The Anonymous Widower

Birmingham-Black Country-Shrewsbury

On the Midlands Connect web site, they have a page, which is entitled Birmingham-Black Country-Shrewsbury.

This is the introductory paragraph.

We’re examining the case to increase services from three to four per hour, made possible by capacity released post-HS2.

They then give the outline of their plans, which can be summed up as follows.

  • Services on the corridor are slow and unreliable.
  • Network Rail say the service is in danger of acute overcrowding.
  • Services will be increased from three trains per hour (tph) to four.
  • A direct hourly service from Shrewsbury, Wellington and Telford to London will be introduced.
  • Services to Birmingham International will be doubled.
  • The economic case will be examined for speeding up services between Shrewsbury and Birmingham from 56 to 45 minutes, via track upgrades and possible electrification.

It seems a safe, and not overly ambitious plan.

These are my thoughts.

Shrewsbury’s Unique Position

These are distances and times from important stations.

  • Birmingham International – 51 miles and 83 minutes
  • Birmingham New Street – 42.5 miles and 71 minutes
  • Chester – 42.5 miles and 53 minutes
  • Crewe – 33 miles and 53 minutes
  • Hereford – 51 miles and 59 minutes
  • Telford – 14 miles and 21 minutes
  • Wellington – 10 miles and 13 minutes
  • Welshpool – 20 miles and 25 minutes
  • Wolverhampton – 30 miles and 50 minutes

In Sparking A Revolution, I quoted this Hitachi-specification for a battery-electric train.

  • Range – 55-65 miles
  • Performance – 90-100 mph
  • Recharge – 10 minutes when static
  • Routes – Suburban near electrified lines
  • Battery Life – 8-10 years

I can’t see any problem, for a train with this specification being able to reach Shrewsbury from Birmingham International, Birmingham New Street and Crewe on battery power.

In Hitachi Trains For Avanti, I quote an article with the same title in the January 2020 Edition of Modern Railways as saying this.

Hitachi told Modern Railways it was unable to confirm the rating of the diesel engines on the bi-modes, but said these would be replaceable by batteries in future if specified.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Shrewsbury served from Birmingham and Crewe by fast electric trains, that used battery power. Avanti West Coast certainly seem to have that thought in mind.

Zero Carbon Trains Between Shrewsbury And Wales

It will be a formidable challenge to run battery trains from Shrewsbury to the Welsh destinations.

  • Aberystwyth – 81.5 miles
  • Cardiff – 107 miles
  • Carmarthen – 185 miles
  • Holyhead – 133 miles
  • Milford Haven – 225 miles
  • Swansea – 121.5 miles

Note.

  1. These are challenging distances for battery-electric trains.
  2. South Wales destinations served via Newport and Cardiff could use the electrification on the South Wales Main Line.
  3. Many of these services start from East of Shrewsbury and can use the electrified lines that connects to Birmingham New Street and Manchester Piccadilly.

Unless someone like Riding Sunbeams, makes a breakthrough, I can’t see battery-electric trains running to Welsh destinations from Shrewsbury.

Transport for Wales New Trains

Transport for Wales have ordered seventy-seven new Class 197 trains, and these diesel trains will be used for services through Shrewsbury, mainly on services to Birmingham New Street and Birmingham International stations.

  • If these trains are similar to Northern’s Class 195 trains, they will be diesel multiple units with a noisy mechanical transmission.
  • I was surprised in these days of global warming that Transport for Wales didn’t buy something more eco-friendly, as they have for South Wales and the services around Chester.
  • The transmission of the Class 197 trains has not been disclosed.

Perhaps, CAF are going to do something innovative.

  • The CAF Civity is a modular train, with either electric or diesel power options.
  • The diesel-powered options use MTU engines.
  • A logical development would be to use an MTU Hybrid PowerPack to reduce diesel consumption and emissions.
  • This PowerPack would also reduce noise, as it has an electric transmission.
  • I wonder, if CAF can raid their parts bin and fit a pantograph, so where 25 KVAC overhead electrification is available, it can be used.
  • If CAF can convert a bog standard diesel multiple unit into a hybrid diesel-electric-battery multiple unit, by performing a heart transplant, it is a neat way of keeping new diesel Civities running until a later date.
  • Remember that Northern and West Modlands Trains have another seventy-four similar new diesel Civities in operation or on order. With trains having a forty year life, they don’t fit with an early phasing out of diesel.

I have no idea, what is actually happening, but my engineer’s nose tells me to expect a surprise from CAF.

Increasing Birmingham And Shrewsbury Services From Three Trains Per Hour To Four

Four trains per hour or one train every fifteen minutes seems to be a preferred frequency on several UK suburban lines.

These services seem to provide four tph or better on most, if not all of their routes.

  • Birmingham Cross-City Line
  • London Overground
  • Merseyrail
  • Tyne and Wear Metro

Four tph seems to be a very handy Turn-Up-And-Go frequency that encourages people to use rail services.

So I am not surprised to see Midlands Connect wanting four tph between Birmingham and Shrewsbury.

Currently, the following services seem to operate between Shrewsbury and Birmingham.

  • Avanti West Coast – 2 trains per day (tpd) – Shrewsbury and London Euston via Birmingham New Street and Birmingham International.
  • Trains for Wales – 1 train per two hours (tp2h) – Holyhead and Birmingham International via Birmingham New Street.
  • Trains for Wales 1 tph – Aberystwyth/Pwllheli and Birmingham International via Birmingham New Street
  • West Midlands Trains – 2 tph – Shrewsbury and Birmingham New Street – One semi-fast and one stopper.

Note.

  1. All services call at Wolverhampton, Telford and Wellington.
  2. Shrewsbury and Birmingham New Street is a 3.5 tph service.
  3. Shrewsbury and Birmingham International is a 1.5 tph service.

It relies heavily on services from Trains for Wales, who probably don’t put Shrewsbury and Birmingham services at the top of their priorities.

I remember, when local services in the North-East of London were run by Greater Anglia from Norwich. Moving some services to Transport for London, brought about a large improvement

Quite frankly, the current service is best described as pathetic.

Should Trains for Wales Services Terminate As Shrewsbury?

I suspect some local politicians in Shrewsbury and Birmingham, think it would be best to adopt this sort of strategy.

  • All Welsh services terminate at Shrewsbury.
  • Birmingham and Shrewsbury mandate West Midlands Trains and Avanti West Coast to provide a frequent service between Shrewsbury and Birmingham.

It might be the way to go, but many travellers from the Marches, would probably want direct connections to Birmingham, Birmingham Airport and in the future High Speed Two.

Introducing A Direct Hourly Service From Shrewsbury, Wellington And Telford To London

On the face of it, it looks like a much needed service to and from Shrewsbury.

  • It will be hourly.
  • Initially it will use Class 221 diesel multiple units, but these will be replaced with bi-mode Class 805 trains.
  • The current infrequent service calls at Watford Junction, Rugby, Coventry, Birmingham International, Birmingham New Street, Sandwell and Dudley, Wolverhampton, Telford Central and Wellington.
  • There are also six other stations between Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton, which might like an improved service.
  • The service will be run by Avanti West Coast.

There might also be the possibility of using battery power between Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury, which is only thirty miles each way.

But there are other collateral benefits.

  • The service increases the frequency between Shrewsbury and Birmingham New Street stations by one tph to 4.5 tph
  • The service increases the frequency between Shrewsbury and Birmingham International by one tph to 2.5 tph.
  • The service increases the frequency between Wolverhampton and London Euston by one tph.
  • The service increases the frequency between Sandwell and Dudley and London Euston by one tph
  • The service increases the frequency between Birmingham New Street and London Euston by one tph.
  • The service increases the frequency between Birmingham International and London Euston by one tph.
  • The new service will provide an hourly quality connection to High Speed Two at Birmingham International for stations between Shrewsbury and Coventry.
  • It appears that the Class 390 trains to Birmingham New Street and being replaced by new Class 807 trains, so Birmingham will have three out of four tph, run by new trains.
  • The new Shrewsbury service , has a similar calling pattern to that of the current Scottish service through Birmingham. Will it replace that service, when High Speed Two opens?

Note.

  1. Midlands Connect’s objective of four tph between Shrewsbury and Birmingham has been met.
  2. Several stations get a better direct service to London.
  3. Connectivity to High Speed Two is improved.
  4. Birmingham New Street and London is now a Turn-Up-And-Go frequency of four tph.
  5. The Class 805 train will also mean that Avanti West Coast could be zero-carbon in Birmingham. Especially, if it used battery power between Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury stations.

The hourly direct service between Shrewsbury and London will make a lot of difference to train services between Shrewsbury and Birmingham.

Avanti’s London Euston and Birmingham New Street Service

Consider.

  • There are two tph that terminate in Birmingham New Street station, that take 88-89 minutes, from London Euston
  • There is one tph that goes through Birmingham New Street station to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Preston, or Shrewsbury, that takes 82-84 minutes, from London Euston.
  • Currently, the two terminating trains are Class 390 trains, whereas the through train can be a Class 221 train as well.
  • Through trains are allowed  5-10 minutes to pass through Birmingham New Street.
  • Trains that terminate at Birmingham New Street station are allowed 20-30 minutes to arrive and leave.
  • Avanti West Coast have said, that they will be running Class 807 trains between London and Birmingham New Street.

It doesn’t seem to be the best use of scarce platform resources in a busy station to park a train there for half-an-hour.

In Will Avanti West Coast’s New Trains Be Able To Achieve London Euston and Liverpool Lime Street In Two Hours?, I came to the conclusion that the Class 807 trains have been designed as simple, fast, lightweight all-electric trains with no heavy batteries, diesel engines on tilt mechanism.

  • I think they’ll be able to shave a few minutes on the timings between London Euston and Birmingham New Street station.
  • I would suspect that they will match the 82-84 minutes of the through trains
  • The ultimate would be if they could do a round trip between London Euston and Birmingham New Street in three hours.
  • Two tph run by what would effectively be a London-Birmingham shuttle would need just six trains.

It might mean new methods of manning the trains, to reduce turnround times.

Doubling Of Services Between Shrewsbury And Birmingham International

The hourly direct London and Shrewsbury Avanti West Coast service will raise the current 1.5 tph service between Shrewsbury and Birmingham International to 2.5 tph, so will be a good start.

  • Perhaps Trains for Wales could find the missing 0.5 tph.
  • West Midlands Trains might be able to squeeze in another train.

But I suspect that the crowded line between Birmingham New Street and Birmingham International is the problem.

Shrewsbury And Birmingham In Forty-Five Minutes

This is the last objective and saving eleven minutes on this route would suggest that the best way would surely be to fully electrify the route.

  • Between Wolverhampton and Birmingham International stations is fully electrified.
  • Electric trains have faster acceleration and deceleration, so would probably achieve the required savings if they stopped more than five times.
  • From my virtual helicopter it doesn’t appear to be the most challenging of routes to electrify.
  • Only about thirty miles of double track would need to be electrified between Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury stations.
  • Both Trains for Wales and West Midlands Trains would have to obtain new electric trains.
  • Avanti West Coast have already got bi-mode Class 805 trains, that could use the electrification.

But will Trains for Wales go along with Midlands Connect, when they tell them to get electric or bi-mode trains to work between Shrewsbury and Birmingham International stations?

It is because of dilemmas like this, that I feel that electric trains using battery or hydrogen power, when away from electrification can be a very good alternative.

  • There is no major disruption raising bridges for the electrification.
  • Stations don’t need to be closed for electrification.
  • The trains have all the comfort and performance of electric trains.
  • Costs and timescales can be reduced.
  • When running on battery or hydrogen power, these trains are very quiet, as there is no pantograph noise.

To run battery-electric trains between Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton, the only infrastructure needed would be a method of charging the train at Shrewsbury station.

