The Anonymous Widower

Will The East Coast Main Line Give High Speed Two A Run For Its Money To The North East Of England?

I have looked up High Speed Two timings on their Journey Time Calculator and compared them with current LNER timetables.

  • London-Leeds – Current – 136 minutes – HS2 – 81 minutes
  • London-York – Current – 111 minutes – HS2 – 84 minutes
  • London – Darlington – Current – 141 minutes – HS2 – 112 minutes
  • York- Darlington – Current – 27 minutes – HS2 – 26 minutes
  • London – Durham – Current – 170 minutes – HS2 – 138 minutes
  • York – Durham – Current – 45 minutes – HS2 – 44 minutes
  • London – Newcastle – Current – 170 minutes – HS2 – 137 minutes
  • York – Newcastle – Current – 55 minutes – HS2 – 51 minutes
  • London – Edinburgh – Current – 259 minutes – HS2 – 220 minutes
  • Newcastle – Edinburgh – Current – 83 minutes – HS2 – 83 minutes
  • York – Edinburgh – Current – 138 minutes – HS2 – 134 minutes

Note.

  1. I have assumed that Newcastle and Edinburgh takes 83 minutes, which is the current timing.
  2. The time savings possible to the North of Leeds are only a few minutes.
  3. As an example, the straight route between York and Darlington is 34 miles, which means an average speed of only 75 mph.

Serious work needs to be done North of York to improve timings.

Improvements To The East Coast Main Line

Various improvements to the East Coast Main Line are in process of building designed or built.

Extra Tracks

These example of more tracks are from the Wikipedia entry for the East Coast Main Line.

  • Four tracks are being restored between Huntington and Woodwalton.
  • Freight loops between York and Darlington.

There are probably other places, which will see extra tracks in the next few years.

Power Supply And Electrification

Wikipedia identified places where the power supply and the electrification could be better.

This sentence indicates the comprehensive nature of the planned work.

Power supply upgrades (PSU) between Wood Green and Bawtry (Phase 1 – completed in September 2017) and Bawtry to Edinburgh (Phase 2), including some overhead lines (OLE) support improvements, rewiring of the contact and catenary wires, and headspan to portal conversions (HS2P) which were installed at Conington in January 2018.

The Hertford Loop Line is also due to have some power supply upgrades.

Station Improvements

Darlington, Kings Cross, Stevenage and York will have track improvements, which will improve the capacity of the tracks through the stations.

Werrington Junction

Werrington Junction will be a big improvement. This is an extract from the Wikipedia entry.

The project will see the construction of 1.9 miles (3 km) of new line that will run underneath the fast lines, culverting works on Marholm Brook and the movement of the Stamford lines 82 feet (25 m) westwards over the culverted brook. This will mean that trains for the GN/GE line no longer need to cross the fast lines on the level, nor use the Up Fast line between Peterborough station and the junction. The project, coupled with other ECML improvement schemes (such as the four tracking from Huntingdon to Woodwalton) will improve capacity on the line through Peterborough by 33% according to Network Rail. This equates to two extra train paths an hour by 2021, when the work is scheduled to be completed. In turn, this will remove 21 minutes from the fastest King’s Cross to Edinburgh Waverley service, and 13 minutes from the fastest King’s Cross to Leeds service. It will also see an increase of 1,050 ‘intercity’ seats per hour on express trains through Peterborough.

The upgrade will add two more train paths to the route and knock 21 and 13 minutes off the faster Edinburgh and Leeds services respectively.

The Newark Flat Crossing

This is the railway equivalent of a light-controlled pedestrian crossing in the middle of a motorway.

This Google Map shows the crossing.

Note.

  1. The East Coast Main Line running roughly North-South
  2. The A 46 road crossing the line.
  3. The Nottingham-Lincoln Line running parallel to the railway.
  4. A chord allowing trains to go between the Nottingham-Lincoln Line and Newark North Gate station, which is to the South.
  5. The River Trent.

Complicated it certainly is!

I wrote about the problems in The Newark Crossing and felt something radical needed to be done.

Looking at the numbers of trains at the Newark Crossing.

  • The number of trains crossing the East Coast Main Line, is typically about three to five trains per hour (tph) and they block the East Coast Main Line for about two minutes.
  • But then there could be a fast train around every four minutes on the East Coast Main Line, with eight tph in both directions.

The numbers of trains and their speeds would probably cut out a Control Engineer’s solution, where all trains are computer controlled through the junction.

Although, it might be possible to reduce the number of conflicting trains on the East Coast Main Line dramatically, by arranging a Northbound and a Southbound express passed each other at the flat junction.

There’s also the problem of what happens if a crossing train fails, as it goes over the East Coast Main Line. But that must be a problem now!

Whatever happens here will be a well-thought through solution and it will add to the capacity of the East Coast Main Line and increase the line-speed from the current 100 mph.

Level Crossings

Wikipedia says this about level crossings.

Level crossing closures between King’s Cross and Doncaster: As of July 2015 this will no longer be conducted as a single closure of 73 level crossings but will be conducted on a case-by case basis (for example, Abbots Ripton Level Crossing will close as part of the HW4T scheme).

It is my personal view that all should be removed.

ERTMS Signalling

Wikipedia says this about the installation of ERTMS digital in-cab signalling.

The line between London King’s Cross and Bawtry, on the approach to Doncaster, will be signalled with Level 2 ERTMS. The target date for operational ERTMS services is December 2018 with completion in 2020.

Note that, ERTMS is needed for 140 mph running.

140 mpg Running

Wkipedia says this about 140 mph running.

Increasing maximum speeds on the fast lines between Woolmer Green and Dalton-on-Tees up to 140 mph (225 km/h) in conjunction with the introduction of the Intercity Express Programme, level crossing closures, ERTMS fitments, OLE rewiring and the OLE PSU – est. to cost £1.3 billion (2014). This project is referred to as “L2E4” or London to Edinburgh (in) 4 Hours. L2E4 examined the operation of the IEP at 140 mph on the ECML and the sections of track which can be upgraded to permit this, together with the engineering and operational costs.

A rough calculation indicates that up to eleven minutes could be saved by this upgrade, between London and Darlington.

Prospective Timings On The East Coast Main Line

Consider.

  • The package of new trains level crossing closures, ERTMS, OLE rewiring and the OLE PSU, which is collectively known as L2E4 should deliver Edinburgh in four hours.
  • Nineteen minutes need to be saved on current times.
  • I believe that if the train takes four hours or less, travellers will switch from the airlines.
  • High Speed Two are aiming for a time of 220 minutes, but is this by the West or East Coast routes?
  • As their proposed Glasgow service has a similar time, I assume it is by the West Coast route.
  • Wikipedia states that an Open Access Operator was thinking of running Class 390 trains or Pendelinos between London Kings Cross and Edinburgh in 223 minutes.

If the managers of LNER are the least bit ambitious, I can see them wanting to run a service between London and Edinburgh, in a time that is several minutes under four hours.

It should always be remembered that the East Coast Main Line was built for speed, as these true stories illustrate.

  • Mallard set the world speed record for steam locomotives in 1938 of 126 mph, on the line.
  • The record time between London and Edinburgh was set in 1991 by an InterCity 225 train at a minute under three-and-a-half hours.

I even have my own special memory of the line, which I wrote about in The Thunder of Three-Thousand Three-Hundred Horses. Behind a Deltic or Class 55 locomotive, I went from Darlington to London in two hours and fifteen minutes, which is faster than today’s fastest trains. Not bad for a 1960s design, but the train was a coach short and had a clear run. And was probably extremely-well driven.

Is the East Coast Main Line and especially the section South of Darlington, a route, where a knowledgeable driver can coax the maximum out of a high speed train?

Possible savings over the next few years include.

Werrington Junction

When this is completed, it could knock twenty-one minutes off the timings to Edinburgh.

Newark Crossing

How much time could be saved here?

There must be some time savings if the line speed can be increased from 100 mph.

140 mph Running

The various improvements in L2E4 are intended to enable services to run between London and Edinburgh in under four hours.

  • Does L2E4 include any possible time savings from Werrington Junction?
  • Does L2E4 include any possible time savings from improvements at Newark?
  • What is the completion date for L2E4?
  • Most of the time savings for L2E4 will be South of Darlington as the track is straighter.

As I said earlier a rough calculation indicates that L2E4 will save about eleven minutes to the South of Darlington.

Conclusion

There must be over thirty minutes of savings to be accumulated on the East Coast Main Line. Much of it because of the Werrington and Newark improvements will be South of Darlington.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see timings like these.

  • London-Leeds – Current – 136 minutes – HS2 – 81 minutes – Possible ECML – 120 minutes
  • London-York – Current – 111 minutes – HS2 – 84 minutes – Possible ECML – 90 minutes
  • London – Darlington – Current – 141 minutes – HS2 – 112 minutes – Possible ECML – 115 minutes
  • London – Durham – Current – 170 minutes – HS2 – 138 minutes – Possible ECML – 130 minutes
  • London – Newcastle – Current – 170 minutes – HS2 – 137 minutes – Possible ECML – 130 minutes
  • London – Edinburgh – Current – 259 minutes – HS2 – 220 minutes – Possible ECML – 210 minutes

It looks to me, that the East Coast Main Line could be fulfilling the aspirations of British Rail’s engineers of the 1980s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 1, 2020 - Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , ,

9 Comments »

  1. They are re-instating all 6 tracks through Gasworks & Copenhagen tunnels outside Kings + to ease congestion but the biggest bottle-neck of all is Welwyn Viaduct & Welwyn North. They really need to open that stretch up to four tracks.

    Comment by MauriceGReed | June 1, 2020 | Reply

    • Six tracks through the Gasworks tunnels, but still only four through the Copenhagen tunnels despite Thameslink trains also using the latter.

      Welwyn viaduct is a very hard nut to crack for all sorts of reasons – as other posters have pointed out.

      Comment by R. Mark Clayton | June 4, 2020 | Reply

  2. I have a feeling that there is a cunning plan to use the Hertford Loop more and that with digital signalling on the route, they can squeeze more trains through Hertford and create more space over Digswell.

    The trouble is that rebuilding the viaduct would probably shut it for up to three years. I don’t think, that disruption can be sustained until East West Rail and/or HS2 are finished.

    Comment by AnonW | June 1, 2020 | Reply

    • They’d have to build a double track viaduct parallel to the existing one plus a new tunnel the slew the lines over one-at-a-time.

      Comment by MauriceGReed | June 2, 2020 | Reply

      • I know the area well, as I worked at Welwyn Garden City for a couple of years.

        Any serious construction around the Digswell Viaduct will be vigorously opposed by the heritage and local lobbies. The locals will be very against, as four-tracking is no benefit to them and they will suffer most from the construction.

        Perhaps a plan could be.

        1. Use ERTMS to maximise train paths through the two-track section.

        2. Replace the Cambridge and Kings Lynn expresses with trains with the same performance as Azumas.

        3. Upgrade the Hertford Loop Line. Stevenage is an impressive start.

        4. Send all freight trains and Thameslink trains via Hertford.

        5. Close Welwyn North station.

        6. Develop a tram or bus-tram network that connects Welwyn Garden City, Hertford and Stevenage.

        The two-track section would become a high-speed railway capable of handling 18 tph both ways.

        Comment by AnonW | June 2, 2020

  3. Don’t forget Virgin’s plans for the E.C.M.L in 2000 with long stretches of new line parallel to it,bypassing Doncaster and Morpeth for example.Target time 3.00 hours for a direct route of 400 miles or so giving an average speed of around 130 mph.Maximum line speed probably 200 mph which quite enough.HS2 via Birmingham NOT the most direct route!

    Comment by Hugh Steavenson | June 1, 2020 | Reply

  4. The ECML was built with similar standards of straightness, as was the Great Western, to many of today’s recent high speed lines. Adding a few bypasses and four-tracking all the way could make the ECML one of the best high speed routes in the world.

    I wonder, what those who built it, felt that the minimum time between London and Edinburgh would be?

    Comment by AnonW | June 2, 2020 | Reply

  5. HS2 consultants Greengauge 21. Foreword in document “Beyond HS2”.

    “Upgrading the East Coast Main Line to 140 mph operation as a high
    priority alongside HS2 and to be delivered without delay. Newcastle London timings across a shorter route could closely match those
    achievable by HS2.”

    Click to access Beyond_HS2WEB.pdf

    Comment by John | July 8, 2020 | Reply

  6. […] This is anupdated version of what, I originally published the following in Will The East Coast Main Line Give High Speed Two A Run For Its Money To The North East Of England? […]

    Pingback by Could ERTMS And ETCS Solve The Newark Crossing Problem? « The Anonymous Widower | July 8, 2020 | Reply


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