The Anonymous Widower

Connecting Ebbsfleet International To South London

In the May 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article entitled Kent Capacity Constraints Highlighted.

The article says this.

The provision of a direct connection from Ebbsfleet to South London is proposed using the route from Swanley to Fawkham Junction, which was used by Eurostar services to Waterloo. Options include providing a new terminal platform at Ebbsfleet adjacent to the existing lines or a connection into the existing domestic platforms.

This Google Map shows the Chatham Main Line between Farningham Road and Longfield stations.

Note.

  1. The Chatham Main Line goes from West to East across the map.
  2. Fawkham Junction to the West of Longfield station.
  3. The rail line curves away North-Easterly to Ebbsfleet International station, using the same track-bed as the former Gravesend West Line.

This Google Map shows Ebbsfleet International station.

Note.

  1. HS1 runs North-South through the station.
  2. HighSpeed services to Thanet destinations use the line that runs across the map from North-West to East.
  3. HighSpeed services to Ashford Internationl station have their own separate platforms on HS1.

The local line into Ebbsfleet International station can be as simple or complicated as the budget will allow.

The simplest arrangement would be where a single track chord connects the Gravesend West Line into the space between the stations and its Eastern car parks.

This Google Map shows the station and the Gravesend West Line.

It almost looks like a good bit of space was left to connect Ebbsfleet International station to Fawkham Junction.

Train Services To Ebbsfleet

Southeastern and Thamesline are probably in pole position to provide services, as their services call at Swanley station which would be directly connected to Ebbsfleet International by the new link.

The most efficient solution would be a shuttle train or even a tram-train, at a frequency of four trains per hour.

But we shouldn’t forget Crossrail, that could be extended to Gravesend.

May 14, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Has Thameslink Got The Wrong Length Of Train?

The Train And Half-Train Philosophy

If you look at some recent train orders and one successful old one, they seem to suggest a train and half-train philosophy.

  • Great Western Railway’s order for Class 80x trains.
  • Virgin Trains East Coast’s order for Class 80x trains.
  • Greater Anglia’s order for Aventras.
  • South Western Railway’s order for Aventras.
  • Southeastern’s Highspeed Class 395 trains.

In all these fleets, it would appear that two half-trains can be used to create a full length train, when needed. This coupling and uncoupling is done throughout the day and often on an automatic basis in around a couple of minutes.

This video shows Javelins at it.

Impressive isn’t it? The second train left Ashford station thirty seconds after the first.

In a few years time, all trains will be able to couple and uncouple automatically like this.

Thameslink’s Class 700 Trains

Thameslink’s Class 700 trains only come in lengths of eight and twelve cars.

The eight-car train is needed for short platforms on the Sutton Loop Line.

But eight-car trains have disadvantages compared to say a six-car train.

  • Two trains can’t be joined together to make a full-length train.
  • Sixteen-car trains would be just too long for operational reasons.
  • An eight-car train uses one of the valuable twenty-four hourly paths through the central core of Thameslink, just as a twelve-car train does.

The train length seems to be inefficient.

I can’t think of a train operator, who has two similar train fleets longer than five-cars, where one fleet is not half the length of the other.

Maximising Capacity In The Core

The capacity of the central core of Thameslink, depends on how many trains go through in an hour.

Current proposals given in Wikipedia are as follows.

  • 14 x 12-car trains
  • 10 x 8-car trains

If the 8-car trains were replaced with 12-cars, this would give a sixteen percent increase in capacity in the central core.

The Sutton Loop Line

The Sutton Loop Line could be run by using six-car trains that split and join in the area of Streatham station.

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the track layout at Streatham, at the start of the loop.

Note.

  1. Streatham South Junction is the gateway to the Sutton Loop, with the tracks to the West going via Tooting station and those to the South via Mitcham Eastfields station.
  2. There is a lot of spare land in this area.
  3. Transport for London keep talking about creating an interchange at this point.

I think, if and when the interchange is built, it could be designed, so that it increased traffic around the Sutton Loop Line.

  • Two six-car trains running as a twelve-car could split at the interchange.
  • One train would go round the loop clockwise and the other anti-clockwise.
  • The trains would rejoin together at the interchange.

The same procedure could be done at Streatham, without creating the interchange, but it would block the station, if trains got delayed on the loop.

Currently, two trains per hour (tph) are proposed to run in both directions on the Sutton Loop Line.

This requires four eight-car trains and four paths through the central core.

If four six-car trains were to be used, running in pairs splitting at Streatham or a new Streatham Common interchange, there would still be two tph in both directions round the Sutton Loop, but only two paths would be needed in the central core.

Travellers to and from stations on the loop would see six-car, rather than the proposed eight-car.

If the number of six-car trains were to be doubled and four paths used in the central core, the Sutton Loop Line would see four tph in both directions.

But this might be two much traffic for Platform 9 at Wimbledon station.

Splitting Trains At The End Of A Route

It is not beyond the bounds of possibility for two six-car trains to do the following.

  • Start independently in the North.
  • Join at a convenient station.
  • Pass through the Snow Hill Tunnel  as a twelve-car train.
  • Split at a convenient station.

The two six-car trains would then continue to two separate destinations.

One possibility would be to do the following.

  • Start at Peterborough and Cambridge.
  • Join at Hitchin.
  • Split at Three Bridges
  • Finish at Horsham and Brighton.

Between Hitchin and Three Bridges, the train is twelve-cars, whereas at other times they are six-cars.

Hopefully train length could be geared to passenger traffic.

I don’t think there are many opportunities at the current time.but as Thameslink develops, with perhaps more stations and electrification, the use of this technique might increase.

Although, It should be noted that the current eight-car trains are not suitable.

Eight-Car Trains Across The City

Three of the services through the core are as follows.

  • Cambridge North and Maidstone East.
  • /Luton(Peak)/Kentish Town(Off Peak) and Orpington
  • Welwyn Garden City and Sevenoaks

All services are served by eight-car trains, with the first two services running all day.

In the May 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article entitled Kent Capacity Constraints Highlighted.

Reading this article, gives the impression that several stations served by Thameslink in the Southeastern area have platforms that are a tad short.

So perhaps this is the reason for the short trains.

But would using two six-car trains joining at a station like Bromley South, enable another twelve-car train to go through the central core.

Conclusion

Six-car trains instead of eight-car trains on Thameslink, may increase capacity.

According to Wikipedia, the formation of the two trains are as follows.

  • Class 700/0 – DMCO-PTSO-MSO-TSO-TSO-MSO-PTSO-DMCO
  • Class 700/1 – DMCO-PTSO-MSO-MSO-TSO-TSO-TSO-TSO-MSO-MSO-PTSO-DMCO

It would appear that the 12-car trains have two extra MSO cars and two extra TSO cars.

If all the TSO and MSO cars are identical, I wouldn’t be surprised that to lengthen the trains from eight to 12 cars, is just a cut-and-shut job, as it is with the London Overground’s Class 378 trains and Crossrail’s Class 345 trains.

With sixteen percent extra capacity by lengthening all trains to twelve cars, I would expect that this capacity will be claimed when needed.

An alternative could be to shorten the sixty eight-car trains to six-cars, which would release sixty each of MSO and TSO cars. Sixty new PTSO and DMCO car could be added and there would be another thirty six-car trains, making ninety in total.

I suspect Siemens could add automatic coupling and uncoupling.

These six-car trains would give the following.

  • Twelve-car trains through the core.
  • Better use of valuable paths through the core.
  • Six-car trains on the Sutton Loop Line, by splitting and joining in the Stratham area.
  • The ability to split and join trains to serve new destinations.

Thameslink’s train problem is not insoluble.

