The Anonymous Widower

Bordesley Station To St. Andrews Has Improved

At various times on this blog, I’ve complained about this route, but it’s finally got better, as these pictures show.

Bordesley station is really only opened for the football, so I suspect that a lift would very much be a low priority.

I have a feeling that it might be possible to walk along the canals from the City Centre, to the lock that I saw.

March 31, 2018 Posted by | Sport, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

A Walk Across Birmingham City Centre

I took this walk across Birmingham City Centre to look at the works on the Midland Metro Extension to Egbaston.

These are some of the pictures I took.

There’s certainly a lot of work going on.

It will be interesting to see how the trams get from New Street station to Victoria Square. It could be power up one hill and gravity down another.

The tram extension is to be finished in 2019.

March 31, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

New Passenger Rail Routes In The West Midlands

Looking for possible privately-funded rail projects, I have come acrossseveral proposed rail route re-openings and improvement schemes in the West Midlands on Wikipedia.

Birmingham-Peterborough Line

The Birmingham-Peterborough Line is a major route between Birmingham and the East.

I am including it, as there are aspirations to add new stations at Castle Bromwich and Fort Parkway.

Between Birmingham and Nuneaton must be a candidate for in-fill electrification, especially as this section has two freight terminals.

Camp Hill Line

The reopening of the Camp Hill Line across Birmingham has been a long term ambition of the City Council for years.

The current status of the proposed development of the Camp Hill Line is given in Wikipedia under Future Plans.

This is the last part of that section.

In 2017, the newly elected Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street pledged to get work started on restoring services to the line by 2020. And officials were said to be investigating the business case for a fourth station at Balsall Heath (previously called Brighton Road) This would mean Lifford and Camp Hill would be the only stations not to be reopened.

In August 2017, West Midlands Trains announced plans as part of their franchise deal that the line would reopen by December 2019 as part of a £1 billion investment in the West Midlands. This included a new station at Moseley.

In February 2018, Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, said that the viaduct would not be needed, as Hereford to Birmingham New Street trains could be diverted along this line, meaning that extra capacity at Birmingham New Street was not required to open this line.

Note that the original completion date for this scheme was 2025 and it has now been moved forward to December 2019.

The current scheme seems to include the following.

  • Four new stations at Balsall Heath, Moseley, Kings Heath and Hazelwell.
  • A possible connection into Birmingham Moor Street station.
  • Birmingham New Street to Worcester services would use the Camp Hill Line.

It seems that this scheme provides a rail service to a new part of the city and also releases capacity at Birmingham New Street. I think there’s some Brummie cunning at work and that a simpler scheme is being created, that could involve.

  • The new stations.
  • None or very little new electrification, track and signalling.
  • No connection to Moor Street station.
  • Services from Birmingham New Street to Kings Norton, Redditch and Bromsgrove using new Aventra trains running on batteries on the Camp Hill Line, which would call at all stations.
  • An improved Birmingham New Street to the new Worcester Parkway station using new CAF Civity diesel trains, along the Camp Hill Line.
  • Will CrossCountry’s Cardiff-Nottingham service be rerouted via the Camp Hill Line?

The New Street to Worcester services could be rerouted earlier, if it was necessary to squeeze more capacity out of New Street station.

Note that if all services stopped at Bromsgrove, when it gets its electric service on the Cross-City Line in May 2018, passengers for a lot of destinations, would surely change at Bromsgrove, rather than New Street!

Darlaston Loop

The reopening of the Darlaston Loop has been suggested by Andy Street, who is now Mayor of the West Midlands.

I suspect that this reopening fits within a larger overall scheme.

South Staffordshire Line

Network Rail and Midland Metro, both seem to have aspirations to run services on the South Staffordshire Line.

Re-opening Proposals in the Wikipedia entry gives full details of the proposals. Included are.

  • Freight trains on a single track.
  • Midland Metro on a single track with passing places.
  • National Rail services.
  • Tram-trains sharing with freight trains.

This is the last entry.

In September 2017, the new franchise operators, West Midlands Trains, plans to restore disused railway lines including the South Staffordshire Line which would be an extension of the existing Birmingham to Stourbridge Junction service which it plans to extend to Brierley Hill in the future.

On the Wikipedia entry for the Midland Metro, under Wednesbury and Merry Hill – Extension, this is said.

