I was drawn to write this post, by this article in Construction News, which is entitled Network Rail and Moorside nuclear power plant developer Nugen are putting together a business case for rail investment in Cumbria that could be worth as much as £400m.
four hundred million pounds could buy a lot of rail infrastructure.
But where exactly is Moorside?
This map was taken from the Our Site page on the NuGen web site, showsthe Moorside site outlined in red.
Note the development with the yellow-shaded areas to the South-East of the red-lined area. This is Sellafield.
And this is a Google Map of the coast around the nuclear reprocessing complex.
All three stations are on the Cumbrian Coast Line, which in addition to the passenger service, is used to transport freight, including nuclear waste to and from Sellafield.
Overlaying the NuGen map on the Coogle Map shows that Moorside will be to the North-West of Sellafield.
The Cumbrian Coast Line and the related Furness Line curve around Cumbria from Carlisle to Carnforth via Workington, Whitehaven, Sellafield and Barrow-in-Furness.
- The line is mainly double track, but with sections of single-track.
- The line is not electrified.
- Most of the trains are elderly diesels.
- The train service is vaguely hourly, but patchy in places.
The nuclear power complex is a ten billion pound project and will require large amounts of heavy equipment and construction materials to be transported the site. Also on a daily basis, large numbers of engineers and construction workers wilol need to get to one of the largest construction sites in the North of England.
Is Network Rail’s £400 million proposed vdevelopment, a reconstruction of the Cumbrian Coast and Furness Lines to the following standard.
- Double track.
- 100 mph line speed where possible.
- Build a new station at Moorside and any other places, where they are needed.
- Step-free stations
- At least two trains per hour in both directions.
- Full wi-fi and 4G on all trains and in stations.
Upgraded to a high standard, it might do more than help construction at Moorside and Sellafield and those that work in the two complexes.
- It might increase quality tourism.
- It could be a diversion route for the West Coast Main Line.
- It might make a London service to Barrow-in-Firness via HS2 a possibility.
Network Rail’s project could do a lot more than service the twin nuclear sites.
I explored the Cumbrian Coast Line in April 2015.
There is a by-election in the Copeland constituency, if you haven’t noticed and this is the BBC’s guide to the election.
When I was at Liverpool University in the 1960s, one of C’s friends used to live near Barrow-in-Furness. I remember we had a drink with her once and she told us how she used to have to take five trains and umpteen hours to get between Barrow and Liverpool.
Liverpool to Barrow-in-Furness now takes just over two and a half hours with a single change at Preston.
So when I heard someone from UKIP say that HS2 wouldn’t benefit Copeland on the BBC, I thought I’d check the times.
HS2 opens to Crewe in 2027 and I suspect that trains going to the North of Crewe will use HS2 to Crewe and then run on the classic lines to go North.
Euston to Crewe currently takes 90 minutes, but after HS2 opens this time will reduce to 58 minutes. Times are from this page in The Guardian.
The fastest trains to Barrow-in-Furness currently take three hours fifty-three minutes with a change at either Preston or Lancaster.
So just reducing this time by the thirty two minutes saved South of Crewe, brings the time down to three hours twenty-one minutes.
But I think we’ll see innovation in HS2’s trains.
It seems to be the policy now for a company to have short and long trains, as both the Class 800 trains and Greater Anglia’s Aventras come in both short and long versions, where two short trains can join together for flexibility of operation.
Could Hs2 take this further and say have five-car short trains, three of which could join together for the fast run to and from London?
So will we see five-car trains that can serve places like Barrow-in-Furness, Blackpool and Burnley, joining at Preston for a fast run on HS2 to London?
I also think that by the mid-2020s, all electric trains will have the capability to fit onboard energy storage to give them access to places like Barrow-in-Furness, which may not be electrified.
So could we see a high speed train serving Barrow-in-Furness in 2027? After all Barrow-in-Furness to the West Coast Main Line is just twenty-nine miles, which by that date, will be totally in range of a train with onboard energy storage.
If you look at the provisional timetable for Phase 1 of HS2 on Wikipedia, you will see that there is one train per hour (tph) to Preston. Could this be a train created by bringing together portions from Barrow-in-Furness, Blackpool and Burnley? I don’t know, but the French do similar things with TGVs.
I wouldn’t be surprised and with selective improvements to the route North of Preston and on the Furness Line, the time from London to Barrow could be under three hours, when HS2 opens to Crewe.
Effectively, by building HS2 to Crewe and using specially-designed trains, towns like Barrow-in-Furness get a high speed connection to Birmingham and London.
Cancel HS2 and Copeland will still be deep in the past, as far as rail travel is concerned.