The Anonymous Widower

Abbey Line Passing Loop Proposed

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in the June 2019 Edition of Modern Railways.

Bricket Wood station used to be an important station on the Abbey Line, with grand buildings and a passing loop to allow trains to run a thirty-minute service as opposed to the current inconvenient train every forty-five minutes.

Consultants have now said that a traditional passing loop, with a second platform and a bridge would cost up to £10million, which is probably not viable.

The Penryn Solution

The article says this about the consultants’ alternative solution.

The platform at Bricket Wood be lengthened such that trains stop at different ends of a single platform, similar to the solution adopted in Penryn on the branch line from Truro to Falmouth, which would help to minimise costs.

This Google Map shows Penryn station.

Note the long single platform in the station.

This section in the Wikipedia entry called Signalling, gives a full explanation of the method of operation at Penryn.

Bricket Wood station already has a platform, that can take a comfortably take a four-car Class 319 train, as this Google Map shows.

There also appears to be space to put a second track alongside the current single track.

Does The New Track Need To Be Fully-Electrified?

Battery trains are coming and there are several trains that can use both electric and battery power under development, in the UK, Europe and Japan.

Bricket Wood station is 3.5 miles from the Watford Junction end of the Abbey Line and perhaps three miles from the St. Albans end.

n an article in the October 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, which is entitled Celling England By The Pound, Ian Walmsley says this in relation to trains running on the Uckfield Branch, which is not very challenging, as is the Abbey Line.

A modern EMU needs between 3 and 5 kWh per vehicle mile for this sort of service.

So if a four-car electric-battery hybrid train was to handle the whole of the 6.5 mile route, it would need a battery of between 156-260 kWh to go between Watford Junction and St. Albans Abbey stations and back.

But supposing trains used the current electrification between Watford Junction and Bricket Wood stations to both power the train and charge their batteries.

  • The trains would only be doing six miles on batteries, so the battery would be between 72-120 kWh.
  • Trains would raise and lower their pantographs at Bricket Wood station.
  • No new electrification would be required.

It might be preferential to remove electrification between St. Albans Abbey and Bricket Wood stations to save maintenance costs and improve safety.

Should The Abbey Line Be Transferred To Transport for London?

There have been suggestions in the past, that the route be transferred to Transport for London.

I’ll leave the politics aside, but electric-battery hybrid versions of London Overground’s Class 710 trains, which will soon be serving Watford Junction station would be ideal.

Conclusion

There are certainly, affordable ways to improve the Abbey Line.

 

May 24, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Very Smart Class 319 Train

On my trip to Bricket Wood station yesterday, I travelled from Watford Junction station in a very smart Class 319 train.

These pictures show the train.

It certainly shows how Mark 3-based stock has the ability to scrub up well!

West Midlands Trains have nine of these Class 319 trains, which are mainly used for peak hour services on the West Coast Main Line.

One gets used on the Abbey Line.

The current arrangement probably works reasonably well from the train operators point of view.

However, passengers probably need a regular half-hourly service, which would need two trains and a passing loop at Bricket Wood station.

These trains are going to be replaced with new five-car Class 730 trains in 2020-21.

Will these new trains be used on the Abbey Line?

If the passing loop is installed at Bricket Wood, then two trains might be able to provide a half-hourly service. Although, having seen Bricket Wood station yesterday, a passing loop with electrification and a second platform would be a more expensive .option.

I discuss the various options in Could Modern Technology And Developments Improve the Abbey Line?.

June 26, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , | 2 Comments

Bricket Wood Station – 25th June 2018

These pictures show Bricket Wood station on the Abbey Line.

It was a tidy clean station served by a very smart Class 319 train.

Wikipedia says the following about the future of the station.

Installation of Oyster card readers on the stations along the branch is a possibility, although there are other ticketing options too.

Restoration of the crossing loop is being considered by the local authorities and Network Rail, which would facilitate trains running every 30 minutes.

Both actions would appear to be sensible. In Could Modern Technology And Developments Improve the Abbey Line?, I discuss how by using trains with batteries and a loop without electrification, may be an alternative way to install a passing loop.

I suspect that the station is long enough for a six-car train.

June 25, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

Could Modern Technology And Developments Improve the Abbey Line?

The Abbey Line runs between Watford Junction and St. Albans Abbey stations.

It has a few problems.

Frequency

The track layout means that trains generally run every forty-five minutes, which is not very passenger friendly.

The line needs at least a half-hourly service and it would appear from Wikipedia and other sources, that this could be achieved by re-instating the passing loop at Bricket Wood station.

Elderly Trains

West Midlands Trains have promised new trains for the line, to replace the current Class 319 train.

Although, these Class 319 trains are much better than their arge, as I said in A Very Smart Class 319 Train.

As West Midlands Trains, use these trains for services on the West Coast Main Line, it probably helps with staffing and maintenance.

But these trains are being replaced by five-car Class 730 trains. Will the shittle train be replaced by another Aventra?

Reliability

Search the Internet for “Abbey Line St. Albans” and you find news stories with headlines like these.

  • No Abbey Flyer Trains Between St. Albans And Watford
  • Abbey Line Breaks Down Again
  • St. Albans Abbey Flyer Users Fund Raising To Improve Train Line
  • No Trains On St Albans Abbey Flyer Line After Fault With Shut

It would appear that the Abbey Line has a reliability problem.

A Simple Solution

The simplest possible solution to improve the line with a half-hourly service would be as follows.

  • Reinstate the passing loop at Bricket Wood station.
  • Acquire a fleet of three Class 730 trains of an appropriate length.

This Google Map shows Bricket Wood station.

Note the single platform with a single track.

There would appear to be plenty of space for a passing loop on the opposite side to the platform..

The Class 730 trains are Bombardier Aventras and I believe strongly, that all Aventras have batteries. So surely this is just the place to be innovative, with the use of battery technology?

The loop would be built without electrification and the track layout would be such that two trains could easily pass using battery power. Pantographs would be raised and lowered as required.

Suppose the loop started in the middle of the platform and perhaps extended for two hundred metres in the Watford direction..

  • The two trains would arrive at the station, with one on each side of the entry to the loop.
  • The Watford-bound train, would switch to battery power in the station and use the loop to pass the other train to continue towards Watford.
  • The Watford-bound train could either switch back to overhead power as soon as it regained the electrified track or wait until it is safely in the next station.
  • When the line is clear, the St. Albans-bound train would continue on its way, using overhead power.

It might also be possible for trains to go towards St. Albans using the overhead power and towards Watford on battery power, with all changeovers of power source taking place at the terminal stations, where turn-round time will be several minutes.

These are some pictures of Bricket Wood station.

My only worry is that the platforms may only be big enough for six-car trains.

Perhaps, to avoid lengthening the platforms at Bricket Wood station, two three-car Class 730 trains could be used?

Use of the five-car trains would probably require electrification of the loop, a second platform and a footbridge, which would be a much more expensive solution.

A Class 769 Train Solution

The Class 769 train is a bi-mode version of the Class 319 train. So could these work the simple passing loop without electrification?

At four-cars, they may be short enough to work the route without building a second platform at Bricket Wood station.

But the solution would probably need the current platform to be extended to accommodate two trains.

They would use diesel power to go through the passing loop.

Passengers would effectively get a twice as frequent service, using similar trains to the current ones.

A Class 230 Train Solution

As West Midlands Trains are also using Class 230 trains on the Marston Vale Line, which can work on electric, diesel and battery power, I can’t see any reason, why these trains couldn’t be used on the Abbey Line.

They would use diesel or battery power to navigate the loop without electrification.

These trains are affordable, short in length and are designed for remote servicing, but is capacity  and speed sufficient?

A Tram-Train Solution

The same Stadler tram-trains with batteries, that are being used on the South Wales Metro could also be used on the Abbey Line.

They would operate as trains, in the same ways as the Aventras, using batteries to navigate a passing loop without electrification.

This solution would have the disadvantage of West Midlands Trains introducing another type of train, but the tram-trains could go walkabout in Watford and/or St. Albans at the two ends of the route.

Under Past Proposals in the Wikipedia entry for the Abbey Line, this is said about a possible conversion to light rail.

In October 2009 Secretary of State for Transport Lord Adonis announced a plan to increase frequency on the line by allowing Hertfordshire County Council to lease the line from Network Rail and converting it to light rail from 2011. It was hoped that this would be possible for the same amount of subsidy the line received, as the new infrastructure required, such as a passing loop would be cheaper for light rail than heavy rail. Longer-term proposals envisaged extensions into Watford town centre via Clarendon Road and High Street, and St Albans city centre, possibly as far as St Albans City railway station, and possible re-instatement of the line to Hatfield.

This Google Map shows Watford Junction station

Note.

  1. The Abbey Line leaves the map in the North East corner.
  2. Clarendon Road runs South from the middle of the map.

I think it would be possible to build a bridge to take the trams over the railway.

There could even be a high-level platform for the tram-trains above the station with connections to the current heavy rail platforms.

What I have outlined here, is a classic use of a tram-train to allow trains on a heavy rail route, to extend to a town or city centre, by operating as trams.

Could Thr Abbey Line Be Linked To The Troubled Croxley Rail Link?

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the lines at Watford Junction.

Note.

  1. The Abbey Line goes North from Platform 11.
  2. The lines shown in orange are the Watford DC Line of the London Overground, that go to London via Watford High Street station.
  3. The dotted purple line is the proposed route of the Croxley Rail Link.

I can’t find any references on the Internet to the possibility of a connection between the Abbey Line and the Croxley Rail Link.

I doubt that Metropolitan Line trains could go to St. Albans.

  • They are too long at 133 metres.
  • Extensive modifications to the track and platforms would be needed.
  • They lack the batteries to navigate the proposed passing loop.

But Stadler’s tram-trains might be able to go to Croxley station.

  • They are under forty metres long.
  • They weigh under seventy tonnes, which could help in the bridge design.
  • They could work the Abbey Line using the overhead power.
  • Batteries would enable using the proposed passing loop at Bricket Wood station.
  • I’m sure that Stadler’s innovative engineers could make their tram-trains run on third and London Underground rail electrification.
  • Battery power could be used on some of the route between Watford High Street and Croxley stations.

I’m sure that after sorting out Cardiff Bay, Stadler’s engineers will welcome the challenge of Watford Junction.

Developments At Watford Junction Station

Over the last few years, there have been various plans about improving train services through Watford Junction station.

  • It has been proposed that Crossrail is extended through the station.
  • The Bakerloo Line will be extended and it has been proposed that it terminate at Watford Junction.
  • West Midlands Trains will add extra services.
  • How will HS2 affect services on the West Coast Main Line?

In addition there are plans for more car parking and other developments at the station.

It strkes me that there is a possibility that an innovative architect will come up with a striking scheme, that could enable bridges for trams across the West Coast Main Line.

Conclusion

There are various possibilities to improve the Abbey Line, brought about by recent innovations in the use of batteries on trains and tram-trains.

In all cases, the line gets a half-hourly frequency from new trains.

On the other hand, as with the Croxley Rail Link, there seems to be a lot of ideas and plans in Watford, but no real leadership to get anything built at an affordable cost!

 

 

June 24, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 2 Comments

A Round Trip To St. Albans

Today, it looked like it was going to be miserable and wet.

I’d also been wanting to go to St. Albans to see the Abbey Line, which is one of those short connecting lines like Upminster to Romford and the Greenford branch.

So after checking the weather, which showed it might brighten up at lunchtime, I decided to take a chance.

These pictures show my round trip using Overground to Watford Junction and then the Abbey Line to St. Albans Abbey station before coming home from St. Albans City.

The pictures show I was right about the weather.

St. Albans is a medium-sized city with several attractions for visitors, but unfortunately whichever station you use to get to the city, it’s a walk up the hill.

If the city wants to attract more visitors by train, then it should inform visitors which bus they use to get up the hill. In fact, although they have quite a few fingerposts, St. Albans could do with a few maps.

 

 

June 7, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment