The Anonymous Widower

Thoughts On A 140 mph East Coast Main Line Between London And Doncaster

The East Coast Main Line is being upgraded with digital signalling to allow Azumas and other high speed trains to run at 140 mph for most of the route, starting with the section between London and Doncaster.

There is also a string of projects all along the line to improve operating speed, cut out slow trains and improve junctions and crossings.

Finsbury Park And Stevenage

In The New Fifth Platform At Stevenage Station – 11th October 2019, I talked about the improvements at the Northern end of the Hertford Loop Line, which I believe could allow the fast lines between Stevenage and Finsbury Park stations to be exclusively used by digitally-signalled 140 mph trains.

Currently, these passenger services run between Stevenage and Finsbury Park in a typical hour.

  • LNER – Edinburgh – 2 trains – #
  • LNER – Leeds – 2 trains – #
  • LNER – Newark or York – 1 train – #
  • Great Northern – Cambridge and Ely expresses – 2 trains
  • Thameslink – Cambridge stopping trains – 2 trains.
  • Thameslink – Peterborough and Horsham – 2 trains
  • Thameslink – Cambridge and Brighton – 1 train
  • Hull Trains – 7 trains per day. – #
  • Grand Central – 9 trains per day. – #
  • East Coast Trains – 5 trains per day. – From 2021. – #

The services can be divided into four groups.

140 mph Non-Stop Expresses

Services marked with a hash (#) will probably  be run by versions of Hitachi Class 80x trains or similar, which will be capable of 140 mph running under digital signalling, between Finsbury Park and Stevenage stations.

The twenty-one services run by Hull Trains, Grand Central and East Coast Trains, will probably add up to less than two trains per hour (tph).

This means that there is a need to run seven tph between Finsbury Park and Stevenage.

Kings Cross and Cambridge/Ely Expresses

Currently, these go non-stop between Kings Cross and Cambridge on the fast lines.

Surely, these should be 140 mph-capable trains, so they fit in with all the fast expresses.

After all, Oxford is served by 140 mph-capable trains, so why not Cambridge?

Cambridge Stopping Trains

The half-hourly Cambridge stopping trains have to stop in Welwyn North station,

  • They will have to use the fast lines between Welwyn Garden City and Knebworth stations, as there are only two tracks.
  • Currently, trains are timetabled to take nine minutes to pass through the double-track section.
  • North and South of the double-track section, the services will use the slow lines, as they call at several stations

But these services still leave forty-five minutes in every hour, in which to fit the 140 mph services through the restricting double track section.

These services will be replaced by a two tph Thameslink service between Cambridge and Maidstone East stations.

Thameslink Cross-London Services

The two Thamelink Cross-London services between Peterborough and Horsham and Cambridge and Brighton, go non-stop between Finsbury Park and Stevenage stations.

So could these three services use the Hertford Loop Line?

  • North of Stevenage, they use the slow lines.
  • South of Finsbury Park, they use the slow lines to access the Canal Tunnels for the Thameslink platforms at  St. Pancras.
  • Would calls at perhaps Alexandra Palace, Enfield Chase and Hertford North be worthwhile.

The only disadvantage would be that the route would be a few minutes slower, than using the main line.

Trains Terminating At Kings Cross Station

In each hour, it appears that the following trains will terminate at Kings Cross station.

  • Seven 140 mph expresses, that are going North of Hitchin.
  • Two 140 mph expresses, that are going to Cambridge/Ely.
  • Two stopping services, that are going to Cambridge.

The station has nine platforms in the main station and three in the suburban station at the side.

The Wikipedia entry for Kings Cross station, has a section entitled Future Remodelling, where this is said.

In January 2018, it was announced that half the station would close for 3 months from January to March 2020 for remodelling work to the station and its approach, expected to cost £237 million. This includes rationalisation of the tracks, reopening the third tunnel to the approach of the station and closure of platform 10.

The remodelling must allow an increase in numbers of trains terminating at Kings Cross, especially as the problems in the throat should be sorted.

These points should be noted about the High Speed Two platforms at Euston.

  • There are eleven platforms.
  • They can handle eighteen tph.
  • The trains will be up to four hundred metres long.

Considering that a nine-car Class 801 train is less than 240 metres long, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that Kings Cross can handle eighteen tph.

Does that mean that Kings Cross station can accommodate another seven services?

Would The East Coast Main Line Be Able To Handle Eighteen 140 mph Expresses An Hour?

If Kings Cross station can handle eighteen tph, then the two fast lines of the East Coast Main Line must be able to handle this number of trains.

  • The two fast lines of the East Coast Main Line between London and Doncaster could be considered a smaller and slower version of High Speed Two.
  • High Speed Two has a capacity of eighteen tph.
  • High Speed Two trains are almost twice as fast as those on the East Coast Main Line.
  • Signalling on the East Coast Main Line will have to deal with slower trains, where there are less than four tracks, as over the Digswell viaduct and through Welwyn North station.

This is just the sort of challenge, for which digital signalling has been created.

Spare Capacity South Of Hitchin

Suppose in a couple of years the following has been done.

  • Kings Cross station has been remodelled.
  • The Hertford Loop Line has been updated for more and faster trains.
  • Thameslink services can use the Hertford Loop Line.
  • Thameslink is running the full 24 tph service.
  • The Cambridge stopper has been changed into a Thameslink service between Cambridge and Maidstone East.
  • Cambridge and Brighton has become a two tph service.
  • Kings Cross and Cambridge/Ely expresses are run by 140 mph-capable trains.

This would mean the following frequencies, to the South of Hitchin.

  • Seven tph – 140 mph-capable expresses between Kings Cross and the North, with some stopping at Stevenage.
  • Two tph – 140 mph-capable expresses between Kings Cross and Cambridge/Ely.
  • Two tph – 100 mph Thameslink services between Cambridge and Brighton routed via the Hertford Loop Line.
  • Two tph – 100 mph Thameslink services between Peterborough and Horsham routed via the Hertford Loop Line.
  • Two tph – 100 mph Thameslink services between Cambridge and Maidstone East routed via the East Coast Main Line. The slow line will be used except over the Digswell viaduct and through Welwyn North station.

Note.

  1. There will also be a two tph Thameslink service in the Peak between Welwyn Garden City and Sevenoaks. This can be discounted as it avoids the tricky bits of the East Coast Main Line.
  2. Thameslink services to Cambridge and Peterborough would be routed via the Hertford Loop ine, at a frequency of four tph.
  3. All Thameslink services would be routed via the Canal Tunnels and St. Pancras station.
  4. Kings Cross would only be handling 140 mph-capable trains, at a frequency of nine tph.

If the capacity of the 140 mph fast lines is the same as the similar High Speed Two, then eighteen tph should be possible.

Planned trains could be as follows.

  • Seven tph – 140 mph-capable expresses between Kings Cross and the North, with some stopping at Stevenage.
  • Two tph – 140 mph-capable expresses between Kings Cross and Cambridge/Ely.
  • Two tph – Thameslink service between Cambridge and Maidstone East.

Does that mean another seven tph can be accommodated between Kings Cross and Hitchin?

As only nine tph would be going into Kings Cross, the station should have no difficulty handling that number of trains. It could possibly handle another nine tph.

Spare Capacity North Of Hitchin

At Hitchin, the following services wukk go to and from Cambridge.

  • Two tph – 140 mph-capable expresses between Kings Cross and Cambridge/Ely.
  • Two tph – Thameslink service between Cambridge and Maidstone East.

The other Thameslink services can be ignored, as they use the slow lines between Stevenage and Hitchin and the Hertford Loop Line, so they are out of the way of the 140 mph services.

Does that mean another ten tph can be accommodated between Hitchin and the North?

What Limits The Number Of Extra Trains?

My crude estimation appears to show the following.

  • Kings Cross station may be able to handle another nine tph.
  • Between Kings Cross and Hitchin may be able to handle another seven trains.
  • North of Hitchin may be able to handle another ten trains.

It would appear that the double track section over the Digswell viaduct and through Welwyn North station, limits the capacity of the whole route.

Estimated Timings

In Changes Signalled For HS2 Route In North, I stated this.

Currently, the fastest non-stop trains between London and Doncaster take a few minutes over ninety minutes. With 140 mph trains, I think the following times are easily possible.

  • London and Doncaster – 80 minutes
  • London and Hull  – A few minutes over two hours, running via Selby.
  • London and Leeds – A few minutes less than two hours, running on the Classic route.

For comparison High Speed Two is quoting 88 minutes for London Euston and Leeds, via Birmingham and East Midlands Hub.

There could be a race to Leeds between High speed Two and Classic services on the East Coast Main Line.

Speculation On Extra Services

It would not be right, if I didn’t have a small speculation.

Cambridge Services

Consider.

  • Oxford and Cambridge both have two main routes to and from London.
  • Both have a fast service running at a frequency of two tph.
  • Both have other quality, but slower services.

It could be argued that extra fast services are run to Cambridge, but this would use up two valuable paths over the Digswell viaduct.

Perhaps it would be better to copy Greater Anglia’s solution for London and Norwich services and order a high quality purpose-designed train for the route.

  • 140 mph-capability
  • Digitally-signalled
  • 240 metres long
  • High quality interior

There would need to be some platform lengthening between Cambridge and Kings Lynn.

Leeds Services

Leeds currently has two tph from Kings Cross and Manchester Piccadilly has three tph from Euston.

Leeds also has a daily direct service to Aberdeen.

I suspect that there could be a sorting out at Leeds, which would mean it gets a third service from London.

Conclusion

If something similar to what I have proposed is possible, it looks like as many as an extra seven tph can be accommodated between Kings Cross and the North.

 

 

 

 

October 13, 2019 - Posted by | Transport | , , , , ,

4 Comments »

  1. […] I answered this question and a few others in Thoughts On A 140 mph East Coast Main Line Between London And Doncaster. […]

    Pingback by The New Fifth Platform At Stevenage Station – 11th October 2019 « The Anonymous Widower | October 13, 2019 | Reply

  2. […] Thoughts On A 140 mph East Coast Main Line Between London And Doncaster, I did a crude calculation to see how many extra trains could be run between London and Doncaster […]

    Pingback by Rumours Grow Over Future Of HS2 « The Anonymous Widower | October 13, 2019 | Reply

  3. Digital signalling presumably means computer-controlled? Can we be sure that terrorists can’t hack into the system?

    Comment by JohnC | October 14, 2019 | Reply

    • We’ve had digital signalling on the London Underground for a couple of decades and Thsmeslink for a couple of years. No-one has hacked it yet. Some trains and buses too have extensive driver advisory systems, which I suspect are based on GPS, mobile networks an computing, which seem to be pretty reliable. I was working on computer controlled chemical plants fifty years ago!

      Comment by AnonW | October 14, 2019 | Reply


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