The Anonymous Widower

A New Timetable For The East Coast

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

The Modern Railways article describes in detail the thinking behind the proposed timetable for the East Coast Main Line, that will be introduced in May 2022.

The new titletable would appear to be a compromise and judging by the number of complaints that have appeared in the media, the compromise doesn’t suit everyone.

A lot of my programming was concerned with the allocation of resources in large projects and that expertise convinces me, that the East Coast Main Line doesn’t have enough capacity to accommodate all the services that passengers need and train companies want to run.

These are my thoughts.

High Speed Two

When High Speed Two is completed to Leeds, it will add the following services to Leeds.

  • Three trains per hour (tph) between London Euston and Leeds in a time of one hour and twenty-one minutes.
  • Two tph between Birmingham Curzon Street and Leeds in a time of forty-nine minutes.
  • One tph between Bedford and Leeds, run by Midlands Connect, in a time of one hour and thirty-six minutes.

Leeds will benefit from these services from the South on the new High Speed Two.

But the High Speed Two network has been designed to need to run three tph between York and Newcastle, which will have to share with other East Coast Main Line services.

Both High Speed Two and the aspiration of providing more services on the East Coast Main Line mean that more capacity must be provided between York and Newcastle.

High Speed Two is not mentioned in the Modern Railways article.

I know the Eastern Leg of High Speed Two is many years away, but surely, it should have an influence on the design of East Coast Main Line services.

For instance, destinations like Bradford, Cleethorpes, Doncaster, Harrogate, Huddersfield, Hull, Lincoln, Middlesbrough, Peterborough, Redcar, Scarborough, Skegness and Sunderland are unlikely to be served by High Speed Two services, so how does that determine our thinking, when planning train services to  these destinations.

Perhaps, there should be lists of secondary destinations, that should be served by the various operators.

London And Leeds In Two Hours

This is mentioned in the Modern Railways article as being an aspiration of Virgin Trains East Coast, when they ran the franchise.

In Thoughts On Digital Signalling On The East Coast Main Line, I did a few rough calculations and said this.

Consider.

    • The fastest current trains between London Kings Cross and Leeds take between two hours and twelve minutes and two hours and fifteen minutes.
    • I suspect that the extra tracks into Kings Cross, that are currently being built will save a few minutes.
    • There must be some savings to be made between Doncaster and Leeds
    • There must be some savings to be made between London Kings Cross and Woolmer Green.
    • There could be a rearrangement of stops.

I think it is highly likely that in the future, there will be at least one train per hour (tph) between London Kings Cross and Leeds, that does the trip in two hours.

It is my view, that any new East Coast Main Line timetable should include services between London Kings Cross and Leeds in a few minutes under two hours.

London And Edinburgh In Four Hours

This must be another objective of the train companies, as it is competitive with the airlines.

But it is not a simple process as cutting stops to save time, often annoys the locals.

So achieving the objective of a four-hour trip between London and Edinburgh probably needs some major upgrades to the East Coast Main Line.

Some of the improvements needed are detailed in Northern Powerhouse Rail – Significant Upgrades Of The East Coast Main Line From Leeds To Newcastle (Via York And Darlington) And Restoration Of The Leamside Line.

Projects in the related article include.

  • Phase 2 Of The East Coast Main Line Power Supply Upgrade
  • York to Church Fenton Improvement Scheme
  • Darlington Station Remodelling
  • The North Throat Of York Station Including Skelton Bridge Junction
  • Use Of The Leamside Line
  • Full Digital ERTMS signalling.

It would appear there’s a lot of work to do, but all of it, will be needed for High Speed Two.

The Modern Railways article does point out, that the new Hitachi trains have superior acceleration to the InterCity 225 trains, that they have replaced. So that will help!

Although it is a worthwhile objective, I think it will be some years before London and Edinburgh times of under four hours are obtained on the East Coast Main Line.

Hitachi’s Intercity Tri-Mode Battery Train

These trains are described in this Hitachi infographic.

Within a couple of years these trains will start to be seen on the East Coast Main Line serving destinations like Cleethorpes, Grimsby, Harrogate, Huddersfield,  Hull, Lincoln, Middlesbrough and Sunderland.

Although, it says batteries will replace one engine in the infographic, I believe the standard five-car train for the East Coast Main Line will have two battery packs and an emergency diesel engine. Before the end of the decade, they will be fully-decarbonised with three battery packs.

Splitting And Joining

Although the Hitachi trains can accomplish splitting and joining with ease, it is only mentioned once in the Modern Railways article and that is concerned with a service to Huddersfield, which will split and join at Leeds.

I can see this being used to make sure that each train running into Kings Cross is either a nine-car or a pair of five-car trains, as this would maximise capacity on the route.

Currently, trains to York and Lincoln share a path into Kings Cross, with trains alternating to each destination, so each destination gets one train per two hours (1tp2h).

It would surely be possible for a pair of trains to leave Kings Cross, that split at Newark, with one train going to York and the other to Lincoln.

  • The Modern Railways article says that the Middlesbrough service will be an extension of the 1tp2h York service.
  • This means Kings Cross and Middlesbrough would call at Stevenage, Peterborough, Grantham, Newark North Gate, Retford, Doncaster and York.
  • So at some time in the future could the Middlesbrough and Lincoln services share a path, with a split and join at Newark?

If the Lincoln and Middlesbrough services were to be run at a frequency of 1tp2h, the intervening paths could be used for other destinations.

Theoretically, by using pairs of five-car trains and splitting and joining, four destinations can be given a service of 1tp2h to and from London, that all use the same path.

I think the following splits and joins would be feasible.

  • Lincoln/Middlesbrough splitting and joining at Newark North Gate.
  • Lincoln/Scarborough splitting and joining at Newark North Gate.
  • Nottingham/Sheffield splitting and joining at Newark North Gate.
  • Harrogate/Huddersfield splitting and joining at Leeds.
  • Bradford/Skipton splitting and joining at Leeds.
  • Hull/Leeds splitting and joining at Doncaster.

Note.

  1. The two Lincoln splits and joins at Newark North Gate could possibly be arranged, so that Middlesbrough got roughly 1tp2h and Scarborough got perhaps two trains per day (tpd).
  2. Hull would be a very useful destination, as it is a large station to the East of the East Coast Main Line.
  3. Nottingham and Sheffield could be useful destinations during any disruption on the Midland Main Line, perhaps due to installation of full electrification.

The permutations and combinations are endless.

All Fast Trains Must Have Similar Performance

East Coast Trains, Hull Trains, LNER and TransPennine Express all use trains with similar performance.

But other operators like Great Northern use slower trains on the East Coast Main Line.

As the Hitachi trains will be running at up to 140 mph under the control of full digital signalling, it strikes me that for safe, fast and efficient operation, the other operators will need faster trains, where they run on the fast lines of the East Coast Main Line.

Grand Central

Grand Central‘s fleet of Class 180 trains will need to be replaced to decarbonise the operator and will surely be replaced with more 140 mph trains to take advantage of the digitally-signalled East Coast Main Line.

As their routes are not fully-electrified, I suspect they’ll be using similar Hitachi battery-electric trains.

The Cambridge Effect

Cambridge is becoming one of the most important cities in the world, let alone England and the UK.

It is generating new businesses at a tremendous rate and it needs an expanded rail network to give access to housing and industrial premises in the surrounding cities and towns.

  • Peterborough is in the same county and is developing alongside Cambridge.
  • Bury St. Edmunds, Norwich and other towns are being drawn into Cambridge.
  • East West Rail to Bedford, Milton Keynes and Oxford is coming.

Cambridge is well-connected to London, but needs better connections to the North and Midlands.

King’s Cross And King’s Lynn

Currently, this route is run by 110 mph Class 387 trains.

These trains are just not fast enough for Network Rail’s 140 mph digitally signalled railway between King’s Cross and Hitchin.

In Call For ETCS On King’s Lynn Route, I examine how 125 mph trains and full digital signalling could be used to run between King’s Cross and King’s Lynn via Cambridge.

This would allow the trains to use the fast lines into King’s Cross.

I also feel, that to maximise the use of paths into King’s Cross, that the King’s Lynn service could be paired with a new Norwich service. The two trains would split and join at Cambridge.

Liverpool Lime Street And Norwich

This service is currently run by Class 156 trains and needs decarbonising. It also runs on 125 mph lines between.

  • Peterborough and Grantham
  • Nottingham and Sheffield

It certainly needs a thorough redesign and modern rolling stock to replace the current rolling road blocks.

East West Rail will certainly increase Cambridge and Norwich services to two tph, so why not terminate this Liverpool service at Cambridge rather than Norwich?

  • Cambridge station has a lot of space to add extra platforms.
  • The service would not need to reverse at Ely.
  • It would add much-needed capacity to the Cambridge and Peterborough route.
  • The service could even terminate at the new Cambridge South station.
  • There have been plans for some time to split this service at Nottingham.

As between Peterborough and Grantham is a fully-electrified four-track line, I suspect that a Cambridge and Nottingham service could be handled by a 110 mph battery-electric train based on a Class 350 or Class 379 train.

Similar battery-electric trains could probably handle the Northern section between Nottingham and Liverpool Lime Street.

Stansted Airport And Birmingham Via Cambridge

After the work to the North of Peterborough at Werrington, this service has a clear route away from the East Coast Main Line, so it can be ignored.

The service does need decarbonisation and I suspect that it could be run by a 110 mph battery-electric train based on a Class 350 or Class 379 train.

CrossCountry And TransPennine Express Services

CrossCountry and TransPennine Express also run services on the Northern section of the East Coast Main Line.

  • CrossCountry – 1 tph – Leeds and Edinburgh via York, Darlington, Durham, Newcastle, Alnmouth, Berwick-upon-Tweed and Dunbar (1tp2h)
  • CrossCountry – 1 tph – Sheffield and Newcastle via Doncaster, York, Darlington and Durham.
  • TransPennine Express – 1 tph – Liverpool Lime Street and Scarborough via Leeds, Garforth and York
  • TransPennine Express – 1 tph – Manchester Airport and Redcar via Leeds, York, Thirsk, Northallerton, Yarm, Thornaby, and Middlesbrough.
  • TransPennine Express – 1 tph – Liverpool Lime Street and Edinburgh via Leeds, York, Darlington, Durham, Newcastle and Morpeth.
  • TransPennine Express – 1 tph – Manchester Airport and Newcastle via Leeds, York, Northallerton, Darlington, Durham and Chester-le-Street (1t2h)

In addition LNER and East Coast Trains also run these services on the same section.

  • LNER – 1 tp2h – London Kings Cross and York
  • LNER – 1 tph – London Kings Cross and Edinburgh via York, Darlington, Newcastle, Berwick-upon-Tweed
  • LNER – 1 tph – London Kings Cross and Edinburgh via York, Northallerton (1tp2h), Darlington, Durham, Newcastle and Alnmouth (1tp2h)
  • East Coast Trains – 5 tpd – London Kings Cross and Edinburgh via Newcastle and Morpeth.

Aggregating the stops gives the following.

  • York – 8.5 tph
  • Darlington – 6 tph
  • Durham – 5 tph
  • Chester-le-Street – 0.5 tph
  • Newcastle – 6 tph and 5 tpd
  • Morpeth – 1 tph and 5 tpd
  • Almouth – 1.5 tph
  • Berwick-on-Tweed – 2 tph
  • Dunbar – 0.5 tph

Note.

  1. 1 tp2h = 0.5 tph
  2. Scotland is building two new stations at Reston and East Linton.
  3. Northern run trains between Newcastle and Morpeth.

It does appear from comments in the Modern Railways article, that the various train companies and passenger groups can’t agree on who calls where to the North of York.

Perhaps the Fat Controller should step in.

Between Newcastle and Berwick-on-Tweed

With the reopening of the Northumberland Line between Newcastle and Ashington, there may be an opportunity to reorganise services between Newcastle and Berwick-on-Tweed.

  • Morpeth could be served via the Northumberland Line.
  • Britishvolt are building a large gigafactory for batteries at Blyth.
  • It would probably be a good idea to remove slow diesel services from the East Coast Main Line.
  • Reston station will need a train service.
  • Morpeth and Newcastle are under twenty miles apart on the East Coast Main Line and the route via Ashington is perhaps only ten miles longer.

It looks to me that local services on the Northumberland Line and between Newcastle and Reston on the East Coast Main Line could be run by a 110 mph battery-electric train.

Conclusion

There would appear to be a lot of scope to create a very much improved timetable for the East Coast Main Line.

I do think though that the following actions must be taken.

  • Ensure, that all the long-distance train companies have trains capable of running at 140 mph under the control of digital signalling.
  • Develop a 110 mph battery-electric train to work the local routes, that run on the East Coast Main Line.
  • Get agreement between passengers and train companies about stopping patterns to the North of York.
  • Use splitting and joining creatively to squeeze more trains into the available paths.

LNER would also need to increase their fleet.

 

 

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

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