The Anonymous Widower

Would A North-East And South West Sleeper Service Be A Good Idea?

I ask this question as in the October 2021, there is an article entitled A New Sleeper, which has this explanatory sub-title.

Des Bradley describes his concept for a North-East to South-West Overnight Service

Paraphrasing his resume from the article, Des Bradley is probably best described as a rail enthusiast, who has travelled all over Europe by train, especially on sleeper trains. He has also worked recently with ScotRail, where he led their integrated travel activities.

I regularly use the Caledonian Sleeper on my trips to Scotland,  often taking a sleeper one way and a day time train the other. Towards the end of next month, I have tickets booked for a low-cost Lumo train to Edinburgh and a sleeper back to London in the evening.

In this blog, I have regularly written about the sleeper trains being introduced across Europe and this summer I had intended to go via Eurostar and NightJet to Vienna. But the pandemic has kept me in England for two years.

An Edinburgh And Plymouth Sleeper

Des Bradley is proposing a sleeper train between Edinburgh and Plymouth.

  • A typical daytime trip on this route takes eight hours and forty-five minutes.
  • Intermediate stops would be Berwick-upon-Tweed, Newcastle, Durham, Darlington, York, Leeds, Sheffield, Derby, Birmingham New Street, Cheltenham Spa, Bristol Parkway, Bristol Temple Meads, Taunton, Exeter St. David’s and Newton Abbot.
  • Journey time would be just over twelve hours.
  • By comparison a sleeper between London and Edinburgh takes about seven hours and thirty minutes.

He calls the service the NESW Sleeper.

I have some thoughts on the proposal.

A Spine Route Between Edinburgh And Penzance

The route is effectively a spine between Edinburgh and Plymouth on which other services can be built.

Unlike the Caledonian Sleeper, Des Bradley doesn’t feel the train should split and join as it travels up and down the country.

But I do think that the NESW Sleeper can be timed to fit in with high-quality connecting services to extend the coverage.

An Innovative Timetable

Des Bradley’s timetable is innovative.

  • Trains leave Edinburgh and Plymouth around 21:00.
  • Trains arrive at their destination around 09:00.
  • Trains stop for about two hours at Derby.
  • After resting at Derby, the trains are effectively early morning trains.

Note.

  1. The wait at Derby, adds extra time, that can be used to make up for engineering diversions, which often happen at night!
  2. The trains could be used by non-sleeper passengers to get to Plymouth or Edinburgh early.

The consequence of the second point, is that the trains will have to offer some Standard Class seats.

Should The Train Serve Penzance?

The Great Western Railway’s Night Riviera sleeper train calls at Liskeard, Bodmin Parkway, Lostwithiel, St.Austell, Truro, Redruth, Cambourne, Hoyle and St. Erth between Plymouth and Penzance.

According to a proposed NESW timetable, the Night Riviera has long gone, before the NESW Sleeper arrives in Plymouth at 08:58.

But I’m sure Great Western Railway could arrange for a convenient service between Plymouth and Penzance to pick up passengers in the morning and deliver them in the evening. This picture taken at Plymouth, indicates that cross-platform interchange may be possible.

This picture shows a pair of GWR Castles, which regularly work additional services between Plymouth and Penzance.

What About Wales?

I suspect that Cardiff, Swansea and other towns and cities in South Wales, can be served in a similar way, by connecting with GWR services at Bristol Parkway station.

Other Connecting Services

Birmingham New Street, Derby, Leeds and Newcastle are important interchange stations and I can see services being timed to bring passengers to and from the NESW Sleeper.

Rolling Stock

The author offers choices for the trains, based on what is used currently in the UK and adding multiple units. But he is definitely tending towards fixed formations.

I feel that the trains should meet the following criteria.

They should be of similar standard as the Caledonian Sleeper.

They would need an independently-powered capability for sections without electrification.

They should be zero-carbon.

They should offer a range of accommodation including Standard Class seats to cater the early birds and budget travellers.

The possibility to run at 100 mph or faster might be useful to catch up time on some sections of the route.

I think that two trains could be possible.

  • A rake of coaches hauled by a hydrogen-electric locomotive.
  • A battery-electric Sleeper Multiple-Unit with a range of perhaps eighty miles on batteries.

This is a sentence from the article.

The concept of ‘Sleeper Multiple-Units’ has also emerged in recent years, and this idea could be attractive; although it has some inherent inflexibility, it could in the future allow multi-portion or experimental new routes to be tagged onto the core service.

Sleeper Multiple Units might enable a South Wales and Edinburgh service, that used the same train path between Edinburgh and Bristol Parkway, where the two trains would split and join.

Conclusion

I like this proposal and definitely think it is a good idea.

 

 

 

September 26, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Thoughts On Train Times Between London Paddington And Cardiff Central

I went to Cardiff from Paddington on Tuesday.

These were the journey details.

  • Distance – Paddington and Cardiff – 145.1 miles
  • Time – Paddington and Cardiff – 110 minutes – 79.1 mph
  • Time – Cardiff and Paddington- 114 minutes – 76.4 mph

There were four stops. Each seemed to take between two and three minutes.

I do feel though, that the trains are still running to a timetable, that could be run by an InterCity 125.

I watched the Speedview app on my phone for a lot of both journeys.

  • There was quite an amount of 125 mph running on the route.
  • Some stretches of the route seemed to be run at a line speed of around 90 mph.
  • The Severn Tunnel appears to have a 90 mph speed.
  • Coming back to London the train ran at 125 mph until the Wharncliffe Viaduct.

These are my thoughts.

Under Two Hour Service

The current service is under two hours, which is probably a good start.

Improving The Current Service

It does strike me that the current timetable doesn’t take full advantage of the performance of the new Hitachi Class 80x trains.

  • Could a minute be saved at each of the four stops?
  • Could more 125 mph running be introduced?
  • Could the trains go faster through the Severn Tunnel?
  • If two trains per hour (tph) were to be restored, would that allow a more efficient stopping pattern?
  • The route has at least four tracks between Paddington and Didcot Parkway and the Severn Tunnel and Cardiff.

I would reckon that times of between one hour and forty minutes and one hour and forty-five minutes are possible.

These times correspond to average speeds of between 87 and 83 mph.

Application of In-Cab Digital Signalling

Currently, a typical train leaving Paddington completes the 45.7 miles between Hanwell and Didcot Parkway with a stop at Reading in 28 minutes, which is an average speed of 97.9 mph.

This busy section of the route is surely an obvious one for In-cab digital signalling., which would allow speeds of up to 140 mph.

  • Services join and leave the route on branches to Bedwyn, Heathrow, Oxford and Taunton.
  • The Heathrow services are run by 110 mph Class 387 trains.
  • There are slow lines for local services and freight trains.

If an average speed of 125 mph could be attained between Hanwell and Didcot Parkway, this would save six minutes on the time.

Would any extra savings be possible on other sections of the route, by using in-cab digital signalling?

I suspect on the busy section between Bristol Parkway and Cardiff Central stations several minutes could be saved.

Would A Ninety Minute Time Between Paddington And Cardiff Be Possible?

To handle the 145.1 miles between Paddington and Cardiff Central would require an average speed including four stops of 96.7 mph.

This average speed is in line with the current time between Hanwell and Didcot Parkway with a stop at Reading, so I suspect that with improvements to the timetable, that a ninety minute service between Paddington and Cardiff Central is possible.

It may or may not need in-cab digital signalling.

My Control Engineer’s nose says that this signalling upgrade will be needed.

Would A Sixty Minute Time Between Paddington And Cardiff Be Possible?

A journey time of an hour between Paddington and Cardiff Central would surely be the dream of all politicians the Great Western Railway and many of those involved with trains.

To handle the 145.1 miles between Paddington and Cardiff Central would require an average speed including four stops of 145.1 mph.

It would probably be difficult to maintain a speed a few mph above the trains current maximum speed for an hour.

  • How many minutes would be saved with perhaps a single intermediate stop at Bristol Parkway station?
  • Perhaps the Cardiff service could be two tph in ninety minutes and one tph in sixty minutes.
  • Full in-cab digital signalling would certainly be needed.
  • Faster trains with a maximum speed of up to 155-160 mph would certainly be needed.
  • There may be a need for some extra tracks in some places on the route.

A journey time of an hour will be a few years coming, but I feel it is an achievable objective.

The Extended Route To Swansea

Cardiff Central and Swansea is a distance of 45.7 miles

A typical service takes 55 minutes with three stops, at an average speed of 49.8 mph.

This would be an ideal route for a Hitachi Intercity Tri-Mode Battery Train, which is described in this Hitachi infographic.

It would probably be needed to be charged at Swansea station, to both enable return to Cardiff Central or extend the service to the West of Swansea.

Conclusion

Big improvements in journey times between Paddington and Cardiff Central are possible.

 

June 10, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments