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.
I stopped off at Manningtree station on the way to the football last night to have a look at the new step-free subway and perhaps buy a drink in the buffet.
Having a drink en route to Ipswich, is probably a good idea at the moment, as Ipswich station is being updated and there is nowhere between the station and Portman Road to buy one.
These were the pictures I took.
- There is a loop on the Northern side of the station, which has been modified to create a short through Platform 4.
- The subway is fully operational, although signs say there is still work to do.
- The subway is ideally placed for a passenger to get off a Norwich-bound train, walk to the subway and cross underneath the lines to either the station exit or a train on the Harwich branch waiting in Platform 1.
As to the buffet, it wasn’t worth a visit, as the cider, which is so important for coeliacs, was rubbish.
The New Manningtree Depot
This article in Rail News says this about the new Stadler Flirts ordered by Greater Anglia.
The trains will be maintained at the existing depots, including Crown Point at Norwich, and also at a new depot at Manningtree which is to be built on a former industrial site alongside the main line.
This Google Map shows the area.
The Great Eastern Main Line crosses the map, with Manningtree station clearly marked.
Going East, there is a fully-electrified triangular junction, where the Harwich Branch or Mayflower Line joins the main line, followed by two crossings of the River Stour.
Then to the North and South of the main line, there is a large derelict industrial site, which I suspect will be the location of the depot, as it is the only place that fits the Rail News description.
I suppose the biggest question about this depot, as will it be North or South of the main line. But there is masses of space and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the site used for other commercial purposes as well.
Other questions might include.
- Will housing be developed in the area? Probably not, as it could be liable to flooding.
- Will the depot be developed with limited overhead wires for safety and ascetic reasons?
- Will a station be built to serve the area?
- If one is, will it have extensive car parking in the space available?
- How will environmentalists react to development of the deelict industrial site?
I do suspect locally, that the new employment opportunities will be welcomed.
The Manningtree Station Level Crossing
This Google Map shows a close-up of Manningtree station.
Note how the road crosses the railway at the right. Wikipedia says this about the crossing.
A second peculiar feature just east of the station is a combination of a road underpass and a level crossing. The underpass has limited height and the parallel level crossing is needed to permit higher vehicles to cross the railway.
This article on the BBC has a video about the crossing, which surely makes a case for improvements.
The title of the article is Bus trapped on Manningtree railway crossing: Driver fined says it all.
Luckily, the only damage was to the driver’s wallet!
With increased traffic on the railway lines through the crossing, will we be seeing improvements to this crossing, which surely must cause problems for trucks at times?
I think we’ll be seeing more use of Platform 4 as the lines get busier and the traffic gets faster.
- I have read somewhere, that the updated Platform 4 will be used as a means of allowing fast trains to overtake. I suppose a Colchester to Ipswich local train could wait in Platform 4, whilst a London to Norwich express went through on Platform 3.
- Perhaps the line could be used by trains going down the Harwich Branch to improve connectivity to the branch with London to Norwich expresses in the Peak.
- I also think for operational reasons train companies like to have a station before a depot, so that any sleeping passengers can be woken and offloaded.
But seriously, why would you get Platform 4 ready for increased use and not use it?
The Future Of The Mayflower Line
Wikipedia for Harwich Town station says this about services on the line.
As of December 2015 the typical weekday off-peak service is one train per hour to Manningtree, although there some additional services at peak times. Trains generally call at all stations along the Mayflower Line; some are extended to or from Colchester and/or London Liverpool Street.
I suspect that an ideal service would be at least two trains per hour (tph) on the line, which were timed to connect with fast services on the Great Eastern Main Line at Manningtree.
Currently there are direct trains in the Peak to and from Liverpool Street. The train, that I got to Manningtree last night was actually going to Harwich, after dividing into two at Colchester, with the front half of the train going on to Clacton-on-Sea.
In the new franchise, Greater Anglia will be running new Aventra trains on the branch. As they are buying five and ten-car trains, I would assume that the five-car version will work the Mayflower Line.
