The Anonymous Widower

Improving The UK Rail Network

The BBC is moaning today about the time it takes to get by train across the North.

Somebody has already texted in about the South-West and I suspect that other areas will complain as well.

In Faster Trains For Slower In Scotland, I examined the effects of introducing new Class 385 trains in Scotland, where a lot will replace older electric trains.

These new trains will have the following characteristics.

  • 100 mph maximum speed with faster braking and acceleration.
  • The ability to execute a station stop with the minimum possible dwell time.
  • On-board wi-fi and possibly 4G signal boosters.
  • Regenerative braking, which is possibly handled by onboard energy storage.

I came to the following overall conclusion.

Modern 100 mph trains with the ability to execute fast stops at stations are good for operators and passengers alike.

I will illustrate the importance of new trains like these with a few simple examples.

Waterloo To Chessington South

The current Class 455 trains between Waterloo to Chessington South stations take around 36-38 minutes with nine stops on the journey.

So a typical return journey takes the following times.

  • Waterloo to Chessington South – 36 minutes
  • Turning train at Chessington South – 15 minutes
  • Chessington South to Waterloo  38 minutes

Giving a total time of 89 minutes.

This means that three trains are needed to provide a two train per hour (tph) service on the route.

The new franchise holder; South Western Railway, is going to replace the Class 455 trains with new Class 701 trains

Wikipedia says this about the trains.

The Class 701 will feature regenerative braking, wide gangways between coaches, wide doors for ease and efficiency of boarding and alighting, 2+2 seating arrangement, Wi-Fi and at-seat USB charging points, as well as real-time passenger information screens, air conditioning and accessible toilets for disabled passengers.

Comparing the new and current trains shows.

  • The Class 701 trains are 100 mph trains, whereas the Class 455 trains are only capable of 75 mph.
  • The Class 701 trains will be capable of running under ERTMS, which will allow higher frequencies between Wimbledon and Waterloo.

But most importantly, the Class 701 trains could be able to save between one and three minutes at each station stop.

Also on this route.

  • The outer four stations are on the double-track Chessington Branch Line, so there is probably time to be saved by good driving.
  • Surely, the turnround time at Chessington South can be reduced.

On this example route, I think it is highly likely that the return journey can be reduced to a few minutes under the hour.

This would mean that two trains would be needed for the two tph service and it also opens up the possibility of providing a four tph service on the route with just four trains.

Would four five-car trains per hour, be better than two ten-car trains for both the operators and passengers?

Ipswich To Cambridge

The current Class 170 trains between Ipswich and Cambridge stations take around 80 minutes with seven stops on the journey.

So a typical return journey takes the following times.

  • Ipswich to Cambridge – 80 minutes
  • Turning train at Cambridge – 5 minutes
  • Cambridge to Ipswich 80 minutes

Giving a total time of 165 minutes, which is bulked up to three hours with a generous turn round at Ipswich.

This means that three trains are needed for 1 tph and six trains would be needed to provide a 2 tph service.

Greater Anglia have said they will do the following.

  • Run a train between Peterborough and Colchester at a frequency of 1 tph.
  • This extra service will overlap with the Ipswich to Cambridge service and provide a much-needed 2 tph service between Ipswich and Bury St. Edmunds.
  • Replace the Class 170 trains with Class 755 trains.

But a 2 tph service is needed on the whole route.

So how will the new Class 755 trains help achieve this aim?

  • Although the Class 170 trains are relatively modern having been built around the Millenium, the new Class 755 trains will quite likely have an improved dwell time. So expect to see a small saving at each stop.
  • Both trains are 100 mph trains, but the route is probably timetabled for a Class 153 train, which is only a 75 mph train.
  • Greater Anglia have said, they will use electrical power in every place possible.
  • The Ipswich to Cambridge route, shares the track between Ipswich and Haughley Junction with the electrified Great Eastern Main Line, so the trains may well save more minutes on this section with its two stops at Needham Market and Stowmarket.
  • Network Rail can also do their bit, by removing some of the many level crossings and improving the speed limit on the sections of the route without electrification. The Class 755 trains will take advantage.
  • Stadler have been experimenting with onboard energy storage and have committed to supply trains with batteries to Merseyrail. Handling regenerative braking under diesel mode using energy storage would give a fuel saving and improved accelerastion.

I suspect that Greater Anglia’s have to a plan to eventually reduce the journey time between Ipswich and Cambridge to an hour.

This would mean that only two trains would be needed for a 1 tph service or four trains for a 2 tph service.

Having lived along that line for over thirty years, I know that passengers will flock to an enhanced service.

As Greater Anglia have ordered 14 x three-car and 24 x four-car trains to replace about thirty assorted diesel trains, they certainly have ambitious plans.

Manchester Victoria To Huddersfield

The current slow services between Manchester Victoria and Huddersfield stations take around 45 minutes with six stops on the journey.

Northern is replacing the current 75 mph Class 156 trains with new 100 mph Class 195 trains, which have a much shorter dwell time.

So could we see the forty-five minute timing improved to a thirty minutes service, which is achievable by TransPennine Express with their current Class 185 trains?

I think we could, and it could even be fast enough to achieve a two tph stopping service with the same number of new trains.

Summing Up

In these examples, I have applied the following improvements to the current routes.

  • Trains with a 100 mph operating speed.
  • Trains with an improved station dwell time.
  • Trains with regenerative braking using onboard energy storage, where possible.
  • Rewritten timetables assuming faster modern trains are always available.
  • Selective Network Rail improvements like removal of level crossings and improved signalling.

In most cases, this results in the following.

  • Improved journey times.
  • Higher frequencies.

Generally, this can be achieved with the addition of a couple of trains.

In addition there are all the benefits of new or refurbished trains.

  • Better passenger facilities.
  • Wi-fi and increasing 4G connectivity.
  • Reduced fuel and/or electricity consumption.
  • Increased reliability and better timekeeping.
  • New trains generally are longer or have a higher capacity.

I can’t see a loser, if new or refurbished trains are introduced on a route.

Unless of course, the trains introduced are real dogs!

Extensive Fleet Renewal

These are some of the franchises, that have been renewed in the last few years.

All have embarked on extensive fleet renewals.

The reasons are as follows.

  • The current fleet contains a lot of scrapyard specials.
  • The passengers want better facilities.
  • New trains allow faster and more frequent services, as I outlined earlier.
  • Money is freely available at realistic prices, from competitive train leasing companies.
  • Saying you will buy new trains, helps you succeed in your bid for the franchise.

The only problem, is if a franchise promises too much and gets the sums wrong.

Improving The Infrastructure

To get the most of the new and refurbished trains, the infrastructure will need to be improved, in various ways.

  • Improved track layouts, with perhaps new chords and passing loops.
  • Removal of level crossings .
  • Improved signalling.
  • New stations.

There might even have been some elective new electrification.


The trains in this country can be improved significantly, by just getting rid of all the slow trains and improving the infrastructue to cope in small ways.

The train operating companies have realised this and are adjusting their franchise bids accordingly.


August 30, 2017 Posted by | Transport | | Leave a comment

Waterloo Upgrade August 2017 – Waterloo To Sevenoaks

During this week Network Rail are working on the OverJubilee or the lines between London Bridge, Waterloo East and Charing Cross, so capacity from places like Sevenoaks station is reduced.

To compensate Southeastern are running a two trains per hour (tph) service between Sevenoaks and Platform 22 at Waterloo station.

  • One train goes to Dover Priory station and the other goes to Ramsgate station.
  • The trains take the old Eurostar route into Waterloo station over the Waterloo Curve or the Nine Elms Flyover.

So I thought I’d have a look, hoping to perhaps have a lunch in Sevenoaks.

These are a few pictures I took.

There would have been more, but it was chucking it down and the ones I took were terrible.

The Linford Street Junction And The Waterloo Curve

This map from shows the Linford Street Junction and the Waterloo Curve.

The Junction and the Curve are used by trains to connect from Waterloo in the North East, to the lines from Victoria that go across South London via Denmark Hill and Peckham Rye stations.

Note how the train going into Waterloo and the train coming out passed on the flyover. I assume this was for safety so that trains could leave and join the lines to Victoria at Linford Street Junction.

These pictures of the flyover were taken on another journey to Clapham Junction station.

The flyover is recent and was built for Eurostar and completed in May 1993. There’s a page called Nine Elms Flyover on the Kent Rail website, which gives a detailed history of the flyover.

The Route Between Waterloo And Sevenoaks

The journey between Waterloo And Sevenoaks passed through the following stations without stopping.

  • Vauxhall
  • Wandsworth Road
  • Clapham High Street
  • Denmark Hill
  • Peckham Rye
  • Nunhead
  • Lewisham
  • Hither Green
  • Grove Park
  • Elmstead Woods
  • Chislehurst
  • Petts Wood
  • Orpington
  • Chelsfield
  • Knockholt
  • Dunton Green

From Lewisham station onwards the route is on the South Eastern Main Line.

Overall Impressions

The route seemed to work well, although between Waterloo and Lewisham, the train was rather slow, with a slight delay joining the lines out of Victoria.

The journey was timed at 47 minutes, with the fastest normal services between London and Sevenoaks being around ten minutes faster.

It certainly seems to be providing an extra two tph between London and Sevenoaks. In Eurostar days, it handled up to six tph.

I also suspect it could handle twelve-car trains, although my journey was in an eight-car train.

Future Developments Along The Route

There are going to be more developments to rail services along the route and also into Kent. Many will be driven, by the bidding for the new Southeastern Franchise.

Ashford International Station

In  Kent On The Cusp Of Change – Ashford Spurs, I talked about the completed upgrading of Ashford International station, so that more Eurostar and other Continental services can call.

As the station is going to get more Highspeed services, I can envisage some innovative ways to make more and better use of this station.

Bakerloo Line Extension To Lewisham

The Bakerloo Line Extension will provide passengers with the option of using the Underground from Lewisham to access Central and North London.

Brockley Lane Station

The Lewisham Line runs between Peckham Rye and Lewisham stations and is used by Southeastern trains from both Victoria and Waterloo.

There used to be a Brockley Lane station, where the route crosses the current London Overground’s East London Line, close to Brockley station.

This is said under Future in the Wikipedia entry for the station.

According to the Department for Transport and the Transport for London rail prospectus report released in 2016, it has been listed as one of the Southeastern franchise planned improvements in the document entitled “New interchange at Brockley”, suggesting that there might be a case to reopen the station.

Creating an interchange here would certainly open up lots of travel opportunities.

It should be noted that Brockley station will from 2020, have a ten tph service to Canada Water and Whitechapel stations, with all their Crossrail and Underground connections.

Charing Cross Station

Charing Cross station is bursting at the seams, with typically fourteen and more trains in each hour.

This extract comes from Network’s Kent Route Study.

Charing Cross has just six 12-car platforms and Platforms 4, 5 and 6 are very narrow, leading to operational restrictions.

Class 465 units cannot operate in 12-car into these platforms and selective door operation is used on Class 375 units.

A major rebuild of the station could allow it to be extended south over the river, like Blackfriars, providing compliant platforms and greater passenger circulation.

At concept level, a new link to Waterloo from a southern entrance to Charing Cross may supersede Waterloo East allowing the station area to be used for  additional track capacity, but there are likely to be many issues with a project on this scale.

One of the many issues would be how to keep services running during the rebuild of the station.

I suspect that Waterloo could have a role to play in handling some of the services.

Fawkham Junction Link

In Kent On The Cusp Of Change – Fawkham Junction Link, I talked about the proposal to reopen the Fawkham Junction Link,  which was originally used to allow Eurostar trains to get to Waterloo station.

If this link were to be reopened, coupled with what has been happening between Waterloo and Sevenoaks, this would enable extra Southeastern HighSpeed services to Thanet to be run to either Victoria or Waterloo.

Victoria Station

Victoria station will periodically need work and might even be subject to a major upgrade project.

As with Charing Cross, I’m sure Waterloo could be used as an alternative terminus for a few trains.

Could Southeastern Services Into Waterloo Become Permanent? 

I suspect that as has been successfully shown this week, that it is a feasible proposition.

But whether it actually happens would be up to the train operators.


  • Eurostar used to run a 6 tph service on this route.
  • A single well-designed platform can handle 4 tph.
  • The new platforms can handle twelve-car trains.

But most importantly, the train operators will have all the passenger data!


Southeastern and Network Rail have certainly shown it is possible to run a two tph service successfully between Sevenoaks and Waterloo.

If nothing else, it could prove to be a useful alternative route during engineering works or other diversions.







August 30, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Waterloo Upgrade August 2017 – A First Trip Into Platform 1

I took these pictures as my train went from Clapham Junction into Platform 1 at Waterloo station.

It appears that if your train is going into Platforms 1  to 6, Platform 6 shows on the National Rail web site.

Then just outside the station, it appears that this changes to the actual pltform when it is allocated.

My train was actually held for a minute or two, whilst another train left the platform.

It all seems to happen very smoothly.

Despite the rain!

I certainly think that they’ll achieve their objective of running twenty-two trains per hour into platforms 1 to 6.



Note how in this display from about 16:00.

  1. There are still quite a few delayed and cancelled trains due to the overrunning engineering work.
  2. Platforms 1 to 4 and 6 have a departure.
  3. Platforms 20-24 don’t appear. in the display.

It appears that a lot of the objectives have been completed.

August 30, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment