The Anonymous Widower

Improving The Cross Country Route

The Cross Country Route is one of the UK’s forgotten railway lines.

  • It runs between York and Bristol Temple Meads.
  • Intermediate stations include Leeds, Wakefield Westgate, Rotherham Central, Meadowhall, Sheffield, Chesterfield, Derby, Burton-on-Trent, Tamworth, Birmingham New Street, University, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire Parkway, Cheltenham Spa and Bristol Parkway.
  • At the Northern end trains can swap to the electrified East Coast Main Line and can extend services to Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
  • At the Southern end trains can swap to the Great Western Main Line and extend services to Taunton, Exeter, Plymouth and Penzance.
  • Trains can also swap to the South Wales Main Line in the Bristol area, to serve Cardiff and South Wales.
  • Operating speeds are generally around 100 mph, but there are sections of 125 mph running.
  • Some sections of the route have 25 KVAC overhead electrification.

I very much believe that it is a route that is ripe for improvement.

These are my thoughts.

Extra And Rebuilt Stations

Recently, Worcestershire Parkway station has been opened on the route.

Bromsgrove station was rebuilt and reopened in 2016.

Derby station was remodelled in 2018.

In addition, there are aspirations for other mew stations and station improvements on the route.

I can see more station improvements and additions on the Cross Country Route.

New Trains

Most services are run by CrossCountry, who only use diesel trains.

Their core services are as follows.

Plymouth And Edinburgh uses the route between York and Bristol Temple Meads. The service runs under wires North of Leeds and at Bristol Parkway and at Birmingham New Street.

Southampton Central And Newcastle uses the route between York and Birmingham New Street. The service runs under wires North of Leeds and at Reading and at Birmingham New Street.

Bournemouth and Manchester Piccadilly uses the route at Birmingham New Street. The service runs under wires North of Birmingham New Street.

Bristol Temple Meads and Manchester Piccadilly uses the route between Bristol Temple Meads and Birmingham New Street. The service runs under wires at Bristol Parkway and North of Birmingham New Street.

Cardiff Central and Nottingham uses the route between Gloucester and Derby. The service runs under the wires West of Bristol Parkway and at Birmingham New Street.

Birmingham New Street and Nottingham uses the route between Birmingham New Street and Derby. The service runs under the wires at Birmingham New Street.

Birmingham New Street and Stansted Airport does not use the route. The service runs under the wires at Birmingham New Street and around Cambridge and Peterborough.

Birmingham New Street and Leicester does not use the route. The service runs under the wires at Birmingham New Street.

Note.

  1. Several services run under wires for sufficient time to charge a battery-electric train.
  2. Several services turn in stations for sufficient time to charge a battery-electric train.
  3. At least six or possibly seven of the services run for at least fifty miles on tracks that can handle 125 mph running. Some of this track will be upgraded to 140 mph with digital signalling.

This Hitachi infographic shows the Hitachi Intercity Tri-Mode Battery Train.

I believe that Hitachi could produce a version of this train, that would partially meet CrossCountry’s need for a new fleet to reduce their carbon footprint.

For the purpose of this analysis, I will assume this about the trains.

  • Battery power will always be used in stations.
  • The trains have a battery range of around forty miles at 100 mph.
  • Running at 125 mph will need 25 KVAC overhead electrification.

This table shows the current electrification status of the Cross Country Route.

  • York and South Kirby junction- 45.4 miles – Electrified
  • South Kirby junction and Birmingham New Street – 96.6 miles – Not Electrified
  • Birmingham New Street and Bromsgrove – 16 miles – Electrified
  • Bromsgrove and Bristol Parkway – 69.8 miles – Not Electrified
  • Bristol Parkway and Bristol Temple Meads – 4.8 miles- Not Electrified

The trains would appear to still need to use diesel on some parts of the route.

Or Hitachi ABB Power Grids could install short lengths of 25 KVAC overhead electrification to top up the trains’ batteries in appropriate places.

I believe CrossCountry could decarbonise this route using battery-electric trains and discontinuous electrification.

This would surely refresh the line and attract passengers, but would the trains speed up the service?

  • Birmingham New Street and Leeds is 116.4 miles and currently takes just under two hours at an average speed of 59.3 mph in a Class 221 train.
  • Several sections of line between Birmingham New Street and Leeds can sustain 125 mph running.
  • London Liverpool Street and Norwich is 114.5 miles and has regularly been achieved by British Rail-era electric trains in ninety minutes on a 100 mph line, which is an average speed of 76 mph.
  • Averaging 76 mph between Birmingham New Street and Leeds would give a time of 92 minutes.

For these and other reasons, I am fairly sure that a battery-electric train capable of running at 125 mph with fast acceleration could run between Birmingham New Street and Leeds in under ninety minutes, with the addition of some discontinuous electrification.

  • There is currently one tph between Birmingham New Street and Leeds, which also serves Sheffield.
  • There is also one tph between Birmingham New Street and Sheffield by a different route.
  • There is two tph between Birmingham New Street and Nottingham.
  • My calculations indicate that the Nottingham and Sheffield services would take under an hour to and from Birmingham New Street, with the Leeds service taking thirty minutes longer.

In normal circumstances no diesel would be used.

Track Improvements And Discontinuous Electrification

This table shows the current electrification status of the Cross Country Route.

  • York and South Kirby junction- 45.4 miles – Electrified
  • South Kirby junction and Birmingham New Street – 96.6 miles – Not Electrified
  • Birmingham New Street and Bromsgrove – 16 miles – Electrified
  • Bromsgrove and Bristol Parkway – 69.8 miles – Not Electrified
  • Bristol Parkway and Bristol Temple Meads – 4.8 miles – Not Electrified

Solutions will have to be found to decarbonise a lot of the route.

I have flown my virtual helicopter from Tamworth to Sheffield and this part of the route seems to the sort of route that could be upgraded to a full 125 mph line, as it is fairly straight and some sections already allow trains to travel at this speed.

As the 15.5 miles between Clay Cross North Junction and Sheffield will be updated and electrified for High Speed Two’s spur into Sheffield sometime in the future, I would feel that as updating this section benefits High Speed Two, the Midland Main Line, the Cross Country Route and the Hope Valley Line, that this section should be rebuilt as necessary and electrified, as soon as is practically possible.

I believe that Clay Cross North Junction and Sheffield is one of the most important routes in the country to be electrified, if not the most important.

This table shows the electrification status of the Cross Country Route after electrification of Clay Cross North Junction and Sheffield.

  • York and South Kirby junction- 45.4 miles – Electrified
  • South Kirby junction and Sheffield – 18.8 miles – Not Electrified
  • Sheffield and Clay Cross North junction – 15.5 miles – Electrified
  • Clay Cross North junction and Birmingham New Street – 62.1 miles – Not Electrified
  • Birmingham New Street and Bromsgrove – 16 miles – Electrified
  • Bromsgrove and Bristol Parkway – 69.8 miles – Not Electrified
  • Bristol Parkway and Bristol Temple Meads – 4.8 miles – Not Electrified

It looks that by electrifying the 15.5 miles between Sheffield and Clay Cross North junction, the gap of 18.8 miles between South Kirby junction and Sheffield could be easily bridged by a battery-electric train.

The section between Clay Cross North junction and Birmingham New Street can be split into three.

  • Clay Cross North junction and Derby – 20.9 miles
  • Derby and Tamworth – 23.9 miles
  • Tamworth and Birmingham New Street – 17.3 miles

If Hitachi ABB Power Grids installed discontinuous electrification at Derby and Tamworth, this should bridge the gap to the electrification at Birmingham.

As some of this section can sustain 125 mph running, it may be better to fully electrify part of the route.

This table shows the electrification status of the route would become

  • York and South Kirby junction- 45.4 miles – Electrified
  • South Kirby junction and Sheffield – 18.8 miles – Not Electrified
  • Sheffield and Clay Cross North junction – 15.5 miles – Electrified
  • Clay Cross North junction and Derby – 20.9 miles – Not Electrified
  • Derby and Tamworth – 23.9 miles – Not Electrified
  • Tamworth and Birmingham New Street – 17.3 miles – Not Electrified
  • Birmingham New Street and Bromsgrove – 16 miles – Electrified
  • Bromsgrove and Bristol Parkway – 69.8 miles – Not Electrified
  • Bristol Parkway and Bristol Temple Meads – 4.8 miles – Not Electrified

I have also flown my virtual helicopter from Bromsgrove to Westerleigh junction, where the Cross Country Route joins the electrified Great Western Main Line, about 4.5 miles East of Bristol Parkway station.

It looks to me that this Southern short section of electrified line would be able to charge a battery-electric train so that it could reach Bristol Temple Meads station.

But the sixty-plus miles of route without electrification between Bromsgrove and Westerleigh junction would be too far to travel without some electrification.

This could either be full electrification or discontinuous using the methods proposed by Hitachi ABB Power Grids.

It certainly looks to me, that Hitachi’s technology or similar, that I talked about in Solving The Electrification Conundrum could be used to run battery-electric trains between York and Bristol Temple Meads on the Cross Country Route.

Digital Signalling

I would assume this will be installed on the route, to give more precise control of trains on the more complicated sections of the route.

East Coast Main Line Improvements

There are several improvements to the North of York, that will reduce journey times on all services using the East Coast Main Line.

These could contribute time saving of up to ten minutes, according to High Speed Two’s Journey Planner and current timetables.

Comparison With The Proposed Eastern Leg Of High Speed Two

With all the talk about possible cancellation of the Eastern Leg of High Speed Two could an improved Cross Country Route be used in the interim?

I will look at a few timings from Birmingham.

Birmingham And Leeds

A fully-developed High Speed Two is claiming forty-nine minutes, as against the one hour and fifty-eight minutes today.

I have stated that ninety minutes is an attainable time on a 116.4 mile journey, where a good proportion of 125 mph running will be possible, sustained by electrification.