 

 

 

May 14, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , | 3 Comments

What A Fine Mess Thameslink And The Midland Main Line Is In

This article is prompted by an article in the May 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, which is entitled Crunch Time Nearing For MML Thameslink Timetable.

The author of the report; the respected Roger Ford, explains the problems of getting a timetable that is acceptable to a number of parties.

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) want to do the following.

  • Run 20 trains per hour (tph) through the central core of Thameslink by May 2018.
  • Run 24 trains per hour (tph) through the central core of Thameslink by December 2018.
  • Run eight, four and four tph respectively to Bedford, Luton and St. Albans.

East Midlands Trains (EMT) and/or their successor, want to do the following.

  • Run their current diesel services.
  • EMT want to run new new electric services to Kettering and Corby.
  • EMT want to run 6 tph at 125 mph into St. Pancras.

And both companies will have to satisfy the politicians.

Network Rail’s original plan is described under Political Developments in the Thameslink entry in Wikipedia. This is said.

Network Rail had planned to terminate Sutton Loop Thameslink trains at Blackfriars station, rather than have them continue through central London as at present. This would increase the capacity of the central core as the Sutton Loop could only accommodate shorter trains. This upset many residents in South London and their local politicians, who saw it as a reduction in services rather than an improvement. In response to pressure, government has ordered Network Rail to reverse the decision.

It is an awful lot of trains to squeeze into the Midland Main Line.

Some improvements were planned to help with the capacity North of Bedford.

  • A fourth track between Bedford and Kettering/Corby.
  • !25 mph electrification.

Both these should happen, but the electrification South of Bedford will only be 100 mph capable and there is no date for its upgrade.

So it looks like we have the classic pint pot and everybody is trying to put a quart in it.

Roger points out that the knock-on delays for a late train, could be horrendous and felt all over the North, with several minute increases in journey times to Sheffield and Nottingham.

Roger does highlight a couple of solutions.

Turning Thameslink Services At Kentish Town

The first Roger Ford outlines is to turn some services from the South at Kentish Town.

  • ,There is stabling capacity.
  • EMT might take over some of the fast outer-suburban commuter services.
  • There is a good connection to the Northern Line, which will have an increased capacity in a couple of years.

Perhaps too, a connection could be made with the Gospel Oak to Barking Line at West Hampstead Thameslink and Tufnell Park to improve connectivity.

But would the politicians accept a solution like this?

Has Thameslink Got The Wrong Length Of Trains?

If you look at some recent train orders, they seem to suggest a train and a half-train philosophy.

  • GWR’s order for Class 80x trains.
  • VTEC’s order for Class 80x trains.
  • Greater Anglia’s order for Aventras.
  • SWT’s order for Class 707 trains.

In all these orders, it would appear that two half-trains are used to create a full train, when needed. This coupling and uncoupling is done throughout the day and often on an automatic basis.

But Thameslink’s Class 700 trains only come in lengths of eight and twelve cars.

The eight-car train is needed for short platforms on the Sutton Loop Line.

But eight-car trains have disadvantages compared to say a six-car train.

  • two trains can’t be joined together to make a long train.
  • An eight-car train uses one of the valuable twenty-four hourly paths through the central core of Thameslink, just as a twelve-car train does.

The train length is patently inefficient.

The Sutton Loop Line could be run by using six-car trains that split and join at Streatham station.

Splitting Regional Services With A Change Of Train

This diagram from the Wikipedia entry for East Midlands Trains shows the company’s routes.

I can’t see that expecting passengers to change trains on a journey say between London and Sheffield  would be welcomed by everyone.

Electrification To Leicester, Derby And Nottingham

This section is an aside, but I think that it could be the key to solving the capacity problem.

Electrification to these three cities, shouldn’t be a problem other than the usual one of Network Rail’s competence and it could be completed by 2023, which would include Sheffield.

However, there is a serious problem with electrification between Derby and Sheffield, in that the line goes through the World Heritage Site of the Derwent Valley Mills.

But there is an alternative plan, which is to electrify the Erewash Valley Line, which avoids the World Heritage Site and provides a more direct and possibly faster  route between London and Sheffield.

Under Future in the Wikipedia entry for the Erewash Valley Line, this is said.

Network Rail as part of a £250 million investment in the regions railways has proposed improvements to the junctions at each end, resignalling throughout, and a new East Midlands Control Centre.[1]

As well as renewing the signalling, three junctions at Trowell, Ironville and Codnor Park will be redesigned and rebuilt. Since the existing Midland Main Line from Derby through the Derwent Valley has a number of tunnels and cuttings which are listed buildings and it is a World Heritage Area, it seems that the Erewash line is ripe for expansion. As the new signalling is rolled out, train detection is moving away from the traditional Track circuit detection of trains to Axle counting.

I hope all of the work done on the Erewash Valley Line has made sure that whenh they do electrify the line, the bridges are high enough and the signalling cables are well out of the way.

As the East Midlands Hub station for HS2 will be close to Toton TMD on the Erewash Valley Line and would open in 2032/3, it strikes me that it would be sensible to plan electrification of the Midland Main Line and HS2 together.

Bring On The Bi-Modes

Roger Ford dismisses the bi-modes in strong words.

A bi-mode doesn’t really work on the high-speed main line.

Under the wires it is a very heavy EMU, while under diesel power it is an underpowered DEMU. Just consider the roles on the MML. From London to Bedford it would need to run as a 125 mph diesel. From Bedford to Kettering the pantograph would go up for some 125 mph running. And after that it would go back to diesel. So why bother with the electric traction?

I would agree with that, but the Class 80x bi-modes may have other characteristics, that could get the timetable out of trouble.

The current hourly timetable out of St. Pancras  is as follows.

  • XX:00 – Corby, stopping at Luton, Bedford, Wellingborough and Kettering.
  • XX:15 – Nottingham, stopping at Market Harborough, Leicester and East Midlands Parkway
  • XX:26 – Sheffield, stopping at Leicester, Loughborough, East Midlands Parkway, Long Eaton, Derby, Chesterfield
  • XX:29 – Nottingham, stopping at Luton Airport Parkway, Bedford, Wellingborough, Kettering, Market Harborough, Leicester, Loughborough, Beeston
  • XX:58 – Sheffield, stopping at Leicester, Derby, Chesterfield

When Bedford to Corby is electrified, there will be another path.

Note that all the paths except those to Corby go through Leicester.

Currently the services are run by a mixture of 27 x Class 222 trains of 4, 5 and 7 cars and 12 x InterCity 125s of a 2×8 formation.

I said that the Class 80x trains may have other characteristics, that could get the timetable out of trouble.

One is that, two closely-related Class 395 trains can automatically couple and uncouple in under a minute, so I suspect that the Class 80x trains will have the same capability.

So supposing a pair of Class 80x trains ran from St. Pancras to either Bedford, Kettering or Leicester, where they would divide, with each train going to a separate destination.

This would mean that six paths would give twelve services to each of three destinations, Corby, Nottingham and Sheffield via Derby and Chesterfield.

EMT could balance the number of trains with their passenger statistics and could extend services from Corby, Nottingham and Sheffield, as they felt appropriate.

Modern trains would also be able to execute stops quicker than the current Class 222 trains and Inter\City125s.

So could extra stops be introduced South of Bedford to enable Thameslink services to be simplified and thinned out?

Conclusion

These may be consequences.

  • Four tph might be able to call at Luton Airport Parkway and East Midlands Parkway.
  • Sheffield and Nottingham might get marginally slower services, but they could get four tph.
  • All EMT might stop at Bedford, to enable Thameslink services to Bedford to be reduced from 8 tph to 4 tph.
  • Two tph between Sheffield and London might use the Erewash Valley Line and stop at Alfreton and Ilkeston.

There’s an optimal solution in there somewhere.

 

May 14, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment