The Anonymous Widower

Where Now For The Borders Railway?

On Monday I took a trip down the new Borders Railway to Tweedbank station.

It has been put together with care and no-one can say it will be falling apart in a couple of years.

Criticism

According to Wikipedia, there have been three major criticisms of the new line.

  1. Infrastructure Capability – It’s just a basic railway.
  2. Timetabling – Critics think they can do it better.
  3. Failure to continue to Melrose – New lines always have the wrong route.

I think though that you have to allow the line to bed down and allow the operator to overcome any problems that might be thrown up.

My thoughts on the three areas will now be given.

Infrastructure Capability

It is a railway that is designed to handle two trains an hour in each direction taking just under the hour for the whole journey.

Critics have said, that it should be double-tracked and electrified. But if it was, this would probably double the capacity of the line and will there be enough passengers to fill an enhanced service?

If in the future, the line suffers from overcrowded trains, to which new lines in the UK seem to be prone, there is a simple way to increase the capacity of the line. And that is to run longer trains!

I suspect that as the line has been built to take steam specials, the line will have the capability of taking diesel multiple units of four carriages.

Hopefully, there’s enough platform capacity at Waverley. But I do have a feeling that Waverley will need to be given some extra capacity, as more and more trains go to the Scottish capital, of which the Borders Railway is just one of several planned new services.

Timetabling

In a few years time, the timetable will be very different, as the current one is only an initial estimate of what is needed.

Failure To Continue To Melrose

In my view they have done something much better by creating an integrated train-bus interchange at Galashiels, which serves the whole Border region.

It may be in the future, they need to extend the line to Melrose, but if any bus route from Galashiels gets overcrowded, it is a lot easier to add a few more buses, than build a new railway line. At least if you catch the bus from Galashiels you wait in a nice comfortable bus station, rather than on top of the North Bridge in the wind and rain.

Possible Improvements

Much of the improvement to the line will be organic and small.

  1. Shops and kiosks will appear in and around stations, driven by the needs of passengers creating business opportunities.
  2. If passenger numbers increase, then the trains will gain extra carriages. Electrification of other routes in the UK, may help this, as it will release some longer trains.
  3. Operational problems may show up limitations in the track and signalling and small changes may improve reliability, time-keeping and may even reduce the journey time.

I am basing these conclusions on what I have seen on other new and much improved lines in the country.

But bigger improvements will be possible.

Extension To Melrose

This will only happen, if indications are positive that the service will pay for itself. But it could be an expensive line to rebuild, as the Melrose by-pass has been built over part of the line.

A positive could be that any extension to Melrose, might serve the Borders General Hospital,

Extension To Carlisle

Strangely, I think this will be more likely than an extension to just Melrose, as it will be an English project as well as it opens up a new route up the West Coast to Edinburgh, which could be used by freight trains in addition to passenger ones.

When the equivalent rail lines in the North of England are modernised, a Borders Railway to Carlisle, would open up a large area bordered by Edinburgh, Carlisle and Newcastle for rail-based tourism, with excellent links to the large centres of population in the UK.

But until we see how successful, the Borders Railway will be, extension to Carlisle is a remote possibility.

Extension To Penicuik

The creation of a branch to Penicuik is raised in Proposed Extensions in the Wikipedia entry for the Borders Railway.

At present Heriot-Watt University is looking into the proposal for Midlothian Council.

Changes At Edinburgh

There could be changes to the line at the Waverley end of the line, as Network Rail and Scotrail improve services in the capital.

At present services from Dunbar and North Berwick go across the city to destinations in the West. There must be a very small chance that services on the Borders Railway might be extended past Waverley to at least Haymarket.

Trains or trams might also run on the Edinburgh Suburban and Southside Junction Railway in a loop across the South of the City. Although this will not directly affect the Borders Railway, train times may be adjusted so they connect better.

New Stations On the Current Route

Passenger numbers and patterns of use, property development, jobs and other factors will create a need for new stations on the route.

These could be totally new or opened up at places where stations used to exist in the past. If you look at the diagram of the old Waverley Route, there are several places, where stations have not been rebuilt.

If built these will add to the passenger numbers on the line and this could create the need for other improvements, like longer trains.

Remember too, that this line was designed down to a price in the mid-2000s, based on the assumptions of the time. Since then, there has been a big change in our attitude to railways with big projects like the London Overground being created from terrible lines and being tremendous successes and smaller ones in Birmingham, Lancashire and Scotland showing good returns, Government is much more likely to fund a properly costed rail project.

So I wouldnt be surprised to see a couple of new stations in the next few years on the Borders Railway.

Electric Trains

For the last few years, electric trains don’t necessarily mean those taking current continuously from overhead lines. Bombardier’s new Aventra electric multiple unit, has a battery variant called an IPEMU. Provided it can charge the battery on a convenient overhead line, it can then run for sixty miles on the battery.

As Edinburgh to Tweedbank is about thirty-five miles, I would suspect that an IPEMU would be able to manage the journey, charging the battery on the short section of the East Coast Main Line at Edinburgh, before the train turns off onto the Borders Railway.

These IPEMU trains are modern, environmentally-friendly four-car trains, that can run on lines that are partially electrified without any modification to the lines, if they can handle diesel multiple units, like those currently running on the Borders Railway.

They may be the best way of providing a higher-capacity service, that run the route slightly faster, due to their faster acceleration.

Knock-On Effects On Other Lines

If the Borders Railway is a rip-roaring success, this will add to pressure to reopen or substantially improve rail lines all over the country.

Don’t Underestimate Engineers!

Because of the unique status of Scotland in the UK and the good publicity the new Borders Railway has received, I have a feeling that as the ultimate objective of the Scottish Government to connect to Carlisle will be fulfilled, as so many other parties like Councils in the North of England, freight companies and Network Rail will give their support for all sorts of reasons,

And a lot of engineers, architects, engineering companies and train manufacturers will come up with innovative solutions for those dreams.

After all what better showcase is there for your new construction technique, train or rail-related product?

 

 

 

 

September 9, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Is Waverley Station Good Enough For Edinburgh?

If you arrive in London Kings Cross station, the experience has been transformed over the last few years. Instead of entering a dark concourse crowded with tired retail outlets in a wood and asbestos shed designed in the 1960s, you now have two choices. You can walk to the front of the train, through the barriers and doors and into a large square with seats, buses and entrances to the Underground. Or if the weather isn’t good, you can take an escalator or a lift to the footbridge that spans all of the platforms and enter the covered Western concourse to make your way to onward transport or to one of many cafes, most of which are upmarket.

Other stations that I know well, like Birmingham New Street, Liverpool Lime Street, Manchester Victoria, Newcastle Central and Nottingham have also been transformed into impressive gateways for their cities. Next in line for substantial upgrading are London Euston and Waterloo, Glasgow Queen Street and Cardiff.

Edinburgh Waverley station has had a bit of a tidy up and it now has a set of escalators to get you up to Princes Street, but it is still a dark, cramped station, with no quality cafes in the station.

If I was to give Kings Cross five stars, Newcastle and Nottingham would get four and Waverley scarcely deserves one.

So to answer my original question. The answer is a definite No!

Waverley And The New Borders Railway

In some ways the new Borders Railway is going to make matters worse, as if it is successful, there will be pressure for more services on the line and there may not be enough terminating platforms at the East end of the station. But at least according to the Layout section in the station’s Wikipedia entry, things are being reorganised. This is said.

Former Platforms 8 and 9, which were substantially shortened for use as a Motorail terminus, the infilled area becoming a car park; since the demise of Motorail services these platforms are used only for locomotive stabling, although the numbers 5/6 were reserved for them in the 2006 renumbering. These are to be extended as full length platforms to accommodate terminating CrossCountry and Virgin Trains East Coast services with the taxi rank closed in June 2014 to make way for these works.

On the other hand, the Borders Railway has removed the need to use one of the worst train/bus connections in the UK.

