The Anonymous Widower

Will IPEMU Trains Transform The Greater North-East?

I think before I write this, I should define a few terms.

The Greater North East

By this area, I mean that area of England, that is North of the River Humber and is bordered in the West by those towns and cities that lie on or just to the West of the electrified East Coast Main Line. So they would be working Northwards up the line.

  • Doncaster – On the ECML
  • Sheffield – Including Meadowhall
  • York – On the ECML
  • Leeds – On the ECML
  • Bradford – Electrified from Leeds
  • Darlington – On the ECML
  • Newcastle – On the ECML

It would also include those branches that reach to the West to places like Bishop Auckland, Carlisle, Halifax and Hexham.

IPEMU Trains

IPEMU stands for Independently Powered Electric Multiple Unit and is a normal train, that has on-board energy storage which is uses on lines that are not electrified to power the traction and other systems on the train.

To a passenger they would appear to be a normal four-car electric muliple unit. I described my ride in the prototype between Manningtree and Harwich in Is The Battery Electric Multiple Unit (BEMU) A Big Innovation In Train Design?

I was extremely sceptical until I rode the train and looked into the physics.

Bombardier are developing a new train called the Aventra, which will be wired so that it can be converted to an IPEMU, if operators need the capabilities.

An Aventra IPEMU have at least the following properties.

  • At least a sixty mile range on the stored energy (Batteries or perhaps KERS?)
  • Identical passenger experience to a standard train.
  • The energy storage would be charged when the train was running on electrified lines.
  • Regenerative braking would also be used to charge the energy storage.
  • The energy storage could be used to move the trains around depots and sidings that were not electrified.

These trains sound almost too good to be true!

But as a Control Engineer by training, I have a feeling that the Ultimate Aventra IPEMU might be an impressive beast with a two hundred kilometre per hour top speed under wires, a range greater than sixty miles on energy storage and a very impressive electrical efficiency, which would make the train more affordable to operate.

I would also feel that the trains could use some form of mechanical energy storage like KERS in Formula One. Batteries are rather naff, but using something lifted from Formula One could be rather sexy and high-performance.


Suppose you were to build a series of IPEMU hubs, where the storage on IPEMU trains could be charged.

In several cases these hubs already exist, as they are stations with electrified platforms.

  • Carlisle
  • Darlington
  • Doncaster
  • Leeds
  • Newcastle
  • York

Some like Carlisle, Darlington and York would only need a couple of extra platforms to be electrified.

There would also possibly be other stations, where some form of charging would need to be provided, so that trains could be topped up with energy before returning to a main hub.

Stations in this category might include.

  • Cleethorpes
  • Hull
  • Scarborough
  • Sheffield
  • Whitby

Sheffield will get fully electrified under the Midland Main Line electrification program anyway.


The big route that could be run by IPEMUs would be North TransPennine, as IPEMUs would be capable of bridging the gap between Leeds and Manchester.

Also given the right structure of IPEMU hubs, virtually every passenger service in the Greater North East could be run using IPEMUs.


Who needs conventional electrification?

Freight services do!

So eventually the main freight routes will need to be electrified. This will mean that the primary use for the energy storage in the IPEMUs would be to make the trains more efficient.

October 25, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Better East-West Train Services Across Suffolk

The east-west train service across Suffolk is better than it was, but I’ve just read in a Network Rail study entitled Improving Connectivity, about a radical proposal to greatly improve services.

At present at Ipswich station, in addition to the main line services, there are hourly services to Cambridge, Felixstowe and Lowestoft, with a two-hourly service to Peterborough.

From a passenger point of view it is not good at times. In the past I have been irked by.

  • Trying to get between Newmarket and Felixstowe, which often means a not very short wait on Ipswich station.
  • The lack of a late night train back to Newmarket from Ipswich.
  • Bad connectivity between London services and the various branches.

It may be better now and some of the proposals in the latest franchise documents will certainly help.

One document I’ve read, talked about direct services between London and Lowestoft. When I moved to Suffolk in the 1970s, this route was served a couple of times a day.

But one proposal in the Network Rail study must be taken seriously.

The study proposes creating an island platform at an updated Newmarket station and running a direct service between Newmarket and Peterborough via Ely. The study describes the proposal like this.

To solve this dilemma,  The direct Ipswich to Peterborough service is replaced by a Newmarket to Peterborough service, running via a reinstated Warren Hill Junction – Snailwell Junction chord, as shown in Figure 3.2. A semi-fast Ipswich to Cambridge train connects into this service with a cross-platform connection at a reconstructed Newmarket station.

No services are duplicated and connections at Ipswich are simplified: the East Suffolk line arrival need only connect with the Cambridge train. This method of operation combines two markets on one train, achieving a 35 per cent reduction in train miles and halving the number of passenger train paths required on this busy freight corridor. In addition, Newmarket gains a direct service to Peterborough.

So one new short chord and a reconstructed Newmarket station, dramatically improve the passenger train services across Suffolk, whilst giving more much-needed space in the schedules for freight trains.

This map shows the area between Newmarket station and Warren Hill – Snailwell.

Newmarket's Railways, Racecourses and Training Grounds

Newmarket’s Railways, Racecourses and Training Grounds

Note that the line through Newmarket station goes in a tunnel under the training grounds of Warren Hill before turning to the East to connect to Bury St. Edmunds and Ipswich. The new chord would connect between the Newmarket to Bury Line and the Ely to Bury Line.

Hopefully, Network Rail has safeguarded the route and hasn’t sold the land to some, who would oppose the plan.

If I read Network Rail’s proposal correctly, there would be an hourly Newmarket to Peterborough service, which would provide a cross-platform interchange with an hourly semi-fast Ipswich to Cambridge service.

Given that Abellio Greater Anglia were part of the IPEMU tests between Manningtree and Harwich, I suspect that both the Peterborough to Newmarket and Ipswich to Cambridge services would be run with four-car IPEMUs.

In my view it is a very good starting plan, but it does raise a few questions and interesting possibilities.

  • IPEMUs would be faster than the current diesel trains and would also offer an increase in capacity.
  • Would IPEMUs take over the Cambridge to Norwich, Ipswich to Lowestoft and Ipswich to Felixstowe services?
  • Newmarket racecourse is an incredibly popular venue and the current Newmarket station has inadequate capacity for racegoers. More four-car IPEMU trains from Cambridge, Ipswich, Ely and Peterborough calling at the station can only increase total capacity.
  • As now, I suspect a shuttle bus will be provided, between station and racecourse.
  • A simple one-platform Newmarket Racecourse station could even be built on land owned by the Jockey Club on the single-line section of line to the West of the town, which would be about a kilometre walk from both racecourses.
  • Cambridgeshire County Council have had plans for a long time to reopen Soham station. This would be on the hourly Newmarket to Peterborough service, which would men that with one change you could be in Cambridge or Ipswich.
  • If Soham is worth reopening, why not reopen Fordham station.
  • How would the new station at Cambridge North fit in and affect services in the area?

I think that when and if the full proposals arrive, they will have some extra features.

An uprated service from Cambridge to Ipswich will require some reorganisation at Ipswich.

Over the last few years, freight traffic through Ipswich station has eased due to ther opening of the Bacon Factory Chord which allows diesel-hauled freight trains to go directly between the Felixstowe branch and the Midlands and North via Stowmarket.

The Newmarket reorganisation will also release extra paths through Ely and Peterborough and there could be scope for improving the efficiency of Ipswich station.

Given that services will arrive from and leave to Cambridge, Lowestoft and Felixstowe, every hour. Surely, a platform layout could be found, so that they all used the same part of the station and passengers just walked across.

Imagine the benefits to passengers if say you were going between Beccles and Peterborough and you just walked across between trains at Ipswich and Newmarket.

I suspect that Network Rail and Abellio have an excellent idea for Ipswich station, filed under Cunning Plans.

Would it also be worth improving patterns at Ely?

This Google Map is from Railways in Ely in Wikpedia.

Ely Lines

Ely Lines

It is complicated. These are my thoughts.

  • The layout would appear to work quite well now,but will it cope with Cambridge North station?
  • Cambridge North station will probably generate a lot of traffic and with some reorganisation, passengers might even be able to walk across or just wait for the next train at Cambridge or Ely, to be on their way.
  • But in some cases, changing will mean climbing over the bridge at Cambridge or using the subway at Ely.
  • Ely station should cope with any extra services on the lines to Ely and Norwich.
  • There is also the issue of a possible Wisbech branch at March.

So will we see changes to the track layout at Ely?

I think the answer is yes!

But upgrading Ely does throw up one important question.

When the Cambridge Guided Busway was built, I didn’t think it was the best solution, but I had no real idea what would have been best.

I now wonder, if the ideal transport system for the route of the Cambridge Busway has arrived in the form of the tram-train!

If you look at the route from Huntingdon through Cambridge to Addenbrookes, it’s very much linked to the railway lines through the city. Most of the extensions proposed for the busway could be performed by tram-trains in tram mode. One proposal from Huntingdon to Peterborough, is typical of many systems, I’ve seen in Germany.

But it is too late now to change that decision.

One thing though that surprises me, is the amount of undeveloped land there is on either side of the railway line, where the Cambridge North station is being built. It could be possible to create a a tram line to connect Cambridge North station to the Cambridge to Ipswich Line. Thus tram-trains could go from both Cambridge North and Cambridge stations to Newmarket and then on past Fordham and Soham to Ely, where with a short chord they could turn south to the Cambridge stations.

Obviously, a real route would be based on the proposed developments and passenger traffic, but there are a lot of possibilities to use tram-trains to serve the towns and villages around Cambridge from the existing heavy rail lines.

At the Southern end, how about Shelford to Haverhill and onto Sudbury to then take the Gainsborough Line to Marks Tey?

I suspect that a single-track tram with passing places could handle tram-trains on a route not far removed from the route of the old Stour Valley Railway.

A lot of serious thinking can be done!

October 25, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Improving Connectivity On UK Railways

When I was writing D-trains For East Anglia, I came across this study by Network Rail entitled Improving Connectivity, published in December 2014.

This is taken from the Executive Summary.

Improving Connectivity is a long-term methodology being investigated to deliver improved rail connectivity across Britain. The improvements would be achieved by devising a new connectivity-based timetable, to be facilitated by alterations to the infrastructure. This document explores a case study of how the project might be applied to rail services in Anglia. Inevitably, such an ambitious project also raises a number of trade-offs and changes would be required to the way the industry plans services and allocates capacity on the network. We are seeking your views on this potential approach and would welcome your participation in this consultation.

As it talks about East Anglia, which is an area, I know well, I found it a fascinating document.

It talks about three principles.

Principle 1

Principle 1 uses cross-platform interchanges to simplify connections and avoid train service duplication. This principle is explained using the following case studies from Anglia.

One case study is Newmarket which is a station I know well. My life would have been so much better after my stroke, if Newmarket had had an updated station and rail service as talked about in the document. This is the study’s suggestion.

To solve this dilemma, Principle 1 is applied. The direct Ipswich to Peterborough service is replaced by a Newmarket to Peterborough service, running via a reinstated Warren Hill Junction – Snailwell Junction chord. A semi-fast Ipswich to Cambridge train connects into this service with a cross-platform connection at a reconstructed Newmarket station

The report sums up what this does and details the knock-on effects at Ipswuch.

No services are duplicated and connections at Ipswich are simplified: the East Suffolk line arrival need only connect with the Cambridge train. This method of operation combines two markets on one train, achieving a 35 per cent reduction in train miles and halving the number of passenger train paths required on this busy freight corridor. In addition, Newmarket gains a direct service to Peterborough.

It all sounds good to me. In fact, I use such a connection at Canonbury regularly to travel from Stratford to Dalston Junction on the London Overground. You could also argue that the Clapham Kiss is another well-designed cross-platform interchange.

But why not arrange that at Ipswich, there is a simple cross-platform connection between the East Suffolk and Cambridge trains? At present to change between the three branches at Ipswich; Cambridge, East Suffolk and Felixstowe, it inevitably involves a trip over the footbridge.

Principle 2

Principle 2 is all about scheduling trains to minimise the time passengers wait.

Principle 2 orders arrivals and departures at interchange stations to minimise waiting times between connecting trains.

I agree with it totally. In my meandering around the UK and Europe, I’m always spending a half-hour or more waiting for trains on a draughty platform.

Principle 3

Principle 3 is about getting the timetable right.

Principle 3 is a method of constructing a consistent timetable with sufficient flexibility to respond to variations in demand. The resulting timetable comprises a Core service, as its basic skeleton, with additional trains overlaid as required.

As someone, who made his money by writing computer schedulers for projects, it has always been my feeling, that underneath any well-run project there is a good structure.


Every rail system in the world could possibly benefit from the application of these principles.

October 25, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , | Leave a comment