The Anonymous Widower

Electrification Of The Felixstowe Branch And Other Lines In East Anglia

I’m using the Felixstowe branch as an example, as I used to live near Felixstowe station and I know the area well. I’ll make these assumptions.

  • In this rail forum, the cost of electrification was given in 2010 as £100,000 per single track kilometre.
  • The passenger line from Ipswich to Felixstowe is about 16 miles with only 6 miles being double-track. So that is effectively 22 miles or 35.4 kilometres of track.
  • The Port of Felixstowe is exclusively served by diesel locomotives of various noisy and environmentally-non-friendly types, although sometimes these are changed for an electric Class 90 locomotive at Ipswich. So we can probably leave the Port out of the calculations, especially as they don’t seem to keen on electrification.
  • Of the four stations on the line a couple would need to have lengthened platforms for a four-car train.
  • The passenger service is roughly hourly and can be run by a single train.
  • As the line has a W10 loading gauge, all of the bridges would probably be big enough to accept overhead electrification.

So we get a very rough electrification cost that will be £3.5million at 2010 prices to enable electric trains to go to Felixstowe station. You would have to add any platform costs.

At present the service is run by one inadequate single car Class 153 train.

This train pulls into a bay platform without electrification at Ipswich, which is certainly long enough to take one four car Class 387 train and could probably be lengthened to take an eight-car or two separate trains.

It would probably be necessary to electrify enough of the platform and the route to the branch , so that an IPEMU could be fully charged before it left Ipswich station for Felixstowe. As all of this electrification would be linked to the current electrification on the Great Eastern Main Line, it wouldn’t be an unaffordable cost.

I don’t know the cost of leasing a four-car Class 387 train, but I have read here that forty-five Class 710 Aventra trains, will cost £260million or about six million each. This cost is probably inclusive of servicing, financing and other costs.

This calculation is obviously only very rough, but it does show the advantages of electrifying a branch line using IPEMUs rather than traditional electrification.

  • If the line has sufficient gauge clearance for the IPEMU, there are no bridge reconstruction or track lowering costs.
  • Only sufficient electrification to charge the train is needed.
  • Where the branch is linked to an electrified main line, connection costs of the minimal electrification are minimised.
  • Platforms will need to be lengthened as necessary.

From this rudimentary analysis, it would appear that the cost of electrifying a branch line is roughly the same as the capital cost of a new IPEMU.

Looking at the two approaches for the Felixstowe branch for passenger trains only, we get something like.

  • Traditional electrification would cost about £3.5million plus the cost of the train, which would probably be an old EMU ready for the scrapyard at a million or so.
  • A new IPEMU would cost £6million and there would probably be a cost of under a million to upgrade the line.

But the IPEMU approach would give you other advantages.

  • The train company would be running a modern train only a few years old at most.
  • New trains attract passengers.
  • The train could also run on main lines to create new routes and services.

The only losers in the IPEMU approach are the construction companies, putting up the wires and rebuilding bridges.

Passengers, train companies, local residents and the environment would all gain.

I’ll also look at some of the other branch lines in East Anglia.

The Gainsborough Line

The Gainsborough Line from Marks Tey to Sudbury is just over nineteen kilometres long, so it could easily be within the capability of an IPEMU, which charged on the main line at Marks Tey station.

This line shows the advantages of the IPEMU approach.

  • The line goes over the Chappel Viaduct, which is Grade II Listed and one of the largest brick structures in England. Overhead wires could be a problem with both the engineers installing them and the heritage lobby.
  • This branch could be extended towards Cambridge and surely to extend a branch without electrification would be easier.
  • Passenger numbers might show that some trains should perhaps go to or from Colchester and/or Ipswich. IPEMUs are fast enough to mix it on the main line, with its 100 mph speed.
  • The stations on this line are very basic and an IPEMU wouldn’t require any lectrification works.

But the reason, I’d use IPEMUs on this branch, is that a higher capacity line with trains to Marks Tey and perhaps Colchester, would probably take traffic off the congested roads to Sudbury.

The East Suffolk Line

It is my belief that the East Suffolk Line from Ipswich to Lowestoft ,will be electrified using IPEMUs.

  • The new franchise has stated that the operator will run direct services between Liverpool Street and Lowestoft. Will the operator want to run this using diesel trains?
  • A chord is possibly to be built at Reedham to allow direct Lowestoft to Yarmouth trains.

IPEMUs are not necessary as diesel trains could be used, but four car trains would create much needed capacity between Yarmouth, Lowestoft and Ipswich.

The line is fifty miles or just under eighty kilometres long, so charging would be needed at Lowestoft and/or Yarmouth.

I think the Reedham Chord is integral to Network Rail’s plans for the line and the related Whery Lines, as it is only mentioned in this document on their web site, which is entitled Improving Connectivity.

An Ipswich-Manningtree-Colchester Metro

I think that due to the flexibility of the IPEMU and its ability to run on the main line, could lead to something like an Ipswich-Manningtree-Colchester Metro.

There would certainly be advantages in terms of train and platform utilisation, if branch lines were able to run services in a back-to-back manner passing along the main line.

There could be a core route on the main line perhaps serving.

Services would start and finish on the various branch lines.

Obviously, if such a system were to be created, the design would depend on how passengers used the system and where new developments happen.

The Wherry Lines

The Wherry Lines reach east from Norwich to Lowestoft and Yarmouth. None of the lines are very long, but they suffer from a shortage of suitable rolling stock and especially trains that could go between London and Yarmouth in the summer.

IPEMUs would solve the rolling stock problem and could serve these routes.

  • Liverpool Street to Yarmouth via Ipswich and Norwich
  • Liverpool Street to Yarmouth via Cambridge, Cambridge North, Ely and Norwich
  • Norwich to Yarmouth and back to Norwich
  • Norwich to Lowestoft and back to Norwich
  • Norwich to Lowestoft via Yarmouth and Reedham and back to Norwich.

Services could also link to the East Suffolk Line for Ipswich to give a second route between Ipswich and Norwich.

The Bittern Line

The Bittern Line reaches North from Norwich to Cromer and Sheringham and like the other Norfolk branch lines at thirty miles it is well within the range of an IPEMU.

Rackheath Eco-Town lies close to Salhouse station and plans for the town envisage a new station and a frequent service to Norwich.

There has been talk of tram-trains, but IPEMUs could also be used.

I think the biggest problem at the moment is getting the town built.

The Main Lines Without Electrification

The following lines are not electrified.

All of these lines could have electrified services provided by IPEMUs.

The Network Rail document; Improving Connectivity, also mentions changes at Newmarket.

Currently, there are two services between Ipswich and the West.

  • Cambridge to Ipswich
  • Ipswich to Ely and Peterborough

They provide a rather uneven hourly service across Suffolk.

Network Rail are proposing an island platform at Newmarket. The Cambridge to Ipswich service will be as now, but it will have cross-platform interchange  with a new Newmarket to Peterborough via Ely service at the updated station.

This will mean that there will be an increased frequency on the line and passengers from Ipswich wanting to go West will be able to get any train and change if necessary at Newmarket.

Could the platform used by the Newmarket to Peterborough service at Newmarket have facilities to charge IPEMUs?

I wrote about an update Newmarket station and other topics in  Better East-West Train Services Across Suffolk.

New Stations

In this analysis Cambridge North station, which serves the Cambridge Science Park, keeps cropping up. According to Wikipedia, this is the proposed service pattern.

5tph to Cambridge, with 2tph continuing to London King’s Cross; 1tph continuing to London Liverpool Street and 1tph continuing to Stansted Airport. 4tph to Ely, with 1tph continuing to King’s Lynn, 1tph continuing to Birmingham New Street and 1tph continuing to Norwich.

It may be all right if you’re going to Cambridge, London or Norwich, but what about those who want to go to Bury St. Edmunds or Ipswich.

Is this just another manifestation of the prejudice, that Suffolk is full of yokels and idiots?

Look at the rail maps of East Anglia and there are disused stations and places that appear to need one all over the four eastern counties.

I think just as Yorkshire and Devon have developed a penchant for building new stations, I think we’ll see a few built in the area.

Remember that IPEMUs with their regenerative braking and large doors are stop-start specials, that can call at a station, discharge and load passengers, and be on their way, much quicker than the current diesel multiple units.

Long Distance Services

There are still two services starting and finishing in East Anglia, that travel across the country.

  • Norwich to Liverpool
  • Birmingham to Stansted Airport

Both could be run using IPEMUs.

I do wonder if it would be better to improve services between Cambridge, Cambridge North, Ely, Ipswich, Norwich, Peterborough and Stansted Airport and link up with these cross-country services at Cambridge, Ely and Peterborough.

When the new franchise is  awarded in June 2016, thins will probably be clearer.


Remember that Abellio Greater Anglia were very much part of the testing and demonstration of the IPEMU technology last year, so I suspect that they would like to rid the franchise of diesel trains, as most in East Anglia aren’t the best.

The requirements for the new franchise include.

Improve the quality of trains running on East Anglia’s network, providing a modern service with state of the art trains – extra points will be awarded to bidders who include plans to trial new technologies in rolling stock.

Abellio’s and other studies have probably shown, that electrification of passenger trains in East Anglia can be completed using IPEMUs.

So be prepared to see a new franchise awarded, that promises to eliminate diesel trains from East Anglia.

I think this analysis also shows how when in an area, there is a fair amount of electrification, IPEMUs can successfully fill in all the missing links.

Other areas where IPEMUs could do the same thing now or after the current electrification programs are completed include.

  • Birmingham
  • Bristol
  • Glasgow
  • Merseyside and the North West
  • Newcastle and Middlesborough
  • South Wales
  • Sussex

I already feel, that one new line; the  Barking Riverside Extension of the Gospel Oak to Barking Line has been designed without electrification.

March 19, 2016 - Posted by | Transport | , , , ,

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