The Anonymous Widower

Planning Permission Granted For The First New Railway Station On The Northumberland Line

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

The station concerned is Ashington station.

One of the reasons, I wrote this post, is that the ITV article has a very good map of the railway being reopened.

These two paragraphs describe the station’s features.

The new platform will be approximately 100 metres long, with a range of facilities including waiting shelters, CCTV, help points and lighting.

Plans also include car park providing up to 270 spaces including 17 accessible spaces and 18 electric vehicle charging bays.

It also gives the reopening date of the railway as 2024, when the service will be a half-hourly one between Newcastle and Ashington stations that should take thirty-five minutes.

September 13, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Ashington Targets 2023 Opening

The title of this post, is the same as that of an article in the April 2021 Edition of Modern Railways.

This is the sub-title.

A half-hourly service to Newcastle is planned.

The two trains per hour (tph) service and the opening date sounds just what is needed. Not just on the Northumberland Line, but in many places in the UK.

I would suggest some of the following.

There are also some much-needed stations, that could be added.

If we can create and manufacture a vaccine in a year, we can surely do a lot on a rail project in two years. And a lot of them! How many construction firms and workers would it keep employed?

The Modern Railways article gives a few more details.

How, Not If

This is the title of the first sub-section and sounds good to me!

It looks like Network Rail and others intend to apply good project management to deliver the project, fast and at a good price.

They haven’t been the best in the past, is all I’ll say!

Six Stations

This is said.

In summary, six new stations are proposed, at Northumberland Park (interchange with the Tyne and Wear Metro), Seaton Delaval, Newsham, Blyth Bebside, Bedlington and Ashington. An extension at the Northern end to Woodhorn is possible at a later stage.

Other points made include.

  • Ashington is envisaged as the terminus.
  • There are level crossing issues between Ashington and Woodhorn
  • There will be a cycleway connecting Blyth Bebside with the town centre. With all those B’s, they need an Geordie equivalent to Boris bikes!

It sounds well-thought out to me.

Butterwell Freight Line

This is said.

Also for consideration at a later stage is conversion of the currently freight-only Butterwell Line to passenger use, permitting a service from Berwick-on-Tweed and Morpeth to Newcastle via Bedlington.

This Google Map shows the railway lines North of Ashington.

Note.

  1. The big grey building at the bottom of the map is Asda’s Ashington superstore.
  2. There is a rail junction to the West of the superstore.
  3. The line going South leds to Bedlington and Newcastle.
  4. The line going North-East goes to Woodhorn, Lynemouth Power station and the Alcan Smelter.
  5. The Line going North West through the trees is the Butterwell Line, which goes to the Butterwell Opencast coal mine, Widdrington station and up the East Coast Main Line to Berwick-on-Tweed.

This second Google Map shows to the North of the first one.

Note the Butterwell Line runs from the South East corner of the map through the woods and to the East of the Ellington landfill site.

This third Google Map shows the route of the line to the East Coast Main Line.

Note.

  1. The electrified East Coast Main Line runs North-South down the Western site of the map.
  2. The large fields may indicate that coal has been removed and they have been restored.
  3. The Butterwell Line meanders its way across the map.
  4. Trains would appear to be able to enter and leave the Butterwell Line to or from the East Coast Main Line to and from the South only.
  5. The next station to the South is Pegswood and to the North is Widdrington.
  6. At the East of the map, the line connects to the line to Ashington through the woods.
  7. The Butterwell Line appears to be a mix of single and double track.

I wonder if Network Rail and train companies have a cunning plan for train services on this section of the East Coast Main Line.

Current services on the East Coast Main Line, that use the section of the line between Newcastle and Berwick-upon-Tweed include.

  • CrossCountry – 1 tph – Newcastle and Edinburgh/Glasgow – Stops irregularly at Alnmouth and Berwick-upon-Tweed.
  • East Coast Trains – 5 trains per day (tpd) – Stops at Morpeth
  • LNER – 1 tph – Newcastle and Edinburgh – Stops at Berwick-on-Tweed
  • Northern Trains – 1 tph – Newcastle and Morpeth – Stops at Manors and Cramlington
  • Northern Trains – 2 tpd – Newcastle and Chathill – Stops at Manors, Cramlington, Morpeth, Pegswood, Widdrington, Acklington and Alnmouth
  • TransPennine Express – 1 tph – Newcastle and Edinburgh – Stops at Morpeth

Note.

  1. Morpeth and Berwick-upon-Tweed get at least one fast tph to both Newcastle and Edinburgh.
  2. Stations between Morpeth and Berwick-upon-Tweed get only a two tpd service.
  3. Stations between Newcastle and Morpeth get a 1 tph service.
  4. The East Coast Main Line is only two tracks and I suspect that Northern’s slow diesel multiple units are not ideal trains for the route.

The obvious improvement would surely be to run an hourly train between Newcastle and Berwick-upon-Tweed, via Bedlington.

