The Anonymous Widower

Luton Trains Its Eye On Sub 30-Minute Express

This was the headline on a small piece in The Times on Monday.

Luton Airport want the following from the new East Midlands Franchise.

  • A dedicated fast train.
  • Four trains an hour (tph) to and from St. Pancras.
  • A journey time of less than thirty minutes.

The airport says it won’t need any new infrastructure, but they are planning a fast link from Luton Airport Parkway station, which I wrote about in Luton Airport Goes For Light Rail.

This is an extract from the article..

The move would add up to £110million of extra fare revenue to the government over ten years and take almost 1 million cars off the road, a study by North Star, the consultancy found.

At present there are two separate services to Luton Airport.

  • Thameslink, which leaves from the low-level Thameslink platform takes 45 minutes to the airport, with a frequency of six tph.
  • East Midlands Trains, which leave from the high-level platforms take around 30 minutes to the airport, with a frequency of 1-2 tph.

Note these points about the current service.

  • The lack of a dedicated platform for the fast trains to the airport, must confuse occassional passengers.
  • The time of sub-thirty minutes is certainly possible on East Midlands Trains.
  • There is not enough platforms in the high-level station for a dedicated platform for an express Luton Airport service.

The problems are made worse by the fur coat and no knickers nature of St. Pancras station.

The new franchise will probably be buying new electric trains for the Midland Main Line services. These could be key to providing an express airport service to Luton Airport.

Abellio has stated that their new Flirts and Aventras for Greater Anglia, will have a very fast stop and restart time, thus enabling services like Norwich in Ninety and Ipswich in Sixty.

So we then have the possibility of similar trains on the Midland Main Line  to Corby, Derby, Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield stopping at Luton Airport Parkway, without adding a large delay to the service. This would give Luton Airport, the following express services.

  • At least four tph to and from St. Pancras in under thirty ,minutes.
  • At least two tph to and from Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield.
  • At least three tph to and from Leicester.

The only complaints would come from East Midlands Airport.

As there will be at least eight tph on Thameslink, this should be enough trains for everyone.


October 26, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

The Future Of The Watford DC Line

Primrose Hill Station

I was looking at the tracks through Camden on, as I wanted to see how the  former Primrose Hill station fitted into the knitting.

Lines Through Camden

Lines Through Camden

Note the two orange tracks of the Watford DC Line from Euston curving to the West around the carriage sidings.

The line through Primrose Hill station from Camden Road is a connection that allows freight trains to  go between the North London Line and the West Coast Main Line.

One of the plans for the area, is to reopen the station. This is said in the station’s Wikipedia entry under Plans.

It has been proposed to re-open Primrose Hill station by bringing the short stretch of line between South Hampstead and Camden Road stations back into the regular passenger service by incorporating it into the London Overground network.

South Hampstead station is just off the map to the West on the Watford DC Line.

No Infrastructure Required To Open Primrose Hill Station

Obviously, the station will have to be rebuilt, but look at this page from the Journey Planner for Sunday, the 2nd of October, when I enquired how you would get between Willesden Junction and Hisbury and Islington stations.

Willesden To Highbury and Islington

Willesden To Highbury and Islington

As the Class 378 trains can’t fly, the route via South Hampsted station must be open and available to the trains.

Benefits And Disadvantages Of The Route

The current setup seems to be rather a waste of resources, with two tracks into Euston for the Watford DC Line and the need for platforms with third-rail electrification to handle the short four- and five-car trains.

Euston station is a very busy station and it would probably be glad to lose the Overground services.

So it might be a good idea to divert the three trains per hour (tph) between Watford Junction and Euston, through Primrose Hill and onto perhaps Highbury and Islington or even Stratford stations.

Others might not think so, as all those passengers along the Watford DC Line, would lose their direct connection to Euston.

But in a few years time, the following projects should have been completed or will be in progress.

  • Crossrail will have opened and plans for Old Oak Common station will be well advanced.
  • Rebuilding of Euston station for HS2 will have started.
  • Capacity and station improvements at Highbury and Islington station will be known, which should give better access to the Victoria Line and the Great Northern Metro.
  • The Metropolitan Line will have reached Watford Junction, by way of the Croxley Link.
  • The future of the Bakerloo Line will have been decided.
  • West Hampstead Interchange might have been progressed.

These projects will mean that the Watford DC Line could and will have to be reorganised. If only to make sure there was enough capacity for commuters in the Peak.

In my view the service on the Watford DC Line to London,  should be as close to a high-capacity link running perhaps six to eight tph as is possible.

It is not as easy to achieve as many might think.

  • The train size limit on the Watford DC Line is probably about six cars and might be possible to raise to say ten or twelve.
  • The train size limit along the North London Line is currently five-cars and all the Class 378 trains are this length.
  • Six-car trains on the North London Line is probably an upper limit, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see twelve-car platforms in my lifetime.
  • There will be pressure to increase the number of freight trains on the North London Line.
  • A Northern terminal for the Bakerloo Line must be provided.
  • Third-rail electrification must be provided on all track shared with the Bakerloo Line.
  • If possible, the route should avoid Euston, so that the HS2 rebuilding can proceed at a faster pace.

But I suspect an innovative solution will be found to provide a high capacity link between the stations on the Watford DC Line and Central London.


Crossrail will have a massive influence on how passengers use London’s rail network.

Plans have been talked about for extending Crossrail to the West Coast Main Line. Wikipedia says this.

Network Rail’s July 2011 London & South East Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS) recommended diverting West Coast Main Line (WCML) services from stations between London and Milton Keynes Central away from Euston, to Crossrail via Old Oak Common, to free up capacity at Euston for High Speed 2.

The previous Government rejected it as having a bad economic case

But Crossrail with its massive trains carrying fifteen hundred people a time, will strongly influence stations and routes it connects to Central London.

  • At Abbey Wood, it is forcing an update to services on the Noirth Kent Line, which could bring 6-10 tph through the Medway Towns.
  • At Moorgate, it will bring passengers to an updated Great Northern Metro sending 8-10 tph to North London and South Herfordshire.
  • At Reading, it will bring passengers to updated Thames Valley and West Country services.
  • At Shenfield, impovements are in progress to link Crossrail to Essex and East Anglia.

Where Crossrail will lead is an unanswerable question.

From Old Oak Common, there are several stations that could be possible Crossrail termini.

  • High Wycombe for Chiltern.
  • Milton Keynes with its link to the East West Rail Link
  • Tring, which was the original idea
  • Watford Junction has been suggested before.

In the end, passenger numbers will decide where the trains go.

This map from shows the lines at Watford Junction station.



October 26, 2016 Posted by | Travel, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Building The Third Runway At Heathrow

This is not concerned about the politics and protests of building the third runway at Heathrow, but about how it could be built and the options for transport to the Airport.

The Current Heathrow Airport

This is a Google Map of Heathrow Airport and the surrounding area.

Heathrow Airport

Heathrow Airport

The Proposed Heathrow Airport

This map from the Heathrow web site, shows the position of the new runway and the expanded airport.


Heathrow Airport With Three Runways

Heathrow Airport With Three Runways


  • How the M25 is dropped into a tunnel.
  • The village of Harmondsworth is no more.
  • This page on the Heathrow we site gives a lot more details.


It looks to me, that the actual transformation of the Airport will be possible, as it looks like construction would just replace the housing with the new runway and associated works.

Diversion Of The M25

Cut and cover tunnels would carry the M25 under the new runway, but from the map, it looks like the motorway will only be in tunnel under the new part of the airport and for not that great a distance.

I think with careful planning, the M25 could be left functioning, whilst the tunnel and new runway are constructed, so it should be nothing like the problems of constructing Terminal 5.


The new runway and terminal shouldn’t be the world’s most difficult construction project.



October 25, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | Comments Off on Building The Third Runway At Heathrow

The Heathrow Decision

Perhaps the best comment on the decision to go for the NW Runway at Heathrow, a this reasoned one from Construction News, which is headlined, Heathrow: Still ifs and buts.

That sums it all up.

This decision is still twenty years away from opening.

.But I suspect it won’t open, as there is too much opposition to the runway.

October 25, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Draft Hackney Central And Surrounds Masterplan

Last week, I went to a consultation about the Draft Hackney Central And Surrounds Masterplan in the Narrow Way by HackneyCentral station.

If you want to see the full version of the masterplan it is available at

About Myself

As this article will be sent to the Council Planning Department, I’ll say a little bit about myself.

  • Widowed, in my seventieth year and living alone.
  • I’m coeliac, which I inherited from my father.
  • I always describe my politics as left-wing Tory and very radical.
  • As someone, who has helped create two high class technology businesses sold for millions of pounds, I’m very entrepreneurial.
  • My father and three of my grandparents were all born within the triangle based on the Angel, Dalston Junction and Highbury Corner.
  • My father was the least racist person, I’ve ever met. I hope his attitude has rubbed off on me!
  • My two grandfathers were of part-Jewish and part-Huguenot ancestry respectively.
  • As my two grandmothers families came from Northants and Devon, I usually describe myself as a London mongrel.
  • My late wife and myself partly brought our three sons up in the Barbican.
  • My middle son talks of that time in a tower block with affection, so I’m not against well-designed tower blocks.

After a stroke, left me unable to drive, I returned to my roots.

My Views On The Masterplan

I like lots of things about it. And especially these!

  • The prominence given to new workspace, shops and the creation of jobs.
  • The creation of new housing, where I’m only against bad tower blocks.
  • The opening up of the railway viaduct, so it becomes a feature. Network Rail get a lot of stick, but they know how to look after railway brickwork.
  • The creation of a public square at the bottom of the Narrow Way.
  • The creation of more pedestrian streets.
  • Better use of the bus garage site.
  • Improvement of Bohemia Place.

It wouldn’t be me, to not put in my own wish list.

The Overground

Truth be told, I don’t think Transport for London, thought the Overground would be the success, it has turned out to be. So the designers did the minimum they felt they could get away with and would satisfy their political masters!

But the London Overground’s success has been repeated in places like the Borders Railway, Electrification in Liverpool, new stations in Leeds and the Todmorden Curve, and it is now proven in the UK, that if you give the population a good train service, they’ll use it.

Now that the walkway has connected Hackney Central and Hackney Downs stations and other improvements to the complex are in the pipeline, I think that serious consideration should be given to creating a second entrance to Hackney Central from Graham Road.

Failing that, pedestrian routes should be improved, so that access to the cluster of buildings around the Town Hall and the Empire is easier.

Hackney Central As A Meeting Point

Once the public square is created at the bottom of the Narrow Way, use of the area as a meeting point should be encouraged.


  • Hackney Central is where two rail lines cross.
  • The London Overground through Hackney Downs gets new trains in 2018.
  • There are several bus routes passing through the area.
  • Bohemia Place and the railway arches must have potential for specialist shops and cafe/restaurants like Leon.
  • Leon was started by a Hackney resident.

Who said it’s all about location?

Learning From Other Cities And Towns

I travel extensively, in the UK and Europe and see both good and bad examples of how to develop cities and towns.

Recently, I went to Blackburn and I was totally surprised at the transformation since I last visited a few years ago.

A Landscaped square had been created between the station and the cathedral.The square is surrounded by a PremierInn, a new office block, a small bus station on one side and a pedestrian way to a supermarket on the other.

Hackney could do similar or even better.


My uncle was a very good sculptor and I feel it is a crime that works of art like large bronzes are kept in store because security and insurance is a problem.

However, there are places where they could be placed with little fear of theft or damage. And that is at carefully selected locations on the platforms of railway stations.

So why not?

Hackney Downs certainly has space for one, but the platforms at Central are too narrow!


When I was on holiday in Iceland, every building with a historic connection, had full information displayed outside.

Is Hackney’s information up to scratch?

Other Thoughts

This is a series of pictures with comments.


Hackney Central has some interesting buildings on which to develop the area. Unfortunately, there is some bad examples of boring architecture.

Some sites definitely have potential.

  • Could the top floors of the Iceland building, be converted into a Southern station entrance, with perhaps a cafe and a couple of shops that travellers like?
  • Bohemia Place could be a nice oasis with cafes, workshops and individual shops, a bit like the Box Park at Shoreditch High Street station.
  • Bohemia Place will be better, when the arches under the railway are opened up.
  • The right architect could do a fine job on the M & S Building.
  • The car park at Hackney Central station might be much better as a bus interchange.

In my view the key is Bohemia Place, as this could be a magnet for people of all ages, races and classes to come and shop and refresh themselves.





October 25, 2016 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

Is Theresa Working A Flanker?

With my Project Management knowledge, but no actual experience, if I look at the three options for a new runway in the South-East, I come to these conclusions about each.

  1. New North-West Runway at Heathrow – Virtually impossible to build due to political, environmental and local opposition.
  2. Extended Northern Runway at Heathrow – Difficult but not impossible to build.
  3. New Southern Runway at Gatwick – Probably fairly easy to build.

But reading the media this morning it looks like Option 1 will get the go-ahead.

So could Theresa give her blessing to this option, knowing it will never get built, due to the will of the House and the people?

It would be Brexit all over again, where the electorate and some rebellious MPs override the wish of the Prime Minister and their cabinet.

Ultimately, it would mean that Option 3 at Gatwick could go ahead, followed in a few years by a cut-down Option 2.

This would future-proof the South-East’s airport capacity for decades.

October 25, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

A Small Setback For Heathrow

Today, the Government will decide on their preferred option for another runway in the South-East.

So what happens on the M4 today? It has been blocked by a fuel-spillage.

Will all the cabinet members get to the meeting?


October 25, 2016 Posted by | Travel | | Leave a comment

Chiltern Are Being Very Serious

This article in the Oxford Mail is entitled Train timetable released for new Oxford to London Marylebone route.

This is said.

The new timetable shows services running every 30 minutes, starting at 6.02am from Oxford and returning at 23.10pm.

The line will open on Monday, December 12.

That is certainly a passenger magnet of a timetable.

Looking at the timetable of both Chiltern and Great Western,

  • Both services run at least two trains per hour (tph) all day.
  • Both services run fairly late in the evening.
  • Great Western has the fastest trains, with some doing the journey in under an hour.

It will certainly be interesting to see how these two heavyweights slug it out.

But this is only Round 1One.


  • In December 2018, Crossrail services between Paddington and Abbey Wood, via Liverpool Street and Canary Wharf start.
  • In May 2019, Crossrail services between Paddington and Shenfield start.
  • In December 2019, full Crossrail services start.
  • The East West Rail Link will open.
  • Oxford to Didcot should be electrified, allowing electric trains to Oxford.

These developments may appear to favour Great Western services over Chiltern, but I doubt that Chiltern will sit back and do nothing.

So what will Chiltern do?


What is needed is a comprehensive plan for Chiltern’s future.

I can’t believe that they’re not working on one!

It could include the following.

  • Line improvements to reduce journey times between Marylebone and Oxford.
  • Improvements to allow the longest possible locomotive-hauled sets to run the route.
  • Development of West Hampstead Interchange.
  • Creation of a second terminus at Old Oak Common.

One or both of the last two options will have to be implemented, due to the lack of capacity at Marylebone and that station’s bad connectivity.

But what would I do?

The Southern end of the Chiltern Main Line needs better connectivity and the best way to do this would be to link it to Crossrail.

When Crossrail opens to Paddington in December 2018, the direct link I wrote about in Paddington Is Operational Again, will enable passengers taking the Bakerloo Line from Marylebone to change easily to Crossrail.

Together with line improvements and longer trains, this should handle the traffic for a few years.

It is interesting to look at a few journey times.

  • Chiltern has trains scheduled between Marylebone and High Wycombe in around 24-28 minutes.
  • Crossrail services from Paddington will take 27 minutes to Sloughbold step of creating a Crossrail .
  • Crossrail services from Paddington will take 45 minutes to Reading.

I would take the bold step of creating a Crossrail branch to High Wycombe.

  • High Wycombe would receive 4 tph from Crossrail.
  • There could be cross-platform interchange between Crossrail and Chiltern services to Oxford and Birmingham.
  • The Acton-Northolt Line would be double-tracked and electrified to connect Crossrail at Old Oak Common to the Chiltern Main Line at Northolt Junction.
  • The Chiltern Main line would be electrified from Northolt Junction to High Wycombe.
  • Chiltern’s Oxford and Birmingham services could use Class 88 electro-diesel locomotives, to take advantage of the limited electrification.
  • Extra services could run from High Wycombe to Oxford and Birmingham, if traffic required more capacity.

Except for the electrification and some track layout changes, there is no substantial investment required in new lines and stations.

If this approach is taken, there will probably be eough eletrification on the Chiltern routes to use Aventra trains with an IPEMU-capability to provide the services out of Marylebone.


October 25, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

The Planemakers’ View On The South East’s New Runway

There was an article in the Business section of The Times yesterday with a headline of Boeing Ditches Supersonic For Down-to-Earth Midsize Models.

The article says this.

For Heathrow, the traditional long-haul/short-haul connection model is undermined by the direction of Boeing and Airbus development, which means that long-haul can be achieved flying with smaller aircraft from secondary airports.

I read the whole article and they backed the statement with impressive evidence.

I think that if Heathrow gets the nod to expand, it could turn out to be a disaster for the Airport, especially as Gatwick needs to expand anyway.

But who knows, what the Government’s decision will be today, in this crazy world of UK Politics?

October 25, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Did The Project Management Go Wrong On The Holloway Road Bridge?

It was originally planned that the bridge decking where Holloway Road crosses the Gospel Oak to Barking Line (GOBlin) at Upper Holloway station would be replaced over Christmas this year.

But plans were obviously changed.

This article in the Islington Gazette is entitled Holloway Road closures: Islington Council threatens to sue TfL over ‘last-minute’ plans.

This is said.

TfL says work to transfer underground pipes and cables from the old bridge to another specially-made bridge has proved problematic because of their “complex layout, poor condition and a leaking water main”.

But Cllr Webbe was having none of it. She said: “This section of Holloway Road will be closed in at least one direction for nearly three months, including over half term, Christmas and New Year.

It looks like the water main is the problem and perhaps this didn’t show up until they started to move everything.

But whatever the problem was, it looks to me like there has been a cock-up by someone.

Was it the surveyor, who looked at the moving of the cables and the water main and didn’t quantify the task properly?

Surely though, the big problem now is that if this bridge problem delays the rebuilding of the trac for the GOBlink, which is needed for the electrification.

It’s a mess!


I took these pictures of the area today.

I walked down from Archway station and then caught a free bus to Holloway Road. At least TfL had got the buses right.

But except for Junction Road from Archway to Kentish Town, which was blocked solid, the traffic levels were very low.


October 24, 2016 Posted by | Travel, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment