The Anonymous Widower

Hitachi Trains For Avanti

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in the January 2020 Edition of Modern Railways.

The Bi-Mode Trains

Some more details of the thirteen bi-mode and ten electric Hitachi AT 300 trains are given.

Engine Size and Batteries

This is an extract from the article.

Hitachi told Modern Railways it was unable to confirm the rating of the diesel engines on the bi-modes, but said these would be replaceable by batteries in future if specified.

I do wonder if my speculation in Will Future Hitachi AT-300 Trains Have MTU Hybrid PowerPacks? is possible.

After all, why do all the hard work to develop a hybrid drive system, when your engine supplier has done it for you?

Would Avanti West Coast need a train that will do 125 mph on diesel?

The only place, they will be able to run at 125 mph or even higher will be on the West Coast Main Line, where they will be running under electric power from the pantograph.

If I were designing a bi-mode for 90 mph on diesel and 125 mph on electric, I would have batteries on the train for the following purposes.

  • Handle regenerative braking.
  • Provide hotel power in stations or when stationery.
  • Provide an acceleration boost, if required, when running on diesel.
  • Provide emergency power, if the wires go down in electric mode.

I’m sure MTU could work out a suitable size of diesel engine and batteries in an MTU PowerPack, that would meet the required performance.

Or maybe a smaller diesel could be used. An LNER Class 800 train has 1680 kW of installed power to maintain 125 mph. But the Great Western Railway versions have 2100 kW or twenty-five percent more, as their routes are more challenging with steeper gradients.

For the less challenging routes at a maximum of 90 mph between Crewe, Chester, Shrewsbury and North Wales, I wonder what level of power is needed.

A very rough estimate based on the speed required could put the power requirement as low as 1200-1500 kW.

As the diesel engines are only electrical generators, it would not effect the ability of the train to do 125 mph between Crewe and London.

There looks to be a virtuous circle at work here.

  • Lower maximum speed on diesel means smaller diesel engines.
  • Smaller diesel engines means lighter diesel engines and less fuel to carry.
  • Less weight to accelerate needs less installed power.
  • Less power probably means a more affordable train, that uses less diesel.

It looks to me, that Hitachi have designed a train, that will work Avanti West Coast’s routes efficiently.

The Asymmetric Bi-Mode Train

It looks to me that the bi-mode train  that Avanti West Coast are buying has very different performance depending on the power source and signalling

  • 90 mph or perhaps up to 100 mph on diesel.
  • 125 mph on electric power.with current signalling.
  • Up to 140 mph on electric power with in-cab digital signalling.

This compares with the current Class 221 trains, which can do 125 mph on all tracks, with a high enough operating speed.

The new trains’ different performance on diesel and electric power means they could be called asymmetric bi-modes.

Surely, creating an asymmetric bi-mode train, with on-board power; battery, diesel or hydrogen, sized to the route, means less weight, greater efficiency, less cost and in the case of diesel, higher carbon efficiency.

Carbon Emissions

Does the improvement in powertrain efficiency with smaller engines running the train at slower speeds help to explain this statement from the Modern Railways article?

Significant emissions reduction are promised from the elimination of diesel operation on electrified sections as currently seen with the Voyagers, with an expected reduction in CO2 emissions across the franchise of around two-thirds.

That is a large reduction, which is why I feel, that efficiency and batteries must play a part.

Battery-Electric Conversion

In my quote earlier from the Modern Railways article, I said this.

These (the diesel engines) would be replaceable by batteries in future if specified.

In Thoughts On The Next Generation Of Hitachi High Speed Trains, I looked at routes that could be run by a battery-electric version of Hitachi AT-300 trains.

I first estimated how far an AT-300 train could go on batteries.

How far will an AT-300 train go on battery power?

  • I don’t think it is unreasonable to be able to have 150 kWh of batteries per car, especially if the train only has one diesel engine, rather than the current three in a five-car train.
  • I feel with better aerodynamics and other improvements based on experience with the current trains, that an energy consumption of 2.5 kWh per vehicle mile is possible, as compared to the 3.5 kWh per vehicle mile of the current trains.

Doing the calculation gives a range of sixty miles for an AT-300 train with batteries.

As train efficiency improves and batteries are able to store more energy for a given volume, this range can only get better.

I then said this about routes that will be part of Avanti West Coast’s network.

With a range of sixty miles on batteries, the following is possible.

  • Chester, Gobowen, Shrewsbury And Wrexham Central stations could be reached on battery power from the nearest electrification.
  • Charging would only be needed at Shrewsbury to ensure a return to Crewe.

Gobowen is probably at the limit of battery range, so was it chosen as a destination for this reason.

The original post was based on trains running faster than the 90 mph that is the maximum possible on the lines without electrification, so my sixty mile battery range could be an underestimate.

These distances should be noted.

  • Crewe and Chester – 21 miles
  • Chester and Shrewsbury – 42 miles
  • Chester and Llandudno – 47 miles
  • Chester and Holyhead – 84 miles

Could electrification between Crewe and Chester make it possible for Avanti West Coast’s new trains to go all the way between Chester and Holyhead on battery power in a few years?

I feel that trains with a sixty mile battery range would make operations easier for Avanti West Coast.

Eighty miles would almost get them all the way to Holyhead, where they could recharge!

Rlectrification Between Chester And Crewe

I feel that this twenty-odd miles of electrification could be key to enabling battery-electric trains for the routes to the West of Chester to Shrewsbury, Llandudno and Holyhead.

How difficult would it be to electrify between Chester and Crewe?

  • It is not a long distance to electrify.
  • There doesn’t appear to be difficult viaducts or cuttings.
  • It is electrified at Crewe, so power is not a problem.
  • There are no intermediate stations.

But there does seem to be a very large number of bridges. I counted forty-four overbridges and six underbridges. At least some of the bridges are new and appear to have been built with the correct clearance.

Perhaps it would be simpler to develop fast charging for the trains and install it at Chester station.

Conclusion On The Bi-Mode Trains

It appears to me that Avanti West Coast, Hitachi and Rock Rail, who are financing the trains have done a very good job in devising the specification for a fleet of trains that will offer a good service and gradually move towards being able to deliver that service in a carbon-free manner.

  • The initial bi-mode trains will give a big improvement in performance and reduction in emission on the current Voyagers, as they will be able to make use of the existing electrification between Crewe and London.
  • The trains could be designed for 125 mph on electric power and only 90-100 mph on diesel, as no route requires over 100 mph on diesel. This must save operating costs and reduce carbon emissions.
  • They could use MTU Hybrid PowerPacks instead of conventional diesel engines to further reduce emissions and save energy
  • It also appears that Hitachi might be able to convert the trains to battery operation in a few years.
  • The only new infrastructure would be a few charging stations for the batteries and possible electrification between Chester and Crewe.

I don’t think Avanti West Coast’s ambition of a two-thirds reduction in CO2 is unreasonable and feel it could even be exceeded.

Other Routes For Asymetric Bi-Mode Trains

I like the concept of an asymetric bi-mode train, where the train has the following performance.

  • Up to 100 mph on battery, diesel or hydrogen.
  • Up to 100 mph on electrified slower-speed lines.
  • 125 mph on electrified high-speed lines, with current signalling.
  • Up to 140 mph on electrified high-speed lines, with in-cab digital signalling.

I am very sure that Hitachi can now tailor an AT-300 train to a particular company’s needs. Certainly, in the case of Avanti West Coast, this seems to have happened, when Avanti West Coast, Hitachi, Network Rail and Rock Rail had some serious negotiation.

LNER At Leeds

As an example consider the rumoured splitting and joining of trains at Leeds to provide direct services between London and Bradford, Harrogate, Huddersfield, Ilkley, Skipton and other places, that I wrote about in Dancing Azumas At Leeds.

In the related post, I gave some possible destinations.

  • Bradford – 13 miles – 25 minutes – Electrified
  • Harrogate – 18 miles – 30 minutes
  • Huddersfield – 17 miles – 35 minutes
  • Hull – 20 miles – 60 minutes
  • Ilkley – 16 miles – 26 minutes – Electrified
  • Skipton – 26 miles – 43 minutes – Electrified
  • York – 25 miles – 30 minutes

Note, that the extended services would have the following characteristics.

They would be run by one five-car train.

  1. Services to Bradford, Ilkley and Skipton would be electric
  2. Electrification is planned from Leeds to Huddersfield and York, so these services could be electric in a few years.
  3. All other services would need independent power; battery, diesel or hydrogen to and from Leeds.
  4. Two trains would join at Leeds and run fast to London on the electrified line.
  5. Services would probably have a frequency of six trains per day, which works out at a around a train every two hours and makes London and back very possible in a day.
  6. They would stop at most intermediate stations to boost services to and from Leeds and give a direct service to and from London.

As there are thirty trains per day between London and Leeds in each direction, there are a lot of possible services that could be provided.

Currently, LNER are only serving Harrogate via Leeds.

  • LNER are using either a nine-car train or a pair of five-car trains.
  • The trains reverse in Platforms 6 or 8 at Leeds, both of which can handle full-length trains.
  • LNER allow for a generous time for the reverse, which would allow the required splitting and joining.
  • All trains going to Harrogate are Class 800 bi-mode trains.

Note that the Class 800 trains are capable of 125 mph on diesel, whereas the average speed between Harrogate and Leeds is just 35 mph. Obviously, some of this slow speed is due to the route, but surely a train with a maximum speed of 90-100 mph, with an appropriate total amount of diesel power, would be the following.

  • Lighter in weight.
  • More efficient.
  • Emit less pollution.
  • Still capable of high speed on electrified lines.
  • Bi-mode and electric versions could run in pairs between Leeds and London.

LNER would probably save on track access charges and diesel fuel.

LNER To Other Places

Could LNER split and join in a similar way to other places?

  • Doncaster for Hull and Sheffield
  • Edinburgh for Aberdeen and Inverness
  • Newark for Lincoln and Nottingham
  • York for Middlesbrough and Scarborough.

It should be noted that many of the extended routes are quite short, so I suspect some train diagrams will be arranged, so that trains are only filled up with diesel overnight,

GWR

Great Western Railway are another First Group company and I’m sure some of their routes could benefit, from similar planning to that of Avanti West Coast.

Splitting and joining might take place at Reading, Swindon, Bristol and Swansea.

South Western Railway

South Western Railway will need to replace the three-car Class 159 trains to Exeter, that generally work in pairs with a total number of around 400 seats, in the next few years.

These could be replaced with a fleet of third-rail Hitachi trains of appropriate length.

  • Seven cars sating 420 passengers?
  • They would remove diesel trains from Waterloo station.
  • All South Western Railway Trains running between Waterloo and Basingstoke would be 100 mph trains.

I wonder, if in-cab digital signalling on the route, would increase the capacity? It is sorely needed!

Southeastern

Southeastern need bi-mode trains to run the promised service to Hastings.

  • Trains would need a third-rail capability.
  • Trains need to be capable of 140 mph for High Speed One.
  • Trains need to be able to travel the 25 miles between Ashford International and Ore stations.
  • Trains would preferably be battery-electric for working into St. Pancras International station.

Would the trains be made up from six twenty-metre cars, like the Class 395 trains?

The Simple All-Electric Train

The Modern Railways article, also says this about the ten all-electric AT-300 trains for Birmingham, Blackpool and Liverpool services.

The electric trains will be fully reliant on the overhead wire, with no diesel auxiliary engines or batteries.

It strikes me as strange, that Hitachi are throwing out one of their design criteria, which is the ability of the train to rescue itself, when the overhead wires fail.

In Do Class 800/801/802 Trains Use Batteries For Regenerative Braking?, I published this extract from this document on the Hitachi Rail web site.

The system can select the appropriate power source from either the main transformer or the GUs. Also, the size and weight of the system were minimized by designing the power supply converter to be able to work with both power sources. To ensure that the Class 800 and 801 are able to adapt to future changes in operating practices, they both have the same traction system and the rolling stock can be operated as either class by simply adding or removing GUs. On the Class 800, which is intended to run on both electrified and non-electrified track, each traction system has its own GU. On the other hand, the Class 801 is designed only for electrified lines and has one or two GUs depending on the length of the trainset (one GU for trainsets of five to nine cars, two GUs for trainsets of 10 to 12 cars). These GUs supply emergency traction power and auxiliary power in the event of a power outage on the catenary, and as an auxiliary power supply on non-electrified lines where the Class 801 is in service and pulled by a locomotive. This allows the Class 801 to operate on lines it would otherwise not be able to use and provides a backup in the event of a catenary power outage or other problem on the ground systems as well as non-electrified routes in loco-hauled mode.

This is a very comprehensive power system, with a backup in case of power or catenary failure.

So why does it look like Hitachi are throwing that capability out on the trains for Avanti West Coast.

There are several possibilities.

  • The reliability of the trains and the overhead wire is such, that the ability of a train to rescue itself is not needed.
  • The auxiliary generator has never been used for rescuing the train.
  • The West Coast Main Line is well-provided with Thunderbird locomotives for rescuing Pendelinos, as these trains have no auxiliary generator or batteries.
  • Removal of the excess weight of the auxiliary engine and batteries, enables the Hitachi AT-300 trains to match the performance of the Pendelinos, when they are using tilt.

Obviously, Hitachi have a lot of train performance statistics, from the what must be around a hundred trains in service.

It looks like Hitachi are creating a lightweight all-electric train, that has the performance or better of a Pendelino, that it achieves without using tilt.

  • No tilt means less weight and more interior space.
  • No auxiliary generator or batteries means less weight.
  • Wikipedia indicates, that Hitachi coaches are around 41 tonnes and Pendelino coaches are perhaps up to ten tonnes heavier.
  • Less weight means fast acceleration and deceleration.
  • Less weight means less electricity generated under regenerative braking.
  • Pendelinos use regenerative braking, through the catenary.
  • Will the new Hitachi trains do the same instead of the complex system they now use?

If the train fails and needs to be rescued, it uses the same Thunderbird system, that the Pendelinos use when they fail.

Will The New Hitachi Trains Be Less Costly To Run?

These trains will be lighter in weight than the Pendelinos and will not require the track to allow tilting.

Does this mean, that Avanti West Coast will pay lower track access charges for their new trains?

They should also pay less on a particular trip for the electricity, as the lighter trains will need less electricity to accelerate them to line speed.

Are Avanti West Coast Going To Keep The Fleets Apart?

Under a heading of Only South Of Preston, the Modern Railways article says this.

Unlike the current West Coast fleet, the Hitachi trains will not be able to tilt. Bid Director Caroline Donaldson told Modern Railways this will be compensated for by their improved acceleration and deceleration characteristics and that the operator is also working with Network Rail to look at opportunities to improve the linespeed for non-tilting trains.

The routes on which the Hitachi trains will operate have been chosen with the lack of tilt capability in mind, with this having the greatest impact north of Preston, where only Class 390 Pendelinos, which continue to make use of their tilting capability will be used.

Avanti West Coast have said that the Hitachi trains will run from London to Birmingham, Blackpool and Liverpool.

All of these places are on fully-electrified branches running West from the West Coast Main Line, so it looks like there will be separation.

Will The New Hitachi Trains Be Faster To Birmingham, Blackpool And Liverpool?

Using data from Real Time Trains, I find the following data about the current services.

  • Birmingham and Coventry is 19 miles and takes 20 minutes at an average speed of 57 mph
  • Blackpool and Preston is 16.5 miles and takes 21 minutes at an average speed of 47 mph
  • Liverpool and Runcorn is 3.15 miles and takes 15 minutes at an average speed of 52 mph

All the final legs when approaching the terminus seem to be at similar speeds, so I doubt there are much savings to be made away from the West Coast Main Line.

Most savings will be on the West Coast Main Line, where hopefully modern in-cab digital signalling will allow faster running at up to the design speed of both the Hitachi and Pendelino trains of 140 mph.

As an illustration of what might be possible, London to Liverpool takes two hours and thirteen minutes.

The distance is 203 miles, which means that including stops the average speed is 91.6 mph.

If the average speed could be raised to 100 mph, this would mean a journey time of two hours and two minutes.

As much of the journey between London and Liverpool is spent at 125 mph, which is the limit set by the signalling, raising that to 135 mph could bring substantial benefits.

To achieve the journey in two hours would require an overall average speed of 101.5 mph.

As the proportion of track on which faster speeds, than the current 125 mph increase over the next few years, I can see Hitachi’s lightweight all-electric expresses breaking the two hour barrier between London and Liverpool.

What About The Pendelinos And Digital Signalling?

The January 2020 Edition of Modern Railways also has an article entitled Pendolino Refurb Planned.

These improvements are mentioned.

  • Better standard class seats! (Hallelujah!)
  • Refreshed First Class.
  • Revamped shop.

Nothing is mentioned about any preparation for the installation of the equipment to enable faster running using digital in-cab signalling, when it is installed on the West Coast Main Line.

Surely, the trains will be updated to be ready to use digital signalling, as soon as they can.

Just as the new Hitachi trains will be able to take advantage of the digital signalling, when it is installed, the Pendellinos will be able to as well.

Looking at London and Glasgow, the distance is 400 miles and it takes four hours and thirty minutes.

This is an average speed of 89 mph, which compares well with the 91.6 mph between London and Liverpool.

Raise the average speed to 100 mph with the installation of digital in-cab signalling on the route, that will allow running at over 125 mph for long sections and the journey time will be around four hours.

This is a table of average speeds and journey times.

  • 100 mph – four hours
  • 105 mph – three hours and forty-eight minutes
  • 110 mph – three hours and thirty-eight minutes
  • 115 mph – three hours and twenty-eight minutes
  • 120 mph – three hours and twenty minutes
  • 125 mph – three hours and twelve minutes
  • 130 mph – three hours and four minutes

I think that I’m still young enough at 72 to be able to see Pendelinos running regularly between London and Glasgow in three hours twenty minutes.

The paragraph is from the Wikipedia entry for the Advanced Passenger Train.

The APT is acknowledged as a milestone in the development of the current generation of tilting high speed trains. 25 years later on an upgraded infrastructure the Class 390 Pendolinos now match the APT’s scheduled timings. The London to Glasgow route by APT (1980/81 timetable) was 4hrs 10min, the same time as the fastest Pendolino timing (December 2008 timetable). In 2006, on a one off non-stop run for charity, a Pendolino completed the Glasgow to London journey in 3hrs 55min, whereas the APT completed the opposite London to Glasgow journey in 3hrs 52min in 1984.

I think it’s a case of give the Pendelinos the modern digital in-cab signalling they need and let them see what they can do.

It is also possible to give an estimate for a possible time to and from Manchester.

An average speed of 120 mph on the route would deliver a time of under one hour and forty minutes.

Is it possible? I suspect someone is working on it!

Conclusion

I certainly think, that Avanti West Coast, Hitachi and Network Rail, have been seriously thinking how to maximise capacity and speed on the West Coast Main Line.

I also think, that they have an ultimate objective to make Avanti West Coast an operator, that only uses diesel fuel in an emergency.

 

 

January 1, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Transport for Wales Is Invading England

There is an article in the July 2019 Edition of Modern Railways, which is entitled TfW Targets Swansea To Bristol Services.

This is the first paragraph.

Transport for Wales Rail Services is aiming to start an open access service between Swansea and Bristol Temple Meads, commencing in December 2020.

These are characteristics of the proposed service.

  • Hourly service
  • Calls at Neath, Port Talbot Parkway, Bridgend, Cardiff Central, Newport, Severn Tunnel Junction and Filton Abbey Wood stations.
  • Sixteen services per day will run Monday to Saturday in both directions, with twelve services on Sundays.
  • Trains will be Class 170 or Class 175 diesel trains.

Looking at current times of sections of the route, I suspect that services could take a few minutes under two hours and would need four trains.

Reasons given for planning the service include.

  • Long-term political pressure.
  • Welsh ministers abandoning plans for the £1.6 billion M4 Relief Road around Newport.
  • Cross-Severn road traffic has increased after abolition of tolls.
  • Main roads on either side of the Severn are congested.
  • Increased house sales in South Wales to people who work in the Bristol area.

Incidentally, before I read the article, if you asked me, I’d have thought there would be a direct service.

My only thought about the service, is that as there will be electrification between Bristol and Cardiff, why not run a proper fast bi-mode train like a Hitachi Class 800 train or a Stadler Class 755 train. The latter of which Transport for Wales have on order, for delivery in 2023.

The Class 755 train or its Welsh cousin, could be an interesting option.

  • The distance without electrification between Cardiff and Swansea is 46 miles.
  • Transport for Wales tri-mode version of the Class 755 train could have three batteries and a diesel engine in the four slots in the powrpack car.

Could it have the capability of jumping the gap.

Birmingham Services

The article also says that, Transport for Wales are also planning to extend their services that terminate at Birmingham to Coventry.

  • Holyhead and Birmingham New Street takes three hours.
  • Aberystwyth and Birmingham New Street takes three hours
  • Pwllheli and Birmingham New Street takes five hours

As Birmingham and Coventry takes twenty minutes or perhaps a convenient hour to go to Coventry and return with a relaxed turnround, does the extension make these three long services simpler to operate?

Extra positioning services from Crewe to Coventry in the morning and return in the evening are also proposed.

These would  also suggest that improving the ease of operation of these services is the reason for the extension to Coventry.

Liverpool Services

The article also says that these services to Liverpool will be added in 2022.

  • An hourly service to Llandudno.
  • A two-hourly service to Cardiff.

It isn’t said, if one of these services is an extension to the recently launched Liverpool and Chester service.

Conclusion

The Welsh are getting ambitious.

 

 

June 27, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Midland Metro Arrives In New Street

These pictures show the Midland Metro and its new extension to Birmingham 
New Street station.

I’d taken a train to Birmingham Snow Hill station and my only criticism, is that the signage at Snow Hill didn’t indicate how to get to the new tram stop.

June 20, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

The Midland Metro Stop At New Street Station

The picture shows the Birmingham New Street tram stop on the Midland Metro.

The Midland Metro Stop At New Street Station

The Midland Metro Stop At New Street Station

Note the cross-over to reverse the trams, when they start running in a few weeks.

April 2, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , | Leave a comment

Looking For Taxis At Birmingham New Street Station

Because of the fasciitis in my right foot, I decided to take a taxi from Birmingham New Street station to St. Andrews.

But where were the taxis?

Eventually an immaculate Metrocab did turn up and the driver explained. Apparently, there’s a row between the taxi drivers and NCP, who organise the taxi rank.

So Birmingham New Street station, may have a doggie toilet, but it doesn’t have many taxis or any trams.

It has also abandoned the traditional paper posters, with their lists of trains.

January 24, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , | Leave a comment

How Long Will We Wait For A Tram At Birmingham New Street Station?

The Midland Metro extension to Birmingham City Centre and New Street station was supposed to be completed by March 2015.

It is still not connected at Birmingham Snow Hill station to allow access across the city to Birmingham New Street station.

It had been previously announced that trams would reach New Street station, this year, so I was surprised to red this article on Global Rail News entitled Birmingham New Street tram extension delayed until 2016. The article says this.

Trams won’t reach Birmingham New Street until the New Year after Centro announced that work would be scaled back to support traders ahead of the Christmas period.

It’s probably the most valid reason, I’ve heard for a delay, but it does strike me that if the trams had reached New Street in March, they would have brought more visitors to Birmingham City Centre for Christmas.

If I was the Mayor of Birmingham, I’d be kicking a few backsides.

November 10, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , | Leave a comment

A John Lewis With Its Own Station

John Lewis didn’t have a store in Birmingham, but they opened one in the Grand Central Shopping Centre on Thursday above the reopened New Street station.

It is pretty spectacular to say the least.

The comedians will start to be calling the West Midlands, the White Country, if stations of this style appear all over the area.

I wonder when you last saw the sun in the main Birmingham station!

September 24, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

St. Martin’s Queensway Tunnel

In looking on the Internet to see if anybody had ever proposed adding low-level platforms at Birmingham Moor Street station to access the local services out of Birmingham New Street station, I found this article in the Birmingham Post entitled Tunnel link between New Street and Moor Street stations set for facelift.

Now I’ve been to Birmingham many times and often I’ve walked between the two stations and I’ve never seen or heard anything about this tunnel.

Does it actually exist?

The article says this.

A city centre tunnel is set to get a £5.5 million facelift to improve the route between two of Birmingham’s busiest railway stations.

The St Martin’s Queensway Tunnel, which runs under the Bullring shopping centre, will be transformed into a well-lit attractive route for rail commuters.

Road crossings and the public areas outside the revamped New Street Station will also be improved to encourage people to walk between there and Moor Street station.

Currently about 1.4 million people a year walk through the dingy tunnel between the stations, but some have complained of feeling unsafe and it is also poorly signed for visitors to the city.

Some councils may spend £5.5million on imaginary projects, but I don’t think Birmingham would.

July 30, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

The Future Of The Midland Metro

The Test Match being in Birmingham this week, got me thinking about the new extension to the Midland Metro, I saw this week.

Unlike the tram systems in Blackpool, CroydonManchesterNottingham and Sheffield, the Midland Metro hasn’t really caught the public’s imagination and been a rip roaring success.

When I visit other places with trams, I often use them, even if like in Nottingham, it’s just to get up the hill. But I’ve never used the Midland Metro, unless my trip has been taken to ride on the tram. A section in Wikipedia entitled Line One (Birmingham City Centre) Extension starts like this.

The fact that the existing line does not run into Birmingham City Centre has been identified as one of the reasons why it has failed to attract the predicted patronage. The Birmingham City Centre Extension (BCCE) will extend Line 1 into the streets of central Birmingham. Originally it was planned to terminate the extension at Stephenson Street, adjacent to New Street railway station. In September 2013, Centro started consultation on proposals to extend the city-centre extension from New Street station to Centenary Square. This would be another stage towards extending the line to Five Ways the original planned destination. The plan was approved by Birmingham City Council in October 2013, allowing the line to add an additional stop at Birmingham Town Hall.

I have watched this project unfold from a distance and it doesn’t seem to have had the strongest leadership or most intelligent design, when and since it was first opened in 1999.

As my pictures earlier this week showed construction is well underway and hopefully the line will arrive at New Street station this year. Perhaps this line across the city centre will give the Midland Metro an uplift.

On a selfish note, when I go to Birmingham, the places I want to get to are the football grounds and Brindley Place for lunch with friends.

Aston Villa and Wolverhampton have good train access and Birmingham is through the terrible station at Bordesley, but A stop at Brindley Place is on the next part of the Line 1 extension, which won’t be built until 2017 at the earliest. I don’t think it has even been started and possibly even fully planned, judging by the several alternatives talked about in Wikipedia. At present the line is going to Five Ways station, which is shown on this Google Map of the city centre.

Midland Metro In Birmingham City Centre

Midland Metro In Birmingham City Centre

I’ve included Birmingham Moor Street station on this map, but it won’t be connected to this phase of Midland Metro extension. However, Birmingham Snow Hill station will be, but that is not on the main lines from Euston, Liverpool and Manchester.

Will the line finish at Five Ways or will it continue past Edgbaston Cricket Ground, Birmingham University  and the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital?

This second map shows the area between Five Ways and University station, with the cricket ground marked by a red arrow

Midland Metro Line 1 Extension And Edgbaston

Midland Metro Line 1 Extension And Edgbaston

Note the university, the hospital, the Alexandra Stadium and University station clustered together in the bottom left corner of this map.

It is worth noting that Five Ways and University stations are both on the Cross-City Line that goes from Redditch to Lichfield via New Street. It is the busiest commuter line outside London and has upwards of six services an hour in both directions. The frequency of the Midland Metro is one tram every eight minutes, so the Cross-City Line is only a little bit less frequent.

The Cross-City Line is currently being extended to Bromgrove and there are unfulfilled plans to reopen the Camp Hill Line, that my train from Oxford to Birmingham used.

There seem to be a lot of competing proposals for money to be spent in the West Midlands, so perhaps if a West Midlands Combined Authority was setup properly, then it could decide what happens.

Perhaps, then Birmingham would get the local transport system it needs and deserves. After all, I think it was very much short-changed in the 1960s with the creation of the unloved New Street station. Let’s hope the new station opening in September, solves at least some of those fifty year old problems.

One of the biggest problems is that Birmingham effectively has two independent sets of local rail lines, with no common interchange.

The Snow Hill Lines though Snow Hill and Moor Street were built by the Great Western Railway and are operated by diesel trains. They carry about twenty percent of the rail services into the city. According to this Future section in the Wikipedia entry for Moor Street station, there are plans for more local services out of Moor Street

There are also an extensive mainly electrified network centred on New Street, which includes the Cross-City and Chase Lines and some services on the West Coast Main Line.

The trouble is there is no obvious connections between the two sets of lines, as is described here in Wikipedia. This Google Map shows the two stations and the shopping centres in between.

Birmingham New Street And Moor Street Stations

Birmingham New Street And Moor Street Stations

It would seem to my untrained mind, that there must be possibilities for putting a low level station under Moor Street with platforms on the local lines through New Street. I can’t find any proposals or ideas on the Internet, but then I don’t probably know where to look.

One proposal that might help is the opening of the Camp Hill Line into Moor Street, as this would link up to the Cross-City Line at Kings Norton.

Birmingham seems to be a mass of railway lines, which an intelligent planner could probably use to create transport links in the Greater West Midlands.

In the meantime, the arrival of the Midland Metro to New Street station, the Cross-City Line reaching Bromsgrove and the electrification of the Chase Line to Rugeley, will bring more people into the city centre and hopefuly make interchange easier.

It does appear, that the electric services on the Cross-City Line and Chase Line may need more trains, but at least there will be plenty of Class 315 trains available for cascade from London.

July 30, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Midland Metro New Street Extension – 28th July 2015

I took these pictures as I walked the route of the Midland Metro extension between New Street and Snow Hill stations.

Unfortunately, the battery on my camera gave out, and I had to cut my walk short.

July 28, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , | 1 Comment