From Line 1 in Wednesbury, the Brierley Hill Extension (WBHE) would follow the disused South Staffordshire Line, through Tipton to the vicinity of the former Dudley Town station (which closed in 1964 and was later the site of a freightliner terminal), then on-street into Dudley town centre. It would leave Dudley alongside the Southern Bypass to access the railway corridor, leaving it at the approach to the Waterfront/Merry Hill area and Brierley Hill and then on to Stourbridge.

Centro has stated that the WBHE would provide 10 trams per hour, alternately serving Wolverhampton and Birmingham. Journey time from Brierley Hill to West Bromwich was stated as 31 minutes.

There are a lot of possibilities.

Various things might help in the design.

  • There is space for two tracks. It has been suggested that one is for trams and one for freight.
  • Midland Metro’s trams can run on battery power, so no electrification is required, if all other trains are diesel-powered.
  • Midland Metro’s trams and West Midlands Trains’s new diesel trains are both built by CAF, so are they compatible enough to share a track?
  • Modern signalling gets better and better.

I think we might see a very innovative plan for the use of this line.

Sutton Park Line

The Sutton Park Line is another line in the est Midlands area, that could be re-opened.

Re-opening in the Wikipedia entry gives full details of the proposals.

In February 2008 it was announced that Birmingham City Council, Network Rail and Centro were launching a feasibility study to assess the possibility of re-opening the line to passenger services. In January 2015 the line was put on hold for reopening to passenger trains. In April 2017, the proposals were being looked at again as part of a spin-off to the HS2 scheme. In December 2017, it has been proposed that the line could reopen as part of the Governments plans to reopen lines closed in the 1960s and later cuts by British Rail.

I would think, that one of the main reasons, this line is being reopened is that is connects several of the other suburban lines in Birmingham. It also allows freight trains to by-pass Birmingham New Street station.

Walsall-Wolverhampton Line

This is said about reopening a passenger service on the Walsall-Woverhampton Line in Wikipedia under Future Plans.

The West Midlands Combined Authority have announced their intention to restore a passenger service to the line by 2027, along with new stations at Willenhall and Darlaston James Bridge.

Note.

  1. At the present time, this route is for freight.
  2. It has had passenger services on and off for fifty years.
  3. It can be used as a diversion route around engineering works.

If a direct service were to be reinstated it would take just twelve minutes, as opposed to an hour via Birmingham New Street station.

It strikes me that this would be a simple route to upgrade.

Walsall and Wolverhampton stations are electrified.

The route is surely short enough to be handled by a battery-powered train.

Signalling is probably up-to-date.

There is also this report in the Wolverhampton Express and Star, which is entitled Spring Satement: £350m Housing Deal For The West Midlands, which says this.

The deal comes after ministers revealed plans to bring the line between the town and city back into use, including new railway stations at Willenhall and James Bridge, Darlaston.

Things seem to be happening on this route.

Possible New Stations

I’ll summarise the possible new and reopened stations.

Could a common design be created, so that the cost of stations is reduced?

Is There A Plan?

The West Midlands Combined Authority and the train operation company for the area; West Midlands Trains, seem at a first look, taken all the freight and disused routes and seeing how they can be linked into a network to the benefit of Birmingham.

But I think it is more than that!

The trains and trams are a varied fleet.

  • CAF Urbos trams. – Can be fitted powered with batteries
  • Bombardier Aventra trains in three- and five-car units. – Might be possible to be powered with batteries
  • CAF Civity diesel-multiple units in two- and four-car units.

Full details have not been given about the Aventras, but it could be that all trams and trains are capable of moving for perhaps a dozen miles under their own power. Obviously, the CAF Civitiies can go a lot further on diesel fuel.

I have some questions.

  • Could all these trains, mean that the lines can be added to the current network without installing too much electrification?
  • Is it only the South Staffordshire Line and the Darlaston Loop, where new track needs to be laid?
  • CAF are a company noted for innovation, who are opening a factory in Wales. Have they got a Spanish Surprise to help the WMCA create a world-class network?
  • Are architects and engineers working on a unique platform design, that all trains can share?
  • Could the Camp Hill Line and the Walsall-Wolverhampton Line have a passenger service, as soon as there are trains to run the service?

I wonder if there is a plan to bring in new routes continuously!

  • Electric trains  on the Chase Line to Rugeley Trent Valley station and to Bromsgrove station will be first in 2018.
  • Walsall and Wolverhampton using the Wallsall-Wolverhampton Line
  • New Street and Worcester using the Camp Hill Line.
  • New Street and Bromsgrove using new stations on the Camp Hill Line.
  • Coleshill Parkway tand Walsall using the Sutton Park Line.
  • Walsall and Stourbridge Junction using the South Staffordshire Line and diesel trains.
  • Wednesbury and Merry Hill using the South Staffordshire Line and trams.

Note.

  1. The early bonus of the new electrification.
  2. Walsall and Bromsgrove will develop into well-connected hubs.
  3. Euston and Walsall will be introduced by West Midlands Trains.
  4. As the network expands, new trains are delivered.
  5. Stations will be added continuously.
  6. All parts of Greater Birmingham will benefit.

Is this the way, Andy Street will market the network to his customers?

 

 

 

 

March 27, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Campaign For New Cross-Border Rail Link Gathers Pace

The title of this post is the same as that of this article in the Carlisle News And Star.

The interesting thing about the article is that it shows the growing co-operation between Councils and organisations on both sides of the border.

That co-operation and the need to increase capacity on the West Coast Main Line through Carlisle will eventually get a reinstated railway between Edinburgh and Carlisle via Galashield, Melrose and Hawick.

East-West and North-South Railways

When politicians talk about East-West links in the UK, they tend to be very parochial. Some are getting improved and some are not!

These can be considered major East-West links in the UK.

  • Inverness to Aberdeen – Being upgraded.
  • Glasgow to Edinburgh – Undergoing a major upgrade and electrification.
  • Carlisle to Edinburgh via Hawick – Still a study
  • Carlisle to Newcastle- Could be improved.
  • Carlisle to Leeds – Recently upgraded and safeguarded.
  • Preston to Leeds – Needs upgrading.
  • Manchester to Leeds – Desperately needs upgrading.
  • Manchester to Sheffield- Desperately needs upgrading.
  • Holyhead to Manchester – Needs some improvement.
  • Nuneaton to Felixstowe – Needs upgrading and electrification.
  • Oxford to Cambridge – Being rebuilt slowly.
  • Cardiff to London – Being upgraded and electrified slowly.
  • Exeter to Ashford via Southampton and Brighton – Needs upgrading.

East-West links are not in the same state as the major North-South routes.

  • West Coast Main Line
  • Midland Main Line
  • East Coast Main Line
  • Brighton Main Line
  • West Anglia Main Line
  • Great Eastern Main Line

It could be argued that the last three are in need of some improvements, but the first three will be augmented by HS2.

Look at the quality of trains on East-West routes compared to those on North-South routes.

HS2’s Needs

It could also be argued that all East-West routes should be substantially improved to compliment the building of HS2.

Carlisle, Crewe, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham, Preston and Sheffield will probably have excellent single-station interchange between HS2 and classic routes and good East-West connections will benefit a lot of passengers.

However, as things stand at present,Birmingham is getting rather a dog’s breakfast with passengers having to transfer between Curzon Street and New Street stations for onward travel.

Birmingham deserves better!

 

 

October 25, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Bombardier and CAF To Make 413 Carriages For New West Midlands Franchise

The title of this post is the same as this article on Global Rail News.

This is said.

Future operator West Midlands Trains has made a £680 million order with Bombardier and CAF for 413 carriages.

Bombardier will manufacture 36 three-car and 45 five-car Aventra trains at its Derby site, while CAF will produce 12 two-car and 14 four-car Civity trains. In total, 107 new trains will be delivered.

The electric three-car Aventras will operate on metro services, the electric five-car units for outer suburban and long distance, while CAF’s DMUs will run on dedicated services to the towns and cities around Birmingham.

These are my thoughts on the various parts of the order.

The Three-Car Aventras

The thirty-six three-car Aventras will probably replace the twenty-six Class 323 trains, which lack wi-fi and other passenger-friendly features.

It should also be noted that the Aventra has a slightly unusual and innovative electrical layout.

This article in Global Rail News from 2011, which is entitled Bombardier’s AVENTRA – A new era in train performance, gives some details of the Aventra’s electrical systems. This is said.

AVENTRA can run on both 25kV AC and 750V DC power – the high-efficiency transformers being another area where a heavier component was chosen because, in the long term, it’s cheaper to run. Pairs of cars will run off a common power bus with a converter on one car powering both. The other car can be fitted with power storage devices such as super-capacitors or Lithium-ion batteries if required.

This was published six years ago, so I suspect Bombardier have refined the concept, which is probably more to do with spreading weight around the train for better dynamics than anything else!

Obviously for West Midlands Trains, there is no need for 750 VDC, but will there still be a pair of power cars?

So it looks like there may be a reorganisation of the electrical system in the trains.

A few other points.

  • I am surprised that some of the trains aren’t six-cars, as every other set of new trains seem to be single and double lengths.
  • According to Wikipedia, the trains will have end gangways.
  • The trains are air-conditioned and have free wi-fi and power sockets.

Hopefully, the full specification and Tops-number will be disclosed soon.

Are Batteries An Inherent Part Of The Operation Of Three Car Aventras?

Suppose each car in the train was a self-contained power car.

  • Each car could also have  a 75 kWh battery, which is the size of one on a New Routemaster hybrid bus.
  • Regenerative braking would be efficient as it would use the battery in the same car.
  • Batteries can be topped up using the 25 KVAC overhead wires.
  • Passenger services like power-points would be powered from the battery.

If we assume that each car needs 5 kW to do a mile, this would give the train a range away from the wires of 15 miles.

Would it be possible for trains to run on the Camp Hill Line and the proposed Camp Hill Chords into Birmingham Moor Street station solely using battery power?

I think it is possible and after the battery-powered trams on the Midland Metro, it’s another case of emphasising the B in Birmingham.

The Five-Car Aventras

These will probably be vaguely similar to the other two five-car Aventras; Class 701 and Class 720.

Differences highlighted in the various articles and Wikipedia include.

  • According to Wikipedia, the trains will have end gangways.
  • The trains will be 110 mph units.

Both are firsts for Aventras.

I don’t think it will be long before a train operator buys an Aventra capable of 125 mph.

The CAF Civity Trains

The CAF Civity are a mixture of two-car and four-car units and will be used to replace some older diesel multiple units and augment some of the more modern Class 170 and Class 172 trains.

Class 230 Trains

West Midlands Trains have also ordered three Class 230 trains for the Marston Vale Line.

The route has the following characteristics.

  • It is roughly twenty-four miles long.
  • Trains take just over forty minutes for the journey between Bletchley and Bedford stations.
  • There are plans to extend the service to Milton Keynes Central station.
  • It is a diesel island in a sea of electrified lines.

 

Wikipedia says this about the Infrastructure.

Apart from a short length of single track at both ends, the line is double track, and is not electrified (barring short lengths at either end). It has a loading gauge of W8 and a line speed of 60 miles per hour (97 km/h). The line’s signalling centre is at Ridgmont.

I would suspect that two trains are needed to provide an hourly service, so buying three trains gives a spare, that might augment the services at busy times.

The flexibility of the Class 230 trains will give a choice of operating modes.

  • Using 25 KVAC overhead electrification at the ends.
  • Using onboard diesel power.
  • Using batteries charged at the ends of the route.

I suspect that the most efficient will be a mix of all three.

The trains are also designed for remote servicing, so they could be based in a siding at Bedford, Bletchley or Wolverton and supported by a well-designed service vehicle and a fuel bowser.

Conclusions

West Midlands Trains seem to have gone for a sensible Horses-for-Courses solution.

I have a feeling that their concept for the Marston Vale Line will be used elsewhere.

 

October 18, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Midland Metro’s £149m Extension To Open In 2021

The title of this post is the same as an article on Global Rail News.

This is the first two paragraphs.

A 2km extension of Transport for West Midlands’ Midland Metro has been given the go ahead in the UK.

The £149 million extension will link Grand Central, in Birmingham’s city centre, with the southern suburb of Edgbaston with five new stops served by up to 10 trams an hour at peak times.

This article in the Birmingham Mail, gives more details.

The locations of five new stops to be built in the next phase of the Midland Metro extension have been confirmed.

The line is being taken an additional 1.2 miles from outside New Street station to Hagley Road.

As previously mooted, there will be stops outside Town Hall Birmingham and at Centenary Square, in Broad Street, where passengers can access the ICC, Library of Birmingham and new HSBC UK head office.

The other stops will be opposite Brindleyplace at the corner of Granville Street, outside the Cineworld cinema in Broad Street and in front of office block 54 Hagley Road, close to the Morrisons supermarket.

I think that the design of the route has been kept fairly simple and also involves some pedestrianisation.

From New Street To Broad Street

This Google Map shows the first section of the route from the current terminus of the Midland Metro at Grand Central outside New Street station to the start of Broad Street.

The blue dot outside New Street station shows the Grand Central tram stop.

The route goes up the hill, to the stop at Birmingham Town Hall before twisting to go down Broad Street to stop in Centenary Square.

Along Broad Street

This Google Map shows Broad Street from the Symphony Hall to the Cineworld Cinema.

Three stops are on this section.

  • Brindleyplace
  • Granville Street
  • Cineworld Cinema

This visualisation shows the route at the cinema.

Note.

  • The view is looking towards Five Ways.
  • Overhead electrification is used on this section.

Will the route be pedestrian only?

Through Five Ways Roundabout And On To 54 Hagley Road

This Google Map shows the last section of the route.

The roundabout looks to have plenty of space to thread the tram lines through.

54 Hagley Road is the office tower in the South West corner of the map, on the South side of Hagley Road. Again there seems plenty of space.

Sections Without Wires

The route bwtween Grand Central and Hagley Road will use a mixture of overhead wiring and onboard energy storage to power the trams.

It has been stated that in the historic centre, the trams will not use wires, as in this visualisation.

It appears that there will be wired sections either side of this section without wires in the centre.

This will ensure, that the onboard energy storage is well-charged before entering the section.

Cost And Timescale

Comments on the Birmingham Mail article, think the line is expensive and it will take a long time to build.

Looking at the route the two tricky sections are around Paradise Street and Five Ways, as there will need to be a lot of reconstruction of the road network.

But the sections running on onboard energy storage should be a lot easier to build.

At £149 million for 3.38 kilometres, the extension will cost £44 million a kilometre.

Manchester Metrolink’s Trafford Park Line will cost £350 million for 5.5 kilometres or £64 million a kilometre.

Is the lower cost/km. of the Birmingham Extension due to the sections without wires?

I suspect, it’s probably more complicated than that!

Conclusion

It looks a good scheme.

My only reservation is what will drivers think about a pedestrianised Broad Street, if that is part of the design.

 

 

 

September 1, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Govia Loses The West Midlands Rail Franchise

This article on the BBC is entitled London Midland loses West Midlands rail franchise.

The new lead partner in a company called West Midlands Trains is Abellio.

This page on the Government web site gives full details.

There is also this interactive map, which details changes by line.

The next few sections detail a few points.

Four Hundred New Carriages

West Midlands Trains are promising four hundred new carriages.

Currently, there are 476 carriages serving the routes they will be taking over. The trains that are modern include.

  • 77 x four-car Class 350 trains – 308 carriages – Built in 2004-2014
  • 17 x two-car Class 170 trains – 34 carriages – Built in 1999-2000
  • 6 x three-car Class 170 trains – 18 carriages – Built in 1999-2000

This is a total of 360 carriages.

This group probably lack wi-fi, which could be retrofitted.

It looks to me, that the West Midlands are going to be seeing a hell of a lot more trains.

Abellio should know what trains to buy, as they’ve just spent nearly a billion on new trains for Greater Anglia and are introducing a large fleet of Hitachi electric trains in Scotland.

Are we going to see a complete fleet change, as is happening with Greater Anglia and South Western Railway?

I think it will be very likely that the new train will be an Aventra or similar, with the following characteristics.

  • Based on four or five car units.
  • Ability to work in pairs.
  • Possibly some longer ones. of eight or ten cars for busy routes.
  • Walk-through design.
  • Large lobbies and wide doors.
  • Ability to stop at a station and get started quickly. Could save up to two minutes every stop.
  • 100 mph capability.
  • Some bi-mode or trains to work independently for perhaps thirty miles are needed.

They could be very similar to the Class 720 trains ordered by Greater Anglia or the Class 710 trains ordered by London Overground, if Aventras are chosen.

I will look at a simple example on the Cross-City Line  between Lichfield Trent Valley and Redditch stations.

This currently takes 83 minutes with twenty-two stops. This would probably give a three-hour round trip. So on a rough estimate, to provide this service on a two trains per hour (tph) basis, would require six trains or twelve, if each of the current Class 323 train is a pair of six-cars.

Running a five-car Aventra or similar, which would save over a minute a stop and would be faster, would probably bring the round trip time down to under two hours. So two tph, would need just four trains.

The capacity of the Aventra would be greater at over 800 passengers as opposed to 500 in the pair of Class 323 trains.

Birmingham To Rugeley Trent Valley

The electrification on the Chase Line is being extended to Rugeley Trent Valley and new electric services should start from May 2018.

Wolverhampton To Walsall Line

The Wolverhampton To Walsall Line is an oddity in that is electrified and doesn’t have a passenger service.

In the Wikipedia entry for the line under Future Plans, this is said.

The West Midlands Combined Authority have announced their intention to restore a passenger service to the line using either conventional trains or tram-trains. Along with new stations at Willenhall and Darlaston James Bridge.

So will these plans be implemented in the next few years?

Birmingham To Bromsgrove

The new electric trains would also be able to serve the newly electrified route to Bromsgrove station from May 2018.

Does The B In Birmingham Stand For Battery?

If Bombardier or Hitachi get their energy storage working, then the new trains would be able to continue to Worcester from Bromsgrove, as it’s only fourteen miles.

Birmingham is getting battery trams, so is it getting battery trains?

Battery trains would certainly be able to work the Camp Hill Line.

But it will be interesting to see if battery trains can sneak through on other routes in the centre of Birmingham.

The Snow Hill Lines

The Snow Hill Lines across Birmingham are the classic cross-city line that should be electrified, as you don’t want to have diesel trains in the centres of cities.

My thoughts.

  • In the current financial climate, large scale electrification is not going to happen.
  • Battery trains wouldn’t help, as there is no electrification with which to charge the batteries.
  • Traditional bi-modes aren’t much use either, as they’d run on diesel all the time.

The only alternative is probably more efficient diesel-electric hybrid trains that incorporate regenerative braking with batteries.

Could these trains be coupled with limited electrification in the centre around the Snow Hill Tunnel?

There’s a solution in there somewhere and I suspect that West Midlands Trains have used it.

Leamington To Nuneaton via Kenilworth And Coventry

This route via the new Kenilworth station will be getting an hourly service.

It’s only nineteen miles each way with scraps of electrification at Nuneaton and Coventry.

Could an Aventra or similar with batteries do this trip?

Conclusion

The West Midlands are getting a much better train service.

August 10, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

Where Is London Midland Going?

This excellent article on Rail News is entitled Franchising timetable slips again.

This is the first two paragraphs.

THE Department for Transport’s franchising timetable is slipping again, possibly because of delays introduced by the snap General Election.

The winner of the West Midlands franchise should have been announced in June, ready for the new contract to start in October.

It is now getting very tight for a new West Midlands franchise, currently held by London Midland,  to start in October.

The Current Fleet

The current fleet is a mixture of diesel and electric multiple units, most of which are in reasonable condition, although it does need a certain amout of updating and the addition of some new or refurbished trains.

  • I don’t think any of the trains have wi-fi, whereas some of their competitors have it installed.
  • The several Class 153 trains probably need replacing or augmenting with larger units.
  • More 100 mph electric units are probably needed for the West Coast Main Line.
  • More Class 350 trains from TransPennine Express must be a possibility.
  • I wouldn’t be surprised to see some Class 769 trains going to the new franchise to work partially-electrified routes.

But the train fleet doesn’t look like it will need a massive number of replacement trains.

Planned And Proposed Lines Around Birmingham

The next few sections detail some of the developments either in progress or proposed.

The Chase Line

The Chase Line electrification should be complete by May 2018 and this will need more electric trains.

Although, I do wonder if the new franchise might use the new electrified route to introduce new services.

The Cross City Line

The Cross-City Line electrification to the newly-rebuilt Bromsgrove station should allow a new three trains per hour (tph) electric service to start across Birmingham in May 2018.

Unless of course, the electrification is late.

The Camp Hill Line

The Camp Hill Line is another cross-Birmingham route and effectively acts as a loop for the Cross-City Line.

It is a long term aim of Birmingham to reopen this line to passengers and the new franchise could include this line in their plans.

Wikipedia talks of a £170million pound scheme to reopen the line with the following features.

  • Three tph
  • Three new stations
  • A connection to Moor Street.

But as the line is open to freight and long distance passenger traffic, I do wonder if now that responsibility for this line has been devolved, that something simpler could be done in the short term to increase services across Birmingham.

Kenilworth Station

Kenilworth station should open this year on the Coventry to Leamington Line.

It will probably open with single-car Class 153 trains, which will probably be totally inadequate.

I wonder if the Coventry and Leamington Line could run back-to-back services with the Coventry to Nuneaton Line, thus creating a Leamington to Nuneaton service via Kenilworth, Coventry and Coventry Arena.

The North Warwickshire Line

The North Warwickshire Line links Birmingham with Stratford-on-Avon and has an alternative name of the Shakespeare Line.

Plans exist to extend this line South to Honeybourne station on the Cotswold Line.

Under Possible Future Development in the Wikipedia entry for the Warwickshire Line, this is said.

The Shakespeare Line Promotion Group is promoting a scheme to reopen the 9 miles (14 km) of line south of Stratford to Honeybourne where it would link to the Cotswold Line. Called the “Avon Rail Link”, the scheme (supported as a freight diversionary route by DB Schenker) would make Stratford-upon-Avon station a through station once again with improved connections to the South, and would open up the possibility of direct services to Oxford and Worcester via Evesham. The scheme faces local opposition. However, there is a good business case for Stratford-Cotswolds link.

I think we’ll see something in the new franchise about developing this line, as there is a lot of potential for a train operator.

  • Direct services between Stratford-on-Avon and Oxford, where there is a connection to Bicester Village. Tourists would love that!
  • Connection of the housing development at Long Marston to Birmingham.
  • Could Stratford-on-Avon or Honeybourne become the terminus of a service from Leamington, Coventry and Nuneaton.

It would also give DB Schenker, their freight diversion.

A Bi-Mode Train For The West Midlands

The lines around Birmingham are very much like those around Liverpool and Manchester, with a mix of electrified and non-electrified lines.

More trains are needed and needed very soon to make the most of the following.

  • New stations like Bromsgrove and Kenilworth.
  • New electrification like the Chase Line to Rugeley and the Cross-City Line to Bromsgrove.
  • Reopened lines like the Camp Hill Line.
  • Capacity on electrified lines through Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton.

I suspect that an ideal train for the West Midlands would have the following characteristics.

  • 100 or even 110 mph on 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • Perhaps 90 mph on diesel power.
  • Possibly a range of perhaps a dozen miles on batteries.
  • Four coaches.
  • A modern interior.
  • Wi-fi

This specification could have been written for one of Porterbrook’s Class 769 trains. Batteries might need to be added, which is something Porterbrook may do if a customer needs the feature.

But it doesn’t have to be a rebuilt train from the 1980s, as I suspect Class 755 trains, which are bi-mode Stadler Flirts as ordered by Greater Anglia would do the job well.

And who’s in the mix to run the new West Midlands franchise? Abellio, who recently won the new Greater Anglia franchise.

So could we see some flirting around Birmingham?

Regional Services

The current franchise runs services to Liverpool, but not Manchester.

Applications in the past have been made to run to Preston and I suspect that the new franchise will seek to improve services to Crewe, Liverpool, Manchester, Manchester Airport and Preston, although some of these routes will be opposed by Virgin.

As Manchester Airport seems to be developing as a rail hub, perhaps we’ll see the new franchise serving the important airport!

Conclusion

It will be interesting to see the plans of the new franchise, when they are announced.

But as this brief analysis and speculation shows, I think that there will be an order for new or refurbished bi-mode trains.

 

July 5, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 5 Comments

Birmingham Airport Mulls Plan For Terminal Inside HS2 Station

This is the title of an article in Construction News.

This Google Map shows Birmingham Airport, the current Birmingham International station, the NEC, with the M42 Motorway going North-South down the Eastern side.

Currently, it is planned that the Birmingham Interchange station for HS2, would be on the other side of the M42 to the NEC.

Surely, the Construction News headline is indicating that something better can be done.

In an ideal world, Birmingham Airport would have one station for HS2, West Coast Main Line and local train and tram services, with a step-free lift/escalator connection between all platforms and both Departures and Arrivals at the Airport.

 

May 19, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Tram 18, Where Are You?

This article in Rail echnology Magazine is entitled Midland Metro tram shipped to Spain for battery fit-out ahead of OLE-free operation.

It describe how Tram 18 is on its way to Zaragoza to be fitted with lithium-ion batteries, so that the UK’s first battery tram can start running in 2019, after the track is laid to Victoria Square in Birmingham and the railway station in Wolverhampton.

February 15, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment