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

Should The Blackpool South Branch Be Electrified?

I can find nothing on the Internet, which states whether the branch line between Kirkham and Wesham and Blackpool South stations will or won’t be electrified.

However, I did get create this Google Map of Kirkham West Junction, where the lines to the two Blackpool stations divide.

Note.

  1. Kirkham and Wesham station is to the East.
  2. Blackpool North station is to the North-West.
  3. Blackpool South station is to the South-West.

This image was captured during the recent construction phase on the Blackpool Branch Lines.

As my train to Blackpool North on Monday afternoon passed the junction I took these pictures.

It looks to me, that the contractors are doing the following.

  • Improving the junction.
  • Laying some new track at the start of the branch line.
  • I also think, that the junction is being electrified.

The electrification could be for the following reasons.

  • It is the start of electrification of the branch.
  • Network Rail are providing an electrified turn-back facility at Krkham and Wesham station.
  • It could also be sensible future-proofing to make sure the branch can be electrified easily in the future.

If the branch is going to be worked by Class 769 trains or other bi-mode or battery powered trains, then I believe the work becomes clearer.

  • Trains from Blackpool South would have an electrified place, where they can change to electrical power and wait until the main lines are clear before crossing over to the Preston-bound track.
  • Trains to Blackpool South would be able to wait in Kirkham and Wesham station, until the line to Blackpool South was clear.
  • Trains to Blackpool South  could of course start their journey, as soon as the train from Blackpool South is waiting to cross over, using the new track, that is visible in my pictures.

The works will also create a very safe junction at Kirkham West.

The Blackpool South Branch 

The branch line has the following characteristics.

But there are other issues that should be considered.

Football At Bloomfield Road

If you are going to football at Bloomfield Road, as I have several times, Blackpool South is the closest station.

Blackpool Pleasure Beach

Blackpool Pleasure Beach has its own station, but there are reports on the Internet, that the walk between the station and the theme park needs to be improved.

An Increase In Capacty And Frequency

I once travelled between Colne and Blackpool South stations on a beautiful sunny day in early September.

  • Northern had laid on a pair of Pacers, working as a four-car train.
  • They were packed with families going for a day on the coast.

The conductor told me this often happens, when the weather is good.

When I passed through Preston station earlier in the week, I might have seen a notice, saying that the service between Colne and Blackpool South will run all week.

Passing Loops

There is no passing loop on the branch, so it makes it very difficult to run a more passenger-friendly two tph.

Until, the works at Kirkham West Junction are complete we probably won’t know if the junction is being designed, so that a train entering the branch could wait safely for a train to emerge from the branch.

But this would be more for reliable operations, than increasing frequency of trains.

The Open Championship At Royal Lytham And St. Annes

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.
  • Lomger 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.

Rebuildng Of The Railway Between Skipton And Colne

The link between Skipton and Colne stations is promoted by SELRAP and has now been backed by the Government and large businesses like Drax, who say it would improve efficiency of biomass deliveries.

This map from Wikipedia shows the route.

Note that if the missing link is built, it does the following

  • Creates another much-needed route across the Pennines
  • Creates a second route between Leeds and Blackpool
  • Encourages visitors to the area.
  • Creates an easy link between Lancashire and the Settle and Carlisle Line.
  • Creates an alternative and faster freight route across the Pennines.

It could even become an iconic route famed for the scenery.

I feel that if this missing link were to be reinstated, it would be very well-used by passengers.

This increase in passengers would surely increase traffic between Colne and Blackpool South stations, means more pressure for two tph.

How Fast Could A Train Go Between Kirkham & Wesham and Blackpool South Stations?

Currently, the Class 142 trains take around 27-29 minutes to do the journey six intermediate stops.

Trains like a Class 769 train have improved performance.

  • They are being converted from Class 319 trains, that were built for high frequency commuter services.
  • The trains have two double-doors on each side of each of the four carriages.
  • Seat layout diagrams show the possibility of wide aisles and a lot of 2+2 seating.
  • They are faster, as the Class 142 trains have an operating speed of 75 mph and this article on Rail Magazine, says that the Class 769 trains can do 91-92 mph on diesel.
  • They have better acceleration and braking.
  • They can probably carry out stops much faster.

Newer trains built in the last couple of years will be even better.

Other factors will also speed up the service.

  • Level access between train and platform at all stations.
  • Relaying the track to allow higher operational speeds.
  • Modern signalling.
  • High-quality train driving and operation.

I am sure that the the time for a train to go from Kirkham and Wesham to Blackpool South and back will be substantially reduced.

But is it possible to do the trip in under thirty minutes, so that two tph will be possible?

Could Two Tph Be Run Between Preston and Blackpool South Without Electrification?

I believe that the Class 769 trains could be fast enough to run a two tph service on the Blackpool South branch, when passenger numbers say it is needed and track and station improvements have been completed.

An express shuttle could be provided for big events at Royal Lytham.

  • It would run between Preston and Blackpool South stations.
  • It would stop at Kirkham and Wesham and Ansdell and Fairhaven
  • The platforms at Ansdell and Fairhaven  and Blackpool South stations were to be lengthened to accept two Class 769 trains working as an eight-car train.

Network Rail would only need to lengthen two platforms and increase the operating speed of the line.

Effectively, by replacing a 1980s scrapyard special with a refurbished train of the same vintage and improving the track, the capacity of the Blackpool South Branch can be increased.

If some platforms were to be lengthened, it should be possible to run eight-car trains for events like the Open Championship at Royal Lytham.

Who needs electrification?

The Blackpool South Branch certainly doesn’t!

 

 

 

 

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April 20, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 4 Comments

Between Blackpool South And Colne Stations Could Take Longer After 20th May

Tomorrow, trains between Blackpool South and Colne stations will take a few minutes under two hours.

But after the timetable change of May 20th, the journey will take an hour longer.

  • There will be a change at Preston.
  • This change will involve a wait of an hour.

I have ridden that line and in the summer, there are a lot of passengers that use it for a trip to the seaside.

April 15, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment