The Anonymous Widower

Metro Development With Flex Trains

The June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways gave a few more details of the Class 319 Flex trains, that are being created for Northern.

  • The trains now have their own TOPS-number of 769, which must be a seal of approval.
  • Northern have ordered eight Class 319 Flex trains as part of or in addition to a fleet of thirty-two Class 319 trains.
  • These eight trains will be delivered by the end of May 2018.
  • A Class 319 Flex train can be produced every two weeks.

It is also likely, that by the end of this year, Network Rail will have completed the following.

  • The Ordsall Chord connecting Manchester Victoria and Piccadilly stations.
  • Electrification between Manchester and Preston.
  • Electrification from Preston to Blackpool North station.
  • Electrification from Manchester Victoria to Stalybridge.

This will mean electric trains like the Class 319 train and bi-mode trains like the Class 319 Flex train, can go between Hazel Grove, Manchester Airport and Stockport to Blackpool North, Liverpool Lime Street, Manchester Victoria, Preston and Wigan North Western.

The Class 319 Flex trains using their diesel power will also be able to extend the electric network to Blackburn, Blackpool South, Burnley Manchester Road, Clitheroe, Southport, Stalybridge, Wigan Wallgate and Windermere, without any additional electrification.

There will be benefits for passengers.

  • The Class 319 trains and Class 319 Flex trains will be faster and journey times will be shorter.
  • Services run by elderly two-car trains will now be run by refurbished four-car trains.
  • Most journeys across Manchester will be continuous or with a single same-platform change at a convenient station.

How will various routes be affected?

Cross-Manchester Travel

Cross-City lines revolutionise city travel and the Ordsall Chord will do the same for Manchester.

This map from Wikipedia shows the location of the Ordsall Chord and how it is connected to exotic places like  Bolton, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester Airport, Stockport and Warrington.

Mancunians will have to learn how to use the link, but they won’t take long to do that!

You may be lucky and your journey will be available from your local station.

But if it requires a change, you will probably take a train to the central core stations of Victoria, Deansgate, Oxford Road or Piccadilly and change for your ultimate destination.

  • For many changes, you will just get off one train, wait on the platform for a few minutes and then board another train.
  • Some stations will be better interchanges than others.
  • Platforms 13 and 14 at Piccadilly may be crowded, but they are at least an island platform allowing a change of direction.
  • Platforms at Deansgate and Oxford Road may need widening.
  • Other stations like Salford Crescent and Salford Central will also get used as interchanges.

If there is one problem with the Ordsall Chord, it is the name.

Perhaps it should be called the Mancunian Chord?

Collateral Benefits Of The Ordsall Chord

The nearest railway line in concept to the Ordsall Chord is probably Thameslink in London.

  • As Thameslink has developed, it has not only provided a high-capacity North-South route across London, but it has also taken the pressure from main line stations like London Bridge, St. Pancras and Victoria, by allowing travellers to change to their long distance trains further out.
  • Thmeslink has also been a major factor in improving services to Gatwick Airport.
  • Gatwick Airport is building on its position to be a major rail hub South of London.

Over the years Thameslink has developed and some think in a few years time, Thameslink will be at least, if not more important than Crossrail.

Two things will definitely happen, when the Ordsall Chord opens.

As with Thameslink in London, Northern and Southern routes into the Manchester, will be linked back-to-back, to free up platforms in terminal stations.

Frequencies and capacity on many routes will increase. Stations, that have had a two-car diesel train twice an hour since the days of steam ended, will find they get a four-car electric or bi-mode train at a doubled frequency.

But long-term the Ordsall Chord will have major effects.

  • Towns and areas like Blackburn, Blackpool, Burnley, Chester, Hudderfield, Kirkby, Southport, Warrington and Wigan will have frequent train services to and from the whole of Manchester City Centre and will benefit accordingly.
  • Increased frequencies to Leeds and Liverpool will be easier to arrange.
  • Many travellers going to and from Birmingham, London and the South will change at Stockport rather than Piccadilly.
  • Few trains will reverse direction in Piccadilly.
  • Just as Gatwick Airport has been envigorated by Thameslink, Manchester Airport will become a major rail hub.
  • Will Preston develop into Manchester’s hub station for travellers going North or to Scotland.
  • Access to the tourist areas of North Lancashire, the Peak District and Yorkshire will be improved.

