The Anonymous Widower

Grayling: No Solution To Oxford Road Woes

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Place North West.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has said there is no “simple, quick, non-disruptive solution” to improving journeys on one of the most congested rail routes in and out of Manchester, arguing the cost of the original scheme was “way out of kilter”.

Plans to extend platforms at Oxford Road station have been mooted for a number of years, and were designed to take advantage of the completion of the Ordsall Chord to allow more frequent trains between Piccadilly, Victoria, and beyond.

The more I read about the problems of the Castlefield corridor through Manchester, the more I’m coming to the conclusion, that British Rail’s three tunnel scheme for the North was the right solution.

Liverpool

Liverpool got the Loop And Link Project, which is described like this in Wikipedia.

The major engineering works required to integrate the Northern and Wirral lines became known as the ‘Loop’ and ‘Link’ Project. The ‘Loop’ was the Wirral Line tunnel and the ‘Link’ the Northern Line tunnel, both under Liverpool’s city centre. The main works were undertaken between 1972 and 1977. A further project, known as the Edge Hill Spur, would have integrated the City Lines into the city centre underground network. This would have meshed the eastern section of the city into the core underground electric city centre section of the network, releasing platforms at mainline Lime Street station for mid to long haul routes.

The Edge Hill Spur was never built and if it had, it may have created the extra capacity, that Liverpool Lime Street station has now finally got, but several years ago.

Liverpool’s Underground railways are getting a new fleet of Class 777 trains and will be expanded in the next few years.

British Rail’s scheme for Liverpool has been successful.

Although, I am surprised that the layout of a single-track loop tunnel, that is used to terminate the Wirral Line, has not been copied more.

Newcastle

Newcastle got tunnels under the city, to join up the Tyne and Wear Metro in the late 1970s.

The Metro is now getting a new fleet of trains and will be further expanded.

British Rail’s scheme for Newcastle has been successful.

Manchester

Manchester had a scheme in the pipeline called the Picc-Vic Tunnel.

This Proposal section in Wikipedia gives a full description of the project. This is the first paragraph.

The South-East Lancashire and North-East Cheshire Public Transport Executive (SELNEC PTE) – the local transport authority which became the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive (GMPTE) in 1974 (now Transport for Greater Manchester – TfGM) – made a proposal in 1971 to connect the unjoined railways running through Manchester city centre under the Picc-Vic scheme. The Picc-Vic proposal envisaged joining the two halves of the rail network by constructing new tunnels under the city centre, connecting Manchester’s two main railway stations, Piccadilly and Victoria. This new underground railway would be served by three new underground stations, joining together the regional, national and local rail networks with an underground rapid transit system for Manchester.

It also gives these three objectives for the scheme.

  • To improve the distribution arrangements from the existing railway stations which are on the periphery of the central core
  • To link the separated northern and southern railway systems
  • To improve passenger movement within the central area.

This is also said.

It formed part of a four-phase, Long Term Strategy for GMPTE over 25 years, which included bus priority and an East-West railway network, as well as a light rapid transport system.

The scheme was cancelled by Harold Wilson’s government, partly because he believed that railways were of the past and that everybody would be able to afford their own car and wouldn’t need to use trains.

It should also be remembered that his government also cancelled the Channel Tunnel and London’s Third Airport at Maplin.

It’s funny, but I thought, I’d used the Channel Tunnel several times. Perhaps, Harold Wilson didn’t get his out-of-kilter thinking sufficiently into the minds of Civil Servants. Although, there is still the Treasury’s periodic attempts to kill High Speed Two. But that is driven by the belief of the average Oxford graduate, that there is nothing worth visiting North of Watford.

The Picc-Vic Tunnel may not have completely solved Manchester’s rail connectivity, but it is my belief that it would have been a good start.

A Few Random Thoughts

These are a few random thoughts on the various schemes in Manchester.

Development of Piccadilly And Victoria After A Picc-Vic Tunnel

One of the reasons for cancellation, was that after the building of the tunnel, two large stations would still be maintained in the City.

Looking at various schemes across Europe including Kassel and Leipzig in Germany, where central tunnels have been built, this releases the terminals for development with smaller numbers of platforms.

I think if the Picc-Vic Tunnel had been built, then Piccadilly and Victoria might have morphed into combined through and terminal station like the excellent London Bridge. The released space at Piccadilly would have allowed High Speed Two to be integrated.

But of course, the elite in the Civil Service isn’t interested in High Speed Trains, except on their holidays in France.

TransPennines New Trains

Greater Anglia needed to have new rolling stock for services between London and Norwich.

They needed trains with following.

  1. 100 mph running
  2. Eight coaches
  3. Powerful traction
  4. Short station dwell times.
  5. High quality.

So they ordered a fleet of new Class 745 trains.

  • 100 mph running
  • Twelve coaches
  • Walk-through trains
  • 757 seats
  • Double doors for easy entry and exit.

It’s also rumoured that platform height will be adjusted so that that buggy-pushers and wheelchair-users will have level access between train and platform at all stations.

  • If you want to do Norwich-in-90 for all trains, then a short station dwell time is essential.
  • It also means if passenger numbers need another station to be added to a route, the extra stop only blows a small hole in the schedule, as opposed to a large one for a train of Mark 3 coaches.
  • I have a feeling Greater Anglia are aiming to send all their disabled ramps to the scrapyard.

So what trains have TransPennine ordered?

AQll these trains will have single-doors at both end of each car. That’s classic crap design!

It will be interesting to see the average dwell time of a train on the Castlefield Corridor and compare it with that of Class 745 trains calling at Ipswich, Colchester and Chelmsford.

My money’s on Swiss clockwork!

Northern’s New Trains

Northern’s new Class 195 and Class 331 trains appear to have two sets of double-doors on each side of each car.

Now that’s more like it!

Improving Throughput On The Castlefield Corridor

If you look at successful high-capacity lines with a lot of stopping trains like most lines on the London Underground, Thameslink the Tyne and Wear Metro and the Merseyrail Northern Line, all trains are the same.

One of the problems with the trains through Castlefield, is that there are a lot of diffeent trains. So doors on your train may be in a different position to those on the previous train.

This means that passengers will be more likely to be in the wrong place, which means loading takes longer.

It is probably too much to get identical trains running on the route, but TransPennine’s trains with end doors will make matters worth for capacity.

I don’t think, any train should be allowed on the route, unless it has two sets of double-doors on each side of all cars.

The route should also have digital signalling.

If the North London Line can handle eight passenger and two freight trains per hour, then surely the Castlefield Corridor can do the same.

Passenger Behaviour

I was chatting to a station guy on Platform 14 at Piccadilly, who had also worked on the London Underground.

He told me, that Londoners obey his instructions to stand-back, whereas Mancunians don’t!

I watched for about twenty minutes and I think because the trains are rather bad time keepers, when one arrives everybody wants to get on immediately.

Single doors on TransPennine’s trains will make this behaviour worse!

Conclusion

I think Chris Grayling mades a good summary of the problems of doing major work on a busy passenger and freight corridor through a major city.

The only way to deal with the problems of the Castlefield Corridor, is a series of small improvements to the existing system.

  • All trains through the corridor must have two double-doors on each side of each car.
  • Digital signalling must be installed.
  • Platform access must be improved with lots of lifts and escalators.

I also feel that if the trains were running to the timetable, then passengers wouldn’t crowd the platforms.

 

 

 

May 22, 2019 - Posted by | Transport | , , , , ,

5 Comments »

  1. There have been murmurs about a tunnel between the Manchester stations every know and again since we moved here. One of the issues has always been the effect on existing buildings of constructed the tunnels – there are many very old and beautiful buildings, and also a lot of high storey modern buildings. The tram will now take people from one to the other – free if you show your train ticket, or used to be, not sure now. Oxford Road station is a grotty place anyway, always has felt grotty. Busy, awkward, Deansgate is even worse. I haven’t used the train to Manchester for many many years; I drive in or take the tram. Our daughter and her partner live on the border of Manchester and Salford and generally use the trams. I agree about wide doors along the carriages; the trams have them, and they have spaces for buggy, prams, wheelchairs and mobility scooters in every carriage.

    Comment by nosnikrapzil | May 22, 2019 | Reply

  2. Thanks for another interesting post.

    Several years after the Picc-Vic scheme was cancelled rumours began to circulate that the “real” reason it was dropped was due to a secret nuclear bunker blocking its path.
    Whilst I’ve always held the view that it was more likely due to financial considerations following budget overrun on the Merseyrail Link and Loop scheme, it remains unclear what subterranean infrastructure exists in the area and what constraints, if any, it might place on tunnelling activity. The following link may be of interest

    http://www.mancunianmatters.co.uk/content/160970565-unearthing-manchesters-nuclear-bunker-cold-war-conspiracy-or-just-boring-telecoms

    Comment by Mark C (Fen Line Scouser) | May 22, 2019 | Reply

    • Yhanks!.

      Comment by AnonW | May 22, 2019 | Reply

      • Incidentally there are lots of archived articles about Picc-Vic line on the Manchester Evening News website. Frustratingly most seem to crash on my computer! However, if interested,

        https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/manchester-underground-rail-network-why-14818963

        (and contained links on page) are well worth a gander.

        The cancellation came as a blow at the time as I was a regular user of Victoria Bury line. The third rail stock was appalling. The filthiness of the exteriors was only matched by the interiors and the ride quality the precursor of that of the nodding donkeys.

        Comment by Mark C (Fen Line Scouser) | May 22, 2019

      • Manchester hot a raw deal on that one! If it had been built, it would have worked as well as Liverpool, Newcastle, Thameslink and Leipzig.

        Comment by AnonW | May 22, 2019


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