The Anonymous Widower

Crossrail Expands Before It Opens

This is certainly something you don’t hear often about a new rail line.

This article in Global Rail News is entitled TfL To Order More Elizabeth Line Trains.

Four new Class 345 trains are being ordered, which will mean that in the Off Peak the following will happen.

  • Trains between Whitechapel and Paddington will increase from 16 trains per hour (tph) to 20.
  • Trains between Paddington and Shenfield will increase by two tph
  • Trains between Paddington and Abbey Wood will increase by two tph
  • Trains between Paddington and Reading will double from two tph to four.
  • Trains between Paddington and Maidenhead will increase from four tph to six
  • From December 2019, six tph will call at Heathrow Terminal 5.

So have Transport for London miscalculated the capacity of the line?

I suspect not!

It’s just that they wanted to be sure that the trains and the signalling can handle the frequency of twenty tph, before ordering the trains.

That has probably been ascertained by now thorough thorough testing.

This article on the BBC, is entitled Crossrail Stations In West London Delayed Until 2019.

I wonder, if this is within the float of these station builds, so that the whole project is not delayed.

Have Crossrail only announced the actual completion date, when it is certain it can be met?

If it is, these two apparently disconnected stories show Project Management at its best, where a project is delivered on the date agreed before as much as a humble spade had entered the ground.

  • If it is late the client and the general public complain.
  • It it is early, the construction team have probably spent too much money.

So hopefully, everybody’s happy!

I would love to see Crossrail’s schedule of announcements until December 2019.

Like the ordering of more trains mentioned in the first article, I suspect some will be pleasant surprises.

The first article also has this paragraph.

The increased service frequency will be achieved, in part, by replacing five Great Western Railway services with Elizabeth line trains.

So could we see Greater Anglia and Southeastern losing paths and becoming better integrated with Crossrail?

In Abbey Wood Station in my series of Kent On The Cusp Of Change posts, I said that it looks like the track layout allows train to run on to Dartford, Gravesend or even Rochester, as other trains on a modern signalled North Kent Line.

At Shenfield station, provision has been made in the track layout for trains to continue from Platform 4 to Southend Victoria station and Greater Anglia trains already do it.at a frequency of three tph.

I don’t think it will happen, as the journey is too long for a train without toilets.

But if Platforms 4 and 5 at Shenfield were bi-directional, this would allow Crossrail trains to venture down the Southend Branch.

July 13, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

CAF Rarely Do The Obvious, But It’s Generally Sound

This article on the BBC is entitled 300 Train Building jobs Created At £30m Newport Centre.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Three hundred “highly-skilled and well paid” engineering jobs will be created when a Spanish train manufacturer opens a production factory in Newport.
Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF) is expected to open its £30m centre where Llanwern Steelworks once stood in autumn 2018.

Currently CAF are supplying the following trains and trams for the UK.

The trains alone add up to nearly five hundred vehicles.

If you look at the geography of the sea routes between the Basque Country and the United Kingdom, taking a cargo ship with a few trains to South Wales  is probably not the most difficult or indirect of voyages.

Newport too, is on the South Wales Main Line, which is well connected all over England, by lines that should be electrified and will hopefully be by 2019.

This Google Map shows the Celtic Business Park in relation to Newport and its docks.

The Celtic Business Park is part of the massive rectangular site to the North East of Newport, that is the Llanwern steelworks, which is being downsized. The South Wales Main Line passes along the North side of the site and the map clearly shows access to Newport Docks.

It raises the question that CAF may bring the trains in on their wheels in a specialist train ferry.

I know nothing about how much preparation needs to be performed on a foreign-built train, before it can run on the UK rail network, but it would be expected that just checking the five hundred vehicles must keep quite a few employees busy. I suppose too, that if certain parts of the train were sourced from the UK, that instead of sending them to Spain, they could be fitted in Newport.

It should also be remembered, that Hitachi build their body-shells in Japan and then ship them to Newton Aycliffe for fitting out.

Although, the Welsh and the Basques are two nations with strong cultural ties; rugby included, I think that Newport was chosen with another very practical reason in mind.

In the May 2016 Edition of Modern Railways, Ian Walmsley, wrote an article called Metroland Of My Fathers, which included these  paragraphs.

Back in the November 2013 issue of Modern Railways I raised the possibility of converting the Cardiff network to light rail. I was still working for Porterbrook at the time, which, like other rolling stock companies (ROSCOs), saw the Valleys as a retirement home for its old London commuter trains, so when the proposal met with the response it’s heavy rail and that’s that, I was quite happy.

The local press and BBC Wales showed more interest and now I am delighted to say that Network Rail has the Valley Lines electrification ‘on hold’ pending re-evaluation.

Consider the following.

  • Urbos trams come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
  • Trams are getting better every year at climbing hills.
  • The Urbos family includes the Urbos TT, which is a tram-train.
  • Midland Metro’s trams are being fitted with energy storage using supercapacitors
  • How much marketing advantage for other places, is gained from having Edinburgh and Cardiff on the customer list?
  • Conversion could probably be done on a line-by-line basis.
  • Provision must be made for freight trains on some lines.
  • Cardiff and the Valley Lines were resignalled in the last few years and everything is controlled from Cardiff ROC

But remember that CAF are a very research and design-oriented company.

So what is the likelihood that the Cardiff Valley Lines will be converted to light rail using a CAF product?

I would say pretty high, especially after reading this article in Global Rail News, which is entitled Engineering Firm BWB Consulting Bought By Spanish Giant CAF.

I could see a design of rail vehicle with these features.

  • The ability to work on standard rail track.
  • The ability to give level step-free access to standard height rail station platforms.
  • The ability to use modern railway signalling.
  • The ability to climb steep gradients.
  • The ability to work on both 25 KVAC and 750 VDC overhead.
  • Automatic pantograph raising and lowering.
  • Supercapacitor energy storage.
  • Regenerative braking.

I could see an energy-saving vehicle being designed, that made clever use of the gradients.

Would it be a train or a tram-train?

Increasingly, the difference is getting blurred!

 

 

 

July 13, 2017 Posted by | Travel, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Gibbs Report – Too Many Off Peak Services

The title of this post is a sub-title in the Gibbs Report

The section starts like this.

Generally I do believe there are too many lightly loaded off peak services on the GTR network, and this means the system is unable to recover quickly from any incident. The system should be robust enough to mean that the service can recover fully from any concluded incident before 1400, to run a full and punctual service from 1600 onwards. This is impossible with the current timetable. It is clear to me that the three previously competing operators deliberately filled up every off peak path, to stop the other operators running additional services and receiving a larger income allocation through ORCATS. I can see no sign of any rationalisation of the contractual obligations occurring prior to the letting of the current franchise, so all the competing services were amalgamated into the new franchise obligations.

This is also said.

The timetable is based on the assumption that almost every station on the GTR network must have regular direct trains to London, at all times of the day. In addition to provide 12 car trains on the busiest sections, principally Horsham / Haywards Heath – London Bridge / Victoria, trains from the “country” couple up at places like Horsham, Haywards Heath and Redhill. This is fine in theory, but results in a complex timetable and plan, with multiple potential failure points. I have noted that stakeholders on each route are unwilling to lose any through services to London, irrespective of the benefits to the overall system. There is no easy short term solution.

Chris Gibbs makes some suggestions including a “firebreak” in the middle of the day that enables services to recover for the evening peak.

Conclusion

It looks a bit of a mess.

July 13, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | 3 Comments

Small Electrification Projects

My visit to Abbey Wood station yestetday proved to me that some small electrification projects don’t actually need wires or third rails.

The reversing siding for Crossrail, which is also a link to the North Kent Line, consists of the following new tracks.

  1. A set of points at the Eastern end of Abbey Wood Station to connect the two Crossrail platforms 3 and 4 and allow trains to reverse.
  2. A track to serve as the reversing siding and the link between the two lines. It is probably about 700 metres long.
  3. A set of points to connect the libk to the Down North Kent Line.
  4. A cross-over between the two North Kent Lines.

Only about a fifty metres of the reversing siding around the first setb2qhof points is electrified.

I have been onvinced for some time, that the Barking Riversude Extension will be built without wires, as the project details mention electric trains, but don’t mention electrification.

Aventras also have a remote wake-up caoability, which would allow trains to be parked overnight in sidings without electrication 

July 11, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Kent On The Cusp Of Change – Abbey Wood Station

The Kent On The Cusp Of Change article in the July 2017 Edition of Modern Railways talks about Kent and Crossrail.

This is said.

In December 2018, the Elizabeth Line is due to reach its south-eastern terminus at Abbey Wood, where there will be interchange with the North Kent line.

A wide range of new journey opportunities will open up, which over time will influence many choices over work and home locations. A train every five minutes from Abbey Wood to Canary Wharf and central London is expected to have a dramatic effect in North Kent.

The article goes on to say that a working group called Crossrail Gravesend is pushing to extend the Elizabeth Line to Ebbsfleet International station for High Speed One.

In this post, I will talk about issues at Abbey Wood station.

The Modern Railways article says that Abbey Wood station is a cross-platform interchange, as do other articles.

Track Layout At Abbey Wood Station

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the layout of lines at Abbey Wood station.

Compare this with this track layout, that I posted in Abbey Wood Station –  29th August 2016.

Note the following.

  • The older layout shows cross-platform interchange.
  • The current one has two pairs of platforms, with Platforms 3 and 4 for Crossrail and Platforms 1 and 2 for other services.
  • The current layout probably connects better to the existing lines to Dartford.

These pictures were taken on the 28th June 2017 and show pictures generally taken from the West of the station.

They show a similar layout, of two Northern platforms (3 & 4) for Crossrail and two Southern platforms (1 & 2) for all other services.

Note.

  • The two cross-overs to the West of Abbey Wood station to get the Crossrail trains to and from the right platforms.
  • The station building and the two footbridges over the lines.
  • The solid wooden fence between the two pairs of lines.
  • The robust nature of the overhead wiring.

I suspect, that if they had wanted to have Eastbound and Westbound lines each share an island platform, it would have required a flyover, which would have been a large expense.

These pictures were taken on the 10th July 2017 to the East of the station.

Note that the first seven pictures were taken from a public footbridge that crosses the tracks about five hundred metres to the East of Abbey Wood station and the last few pictures were taken from a train leaving Abbey Wood station for Dartford station.

This recent Google Map shoews from Abbey Wood station, to where the reversing siding ends close to where Aliske Road turns North

The pictures and the map show the following.

  • The two third-rail electrified tracks of the North Kent Line run between Platforms 1 and 2 at Abbey Wood station to Belvedere station.
  • The North Kent tracks are fully in use, by services between London and Kent.
  • The two Crossrail Platforms 3 and 4 at Abbey Wood station are electrified with overhead wires.
  • The two tracks in Platforms 3 and 4 would appear to join together into a single line mainly without electrification, that connects to the North Kent Line about a kilometre to the East of Abbey Wood station.
  • There is only a short length of electrification to the East of the station.

It is not what I expected, as it means that there is no cross-platform interchange between services going to North Kent and Crossrail, as various sources including the The Kent On The Cusp Of Change article have said.

Passengers changing between the North Kent Lines and Crossrail will have to go over through the station or use the bridge.

So how will the station handle the various train movements?

Comparison Between Abbey Wood and Shenfield Stations

Abbey Wood will after rebuilding be a station with two North Kent and two Crossrail platforms

Shenfield station has now been converted into a station with six platforms, three of which can be used as Crossrail platforms.

In the Peak, services to the two stations are as follows.

  •  Shenfield – 10 trains per hour (tph)
  • Abbey Wood – 12 tph

In addition 4 tph on the Shenfield Branch turn-back at Gidea Park station.

In the Off Peak, services to the two stations are as follows.

  •  Shenfield – 8 tph
  • Abbey Wood – 8 tph

So it would appear that Abbey Wood is the harder station to operate with more services in the Peak and one less platform.

Train Stabling At Abbey Wood Station

Train stabling needs to be provided on a busy branch line, as it makes it easier to adjust the number of trains running to the demand throughout the day.

At Shenfield, the stabling sidings are beyond the station, which must be easier operationally, than the position of the sidings at Abbey Wood, where they are back down the line at the Plumstead tunnel portal.

If you look at the second set of pictures taken to the East of the station, spaqce would appear to be very limited. So is this why stabling is not ast of Abbey Wood station.

Turning Back Crossrail Trains At Abbey Wood

At Shenfield, train operators have been turning back Class 315 trains at a rate of six tph since 1980, so with the addition of a new platform and modern trains and signalling, the handling of ten tph should be achievable.

But at Abbey Wood in the Peak, there is a need to turn trains round at a rate of twelve tph or a train every five minutes.

The operation could involve each of Platform 3 and 4 handling six tph, using the cross-overs to the West of the station to get the train between each platform and the right Crossrail track, but handling six tph on two platforms feeding a 12 tph double track railway is a tough ask.

From what I have seen, I think that Crossrail will turnback their trains like this.

  • All Crossrail trains from London arrive in Platform 4.
  • All Crossrail trains to London depart from Platform 3.
  • All trains arriving in Platform 4 use the unelectrified single track line as a reversing siding to get to Platform 3
  • As the pictures show, the single track line is probably long enough to store a failed train, for later recovery.

But the Class 345 trains have a system called Auto-Reverse.

When the train is ready to leave Platform 4,the driver initiates an Auto-Reverse and the train moves automatically into the reversing siding, whilst the driver starts to walk back through the train to the other cab.

  • By the time, the train is in the reversing siding, the driver is ready to drive the train into Platform 3.
  • The process will have to be done within five minutes.
  • The process could also involve the basic cleaning and removal of rubbish, with cleaners getting on at Platform 4 and getting off at Plstform 3.

Crossrail is not your bog-standard railway.

Trains Leaving Service At Abbey Wood

Suppose a train was leaving service at Abbey Wood.

Normally, it would probably perform the Auto-Reverse and go to the stabling sidings at the Plumstead tunnel portal.

It might even go the wrong way directly out of Platform 4, if the signalling was bi-directiomal.

Remember too, that Class 345 trains could be two independent half-trains, so if one half fails, the other could be designed to get the train to safety and out of the way.

Class 345 trains are not a bog-standard trains.

Running Crossrail Trains To And From Gravesend

From what I have seen, I’m convinced that the track layout at Abbey Wood station, means that Crossrail can be easily extended to and from Dartford, Gravesend, Rochester, Gillingham or Rainham.

Let’s assume the terminal for four tph is Gravesend.

Crossrail trains from London to Gravesend will do the following.

  • Stop in Platform 4 at Abbey Wood station.
  • Lower the pantograph
  • Take the single uon-electrified line alongside the North Kent Line.
  • Cross over to the Down North Kent Line.
  • Use the third-rail electrification to travel to Gravesend.

Crossrail trains from Gravesend to London will do the following.

  • Use the third-rail electrification to travel from Gravesend.
  • Cross over to the single non-electrified line alongside the North Kent Line before Abbey Wood station.
  • Stop in Platform 3 at Abbey Wood station.
  • Raise the pantograph.

The Crossrail trains would be needed to be fitted with third-rail shoes.

Interchange BetweenThe Extended Crossrail And Other Services.

Suppose you are going from Ramsgate to Paddington, you would get a Highspeed service to Gravesend and then wait for a Crossrail train to call at the same platform.

To repeat myself, Crossrail is not a bog-standard railway.

Crossrail’s Trump Card

When the trains turnback at Abbey Wood or extend to and from Gravesend, the Class 345 trains will have to use the non-electrified single track line shown in the pictures.

It may be electrified in the next year! But why bother?

The distances that need to be handled without power are not much more than a kilometre at slow speed.

The Class 345 trains could be fitted with batteries to bridge the gaps in the electrification.

These batteries will also do the following.

  • Handle regenerative braking.
  • Provide emergency power, in the event of complete tunnel power failure.

Conclusion

To repeat myself again, Crossrail is not a bog-standard railway.

See Also

These are related posts.

To know more read Kent On The Cusp Of Change in the July 2017 Edition of Modern Railways.

 

July 10, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 19 Comments

Gibbs Report – Some Little Used Stations Have Too Many Services

The title of this post is a sub-title in the Gibbs Report

The section starts like this.

The franchise obligations for the GTR franchise are those inherited from the three previous competing franchises.

Some elements of these obligations have not been reviewed properly since privatisation, and service levels are far above current demand. On a system that is so
dependent on every aspect working perfectly, calling at stations with very few passengers is one more thing that causes the system to fail.

I have studied the ORR’s station usage, and identified seven stations that appear to have an excessively frequent off peak service.

The stations mentioned as receiving too many services are as follows.

Chris Gibbs says the following.

  • The stations will stay open.
  • Peak services will not be reduced.
  • Off peak services may be reduced.

I have looked at the Wikipedia entries for these stations and they are a mixed bunch, typical of what you see all over the country. Bishopstone station is even a Grade II Listed Building on the At Risk Register.

Conclusion

I think there is a case to develop a procedure, whereby the station can be transferred for community use.

Perhaps, a body like English Heritage can come up with some rules.

July 9, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | 1 Comment

Gibbs Report – Cambridge Depot

The Gibbs Report, looks in detail at GTR’s depot capacity and especially the stabling for Thameslink.

The report indicates particular problems at Cambridge.

The facility is currently unsuitable for 12 car fixed formation trains and the current trains have to be uncoupled to be accommodated.

Greater Anglia will have the following trains at Cambridge in their open-air depot.

All trains are fixed-formation and I suspect that Greater Anglia have a well-planned train parking philosophy, which could include.

  • Parking two five-car Aventras in a long ten/twelve-car siding.
  • Remote wake-up for the Class 720 and Class 745 trains.
  • Parking the odd Class 755 train, that will work services to Ipswich in one of the bay platforms.
  • Parking the Class 755 trains, that will work Norwich to Stansted, at the ends of the route.
  • Having a remote toilet servicing team for their trains.

But it would be difficult to fit in the following two trains per hour (tph) Thameslink services.

  • Cambridge to Brighton – Twelve-car Class 700 train
  • Cambridge to Maidstone East – Eight-car Class 700 train

Both services would be run all day, with journey times in excess of two hours, which probably means each service would need nine or ten trains.

GTR will have a need for their own depot as mixing eight and twelve car trains will just fill up Greater Anglia’s depot and I doubt they will be pleased.

The problem can’t be eased by running twelve-car trains to Maidstone East, as the Thameslink platform at that station is too short.

Although Maidstone East station may be redeveloped in the future and a twelve-car platform 3 could be incorporated.

This Google Map shows the layout of Maidstone East station.

Could a twelve-car pltform be squeezed in?

Six-car as opposed to eight-car trains may offer an alternative solution here.

Cambridge would be served by a twelve-car train, that was formed of two six-car units coupled together.

At Bromley South or Swanley station, the two trains would split, with one portion going to Maidstone East station and the other to another convenient station.

Returning North the trains would join up again and travel to Cambridge as a twelve-car train.

The advantages of this are as follows.

  • Two eight-car tph in the core are replaced by twelve-car trains.
  • Two eight-car Cambridge to London tph are replaced by twelve-car trains.
  • Another destination South of London gets awo six-car tph to Cambridge.

The only loser is Maidstone East station, which sees the train length of its two trains per hour to Cambridge reduced from eight-cars to six.

July 9, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 2 Comments

Gibbs Report – Hoo Junction Depot

The Gibbs Report, looks in detail at GTR’s depot capacity and especially the stabling for Thameslink.

This is a paragraph, which suggests creating a new depot at Hoo Junction.

I recommend a different approach: I think a dedicated GTR Thameslink stabling facility should be built at Hoo Junction, near Gravesend. There is a large former freight yard there, on both sides of the railway, which now stables engineering trains for Network Rail. This should be rationalised and space created for stabling all the North Kent Thameslink Class 700s, in sidings with newly created servicing facilities.

The Wikipedia entry for Crossrail has a section entitled To Gravesend And Hoo Junction, where the following is said.

The route to Gravesend has been safeguarded by the Department for Transport, although it was made clear that as at February 2008 there was no plan to extend Crossrail beyond the then-current scheme. The following stations are on the protected route extension to Gravesend: Belvedere, Erith, Slade Green, Dartford, Stone Crossing, Greenhithe for Bluewater, Swanscombe, Northfleet, and Gravesend.

This area around Hoo Junction has also been suggested as a possible depot for Crossrail.

In addition, Southeastern are running short of space in Slade Green Depot.

This Google Map shows the Hoo Junction area, with the North Kent Line passing through from Gravesend station in the West to Higham station in the South East.

There looks to be space for multiple depots with a large number of sidings at Hoo Junction.

These pictures show the apace to the North of the North Kent Line.

And these show the space to the South.

There even used to be a Staff Halt at Hoo Junction.

But that’s just the railways.

This report on the BBC indicates that the new Lower Thames Crossing will cross North-South between Gravesend and Hoo Junction.

Perhaps the developments at Hoo Junction, should incorporate a Park-and-Ride station.

Conclusion

This is a good idea and I would go further than Chris Gibbs does in his report, which is mainly into the problems of GTR.

Crossrail, the Department of Transport, Kent County Council, Network Rail, Southeastern, Thameslink and all other stakeholders and residents should sit round a large table and agree a common long-term philosophy that is in all their best interests for the future.

July 9, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 3 Comments

Gibbs Report – Depot Issues

The Gibbs Report, looks in detail at GTR’s depot capacity and especially the stabling for Thameslink.

The section on depots starts like this.

The way in which the train fleet has expanded in recent years has resulted in a shortage of stabling facilities. New facilities have been located away from train crew depots (e.g. Hove from Brighton) and are less efficient, involving driver time in taxis. Siemens new depot at Three Bridges is now the main centre for the Thameslink fleet, and overall the depot capacity on Southern is just about sufficient from what I have seen, although it is inflexible and inefficient.

It then goes on to list problems at specific locations.

Ashford

Perhaps the late choice of Maidstone East station, as a terminus, has meant that a site hasn’t really been found for a depot at Ashford.

Bedford

The depot is unsuitable for 12-car fixed formation Class 700 trains, which block the entrance.

Cambridge

The facility is currently unsuitable for 12 car fixed formation trains and the current trains have to be uncoupled to be accommodated.

North Kent

The original plan was to increase stabling facilities at Slade Green, but this has now been established to cost £72m and too expensive. An alternative is urgently needed.

The report sums up the depot issues like this.

All of the above issues need to be finalised before the driver recruitment plans can be commenced, as the driver recruitment strategy must be decided around the stabling locations of the trains, and driver depot facilities, including parking, must be included in the scheme
implementation.

It also goes on to say, that more trains may need to be ordered to increase capacity on the Brighton Main Line and that a new depot will be needed.

Bombardier’s Class 345 Trains For Crossrail

Before I add my fourpennyworth on depot issues, I will look at some of the features of Bombardier’s Class 345 trains.

All Trains Are The Same Length

It is intended that all trains will be the same nine-car length, although at the present time, the trains under test in East London are a couple of cars short of a full train.

This is mainly because the platforms in Liverpool Street, are not long enough for a full train and won’t be lengthened until a year or so.

I suspect too, it enables Bombardier to build the trains in a more efficient manner and test out each type of coach fully.

One of the advantages in having all trains of the same length, is that you maximise the capacity in a depot and as on both routes, the manufacturer pays for the main depots, a correctly-sized depot will reduce costs.

Note that Thameslink’s main depots don’t seem to have issues, so can we assume they were well-designed?

The Class 345 Trains Have No Toilets

There was a bit of a fuss, when this was announced, as I wrote about  in Do Crossrail Trains Need Toilets?.

But given that many Crossrail stations have toilets on the platforms and trains are every ten minutes, no toilets on the train gives advantages.

  • There is no toilet on the train that needs regular cleaning and fails occasionally.
  • Overnight servicing of the train does not need the toilet to be emptied.

I also suspect that the modular nature of the Class 345 train would allow one to be fitted if required.

Class 345 Trains Are Designed For Remote Wake-Up

Remote wake-up is detailed in this snippet from an article in the Derby Telegraph

Unlike today’s commuter trains, Aventra can shut down fully at night and can be “woken up” by remote control before the driver arrives for the first shift.

So could we see a train parked up at night in the sidings at the end of the line, after forming the last train from London? The train would then call home and report any problems, which would be sorted if needed, by perhaps a local or mobile servicing team. In the morning, the driver would turn up and find that the train was warm and ready to form the first train of the day up to London.

So imagine a Class 345 train finishes its last journey of the day in a platform at Shenfield station or a convenient stabling siding.

  • The driver checks the train for sleeping bankers, locks up and goes home.
  • The train reports to Ilford, that a couple of light bulbs have failed.
  • The servicing and cleaning team arrive and get the train pristine for the morning.
  • The train shuts down fully and all power is switched off to the overhead wires, so trespassers won’t be electrocuted.
  • At an appropriate time, the train is signalled to come to life and warms up ready for the day, using battery power.
  • The driver arrives and when signalled joins the main line, raises the pantograph and takes the train on its way.

When I once described this process to a driver from Northern going to pick up a Class 156 train in Halifax, he had a big smile.

In some ways, it’s a bit like parking your car out on the street.

  • Except that for trains, you need a convenient piece of track.
  • As power will be needed to warm the train up in the morning and you don’t want 25 KVAC  live wires about, the only source of power possible is a battery.
  • If the train had a toilet, it would be a more complicated process.

What will the devious Derbians think of next?

Solving GTR’s Depot Problems

In my view there is one big difference between Thameslink and Crossrail.

With Crossrail, which was in part a new railway line, every component was designed so it fitted together like a giant three-dimensional jigsaw.

But Thameslink was designed by different teams over a series of decades.

As we can’t go back to square one on Thameslink we have to make the best of what we’ve been left with.

Bombardier’s remote wake-up concept is a straight steal from some upmarket road vehicles, so why haven’t Siemens stolen it? Especially, as the Derby Telegraph article dates from June 2011. Perhaps, their press cuttings agency doesn’t read that newspaper?

If they had developed the technology, it would certainly help with remote stabling of trains, as you can have a much simpler facility.

The Problem Of Cambridge

I discuss this in Cambridge Depot

The Problem Of North Kent

Chris Gibbs suggest creating a new depot at Hoo Junction, which I discuss in Hoo Junction Depot

Thameslink’s Mixed Length Fleet

Thameslink also have a curious mix of eight-car and twelve-car trains, whereas Crossrail have sensibly opted for a common length, which as I said, must be much easier to store.

Intriguingly, both Greater Anglia and South Western Railway have ordered mixed fleets of five and ten-car Aventras. But most six-year-olds can tell you that 5+5=10.

The decision to buy a mixed length fleet of twelve and eight-car trains for Thameslink has caused a lot of these depot and a few other problems.

I wrote more about the problem in Has Thameslink Got The Wrong Length Of Train?.

I think in the end, Thameslink will lengthen the eight-car trains to twelve-cars and then lengthen the short platforms on the Sutton loop Line and a few other places.

This would create sixteen per-cent more capacity through the central tunnel, by making all trains twelve-cars.

But that is an expensive way to solve the problem created by not designing Thameslink as a continuous twelve-car railway.

Conclusion

It’s a bloody-great mess.

If you compare depot philosophies at  Crossrail, Greater Anglia and Thameslink, the first two companies seem to have developed a comprehensive purchase and maintenance solution for all their new trains, whereas Thameslink have worked on the basis that it will be alright in the end.

These factors don’t help Thameslink.

  • The choice of a mix of eight- and twelve-car trains.
  • The inability to join two short trains together to make a long train.
  • The design of a Class 700 train, which appears to be geared more towards a traditional depot.

I will be accused of being patriotic, but having ridden in both Class 700 and Class 345 trains, I’m coming to the conclusion, that Thameslink should have bought Aventras.

I would also have to ask, if Krefeld in Germany is a better place than Derby, for decision makers to visit.

July 8, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Do The Addresses Of Train Operating Companies Put People Off Writing?

I write the odd letter of complaint or praise to various companies, although I can’t remember writing one to a train operating company for some time.

I have a feeling it might have been to London Overground about something, but I do remember a reply, but what it was about, I have no idea.

In going through Chris Gibbs report on Govia Thameslink Railway, I asked myself, where their customer support is situated.

The page is comprehensive with the postal address being in Ashby-de-la-Zouch in Leicestershire.

So if you were complaining or praising something would you think that this disconnected address is in some anonymous Call Centre in Leicestershire and not bother?

I checked a few other companies.

  • Chiltern – Banbury
  • East Midlands Trains – Derby
  • Greater Anglia – Norwich
  • London Overground – Swiss Cottage

Incidentally, Great Western don’t say, but the address is Freepost GWR Customer Support.

I think the GWR approach is probably the most professional, as it means they can put the customer support in the most convenient place and if they should move it, the post will still get through.

 

July 8, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment