The Anonymous Widower

What Are Greater Anglia Going To Do With A Problem Like The Crouch Valley Line?

This post is effectively a series of sub-posts describing the problems of the Crouch Valley Line.

Platform 1 At Wickford Station

These pictures show Platform  1 at Wickford station, where services on the Crouch Valley Line terminate.

The train in the platform is a four-car Class 321 train, which is almost exactly eighty metres long.

After Greater Anglia has renewed the fleet, the shortest electric train they will have will be a five-car Class 720 train, which is over one hundred and twenty metres long.

I don’t think one of these shiny new trains will fit into the current platform.

Electrification

These pictures show the electrification at Burnham-on-Crouch station.

And these show Southminster station.

The overhead electrification on the Shenfield to Southend Line is being renewed and this section is supposedly finished. But it does look very similar to pictures I took in 2016, that are posted in Wickford Station. As the 25 KVAC overhead electrification was installed in 1979, when the line was converted from 6.25 KVAC, I do wonder about the age of some of the gantries.

On the trip, where I took these pictures staff were still complaining about the unreliability of the wires, as they have done before.

There doesn’t appear to have been any work done on the Crouch Valley Line, although the conductor did say that the route was being closed at times for work in the near future.

I do question, whether the overhead wires on the Crouch Valley Line are of a sufficient high and modern standard to be both reliable and easy and affordable to maintain.

Can the electrification handle regenerative braking?

The Timetable

The timetable East of Shenfield is as follows.

  • Three trains per hour (tph) between Liverpool Street and Southend Victoria stations.
  • A train every forty minutes between Wickford and Southminster stations.
  • There are also some direct services between Southminster and Liverpool Street in the Peak.

Every time, I go use the line it seems, I always have a long wait at Wickford station.

Current services take thirty minutes between the two end stations with generous turnround times of about ten minutes at each end of the route.

Two trains are needed for the service, which are single-manned with a conductor checking and selling tickets appearing to float between the trains.

A New Nuclear Power Station At Bradwell

There is a possibility of building.of a new nuclear power station at Bradwell.

This Google Map shows the area.

Note.

  1. Burnham-on-Crouch is the large village on the North Bank of the River Crouch.
  2. Southminster is a couple of miles to the North of Burnham on Crouch.
  3. Bradwell is in the North-East corner of the map alongside the River Blackwater.
  4. You can just see the World War 2 airfield, which was the site of the original Bradwell nuclear power station.

If a new power station is built at Bradwell, I doubt that it will require rail freight access at Southminster, as did the original station.

Transport technology has moved on and heavy goods will surely be taken in and out by barge from the River Blackwater.

But a new station or more likely ; a cluster of small modular reactors will require transport for staff, contractors and visitors.

Although, on balance, with the growth of renewable energy, I don’t think that many more nuclear power stations will be built.

A Battery Storage Power Station At Bradwell

I also wouldn’t rule out the use of Bradwell for a battery storage power station for the electricity generated by wind farms like Gunfleet in the Northern section of the Thames Estuary.

The number and size of these wind farms will certainly increase in the coming years.

Battery storage power stations are ideal partners for wind farms, as they help turn the intermittent wind power into a constant flow of electricity.

Currently, the largest battery storage power station is a 300 MWh facility that was built in 2016,  at Buzen in Japan.

Energy storage technology is moving on fast and I would not be surprised to see 2000 MWh units by the mid-2020s.

Bradwell could be an ideal place to put a battery storage power station.

Passenger Numbers

Passenger numbers on the line over the last few years seem to have been fairly level although there appears to have been a drop in the last year or so. But this drop has happened in lots of places!

Various factors will effect the passenger numbers on the Crouch Valley Line in the future.

  • New housing along the route.
  • A large energy-based development at Bradwell will atract passengers.
  • New trains will attract passengers.
  • Will the Internet and new working practices affect passenger numbers?
  • A two tph clock-face service will attract passengers.
  • Faster and more frequent services between Liverpool Street and Wickford will make the line easier to access.

There is also the possibility of more visitors and tourists to the area. The RSPB have spent a lot of money developing Wallasea Wetlands, which is opposite Burnham-on-Crouch.

In future years, how many people will reach Wallasea, by ferry from Burnham-on-Crouch?

Adding up all these factors, I come to two conclusions.

Predicting the number of passengers will be difficult..

There will always be passengers who need this rail service.

It looks to me that Greater Anglia will have to plan for all eventualities from very low numbers of passengers to a substantial increase.

New Trains

Shenfield-Southend services and those on the Crouch Valley Line will be run using new Class 720 trains.

Bettween Liverpool Street And Southend Victoria

Currently, this service on the route is as follows.

Trains have a frequency of three tph.

  • Each train takes an hour for the journey.
  • All trains stop at the seven stations between Shenfield and Southend Victotria, Shenfield and Stratford.
  • One train in three has an extra stop at Romford.

The new trains have a faster acceleration of 1 metre per second², as opposed to the current trains which can only manage 0.55 metre per second².

This property and their modern design, probably means that the new trains, can do a complete round trip between Liverpool Street and Southend Victoria stations in under two hours.

