The Anonymous Widower

Could Cirencester Be Reconnected To The Rail Network?

In Boris Johnson Vows New Life For High Streets And Axed Rail Lines, I laid out a list of rail lines that could be reopened by a future Conservative government.

Today, I’m going to Cirencester to have lunch with an old friend.

But, Cirencester does not have a rail connection, although there used to be a Cirencester branch line from Kemble station.

The Wikipedia entry says this under Future.

As of 2016, discussions have taken place regarding the potential of relaying 5km of track from Kemble station to the edge of Cirencester at Chesterton Halt.

In January 2019, the Campaign for Better Transport released a report identifying the line as Priority 2 for reopening. Priority 2 is for those lines which require further development or a change in circumstances (such as housing developments)

It looks to me, the sort of rail reopening that fits with Boris’s list.

These are a few of my thoughts on the rebuilding.

The Connection At Kemble Station

This Google Map shows the connection at Kemble station.

It appears that connecting a new single-track branch line could be possible.

Crossing The A 429

This Google Map shows, where the A 429 and the Cirecenter Branch cross.

A bridge would be needed, as Network Rail doesn’t do level crossings on major roads.

Crossing Of Spratsgate Lane

This Google Map shows, where the Cirecester Branch crosses Spratsgate Lane as Cirencester is approached.

Would a bridge be needed?

Other Crossings

There are three other minor crossings on the route, between the two major ones I’ve mapped.

Approach To Cirencester

This Google Map shows the approach to Cirencester.

Could a rail track be squeezed in for a station?

Service Frequency

I would feel that, if the Cirencester Branch was reinstated as a single-track line, that a two tph service could be run between Swindon and Cirencester station with a stop at Kemble.

Extra Stations

The Golden Valley Line used to have two extra stations between Swindon and Kemble stations.

Minety & Ashton Keynes

Purton

If housing developments were to be proposed near these two locations or perhaps in other locations in Swindon, it would improve the financial case for a shuttle between Swindon and Cirencester stations.

Could Battery Trains Be Used?

The nearest electrification is fourteen miles away at Swindon station. An out-and-back trip on battery power should be possible.

Could Tram-Trains Be Used?

I don’t see why not! They would also have advantages.

  • Bridges would be lighter and less intrusive.
  • The minor crossings could work under tramway rules.
  • They might be able to reach Cirencester Town Centre
  • The branch could be fitted with lightweight tramway electrification.
  • Extra stations at Minety & Ashton Keynes and Purton could be simpler designs.
  • Battery power could be used on sections of the route.

I very much feel that a tram-train solution would be possible, from my observations in Karlsruhe and Sheffield.

A Visit To Cirencester

I had an excellent lunch with my friend in Cirencester and I have some some observations.

Cirencester

I have seen towns like Cirencester so often and used to live near Bury St. Edmunds which is going in a similar direction.

  • A town that is worth a visit, but is overrun with cars and people driving around looking for somewhere to park.
  • It is a typical country town, that is unfit for the Twenty-First Century.
  • It will strangle itself with traffic.
  • At least through traffic can use a by-pass.
  • Is it the sort of place, where teenagers, that are too young to drive, or don’t have a car, get exceedingly bored?

Residents will move away and the shopping centre will see lower footfall.

The Bay Platform At Swindon Station

This picture shows the Western end of the bay plstform 2 at Swindon station.

Shuttle trains from Cheltenham and Kemble, usually call in this platform, with through trains stopping in either Platforms 1 and 3.

All platforms are fully electrified, with the electrification continuing about a hundred metres up the Golden Valley Line.

Kemble Station

These pictures show Kemble station.

Note.

  1. There is a lot of car-parking for a small station.
  2. How many of the cars parked at the station are commuters Between Cirencester and London?
  3. It is not a step-free station.
  4. The station, water tank and limestone bridge are all Grade two Listed.

It also looks like the Cirencester branch had its own platform.

Traffic On The Golden Valley Line

It appears that except for the occasional freight train, it is not a busy line.

Although one of the reasons for making it a full double track, was so it can be used as a diversion route, when the Severn Tunnel is closed.

Electrification Of The Golden Valley Line

The distance between Swindon and Cheltenham stations is a short distance over forty-three miles, with four intermediate stations, Listed structures and two tunnels.

Electrification has been considered and under Electrification Proposal in the Wikipedia entry for the line, this is said.

As of 2016 there are no plans to electrify the line.

At present trains from London are Class 802 trains, which are electric trains with onboard diesel engines for routes like this.

As Hitachi have stated they will be using battery power to extend ranges of their trains, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of the current trains modified to have batteries instead of some of their current diesel engines.

Such a train would would be ideal for the following routes.

  • Paddington and Bedwyn – 13 miles
  • Paddington and Cheltenham – 43 miles
  • Paddington and Oxford – 10 miles
  • Paddington and Weston-Super-Mare – 19 miles

The distance is the length that is not electrified.

I don’t think it improbable, that London Paddington and Swansea will be achieved by a battery-electric train based on the current Hitachi train designs.

Train Frequency Between Paddington And Kemble

Trains on the Paddington and Cheltenham route, run every two hours and I just missed the 09:36, so I had to change at Swindon.

  • Cheltenham and Gloucester probably need at least an hourly service to and from London.
  • The current timetable effectively gives an hourly service, with the second service provided by a change at Swindon.
  • But it was a busy down-and-up interchange, and I wonder how many travellers miss the connection.

An hourly direct service from London would be so much more convenient.

Conclusion

With some clever and sympathetic engineering on the branch to handle the crossings, it could be a feasible reopening.

My Preference Would Be For A Tram-Train With Batteries

It would have the following characteristics.

  • Single-track branch from Kemble.
  • Kemble and Cirencester electrified with 750 VDC overhead.
  • Tram rules on the branch.
  • Trams as close to the centre of Cirencester as possible.
  • Two trams per hour between Swindon and Cirencester.
  • Trams would use batteries between Kemble and Swindon.
  • Batteries would be charged at Swindon station using the existing 25 KVAC overhead electrification and on the branch.
  • Extra stops where needed.

The route might even loop into Cirencester to provide a Park-and-Ride on the by-pass, that would serve the town and Kemble station.

The tram-trains ordered for the South Wales Metro would be able to run the service.

It would be an unobtrusive rural tram-train.

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

4 Comments »

  1. […] Cirencester – See Could Cirencester Be Reconnected To The Rail Network? […]

    Pingback by Boris Johnson Vows New Life For High Streets And Axed Rail Lines « The Anonymous Widower | November 15, 2019 | Reply

  2. The track would have to terminate at the edge of town as all the routes into the former station are no longer available. So, for many people, this would involve a bus or taxi trip, which is no different to the current situation where we have to get to Kemble station.

    Comment by Andrew Carpenter | November 15, 2019 | Reply

    • I’m actually coming down today for lunch. I have a feeling from Google maps, that it might be possible to squeeze a tram-train through. Are you in the area? They can turn tighter and can street run. Thanks!

      Comment by AnonW | November 15, 2019 | Reply

  3. […] Could Cirencester Be Reconnected To The Rail Network?, I speculated about the routes of a battery-electric version of a Class 800 […]

    Pingback by What Would Be The Range Of A Tri-Mode Class 802 Train? « The Anonymous Widower | November 17, 2019 | Reply


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