The Anonymous Widower

Crossrail Trains Will Have Auto-Reverse

I am a control engineer and I have worked in industrial automation on and off since I was sixteen, when I had a summer job in the electronics laboratory at Enfield Rolling Mills at Brimsdown.

One of the problems of running a railway to a high frequency, is that when you get to the terminus, the driver has to get off the train, walk to the other end and then step-up into the other cab. So a couple of minutes or so is wasted. On some lines, where drivers change over, there are delays and extra costs. It is one of the reasons, why train lines sometimes have reversing loops, like the Piccadilly Line at Heathrow and the Wirral Line underneath Liverpool.

It is also why, there has been talk of extending the Victoria Line in a large loop to a single platform at a new station under Herne Hill. I wouldn’t be surprised if when they extend the Northern Line Extension to Clapham Junction or the Bakerloo Line to Lewisham, that they use loops with single platform stations. The layout has the following advantages.

  • The driver stays in his seat and drives the train normally.
  • Stations are more affordable as they only have one platform.
  • Passengers always go to the same platform and get the first train.
  • It might be possible to dig the reversing loop with a single tunnel boring machine.

It is such a simple concept, I can’t understand why it isn’t used more.

Crossrail has a different problem in that all branches, except Heathrow, end on the surface and the Class 345 trains are two hundred metres long. So running a train every two minutes or so, means that drivers have a lot to do in the turn-round including a 200 metre walk.

The Class 345 trains are designed to incorporate auto-reverse. This extract from this article in Rail Engineer, which is entitled, Signalling Crossrail, explains the concept.

A new facility called ‘auto reverse’ is being provided at Westbourne Park (no station) for turning the 14 trains per hour in the reversing sidings. The driver selects ‘auto reverse’ on leaving Paddington station and walks back through the train, obviating the need for drivers to ‘step-up’. By the time the train gets back to Paddington (about a mile) the driver should be in the other cab ready to form the next eastbound departure.

The facility has the capability to turn round a full 30 tph service. There is just time for the driver to walk back through the train whilst in the reversing siding but doing so on departure at Paddington gives that extra time that will also help recover from perturbation.

Essentially, the driver does his walk whilst the train is travelling to the reversing siding. It must have other advantages.

  • The driver can check the train as he walks.
  • Cleaners can get on at the actual terminus and then get off again with the usual rubbish.
  • Someone who goes to sleep, just gets an extra ride into the reversing siding and out again.

It’s a very simple piece of automation, which as the extract says, enables a full 30 tph service and makes recovery from delays easier.

The only problem, I can see is that the drivers’ unions could insist that a driver is in the cab at all times.

It would appear that the system will be used by Crossrail at Abbey Wood and Paddington.

I also suspect that the driver will have a rudimentary train controller to stop the train in an emergency.

January 23, 2016 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , ,


  1. […] 345 trains have an auto-reverse ability which I talked about in Crossrail Trains Will Have Auto-Reverse. Will this be used to turn the trains at […]

    Pingback by Extending Crossrail To Gravesend « The Anonymous Widower | September 22, 2016 | Reply

  2. […] Perhaps more contentious is the autoreverse system fitted to Crossrail trains, that I wrote about and explained fully in Crossrail Trains Will Have Auto-Reverse. […]

    Pingback by Thoughts On The Train Strikes « The Anonymous Widower | December 15, 2016 | Reply

  3. […] The Class 345 trains will also do their bit to make this an efficient process, as I explained in Crossrail Trains Will Have Auto-Reverse. […]

    Pingback by Construction Of The Platform Structures And Tracks For Crossrail At Abbey Wood Was Cimpleted By Network Rail In May 2017 « The Anonymous Widower | July 29, 2017 | Reply

  4. […] What I have described here, is much less ambitious than the system I described in Crossrail Trains Will Have Auto-Reverse. […]

    Pingback by Norfolk Rail Line To Remain Closed As £68m Upgrade Project Overruns « The Anonymous Widower | January 11, 2019 | Reply

  5. […] The Elizabeth Line has been designed to use auto-reverse to speed up operations at Paddington, which I wrote about in Crossrail Trains Will Have Auto-Reverse. […]

    Pingback by Consortium To Develop Low-Cost Operations To Revive France’s Local Lines « The Anonymous Widower | November 11, 2022 | Reply

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