The Ordsall Chord will have such major effects on Manchester, that I could see HS2 plans being changed.

Buxton To Manchester And Clitheroe To Manchester

I will treat these routes together, as I believe they are a natural fit, where back-to-back operation will be beeficial.

  • Both routes are uphill away from Manchester.
  • Both routes need better and faster trains.
  • Both routes need more capacity.
  • Class 319 Flex trains could work both routes without any infrastructure work.

Could Buxton to Clitheroe, with perhaps a two-hourly extension to Hellifield for the Settle and Carlisle Railway create a very valuable tourism asset for the North-West?

In Why Not Buxton To Hellifield?, I looked at the possibilities about running  a direct back-to-back service across Manchester.

I said this.

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.

As the routes to Blackburn and Clitheroe in the North and Hazel Grove and Buxton in the South are very busy, four-car Class 319 Flex trains will be very welcome.

Windermere

Improving the service to Windermere station on the Windermere Branch is a complex problem.

I have been doing some analysis in Is Electrification Of The Windermere Branch Line Really Necessary?

I came to this conclusion.

I think that updating Oxenholme station with a fourth platform and using more powerful trains, would allow the frequency of trains on the Windermere Branch to be increased to one train every thirty minutes.

No electrification of the branchwould be needed.

We will know the answer, when Northern run a Class 319 Flex train in trials to Windermere.

I will not speculate on the timetable, but I’m sure Northern know about how the ideal timetable should look.

Manchester Airport to Huddersfield Via Stalybridge

Electrification to Stalybridge station is running late.

But no matter, as Class 319 Flex trains could fill in for their electric sisters.

Further Routes To The Core

Because they are bi-mode trains, the limitations of which routes can be served using Class 319 Flex trains, will be limited more by the availability of trains than anything else.

Signalling and operational procedures through the core will need to be improved, but a twin-track railway like that can take a frequency of sixteen to twenty tph over the Irwell.

After all, the East London Line has handled those frequencies in a tunnel built by Brunel’s father in the mid-1800s since 2010.

Adding New Routes

I don’t know the rail lines in Manchester at all, but so long as the track and need is there, Class 319 Fle trains can serve any route.

In the June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, they are reporting on a plan to reopen six miles of disused railway between Irlam in Salford and Timperley in Trafford.

From the visualisation in the magazine, it looks a spectacular railway, that could provide a direct route between the West of the City and Althincham, Stockport and Manchester Airport.

Adding More Trains

I feel that Manchester will need more trains in a couple of years.

But just as Liverpool found no trouble with funding new custom-built trains for their network, when the time comes for Manchester to increase the fleet size, the city shouldn’t have a problem! Brexit permitting!

At least, if the Ordsall Chord routes are successful, they will define the specification of the new trains.

The simplest plan would see some new four-car electric units added to the fleet to release Class 319 trains for conversion to more Class 319 Flex trains.

Some of these trains could be specially designed airport trains for connecting Manchester Airport to Blackpool, Huddersfield, Liverpool and other places.

At some time in the future, all of the Class 319 trains and Class 319 Flex trains will be replaced, but will they finally see the scrapyard or will they be sent to do missionary work in places like Aberdeen, Bristol, Derby, Exeter, Lincoln, Sheffield, Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle and other places.

Conclusion

The Class 319 Flex train may have been designed by Porterbrook and Northern to fill an enormous hole left by Network Rail’s non-performance on electrification, but like its famous predecessor, the InterCity 125 which filled the gap left by the non-performance of the Advanced Passenger Train, I feel it will set new standards in train travel. But this time on predominately urban rather than InterCity routes.

I also feel strongly, that te flexible methods being used in Manchester to develop the rail services could be used elsewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 29, 2017 - Posted by | Travel, Uncategorized | , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] In Metro Development With Flex Trains, I describe how I believe Northern are going to use the Class 319 Flex trains in the North West in the Liverpool, Manchester and Preston triangle, to develop a world-class Metro network. […]

    Pingback by What Will Happen To The Class 319, Class 455, Class 321 And Cl;ass 317 Trains? « The Anonymous Widower | May 30, 2017 | Reply


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