The Anonymous Widower

Crossrail 2 ‘Cannot Go Ahead’ Without Four-Tracking Of West Anglia Line

This is the title of an article in Rail Technology Magazine.

This is the first paragraph.

MPs for constituencies along the West Anglia line called for the route to be four-tracked in order to accommodate new rolling stock and Crossrail 2 at a Westminster Hall debate yesterday.

I know the West Anglia Main Line very well, as for perhaps fifteen years, I used to travel on it, regularly to get between Cambridge and London.

The Problems Of The West Anglia Main Line

Summarising its shortcomings, I would include.

  1. Trains are too slow.
  2. Capacity on the line is too small.
  3. There are lots of level crossings, which cause problems.
  4. With the development of the port at London Gateway, there could be pressure to put more freight trains on this line, to go to and from the North.
  5. Services from London, should be better integrated with Peterborough and Norwich services.
  6. Ipswich and Bury St. Edmunds to Stansted Airport, is not easy by train.

This Infrastructure section in Wikipedia describes the West Anglia Main Line.

The line was initially 5 ft (1,524 mm) gauge, but between 5 September and 7 October 1844 it was converted to 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge.

In 2013 the line was double track for most of its length, with small sections of single track on the Stansted branch and at Ware and quadruple track between Hackney Downs and Liverpool Street. The line is electrified at 25 kV AC and has a loading gauge of W8 except for the Stansted branch, which is W6.

The line is very much inferior to the Great Eastern Main Line.

The New Greater Anglia Franchise

The new Greater Anglia Franchise, will go a long way to sorting points 5 and 6, by introducing hourly services on the following routes.

  • Norwich to Stansred Airport via Ely, Cambridge North and Cambridge stations.
  • Colchester to Peterborough via Ipswich, Bury St. Edmunds, and Ely.

With improved services from London to Stansted, this will help sort out a lot of the problems on the line.

But these changes will only put more pressure on capacity on the West Anglia Main Line.

Freight

The West Anglia Main Line doesn’t carry large numbers of freight trains, but there could be pressure to increase freight on the line in the future.

Once the Gospel Oak to Barking Line is electrified, there will be another electrified route from London Gateway to Peteborough.

It might be decided to reinstate the rail line from March to Spalding and the Great Northern Great Eastern Joint Line, to take freight away from the East Coast Main Line.

If thiese routes get to be used for freight, it will put extra pressure for more capacity on the West Anglia Main Line.

More Capacity On The West Anglia Main Line

With demand for more capacity on the West Anglia Main Line, I think it is inevitable that the line will be improved.

This Future Developments section in Wikipedia, outlines what might happen.

If Stansted Airport’s expansion is authorised it is planned that the line will see many further changes. Long term proposals include four-tracking between Coppermill Junction and Broxbourne junction; an additional tunnel and platform edge on the Stansted Airport branch; one additional train per hour serving Stansted and up to six further trains per hour at peak times, including four into Stratford as a terminus. More stations, such as Broxbourne, will also have platform extensions to accommodate 12-car trains.

It seems likely that two tracks will be built alongside the line to Cheshunt as part of Crossrail 2. Intermediate stations from Tottenham Hale will transfer to Crossrail 2 releasing capacity on the main line for additional trains

Stansted Airport have certainly been a forceful advocate of four-tracking the West Anglia  Main Line.

Four-tracking of the twelve or so miles between Coppermill and Broxbourne Junctions would allow the following.

  • The possibility of at least 100 mph running on the fast lines.
  • Separation of slow and fast services.
  • Stansted and Cambridge Express services, that would be worthy of the name.
  • The possibility of more freight trains.

 

Four-tracking would certainly do the following.

  • Get the line ready to connect to Crossrail 2.
  • Probably make all stations between Tottenham Hale and Broxbourne step-free.
  • Add the station at Meridian Water to the line.
  • Improve the freight gauge from W8 to W10, where needed.

I suspect that four-tracking will also remove some of the notorious level crossings on the line.

I have this feeling that the four-tracking of this line could be one of those projects, where the existing infrastructure works normally, whilst the new tracks are built alongside.

Fast Services To Stansted, Cambridge And Norwich

South of Broxbourne station, fast services to and from Cambridge, only stop at Cheshunt and Tottenham Hale.

Given that the Flirts, that will be running Cambridge and Stansted services in a few years will be 125 mph trains, would it be worth it to save a few minutes building the new fast lines to allow running at this speed?

But should the four-track section of railway stop at Broxbourne Junction?

Between Broxbourne and Bishops Strtford, the West Anglia Main Line, has wide margins and I think that there are possibilities of extending the four-track section further North, perhaps even to Bishops Stortford station.

As an example, this Google Map shows Roydon station.

Roydon Station

Roydon Station

The biggest problem at Roydon is the level crossing, but on a quick look, it would appear that four-tracking would be possible.

From my memories of driving past and going through Bishops Stortford station, I thought this station would be a major problem to four-tracking.

But look at this Google Map of the station.

Bishops Stortford Station

Bishops Stortford Station

It would appear that space is not the premium I expected.

I think it would be possible to expand the station, to take advantage of two slow and two fast lines South of the station.

Surely, the fast lines, even if a good proportion of trains stopped at the station could accommodate twelve or more trains per hour (tph) to Stansted Airport, Cambridge and the North.

North of Bishops Stortford, all of the trains would be modern trains with the following characteristics.

  • The ability to cruise at 100 mph or more.
  • The ability to stop and start extremely fast.

So I suspect, that if the current infrastructure was improved, consistent 100 mph running would be possible to Cambridge.

Cambridge could be a problem with all the work going on.

  • The expansion of the existing Cambridge station
  • The building of the new Cambridge North station
  • The reorganisation of services to cope with the new Greater Anglia franchise.
  • The arrival of the East West Rail Link in the mid-2020s.

But I suspect Network Rail and Greater Anglia are working together on the solutions, to raise speeds all the way to Ely.

North of Ely, the Breckland Line has a lower speed limit of 75-90 mph, but if it were to be upgraded for 100 mph running, this would mean that the new Norwich to Stansted service via Cambridge using bi-mode Flirt trains, would be considerably faster, than the ten minutes short of two hours now possible with a change at Cambridge.

One thing, that I suspect will happen is that the following services will arrive and leave in a convenient pattern at Cambridge.

  • Cambridge to/from Ipswich
  • Stansted Airport to/from Norwich
  • Cambridge to/from Kings Lynn
  • Kings Cross to/from Cambridge
  • Liverpool Street to/from Cambridge
  • Peterborough to/from Cambridge
  • Thameslink to/from Cambridge

Cambridge will become an increasingly busy interchange.

As an example, I think we could see a Norwich to Kings Cross time of under two hours, with a change at Cambridge. Perhaps not ninety minutes, but with an upgraded Breckland Line running 100 mph plus bi-mode Flirts, it wouldn’t be far off.

Coppermill Junction

Four-tracking is proposed to start at Coppermill Junction, just South of Tottenham Hale station.

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows Coppermill Junction.

Coppermill Junction

Coppermill Junction

Note.

  • The tunnels for Crossrail 2 will emerge to the North-West of this junction.
  • Rail access to the Crossrail 2 worksite would be a necessity.
  • I talked about plans to reinstate the Coppermill and Hall Farm Curves in Rumours Of Curves In Walthamstow.
  • The only inhabitants of the area are probably foxes, great crested newts and other sundry wildlife.

Surely, the creation of an upgraded track layout at Coppermill Junction, that allows Crossrail 2 to be built without disrupting services on the West Anglia Main Line and the Chingford Branch is important.

The reinstated Hall Farm Curve would also allow Chingford Branch services to run to Stratford for Crossrail and alternative Underground services.

The work to this junction, further emphasises that four-tracking of the West Anglia Main Line must be done before Crossrail 2 is built.

Crossrail 2

Politics, public relations and good project management all probably say, that when Crossrail 2 gets the go-ahead, four-tracking of the West Anglia Main Line, should be done first.

In a related and parallel project, the branch lines in South West London, should also be upgraded as early as possible to bring visible benefits.

  • Longer platforms at stations where needed.
  • Step-free access at all stations.
  • Sorting of level crossings and bottle-necks.

These improvements are needed, even if Crossrail 2 is not built.

If I have a criticism of the current Crossrail and Thameslink projects, it is that they are big-bang projects, where nothing appears to have happened except disruption for years and then it will all come together in a great splurge in 2018-2019.

With Crossrail 2, there is possibly a chance to build the line, so that the benefits come in a steady stream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 19, 2016 - Posted by | Travel | , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] I wrote about this in Crossrail 2 ‘Cannot Go Ahead’ Without Four-Tracking Of West Anglia Line. […]

    Pingback by Greater Anglia’s Ten Point Wish List « The Anonymous Widower | February 9, 2017 | Reply


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