The Anonymous Widower

Could A Chiltern Metro Be Created?

In the Wikipedia entry for Chiltern Railways, there is a section under plans labelled Active.

Three of the entries in this section refer to the stations between London Marylebone and West Ruislip or a Chiltern Metro.

  • Lengthening of platforms at South Ruislip, West Ruislip, Sudbury Hill Harrow, Sudbury and Harrow Road and Northolt Park to accommodate eight vehicles, thereby obviating the need for vehicles to be locked out of use on departure from London Marylebone.
  • The restoration of the quadruple track between South Ruislip (Northolt Junction) and West Ruislip, allowing trains to call at both stations without blocking the line. Triple track currently exists at West Ruislip, with the up platform loop still in situ, and at South Ruislip, with the Down Main through line also in situ. This would involve the reconstruction of the new down platform at West Ruislip, and the reconstruction of the up platform at South Ruislip. This ‘Chiltern Metro’ service was not programmed into the last round of franchising agreements.
  • New Chiltern Metro Service that would operate 4+tph for Wembley Stadium, Sudbury & Harrow Road, Sudbury Hill Harrow, Northolt Park, South Ruislip and West Ruislip. This would require a reversing facility at West Ruislip, passing loops at Sudbury Hill Harrow, and a passing loop at Wembley Stadium (part of the old down fast line is in use as a central reversing siding, for stock movements and additionally for 8-car football shuttles to convey passengers to the stadium for events)

So could a Chiltern Metro be created between Marylebone to at least as far as West Ruislip.

In A Modern Electrified Metro Network Using IPEMU Technology, I postulated what a local metro would be like.

  1. Services are run by modern four-car electric trains, that meet all current and envisioned access and customer requirements.
  2. Services are run by a standard train, so if the network expands, more trains can be easily built!
  3. The ability to lengthen the trains, say for an important sporting or cultural event.
  4. Enough trains to run four trains per hour services on important lines and perhaps one per hour on lines that get much lesser use.
  5. Most services run out and back from the central station.
  6. As little disruption as possible, whilst creating the metro.

So does Chiltern’s broad plan of a metro between Marylebone and West Ruislip fit those rules?

  1. Modern four- car trains like Class 710 trains could run the service.
  2. Bombardier’s Aventra, which is the basis of the Class 710 will be around for some time, so extras will probably be available.
  3. Three-train formations of twelve-cars can probably be created, but eight-car would probably be an initial maximum need.
  4. Not a problem on a short metro line, which would probably need four sets for a four train per hour service.
  5. All services go to and from Marylebone.
  6. I’m sure, if IPEMU technology were to be used, electrifying between Marylebone and at least West Ruislip, could be done without major blockades of the line.

It would appear that the objectives can be easily met and using standard Aventra trains with an IPEMU capability would help.

The Current Service Pattern

Wikipedia lists the current services, outside the peak from Marylebone as the following.

  • 2 trains per hour (tph) to/from Birmingham (one fast, first stop Bicester North, and one semi-fast, first stop High Wycombe).
  • 1tph to/from Banbury (semi-fast, first stop High Wycombe). Some extend to Stratford-upon-Avon.
  • 1tph to/from Bicester North (semi-fast, first stop Gerrards Cross)
  • 1tph to/from Princes Risborough (semi-fast, first stop Gerrards Cross)
  • 1tph to/from High Wycombe (stopping service)
  • 1tph to/from Gerrards Cross (stopping service)
  • 2tph to/from Aylesbury (via Amersham). One of these services in each hour continues on to serve Aylesbury Vale Parkway
  • 2tph to/from Oxford Parkway (fast)

So that is nine trains an hour through West Ruislip, two up the Aylesbury Line and eleven between Marylebone and Neasden.

What Would A Chiltern Metro Look Like?

Wikipedia is fairly precise, that the inner section between Marylebone and West Ruislip would stop at the following stations.

  • Wembley Stadium
  • Sudbury & Harrow Road
  • Sudbury Hill Harrow
  • Northolt Park
  • South Ruislip.

Although other documents on the web suggest a first stop at a new station of West Hampstead Interchange.

My journey today on the line took twenty minutes.

Some questions occur to me.

  • Will extra stations be added?
  • Will some trains go on to places like Gerrards Cross, High Wycombe and Princes Risborough?
  • With modern signalling and extra tracks in places, what is the capacity of the various sections of the line.
  • How many extra services to what destinations, do Chiltern want to run?

Chiltern’s answers will be better than my speculation.

What Trains Should Work The Metro?

Ian Walmsley in the April 2015 Edition of Modern Railways writes enthusiastically about Bombardier’s new Aventra train, where under Potential he starts with this sentence.

As a platform, the design will be offered in various guises for future contracts up to 125 mph.

He then goes on to say this about a possible future order for Aventras.

But the interesting one to me is East Midlands Trains electrics. As a 125 mph unit it could cope well with Corby commuters and the and the ‘Master Cutler’ crowd – It’s all about the interior.

 

Could Chiltern use a similar train, that was equally at home, running at over hundred miles per hour to and from Birmingham or trundling through North West London on the Metro?

Consider.

  • The advantages of an identical fleet that can work all lines and services must be immense!
  • I believe a universal high-class interior is possible, as Class 387 trains are almost there. Remember, Chiltern don’t do low class!
  • All trains would have an IPEMU capability to reduce electrification and running costs.
  • In a few years time, all IPEMUs will have automated pantograph up and down, to use electrification where available.
  • Some could be dual-voltage to work on London Underground lines through Amersham.

Chiltern passengers certainly live in interesting times.

The Chiltern Metro And the Chiltern Main Line

In the following sections, I shall now look at the various parts of the route of the proposed proposed Chiltern Metro and its shared route with the Chiltern Main Line as far as West Ruislip.

Marylebone Station To Neasden

Marylebone station has a simple track layout, that is unlike most of the other London termini.

This Google map shows the station.

Marylebone Station

Marylebone Station

Complicated it is not, as it appears just two lines lead into and out of the station, and there are no major junctions until Neasden South Junction.

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the lines at Neasden.

Lines Through Neasden

Lines Through Neasden

Note how the Chiltern Lines, which are shown in black, divide opposite Neasden Depot.

It certainly isn’t a complicated layout.

If you are going to use IPEMUs on Chiltern, I believe that it would be relatively easy to electrify the five miles of the lines from Marylebone to Neasden and what was felt necessary of the tracks in the platforms, to ensure that the trains reached Neasden South Junction on the way to West Ruislip with the on-board energy storage nearly full.

If this could be achieved, then some or all of the line and its stations between Neasden and West Ruislip could be left without electrification.

West Hampstead Interchange

If any station sums up the complicated nature of the UK’s railways it is the proposed West Hampstead Interchange.

This map from carto.metre.free.fr, shows the various lines go through the area.

WestHampsteadLines

West Hampstead Lines

From North to South the stations and lines are.

  • West Hampstead Thameslink station is electrified to 25 KVAC and Midland Main Line services, Thameslink services and freight services between the Gospel Oak to Barking Line and the Dudding Hill Line  go through.
  • West Hampstead station is electrified to 25 KVAC and North London Line services go through.
  • West Hampstead tube station is electrified to 630 VDC and Jubilee Line services go through.
  • The Metropolitan Line passes to the south of the tube station. There are no platforms.
  • The Chiltern Lines are the Southernmost lines and are not electrified. There are no platforms.

The layout of the Chiltern Lines from Marylebone to Neasden may be uncomplicated, but West Hampstead is a lot of railway to sort.

It might be easy to add platforms for the Metropolitan Lines and Chiltern, but given the narrow pavements and large amount of traffic in the area, creating a new West Hampstead Interchange won’t be easy.

The Wrong Kind Of Electrification?

If the Chiltern Line is to be electrified, it is very much entwined with the London Underground.

  • From Marylebone to Neasden the Chiltern Lines follow London Underground’s Jubilee and Metropolitan Lines, which have London’s 630 VDC fourth-rail electrification.
  • After Neasden, Chiltern trains on the Aylesbury Line actually run on electrified London Underground tracks between Harrow-on-the Hill and Amersham..
  • Between South Ruislip and West Ruislip stations the Chiltern Lines run alongside the Central Line.
  • According to Wikipedia, London Underground are updating their fourth-rail electrification to deliver the standard 750 VDC commonly used by third-rail electrification in the UK.

Given that a major cost of electrification is getting power to the electrification, I just wonder if any electrification of the Chiltern Lines would piggy-back off the London ~Underground in London and off the 25 KVAC systems around Birmingham and the East-West Rail Link.

The sections that would not be electrified, would be handled by IPEMUs working from their on-line energy storage.

As Digby said to Dan Dare, “It’s not very pretty! But it works!”

I can’t believe that engineers working on the development of Chiltern Railways are not looking at the possibility of using some of the infrastructure, London Underground has already installed.

Bombardier are already building some dual-voltage Class 710 trains for the London Overground, so rolling stock won’t be a problem.

Wembley Stadium Station To Sudbury Hill Harrow Station

This Google Map shows the line Chiltern Main Line between Wembley Stadium to Sudbury Hill Harrow stations.

Wembley Stadium Station To Sudbury Hill Harrow Station

Wembley Stadium Station To Sudbury Hill Harrow Station

The only station in the middle is Sudbury & Harrow Road.

The line in this section is very reminiscent of the Gospel Oak to Barking Line and it shows as a green scar on the map.

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the same area.

Chiltern Main Line Through Wembley And Harrow

Chiltern Main Line Through Wembley And Harrow

These are some pictures I took of the line.

If it were to be decided to electrify this part of the line, I suspect it would no more difficult than the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.

Electrification Or Passing Loops?

Some stations like Sudbury Hill Harrow and Wembley Stadium are down to have passing loops to allow faster trains to overtake stopping ones.

But as the line is likely to be run by electric trains, does their superior braking and acceleration mean that at some stations, the need for passing loops is avoided.

Obviously, Chiltern and Network Rail have done extensive calculations and optimised the number of passing loops against the trains that will be run on the line.

Trains with an IPEMU capability, which includes regenerative braking, may also reduce the need for passing loops.

Wembley Stadium Station

Wembley Stadium station is planned to be the first station on the Chiltern Metro, although others think that the first station should be West Hampstead.

This Google Map shows the station.

Wembley Stadium Station

Wembley Stadium Station

Note.

  • There is a large space between the two platforms and lines in the station.
  • There is certainly enough to create one or two passing loops, so that fast trains can pass trains calling at the station.
  • The station has probably been designed for twelve-car trains.
  • There would be no need to electrify through the station.

I took these pictures as my train went through today.

It certainly is a wide space in the middle.

Sudbury And Harrow Road Station

Sudbury And Harrow Road Station is not a very busy station and my train didn’t stop. I also didn’t get any pictures.

This Google Map shows the rather cramped layout of the station, squeezed between the two lines.

Sudbury And Harrow Road Station

Sudbury And Harrow Road Station

Note.

  • The station in an island layout.
  • The platforms could be lengthened for the Metro.
  • A passing loop could be squeezed through if possible.
  • Electrification would probably be possible if required.

Hopefully the changes would attract more passengers to this station.

I visited this station once before and wrote about it in The Station With The Least Passengers In London.

Sudbury Hill Harrow Station

Sudbury Hill Harrow Station is a basic station.

This Google Map shows the layout of the station and the area around it.

Sudbury Hill Harrow Station

Sudbury Hill Harrow Station

I took these pictures as I passed through today.

This station is down for platform lengthening and the addition of passing loops, so I suspect this will mean a complete rebuild.

This could be tricky, as the line is a main line with nine trains an hour in both directions.

But there would appear to be space to the East of the road bridge and if the station was to be rebuilt provision could be made for electrification.

Northolt Park Station

Northolt Park Station is another basic station.

This Google Map shows the station.

Northolt Park Station

Northolt Park Station

I took these pictures today.

This station is another one, that is down for lengthened platforms. But it will be tight and there is no place for passing loops.

Northolt Junction

Northolt Junction is where the Chiltern Main Line meets the Acton-Northolt Line to form the Great Western and Great Central Joint Line, that goes on to High Wycombe and eentually Birmingham.

This Google Map shows the junction.

Northolt Junction

Northolt Junction

Note the waste recycling plant in the middle of the junction.

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the lines in the area.

Northolt Junction

Northolt Junction

Note the large Ruislip Depot for the Central Line.

These are pictures, I took from the Chiltern  train.

It’s certainly all rather cramped in the middle of the junction.

South Ruislip Station

South Ruislip Station is an interchange with the Central Line, located to the West of Northolt Junction.

I only managed one quick picture as my train rushed past.

South Ruislip Station

South Ruislip Station

This Google Map shows the station and the surrounding area.

South Ruislip Station

South Ruislip Station

Note.

  • Going East the lines divide here, with the Northern tracks going to Marylebone and the Southern ones going to Paddington, alongside the Central Line.
  • The platforms at South Ruislip station will be lengthened for the Chiltern Metro.
  • The heavy rail lines through here will be four-tracked and there is certainly space for that.

Given that the Acton-Northolt Line leads from here to an electrified Paddington and Old Oak Common, there could be pressure to fully electrify through South Ruislip. If that were to be decided, I can’t see that being a difficult task compared to some in the UK.

West Ruislip Station

West Ruislip Station has been proposed as the outer terminus of the Chiltern Metro.

This Google Map shows the station and the surrounding area.

West Ruislip Station

West Ruislip Station

These are pictures I took of the station.

Note.

  • A turnback facility is needed and this would probably be a siding on the West side of the station. It should be no problem to install.
  • Platforms need to be lengthened for eight-car trains.
  • There is plenty of space for two fast tracks through the centre of the station.
  • Electrification if required wouldn’t be a problem.

I changed trains from the Chiltern service to a Central Line train.

Sorting Out Lines At West Ruislip

Before I went to West Ruislip station, I hadn’t realised how many lines pass through the area.

This Google Map shows a wider view of West Ruislip station.

Lines Through West Ruislip

Lines Through West Ruislip

These lines are shown on the map, or connect to these lines within a few stations.

It shows how the various private companies went their own way. I’m sure if Borken had been in charge of London all of those years ago, we’d have a better pattern of rail lines in the area.

But some dreamers have plans. I discuss them in the next three sections.

Central Line To Uxbridge

In the Wikipedia entry for West Ruislip station, this is said.

The London Borough of Hillingdon announced in June 2011 that it would be lobbying Transport for London to have the Central line extended from West Ruislip to Uxbridge tube station. Such a project would require a business case approved by TfL and the completion of signal upgrade work on the Metropolitan line.

It is probably a valid aspiration, but could similar connectivity be created by perhaps adding platforms on the Metropolitan/Piccadilly Line, where it passes under the Chiltern Main Line and Central Line to the East of West Ruislip station and connecting everything together with a moving walkway?

If this were to be combined with the desired lengthening of the Chiltern platforms, this could be a worthwhile project, if the numbers add up.

Denham To Uxbridge

In the Wikipedia entry for Chiltern Railways under Active Plans, this is said.

Re-opening the former Great Western Railway branch line to Uxbridge High Street, continuing the route to Heathrow Airport. This would give Birmingham a direct rail link with Britain’s largest airport.

Uxbridge High Street station closed completely in 1964.

I would assume, that this would use the route of the Uxbridge (Vine Street) Branch to get to the Great Western Main Line at West Drayton station, from where it could use either of these routes to get to the Airport.

This could be the sort of ambitious plan that appeals to Chiltern.

This is a Google Map of Uxbridge Town Centre.

Uxbridge Town Centre

Uxbridge Town Centre

Note Uxbridge Underground station, High Street and Vine Street are all close together.

In Germany, they wouldn’t mess about, but would use a tram-train on the route.

  • West Ruislip to Uxbridge as a train on a rebuilt rail line.
  • Through Uxbridge Town Centre as a tram.
  • Uxbridge to  West Drayton and Heathrow as a train on a rebuilt rail line.

Obviously, the route could be adjusted to serve property, leisure and employment hotspots.

Greenford Branch Line

The Greenford Branch Line is like an elderly aunt, who gets forgotten to be asked to family parties, but when she does come, is extremely useful and entertaining, because she can do things, that others can’t.

The Wikipedia entry under Future says this.

In 2017 Crossrail is due to begin using two of the four tracks of the Great Western Main Line and the Greenford service will terminate at West Ealing, rather than continue to Paddington, to obviate interference with Crossrail, and to create track capacity for increased services to Heathrow. In compensation the branch line service will increase from two to four trains per hour. Ealing Council desires to have the line connected to the south west to Clapham Junction via the West London Line, and to the north west to West Ruislip.

I think Ealing Council’s plan is a non-starter, if it envisages trains travelling along the Great Western Main Line.

But look at this map of the rail lines from carto.metro.free.fr.

Lines In West London

Lines In West London

Note that it would appear that the track layout at Greenford could allow trains to go from the Greenford Branch towards West Ruislip and South Ruislip in the West or North Acton and Old Oak Common in the East.

These are pictures I took of the lines and the junction at Greenford station.

The current Greenford Branch platform would probably be augmented or replaced by platforms on the Acton-Northolt Line.

This Google Map shows the area around Greenford station.

Greenford Station And The Junction To The East

Greenford Station And The Junction To The East

It would appear that parts of the junction have been built on, but it looks like it could easily be made possible for trains to pass in all directions, between the Acton-Northolt Line and the Greenford Branch.

The Greenford Branch is under three miles long and appears to be mainly double-track, but it does have a level crossing close to the Southern end.

I also took some pictures of the bay platform at West Ealing station, that is currently under construction.

I can’t be sure yet, but it does appear that the platform will be electrified.

So what does this say about how the rumoured four trains per hour that work the branch will be powered?

I think there are two possibilities.

  • Diesel power as now.
  • IPEMUs charged in the bay platform.

Given that one of London Overground’s Class 710 trains with an IPEMU capability and one of Great Western Railway’s Class 165 trains, that currently work the line, could use the same infrastructure, the choice of train would be up to the operator.

One problem that would have to be addressed is the short platforms at Drayton Green, Castle Bar Park and South Greenford.

At least if the branch was not electrified, there would be no wires to get in the way.

 

Look at this Google Map.

Park Royal To Old Oak Common And Wormwood Scrubs

Park Royal To Old Oak Common And Wormwood Scrubs

Note.

  • The red arrow points at Park Royal, which at 500 hectares, is the largest business park in London.
  • The green area in the East is Wormwood Scrubs, which is one of the largest areas of common land in London.
  • North of Wormwood Scrubs is Old Oak Common, which is mainly old railway land, that is being regenerated.
  • Old Oak Common station, with connections to HS2, the West Coast Main Line, the Great Western Main Line, North London Line, West London Line, Crossrail and other lines is being created to serve the developments in the area.

Across the South of Park Royal and connecting to Old Oak Common station, runs the Acton-Northolt Line.

If transport planners and railway designers, can’t make a feast of these tasty ingredients, I’d be very surprised.

I said that the choice of rolling stock would be down to the operator.

As Ealing Council would like to see the Greenford Branch go to Clapham Junction, the obvious route is to go via the Acton-Northolt and West London Lines, stopping at appropriate stations en route, like Old Oak Common and possible new ones; South of Park Royal.

This would be a good fit with London Overground services and their four-car Class 710 trains would be ideal for the route.

With the full development of Old Oak Common station, this would not only give access to West Coast Main Line and HS2 services, but also direct access to the North London Line from West Ealing and West Ruislip.

The latter connection would make so many of those journeys across the North of the capital, so much easier and avoid going by the centre.

I think Chiltern too, will make a bid to get into running services on the Greenford Branch and the Acton-Northolt Line, as it would give them a very useful destination in London of Old Oak Common.

These services would also be a good fit with Chiltern’s services and trains.

Conclusion

The Chiltern Metro is certainly possible from an infrastructure point of view.

I also believe that with selective and appropriate electrification, that a 100 mph version of Bombardier’s new Aventra train with an on-board energy storage or IPEMU capability could handle all their services.

My project management and engineering knowledge (Note! Not experience!), also leads me to believe that most of the upgrade to electric trains could be done without too many blockades and disturbance, as much of the line is already to a very high standard with sufficient loading gauge to accept Aventras, when running on the on-board power source.

Just because you want to swap your diesel Mercedes for an electric Tesla of vaguely the same size, it doesn’t mean you have to move house or even build a new garage, as both cars run on the same roads. You just make sure the battery gets charged, rather than fill it up with fossil fuel.

It’s the same if you replace your diesel train with an Aventra IPEMU. Except that in places, you can charge your train as you’re running on any traditionally-electrified line.

The only problem, is to make sure, your trains get enough chances to charge their on-board energy storage devices. But railways have had the organisation of trains to various places down to a fine art for well over a hundred years.

It’s called timetabling!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 7, 2016 - Posted by | Travel | , , , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. I would love to see a Chiltern Metro created, especially if it’ll mean regular services into/out of Marylebone to stations like South Ruislip and West Ruislip. Hopefully if a project like this does get the green light there will be minimal disruption to current services. Great article (even if i didn’t understand some of the technical parts of it!)

    Comment by Riaz | April 8, 2016 | Reply

  2. […] I wrote Could A Chiltern Metro Be Created? and came to the conclusion, that it might be possible, I got several positive […]

    Pingback by A Hard Look At Crossrail 2 « The Anonymous Widower | December 28, 2016 | Reply

  3. […] I wrote Could A Chiltern Metro Be Created? and came to the conclusion, that it might be possible, I got several positive […]

    Pingback by Crowded Roads In West London « The Anonymous Widower | December 31, 2016 | Reply


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