The Anonymous Widower

Manchester Victoria To Chester

On Saturday, I went between Manchester Victoria and Chester on the new hourly Northern Connect service between Chester and Leeds.


  1. The train was a Class 158 train, with a Class 153 train acting as a capacity enhancer.
  2. The train was only doing 60 mph on the West Coast Main Line.
  3. The service was fairly busy.
  4. The route is electrified between Manchester Victoria and Warrington Bank Quay stations.

On this Saturday morning, it appeared to me that a better train is needed.

In Northern Connect Between Chester And Leeds To Start In May, I did report a rumour that Class 769 trains might be running between Chester and Leeds.

In my view Class 769 trains are ideal for the route between Chester and Leeds.

  • They are four-car trains.
  • They can do 100 mph, where electrification is available.
  • They are 90 mph trains on diesel.

There main problem, is not their age, but since they were proposed, train interiors have moved on. Passengers and train operating companies want more tables and comfortable seats. Even some refurbishments of forty-year-old trains have tables. In What Train Is This?, I described a high class refurbishment of a Class 150 train. Here’s a picture.

The Chester and Leeds route and probably many other routes in the UK need a train with the following characteristics.

  • 100 mph using either 25 KVAC overhead or 750 VDC third-rail electrification.
  • 100 mph on secondary power like diesel, battery or hydrogen.
  • two hundred mile range without refuelling.
  • Four or five cars.
  • Comfortable interior with tables, wi-fi, power points and everything else passengers want.

Train operating companies would probably like a 125 mph version.

Hitachi already have a train with this specification in the Class 800 train. In Hitachi Plans To Run ScotRail Class 385 EMUs Beyond The Wires, I detail, Hitachi’s plans for Class 385 trains. Could these be stretched to perhaps do 100 miles on batteries.

Bombardier are offering a High Speed Bi-Mode Aventra with batteries and Stadler are introducing the Class 755 train for Greater Anglia.


It looks to me, that Northern need to get themselves some new 100 mph hybrid trains. The diesels they have on order are so Twentieth Century and late!

June 3, 2019 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , ,


  1. I’m not convinced by this service. The idea of Northern Connect is to improve connections between cities by reducing journey times with limited stops, but this service doesn’t do that. In fact, I’ve just looked at the times and if you take the 10.23 from Ctr you can be in Leeds 25 mins faster by changing onto TPE at Victoria. It does improve journey times to intermediate stations like Rochdale, Halifax or Bradford, but I would question how much traffic there is between Ctr and those stations. Some rather muddled thinking, I think. At least Northern are now offering some cheap advance tickets.

    I’m also not convinced by diesel-electric hybrids. All they give you is the convenience for passengers of not changing trains. They do nothing to phase out diesel. And if you can be at your destination faster by changing trains, what is the point?

    Comment by Peter Robins | June 3, 2019 | Reply

    • I think diesel-electric hybrids aee only a stop-gap until decent battery-electric hybrids are developed. Both Bombardier and Hitachi are on the case. Chester is an ideal terminus, as Chester to Crewe, Runcorn and Warrington are all possible on battery power. Throw in one of Vivarail’s fast chargers at Chester and extension to Wrexham is possible. Modern electric trains working Northern Connect have the acceleration to take stops in their stride.

      Perhaps, Northern should gave bought Hitachi 385 trains instead of the Spanish ones!

      Comment by AnonW | June 3, 2019 | Reply

      • another advantage of Chester is several bay platforms where trains can sit while they’re being recharged. Probably better for trains with pantographs is something like Furrer+Frey’s system you commented on in There are already similar systems in place for buses, e.g. in Harrogate (even if there were teething troubles there the last I heard). In fact, I can envisage Chester becoming a hub for BEMUs, both OLE and using the new Merseyrail battery trains to extend to Crewe (I’m assuming their planned battery trial is a success). It’s not clear to me why the current Chester-Crewe shuttle is run by Transport for Wales even though it’s not in Wales!

        Comment by Peter Robins | June 4, 2019

      • I agree that Chester could become a hub for BEMUs. I do think that Vivarail’s third-rail charging better as it can be totally automatic, with no extra work for staff to do. I wonder if one of Porterbrook’s battery/FLEX trains based on a Class 350 train could be driven to Leeds with an additional charging station at Hebden Bridge. Those trains can be made dual-voltage and there will be a lot coming off lease.

        I still think though, that the excellent, but unwanted Class 379 trains cpuld be converted into BEMUs. Give them a 50 mile range and a lot of the UK is their oyster!

        Comment by AnonW | June 4, 2019

      • I’m sure the Merseyrail battery trial will succeed, as Stadler want battery technology to work for the very important South Wales Metro.

        Comment by AnonW | June 4, 2019

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