The Anonymous Widower

Axed Rail Routes May Be Reopened Under New Department for Transport Plans

The title of this post is the same as that on this article on Sky News.

This is the first two paragraphs.

The Department for Transport has confirmed it is actively working with a number of groups to explore the possibility of reopening old rail routes, axed under the so-called Beeching cuts of the 1960s.

It follows a call by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling a year ago, encouraging those in the public and private sector to submit proposals for potential projects to regenerate old lines.

It also quotes a Department of Transport spokesman.

This is on top of exploring reopening the Northumberland Line for passenger use, supporting the reinstatement of stations on the Camp Hill Line, developing new rail links to Heathrow and a new station at Cambridge South

He apparently, didn’t say more because of confidentiality.

The article then talks about the success of the Borders Railway in Scotland.

So is this just a good news story for Christmas or is there a plan to reopen old railway lines?

I feel that a several factors are coming together, that make the reopening of railway lines and the creation of new ones more likely.

Digital Signalling

Signalling is expensive, but where you have rolling stock to a high modern standard, with digital in-cab signalling, does this mean that new or reopened rail lines can be built without conventional signalling?

In addition, installing digital signalling on some routes, would probably make it easier to add a new station. Surely, it must just be a reprogramming of the route!

It could be a problem that, I would expect that on a digitally-signalled line, all trains must be capable of using it. But in many areas of the country, like East Anglia, these routes will be run by new trains.

Digital signalling must also make it easier to design more efficient single-track railways, with perhaps a passing loop to allow higher frequencies.

More Efficient Track Construction

Network Rail and their contractors and suppliers are getting better and more efficient at building track and bridges through difficult terrain and places, judging by some of their construction in recent years, such as the Acton Dive-Under and the Ordsall Chord. They have also overseen some notable successes in the refurbishment of viaducts and tunnels.

It should also be noted that the reopening of the Borders Railway was a successful project in terms of the engineering and was completed on budget and on time.

According to Wikipedia, though there was criticism of the infrastructure.

This is said.

The line’s construction has been described as resembling a “basic railway” built to a tight budget and incorporating a number of cost-saving features, such as using elderly two-carriage diesel trains and running the line as single track.

But looking back on the line from over three years since it opened, it has certainly been judged by many to be an undoubted success.

Would it have had the same level of success, if it had been built as a double-track electrified railway?

Single-Track Lines

The Borders Railway is a good example of an efficient single-track railway, that runs a half-hourly service.

Other routes like the East Suffolk Line and the Felixstowe Branch Line, show how good design can handle more than the most basic levels of traffic, with perhaps selective double track or a well-placed passing loop.

They may be dismissed by rail purists as basic railways, but when well-designed, they are able to provide the service that is needed along the route, for a construction cost that is affordable.

I would though advocate, that if a new single-track railway is built, that provision is made where possible to be able to add the second track. But not at too great an expense or to provide a service level that will never be needed.

I believe that good design of a new railway can cut the construction cost by a fair amount.

Single-Platform Stations

Several of the new stations built in recent years have been stations with only a single-platform.

  • Cranbrook – A station in Devon on the West of England Main Line to serve a new housing development.
  • Ebbw Vale Parkway – A parkway station in Ebbw Vale.
  • Galashiels – A station, that handled 356,000 passengers last year. It is a unique station on a narrow site, that shares facilities with a large bus station on the other side of the road. It is a very functional transport interchange.
  • James Cook – A basic but practical station, that serves the hospital in Middlesbrough. – It cost just over £2million in 2014.
  • Newcourt – A £4million station handling over 100,000 passengers per year.
  • Pye Corner – A basic station in Newport handling nearly 100,000 passengers per year.

The stations have several common characteristics.

  • They can all handle at least a four-car train.
  • The single-platform is used for services in both directions.
  • Disabled access is either level or by a gently-sloping ramp.

Only James Cook station has a footbridge over the track.

These single-platform stations must cost less, as for instance a footbridge with lifts costs upwards of a million pounds.

Note that of the nine stations on the Borders Railway only three have two platforms.

Single-Platform Terminal Stations

There are also several terminal stations in the UK with only one platform.

  • Aberdare – Handling over 500,000 passengers per year.
  • Aberystwyth – Handling around 300,000 passengers per year.
  • Alloa – Handling around 400,000 passengers per year.
  • Aylesbury Vale Parkway – Handling over 100,000 passengers per year.
  • Blackpool South – Handling over 100,000 passengers per year.
  • Exmouth – Handling nearly a million passengers per year.
  • Felixstowe – Handling around 200,000 passengers per year.
  • Henley-on-Thames – Handling around 800,000 passengers per year.
  • Marlow – Handling nearly 300,000 passengers per year.
  • Merthyr Tydfil – Handling around 500,000 passengers per year.
  • North Berwick – Handling around 600,000 passengers per year.
  • Redditch– Handling over a million passengers per year.
  • Seaford – Handling over 500,000 passengers per year.
  • Shepperton – Handling around 400,000 passengers per year.
  • Sheringham – Handling around 200,000 passengers per year.
  • Walton-on-the-Naze – Handing around 130,000 passengers per year
  • Windsor & Eton Central – Handling nearly two million passengers per year.

Many of these stations have only a single hourly train. whereas Redditch and Windsor & Eton Central stations have three trains per hour (tph).

As a single terminal platform can probably handle four tph, I suspect that most terminals for branch lines could be built with just a single platform.

No Electrification

Chris Grayling has said that the East West Rail Link will be built without electrification.

I wasn’t surprised.

  • Network Rail has a very poor performance in installing electrification.
  • There have been complaints about the visual intrusion of the overhead gantries.
  • Electrification can cause major disruption to road traffic during installation, as bridges over the railway have to be raised.

In addition, I’ve been following alternative forms of low- or zero-carbon forms of train and feel they could offer a viable alternative

Bi-Mode, Hydrogen And Battery-Electric Trains

When the Borders Railway was reopened, unless the line had been electrified, it had to be run using diesel trains.

But in the intervening three years, rolling stock has developed and now a new or reopened railway doesn’t have to be electrified to be substantially served by electric trains.

  • Bi-Mode trains are able to run on both diesel and electric power and Hitachi’s Class 800 trains are successfully in service. They will be shortly joined by Porterbrook’s innovative Class 769 trains.
  • Hydrogen-powered trains have already entered service in Germany and they are being developed for the UK.
  • Battery-electric trains have already been successfully demonstrated in the UK and will enter service in the next few years.

All of these types of train, will be able to run on a new railway line without electrification.

Bi-mode trains are only low-carbon on non-electrified lines, whereas the other trains are zero-carbon.

The trains on the Borders Railway must be prime candidates for replacement with hydrogen-powered or battery-electric trains.

Adding It All Up

Adding up the factors I have covered in this section leads me to conclude that rail developments over the last few years have made it possible to create a new railway line with the following characteristics.

  • An efficient mainly single-track layout.
  • Single-platform stations.
  • A single-platform terminal station capable of handling well upwards of a million passengers per year.
  • Service levels of up to four trains per hour.
  • Zero-carbon operation without electrification.
  • Low levels of visual and noise intrusion.

The new railway will also be delivered at a lower cost and without major disruption to surrounding road and rail routes.

The Need For More Housing And Other Developments

There is a very large demand for new housing and other developments all over the UK.

Several proposed rail projects are about connecting new developments with the rail network.

In London Overground Extension To Barking Riverside Gets Go Ahead, I listed a few developments in London, where developers and their financial backers, were prepared to put up around £20,000 for each house to fund decent rail-based transport links.

Obviously, developments in London are expensive, but with all the new developments, that have been built close to stations in the last few years, I suspect that infrastructure financiers. like Legal and General and Aviva, know how much being by a rail station is worth.

Conclusion

Both public and private infrastructure financiers will take advantage of the good railway and rolling stock engineering, which will mean the necessary rail links to new developments will be more affordable and zero-carbon.

December 27, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

London Overground Extension To Barking Riverside Gets Go Ahead

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

This is an important extension, as it unlocks a valuable housing site at Barking Riverside, where 10,800 homes will be built.

A Cost Comparison

It is going to cost £263million, which works out at £24,000 for each house and flat.

By comparison, the billion pound Northern Line Extension to Battersea will serve around 50,000 houses, or £20,000 for each.

And the Lea Valley Rail Programme is a £170million project, that will serve 10,000 homes at Meridian Water with a new Meridian Water station. This is slightly cheaper at £17,000 per home, but a double-track railway was already in place.

Note that in all these schemes, the developers have made contributions. Some have been larger than others.

There are a surprisingly close set of figures for cost per home, considering that the developments will probably be at different points on the luxury spectrum.

So if we are building a large housing development in London, of say 10,000 homes, should we be prepared to spend around £200million on providing decent rail or some other fast and accessible public transport access?

At the smaller end, if say a developer is building five hundred new homes, this could mean it is worth spending up to ten million on updating an existing station. The new Lea Bridge station seems to have cost around this sum and seems to be supporting hundreds of homes.

Proposed Developments In London

So how does this figure fit in with proposed developments in London?

Brent Cross Cricklewood

Brent Cross Cricklewood is described like this in Wikipedia.

Brent Cross Cricklewood is a planned new town centre development in Hendon and Cricklewood, London, United Kingdom. The development is planned to cost around £4.5 billion to construct and will include 7,500 homes, 4,000,000 sq ft (370,000 m2) of offices, four parks, transport improvements and a 592,000 sq ft (55,000 m2) extension of Brent Cross Shopping Centre. The developers of the scheme are Hammerson and Standard Life.

Construction was planned to start in 2018 and be completed in 2021-22, but in March 2018 a delay was announced to January 2019.

It will be served by a new Brent Cross West station.

Wikipedia also says that £500million could be spent on transport developments, including new roads and rebuilding of stations

Kensal Green Gas Works

This site will be redeveloped with 3,500 homes, according to documents on the Internet.

It also sits beside the Great Western Main Line and Crossrail, but no station is currently planned.

But applying the the formula, should mean that on a site like this, £70million should be available for public transport developments.

Southall Gas Works

The Southall Gas Works site has planning permission for 3,750 homes.

The site is close to Southall station, which will be on Crossrail.

Plans exist to update Southall station, but the plans look very inadequate.

In my view this site would e ideal for a driverless shuttle that took residents and visitors too and from the station.

Sites Outside London

My knowledge of the country outside of London is not so good, but some new stations have been built to support new housing and other developments.

It certainly seems, that in the UK, we’re building stations and new lines to improve the accessibility of developments.

December 27, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 3 Comments

I Don’t Wrap Christmas Presents Traditionally!

I don’t give many presents, as I only have three relatives, who I’m in contact with.

These are the presents all lined up on Christmas Day, before taking them to Christmas lunch!

The drawstring bags are bought on-line from The Clever Baggers.

The larger pink ones are just £0.72, which is probably cheaper than traditional wrapping paper.

Putting the presents into a bag and pulling the string is probably a lot easier, especially if you have a gammy hand, as I sometimes do!

They would also be ideal in a family with lots of children, as each could have their own colour.

As I nearly ran out of bags this Christmas, I have just placed an order to replenish my stock.

December 27, 2018 Posted by | World | , | 3 Comments

Plastic Bag Fee ‘To Double To 10p’ And Include Every Shop

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

This is the guts of the story.

The 5p fee for plastic carrier bags in England will be doubled to 10p, and extended to all shops, under plans set out by the environment secretary.

The change is contained in a government consultation aimed at further reducing the plastic used by consumers and could come into effect in January 2020.

Smaller retailers, who are exempt from the current levy, supply an estimated 3.6 billion single-use bags annually.

I’m all for this, if it cuts down the amount of plastic, that blows around the country, before ending up in the seas.

This is the bag I use.

Note.

  1. It folds up, so that it first into my man-bag.
  2. It easily holds two days of my food shopping.
  3. The handles re very comfortable, even when carrying eight bottles of beer.
  4. I’ve had it over a year now and it is finally showing the odd sign of wear.
  5. It is big enough to hold a copy of the Sunday Times without folding.

It did cost be five pounds from M & S, but how much have I saved on five pence bags?

It is not a perfect bag, but it is a good start.

Other things, in the same vein, that I’d like to see.

  • A charge on takeaway food, especially pizza boxes, which seem to end up in front of my house.
  • A fine for piling household and commercial waste around litter bins, which is very prevalent in this area, despite council camnpaigns to stop it.
  • Remove the foxes back to the countryside, so they don’t spread the rubbish all over the street.

As to the latter, foxes seem to have eaten most of the cats, hedgehogs and birds, so it is their only way to get food.

December 27, 2018 Posted by | World | , , , | 1 Comment