The Anonymous Widower

Is This The Worst Bottleneck On The UK Rail Network?

This Google Map shows Norwich station and the various rail lines that serve it.

Norwich Station And Approach Lines

Norwich Station And Approach Lines

All the lines come into the station from the East and they split soon after leaving the station, with lines to Cromer, Lowestoft, Sheringham and Yarmouth taking the Northern line, with trains to Ipswich and Cambridge taking the Southern Line.

Between the two lines, lies Crown Point Traction and Rolling Stock Depot, which looks after much of Greater Anglia‘s rolling stock.

This Google Map shows the bridge at the South West corner of the depot, where the rail line to Ipswich and Cambridge, crosses the River Wensum.

Trowse Bridge

Trowse Bridge

Trowse Bridge is no ordinary bridge.

  • It is a single track swing bridge.
  • It was built in the 1980s, probably to a low cost design.
  • It is electrified by overhead conductor rail, rather than overhead wire.
  • It is mandated by an Act of Parliament to open for traffic on the river on demand.
  • It is rather unreliable.

It must be a nightmare for both Greater Anglia and Network Rail.

I wonder if this bridge has had effects on projects that are happening in East Anglia.

The New Depot At Manningtree

A new depot is being built at Manningtree. There are obviously, good reasons for this, but could the access over the Trowse Bridge to Crown Point be a factor.

It would certainly be easier for bi-mode Flirts working Lowestoft-Ipswich and Colchester-Peterborough to be based at Manningtree rather than Crown Point.

Direct Yarmouth To Lowestoft Trains Via A Reinstated Reedham Chord

There used to be a direct Yarmouth to Lowestoft Line, but now it is possible to use the Wherry Lines, with a reverse at Reedham station.

Network Rail are talking about reinstating the Reedham Chord to create a more direct route between East Anglia’s largest North-Eastern towns. This is said about the Reedham Chord in Direct Yarmouth Services in the Wikipedia entry for Lowestoft station.

In January 2015, a Network Rail study proposed the reintroduction of direct services between Lowestoft and Yarmouth by reinstating a spur at Reedham. Services could once again travel between two East Coast towns, with an estimated journey time of 33 minutes, via a reconstructed 34-chain (680 m) north-to-south arm of the former triangular junction at Reedham, which had been removed in c. 1880. The plans also involve relocating Reedham station nearer the junction, an idea which attracted criticism.

Could one of the reasons for looking at the the reinstatement of the Reedham Chord, be that it would allow diagrams for the trains working the branch lines to the East of Norwich and Ipswich to avoid the Trowse Bridge?

The Design Of The London To Norwich Trains

The current rakes of eight Mark 3 coaches hauled by Class 90 locomotives, that run the service between London to Norwich, only have one pantograph.

So does this mean there are operational problems with the train on the Trowse Bridge, as it does seem that the bridge owes a lot to Mr. Heath Robinson.

A modern electric multiple unit of this  length like say the Class 345 trains for Crossrail, often has two pantographs. This should be more reliable, if one should fail.

Would two pantographs allow a long train, such as the twelve-car electric Flirts, that Greater Anglia is leasing, to be able to be connected to either or even both sections of overhead electric wiring on the two sides of the river?

Gaps are common on third-rail electric trains as I  wrote about in Discontinuous Electrification Using IPEMUs 

Suppose, the electrification was removed from the Trowse Bridge!

Would this and other improvements make it possible to make the bridge much simpler and more reliable?

|Electric trains could use the following procedure to cross the bridge.

  • Trains could approach the bridge with the front pantograph lowered., drawing power from the rear one.
  • The train would cross the bridge and when the front pantograph was under the overhead wire on the other side, it would automatically raise and connect, lowering the rear pantograph appropriately.

Bi-mode trains would just use their diesel engines, swapping between modes automatically.

The Replacement Of The Bridge

Eventually, the bridge will have to be replaced, but surely a bridge without electrification would be easier to design and build. It could even be double-track to improve capacity into and out of Norwich.

I suspect that the long-term solution would be a double-track lifting bridge, similar to the Kingsferry Bridge in Kent. This was built in 1960 at a cost of £1.2million, which is £19.3million in today’s money.

When it is completed the Western Gateway Infrastructure Scheme, will incorporate a similar lifting bridge which will carry a road and the Manchester Metrolink over the Manchester Ship Canal.

Both these schemes also incorporate roads, so the Trowse Bridge will be simpler.

I think there could be scope for an engineer or architect to design something special for this crossing.

The Affordable Alternative

It has to be said, that perhaps the most affordable solution would be to build a stylish fixed link, probably with a double-track railway and  foot and cycle bridges.

As to the boat users, all boats that need to go under the bridge regularly would be modified so their masts could be lowered at no cost to their owners.

Other bribes could be given to occassional users.

November 20, 2016 - Posted by | Travel | , , , , ,

4 Comments »

  1. Nah!

    Got to be the Wellyn viaduct.

    Comment by Mark Clayton | November 20, 2016 | Reply

    • That’s bad too, I’ll admit.

      Comment by AnonW | November 20, 2016 | Reply

  2. What makes it worse inb my view was they had a chance when the line was electrified in 1986, to do a proper job here. After all they’d done a very good job at Kingsferry in 1960. But the Treasury did their usual on anything concerned with East Anglia and installed crap.

    The Great Eastern Main Line is one of the worst in the UK. At least it’s getting better, as my ride in forty year old coxches showed yesterday.

    Comment by AnonW | November 20, 2016 | Reply

  3. […] In Is This The Worst Bottleneck On The UK Rail Network?, I proposed the following under An Affordable Alternative. […]

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


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