This Google Map shows the Southern end of Shrewsbury station.

Note.

  1. The platforms are built over the River Severn.
  2. The five-car Class 221 train in Virgin livery sitting in Platform 5.
  3. When this train leaves it will turn left or to the East for Wolverhampton and Birmingham.
  4. Trains can turn right for Wales.

It is a very unusual station layout.

  • Platform 5 is one of a pair of bay platforms; 5 & 6, that can access either Wales or Birmingham.
  • Outside of the bay platforms are a pair of through platforms; 4 & 7, that can also access Wales or Birmingham, but they can also access Chester by going through the station.
  • The 115 metre long Class 221 train fits easily in the bay platform 5.
  • The 130 metre long Class 805 train would probably need to use Platform 4 or 7.

But with well-planned electrification, it would be ideal for charging electric trains as they pass through or turned back!

Once the train reaches Wolverhampton, it will connect to electrification again.

Shrewsbury And High Speed Two

Currently, Shrewsbury has three connections to stations, where it would be convenient to take a High Speed Two train.

  • Birmingham International, which is 51 miles and 83 minutes away. Plus a ride on a people mover for High Speed Two.
  • Birmingham New Street, which is 42.5 miles and 71 minutes away. Plus a walk to Birmingham Curzon Street for High Speed Two.
  • Crewe, which is 33 miles and 55 minutes away.

Passengers will make their own choice.

Could Shrewsbury Have A Classic-Compatible High Speed Two Service To Manchester Piccadilly?

London To Shrewsbury, Now And Post-High Speed Two

Travel On Monday

If I want to go to Shrewsbury next Monday, one fast journey is taking the 09:10 from Euston and changing at Crewe, which gives a journey time of two hours and thirty-two minutes.

I can also get a train with a change at Birmingham International that takes seven minutes longer.

Travel On High Speed Two

After High Speed Two opens to Birmingham Curzon Street and Interchange in Phase 1 what sort of times to Shrewsbury can be expected?

I estimate the following.

  • Travelling via Birmingham Curzon Street could produce a time of around one hour and fifty minutes, if you’re lucky with the trains.
  • Travelling via Crewe could produce a time of one hour and thirty minutes, if you’re lucky with the trains.
  • Travelling via Interchange could produce a time of around one hour and fifty-five minutes. or forty-four minutes faster.

If I was going to Shrewsbury after High Speed Two has opened, I would probably change at Birmingham Curzon Street, if the walk to New Street station was still within my capabilities, as there will be a Turn-Up-And-Go frequency of four tph between Birmingham New Street and Shrewsbury stations.

Looking at the Midlands Connect objectives, these help with linking Shrewsbury with London.

  • Increasing services between Birmingham and Shrewsbury to four tph, as it’s Turn-Up-And-Go!
  • The direct hourly service to London from Shrewsbury, Wellington and Telford might be the quickest way to London by changing at Birmingham New Street/Curzon Street or Interchange.
  • Doubling the service between Shrewsbury and Birmingham International, may be a good move, as Interchange, which will be connected to Birmingham International by a high capacity people mover, will have five tph between London Euston and Old Oak Common stations.
  • Saving eleven minutes between Shrewsbury and Birmingham will certainly help.

Travelling between London and Telford, Wellington and Shrewsbury will be much improved.

 

June 27, 2020 - Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

6 Comments »

  1. Wolverhampton is another example of a town which would have benefitted from an HS2 connection in Brum. Classic-compatible could have replaced current Wolves-London service.

    Once HS2 is open, a lot of rail traffic to/from Brum Airport/exhibition centre will use that instead of Brum Intl. That will free up capacity on the existing line. Also, reopening Wolves-Walsall will free capacity on the heavily-used main Brum-Wolves line.

    Comment by Peter Robins | June 28, 2020 | Reply

  2. I suspect there is some very innovative engineering at work involving Hitachi and Avanti West Coast. It was stated in Modern Railways in January 2020, that the Class 807 trains will have no batteries, diesel engines and of course tilt-mechanism.

    So have Hitachi produced an AT-300 with the lightest weight possible? So that on Birmingham New Street, Blackpool and Liverpool services, they can take minutes off the journey times.

    1. London and Liverpool in under two hours!
    2. London and Birmingham round trip in under three hours, so trains can shuttle all day.
    3. London and Blackpool with a much easier to operate timetable.

    I have estimated, that compared to the Pendelinos, these lightweight trains might save up to two and a half minutes at each stop.

    The Class 807 trains are certainly built for performance. As are East Coast’s Class 803 trains, which seem to have been designed to run a very tight timetable.

    West Coast Main Line services could give High Speed Two a run for its money.

    I do wonder though. that better use could be made of the limited number of platforms at New Street station, if one of the London services were to be extended through the station. Having a train occupy a platform for thirty minutes is not good use of limited resources.

    A service could possibly terminate at Wolverhampton! Or even Shrewsbury!

    These trains are opening up possibilities.

    Comment by AnonW | June 28, 2020 | Reply

  3. Avanti already start/finish quite a few London trains from/at Wolverhampton.

    Their new Hitachi trains are replacing the Voyagers, which are mainly used on Chester and N Wales line. They currently run only 2 trains a day to Shrewsbury. These services will use the 805s, planned for 2022. Some Voyagers are also used on all-electrified lines, like the services to/from the N via New St. The 10 new 807s give them the capacity to replace these by electric trains. The Pendolinos are all being refurbished, starting the end of this year.

    They’re committed to:
    * an extra service a day to/from Llandudno (805)
    * an extra service a day to/from Shrewsbury (805)
    * a London-Walsall service (electric)
    * extending the current daily Wrexham service to Gobowen (805)

    AFAIK, that’s all they’re committed to before HS2. By the time that arrives, the Pendolinos will be getting on for 30 years old. It remains to be seen what will happen to them. You won’t need bi-modes on the N Wales line, as everyone going to/from London will change on to HS2 at Crewe. In fact, most of the existing Avanti routes will be replaced by HS2 or classic-compatible. WCML will be for more local services, such as those currently run by W Midlands/London NW, and for freight. Not sure what the 807s would be used for – passed on to someone else perhaps.

    Comment by Peter Robins | June 28, 2020 | Reply

  4. Wikipedia and other sources say they will run from Euston to Birmingham, Blackpool and Liverpool. These three routes don’t need tilt, as do the Scottish routes. So is it a way of freeing up a few Pendelinos for other routes? Like more services to Glasgow and Carlisle.

    My calculations show that it may be possible to do London Euston and Liverpool in under two hours with a Class 807 trains. With a fifteen minute turnround at each end, that will mean a comfortable four-and-a half hour round trip. It will need nine trains for a two trains per hour service. Services could use a dedicated platform at Liverpool and Euston and the two-hour journey would make it a marketing man’s dream.

    This means the numbers of trains don’t add up as they’ve only bought ten. I also calculated they’d need six to run fast Birmingham services.

    As it looks like the Class 803 trains are similar lightweight speedsters for East Coast Trains, which is another First Group company. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out what this variant of AT-300 train can do.

    Now that Bristol and Cardiff doesn’t need a diesel, as they’ve finished the wires, could Great Western convert some of their nine-car 801 trains to 800s with a battery for emergency power?

    Think of all the dark green marketing and the faster services?

    Comment by AnonW | June 28, 2020 | Reply

  5. not to Bristol, they haven’t! Only to Filton and Chippenham. They spent all that time and money lowering the track through Bath, and then don’t use it – must win some sort of prize for daftness.

    I’m not sure what %age of GWR’s bi-modes run only on electrified track – probably quite small?

    Comment by Peter Robins | June 28, 2020 | Reply

  6. A friend lives in Bath and there was a lot of feeling against wires through the city. Perhaps, they will use batteries, as it would be sensible.

    With a fully electrified route they could surely get under 90 minutes to Bristol.

    Comment by AnonW | June 28, 2020 | Reply


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