The Anonymous Widower

Coastal Communities Among Worst Off In UK, Report Finds

The title of this post is the same as an article on the BBC web site, which they are covering on BBC Breakfast.

When I was fifteen my parents partially-retired to Felixstowe and I remember a very boring couple of summers in the town. In summer 1963, I spent most of it reading Nelkon and Parker in preparation for my A Level Physics course.

In those days, public transport to Ipswich was dire with nothing back after working hours and I can remember that I only ever went to the cinema in Felixstowe once!

Today, the last train from Ipswich is 22:28, but in those days it was about 19:00.

So one factor that applied, was you needed a car to have any social life outside of the dreary town. The few people of my age, I knew in the town couldn’t wait to leave school, so they could earn money to buy a car.

If you look around the country, the coastal areas that are vibrant and successful like say Bournemouth, Brighton, Liverpool, Southend and Swansea, tend to be larger, with excellent external and internal public transport links.

Other non-successful coastal towns like Felixstowe, Hastings, Hull, Lowestoft, Redcar, Skegness and Ysrmouth don’t have the same quality of external transport links, although some like Hull have good bus networks.

I may be being selective, but I believe it would make a big difference to a lot of coastal towns, if they had a first class rail service to the nearby inland larger towns and cities.

If there is no rail route, then a first class bus connection is needed.

Felixstowe

I’ll take Felixstowe as an example.

  • The train service is one train per hour and it finishes around ten in the evening.
  • The length of the line is such, that one train can do the return trip in an hour.
  • Most of the rolling stock used on the line are past it, although I’ve done the trip in a passenger-friendly Class 170 train.
  • If it is a sunny Saturday or Sunday, the train can get overloaded at times.

Hopefully, the train service will get better.

  1. Greater Anglia have ordered new three-car Class 755 bi-mode trains.
  2. Network Rail are improving the Felixstowe Branch Line.
  3. Ipswich station is to be upgraded with an extra bay platform for Felixstowe and Lowestoft services.

Point 1 would probably attract more passengers and points 2 and 3 would allow a half-hourly service at selected times of the day.

The increase in capacity and quality, should be enough, so that on a glorious day if people in Ipswich decide to go to the coast, the trains can make it a good experience.

It will be interesting to see how the number of rail passengers to Felixstowe change in the next few years.

Incidentally, Felixstowe station shows how you can create a quality station for a town of 24,000 people.

  • The Grade II Listed station buildings have become a Shopping Centre with a cafe and bar.
  • There is just a single platform that can take a four-car train.
  • There is a ticket machine and a basic shelter.
  • The station is on the High Street.
  • The car park is shared with the local Co-op supermarket.
  • The station is unstaffed, but the trains are double-manned.

How many coastal stations could be Felixstowed?

Felixstowe used to have a second station at Felixstowe Beach, which is near to the Port of Felixstowe and Landguard Fort.

Some might argue that reopening the station would be a good idea, especially as it could be a modern single platform station.

But surely, it would be better to improve the bus services in the town or provide quality bike hire at the station.

Greater Anglia’s Class 755 Trains

Greater Anglia have ordered 24 x four-car and 14 x three-car Class 755 trains.

  • The trains are bi-mode.
  • In terms of carriages, the new bi-mode fleet will be at more than twice the size of the current diesel fleet.
  • Greater Anglia have said, that they will use electric power from overhead wires, even if it’s only available for short distances.
  • The trains are probably large enough for an on-board full function ticket machine and lots of buggies, bicycles and wheel-chairs.
  • They will probably carry their own wheelchair ramp, as I saw in What Train Is This?

This article in RailNews is entitled Greater Anglia unveils the future with Stadler mock-up and says this.

The bi-mode Class 755s will offer three or four passenger vehicles, but will also include a short ‘power pack’ car to generate electricity when the trains are not under the wires. This vehicle will include a central aisle so that the cars on either side are not isolated. Greater Anglia said there are no plans to include batteries as a secondary back-up.

So Stadler are using their well-proven design, which I saw in Germany.

What surprises me is the ruling out of batteries by Greater Anglia.

The central powercar would surely be the ideal place to put energy storage, for the following reasons.

  • It could be easily integrated with the diesel power-pack.
  • The weight of the battery is probably in the best place.
  • It could be part of an energy saving regenerative braking system, which would work under electric or diesel power.
  • In Battery EMUs For Merseyrail, I wrote how Stadler were fitting batteries in Merseyrail’s new fleet.

When the trains arrive, it’ll all be explained. Perhaps, Greater Anglia’s words were carefully chosen.

How will these trains change the coastal towns of Cromer, Felixstowe, Lowestoft, Sheringham and Yarmouth?

If it’s positive, Greater Anglia will be setting a strong precedent.

What Needs To Be Done To Railways To And Along The Coast

In no particular order, there are various topics.

A Coastal-Friendly Train Fleet

From personal experience on East Anglian trains, I feel that the passenger profile is different with always several bicycles on a train. Greater Anglia will have researched their passengers’ journeys and this has resulted in their choice of three- and four-car bi-mode Class 755 trains.

  • One- and two-car diesel multiple units are being replaced with three-car bi-modes
  • The Class 170 trains appear to be being replaced by four-car bi-modes.

So it would appear that Greater Anglia are expecting more passengers on the coastal routes to Cromer, Felixstowe, Lowestoft and Yarmouth, as they are always running at least three-car trains.

I also suspect they will be allowing for more bicycles and buggies, with higher traffic at weekends with good weather.

Their fleet choice will also allow them to use a four-car train instead of a three-car.

Looking at the fleet choices of other train operators like Northern working over a wide area with a large proportion of leisure traffic, they seem to have a degree of flexibility.

Stations In Coastal Towns

Many  stations in coastal towns were built in the grand manner. This is St. Leonard’s Warrior Square station.

Felixstowe station was built in this way and the station buildings are Grade II Listed. This is the single platform.

But it also shows how you can create a quality station for a town of 24,000 people.

  • The station buildings have become a Shopping Centre with a cafe and bar.
  • There is just a single platform that can take a six-car train.
  • There is a ticket machine and a basic shelter, underneath an ornate 1898 canopy.
  • The station is on the High Street.
  • The car park is shared with the local Co-op supermarket.
  • The station is unstaffed, but the trains are double-manned.

How many coastal stations could be Felixstowed?

These are a few pictures of other stations in coastal towns.

Some are grand, some are simple and some need a lot of improvement.

But if you want to improve the fortunes of a coastal town, or any town for that matter, you must give it a decent station, which will be one of main entry points for visitors.

The larger stations must have the following characteristics.

  • A certain style.
  • Good understandable information and perhaps a proper Tourist Office.
  • A cafe or a bar.
  • Decent bus connections to the rest of the town.
  • Bicycle hire
  • A shop for a paper and some chocolate.
  • A cash machine with no extra charges.

Hopefully, the station needs a central location in the town.

But Felixstowe station shows what can be created, with its Victorian canopy and a single platform, tucked away behind a shopping centre, built around the original Listed station building.

These days with modern signalling and double-ended multiple units, single-platform stations like Felixstowe, could probably handle four trains per hour.

New Stations

In DfT Names Five Winners Of Fresh £16m Stations Fund, I talked about new stations funded by the Government’s New Stations Fund. Two of the five stations are near the coast; Bow Street and Horden Peterlee.

So does the Government realise the value of good rail links to coastal areas?

The Walkers’ Halt

Some of the coastal lines go along some of the most spectacular coast-lines in the UK.

This Google Map shows the Durham Coast Line just South of Seaham station.

A modern train like a bi-mode Class 755 train could have the following characteristics.

  • The ability to execute station stops with a short dwell time.
  • In-cab radio signalling.
  • CCTV to aid the driver at a station stop.
  • On-board ticketing machine.
  • On-board wheelchair ramp.
  • Two crew members.

So would it be able to stop to pick up and set down at an old-fashioned halt with perhaps a single platform?

The England Coast Path

The England Coast Path will be 4,500 kilometres long and go round the whole coast of England.

In places, it must go near to railway lines, so will we see simple walkers’ halts, as I described in the previous section?

It strikes me, that we need a large helping of careful design to make sure that the England Coast Path and our costal rail routes would well together.

I used England as an example, but I suspect, the same logic applies in the rest of the UK.

Conclusion

This post isn’t complete yet!

I do feel though based on my East Anglian experience, that improving the train service to coastal towns could be the first step in improving their prosperity.

Too often going to the coast by train is a second-rate experience. Greater Anglia with its train fleet renewal seem to be creating a new era of getting to the coast in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Other companies should be made to follow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 4, 2017 - Posted by | Travel | , , , , ,

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