The Anonymous Widower

First Trenitalia Awarded West Coast Partnership

The title of this post is the same as this article on Railway Gazette.

There is all the usual good things about more seats and services, but little of the plans for the trains except these two paragraphs.

A new fleet of 13 electro-diesel and 10 electric trainsets will be introduced from 2022. These would replace the Bombardier-built Class 221 Super Voyager tilting DEMUs used by Virgin Trains, which will get an intermediate ‘refresh’ by the end of 2020. The new bimode units would be used on services between London and North Wales, while the electric sets would provide capacity for the additional services to Liverpool. Eliminating diesel operation on the electrified sections of the route is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by 61%

First Trenitalia will invest £117m to refurbish the current fleet of 56 Alstom Class 390 Pendolino trainsets, providing ‘more comfortable’ standard class seats and additional luggage space, along with improved passenger information systems and enhanced toilets. More than £70m has been committed to providing free on train wi-fi and 5G capability.

This is all to be expected, as the replacement of the Class 221 trains has been indicated and the Pendelinos or Class 390 trains are now 

I will look at what this train order means.

West Coast Rail

There is now a Wikipedia entry for West Coast Rail, which will be the operating name of the new company.

The New Fleet

West Coast Rail are introducing a new fleet of thirteen electro-diesel and ten electric trains will be introduced from 2022.

I would suspect the following.

  • Both types of trains will be the same length and will appear identical.
  • Performance of both types of train will be identical.
  • Electro-diesel trains can probably stand in for the electric versions.
  • The trains could be faster, have better acceleration and braking and be able to make faster station stops, than the current Class 390 trains.
  • The trains will be ready for digital signalling.

Hitachi must be the front-runner to supply the trains, as they have sold lots of trains to First Group and some of the trains are built in Italy.

London and Liverpool Services

I will look at the direct Virgin services between Euston and Liverpool Lime Street stations

  • Northbound trains leave at XX:07 and take two hours and 12-14 minutes for the journey.
  • Trains wait for 26-28 minutes in the platform at Liverpool Lime Street station.
  • Sorthbound trains leave at XX:47 and take two hours and 12-16 minutes for the journey.
  • Trains wait for 4-8 minutes in the platform at Euston station.

It looks to me, that Virgin are using the platform at Lime Street station to balance the service. It does mean that trains probably keep more reliably to the timetable, but it hogs the platform at Liverpool Lime Street

The round trip time is five hours, so for an hourly service five trains are needed

Virgin want to increase the frequency to two trains per hour (tph)  and the Euston and Liverpool timing of around two hours and 12-16 minutes, means that a second platform is needed at Liverpool Lime Street station.

The station has now been remodelled and at least one extra platform has been added.

A second train to Liverpool in an hour, will need another five trains or a total of ten trains.

So does this mean that Euston and Liverpool service gets a dedicated fleet of new trains?

  • Liverpool Lime Street station used to have length issues, so are the trains the maximum length for the station.
  • Will the trains have better performance that the Pendelinos.
  • Will the trains be able to run at 140 mph on in-can signalling?
  • The current journey times, probably date from before Norton Bridge Junction was improved.

A new timetable is coming in December 2022! Will this timetable and the new trains and improvements enable a Euston and Liverpool timing of around one hour and fifty minutes?

  • If a turnround time of eight minutes could be achieved, that would enable the following.
  • Two tph using just eight trains.
  • This would mean eight in service, one in maintenance and a spare, would run a reliable service.
  • A clockface timetable.
  • It might also be possible to run the service into a single platform at both ends of the route!

If this is correct, West Coast Rail will need one train less and one less platform at both Euston and Liverpool Lime Street stations.

It would also mean that passengers will always go to the same platform at Euston and Lime Street, so this should reduce the scrum at Euston.

London and Manchester Services

If the London and Liverpool services could be speeded up, I suspect that the same could happen to London and Manchester services.

  • At the present time trains can do the round trip in four hours and forty minutes, so fourteen trains are needed for the current three tph.
  • The current Class 390 trains are probably capable of doing a round trip in four hours and thirty minutes, but this doesn’t fit a three tph timetable very well.
  • But it does fit a four tph service and it would need eighteen trains to run the service.

So if the five Class 390 trains released by the new trains on London and Liverpool services are moved to London and Manchester services, these services can be increased to four tph.

There is nothing to say it will happen, but it is pathetically possible and West Coast Rail will have enough Class 390 trains.

The addition of a fourth service will be driven by passenger numbers and perhaps a need to introduce a better service to and from the intermediate stops of Milton Keynes Central, Stoke-on-Trent, Crewe, Macclesfield, Wilmslow and Stockport

London And Blackpool Services

Currently, Virgin Trains run four trains per day between Euston and Blackpool North stations, with  two Class 390 trains used for the service.

The Wikipedia entry for West Coast Rail, says that some of the new trains will be used on the Blackpool service.

This may happen, but the new trains will certainly release some Class 390 trains from the London and Liverpool service to reinforce the Blackpool service.

Alternatively, better performance of the new trains, may enable two trains on the Blackpool route to run to a much more passenger-friendly timetable.

London And Birmingham Services

The Wikipedia entry for West Coast Rail, says that some of the new trains will be used on the Birmingham service.

I can’t see this happening, although all current diesel services, through Birmingham will be replaced by Class 390 trains or the new bi-mode trains.

Class 221 Train Replacement

The Railway Gazette article says this about the replacement of theClass 221 trains.

These would replace the Bombardier-built Class 221 Super Voyager tilting DEMUs used by Virgin Trains, which will get an intermediate ‘refresh’ by the end of 2020. The new bimode units would be used on services between London and North Wales. Eliminating diesel operation on the electrified sections of the route is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by 61%.

Currently, there are twenty Class 221 trains.

  • They are five-car trains
  • They are 116 metres long
  • They can operate at 125 mph
  • They have a tilting capability.

These paragraphs from Wikipedia describe their Operation.

Virgin Trains (West Coast) uses the Class 221 units primarily from London Euston to Scotland via Birmingham New Street (despite the route being electrified throughout) and, from London Euston to Shrewsbury and, London Euston to Chester and North Wales. They are also used by a few London Euston to West Midland services.

The trains to and from Scotland often operate as double units and alternate between Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley (in turn alternating with TransPennine Express trains to and from Manchester Airport). When longer trains are needed for some of the busier services, a Pendolino will run through from and to London Euston, and the Super Voyager then fills in for it on the London to West Midlands route.

The trains on the North Wales route sometimes operate as double units. They run from London Euston and Chester and terminate at any of Chester, Holyhead, Bangor or Wrexham.

Note that they normally run as double units, which are 232 metres long.

As a nine-car Hitachi Class 800/801/802 train is 234 metres long, they would probably be able to call at any station, where a pair of Class 221 trains can operate.

If the trains are always assumed to run in pairs, then this means that there are ten operational ten-car trains.

So it looks like West Coast Rail will be ordering three additional bi-mode trains, as cover or to develop new routes.

London And Chester Services

I doubt there will be a major improvement in train timings between Euston and Chester, unless the new trains will be able to run at 140 mph using in-cab signalling between Euston and Crewe on the West Coast Main Line.

I also think, that as the new trains will be bi-modes and will run between Euston and Crewe using the electrification, that the chances of electrifying between Crewe and Chester will have decreased.

Extra Services

The Wikipedia entry for West Coast Rail does give some details on extra services under Services.

Conclusion

With some rigorous mathematics and the addition of ten new electric trains, I believe West Coast Rail will be able to offer the following improved services.

  • London and Liverpool – two tph in perhaps one hour and fifty minutes.
  • London and Manchester – four tph in under two hours.

Will there be any other service improvements on this scale?

 

August 15, 2019 - Posted by | Transport | , , , ,

7 Comments »

  1. I always learn a lot.
    Thank you.

    I have two questions.
    1.If the HS2 is partially opened, cross-country FCs will be able to use
    London-Birmingham-Manchester Leeds-York-Can you develop a new EMU route using Newcastle’s existing electrification lines?
    2.Class 220,221,222 cars are all going to be cross-country, what new routes are possible then?

    Comment by Yy Hiro | August 16, 2019 | Reply

    • I have a feeling that HS2 will mean a lot of CrossCountry routes will change or be discontinued. I don’t think their current trains will be allowed to use HS2

      I don’t see much of a future for 220, 221 and 222 trains in the UK as they are pure diesel and inefficient.

      Comment by AnonW | August 16, 2019 | Reply

      • ”I have a feeling that HS2 will mean a lot of CrossCountry routes will change or be discontinued. I don’t think their current trains will be allowed to use HS2”.
        Can CrossCountry operate only on existing lines even after the opening of HS2?
        For example, is there a demand to go to Derby, Sheffield or Huddersfield from Bristol or Southampton without transfer?

        Comment by Yy Hiro | August 17, 2019

  2. If current Liverpool Lime Street trains turn around in 4 – 8 minutes at Euston, why would they be able to release a platform if increased from 1 to 2 tph. In reality they might need a platform current used by another hourly service.

    In any event how are you going to accommodate more services on the already near saturated WCML, given that attempts to have moving block in cab signalling were abandoned years ago?

    Comment by R. Mark Clayton | August 16, 2019 | Reply

    • In fact the incoming Liverpool trains are not “turned around” at EUS, the outbound service leaves from a different platform and the inbound one eventually departs to a different destination.

      Comment by R. Mark Clayton | August 16, 2019 | Reply

    • If they could turn back faster both services would use the same platform.

      At the moment trains are still working to a timetable created before the Norton Bridge improvements. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the second train have a different stopping pattern to speed things up.

      Comment by AnonW | August 16, 2019 | Reply

  3. I think this opinion is very accurate.
    HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail.
    And… where cross-country is going. ”
    Please make a special feature titled like that.
    I’m looking forward to it.

    Comment by Yy Hiro | August 17, 2019 | Reply


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