The Anonymous Widower

Still Going For A Quart In A Pint Pot

The title of this post is the same as that of an artticle in the November 2019 Edition of Modern Railways.

The article describes the problems of running trains through the Castlefield Corridor through Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Oxford Road and Deansgate stations.

It is a comprehensive article, that gets to the heart of the problem of the route.

It comes to the conclusion, that there is a need for either more infrastructure or less trains, than the current fifteen trains per hour (tph).

Under more infrastructure, the author lists these projects.

  1. Grade separated junctions at Castlefield and other junctions.
  2. A centre turnback at Manchester Oxford Road station.
  3. A West-facing bay platform at Manchester Victoria
  4. Four through platforms at Manchester Oxford Road and Manchester Piccadilly.
  5. Improvement at Manchester Airport station.

These points should be noted.

  • Options One and Four will be expensive and will probably cause massive disruption during construction for both rail and road traffic.
  • The author suspects Option Four would cost almost a billion pounds and would need the grade-separated junctions to get best value.

I shall deal with options Two, Three and Five later.

Trains Through The Castlefield Corridor

Current passenger trains through the Castlefield Corridor are as follows.

  • East Midlands Railway – One tph – Liverpool Lime Street and Norwich
  • Northern – One tph – Hazel Grove and Blackpool
  • Northern – One tph – Liverpool Lime Street and Crewe
  • Northern – Two tph – Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Oxford Road
  • Northern – One tph – Manchester Airport and Blackpool
  • Northern – One tph – Manchester Airport and Cumbria
  • Northern – One tph – Manchester Airport and Liverpool Lime Street
  • Northern – One tph – Wigan North Western and Alderly Edge
  • Trains for Wales – One tph – Manchester Airport and Llandudno
  • TransPennine Express – One tph – Manchester Airport and Middlesbrough
  • TransPennine Express – One tph – Manchester Airport and Newcastle
  • TransPennine Express – One tph – Manchester Airport and Glasgow Central or Edinburgh

This gives the following totals.

  • Eleven tph – Deansgate and Manchester Piccadilly
  • Two tph – Deansgate and Manchester Oxford Road

Add in a couple of freight trains and that gives 15 tph, which according to the author is the design limit.

These are frequencies from Manchester Airport.

  • There are seven tph between Manchester Airport and Oxford Road via Piccadilly.
  • There are three tph between Manchester Airport and Preston via Piccadilly and Oxford Road.
  • There are two tph between Manchester Airport and Leeds via Piccadilly, Oxford Road and Victoria.

The author of the article also points out that Bradford is pushing for a direct service to Manchester Airport.

Frequency is important, but so is train length.

  • Transpennine Express services will generally be five cars in the future.
  • East Midlands Railway, Northern and Trains for Wales services will be between two and four cars.

Nothing too taxing to handle here, although Northern might decide to double trains of eight cars at times.

Comparison Of The Castlefield Corridor And The East London Line

Consider these facts about the Castlefield Corridor

  • Four Southern routings; Crewe, Hazel Grove, Stockport and Manchester Airport.
  • Five Northern routings; Bolton, Liverpool, Manchester Victoria, Trafford Park and Wigan North Western
  • Fifteen tph of which thirteen tph are passenger trains.
  • Three stations designed by Topsy, two of which are step-free.
  • Not step-free between train and platform.
  • Three interchange stations.
  • Conventional signalling.
  • Fully electrified with 25 KVAC overhead.
  • Four train companies, with at least four types of passenger train.
  • Bad timekeeping.
  • Low customer satisfaction.

For comparison, consider these facts about the East London Line between Shoreditch High Street and Surrey Quays stations.

  • Four Southern routings; Clapham Junction, Crystal Palace, New Cross and West Croydon.
  • Two Northern routings; Dalston Junction and Highbury & Islington
  • Sixteen tph of which all are passenger trains. Soon to be raised to twenty tph.
  • Seven stations designed by various architects, two of which are step-free, with Whitechapel to soon make this three step-free.
  • Some stations are step-free between train and platform.
  • Two interchange stations.
  • More bespoke signalling.
  • Fully electrified with 750 VDC third rail.
  • One train company and one type of passenger train.
  • Good timekeeping.
  • High customer satisfaction.

The route complexity and frequencies are fairly similar, so what are the big differences?

  • Is the East London Line’s signalling better?
  • The East london Line doesn’t have freight trains.
  • Does one type of train with wide doors and walk-through interiors, work wonders?
  • Does London’s step-free between train and platform make a difference?

I think the following actions should be looked at for the Castlefield Corridor.

  • Modern digital signalling.
  • All Northern services to be run using Class 195 or Class 331 trains, which look the same to passengers, despite one being electric and the other diesel.
  • TransPennine Express will be running three different type of train all with single doors, through the Castlefield Corridor. Ways of reducing the number of types must be found.

What idiot decided to buy three incompatible fleets? Surely, an order for a larger number of Hitachi trains would have been better?

My Behaviour In Manchester

I know Manchester’s trams and trains, but I haven’t a clue about the City’s buses, which seem to be reserved for the locals.

I regularly find myself using stations in the Castlefield Corridor and I have developed certain rules.

  • Never use Oxford Road, unless you’re lost and end up there by chance. It must be the worst designed modern station in Europe.
  • Never use the route unless you’ve already bought the ticket some time before.
  • Use Deansgate if possible, as it has a good connection to Manchester Metrolink.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to catch a train from platforms 13 and 14 at Piccadilly.
  • Make sure you know what platform your train is using at Piccadilly.

I also tend to avoid catching any train from platform 13 or 14 at Piccadilly.

Passenger Problems On Platforms 13 and 14 At Manchester Piccadilly

One of the reasons, I avoid these platforms, is that they are always crowded and at weekends, there seems to be a lot of occasional travellers, often with heavy cases and babies in buggies.

I remember having a chat with a station guy there in a quiet time and it turned out that he’d also worked on platforms on the London Underground.

One point he made was that Londoners get back from the platform edge, when told, but Mancunians are slower to act.

He said trains were often delayed because of passengers struggling to get on.

Could Other Actions Be Taken To Ease The Overcrowding?

These are various ideas suggested in the article or some of my own.

Run Less Trains Through The Castlefield Corridor

This would ease the problem, but it would make it more difficult for passengers to travel where they wanted and needed.

Build A Centre Turnback At Manchester Oxford Road

Consider

  • It would mean that trains turning back at Oxford Road, wouldn’t have to cross tracks, entering or leaving the turnback.
  • It could probably turn up to four tph.
  • It might also help in service recovery.

The author obviously likes this idea and I suspect it is possible, because he mentions it more than once.

Completely Rebuild Manchester Oxford Road Station

Manchester Oxford Road is certainly not fit for purpose.

This is an extract from the Wikipedia entry.

The station, a Grade II listed structure, requires frequent maintenance. In 2004, the station roof was partially refurbished to prevent leaking. In 2011, the platform shelters, seats and toilets were refurbished at a cost of £500,000.[36] In 2013, the station received a £1.8 million renovation to improve access, including lifts and an emergency exit.

In my view, the station needs the following.

  • Step-free access.
  • Longer platforms.
  • Higher capacity platforms.
  • Much better signage and maps.
  • The turnback described earlier.

No wonder I avoid it like the plague.

A completely rebuilt station with excellent step-free access might encourage more passengers to use the station, rather than the overcrowded Piccadilly.

Improve Deansgate Station

Deansgate station is not bad, but it could be improved to encourage more passengers.

Over the next few years, as the Metroilink expands, It could become a better interchange.

Step-Free Access Between Train And Platform Must Be Achieved

This picture shows access to a new Class 195 train at Manchester Airport.

With new trains, there is no excuse for not having level access, where someone in a wheelchair can just wheel themselves across.

Level access should reduce loading delays, as it eases loading of buggies, wheelchairs and wheeled cases.

If Merseyrail, Greater Anglia and some parts of the London Overground can arrange it, then surely Manchester can?

Nova Problem

The author also talks about possible problems with TransPennine’s new Nova trains, which have single end doors, which could prove inadequate in busy times.

Build A West-Facing Bay Platform At Manchester Victoria Station

The author suggests this could be used to run a frequent shuttle service between Manchester Victoria and Manchester Airport via Deansgate, Oxford Road and Piccadilly.

It might mean that TransPennine services stopped short in Manchester and passengers would change for the Airport.

But it would solve the problems of the capacity in the Castlefield Corridor and platform availability at Manchester Airport

Could Passengers Be Nudged Towards The Metrolink?

I have watched the sheer number of passengers delay trains at Manchester Piccadilly, several times.

Would it ease delays if passengers used the Metrolink to Manchester Airport?

Perhaps, the journey by Metrolink could be made more affordable?

Conclusion

It’s a mess and as the author says in his title, quarts don’t fit into pint pots.

At least though, if High Speed Two is built to link up with Northern Powerhouse Rail and together they run London, Birmingham or Liverpool to Hull via Manchester Airport, Manchester City Centre, Huddersfield, Bradford and Leeds, this would solve the problem of the Castlefield Corridor by bypassing it for long-distance trains.

 

 

 

October 27, 2019 - Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. Extensively written up in https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/uk.railway – “Imbecilic pathing through Manchester Oxford Road.”.

    Basically whoever is in charge of the signalling hasn’t got a clue and constant unnecessary clashes and delays are created, although the biggest problem is routing long slow freight trains through the corridor during the rush hour.

    I have been personally inconvenienced more than once by this incompetence, so I do have an axe to grind!

    BTW the main attraction of direct services into Manchester Airport is that one does NOT have to change train anywhere.

    Comment by R. Mark Clayton | October 28, 2019 | Reply

    • As I thought the signalling is crap and ERTMS could make things much better.

      I agree with the direct services bit, but if it could be arranged that the only change was across a platform at Victoria, it might be possible to get one direct train and one train with a walk across interchange to lots of places. Look at what East-West Rail are proposing for East Anglia. But as the author said it looks like TfN has too many people at the top paddling their own canoe.

      As to the freight, I feel that it must be possible to get to Trafford Park from the West, when they put in all the new track for HS2.

      Comment by AnonW | October 28, 2019 | Reply


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