  • The journey time between the two stations will be around fifty minutes.
  • A three tph frequency will need a fleet of six trains.
  • A four tph frequency will need a fleet of eight trains.

This service will be faster than the fastest services between Fenchurch Street and Southend Central stations.

I can certainly see a time, when the frequency between Liverpool Street and Southend Victoria stations is increased to four tph.

Passenger numbers are rising strongly at Southend Victoria station.

Southend Airport have big expansion plans and would welcome a better rail service, to and from their very convenient station.

At present times to their London termini from various airports are as follows.

  • Gatwick Airport – 31 minutes (Express)
  • Luton Airport – 28 minutes
  • Southend Airport – 53 minutes
  • Stansted Airport – 46 minutes

I think that Southend Airport times with the new trains could be about 43 minutes or less, which because of the closeness of the station to the terminal building could allow Southend Airport to claim faster times to Liverpool Street than Stansted Airport.

If the service does go to four tph, there will be a massive increase in capacity.

There will be 1145 seats in the new trains, as opposed to 927 in the current Class 321 trains.

With four tph. this would mean an increase in capacity of 40%.

I don’t think anybody in Southend will be complaining.

Between Wickford And Southminster

As I said earlier, the new longer Class 720 trains will have difficulty running the current service, as they don’t fit into Platform 1 at Wickford station.

Working the same timetable the new trains with their 544 seats will offer a 76% increase in train capacity.

Trains take thirty minutes with five intermediate stations.

Given the better acceleration and modern nature of the new trains, I wonder, if they will be able to do a round trip in an hour.

If they can do this, then it would be possible to run a two tph service on the route.

But it will be a tough ask!

That still leaves the problem of turning back the trains at Wickford.

Currently, trains between Liverpool Street and Southend Victoria going in opposite directions, pass at Wickford station.

If this could be arranged with four tph, then there would be up to fifteen minute windows, where no train was passing through Wickford station.

Suppose the Liverpool Street and Southend services passes through at XX:00, XX:15. XX:30 and XX:45.

Would it be possible for the Southminster trains to leave Wickford at XX:10 and XX:40 and arrive back at XX:05 and XX:35, thus giving five minutes for the driver to get to the other end.

As I said, it would be a tough ask!

But I suspect there is a plan to get two tph between Wickford and Southminster.

  • The track could be improved.
  • Some level crossings could be closed.
  • Operating speed could be faster.
  • Better step-free access could probably be arranged at the intermediate stations.
  • A step-free bridge could be built at Wickford.

If two tph can be achieved, then this would increase capacity on the route by 134 %.

The Passing Loop At North Fambridge Station

This Google Map shows the station and passing loop at North Fambridge station.

Measuring from the map, I estimate the following.

  • The length of the platforms are 160 metres.
  • The length of the passing loop is in around 400 metres.

I also suspect that to save money was the line was singled in the 1960s, British Rail made the passing loop as short as possible to cut costs.

The current loop can handle eight-car Class 321 trains, so it can certainly handle a five-car Class 720 trains.

I do wonder if the passing loop were to be lengthened, this would ease operation on the line.

There might even be a length, that enable a two tph service with the current four-car Class 321 trains.

Thoughts On Speed Limits

The speed limit on the line is 60 mph between Battlesbridge and North Fambridge stations and 50 mph at both ends of the line.

Summarising sections of the line, their length and speed limits give.

  • Wickford and Battlesbridge – 2 miles 38 chains = 4356 yards = 3983 metres – 50 mph
  • Battlesbridge and North Fambridge – – 5 miles 67 chains = 10274 yards = 9395 metres – 60 mph
  • North Fambridge and Southminster – 8 miles 15 chains = 14410 yards = 13177 metres – 50 mph

This gives totals of 17160 metres with a 50 mph limit and 9395 metres with a 60 mph limit.

  • At 50 mph, the train would cover the 17160 metres in 12.8 minutes
  • At 60 mph, the train would cover the 17160 metres in 10.7 minutes
  • At 75 mph, the train would cover the 17160 metres in 8.5 minutes

Increasing the speed limit to 60 mph would save two minutes.

Network Rail must have all the figures and costs, but this could be a cost-effective way to save a couple of minutes.

But it does seem if the operating speed of the line were to be increased, time saving could be achieved, that would make a two tph timetable a reality.,

Could Electrification Be Removed From The Crouch Valley Line?

If the track is going to be improved with respect to line speed, level crossings and passing loops, then there will have to be changes to the layout of the overhead electrification.

Most of the serious changes that could be carried out, would be to the East of North Fambridge station.

Would it be sensible if the Class 720 trains have a battery capability, to remove the electrification to the East of North Fambridge station?

  • 13.2 km. of single-track would have the electrification removed.
  • Some of this electrification will need replacing soon.
  • Trains could swap between power sources in North Fambridge station.
  • The batteries would be charged between Wickford and North Fambridge stations.
  • Only 16 miles in each round trip would be on batteries.

Removing some electrification would cut the cost of any works.

Conclusion

I’m sure Greater Anglia have a solution and it’s probably better than my rambling.

 

 

 

 

 

August 30, 2018 - Posted by | Travel | , , , , , ,

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