The Anonymous Widower

A North London Metro

My Memories Of The Lines Out Of Moorgate And Kings Cross

I grew up in North London and I can remember when the suburban services into Kings Cross were hauled by N2 tank engines and later when these were replaced by the Class 105 diesel multiple units.

Around 1970, I used to commute to Welwyn Garden City from Kings Cross and I regularly got Cambridge trains, that were coaches with compartments pulled by the then ubiquitous Class 31 diesel locomotives.

All changed in 1976, when the Northern City Line out of Moorgate and the East Coast Main Line out of Kings Cross were electrified and Class 313 trains started to work the lines.

They still do!

The Current Route

The East Coast Main Line, running North through Finsbury Park is four-tracked with separate fast and slow lines.

There is also the Hertford Loop Line, which effectively gives the route a second set of slow lines between Alexandra Palace and Stevenage.

The two lines have a network of fourteen suburban stations,, where each links with a rather measly three tph into Moorgate.

The line has a few good features.

  • The Hertford Loop has grade-separated junctions at both ends and is electrified throughout.
  • There are decent termini for the services at Gordon Hill, Hertford North, Letchworth Garden City and Welwyn Garden City.
  • There is a flyover at Welwyn Garden City to enable prompt turnaround of the trains.
  • The lines allow the trains to use their maximum speed.
  • Interchange between the two services at Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace is generally good.

But the route has the problem of a voltage change between the tunnel to Moorgate and the rest of the line at Drayton Park station, which adds a couple of minutes to every journey.

The Current Service

The current service is three trains per hour (tph) that trundle as fast as their 75 mph top speed and age will allow to the two main destinations of Welwyn Garden City and Hertford North stations. One of the trains from Hertford North in every hour continues to Letchworth Garden City.

This is not the frequent service that attracts new passengers and at least an extra train per hour is needed.

As an example, I can get a direct bus every two or three minutes or so  to Essex Road station, from where I can get trains to the North.

But three tph to the two destinations and six tph to Alexandra Palace is not the sort of service on a commuter route out of London. Four trains would reduce my maximum wait for say a Hatfield train from twenty to fifteen minutes.

But there are reasons for this level of service.

  • There probably aren’t enough trains.
  • Their performance is inadequate.
  • The complications of the route, which involves changing voltage at Drayton Park station, slows the service.

Even so they do manage to squeeze 12 tph into Moorgate in the rush hours.

Service Improvements In 2018

In the Wikepedia entry for Bowes Park station, the following is said.

From 2018, the pattern is due to change when Moorgate services via the Hertford loop are curtailed at Stevenage using a new terminating platform there:

  • 2 tph Great Northern service Moorgate – Stevenage
  • 2 tph Great Northern service Moorgate – Hertford North

This information is not given elsewhere, so I suspect it’s either from someone, who’s got good knowledge or wrong. There is no reference to the source of the information.

But, 2018 is when the new trains will start serving the line. So the Hertford Loop Line could be getting an extra train per hour.

Infrastructure Improvements

There are various infrastructure improvements that need to be done to squeeze the maximum capacity out of the system.

  • The archaic voltage change at Drayton Park should be replaced with one using the best modern technology and practice.
  • The maximum line-speed on the Hertford Loop Line should be increased to 100 mph wherever possible.
  • Platforms should be improved to ease getting on and off trains and facilitate easy interchanges between trains.
  • It looks like a bay platform is being built at Stevenage to serve the Hertford Loop Line.
  • Would there be any advantage in creating a passing loop or adding a fourth platform at Gordon Hill station?

In addition, I do think that there are opportunities for new stations on the Hertford Loop Line.

The New Class 717 Trains

New Class 717 trains have been ordered to send the Class 313 trains to the scrapyard.

These are similar to the Class 700 and Class 707 trains, so I think we can assume.

  • They will have a top speed of 100 mph, where the track allows it.
  • They will brake and accelerate faster than the current trains and with better door machinery should save time at every stop.

But I would also suspect that they will handle the voltage change at Drayton Park more efficiently.

It would appear from my calculation in A Numerical Analysis Of Great Northern’s Class 717 Trains, that there are enough Class 717 trains on order for a four tph service to all stations, with 2 tph onwards to Letchworth Garden City or more likely Stevenage.

As the Wikipedia entry for Bowes Park station says 4 tph  from 2018, I think it is reasonable to expect that Welwyn Garden City gets the same treatment.

This would produce an eight tph service between Alexandra Palace and Moorgate.

Current timings from Moorgate are.

  • Hertford North – 50 minutes
  • Welwyn Garden City  – 51 minutes
  • Stevenage – 63 minutes

So this means one shorter round trip could be done in two hours and a combination of a short and Long one in four.

This would mean.

  • 4 tph to Welwyn Garden City would require 8 trains
  • 6 tph to Welwyn Garden City would require 12 trains
  • 4 tph to Hertford North/Stevenage would require 8 trains
  • 6 tph to Hertford North/Stevenage would require 12 trains

But because the Class 717 trains are faster, have a better stopping performance and would probably save time in changing voltages, I wonder if the shorter round trip could be reduced to ninety minutes, with the combined trip at three hours.

This would mean.

  • 4 tph to Welwyn Garden City would require 6 trains
  • 6 tph to Welwyn Garden City would require 9 trains
  • 4 tph to Hertford North/Stevenage would require 6 trains
  • 6 tph to Hertford North/Stevenage would require 9 trains

So if the trains and the drivers can perform, it might be possible to have enough trains for a six tph service on both branches with a 12 tph service between Moorgate and Alexandra Palace.

One consequence of running 12 tph into Moorgate all day, might be that there would be no room for extra trains in the Peak. But the service in the Peak of twelve six-car tph would still have the same capacity as the current one

I think that Great Northern’s objective is to run twelve trains into Moorgate all day, with half serving each branch.

The full service to and from Moorgate would probably need 18 trains.

In A Numerical Analysis Of Great Northern’s Class 717 Trains, I said that a 2 tph service between Kings Cross and Foxton would require six trains, that would see the fleet fully utilised.

The Link To Crossrail

In Liverpool Street Crossrail Station Disentangled, I showed that changing between Crossrail and the Northern City Line at Moorgate could be easy.

I have a feeling that with eight or even twelve tph running into Moorgate, many passengers will change at Moorgate to and from Crossrail, even if they want to go to and from places like Hatfield or Potters Bar, for which they can also use Thameslink and a change at Farringdon.

Consider.

  • Running twelve tph into a two-platform terminal like Moorgate is way below the frequency of the Victoria Line at Walthamstow Central.
  • Half of all trains at Moorgate will go up the East Coast Main Line, with the other half taking the Hertford Loop Line.
  • Only one-in-four trains at Farringdon will go up the East Coast Main Line.
  • The Moorgate service will stop at all stations to Welwyn Garden City.
  • There is a split with suburban trains out of Moorgate and Thameslink out of Farringdon.
  • Farringdon to a station on the Hertford Loop Line, would need a second change.
  • Canary Wharf to North London and Hertfordshire would be a single change at Moorgate.

Never underestimate the capacity of Londoners to duck and dive to find their best route.

All of this could lead to a lot of passengers on the trains between Moorgate and Alexandra Palace.

The North London Metro And Thameslink

If you take the Welwyn Garden City branch of the routes out of Moorgate, it could be running four or possibly six tph between Finsbury Park and Welwyn Garden City. On the same route, according to their latest plans Thameslink will also be running six tph.

Even if they don’t run alternatively, there will certainly be plenty of opportunities to choose to go to Moorgate or take the main Thameslink route.

You might even argue that the Hertford Loop Line and the Northern City Line are just branch lines from Thameslink, with cross- or same-platform interchanges.

But however you put it, the two lines are strongly bound together.

Conclusions

Four tph  on both branches with eight tph into Moorgate is certainly possible with the fleet of new trains.

But if the trains can save time at each stop and there are some signalling, voltage-changing and  track improvements, I feel it could be possible to run six tph on each branch with twelve tph into Moorgate.

Those sort of frequencies would transform the  services out of Moorgate.

They would create a frequent link, which would serve at the Southern end

  • Crossrail
  • Northern Line
  • The City of London
  • Canary Wharf

And at the Northern end.

  • Thameslink
  • Victoria Line
  • Piccadilly Line
  • North London
  • Hertfordshire

It would truly be a North London Metro.

Related Posts

A Numerical Analysis Of Great Northern’s Class 717 Trains

Could A Reversing Siding Be Built At Alexandra Palace?

Could Passenger Services Be Run On The Canonbury Curve?

Liverpool Street Crossrail Station Disentangled

September 15, 2016 - Posted by | Travel | , , ,

5 Comments »

  1. […] My thoughts on this line are laid out in A North London Metro. […]

    Pingback by Could Passenger Services Be Run On The Canonbury Curve? « The Anonymous Widower | September 15, 2016 | Reply

  2. […] A North London Metro, I talked about how Northern City Line services out of Moorgate station could be developed into a […]

    Pingback by Could A Reversing Siding Be Built At Alexandra Palace? « The Anonymous Widower | September 16, 2016 | Reply

  3. […] A North London Metro […]

    Pingback by A Numerical Analysis Of Great Northern’s New Class 717 Trains « The Anonymous Widower | September 16, 2016 | Reply

  4. […] A North London Metro […]

    Pingback by Liverpool Street Crossrail Station Disentangled « The Anonymous Widower | September 16, 2016 | Reply

  5. […] This was something I speculated about in A North London Metro. […]

    Pingback by Thw Great Northern Metro « The Anonymous Widower | September 19, 2016 | Reply


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