The Anonymous Widower

Trial Operation Begins On London’s Crossrail

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

Trial running is one of the last stages before opening.

Hopefully it will open early in 2022.

November 24, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | | 1 Comment

The Integrated Rail Plan For The North And Midlands And The East Coast Main Line

Note that this is not a finished post.

To read the The Integrated Rail Plan For The North And Midlands (IRP), click this link.

There is a section in the IRP called Serving Leeds, York and North East England.

It is a section of six paragraphs and I shall describe their contents in detail separately.

Paragraph 3.41

This is said in the IRP.

Under the original plans, HS2 trains would have served Leeds, York and North East England via the West Midlands, with the Eastern Leg branching off from the Phase One line just north of Birmingham Interchange.

This is a significantly longer route than the current East Coast Main Line from King’s Cross, which goes directly up the eastern side of the country.

Due to capacity constraints north of Doncaster HS2 trains to Newcastle and York could also only be accommodated at the expense of existing services, potentially reducing or removing connections between the North East and Doncaster, Newark and Peterborough.

Unlike the West Coast Main Line, there is also potential to lengthen existing trains by up to three carriages, increasing the number of seats on those trains by around 40%.

Geography wins and I’ll discuss the train lengthening later.

Paragraph 3.42

This is said in the IRP.

The IRP has concluded in favour of a significant package of upgrades to the East Coast Main Line which could deliver similar journey times to London and capacity improvements for York and the North East as the original proposals – but many years sooner, and with operational carbon savings because trains will be taking a shorter route.

Speed is important in both project delivery and running of the trains.

Paragraph 3.43

This is said in the IRP.

We are therefore taking forward a substantial package of investment for the East Coast Main Line between London and Leeds and the North East, subject to future business case. Development work will consider interventions from both NPR designs undertaken by Network Rail, mainly focussed on York and northwards, and work undertaken by Mott MacDonald for the Department for Transport focused on the line south of York. North of York we will look to increase the number of paths for long distance high speed trains from 6 to 7 or 8 per hour. In addition to the already planned roll-out of digital signalling, work is expected to include looking at opportunities to improve rolling stock performance; power supply upgrades to allow longer and faster trains; route upgrades to allow higher speeds, including of up to 140mph on some sections; measures to tackle bottlenecks, for example south of Peterborough and at stations and junctions such as Newark, Doncaster, York, Northallerton, Darlington and Newcastle all of which limit speed and capacity; and to replace level crossings where needed.

We will ask Network Rail to now take forward these proposals, including considering any alternatives which may deliver better outputs and/or more cost-effective solutions.

I’ll discuss a lot of this later in more detail.

Paragraph 3.44

This is said in the IRP.

This package is intended to:

    • Cut journey times from London to a range of destinations, including Leeds, Darlington, Northallerton, Durham, and Newcastle by up to 28 minutes, bringing journey times closer to those proposed by HS2, much earlier than previously planned;
    • Allow the introduction of longer trains, increasing the number of seats;
    • Provide 7–8 long distance high speed paths per hour north of York to Newcastle, compared to the current 6 paths (and so allowing a minimum of two fast Manchester to Newcastle services each hour alongside other ambitions);
    • Improve performance and reliability, enabling faster and more reliable services for passengers.

I’ll discuss a lot of this later in more detail.

Paragraph 3.45

This is said in the IRP.

Journey times from London to Newcastle under this plan could be as little as 2 hrs 25-28 minutes (subject to stopping pattern), about 21-24 minutes faster than now and 8 minutes slower than under the full HS2 plans.

Journey times to York and Darlington under this plan would be about 15 minutes faster than now and 12-14 minutes slower than under the full HS2 plans.

Journey times from London to Leeds, at around 1 hour 53, would be about 20 minutes faster than now, but 32 minutes slower than under the full HS2 plans.

I’ll discuss a lot of this later in more detail.

Paragraph 3.46

This is said in the IRP.

Journey times from Birmingham to Leeds would be around 30 minutes faster than the current typical time, and, subject
to further analysis, York and the North East could be would be around 30 minutes faster than the current typical time,
via HS2 Western Leg, Manchester and NPR (based on indicative train service).

I’ll discuss a lot of this later in more detail.

My Thoughts

These are my thoughts.

Longer Trains

This is said in Paragraph 3.41

Unlike the West Coast Main Line, there is also potential to lengthen existing trains by up to three carriages, increasing the number of seats on those trains by around 40%.

The Hitachi Class 800, Class 801, Class 802 and Class 803 trains, that run the routes out of King’s Cross come in lengths of five, nine and ten coaches.

  • The maximum length of an individual train is twelve cars according to this Hitachi document.
  • All destinations with the possible exception of Harrogate, Lincoln and Middlesbrough can handle the current nine-car trains.
  • Lengthening a five-car train by three cars would increase capacity by 60 %. You’d just run a current nine-car train.
  • Lengthening a nine-car train by three cars would increase capacity by 33.3 %. Poor maths but possible.
  • Lengthening a ten-car train by three cars would increase capacity by 30 %. Two trains would have to be lengthened, as ten-car trains are a pair of five-car trains.

It looks to me that the IRP is talking about running twelve-car trains.

  • The Hitachi trains are all plug-and-play.
  • The main stations on the route are Doncaster, Edinburgh, King’s Cross, Leeds, Newcastle and York.
  • Some platforms would need to be lengthened, but some like Edinburgh, Leeds and York are probably already long enough.

But what about the important London terminus at King’s Cross?

These pictures show the Northern ends of the platforms at King’s Cross station.

The two trains are both nine-car Hitachi Class 800 or Class 801 trains and I was standing in line with their noses.

I wonder what is the maximum length of trains that can be handled in these platforms.

  • They can certainly handle ten-car trains, as LNER run these to Leeds.
  • Looking at maps, I suspect that eleven-car trains could be the largest that can be handled.

I suspect it will be tight, but I suspect with a simple platform extension, twelve car trains could be accommodated in King’s Cross station.

Journey Times

These times come from High Speed Two’s Journey Planner and the IRP.

  • London and Edinburgh – Three hours and forty-eight minutes – Four hours and nineteen minutes – Three hours and fifty-eight minutes – My estimate based on IRP figures
  • London and Newcastle – Two hours and seventeen minutes – Two hours and forty-nine minutes – Two hours and 25-28 minutes
  • London and Durham – Two hours and sixteen minutes – Two hours and fifty-five minutes – Two hours and forty minutes
  • London and Darlington – One hour and fifty minutes – Two hours and twenty-two minutes – Two hours and seven minutes
  • London and York – One hour and twenty-four minutes – Two hours and ten minutes – One hour and fifty-five minutes – My estimate based on IRP figures
  • London and Leeds – One hour and twenty-one minutes – Two hours and thirteen minutes – One hour and fifty-three minutes

Note.

  1. The first time is that from High Speed Two, which assumes the Eastern Leg of High Speed Two has been built.
  2. The second time is the current best time via the East Coast Main Line.
  3. The third time is the IRP’s estimate via an upgraded East Coast Main Line.
  4. Where the estimates are mine it is noted.

London and York and London and Leeds are under two hours, London and Newcastle is under three hours and London and Edinburgh is under four hours.

Are these times fast enough for modal shift from the Air and Roads to Rail?

Project Delivery

Rail projects in the UK have a variable record in the delivering of projects on time and on budget.

I haven’t done the full analysis, but I do believe that smaller projects have a better record of delivery, based on media reports.

In Railway Restored: Regular Trains To Run On Dartmoor Line For First Time In 50 Years, Network Rail have delivered an important smaller project, for which I said.

Network Rail have set themselves a good precedent to open the line in nine months and £10 million under budget.

As the improvement of the East Coast Main Line is more of a succession of smaller projects, rather than one large project does this mean it is more likely to be delivered on time and on budget?

Extra Paths

This is said in Paragraph 3.43

North of York we will look to increase the number of paths for long distance high speed trains from 6 to 7 or 8 per hour.

One of the min reasons for building High Speed Two, but here we have extra capacity being created on the East Coast Main Line.

One extra path would be very good, but two would be excellent.

Power Supply Upgrades

In the last eighteen months, I’ve written two articles about updating of the power supply on the East Coast Main Line.

The second article talks about the involvement of the University of Leeds to get the power supply to a high standard.

It does appear that Network Rail are doing all they can to enable the East Coast Main Line to handle the eight electric trains per hour

140 mph Running

There are several elements to the successful achievement of 140 mph running on a railway.

  • The trains must be capable of running safely at 140 mph.
  • The track must be able to support trains at that speed.
  • The signalling must be in-cab and fully tested.
  • The electrification must be designed for running at the required speed.
  • The drivers must be fully trained.

Note.

  1. There are certainly 140 mph trains in service and there are tracks in the UK, where they can be tested at that speed.
  2. I wouldn’t be surprised as we have been running 140 mph InterCity 225 trains on the East Coast Main Line for thirty years, that a lot of the track is already profiled for 140 mph running.
  3. The digital signalling is being installed.
  4. The electrification on the East Coast Main Line has been dodgy for years, but is now being upgraded.
  5. Drivers are probably the least to worry about, as they probably know the route well and are honing their skills in simulators.

I can see 140 mph running being delivered in stages and on time.

Darlington Improvements

In First Phase Of ‘Transformational’ Darlington Rail Station Upgrade Approved, I said this about the improvements at Darlington station.

This upgrade is on the Eastern side of the current station and will include a new entrance, station building, concourse and three new platforms.

This design should allow the following.

    • LNER, High Speed Two and other expresses not stopping at the Darlington station to pass through at speeds of up to 125 mph or more.
    • Expresses stopping in the station will slow and accelerate in less time than they do now.
    • It will probably allow more local trains to Bishops Auckland, Middlesbrough and Saltburn

A seventy-five percent increase in platforms probably offers other advantages.

This could knock several minutes off journey times.

York Improvements

I describe this problem and my solution in Improving The North Throat Of York Station Including Skelton Bridge Junction.

My solution won’t happen, as I advocate replacing the historic Skelton Bridge with a modern four-track bridge.

Effects On Lincoln Service

It will be interesting to see how the improvements to the East Coast Main Line effect LNER’s service between King’s Cross and Lincoln.

Any time improvements South of Newatk will surely be reflected in the time between King’s Cross and Lincoln.

Conclusion

The plan seems feasible to me.

November 24, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Improving The North Throat Of York Station Including Skelton Bridge Junction

On the thirty mile stretch of the East Coast Main Line, between York and Northallerton stations, the route is mainly four tracks.

But three miles North of York there is Skelton Bridge over the River Ouse, which is shown in this Google Map.

Zooming closer, I clipped this second Google Map.

Note.

  1. There are actually two bridges over the River Ouse.
  2. The East bridge is a double-track bridge and is the original stone arch bridge.
  3. The West bridge was added later and I suspect has little architectural merit.
  4. The tracks on both sides of the bridge are extremely complicated.

If you look at the timings, trains seem to take one of two timings between York and Northallerton.

  • 17-18 minutes, which is almost an average speed of 100 mph.
  • 27 minutes, which is 67 mph.

Incidentally, one of Drax’s long biomass trains managed a time of 27 minutes.

Would going faster save any minutes?

  • A 110 mph average would give a time of 16.4 minutes
  • A 120 mph average would give a time of 15 minutes
  • A 125 mph average would give a time of 14.4 minutes
  • A 140 mph average would give a time of 12.9 minutes

On the face of it, it doesn’t appear that there are very large time savings, to be achieved.

On the other hand, if all trains can pass through Skelton Bridge and its complicated junction, without slowing, delays will be minimised and timetables can be faster.

But there is an anomaly in all the express trains that pass through York station. All stop, except those planned for East Coast Trains. In fact, their trains won’t stop between Stevenage and Newcastle.

The obvious solution to the Skelton Bridge problem, is to do what British Rail didn’t have the courage to do, when they electrified the East Coast Main Line in the 1980s. And that is to demolish the bridge and build a stylish modern four-track bridge!

It would eliminate many of the things, that could go wrong and would surely improve reliability. This could help to maintain a higher operating speed.

But would it be allowed by the Planning Authorities and the Heritage Taliban?

Hopefully, it doesn’t matter!

  • I am a Control Engineer and mathematical modeller, who has programmed some immensely complex systems in the last fifty-five years.
  • I have also flown light aircraft on instruments for many hours, where you control the plane according to what Air Traffic Controllers and the instruments tell you.

My experience tells me that, it would be possible to control a busy junction, like Skelton Bridge safely, by a well-programmed computer system helping the driver, arrive at the junction at the right time to go straight through.

I also believe that if modern in-cab digital ERTMS signalling can handle twenty-four tph on Thameslink going to and from scores of stations, then it can handle Skelton Bridge Junction.

In Could ERTMS And ETCS Solve The Newark Crossing Problem?, I proposed a similar solution to the problem at Newark.

November 24, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , | 4 Comments