  • It would stop at Northumberland Park, Seaton Delaval, Newsham, Blyth Bebside, Bedlington, Ashington, Pegswood, Morpeth, Pegswood, Widdrington, Acklington and Alnmouth.
  • There would be a reverse at Morpeth.
  • It would join the East Coast Main Line between Pegswood and Widdrington stations.
  • Trains could be timed, so that passengers between Cramlington and Alnmouth only waited a couple of minutes during change at Morpeth.
  • Faster trains would be used to ease train pathing on the East Coast Main Line.

Current fastest times between Newcastle, Morpeth and Berwick-upon-Tweed are as follows.

  • Berwick-on-Tweed and Newcastle – LNER – 67 miles – 46 minutes – 87 mph
  • Berwick-on-Tweed and Morpeth – LNER – 50.2 miles – 30 minutes – 100.4 mph
  • Morpeth and Newcastle – TransPennine Express- 17.5 miles – 26 minutes – 40.4 mph

It looks to me that because of the times North of Morpeth, that a high performance train or some cunning signalling will be needed.

Britishvolt’s Gigaplant

BritishVolt are building a factory to produce lithium-ion batteries at Blyth.

The Modern Railways article says this.

Recent news concerning Blyth is that it has been selected as the site for Britain’s first ‘gigaplant’ for electric car battery production, with a planning application for the 95-hectare site on the north of the river Blyth (the location of the former Blyth power station) submitted by Britishvolt in February. The £2.6billion scheme is expected to generate about 3000 jobs; if all goes well, lithium-ion batteries could be produced on the site by the end of 2023. The new factory will be about 2.5 miles from Bebside station and there has been talk of linking to the site with a shuttle bus.

I looked at Britishvolt’s web site and if I was graduating soon, I don’t think it would fire me up, unlike others in similar sectors.

We live in exciting times, so don’t have a boring web site, as it will not attract exciting and enthusiastic people.

This Google Map shows the Port of Blyth.

Note.

  1. The red arrow at the top of the map labelled as a former power station, which must be Blyth power station.
  2. There is certainly a large cleared site to the South of the arrow.
  3. The Port of Blyth is to the East.
  4. Because of the power station and the port the site could be rail connected fairly easily.

Britishvolt seem to be planning to use rail freight to bring in raw materials and take out finished product.

The Modern Railways article says this.

The new factory will be about 2.5 miles from Bebside station and there has been talk of linking to the site with a shuttle bus.

As there is a rail connection, at some point in the future could a shuttle train be used? Or perhaps a few trains per day between the factory and Newcastle.

A Bridge For The A1061 At Newsham

The Modern Railways article says this.

A new road bridge will be built on the A1061 to replace Newsham level crossing.

This Google Map shows where the Northumberland Line crosses the A1061 at the level crossing at Newsham.

Note.

  1. The railway is double-track through the level crossing.
  2. It doesn’t appear to be a challenging project.
  3. A bridge could either be built along the existing route or a few metres to the South.

But as it looks like there could be more housing development in the area, would a bold design, that would allow a station to be added later be better?

Two Footbridges

The Modern Railways article says this.

In addition, there will be two new footbridges; Palmersville Dairy (replacing Palmersville foot crossing) and Chase Meadows (replacing Chase Meadows foot crossing).

This Google Map shows the Palmersville foot crossing to the West of Palmersville station on the Tyne and Wear Metro.

Note.

  1. The Northern pair of tracks are the Tyne and Wear Metro.
  2. The Southern pair of Tracks are the Northumberland Line.
  3. Palmersville and Northumberland Park stations are to the East.
  4. The current foot crossing is shown over the Northumberland Line.

It would appear that there is plenty of space for a footbridge.

Two Trains Per Hour

The Modern Railways article says this about infrastructure improvements to enable two trains per hour.

An extension of the double-track south from Newsham, for about 1 km in the direction of Seaton Delaval, along with a new 2.4 km passing loop between Holywell and Seghill, are in place in order to permit a half-hourly service in both directions.

From the maps, it looks like about half the route between Northumberland Park station and Seghill will be double-track.

It may even be possible to extend the double-track further South towards Northumberland Park station, if there became a need to run more trains on the Northumberland Line.

Operations

The Modern Railways article says this.

It is assumed that Class 158 DMUs will be the rolling stock for the first couple of years of service to Ashington, with three or four units required. Conversion of these trains (or replacement with new) to allow battery-electric operation is envisaged for the later years of this decade. There will be provision for two-car services at the outset with passive provision for extension to four-cars in the infrastructure works.

In Trains: £34m For Revival Of 50-Year-Old North-East Railway Line, I felt that the Hitachi Regional Battery Trains would be ideal for this route.

I said this.

I’m drawn inextricably to the conclusion, that the trains should be 100 mph battery-electric trains.

Hitachi, who have a factory in the North-East, have announced their Regional Battery Train in July 2020, which is described in this Hitachi infographic.

These trains can be based on Class 385 trains.

    • They are 100 mph trains.
    • They come in three- and four-cars lengths.
    • The three-car trains have 206 seats.
    • They can work in pairs.
    • They can use 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
    • They have a range of 90 kilometres or 56 miles on battery power.
    • The batteries would be charged on the ECML between Benton North junction and Newcastle station.
    • The battery packs will be designed and manufactured by Hyperdrive Innovation in Sunderland.
    • They have big windows for the views.

I’m sure Hitachi, Hyperdrive and Britishvolt would like a fleet in service, just up the road from their factories.

Now that the extension to between Ashington and Berwick-upon-Tweed via Morpeth is being talked about, I suspect that battery-electric trains, will be ideal for this route.

Distances without electrification of the two routes are as follows.

  • Benton North Junction and Ashington – 19 miles – 38 miles round trip
  • Benton North Junction and Widdrington – 27 miles

These distances are well within the planned range of the Hitachi Regional Battery Trains and they would even be capable of working a round trip to Ashington without charging at the Northern end of the route.

Batteries can be charged on the East Coast Main Line on the following sections of the route.

  • Between Benton North Junction and Newcastle.
  • Between Morpeth and Berwick-upon-Tweed stations.

Their fast acceleration and 100 mph operating speed mean that it could keep out of the way of the 140 mph Hitachi trains North of Morpeth.

Calling At Manors Station

The Modern Railways article says that because the East Coast Main Line is so busy, some peak services may have to omit the call at Manors station in the suburbs of Newcastle that is envisaged for the off-peak services.

I wonder with their faster acceleration, if the Hitachi Regional Battery Trains would be able to handle the stop at Manors station for all services.

Development At Ashington

The Modern Railways article gives this quote from Network Rail’s manager for the reopening project.

For instance in the centre of Ashington there’s a rather grim 1960s tower block that is owned by the county council that could be replaced by something more appropriate to today’s needs. This is Wansbeck Square in the centre of the town; the square is in line to be remodelled to make it more attractive. The integrated station and development need to be delivered at the same time for maximum impact.

This Google Map shows the Northerland Line going through the centre of the town of Ashington.

Note.

  1. Station Road running East-West .across the top of the map.
  2. The 1960s block could be to the West of the railway, especially as the Southern part is labelled Northumberland County Council.
  3. The site to the West of the railway does appear to be quite large.

The new station and the Wansbeck Square site does look look to have strong development potential.

 

 

 

April 9, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

First Planning Applications Due On Northumberland Line

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the News Post Leader.

I described the Northumberland Line projevt in Trains: £34m For Revival Of 50-Year-Old North-East Railway Line, which I wrote a fortnight ago.

This paragraph from the News Post Leader article, describes the scope of the project.

The project will upgrade 18 miles of track, open six new stations, three new footbridges and new signal locations.

And this paragraph, describes the initial work.

Planning applications are set to be submitted to the council for new stations at Ashington and Northumberland Park in North Tyneside, along with a new footbridge at Chase Meadows in Bebside.

It is aimed to open the passenger service in 2024.

Chase Meadows Footbridge, Bebside

This Google Map shows the location of the new footbridge at Chase Meadows in Bebside.

Note.

  1. The A189 dual-carriageway running North-South.
  2. The single-track Northumberland Line curving in a similar direction
  3. Blyth Academy looks to be an important school.
  4. Chase Meadows runs from the Academy to the railway.

I have no clue, as to where Bebside station is to be built, but it would seem logical for this to happen on the sizeable plot between the road and the railway. This currently appears to be a small farm, with horses in the fields.

This second Google Map shows where the railway crosses the road.

Note, the path going alongside the road to Asda.

Will the bridge be built on the North-East or South-West side of the railway?

I will assume it will be step-free with either ramps or lifts.

This picture shows Horden station.

This station is South of Newcastle and only has ramps, so will something similar be built here?

 

 

 

 

February 13, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Trains: £34m For Revival Of 50-Year-Old North-East Railway Line

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the Northern Echo.

These are the introductory paragraphs.

A £34 million investment to reopen a North-East rail route that closed more than 50 years ago has been announced by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

The funding, announced today, January 23, is to progress plans to reopen the Northumberland Line between Newcastle and Ashington, which closed to passengers in 1964 as part of the Beeching cuts.

The money will fund preparatory works, including land acquisition, detailed design work and early site works.

The general tone of the article and the tone of comments from interested parties is welcoming and generally positive.

The Northumberland Line

In the Wikipedia entry for the Blyth And Tyne Railway, there is a section, which is entitled 2019-Present: Revised Plans And The Northumberland Line Project, where this is said about the design of the Northumberland Line.

The revised proposals, released in July 2019, are reduced in scope from the plan considered in the 2016 GRIP 2 study and propose a four-phase project allowing a reduction in the initial cost of the scheme; the initial phase, at an estimated £90 million, would see the creation of new or reopened stations at Northumberland Park, Newsham, Bedlington and Ashington as well as some line-speed upgrades, extension of the double track section further to the south of Newsham, creation of turn-back facilities at Ashington and some level crossing upgrades or closures Two further stations, at Seaton Delaval and Blyth Bebside (formerly Blyth Park & Ride), and additional line-speed improvements are suggested for Phase 2 while Phases 3 and 4 would deliver further line-speed improvements (including signalling upgrades) and an additional passing-loop at Seaton Delaval respectively. Previously proposed stations at Seghill and Woodhorn appear to have been dropped from the scheme.

There is also a lot more detail in this article on Rail Engineer, which is entitled Beeching Reversed: Reopening Of The Northumberland Line.

These are a few of my thoughts, based on Wikiiedia, Google Maps and the Rail Engineer article.

The Current Tracks Between Newcastle and Ashington

I will now follow the route of the Northumberland Line in a series of maps from where it leaves the East Coast Main Line to Ashington.

Benton Junction

Benton Junction is where the Northumberland Line joins the East Coast Main Line.

This Google Map shows Benton Junction

Note.

  1. The Tyne and Wear Metro (Metro) running East-West across the map.
  2. Benton Metro station towards the West of the map
  3. The fully-electrified East Coast Main Line (ECML) running  North-South down the map.
  4. The bridge at the bottom of the map, where the A191 crosses over the ECML, would need to be rebuilt to fit in any extra tracks.
  5. Manors station is the next station to the South on the ECML.
  6. Newcastle Central station is 4.3 miles to the South.
  7. Proctor and Gamble’s site to the East of the Junction.
  8. The Northumberland Line curves round the Proctor and Gamble site, connecting East and South.

This second Google Map shows the junction at the Southern point of the junction.

When the Northumberland Line closed to passenger trains in 1964, there were perhaps a dozen trains per day through this junction.

There are now 49, most of which are expresses on the ECML, so I suspect improvements are needed.

If the junction is remodelled, the single track section could be removed and perhaps Proctor & Gamble would like a station for their large workforce.

Single Track Alongside The Metro

After turning East after passing Proctor and Gamble, the Northumberland Line becomes single track and runs along the North side of the Metro.

This Google Map shows a section of the tracks.

It would appear that if required, there could be space to add an extra track.

Palmersville Station

The Northumberland Line then passes to the North of Palmersville Metro station, as this Google Map shows.

This extract from the Wikipedia entry for the station, indicates plans for connection between the Northumberland Line and the Metro.

Heading east from Palmersville, the route runs alongside a single-track line, which is used by freight services to and from North Blyth and Lynemouth. As of May 2020, proposals exist for the reinstatement of a passenger service over this route, as far as Ashington, as part of the Northumberland Line project. It is expected that additional platforms would be constructed at the nearby Northumberland Park station, in order to accommodate the new rail service, with a predicted September 2023 opening.

My only thought, is that a bi-directional platform could be created at this station, as a simple connection between the two Northumberland Line and the Metro.

Northumberland Park Station

Northumberland Park station is planned to be an interchange between the Northumberland Line and the Metro.

This Google Map shows the station.

Note.

  1. The two Metro tracks either side of an island platform.
  2. The single track of the Northumberland Line alongside.

There would appear to be space to the North of the Metro tracks to squeeze in two tracks, each with a platform for each.

But if the frequency on the Northumberland Line were only two trains per hour (tph), would the simplicity of a single Northumberland Line platform be worthwhile?

North From Northumberland Park

This Google Map shows the track layout to the North East of Northumberland Park station.

Note.

  1. Northumberland Park station is in the South West corner of the map.
  2. The double-tack of the Metro goes diagonally across the map to the North-East corner of the map.
  3. The Northumberland Line is a single-track line that breaks away to the North.

Would there be enough space to double-track the Northumberland Line through this area?

This 3D image from my virtual helicopter shows the bridge towards the top of the previous map.

It looks it would be a tight fit to put four tracks through this bridge or an expensive and disruptive rebuild.

As the Northumberland Line goes North from here, the engineering needed to add a second track would appear to get less challenging.

This image from my virtual helicopter, shows the Northumberland Line going under the A186.

At least this bridge seems to have been built large enough for all future options.

There would even be space for full double-tracking and a passing loop, where freight trains could wait for their slot to pass through.

Seghill Station

The line is single track until the site of the former Seghill station, which is shown in this Google Map.

 

The number of references to a station in the names are a bit of a giveaway.

  • According to Wikipedia, a new Seghill station was in the original plans.
  • It has since been dropped.

But there is still the problem of the level crossing.

As the original station was only a single platform, I do feel that following the example of some of the single platform stations like Newcourt in Devon, a single-platform station at Seghill could be a possibility in the future.

The current service at Newcourt station is two tph in both directions.

Onwards To Seaton Delaval Station

Seaton Delaval station is the first station proposed for reopening after Northumberland Park station and is shown in this image from my virtual helicopter.

Note that there is already a bridge over the railway line.

According to Wikipedia, the plans for Seaton Delaval station include.

  • Not building the station in the initial phase of the project.
  • Building the station at a later date.
  • Adding a passing loop.

Note that the original station had two platforms.

Newsham South Level Crossing

This Google Map shows the Newsham South level crossing, which still has a signal box.

Note that just to the South of this crossing the track goes from single to double-track.

Newsham North Level Crossing

This Google Map shows the Newsham North level crossing, which is a very complicated affair.

At least the railway is double-track all the way through Newsham.

Newsham Station

Wikipedia says this about the location of the former Newsham station.

It was situated at the end of Seaton Avenue and Carlton Road, off South Newsham Road on the B1523. There was an extensive system of sidings at the station and The Railway Clearing House Handbook indicated that the station handled goods and livestock.

Wikipedia also says it was a junction station.

This Google Map shows Newsham and its two level crossings on the Northumberland Line.

Note.

  1. Newsham North level crossing is in the North-West corner of the map
  2. Newsham South level crossing is to the East of the roundabout in the South of the map.
  3. The red arrow indicates Seaton Avenue, which was close to the station.
  4. There appears to be green space to the North-East of the red arrow, which could have been the extensive system of sidings mentioned in Wikipedia.

This Google Map shows Seaton Avenue and Carlton Road linking the B1523 to the old station site.

It looks to me, that the original station location would have very difficult access for buses, cars, taxis and pedestrians.

Perhaps, the rebuilt station would be better placed by one of the level crossings.

I obviously don’t know the area, but is the Southern level crossing in the wrong place.

One of the most interesting train systems, that I have seen is in Zwickau in the former East Germany, where instead of buying more trams to connect to other towns and cities, they devised a train-tram system using standard diesel multiple units.

The Zwickau system is as step-free as anything you’ll find in Germany, but I’m sure Stadler, who are the masters of step-free access and a few innovative Geordies could do much better

Would it be possible to build two tram-style platforms, South of the Northern level crossings and run the trains through at a safe speed?

The electric trains would probably be battery-powered through the area.

Bebside Station

Wikipedia says this about the location of Bebside station.

The station was situated on the south side of Front Street on the A19. The goods shed was north of the level crossing and east of the running lines.

This Google Map shows the location of Bebside station.

Note.

  1. This map fits with Wikipedia.
  2. The double-track through Bebside station, appears to run between Newsham South level crossing and Ashington.

Wikipedia says this about a reopened station at Bebside.

The GRIP 2 study, which NCC received in October 2016, confirmed that the reintroduction of a frequent seven-day a week passenger service between Newcastle and Ashington was feasible and could provide economic benefits of £70 million with more than 380,000 people using the line each year by 2034. The study suggested that a new Blyth Park & Ride station should be constructed close to the site of Bebside station to serve Blyth due to its close proximity to the A189 dual carriageway.

There certainly appears to be space for the Park-and-Ride.

Could this station be one of the busiest and most profitable of the route?

If surveys show, that could be the case, would it be worthwhile to build this station first and possibly run a preview service to perhaps Northumberland Park station?

Over The River Blyth

Between Bebside and Bedlington, there is the Bedlington Railway Viaduct.

This Google Map shows the viaduct.

Note the amazing shadow.

This image was taken from my virtual helicopter looking from the East.

Note that the road in the foreground is the A189.

Bedlington Station

Wikipedia says this about the location of Bedlington station.

The station was situated on the north side of the level crossing on Station Road, west of the junction with Palace Road. Nearby was Bedlington Colliery.

This Google Map shows the location of Bedlington station.

Note.

  1. Some of the old station still exists.
  2. The route is double-track through the station.
  3. Although the original station only had one platform, there would appear to be space for a second.

On the other hand good design as at Galashiels, which has a slightly smaller population than Bedlington, has created a new station with only a single platform.

These pictures show Galashiels station on the recently opened Borders Railway.

Galashiels is an interesting solution, as there is a single-platform step-free railway station on one side of the road and a comprehensive bus interchange on the other with seats, cafes, shops and warm shelter.

Galashiels station is designed to handle two tph in both directions.

Bedlington North Junction

This Google Map shows Bedlington North Junction.

Note.

  1. The double-track railway going West, quickly becomes a single track, which connects Bedlington to Morpeth.
  2. There is a full triangular junction at Morpeth, so that trains can go North or South on the East Coast Main Line.
  3. The double-track railway going North connects to Ashington.

There is also another level crossing, just to the North of the junction.

Connecting To North Blyth

About a mile North of Bedlington, there is a branch to North Blyth and the Port of Blyth.

This Google Map shows the junction.

Note.

  1. West Sleekburn junction is at the South.
  2. Marcheys House junction is at the North.
  3. Winning junction is at the East.

This Google Map shows the mouth of the River Blyth.

I can see some would find reasons to extend passenger services along the branch.

Over The River Wansbeck

I hadn’t expected what comes next.

This Google Map shows the crossing of the River Wansbeck, by the North Seaton Rail Viaduct.

This second image was taken from the East from my virtual helicopter.

Note.

  1. Marcheys House junction can be seen in the left of the second image.
  2. The bridge is double track.
  3. It is known as The Black Bridge.

As the viaduct will celebrate, its centenary sometime later in this decade, what better way to mark it, than reinstate the passenger service over the viaduct.

Through The Houses Into Ashington

This Google Map shows the route North from the bridge over the River Wansbeck into Ashington.

Note.

  1. The River Wansbeck is at the South of the Map.
  2. The railway is double track through the town.
  3. North Seaton station used to be about a third of the way up the map, where the A196 road crosses the railway.

This enlarged Google Map shows the site of station.

Note.

  1. The original station had two platforms.
  2. There is a level crossing where the railway crosses the road.

There doesn’t appear to be any plans to re-open North Seaton station.

There is another level crossing between the bridge and the original site of Ashington station.

Will these level crossings be a problem?

Ashington Station

This Google Map shows the original site of Ashington station.

Note.

  1. Station Road is a bit of a giveaway as to the location.
  2. The station would appear to have been in a cutting in a busy part of the town.
  3. Little of the original station seems to have survived.

It would appear that a station could be built here with a small amount of demolition.

But would it be big enough for all the possible plans for services to the North of Ashington.

This Google Map shows where the railway line when it emerges to the North of Station Road.

Note.

  1. The Northumberland Line curves round to the East to go to Lynemouth.
  2. It originally continued to Newbiggin-by-the-Sea.
  3. The area close to the line is a bus depot.
  4. There are several retail premises in the area.

Would it eventually be better to have an integrated transport interchange here?

Ashington To The Coast

This Google Map shows Ashington to the coast.

 

Note.

  1. The mothballed Alcan Smelter and Lynemouth power station are at the top of the map.
  2. The smelter and the power station are served by an extension of the Northumberland Line from Ashington, that is double-track for about half the way.
  3. Newbiggin-by-the-Sea on the coast and used to be served by a branch line from Ashington.

The route of the branch line can be picked out on this Google Map.

Note.

  1. The two branches used to divide by the Woodhorn Museum.
  2. Could a simple station be built to serve the museum and Wansbeck General Hospital.
  3. The branch to the smelter and the power station curves to the North.

The branch to Newbiggin-by-the-Sea station, takes a direct route to the coast.

I do think, that this extension from Ashington has possibilities.

I’ve even found this video of a freight train going to the smelter from the Port  of Blyth.

You don’t often see Class 55 locomotives or Deltics in action like this.

The State Of The Infrastructure

I’ve also found this video, which shows a cab ride from Blyth to the East Coast Main Line.

I can make the following observations. from the video.

  • There are wide margins in a lot of places so double-tracking could be possible.
  • The signalling is a mixture of semaphore and colour light signals.
  • There is work to do on some of the level crossings to make them safer.
  • The old platform is still visible at Bedlington station.
  • The bridge at Seaton Delaval is modern, but a double track, would be a tight fit.
  • The bridge where the B1322 crosses the tracks to the East of Northumberland Park station, looks like it would be little space for a fourth track.
  • The bridge taking the A186 over the Northumberland Line to the North of Northumberland Park station has been built with masses of space for extra tracks.
  • It would be difficult to fully double-track from Northumberland Park station to the East Coast Main Line.

Everything appears to be in generally good condition.

Length And Operating Speed Of The Route

Consider.

  • I estimate that the distance between Benton North Junction and Ashington is around nineteen miles. A round trip would therefore be under forty miles.
  • The Rail Engineer article says that the operating speed on the line will be increased to 65 mph.
  • I have found a freight train, that recently took 37 minutes to go between Benton North Junction and Ashington, which is an average speed of 31 mph.

I also estimate that the halfway point between Benton North Junction and Ashington is not far from the site of the possible Seaton Delaval station. Could this be why a passing loop has been proposed for the station?

The Frequency Of The Trains

Various sources like Wikipedia and media reports talk about the basic service being two tph or half-hourly.

Various average speeds Benton North Junction and Ashington give the following times for the journey.

  • 30 mph – 38 minutes
  • 40 mph – 28.5 minutes
  • 45 mph – 25 minutes
  • 50 mph – 22.8 minutes
  • 60 mph – 19 minutes

From these figures it looks to me, that a half-hourly service would certainly be possible with trains passing in a two-platform station with a passing loop at Seaton Delaval.

  • They would need to run at an average speed of 45 mph including stops.
  • This is a similar average speed to Ipswich and Cambridge, which has seven stops.
  • Modern step-free trains, as Stadler are building for the Metro, are designed for fast stops.
  • If the trains passed at Seaton Delaval at halfway, only one train would be North and South of that station at any time.

If only one train is on any section of the route at any one time, then single platform stations can be used, except at Seaton Delaval and Ashington.

There are a lot of people, who feel that train services like this should be four tph, as this gives a genuine Turn-Up-And-Go service.

Birmingham, London Overground, Merseyrail and other services use this frequency.

The Metro uses five tph, where possible.

Four tph would probably be possible with the passing loop at Seaton Delaval, as North of Newsham, the Northumberland Line is double-track, all the way to Ashington.

If the line is a success, I suspect there will be pressure to extend the passenger service to new stations at Lynemouth, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea and perhaps other places.

Extra Northern destinations would help to create a viable four tph service between Newcastle and Ahington.

Rolling Stock

Consider.

  • As the trains will be running on a 65 mph route, trains capable of at least 90 mph would probably be needed.
  • The trains would run a short distance on the ECML, so perhaps electric trains, with at least a 100 mph capability would be needed, so they didn’t get in the way of the Azumas.
  • Pedicting ridership on a line like the Northumberland Line would be very much a Black Art and initial ideas will be wrong, so perhaps the initial trains should be three cars, with the capability of being easily lengthened to four cars. They must also be capable of working in pairs.
  • Electric traction is desirable, as it is zero-carbon at point of use, gives better acceleration and regenerative braking enables energy saving.
  • Ability to use a pantograph to access 25 KVAC overhead electrification would be useful.

Some would feel, that the same trains as the Metro should be used, but I can see services connecting across Newcastle using the 25 KVAC overhead electrification of the ECML.

The slower Metro trains would reduce the capacity of the ECML.

I’m drawn inextricably to the conclusion, that the trains should be 100 mph battery-electric trains.

Hitachi, who have a factory in the North-East, have announced their Regional Battery Train in July 2020, which is described in this Hitachi infographic.

These trains can be based on Class 385 trains.

  • They are 100 mph trains.
  • They come in three- and four-cars lengths.
  • The three-car trains have 206 seats.
  • They can work in pairs.
  • They can use 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • They have a range of 90 kilometres or 56 miles on battery power.
  • The batteries would be charged on the ECML between Benton North junction and Newcastle station.
  • The battery packs will be designed and manufactured by Hyperdrive Innovation in Sunderland.
  • They have big windows for the views.

I’m sure Hitachi and Hyperdrive would like a fleet in service, just up the road from their factories.

These pictures show a ScotRail Class 385 train.

I think trains like these fitted with batteries, would do nicely.

There might need to be a charging station at Ashington to make sure the trains can get back to Benton North junction and the electrification.

Collateral Benefits Of Battery Electric Trains

I am one of a very small group of the general public, who have ridden in two different battery-electric trains in the UK.

It is my belief, that they have collateral benefits compared to other trains powered by electricity or diesel.

When I rode Bombardier’s Class 379 BEMU, six years ago,  between Manningtree and Harwich, afterwards I wrote Is The Battery Electric Multiple Unit (BEMU) A Big Innovation In Train Design?.

I must admit, that on that day as I travelled to Manningtree, I had my doubts, that the train would perform, to a sufficient level to be able to replace an electric or diesel train in regular passenger service.

But this was a paragraph I wrote.

It was an impressive demonstration, of how a full-size train could be run in normal service without connection to a power supply. I also suspect that the partners in the project must be very confident about the train and its technology to allow paying passengers to travel on their only test train.

This was my conclusion to the post.

Who’d have thought that such a rather unusual concept of a battery electric multiple unit would have so many possibilities?

I think I’ve seen the future and it just might work!

I think now, I might substitute will for might in the last sentence, with several manufacturers now offering battery-electric trains.

I very much feel my doubts before riding the train, were commonplace.

A year or so, after my ride, I met a lady on a train to Ipswich. She had been sceptical the train would work, but she had used the train to go to work every day for three months and was sorry, that it hadn’t been kept in service for longer.

I believe this scepticism and a natural human curiosity could lead to a serious increase in usage of the service, when compared to the predictions.

Did this mixture or curiosity and skepticism lead to the large turnout in Scotland to ride Vivarail’s battery-electric Class 230 train prototype, that I wrote about in Battery Class 230 Train Demonstration At Bo’ness And Kinneil Railway?

I will not be surprised, if in a couple of years, after battery-electric trains have been introduced on several routes, that train operators are reporting, unexpected increases in passenger numbers.

As I said, I have ridden in two battery electric train; a Class 379 and a Class 230.

One characteristic of both that is exceptional, is their low noise levels.

Even as an Electrical Engineer, I can’t explain it, but then all electric vehicles, I’ve ridden in are quieter than I would have expected.

Could it be, that the electrics don’t contain any mechanical components, that clank away? Or are pantographs noisier than I think they actually are?

Will these low noise levels, drive more people to travel on the trains?

Other factors like zero pollution, reliability and lack of unsightly wires could all be further collateral benefits.

I seriously believe, that battery electric trains could be a dream for a Marketing Man or Woman.

Signalling

Earlier I included a video of a train going from Blyth to Benton North junction.

One thing you notice in the video, is that much of the signalling is still outdated semaphore signalling and there are lots of signal boxes.

Network Rail have two main methods to modernise the signalling.

  • In Norfolk, they have used modular colour light signals.
  • On the Cambrian Line in Wales, they have used full digital in-cab ERTMS signalling.

As there will only be a limited amount of trains using the line and the ECML will be fitted with the digital signalling, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the full digital signalling installed on the Northumberland Line.

Extra Northern Destinations

The obvious extra Northern destinations are Newbiggin-by-the-Sea and possibly Lynemouth.

It could all lead to a need for a passenger service to Newcastle via Ashington.

The other destination that could be served by a train on the Northumberland Line would be Morpeth station.

  • The track exists between Bedlington and Morpeth.
  • There used to be two intermediate stations between Bedlington and Morpeth, at Choppington and Hepscott.
  • There is an hourly service between Newcastle and Morpeth calling at Manors and Cramlington.
  • Manors station could be served by trains on the Northumberland Line, which pass through the station.

If Morpeth were to be served by the Northumberland Line, the problem would be that Cramlington would lose its service to and from Newcastle.

The Wikipedia entry for Cramlington station, says this about the station.

Northumberland County Council and the local rail users group SENRUG is campaigning to relocate the station to a new site 200 metres south of its present position, in order to better serve the town’s Manor Walks shopping centre, Westmorland Retail Park and main employment areas. The proposed site would also allow for the construction of a dedicated bus-rail interchange, a larger car park and serve several residential estates to the west built in the 1960s and 1970s.

That sounds a sensible, but cunning plan.

The simple way to give Cramlington an hourly service to Newcastle would be to have one tph of either CrossCountry, LNER or TransPennine Express stop at the station. But the companies might not want to introduce another stop.

Alternatively, the Morpeth train could continue South for a few minutes to a bay platform ar the new Cramlington station.

This Google Map shows Cramlington.

It looks like moving the station would be a good plan.

Future Traffic On The East Coast Main Line

The ECML between Newcastle and Berwick-on-Tweed is a very busy double-track railway.

Over the next few years, it is likely the following will happen.

  • Digital in-cab ERTMS signalling will allow large sections of 140 mph running on the ECML.
  • London Kings Cross and Edinburgh timings will drop to around three and a half hours. This timing was achieved by an InterCity 225 train in the 1980s.
  • Under four-hour timings will mean, passengers will switch to train from plane on the route.
  • Extra services will run between Newcastle and Edinburgh.
  • There will certainly be three tph and possibly four tph between London Kings Cross and Edinburgh.
  • Freight trains will be electric hauled at up to 120 mph.

It will be extremely difficult to fit the local services between Newcastle and Morpeth and Newcastle and Chathill into the traffic on the ECML.

The first improvement would be to run 110 mph battery electric trains between Carlisle and Morpeth and Chathill via Newcastle.

  • Many Morpeth and Newcastle trains are extended to Carlisle.
  • Carlisle and Newcastle id 61.5 miles, which with a small amount of electrification, would be within battery range.
  • Several services from Newcastle would be decarbonised.

To reduce the traffic on the ECML, these services could be rerouted via the Northumberland Line.

I suspect to Network Rail’s train planners, the Northumberland Line, is seen as a secondary route that can take the pressure from the ECML

Reopening The Northumberland Line In Sequence

My background is project management and I believe this project can be improved by good class project management.

I would do the project in this order.

Order A Fleet Of New Battery Electric Trains

These would have the following specification.

  • 100 mph or possible 110 mph on electrification on the ECML.
  • 100 mph on batteries, where the route allows.
  • 56 mile range on battery power.
  • Three- or four-cars
  • Ability to use digital in-cab ERTMS signalling.

As I said earlier, the Hitachi specification for their Regional Battery Train based on a Class 385 train would be ideal, but other manufacturers would be capable of providing a suitable train.

Introduce The Trains Into Service

The trains would be introduced into service on the following routes from Newcastle.

  • Newcastle and Carlisle
  • Newcastle and Morpeth
  • Newcastle and Chathill

Note.

  1. There may need to be some extra electrification for the Newcastle and Carlisle service.
  2. Morpeth and Chathill would be served via the ECML.

Other routes from Newcastle could be possible.

Benefits would include.

  • Carlisle and Morpeth get electric train services from Newcastle.
  • Some services would be decarbonised.
  • The TOC would get feedback about the use of battery electric trains, in terms of passenger numbers and their comments.

Hopefully, the TOC would get information, that will help them plan future phases.

Test The Trains On The Northumberland Line

This would be for the following reasons.

  • To assess train performance.
  • Ascertain whether any changing would  be needed at Ashington.
  • Determine if any electrification would be needed to run any of the proposed services.

The TOC would continue to learn more.

Add A Single Platform On The Northumberland Line At Northumberland Park Station

Initially, I would only add a single platform at Northumberland Park station,

  • This would enable interchange between Northumberland Line and Metro services.
  • A temporary lift could be provided, as they were during the rebuilding of Abbey Wood station.
  • The extension to the station would be designed, so that all possible  future scenarios could be added later.

I would expect that the rebuilding of this station is on the critical path, so this should probably be performed early or in parallel with the introduction of the trains.

Benefits would include, the ability to start a shuttle service from the station to perhaps Carlisle via Manors and Newcastle.

Build A Single Platform Park-And-Ride Station At Bebside

I said earlier, that this Park-And-Ride station is important and it should be built early.

  • It is 6 miles from Ashington.
  • It is  4.5 miles from Cramlington.
  • It is proposed as a station for Blyth.
  • It is close to the A 189 dual carriageway.

It should be built early as a one-platform station with a large car park.

It would need a cross-over to turn back trains or the existing one at Bedlington could be used.

Reinstate A Single Platform Station At Bedlington

Bedlington station has some interesting remains.

  • There is a derelict platform on the Eastern (Up) track.
  • There are cross-overs to turnback trains.
  • There is a level crossing.

There is also a signal box with a signaller to keep order.

Start A Preview Service Between Newcastle and Bedlington

A preview service could be started once the following has been completed.

  • The track and signalling has passed all necessary inspections.
  • The trains have been certified for the route.
  • The interchange with the Metro has been completed at Northumberland Park station.
  • Either Bebside or Bedlington has been completed.
  • Drivers and other staff have been trained.

Starting a preview service should enable the future extensions of the service to be designed using some real passenger numbers and feedback.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 26, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 12 Comments