The Anonymous Widower

Is There Anywhere A Class 319 Flex Train Can’t Go?

I have just seen an early copy of Porterbrook’s brochure for their new Class 319 Flex train.

This is an extract.

Porterbrook determined that the most arduous route would be Manchester Piccadilly to Buxton, which has a steep gradient and multiple stops along its 25 mile route 9(8 miles of which is electrified). This anlysis was included to give confidence that the Class 319 Flex would be comparable to existing Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) technology across a range of different routes, stopping patterns and gradients.

So I took a quick look at the Buxton Line on Wikipedia.

This is said.

Due to steep gradients on this line, Class 142 and Class 153 DMUs are banned from the section of line between Hazel Grove and Buxton. Therefore, services to Buxton are worked by Class 150 and Class 156 DMUs. Also Class 158 DMUs were once blocked from operating on the line to Buxton due to the possibility of the large roof-mounted air vents striking low bridges on the route.

Note the two extracts both say “to Buxton”, as obviously, the trains can use the free power boost of gravity on the way down.

To back this up, trains are currently timed to take 37 minutes to climb from Hazel Grove station to Buxton and 33 minutes for the gravity-assisted return.

A driver once told me, that the brakes on a Class 319 train are up there with the best. So there’s little chance of runaway train syndrome.

Train Services To And From Buxton And Hazel Grove

Under Services in the Wikipedia entry for Buxton, this is said.

There is generally an hourly service daily (including Sundays) between Buxton and Manchester Piccadilly, taking about one hour. The service frequency is enhanced to about half-hourly in the morning and evening peaks. A limited number of trains (currently seven on weekdays in total) work through beyond Manchester, with one train each of to/from Blackpool North, Clitheroe, Barrow-in-Furness, Wigan North Western, Wigan Wallgate, Preston and Bolton.

Note.

  • Of these destinations, several are not likely to be electrified in the near future, but could be reached by a Class 319 Flex.
  • Some would also allow the trains to stretch their legs under the wires of the West Coast Main Line or the Manchester to Preston Line.
  • As the Buxton Line is double-tracked would a more powerful train enable more frequent trains?
  • Buxton station may have had improvements to ease turning trains.
  • At present, Northern don’t seem to run any trains further than between Manchester Piccadilly and Buxton stations, but with the opening of the Ordsall Chord at the end of 2017, running trains past Piccadilly could ease the load on one of Manchester’s main stations.
  • Despite Manchester Piccadilly to Hazel Grove being electrified, at present, no electric trains serve the route.
  • ,Clitheroe station  is probably the most interesting destination, as like the Buxton Line, the Ribble Valley Line  needs trains with some qualities common in mountain goats.

It looks like Buxton is going to get a much improved train service.

It should also be noted, that once the Manchester to Preston line is electrified, all services from Hazel Grove to Manchester and Preston could be run by Class 319 trains, whether they are the Electric or Flex variant.

Can and will the service between Manchester and Hazel Grove via Stockport be a Turn-Up-And-Go four tph electric service from the December 2017 Timetable change?

Range On A Full Tank Of Diesel

Or that might be two tanks, as is there one in each driver car for each engine?

The brochure says.

The Class 319 Flex unit would have the capacity to make five return trips per day for two days before refuelling is required.

That surely is more than adequate.

Could The Buxton Line Be Electrified?

It would be assumed that the Germans, French or Italians would electrify a line like the Buxton Line.

But this is not always the case and I’ve used lines in Germany to reach towns the size of Buxton and the lines are not all electrified.

Electric trains on an electrified line have the advantage of bags of grunt and would handle the route with ease.

But it would cost and it wouldn’t be the easiest of engineering projects. I suspect too, that there would be objections to gantries marching sall over the Peak District

I think with modern technology there might be a better and more affordable way.

The Class 319 Flex is just a first solution.

Comparison With The New Class 195 Trains

I suspect it is unlikely that the new Class 195 trains ordered by Northern will be unable to reach Buxton, but they won’t be in service for a few years.

Comparing the two train types, it would appear.

  • Installed power is about the same.
  • But what about the weight?
  • The Class 319 Flex has 12 First Class seats and 255 Standard Class seats in the brochure, as against 204 seats in a three-car Class 195 train.
  • The Class 319 Flex is a bi-mode that can use electric power, between Manchester and Hazel Grove.

It will be an fascinating comparison: A thirty-year-old British Rail-built train with a bi-mode upgrade against a new Spanish-built diesel multiple unit.

Along The Hope Valley Line To Sheffield

The Hope Valley Line between Manchester and Sheffield has two electrified links at the Manchester end to Piccadilly.

  • Via Hazel Grove and Stockport, where electrification reaches to Hazel Grove
  • Via Guide Bridge, where electrification reaches almost to Hyde North, to serve the electrified Glossop Line.

Theis important route between Manchester and Sheffield has been marked down for new Class 195 trains, but I suspect that the distance is within range of a Class 319 Flex.

The Manchester end of this route could be a fertile area for using Class 319 Flex trains. As a simple example, they could be used to bridge the gap between the electrification on the Glossop Line and Rose Hill Marple station.

Conclusion

Manchester Piccadilly and Buxton may be a tough route, but if a train can can climb to Buxton crush loaded with passengers, there are a lot of benefits to the operator.

  • Electric trains between Manchester Piccadilly and Hazel Grove.
  • Releasing of platform space in Piccadilly when the Ordsall Chord opens.
  • Back-to back services between Buxton and Blackpool, Barrow, Clitheroe and Wigan. I suspect there’s a lot more.
  • A possible two trains per hour to Buxton.
  • Two electric trains per hour to Rose Hill Marple.

And that’s just for starters!

 

March 3, 2017 - Posted by | Travel | , , , , , ,

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