The Anonymous Widower

The Ultimate Capacity Of The Moorgate Line

The Moorgate Line is an important commuter line to and from its terminus at Moorgate station within easy walking distance of the City of London.

I use the line regularly to travel between my house and Moorgate station for breakfast at Leon, followed by shopping in Marks & Spencer on Finsbury Pavement.

  • I catch a 38 or 56 bus from close to my house to Essex Road station.
  • I then take the Northern City Line two stops to Moorgate station.

After my breakfast and shopping, I generally get a bus home, as it means less road crossings to get to my house.

A Useful Line That Needs Improvement

It is a useful and well-used line, that needs improvement in various areas, some of which is already being done or is either in planning or fully planned.

The New Class 717 Trains

The new Class 717 trains are now all running up and down without too many problems.

The trains have been designed for the route, so hopefully they have the following features.

  • Fast and automatic voltage changeover between 25 KVAC overhead and 750 VDC third-rail at Drayton Park station.
  • Ready for ERTMS signalling.
  • 100 mph running, so they don’t get in the way of Thameslink trains on the East Coast Main Line (ECML).
  • Fast acceleration and regenerative braking to batteries for fast station stops and train recovery, when power fails.
  • Optimisation for fast entry and exit to the trains.

I am afraid that they don’t fully meet the last three points, but they should!

It will be interesting to compare these trains, with Statdler’s new Class 777 trains for Merseyrail, which are also replacing similar BR units.

I believe that regenerative braking to batteries is important for trains in tunnels, and as far as I can determine, only Bombardier’s Class 345 trains for Crossrail have it fitted.

  • It reduces the power running in the overhead cables or third-rail in the tunnels, which generates less heat.
  • Conventional braking can be avoided in tunnels.
  • In case of power failure, the train can be moved to the next station for passenger evacuation.

If trains, tunnels and power supply are designed as a complete system, then surely there must be cost savings.

It is also probably true to say about these trains, that if the operator needed some more trains, then Siemens would probably oblige.

Upgrading The Route

The complete route consists of three separate parts.

The big upgrade planned for the East Coast Main Line is to install ERTMS digital signalling between Doncaster and Kings Cross.

Network Rail are doing their first digital signalling design in a darkened room with no communication to the real world, but I believe if the project was designed by experienced engineers, the following will happen.

  • Any train that might use the East Coast Main Line will be fitted with ERTMS signalling.
  • This ERTMS roll-out must include all Class 717 trains, as these can use the East Coast Main Loop to Welwyn Garden City and at Stevenage station.
  • As the Hertford Loop Line is used as a diversion for the East Coast Main Line, it would be logical to install ERTMS signalling on this route.
  • Installing ERTMS  signalling into Moorgate station would surely be beneficial and would surely be needed to get the best of ERTMS  on the East Coast Main Line.

The outcome should be that the whole Moorgate Line will become a fully digitally signalled route.

This should increase train frequency and capacity on all the digitally signalled routes.

  • The fast lines of the East Coast Main Line will become a 140 mph race track.
  • The slow lines of the East Coast Main Line will allow extra services.
  • If coupled with track improvements, extra capacity on the Hertford Loop Line could be used to allow services to by-pass the bottleneck of the Digswell Viaduct with its limited pair of tracks.
  • The Northern and City Line could take extra trains to and from Moorgate.

There could be reorganisation of some services.

  • Kings Cross and Cambridge/Ely/Kings Lynn services would be run by 140 mph trains, so they could use the fast lines on the East Coast Main Line. I feel these services could be extended to Norwich, but that’s another matter. What would Alan Partridge think of High Speed Norwich?
  • Thameslink services serving Peterborough would still use the East Coast Main Line, so they could call at Welwyn North and Knebworth stations, but why not divert the four trains per hour (tph) that serve Cambridge onto the Hertford Loop Line at Stevenage, to ease pressure over the Digswell Viaduct.

Consider.

  • An upgraded Hertford Loop Line with full digital signalling could be able to handle as many as the twenty-four tph of Thameslink and Crossrail,
  • The grade-separated junction with the East Coast Main Line is being improved.
  • There are only infrequent freight trains on the Hertford Loop Line.
  • Various  platform upgrades at Hertford East and Gordon Hill could allow passing and more turnbacks.

My scheduling experience says that with a well-programmed computer calling the shots, that at least twenty tph along the Hertford Loop Line would be a serious possibility.

Improvements At Stevenage

The Stevenage improvements are very comprehensive and are designed so that however many trains run through the Hertford Loop, they can all stop in the station, if required.

Improvements At Alexandra Palace

If you are travelling North from Moorgate and find yourself on an East Coast Main Line service, when you need a Hertford Loop One, there is a cross-platform interchange at Alexandra Palace station, where the two routes are on either side of the platform.

It is convenient, but the platform needs better facilities, like a decent waiting room, better information screens and possibly a coffee stall and toilets.

Going South, there are two separate platforms, but this doesn’t matter, as there is no need to change.

Although surely, if all trains left from the same island, it would be easier for passengers.

The station would be improved with a properly-designed step-free bridge and information screens.

Passengers needing other than Moorgate as a final destination must change at Finsbury Park for Thameslink or the Piccadilly Line

The Knitting At Finsbury Park

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the tangle of lines at Finsbury Park station.

Note that the blue lines are the Victoria and Piccadilly Lines.

Improvements in the last few years have unlocked some of the station’s potential, but there is still plenty of space on the railway land to add extra tracks and possibly reinstate two more platforms.

If there are any train capacity problems, I believe that they can be solved.

The main passenger interchanges at Finsbury Park station are.

  • An up-and-down interchange with the Piccadilly Line
  • A cross platform interchange with Thameslink

Lifts have been added recently.

Improvements At Drayton Park Station

Drayton Park station is one of those stations, that should be given to developers with a blessing and a very detailed set of objectives and timescales  enthrined in a watertight contract.

  • The station sits very close to the Emirates Stadium.
  • The new trains have increased passenger capacity through the station.
  • It could handle much-more match day traffic.
  • Large amounts of housing could be built on top.

If done well, it could provide a lot of housing and take the pressures off the other stations in the area on match days.

Improvements At Highbury & Islington Station

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the lines at Highbury & Islington station.

The track layout is basically sound.

The cross-platform interface between the Victoria and Moorgate Line is superb and only needs a good team of builders and lighting specialists to give it a modern finish to make it even better.

The Overground will get better too, as service frequencies increase by up to fifty percent.

The big problem at Highbury & Islington station is that access to the deep level platforms is not fit for purpose.

It is an absolute disgrace that The Mayor and Transport for London have put forward no plan to solve the problem of access to the deep level platforms.

The solution would probably involve opening up the disused station entrance on the on the side of Holloway Road and sinking an escalator and lift shaft to the four platforms. As at Drayton Park station, I believe with the right contract, it could be handed to a developer.

At least Crossrail, when it opens might give a bit of relief in the Peak. Many passengers might avoid Highbury & Islington station altogether by changing between the Overground and Crossrail at Whitechapel.

Like water passengers tend to flow through the widest channels and find their own level.

Improvements At Essex Road Station

Essex Road station is a disgusting station, with all the charm of a Victorian slum.

As with Drayton Park station, it should be given to developers with a blessing and a very detailed set of objectives and timescales  enthrined in a watertight contract.

Improvements At Old Street Station

The access to the existing Old Street station is being improved, but it seems to be taking forever.

I do hope, there is a realistic plan to create a flagship station for Silicon Roundabout.

Improvements At Moorgate Station

This station is being fully upgraded for Crossrail.

Eventually, there will be step-free access between the following lines.

  • Central Line
  • Circle Line
  • Crossrail
  • Hammersmith & City Line
  • Northern Line

In addition all the National Rail  lines out of Liverpool Street will be step and weather-free from all the other lines.

This can only increase the number of passengers using the Moorgate Line.

The Ultimate Frequency

I said earlier that the complete route consists of three separate parts.

  • The Northern City Line between Moorgate and Finsbury Park stations.
  • The slow lines of the East Coast Main Line to the South of Welwyn Garden City station.
  • The Hertford Loop Line between Stevenage and Alexandra Palace stations

These are my thoughts on the capacity of each section.

Frequency Of The Northern City Line

I know Walthamstow Central station on the Victoria Line well and have observed the following.

  • Thirty-six tph come and go for most of the day.
  • From the time the brakes are applied after a train arrives until the time they are release when the train leaves is about two and a half minutes.
  • Drivers use a procedure called stepping-up to speed the turnround. The driver leaves the arrived train and a new driver gets in at the other end, to drive it out.
  • There is a lot of passenger congestion in the Peak, due to bad passenger access.

Surely, if Dear Old Vicky can handle thirty-six tph with the following.

  • Two platforms,
  • Modern trains
  • Modern signalling
  • Well-trained staff
  • Not the best passenger access with just two escalators.

Then the new Class 717 trains at Moorgate with the best passenger access can handle a higher frequency than they do now!

I suspect that around twenty tph can be achieved fairly easily, but that in future , a higher frequency will be achieved.

Frequency Of The Slow Lines Of The East Coast Main Line

London has several commuter lines with frequencies of over 10 tph.

  • Foremost, are Crossrail and Thameslink, which are both planned to run at 24 tph
  • The East London Line is also planned to increase from 16 tph to 20 tph.
  • The North London Line is planned to be increased from its current eight tph
  • Waterloo and Wimbledon is upwards of 8 tph.

In addition most London Underground lines have frequencies in exccess of 16 tph.

The slow lines of the East Coast Main Line to be a railway,  in a few years time with the following characteristics between Finbsbury Park and Welwyn Garden City.

  • At least one track in each direction.
  • An operating speed of over 60 mph
  • ERTMS signalling, which will be fitted to all trains on the lines.

I can’t see any reason, why the lines couldn’t be able to handle up to twenty tph in both directions, based on the experience of other lines in London, that have been operating for over a decade.

But strand on the bridge for an hour at a station like Oakleigh Park, at a busy time of day and you’ll be lucky to see ten trains.

There is a lot more capacity on the slow lines of the East Coast Main Line, to use to add extra services between London and Welwyn Garden City.

Adding services that go further North than  Welwyn Garden City will need a solution to the double-track section over the Digswell Viaduct.

Frequency Of The Hertford Loop Line

I said this earlier.

My scheduling experience says that with a well-programmed computer calling the shots, that at least twenty tph along the Hertford Loop Line would be a serious possibility.

I also think that the slow lines of the East Coast Main Line can handle the same frequency, so I very much stand by my original fugure.

Is There An ERTMS-based Solution To The Digswell Viaduct?

Consider.

  • Airliners have been flown automatically and safely from airport to airport for perhaps four decades.
  • The Victoria Line has been running automatically and safely at over twenty tph for five decades.
  • I worked with engineers developing a high-frequency sequence control system for a complicated chemical plant in 1970.

We also can’t deny that computers are getting better and more capable.

For these reasons, I believe there could be an ERTMS-based solution to the problem of the Digswell Viaduct, which could be something like this.

  • All trains running on the two track section over the Digswell Viaduct and through Welwyn North station would be under computer control between Welwyn Garden City and Knebworth stations.
  • Fast trains would be slowed as appropriate to create spaces to allow the slow trains to pass through the section.
  • The driver would be monitoring the computer control, just as they do on the Victoria Line.

Much more complicated automated systems have been created in various applications.

The nearest rail application in the UK, is probably the application of digital signalling to London Underground’s Circle, District, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan Lines.

This is known at the Four Lines Modernisation and it will be completed by 2023 and increase capacity by up to twenty-seven percent.

I don’t think it unreasonable to see the following numbers of services running over the Digswell Viaduct by 2030 in both directions in every hour.

  • Sixteen fast trains
  • Four slow trains

That is one train every three minutes.

Currently, it appears to be about ten fast and two slow.

As someone, who doesn’t like to be on a platform, when a fast train goes through, I believe that some form of advanced safety measures should be installed at Welwyn North station.

Some Questions

Various people over recent months have asked me questions about possible improvements to the Moorgate Line.

Could There Be A Direct Escalator Connection Between Bowes Park Station On The Hertford Loop Line and Bounds Green Station On The Piccadilly Line?

This map from carto.metro.free.fr, shows the two stations.

Bounds Green station is one of the Piccadilly Line’s classic stations.

I took the picture, when I walked between the Bowes Park and Bounds Green stations

It is a level walk, that could be better signed and  if the two stations were to be made step-free it would be an easier interchange than that at Finsbury Park.

In my view, improving the two stations and the local environment, would be much better value than an expensive escalator connection.

Should There Be A Second London Terminal?

Kings Cross is used as a London terminal at times, but would there be much of a necessity.

Passengers can use the following connections to get to Kings Cross and other stations along Euston Road.

  • A cross-platform interchange at Finsbury Park with Thameslink
  • A cross-platform interchange at Highbury & Islington with the Victoria Line
  • When Crossrail opens, there will be a step-free connection with the Circle, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan Lines at Moorgate.

Passenger numbers will decide.

Could The Moorgate Line Be Extended South To Bank Station?

The original Victorian plans for the Moorgate Line show the line extended to a station at Lothbury, which is just behind the Bank of England. This Google Map shows the area.

These pictures show the area, where Lothbury and Moorgate meet.

Given the difficulty of handling the logistics of all the tunnelling for the Bank station upgrade, I don’t think the City of London would look too kindly on a rail extension between Moorgate and Bank, especially, as there is already the Northern Line and even I can walk it easily.

It could be argued as Moorgate is served by Crossrail and Bank station isn’t, that there will be a high level of passenger traffic between the  two stations.

Consider.

  • It is only five hundreds to walk.
  • The Northe Line is jammed solid between London Bridge and Kings Cross in the Peak.
  • After the completion of the massive Liverpool Street-Moorgate double-ended Crossrail station and the Bank Station Capacity Upgrade, a one stop on either the Central Line or the Northern Line will be step-free.
  • The Liverpool Street-Moorgate Crossrail station will hopefully have a selection of entrances with good connections to walking routes leading South towards Bank.
  • The City of London is planning to make the streets of the city more friendly to walking and cycling.
  • More and taller towers are increasing employment in the City.

Will the walking routes and the Central and Northern Lines be overwhelmed?

I think they could be, but there could be other solutions.

  • Opening up of more walking routes and improving the already pretty good street maps and signage.
  • A redesign of the bus network with high capacity electric buses taking over the routes between Old Street and London Bridge stations.

I also wonder, if it would be possible to dig a pedestrian tunnel between the two stations under the existing roads and fit it with travelators.

The ingenuity that has been shown in the Bank Station Capacity Upgrade has probably suggested a few ideas.

But I’m absolutely sure there will be no extension of the railway pass Moorgate.

Is The Interchange With Thameslink At Finsbury Park Frequent Enough?

It seems that Thameslink will run four tph through Finsbury Park station.

  • All will have cross-platform interchange with Moorgate Line services.
  • All services will serve London Bridge, East Croydon and Gatwick Airport stations.

Are these enough services?

Passenger numbers will decide.

Should Some Thameslink Services Use The Hertford Loop?

I said this earlier.

Thameslink services serving Peterborough would still use the East Coast Main Line, so they could call at Welwyn North and Knebworth stations, but why not divert the four trains per hour (tph) that serve Cambridge onto the Hertford Loop Line at Stevenage, to ease pressure over the Digswell Viaduct.

It possibly is an idea, but I also believe, that ERTMS signalling could offer an elegant solution to the Digswell Viaduct problem.

Could The Moorgate Line Have Some New Park-An-Ride Stations?

There are two possibilities on the Hertford Loop Line.

