The Anonymous Widower

Should The Blackpool South Branch Be Electrified?

I can find nothing on the Internet, which states whether the branch line between Kirkham and Wesham and Blackpool South stations will or won’t be electrified.

However, I did get create this Google Map of Kirkham West Junction, where the lines to the two Blackpool stations divide.

Note.

  1. Kirkham and Wesham station is to the East.
  2. Blackpool North station is to the North-West.
  3. Blackpool South station is to the South-West.

This image was captured during the recent construction phase on the Blackpool Branch Lines.

As my train to Blackpool North on Monday afternoon passed the junction I took these pictures.

It looks to me, that the contractors are doing the following.

  • Improving the junction.
  • Laying some new track at the start of the branch line.
  • I also think, that the junction is being electrified.

The electrification could be for the following reasons.

  • It is the start of electrification of the branch.
  • Network Rail are providing an electrified turn-back facility at Krkham and Wesham station.
  • It could also be sensible future-proofing to make sure the branch can be electrified easily in the future.

If the branch is going to be worked by Class 769 trains or other bi-mode or battery powered trains, then I believe the work becomes clearer.

  • Trains from Blackpool South would have an electrified place, where they can change to electrical power and wait until the main lines are clear before crossing over to the Preston-bound track.
  • Trains to Blackpool South would be able to wait in Kirkham and Wesham station, until the line to Blackpool South was clear.
  • Trains to Blackpool South  could of course start their journey, as soon as the train from Blackpool South is waiting to cross over, using the new track, that is visible in my pictures.

The works will also create a very safe junction at Kirkham West.

The Blackpool South Branch 

The branch line has the following characteristics.

But there are other issues that should be considered.

Football At Bloomfield Road

If you are going to football at Bloomfield Road, as I have several times, Blackpool South is the closest station.

Blackpool Pleasure Beach

Blackpool Pleasure Beach has its own station, but there are reports on the Internet, that the walk between the station and the theme park needs to be improved.

An Increase In Capacty And Frequency

I once travelled between Colne and Blackpool South stations on a beautiful sunny day in early September.

  • Northern had laid on a pair of Pacers, working as a four-car train.
  • They were packed with families going for a day on the coast.

The conductor told me this often happens, when the weather is good.

When I passed through Preston station earlier in the week, I might have seen a notice, saying that the service between Colne and Blackpool South will run all week.

Passing Loops

There is no passing loop on the branch, so it makes it very difficult to run a more passenger-friendly two tph.

Until, the works at Kirkham West Junction are complete we probably won’t know if the junction is being designed, so that a train entering the branch could wait safely for a train to emerge from the branch.

But this would be more for reliable operations, than increasing frequency of trains.

The Open Championship At Royal Lytham And St. Annes

Ansdell and Fairhaven station is nearest to the course at Royal Lytham.

  • The Open Championship is a very important event on the golfing calendar.
  • Other important golfing events are also held on the course
  • Royal Lytham and St.Annes, last held the Open in 2012 and 2001. So it might come back to Royal Lytham in the mid-2020s.

Ansdell and Fairhaven station used to have two platforms, as described in Wikipedia.

The station was set out as an island platform with tracks on both faces until the singling of the line in the 1980s. Trains now only use the southern face. A disabled access ramp now covers the northern part of the station.

So could a rebuild of the station do the following?

  • Restore two platforms on an island at the station.
  • Put in full disabled access.
  • Create a passing loop.
  • Lomger platforms might be a good idea.

This Google Map shows the station.

Note.

  1. The disabled ramp winding away.
  2. The platform is probably about a hundred metres long.
  3. It would appear that there is space at the far end to extend the platform.

I suspect that an ambitious architect with vision, could design a station that met all objectives.

Rebuildng Of The Railway Between Skipton And Colne

The link between Skipton and Colne stations is promoted by SELRAP and has now been backed by the Government and large businesses like Drax, who say it would improve efficiency of biomass deliveries.

This map from Wikipedia shows the route.

Note that if the missing link is built, it does the following

  • Creates another much-needed route across the Pennines
  • Creates a second route between Leeds and Blackpool
  • Encourages visitors to the area.
  • Creates an easy link between Lancashire and the Settle and Carlisle Line.
  • Creates an alternative and faster freight route across the Pennines.

It could even become an iconic route famed for the scenery.

I feel that if this missing link were to be reinstated, it would be very well-used by passengers.

This increase in passengers would surely increase traffic between Colne and Blackpool South stations, means more pressure for two tph.

How Fast Could A Train Go Between Kirkham & Wesham and Blackpool South Stations?

Currently, the Class 142 trains take around 27-29 minutes to do the journey six intermediate stops.

Trains like a Class 769 train have improved performance.

  • They are being converted from Class 319 trains, that were built for high frequency commuter services.
  • The trains have two double-doors on each side of each of the four carriages.
  • Seat layout diagrams show the possibility of wide aisles and a lot of 2+2 seating.
  • They are faster, as the Class 142 trains have an operating speed of 75 mph and this article on Rail Magazine, says that the Class 769 trains can do 91-92 mph on diesel.
  • They have better acceleration and braking.
  • They can probably carry out stops much faster.

Newer trains built in the last couple of years will be even better.

Other factors will also speed up the service.

  • Level access between train and platform at all stations.
  • Relaying the track to allow higher operational speeds.
  • Modern signalling.
  • High-quality train driving and operation.

I am sure that the the time for a train to go from Kirkham and Wesham to Blackpool South and back will be substantially reduced.

But is it possible to do the trip in under thirty minutes, so that two tph will be possible?

Could Two Tph Be Run Between Preston and Blackpool South Without Electrification?

I believe that the Class 769 trains could be fast enough to run a two tph service on the Blackpool South branch, when passenger numbers say it is needed and track and station improvements have been completed.

An express shuttle could be provided for big events at Royal Lytham.

  • It would run between Preston and Blackpool South stations.
  • It would stop at Kirkham and Wesham and Ansdell and Fairhaven
  • The platforms at Ansdell and Fairhaven  and Blackpool South stations were to be lengthened to accept two Class 769 trains working as an eight-car train.

Network Rail would only need to lengthen two platforms and increase the operating speed of the line.

Effectively, by replacing a 1980s scrapyard special with a refurbished train of the same vintage and improving the track, the capacity of the Blackpool South Branch can be increased.

If some platforms were to be lengthened, it should be possible to run eight-car trains for events like the Open Championship at Royal Lytham.

Who needs electrification?

The Blackpool South Branch certainly doesn’t!

 

 

 

 

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April 20, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 3 Comments

Tendering Begins For German Hydrogen Train Order

The title of this post is the same as that of this article in the International Railway Journal.

This is the first paragraph.

 Rhine-Main Vehicle Management (Fahma), a subsidiary of Rhine-Main Transport Authority (RMV), published a tender notice in the Official Journal of the European Union on April 20 for a contract to supply a fleet of hydrogen fuel cell multiple units for regional services on non-electrified lines in the Taunus area of Hessen.

But then the Germans seem to be much easier to use gases of various types to solve problems, than other countries.

I’ve spoken about hydrogen trains to people in Germany and the UK and the Germans are more enthusiastic, whereas the Brits just question hydrogen’s ability to catch fire.

Perhaps, Gemans teach chemistry better?

Who knows? But the orders for hydrogen trains keep coming.

 

April 20, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

Barratt To Pay For Fire Safety Cladding Upgrade On Croydon Block

The title of this post is the same of that on this article on ITV.com.

This is the first couple of paragrphs.

Developers of a high-rise block that failed fire safety tests will pay for safety measures estimated to run into the millions of pounds, including replacing its Grenfell-style cladding, the Government has said.

Barratt Developments has said it will pay for backdated and future fire safety costs to make the Citiscape housing complex in Croydon, south London, safe, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said.

The ITV article has a video report.

I feel that they are in a difficult place, as their architects probably thought the cladding was safe to use. So I don’t think there has been too much malfeasance on the part of Barratt.

But to hold up their hand and say we’ll fix it, probably means everyone will be a winner.

  • Barratt get to fix the block for the cost of two or three of their more expensive houses.
  • If Barratt get an agreement on the deal, they should avoid complex and expensive legal wrangles.
  • Replacing the cladding now, will probably be a lot easier on a new building, that was probably built to a high standard in the last couple of years.
  • The Government should be pleased as there appears that the hand of Sajid Javid has applied some pressure.
  • Croydon Council should be pleased, as it is unlikely many owners will need to be moved to emeergency accommodation.
  • Hopefully, the owners will be pleased, as it appears they should get the value of their properties back.

The ITV article quotes a Barratt’s spokesman as saying.

Following the recent ruling that the costs for necessary recladding at Citiscape will fall on the individual apartment owners, many of whom were originally Barratt customers when it was built in 2002, we have decided that we will pay for the work. “Citiscape was built in line with all building regulations in place at the time of construction. While we don’t own the building or have any liability for the cladding, we are committed to putting our customers first. “The important thing now is ensuring that owners and residents have peace of mind.

I suppose Barratt could be accused of spinning a good line, but it is all good publicity for the houses they are building.

Whether other developers, who used the same cladding, as that involved in the tragedy of Grenfell, will follow Barratt’s example is another manner!

 

 

April 20, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

OVO Energy Drops 4 Product Bombshells, Including New Vehicle-to-Grid Charger

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Clean Technica.

This is the first paragraph.

n London yesterday, OVO Energy took to the stage and dropped not one new product but four product bombshells that are aimed at creating a new energy ecosystem that is accessible to residential energy consumers.

The products are.

  • A Vehicle-to-Grid Charger for the Masses
  • 7kW Smart Charger
  • One Ring To Rule Them All
  • Residential Energy Stoage

The article discusses them in detail.

If I still drove, I’d be very interested in the vehicle-to-grid charger, as I’d fit one in my garage.

The amount of car use, I would have would probably be fairly minimal, so most of the time the car would be sitting in the garage, acting as a storage battery for the National Grid.

Suppose ten million homes in the UK, had a vehicle-to-grid charger and an electric car with a 30 kWh battery. that would be 300 MWh of energy storage, which would be ideal for storing wind energy generated at night.

April 20, 2018 Posted by | World | , , | 1 Comment

Nineteen Tri-Mode Flex Class 769s For GWR

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Rail Magazine.

This brings the number of  Class 319 trains to be converted to Class 769 trains, to thirty five.

  • These trains for Great Western Railway (GWR) will be tri-mode trains and able to operate on 25 KVAC  overhead and 750 VDC third rail electrification and diesel power.
  • The Rail Magazine article, says they will support the introduction of refurbished Class 387 trains on Heathrow Express and on services from Reading to Gatwick and Oxford.
  • The trains would release diesel Class 165 trains and Class 166 trains to be refurbished and improve services in the Bristol area.

Although, there appears to have been so sighting of a Class 769 train on the UK network, the trains must have shown up well in testing, as no-one would order nineteen trains, that didn’t meet the specification.

According to the Future section in the Wikipedia entry  for the Class 319 trains, there are forty-five of the trains sitting in sidings off lease.

So there won’t be a shortage of trains to modify.

Good Design Always Wins!

I do find this story rather heartwarming.

When the Advanced Passenger Train project fell well behind schedule, Terry Miller and his team at Derby, came up with a short-term proposal for a High Speed Diesel Train, which when launched in 1975 was known as the InterCity 125.

Forty years later most of these iconic trains are still in service

But that wasn’t the end of the story.

The design of the Mark 3 carriages of the InterCity 125, was used by British Rail to build large numbers of less iconic electric and diesel multiple units, of which the Class 319 train was just one of seventeen classes of train based on the Mark 3.

The legacy of Terry Miller and his team is echoing down the years.

The Class 769 train is one of the ultimate echos.

How Will GWR Deploy The Class 769 Trains?

Nineteen trains is a substantial order and train companies don’t buy trains to stick them in sidings, so how will they be used?

Before answering the question, I’ll put in a few facts.

  • According to Porterbrook’s brochure, Class 387 trains are four twenty metre coaches.
  • According to Wikipedia, Class 319 trains are four twenty metre coaches.
  • Both trains can be configured to work on 25 KVAC overhead of 750 VDC third-rail electrification.
  • Porterbrook’s brochure says that Class 387 trains have a lot of modern features like, information systems for driver and passengers, air conditioning and passenger counting. The brochure also says that Class 387 trains will be ERTMS-ready.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Class 769 trains given a quality refurbishment, very much in excess of that Northern have given to their Class 319 trains.

Remember, that GWR must have massive experience about improving Mark 3 carriages from forty years of work with InterCity 125 trains.

GWR were also behind the superb refurbishment of a Class 150 train, that I wrote about in What Train Is This?. So they have form!

The quality must be in excess of that of the Class 165 and Class 166 trains, that they will often replace. And those two classes are not crap, just diesel, too slow for some routes and often lacking in capacity.

In Could A Three-Car Class 769 Train Be Created?, I showed that if a three-car Class 769 train is needed, that this is possible. But it would lose about sixty seats and the universal access toilet, if it follows a similar route as converting a four-car Class 321 train to a three-car Class 320 train.

Covering For Class 387 Trains Going To Heathrow Express

This page on the First Group web site, is the original press release about the procurement.

This is said.

Initially, the fleet will support the introduction of refreshed trains on Heathrow Express services, but will be predominantly be used on routes between Reading and Gatwick, and Reading and Oxford, where the train’s tri-mode can be used to its fullest. However, the tri-mode nature of the train will give GWR maximum flexibility to use them in other areas of the network should they be required.

The purchase of nineteen trains will surely be enough to cater for the loss of Class 387 units to Heathrow Express duties to replace the Class 332 trains.

I wrote about this in GWR Announces Plans To Replace Class 332s As It Takes Over Heathrow Express Service.

I estimated that if each Heathrow Express train eventually becomes two Class 387 trains working together as opposed to the current pair of Class 332 trains, that fourteen Class 387 trains will be needed for Heathrow Express.

Consider.

  • GWR have forty-five Class 387 trains in their fleet.
  • If Heathrow Express needed to be be worked by twelve-car trains, this would increase the number needed to twenty-one. That would still leave GWR with twenty-four trains for other services.
  • There are plans for Southern and Western access to Heathrow, which could mean a need for more Class 387 trains for Heathrow Express .
  • c2c could release their six Class 387 trains in the early 2020s, when their new Aventras arrive.
  • Great Northern might be persuaded to release some of their twenty-five Class 387 trains.

It certainly looks, that all possibilities are covered for Heathrow, who are probably paying a substantial fee to GWR to run the service.

Reading And Oxford

The First Group press release mentions that Class 769 trains could be running between Reading and Oxford stations.

So does this mean that the current two trains per hour (tph) service between Paddington and Didcot Parkway station will be extended to Oxford and run by Class 769 trains?

Consider.

  • A new South-facing bay platform is planned at Oxford station, that could be sized for a trio of Class 769 trains.
  • All services between Paddington and Oxford will become electric or bi-mode.
  • Class 387 and Class 769 trains are based on twenty metres carriages, so there should be no platform issues.
  • A number of Class 387 trains would be released for modification.
  • Several Class 165 and Class 166 trains will be released on other parts of the GWR network.

The only problem I see is that some passengers may complain about losing the Class 387 trains, with their comfortable seats and tables..

GWR must get the interior of the Class 769 trains spot-on!

 

Reading And Bedwyn

This is another route, where Class 769 trains could be used to advantage.

The turnback siding at Bedwyn station would need modification to incoporate a bi-mode Class 800 train, but a Class 769 train would fit the existing infrastructure.

Reading And Gatwick

If ever the Victorians designed a route that would be ideal for a tri-mode train it is GWR’s service between Reading and Gatwick Airport.

  • It has sections with 750 VDC third-rail electrification.
  • At Reading, it could be extended using the 25 KVAC electrification along the Great Western Main Line to perhaps Oxford.
  • Currently, the service is run by Class 165 trains.

Could a way be found to take the trains into Heathrow as an alternative Western terminal, when the Southern and Western rail routes to the Airport are built?

This route has needed a bi-mode train for decades.

Cardiff to The South Coast via Bristol, Bath, Salisburu and Southampton

This over three hour route is currently run by Class 156 trains.

Consider.

  • This route has significant overcrowding according to Wikipedia and my personal experience
  • Cardiff to Bath should eventually be electrified with 25 KVAC overhead wires.
  • Brighton to Southampton is electrified with 750 VDC third rail.
  • GWR run this route and have Class 800 trains.
  • Running at over 100 mph is only possible in a few places.
  • Dual voltage Class 800 trains must be possible, but at five-cars, they may be too long for some stations.

To run this route efficiently, GWR would need an appropriate number of  dual voltage bi-mode trains.

GWR will soon have two trains that could handle the route; Class 800 trains or Class 769 trains.

I suspect that the Class 769 train would be most suitable, especially as at busy times like the summer, they could run eight-car trains.

Transwilts

Transwilts is a Community-run rail service in Wiltshire. This page on the Transwilts web site, shows the rail routes in their area.

Currently, most local services seem to be run by two-car Class 150 and one-car Class 153 trains, so when passenger numbers increase, larger trains including Class 679 trains may be used.

I was in this area once a few days before the Glastonbury Festival. You couldn’t have squeezed ia chihuahua onto the train!

Slough And Windsor And Eton Central

Class 769 trains could work this short branch line. But they might be need to use a three-car version.

Henlry Branch Line

The Henley Branch Line has the following characteristics.

  • The branch is not electrified.
  • The branch is only single track.
  • There is a single-track bridge over the Thames.
  • Most services are shuttles between Henley-on-Thames and Twyford stations.
  • In the Peak and during the Henley Regatta direct trains operate to and from Paddington.
  • Crossrail will call at Twyford with a frequency of four tph between London and Reading.

I have just flown my virtual helicopter along the line and it looks like there is insufficient space to create a complete double track railway, that could work at a very high frequency.

But there is space to add a passing loop or loops, that would allow a four tph frequency on the branch to match Crossrail.

Class 769 trains would be able to work the updated branch using their onboard diesel generators.

  • Modern signalling would probably be needed to be installed on the branch, as it will certainly be on the trains, as they work between Paddington and Reading.
  • Selective door opening or platform extensions will be needed at intermediate stations, so that two Class 769 trains working as an eight-car train could use the branch.
  • Trains could either run as shuttles or direct to Paddington.

In my view, there is a simple solution in there, which is much better than mine.

But the residents of and visitors to Henley will get the quality service they desire.

  • Comfortable, air-cooled trains with wi-fi.
  • Four tph with a change at Twyford to Crossrail.
  • Direct electric trains in the Peak and during the Henley Regatta.

Maidenhead And Marlow

The Marlow Branch Line must be a particular problem for GWR.

  • The line is single track.
  • There is no electrification.
  • The one tph shuttle trains between Marlow and Maidenhead take around 20-25 minutes, with a reverse at Bourne End station.

This extract from the Wikipedia entry for Bourne End station described the Services.

Bourne End is a terminus but effectively acts as a through station, with the driver having to change ends to continue to the next station. During peak hours service frequency is increased by having two trains work the line, each using Bourne End as the terminus: one runs Marlow – Bourne End and one Maidenhead – Bourne End, with passengers changing trains at Bourne End. Four trains per weekday operate between Bourne End and Paddington in the morning peak and coming back in the evening peak.

This Google Map illustrates the problem at Bourne End station.

 

Note.

  1. The line to Marlow curves out of the Western side of the map.
  2. The double-track to Maidenhead goes in a South-Westerly direction out of the Southern side of the map.
  3. The Class 165 or Class 166 train in Platform 1 of the station is formed of two twenty-three metre carriages, so it’s forty-six metres long.
  4. Platform 1, is connected to both Marlow and Maidenhead, whereas  Platform 2, is only connected to Maidenhead.
  5. A four-car Class 769 train is eighty metres long, with a three-car Class 769 at just sixty metres.

Just looking at the geography, I have my doubts that the existing track and platform layout at Bourne End could handle the reversing of a four-car Class 769 train. It’s might be too long to clear the junction, so would be unable to reverse and take the other route.

But I suspect with a bit of innovation, this might be possible.

Track realignment is the obvious possibility.

The other possibility would be to use a three-car Class 769 train, which is just fourteen metres longer than the current trains.

Four-car Class 769 trains could also be used for a direct service between Bourne End and Paddington in the Peak.

Greenford Branch Line

In Could Three-Car Aventras Run Services On The Greenford Branch?, I tried to answer the question in the title.

This was my conclusion.

Three-car Aventras could provide a good service on the Greenford Branch Line, but there are issues and it may be more complicated than anyone thinks to run a service, that is acceptable to passengers.

I was assuming three-car Aventras with batteries, but three-car Class 769 trains, which carry much more energy in their diesel tanks, might do it.

Conclusion

Nineteen Class 769 trains will find a lot of work to do.

I also feel that three-car trains will also be needed for routes like the Green and Marlow branches.

 

 

 

 

April 20, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment