The Anonymous Widower

Marks Tey Station And The Sudbury Branch

The Sudbury Branch or the Gainsborough Line, is one of those lines that abound all over the UK, to serve a major town stranded from the main line.

These pictures show my visit.

Note.

Incidentally, I was able to get to Sudbury from London for just £11.70, using my Freedom Pass to Shenfield and a ticket from there to Sudbury with my Senior Railcard.

The Future Of The Sudbury Branch

With the new franchise being awarded within a few weeks, I wonder what the plans are for Marks Tey station and the Sudbury Branch.

  • I can’t find anything about the building works at Marks Tey station.
  • The station certainly needs a proper bridge with lifts.
  • Marks Tey only has two trains per hour in each direction. Is that enough?
  • Trains are hourly between Marks Tey and Sudbury and for a weekday were fairly busy.
  • In an ideal world, trains would be twice an hour on the Sudbury Branch and would synchronise with trains on the Great Eastern Main Line.
  • The journey takes nineteen minutes between Sudbury and Marks Tey, which probably means that two trains are needed for a doubled frequency.

There is certainly a lot of potential for an improved service.

Two Trains Per Hour To Sudbury

The obvious way to achieve a two trains per hour service on the Sudbury Branch would be to use two trains. Although, this could be expensive as the line probably works currently under rules called One Train Working.

It would also need a passing loop on the single-track branch, two trains and two crews, so I think it could be discounted.

The line has a speed limit of 50 mph and it is not electrified. If the line was upgraded to increase this speed limit, it might be possible for a single train to shuttle twice between Marks Tey and Sudbury in an hour. Time could be saved, by using two drivers and changing them at Marks Tey. But the current time of nineteen minutes for the journey makes four trips in an hour impossible. It probably needs a time in the order of ten to thirteen minutes, which might be possible with a faster train after the track was upgraded to say 75 mph.

Electric trains accelerate faster and generally have shorter station dwell times, than the current Class 156 diesel trains.

So perhaps to electrify the line is an option, that would allow the desired service. But electrification of the line will be expensive and there will be a lot of opposition to having overhead gantries marching through the Suffolk countryside and on top of the Grade II Listed Chappel Viaduct.

An Aventra IPEMU To Sudbury

One solution that would work is to use something like a four-car Class 710 train, that are being built for the London Overground.

It would need to be an IPEMU, fitted with energy storage and there would probably need to be a short length of electrification in Platform 3 at Marks Tey station to charge the train after each trip to Sudbury.

A Suffolk Metro From Sudbury To Felixstowe

An alternative strategy may also be possible, which would require no new track, platforms or electrification.

The Felixstowe branch also needs new trains and could be run using a similar Aventra IPEMU from Ipswich.

So why not link the two services back-to-back to create a half-hourly service from Sudbury to Felixstowe, which called at the following stations?

  • Bures
  • Chappel and Wakes Colne
  • Marks Tey
  • Colchester
  • Manningtree
  • Ipswich
  • Westerfield
  • Derby Road
  • Trimley

The trains would charge their energy storage on the main line and the Felixstowe branch would not need a bay platform at Ipswich station.

The Sudbury and Felixstowe Branches are eleven and twelve miles long respectively, which means that if the trains charged their energy storage on the main line between Ipswich and Marks Tey, they would need to be able to do about twenty-five miles on their on-board energy storage, which is well within all estimates of the train’s range.

Currently, using three trains that would take 72 minutes of train time, but I suspect that time saved on the branches by an Aventra could make the trip in around an hour.

In Could Class 387 Trains Do Norwich In Ninety And Ipswich In Sixty?, I postulated that to achieve the Norwich in Ninety and Ipswich in Sixty targets, all trains North of Colchester, must be capable of running at 110 mph, so they don’t slow the crack East Anglian Expresses down.

This rule would probably have to apply to the Felixstowe to Sudbury trains.

This would be one of those train services where most are winners.

  • Passengers on the two branch lines get a two trains per hour direct service to Ipswich, Manningtree and Colchester, run using modern four-car electric trains.
  • Passengers using stations between Marks Tey and Ipswich would have extra trains to Ipswich and Colchester.
  • The train operator replaces two ageing diesel multiple units, with two brand-new electric multiple units with an IPEMU-capability.
  • Network Rail would have no electrification to install and only minimal changes to make to infrastructure, such as some general track improvement and platform lengthening.
  • It would probably help time-keeping, if the long-promised dualling of part of the Felixstowe Branch were to be done.
  • There might even be a case for reopening disused stations at Bentley, Ardleigh and Orwell and perhaps creating a couple of new ones.

What I have proposed is pure speculation, but it could be the first line of the Suffolk Metro.

Incidentally, I wouldn’t be surprised to see four-car Aventra IPEMUs working the following routes for the new East Anglian Franchise.

  • Cambridge to Norwich.
  • Ipswich to Bury St. Edmunds, Cambridge, Ely and Peterborough
  • March to Wisbech
  • Norwich to Cromer, Lowestoft, Sheringham and Yarmouth.

The only line, which would be outside their capability would be Ipswich to Lowestoft, which is just a bit long. But the Aventras would release Class 170 trains to provide a high quality service on this line.

There are several reasons, why I think that IPEMUs might be used in East Anglia.

  • The tests of the IPEMU technology were carried out by Abellio Greater Anglia on the Harwich branch. The drivers must know how good the IPEMU technology really is.
  • East Anglia has several branch lines for which using IPEMU technology, is an affordable way of introducing electric trains.
  • Network Rail have an appalling record, when it comes to electrification.
  • What is the state of the electrification  on the Braintree, Southminster and Harwich branches? It might be more affordable instead of replacing dodgy wiring to use a train with IPEMU technology.
  • Quite a few of these branches have capacity problems, which a four-car electric train would solve.
  • The invitation to tender for the franchise included the following – “extra points will be awarded to bidders who include plans to trial new technologies in rolling stock”
  • Providing free wi-fi across the franchise is mandated. Does anybody fancy doing this in a Class 153 or Class 156 train?

The new franchise is supposed to be awarded before the 21st of July, this year.

It will be interesting to hear the winner’s plans.

Onward To Cambridge

It is just a pity, that the Stour Valley Railway from Sudbury to Cambridge via Haverhill was closed in the 1960s.

In Sudbury To Cambridge – D-Train, IPEMU Or Tram-Train?, I looked at the various options for reopening the whole line to create a new route from Ipswich and Colchester to Cambridge via Marks Tey, Sudbury and Haverhill.

As trains from Sudbury to Felixstowe will probably be Aventra IPEMUs with a main line capability, these trains would be used through to Cambridge, which is about fifty miles from Marks Tey.

I think this line will eventually be rebuilt.

  • This is the sort of project a devolved East Anglian Authority would back.
  • It creates alternative routes to London and Cambridge.
  • It joins up well with the East West Rail Link and the prtoposed station at Addenbrookes Hospital.
  • It provides another commuting route for Cambridge.
  • It puts Haverhill back on the rail map.
  • It would complete rail links from Suffolk’s County Town of Ipswich to all parts of the county

Who knows what routes will be unlocked by the reopening of the Stour Valley Railway?

 

 

July 10, 2016 - Posted by | Transport | , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. […] my trip to Sufbury, which I wrote about in Marks Tey Station And The Sudbury Branch, I needed to eat […]

    Pingback by How To Cook Gluten-Free Fish « The Anonymous Widower | July 11, 2016 | Reply

  2. […] through East London to henfield has been run by TfL Rail, getting to places like Clacton and Sudbury, as I did, a couple of weeks ago, has become a lot […]

    Pingback by A First Visit To Clacton « The Anonymous Widower | July 16, 2016 | Reply

  3. […] There are high-viaducts looking over tidy villages. Think Marks Tey Station And The Sudbury Branch. […]

    Pingback by Riding The Vogtlandbahn « The Anonymous Widower | July 23, 2016 | Reply


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