This Google Map shows where the Hertford Loop Line crosses the M25, to the North of Crews Hill station.

It would probably be impossible to build a Park-and-Ride station in this area now, but if the M25 had been designed in an holistic and environmentally-sympathetic manner, it could have been a place for such a facility.

There must also be the possibility of building a Park-and-Ride or more likely a Cycle-and-Ride station to the South of Stevenage, as the town develops, as it surely will in the next decade.

From my helicopter, it doesn’t look promising to add more parking except possibly at Hadley Wood station. This page from Hansard is a good summary of GNER’s original proposal in about 2000.

Should The Moorgate Line Be Taken Over By Transport for London?

Consider.

  • This is certainly a desire of the London Mayor; Saddiq Khan.
  • After the farce of the Metropolitan Line Extension at Watford will Greater London and Hertfordshire be able to work together over the route?
  • There are twelve stations in Hertfordshire and twenty in Greater London.
  • Stations are in four Greater London Boroughs; Barnet, Enfield, Haringey and Islington with Moorgate actually in the City of London.

The line might improve as part of Transport for London, but agreeing the management and development strategy for the line, with all those politicians of different colours, could be a nightmare.

Conclusion

Without doubt all of the parts of the Moorgate Line can handle at least twenty tph and possibly more, once the following conditions are met.

  • Full ERTMS signalling on all lines.
  • The stations are capable of handling the increased number of passengers.
  • There are a few more trains.

Automatic Train Control may need to be used in certain sections, as it will be on Crossrail and Thameslink.

What Would This Mean For Passengers?

The current pattern of train services in the Off Peak is as follows.

  • 4 tph – Welwyn Garden City
  • 2 tph – Hertford North
  • 1 tph – Watton-at-Stone
  • 1 tph – Stevenage

Note.

  1. This is well below the future capacity of the section between Moorgate and Alexandra Palace stations
  2. It needs eight trains for each branch or a total of sixteen trains.

The simplest pattern would be twenty tph between Moorgate and Alexandra Palace stations, which would serve the following destinations.

  • 10 tph – Welwyn Garden City
  • 5 tph – Hertford North
  • 5 tph – Stevenage

Note.

  • Intermediate stations, like New Barnet and Cuffley would get a train every six minutes.
  • The service would need forty trains.
  • I doubt Great Nortern would want to finance the extra trains.

Cutting the service back to somewhere in between would also work.

  • 6 tph – Welwyn Garden City
  • 3 tph – Hertford North
  • 3 tph – Stevenage

Note.

  1. Intermediate stations, like New Barnet and Cuffley would get a train every ten minutes.
  2. The service would need twenty-four trains.

As there are twenty-five Class 717 trains, is this Great Northern’s plan?

It looks to me like a plan designed by Great Northern’s accountants based on the least they can get away with.

An Improved Service For South Hertfordshire

Consider.

  • The extra platform and remodelling at Stevenage station are ambitious and the new platform could probably handle six tph.
  • Stevenage has an LN|ER service to the North of two tph.
  • East Coast Trains intend to start a service linking Stevenage to Newcastle and Edinburgh.
  • Healthcare in South Hertfordshire sends patients to hospitals at Barnet and Stevenage, neither of which are easy from a station like Cuffley
  • Bus services across are not for the frail, elderly and impatient.
  • There is no rail link between Hertford and Hatfield except with a change at Alexandra Palace station, which is not step-free.

Perhaps the Moorgate train service should be as follows.

  • 8 tph – Welwyn Garden City
  • 4 tph – Hertford North
  • 4 tph – Stevenage

Note.

  1. Importantly, there would be four tph to between Alexandra Palace and Stevenage.
  2. The Stevenage services would link up to the improved fast services between Stevenage and the North of England and Scotland.
  3. Intermediate stations, like New Barnet and Cuffley would get a train every seven-eight minutes.
  4. The service would need thirty-two trains, which is probably another eight trains.

I also think, that Alexandra Palace station should be made step-free to ease journeys from one side of Hertfordshire to the other.

 

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December 1, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments