The Anonymous Widower

Just Look How The Port Of Felixstowe Has Grown

This article on Rail Engineer is entitled Felixstowe Branch Line Capacity Enhancement Goes Live.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Funded by the Strategic Freight Network, with a contribution from Hutchinson Ports UK (HP-UK), a £60.4 million investment to create a new 1.4km loop on the Felixstowe branch line in Suffolk was successfully brought into service on 29 May 2019, on time and on budget. It facilitates an increase from 33 to 47 freight train paths a day in each direction on this key artery, carrying the highest freight tonnage in the country and serving the largest container port in the UK.

High Speed Two it is not, but if you read the article, you’ll see that a substantial amount of work has been done, involving track, footbridges, level crossings and signalling.

I can remember the Port of Felixstowe, when it was a just a small basin, with the Little Ships Hotel, a couple of warehouses and the giant seaplane crane. A couple of times, I used the Harwich Ferry to cross the harbour to Harwich on the Brightlingsea.

In some ways Felixstowe has come a long way in those sixty years.

With the increase in capacity on the Felixstowe Branch Line, the rail link can handle the container traffic through the Port better!

Note this about trains between Ipswich and Felixstowe.

  • 47 freight trains per day between Ipswich and Felixstowe is roughly two trains per hour (tph) in both directions.
  • The current passenger service is one tph.
  • In addition, there is an hourly Ipswich and Lowestoft train, which shares track between Ipswich and Westerfield Junction.
  • The new Class 755 trains are faster and will have shorter dwell times than the current trains.

Between Ipswich and Westerfield, there are four tph.

  • The route is double-track.
  • Not all trains stop at Westerfield
  • The level-crossing at Westerfield station has been improved and is now is a Manually Controlled Barrier with CCTV
  • The signalling has been improved and moved to Colchester Power Signal Box.

Between Westerfield and Felixstowe, there are three tph.

  • The route is single track with loops to the East of Derby Road and the West of Trimley stations.
  • The level crossings have been improved and three have been converted to Manually Cntrolled Barriers.
  • The signalling has been improved and moved to Colchester Power Signal Box..

It looks to my untrained eye, that these service pattern are possible.

So what will happen in the future?

In the next few sections, I talk about the future.

Could More Passenger Trains Be Run To Felixstowe And Lowestoft?

I suspect here, that the limiting factor will be platform capacity at Ipswich station.

Ipswich station will have at least four tph running between Stowmarket and Colchester (3 x London and Norwich and 1 x Peterborough and Colchester), that will use Plstform 2 at Ipswich station. I suspect that this means Lowestoft and Felixstowe trains will have to share the Bay Platform 1.

With good signalling and precision driving, I suspect that the single platform could handle 2 tph to both Felixstowe and Lowestoft.

There would only ever be one train in Platform 1 at Ipswich station, unlike now, where two trains share. The new Class 755 trains will be just too long.

Could Two tph Be Run Between Ipswich And Felixstowe?

The current timetable is as follows.

  • Leaves Ipswich at XX:58 and arrives Felixstowe at XX:24
  • Leaves Felixstowe at XX:28 and arrives Ipswich at XX::54

Note.

  1. The clock-face nature of the timetable.
  2. Both journeys are 26 minutes
  3. There is four minutes for the driver to change ends and have a break.

This service would need two trains and if there’s one thing that Abellio Greater Anglia aren’t short of, it’s three-car Cl;ass 755 trains.

If the trains had the branch to themselves, there could be a two tph service between Ipswich and Felixstowe.

But they have to share it with freight trains running at two tph.

This would mean the following.

  • Five tph between Ipswich and Westerfield
  • Four tph between Westerfield and Felixstowe.

As two tph between Ipswich and Felixstowe is likely to be on Greater Anglia’s wish list, I suspect the new track layout was designed with this service in mind.

Currently, there is one or two cars per hour between Ipswich and Felixstowe, but a two tph service would mean a minimum of six cars per hour or a massive increase in capacity.

Could Two tph Be Run Between Ipswich And Lowestoft?

The current timetable between Ipswich and Lowestoft stations is as follows.

  • An almost clock-face hourly service in both directions.
  • A journey time of just under one-and-a-half hours.
  • There are nine stops on the route.
  • There are several minutes for the driver to change ends and have a break.

When the new Class 755 trains are working the route, the following will apply.

  • The Class 755 trains are faster and have a shorter dwell time in stations.
  • There will be four London and Lowestoft services per day.

I think it is true to say, that journey times will be reduced.

I suspect that the following could be possible.

  • A journey time of perhaps one hour and twenty minutes.
  • Trains would leave Lowestoft at XX:07
  • Trains would leave Ipswich at XX:37

This or something like it, would be an acceptable clockface timetable.

I strongly believe that an improved service will be possible between Ipswich and Lowestoft.

  • I feel that two tph between Ipswich and Lowestoft might be difficult to achieve without extra works on the track.
  • Extra capacity can be added by using four-car Class 755 trains on the route.
  • Faster services will certainly be introduced, as the train’s faster speed and shorter dwell times will knock several minutes from the journey.

I also think, that it may be possible to introduce a second service on the Southern section of the route, which runs to perhaps Leiston or even Aldeburgh. This would give the busier Southern section of the route two tph.

So Platform 1 at Ipswich station could see the following trains.

  • Two tph Ipswich and Felixstowe
  • One tph Ipswich and Lowestoft
  • One tph Ipswich and Leiston/Aldeburgh

I believe that timetabling of the route would not be a difficult task!

Four Trains Per Day Between Lowestoft and London

The London and Lowestoft service could be arranged as follows.

  • Lowestoft station has three platforms., so one could be reserved for the London service.
  • If the last service arrived back late or the first service needed to leave early, the dedicated platform could be used for overnight stabling.
  • When running between Ipswich and Lowestoft it would take over, one of the Ipswich and Lowestoft paths.
  • The trains will stop at all stations between Ipswich and Lowstoft, as there will be jealousy between users.
  • It would call in the through platforms 2 and 3 at Ipswich station..
  • The trains would make as few calls as possible South of Ipswich, as the Lowestoft train will be a fourth fast London service in the hour.

No new infrastructure would be required.

Could London And Lowestoft Services Be A Dedicated Shuttle Train?

This may have marketing advantages, as the train could have its own livery and perhaps a buffet or a catering trolley.

If you assume that the working day for a train is 0600-2400, then this means the following.

  • A round trip must be performed in four and a half hours.
  • A London and Lowestoft time of two hours and fifteen minutes,.
  • The journey time would include the turnround time at the destination.

As Ipswich and London times of an hour are possible with a 100 mph trains, like the Class 755 train, Ipswich and Lowestoft would have to be run in a time as close to an hour as possible.

Consider.

  • The only trains on the East Suffolk Line will be Class 755 trains between Ipswich and Lowestoft.
  • Class 755 trains may be able to stop at stations in under a minute.
  • Line speed could possibly be increased, as the route appears reasonably straight
  • Some level crossings could probably be removed.
  • The current average speed on the line is around 35 mph.

I also suspect that Greater Anglia have run tests with the current Class 170 trains, which are 100 mph trains to determine what times are possible.

I wouldn’t be surprised if using a single shuttle train to run the four trains per day between London and Lowestoft, is possible.

  • Services could leave Lowestoft at 06:00, 10:30, 15:00 and 19:30
  • Services could leave Liverpool Street at 08:15, 12:45, 17:15 and 21:45

The last service would arrive back in Lowestoft at midnight.

Tram-Trains Between Ipswich And Felixstowe

This report on the East-West Rail web site is entitled Eastern Section Prospectus and gives full details of their proposals for the Eastern section of the East-West Rail Link.

This is said in the report.

Introduction of a tram-train service on the Felixstowe branch, with doubling between Derby Road and Felixstowe and street running through
Ipswich.

It is also said, that there will be a frequency of four tph  between Ipswich and Felixstowe.

It looks like the plan is to fully-double the branch line to the East of Derby Road station.

To the West of Derby Road, the line is mainly single track until it joins the East Suffolk Line close to Westerfield station.

The problem is that the single-track railway goes over the over the Spring Road Viaduct. Rebuilding the viaduct to add the second track, would be something that everybody would want to totally avoid, as how would the containers from forty-seven freight trains per day in both directions, be moved in and out of the Port of Felixstowe?

If the capacity can’t be increased, the demand will have to be reduced.

A Possible Tram-Train Proposal

The East West Rail report is proposing that the 1-2 tph passenger service between Ipswich and Felixstowe should be replaced by a four tph tram-train service.

  • The tram-train service would start at Ipswich station, running as a tram.
  • It would probably meander through Ipswich, serving places like Portman Road, the Town Centre< Christchurch Park, the new housing in the North, Ipswich Hospital and the Retail Parks in the East.
  • If Ipswich gets a new Northern Ring Road, the tram-trains, might run on the original by-pass, that goes past Ipswich Hospital.
  • It would then join the double-track section of the Felixstowe Branch Line on the Eastern outskirts of the town.
  • Extra stops might be built between Ipswich and Felixstowe.
  • At Felixstowe station, the tram-trains could revert to tram mode and might even go as far as the sea-front, using battery-power.

There are a lot of possibilities to give Ipswich and Felixstowe, one of the best local transport links in the world.

There will be some collateral benefits.

  • Extra freight trains can probably be squeezed through.
  • Ipswich Hospital will get the updated transport links, that it badly needs.
  • Road traffic would be reduced.

I also believe that the tram-train could be added to the Felixstowe Branch Line without disrupting trains, freight or passengers.

Electrification

I can remember reports from the 1960s, which said that felt the Felixstowe Branch Line would be electrified.

  • With a frequency of four tph, the route would surely be electrified for the tram-trains.
  • It would probably be electrified at 25 KVAC, so that freight trains could take advantage.
  • When street running in Ipswich and Felizstowe,, 750 VDC electrfication or battery-power could be used.

There would be no extra electrification needed to enable all freight trains going via London to be electric-hauled.

Freight Locomotives

I think it likely, that increasingly, we’ll see Class 93 locomotives and other electro diesel locomotives with a Last Mile capability taking freight trains into and out of the Port of Felixstowe.

These new breed of 110 mph locomotives will be able to take maximum-length freight trains on routes to, from and through London, but a new locomotive will be needed to take trains across East Anglia to Ely and Pryrtborough and then on to the Midlands and the Notth.

Conclusion

The Port of Felixstowe and the railways connecting it to the rest of the UK have come a long way in sixty years and they will expand more in the next decade or two!

August 4, 2019 - Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.