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 »

  1. […] ‘The Anonymous Widower‘ points out in his post about this subject there does not every stations need to have lots of […]

    Pingback by DfT To Possibly Reopen Beeching Axed Lines? – Part Time Spotter | December 28, 2018 | Reply


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