The Anonymous Widower

Thoughts On The Train Strikes

These strikes have all the qualities of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object.

The latest headline on an article on the BBC is Southern rail strike enters second day as Acas talks start.

I doubt the talks will be very productive.

Here are my thoughts about various issues.

London

I have been running around in driver-only-operated (DOO) trains for quite a few decades now. Especially, as I have always travelled frequently on the London Underground.

Wikipedia has a comprehensive section on One Man Operation in London.

This is said about the Underground.

All trains on the London Underground are single-manned.Conversion to one-man operation began in 1984 and was completed in 2000.

In some ways though the Underground, is not full DOO, in that on nearly all stations, there are staff on the station, who assist the driver to safely dispatch the trains.

Assistance From Staff

The staff on the platform are also there to assist passengers, who need help. This page on the Transport for London web site describes the role of staff.

This is said under Assistance To And From Trains.

On the Tube, TfL Rail and Overground, station staff will also accompany you to the train and help you on board and, if needed, can arrange for you to be met at your destination. Anyone can use this service, but it is particularly used by blind and visually impaired passengers and people using boarding ramps onto trains.

If you would like to use this service, ask a member of staff when you arrive at the station.

That is very much turn-up-and-go for everybody!

So what happens on Southern?

This page on the Southern web site gives full details of what they offer.

This is said.

When should I ask for help?

If you want to book ‘help’ try to call us at least one day before you travel.

That is not acceptable.

So there’s one job for the redundant guards on Southern – They could help on the platform, as they do on the London Underground and Overground.

The Gospel Oak To Barking Line

London hasn’t been without trouble though, as this from Wikipedia shows.

TFL now operates 100% of its overground network as driver-only trains. The latest conversion was announced in July 2013 on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line. The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) challenged the move, claiming passenger safety would be compromised. Transport for London replied that at the time the East London Line, already one-man operated, has one door-related incident for every 7 million passengers, while the section of the network which currently uses conductors has one door-related incident for every 4 million passengers.[10] On 16 August 2013, the RMT called a 48-hour strike over the August Bank holiday weekend. According to the RMT, the proposal set forth by Transport for London would imply Driver Only Operations on the whole of the London Overground network and make 130 guards redundant London Overground Rail Operations stated in response that they had given “the RMT assurances on employing conductors in alternative customer service roles and offering a generous voluntary redundancy package to those who want it.” According to RMT, the proposals to implement driver only operations are in response to the 12.5% reduction in Transport for London’s funding announced in Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s Comprehensive Spending Review

I certainly don’t remember that strike. So it must have been really significant!

Overground And Underground

You should always remember that when the Overground started, every train had a second man, but gradually they have been moved to the platforms.

The Overground works a different system to the Underground on doors in that the driver enables the doors for opening and they are actually opened by the passengers individually. On the Underground, the driver just opens and closes all doors.

Crossrail

It will be interesting to see, what system the new Class 345 trains for Crossrail use.

It’s an Overground train in the outer reaches and an Underground train in the centre.

The Class 345 trains also appear to be very hi-tech with various innovative features.

Automatic Train Operation

The Victoria Line in London has always run with automatic train operation (ATO). The Wikipedia entry has two entries about London.

On the London Underground, the Central, Northern, Jubilee, and Victoria lines run with ATO.

ATO was introduced on the London Underground’s Northern line in 2013 and will be introduced on the Circle, District, Hammersmith & City, and Metropolitan lines by 2022. Although ATO will be used on Crossrail and Thameslink, it has not yet been implemented on UK mainline railways

Lines like the Victoria Line, Crossrail and Thameslink, will not be completely automatic, but the driver will be an intelligent monitor to what the train is doing. It could be compared to auto-land on an aircraft, where the plane is actually controlled, by the autopilot and the pilots monitor.

As a Control Engineer, I believe we’ll be seeing large increases in the use of ATO in the UK in the next few years. Many intensively used lines could probably handle more trains, with a controlling ATO system.

