The Anonymous Widower

Gatwick Rail Service Could Link Far Reaches Of The South East

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Surrey Live.

Despite being reported on Surrey Live and the fact that Gatwick is in Sussex, the plan has been proposed by Kent County Council’s Rail Project Manager.

The plan would extend the existing Great Western railway line – which runs from Reading to Gatwick via Redhill – to mid and east Kent.

The article suggests the service could go between Reading and Canterbury West stations.

This table sums up the connectivity.

I have a few thoughts.

The Terminal Stations

The suitability of the two proposed terminals can be summed up.

  • Reading has been designed as a terminal station, with five bay platforms, three of which can be used by Gatwick services.
  • Canterbury West has not been designed as a terminal station and has no bay platforms.

Perhaps Ashford International station would be a better Eastern terminal?

  • It has Eurostar services.
  • Trains can terminate in Platform 1 and go to Tonbridge.
  • It has lots of car parking.

Dover Priority and Ramsgate could also be possibilities as they have terminal platforms.

Connecting At Gatwick Airport

It looks like a combined service might get complicated in the Redhill/Gatwick area.

  • Trains between Reading and Gatwick go via Redhill station, where they reverse.
  • There is no direct route between Tonbridge and Gatwick, so trains will probably have to reverse at Redhill, to go between Tonbridge and Gatwick.

Would a service between Reading and Ashford, that reversed twice at Redhill and once at Gatwick, be rather tricky to operate? Or even unpopular with passengers?

This Google Map shows Redhill station and the lines leading South from the station.

Note.

  • Redhill station at the top of the map.
  • The Brighton Main Line running North-South in the middle of the map.
  • The North Downs Line to Guildford and Reading curving West from the station.
  • The Redhill and Tonbridge Line to Tonbridge and Ashford leaving the map in the South-East corner.

I suspect that adding extra tracks in a very crowded area will be very difficult.

What Do The Timings Show?

A quick calculation, which is based on current timings, can give a journey time for between Ashford and Gatwick Airport.

  • Ashford and Tonbridge – Southeastern timing – 38 minutes
  • Tonbridge and Redhill – Southern timing – 35 minutes
  • Reverse at Redhill – GWR timing – 4 minutes
  • Redhill and Gatwick – GWR timing – 8 minutes

This gives a total of eighty-five minutes.

  • Google says that you can drive it in sixty-three minutes.
  • If you took the train today, between Ashford International and Gatwick Airport stations, the fastest rail journey is around 110 minutes with a change at St. Pancras International.

It does look though that a faster train between Kent and Gatwick Airport could be competitive, as going via London certainly isn’t!

Could Simplification And Automation Provide A Solution?

Consider.

  • The Ashford International and Tonbridge timing, that I have used includes five stops.
  • The Tonbridge and Redhill timing, that I have used includes five stops.
  • How much time would be saved by only stopping at Tonbridge between Ashford International and Gatwick?
  • Could automation handle a fast reverse at Redhill, where passengers couldn’t board or leave the train?
  • Would a driver in each cab, allow the reverses to be done faster?

Trains going between Reading and Ashford International, would call at the following stations between Guildford and Tonbridge.

  • Dorking Deepdene
  • Reigate
  • Redhill
  • Gatwick Airport
  • Redhill – A quick Touch-And-Go.
  • Tonbridge
  • Paddock Wood

If two minutes a stop could be saved at each of the nine omitted stops and at each reverse, this would save twenty minutes East of Gatwick, which would give the following timings.

  • Gatwick and Tonbridge – 27 minutes
  • Gatwick and Ashford International – 65 minutes

Timings would be compatible with driving.

West of Gatwick, the service would be as the current GWR service.

  • After arriving at Gatwick from Ashford, the train would reverse.
  • En route it would reverse at Redhill, to continue to Reading.

Passengers wanting to go between say Tonbridge and Redhill, would use this reverse at Redhill to join and leave the train.

It would be an unusual way to operate a train service, but I feel it could be made to work, especially with the right automation and/or a second driver.

Trains For The Service

The service can be split into various legs between Ashford and Reading.

  • Ashford and Tonbridge – Electrified – 26.5 miles – 38 minutes
  • Tonbridge and Redhill – Electrified – 20 miles – 35 minutes
  • Redhill and Gatwick – Electrified – 7 miles – 8 minutes
  • Gatwick and Redhill – Electrified – 7 miles – 8 minutes
  • Redhill and Reigate – Electrified – 2 miles – 4 minutes
  • Reigate and Shalford Junction – Not Electrified – 17 miles – 20 minutes
  • Shalford Junction and North Camp – Electrified – 9 miles – 11 minutes
  • North Camp and Wokingham – Not Electrified – 11 miles – 14 minutes
  • Wokingham and Reading – Electrified – 7 miles and 9 minutes

Note.

  1. Ashford, Tonbridge, Redhill, Gatwick, Guildford, Wokingham and Reading are all fully-electrified main line stations.
  2. Most of the route and the two ends are electrified.
  3. All electrification is 750 VDC third rail.
  4. All sections without electrification are less than twenty miles.

This route would surely be ideal for a battery electric train.

As both the Heathrow and Gatwick Express services are run using Class 387 trains and the Stansted Express has used Class 379 trains for the last few years, similar trains to these might be an ideal choice, if they could be fitted with battery power and the ability to use 750 VDC third-rail electrification.

The facts seem to be on the side of this service.

  • There are spare Class 387 trains and some more will be released by c2c in the next few years.
  • Greater Anglia will be replacing their Class 379 trains with new Class 745 trains.
  • A Class 379 train was used to test the concept of battery electric trains.
  • Both class of trains could be fitted with third-rail gear.

Either of these trains could be used for the service.

As they are 100 or 110 mph trains with good acceleration, they might even save a few minutes on the journey.

Infrastructure Changes

I suspect they could be minimal, once it was worked out how to handle the three reverses in the Gatwick and Redhill area.

Conclusion

I think it would be a feasible plan to run an Ashford and Reading service via Gatwick.

I would also decarbonise the route at the same time, as it must be one of the easiest routes in the country to run using battery electric trains.

  • There is electrification at both ends and in the middle.
  • The longest stretch of track without electrification is just seventeen miles.
  • All charging could be done using existing electrification.
  • There are platforms at both ends, where trains can get a full charge.
  • There are trains available, that are suitable for conversion to battery trains for the route.
  • No extra infrastructure would be needed.
  • Battery electric trains would allow extension of the route to Oxford in the West.

How many extra passengers would be persuaded to take the train to Gatwick, by the novelty of a battery electric Aurport Express?

Marketing men and women would love the last point!

 

 

September 19, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

HS4Air Between Gatwick Airport And Ashford

This map clipped from the Expedition Engineering web site, shows the route of HS4Air between Gatwick Airport and Ashford International station.

The route reuses the existing railway between Ashford International and Edenbridge (Kent) stations.

From Gatwick Airport To Edenbridge

This Google Map shows the countryside between Gatwick and Edenbridge.

According to the first map, the Gatwick Tunnel emerges to the East of the M23 Motorway, which runs North-South down the left side of the map.

It probably emerges South of the Airport spur from the M23 and then it would travel on the surface to Edenbridge (Kent) station, which is in the North East corner of the map.

It looks to be a very challenging route, although there are several industrial sites scattered between the M23 and Lingfield, which is perhaps halfway between the motorway and Edenbridge.

This Google Map shows Edenbridge (Kent) station with the Redhill-Tonbridge Line passing through.

It would appear that the engineering could be reasonably attainable, but getting the natives on-side might not be so easy.

It’s not as though the residents between Edenbridge and Gatwick will get much benefit from HS4Air.

From Edenbridge To Ashford

This line has the following characteristics.

  • It is around forty miles long.
  • It is almost straight.
  • It is double track.
  • There are several stops.
  • There is a maximum speed of 100 mph

It doesn’t appear to have many more than about four trains per hour (tph) in both directions.

Very little has been said about how HS4Air will transform the line, except that it will be upgraded to a high speed line.

The only information of value is that Ashford to Gatwick will take 25 minutes.

How far would a train go in that time at various speeds?

  • 100 mph – 42 miles
  • 125 mph – 52 miles
  • 140 mph – 58 miles

As the route between Edenbridge and Gatwick is probably around a dozen miles, it would appear that a well-designed 125 mph route could enable the time quoted by HS4Air.

Local Stations On The High Speed Line

I’ll take Penshurst station as an example.

This Google Map shows the station.

Note that it is very simple with a platform on each line.

Currently, it gets a single tph in both directions.

HS4Air would probably mean that at least another four tph, passed through the station at 125 mph.

It could be argued that this could cause safety problems.

On the other hand, there are many stations in the UK, where local trains stop and expresses go through at 125 mph.

Platform-edge doors would be a difficult and expensive solution, but why not make access to the platform only possible, when a train is stopping?

Looking at Penshurst station, this station also needs some more facilities, like a fully accessible footbridge.

Conclusion

The Gatwick to Ashford section can be converted into a 125 mph route,  which would give a time of 25 minutes between the two stations.

However, I do think there will have to be a lot of political leverage to get it built.

July 27, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Ashford Spurs On Track

The title of this post is the same as an article in the December 2017 Edition of Modern Railways.

I wrote about the Ashford Spurs in Kent On The Cusp Of Change – Ashford Spurs.

The Modern Railways article starts with this paragraph.

The launch of Eurostar e320 services from Ashford International has been pencilled in for 3 April 2018, foillowing progress with the Ashford Spurs project.

Surely, a result of their completion will be that more services will stop at Ashford International station.

November 27, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Gibb Report – Ashford – Hastings Route Should Be Transferred To The New Southeastern Franchise

The Gibb Report, says that the Ashford – Hastings route should be transferred to the new Southeastern franchise.

The Gibb Report says this about the operation of the route.

The Ashford – Hastings route is currently a service operated by 12 Class 171 diesel units, running as through services from Ashford / Hastings to Eastbourne and Brighton. The trains run empty to and from GTR’s Selhurst depot for maintenance. GTR’s 2018 Timetable consultation has proposed reducing the service back to Ashford / Hastings, and concentrating the fleet there to provide more capacity to relieve current overcrowding.
In my opinion this service in its new form, in December, 2018, should transfer to the new South Eastern franchise.

Bidders for that franchise should be asked to include it, and identify the most efficient way to run the revised service, and maintain the trains in Kent or East Sussex rather than Selhurst. Other possibilities exist that bidders should explore, such as bi-mode trains and electrification.

Bidders will already be obliged to review arrangements for train maintenance and stabling as part of providing additional train capacity on South Eastern for the future. There are potential under utilised and rail connected depot facilities at Ashford and St Leonards, Hastings, that bidders will no doubt consider as part of their wider depot strategy.

It looks to me that this is not an efficient way to provide a service.

In Highspeed To Hastings, I outlined how Southeastern Highspeed services from St. Pancras would reach Hastings and Eastbourne. The most likely method seems to be by using a train with onboard energy storage, as bi-mode trains would have problems running with diesel in the tanks under London.

It should also be born in mind, that with the completion of the Ashford Spurs, that Ashford would become a more important stop for services going to and from the Continent.

So I suspect, there could be a strong case for a South Coast Express between Ashford and Bournemouth via Hastings, Eastbourne, Brighton, Portsmouth and Southampton.

This service could be a nightmare to organise, as it involves three franchise areas.

  • Southeastern.
  • Southern
  • South Western Railway.

Bur several of my friends on the South Coast would benefit from such a service.

  • The guy in Southampton, who regularly goes to Paris and Brussels.
  • The guy near Chichester, who likes to visit his old school-friends in Brighton.
  • People in Brighton, who would move to Hastings to take advantage of lower house prices and continue to work in Brighton.

Often people have to drive and they spend a long time on the South Coast’s incomplete road network.

Conclusion

Chris Gibb may be right, as regards Govia Thameslink Railway, but he is ignoring the wider picture.

July 8, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 3 Comments

Kent On The Cusp Of Change – Thameslink

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

This is said.

Under the Thameslink plans, due to come in next May, are two trains per hour (tph) Maidstone East to Cambridge and 2 tph Rainham to Luton, while the longstanding Sevenoaks via Bat & Ball to Blackfriars service will be extended to Welwyn Garden City in the peaks.

The Rainham to Luton service effectively creates a four tph service through the Medway towns to Abbey Wood, Greenwich, London Bridge and beyond.

The Maidstone East to Cambridge service, also creates four tph between London and Otford.

Onward From Maidstone East

I do wonder if the powers that be, looked at extending the service to Maidstone East station to the well-connected Ashford International station.

Consider.

  • With the opening of the Ashford Spurs in Spring 2018, South East London and a lot more of Kent would have good access to Continental services.
  • Thameslink would have a Southern access to Thanet to complement the Northern access at Rainham.
  • Stations on the Maidstone Line could get four tph.

As Maidstone East to Ashford International takes thirty minutes, I suspect the extra time needed, makes scheduling trains difficult.

On the other hand, the Class 700 trains, probably execute stops faster than the current trains.

Could Thameslink Serve Ebbsfleet International Station?

If the Fawkham Junction Link is reinstated, this is a possibility.

Could A Catford Interchange Improve Thameslink?

The Maidstone East and Sevenoaks services both go through Catford station, which is close to Catford Bridge station.

Transport for London have said several times, that they would like to create a consolidated Catford Interchange station.

If one were to be created, could there be a bit of tidying up of services through the area, in much the same way as Gatwick Airport station acts as an important interchange on the Brighton Main Line?

Could Thameslink Capacity Be Increased?

I feel that Thameslink’s decision to serve Maidstone East and Rainham stations is a good one, but I suspect there are strips of paper on the Timetabling Room floor with other Kent and Sussex stations on them, like Ashford International, Canterbury, Dover, Hastings and Uckfield.

I also think too, that there may be stations, where additional trains could be desirable.

So could the current twenty-four trains through the central core of Thameslink be increased?

I think the answer is probably in the affirmative, as signalling, driver aids and the drivers themselves will get better, as the system develops.

In this article in Rail Engineer entitled Crossrail – approaching the final stages, this is said.

When the new Elizabeth line opens, 24 trains per hour will operate in each direction through the centre of London. The new signalling system will incorporate Automatic Train Operation to support this service, with the capacity for higher frequency of 30 trains per hour in the future. As a consequence, Siemens is installing the Communications-Based Train Control system (CBTC). It is similar to one already successfully installed in Copenhagen, so expectations are high.

So could similar techniques be used in Thameslink to create another six paths an hour.

That would still only be one train every two minutes.

I suspect too, capacity could be increased by lengthening some trains from eight to twelve cars.

Conclusion

Thameslink is very tied up with the Southeastern franchise.

See Also

These are related posts.

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

June 29, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kent On The Cusp Of Change – Reading To Tonbridge

The Kent On The Cusp Of Change article in the July 2017 Edition of Modern Railways talks about reopening a service between Reading and Tonbridge stations.

This is said.

Kent County Council has recommended the restitution of through services to Reading, as existed many years ago when the route was operated by ‘Thumper’ stock. The council says that consideration should be given to a future option of providing a through Ashford – Tonbridge – Redhill – Gatwick – Redhill – Guildford – Reading service, potentially as a joint operation between the Great Western Railway (GWR) and South Eastern franchises.

This could build on the existing service level between Reading and Gatwick provided by GWR, and would link together several of the major towns of the south-east region with each other and with their local international airport.

The introduction of bi-mode rolling stock now being deployed across the railway network would resolve the problem of gaps in the electric power system on sections of this route.

In The East-Facing Bay Platforms At Reading Station, I talked about using trains with batteries to perform this service and considered it feasible.

I still do, but then bog-standard bi-mode trains might be a better option in terms of cost.

I also believe that a Reading to Ashford service via Gatwick Airport would be a very valuable route with the following connections.

  • Wales and the West at Reading station.
  • Gatwick Airport
  • Hastings at Tonbridge station.
  • Rail services to the Continent at Ashford station.

I also think, that once more Continental services stop at Ashford, as I indicated in Ashford Spurs, that this rail link could be one of those rail routes where usage is way about any forecast.

Conclusion

Given Gatwick Airport’s ambititious plans, I rate an Ashford to Reading service as a high possibility.

See Also

These are related posts.

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

 

June 27, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 16 Comments

Kent On The Cusp Of Change – Ashford Spurs

The Kent On The Cusp Of Change article in the July 2017 Edition of Modern Railways talks of the Ashford Spurs.

Not a new Kentish football team, but possibly one of the most important developments in Kentish railways in the last couple of years.

Eurostar’s Class 373 And Class 374 Trains

Eurostar are replacing their original fleet of Class 373 trains, with smart new Class 374 trains.

The Class 373 trains were built in the 1990s and were designed to run on both high speed and traditional lines and they had signalling systems to allow this.

Wikipedia says this about Class 373 Signalling Systems.

The class have multiple signalling systems, leading to a cluttered control desk. These include

  • Automatic Warning System, the British signalling system (induction-based), used in the Ashford area

  • Train Protection & Warning System, the warning system that supplements AWS, used in the Ashford area

  • Transmission Voie-Machine (TVM), used on lignes à grande vitesse, on Eurotunnel tracks, and on High Speed 1.

  • Contrôle de vitesse par balises, used between Paris Gare du Nord and the LGV Nord, on French lignes classiques and the HS1-connected throat around St Pancras. It is electro-mechanical with fixed radio beacons.

  • TBL, the Belgian signalling system (electro-mechanical), used between Brussels-South and HSL 1, Belgium.

Perhaps this is why multi-tasking is needed to be a train driver.

On the other hand, the Class 374 trains have just one signalling system, that can be used in the UK, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. And that is just for starters. Wikipedia says this about the operation of the two trains.

Eurostar International’s existing fleet of Class 373 “Eurostar e300” trains, which date from the opening of the Channel Tunnel in 1993, cannot operate under the 15 kV AC overhead line (OHLE) electrification system used in Germany, most cannot operate under the 1.5 kV DC overhead line (OHLE) electrification system used in the Netherlands and they do not have sufficient space to install ERTMS signalling. Therefore, Eurostar cannot use its Class 373 units on services to these countries and the Class 374 was designed and built to go where the Class 373 could never go. The Class 374 has replaced around half of the Class 373s, with some Class 373s being scrapped in the UK after the introduction of the new trains.

Class 374 Trains And Ashford International Station

The one place, where the Class 374 trains can’t go on the existing network is Ashford International station, as the platforms for high speed trains are on a loop from the high speed lines, which go over the station on a flyover.

Consequently, services from Ashford to the Continent have to use the older trains.

The Track Layout At Ashford International Station

This diagram from Wikipedia shows the lines through Ashford International station.

Note how the two main tracks of High Speed One use a flyover to get out of the way of Ashford International station. The Ashford Spurs connect the lines through the two platforms to High Speed One.

The Ashford Spurs Project

The Ashford Spurs resignalling project will allow the new Class 374 trains to call at Ashford International station, when it is completed in Spring 2018.

Eurostar trains will stop at Ashford, as required by the number of passengers who want to use the service at Ashford.

At present, three trains per day (tpd) to Paris and one tpd to Brussels call at Ashford, as against to five and four respectively at Ebbsfleet International station.

I suspect that the Class 374 trains can execute a stop faster than the older trains, so I think we’ll see Ashford getting a much improved service to the Continent.

The Modern Railways article also indicates that there will be a lot more connecting services to and from Ashford station, so passengers between Thanet and along the South Coast to Brighton and even Southampton, wanting to go to and from the Continent, will use Ashford for convenience.

There will be a lot of collateral benefits to things like house prices in the far South-East of England.

I would also feel that the area, would be an ideal business base for someone supporting an International business, that needs quick access to Amsterdam, Brussels, Cologne, London and Paris.

I believe that all the places I mentioned, will have fast direct trains to and from Ashford in a few years, with a customer-friendly frequency.

Conclusion

This project is reported to be costing less than five million pounds and it must be returning more than that to Kent.

See Also

These are related posts.

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

June 27, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 19 Comments