The Anonymous Widower

Should Crossrail Be Extended From Old Oak Common?

In How Will Chiltern Railways Serve Old Oak Common?, I looked at the possibilities of how Chiltern Main Line services will use the Old Oak Common station complex as an additional London terminus to ease the overcrowding at Marylebone station.

In Will Crossrail Go Up The West Coast Main Line?, I looked at why the extension of Crossrail to Milton Keynes was announced and then cancelled as it was thought to be bad value for money.

But is the general principle of extending Crossrail from Old Oak Common onto a new branch or branches a good idea?

Crossrail Revenue And Profit

If you’re running any railway, you get the highest revenue by running as many trains as you can and making sure that they are full with passengers all the time.

The Central Section of Crossrail between Stratford and Paddington stations will be very heavily used, as it will have to handle the following passenger flows.

  • Passengers from the Abbey Wood Branch going to and from Central London
  • Passengers from Heathrow going to and from Central London
  • Passengers from the Reading Branch going to and from Central London
  • Passengers from the Shenfield Branch going to and from Central London
  • Passengers from National Rail services at Liverpool Street going to and from Central London
  • Passengers from National Rail services at Paddington going to and from Central London

In addition it will also be used as an extra Underground line in Central London

The Central Section will be a cash cow for the Crossrail operator!

The various branches to and from Abbey Wood, Heathrow, Reading and Shenfield, may well be less heavily used, but will probably see a different type of passenger to the Central Section, who might need more space and hopefully a seat.

The Class 345 Trains

The Class 345 trains have been designed for efficiency and flexibility.

  • I believe that each car is a separate one-car electric train with its own function.
  • Most cars will be motored to distribute traction and braking forces along the train.
  • I wouldn’t be surprised to see a battery in each car to handle regenerative braking.
  • Cars are joined together to make a train of an appropriate length.
  • Initially, the trains are starting at seven cars, but will go to nine cars and possibly ten.
  • The interiors have been designed to satisfy both needs of a long distance commuter train and a London Underground train.

The operator will be able to configure the trains as new routes are added and passenger levels change.

Comparing Crossrail And The Victoria Line

It is worthwhile to compare the Central Section of Crossrail with the Victoria Line.

Crossrail’s Central Section has the following characteristics.

  • Twenty-four trains per hour  (tph) in both directions
  • Automatic train operation (ATO)
  • Full-size trains of up to ten carriages long
  • Platform-edge doors
  • Large stations with lots of wide platforms and passages.
  • Double-ended stations ay Liverpool Street-Moorgate, Barbican-Farringdon, Tottenham Court Road and Bond Street.
  • Step-free access
  • Easy access to connecting lines
  • Cross-platform reverse at most stations

Whereas the Victoria Line has the following characteristics.

  • Thirty-six tph in both directions
  • Automatic train operation
  • Tube-size trains of six carriages
  • Small stations with lots of narrow platforms and passages
  • Some step-free access
  • Some easy access to connecting lines
  • Cross-platform reverse at most stations

The two lines show a difference in design, very much in keeping with their construction dates.

One comparison is surprising.

Crossrail is planned to run twenty-four tph through the Central Section, but if Dear Old Vicky can manage 36 tph on a line built in the 1960s with generally cramped stations, surely Crossrail with the benefit of some of the best modern design can do a bit more.

I’ve read that Crossrail could handle thirty tph, but then we wondered in the 1960s at the Victoria Line’s fast trains and high frequency in the twenties between Seven Sisters and Brixton. And look at the old girl now!

Dear Old Vicky is second in frequency to parts of the Moscow Metro, which run a train every 95 seconds, as opposed to the 100 seconds of the Victoria.

I suspect that grates with the engineers of the London Underground, as no-one likes being second.

A few years ago, the engineers thought 33 tph between Brixton and Seven Sisters was the limit but now there is 36 tph all the way along the line.

So will we see further improvements to the Victoria Line like these?

  • A loop at Brixton via Herne Hill station to turn trains at the Southern end of the line.
  • Higher capacity stations at Oxford Circus, Euston, Kings Cross St. Pancras, Highbury and Islington, Finsbury Park and Walthamstow Central.
  • Air-conditioned, walk-through articulated trains
  • Full step-free access at all stations and platforms
  • Improved train control software
  • Improved methods of working

These and other improvements will push the frequency towards the magic forty tph.

Do I think that forty tph is achievable on a line built in the 1960s?

As a Control Engineer, trained in the 1960s, I can only give one answer. And that must be yes!

I feel that the stations are the key, as at times stations like Oxford Circus and Walthamstow Central are struggling to handle the number of passengers. Victoria was like that a few years ago, but the addition of a new entrance and more and wider passages has made the station seem a lot less crowded.

Surely, Dear Old Vicky has shown what is possible, when you take a well designed railway and try to ramp up the capacity!

Various commentators have said Crossrail will handle thirty tph, but why are they not being more ambitious?

Comparing Crossrail And Thameslink

Crossrail and Thameslink have a lot in common.

  • Frequencies of twenty-four tph through their central sections
  • High capacity step-free central stations
  • High-capacity purpose-built trains
  • Automatic Train Control in the central sections.

But there are differences.

  • Crossrail’s central section is straight through from Paddington to Stratford, whereas Thameslink has a junction at Blackfriars.
  • Crossrail’s central section has seven stations, whereas Thameslink has just five.
  • Blackfriars station is also a terminal station on Thameslink’s central section.
  • Crossrail’s stations are generally island platforms, which ease reversing direction, whereas Thameslink’s generally aren’t.
  • Crossrail is 25 KVAC overhead electrification throughout, whereas Thameslink has a voltage change at St. Pancras.

I think that although both lines will be opened at a frequency of 24 tph, raising the frequency on Crossrail will be easier than Thameslink.

The Importance Of Increasing Frequency On Crossrail and Thasmeslink

The train capacity on the two routes are as follows.

  • A nine-car Crossrail Class 345 train can carry 1,500 passengers
  • A twelve-car Thameslink Class 700 train can carry 1,754 passengers
  • A eight-car Thameslink Class 700 train can carry 1,146 passengers

Compare this with an eight-car Victoria Line 2009 Stock train, which holds just 876 passengers.

So if Crossrail went from 24 to 30 tph through the central section, that would add extra capacity for 9,000 passengers per hour, between Stratford and Paddington.

Building Crossrail and upgrading Thameslink will bring London two high-capacity cross-London Underground Lines.

The more the frequencies on those lines can be increased the higher will be the capacity of the Underground network in Central London.

Crossrail’s Shenfield Branch

The Branch to Shenfield station has the following characteristics.

  • It is an almost completely separated double-track railway between Stratford and Shenfield.
  • All stations will be step-free.
  • Most trains on the route will be Crossrail’s Class 345 trains.
  • A few of Greater Anglia’s similar Aventra trains may use the route.
  • The route will have modern signalling and ERTMS.
  • It is proposed that initially twelve tph will serve the branch

I believe the track, stations and signalling of the Shenfield Branch could handle up to twenty-four tph.

That figure might seem high, but consider the following.

  • Shenfield station has three platforms where Crossrail trains can be turned back.
  • Walthamstow Central and Brixton stations handle thirty-six trains tph with just two platforms.
  • The track layout at Shenfield can accommodate through trains.

Passenger access to the platforms is probably more of a limiting factor, than the track and platforms.

Timings

Currently, Class 315 trains are scheduled to go between Stratford and Shenfield in thirty-six minutes, with faster Longer distance services doing the trip non-stop in fifteen minutes.

  • Crossrail is claiming on their web site, that the Class 345 trains will do the trip in thirty-two minutes or four minutes less.
  • But there are eleven station between Stratford and Shenfield. So that is a saving of only around twenty-two seconds a station.

I feel Crossrail is playing their timings very safe.

Future Services

I think the following will happen in a few years.

  • The current proposal of twelve tph to Shenfield will be increased to something like fifteen or twenty tph.
  • Crossrail timings between Stratford and Shenfield will approach the current fastest time of fifteen minutes between the two stations.
  • Fast services to and from North of Chelmsford will stop at Shenfield to enable faster and easier journeys.
  • Crossrail could be extended to stations like Beaulieu and Southend Victoria.
  • Shenfield will become a major rail interchange.

The East of England will see major changes to its rail network.

Crossrail’s Abbey Wood Branch

The Branch to Abbey Wood station has the following characteristics.

  • It is a tunnelled double-track railway between Whitechapel and Abbey Wood stations.
  • All stations will be step-free.
  • All trains on the route will be Crossrail’s Class 345 trains.
  • The route will have modern signalling and ERTMS.
  • It is proposed that initially twelve tph will serve the branch

I believe the track, stations and signalling of the Abbey Wood Branch could handle up to twenty-four tph.

Future Services

I think the following will happen in a few years.

  • The  current proposal of twelve tph to Abbey Wood will be increased to something like fifteen or twenty tph.
  • Services on the Abbey Wood Branch will continue to match those on the Shenfield Branch, as this makes journeys between the two Eastern branches easier.
  • Crossrail could be extended to stations like Ebbsfleet and Gravesend.
  • Abbey Wood will become a major rail interchange.

South East London and Kent will see major changes to its rail network.

Summing Up The Two Eastern Branches

The two Eastern Branches can probably provide as many as twenty-four tph for Crossrail.

As the maximum frequency through the Central Section is probably in the thirties, they can allocate services according to where the traffic lies.

It would also appear that as the two services will use the same platforms at Whitechapel station and trains will be every few minutes, that Crossrail is designed to make journeys between say Ilford and Abbey Wood much quicker than by car.

Crossrail’s Reading Branch

The Branch  to Reading station has the following characteristics.

  • It is a semi-separated double-track railway between Paddington and Reading.
  • All stations will be step-free.
  • Most trains on the route will be Crossrail’s Class 345 trains.
  • Other services may share the tracks.
  • The route will have modern signalling and ERTMS.
  • It is proposed that initially six tph will serve the branch; four to Reading and two to Maidenhead.

I believe the track, stations and signalling of the Reading Branch could handle up to twenty-four tph,

Future Services

I think the following will happen in a few years.

  • The  current proposal of six tph to Reading and Maidenhead will be increased increased.
  • Crossrail could be extended to stations like Basingstoke and Oxford.
  • Reading will become an even more major rail interchange.

West London and Berkshire will see major changes to its rail network.

Crossrail’s Heathrow Branch

The Branch to Heathrow has the following characteristics.

  • It is a fully-separated double-track railway between Airport Junction and Heathrow.
  • All stations are step-free.
  • Most trains on the route will be Crossrail’s Class 345 trains.
  • Other services may share the tracks.
  • The route will have modern signalling and ERTMS.
  • It is proposed that initially six tph will serve the branch.

I believe the track, stations and signalling of the Heathrow Branch could handle in excess of twelve tph.

Future Services

I think the following will happen in a few years.

  • The  current proposal of six tph to Heathrow is increased.
  • Crossrail could be extended to stations beyond Terminal 5.
  • Heathrow Express will fade away.

Heathrow will see major changes to its rail network.

Turning Back Crossrail Trains At Paddington

These services will call at Paddington from the East.

  • 12 tph from Abbey Wood
  • 12 tph from Shenfield

And these from the West

6 tph from Heathrow

2 tph from Maidenhead

4 tph from Reading

This gives an imbalance, so twelve tph will have to be turned back to the East at Paddington.

Crossrail Services

The provisional service pattern is shown in the Wikipedia entry for Crossrail under Services.

It effectively shows the following services, with times are from Crossrail’s provisional journey time calculator.

  • 4 tph – Reading to Abbey Wood – 80/78 minutes
  • 2 tph – Maidenhead to Abbey Wood – 67/66 minutes
  • 4 tph – Heathrow Terminal 4 to Abbey Wood – 60/60 minutes
  • 2 tph – Heathrow Terminal 5 to Abbey Wood – 60/60 minutes (assumed same as previous)
  • 12 tph – Paddington to Shenfield – 51/51 minutes

It should also be noted that Paddington to Abbey Wood is 29/28 minutes.

Note.

  1. The first figure is for the West to East journey.
  2. The second figure is for the East to West journey.
  3. There isn’t much difference between West to East and East to West journeys.

This leads me to give these numbers for the trains on each route.

  • Reading to Abbey Wood – 12 trains
  • Maidenhead to Abbey Wood – 5 trains
  • Heathrow Terminal 4 to Abbey Wood – 10 trains
  • Heathrow Terminal 5 to Abbey Wood – 5 trains
  • Paddington to Shenfield – 24 trains

This totals up to 56 trains.

Note.

  1. My numbers of trains figures, are very rough and are minimum numbers.
  2. Provisionally, Crossrail will also be running 4 tph between Liverpool Street and Gidea Park in the Peak, which could need four trains.
  3. Crossrail have ordered 70 trains.
  4. Some trains will be in maintenance and others will be held in reserve.

Crossrail seem to have ordered a sensible number of trains for the initial services.

Ceossrail Extension To Gravesend

It would appear that a typical Abbey Wood to Gravesend service takes just under half an hour.

This is with slower twenty-five year old Class 465 trains, so extending services to Gravesend would just add an hour to the round trip.

This would make train timetabling easy.

If the Heathrow Terminal 4 service to Abbey Wood was extended to Gravesend, it would require another two trains.

In addition.

  • The Class 345 trains have been designed to run on 750 VDC third-rail electrification, with the addition of third-rail shoes.
  • I think that the new track layout at Abbey Wood station could cope with four tph running to Gravesend using the North Kent Line.
  • A single platform at Gravesend could turn back four tph.

It does look that to choose Gravesend as an extension for Crossrail could be a very good decision.

The New South Eastern Franchise

This will be a key factor in extending Crossrail to Gravesend and I suspect all bidders will give co-operation with Crossrail, a high priority.

I suspect a new franchise will replace a large proportion of the train fleet with new 100 mph traqins and that the Class 465 trains will be retired.

The new franchise is due to start in December 2018.

When Could A Crossrail Service To Gravesend Start?

I believe that the following infrastructure is ready for a four tph Crossrail service to Gravesend.

  • The link between Crossrail and the North Kent Line at Abbey Wood station.
  • Platform 0 at Gravesend is a twelve-car London-facing bay platform, that could handle the trains.
  • Dartford, Gravesend, Greenhithe stations are step-free.

However, certain things must happen before a Crossrail service to Gravesend could start.

  • The new Southeastern franchise must be up and running.
  • ERTMS must be installed along the North Kent Line.
  • All trains running along the North Kent Line must be 100 mph trains, able to take advantage of modern signalling.
  • All stations between Abbey Wood and Gravesend must be made step-free.

The new franchise will probably have its new service pattern and modern trains in place by the end of 2023, which would probably make the Crossrail extension easier.

Before a decision is made on the extension, Crossrail needs a couple of years to find out how passengers use the new line and the other services, which will include Thameslink, that call at Abbey Wood station.

Can Crossrail Be Extended From Old Oak Common?

Before answering the question, the related question of whether it is possible should be answered.

Extending Trains From Paddington

Current proposals envisage twelve trains turning back at Paddington.

It would not be difficult if a number of these trains continued to Old Oak Common station.

Can Paddington To Old Oak Common Handle The Extra Trains?

The current proposals envisage just twelve tph using the route between Paddington and Old Oak Common station, with perhaps a few wxtra trains going to and from Old Oak Common Depot.

As the tunnelled section of Crossrail can handle double that frequency, I suspect there will be no problems extending extra trains to Old Oak Common station.

It would appear that there would be no problems extending services to Old Oak Common station.

Where Would The Extra Services Go?

The choices lie between the Chiltern Main Line and the West Coast Main Line.

If we take Crossrail’s well-thought out choice of Gravessend, I think we need a destination, that is ideally just under thirty minutes from Old Oak Common station.

In the next few sub-sections, I’ll look at possibilities.

Extending To High Wycombe On The Chiltern Main Line

A service between High Wycombe and Wembley Stadium stations takes 27 minutes with stops at Beaconsfield, Gerrards Cross and South Ruislip stations. Taking the Acton-Northolt Line and even with stopping at Seer Green and Jordans, Denham Golf Club, Denham, West Ruislip and Greenford, I’m pretty sure, that a train could go from Old Oak Common to High Wycombe and back in comfortably under an hour.

Four tph between High Wycombe and Shenfield would require twelve trains, which is four more than would be needed for the same service between Paddington and Shenfield.

Consider.

  • Four tph could easily be turned back in a single platform at High Wycombe station.
  • High Wycombe station has plenty of space.
  • However, it would need the route between Old Oak Common and High Wycombe to be electrified.
  • But, it is a long-term aim of Chiltern Railways to electrify the Chiltern Main Line.

I believe that High Wycombe station could be a viable terminal for Crossrail.

Extending To Milton Keynes Central On The West Coast Main Line

A service between Milton Keynes Central and Wembley Central stations takes 51 minutes with seven stops.

This would mean that a train could go from Shenfield to Milton Keynes Central in comfortably under two hours.

Four tph between Milton Keyns Central and Shenfield would require sixteen trains, which is eight more than would be needed for the same service between Paddington and Shenfield.

Consider.

  • Four tph could easily be turned back in a single platform at Milton Keynes Central station.
  • Milton Keynes Central station  has space for a terminal platform.
  • Except for creating the connection at Old Oak Common and updating stations to full step-free access, the infrastructure is pretty good.
  • Crossrail would be linked to the East-West Rail Link.

I believe that Milton Keynes Central station could be a viable terminal for Crossrail.

Should Crossrail Be Extended From Old Oak Common?

It is certainly possible to extend to either High Wycombe or Milton Keynes Central.

If a decision were to be made to extend Crossrail, passenger statistics would probably decide, which would be the extra terminal or terminals.

 

 

October 27, 2017 - Posted by | Travel | , , ,

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