The Anonymous Widower

Colne – Skipton Reopening Moves Closer

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris has confirmed that investigations have been commissioned into the proposed reinstatement of the 19·3 km Colne – Skipton ‘missing link’ connecting east Lancashire and west Yorkshire.

Investigations will look into.

  • Capital costs
  • Passenger demand forecasts
  • Service options.
  • Gauge enhancement measures necessary to increase rail freight capacity on TransPennine routes including between Accrington and Todmorden stations.
  • Proposals for a rail freight terminal on the site of the demolished Huncoat power station near Accrington.

This sounds more than a simple proposal to reopen the route between Skipton and Colne stations.

These are a few of my thoughts.

The Rail Route Between Preston And Skipton

The rail route between Preston on the West Coast Main Line and Skipton can be summarised as follows.

  • Preston and Rose Grove via Huncoat – double-track – electrification at Preston
  • Rose Grove and Colne – single-track
  • Colne and Skipton – to be reinstated – electrification at Skipton

Colne and Skipton might not be the easiest route to reinstate, as a dual carriageway has been built across the route to the North of Colne station.

Could Colne And Skipton Be Double-Track All The Way?

Consider.

  • The new section between Skipton and Colne could be built with single or double tracks.
  • The section between Rose Grove and Colne stations was built as a double-track and singled in 1971. British Rail’s accountants strike again!
  • The single-track section includes the Bank Top Viaduct, in the centre of Burnley.
  • Trains currently take twenty-one minutes between Rose Grove and Colne stations.

This picture shows Bank Top Viaduct.

I think the viaduct could be key to whether the route is double-track all the way.

  • If the redoubling can be performed at a reasonable cost, then that will be the way to go, as it might be possible to squeeze up to three trains per hour (tph) between Skipton and Rose Grove via Colne.
  • If on the other hand, doubling is too difficult or expensive, I estimate that no more than two tph would be possible.

For both solutions, there will need to be double track or a long passing loop, between Skipton and Colne.

Could Colne And Skipton Be Electrified?

Consider.

  •  Preston is a fully-electrified station on the West Coast Main Line.
  • Skipton is a fully-electrified station with electric trains to and from Leeds.
  • Full electrification would create an electrified route between Leeds and Blackpool, Liverpool and Preston.
  • It could be a useful diversion route for electric passenger trains across the Pennines, when their are engineering works on the Huddersfield Line or due to the building of Northern Powerhouse Rail.
  • Electrification of the route, would allow electric haulage of freight trains to and from the proposed Huncoat Rail Freight Terminal.
  • Electrification of the Calder Valley Line between Preston and Leeds is always being proposed.
  • Electrication of Bank Top Viaduct could be tricky!

It should also be noted that this article on Rail Magazine was published on May 12th, 2020 and is entitled Electrification Key to Decarbonisation – Government. Views in Government about electrification have changed, so this might affect the decision to electrify the route.

The power is already there at both ends and electrification systems with low visual intrusion could be used.

On the other hand, some might consider electrification of the route inappropriate.

Could Colne And Skipton Be Partially Electrified?

Consider.

  • I estimate that the distance between Preston and Skipton will be 41 miles.
  • If Blackpool North station were the final destination, there would be 34 miles (2 x 17) to charge the batteries.
  • If Liverpool Lime Street station were the final destination, there would be 70 miles (2 x 35) to charge the batteries.
  • If Leeds station were the final destination, there would be 52 miles (2 x 26) to charge the batteries.
  • Manufacturers’ estimates of distances, indicate that battery electric trains could cover up to 65 miles on battery power.

As both ends of the route are electrified and trains would run extra miles under the wires, it would seem likely that a battery electric train could run between Preston and Skipton, without needing a charge en route.

Drax Group And Colne And Skipton Reinstatement

Drax power station uses Flue Gas Desulphurisation. Wikipedia says this about the process at Drax.

All six units are served by an independent wet limestone-gypsum flue gas desulphurisation (FGD) plant, which was installed between 1988 and 1996. This diverts gases from the boilers and passes them through a limestone slurry, which removes at least 90% of the sulphur dioxide (SO2). This is equivalent to removing over 250,000 tonnes of SO2 each year. The process requires 10,000 tonnes of limestone a week, sourced from Tunstead Quarry in Derbyshire. A byproduct of the process is gypsum, with 15,000 tonnes produced each week. This goes to be used in the manufacture of plasterboard. The gypsum is sold exclusively to British Gypsum, and it is transported by rail to their plant at Kirkby Thore (on the Settle-Carlisle Line).

The gypsum trains go through Skipton to access the Settle-Carlisle Line.

Drax power station is part-fuelled with biomass, which comes from all over the place including the United States via the Port of Liverpool.

It is no surprise that Drax Group are in favour of the Colne and Skipton reinstatement, as it would give them a new route between Drax and the Port of Liverpool.

This press release from Drax Group gives more details including this paragraph.

It will have a direct impact on improving our supply chain at Drax, allowing freight trains to travel much more quickly to the power station in North Yorkshire – reducing journey times from the Port of Liverpool to less than three hours, a journey which can take up to nine hours at the moment.

Trains will avoid the busy Huddersfield Line and Manchester Victoria station.

Drax’s statement would appear to be a powerful reason to reinstate Colne and Skipton.

These smart new or refurbished wagons, used by Drax to move woodchip should be much faster than the typical 20-30 mph freight speed of TransPennine routes.

This page on the Drax web site, is entitled This train isn’t like any other in the UK, and it gives more details about the wagons.

  • They were custom-designed and built in the last few years.
  • The roofs open automatically for loading.
  • A twenty-five wagon train can be loaded in 37 minutes.
  • A full train can carry between 1,700 and 1,800 tonnes of biomass.
  • Each train can unload in forty minutes.
  • They are the largest wagons on UK railways by a margin of 30 %.
  • Each wagon is nineteen metres long and can carry over seventy tonnes of biomass.
  • Approximately 14 trains per day arrive at Drax, bringing 20,000 tonnes of biomass.

I suspect to minimise journey times, Drax would like to see a fully electrified route between Preston and Skipton and a new double-track route between Colne and Skipton.

The Huncoat Rail Freight Terminal

This Google Map shows the position of the former Huncoat power station.

Note.

  1. Hapton station in the North-East corner of the map.
  2. Huncoat station in the South-West corner of the map.
  3. The East Lancashire Line running between the two stations.
  4. The M65 running across the top of the map.
  5. The A56 or Accrington bypass running North-South from the motorway junction at the top of the map.

Huncoat power station appears to have been in the South West corner of the rough-looking area, South of the M65 and the railway and West of the A56.

There is no Wikipedia entry for the demolished power station, but this page on The View From The North has some details and pictures.

It does appear to be a well connected site for a Rail Freight Terminal.

  • There could be a direct connection to the motorway network.
  • There is space for a connection with the East Lancashire Line, that would allow trains to access the interchange from both directions.
  • Trains could go West to the Port of Liverpool and the West Coast Main Line via Preston.
  • Trains could go East to Leeds and Yorkshire and on to the East Coast ports of Felixstowe, Hull, Immingham and Teesport.
  • If the East Lancashire Line were to be electrified, electric haulage could be used.

The Rail Freight Terminal could be bigger than a hundred hectares.

Gauge Enhancement On TransPennine Routes Including Between Accrington And Todmorden

Consider

  • Most freight trains passing through Hebden Bridge station  use the route via Rochdale and Todmorden to get to and from Liverpool and the West.
  • Few if any use the East Lancashire Line via Accrington.
  • Some passenger trains do take the Accrington route.
  • There are five tunnels between Accrington and the Todmorden Curve.
  • The building of the Huncoat Rail Freight Terminal, must mean that trains between the Rail Freight Terminal and Leeds and the East would need to use the Calder Valley Line as far as the Todmorden Curve. or the East Lancashire Line to Colne for the new route.

As freight trains rarely seem to use the East Lancashire Line to the East of Accrington could it be that this section of track needs gauge enhancement?

But if this gauge enhancement were to be completed, that could give two routes between Huncoat Rail Freight Terminal and the East, for the largest freight trains.

Thoughts On The Project Management

It would appear that there are a series of sub-projects to be done.

  1. Perform gauge enhancement and route improvement on the East Lancashire Line between Rose Grove and Colne. This would include any doubling of the route, if that were to be done.
  2. Start building the link between Skipton and Colne.
  3. Start building the Huncoat Rail Freight Terminal.
  4. Finish building the link between Skipton and Colne.
  5. Start passenger and freight services between Skipton and Colne.
  6. Finish building the Huncoat Rail Freight Terminal.
  7. Perform gauge enhancement on the Calder Valley Line between Accrington and Todmorden.

My objectives would be.

  • Open the Skipton and Colne route as a TransPennine diversion, as early as possible.
  • Upgrade the East Lancashire Line between Rose Grove and Colne with minimum disruption.
  • Open the Huncoat Rail Freight Terminal as early as possible.
  • Create multiple freight routes to and from Huncoat Rail Freight Terminal.

Electrification would be a future aspiration.

Whither Drax?

Drax Gtroup and their flagship power station have a major environmental problem in that the power station is a large emitter of carbon dioxide.

They also run a lot of diesel locomotive hauled trains carrying biomass, fly ash, gypsum, limestone and other materials to and from Drax power station, which is on the Drax branch of the Pontefract Line.

  • The Pontefract Line was built to serve the coalfields in the area.
  • It runs between Leeds and Hull via Pontefract and Goole.
  • It is not electrified, but it connects to the electrification at Leeds.
  • In the East is has good connections to Cleethorpes, Goole, Grimsby, Hull and Immingham.
  • The Port of Immingham is a major port, that is used by Drax to import biomass, which is hauled to the power station by diesel locomotives.
  • The route between Drax and Immingham has been improved recently, by the addition of the North Doncaster chord.
  • High Speed Two will run alongside the Pontefract Line on its approach to Leeds.
  • Freight trains between Drax and Skipton use an electrified diversion South of Leeds via Armley, that avoids the need for freight trains to pass through Leeds station.

I can see that in a more favourable climate for electrification, that electrification of the Pontefract Line would be recommended.

Given, the environmental record of Drax, which is both good and bad, I would suspect they would like to see electrification of the Pontefract Line, as it would create a lower carbon route for biomass trains between Immingham and the power station.

A New Electrified TransPennine Route For Passengers And Freight

I sense that a grander plan might exist behind all my thoughts.

If the following routes were to be electrified.

  • Preston and Skipton
  • The Pontefract Line between Leeds and Hull.
  • Knottingley and Immingham via Thorne

Hull and Liverpool would be connected for passenger electric trains and Liverpool and Immingham would be connected for freight.

Drax could also be on an electrified branch and they could say, they were hauling all their trains using renewable electricity. Marketing and environment are always important

 

 

 

 

May 12, 2020 - Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

4 Comments »

  1. It is amazing how short-sighted the Beeching Report activities were. There used to be a perfectly good freight route from Liverpool avoiding Manchester crossing the pennines by the Woodhead Tunnels, turn north at Pennistone, through Rotherham, or reinstate the line through Sheffield Victoria, relay the Hull and Barnsley line, a slight diversion round the M62 would be needed. Most of the trackbed and infrastructure is visible on Google Maps. I think it could be a cheaper option for HS2/3. Just move the cables in Woodhead, the tunnels are high enough for overhead wires, they were in 1980. Plenty of power to charge battery trains too. Why not rebuild Hunscoat power station and use biomass and household waste? The technology for toxic gas removal is available, it would cut down landfill in the area.

    Comment by jagracer | May 14, 2020 | Reply

  2. Beeching and British Railings and Harold Wilson at the time seemed to think that one route between two major cities was enough. Harold Macmillan seemed to be less against the cross-country railways, as they went through too many marginal constituencies. The only reason we still have Settle and Carlisle is that Michael Portillo was Transport Minister and he didn’t want to sign.

    I’m 72 and remember the Beeching days well. British Rail liked to have alternatives like the Waverley Route and the accountants didn’t. So there was a lot of unnecessary simplification. Look at the number of lines, that are down for reopening. Harold Wilson was also a strong believer that railways would not be used as everybody would use their own car.

    Now we have so much freight, mainly because the Chinese and others, can make things cheaper than we can.

    In some ways, we’re returning to the nineteenth century, when a lot of manufactured goods needed to be moved around.

    One big difference is coal. The Pontefract Line, the Great Northern and Great Eastern Joint Line, the Cardiff Valley Lines and others were built to move coal about.

    But coal is dead and soon around eighty percent of our energy will come from wind, which needs wires and pipes and not rail. hydrogen will come from electrolysis and will power our heating and fuel buses and heavy vehicles.

    I don’t know about Hull and Barnsley, but will look it up.

    I think Woodhead would be too tricky, as so many bits have been built on.

    A freight terminal is needed in that area and Huncoat looks a good site, especially, if it lies on an electrified route between Liverpool and Leeds.

    Comment by AnonW | May 14, 2020 | Reply

  3. […] This project appears to be a favourite of Governments, as I suspect it solves problems across the North. I last wrote about it in May this year in Colne – Skipton Reopening Moves Closer. […]

    Pingback by Beeching Reversal – Restoration Of A Daily Train Service On The Keighley & Worth Valley Railway « The Anonymous Widower | July 4, 2020 | Reply

  4. […] Colne – Skipton Reopening Moves Closer, I talked about the proposed Huncoat Rail Fright Terminal, that could be built North of Blackburn […]

    Pingback by Beeching Reversal – South Fylde Line Passing Loop « The Anonymous Widower | August 10, 2020 | Reply


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