Marlborough once had a pair of stations, as this map of the railways in the town shows.
Note the various stations in an area, where Marlborough the largest town has a population of 8,395.
This railway map shows the important Reading to Taunton Line that passes to the South of Marlborough. This Google Map shows that line as it crosses the A346 road.
- The Reading to Taunton Line crossing the map in an East-West direction, generally following the Kennett and Avon Canal.
- Marlborough is to the North
- Pewsey station is to the West.
- Bedwyn station is to the East.
- Savenake Low Level station used to be somewhere to the South of what look like yellow field of Rape.
- The small town of Biurbage is to the South.
There would also appear to be tracks of disused railways leading North-Westerly from Bedwyn towards Marlborough.
If Marlborough and the surrounding area were to be given a better rail connection, I would think that a possible solution would be a parkway station, perhaps where the A346 crosses the railway and the canal.
It should be born in mind, that modern trains are designed to perform fast stops at stations, so the extra station at Marlborough would not be the time penalty, it was a few years ago.
Transition Marlborough’s Proposal
But a local action group called Transition Marlborough have their own plans for a Marlborough Rail Link, which as this graphic shows are more ambitious.
Their plans would involve restoring and electrifying the line to Marlborough, where a well-positioned station will be built.
These are my initial thoughts.
- The route of the line appears feasible.
- Electrification may be a problem given Network Rail’s expertise in this area.
- Bedwyn would not appear to be the best terminus for a line to London.
- I’ve not been to Bedwyn station, but I suspect it could be a bleak place in some kinds of weather.
After I wrote this list, a kind soul in the area sent me this message.
You’ll find that Bedwyn station is a pretty bleak place, especially in Winter. To reach it by road from Marlborough involves a 7.5 mile road trip, at least 3 miles of which is on an unmarked road through a forest. Bedwyn station is almost inaccessible for people without cars, as the connecting bus service is poor and unreliable.
My Version Of The Proposal
I think the best solution could be to create a single-track railway without electrification to a simple station with adequate parking at the proposed Salisbury Road Business Park location.
The distance between Reading and Marlborough by train would be about 37 miles. Network Rail’s plans to electrify the line between Reading and Bedwyn are probably best described as fluid, but I suspect that electrification to Newbury could be possible, which would mean that only twenty miles between Paddington and Marlborough would be unwired.
So this would mean that when inevitably an electric train with onboard energy storage has a range of forty miles, Marlborough could get a modern electric service to and from Paddington.
The advantages of this strategy are as follows.
- No ugly overhead catenary marching across the country.
- Work would only include restoring a single track railway and building a simple no-frills station at Marlborough.
- Marlborough station would not have any electrification and could be designed like a tram stop.
- Fast Environmentally-friendly electric trains to and from Reading and Paddington.
- The route would be designed for six-car trains in case Marlborough College put on a free concert featuring the Rolling Stones.
- The route could be designed to allow two trains per hour (tph), as opposed to the current one tph service to and from Bedwyn.
- Marlborough to Paddington would have a maximum time of around 80 minutes.
But the biggest advantage is that the scheme is that it could be affordable.
This article on the BBC is entitled Marlborough £30m railway line restoration plan.
If this branch line is developed as I believe Network Rail are now thinking, there could be money left over for a good launch party!
With the next generation of electric train with onboard energy storage or IPEMUs, a Marlborough station on a new Marlborough Branch Line can be used to create a two tph service to and from Paddington to replace the current one tph service from Bedwyn.
So a new Marlborough station would be a win for all those using stations on the Reading to Taunton Line to the East of Pewsey.
I also wonder how many other similar services can be developed by extending a service past a main line terminal to a new or reopened branch line, which is built without electrification and run using trains with onboard energy storage.
This article in Rail Technology Magazine is entitled Network Rail awards Carillion £49m Shotts electrification contract.
This is the first two paragraphs.
Network Rail has agreed a contract with Carillion Powerlines Ltd to deliver the electrification of the Shotts Line between Holytown Junction and Midcalder Junction.
The £49m contract will see the delivery of 74km of electrified railway as part of the Scottish government’s wider £169m investment in the line between Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Electrification of The Schotts Line will provide a fourth electrified line between Edinburgh and Glasgow.
From hundreds of miles to the South, it looks a good choice.
- The route is effectively in three sections, with only the central section between Holytown Junction and Midcalder Junction, needing to be wired.
- The bridges that need to be raised are already being worked on.
- The route goes to Glasgow Central rather than Glasgow Queen Street.
- The Class 385 trains needed are already being built in Newtown Aycliffe.
It certainly seems that the planning of electrification in the Scottish Lowlands is being better managed that that on the Great Western Railway.
I took these pictures of the station and the nearby bridge, this morning.
- The station is a tidy station, with shelters and information.
- There are gentle steps up and down from the nearby road bridge to access the two platforms.
- The station fits the current two-car Class 156 train, that works the branch.
I’ve seen far worse stations on my travels around the UK.
The Current Service
Two trains could provide a four tph service.
In an ideal world, the branch would be electrified.
- There is occasional freight traffic.
- It might serve as a diversion route.
- It might be a way of serving Old Oak Common station and the nearby depots.
- Crossrail will increase the number of passengers on the branch.
But to electrify the area around Drayton Green station could be expensive.
I’m no expert, but it does strike me, that not only is the bridge rather low, but also the parapets of the bridge certainly are.
So I suspect that electrification of the branch meeting all the regulations, would need an expensive new bridge, which would need several months of closure, with the resulting inconvenience to passengers.
But there is an alternative for passengers and that is to use electric trains with onboard energy storage to work the line.
- Greenford station is electrified with 750 VDC third-rail electrification.
- West Ealing station is electrified with 25 KVAC electrification.
- Out and back is only 5.4 miles.
Or the current Class 156 train could continue until it fell to pieces.
As the branch is not busy, two two-car trains delivering a 4 tph service could be sufficient for some years.
But I very much feel that the operator and the passengers would prefer an modern electric train.
I took this picture from a passing train, of the prototype Class 345 train at Ilford today.
I have a feeling it was only sticking out, as the train is too long to get inside the existing depot!
This Google Map shows the location of the station.
Some things surprised me at Bidston station.
- The station had the feeling of a rural junction in deepest Lincolnshire or Devon, rather than one a few miles from the centre of one of the UK’s biggest cities.
- When the train arrived from Wrexham it was much busier than I expected.
- The junction between the two lines was laid out in lots of space.
- The state of the station, which considering its location was very good with a large waiting room.
I could also understand, why various bodies say that the Borderlans Line could be run by trains with an IPEMU capability or to put it simply – on-board energy storage or batteries. Wikipedia says this under Proposed Battery Trains for the line.
A trial of a converted Electrostar train using energy from overhead wires and batteries when on non-electrified sections of track was undertaken in January and February 2015 on the Mayflower line. The train can travel up to 60 miles on energy stored in the batteries also recharging the batteries via the overhead-wires when on electrified track, at stations and via brake regeneration. A month later in March 2015, the introduction of battery powered trains was proposed for the Borderlands line by Network Rail.
The document suggested that consideration had been given to electrification and to running services further into Birkenhead ceasing termination at Bidston for greater connectivity. However these options were expressed as offering low value for money. They proposed that using battery powered rolling stock precluding full electrification of the line, providing a cheaper method of increasing connectivity into the electrified Birkenhead and Liverpool sections of the Wirral line. From the document:
“In the longer term, potential deployment of rolling stock with the ability to operate on battery power for part of their journey may provide the ability in an affordable manner to improve the service offering between the Wrexham – Bidston route and Liverpool.
Trains could operate on batteries on unelectrified sections of the track and take power from an electric pick-up on the electrified sections. Adoption of these types of trains would preclude full line electrification.
My thoughts on this are as follows.
Obviously, I only looked at Bidston station, but it would appear that except for perhaps signalling and electrificastion changes, that the station could accept trains with an IPEMU-capability tomorrow.
For instance, there would need to be electrification for some distance down the Borderlands Line, so that a train arriving from that direction with low batteries, wou;dn’t get stalled, if another train had failed in the station.
I don’t know the answer, but as Merseyrail is an island of third-rail electrification, Merseyrail are probably capable of calling on competent third-rail experts, either in-house or from a regional contractor.
Plans exist for new stations on the line.
Whether the line is fully-electrified or served by trains with an IPEMU-capability is irrelevant, with stations probably being designed to be suitable for either.
One suggestion is for a new station at Woodchurch close to Junction 3 of the M53.
This Google Map shows the motorway junction.
Note how, the Motorway and the Borderlands Line go either side of the North Cheshire Trading Estate.
There is also plans for a station at Deeside Industrial Park, which looks like it could have a railway line already.
This Google Map shows the area.
Note Hawarden Bridge station on the other side of the River Dee, which is also on the Borderlands Line.
Capacity In Liverpool On The Wirral Line
The single-track loop of the Wirral Line under Liverpool, that serves James Street, Moorfields, Lime Street, Central and James Street agin, is soon to be relaid with new track to go along with its recently-refurbished station, that can handle two three-car Class 508 trains, running as a six-car unit.
With modern signalling, it would probably have a limit of upwards of twenty trains per hour (tph), giving a train under the Mersey in both directions at least every three minutes.
Currently, the service on the Wirral Line includes.
- 4 tph to Chester
- 2 tph to Ellesmere Port
- 4 tph to New Brighton
- 4 tph to West Kirby
Capacity seems to be adjusted to that needed by running a mixture of three and six-car trains.
But there is undoubtedly spare capacity in Liverpool’s loop of stations.
And if more capacity is needed between Birkenhead and Liverpool, then running extra trains to new destinations on the West side of the Mersey is a simple way to increase it.
Wrexham would be an ideal destination, especially if at least two tph were provided on the route.
There would appear to be a few freight trains, but none of a high frequency.
Wrexham to Liverpool Timings
Currently Wrexham Central to Bidston takes a couple of minutes over the hour. West Kirby trains, also take 34 minutes to go from Bidston round the loop under Liverpool
So this would probably mean that if you got the timings right, you could get from Wrexham Central to Liverpool Lime Street in about eighty minutes.
As Chester to Liverpool Central takes forty-one minutes, eighty minutes is rather slow between Wrexham and Liverpool.
So could electric trains do the route in under the hour?
If the line was fully electrified, judging on the Chester timings, that this is certainly the case.
Trains Needed Between Liverpool And Wrexham
As the round trip to and from Liverpool would probably take two hours, it would appear that two trains would be needed to provide an hourly service, with four trains nbeeded for 2 tph.
As there is a short platform at Wrexham Central station, trains would probably have a maximum length of three-cars.
Wrexham Central to Bidston stations, is about thirty miles, so based on Bombardier’s rumoured figures of sixty kilometres a charge, going out and back to Wrexham might be a bit on the long side.
So I wouldn’t be surprised to see the single-track line between Wrexham General and Wrexham Central stations given third-rail electrification, to make sure that trains with an IPEMU-capability can work the line.
If extra stations are added to the Borderlands Line and Shotton station is rebuilt as an interchange with North Wales, I could see that the extra cost of third-rail electrification to Shotton would have a high value.
As Shotton is only about twenty miles from Wrexham, it might be possible to bridge the gap between Shotton and Wrexham using onboard power.
This is said about electrification costs of the Borderlands Line in Wikipedia.
Network Rail’s conclusion was that full line electrification is only feasible if it could be delivered for less than £100,000 for each km per single track. The twin track line would be £200,000 per line km, giving a total figure of £8.7 million, which is far below the estimate of full line electrification of £66 million. Another consideration is whether a new pattern of service delivers significant net benefits.
The new Stadler trains being purchased for MerseyRail are costing £460 million for 52 trains, according to this article in the Railway Gazette, which works out at about nine million pounds a train.
So if two trains are needed to provide an hourly service to Wrexham, the cost of the extra trains will be significant.
The Railway Gazette article also says this about the trains.
At 99 tonnes, the EMUs will be lighter than the current 105 tonne trains, and energy consumption is expected to be 20% lower, including regenerative braking; options for energy storage are to be studied.
The 750 V DC third-rail EMUs will be capable of conversion to dual-voltage operation for use on 25 kV 50 Hz lines with a view to serving Skelmersdale, Warrington and Wrexham in the longer term.
So I suspect, it’s put up the money and take your choice.
It would certainly be possible to electrify the Borderlands Line either using third-rail or overhead and I’m certain that any prudent transport authority would go for an optimal solution, especially as extending to Wrexhan will need extra trains.
I could see an holistic solution being applied to the Boasderlands Line.
- At least two tph to Wrexham Central station.
- New stations at Beechwood, Deeside Industrial Park and Woodchurch.
- A rebuilt Shotton station.
- Partial third-rail electrification.
- Use of onboard energy storage to power trains on lines without electrification.
As it would be a project, where benefits were to both Merseyside and North Wales, funding would probably have several options.
Apparently if you’re a billionaire and want to stay in one of the expensive suites at Claridges, they change the furniture for a set for smokers and back again afterwards.
Thst has a certain style, but as the story came in an article about an autocratic Chinese businessman in the Business section of The Sunday Times, I doubt I’ll be using, the stores talked about in the article. Smokers should not be indulged.
But plans were obviously changed.
This article in the Islington Gazette is entitled Holloway Road closures: Islington Council threatens to sue TfL over ‘last-minute’ plans.
This is said.
TfL says work to transfer underground pipes and cables from the old bridge to another specially-made bridge has proved problematic because of their “complex layout, poor condition and a leaking water main”.
But Cllr Webbe was having none of it. She said: “This section of Holloway Road will be closed in at least one direction for nearly three months, including over half term, Christmas and New Year.
It looks like the water main is the problem and perhaps this didn’t show up until they started to move everything.
But whatever the problem was, it looks to me like there has been a cock-up by someone.
Was it the surveyor, who looked at the moving of the cables and the water main and didn’t quantify the task properly?
Surely though, the big problem now is that if this bridge problem delays the rebuilding of the trac for the GOBlink, which is needed for the electrification.
It’s a mess!
I took these pictures of the area today.
I walked down from Archway station and then caught a free bus to Holloway Road. At least TfL had got the buses right.
But except for Junction Road from Archway to Kentish Town, which was blocked solid, the traffic levels were very low.
I took this picture at Chelmsford station yesterday.
Note the wide space between the two tracks. This was for an avoiding line as detailed in Wikipedia.
There were originally three lines through the station: two platform lines and an avoiding line between them. An unusual signal box (being some five storeys high at the rear) on the London-bound platform controlled the station including, at the eastern end, a set of sidings that served the goods yard and Hoffman ball bearing factory. The signal box ceased to be used in 1994 but the structure has remained in situ since. The avoiding line has been removed and the sidings were reduced to serve only a mail sorting office and building materials yard.
Given that more and faster trains will be running through the station, could the avoiding line be reinstated?
- Faster trains could overtake trains, that were stopped in the station.
- It would probably make it easier for trains to terminate at Chelmsford, as they would block a platform.
- Modern slab track means that lines can be more precisely positioned.
- It might be possible for freight trains to use the avoiding line.
- Does Norwich-in-Ninety need the avoiding line?
I also suspect that it is probably about time, that the track was fully relaid.
Factors against reinstatement include.
- The modern trains arriving in a few years all have a higher cruising speed, so the need to overtake may be needed less.
- The modern trains will be able to perform a stop, reload and start at a station much quicker than the current stock.
- It is probably reasonable to assume that both fleets of trains; Flirts and Aventras, will have a similar performance and stop profile.
- A new station could be built at Beaulieu, which is a few miles North of Chelmsford and might be a better terminus in the area.
- Trains could also overtake at Beaulieu.
In addition, does Chelmsford need all the disruption?
I think that for the near future, the modern trains and Beaulieu station may be sufficient to allow Norwich-in-Ninety and Ipswich-in-Sixty to be fully implimented.
But long term, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a new Chelmsford station built at the site.
Looking at the station, I come to a few conclusions.
- It certainly isn’t fit for serving a 61,000-seater football stadium.
- The access to the platforms with staircases and no lifts or escalators is terrible and not much better than it was when I used it regularly in the early 1960s.
- The platforms look like, they might be able to handle a twelve-car train.
- The platforms are on top of what looks to be a solid well-built viaduct.
- Walking away from White Hart Lane towards the South, there would appear to be few important buildings alongside the viaduct.
I think this all leads to a unique situation you don’t often find in the rebuilding of a station. It would appear that if you clear the land on both sides of the railway along Penshurst Road and Love Lane, you can create a station that encloses the railway and gives access underneath. A similar situation was exploited at Haggerston and Hoxton stations to create very passenger-friendly stations.
This visualisation from the Architects Journal shows the station from the East.
I’ll repeat my nearest picture.
I think that it looks good.
Note that the rightmost arch, which is partially hidden in the second picture, is the rightmost arch in the visualisation.
If you look at the other pictures in the Architects Journal, it would appear that the two staircases go up in two sections to the platforms, in a similar way to they do in several of the Overeground’s rebuilt stations.
At least in common with London’s two other big club grounds at Arsenal and West Ham, White Hart Lane is served by several Underground and rail stations.
This station certainly, looks like it will handle its share.
I think there could be controversy, as there have been reports that Tottenham Hotspur would like to sell naming rights to the stadium and possibly the station, as other clubs have.
Renaming the stadium would probably not be controversial, but renaming the station could well be. It will certainly be expensive, as Transport for London would have to change a large quantity of maps.
As someone, who supports Ipswich, I don’t care.