But with full electrification, more 125 mph running and even some 140 mph running under the control of digital signalling, I suspect that ninety minutes is only an upper limit to the journey time between Birmingham and Leeds.

High Speed Two are saying they will run two tph between Birmingham and Leeds, which is twice the current frequency.

I could see that an improved frequency on the Cross Country Route could be very convenient, if it increased the frequency between the two cities to four tph.

Is it going to annoy passengers, that services will leave from two different stations in Birmingham and if you go to the wrong one, you’ll have to wait thirty minutes for the next train?

Birmingham And Middlesbrough

Times between Birmingham and Middlesbrough will be determined by adding a Leeds and Middlesbrough time to the Birmingham and Leeds times.

The best time between Leeds and Middlesbrough today is one hour and 23 minutes, which I suspect will lose a few minutes due to East Coast Main Line improvements North of York.

This gives using High Speed Two to Leeds a time of two hours and eight minutes, as against two hours and forty-nine minutes using an improved Cross Country Route.

Birmingham And Newcastle

A fully-developed High Speed Two is claiming one hour and  fifty-seven minutes, as against the three hours and twenty-six minutes today.

Based on the current and possible times between Birmingham at Leeds using CrossCountry, I feel times to stations North of Leeds will be reduced by at least twenty-eight minutes, putting the Birmingham and Newcastle time a few minutes under three hours.

Birmingham And Nottingham

A fully-developed High Speed Two is claiming twenty minutes to East Midlands Hub, which when adding in the tram to Nottingham City Centre will be thirty-five minutes..

,Current services are one hour and ten minutes today.

On an improved Cross Country Route, with with battery-electric trains and some 125 mph running, I can see this time shrink to under an hour, even with the reverse at Derby.

Midlands Connect are also proposing a high speed service between Birmingham Curzon Street and Nottingham station, which will take thirty-three minutes.

High Speed Two are saying they will run three tph between Birmingham and East Midlands Hub, which compares with two tph using the Cross Country Route.

Birmingham And Sheffield

A fully-developed High Speed Two is claiming fifty-seven minutes, as against the one hour and fifteen minutes today.

I have stated that an hour is an attainable time on this route, with battery-electric trains and some 125 mph running.

A time of an hour would be very competitive with the Eastern Leg of High Speed Two.

High Speed Two are saying they will run two tph between Birmingham and Sheffield with a change at East Midlands Hub, which compares with two tph using the Cross Country Route.

Conclusion

A fully developed East Coast Main Line will give High Speed Two a good run for its money on services between London and Yorkshire, North East England and Scotland. I indicated my thoughts and conclusions in What Is Possible On The East Coast Main Line?.

I also believe that an improved Cross Country Route could give the Eastern Leg of High Speed Two a very good run for its money.

Perhaps, we should safeguard the route of Eastern Leg of High Speed Two for building later to increase capacity when it is needed, but in the interim we should upgrade the following routes.

  • Cross Country Route
  • East Coast Main Line
  • Midland Main Line
  • Northern Powerhouse Rail
  • West Coast Main Line

These routes should have at least these minimum standards.

  • All passenger trains electric or battery-electric.
  • All freight locomotives electric, battery-electric or hydrogen-electric.
  • Where possible all lines should allow 125 mph running.
  • Universal in-cab digital signalling
  • There should be sections of 140 mph running, where possible.

We will need the Eastern Leg of High Speed Two in the future, but we don’t need it in the next few years.

 

 

 

 

 

August 26, 2021 - Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

4 Comments »

  1. Very comprehensive you should to Dept of Transport they can save a few quid on consultants!

    Whilst a retrofit project Thor is a good idea anyone with an ounce of common sense in DofT would be on the phone to Hitachi to sort out deal for XC Azumas before they’ve finished EMR build but they won’t they will just dump the gas guzzling CO2 polluting Meridians on XC.

    Comment by Nicholas Lewis | August 26, 2021 | Reply

    • Note that electrifying and improving the Cross Country Route is another British Rail project. Some of their good ideas binned by politicians need revisiting for inspiration. BR pioneered battery-electric and gas-turbine powered trains, both of which could be seen in large numbers in the future.

      Comment by AnonW | August 26, 2021 | Reply

      • Although they did build a few ‘prototypes’ it’s a bit much to say BRB did any real amount of serious pioneering work on battery and gas turbine. DM&EE didn’t have a culture for messing around with such ideas and it was really left to BR Research to take up the baton.

        Comment by fammorris | August 26, 2021

  2. I used to use a PACE 231R analog computer to solve differential equations. NASA used a pair to calculate the Apollo flight paths.

    In the UK, places like Cambridge University had one. As did BR Research, who used it to solve the problem of bogie dynamics. They developed solutions for a lot of problems on that uniquely powerful machine.

    There’s a picture of the PACE 231R I used in this post.

    Roger Ford’s Cunning Plan

    Comment by AnonW | August 26, 2021 | Reply


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