The Anonymous Widower

Two Trains Per Hour Between Manchester Piccadilly And Buxton Stations From May 21st

If you are going between Manchester Piccadilly and Buxton stations tomorrow, just after ten in the morning, the trains are as follows.

  • 10:49 – 11:58 – 59 minutes
  • 11:49 – 12:58 – 59 minutes

But do the journey on May 21st and the trains will be as follows.

  • 10:11 – 11:06 – 55 minutes
  • 10:47 – 11:49 – 62 minutes
  • 11:11 – 12:06 – 55 minutes
  • 11:47 – 12:49 – 62 minutes

Returning on or after May 21st, the trains will be as follows.

  • 10:02 – 10:56 – 54 minutes
  • 10:34 – 11:36 – 62 minutes
  • 11:02 – 11:56 – 54 minutes
  • 11:34 – 12:36 – 62 minutes

Note.

  1. Two extra trains have been added to the service, to give two trains per hour (tph)
  2. The faster trains stop at Stockport, Davenport, Woodsmoor, Hazel Grove, Disley, New Mills NewTown, Whaley Bridge and Chapel-en-le-Frith.
  3. The slower trains have additional stops at Levenshulme, Heaton Chapel, Furnace Vale and Dove Holes.

As the times aren’t that different to the current ones, I suspect that the timings could be achieved by the current Class 156 trains, that work the route.

I have seen an early copy of Porterbrook’s brochure for the Class 319 Flex train, which is now the Class 769 train.

This is an extract.

Porterbrook determined that the most arduous route would be Manchester Piccadilly to Buxton, which has a steep gradient and multiple stops along its 25 mile route 9(8 miles of which is electrified). This anlysis was included to give confidence that the Class 319 Flex would be comparable to existing Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) technology across a range of different routes, stopping patterns and gradients.

Take a quick look at the Buxton Line on Wikipedia.

This is said.

Due to steep gradients on this line, Class 142 and Class 153 DMUs are banned from the section of line between Hazel Grove and Buxton. Therefore, services to Buxton are worked by Class 150 and Class 156 DMUs. Also Class 158 DMUs were once blocked from operating on the line to Buxton due to the possibility of the large roof-mounted air vents striking low bridges on the route.

Note the two extracts both say “to Buxton”, as obviously, the trains can use the free power boost of gravity on the way down.

If Class 769 trains were to be used on the Manchester Piccadilly to Buxton service, the following would apply.

  • Between Manchester Piccadilly and Hazel Grove, the trains could use the electrification.
  • They are four-car trains as opposed to the two-car Class 156 trains that currently run the service.
  • The service could be extended on the other side of Manchester, when the electrification is finally complete.

I think there’s every chance that Northern are preparing to run Class 769 trains, on the route for which they were designed.

Instead of just one two-car tph, as at present, Buxton could be getting two four-car tph.

Capacity could be increased by four times.

 

 

April 10, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 2 Comments

A Side-Effect Of Northern’s Plan To Use Class 769 Trains Across Manchester

It would appear that Northern will use some Class 769 trains on routes across Manchester’s electrified core to connect two lines without electrification.

I think that one route could be to connect Clitheroe on the Ribble Valley Line to Buxton on the Buxton Line.

These two branches could be connected by an electrified line between Hazel Grove and Bolton stations, outside of which they’d generate their own power using on-board diesel alternators.

Pacers, Class 150 trains or Class 156 trains currently work the two lines without electrification, but if it was designed to create a North-South cross-Manchester service, Class 769 trains could easily handle the extended route.

Northern have around a hundred Pacers and have pledged to remove all of them from service. Probably, most will go to the scrapyard, but some might end up with enthusiasts or masochists, or in strange export markets.

  • A 75 mph two-car train like a Class 150/156 train or a Pacer would be replaced with a 90 mph four-car train. Which must speed up and improve the service.
  • Capacity would be increased by at least one car in each replacement train.
  • If a Pacer is replaced on the route, it goes out of service.
  • If a Class 156 train is replaced it goes elsewhere to kick a Pacer out of service.
  • If a Class 150 train is replaced, it probably gets a good refurbishment to kick a Pacer out of service.

So as each new Class 769 train enters service, it can push a Pacer out of service and replace it with a better train.

The same probably occurs when a Class 319 train enters service on the Northern network, if it directly replaces another train.

Passengers on their local line, might not see a new electric train, but their Pacers will gradually be replaced with better stock.

Then as the brand-new trains from CAF get introduced in a couple of years, everybody will see better trains.

In some businesses, you might think it a way to con the customers. But here, they’ll just see a process of continuous improvement of the rolling stock on their regular journeys.

December 10, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Connecting The Powerhouses

This is the title of an article in the June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, written by Colin Boocock.

It talks about a proposal to reopen the Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midland Junction Railway or Peak Main Line, which formed part of the Midland Railway route from London to Manchester.

The three main objectives of the reopening are probably as follows.

  • Decrease journey times between Manchester and Derby/Nottingham
  • Provide a better route for limestone trains from around Millers Dale to Derby and the South.
  • Provide better access to the Peak District with its natural and man-made attractions

I would add better connectivity to both Manchester Airport and HS2.

From Derby To Manchester By Rail Today

There are two current routes via Stoke or Sheffield.

The route via Sheffield is the busier and decreasing journey times would be difficult, but the Stoke route is electrified from Stoke and bi-mode trains could probably do Derby to Manchester in an hour and fifteen minutes.

Reopening The Peak Main Line

The next three sections describe the current states of the three sections of the Peak Main Line, as it goes directly across the Peak District from Chinley on the Hope Valley Line to Derby.

From Derby To Matlock

This Southern section of the Peak Main Line is the Derwent Valley Line and it is served by an hourly passenger service.

From Chinley to Millers Dale

The Northern section of the Peak Main Line runs from Chinley station on the Hope Valley Line to the site of Millers Dale station, which is a few miles east of Buxton.

The main use of this section is to get stone and quarry products out of the Peak District to markets in the Midlands and the South.

The stone trains go North to the Hope Valley Line, before turning East to Sheffield and then South down the Midland Main Line.

The Missing Link From Millers Dale To Matlock

This important fourteen mile section of Peak Main Line was closed in 1968, by the non-driving Transport Minister Barbara Castle. She obviously didn’t like trains either!

The Author’s Thoughts On The Link

The track bed of the Peak Main Line is still intact and the author of the article suggests that there could be two ways of rebuilding the railway.

  • As a 75 mph single-track railway sharing the track-bed with the Monsai Trail.
  • As a 90 mph double-track railway, after moving the Monsai Trail to a more picturesque route.

Four or five, reopened or new stations could be built with passing loops to enable the minimum service frequency to be achieved, which the author suggests should be the following in both directions in every hour.

  • One fast passenger train
  • One stopping passenger train.
  • One freight train; full or empty.

But there are possible problems.

  • The A6 has to be crossed.
  • One local landowner didn’t allow consultants access to the line for an inspection.
  • Severn Trent Water are digging a large pipe into the track-bed.
  • Peak Rail have plans to extend their heritage line to Bakewell. Could both groups co-exist?

It sounds to me that everybody should find a good hostelry and thrash out a comprehensive co-operation agreement on the backs of engineering envelopes, fuelled by some excellent real ale.

A Connection To Buxton

The author says this.

A future connection over the existing railway from North of Millers Dale to Buxton would add a tourist town with 10,000 inhabitants to the market mix.

I feel Buxton may become more important in the next few years.

The Cost Of Building The Link

The author suggests that the cost of rebuilding the Peak Main Line could be between £137million and £170million, based on a consultants’ report and the cost of reinstating the Borders Railway.

Would Building The Link Be Value For Money?

The author finishes a section called Value For Money like this.

These figures suggest the Peak main line reopening may be at least as cost-effective, perhaps considerably more so, than the Borders Railway. And that ignores any benefits to the economy of the local community around that 14 miles of railway, which comprises almost 30,000 people (excluding Buxton’s 10,000).

I’ll go along with that for now!

Factors Driving The Traffic

The author suggests that three factors will drive the traffic on a rebuilt Peak Main Line.

  • General connectivity between the East Midlands and Stockport/Manchester.
  • Stone trains to the Midlands and the South.
  • A combination of local travel and tourism.

The author also suggests that the hourly service on the Derwent Valley Line linking Matlock to Derby and Nottingham is inadequate.

The Buxton Affect

I would add a fourth factor; the Class 319 Flex trains providing an improved service between Manchester and Buxton.

  • Four-car trains
  • A frequency of two trains per hour.
  • Acceptable timings, even when crush loaded.

Northern have said they are likely to run back-to-back services across Manchester using the Ordsall Chord, which would be more efficient and save platform space in Manchester.

Because Manchester to Clitheroe is another uphill slog, I would link Clitheroe and Buxton services, thus creating a commuter railway that linked two major tourism areas. Certain services would continue at the Northern end to Hellifield for the recently rebuilt, Settle and Carlisle Railway.

In Why Not Buxton To Hellifield?, I wrote about this cross-Manchester link.

Whatever Northern do between Manchester and Buxton, it will be better than at present and traffic on a reopened Peak Main Line to Matlock must feel the benefit.

Stone Traffic

This Google Map shows the area between Buxton and Millers Dale.

Note Buxton in the South-West corner of the map and all the white areas to the North-East of the town, with Millers Dale at The East of the map.

The white areas are not snow in winter, but massive limestone quarries.

The Peak Main Line passes between and around the quarries, so stone trains could take the most efficient route, to either the North or South.

In the same Edition of Modern Railways as the article, is another article about rail freight, this is said.

Aggregates traffic, negligible in 1970, is now a quarter of the total, as sand and gravel supplies in London and the South East have been exhausted  and the capital satisfies ite voracious demand for building materials from further afield.

Things have changed since 1968.

I don’t think it likely that the number of stone trains from Derbyshire to the South will decrease..

Perhaps, the big aggregate and quarrying companies would like to make a contribution to the reinstatement of the Peak Main Line.

The Derwent Valley Line

This is taken from Colin Boocock’s article.

There is already the hourly commuter service linking Matlock with Derby and Nottingham, which is buoyant at certain times of the working day, and the two car trains are busy in the tourist season. The Peak District National Park is a very popular area for walkers and tourists in general.

A picture in the article shows a single-car Class 153 train working the line. If this is typical it is totally inadequate.

From the point of view of balance on the existing line, with Buxton getting spacious four-car Class 319 Flex trains from Manchester, surely Matlock needs something bigger from Derby and Nottingham.

Given the excellent cycling and walking route between Matlock and Buxton, a four-car train should have plenty of space for bicycles and rucksacks.

Perhaps, Porterbrook could come up with a special four-car Flex tourist train, based on a Class 455 train.

With good trains at both ends of the line, the tourism potential of the route could be better assessed.

Exploring The Derwent Valley Line, gives pictures and more details on my thoughts about the Derwent Valley Line.

HS2

You may think that HS2 is irrelevant to a reopened railway across the Peak District. But when it opens HS2 will be a fast alternative route between the East Midlands and Manchester.

This document on the HS2 web site gives the following HS2 times.

  • East Midlands Hub to Birmingham  – 19 minutes
  • Birmingham to Manchester – 41 minutes.

Admittedly, these times will not be available until HS2 to the East Midlands and Manchester is fully open

But from 2032, East Midlands Hub to Birmingham will be open and a couple of years before that HS2 will reach Crewe, thus giving a Birmingham to Manchester time somewhere around fifty minutes, by using HS2 to Crewe and then running at 200 kph into Manchester.

So will this make the need for the Peak Main Line unnecessary?

I very much doubt it.

Suppose a family who lived in Nottingham were going to Manchester to see their favourite band, football team or just for a day out.

How many would be tempted to take the fast route one way and the slow scenic route without a change on the other?

Colin Boocock calculates that Nottingham to Manchester will take one hour forty-three minutes via the Peak Main Line from when it is opened.

HS2 may be faster than that at around an hour with a change, so it will be a case of paying the money and making the choice.

But if the Peak Main Line is reopened, this will mean that Matlock, Buxton and all the intermediate places will be given a faster route to London as East Midlands Hub to Euston will be just sixty-eight minutes.

The Peak Main Line will become a valuable feeder line for HS2.

HS2 could also open up more paths on the Midland Main Line for freight, so could we see more stone trains going South.

Manchester Airport

Manchester Airport is an ambitious player in the transport game.

  • The Ordsall Chord will give is much better connections to the North, Yorkshire and the North East of England and Scotland.
  • Rail improvements around Chester and Liverpool will give it better access to Cheshire, Shropshire and North Wales.
  • HS2 will give improve its connections to the West Midlands and the South.

I believe that just as Gatwick Airport has become an important rail hub, that the same thing will happen to Maanchester Airport.

The main connections that Manchester Airport lacks are decent links to Sheffield and the East Midlands.

This diagram shows the rail lines between Manchester and the Airport.

The Hope Valley Line from Sheffield, feeds into Stockport to go to Central Manchester.

The Peak Main Line can join the Hope Valley Line either via the Buxton Line at Hazel Grove or as the stone trains currently do at Chinley.

At the present time, there is no direct connection from the Hope Valley Line to Manchester Airport.

But if one were needed, I’m certain that it could be arranged.

I believe it is possible to connect the Mid-Cheshire Line that goes from Stockport to Navigation Road and Altrincham, to the Styal Line, which is the main route to the Airport. This would be done at a new junction North of Gatley station.

This Google Map shows the area where the railway lines cross.

Gatley station is at the South-West corner of the map and the Styal Line runs Northwards past the motorway junction between the M60 and the A34.

The Mid-Cheshire Line runs across the map South of the motorway junction and the Alexandra Hospital.

This connection could be done in one of several ways.

  • Trains could reverse at Stockport station.
  • Trains could stop at Stockport station and travellers would simply walk across the platform to connect to trains to and from the Airport.
  • It might even be possible to connect the Hope Valley Line directly to the Mid Cheshire Line.

The last option would be my preferred one, as if it could be built, it would give Sheffield very good access to Manchester Airport.

This Google Map shows the junction South of Stockport, where three lines divide.

The Mid-Cheshire Line goes to the West, the West Coast Main Line goes to the South and the Hope Valley Line  goes to the East.

It would be tight and probably require some demolition to get a direct connection across the junction from East to West, but it would give superb access between Sheffield and the East Midlands and Manchester Airport.

There would be two routes to Manchester from the Hope Valley Line

  • Direct via Stockport
  • Indirect via Manchester Airport, where the train would reverse.

Services could even be arranged to call simultaneously at an enlarged Hazel Grove station, to give travellers the maximum flexibility.

A reopened Peak Main Line will surely be on Manchester Airport’s wish list.

Chatsworth House

Chatsworth House is one of the UK’s favourite country houses and it lies under four miles from the sites of the former stations;Hassop and Rowsley on the Peak Main Line.

Reading the excellent How To Find Us page on the Chatsworth website, I get the impression they make it easy to get to the house, by all sorts of routes.

So , I would suspect they would welcome one or both of the stations, if they reopened.

Recently, I visited Hassop station and found they had lots of bicycles for hire.

Peak Rail

I can’t leave this post without mentioning Peak Rail, the heritage rail company with ambitions to connect Matlock to Buxton via Bakewell.

In Travelling Along Peak Rail, I describe my trip between Matlock and Rowsley South stations.

What impressed me was their professionalism, in both the route and the way they ran the trains.

I suspect that given time and enough money they will achieve their ambitions.

But what if the big beasts of Derbyshire County Council, Northern, East Midlands Trains, Network Rail and possibly Manchester Airport want the route for themselves?

My view is that this is a tourist area and if co-operation could enable a heritage service between Matlock and Buxton, this would bring visitors and their money to the area.

I think too, that some of the engineering challenges will need the money that some big beasts might bring!

I can envisage a time, when passengers will have two trains per hour to and from Derby.

  • One train might terminate at Matlock and allow passengers to connect to a heritage service going North.
  • The other train would continue through as a stopping train to Manchester.

This is just one of a long list of endless possibilities.

 

Conclusion

It’s very difficult to find a reason not to reopen the Peak Main Line

 

 

 

 

 

May 30, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 10 Comments

The Class 319 Flex Train And A Railbaar

When I wrote Could There Be A Battery-Powered Class 319 Flex Train?, not much information had been published on the Railbaar, but a Railbaar could be another tool to use with a Class 319 Flex train.

This is a paragraph from the advance copy I have of Porterbrook’s brochure for the Class 319 Flex train.

By way of an example, Porterbrook determined that the most arduous route would be Manchester Piccadilly to Buxton, which has a steep gradient and multiple stops along its 25 mile route (8 miles of which is electrified). This analysis was included to give confidence that the Class 319 Flex would be comparable to existing Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) technology across a range of different routes, stopping patterns and gradients.

Elsewhere in the brochure, they say this.

A large battery option was shown to be heavy, would require a lot of space and have long recharge times.

On the other hand, they have stated that batteries could be used to augment diesel power.

Challenging Rail Lines Up Steep Gradients in the UK

Lines like the Buxton Line are not unusual in the UK. The following challenging.

  1. Bromsgrove to Barnt Green up the infamous Lickey Incline – non-stop
  2. Bolton to Blackburn up the Ribble Valley Line – 4 intermediate stops
  3. Blackburn to Clitheroe up the Ribble Valley Line – 3 intermediate stops
  4. Rose Grove to Colne up the East Lancashire Line – 5 intermediate stops
  5. Exeter St. Davids to Barnstaple up the Tarka Line – 10 intermediate stops
  6. Plymouth to Gunnislake up the Tamar Valley Line – 7 intermediate stops
  7. Cardiff Central to Aberdate up the Aberdare Branch of the Methyr Line – 13 intermediate stops
  8. Cardiff Central to Ebbw Vale Town up the Ebbw Valley Railway – 5 intermediate stops
  9. Cardiff Central to Merthyr Tydfil up the Merthyr Line – 13 intermediate stops
  10. Cardiff Central to Rhymney up the Rhymney Line – 16 intermediate stops
  11. Cardiff Central to Treherbert up the Rhondda Line – 16 intermediate stops

Our Victorian engineers never let a steep gradient get in the way of where they wanted to build a railway.

Could These Lines Be Electrified?

Only the Lickey Incline (1) is currently being electrified. This is a description of the incline from Wikipedia.

The Lickey Incline, south of Birmingham, is the steepest sustained main-line railway incline in Great Britain. The climb is a gradient of 1 in 37.7 (2.65% or 26.5‰ or 1.52°) for a continuous distance of two miles (3.2 km)

Youtube has a great deal of modern and historic video of the Lickey Incline. Some recent footage shows freight trains climbing the incline with the assistance of a banking engine at the rear.

I doubt if the two lines in Devon (5 and 6) will ever be electrified, The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England will never allow overhead wiring gantries to despoil the landscape along the routes, some of which is in a National Park.

If the Class 319 Flex train does a good job with the three Lancashire Lines around Blackburn (2,3 and 4), the decision to electrify will be pushed a decade or more into the future. I could certainly see, Bombardier, Stadler and perhaps a couple of other companies building a train based on the experience with a Class 319 Flex train, as a replacement.

Politicians will decide whether the Cardiff Valley Lines (7 to 11) are electrified, but I have a feeling that someone somewhere will have a better alternative to full traditional electrification.

The Cardiff Valley Lines

Consider these facts about the rail service on the Cardiff Valley Lines

  • The lines are a vital lifeline to those that live in the South Wales Valleys.
  • The area is not without its attraction, for those who like to be in the hills.
  • Traffic on the lines varies throughout the day.
  • Traffic up the Valleys is highest in the evening commuting Peak and after a big sporting event in Cardiff.
  • Four-car trains are needed on the route.
  • The current diesel trains are elderly and unreliable.
  • There are plans to open new lines and stations and extend some of the existing lines further to the North.

But above all jobs and business and housing developments are needed in the Valleys.

An improved rail service could benefit a large number of people and interests.

The Class 319 Flex Train

The Class 319 Flex train started operational service  thirty years ago as a 100 mph express commuter train running on the Thameslink route from Bedford to Brighton.

It may be a comparatively old train, but it has the following characteristics.

  • It is based on the legendary Mark 3 coach, as used on the InterCity 125.
  • It is four-cars.
  • It is a dual-voltage train.
  • Two rail-proven MAN diesels and an ABB alternator provide electric power away from electrification.
  • It is a 100 mph train on an electrified main line.
  • It has a speed of around 90 mph on diesel power.
  • Drivers have told me, that the brakes are superb.
  • It has a good reputation for reliability.
  • It meets all the current disabled regulations.

But about all, like all Mark 3-based stock, it scrubs up well to any desired standard. In What Train Is This?, I showed the interior of a refurburbished thirty-year-old Class 150 train. Unrefurbished examples are typical of the stock that work the challenging lines.

Use Of A Railbaar With A Class 319 Flex Train

Porterbrook have said that the train’s electrical layout with a DC busbar connecting all xars, lends itself to adding a battery, which could be charged using the diesel power.

A typical layout of the Class 319 Flex train could be as follows.

  • DTOC – A driving car with a diesel engine/alternator set underneath.
  • PMOS – A motor car with a pantograph.
  • TOSL – A trailer car with a toilet.
  • DTOS – A driving car with a diesel engine/alternator set underneath.

I suspect that the battery would go under the TOSL.

The connection points for a Railbaar would be on the uncluttered roof of this car.

Railbaar would be a good add-on for a Class 319 Flex train, working an extension or branch line from an electrified line.

Possible Class 319 Flex Train Problems

The Class 319 train has two possible problems; the body is made of steel and the braking is not regenerative.

Despite being steel, their weight at 140 tonnes is lighter than many aluminium bodied trains, but they don’t have all the equipment like air-conditioning.

On the other hand, a similar train to a Class 319, survived the Oxshott Incident, where a 24-tonne cement mixer truck fell off a bridge onto the roof of the train.

Some Class 321 trains, which are similar to the Class 319 train, have been rebuilt with regenerative braking, so if that becomes a necessity for the Class 319 Flex train, I suspect an engineering solution is possible. Especially, as there is over a hundred Class 321 trains, which will be coming off-lease soon.

The Class 319 Flex Train And The Cardiff Valley Lines

There are eighty-six Class 319 trains, so there would be no problems finding a donor train to convert into a trial train for the Cardiff Valley Lines, if the Class 319 Flex train performs successfully on the Buxton Line.

  • On the Buxton Line, trains climb 150 metres in 15 kilometres from the electrified station at Hazel Grove to Buxton.
  • On the Merthyr Line, trains climb 168 metres in about 30 kilometres from Cardiff to Merthyr Tydfil.

So it looks like Buxton is steeper, but the Merthyr Line is longer.

I suspect that a Class 319 Flex train will go into service on a trial basis in South Wales, to test performance and customer reaction.

If nothing, it will help define the specification for the trains that can work the Cardiff Valley Lines.

Energy Needed To Raise A Train To Merthyr Tydfil

I will make these assumptions.