Will the Unions object to ATO?

They haven’t seemed to yet, as ATO generally seems to see an increase in the number of trains, which means more staff.

More Automation On Trains

This is happening, but then this is only following the lead of more automation in planes and road vehicles.

Crossrail trains will set a new standard in automation.

This is a snippet from the an article in the Derby Telegraph

Unlike today’s commuter trains, Aventra can shut down fully at night and can be “woken up” by remote control before the driver arrives for the first shift.

I described this to a driver for Northern and a big smile came over his face.

Perhaps more contentious is the autoreverse system fitted to Crossrail trains, that I wrote about and explained fully in Crossrail Trains Will Have Auto-Reverse.

The system will work at a Crossrail terminal like Paddington or Abbey Wood.

  • The driver selects auto-reverse in the terminal platform.
  • The train then drives itself into the reversing siding.
  • The driver starts to walk back through the train towards the other cab.
  • When the train reaches the end of the reversing siding, it reverses back into the return platform.
  • By the time the driver has walked the length of the train and  installed himself in the cab, the train will have arrived in the platform and will be ready to depart.

I suspect that there will be a high-level of safety systems, with the driver probably carrying a dead man’s handle, that connects to the train by radio.

It will be interesting to see how the Unions react to such a system.

  • One of the reasons for the auto-reverse is that it is needed to get 30 trains per hour, through the tunnel.
  • Drivers will avoid a 200 metre walk.
  • No passengers will be on the train, when the driver is out of the cab.

But it will mean more staff being employed, to drive and service the extra trains and handle the extra passengers.

Conclusion

I am drawn to the conclusion, that lots of automation and driver aids are coming to the railways.

DOO is the first of many issues, where there will be a fight.

If the Unions don’t like it, they will reap the wrath of the passengers, train companies and most politicians.

 

December 15, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

Don’t Mention Electrification!

This page on the Transport for London web site,  is the main page for the Barking Riverside Extension.

This is a simple description of the project from the page.

The extension – which includes 1.6km of new track – is one of several transport measures designed to serve the emerging development area at Barking Riverside.

Like many other documents concerning this project, there is no mention of electrification or electric trains on the page.

It’s not just Transport for London documents either.

This article on the Construction Enquirer is entitled £260m Barking Overground Extension Down To Three.

The article talks about three contractors in the short list, but again there is no mention of electrification.

When I read the original specification for the extension, electric trains were mentioned, but there was no mention of electrification.

Consider.

  • All Aventras are wired for on-board electrical storage.
  • The Barking Riverside Extension is only 1.5 km long.
  • The area of the extension has some very large electricity pylons, that the extension has to dodge through.
  • If the line is extended under the Thames, it would be cheaper to build a tunnel for third rail, as it will connect to third-rail lines on the South Bank.
  • There must be substantial savings by not putting up overhead wires.
  • A safer and more reliable railway in extreme weather.

I shall keep digging on this one!

December 15, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , | 3 Comments

Is The Croxley Rail Link To Be Given Lower Priority?

Although, I have covered the Croxley Rail Link or Metropolitan Line Extension, on this blog, including in Looking For The Croxley Rail Link, which I wrote after walking the route in November 2014, it is not a project that will have a great deal of affect on my life.

In the last few days, after the publication of the London Mayor’s transport strategy, two newspaper reports have been published.

  • This article in the Watford Observer entitled Have plans to extend the Metropolitan Line derailed?
  • This article in Rail Technology Magazine entitled DfT refuses to provide extra funding for over-budget Croxley rail link

So is everybody getting more lukewarm about the project?

The Watford Observer article also contains these paragraphs.

Save Watford Met campaign group opposes the plans, which would see Watford underground close.

Speaking on their behalf, Lester Wagman said: “While it would be a shame if the [unconfirmed] inference that the Metropolitan Line Extension to Watford Junction may have been dropped as a business plan priority for TfL, we would not really be surprised if this is not such a priority for London and that its Mayor, Sadiq Khan, may have concluded this from reviewing the somewhat contrived and shaky business case.

So perhaps, there is a problem with finances and the people of Watford are not all in favour.

I think that it is time to take a short time of reflection to look at this project and see, if other developments in the future, can improve rail links to Watford sufficiently.

Maps Of The Croxley Rail Link

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the link.

The Croxley Rail Link

The Croxley Rail Link

I don’t think that they are able to show anything more definitive.

This first Google Map shows the Western End of the Croxley Rail Link.

The Western End Of The Croxley Rail Link

The Western End Of The Croxley Rail Link

Note.

  • Croxley station in the bottom left corner and Watford station in the top right, with the Metropolitan Line between them.
  • In the middle is the A412 with its two roundabouts.
  • The scar of the old railway can be seen above the green space in the bottom right corner.

This second Google Map shows the Eastern End of the Croxley Rail Link.

The Eastern End Of The Croxley Rail Link

The Eastern End Of The Croxley Rail Link

Note.

  • Watford High Street station, where the Croxley Rail Link joins the Watford DC Line is in the top right corner of the map.
  • The line goes in a wide curve South of Vicarage Road Stadium and the large Watford Hospital site.

This Google Map shows the area, where the Croxley Rail Link joins the Watford DC Line.

Croxley Rail Link And The Watford DC Line

Croxley Rail Link And The Watford DC Line

Note.

  • Watford High Street station is at the top right.
  • It looks like the original junction was a full triangular one.
  • The road being built is Thomas Sawyer Way, which is a link to open up the area. It opened on the 16th November 2016, as this article on the Watford Council web site announces.

This map shows the site of the proposed Watford Vicarage Road station.

The Site Of Watford Vicarage Road Station

The Site Of Watford Vicarage Road Station

This description of the station is from Wikipedia.

Watford Vicarage Road is to be a newly constructed station on a re-opened section of the former LNWR Watford and Rickmansworth Railway line which was closed by British Rail in 1996. The station is to be located to the west of Vicarage Road, adjacent to Holywell allotments, with the platforms in the railway cutting below the road

The hospital and stadium are to the North on Vicarage Road.

This Google Map shows the site of the proposed Cassiobridge station.

The Site Of Cassiobridge Station

The Site Of Cassiobridge Station

Note.

  • The Grand Union Canal running down the left hand side of the map, with the route of the old railway across it clearly visible.
  • The station is on the single-carriageway branch of Ascot Road.

Wikipedia says it will be a fairly simple station.

Reasons For The Croxley Rail Link.

The Croxley Rail Link or the Metropolitan line Extension has a page on the Transport for London web site.

This is their summary.

The Metropolitan Line extension will re-route and extend the Metropolitan line to Watford Junction. The aim is for the project (formerly the Croxley Rail Link) to be completed in 2020.
The extension will divert Metropolitan line trains to serve the existing Watford Junction and Watford High Street stations.

Two new stations will be created at Cassiobridge and Watford Vicarage Road. The existing Watford station will close after the new stations open.

TfL list the benefits as follows.

  • Improve access to public transport for local residents
  • Create new links to Watford General Hospital, Croxley Business Park and Cardiff Road Industrial Estate, increasing employment opportunities
  • Provide access for Metropolitan line passengers to West Coast mainline National Rail links from Watford Junction station

The case for the line was obviously good enough to raise the finance for the line, but now it appears that the Department for Transport are having second thoughts.

Perhaps some of the other projects are influencing their decision.

The Bakerloo Line Extension

The Bakerloo Line Extension is mainly about South of the Thames, but if the line is running the proposed 27 trains per hour (tph) , these trains will have to terminate somewhere in the North.

There have been various proposals for the Bakerloo Line to take over the Watford DC Line and trains to terminate at Watford Junction station.

Some trains would probably terminate at Queen’s Park, Stonebridge Park and Harrow and Wealdstone stations, but perhaps eight to ten tph might go all the way, calling at both Watford High Street and Watford Junction stations.

