The Anonymous Widower

Department Of Transport Claims London and Sheffield Times Could Be Cut By Thirty Minutes

In this article on the BBC, which is entitled Government Announce £401m Boost For Rail Services, this is said.

The funding announcement coincided with the completion of the first phase of the £1.5bn Midland Main Line Upgrade, which has supported the launch of East Midlands Railway’s (EMR) first electric services on the route between Corby in Northamptonshire and London St Pancras.

The project will see journey times between Sheffield and London cut by up to 30 minutes, the DfT said.

So how feasible is the claim of a thirty minute cut in London and Sheffield timings?

On Monday, the 07:30 train from London to Sheffield, covered the 164.7 miles in two hours and twelve minutes at an average speed of 74.9 mph.

If that train had done the trip in one hour and forty-two minutes, that would have been an average speed of 96.9 mph.

By the time, the new Class 810 trains arrive in a couple of years, they will be able to use the new electrification to Market Harborough, when on Monday the 82.8 miles without a stop, was covered in an hour, at an average speed of 82.8 mph.

These new trains are 125 mph electric trains under the wires and they will have two separate fast lines on which to run.

Example time savings at various average speeds to Market Harborough are as follows.

  • 100 mph – 10 minutes saving.
  • 110 mph – 14.8 minutes saving.
  • 125 mph – 20.3 minutes saving
  • 130 mph – 21.8 minutes saving
  • 140 mph – 24.6 minutes saving


  1. The faster the average, the greater the time saving.
  2. Faster than 125 mph would only be possible with full in-cab digital signalling, which is currently being installed on the East Coast Main Line.
  3. I have been to Leicester in an InterCity 125, which was running at 125 mph most of the way.

But it does look like the new Class 810 trains will be able to save around twenty minutes to Sheffield, by making full use of the electrification between London and Market Harborough.

They would need to save just ten minutes between Market Harborough and Sheffield.

The Monday Train covered the 81.9 miles between Market Harborough and Sheffield in one hour and twelve minutes, which is an average speed of 68.3 mph.

To obtain the saving of ten minutes, it would need to do the journey in one hour and two minutes, which would be an average speed of 79.3 mph.

Given that the new Class 810 trains are designed to cruise at 125 mph on diesel, I don’t think this is an impossible objective.

What Will Be The Ultimate Time Between London and Sheffield On The Midland Main Line?

I believe that the following two sections of the Midland Main Line can be easily electrified.

  • Between Leicester and Derby without the problem of the bridge at the South end of Leicester station, which would be so disruptive.
  • Clay Cross North Junction and Sheffield which will be electrified for High Speed Two. I doubt Derby and Clay Cross Junction will be electrified as it’s a World Heritage Site.

On my Monday train, the following are times North of Leicester.

  • Leicester and Derby is 29.3 miles, which is covered in 32 minutes at an average speed of 55 mph, which includes five stops. Raise this to 110 mph and the journey time is just 16 minutes or a saving of 16 minutes.
  • Derby and Clay Cross North Junction is 21.8 miles, which is covered in 13 minutes at an average speed of 100 mph. By averaging 120 mph, there would be a saving of 2.1 minutes.
  • Cross North Junction and Sheffield is 15.5 miles, which is covered in 16 minutes at an average speed of 58.2 mph.


  1. Savings would come between Leicester and Derby because of 125 mph linespeed and faster stops because of electrification.
  2. I believe that Hitachi battery-electric trains could sustain 125 mph on battery alone between Derby and Clay Cross North Junction, if they entered the section without electrification at full speed with full batteries. Now that is what I call a battery-electric train!
  3. There must be a minute or two to be saved on an electrified section into Sheffield with the stop at Chesterfield.

Add up all the savings and I feel that an hour and a half is possible between London and Sheffield.

And what time is High Speed Two claiming? One hour and twenty-seven minutes!

Could A Battery-Electric Train Cruise At 125 mph?

This may seem a silly idea, but then trains don’t care where they get their electricity from.

On the 21.8 miles between Derby and Clay Cross North, a sizeable proportion of energy will be used to accelerate the train up to the linespeed for the electrified section.

When the train enters the section without electrification, it will have two sources of energy.

  • The electricity in the full batteries.
  • The kinetic energy in the train at the required speed.

As the train runs through the section air and rolling resistance will tend to slow the train and electricity from the battery will be used to maintain speed.

In How Much Power Is Needed To Run A Train At 125 mph?. I estimated that for a Class 801 train to maintain 125 mph needs 3.42 kWh per vehicle mile.

A simple sum of 21.8 * 5 * 3.42 gives an energy need of 372.8 kWh to run between Derby and Clay Cross North Junction.

I’m sure than Hitachi can fit a 400 kWh battery in a five-car Class 810 train.

Would a slightly larger battery and in-cab signalling allow battery-electric trains to run at 140 mph? If the track allowed it, I don’t see why not!


I believe the Department of Transport’s statement of saving thirty minutes between London and Sheffield is feasible.

But so is a time of an hour-and-a half, which will give High Speed Two a run for its money!


May 26, 2021 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , ,


  1. While the Anti HS2 lobby still use failed arguments they have used since HS2 was suggested the real world of time saved by HS2 shrinks as existing railways are upgraded with electrification, faster trains modern signalling etc.

    It will be interesting to see what real difference HS2 will make say London to Sheffield if MML is fully electrified , 4 tracked and with in cab signals!

    Comment by Melvyn | May 26, 2021 | Reply

    • I don’t believe that London and Sheffield can be fully-electrified, as the bridge South of Leicester station would cause so much disruption to demolish and rebuild and the Heritage Taliban will stop electrification through the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.
      But electrify Leicester and Derby and Clay Cross North and Sheffield and I believe that times would be compatible with High Speed Two.

      I have added my thoughts to the post.

      Comment by AnonW | May 27, 2021 | Reply

      • While there is talk of these trains running at 140 mph on ECML with in cab signals so if this were possible on sections of MML then MML trains could arrive first given MML is a more direct route !

        Comment by Melvyn | May 27, 2021

      • Battery technology can help where electrification is a problem because of bridges, etc. The battery does not need to be large, just big enough to skip a matter of metres. The Crewe to Chester section would be greatly improved by using electric wires/battery technology.

        Comment by John | June 16, 2021

    • The anti-HS2 groups have always said upgrading the existing mainlines would make it unnecessary. It is not even fast. Look at the slow speed on the Ldn-Brum section. The only good point of HS2’s western section, Ldn-Crewe, is that it gives redundancy when coupled with the WCML. That is one expensive backup line, when the Chiltern can do pretty well the same thing, if it was upgraded to wires.

      Comment by John | June 16, 2021 | Reply

  2. Reality will prevail:
    Power required to achieve a worthwhile reduction in journey time does not follow a straight line on the graph. Roger Ford and others in Modern Railways have written about the disproportionate increase in power required relative to the increase in speed. Pace the green lobby.
    Patronage of the railways is unlikely to recover i.e. the graph will show in March 2020 the step down re-set continuing for some time and maybe for ever.
    The travel-to-work passenger loss may be partly made up by more leisure travellers if they can be reconciled to the discomfort of modern stock ( relative to Mk 3 and 4 carriages) but not wholly. Rail freight which appears not to be bleeding the Exchequer white will be given higher priority even if there are no voters carried.
    Distances in this small island make the argument for HS2 weak for journeys less than 200 miles.
    Few live next to the main rail heads so much of the time advantage conferred by speed by rail is lost by the time required for the transit from home or office to the rail head.
    Pronouncements on the future of the railway by the BBC on behalf of the government are not issued in expectation that they will be achieved but for other short term reasons.

    Conclusion: a cumulative improvement in the existing railway infrastructure is likely to achieve better results than to ‘hose the system’ with money as Crossrail and HS2 is teaching us.

    Comment by Thomas Carr | May 26, 2021 | Reply

    • It is a multivariable problem and a lot of factors are at work. I am 73 and in an over fifty- year working life, I’ve only ever commuted for two years and that was out of London to Welwyn Garden City. The pandemic has shown, that many don’t need to commute and I suspect that many in the future will either work more from home or live near to work.

      The cost and inconvenience of motoring is getting worse and I suspect a higher proportion of leisure trips will go by rail, especially when autonomous taxis become commonplace.

      We live in very changing times.

      Comment by AnonW | May 27, 2021 | Reply

  3. Replying to Melvyn.

    There is every reason to believe that full in-cab digital ERTMS signalling will be rolled out on the Midland Main Line.

    It will increase speed and capacity on the Midland Main Line. It will mean for instance that London and Leicester will be well under an hour.
    I do wonder what the fastest time between St. Pancras and Sheffield has been when they were doing the testing to deduce the specification of the Class 810 trains.

    Comment by AnonW | May 27, 2021 | Reply

    • The bottom part of the MML, Thameslink, already uses digital signalling.

      Comment by John | June 16, 2021 | Reply

  4. In the short term OLE St Pancras to Bedford is only suitable for 110mph so 810s will have to run on diesel if they want to run any faster. I hope they will run on electric out of St Pancras until PSR >110 commence but this is a farcical situation that won’t aid point to point timings until wires are upgraded. So in reality electric running at 125mh will be limited to Bedford to Kettering or at best Market Harborough unless DofT changes policy over electrification.

    Comment by Nicholas Lewis | May 30, 2021 | Reply

    • London to Bedford is under a quarter of the distance of Ldn-Sheff. As long at the north of Bedford section is at 125mph or thereabouts a 1 hr 20 mins Ldn-Sheff time is possible. As wires are replaced, as they are, upgrade them to 160mph, then a one hour time is achievable.

      Comment by John | June 16, 2021 | Reply

  5. The eastern HS2 leg is dead – it make no economic sense to start it. Scheduled to be completed in 2040s, the ECML and MML will be outstripping its proposed times at least a decade prior to that date.

    Comment by John | June 16, 2021 | Reply

    • I certainly feel the Eastern leg of High Speed Two will suffer strong competition from the ECML and MML. Especially, when these routes are digitally signalled and the trains are using HS2 rolling stock technology to go faster. I can see 160 mph being possible on the two classic routes.

      Comment by AnonW | June 16, 2021 | Reply

      • The aim is 125mph on the MML and 140mph on the ECML. That is cheaply achieved to building the expensive eastern HS2 section. Those speeds is all they need to eliminate HS2 eastern.

        The western HS2 leg gives redundancy when coupled with the WCML. The eastern part of the country already has that with the MML and ECML.

        The ‘fact’ is that the eastern leg was suspended last year. There has been no firm announcement that the eastern leg is resumed. Yet the planned improvements to the ML and ECML continue.

        As your figures show, the MML can match HS2 in end to end times.

        Comment by John | June 16, 2021

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