading, are both almost fully wired, there must be a serious reason why there isn’t any work started on Platforms 3, 4 and 5 at Twyford. Could it be that without either rebuilding the bridge or lowering the track and rebuilding the platforms, the new regulations can’t be met?
However, there could be a possible solution.
These trains will be using the station in a few years.
- Class 800 trains, which are bi-mode.
- Class 345 trains, which I believe could be fitted with on-board energy storage for other reasons, like tunnel emergencies.
- Class 387 trains, which I believe could be fitted with on-board energy storage.
So could we see Platforms 3 and 4 at Twyfrord station without wires?
I’ve no idea!
But it does seem strange that no electrification work has been started at Twyford station, except on the fast lines, through Platforms 1 and 2.
Could Electric Trains With On-Board Energy Storage Work The Henley Branch?
So how will the various services on the Henley Branch be handled, if Class 387 trains with on-board storage were available?
- The branch is only a short one with a total length of 4.5 miles.
- There are one tph on the branch, with extras to Paddington in the Peak.
- Trains turn round in about four minutes.
- From 2018, Twyford station will be served by 2 tph from Crossrail and 4 tph from GWR in each direction.
- Platforms at all stations seem long enough for at least four-car trains.
- There used to be a passing loop at Shiplake station.
- Trains going to and from Paddington could charge their energy storage on the main line.
Two trains working a reconfigured branch could possibly create a 4 tph service.
Creating a four tph service on the Henley Branch, is the sort of problem, that engineers solve in the traditional way. – In a suitable hostelry!
I think that spending the money on a passing loop, some means of charging the trains and possibly a rebuilt Shiplake station, will be much better value, than electrifying the branch and the Crossrail platforms at Twyford station.
Electrification At Reading
In the December 2016 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article entitled Loco-Hauled EMUs On GWR.
The article starts by saying.
GWR’s new Class 387 trains will be loco-hauled to and from their depot at Reading, until electrification between Maidenhead and Reading is completed.
Could this all be because, Network Rail don’t have a plan to electrify Twyford?
At least the depot seems electrified.
I didn’t see a Class 387 in their depot, but there were at least half-a-dozen parked at Hitachi’s depot at North Pole.
Electrification From Didcot To Oxford
The Cherwell Valley Line between Didcot and Oxford can be described as follows.
- It is a double-track hemmed in on both sides.
- The two stations at Radley and Culham are on narrow strips of land and could be difficult to electrify.
- There is a tail of electrification gantries from Didcot Parkway onto the branch, which is typical of some other branches like Windsor and Marlow.
- There were electrification piles in several places, either in the ground or just lying around.
- The track could have be reconfigured to incorporate a new South-facing bay Platform at Oxford station.
These are some pictures.
One of Chiltern’s Class 168 trains was also hanging around, training drivers.
Could Electric Trains With On-Board Energy Storage Work Didcot To Oxford?
Didcot to Oxford is about 10.5 miles, so I suspect range is not a problem, especially if the new Southern Bay Platform is built, which would mean trains would not have to cross the lines wasting energy North of the station.
What would drive this, is not technology, but if Chiltern are running a service at their usual standard from Oxford to Marylebone, it could be take passengers from the GWR.
New Class 387 trains with on board energy storage could be a good weapon with which to fight back!
But then so would Class 800 trains!
I took these pictures at Oxford station on the 1st of December.
Note GWR’s 13:01 arrival from Banbury into the new bay Platform 2.
Was I watching the first scheduled train into the new platform?
There certainly wasn’t any dignitaries!
National Rail’s Arrival and Departure details on the Internet certainly showed that Banbury services were using the new Platform 2 later in the day.
From my explorations I have come to the following conclusions.
- There is a large gap in the electrification works at Twyford station.
- It looks to my untrained eye, that the Greenford, Windsor and Marlow branches are being wired to be served by electric trains with on board energy storage.
- The Orange Army is furiously at work creating new sidings at West Ealing for the Class 387 trains.
- It is possible for trains to use the new bay Platform 2 at Oxford station.
It will be interesting to take a Chiltern service to Oxford, when the service opens on the 11th of December.
Services In A Few Years
By the end of this decade, Greater Anglia will be running the following services through or from/to Ipswich station.
- 3 trains per hour (tph) Norwich to London, taking sixty minutes to London – Platform 2
- 3 tph London to Norwich, taking 30 minutes to Norwich – Platform 3
- 1 tph Peterborough to Colchester – Platform 2
- 1 tph Colchester to Peterborough – Platform 3
- 1 tph Ipswich to/from Cambridge – Platform 4
- 1 tph Ipswich to/from Felixstowe – Platform 0 or Platform 1
- 1 tph Ipswich to/from Lowestoft – Platform 0 or Platform 1
I have assumed a new Platform 0 is built outside of Platform 1, is as I speculated in A Good Look At Platform 1 At Ipswich Station And The Work On The Far Side.
A Service Pattern
As each of these trains has fairly clear routes in and out of Ipswich station, could we see a sequence like this at the station, at a fixed time in every hour?
- Trains from Cambridge, Felixstowe and Lowestoft arrive in their respective platforms.
- London-Norwich and Norwich-London call at the station.
- Trains leave for Cambridge, Felixstowe and Lowestoft.
As the Peterborough-Colchester service provides a second service between Ipswich and Bury St. Edmunds, this would be scheduled thirty minutes after the Cambridge-Ipswich service.
Services To Nearby Towns
It is worth showing a table of frequencies to nearby towns.
- Bury St. Edmunds – 2 tph
- Cambridge – 1 tph
- Colchester – 4 tph
- Felixstowe – 1 tph
- Lowestoft – 1 tph
- Manningtree – 4 tph
- Newmarket 1 tph
- Norwich – 3 tph
- Stowmarket – 5 tph
- Woodbridge – 1 tph
There are also places, that lack a direct service from Ipswich, such as Cambridge North, Aldeburgh, Harwich, Sudbury and Yarmouth
Services from Ipswich to stations that are not on the Great Eastern Main Line, will need to use independently-powered trains.
Greater Anglia will have three possible types of independently-powered trains.
- The existing Class 170 trains, some of which may be retained.
- The new bi-mode Flirts.
- The new Aventras, which could be fitted with on-board energy storage.
All are modern trains, with at least a 100 mph capability.
Extra Services From Ipswich
Intriguingly, because the current one tph Ipswich-London service has been extended to Norwich, there is probably space to terminate another service from the South.
To the South, there are only two possibilities for extra services.
- Harwich, which already has a very limited service from Ipswich.
- Sudbury, which will be served from Colchester Town.
Neither is an obvious terminal for services, So I think it likely, that no Southern services would be added at Ipswich.
The only other possibility for extra services South from Ipswich, would be if it was decided to create a second route across East Anglia connecting Ipswich and Colchester to Cambridge and the East West Rail Link, via Sudbury and Haverhill, using the existing Gainsborough Line and a rebuilt Stour Valley Railway.
But if a Suffolk Circular Railway is ever built, it will be a long time coming.
Services along the Ipswich to Ely Line to Cambridge and Peterborough, will be as follows in a couple of years.
- Bury St. Edmunds – 2 tph
- Cambridge – 1 tph
- Ely – 1 tph
- Newmarket 1 tph
- Peterborough – 1 tph
- Stowmarket – 5 tph
It’s certainly better than it was, when I lived in the area, but there is a big new station at Cambridge North, that needs to be adequately served from Bury St. Edmunds, Ipswich and Suffolk.
Passengers from Bury St. Edmunds and Ipswich to Cambridge North will have a choice of three routes.
- Take a Peterborough service and change at Ely.
- Take a Cambridge service and change at Cambridge.
- Take a Cambridge service and change at Cambridge to the Cambridge Guided Busway.
None is ideal and the last can get stuck in Cambridge’s legendary traffic jams.
Greater Anglia’s full plans have not been disclosed, but Wikipedia says this.
- 5tph to Cambridge, with 2tph continuing to London King’s Cross; 1tph continuing to London Liverpool Street and 1tph continuing to Stansted Airport.
- 4tph to Ely, with 1tph continuing to King’s Lynn, 1tph continuing to Birmingham New Street and 1tph continuing to Norwich.
So all stations to Birmingham get a direct service, but Suffolk doesn’t!
- Norwich-Cambridge services will be extended to Stansted, releasing a bay Platform 5 at Cambridge station.
- Trains can’t go between Cambridge North and Bury St. Edmunds will have to reverse at Ely station.
- Kennett to Ely could be double-tracked to improve freight routes between Felixstowe and Peterborough.
- Soham station could be reopened.
- This Network Rail document talks of improving connections at Newmarket.
- The East West Rail Link will connect to Cambridge at a proposed Cambridge South station.
I can see a package of work emerging, that would include.
- Dualling from Kennett to Ely.
- Provision for Soham station.
- Improvements to Ely station and the various lines in the area.
- Improvements to the junctions between Newmarket and Kennett.
- Provision for connection to the East West Rail Link.
This would enable more capacity for freight trains.
It would also allow a second Ipswich and Bury St. Edmunds service to Cambridge, via Kennett, Soham, Ely and Cambridge North stations.
- There would be capacity in Platform 4 at Ipswich and Platform 5 at Cambridge for the service.
- Between Ipswich and Bury St. Edmunds there would be three tph.
- The new station at Soham would have excellent connectivity.
- Kennett station has excellent connectivity, is surrounded by space and is close to the A14 and A11. Could it be developed as a Parkway station?
- A chord might be built at Ely to connect the lines to Cambridge and Kennett, which would avoid the reverse at Ely.
- Greater Anglia will have trains for the route.
It will be interesting to see what happens in the next few years, but services to Cambridge will call the tune.
In the December Edition of Modern Railways magazine there is an article entitled Loop Planned For Felixstowe Branch.
To allow an increase in the numbers of freight trains on the line from 33 to 47 every day, Network Rail propose to do the following.
- Create a 1.4 km loop at Trimley. Note that 775 metres is the maximum train length in the UK.
- Close six level crossings
- Create a bridge for a bridleway.
Network Rail hope that this will be sufficient for a few years, but in the future the aspiration is for double-tracking and electrification all the way between Felixstowe and Nuneaton.
I have flown my helicopter along the route and it is single track all the way between Westerfield and Trimley stations, with the exception of a passing loop East of the Spring Road Viaduct, which is centred on Derby Road station.
This Google Map shows the Branch Line East of Trimley station.
Trimley station is in the North West corner of the map, whilst Felixstowe station is in the South East corner.
Just before the level crossing at Trimley, the line splits into two and the two tracks run together for a time, before the Southern track branches off to the North Terminal at the Port of Felixstowe.
The other track then continues East and splits with one branch going straight into Felixstowe station and the other going to the South Terminal at the Port.
All tracks are single track, except between Trimley station and the first junction.
The Intermediate Stations
I think it is probably true to say, that Westerfield, Derby Road and Trimley stations are one the worst run of three stations in the country.
In James Cook Station – The Reinvention Of The Halt, I talked about the new James Cook station, that serves Middlesborough Hospital. This station had 23,000 passengers in 2014/15, as against the 30,000 average for these three Suffolk stations in the same year.
I’m sure if they were of the same standard as James Cook station, they would see an increase in passengers.
This Google Map shows Westerfield station.
Note how the single-track Felixstowe Branch leaves the double-track East Suffolk Line to the East of the station.
A large housing development called Henley Gate, which is part of the Ipswich Garden Suburb could be built to the West of the station. This might be an opportunity to improve the station and the level crossing. This web page on the Ipswich Borough Council web site, shows a map and a few details.
If the thousand houses promised for the site are built, I’m sure Westerfield station could be one that attracted a few more passengers, who cycled to the station.
According to Wikpedia, this Derby Road station used to be a lot busier. This is said.
People living on the eastern side of the town generally preferred to use Derby Road when travelling to Felixstowe and the station could be very busy on sunny weekends with day trippers to Felixstowe Beach and Felixstowe Pier stations. They could reach the station on the Ipswich Tramway which terminated outside the station entrance.
But this Google Map, of the area round the station show that it surrounded by housing.
The station is at the South West corner of the map, with The Ipswich Hospital is at the North East corner of this map. I ask these questions.
- Is there a shuttle bus between the station and the hospital?
- Is there secure bicycle parking at Derby Road station?
- Could it be that if a decent train with greater capacity and perhaps better provision for bicycles and buggies ran through the station, that there could be an increase in passengers?
From what I’ve seen of the station, it’s suffering from Abellio’s Managed-from-Norwich Syndrome, which a lot of stations in East London did, until placed under the control of Transport for London.
The next station after Derby Road used to be Orwell station, which served the villages of Orwell and Nacton.
At some point in the future, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a station between Derby Road and Trimley, either inside or outside of the A14.
Trimley station is virtually derelict, but there are plans to convert it for community use.
I believe, all the intermediate stations on this line could have a future. Factors involved could be.
- Nearby housing and/or commercial development.
- Cycle-and-Ride passengers.
- A decent train to Ipswich and Felixstowe, with plenty of space for bicycles and buggies.
- A reliable clock-face hourly service.
- Easy connection to Long distance trains at Ipswich station.
- A cafe or coffee kiosk
Passengers, who are going to work, need a service that is totally reliable, and this service has suffered in the past few years.
Dualling The Line
If my virtual helicopter ride, showed one thing, it was that there are wide margins around the current single track from Derby Road to Trimley, which hopefully would make installation of a second track reasonably straghtforward.
However, I did count six level crossings with barriers and what looked like five crossing points without. All will have to be upgraded for the second track or removed.
It is interesting to see, that Network Rail are proposing to close six crossings in their current plan, so is this to get rid of one of the major problems of the dualling early?
Perhaps, they have decided that removing six level crossings and dualling the line at the same time, would raise too many simultaneous problems for their legal department. But doing the level crossings first with a less ambitious dualling is less likely to be challenged.
The other big problem could be widening the bridge over the A14 dual-carriageway.
This Google Map shows the bridge.
But it looks to me, that everything is there to just slip in a second span.
So that could be at least future-proofed!
Where Is The Proposed Dualling?
According to the article in Modern Railways, the loop at Trimley is 1.4 km. long.
My estimate is that the distance between the two junctions, where the two branches go off to the Port of Felixstowe, is about this distance.
So could it be, that the loop is not for freight trains, but to allow the passenger trains to access Felixstowe station?
- The Northern track would be bi-directional and connect Trimley and Felixstowe stations and would be for exclusive use of passenger trains.
- The Southern track would be bi-directional and connect Trimley station to both the lines to the Port of Felixstowe and would be for exclusive use of trains to and from the Port.
- At night, the track could be configured, so that two bi-directional tracks, that joined just to the West of Trimley station, went to each freight terminal The Northern track would serve the South Terminal and the Southern Track would serve the North Terminal.
The Port of Felixstowe has argued at times, that the Felixstowe Branch Line should be freight-only. Is this Network Rail’s proposal to create two separate freight and passenger lines using the same track?
From my observations at Ipswich that I wrote about in Curious Rail Construction At Ipswich Station, I am convinced that they have simplified track layout around Ipswich Freight Yard, so that freight and passenger trains, don’t conflict with each other at Ipswich.
So does this proposal remove conflicts at Felixstowe?
I think it does.
After the proposed loop is built, the line will be effectively in three sections.
- A core line between Westerfield and Trimley stations with the existing passing loop at Derby Road.
- At the Felixstowe end, there will effectively be separate lines into Felixstowe station, and the North and South Freight Terninals.
- At the Ipswich end, there will be separate lines into Platforms 0 and 1 at Ipswich station, Ipswich Freight Yard and to both directions on the Great Eastern Main Line.
- All of the connecting end lines would work with the simple rule of only allowing one train on the line at any one time.
At Felixstowe, freight trains might even be paired with one going into the North Terminal at the same time as one came out of the South Terminal. And vice-versa!
The train coming out, would wait at a signal before the junction for its branch and then when the other train had cleared the other junction going into the Port, it would be allowed to proceed through Trimley.
At night, trains could also be assembled as flights, so that several trains came in and out of the port in a stream. The reorganised Ipswich Yard must help in this.
As the new passenger trains will be somewhat faster than the current Class 153 trains and will be able to get away from stations quicker, I wonder if the timings will be such that two trains per hour might be possible.
These are current timings between Westerfield and Trimley in the core section.
- Passenger train – 14 minutes
- Freight train – 16 minutes
As trains don’t conflict on the double-track outer sections and have their own separate routes, it should be possible to have one 14 minute passenger and one 16 minute freight cycle in every half-hour, provided the trains pass at Derby Road.
With faster trains, fitting in two passenger trains and two freight trains in both directions in every hour might well be possible.
But you also have to content with other services on the East Suffolk Line and other constraints, so I suspect that by being extremely thorough and downright devious, that the published figure of 47 trains a day is very feasible. And feasible when running two tph between Ipswich and Felixstowe!
Two passenger trains would be needed for the service.
Higher Speed Between Westerfield And Trimley
Once all the improvements at the two ends of the line are complete, the major constraint on capacity on the line is the time a train takes between Westerfield and Trimley.
The line is configured for 75 mph, but I wonder what sort of speed could be reached could be attained safely on the line between Westerfield and Trimley, with the following.
- Removal of level crossings
- Improved signalling.
- Some minor track improvements.
It should be born in mind that there are no junctions from where the Felixstowe Branch leaves the East Suffolk Line at Westerfield and Trimley.
The speed limit would then probably be set by the maximum speed over the Spring Road Viaduct.
The distance between Westerfield and Trimley is almost exactly 10.5 miles.
This means that the freight train averages about 40 mph and the passenger train a miserly 45 mph.
So what sort of speeds can the various trains achieve.
- Class 153 – 75 mph
- Class 170 – 100 mph
- Class 66 – 65/75 mph
- Class 67 – 125 mph
- Class 68 – 100 mph
- Class 70 – 75 mph
- Class 88 – 100 mph
It could be that the slow speed of the Class 66 locomotives are one of the constraints on the line, as timings must assume that locomotives could be the 65 mph variant.
If it were possible to raise the line speed to 90 mph, it could reduce timings on the line between Westerfield and Trimley.
These figures certainly show, why Network Rail are so keen to remove the level crossings on the line.
I suspect that suitable trains and locomotives could reduce times as follows if the line had a 90 mph limit.
- Freight – 13 from 16 minutes.
- Passenger – 12 from 14 minutes.
It might only save a couple of minutes with my crude estimate, but it certainly shows there are savings to be made by upgrading the line and using modern trains and locomotives.
Class 66 Locomotives
I don’t like Class 66 Locomotives and have believed for some time, that they have little place on the electrified lines in built-up areas. I wrote The Noisy Class 66 Locomotive on the subject a couple of years ago.
My crude analysis in the previous section shows that their slow speed actually cuts capacity.
Freightliner are one of the big operators of |Class 66 locomotives to and from the Port of Felixstowe. Wikipedia has a section on Class 66 Locomotives operated by Freightliner.
This is said.
Freightliner followed EWS by initially ordering five new Class 66/5 locomotives, and have continued to order in small batches. As of summer 2010, the 66/5 fleet had reached 98 examples; 66521 was withdrawn after the 2001 crash at Great Heck and later scrapped.
In 2000 a new Class 66/6 sub-class was built, with a lower gear ratio, enabling heavier trains to be hauled, albeit at slower speed. There are presently 25 examples of this class, numbered 66601-625. Some of these locomotives have since been exported for use with Freightliner Poland.
As freight trains are getting longer, it would appear that the slow 66/6 locomotives should be removed from this route as their 65 mph maximum speed is a constraint on maximising traffic between Westerfield and Trimley.
Electrification is often talked about with respect to the Felixstowe Branch.
Reasons in favour include.
- Freight trains going to and from London could be electric hauled.
- Engine changes at Ipswich Yard would be minimised.
- Electric haulage is more environmentally friendly.
But there are powerful reasons not in favour.
- Cranes in a Port and 25kV overhead wires are bad bedfellows.
- If the Class 88 Locomotive and other electro-diesel types are a success, they are probably more affordable than electrification.
- Passenger services in the near future will be run by trains with an on-board power source; diesel, bi-mode or battery.
- The main route to the Midlands via Peterborough and Nuneaton is not electrified.
But above all we seem so bad at electrification, the risk in wiring the line is too great.
I don’t think it is likely that the Felixstowe Branch will be electrified until the whole route to the Midlands is wired.