The Anonymous Widower

Lord Adonis On Crossrail Of The North

There has been a lot of talk recently about HS3, Northern Powerhouse Rail or Crossrail Of The North.

On Radio 5 Live, this morning, Lord Adonis said a lot of sensible things about the high speed line from Liverpool to Hull via Manchester and Leeds.

His plea was for a plan for a start and he suggested that an objective would be to halve the journey time from Manchester to Leeds and have a train every few minutes.

He suggested it could be probably built using a mixture of new track alignments and existing railways.

I agree with what he said, but the problem is that every Tom, Dick and Harriet has their own ideas of what they want.

How Would I Design Crossrail Of The North?

I can at least look at this without favouring any one of the North’s great urban area.

Urban Areas Of The North

I will list those with populations of over 200,000,, from this list in Wikipedia.

  • Manchester – 2,553,379
  • West Yorkshire – 1,777,934
  • Liverpool – 864,122
  • Tyneside – 774,891
  • Nottingham – 729,977
  • Sheffield – 685,368
  • Teeside – 376,633
  • Stoke-on-Trent – 372,775
  • Sunderland – 335,415
  • Birkenhead – 325,264
  • Hull – 314,018
  • Preston – 313,322
  • Blackpool – 239,409
  • Barnsley – 223,281

Urban areas with populations between 100,000 and 200,000 include Wigan, Mansfield, Warrington, Doncaster, York, Burnley, Blackburn, Grimsby, Accrington, Burton, Lincoln and Chesterfield.

Some of the connections between pairs of these areas are truly dreadful despite being only fifty or so files apart.

Northern Connect

I would think it reasonable that all these centres of population have good, preferably direct,  connections between them.

Northern obviously think this way as they are creating a concept called Northern Connect, using new Class 195 trains to connect many of these areas with a quality service.

The North TransPennine Routes

TransPennine operate these North Pennine  routes.

  • 1 train per hour (tph) – Liverpool Lime Street to Newcastle
  • 1 tph – Manchester Airport to Middlesbrough
  • 1 tph – Manchester Airport to York
  • 1 tph – Liverpool Lime Street – Scarborough
  • 1 tph – Manchester Piccadilly to Hull

Note that the opening of the Ordsal Chord iin a few months, might change the routing of some of these services.

All of these services use the Huddersfield Line between Manchester and Leeds, stopping at both Huddersfield and Leeds stations.

Manchester Victoria To Leeds

As Lord Adonis said, the important section is between Manchester Victoria and Leeds stations.

I’ll start with a comparison of a series of rail journeys, all of which are about the same length.

  1. The fastest trains between Manchester Victoria and Leeds take forty-nine minutes, with a stop at Huddersfield, and are just 1 tph
  2. Norwich to Ipswich in a couple of years, will take 30 minutes at a frequency of 3 tph.
  3. Glasgow to Edinburgh currently takes about fifty minutes, at a frequency of 4 tph.
  4. Cardiff to Swansea currently takes 52-54 minutes, at a frequency of 2 tph.

It does seem that the North has a point if  two of East Anglia’s larger cities get a better service than Leeds and Manchester.

The Huddersfield Line And The Great Eastern Main Line Compared

It is also enlightening to compare the Manchester to Leeds Line via Huddersfield to Ipswich To Norwich section of the Great Eastern Main Line.

It should be noted that I’m comparing these two lines, as both have lived on scraps from Central Government for decades. I also know the Great Eastern Main Line well!

  • Both lines are double-track.
  • Norwich-Ipswich is flat.
  • The Huddersfield Line is rather hilly
  • Norwich-Ipswich has only two stations and only the occasional slower service.
  • The Huddersfield Line has numerous stations and local services.
  • Norwich-Ipswich is electrified to a robust standard.
  • On the Huddersfield Line, only Manchester to Stalybridge is scheduled for electrification.
  • Norwich-Ipswich has a 100 mph speed limit, that could possibly be raised in places.
  • I can’t find the speed limit on the Huddersfield Line, but suspect it could be less than 100 mph.

It is truthful to say that the Huddersfield Line is a much more challenging route than the Norwich to Ipswich.

The Effect Of Electrification On The Great Eastern Main Line

It might appear that the electrification of the Great Eastern Main Line makes for the difference in times.

But it should also be remembered that Ipswich to Norwich wasn’t electrified until the mid 1980s and if I remember correctly before that date, the fastest expresses were timed at two hours from Norwich to London with just two stops. The fastest services now are ten minutes under two hours with four stops.

With the introduction of the new Class 745 trains, timings of ninety minutes have been promised to the Department for Transport.

Timings did not drop significantly with the electrification in the mid-1980s, Services just became more reliable with more stops, as electric trains can accelerate better.

The decrease in timings over the next few years will be down to the following.

  • Removal of bottlenecks like Trowse Bridge.
  • Increase in speed limits.
  • Trains with a shorter dwell time at stations.
  • Trains with better acceleration and braking.
  • Improved track and signalling.
  • All passenger trains on the line will have the same performance.

I will be very interested to see what timings, the Class 745 trains eventually achieve!

Electrifying Between Leeds And Manchester Victoria Stations

It looks like the electrification between Manchester Victoria and Stalybridge stations will be complete by the end of this year.

The central section of the route is problematical with the Grade 1 Listed Huddersfield station and large numbers of bridges.

In TransPennine Electrification And Piccadilly Upgrade Now Also In Doubt, I came to these conclusions about electrifying the route.

  1. Electrification would not go anywhere near Huddersfield, as the heritage lobby and their lawyers would have a field day.

  2. Standedge and Morley tunnels are over 2,000 metres long, double track and Standedge is level. If they needed refurbishment in the future, perhaps they could be electrified with an overhead rail, so that bi-modes could have a couple of miles of electricity.

  3. Electrification might be extended at the Manchester and Leeds ends of the line, so that the two cities could improve their local suburban electric networks.

  4. An alternative would be that the Leeds and Manchester suburban electric networks were provided with a few Class 769 trains or even some brand new four-car bi-modes.

  5. Services between Leeds and Manchester would be run by fast bi-modes.

Is there a more difficult stretch of possible electrification in the UK?

The Ultimate Bi-Mode Train

Currently four bi-mode trains are planned for introduction into the UK.

Note.

  • Two hundred and eleven bi-mode trains have been ordered.
  • Nineteen Class 802 trains have been ordered for TransPennine routes.

In Do Class 800/801/802 Trains Use Batteries For Regenerative Braking?, I look at the prospect of using energy storage in Hitachi’s bi-mode trains.

The Class 802 train is probably something like the ultimate bi-mode train.

  • 125 mph using electrification.
  • 100 mph under diesel power
  • Regenerative braking at all times using energy storage.
  • Automatic pantograph raising and lowering.
  • Sophisticated in-cab signalling.

Obviously, interior fitment would be up to the operator.

Class 195 Trains

Northern is acquiring 25 x two-car and 30 x three-car Class 195 trains.

These are 100 mph trains, so it must be a good idea to make sure all Northern services that use the same routes as TransPennine services are run by these faster trains.

Short/Medium Term – A Classic Manchester Victoria To Leeds Route

TransPennine Express are already planning to run Class 802 trains between Liverpool and Newcastle via Manchester and Leeds. It looks to me, that whoever plans their train policy, saw the electrification crisis coming.

I wonder what times they can achieve between Leeds and Manchester Victoria, if the following were to be done.

  • Stalybridge to Manchester Victoria electrification is complete.
  • Track and signalling is the best it can be.
  • The route has a 100 mph operating speed.
  • All trains on the route are 100 mph capable.
  • Northern replaces their scrapyard specials with Class 195 trains.

The reason for the same operating speed of 100 mph, enables trains to follow each other in a stream. It could be 90 mph, if that was easier for the route.

Station dwell times can also be reduced.

Due to overcrowding, the TransPennine dwell times, must currently be some of the worst in the UK.

This is typical at Huddersfield.

Not even the Japanese with their pushers could get this to work.

But a modern train like the Class 802 train with wide lobbies and adequate capacity should cope.

So what time could be possible, if everything goes as planned?

If Norwich to Ipswich which is about the same distance as Leeds to Manchester, can be achieved in thirty minutes, I believe it is possible that the Northern route could be achieved in the same time or perhaps thirty-five minutes.

Thirty-five minutes should be adequate for a few years, if say there was a train every ten minutes!

Long Term – A Genuine High Speed Manchester Victoria To Leeds Route

I’ve flown my virtual helicopter between Manchester and Leeds and it is not flat agricultural land like seventy percent of the route of HS2.

I believe that creating a genuine high speed route, with say a 140 mph top speed across the Pennines will be a major engineering challenge that will make Crossrail in London look easy.

It may even be more economic to develop 140 mph hydrogen-powered tilting trains, that can run on the classic route at 125 mph.

Only one thing matters to passengers; a fast reliable and very comfortable and affordable  train service across the country.

Manchester Victoria To Manchester Airport

When the Ordsall Chord opens any Leeds to Manchester Victoria service can continue to Deansgate, Oxford Road, Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Airport stations.

Manchester Victoria To Liverpool

Currently, services between Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Victoria stations take a few minutes over half-an-hour.

I would suspect that thirty minutes is achievable, if the following is done.

  • The four-tracking at Huyton is completed.
  • Track and signalling is the best it can be.
  • The route has a 100 mph operating speed.
  • All trains on the route are 100 mph capable.
  • Northern replaces their scrapyard specials with Class 195 trains.

I suspect all of this is in progress.

Note, this is very similar work, to that needed between Manchester and Leeds.

Leeds To Hull

Currently, services between Leeds and Hull stations take a few minutes under an hour.

A few thoughts on the route.

  • The Selby Line from  Leeds to Hull is double-track and not electrified.
  • From my virtual helicopter, it appears to be straight in very flat country, so it is no wonder Hull Trains offered to electrify the line.
  • If the Selby swing bridge were to be sorted, it could become a 100 mph line with trains to match.
  • Northern replaces their scrapyard specials with Class 195 trains.
  • Modern in-cab signalling.

I suspect quite a few minutes could be taken off this route which is about fifty miles.

I suspect this line will eventually be electrified, as it could give sound time savings and it looks relatively easy.

York To Scarborough

Currently, services between York and Scarborough stations take forty-nine minutes, with one tph.

  • Similar improvements to the double-track unelectrified line as for the Leeds to Hull route, could be made.
  • But if the line has a problem , it is that it has 89 level crossings, although Network Rail intends to close them all before 2025.

I wonder, if the time can be reduced between York and Scarborough, such that two tph can be timetabled.

I doubt York to Scarborough will be electrified.

Northallerton To Middlesbrough

This short line is quite heavily used and is a valuable diversion route, so I suspect nothing urgent needs to be done.

Like Leeds to Hull, I suspect this line will eventually be electrified.

Conclusions

I have come to the following conclusions.

  • Manchester Victoria to Leeds is achievable in half-an-hour with the new trains on order and no major infrastructure, other than that already planned.
  • Any line where TransPennine Express services run needs to have the highest possible operating speed and no slow trains.
  • Northern need to get their Class 195 trains into service as soon as possible.

Improvements are much-needed in the North, which could include.

  • A short/medium term plan to deliver the best possible service with the new trains ordered by Northern and TransPennine Express.
  • A long term plan to deliver a genuine 140 mph service across the North of England.
  • A plan to improve the Calder Valley and Hope Valley Lines across the Pennines.
  • A plan to improve some of the poor connections across the North.
  • A strategy to make the best use of connections with HS2.

A detailed plan is needed that lays down what should be done in the next ten to twenty years.

The plan is also needed as soon as possible.

 

 

 

 

 

August 23, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Crazy Idea Of Female-Only Compartments On Trains.

This article on the BBC is entitled Labour MP says ‘merit’ in women-only train carriages.

This is the first paragraph.

Women-only train carriages could combat the rise in sexual offences on public transport, a Labour MP has said.

My use of crazy in the title of this post, is based on what Lord Adonis said on Radio 5 Live, this morning. He also indicated that the solution was to moderate peoples’ and especially men’s behaviour everywhere.

But I don’t think female-only compartments are a good idea for very practical reasons.

The latest generation of commuter trains like the Class 378 trains of the London Overground are walk-through.

This seems to be a design that is used in modern London Underground and Crossrail trains. Putting separate compartments in a train like this, would block off the ability to walk along the train to perhaps position yourself  at the appropriate place to disembark at your station.

I also think that this type of layout is safer and more passenger-friendly.

About a year ago, I had a severe nose-bleed on a train, caused by an excessive sneeze. I had no tissues, but a lady sitting opposite had several and even helped clean me up.

I’d be interested too, to see an analysis of all harrassment on trains differs according to train type.

Conclusion

Like Lord Adonis, I tend to believe that harrassment on trains is better stopped by other means.

August 23, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , | 1 Comment

Technology Doesn’t Have To Be Complex

This article on the Rail Tecjnology Magazine web site is entitled Easing The Capital’s Cramped Carriages.

On the London Overground, the Class 378 trains are Electrostars with an air suspension.

Note the rubber suspension bag between the bogie and the car on this Class 378 train. As more people, dogs, buggies and heavy bags are loaded into the train, more air is pumped into the suspension bag to keep the train level, so that the train rides better and passengers don’t have to step up and down to get in.

The pressure in the bag gives a very good estimate of the number of passengers in each particular carriage in the train.

The Rail Technology Magazine article describes how this information is collected and  then processed and distributed to the iPads and iPhones of station staff, so they can direct passengers to the least crowded parts of the train.

I have read that other train manufacturers are working on sophisticated head-counting software using CCTV cameras, as I saw deployed on a 141 bus in Transport for London’s Latest Plot To Get Us To Climb Stairs. That device has disappeared, so I suspect there were problems, privacy issues or it just cost too much.

The system on a Class 378 train must be a lot simpler and cheaper to install, especially if the train has been wi-fi enabled. The Class 378 trains don’t have wi-fi, but many Electrostars do.

As information is always key in any system, it can lead to various developments.

  • Modern station displays can be updated to show the train loading.
  • There may be cases where train loading affects the platform a train would use at a terminus.
  • Automated messages about train loading could be displayed on the train.
  • Detailed train loading information must be useful in designing a train interior and also station layouts.

I suspect that those behind this project have got lots of applications.

August 23, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , | 2 Comments

Major District Heating Scheme to Connect £6bn Meridian Water Development

The title of this post is the same as a press release from Vital Energi.

This is the first three paragraphs.

London’s latest £85m district heating infrastructure is taking shape in Enfield and will be delivered by Vital Energi on behalf of energetik, the energy company owned by Enfield Council.

The new district heating network will accommodate up to 30,000 homes and businesses, including the £6bn Meridian Water development. energetik want to revolutionise the local energy market and improve the reputation of district heating, in a currently unregulated market, to ensure customers receive a quality service.

Vital Energi will design, build, operate and maintain the main energy centre for Meridian Water and install the district heating network over the next 12 years, under a contract worth £15m. This heat network is part of an integrated energy and regeneration strategy in Enfield that will interconnect with energetik’s other networks at Arnos Grove and Ponders End.

The Meridian Water development is certainly going about things in an impressive way.

August 23, 2017 Posted by | World | , | 1 Comment

The Texas Bullet Train

In the past, I have spent quite a few hours driving the long distances around Texas.

This article in Global Rail News is entitled Progress For Texas’ High-Speed Railway.

Texas Central Railway is proposing a high speed rail line between Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston, with the following characteristics.

  • 240 miles long.
  • Stations at Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston.
  • Routed along major infrastructure corridors like Interstate highways and freight railways.
  • Ninety minute journey time.
  • A train every thirty minutes.
  • Based on Japanese Shinkensen technology.
  • Wikipedia mentions, that the line could open as early as 2020.
  • Possibility of expansion to Austin and San Antonio.
  • Fluor Corporation, which is a very large engineering and construction company, headquartered in Texas, is involved in the design.

There’s more here on the Texas Central web site.

There’s also an appraisal of the line in this article in Dallas News, which is entitled Proposed Routes for Dallas-Houston High-Speed Rail Revealed.

Some points from the article.

  • Dallas would like the railway to connect to their extensive DART light rail system and perhaps even terminate at Dallas Union station.
  • A construction cost of $10 billion is given.
  • An in service date of 2021 is given.

Dallas certainly seems in favour of the project.

Conclusion

There certainly seems to be a degree of good will and support for this project.

Being Texas, they just had to label it a bullet train, but I’m more surprised that they seem to use railway instead of railroad.

 

August 23, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment