The Anonymous Widower

Should Improvement Needed For High Speed Two On The East And West Coast Main Lines Be Given High Priority?

High Speed Two will bring major improvements in times between London and the North of England and Scotland, with these figures claimed by this page on the High Speed Two web site.

  • London Euston and Carlisle – 2 hours and 23 minutes saving 54 minutes
  • London Euston and Darlington – 1 hours and 50 minutes saving 32 minutes
  • London Euston and Durham – 2 hours and 16 minutes saving 37 minutes
  • London Euston and Edinburgh – 3 hours and 48 minutes saving 31 minutes
  • London Euston and Glasgow – 3 hours and 40 minutes saving 49 minutes
  • London Euston and Lockerbie – 2 hours and 55 minutes saving 43 minutes
  • London Euston and Newcastle – 2 hours and 17 minutes saving 32 minutes

Substantial savings would seem to be possible.

The Recent Record Run On The West Coast Main Line

A few weeks ago, Avanti West Coast ran a Class 390 train between London Euston and Glasgow in three hours and 53 minutes and 1 second. They were trying to beat the record set by the \APT-P in 1984 of three hours and 52 minutes and 40 seconds.

In Lessons From The Record Run in the August 2021 Edition of Modern Railways, Roger Ford makes a big hint in a section called Hint.

Roger starts with this paragraph.

In the virtual race with APT-P, the Pendolino was seven minutes ahead approaching the border, but this was not sufficient to overcome APT-P’s advantage of being able to run faster over lines which, unlike the southern end of the WCML, have not enjoyed the increased speeds further south, such as at Stafford and Crewe.

He then talks of a levelling-up of the infrastructure being needed on the Northern section of the West Coast Main Line.

Roger finishes the section with this paragraph.

Thus, the final message of the run is that if HS2 is to realise its full potential, planning for the West Coast Route Modernisation (North) needs to start now, both for journey time reductions and reliability.

The High Speed Two time between Preston and Glasgow of two hours and 26 minutes, given by their journey time calculator  is in line with current timings.

I am drawn to the following conclusions about services between Preston and Glasgow.

  • I suspect the similar times  could be expected, as the trains will have to cope with other trains on the route.
  • Most of High Speed Two’s savings must be on the new track to the South of Wigan.

It would appear that any savings made between Preston and Scotland will benefit both classic and high speed services.

I certainly agree with Roger’s hint to start planning the upgrade of the Northern section of the West Coast Main Line.

This would surely enable upgrade of the route to start sooner and places at the North of the route would benefit from faster journey times to the South before High Speed Two is complete.

Reducing The Journey Times On The West Coast Main Line

If you look at the average speed between Preston and Glasgow of a typical train, it is just 84.3 mph.

Various average speeds give the following times between Preston and Glasgow.

  • 90 mph – two hours and 8 minutes
  • 100 mph – one hour and 55 minutes
  • 110 mph – one hour and 45 minutes

It would appear there is scope for reductions in journey times to be made.

I have flown my virtual helicopter along the Scottish part of the route and it doesn’t look to be too terrifying.

  • There are tight speed limits at Preston and Carlisle
  • The railway is not hemmed in by development until close to Glasgow.
  • Most of the modern bridges, where the M74 crosses the railway appear to have space for an extra track.
  • Connection of the Borders Railway to the West Coast Main Line could give scope for improvement between Gretna junction and Carlisle.
  • The depot at Annandale, that I wrote about in High Speed Two To Build Stabling Facility In Scotland, may give scope for a shorter, straighter and faster route between Grena Green and Kirkpatrick-Fleming, that could run closer to the M74.
  • North of Lockerbie, there may be scope to put extra tracks between the railway and the M74.
  • The Carstairs area could be ripe for improvement.

I would feel that digital signalling and some well-applied engineering could cut a sensible amount of time from Preston and Glasgow timings.

  • I can certainly say, that the route is not a desert, where possible improvements will be difficult to find.
  • I also don’t feel there are any obvious improvements, that will be controversial.

There is also the M74, which could be invaluable for camouflaging the railway.

Reducing The Journey Times On The East Coast Main Line

Much of the work to speed up the Northern section of the East Coast Main Line is laid out 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, a post I wrote to explain what Northern Powerhouse Rail feel is urgently needed.

Mentioned in the other post are following projects.

  • Full Digital Signalling
  • 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

As with the West Coast Main Line, the improvements would benefit both classic and High Speed services.


Improvements to both the East and West Coast Main Lines will help both classic and High Speed services between London and the North of England and Scotland.

I think that planning and design should be started as soon as possible.

Construction should start as early as possible, so that the benefits of faster trains are felt at the earliest date possible.



August 15, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , | 11 Comments

Thor Point

In his Informed Sources column in the August 2021 Edition of Modern Railways, Roger Ford has a section with the same sub-title as this post.

He discusses what is to happen to the Class 22x fleets of 125 mph diesel trains and then says this about Project Thor, which was an idea of a few years back.

I still believe the addition of a pantograph transformer car to convert a ‘22x’ to a bi-mode has even more potential than the first time round. Routes operated by the CrossCountry ‘22x’ should be early candidates for electrification, and bi-modes are a simple way of boosting the benefits of electrification.

Project Thor is described in a section in the Wikipedia entry for the Voyager train, which is entitled Proposed Conversion To Electrical Operation. This is said.

In 2010 Bombardier proposed the conversion of several Voyager multiple units into hybrid electric and diesel vehicles capable of taking power from an overhead pantograph (electro-diesels EDMUs). The proposal was named Project Thor.

It appears that, one of the reasons the project foundered was that Bombardier had no capability to make steel carriages in the UK.

In the July 2018 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article entitled Bi-Mode Aventra Details Revealed.

A lot of the article takes the form of reporting an interview with Des McKeon, who is Bombardier’s Commercial |Director and Global Head of Regional and Intercity.

This is a paragraph.

He also confirmed Bombardier is examining the option of fitting batteries to Voyager DEMUs for use in stations.

Nothing more was said.

In the three years since that brief sentence, technology has moved on.

Perhaps most significantly, Hitachi have launched the Hitachi Intercity Tri-Mode Battery Train, which is described in this Hitachi infographic.

Note that one engine is replaced with batteries.

My engineering experience, leads me to believe that Hitachi’s battery pack supplier; Hyperdrive Innovation, is developing a battery-pack that is plug-compatible with the MTU diesel engine, so that batteries and diesel engines can be swapped as required.

For this to be possible, there needs to be a power bus connecting all carriages of the train.

  • This is common practice in the design of electric multiple units.
  • I am certain this power bus exists on the Hitachi Class 800 trains as they have pantographs on both driver cars and all the motor cars are between the driver cars. So it is needed to supply power to the train.
  • A power-bus could be used in a diesel-electric multiple unit like the Voyager, to ensure that in the case of engine failure in one of the cars, the car would still be supplied with hotel power.

Are the Bombardier Voyagers designed with a similar power bus?

If they are, I wonder, if one of the intermediate cars could be converted as follows.

  • Replace the diesel engine and electrical generator with a plug-compatible battery pack of an appropriate size.
  • Fit a lightweight pantograph in the roof of the train.
  • Squeeze in all the electrical gubbins like a transformer underneath the train.

It would probably be a challenging piece of engineering, but if there is sufficient space under the train it should be possible.

But the outcome would be a genuine 125 mph bi-mode multiple unit.

August 15, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | 13 Comments

Level Boarding As A Policy

In his Informed Sources column in the August 2021 Edition of Modern Railways, Roger Ford says this.

GBR might, for example, set level boarding as a long-term policy.

By GBR, Roger means Great British Railways.

If vibrant Liverpool and sleepy East Anglia can do it, then surely all trains can be this way.

The pictures show the particularly bad example of a Class 395 train.

It is very surprising to me, that these trains didn’t have level boarding as many of the platforms they serve were new when the trains were introduced.

I blame the Treasury!

But this is what can be done.

The pictures show Greater Anglia’s Class 745 and Class 755 trains.

As I’m not getting any younger, I would like to see Roger’s suggestion made the standard.



August 15, 2021 Posted by | Design, Transport/Travel | , , , | 2 Comments

Rail Tourism Pass To Be Explored

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

This is the first paragraph.

The government is to pursue plans for a new domestic rail tourism product, building on the success of products such as the BritRail pass, only available to visitors to the UK from abroad.

I am basically in agreement with the proposal, but before anything too drastic is brought forward, it might be a good idea to build on what we already have.

These are a few thoughts.


I am surprised at the number of people I talk to, who don’t have a railcard, despite the fact, that it would save them money.

So make sure, you have the right railcard.

Rangers And Rovers

Rovers and Rangers are tickets that allow you to wander about an area on the trains for a given period.

You may often find there is a ticket that will be ideal for exploring the area, where you are staying.

Breaking Journeys

This is a rule, that many travellers don’t know about and it can be very useful.

Suppose you are going between Ipswich and Cambridge and you want to break the journey at Newmarket to have lunch with a friend.

You can buy a ticket between Ipswich and Cambridge and break your journey at Newmarket and after lunch continue your journey.

This is allowed on most trains, but I would ask someone, in case there is a problem.

London Terminals Tickets

Often tickets will be labelled something like London Terminals or Manchester Stations.

A simple example would be a return to Cambridge from London, which might be labelled London Terminals.

This means that you can use the ticket to go out from Kings Cross and come back to Liverpool Street.

The London Zone 6 Extension Ticket

Often on a trip to London travellers will buy a Travelcard for London’s local transport.

Supposing on your trip to London, you needed to make a trip outside Zone 6 to visit someone.

Not everybody knows, you can buy a ticket from the Zone 6 boundary to a station outside the zone.


A Rail Tourism Pass may be a good idea, but I think it’s also important, that travellers learn to use what ticketing options are already in place.


August 15, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | 6 Comments

Wabtec Breathes New Life Into Older Locomotives

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

This month Wabtec completed the 1 000th locomotive it has remanufactured for customers in the Americas under a programme launched in 2015. Norfolk Southern has taken delivery of 500 of the locos, with other customers including Canadian Pacific, BNSF, Union Pacific and Brazilian operator Rumo.

This second paragraph gives Wabtec’s aims of the remanufacturing.

Wabtec said locomotive modernisation is a key element of its sustainability efforts, with revitalised locos offering fuel efficiency improvements of up to 25%, reliability increases of more than 40%, up to a 55% increase in haulage capability and reductions in maintenance, repair, and overhaul costs of up to 20%.

This ongoing program, which although it only offers a 25 % reduction in carbon emissions, shows the size of the diesel locomotive market in North America.

  • A lot of these locomotives were built by GE Transportation Systems, which is now owned by Wabtec.
  • It is obviously, a market that is commercially rewarding.

In Freightliner Secures Government Funding For Dual-Fuel Project, I talked about s UK project to decarbonise one of our North American-built Class 66 locomotives.

I do wonder how long it will be before Cummins or one of the other big diesel engine manufacturers like Caterpillar offers a hydrogen conversion for these big beasts.

The numbers shown in the article, show it could be a very large and profitable market.

In the future, a lot of decarbonisation will be driven by commercial interests.



August 15, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Langthwaite Reservoir

This site is the second application for United Utilities of floatovoltaics, where solar panels are floated on a reservoir.

This page on the Seaflex web site gives details of the project. This paragraph describes the application of the solar panels.

The 1 MW plant features approximately 3,700 pontoon modules and 3,520 solar panels, and the power generated will be used to run the neighbouring Lancaster water treatment works, which supplies water to 152,000 people across Lancaster, Morecambe and Heysham.

There are links to other floatovoltaic projects on this page.

One project at Alto Rabagao in Portugal tested the design in extreme environmental conditions.

Seaflex appear to be a Swedish company started by an inventor of a rubber mooring system.

August 15, 2021 Posted by | Energy | , , , | Leave a comment