The Anonymous Widower

Thoughts On Trains Between Cardiff And Swansea

I decided to write this post, when, I read this article on Rail Magazine, which is entitled Cardiff-Swansea wires ‘not sensible’.

This is the first paragraph.

Electrifying the railway between Cardiff and Swansea was not a sensible thing to do, according to Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling.

Some would argue that Chris Grayling holds a controversial view!

The Current Route

Before, proposing anything, I’ll list what we have today.

The Tracks

I have flown my virtual helicopter along the route and nearly all the route is double track, with sections of triple and quadruple track in places.

This Google Map shows a typical section of the line.

Note.

  • There are two well-spaced tracks.
  • The tracks are not straight, but gently curve.
  • There appears to be a lot of green space on either side.

The line appears to be similar to this most of the way.

I may be wrong, but I don’t think much of the line would be that difficult to electrify, from an engineering point of view.

The signalling and operating speed are described under Infrastructure in the Wikipedia entry for the South Wales Main Line.

The signalling is modern and this is said about operating speed between Cardiff and Swansea.

90 mph (145 km/h) from Newport to east of Bridgend; 75 mph (120 km/h) from east of Bridgend to Swansea Loop North junction (with a small section of 100 mph (160 km/h) track through Pyle station); and 40 mph (65 km/h) from Swansea Loop North Junction to Swansea.

It is not a high speed line, although I suspect that things could be improved.

The Stations

These are the stations between Cardiff and Swansea.

  • Pontyclun – Two platforms – 300,000 passengers – Reopened in 1992
  • Llanharan – Two platforms – 200,000 passengers – Reopened in 2007
  • Pencoed – Two platforms – 200,000 passengers – Reopened in 1992
  • Bridgend – Two platforms – 1,500.00 passengers – Opened in 1850
  • Pyle – Two platforms – 100,000 passengers – Opened in 1850
  • Port Talbot Parkway – Two platforms – 500,000 passengers – Opened in 1850
  • Baglan – Two platforms – 24,000 passengers – Opened in 1996
  • Briton Ferry – Two platforms – 40,000 passengers – Reopened in 1994
  • Neath – Two platforms – 800,000 passengers – Opened in 1850
  • Skewen – Two platforms – 40,000 passengers – Reopened in 1994
  • Llansamlet – Two platforms – 40,000 passengers – Opened in 1994

Note that the passenger figure is the number of passengers given for the past year, rounded to a sensible value.

It should also be noted, that not one of the stations has a layout that allows a fast train to bypass a slow one stopped in the station.

The Trains

Current trains on the route include.

Some parts of the route are also used by freight trains.

As much of the route has a operating speed of less than 100 mph, the operating speed of the two 100 mph trains is determined by the track, not the train.

The Services

There appears to be a fast service between Cardiff and Swansea.

  • It runs with a frequency of three trains per hour (tph)
  • Trains stop at Bridgend, Port Talbot Parkway and Neath.
  • Two services are run by Great Western Railway and one by Arriva Trains Wales
  • Timings are not clock-face by any means.

In an ideal world the frequency of this fast service would be four or more tph.

There is also a slow train, which appears to be once every two hours at the other stations.

It surely should be at least one tph.

Why are the services so limited?

Improving The Route

A new franchise for Wales will be announced and I wouldn’t be surprised to see improvements promised for the route between Cardiff and Swansea.

How could the capacity of the line be increased?

Raising The Operating Speed

I quoted this extract from Wikipedia, about operating speed between Cardiff and Swansea, earlier

90 mph (145 km/h) from Newport to east of Bridgend; 75 mph (120 km/h) from east of Bridgend to Swansea Loop North junction (with a small section of 100 mph (160 km/h) track through Pyle station); and 40 mph (65 km/h) from Swansea Loop North Junction to Swansea.

So except for around Pyle station, the operating speed is below and sometimes well below 100 mph.

Improving the operating speed to as high as possible will reduce the timings between Cardiff and Swansea.

Elimination Of Slower Trains

There is no point in raising the operating speed, if trains that cannot cruise at the improved speed are still running on the line.

Modern Trains With A Fast Dwell Time

Modern trains like Class 800 trains, Desiros and Aventras are designed to be able to stop from line speed, load and unload passengers and regain line speed as fast as possible.

Off the current trains working on the line, only Class 800 trains are in this category.

Step-Free Access Between Platform And Train

All stations between Cardiff and Swansea should be made step-free between platform and train.

This will help the trains keep to the timetable.

Allow Faster Trains To Overtake Slower Ones

Timetabling is probably made difficult, in that there is nowhere where a fast train can overtake a slower one.

Often this is done in a station, where whilst the slow train sits in the station, the fast train goes straight through.

Rebuilding Some Stations

It might be prudent to rebuild some stations, for better step-free access and allow trains to pass.

Are there any plans for new ones?

Electrification

None of these improvements need or affect any future electrification of the route.

But these improvements don’t need it!

In fact, it might be quite the reverse in that some of the improvements like improving the track may need to be done before electrification!

The Next Generation Of Bi-Mode Trains

In Bombardier Bi-Mode Aventra To Feature Battery Power, I discussed Bombardier’s proposed 125 mph bi-mode Aventra.

The information came from this article in Rail Magazine.

A few points from the article.

  • Development has already started.
  • Battery power could be used for Last-Mile applications.
  • The bi-mode would have a maximum speed of 125 mph under both electric and diesel power.
  • The trains will be built at Derby.
  • Bombardier’s spokesman said that the ambience will be better, than other bi-modes.

If Bombardier are doing this, what are Alstom , CAF, Hitachi, Siemens and Stadler doing.

And I haven’t mentioned hydrogen power!

Conclusion

Put all this together and I’m sure this could be the reasoning behind  Chris Grayling’s statement that electrifying between Cardiff and Swansea is not sensible.

I am coming round to the belief that it might be better spending the electrification money on improving the line between Cardiff and Swansea, so that something like the following is possible.

  • Four fast tph between Cardiff and Swansea.
  • Two slow tph between Cardiff and Port Talbot Parkway stopping at all stations.
  • Two slow tph between Port Talbot Parkway and Swansea stopping at all stations.

Or whatever is needed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 24, 2018 - Posted by | Travel | , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] via Thoughts On Trains Between Cardiff And Swansea — The Anonymous Widower […]

    Pingback by Thoughts On Trains Between Cardiff And Swansea… – Welsh Business News from WelshBiz Blog a Welsh Business News Blog | April 25, 2018 | Reply


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