The Anonymous Widower

Beeching Reversal – South Fylde Line Passing Loop

This is one of the Beeching Reversal projects that the Government and Network Rail are proposing to reverse some of the Beeching cuts.

The Project

This project is described on this page on the web site of the Fylde MP; Mark Menzies, which is entitled Improving The South Fylde Rail Line.

The page lists that these improvements are needed.

Track And Stations

These improvements are listed for track and stations.

The bid involves laying around three miles of track between Lytham and St Annes stations, the creation of a new rail platform at Ansdell and Fairhaven Station, the installation of signalling along the line, and potential platform changes at Preston Station. There is scope for improvements to St Annes and Lytham Stations, should Network Rail decide it would rather include those stations within the passing loop – but that would be decided further along the process.

Services

The objective is to be able to run two trains per hour (tph) between Preston and Blackpool South stations.

Trains

Better trains are needed.

It certainly looks like the Pacers have already gone.

The Route

I shall describe the current route in this section.

Blackpool South Station

The Google Map shows Blackpool South station.

Note.

  1. Entrance to the station is from Waterloo Road, which runs East-West across the map.
  2. There are a pair of bus stops by the station entrance.
  3. There is a lot of car parking close to the station.
  4. I suspect that the single platform can hold a modern eighty-metre four-car train.
  5. This seventy-year-old has no difficulty waking to the football ground or the Blackpool trams from the station.

With two tph and some updated facilities, this would be a very useful station.

I suspect there is even space to add a second platform in the future, if that were felt to be necessary.

Blackpool Pleasure Beach Station

This Google Map shows Blackpool Please Beach station and the nearby Pleasure Beach.

We shouldn’t underestimate the importance of this station. One beautiful late summer Saturday, I was going to see Ipswich play at Blackpool and out of curiosity I had explored the train to Colne station. In those days a decade ago, Colne and Blackpool South was one service and the train from Colne was full of families, by the time it got to Preston. A large proportion, left the train at the Pleasure Beach.

The conductor told me, that the crowds, I had witnessed weren’t untypical.

Squires Gate Station and Blackpool Airport

This Google Map shows Squires Gate station and the nearby Blackpool Airport.

Blackpool Airport after a troubled few years seems to be finding a niche market, with a few business, commercial, offshore and training flights.

But I believe that airports like Blackpool in the future can develop another large niche – electric aviation.

Getting to places like Ireland, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and Wales by a nineteen-seat electric airliner will need the following.

  • As short a flight as possible.
  • Close to the coast would help.
  • Good public transport links. Blackpool Airport has both tram and train.
  • Space for aircraft to be parked, whilst charging.
  • Plentiful supplies of renewable electricity. The over-300 MW Burbo Bank Wind Farm is not far away in Liverpool Bay and it will only be joined by more and larger wind farms.
  • Frequent public transport.

Blackpool Airport could tick all these boxes, with a thick green marker.

Some example direct distances from Blackpool include

  • Aberdeen – 238 miles
  • Amsterdam Schipol – 340 miles
  • Belfast City – 128 miles
  • Cardiff – 165 miles
  • Dublin – 134 miles
  • Edinburgh – 150 miles
  • Exeter – 211 miles
  • Geneva – 661 miles
  • Glasgow – 155 miles
  • London Gatwick – 220 miles
  • London Heathrow – 192 miles
  • London Southend – 219 miles
  • Newcastle – 89 miles
  • Paris Orly – 422 miles
  • Isle of Man Ronaldsway – 68 miles
  • Southampton – 208 miles

These distances fit nicely with the range of the nine-seater Eviation Alice electric aircraft, which is predicted to be 620 miles.

St. Annes-on-the-Sea Station

This Google Map shows St. Annes-on-the-Sea station.

Note.

  1. Blackpool is to the North-West and Preston is to the South-East
  2. St. Annes-on-the-Sea is one of those convenient single-platform stations, where you just walk in-and-out on the level.
  3. The passing loop would start on the Preston side of the bridge.

