The Anonymous Widower

Ashington Targets 2023 Opening

The title of this post, is the same as that of an article in the April 2021 Edition of Modern Railways.

This is the sub-title.

A half-hourly service to Newcastle is planned.

The two trains per hour (tph) service and the opening date sounds just what is needed. Not just on the Northumberland Line, but in many places in the UK.

I would suggest some of the following.

There are also some much-needed stations, that could be added.

If we can create and manufacture a vaccine in a year, we can surely do a lot on a rail project in two years. And a lot of them! How many construction firms and workers would it keep employed?

The Modern Railways article gives a few more details.

How, Not If

This is the title of the first sub-section and sounds good to me!

It looks like Network Rail and others intend to apply good project management to deliver the project, fast and at a good price.

They haven’t been the best in the past, is all I’ll say!

Six Stations

This is said.

In summary, six new stations are proposed, at Northumberland Park (interchange with the Tyne and Wear Metro), Seaton Delaval, Newsham, Blyth Bebside, Bedlington and Ashington. An extension at the Northern end to Woodhorn is possible at a later stage.

Other points made include.

  • Ashington is envisaged as the terminus.
  • There are level crossing issues between Ashington and Woodhorn
  • There will be a cycleway connecting Blyth Bebside with the town centre. With all those B’s, they need an Geordie equivalent to Boris bikes!

It sounds well-thought out to me.

Butterwell Freight Line

This is said.

Also for consideration at a later stage is conversion of the currently freight-only Butterwell Line to passenger use, permitting a service from Berwick-on-Tweed and Morpeth to Newcastle via Bedlington.

This Google Map shows the railway lines North of Ashington.

Note.

  1. The big grey building at the bottom of the map is Asda’s Ashington superstore.
  2. There is a rail junction to the West of the superstore.
  3. The line going South leds to Bedlington and Newcastle.
  4. The line going North-East goes to Woodhorn, Lynemouth Power station and the Alcan Smelter.
  5. The Line going North West through the trees is the Butterwell Line, which goes to the Butterwell Opencast coal mine, Widdrington station and up the East Coast Main Line to Berwick-on-Tweed.

This second Google Map shows to the North of the first one.

Note the Butterwell Line runs from the South East corner of the map through the woods and to the East of the Ellington landfill site.

This third Google Map shows the route of the line to the East Coast Main Line.

Note.

  1. The electrified East Coast Main Line runs North-South down the Western site of the map.
  2. The large fields may indicate that coal has been removed and they have been restored.
  3. The Butterwell Line meanders its way across the map.
  4. Trains would appear to be able to enter and leave the Butterwell Line to or from the East Coast Main Line to and from the South only.
  5. The next station to the South is Pegswood and to the North is Widdrington.
  6. At the East of the map, the line connects to the line to Ashington through the woods.
  7. The Butterwell Line appears to be a mix of single and double track.

I wonder if Network Rail and train companies have a cunning plan for train services on this section of the East Coast Main Line.

Current services on the East Coast Main Line, that use the section of the line between Newcastle and Berwick-upon-Tweed include.

  • CrossCountry – 1 tph – Newcastle and Edinburgh/Glasgow – Stops irregularly at Alnmouth and Berwick-upon-Tweed.
  • East Coast Trains – 5 trains per day (tpd) – Stops at Morpeth
  • LNER – 1 tph – Newcastle and Edinburgh – Stops at Berwick-on-Tweed
  • Northern Trains – 1 tph – Newcastle and Morpeth – Stops at Manors and Cramlington
  • Northern Trains – 2 tpd – Newcastle and Chathill – Stops at Manors, Cramlington, Morpeth, Pegswood, Widdrington, Acklington and Alnmouth
  • TransPennine Express – 1 tph – Newcastle and Edinburgh – Stops at Morpeth

Note.

  1. Morpeth and Berwick-upon-Tweed get at least one fast tph to both Newcastle and Edinburgh.
  2. Stations between Morpeth and Berwick-upon-Tweed get only a two tpd service.
  3. Stations between Newcastle and Morpeth get a 1 tph service.
  4. The East Coast Main Line is only two tracks and I suspect that Northern’s slow diesel multiple units are not ideal trains for the route.

The obvious improvement would surely be to run an hourly train between Newcastle and Berwick-upon-Tweed, via Bedlington.

  • It would stop at Northumberland Park, Seaton Delaval, Newsham, Blyth Bebside, Bedlington, Ashington, Pegswood, Morpeth, Pegswood, Widdrington, Acklington and Alnmouth.
  • There would be a reverse at Morpeth.
  • It would join the East Coast Main Line between Pegswood and Widdrington stations.
  • Trains could be timed, so that passengers between Cramlington and Alnmouth only waited a couple of minutes during change at Morpeth.
  • Faster trains would be used to ease train pathing on the East Coast Main Line.

Current fastest times between Newcastle, Morpeth and Berwick-upon-Tweed are as follows.

  • Berwick-on-Tweed and Newcastle – LNER – 67 miles – 46 minutes – 87 mph
  • Berwick-on-Tweed and Morpeth – LNER – 50.2 miles – 30 minutes – 100.4 mph
  • Morpeth and Newcastle – TransPennine Express- 17.5 miles – 26 minutes – 40.4 mph

It looks to me that because of the times North of Morpeth, that a high performance train or some cunning signalling will be needed.

Britishvolt’s Gigaplant

BritishVolt are building a factory to produce lithium-ion batteries at Blyth.

The Modern Railways article says this.

Recent news concerning Blyth is that it has been selected as the site for Britain’s first ‘gigaplant’ for electric car battery production, with a planning application for the 95-hectare site on the north of the river Blyth (the location of the former Blyth power station) submitted by Britishvolt in February. The £2.6billion scheme is expected to generate about 3000 jobs; if all goes well, lithium-ion batteries could be produced on the site by the end of 2023. The new factory will be about 2.5 miles from Bebside station and there has been talk of linking to the site with a shuttle bus.

I looked at Britishvolt’s web site and if I was graduating soon, I don’t think it would fire me up, unlike others in similar sectors.

We live in exciting times, so don’t have a boring web site, as it will not attract exciting and enthusiastic people.

This Google Map shows the Port of Blyth.

Note.

  1. The red arrow at the top of the map labelled as a former power station, which must be Blyth power station.
  2. There is certainly a large cleared site to the South of the arrow.
  3. The Port of Blyth is to the East.
  4. Because of the power station and the port the site could be rail connected fairly easily.

Britishvolt seem to be planning to use rail freight to bring in raw materials and take out finished product.

The Modern Railways article says this.

The new factory will be about 2.5 miles from Bebside station and there has been talk of linking to the site with a shuttle bus.

As there is a rail connection, at some point in the future could a shuttle train be used? Or perhaps a few trains per day between the factory and Newcastle.

A Bridge For The A1061 At Newsham

The Modern Railways article says this.

A new road bridge will be built on the A1061 to replace Newsham level crossing.

This Google Map shows where the Northumberland Line crosses the A1061 at the level crossing at Newsham.

Note.

  1. The railway is double-track through the level crossing.
  2. It doesn’t appear to be a challenging project.
  3. A bridge could either be built along the existing route or a few metres to the South.

But as it looks like there could be more housing development in the area, would a bold design, that would allow a station to be added later be better?

Two Footbridges

The Modern Railways article says this.

In addition, there will be two new footbridges; Palmersville Dairy (replacing Palmersville foot crossing) and Chase Meadows (replacing Chase Meadows foot crossing).

This Google Map shows the Palmersville foot crossing to the West of Palmersville station on the Tyne and Wear Metro.

Note.

  1. The Northern pair of tracks are the Tyne and Wear Metro.
  2. The Southern pair of Tracks are the Northumberland Line.
  3. Palmersville and Northumberland Park stations are to the East.
  4. The current foot crossing is shown over the Northumberland Line.

It would appear that there is plenty of space for a footbridge.

Two Trains Per Hour

The Modern Railways article says this about infrastructure improvements to enable two trains per hour.

An extension of the double-track south from Newsham, for about 1 km in the direction of Seaton Delaval, along with a new 2.4 km passing loop between Holywell and Seghill, are in place in order to permit a half-hourly service in both directions.

From the maps, it looks like about half the route between Northumberland Park station and Seghill will be double-track.

It may even be possible to extend the double-track further South towards Northumberland Park station, if there became a need to run more trains on the Northumberland Line.

Operations

The Modern Railways article says this.

It is assumed that Class 158 DMUs will be the rolling stock for the first couple of years of service to Ashington, with three or four units required. Conversion of these trains (or replacement with new) to allow battery-electric operation is envisaged for the later years of this decade. There will be provision for two-car services at the outset with passive provision for extension to four-cars in the infrastructure works.

In Trains: £34m For Revival Of 50-Year-Old North-East Railway Line, I felt that the Hitachi Regional Battery Trains would be ideal for this route.

I said this.

I’m drawn inextricably to the conclusion, that the trains should be 100 mph battery-electric trains.

Hitachi, who have a factory in the North-East, have announced their Regional Battery Train in July 2020, which is described in this Hitachi infographic.

These trains can be based on Class 385 trains.

    • They are 100 mph trains.
    • They come in three- and four-cars lengths.
    • The three-car trains have 206 seats.
    • They can work in pairs.
    • They can use 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
    • They have a range of 90 kilometres or 56 miles on battery power.
    • The batteries would be charged on the ECML between Benton North junction and Newcastle station.
    • The battery packs will be designed and manufactured by Hyperdrive Innovation in Sunderland.
    • They have big windows for the views.

I’m sure Hitachi, Hyperdrive and Britishvolt would like a fleet in service, just up the road from their factories.

Now that the extension to between Ashington and Berwick-upon-Tweed via Morpeth is being talked about, I suspect that battery-electric trains, will be ideal for this route.

Distances without electrification of the two routes are as follows.

  • Benton North Junction and Ashington – 19 miles – 38 miles round trip
  • Benton North Junction and Widdrington – 27 miles

These distances are well within the planned range of the Hitachi Regional Battery Trains and they would even be capable of working a round trip to Ashington without charging at the Northern end of the route.

Batteries can be charged on the East Coast Main Line on the following sections of the route.

  • Between Benton North Junction and Newcastle.
  • Between Morpeth and Berwick-upon-Tweed stations.

Their fast acceleration and 100 mph operating speed mean that it could keep out of the way of the 140 mph Hitachi trains North of Morpeth.

Calling At Manors Station

The Modern Railways article says that because the East Coast Main Line is so busy, some peak services may have to omit the call at Manors station in the suburbs of Newcastle that is envisaged for the off-peak services.

I wonder with their faster acceleration, if the Hitachi Regional Battery Trains would be able to handle the stop at Manors station for all services.

Development At Ashington

The Modern Railways article gives this quote from Network Rail’s manager for the reopening project.

For instance in the centre of Ashington there’s a rather grim 1960s tower block that is owned by the county council that could be replaced by something more appropriate to today’s needs. This is Wansbeck Square in the centre of the town; the square is in line to be remodelled to make it more attractive. The integrated station and development need to be delivered at the same time for maximum impact.

This Google Map shows the Northerland Line going through the centre of the town of Ashington.

Note.

  1. Station Road running East-West .across the top of the map.
  2. The 1960s block could be to the West of the railway, especially as the Southern part is labelled Northumberland County Council.
  3. The site to the West of the railway does appear to be quite large.

The new station and the Wansbeck Square site does look look to have strong development potential.

 

 

 

April 9, 2021 - Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , ,

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