The Anonymous Widower

Why Not Buxton To Hellifield?

Hellifield station, which connects to the Settle and Carlisle Line, is the Northernmost station on the Ribble Valley Line from Manchester and Blackburn.

I’ve not been there, as you need to get there from Blackburn on a Sunday, but surely, as a conductor told me, Northern Rail should provide a service seven days a week.

The Track To Hellifield

This is an extract from an e-mail from Ribble Valley Rail.

The line north of Clitheroe to Hellifield is entirely double track (in use) with a double track junction on to the S&C line at Hellifield South Junction at the south end of the station.  Approximately 19 sets of points and a large amount of trackwork were renewed at Hellifield a few years ago.

They also said, that there is one small addition, they would make at Hellifield, but if services to Hellifield get a lot more numerous, I’m sure Network Rail would do what is necessary.

As the line is double-track from Blackburn to Hellifield, this would mean that running more trains on the line is determined by the number of passengers and the revenue and profit generated, rather than some quirky passing loop by a level crossing or some of British Rail’s pitiful attempts to save money.

Blackburn to Hellifield is a real railway.

Platform Lengths

The e-mail from Ribble Valley Rail, also said this about platform lengths.

All Ribble Valley intermediate stations were lengthened a few years ago and can now accommodate 4-car class 150s which now operate quite regularly, especially on Sundays.    4-car class 156 do overhang and involve locking some doors out-of-use until Blackburn or Clitheroe.

So how long is a four-car formation of the various trains?

I included the Class 172, as it’s a typical modern diesel multiple unit.

So Porterbrook’s new train has an advantage in that British Rail made the Bedpan Specials, a little bit shorter, to save steel and other materials.

I’ve just received another e-mail where this is said.

Despite the lengthening of the Ribble Valley line intermediate stations, because of various constraints with adjacent bridges they have finished up different lengths.  The shortest is the Down platform at Ramsgreave & Wilpshire which I am told is79 m.  However a 4-car class 150  does fit on with careful stopping, all doors on the platform and only a slight overhang of the train at each end.

Look at this picture of a Class 319 train.

The end passenger doors would appear to be several metres back, so the train fits a platform, that is a few metres shorter than the train. Was this British Rail’s solution to the non-invention of selective door opening?

Health and safety might want a little fence on the platform, but it looks like the Class 319 trains were designed so that British Rail could get away without lengthening platforms on Thameslink.

Current Timings On The Route

These are timings of the various sections of the whole route from Buxton to Hellifield.

  • Buxton to Hazel Grove (up) – 37 minutes
  • Hazel Grove to Buxton (down) – 33 minutes
  • Hazel Grove to Stockport – 9 minutes
  • Stockport to Bolton – 48 minutes
  • Stockport to Manchester Piccadilly – 22 minutes for a Hazel Grove to Blackpool North train via Bolton
  • Stockport to Manchester Piccadilly (fastest) – 9 minutes
  • Bolton to Manchester Piccadilly (fastest) – 22 minutes
  • Bolton to Blackburn (up) – 29 minutes
  • Blackburn to Bolton (down) – 26 minutes.
  • Blackburn to Clitheroe (up) – 26 minutes
  • Clitheroe to Blackburn (down) – 23 minutes
  • Clitheroe to Hellifield (up) – 25 minutes
  • Hellifield to Clitheroe (down) – 11 minutes

Note the differences between up and down times.

Based on these timings, I reckon that these timings are possible now with a Class 150 or Class 156 train.

  • Buxton to Blackburn – 102 minutes
  • Blackburn to Buxton – 103 minutes
  • Buxton to Clitheroe – 128 minutes
  • Clitheroe to Buxton – 126 minutes
  • Buxton to Hellifield – 153 minutes
  • Hellifield to Buxton – 137 minutes

This would give round trip times something like these.

  • Buxton to Hellifield – 290 minutes
  • Buxton to Clitheroe – 254 minutes
  • Buxton to Blackburn – 205 minutes

Obviously, the two turnround times would have to be added.

But various factors would reduce the times, if a Class 319 Flex were to be used from December 2017.

  • The route will be fully electrified between Bolton and Hazel Grove stations.
  • Two trains per hour will be possible between Bolton and Blackburn from December 2017.
  • The Class 319 Flex is a 100 mph train.
  • As the Class 319 Flex has been optimised to climb the hills, it must be faster on the uphill sections.
  • Drivers have told me, that the Class 319 train has excellent brakes, so they may be faster coming down.

The Bolton to Hazel Grove route is currently timetabled at 48 minutes. But surely a 100 mph electric train can knock quite a few minutes off that, when the route is fully electrified.

If this section could be done in thirty minutes, which I suspect is possible, this brings the round trip times down as follows.

  • Buxton to Hellifield – 254 minutes
  • Buxton to Clitheroe – 218 minutes
  • Buxton to Blackburn – 169 minutes

In some ways the interesting one is the round trip from Buxton to Clitheroe, which allowing ten minutes for each turnround at Clitheroe and Buxton means that the round trip is under four hours.

This means that an hourly Buxton to Clitheroe service would need four trains and two trains per hour would need eight trains.

The Blackburn Service From December 11th 2017

On this day Northern  introduced two trains per hour between Manchester Victoria and Blackburn along the Ribble Valley Line, with one train per hour exytending to Clitheroe.

If the service went to Buxton instead of Manchester Victoria, I think this service would require seven trains. If the Clitheroe service was extended to Hellifield, that would need another two trains.


I wonder when the real timings are obtained using Class 319 Flex trains, what cunning plan Northern Rail will come up with, to satisfy their passengers, staff and profits.

Marketing says that running between Hellifield and Buxton on a 24/7 basis, even at one train every two hours could be a very popular route.

March 14, 2017 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , ,


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