The Anonymous Widower

Redhill To Ashford International Via Tonbridge

I did this trip to find out what the current service was like after writing Gatwick Rail Service Could Link Far Reaches Of The South East.

The journey can be broken into sections.

Changing At Redhill Station

I arrived at Redhill station and took these pictures as I changed to the train for Tonbridge station.

The three services are in Redhill station at approximately the same time.

  • The Southern service to and from Tonbridge used Platform 1a.
  • The GWR service from Reading to Gatwick used Platform 1.
  • The GWR service from Gatwick to Reading used Platform 0.

I think if you’re nippy on the stairs, travellers wanting to go between Reading and Ashford or vice-versa could manage the train, but a direct through service would be preferred by some travellers.

Between Redhill And Tonbridge Stations

I took these pictures as the train ran between Redhill and Tonbridge.

Note.

  1. The train was a smart three-car Class 377 train.
  2. It is a route with a quiet calm along the Downs.
  3. There are new housing and commercial developments along the route.

Some of the stations could do with improvement, which should probably include step-free access, as at Redhill and Tonbridge stations.

Changing At Tonbridge Station

These pictures show Tonbridge station.

Note.

  • The station is step-free with lifts.
  • I had to use the bridge to get from one side of the station to the other to catch my next train.
  • There seemed to be several passengers, who continued their journey from Tonbridge.

After a wait of nearly thirty minutes I was on my way to Ashford International station.

Thoughts On The Service

These are my thoughts on the service.

Battery Electric Trains

Having seen this service in operation, I feel that this must be one of the most suitable services for battery electric trains in the UK.

In Gatwick Rail Service Could Link Far Reaches Of The South East, I broke the route down into electrified and non-electrified sections.

  • Ashford and Tonbridge – Electrified – 26.5 miles – 38 minutes
  • Tonbridge and Redhill – Electrified – 20 miles – 35 minutes
  • Redhill and Gatwick – Electrified – 7 miles – 8 minutes
  • Gatwick and Redhill – Electrified – 7 miles – 8 minutes
  • Redhill and Reigate – Electrified – 2 miles – 4 minutes
  • Reigate and Shalford Junction – Not Electrified – 17 miles – 20 minutes
  • Shalford Junction and North Camp – Electrified – 9 miles – 11 minutes
  • North Camp and Wokingham – Not Electrified – 11 miles – 14 minutes
  • Wokingham and Reading – Electrified – 7 miles and 9 minutes

Note.

  1. Ashford, Tonbridge, Redhill, Gatwick, Guildford, Wokingham and Reading are all fully-electrified main line stations.
  2. Most of the route and the two ends are electrified.
  3. All electrification is 750 VDC third rail.
  4. All sections without electrification are less than twenty miles.
  5. The route is more than 75 % electrified.

There are several trains, which have been fitted with batteries, plans to fit them with batteries exist or would be suitable to be fitted with batteries.

All trains have similar specifications.

  • Four cars.
  • 100 mph operating speed.
  • All are modern trains.
  • They either have third-rail shoes or can be fitted with them.

In addition, no infrastructure changes would be needed.

I also feel, that the same class of train could be used on these services in the South-East.

  • Oxted and Uckfield
  • Ashford International and Hastings

Why not use one class of battery electric trains for all these routes?

The Three Reverses

The full service between Reading and Ashford International stations will require three reverses at Gatwick and Redhill (twice).

Having seen the current system in operation at Redhill station, I feel the following operation would work, using a version of London Underground’s stepping-up.

From Reading to Ashford International the following sequence would apply.

  • The train from Reading would stop in Platform 1 at Redhill, as they do now.
  • A second driver would step-up into the rear cab and take control of the train.
  • The original or first driver, who’d driven the train from Reading would stay in the cab.
  • The second driver would drive the train to Gatwick.
  • When, the train is ready to leave, the first driver takes control from his cab.
  • The second driver, who’d driven the train from Redhill would stay in the cab.
  • The first driver would drive the train back to Platform 0 at Redhill, as they do now.
  • When, the train is ready to leave, the second driver takes control from his cab.
  • The first driver would step down and probably have a break, before he is needed to drive another train.
  • The second driver would drive the train to Ashford International.

Trains going the other way would do a similar sequence in reverse.

Other than the battery system, the trains may need a communication and safety system between the two cabs.

Hydrogen Trains

Consider these points about using a hydrogen-powered train between Reading and Ashford International.

  • The maximum distance without electrification is just 20 miles.
  • The route is over 75 % electrified.
  • Hydrogen fuelling and supply systems would need to be provided.
  • Hydrogen trains would require changes to maintenance.

In my view, using a hydrogen-powered train would be like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Gatwick Connect

Could the service be considered to be a Gatwick Connect service?

The full Reading and Ashford International service would call at these major locations

  • In the West – Reading, Winnersh, Wokingham, Crowthorne, Farnborough, Guildford, Dorking and Reigate
  • In the East – Ashford International, Paddock Wood and Tonbridge.

Both the Eastern and Western legs also call at Redhill.

Could the service be extended in the West?

The obvious destination would be Heathrow.

Once the future of Heathrow is sorted, there will probably be some form of Southern or South-Western access into Heathrow.

Could this service connect Gatwick and Heathrow?

  • Perhaps there would be a reverse at Reading!
  • Or it might use one of numerous schemes put forward to access Heathrow from the West.

In any case, as Reading is one of the best-connected stations in England, passengers will use this connectivity to get to Gatwick.

Could the service be extended in the East?

Like Reading, Ashford International is a well-connected station.

It would be possible to extend the service to perhaps Canterbury or Dover?

There must also be the possibility of running a service to Maidstone West or Strood in the East!

Conclusion

There could be a lot of possibilities for this route.

I also feel, that it is one of the best routes to be run by battery trains in the UK. These trains could also be the same, as those working Oxted-Uckfield and Ashford International-Hastings.

There would be no need for any new infrastructure, as there is electrification at both ends of the route.

 

 

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

2 Comments »

  1. Arghh i live at Redhill and have to say though they don’t make it easy for people swapping trains here especially Tonbridge service by dumping it at the London End of P1. Even worse anything short formed that gets put in platform 0 gets dumped even further away as apparently they thought it was too confusing for drivers to have different car stop points (they trust them to drive at line speed but and obey signals but not stop car boards!). They should have built a footbridge up the London end.

    Over the years we had a Horsham to Tunbridge Wells service – very useful and then a Maidstone West to Gatwick service again very useful and both could have been run half hourly imv with one limited to Edenbridge perhaps but of course new railway doesn’t like journeys that create potential conflicts at jcns as that import risks to PPM and they might lose there bonus.

    Hopefully the great railway reset will put more effort into looking at services that would move people off roads rather than too much capacity concentrated on easy to operate routes

    Comment by Nicholas Lewis | September 27, 2020 | Reply

    • I haven’t finished yet, as I only published so I could edit the galleries. So come back and have another look later.

      Comment by AnonW | September 27, 2020 | Reply


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