Currently, if you arrive on a train from London and want to get an express bus to the South or the Borders, this necessitates a climb up flights of steps onto the North Bridge, which with heavy bags is impossible, unless you’re stronger and fitter than most.

Now you walk to the bay platform at the East end of the station and get one of the half-hourly trains to Galahiels, where there is a short walk to the bus station to get a convenient bus to all over the Borders and even to Carlisle.

But it is still a long walk from the bay platforms at the East (3 to 6) to the platforms that go West (12 to 18). And the tram is even further to walk.

Buses And Trams At Waverley

Like many main stations in the UK, no thought has been given at Edinburgh to how to efficiently organise the interface between trains and the buses.

I would have thought that when Edinburgh trams were built that they would have reorganised public transport in the city, so that the trams served the station properly. After all in Manchester, Croydon, Sheffield, Nottingham, Liverpool and Newcastle, local light rail, underground or trams serve the main train stations. Only in Blackpool is a walk needed, but that is being remedied.

In my view there are three places for tram stops at Waverley station.

  1. At the top of the escalators that take you between the station and Princes Street. But would this get in the way of the posh cars taking people to and from the Balmoral Hotel?
  2. On Waverley Bridge in front of the station. But where would the tourist buses go to clog up next?
  3. There also could be a Nottingham-style solution, where the trams cross over the station on a bridge at right angles to the train lines. But this would probably be an impossibly difficult project to design and implement.

The trams do serve Haymarket station and I wonder how many visitors to Edinburgh, use that station instead.

Waverley And Princes Street Gardens

After my trip to the Borders Railway, my friend and I went for lunch in a restaurant by the Royal Scottish Academy facing out onto Princes Street Gardens.

It was not an easy walk from the station as once we’d climbed up the escalators, it took several minutes to get across the busy Waverley Bridge in front of the station to get into the civility of the Gardens. This Google Map shows where we walked.

Waverley Station And Princes Street Gardens

Waverley Station And Princes Street Gardens

Over lunch, I asked my friend, who’d lived in Edinburgh nearly all her life, , why there wasn’t a subway between the gardens and the station. She didn’t know and said there never had been! So as I walked back to the station, I took some pictures.

They show no evidence of a subway that might have been closed.

But they do show that if a subway could be built, then Edinburgh could have a World Class meeting place for when the weather was good.

Sorting The Trams

Seeing the map of Waverley station and the Princes Street Gardens, I have a feeling that if they were designing the Edinburgh trams now, they would be very different.

The difference is that in the last few years, tram-trains have come into general use in Germany. The Germans are getting enthusiastic about their use and large systems are being developed in cities like Karlsruhe, Kassel and Chemnitz.

In the UK, a test line is being added to the Sheffield Supertram, but how could tram-trains help solve the problems of Waverley station?

Trams coming from Edinburgh Airport and the West stop at Murrayfield Stadium tram stop and then move onto the street to call at Haymarket  before going down Princes Street. New Class 399 tram-trains, as will be used in Sheffield, would follow the same route as the trams until Murrayfield. Passengers would find the only real difference would be that they had somewhere else on the destination board.

But at Murrayfield they would join the main railway lines and running as trains, they would call at Haymarket and Waverley stations.

The tram-trains could end their journey at Waverley or they could pass through the station and perhaps go on to further destinations like Dunbar or North Berwick. There would be no infrastructure modifications needed East of Waverley station, as the tram-trains would just appear to everything to be just another type of electric train.

If you look at the map in the Proposals for the Edinburgh tram network in Wikipedia, you’ll see this map.

Edinburgh Tram Map

Edinburgh Tram Map

Note there is another Western destinations in addition to the airport and a loop to Newhaven and the Port of Leith. All come together at Haymarket. So services from the West could be run by trams or tram-trains as appropriate and those on the loop would probably be run by trams.

It should also be said, that the tram-trains could go anywhere to the East or West of the City, where there are electrified lines. Even Glasgow!

Edinburgh could have a lot of fun, without digging up the streets too much. Although, they’d probably need to do this, if they were going to extend the tram to Newhaven and the Port of Leith.

 

 

 

 

September 9, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment