The Anonymous Widower

Interchange At Burscough

Burscough in Lancashire is a large village, where the Manchester to Southport Line and the Ormskirk Branch Line cross.

This Google Map shows the two stations; Burscough Bridge on the line to Manchester and Burscough Junction on the line through Ormskirk.

The maps show shadows of railway embankments, which are the remains of the Burscough Curves, that once connected Ormkirk station in the South and Preston station in the North to Southport in the West.

In Extra Services To Southport On Merseyrail’s Northern Line, my calculations brought me to the following conclusions.

Combining Merseyrail’s Northern Line services to Southport and Ormskirk in a loop via a reinstated South Burscough Curve, means the following.

  • Southport gets eight trains per hour (tph) to and from Liverpool – 4 tph via Formby and 4 tph via Ormskirk.
  • Ormskirk gets four tph to and from Liverpool.
  • All stations on the Northern Line get four direct or single-change tph from Hunts Cross, Southport and Liverpool Central stations.
  • Ormskirk to Southport and all intermediate stations get 4 tph in both directions.
  • The service can be run by less trains than needed for independent operation from Liverpool to Southport and Otmskirk.

Southport to Ormskirk needs third-rail electrification.

There were a some subsidiary conclusions.

  • Ormskirk station can be based on a single platform with a passing loop, which could allow Liverpool-Preston services.
  • Ormskirk station could still run the current Ormskirk to Preston service.
  • The third-rail electrification between Southport and Burscough Bridge stations could be used by Class 319 Flex train,.working services between Southport and Manchester.
  • Southport could become an all electric station.

I suspect that others could do much better.

So it does show that British Rail dropped everyone deep in the doo-dah, by closing the South Burscough Curve to passenger trains in 1962.

Walking Between Burscough Bridge And Burscough Junction Stations

This set of pictures shows how I walked between to Burscough Junction station from Burscough Bridge station after arriving from Southport.

I did the walk in time, but with one tph between Ormskirk and Preston, I wonder how many people try it and then wait for nearly an hour to catch a train.

Pictures Of The Burscough Curves

From the train, I took these pictures of the Burscough Curves.

At least the bridges appear to be there.

Electrification Of The Burscough Curves

There are three bridges in the tangle of lines around Burscough, that could have electrified lines go underneath.

  1. The bridge at Burscough Bridge station.
  2. The bridge at Burscough Junction station.
  3. The bridge where the two rail lines cross.

Looking at the pictures of bridges 1 and 2, I think that they would have to be rebuilt for 25 KVAC overhead electrification, but only at great inconvenience to the local community.

I also suspect that bridge 3 is rather old but in good condition. Is it low as well?

Third-rail electrification around the South Burscough Curve to allow Southport to Ormskirk services, would be fine, if Health and Safety would allow it as an extension to Merseyrail’s Northern Line.

The Class 319 Flex Train

I must give a brief list of the characteristics of the Class 319 Flex train.

  • Four cars
  • Full dual-voltage electrical system, enabling running on 750 VDC third-rail or 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • On-board rail-proven diesel engines for lines without electrification.
  • The Class 319 Flex is a 100 mph train using electrification.
  • The Class 319 Flex is a 90 mph train using diesel.
  • It is probably reasonable that at each stop, they save at least a minute compared to a Pacer or a Class 150 train.
  • They can deputise for electric Class 319 trains on electrified lines.

They are compatible with the West Coast Main Line and Merseyrail’s third-rail network.

Electrification Of Southport To Manchester

If Burscough Bridge to Southport were to be electrified using third-rail for Merseyrail, then it would probably be sensible to use it for the trains on the Manchester to Southport service, on the section of line they would share.

Currently trains take the following times.

  • Southport to Burscough Bridge – 12 minutes.
  • Burscough Bridge to Wigan Wallgate – 16 minutes.
  • Wigan Wallgate to Bolton – 17 minutes
  • Wigan Wallgate to Salford Crescent via Atherton – 34 minutes

By the end of this year, Bolton should be electrified to Manchester Piccadilly, Victoria and Airport stations.

Dual voltage Class 319 trains could probably work from Manchester to Southport with a voltage changeover at Burscough Bridge, if overhead electrification went that far.

But that is unlikely to happen in the near future.

Southport To Manchester By Class 319 Flex

But as Northern will have Class 319 Flex trains with a dual-voltage capability and on-board diesel engines to bridge any electrification gaps, we could be seeing Southport to Manchester services running as follows.

  • Southport to Burscough Bridge – 750 VDC third rail.
  • Burscough Bridge to Bolton or Salford Crescent – diesel.
  • Bolton or Salford Crescent to Manchester – 25 KVAC overhead.

Hopefully, extra electrification in the  future, will shorten the diesel leg.

Southport To Wigan Wallgate By Class 319 Flex

Before looking at times for the full journeys from Southport, I will look at the possible times that can be achieved by a Class 319 Flex train between Southport and Wigan Wallgate.

For this estimate, I will use or assume the following.

  • Current timings betweens Southport to Wigan Wallgate are probably timed for a 75 mph Pacer.
  • Fast services, which go to Manchester Airport,  take 28 minutes and stop five times
  • Slow services, which go to Manchester Victoria, take 36 minutes and stop eight times
  • There is no electrification .
  • The service will be run on diesel power.
  • There are no other services between Southport and Wigan Wallgate.

I have taken a detailed look at the line on a map and it is a fairly straight double track railway with a couple of level crossings.

It is reasonable to assume that the Class 319 Flex train with its faster stops could save five and eight minutes for fast and slow services respectively.

This compares with five and six minutes if you adjust times by the speed of the trains.

So it would be reasonable to assume that a fast service between Southport and Wigan Wallgate will take perhaps between 22-23 minutes, with a slow service taking 28-29 minutes.

If Southport to Burscough Bridge were to be electrified for Merseyrail Northern Line services, I think it is reasonable to assume that these figures could be reduced by a couple of minutes.

Add in a few selective improvements and the removal of the level crossings and I would expect that Class 319 Flex trains could achieve the following times between Southport and Wigan Wallgate.

  • A fast service with five stops in twenty minutes, which is a reduction of eight minutes.
  • A slow service with eight stops in twenty-five minutes, which is a reduction of eleven minutes.

Would Northern be tempted to run four tph on the route?

Kirkby To Wigan Wallgate By Class 319 Flex

Can the same logic, that I have applied to the Southport to Wigan Wallgate route be applied to Kirkby to Wigan Wallgate?

For this estimate, I will use or assume the following.

  • Current timings betweens Kirkby to Wigan Wallgate are probably timed for a 75 mph Pacer.
  • Services take 24 minutes and stop four times
  • There is only one tph, which after Wigan Wallgate goes on to Manchester Victoria.
  • There is no electrification .
  • The service will be run on diesel power.
  • There are no other services between Kirkby and Wigan Wallgate.

I have taken a detailed look at the line on a map and it is a fairly straight railway with a mixture of single and double track, a longish tunnel and some stone overbridges. It could be difficult to electrify.

It is reasonable to assume that the Class 319 Flex train with its faster stops could save four minutes on the jorney.

This is the same, if you adjust times by the speed of the trains.

A time of twenty minutes between Kirkby and Wigan Wallgate, should be easy to attain.

Southport To Manchester Airport By Class 319 Flex

For this estimate, I will use or assume the following.

  • On current timings Southport to Manchester Airport takes 88 minutes, which is probably timed for a 75 mph Pacer.
  • Manchester to Preston electrification via Bolton is completed.
  • The service goes via Bolton
  • Southport to Bolton will be run on diesel.
  • Bolton to Manchester Airport will use the wires.
  • Southport to Wigan Wallgate can be done in twenty minutes.

From Wigan Wallgate  to Bolton, consider the following factors.

  • There will only be a maximum of two scheduled passenger trains between Southport and Bolton on any part of the route, if you include Kirkby services.
  • There is just two stops.
  • The current time is 17 minutes.

Dropping the time in proportion to the train speed gives about 14 minutes

But the biggest savings will come out of the 43 minutes from Bolton to Manchester Airport, which will be electrified.

Unfortunately, I can’t find any reliable estimate of the electrified timing between Bolton and Manchester Airport.

An estimate based on train speed, says that a Class 319 running using electricity could do the journey in 36 minutes.

Adding up the various legs gives 20+14+36=70

So we could be looking at a saving of a eighteen minutes or so from Southport to Manchester Airport.

Currently, the service takes 88 minutes, which means an out-and-back service is probably twenty minutes or more over three hours.

But knock a eighteen minutes off each leg and the out-and-back time could be well under three hours.

An hourly service between Southport and Manchester Airport could probably be achieved with just three trains in a time dropping around seventy minutes.

Northern would love that!

Southport To Manchester Victoria By Class 319 Flex

For this estimate, I will use or assume the following.

  • On current timings Southport to Manchester Victoria takes 79 minutes, which is probably timed for a 75 mph Pacer.
  • The service goes via Atherton
  • Wigan Wallgate to Manchester Victoria takes 41 minutes with 8 stops.
  • Southport to Salford Crescent will be run on diesel.
  • Salford Crescent to Manchester Victoria will use the wires.
  • Southport to Wigan Wallgate can be done in twenty minutes, which means that 61 minutes is possible for Southport to Manchester Victoria

There isn’t the scope for saving time because of electrification, as the wired area is short,

But consider.

  • The Class 319 train was designed as a 100 mph commuter special, so it must be able to save at least a minute at most of the stops, by good driving making use of the train’s excellent brakes and acceleration.
  • Southport to Salford Crescent via Atherton only carries two tph, if you include the Kirkby services.

Two estimates can be generated.

  • Saving a minute a stop gives a time of 53 minutes.
  • Applying a rough calculation based on the increased performance of the Class 319 Flex train gives a time of 54 minutes.

If I were the boss of Northern, I’d be dreaming of a journey time of sixty minutes between Southport and Manchester Victoria.

It’s not impossible, providing that the Class 319 Flex trains can cut the time on the Southport end of the line.

Why Not Electrify Both Routes To Wigan Wallgate From Manchester?

There are two routes between Manchester and Wigan Wallgate station.

  • The soon to be partially-electrified route via Bolton.
  • The Atherton Line from Salford Crescent.

If these routes were to be electrified, it would mean that all Southport and Kirkby services to and from Manchester would be electrified South of Wigan Wallgate.

This would mean various service improvements.

  • All Southport and Kirkby services would be run by four-car Class 319 Flex trains.
  • Southport to Manchester Airport would be under seventy minutes.
  • Southport to Manchester Piccadilly would be under sixty minutes.
  • Southport to Manchester Victoria could be around fifty minutes.
  • Kirkby to Manchester Victoria could also be around fifty minutes.
  • Extra services could probably be run to intermediate stations, to give a highly-desirable four tph.

I don’t known how much freight and other traffic there is on these routes, but as they are both electrified at their Manchester ends, I don’t think that electrification would be that difficult.

Electrification from Manchester to Wigan Wallgate and using Class 319 Flex trains might be a simpler and more affordable strategy than electrifying all the way to Southport and Kirkby.

As both routes connect Salford Crescent and Wigan Wallgate stations, there’s even scope to divert services during any blockades, needed for the electrification.

How Will Ormskirk To Preston Services Be Affected?

The first part of this section starts with a repeat of what I said in Could Kirkdale Station Become A Busy Interchange On Merseyrail?

The current service between Ormskirk and Preston, is an occasional hourly train along the line. Often it is just a single Class 153 train, although last time it was two.

It was also surprisingly clean and full.

But the line deserves better.

  • The frequency of trains should be at least 2 tph to Preston
  • They should also connect better with trains to Liverpool and Southport.
  • Could the trains go beyond Preston?

Perhaps the solution is to link trains between somewhere like Kirkdale and Colne or Blackpool.

I suspect that Merseyrail have their own ideas.

The current service takes 30 minutes between Ormskirk and reston and its likely with some track improvements, that a Class 319 Flex train could reduce this time to perhaps 20-22 minutes.

This time saving would be an advantage, as it would allow a train to shuttle between the two stations maintaining an hourly clockface schedule, which could be timed to arrive at a convenient point in the schedule of trains going between Liverpool and Southport.

There are probably three main patterns for the Preston train.

  1. They shuttle Preston-Ormskirk-Southport-Ormskirk-Preston using reverses at Ormskirk(2) and Southport.
  2. They shuttle Preston-Ormskirk-Southport-Preston using reverses at Ormskirk and Southport and a reinstated North Burscough Curve.
  3. They shuttle between Preston and Ormskirk as now.

Option 1 would just take longer than an hour to return to Preston and the driver would have to do a lot of walking.

Option 2 would probably have the problems of Option 1 and the expense of reinstating the North Burscough Curve.

Option 3 would probably work with perhaps a passing loop added to the current platform layout, as I proposed in Extra Services To Southport On Merseyrail’s Northern Line.

In the following consider that the long platform at Ormskirk is divided into two.

  • The Liverpool platform is the part of the platform that handles trains to and from Liverpool
  • The Preston platform is the part of the platform that handles trains to and from Preston

This could be the sequence of arrivals and departures.

  • xx:00 – Train arrives from Preston into the Preston Platform and drops passengers for Liverpool and Southport.
  • xx:04 – Train arrives from Southport and waits at the entry to the passing loop behind the train from Preston.
  • xx:05 – Train arrives from Liverpool into the Liverpool Platform and departs for Southport after dropping and picking up passengers.
  • xx:08 – Train from Southport uses the passing loop to move to the Liverpool Platform and departs for Liverpool after dropping and picking up passengers.
  • xx:10 – Train departs for Preston from Preston Platform, after picking up passengers from Liverpool and Southport.

In this set of movements, the only driver who has to change ends, would be the driver of the Preston shuttle train and they would have ten minutes or so in which to do the walk.

Get the sequence right and passengers would only wait for a few minutes, whilst changing trains.

The only complication would be that the train from Liverpool would have to pass the train from Southport waiting to enter the station.

It would need some form of double passing loop, which is probably standard practice.

There are obviously other solutions, that use the current single platform at Ormskirk, without the need to add any new infrastructure at the station except for some appropriate track and signalling changes.

Conclusions

To my untrained eye, it looks like reinstating the two Burscough Curves wouldn’t be the most difficult of projects.

But electrifying through the area, could be tricky for the following reasons.

  • Some of the bridges might need to be rebuilt for overhead electrification.
  • Merseyrail would want third-rail electrification to allow Ormskirk and Southport services to be run as a loop for maximum efficiency.
  • Health and Safety.

And critics wonder why Network Rail are so costly and slow with electrification.

But there is one place for more electrification.

Services to Southport and Kirkby would be improved, if the routes to Wigan Wallgate from Bolton and Salford Crescent were both both fully electrified.

This would bring Manchester Piccadilly and Victoria within an hour of both Southport and Kirkby.

To sum up the following should be done.

  • Reinstate the South Burscough Curve.
  • Electrify Ormskirk to Southport using third-rail electrification.
  • Electrify Bolton to Wigan Wallgate using overhead electrification.
  • Electrify Salford Crescent to Wigan Wallgate using overhead electrification.
  • Northern would also need to acquire some more Class 319 Flex trains.

In the interim, it looks like that just running the services between Manchester and Southport using the Class 319 Flex trains will give Northern and its customers a lot of benefits.

In the future, Northern might like to replace the stop-gap Class 319 Flex trains with bi-mode versions of their new Class 331 trains.

 

March 25, 2017 - Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , ,

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