There would need to be no major infrastructure work at the station, although I would expect the facilities could do with a makeover.

Ansdell And Fairhaven Station

In Should The Blackpool South Branch Be Electrified?, I said this about improvements to Ansdell and Fairhaven station.

Ansdell and Fairhaven station is nearest to the course at Royal Lytham.

    • The Open Championship is a very important event on the golfing calendar.
    • Other important golfing events are also held on the course
    • Royal Lytham and St.Annes, last held the Open in 2012 and 2001. So it might come back to Royal Lytham in the mid-2020s.

Ansdell and Fairhaven station used to have two platforms, as described in Wikipedia.

The station was set out as an island platform with tracks on both faces until the singling of the line in the 1980s. Trains now only use the southern face. A disabled access ramp now covers the northern part of the station.

So could a rebuild of the station do the following?

    • Restore two platforms on an island at the station.
    • Put in full disabled access.
    • Create a passing loop.
    • Longer platforms might be a good idea.

This Google Map shows the station.

Note.

    1. The disabled ramp winding away.
    2. The platform is probably about a hundred metres long.
    3. It would appear that there is space at the far end to extend the platform.

I suspect that an ambitious architect with vision, could design a station that met all objectives.

It could be the best Championship Golf Course railway station in the world.

Lytham Station

This Google Map shows Lytham station.

Lytham station will be the Eastern end of the loop and it is likely, that the single-track will change to double at the Western end of the station.

As with St. Annes-on-the-Sea station, I suspect that a good makeover, will be all that will be needed.

Moss Side Station

This Google Map shows Moss Side station.

The only problem here is the level crossing, so do Network Rail want to remove it?

Kirkham And Wesham Station

This Google Map shows Kirkham and Wesham station.

There are three platforms, which from bottom to top on the map are.

  • Platform 1 – Trains to Blackpool South
  • Platform 2 – Trains to Blackpool North
  • Platform 3 – Trains to Preston

All platforms seem to be being electrified in these  pictures. that I took during construction.

Note.

  1. It can’t be described as a station, built down to a small budget.
  2. In the captions to the pictures, I’ve numbered the platforms from left to right.
  3. The last picture looks down Platform 1 and there is an electrification gantry at the Preston end.

Could this comprehensive electrification be so that trains to Blackpool North can use both Platforms 1 and 2?

  • This would allow overtaking of say a local train by a London express.
  • Trains could also be turned back in Platform 1, before the end of its journey, if there was a problem.
  • The electrification is also substantial enough for the longest Class 390 trains.
  • It could even accommodate a classic compatible High Speed Two train.

So does the last point, mean that Blackpool North station is a possible High Speed Two destination? Provided, the platforms at Blackpool North station are long enough, I think it does!

This Google Map shows Kirkham West Junction, where trains to Blackpool North and Blackpool South stations diverge.

Note.

  1. The electrification gantries and their shadows can be seen.
  2. Preston is to the South-East and the route is fully-electrified.
  3. Blackpool North is to the North-West and the route is fully-electrified.
  4. Blackpool South is to the West. The double-track becomes single before Moss Side station.

This picture shows the route going off to Blackpool South.

I took the picture from a train going to Blackpool North station.

So why are wires being run along the first few hundred metres of the Blackpool South Branch?

The Timetable

Currently, trains take the following times to do these journey legs.

  • Run between Ansdell and Fairhaven and Blackpool South stations – 12 minutes
  • Turnback at Blackpool South station – 3 minutes
  • Run between Blackpool South and Ansdell and Fairhaven stations – 11 minutes

As the trains will be running every thirty minutes and the three legs total twenty-six minutes, that means there’s four minutes float.

So hopefully, it should be easily stainable, by an experienced rail timetable creator.

The Trains

I have remarked that I find the electrification at Kirkham & Wesham station, both comprehensive and slightly unusual.

Could The Electrification Have Been Designed For Battery Electric Trains To Blackpool South Station?

But there is one very plausible reason for the electrification layout – The Blackpool South Branch has been designed, so that services on the branch can be rum using battery trains.

  • The distance between Kirkham & Wesham and Blackpool South stations is just over eleven miles.
  • So for a round trip a range of perhaps twenty-five miles on battery power would suffice.
  • There would also be a need for a few minutes of hotel power, whilst waiting at Blackpool South station.

These power needs are well within the capabilities of the average battery train.

  • Trains could be charged on the nine minute run  between Preston and Kirkham & Wesham stations.
  • Changeover between electrification and battery power would take place in Kirkham & Wesham station.

An ideal train would surely be CAF’s four-car battery electric version of the Class 331 train, which I wrote about in Northern’s Battery Plans.

  • According to an article in the March 2020 Edition of Modern Railways, with the same name, these trains will be working between Manchester Airport and Windermere.
  • Class 331 trains without batteries will be running to and from Blackpool North station.
  • Four-car trains are probably the right size for the route.

There would also probably be no need for a charging station at Blackpool South station, if trains could leave Kirkham & Wesham station with a full battery.

Where Would The Trains Terminate In The East?

These would be the obvious choices.

  • Blackburn – Where there is a convenient bay platform.
  • Colne – Where they used to terminate!
  • Liverpool – Merseyrail has the trains and Liverpool has lots of punters and the imagination.
  • Preston – Where they do now!
  • Skipton – If the Skipton-Colne Link is built!

My money would be on Skipton, using a new Skipton-Colne Link, for the following reasons.

  • Politicians of all colours and roses are in favour.
  • Skipton has an electrified route to Leeds.
  • Skipton-Colne would be a valuable by-pass route during the building of Northern Powerhouse Rail.
  • Battery-powered trains would be ideal for Skipton-Colne.

Would A Battery Electric Train Be Feasible Between Blackpool South And Liverpool?

Consider.

  • An all-stations service would complement the fast service between Liverpool Lime Street and Blackpool North stations via St. Helens, Wigan North Western and Preston.
  • The service could either go between Liverpool and Preston via Ormskirk or Southport and a reinstated Burscough Chord.
  • The Ormskirk route is 15 miles of unelectrified line and the Southport route is just four miles further.
  • A service via Southport would need to reverse at Southport station.
  • The service would be run using dual-voltage Class 777 trains fitted with batteries.
  • 25 KVAC overhead electrification, is already  installed between Preston and Kirkham & Wesham stations,
  • Using existing electrification, trains would leave Kirkham & Wesham, Ormskirk, Preston and Southport stations with full batteries.
  • A coastal service between Blackpool and Liverpool would surely attract visitors.
  • Liverpool and Blackpool are the two biggest urban areas on the coast.
  • There are several golf courses on the route, including three courses that have held the Open; Royal Birkdale, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

It may be a bit fanciful. But.

  • Merseyrail will have the trains.
  • Liverpool has the potential passengers.
  • I believe the route could handle a two tph service.
  • In Reopen Midge Hall Station, I showed that it was possible to run a two tph service between Liverpool and Preston, with one tph via each of Ormskirk and Southport.

Liverpool also has bags of ambition and imagination.

Would A Battery Electric Train Handle Preston And Skipton?

I estimate that this route is forty-one miles, with a stiff rise from Rose Grove to Colne station.

So would a battery electric train be able to handle this distance?

Hitachi are talking 56 miles for their Regional Battery Train, so I suspect CAF would want and need to be competitive with a similar specification.

Perhaps the logical service would be to run between Leeds and Blackpool South.

  • The service would go via Preston, Blackburn, Burnley Central, Colne and Skipton.
  • Leeds and Skipton is electrified.
  • Preston and Kirkham & Wesham is electrified.
  • No extra chargers for trains would be needed.

The only new infrastructure needed would be the Skipton and Colne Link.

Electrification Between Preston And Blackburn

Consider.

  • In Colne – Skipton Reopening Moves Closer, I talked about the proposed Huncoat Rail Fright Terminal, that could be built North of Blackburn on the East Lancashire Line.
  • Blackburn is a major hub for passenger services.
  • An electrified Blackburn would allow Manchester and Clitheroe to be run by battery electric trains. Clitheroe is ten miles and Bolton is thirteen.
  • An electrified Blackburn would allow Blackburn and Manchester Victoria via the Todmorden Curve to be run by battery electric trains. The whole route is 39.5 miles.
  • It may be possible for battery electric trains to reach Leeds via Hebden Bridge, as it is only fifty miles away, which is within Hitachi’s range.
  • As the Blackburn area grows, there will be more pressure for a daily London service.
  • Some think, the Calderdale route should be electrified.
  • Preston and Blackburn stations are just twelves miles apart.
  • There is a multiple unit depot at Blackburn.
  • I also feel that battery electric trains fanning out from Blackburn, wouldn’t do the town’s image any harm.

For all these reasons, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a short stretch of electrification added between Preston and Blackburn.

Conclusion

I like this proposal and it could be a big asset to trains across the Pennines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 27, 2020 Posted by | Energy, Energy Storage, Sport, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Financing For 135 Hybrid Trainsets Agreed

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

The European Investment Bank agreed a €450m financing package on July 23 which will support Trenitalia’s plans to order 135 electric-diesel-battery hybrid regional multiple-units at total cost of €960m.

The trains are from Hitachi’s Caravaggio family and will be built in their Italian plant at Pistoia. Their operation is described in this sentence.

They will use conventional overhead electrification where available, with ‘cutting-edge’ engines for operation onto non-electrified routes as well as batteries to eliminate emissions for the ‘last mile’ and in urban areas.

That sounds extremely sophisticated to me.

Is The Powertrain Technology Transferrable To The UK?

I have republished this post with a link to the original article, as it occurs to me, that Avanti West Coast, East Midlands Railway, Great Western Railway. LNER and other train operating companies could be in need of a train with a sophisticated Diesel/Electric/Battery Hybrid powertrain.

So will Hitachi be using a powertrain like this in the UK?

 

July 27, 2020 Posted by | Finance, Transport | , , , | 2 Comments

Iarnród Éireann Orders Stage V MTU PowerPacks

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

The IE 22000 Class trains appear to be the main rolling stock of Irish Rail.

The Railway Gazette International article describes in detail how MTU are updating the standard diesel engines in these trains with their latest Hybrid PowerPacks.

The aim is to achieve a reduction of over thirty percent in both fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions.

From reading the article, it doesn’t appear to be a challenging project, once the testing is complete.

It does appear that MTU seem to get these conversion projects right.

Progress On The Porterbrook HybridFLEX Project

There is another engine conversion project, that uses MTU PowerPacks, underway in the UK, which I wrote about in Rolls-Royce And Porterbrook Launch First Hybrid Rail Project In The UK With MTU Hybrid PowerPacks, in September 2018.

Porterbrook call it the HybridFLEX project. I wonder how it is getting on.

This article on Diesel and Gas Turbine Worldwide, which is entitled Ricardo Leading Hybrid Train Project In UK, is the last reference I can find in January 2019.

As there are over two hundred trains, that can be converted in the UK, I’m looking forward to the rolling out of Porterbrook’s HybridFLEX project.

I suspect operators are too, as they’d like to save all that diesel.

July 27, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

Bookham Station – 25th July 2020

Bookham station is going to get a makeover.

Although it is Grade II Listed, it certainly needs some TLC.

July 27, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , | 2 Comments

Diesel Buses To Be Phased Out Within 15 Years To Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article in The Times.

Hallelujah!

Should be heavy trucks, next!

July 27, 2020 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport | , , | Leave a comment