The Anonymous Widower

An Excursion To Clitheroe

On Saturday morning before the football, I took a train along the Ribble Valley Line to Clitheroe and back to have a look.

On the way back I stopped to have a look at the 48-arch Whalley Viaduct. Whalley is also a village with an ruins of an abbey.

Clitheroe reminded me very much of a Lancashire version of several I know well in Suffolk.

From the new houses, that I saw in the area, I suspect it’s becoming more important as a dormitory town.

The later history of the Ribble Valley Line between Manchester Victoria and Hellifield via Bolton, Blackburn and Clitheroe, is one of closure and reopening.

  • Blackburn to Hellifield was closed to passengers in 1962.
  • The only train, other than freight and diversions, was a once a week train between Manchester and Glasgow, which stopped in 1964.
  • Blackburn to Bolton was reduced to a single-track.
  • Public pressure led to a service between Blackburn and Clitheroe in 1994.
  • Later a Sunday service was started between Blackburn and Hellifield.
  • The line became a community rail line in 2007.

In the last few years, Network Rail have spent millions of pounds on improvements.

  • A five million scheme renewed the permanent way between Blackburn and Clitheroe in 2008.
  • Sections of single track have been doubled.
  • Signalling has been improved.
  • Line speed has been increased.
  • Platforms have been lengthened.
  • The passing loop at Darwen has been lengthened.

Builders certainly seemed to have been at work on the stations between Clitheroe and Whalley.

It All Happens In 2017

All of this should mean that two trains per hour (tph), can run between Manchester Victoria and Clitheroe in December 2017.

Probably by design rather than co-incidence, December 2017 is also given as the opening date of the Ordsall Chord and the completion of the electrification of the Manchester to Preston Line.

A year later, in December 2018 there could be the extra two through platforms into use at Manchester Pioccadilly, which will help alleviate  capacity problems.

I don’t think we’ll see direct services between Clitheroe and London, but an improved Ribble Valley Line connecting with Manchester’s new cross-city line can only be good for passengers.

Things that could or should happen include.

  • Two tph between Manchester Victoria and Clitheroe has virtually been promised.
  • The service will become faster because of track improvement and new trains in a few years. Applying a conservative estimate reduces the end-to-end journey time from seventy-five to somewhere  around fifty minutes.
  • The Manchester Victoria to Clitheroe service could probably run two tph each of four carriages by December 2018. It all depends on rolling stock deliveries.
  • TransPennine services will go through Manchester Victoria and any sensible train planner would arrange a decent link between Clitheroe and TransPennine services.

It will certainly be a big improvement.

Manchester Airport And Clitheroe

One journey that illustrates how the Ordsall Chord will improve services, is getting between Clitheroe and Manchester Airport.

Currently, these are typical timings.

  • Clitheroe to Manchester Victoria – 75 minutes
  • |Cliteroe to Manchester Airport via Bolton – 126 minutes
  • Salford Crescent to Manchester Victoria – 9 minutes
  • Salford Crescent to Manchester Airport – 30 minutes

As Manchester Victoria to Manchester Airport, is effectively via Salford Crescent with the train taking a short cut, it’s probably reasonable to assume that Manchester Victoria to Manchester Airport won’t be more than 39 minutes.

Current services take about twenty minutes from Manchester Piccadilly, but it’s not a proper airport service, which the full route to Victoria could be.

  • It doesn’t use the same platforms every time.
  • The trains are not built for heavy luggage.

The service certainly doesn’t say Manchester is open for business.

Wikipedia says this about services to Manchester Airport after the Ordsall Chord opens.

On completion, it is anticipated that the chord would allow four trains per hour to travel between Manchester Airport/Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria in each direction, with a further eight trains per hour possible from Manchester Victoria towards the west via Chat Moss, and six trains per hour from Manchester Piccadilly towards either Chat Moss or Bolton and Preston.

So this means that even if you just miss the connection at Manchester Victoria, you’d only wait a maximum of fifteen minutes for the next train to the Airport.

As I think we can reasonably assume that there will be a Clitheroe to Manchester Victoria time of around fifty minutes, this means that Clitheroe to the Airport could be about ninety minutes plus how long you wait at Victoria for the Airport train.

But I suspect there could be a better connection for Manchester Airport at Bolton.

If you opt for a route with only one change, then the journey takes a few minutes over two hours, often with a wait of thirty-five minutes, whilst trains are changed at Bolton.

  • A  route with only one change at Bolton, takes a few minutes over two hours, often with a wait of thirty-five minutes at the change.
  • I wouldn’t be surprised to see Clitheroe to Manchester Airport in under ninety minutes via Bolton, with the current trains, after the Ordsall Chord is opened.
  • But hopefully in |December 2017, Bolton to Manchester Airport will be served by 100 mph electric trains.
  • December 2018 could bring the extra two through platforms into use at Manchester Pioccadilly.

Incidentally, various web sites, say it takes an hour to go by car.

One project that will speed up these services is the updating of Bolton station. I showed pictures and made some small assumptions in this post called Bolton Station.

I think it would be possible to have same- or cross-platform interchange between the following services.

  • Clitheroe and Manchester Victoria.
  • Preston and Manchester Piccadilly/Airport
  • Preston and Manchester Victoria
  • Wigan Wallgate and Manchester Piccadilly/Airport

This happens to a certain extent at Bolton already, as the Windsor Link Line  allows trains to go direct from Bolton to Manchester Piccadilly and onto Manchester Airport.

If it could be arranged that the frequency between Bolton and Manchester Airport was 4 tph, then this would mean a maximum wait of fifteen minutes.

Currently, the frequency is a miserly 2 tph, which explains the long waits at Bolton.

Manchester Piccadilly

I suspect that because even with the Ordsall Chord built, that Piccadilly with its completion date a year later could be the main bottleneck.

You could say run twelve-car semi-fast  Class 319 trains from Preston to Manchester Airport,, but if Mancunians are anything like Londoners for ducking and diving, then this could just add to the congestion at Manchester Piccadilly.

It all shows the problems of how the adding of the two extra platforms 13 and 14 in the 1960s was not a project that had any degree of future proofing.

When I see those draded numbers 13 and 14 against my train to or from Manchester Piccadilly, I breathe a sigh and ask myself, why I came this way.

Trains always seem to be late through the platforms and sometimes, I feel the platforms aren’t the safest.

Onward From Clitheroe

I have not taken the line northward from Clitheroe to Hellifield, where it joins to the Leeds to Morecambe Line with its connections to the Settle and Carlisle Line.

At present the historic Settle route is closed after last winter’s storms, but Network Rail is spending £23million to bring it back into top condition.

With the new franchise saying it will run extra trains on this route, I feel that the Settle route will have a busy future.

Blackburn to Carlisle via Settle is certainly a trip I want to take.

You have to ask the following questions about the current services to Clitheroe

  • When two tph are going from Manchester Victoria to Clitheroe, should one tph go on to Hellifield?
  • Given rivalry across the Pennines, do loyal Lancastrains feel that Leeds has no right to services along the Settle route and some should start in the county of the red rose?

From what I saw of the Ribble Valley Line at Blackburn, Whalley and Clitheroe, the track and stations would certainly be up to the increased footfall.

All the line needs is modern trains.

Conclusion

Without doubt, the Ribble Valley Line is ready to take its place in that group of secondary and rural rail lines across the North, that will take be good for the locals and will attract tourists to the area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 16, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

Around Blackburn Station

I stayed in the Premier Inn by Blackburn station and I took these pictures of the area around the station and the nearby Blackburn cathedral.

It is an arrangement, that gives the visitor a good welcome to the town. It has the scent of the unexpected about it.

Note these points about the station and the trains.

  • The station has recently been rebuilt, but the new trains won’t arrive for a couple of years.
  • There are a lot of direct trains across the North from the station to places like Blackpool, Leeds, Manchester, Preston and York, with a couple of rural branch lines in the interesting category.
  • Station staff are not very numerous, when you need them.
  • You’ll have to hunt the ticket machine.
  • There is a Booking Office for buying Ranger and Rover tickets.
  • Some parts of the station are showing poor quality construction.
  • A return ticket up the Clitheroe Line to Clitheroe cost me £2.50 with a Railcard.

I think with the new trains and some more services, things can only get better.

I might even close the Booking Office, put two ticket machines on each main platform group; 1 to 3 and 4, and get the staff more visible.

In the morning, I had a walk around the part of the town centre nearest to the station.

  • There are no maps and just a few finger posts, but it’s not really a place to get lost.
  • I bought my paper in a convenient Morrisons about two hundred metres from the station.
  • I made the mistake going into the large Shopping Centre, but it was designed like a maze and I didn’t find what I was looking for.
  • One gem, I did find later was Cafe Northcote in the Cathedral, where I had an extremely delicious gluten-free egg sandwich.

You could certainly waste an hour or so enjoyably in Blackburn, whilst waiting for a train.

If I compare it to various mid-size towns and cities, where you might miss an hourly train home or get seriously delayed, you get the following.

  • Brighton, Cambridge, Liverpool Lime Street, Oxford and Reading – Acceptable for everybody including gluten-free, as there’s an M&S Simply Food in the station.
  • Colchester, Ipswich and Norwich – Except for hot drinks and sandwiches, there’s nothing. And you’re away from the centre!
  • Derby, Doncaster, Leicester, Nottingham and York – Dreadful, if like me you’re gluten-free.
  • Rochester – You’re just across the road from the centre.
  • Romford and Southend – You’re in the large town centre, with an M&S, pubs and cafes nearby.

In addition to being better than many in my list, in my view, Blackburn is certainly a better place to get stuck than Blackpool, Burnley or Preston.

Blackburn has certainly raised the stakes about creating a welcoming station.

 

October 16, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , | 3 Comments

Northern Rail’s Ticket Machines

This picture sums up Northern Rail’s ticketing machines; lonely, unreliable and crap.

A Niortern Rail Ticket Machine At Manchester Victoria Station

A Niortern Rail Ticket Machine At Manchester Victoria Station

This machine at Manchester Victoria station did work though and after scratching around for a few coins, I was able to get to Blackburn.

A few other comments on my trip to Blackburn on Saturday.

  • On my arrival at Liverpool Lime Street station, the queue for the ticket machine was at least fifteen people. So by the time, I’d bought a ticket, my train had left.
  • At Manchester Victoria station, there were only two machines for a very busy station.
  • At Blackburn station, the machine was hidden in the subway.
  • I never saw a machine at the two small stations; Clitheroe and Whalley.
  • The last two stations have independent platforms, so if you’re travelling from one without a ticket machine, you’ll have to have a long walk first.
  • When I passed through Manchester Piccasdilly on Saturday evening, neither of the Northern Rail ticket machines were fully operational.

The company needs a lot more machines, hopefully with better functionality and reliability. They should also make sure they’re better placed.

Whilst, I’m giving Northern Rail a good kicking, here’s some more annoyances

A couple of stations I visited had a truly dreadful mobile phone signal. I think the law should be that all stations and bus stops should have a top class signal, so that those, who need to text or call their partner, friend or parents can do so.

The two-coach Class 156 train, I rode from Blackburn to Preston was the most overcrowded train I’ve ever ridden. The staff must have known it was so bad as Blackpool had just been beaten at Accrington. So why weren’t we  told by the station staff?

Probably because they were keeping well away!

At least we had a nun on board and she probably prayed for our safe deliverance to Preston.

Surely, Northern could have rustled up another or bigger train from somewhere. A four-car Pacer would have been manna from heaven!

What’s missing from this picture?

Getting My Train To Blackburn

Getting My Train To Blackburn

Although, it was the Peak, there was no prominent staff on the platform to help unload and load this four-car Pacer.

I had to look it up on the Internet, whether our train stopped at Rochdale for a fellow traveller.

Incidentally, Manchester Victoria is starting to look tired and dirty. Is it all the diesel exhaust?

Northern also seem to specialise in bad information on stations. The bus information at Blackburn was abysmal and pointed you to a non-existent bus stop to get to Ewood Park.

I do wonder that Northern are worried if they improve things, then too many passengers might want to use the service and they’d have to buy more trains.

October 16, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 2 Comments

Manchester Oxford Road Station

Manchester Oxford Road Station, is that rare animal, a modern station with a Grade II Listing.

 

Probably, the most significant thing about the listing of Manchester Oxford Road station, is that there are few stations, built in the 1960s, worthy of any merit.

October 16, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , | 1 Comment

c2c’s Class 387/3 Trains On Test At Crewe

I took these pictures of two Class 387  trains destined for c2c at Crrwe, as my train passed through on the way to Liverpool.

They were numbered 387301 and 387302 and their destination boards said they were going to Wembley Central.

Now that would make an interesting route for c2c!

Why Number The Trains As Class 387/3?

Seriously, though, I’m curious why the c2c trains are numbered as Class 387/3 trains, whereas the trains for Great Western Railway are all numbered as Class 387/1 trains.

This is said in Wikipedia about these trains.

In April 2016, c2c announced that it would operate six of the 20 additional units ordered by Porterbrook until a fleet of 68 new carriages are delivered in 2019.

So as they are a short term fleet, that will do the rounds of various operators, who are short of trains, perhaps starting a new group of numbers is good for housekeeping purposes at Bombardier?

On the other hand if c2c and its customers and staff like the new trains and c2c see that an all-Electrostar fleet has advantages for operational reasons, perhaps the extra 68 new carriages will be Class 387/3 trains.

After all, the highest number for a Class 387/1 is 387174, which only allows for another 25 trains in the sequence, before the numbers interfere with the Class 387/2 numbers.

Which all points to sensible housekeeping, as there is nothing on the Internet, to say there is any differences between the Class 387/1 and Class 387/3 trains.

Could The Class 387/3 Trains Have Batteries?

There are several well-publicised reasons for adding batteries to an electric multiple unit.

  • Handling regenerative braking.
  • Depots and stabling sidings without overhead wires.
  • Train recovery in case of overhead power failure.
  • Remote train start-up, ready for the driver.
  • Extending routes over lines without electrification.

Note.

  1. The current Class 357 trains and all Class 387 trains have regenerative braking, so c2c routes can obviously handle it.
  2. c2c’s depot at Barking is crowded, but would they want the expense of building a second depot anyway.
  3. Train recovery could be very valuable, especially if a whole fleet was fitted.
  4. Remote train start-up is available for Aventras and I’ve met a couple of drivers, who would love it!

c2c likes to take a strong green stand as this page on their web site shows.

So the main serious reason we have left is route development.

October 16, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , | 1 Comment