- This will mean that there will be an increase in capacity on the line.
- There will also be a large increase in comfort.
- I would assume that two five-car trains are easily joined and separated to provide shared services, such as I experienced last night.
- As the journey between Harwich Town and Manningtree takes twenty-two minutes, two trains would be needed to run a 2 tph service.
Running 2 tph may be a problem, as the electrification is one of the Treasury’s budget specials. Wikipedia says this.
The line diverges from the Great Eastern Main Line at Manningtree and is double-track for passenger services as far as Harwich International where connecting ferry services are available to Hoek van Holland and Esbjerg. Beyond Harwich International, the original second track remains in place as a through-siding, but only the “up” (Manningtree-bound) line was electrified and that section to Harwich Town is bi-directional.
But Bombardier may have a solution, in that the line was used for the BEMU trial, where a Class 379 train with an onboard battery, ran one way on the overhead wires, charging the battery at the same time.
As all Aventras will be wired to accept onboard energy storage, will we be seeing battery power on the Mayflower Line?
I think the answer is yes!
On my way to Manningtree, I was sitting next to a lady going to Harwich and when I talked about the battery train test of twenty months ago, she said she’d ridden the train and liked it. She didn’t qualify her initial statement with any negative statement.
On Sunday in An Excursion To Shoeburyness, I indicated how instead of coming back the way I came via West Ham, I got off at Stratford and did some shopping at Eastfield.
But would c2c like to serve Stratford and Liverpool Street more?
The Current Weekend Service From Shoeburyness To Stratford And Liverpool Street
Currently two trains per hour (tph) run from Shoeburyness to Stratford and Liverpool Street at weekends, when there is no conflicting engineering work.
Incidentally, with my excursion, I think that I had to come back by c2c as the Great Eastern Main Line was closed for Crossrail work.
If nothing this engineering disruption shows the value of Southend being served by two independent rail lines.
The Stratford Effect
The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the Shopping Centre at Stratford will have a porofound effect on the operation of c2c’s trains.
This page on the c2c web site is entitled Christmas shoppers get direct c2c trains to Stratford.
This is said.
c2c will run two trains an hour on both Saturdays and Sundays that divert to Liverpool Street instead of Fenchurch Street. These will provide direct access to the Westfield Stratford City shopping centre plus easy access to London’s West End. This is in addition to the two trains an hour that run to Chafford Hundred, for the Lakeside shopping centre, as part of c2c’s existing service.
I think the news item dates from 2014, but it does show a level of intent.
There is also this article in the Southend Echo, which is entitled Extra trains planned as West Ham’s stadium move puts added pressure on c2c network.
This is said.
TRAIN operator c2c are running extra and longer trains for fans travelling to West Ham matches at the club’s new stadium in Stratford.
This won’t be a problem for weekend matches, but what about matches on weekday evenings?
c2c’s spokesman went into more detail.
When asked about direct trains running from Southend to Stratford to make the journey as quick and simple as possible for fans, c2c said they already run direct trains to Stratford from Southend and Basildon,but not Grays, and there will be two trains per hour direct to Stratford most weekends – and two more trains per hour to West Ham.
From Grays, all four trains an hour go to West Ham.
For weeknight games and during weekend engineering work, all trains run to West Ham.
At present, the weekend trains between Shoeburyness and Stratford, satisfy the weekend sopping and football, but what about other events at the Olympic Park? The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is only going to get busier.
So are the current services really what c2c and its customers want and need?
Car parking is fairly comprehensive at the outer stations according to this page on the c2c web site.
It wasn’t very busy on the Sunday I took this picture at West Horndon station, but for encouraging weekend leisure trips, the availability of car parking must be an asset.
I would imagine that c2c are pushing the authorities for permission to run evening services into Liverpool Street via Stratford.
The Crossrail Effect
When you talk about any of London’s railways, this herd of elephants, with its 1,500 passenger capacity Class 345 trains, always bursts into the room.
For c2c trains to get to Stratford, they need to take the Gospel Oak to Barking Line (GOBlin) between Barking and Woodgrange Park, where they join the slow lines into London.
This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the lines around Woodgrange Park station.
As the GOBlin is currently being electrified and improved, I suspect that there will be no operational problems on the short stretch of shared line.
Will there be problems though, after Crossrail opens and there are increased frequencies of trains to and from London?
In the Peak, Crossrail will be running 16 tph to and from Shenfield, so as they are only running 8 tph in the Off Peak, I suspect that at weekends, there will be capacity for c2c’s 2 tph to Stratford.
It is interesting to look at Crossrail’s proposed Peak service on the Shenfield branch.
- 8 tph between Shenfield and Paddington
- 2 tph between Shenfield and Reading
- 2 tph between Shenfield and Maidenhead
- 4 tph between Gidea Park and Liverpool Street
This says to me, that there are probably paths in the timetable to squeeze 4 tph in the Off Peak into Liverpool Street, as the Gidea Park service is Peak-only.
Access To Liverpool Street
Liverppool Street station has two problems.
- There are not enough platforms – This is a difficult one to solve, although Crossrail might only need a single platform to handle the limited number of services not going through the core tunnel. London Overground regularly turns 4 tph in a single platform.
- The platforms are too short – This will be remedied once Crossrail trains are using the core tunnel.
I’m certain, that in a few years Liverpool Street in the Off Peak, will be able to handle 2 tph with a length of 12-cars for c2c.
It is interesting to note, that my train on Sunday was only eight-cars. Was this because of limitations at Liverpool Street?
Should c2c Stop At Woodgrange Park?
Currently, they don’t, but after the GOBlin is reopened would it be a good idea to create a step-free change to get to and from a lot of stations across North London.
The change at Barking between the two lines is not easy and the alternative is to improve it.
c2c Needs Access To Crossrail
c2c’s current route structure has no connection to Crossrail.
As an example to go from West Horndon to Heathrow Airport, you’d need to change twice.
- At West Ham onto the Jubilee Line.
- At Stratford onto Crossrail.
Neither change is a short walk, but both are step-free in busy stations.
If however, it’s a Saturday or Sunday, you could take a train to Stratford and I suspect when Crossrail opens, just wait on the same platform until a Heathrow train arrives.
It should be remembered, that c2c runs an all-Electrostar fleet and I suspect that these are Crossrail compatible with respect to platform height, so the change at Stratford would be easy with heavy cases, buggy or even a week-chair.
What Will The Future Hold?
From what I have written, it would certainly be possible for there to be two 12-car trains every hour in the Off Peak between Shoeburyness and Liverpool Street calling at Basildon, Upminster and Stratford.
But this would have limitations and possible problems.
- Passengers from stations like Grays would want the Crossrail connection too!
- If it is needed in the Off Peak, is it needed in the Peak?
- Would passengers changing at Stratford cause congestion?
There would also be the mother of all battles between the train companies involved, to make sure they kept market share.
My ideal world scenario would be something like.
- 4 tph all day go into Liverpool Street.
- 2 tph on both c2c routes through Basildon and Grays go into Liverpool Street.
- Chafford Hundred is served from Liverpool Street
- Ticketing is such, that Stratford to Southend can use either route and either Southend station.
- c2c trains to and from Liverpool Street, call at Woodgrange Park for the GOBlin.
My wish list may not be possible, but there is certainly tremendous scope for improvement.
We could even see, a station like Grays, Pitsea or Southend becoming a Crossrail terminus.
Who knows? I don’t!
Beam Park station is a new station that is to support a large housing development of the same name, which will be built on the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway, between Dagenham Dock and Rainham stations.
This map shows the development, with the station numbered at six.
The station is the Westernmost number on the Southern boundary of Beam Park.
- It is possibly located where Kent Avenue crosses over the railway.
- Note that some sources call it Beam Reach station.
- With up to 5,000 new homes in the area, I would think that the station is needed.
I think it is interesting that London is getting two new stations; Barking Riverside and Beam Park, in the same area of London.
After I saw the Class 387/3 trains for c2c at Crewe, I thought that if the weather was nice, I’d take a trip to Shoeburyness. So as the weather was good on Sunday, I bought an extension ticket for under a tenner and went.
It is very much a trip into deepest Essex.
A few points.
- As I changed trains at Whitechapel station, it looked like they’re starting to fit out the passageways.
- I was surprised to see lots of disused space on the District Line platforms between Barking and Upminster. I guess that was so they could run long trains all the way to Shoeburyness.
- There are quite a few level crossings on the line.
- The Shoeburyness Depot isn’t small.
- The track to Tilbury Riverside station is still visible.
- There appears to be electrification gantries on the single-track leading to Platform 1 at Barking station, which Gospel Oak to Barking trains have used as a terminus for years.
- I came back via Stratford to do some shopping at Eastfield.
Unlike many other rail companies and possibly because they are a smaller franchise, c2c doesn’t seem to have too many published plans and ambitions, other than to keep satisfying their customers.
But then there is very little of an expansionist nature that they could do!
- In future years, there may be a need for a station at London Gateway.
- Would housing and leisure developments around Tilbury Riverside, make it worthwhile reopening the station.
- Much of the infrastructure work will be minor improvements for safety or to gain a few seconds here and there.
- There could be a program of level crossing removal.
- A new station will probably be built at Beam Park, to support housing development.
But there is no major project, like some proposed by companies like Chiltern Railways.
Where I live in Hackney, in common with some other London boroughs, there is a lot of twenty mile per hour zones.
As the picture shows they are well signed.
But this doesn’t stop drivers and motorcyclists rushing around, often quite a lot in excess of the allowed limit!
Councils have been criticised recently over using box junction cameras as cash machines, as this article on the BBC details. The title of London councils raise millions through box junction fines summarises the article well!
It may be an erroneous observation on my part, but as London gets more congested and the traffic slower in Central London, it does seem that when the traffic eases as it often does in Hackney, that drivers take more than a legal advantage.
Excessive speed also seems to have got worse in this area, since the 20 mph limit was brought in. Red rags and bulls come to mind.
Why can’t we set up a network of automatic number plate recognition cameras, that locate and timestamp vehicles in the 20 mph zones.
Computers would then check all the timings and issue tickets to those, who obviously got from A to B at over the speed limit. Just like cameras on motorways around road works.
It could be a very nice little earner for councils.
I took these pictures as I came through Euston on Saturday night, as I returned from Blackburn.
The engine is an immaculate Class 86 locomotive, which was built in the 1960s.
According to Wikipedia, Freightliner still have ten upwards of the locomotives in service and I recently saw two working together on a long intermodal freight service through Dalston Kingsland station.
They may have been bog-standard electric locomotives in their day, but surely if they can be restored and kept running, they are probably a lot more affotdable for main line use by charters, than anything else.
I would assume that E3137 had been hauling a charter into Euston. Long may it continue to do this.
Clitheroe reminded me very much of a Lancashire version of several I know well in Suffolk.
From the new houses, that I saw in the area, I suspect it’s becoming more important as a dormitory town.
The later history of the Ribble Valley Line between Manchester Victoria and Hellifield via Bolton, Blackburn and Clitheroe, is one of closure and reopening.
- Blackburn to Hellifield was closed to passengers in 1962.
- The only train, other than freight and diversions, was a once a week train between Manchester and Glasgow, which stopped in 1964.
- Blackburn to Bolton was reduced to a single-track.
- Public pressure led to a service between Blackburn and Clitheroe in 1994.
- Later a Sunday service was started between Blackburn and Hellifield.
- The line became a community rail line in 2007.
In the last few years, Network Rail have spent millions of pounds on improvements.
- A five million scheme renewed the permanent way between Blackburn and Clitheroe in 2008.
- Sections of single track have been doubled.
- Signalling has been improved.
- Line speed has been increased.
- Platforms have been lengthened.
- The passing loop at Darwen has been lengthened.
Builders certainly seemed to have been at work on the stations between Clitheroe and Whalley.
It All Happens In 2017
All of this should mean that two trains per hour (tph), can run between Manchester Victoria and Clitheroe in December 2017.
A year later, in December 2018 there could be the extra two through platforms into use at Manchester Pioccadilly, which will help alleviate capacity problems.
I don’t think we’ll see direct services between Clitheroe and London, but an improved Ribble Valley Line connecting with Manchester’s new cross-city line can only be good for passengers.
Things that could or should happen include.
- Two tph between Manchester Victoria and Clitheroe has virtually been promised.
- The service will become faster because of track improvement and new trains in a few years. Applying a conservative estimate reduces the end-to-end journey time from seventy-five to somewhere around fifty minutes.
- The Manchester Victoria to Clitheroe service could probably run two tph each of four carriages by December 2018. It all depends on rolling stock deliveries.
- TransPennine services will go through Manchester Victoria and any sensible train planner would arrange a decent link between Clitheroe and TransPennine services.
It will certainly be a big improvement.
Manchester Airport And Clitheroe
One journey that illustrates how the Ordsall Chord will improve services, is getting between Clitheroe and Manchester Airport.
Currently, these are typical timings.
- Clitheroe to Manchester Victoria – 75 minutes
- |Cliteroe to Manchester Airport via Bolton – 126 minutes
- Salford Crescent to Manchester Victoria – 9 minutes
- Salford Crescent to Manchester Airport – 30 minutes
As Manchester Victoria to Manchester Airport, is effectively via Salford Crescent with the train taking a short cut, it’s probably reasonable to assume that Manchester Victoria to Manchester Airport won’t be more than 39 minutes.
Current services take about twenty minutes from Manchester Piccadilly, but it’s not a proper airport service, which the full route to Victoria could be.
- It doesn’t use the same platforms every time.
- The trains are not built for heavy luggage.
The service certainly doesn’t say Manchester is open for business.
Wikipedia says this about services to Manchester Airport after the Ordsall Chord opens.
On completion, it is anticipated that the chord would allow four trains per hour to travel between Manchester Airport/Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria in each direction, with a further eight trains per hour possible from Manchester Victoria towards the west via Chat Moss, and six trains per hour from Manchester Piccadilly towards either Chat Moss or Bolton and Preston.
So this means that even if you just miss the connection at Manchester Victoria, you’d only wait a maximum of fifteen minutes for the next train to the Airport.
As I think we can reasonably assume that there will be a Clitheroe to Manchester Victoria time of around fifty minutes, this means that Clitheroe to the Airport could be about ninety minutes plus how long you wait at Victoria for the Airport train.
But I suspect there could be a better connection for Manchester Airport at Bolton.
If you opt for a route with only one change, then the journey takes a few minutes over two hours, often with a wait of thirty-five minutes, whilst trains are changed at Bolton.
- A route with only one change at Bolton, takes a few minutes over two hours, often with a wait of thirty-five minutes at the change.
- I wouldn’t be surprised to see Clitheroe to Manchester Airport in under ninety minutes via Bolton, with the current trains, after the Ordsall Chord is opened.
- But hopefully in |December 2017, Bolton to Manchester Airport will be served by 100 mph electric trains.
- December 2018 could bring the extra two through platforms into use at Manchester Pioccadilly.
Incidentally, various web sites, say it takes an hour to go by car.
I think it would be possible to have same- or cross-platform interchange between the following services.
- Clitheroe and Manchester Victoria.
- Preston and Manchester Piccadilly/Airport
- Preston and Manchester Victoria
- Wigan Wallgate and Manchester Piccadilly/Airport
This happens to a certain extent at Bolton already, as the Windsor Link Line allows trains to go direct from Bolton to Manchester Piccadilly and onto Manchester Airport.
If it could be arranged that the frequency between Bolton and Manchester Airport was 4 tph, then this would mean a maximum wait of fifteen minutes.
Currently, the frequency is a miserly 2 tph, which explains the long waits at Bolton.
I suspect that because even with the Ordsall Chord built, that Piccadilly with its completion date a year later could be the main bottleneck.
You could say run twelve-car semi-fast Class 319 trains from Preston to Manchester Airport,, but if Mancunians are anything like Londoners for ducking and diving, then this could just add to the congestion at Manchester Piccadilly.
It all shows the problems of how the adding of the two extra platforms 13 and 14 in the 1960s was not a project that had any degree of future proofing.
When I see those draded numbers 13 and 14 against my train to or from Manchester Piccadilly, I breathe a sigh and ask myself, why I came this way.
Trains always seem to be late through the platforms and sometimes, I feel the platforms aren’t the safest.
Onward From Clitheroe
At present the historic Settle route is closed after last winter’s storms, but Network Rail is spending £23million to bring it back into top condition.
With the new franchise saying it will run extra trains on this route, I feel that the Settle route will have a busy future.
Blackburn to Carlisle via Settle is certainly a trip I want to take.
You have to ask the following questions about the current services to Clitheroe
- When two tph are going from Manchester Victoria to Clitheroe, should one tph go on to Hellifield?
- Given rivalry across the Pennines, do loyal Lancastrains feel that Leeds has no right to services along the Settle route and some should start in the county of the red rose?
From what I saw of the Ribble Valley Line at Blackburn, Whalley and Clitheroe, the track and stations would certainly be up to the increased footfall.
All the line needs is modern trains.
Without doubt, the Ribble Valley Line is ready to take its place in that group of secondary and rural rail lines across the North, that will take be good for the locals and will attract tourists to the area.
It is an arrangement, that gives the visitor a good welcome to the town. It has the scent of the unexpected about it.
Note these points about the station and the trains.
- It has recently been rebuilt, but the new trains won’t arrive for a couple of years.
- There are a lot of direct trains across the North from the station to places like Blackpool, Leeds, Manchester, Preston and York, with a couple of rural branch lines in the interesting category.
- Station staff are not very numerous, when you need them.
- You’ll have to hunt the ticket machine.
- There is a Booking Office for buying Ranger and Rover tickets.
- Some parts of the station are showing poor quality construction.
- A return ticket up the Clitheroe Line to Clitheroe cost me £2.50 with a Railcard.
I think with the new trains and some more services, things can only get better.
I might even close the Booking Office, put two ticket machines on each main platform group; 1 to 3 and 4, and get the staff more visible.
In the morning, I had a walk around the part of the town centre nearest to the station.
- There are no maps and just a few finger posts, but it’s not really a place to get lost.
- I bought my paper in a convenient Morrisons about two hundred metres from the station.
- I made the mistake going into the large Shopping Centre, but it was designed like a maze and I didn’t find what I was looking for.
- One gem, I did find later was Cafe Northcote in the Cathedral, where I had an extremely delicious gluten-free egg sandwich.
You could certainly waste an hour or so enjoyably in Blackburn, whilst waiting for a train.
If I compare it to various mid-size towns and cities, where you might miss an hourly train home or get seriously delayed, you get the following.
- Brighton, Cambridge, Liverpool Lime Street, Oxford and Reading – Acceptable for everybody including gluten-free, as there’s an M&S Simply Food in the station.
- Colchester, Ipswich and Norwich – Except for hot drinks and sandwiches, there’s nothing. And you’re away from the centre!
- Derby, Doncaster, Leicester, Nottingham and York – Dreadful, if like me you’re gluten-free.
- Rochester – You’re just across the road from the centre.
- Romford and Southend – You’re in the large town centre, with an M&S, pubs and cafes nearby.
In addition to being better than many in my list, in my view, Blackburn is certainly a better place to get stuck than Blackpool, Burnley or Preston.
Blackburn has certainly raised the stakes about creating a welcoming station.