The London Overground

Currently, the London Overground runs three tph to Watford Junction from Euston via the Watford DC Line.

The trains are currently five-car Class 378 trains and in a couple of years, they will be replaced by four-car Class 710 trains.

It is rare that the capacity of a route is ever decreased.

So do Transport for London have a cunning plan?

In Platform Height Issues On The Watford DC Line I suggested that the shorter Class 710 trains, might fit better with the 1972 Stock of the Bakerloo Line, thus allowing the current stations on the line to be converted to very customer-friendly step-free stations.

So working an extended Bakerloo Line to Watford Junction station with an appropriate number of Euston to Watford Junction services on the Watford DC Line could be an easier way of increasing capacity to Watford’s main station, without degrading the service of any other passengers.

Crossrail

It has been suggested that Crossrail with its herds of jumbo Class 345 trains should be extended to the West Coast Main Line. Wikipedia says this.

In August 2014, a statement by the transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin indicated that the government was actively evaluating the extension of Crossrail as far as Tring, with potential Crossrail stops at Wembley Central, Harrow & Wealdstone, Bushey, Watford Junction, Kings Langley, Apsley, Hemel Hempstead and Berkhamsted.

Plans change, but if Crossrail goes up the West Coast Main Line, it would surely stop at Watford Junction station.

If it stopped at the stations listed above, it would have good connections to the Bakerloo Line and London Overground, in addition to all the connections at Old Oak Common.

Southern

With all Southern‘s current troubles, I don’t think that their Milton Keynes to East Croydon service is a priority.

It is also a route that in a few years time will be a route, where there could be better alternatives.

Once Old Oak Common station is a reality, passengers from Milton Keynes to South London, would possibly use this type of route.

  • London Midland to Old Oak Common
  • Crossrail to Farringdon
  • Thameslink to East Croydon, Gatwick Airport, Kent, Surrey, Sussex and Wimbledon.

As an alternative, they could also take the West London Line from Old Oak Common to Clapham Junction for all the connections there.

If Crossrail extends up the West Coast Main Line from a fully-developed Old Oak Common station, the reasons for Southern’s service will diminish.

It might be a good idea to replace this service with more London Overground services between Stratford and Clapham Junction via the North and West London Lines!

After all, London Overground will have several five-car Class 378 trains from the Watford DC Line.

London Midland

London Midland‘s franchise comes to an end soon and what goodies will companies propose to keep it?

I think the only new service we will see from London Midland or its successor, is trains calling at the new hub at Old Oak Common.

Metropolitan Line Upgrade

Transport for London are implementing, what they call the Four Lines Modernisation, on the Circle, District, Hammersmith and City and Metropolitan Lines.

TfL give these benefits.

  • A new fleet of air-conditioned trains, with brighter more spacious interiors, low floors and dedicated spaces for wheelchair users, CCTV and other improved features
  • Space for more customers
  • Faster journeys and reduced waiting times
  • Fewer delays as safe but obsolete equipment – dating back to the 1920s in some places – is replaced with modern, computerised signalling and control systems
  • Better live customer information on platforms and to smart devices

It will all be finished by 2023, when 32 tph could be running in the Peak.

The Croxley Rail Link is not mentioned in connection with this modernisation.

This upgrade must benefit services to and from existing Metropolitan Line stations to the West of Watford, but it does nothing to meet the benefits stated for the Croxley Rail Link.

  • Improve access to public transport for local residents
  • Create new links to Watford General Hospital, Croxley Business Park and Cardiff Road Industrial Estate, increasing employment opportunities
  • Provide access for Metropolitan line passengers to West Coast mainline National Rail links from Watford Junction station.

Two additional benefits could be added.

  • Access to the upgraded Vicarage Road Stadium
  • The possibility of services between Amersham and Watford Junction.

Others could also surface, if say a substantial housing or commercial development is proposed.

Chiltern Railways

Never underestimate Chiltern Railways!

The Croxley Rail Link would connect to their Aylesbury Line, which is going to be extended to Milton Keynes.

Once the link is a reality, I’m sure Chiltern will find a way to make use of the line.

Even a well-thought out two tph shuttle to Amersham could probably provide valuable connectivity.

Chiltern will also have an effect on thinking, in that they have opened a similar railway to the Croxley Rail Link, in their extension to Bicester and Oxford.

The Opening Of HS2

HS2 will have one major effect on Watford, in that it will free up paths on the West Coast Main Line.

These could be used to improve services between Watford Junction and Euston.

Could A Lower-Cost Link Be Built?

I ask this question, specifically because of the report that TfL had said no, because the project is over-budget.

Ideally, the link would be built as a double track line from Watford High Street station, to where it joins the double-track branch to the current Watford station.

I have flown my helicopter over the route and there would appear to be a fair bit of space for a double -track line.

But there might be a couple of problems.

This picture, which I took going South, shows the bridge, where the Croxley Rail Link will join the Watford DC Line.

The A4178 Goes Over The Croxley Rail Link

The A4178 Goes Over The Croxley Rail Link

 

It looks fairly sound, but is it large enough for two tracks? I could see the next bridge and that was a modern structure with a lot more space.

Note too, the evidence of clearing up decades of tree growth.

But look at this Google Map of where the Croxley Rail Link will connect to the branch to Watford station.

Over The A412 At Croxley Green

Over The A412 At Croxley Green

Note the branch to Watford station at the top left of the map and the remains of the old railway in the bottom-right, which can also be seen in the map of Cassiobridge station.

It could be difficult to thread a double-track viaduct through the area.

This visualisation from the Watford Observer shows current thinking.

Croxley Link Viaduct

Croxley Link Viaduct

So would money be saved and perhaps a better design be possible?

  • Could the viaduct be built with only a single-track between its junction with the branch to Watford station and the proposed Cassiobridge station? The route could revert to double track just to the East of Cassiobridge station.
  • A single-track design of Cassiobridge station could also save money, but it would probably rule out too many future options.

As most of the route will be double-track, I doubt that a few hundred metres of single-track would have much impact on the operation of the link. It’s not as if, the Croxley Rail Link will be handling 24 tph.

I suspect that engineers and architects are working hard both to cut costs and make the link better.

A Watford Junction To Amersham Service

I think that if there is a good service between Watford Junction and Amersham, this might  offer an alternative solution.

It would connect to London trains as follows.

  • Watford Junction – Bakerloo, London Midland, Southewrn, Watford DC and possible West Coast Main Line services.
  • Watford High Street – Cross-platform connection to Watford DC services.
  • Croxley – Same platform connection to Metropolitan services to the existing Watford station.
  • Rickmanswoth – Chiltern for both London and all stations to Milton Keynes.

I believe that a train like London Overground’s new Class 710 train, which will be running on the Watford DC Line might be able to run the service without any new electrification, it it were to use onboard energy storage between say Watford High Street and Croxley stations.

Conclusion

I believe that Watford will get a better train service, whether the Croxley Rail Link is built or not.

Politics will decide the priority of the Croxley Rail Link, with the left-leaning South Londoner Sadiq Khan on one side and right-leaning Bucks-raised Chris Grayling on the other. In some ways, Watford is a piggy-in-the-middle.

My feeling is that on a Londonwide  basis, that the Bakerloo Line Extension to Watford, solves or enables the solution of a lot of wider problems and the Croxley Rail Link is much more a local solution.

I think it could turn out to be.

  • A mainly double-track route from Watford Junction to Amersham, but with portions of single track.
  • No new electrification.
  • Stations at Watford High Street, Watford Vicarage Road, Cassiobridge, Croxley and then all stations to Amersham.
  • Four Class 710 trains per hour (tph), running on existing electrification and batteries between Watford Junction and Amersham.
  • A redeveloped Watford station keeps its four tph to London.

It might even be simpler.

 

 

December 15, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 6 Comments