The Anonymous Widower

A Branch To Penicuik From The Borders Railway

I started this post as part of Extending The Borders Railway To Carlisle, but as I research it more and talk to my correspondent in the Borders, I feel it needs to be a separate post.

There is an article in the Scotsman from 2013, which is entitled Borders rail link: £150m plan for Penicuik spur. This is the first paragraph.

A vital £150 million rail line connecting Penicuik to central Edinburgh could be reopened for the first time in half a century.

The article then gives a lot of favourable comments about the possibility of the link. My correspondent, grew up in the town and feels that a rail link is needed, especially, as when he was a boy, the town had three rail lines.

In the Wikipedia entry for the Borders Railway, this is a paragraph about a future branch to Penicuik.

In May 2013, it was reported that Heriot-Watt University had been asked by Midlothian Council to carry out a feasibility study on a 10-mile (16 km) rail link connecting Penicuik with the Borders Railway. At least 6 miles (9.7 km) of the new line would follow the Edinburgh, Loanhead and Roslin Railway, the alignment of which is generally intact between Millerhill and Straiton.

This proposal is not mentioned in the recent CBR report, which is entitled A Summary Case For A New Cross-Border Rail Link, that can be downloaded in PDF form from this location.

Newcraighall Station And Park-And-Ride

Newcraighall station will be North of where the proposed branch to Penicuik joins the Borders Railway.

This Google Map shows the station and the surrounding area.

Note the A1 and the convenient Park-and-Ride.

Wikipedia says this about Services from Newcraighall station.

Monday to Saturday daytimes there is a half-hourly service to Edinburgh and to Tweedbank, and an hourly evening and Sunday service. Four weekday morning peak services run beyond Edinburgh to Glenrothes with Thornton via Kirkcaldy and a similar number run in the opposite direction in the evening. When the station was a terminus, many services ran through to/from the Fife Circle Line but this practice ended prior to the reopening of the full route to Tweedbank.

I believe that a Park-and-Ride of this size, location and probable importance needs at least four trains per hour (tph) all day.

Currently, two tph between Edinburgh and Tweedbank call at Newcraighall. As it takes two hours for a train to do the round trip, this means that four trains are needed to provide a two tph service.

Four tph all the way to Tweedbank would need eight trains, but due to limitations in the design of the Borders Railway would probably be very difficult to operate.

Terminating them at Newcraighall and perhaps running beyond Edinburgh to Fife is obviously a possibility, but Newcraighall station only has one bi-directional platform.

Two Trains Per Hour To Penicuik

Opening a branch to Penicuik and running two tph would give Newcraighall station and the Park-and-Ride the four tph train service it needs, when combined with the two tph along the Borders Railway.

The Edinburgh, Loanhead and Roslin Railway

Wikipedia says the route would probably follow the route of the Edinburgh, Loanhead and Roslin Railway.

  • Much of the route is visible on Google Maps.
  • The original line closed in the 1960s.
  • There were stations at Gilmerton, Loanhead, Roslin and Glencourse.
  • The major engineering feature of the line was a visduct over Bilston Glen.

Penicuik was served by a freight-only line.

Shawfair Station

It would appear that the Northbound and Southbound trains on the Borders Railway seem to call at Shawfair station around the same time.

This must make operation of the line much simpler and it probably meant that Newcraighall station only needed one platform.

This Google Map shows the Borders Railway passing through Shawfair station.

Note the disused track of the Edinburgh, Loanhead and Roslin Railway crossing the Borders Railway at right-angles and then curving Northwards to the freight yard at Millerhill.

Trains could go via Millerhill, to join the Borders Railway South of Newcraighall station, but surely, it would be better if the branch to Penicuik, joined  the Borders Railway South of Shawfair station.

This would allow trains to and from Penicuik to pass at Shawfair station.

As trains to and from Tweedbank station seem to call between

  • XX:08 to XX:10
  • and XX 38 to XX:40

So  Penicuik trains could use times of perhaps .

  • XX:23 to XX:25
  • and XX 53 to XX:55

Which would mean a train would have thirty minutes to go from Shawfair to and from Penicuik.

The way Shawfair station is used also means the following for the Borders Railway.

  • A convenient spacing is imposed for trains to call at the single platform at Newcraighall station, as that is just four minutes towards Edinburgh.
  • Effectively, the Borders Railway to Tweedbank station runs a two tph service with two widely-seperated trains South of Shawfair station at any one time.
  • Two widely-separated  trains, South of Shawfair station enables the use of single-platform stations at all stations except Stow and Tweedbank.
  • Shawfair station is the only station with an expensive footbridge.

I also suspect that four tph is possible, with trains passing at Shawfair and Stow stations, perhaps with faster trains and improvements to the signalling.

By clever design and selective use of two-platform stations and double-track, it would appear that the engineers have designed an efficient affordable railway, that is mainly single track and has only one footbridge.

The Junction Of The Borders Railway And The Penicuik Branch

This Google Map shows where the track-bed of the Edinburgh, Loanhead and Roslin Railway passes under the Borders Railway to the South of Shawfair station.

Note the old track-bed of the Edinburgh, Loanhead and Roslin Railway running East-West across the bottom of the map.

The roads in the area don’t appear to have been built with a suitable space for a chord to connect.

But even so, I suspect it would be a practical proposition for a single-track chord to be built between the Borders Railway and the Edinburgh, Loanhead and Roslin Railway.

The only difficult construction would be crossing the A6106 road to the South-East of the roundabout.

A cross-over would be needed South of Shawfair station to allow Southbound trains to access the branch to Penicuik. But as there would only be no more than four tph South of Shawfair station, this wouldn’t be a large operational problem.

Single-Track To Penicuik

Wikipedia says that the proposed Penicuik branch is ten miles in length.

Surely, if it were a single-track branch, trains could go from Shawfair to Penicuik station and return within thirty minutes.

Consider.

  • It would take five minutes for the driver to change ends at Penicuik
  • Two stops each way with a modern train could take a total of just five minutes.
  • The train would be the only one on the branch.
  • A well-designed line could have an operating speed of at least 75 mph and possibly 90 mph.

All this would mean that there would be ten minutes for each leg of the journey between Shawfair and Penicuik.

Should A Future Penicuik Branch Be Electrified?

Electrification of a future Penicuik Branch would not be difficult.

  • Electrification would need to be extended from Newcraighall station.
  • Electrification would be easier, if the branch were single-track with single-platform stations.
  • Electrification of a new railway must be easier than electrifying an existing line.

Electrifying between Newcraighall and Penicuik may give advantages.

  • There will be a fairly plentiful supply of cascaded electric trains, that could be suitable for the route.
  • Electrifying may allow electric trains to access the Millerhill TMD.
  • Electrifying would help in running bi-mode trains on the Borders Railway, if that were thought necessary.
  • Electrifying may save a few minutes between Shawfair and Penicuik.

Obviously, electrification would allow politicians to boast about their green credentials.

The only disadvantage of electrification is that some bridges may need to be raised.

Surely, if the ten-mile branch was well-designed as mostly single-track, perhaps with electrification, and run by modern trains, two tph would be possible, even with one or more intermediate stops.

Could A Future Penicuik Branch Be Worked By Bi-Mode Trains?

A bi-mode train like a Class 319 Flex train could certainly work the route and as they have lots of power, they could probably achieve the Shawfair to Penicuik and return time of thirty minutes.

Could A Future Penicuik Branch Be Worked By Battery Trains?

As it is only ten miles between Shawfair and Penicuik, I suspect that in the future,, trains with onboard energy storage will be able to work the branch.

Single-Platform Stations

If the future Penicuik Branch could be a single-track railway, where only  one train was on the branch at any one time, all stations could be built with a single-platform and no expensive footbridge, as most stations were built on the existing Borders Railway.

As five-cars seems to be becoming the new standard train length, I would build all platforms to accept five-car trains.,

A North-South Service Across Edinbugh

Peak Hour services link Tweedbank and Newcraighall  beyond Edinburgh to Glenrothes with Thornton via Kirkcaldy.

There is obviously a need for a service in the Peak, but if there was a second Southern terminus at Penicuik would it be sensible that if a total of four tph were running from Newcraighall to Edinburgh, that a proportion cross the Forth.

Note that Cross-Forth services.

There are certainly lots of possibilities.

Could A Future Penicuik Branch Be Worked By Tram-Trains?

The Germans would probably use tram-trains in a city the size of Edinburgh.

Compared to the tram networks in Nottingham and Birmingham, Edinburgh trams always strike me that it was a network designed without ambition and that doesn’t provide the maximum benefit to the largest number of residents and visitors.

If you look at Edinburgh Gateway station, it could have been modified to allow tram-trains like the Class 399 tram-train to come from the Airport and then go straight onto the Fife Circle Line to South Gyle, Haymarket and Edinburgh stations.

At present this line is not electrified, but doing that is probably in Scotrail’s wish-list.

Once at Edinburgh station, the tram-trains could take any of the electrified routes to North Berwick, Dunbar or perhaps Penicuik.

Passengers would finally get a proper interchange between trains on the East Coast Main Line and the Edinburgh tram.

I also think that the Germans would run tram-trains on the Fife Circle Line and its proposed extension to Leven.

Currently, the frequency of trains on the Fife Circle Line is low and tram-trains could probably give a four tph service to all stations, if electrification was put in place.

Conclusion

I believe that it would be possible to open a single-track branch to Penicuik with single-platform stations and these objectives.

  • Provide a two tph service between Penicuik and Edinburgh.
  • Boost the service between the Park-and-Ride at Newcraighall and Edinburgh to four tph.
  • Provide an alternative Southern terminal for a North-South service across Edinburgh.

Electrification of the line might give operational advantages to Millerhill TMD, the Borders Railway and the branch itself.

June 13, 2017 - Posted by | Travel | , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] This proposal is not mentioned in the CBR report, so I have made it a separate post with a title of A Branch To Penicuik From The Borders Railway. […]

    Pingback by Extending The Borders Railway To Carlisle « The Anonymous Widower | June 14, 2017 | Reply


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