The Anonymous Widower

Beeching Reversal – South Fylde Line Passing Loop

This is one of the Beeching Reversal projects that the Government and Network Rail are proposing to reverse some of the Beeching cuts.

The Project

This project is described on this page on the web site of the Fylde MP; Mark Menzies, which is entitled Improving The South Fylde Rail Line.

The page lists that these improvements are needed.

Track And Stations

These improvements are listed for track and stations.

The bid involves laying around three miles of track between Lytham and St Annes stations, the creation of a new rail platform at Ansdell and Fairhaven Station, the installation of signalling along the line, and potential platform changes at Preston Station. There is scope for improvements to St Annes and Lytham Stations, should Network Rail decide it would rather include those stations within the passing loop – but that would be decided further along the process.

Services

The objective is to be able to run two trains per hour (tph) between Preston and Blackpool South stations.

Trains

Better trains are needed.

It certainly looks like the Pacers have already gone.

The Route

I shall describe the current route in this section.

Blackpool South Station

The Google Map shows Blackpool South station.

Note.

  1. Entrance to the station is from Waterloo Road, which runs East-West across the map.
  2. There are a pair of bus stops by the station entrance.
  3. There is a lot of car parking close to the station.
  4. I suspect that the single platform can hold a modern eighty-metre four-car train.
  5. This seventy-year-old has no difficulty waking to the football ground or the Blackpool trams from the station.

With two tph and some updated facilities, this would be a very useful station.

I suspect there is even space to add a second platform in the future, if that were felt to be necessary.

Blackpool Pleasure Beach Station

This Google Map shows Blackpool Please Beach station and the nearby Pleasure Beach.

We shouldn’t underestimate the importance of this station. One beautiful late summer Saturday, I was going to see Ipswich play at Blackpool and out of curiosity I had explored the train to Colne station. In those days a decade ago, Colne and Blackpool South was one service and the train from Colne was full of families, by the time it got to Preston. A large proportion, left the train at the Pleasure Beach.

The conductor told me, that the crowds, I had witnessed weren’t untypical.

Squires Gate Station and Blackpool Airport

This Google Map shows Squires Gate station and the nearby Blackpool Airport.

Blackpool Airport after a troubled few years seems to be finding a niche market, with a few business, commercial, offshore and training flights.

But I believe that airports like Blackpool in the future can develop another large niche – electric aviation.

Getting to places like Ireland, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and Wales by a nineteen-seat electric airliner will need the following.

  • As short a flight as possible.
  • Close to the coast would help.
  • Good public transport links. Blackpool Airport has both tram and train.
  • Space for aircraft to be parked, whilst charging.
  • Plentiful supplies of renewable electricity. The over-300 MW Burbo Bank Wind Farm is not far away in Liverpool Bay and it will only be joined by more and larger wind farms.
  • Frequent public transport.

Blackpool Airport could tick all these boxes, with a thick green marker.

Some example direct distances from Blackpool include

  • Aberdeen – 238 miles
  • Amsterdam Schipol – 340 miles
  • Belfast City – 128 miles
  • Cardiff – 165 miles
  • Dublin – 134 miles
  • Edinburgh – 150 miles
  • Exeter – 211 miles
  • Geneva – 661 miles
  • Glasgow – 155 miles
  • London Gatwick – 220 miles
  • London Heathrow – 192 miles
  • London Southend – 219 miles
  • Newcastle – 89 miles
  • Paris Orly – 422 miles
  • Isle of Man Ronaldsway – 68 miles
  • Southampton – 208 miles

These distances fit nicely with the range of the nine-seater Eviation Alice electric aircraft, which is predicted to be 620 miles.

St. Annes-on-the-Sea Station

This Google Map shows St. Annes-on-the-Sea station.

Note.

  1. Blackpool is to the North-West and Preston is to the South-East
  2. St. Annes-on-the-Sea is one of those convenient single-platform stations, where you just walk in-and-out on the level.
  3. The passing loop would start on the Preston side of the bridge.

There would need to be no major infrastructure work at the station, although I would expect the facilities could do with a makeover.

Ansdell And Fairhaven Station

In Should The Blackpool South Branch Be Electrified?, I said this about improvements to Ansdell and Fairhaven station.

Ansdell and Fairhaven station is nearest to the course at Royal Lytham.

    • The Open Championship is a very important event on the golfing calendar.
    • Other important golfing events are also held on the course
    • Royal Lytham and St.Annes, last held the Open in 2012 and 2001. So it might come back to Royal Lytham in the mid-2020s.

Ansdell and Fairhaven station used to have two platforms, as described in Wikipedia.

The station was set out as an island platform with tracks on both faces until the singling of the line in the 1980s. Trains now only use the southern face. A disabled access ramp now covers the northern part of the station.

So could a rebuild of the station do the following?

    • Restore two platforms on an island at the station.
    • Put in full disabled access.
    • Create a passing loop.
    • Longer platforms might be a good idea.

This Google Map shows the station.

Note.

    1. The disabled ramp winding away.
    2. The platform is probably about a hundred metres long.
    3. It would appear that there is space at the far end to extend the platform.

I suspect that an ambitious architect with vision, could design a station that met all objectives.

It could be the best Championship Golf Course railway station in the world.

Lytham Station

This Google Map shows Lytham station.

Lytham station will be the Eastern end of the loop and it is likely, that the single-track will change to double at the Western end of the station.

As with St. Annes-on-the-Sea station, I suspect that a good makeover, will be all that will be needed.

Moss Side Station

This Google Map shows Moss Side station.

The only problem here is the level crossing, so do Network Rail want to remove it?

Kirkham And Wesham Station

This Google Map shows Kirkham and Wesham station.

There are three platforms, which from bottom to top on the map are.

  • Platform 1 – Trains to Blackpool South
  • Platform 2 – Trains to Blackpool North
  • Platform 3 – Trains to Preston

All platforms seem to be being electrified in these  pictures. that I took during construction.

Note.

  1. It can’t be described as a station, built down to a small budget.
  2. In the captions to the pictures, I’ve numbered the platforms from left to right.
  3. The last picture looks down Platform 1 and there is an electrification gantry at the Preston end.

Could this comprehensive electrification be so that trains to Blackpool North can use both Platforms 1 and 2?

  • This would allow overtaking of say a local train by a London express.
  • Trains could also be turned back in Platform 1, before the end of its journey, if there was a problem.
  • The electrification is also substantial enough for the longest Class 390 trains.
  • It could even accommodate a classic compatible High Speed Two train.

So does the last point, mean that Blackpool North station is a possible High Speed Two destination? Provided, the platforms at Blackpool North station are long enough, I think it does!

This Google Map shows Kirkham West Junction, where trains to Blackpool North and Blackpool South stations diverge.

Note.

  1. The electrification gantries and their shadows can be seen.
  2. Preston is to the South-East and the route is fully-electrified.
  3. Blackpool North is to the North-West and the route is fully-electrified.
  4. Blackpool South is to the West. The double-track becomes single before Moss Side station.

This picture shows the route going off to Blackpool South.

I took the picture from a train going to Blackpool North station.

So why are wires being run along the first few hundred metres of the Blackpool South Branch?

The Timetable

Currently, trains take the following times to do these journey legs.

  • Run between Ansdell and Fairhaven and Blackpool South stations – 12 minutes
  • Turnback at Blackpool South station – 3 minutes
  • Run between Blackpool South and Ansdell and Fairhaven stations – 11 minutes

As the trains will be running every thirty minutes and the three legs total twenty-six minutes, that means there’s four minutes float.

So hopefully, it should be easily stainable, by an experienced rail timetable creator.

The Trains

I have remarked that I find the electrification at Kirkham & Wesham station, both comprehensive and slightly unusual.

Could The Electrification Have Been Designed For Battery Electric Trains To Blackpool South Station?

But there is one very plausible reason for the electrification layout – The Blackpool South Branch has been designed, so that services on the branch can be rum using battery trains.

  • The distance between Kirkham & Wesham and Blackpool South stations is just over eleven miles.
  • So for a round trip a range of perhaps twenty-five miles on battery power would suffice.
  • There would also be a need for a few minutes of hotel power, whilst waiting at Blackpool South station.

These power needs are well within the capabilities of the average battery train.

  • Trains could be charged on the nine minute run  between Preston and Kirkham & Wesham stations.
  • Changeover between electrification and battery power would take place in Kirkham & Wesham station.

An ideal train would surely be CAF’s four-car battery electric version of the Class 331 train, which I wrote about in Northern’s Battery Plans.

  • According to an article in the March 2020 Edition of Modern Railways, with the same name, these trains will be working between Manchester Airport and Windermere.
  • Class 331 trains without batteries will be running to and from Blackpool North station.
  • Four-car trains are probably the right size for the route.

There would also probably be no need for a charging station at Blackpool South station, if trains could leave Kirkham & Wesham station with a full battery.

Where Would The Trains Terminate In The East?

These would be the obvious choices.

  • Blackburn – Where there is a convenient bay platform.
  • Colne – Where they used to terminate!
  • Liverpool – Merseyrail has the trains and Liverpool has lots of punters and the imagination.
  • Preston – Where they do now!
  • Skipton – If the Skipton-Colne Link is built!

My money would be on Skipton, using a new Skipton-Colne Link, for the following reasons.

  • Politicians of all colours and roses are in favour.
  • Skipton has an electrified route to Leeds.
  • Skipton-Colne would be a valuable by-pass route during the building of Northern Powerhouse Rail.
  • Battery-powered trains would be ideal for Skipton-Colne.

Would A Battery Electric Train Be Feasible Between Blackpool South And Liverpool?

Consider.

  • An all-stations service would complement the fast service between Liverpool Lime Street and Blackpool North stations via St. Helens, Wigan North Western and Preston.
  • The service could either go between Liverpool and Preston via Ormskirk or Southport and a reinstated Burscough Chord.
  • The Ormskirk route is 15 miles of unelectrified line and the Southport route is just four miles further.
  • A service via Southport would need to reverse at Southport station.
  • The service would be run using dual-voltage Class 777 trains fitted with batteries.
  • 25 KVAC overhead electrification, is already  installed between Preston and Kirkham & Wesham stations,
  • Using existing electrification, trains would leave Kirkham & Wesham, Ormskirk, Preston and Southport stations with full batteries.
  • A coastal service between Blackpool and Liverpool would surely attract visitors.
  • Liverpool and Blackpool are the two biggest urban areas on the coast.
  • There are several golf courses on the route, including three courses that have held the Open; Royal Birkdale, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

It may be a bit fanciful. But.

  • Merseyrail will have the trains.
  • Liverpool has the potential passengers.
  • I believe the route could handle a two tph service.
  • In Reopen Midge Hall Station, I showed that it was possible to run a two tph service between Liverpool and Preston, with one tph via each of Ormskirk and Southport.

Liverpool also has bags of ambition and imagination.

Would A Battery Electric Train Handle Preston And Skipton?

I estimate that this route is forty-one miles, with a stiff rise from Rose Grove to Colne station.

So would a battery electric train be able to handle this distance?

Hitachi are talking 56 miles for their Regional Battery Train, so I suspect CAF would want and need to be competitive with a similar specification.

Perhaps the logical service would be to run between Leeds and Blackpool South.

  • The service would go via Preston, Blackburn, Burnley Central, Colne and Skipton.
  • Leeds and Skipton is electrified.
  • Preston and Kirkham & Wesham is electrified.
  • No extra chargers for trains would be needed.

The only new infrastructure needed would be the Skipton and Colne Link.

Electrification Between Preston And Blackburn

Consider.

  • In Colne – Skipton Reopening Moves Closer, I talked about the proposed Huncoat Rail Fright Terminal, that could be built North of Blackburn on the East Lancashire Line.
  • Blackburn is a major hub for passenger services.
  • An electrified Blackburn would allow Manchester and Clitheroe to be run by battery electric trains. Clitheroe is ten miles and Bolton is thirteen.
  • An electrified Blackburn would allow Blackburn and Manchester Victoria via the Todmorden Curve to be run by battery electric trains. The whole route is 39.5 miles.
  • It may be possible for battery electric trains to reach Leeds via Hebden Bridge, as it is only fifty miles away, which is within Hitachi’s range.
  • As the Blackburn area grows, there will be more pressure for a daily London service.
  • Some think, the Calderdale route should be electrified.
  • Preston and Blackburn stations are just twelves miles apart.
  • There is a multiple unit depot at Blackburn.
  • I also feel that battery electric trains fanning out from Blackburn, wouldn’t do the town’s image any harm.

For all these reasons, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a short stretch of electrification added between Preston and Blackburn.

Conclusion

I like this proposal and it could be a big asset to trains across the Pennines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 27, 2020 Posted by | Energy, Energy Storage, Sport, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Beeching Reversal – Upper Wensleydale Railway

This is one of the Beeching Reversal projects that the Government and Network Rail are proposing to reverse some of the Beeching cuts.

This map from the Upper Wensleydale Railway web site, shows the location of the proposed reinstated railway.

This is the vision of how the railway will be used, taken from the web site.

It is hoped that a reinstated junction with the existing  Leeds – Settle – Carlisle railway line at Garsdale will allow ‘through’ trains to run from Hawes via Garsdale Junction, past the Yorkshire Three Peaks to Settle, then onwards through Hellifield and Clitheroe into Lancashire for Preston and Greater Manchester.

We are also hoping that some Manchester – Blackburn – Clitheroe trains can be extended to Garsdale and Hawes thereby linking Lancashire to an enhanced service through Settle to the Yorkshire Peaks and Dales.

Connections with other trains could be made at Hellifield (for West Yorkshire & Lancaster) and at Garsdale (for Carlisle, Scotland & the North East of England).

This Google map shows the current state of the railways at Garsdale.

Note.

  1. Garsdale station in the South-West corner of the map.
  2. The Settle and Carlisle Line curving away to the North over the Dandry Mire Viaduct.
  3. The trackbed of the former branch to Hawes stands out as a green scar.

I have followed the route of the railway to Hawes in my helicopter and it doesn’t appear to be a very challenging project to reinstate.

  • Although the comprehensive Routes and Structures page on the Upper Wensleydale Railway, indicates there is a lot to do.
  • It is about six miles long.
  • It is single track with a passing loop at Hawes.

This Google Map shows the town of Hawes,

It certainly looks the sort of place, where Wallace and Gromit might rent a cottage for a week and use as a base to explore the countryside.

  • There’s a Wensleydale Creamery.
  • There’s a traditional ropemaker called Outhwaite, dating from 1905, who have the web site; www.ropemakers.com.
  • The headquarters of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority are located in the North of the town and shown by a green arrow.

Next to the Park Authority is a blue arrow marking the Dales Countryside Museum, which incorporates the original Hawes railway station.

Services To Hawes

Looking at the data from Real Time Trains, it looks like trains on the Settle and Carlisle average about fifty mph on that line, which is generally double-track with an operating speed of sixty mph.

  • I would estimate that a modern diesel or hydrogen-powered train could do the return trip between Garsdale and Hawes station in around thirty minutes.
  • This time would probably mean that the Hawes Branch could be worked with only one train operational on the branch.
  • It would also fit in well with the service plans for the Upper Wensleydale Railway.

I am fairly certain that an hourly service could be run between Hawes and Hellifield stations, which could be extended as far South as the operator wanted.

Military Traffic To Redmire

In the Wikipedia entry for Redmire village, this is said.

Redmire is the terminus of the Wensleydale Railway. The Ministry of Defence uses trains to transport armoured vehicles from bases in the south to the Catterick military area using Redmire railway station as its terminus.

It looks like there must be a quality railway between Redmire station and the East Coast Main Line at Northallerton.

This Google Map shows the site of Redmire station.

Note.

  1. At the left hand side of the map, there look to be loading ramps for the military vehicles, at the end of two sidings.
  2. The building on the North side of the tracks appears to be the old Redmire station buildings.
  3. The blue dot to the right, is a Google Maps pointer for the station

If you type Redmire into Google Maps, it’s easy to find..

This Google Map shows the rail lines at Northallerton.

Note.

Northallerton station in the South-East corner of the map.

The East Coast Main Line runs about West-by-North from the station towards Darlington and Scotland.

The line to Middlesbrough branches off in a North-Easterly direction.

The Wensleydale Railway comes in from the West and joins the East Coast Main Line going North.

It also appears there used to be a tight chord that allowed trains to go between the Wensleydale Railway and the South.

It looks like the Army would like that chord for their vehicle trains.

This enlarged Google Map, shows the site of the chord.

It looks to me, that it was once a chord, but now it’s a substantial wood.

A Bigger Plan

In the Wikipedia entry for the Wensleydale Railway, there is a section, which is entitled Upper Wensleydale Railway, where this is said.

In late 2019/early 2020, a separate company was formed to campaign to reinstate the line between Hawes and Garsdale. The groups’ objective is to have a timetabled year-round service run by a train operating company, rather than a heritage service. This scheme was shortlisted for funding in the second round of the government’s Reverse Beeching Fund, in June 2020.

These are my thoughts on various topics.

The Eastern Terminal

There are three possible Eastern terminals.

  • Northallerton
  • Middlesbrough – There is no connection to the Wensleydale Railway.
  • Darlington – Would probably mean slow trains on the East Coast Main Line.

I think we’re left with Northallerton and the tight connection, which requires the chord to be reinstated.

But, it does say in the Wikipedia entry for Northallerton station, that the station is the terminus for the proposed extended Wensleydale Railway.

This Google Map shows the Northern end of Northallerton station.

Would it be possible to sneak a line down the Western side of the East Coast Main Line and into a new bay platform at the station?

It would certainly allow trains from the Wensleydale Railway to terminate at Northallerton station.

The Western Terminal

As I said earlier, it’s the operator’s choice.

Personally, I would choose Blackburn station.

  • It’s about fifty miles from Gardale station.
  • There is a train depot at Blackburn.
  • Blackburn station is in the Town Centre.
  • Blackburn station has good rail connections to Blackpool, Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester and Preston.

Prior to COVID-19, I regularly stayed in the convenient Premier Inn next to the station.

Rolling Stock

The trains will have to be self-powered, as I don’t think the budget will run to electrification and much of the track-bed is owned by a heritage railway.

So that must mean the trains must be self-powered, which will mean either diesel, electric or hydrogen.

  • I think diesel can be ruled out, except as a stop-gap, we are going carbon-neutral on the railways by 2040.
  • Blackburn and Northallerton stations are too far for battery power.

So that means it must be hydrogen power.

But as, it appears that Teesside is going for hydrogen, as I wrote about in Fuelling The Change On Teesside Rails, that should be a convenient fuel.

The route might be a candidate for Vivarail’s Pop-up Metro concept, with fast charging at one or two, of any number of the stations.

Conclusion

I like this scheme, as it sorts a lot of problems.

I also think that there’s a fair chance, it will get the nod.

The local MP is the Chancellor of the Exchequer; Rishi Sunak and this could be a case of he who pays the piper, calls the tune!

July 4, 2020 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Northern Opens £23m Blackburn Depot As Part Of Great North Rail Project

The title of this post is the same as this article in Rail Technology Magazine. This is said.

Northern and Network Rail have spent £23m on a new train maintenance depot in Blackburn, opened by rail minister Paul Maynard last week.

The facility has been built with a range of modern equipment and will be used to maintain as many as 30 diesel trains.

In addition to the new King Street Depot, Northern will also open a new operations building opposite Blackburn station. The two facilities are part of NR’s Great North Rail Project, which is expected to invest more than £1bn in improvements by 2022.

It certainly looks like Network Rail and Northern are preparing well for more services in the North West.

I took this picture as I passed on my way to Manchester Victoria, soon after I left Blackburn station.

This Google Map shows the location of the depot with respect to Blackburn station.

Note.

  • Blackburn station is in the North-East corner of the map.
  • Burnley is to the North-East and Preston to the South West.
  • The traincare depot was being built, when this map was taken and is to the right of the red arrow on the map.

 

From the picture, it would appear that trains have to go into and out of the depot in the Blackburn direction.

But if most trains start and finish their journeys at the station, that probably isn’t a problem.

Good points include.

  • At least though the depot is probably within walking distance of the busy station and trains won’t have to go long distances to be services and refuelled.
  • There would appear to be plenty of space.
  • The depot is ready for Northern‘s new Class 195 diesel multiple units.

Will the depot be used to refuel thew Class 769 trains, if they work through Blackburn?

November 26, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Blackburn To Manchester Every Thirty Minutes

That’s what it says on this poster, I photographeds at Blackburn station on Saturday.

Full words on the poster are.

Blackburn To Manchester

Every  30 minutes

Starts December 10

Mon-Sat  9.30am – 17.30pm

Both Directions

Certainly one young guy I spoke to, said it would change his travelling for the better.

Looking at the online timetable gives a few clues.

  • The current Manchester Victoria to Clitheroe service continues.
  • The current Manchester Victoria to Blackburn service via Todmorden continues.
  • The second service in each hour uses the Bay Platform 3 at Blackburn.
  • Some services seem to be Stalybridge to Blackburn via Manchester Victoria.

As Stalybridge to Preston and Blackpool via Bolton will be electrified soon, could it be that Northern are gearing up to have an electrified core route with diesel branches, that would be ideal for Class 769 trains.

Consider.

  • Four-car Class 769 trains could replace pairs of Class 150 and Class 156 trains.
  • The trains have a respectable top speed in both electric and diesel mode.
  • The pantograph can be raised and lowered as appropriate.
  • The trains have a Universal Access Toilet and meet all the Persons of Restricted Mobility Access rules.
  • If more electrification is added, the trains will take advantage.

Could we see the upgrade between Manchester and Blackburn on December 10th, implemented using Class 769 trains?

News on the Class 769 trains has been very sparse lately.

According to a technical specification that I’ve seen, four of the Class 769 trains are planned to be in service by December 2017.

So is everything going to plan or has it all gone pear-shaped?

What trains turn up on December the 10th will be useful information!

 

 

 

November 19, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 3 Comments