The Anonymous Widower

A First Visit To Clacton

Despite living quite close to Clacton for perhaps about thirty years of my life, I’d never been to the town before today.

I needed some sun and felt that a visit and a walk along the front was in order.

Since the Shenfield Metro train service 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 cheaper.

Sudbury cost me £11.70 return, and Clacton today was £14.25! As Clacton is seventy miles from London, surely that is good value!

These are of some pictures I took of the trip from the time I joined the Sunshine Coast Line at Colchester.

Note.

  • The stations on the branch look reasonable, although Thorpe-le-Soken station could do with improvements.
  • According to a local, the front at Clacton has had a recent makeover.
  • There is a maintenance depot for the trains at Clacton.
  • The line is an electrified double-track, although the branch to Walton-on-the-Naze and Frinton-on-Sea is only a single-track.
  • I must admit to being surprised at the size of Clacton station with four platforms capable of taking twelve-car trains.

This Google Map shows the route where I walked.

Clacton

Clacton

I walked down from the station to the sea front, along the promenade to the Pier and then back up to the station. It was virtually flat all the way.

One of the reasons, I went to Clacton was to look at the train service and see if it is likely, than the new franchise will improve it.

  • As I said earlier, most of the stations I saw are in reasonable condition, although some may need step-free access.
  • Thorpe-le-Soken station would appear to need improvement.
  • According to Wikipedia Abellio has plans to improve stations at at AlresfordKirby Cross and Weeley
  • It is still possible to see the remains of the second track to Walton at Thorpe-le-Soken station.
  • Generally, the Off Peak service to Clacton and Walton is one train per hour.
  • Going to Clacton, I rode in an acceptable Class 360 train, but going back I was in a Class 321 train.
  • Signalling on the Sunshine Coast Line was modernised a few years ago, but what is the state of the electrification?
  • Colchester Town station is served by a spur from the Sunshine Coast Line, which has a low speed limit because of sharp curves.

There is certainly scope for improvement.

These are a few notes on what can be done.

Colchester Town Station

Wikipedia says this about the station.

As of 2013 there is only one platform, but there is space for a second which would make possible a more intensive service on the Sunshine Coast Line. To the east of the station, Colne Junction is the western extremity of a triangle which gives access towards Colchester station to the west and Hythe station to the east. The curve to the north from Colne Junction to East Gates Junction is sharp, with a continuous check rail which necessitates slow passage.

This Google Map shows Colchester Town station and Colne Junction.

Colchester Town Station And Colne Junction

Colchester Town Station And Colne Junction

Colchester Town station is at the Western side of the map and the lines lead out of the station to the triangular Colne Junction.

As the map shows, it is a much sharper curve to turn North than go to the Sunshine Coast.

The other station shown at the |Eastern side of the map is Hythe station, which is on the route to Clacton and Walton.

I suspect that there have been many sensible ideas to improve services through Colchester Town station, but that as train services in East Anglia have always had a low priority, nothing has been done.

These pictures show Colne Junction from a train between Clacton-on-Sea and Colchester.

I was surprised to see that all sides of the junction are double-track.But not surprised to see a collection of second-rate industrial and Royal Mail development in the middle of the junction.

An absolute minimum of improvements would be.

  • Improving the curve to the North at Colne Junction, so that there is a speed increase for trains going to and from Colchester and towards London, that serve Colchester Town and the Sunshine Coast Line.
  • A second platform at Colchester Town station.
  • Opening Colchester Town station on Sundays.

I will be interested to see if improvements are proposed in the new East Anglia Franchise.

New Trains

In Could Class 387 Trains Do Norwich In Ninety And Ipswich In Sixty?, I wrote that to obtain these timings, North of Chelmsford, all trains must be capable of holding a 100 mph line speed or perhaps even 110 mph.

The Class 360 trains might be fast enough, but there are rumours in the Derby Telegraph, that a new fleet of Bombardier trains will be ordered, to fulfil a requirement in the new franchise agreement.

If a version of something like a Class 710  train is ordered, it could have the following characteristics.

  • Four-car trains, able to run in four, eight and twelve car formations.
  • 100 mph or 110 mph line speed.
  • Regenerative braking.
  • Provision for on-board energy storage.

On the Sunshine Coast Line, the trains would not use the onboard energy storage for primary traction, but to save energy, as I don’t suspect the line has been updated for regenerative braking.

These trains will certainly provide a better passenger experience. They could also be faster between Liverpool Street and Colchester.

Electrification

The electrification looked to be in good condition, but judging by the design, some of it, is fairly elderly.

I also have my doubts as to whether the overhead wires can handle regenerative braking. Use of regenerative braking in the UK  have shown energy saving around 15%, but it does need a more expensive infrastructure.

So will we see, a project to renew the wires, transformers and other electrical equipment, as has been seen on parts of the Great Eastern Main Line?

I think we will, but the operator could use on-board electrical storage in new trains to simplify the electrification.Instead of returning braking energy through the overhead wires, it would be stored on the train for using the train to get started again.

One idea that could happen, is that to appease the sensitive souls in Frinton, that the Walton-on-the-Naze branch could be run using onboard energy storage to eliminate any pantograph noise. After all the branch is only five miles long. But that would be five miles less of overheasd wire to maintain.

I do wonder whether some branch lines like the short one to Walton-on-the Naze could be run to tram rules using on-board energy storage. It might enable stations to be built step-free without electrification, lifts and bridges. I wrote about Thurston station, where they have a walk across with lights in Two Solutions To Make Crossing A Railway Safe.

Track Improvements

As with Colne Junction, I suspect that there are some long-standing ideas to increase the line speed from the current 40-90 mph on the Sunshine Coast Line.

 

 

July 16, 2016 - Posted by | Travel | , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] A First Visit To Clacton, I said this about the Walton-on-the-Naze branch of the Sunshine Coast […]

    Pingback by When Is A Train Not A Train? « The Anonymous Widower | July 16, 2016 | Reply


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