The Anonymous Widower

An Affordable Reinstatement Of The Stour Valley Railway

The Stour Valley Railway used to link Cambridge to Colchester. The section between Sudbury and Shelford stations was closed in 1967. The only portion remaining is the Gainsborough Line between Sudbury and Marks Tey stations.

So could the line be reopened in an affordable way using modern technology?

In Sudbury To Cambridge – D-Train, IPEMU Or Tram-Train?, I basked what would be the ideal rolling stock on a reopened Stour Valley Railway.

My conclusion was.

It is very much a case of who pays the money makes the choice.

Purists will want a double-track railway with fully manned stations, served by at least two-trains per hour. But they’re probably not paying!

There are plenty enough single-track, single-platform stations in the UK, that work safely and well. The Gainsborough Line, which would connect a restored Stour Valley Railway to the Great Eastern Main Line has the following characteristics, history and aspirations.

So why not extend a  railway across Suffolk, with these features.

  • Single-track throughout.
  • No traditional electrification
  • Single-platform stations.
  • Passing loops at Sudbury or Great Cornard and Haverhill.
  • In-cab wireless signalling, using ERTMS, as piloted on the Cambrian Line in Wales.
  • No level crossings.
  • No freight, except engineering trains.
  • Run under tramway rules.
  • Double-manned trains.
  • Services would be run by Aventras running on stored power.

It would be the ultimate modern railway connecting to one of the world’s most high-tech cities.

A Few Questions

These questions come to mind. If you have any others, let me know and I’ll answer them.

Could an Aventra Travel Between Marks Tey And Shelford Stations On Battery Power?

Both ends of the Stour Valley Railway connect to double-track main lines, which use 25 KVAC overhead electrification.

Current practice, always extends the electrification for a few hundred metres down a branch line and I would assume this would be done, so that a train running on stored energy, which was running short of power, could pull out onto the main line using the electrification.

Estimates of the distances of the sections of the line are as follows.

  • Marks Tey to Sudbury – 12 miles – From Gainborough Line details in Wikipedia.
  • Sudbury to Haverhill – 17 miles – From road distances
  • Haverhill to West Anglia Main Line – 14 miles – From road distances.

Which gives a total of forty-three miles.

These factors will help.

  • The terrain is not challenging.
  • The trains will be using regenerative braking at stops.
  • The trains have been optimised for low energy use.
  • The trains will enter the line with full batteries.

In An Exciting New Aventra, Bombardier are quoted as saying.

So plans were made for an Aventra that could run away from the wires, using batteries or other forms of energy storage. “We call it an independently powered EMU, but it’s effectively an EMU that you could put the pantograph down and it will run on the energy storage to a point say 50 miles away. There it can recharge by putting the pantograph back up briefly in a terminus before it comes back.

The prototype, which was based on a Class 379 train, that I rode in public service in January 2015, could happily travel along the eleven miles of the Mayflower Line. Even then the on-board engineer, that I spoke to, reckoned that longer distances were possible.

Two years on, I can’t believe that Bombardier have not achieved their objective of a train with on-board storage, that can reliably achieve a fifty mile range away from the wires.

In fact for reliable operation over fifty miles, they’d probably need a range of around seventy miles, just to make sure.

Could Charging Be Provided En Route?

Seville’s MetroCentro trams, which I described in Seville’s Elegant Trams, charge themselves at each stop.

I believe that there may be a very simple system, that could be used with Aventra trains.

The Aventras are dual-voltage trains, so could a short length of 750 VDC third rail be provided in some or all stations, which at most times is electrically dead. As is normal practice the rail would be on the side of the track away from the platform.

The sequence of operation would be as follows.

  • The train arrives in the station.
  • The second crew member gets out to supervise the passengers, as is normal practice.
  • The presence of the train, allows the third rail to be switched on.
  • The train connects using a third-rail shoe and charges the batteries.
  • When charging is complete, the third rail is switched off.
  • The second crew member checks all is ready and boards the train.
  • The train goes on its way with a full battery.

I’m sure that by careful design, a very safe system of charging the batteries can be developed.

  • The third rail can’t be switched on unless a train is in the platform.
  • The train would act as a massive safety guard for the third-rail.
  • The shoe could be on the middle car of a five-car train.
  • CCTV could monitor the third-rail at all times it is switched on.

I don’t think that all stations would have charging facilities, but just enough to ensure reliable operation of the trains.

How Would You Rescue A Failed Battery Train?

There are generally two ways, that failed trains are rescued.

  • In most cases, a second train attaches itself to the failed train and drags it out of moves it to a suitable siding out of the way.
  • Alternatively, a locomotive, often nicknamed a Thunderbird moves the train.

Would a battery train be able to shift the dead weight of a failed train?

It has been suggested to me, that Greater Anglia’s Class 755 trains, which are bi-mode will be able to rescue a Class 720 train, which are Aventras.

Now that is probably the ideal solution.

If you are using battery trains on a route, you make sure that you have some bi-mode trains working a route nearby.

How Long Would Colchester To Cambridge Take With A Battery Train?

Currently, the fastest journey by train between Colchester and Cambridge, that I can find takes two hours twenty minutes with a change at Ipswich. The Internet gives a driving time of one hour twenty-two minutes.

So how long would a journey take on the Stour Valley Railway?

The following timings are achieved by electric trains on the part of the route that is electrified.

  • Marks Tey to Colchester – 7-8 minutes
  • Shelford to Cambridge – 7 minutes

With Marks Tey to Sudbury taking twenty minutes. I will assume that a modern train like an Aventra would save a couple of minutes per stop, but then there could be an extra station at Great Cornard.

So let’s leave the timing at twenty minutes.

Scaling this time up for the forty-three miles between Marks Tey and the West Anglia Main Line from the twelve miles between Msrks Tey and Sudbury gives a time of one hour twelve minutes for the centre section of the route without electrification.

Adding everything together gives one hour twenty-seven minutes for the complete  Colchester to Cambridge journey.

I suspect a few minutes could be saved by good driving and some extra electrification at the junctions.

This all adds up to a comfortable three-hour round trip between Colchester and Cambridge.

How Many Trains Would Be Needed To Work A Colchester To Cambridge Service?

The previous section would mean that to provide an hourly service between Cambridge and Colchester would require just three trains. A half-hourly service would require six trains.

Why Not Use Bi-Mode Trains?

It could be argued that everything a Class 720 Aventra train running on battery power could be done by a Stadler Class 755 bi-mode train.

Consider.

  • The track access charges and leasing costs may favour one train or the other.
  • Tha Class 720 train is probably better suited to gliding silently through the Suffolk countryside.
  • The Class 755 train would run on diesel for most of the journey. Not very green!
  • The five-car Class 720 train may be too big.

Abellio’s accountants and the Marketing Department will decide.

Costs And Benefits

The cost of building the railway between the West Anglia Main Line and Sudbury, is a bit like the old question, as to how long is a piece of string.

Much of the route is still visible in Google Maps and it could be rebuilt as single track with single platform stations, which is the style of the Gainsborough Line.

The picture shows Newcourt station on the Avocet Line in Devon.

There were originally stations between Shelford and Sudbury at the following places.

I don’t suspect all would be needed, but none except perhaps Haverhill and a rebuilt and/or moved Sufbury would be anything more than basic.

To show the level of costs, Newcourt station cost £4 million, when it opened in 2015.

I would estimate that a total cost of the single track and the required stations would be around £100-120 million.

At least, it would be unlikely, if new trains had to be purchased.

Putting value to the benefits is more difficult, but at least they can be listed.

  • Fast growing Haverhill will gain a high-capacity public transport link to Cambridge.
  • It would give Cambridge access to the housing and industrial sites, the |City needs.
  • An efficient route would be built between Cambridge and Colchester via Sudbury and Haverhill.
  • Haverhill and Sudbury get good direct links to Colchester and Ipswich.
  • Most of the locals would be pleased, as house prices would rise!!
  • All areas along the line get links to Addenbrook’s Hospital.
  • If you can’t drive in South Suffolk, it is a beautiful prison.

As to the last point, why do you think I moved to London?

Conclusion

Reinstatement of the Stour Valley Railway  would be the ultimate modern railway for one of the world’s most high-tech cities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 13, 2017 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] I discuss this proposal in detail in An Affordable Reinstatement Of The Stour Valley Railway. […]

    Pingback by An Addenbrooke’s Train Station Has Got The Thumbs-Up From The Transport Secretary « The Anonymous Widower | August 13, 2017 | Reply


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s