The Anonymous Widower

The 10:35 From Liverpool Street To Shenfield

I took these pictures on the untimetabled 10:35 TfL Rail service between Liverpool Street and Shenfield stations and on the return to Liverpool Street.

As you can see it is a new Class 345 train.

There were a lot of Crossrail and Transport for London staff about, talking to passengers.

These are my thoughts on various issues.

Ride Quality

This is up with the best or the legendary British Rail Mark 3 coach, which was designed in the 1960s.

One of the Crossrail staff was wearing stiletto heels close to four inches and she was walking up-and-down with no difficulty.

For someone who suffered a bad stroke, my balance is good and I had no difficulty walking along the seven-car train.

Cabin Height And Width

I don’t know how Bombardier have done it, but the cabin seems higher and wider than any other train I’ve ridden in the UK.

Next time, I ride one, I’ll take a couple of tall guys and a tape measure.

Information

The current on-train information is simple, but then as I suspect the screens are software driven, any degree of required complication can be added.

I don’t know whether it is deliberate but everything is large and easy to read. There is also no maps or exhortations about security.

Long may it stay that way!

Simple is efficient!

Seats

Not everybody was completely satisfied with the seats, but I found them much more comfortable than those in the Class 700 trains on Thameslink.

There were some good points.

  • The sets of four seats were arranged as they were in the original InterCity 125 around a large window.
  • The metro-style seating had a wide aisle in the middle, that would satisfy a basketball team.
  • An amply-proportioned  man, thought the seats comfortable.
  • Most seats had well-designed armrests.
  • There was plenty of space under the seats for airline-size carry-on baggage or a labrador.

On the other hand, there were no cupholders, tables or litter bins. But there aren’t any on the Class 378 trains or London Underground‘s S Stock.

Entry And Exit

I feel that trains should be a level step across from the platform.

This train wasn’t as good as a Class 378 train on many Overground stations, but it was better than some.

As many Crossrail stations will be one train type only there is probably scope to get this better.

I regularly see a lady in a simple wheel-chair on the Overground and I feel she would probably be able to wheel herself in and out, which she does at Dalston Junction station with ease.

It should be noted that each coach has three sets of wide double doors and a large lobby, so perhaps a mother with triplets and a baby in a buggy would find entry easier than any train on the Underground.

Walking Up And Down The Train

I found this very easy on a train that was no more than a third full, as it was an extra service to introduce the train to passengers.

There were numerous hand-holds and vertical rails in the centre of the lobbies. Unlike on some trains in France, Italy or Germany, the rails were very simple. They also borrowed heavily from the Overground’s Class 378 trains.

Wi-Fi And 4G

I didn’t try the wi-fi, as it is not something I use very often.

But I was getting a strong 4G signal all the way to and from Shenfield. Was this direct or was I picking up a booster in the train? I  suspect it was the latter at some points close to Liverpool Street.

Windows

The windows on the train are large and well-positioned.

The simple seat and window layout, seems to appeal to all classes of rail user.

A Train For Families

When Celia and I had three children under three, with two able to toddle-along (they had too!) and the youngest in his McClaren, I could imagine us taking a train from Barbican station to perhaps go shopping on Oxford Street, sitting in one of those set of four seats by that large window.

A Train For Commuters

The Class 378 trains of the Overground cram them in and the metro layout of much of the Class 345 train will accommodate large numbers of commuters.

I would question, if there are enough seats, but the proof should be apparent by the end of the year, as eleven of the current seven-car trains will be in service between Liverpool Street and Shenfield.

For the full Crossrail service, they will be lengthened to nine cars and there is a possibility of adding a tenth.

A Train For Shoppers

If say, I’d been to Eastfield at Stratford and was coming back to Moorgate heavily loaded with shopping to get a bus home, I could probably put some bags under the seat. Try that on the Underground!

A Train For The Not-So-Young

From what I saw today, I couldn’t make too many observations, as the train wasn’t crowded, but the few older travellers that I did see were smiling at the experience.

A Train For The Disabled

As I’m not disabled, I can’t comment and would love to hear from those who are.

A Train For The Tall

Compared to other trains in London, the headroom seemed to be generous, but then I didn’t see anybody who was much more than six foot.

A Train For The Airport

Class 345 trains will serve Heathrow Airport. I feel they will cope, as the metro layout of the Class 378 trains, seems to accommodate large cases well!

Comparison With A Class 700 Train

The Thameslink Class 700 trains are designed for running over a longer distance at a higher speed and they have toilets.

But for a thirty minute journey through a busy part of London, there is no doubt in my mind, as to which train I would choose.

The Class 345 train, with its large windows, more comfortable seating, space for bags, uncluttered views and the appearance of more space, is undoubtedly in my view a better designed train.

Incidentally, for every metre of a nine-car Class 345 train, 7.31 passengers can be accommodated, as opposed to 7.07 in an eight-car  Class 700 train.

I think we can put all this comparison down to Derby 1 – Krefeld 0!

Comparison With A Class 387 Train

The trains will be compared with Bombadier’s last Electrostar, the Class 387 train, which will be in service with GWR between Paddington and Reading, alongside the Class 345 train.

Passengers will be able to take whichever train they want on this route.

Will they choose the Class 387 train, with its tables, very comfortable seats and toilets or the Class 345 train?

I’d choose the Class 387 train, as I like to lay out my newspaper for reading.

No matter what happens Derby wins again.

Moving Forward On Approach To Liverpool Street

I was surprised how many people walked to the front as we approached Liverpool Street.

But were they only demonstrating the Londoners’ ducking and diving ability of getting to the right place for exit.

Regular passengers on regular routes will anticipate their stops and I will be interested to see how much passenger behaviour increases the capacity of the train.

Conclusion

This first Aventra feels like it is a very good train.

Consider how Bombardier improved the Electrostar since it was first produced in 1999.

So what will an Aventra be like in 2035?

 

June 27, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Kent On The Cusp Of Change – Reading To Tonbridge

The Kent On The Cusp Of Change article in the July 2017 Edition of Modern Railways talks about reopening a service between Reading and Tonbridge stations.

This is said.

Kent County Council has recommended the restitution of through services to Reading, as existed many years ago when the route was operated by ‘Thumper’ stock. The council says that consideration should be given to a future option of providing a through Ashford – Tonbridge – Redhill – Gatwick – Redhill – Guildford – Reading service, potentially as a joint operation between the Great Western Railway (GWR) and South Eastern franchises.

This could build on the existing service level between Reading and Gatwick provided by GWR, and would link together several of the major towns of the south-east region with each other and with their local international airport.

The introduction of bi-mode rolling stock now being deployed across the railway network would resolve the problem of gaps in the electric power system on sections of this route.

In The East-Facing Bay Platforms At Reading Station, I talked about using trains with batteries to perform this service and considered it feasible.

I still do, but then bog-standard bi-mode trains might be a better option in terms of cost.

I also believe that a Reading to Ashford service via Gatwick Airport would be a very valuable route with the following connections.

  • Wales and the West at Reading station.
  • Gatwick Airport
  • Hastings at Tonbridge station.
  • Rail services to the Continent at Ashford station.

Given Gatwick Airport’s ambititious plans, I rate an Ashford to Reading service as a high possibility.

I also think, that once more Continental services stop at Ashford, as I indicated in Ashford Spurs, that this rail link could be one of those rail routes where usage is way about any forecast.

 

June 27, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Kent On The Cusp Of Change – Thanet Parkway Station

The Kent On The Cusp Of Change article in the July 2017 Edition of Modern Railways talks of the Thanet Parkway station.

The article says this about the station.

Thanet Parkway, a new station on the East side of Ramsgate, is one infrastructure investment that is steaming ahead. Due to open in 2020, the aim is that the new station will be launched with a reduced journey time from Thanet to London.

Currently, the fastest services between London and Ramsgate take seventy-five minutes.

As Ramsgate station, gets three Highspeed trains per hour to London, I could envisage a very passenger-friendly service of four trains per hour between St. Pancras and Thanet Parkway.

The only section of line between Thanet Parkway and London, that is not high speed line, would be the section East of Ashford station.

I wonder what times to Canterbury, Thanet Parkway, Ramsgate and Margate could be achieved if this section were to be improved.

I suspect somewhere between sixty and seventy minutes between St. Pancras and Thanet Parkway is possible.

 

 

June 27, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 1 Comment

Kent On The Cusp Of Change – High Speed To Hastings

The Kent On The Cusp Of Change article in the July 2017 Edition of Modern Railways talks about running Highspeed services to Hastings.

In Options For High Speed To Hastings, I laid out the four possibilities of giving Hastings a fast service to St. Pancras.

  1. Electrify Ashford To Hastings At 25 KVAC
  2. Electrify Ashford To Hastings At 750 VDC
  3. Use Class 802 Electro-Diesel Trains
  4. Use Class 395 Or Class 801 Trains With Batteries

I discounted the first two and the current Modern Railways article discounts the third, as there might be problems with diesel tanks in the tunnels under London.

So it looks like, it will be up to the engineers at Hitachi to come up with a train with enough battery power to go between Ashford and Ore.

The article also says that there will be one train per hour (tph)  between London and Ashford, which will split and join automatically at Ashford, with one six-car section going to Hastings and the other reinforcing services to Dover.

June 27, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Kent On The Cusp Of Change – Ashford Spurs

The Kent On The Cusp Of Change article in the July 2017 Edition of Modern Railways talks of the Ashford Spurs.

Not a new Kentish football team, but possibly one of the most important developments in Kentish railways in the last couple of years.

Eurostar are replacing their original fleet of Class 373 trains, with smart new Class 374 trains.

The Class 373 trains were built in the 1990s and were designed to run on both high speed and traditional lines and they had signalling systems to allow this.

Wikipedia says this about Class 373 Signalling Systems.

The class have multiple signalling systems, leading to a cluttered control desk. These include

  • Automatic Warning System, the British signalling system (induction-based), used in the Ashford area

  • Train Protection & Warning System, the warning system that supplements AWS, used in the Ashford area

  • Transmission Voie-Machine (TVM), used on lignes à grande vitesse, on Eurotunnel tracks, and on High Speed 1.

  • Contrôle de vitesse par balises, used between Paris Gare du Nord and the LGV Nord, on French lignes classiques and the HS1-connected throat around St Pancras. It is electro-mechanical with fixed radio beacons.

  • TBL, the Belgian signalling system (electro-mechanical), used between Brussels-South and HSL 1, Belgium.

Perhaps this is why multi-tasking is needed to be a train driver.

On the other hand, the Class 374 trains have just one signalling system, that can be used in the UK, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. And that is just for starters. Wikipedia says this about the operation of the two trains.

Eurostar International’s existing fleet of Class 373 “Eurostar e300” trains, which date from the opening of the Channel Tunnel in 1993, cannot operate under the 15 kV AC overhead line (OHLE) electrification system used in Germany, most cannot operate under the 1.5 kV DC overhead line (OHLE) electrification system used in the Netherlands and they do not have sufficient space to install ERTMS signalling. Therefore, Eurostar cannot use its Class 373 units on services to these countries and the Class 374 was designed and built to go where the Class 373 could never go. The Class 374 has replaced around half of the Class 373s, with some Class 373s being scrapped in the UK after the introduction of the new trains.

The one place, where the Class 374 trains can’t go on the existing network is Ashford station, as the platforms for high speed trains are on a loop from the high speed lines.

Consequently, services from Ashford to the Continent have to use the older trains.

The Ashford Spurs will rectify this problem, when they are opened in Spring 2018.

Eurostar trains will stop at Ashford, as required by the number of passengers who want to use the service at Ashford.

At present, three trains per day (tpd) to Paris and one tpd to Brussels call at Ashford, as against to five and four respectively at Ebbsfleet International station.

I suspect that the Class 374 trains can execute a stop faster than the older trains, so I think we’ll see Ashford getting a much improved service to the Continent.

The Modern Railways article also indicates that there will be a lot more connecting services to and from Ashford station, so passengers between Thanet and along the South Coast to Brighton and even Southampton, wanting to go to and from the Continent, will use Ashford for convenience.

There will be a lot of collateral benefits to things like house prices in the far South-East of England.

I would also feel that the area, would be an ideal business base for someone supporting an International business, that needs quick access to Amsterdam, Brussels, Cologne, London and Paris.

I believe that all the places I mentioned, will have fast direct trains to and from Ashford, with a customer-friendly frequency.

June 27, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 2 Comments

Kent On The Cusp Of Change

This is the title of an article in the July 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, which discusses the various issues that will be tackled by the new franchisee, who will take over from the current Southeastern.

Under Future Of The Franchise, Wikipedia says this.

In June 2017 the Department for Transport announced an Abellio/East Japan Railway Company/Mitsui consortium, incumbent Govia, Stagecoach and Trenitalia had been shortlisted to bid for the next South Eastern franchise.

The Invitation to Tender for the next franchise will be released in September 2017, the winning bidder will be announced in August 2018 and they will take over the franchise in December 2018.

So four big beasts will be fighting it to run trains from London to Kent.

Over the last few years, new franchises; Greater Anglia, Northern, South Western Trains and TransPennine have all promised or arranged sdelections of the following.

  • New fleets of trains.
  • Refurbished trains.
  • Lots of new seats.
  • Increased frequencies.
  • Better passenger facilities.
  • Improved ticketing.
  • Smart-card tuckering.
  • Better repay systems for delays.
  • Wi-fi.

I can’t believe that big promises will not be made in all the offers to take over the franchise.

So what will and what may happen?

The Modern Railways article discusses the following.

Each is discussed in separate posts.

 

 

June 26, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Fashion Goes Around And Around

This is the front page of today’s Times 2.

Note the bottom line.

(brace yourself for the velvet bikini)

Celia had a bright French orange velvet bikini  in the mid-1970s.

Nothing is new.

If I remember Celia liked it, but then she always liked bright colours! Except yellow!

 

June 26, 2017 Posted by | World | , | Leave a comment

Do You Have A Child Approaching Twenty-Four Who Uses Trains?

Martin Lewis came up with this tip on BBC Radio 5.

If a Young Person’s Railcard is bough on a three-year basis, it stretches a few months past, their twenty-seventh birthday.

He did say you had to get your dates right!

June 26, 2017 Posted by | Travel | | Leave a comment

An Interesting Insight Into The Grenfell House Fire

This article on Construction News is a must read.

It describes the experiences of a Morgan Sindall employee, who lived in the tower and was in bed, when the fire started.

He works on Crossrail, so he is obviously fully-trained  and actually states that training said to stay put.

He didn’t and got out safely although in very little clothing.

It does appear that the treatment of their employee by Morgan Sindall is exemplary, so it looks to me that as this story gets more well-known, they won’t be short of applicants for permanent positions in the future.

June 26, 2017 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

Home To A Kafkaesque Situation

I got back from holiday last night and with great difficulty managed to get in using my key, as the lock was so stiff.

I then found getting the key out was extremely difficult and after about ten minutes of pulling, I was able to get it out by using a screwdriver through the hole in the key.

I dare not go out, as suppose the key broke getting back in, then I would really be in the doodah.

As I’ve just returned from holiday, I’ve got no food in the house at all.

I actually think the problem could be just down to the heat.

June 26, 2017 Posted by | World | | 3 Comments