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 | Travel | , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Regarding getting from other parts of Manchester to the airport, a great many people drive close to the airport, and use one of the packages available of one night’s accommodation in local hotel, often at a very cheap rate, car left free of charge in hotel park whilst they are away, and free transfers between hotel and airport on outward and return journeys. The hotel in which my gym is situated is literally 10 or so minutes from the airport, and it is very popular. If there are several of you, say a family or 4 or 5, this is much cheaper than rail fare for 5 people.

    Comment by nosnikrapzil | October 18, 2016 | Reply


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