  • Merthyr Tydfil has an altitude of 179 metres.
  • Cardiff Central station has an altitude of 11 metres.
  • The train must be raised 168 metres
  • A Class 319 train has a weight of 140 tonnes.
  • A Class 319 train has a seated capacity of 319.
  • A suitable battery would weigh about 2 tonnes.

Raising an empty  four-car train similar to a Class 319 train, from Cardiff Central to Merthyr Tydfil will require 23,856,000 Kg-m or 65  KwH of energy.

Assuming a full load of 319 passengers at 80 Kg a time and that adds another 4,287,360 Kg-m or 12 KwH of energy.

My calculations are very rough.

The passengers get out at the top, so they are not energy that will be regenerated on the way down.

An Electrification Scheme For The Cardiff Valley Lines

The Cardiff Valley Lines were built with the main purpose of bringing coal from the valleys to the port of Cardiff for distribution and export by ship.

Now passengers are much more important, with commuting , leisure and tourism prominent.

Coming down is never a problem and a battery electric train with good brakes could handle a full load of passengers with few problems.

Going up is the problem, as the evening peak or a big rugby match in Cardiff can result in a full train having to be hauled up the valleys.

Similar problems are encountered on all the lines in my list to a certain extent, but without seeing the figures, I suspect the Cardiff Valley Lines are some of the most challenging.

Porterbrook have said, that they are not against using batteries on a Class 319 Flex train as a boost on difficult climbs.

So I think that a Class 319 Flex train fitted with an appropriate-sized battery could be a starting point.

But there is one big problem with a Class 319 Flex train. The Class 319 trains do not have regenerative braking, which could be used to charge the batteries on the way down from the valleys.

However, the very similar Class 321 train is being fitted with regenerative braking, so a possible Class 321 Flex train could charge the batteries on the way down.

When the train arrived in Cardiff, it could attach to a Railbaar to make sure that when it left to climb up into the valleys, the batteries were fully charged.

I think that in all these ramblings, there will be a solution, where all the various technologies come together in a bespoke solution.

  • Four-car train.
  • Electric drive.
  • 25 KVAC overhead to work electrified routes on the South Wales Main Line, at 100 mph.
  • Onboard rail-proven diesel engines and alternators, which would be used accordingly and probably automatically!
  • Two diesel power units would be used, so that one failure wouldn’t leave a stranded train.
  • Batteries with a capacity of around 100 KwH
  • Powerful regenerative braking
  • Railbaars in Cardiff and other low-altitude terminal stations, could be used if diesel charging can’t be used.
  • Well-driven trains to an energy efficient timetable.

Obviously, any electrification of the Cardiff ends of the routes would be welcome and less diesel-power would be needed.

Conclusions

Railbaar would be a good add-on for a Class 319 Flex train, working an extension or branch line from an electrified line.

A Class 319 Flex train with a battery and regenerative braking could be very useful on challenging routes like the Cardiff Valley Lines.

With these applications,  strategically placed Railbaars could add to the resilience and efficiency of the system.

The bespoke solution, that I have outlined, is very close to the specification of a Class 319 Flex train with a battery and regenerative braking.

I can’t wait to ride a Class 319 Flex train on a proving run to Merthyr Tydfil.

 

 

 

 

 

April 12, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts On The Buxton Line

In these four posts.

I describe an enjoyable trip up from Manchester Piccadilly station up and down the Buxton Line to Buxton station.

These are some thoughts.

Rolling Stock

The Buxton Line is very stiff for a railway in England. Wikipedia says this about the rolling stock.

Due to steep gradients on this line, Class 142 and Class 153 DMUs are banned from the section of line between Hazel Grove and Buxton. Therefore, services to Buxton are worked by Class 150 and Class 156 DMUs. Also Class 158 DMUs were once blocked from operating on the line to Buxton due to the possibility of the large roof-mounted air vents striking low bridges on the route.Piccadilly to Hazel Grove services used Class 323 electric multiple units up until 2008.

I went up in a Class 150 train and came down in a Class 156 train.

The Class 150 train definitely found the climb a struggle and it wasn’t even that full.

I dread to think how even two Class 156 trains working together would have coped after a City-United Derby in Manchester.

The trains up and down this line need to have the following characteristics.

  • Four-cars or more.
  • Lots of power.
  • Step-free access from the platform for wheel-chair users and buggy pushers.
  • Big windows.
  • Lots of space for luggage and bicycles.

As it is a unique tourist line, what about a commentary available through the train’s wi-fi?

The Class 319 Flex train for which this Manchester to Buxton is going to be a test route, should be a lot better, but as tourism by train grows in importance for the rail companies, a need for a specialist tourism-friendly interior will need to be developed.

These are some pictures I took of a Thameslink Cllass 319/4 train, that will be the starting point for the Class 319 Flex train.

The Class 319 Flex trains could be an improvement. They’ve even got a First Class section.

Stations

When the line is run consistently by one type of rolling stock, I would hope that the platform-train step will be minimised, which I think is one of the biggest drawbacks to train travel for perhaps wheel-chair users and buggy pushers in the UK.

Not on this line, but in my recent trip to the North, on one occasion, I nearly saw a child tipped out of a buggy under a Pacer at Wigan Wallgate station. Luckily the child and the buggy was caught by two quick elderly and obviously savvy passengers.

A straight push-across gets rid of this problem. It can surely be pretty much achieved on the Buxton Line, if one one type of train works the regular services on the line.

I didn’t look in detail, but I suspect that only Stockport, Hazel Grove and Buxton are true step-free stations, although I suspect is not difficult at some stations, especially on the line going to Buxton.

The line going to Buxton is probably the most important side and it would be interesting to see how many passengers get out at intermediate stations coming down from Buxton compared to the number going to Buxton.

Some of the stations were very basic and others less so and I suspect that some improvements would be welcome, especially if on a wet day, you had to wait an hour for a train.

I would think too, that some stations have good views from the Buxton-bound platform, so is there scope to create a proper viewing place for the less-mobile.

There is certainly scope to improve the facilities at stations along the line.

Buxton Station

Buxton station has scope to be made into a proper terminus with perhaps a cafe and a comfortable waiting room.

After my experience recently, that I wrote about in A Good Day Out In A Wheelchair, some form of wheelchair or mobility scooter hire at the station might be in order.

I’ve seen mobility scooter hire at one coastal station before, but I can’t remember where. It might not even have been in the UK!

Train Frequency

This line has an hourly service, with extra trains in the Peak.

But as it is at least a double-track all the way from Manchester Piccadilly to Buxton, I’m sure that the line could be run at a frequency of two trains per hour all day. Especially, if the trains  were like the Class 319 Flex trains and had enough power to maintain a faster timetable, even when fully-loaded.

Perhaps, with two trains per hour and decent kiosks at some of the intermediate stations, it would even attract more casual walkers to explore the line.

Ticketing

The Buxton Line could be one, where the normal ticketing model will be fine for the locals, but may not be the best for tourists and casual users.

Disability Issues

I haven’t had a proper look and I’m no expert, but I do wonder if selected improvements could be made, the line could be a way for those in wheelchairs or with limited mobility to explore the area.

Conclusions

The Buxton Line is a valuable railway for the residents and visitors to the area.

I do wonder though with a small amount of selective and sympathetic development, that it could be made even more valuable.

In some ways, designing the Class 319 Flex train, so that it can work the line, can only encourage more passengers to use the route.

 

March 16, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 2 Comments

Why Not Buxton To Hellifield?

Hellifield station, which connects to the Settle and Carlisle Line, is the Northernmost station on the Ribble Valley Line from Manchester and Blackburn.

I’ve not been there, as you need to get there from Blackburn on a Sunday, but surely, as a conductor told me, Northern Rail should provide a service seven days a week.

The Track To Hellifield

This is an extract from an e-mail from Ribble Valley Rail.

The line north of Clitheroe to Hellifield is entirely double track (in use) with a double track junction on to the S&C line at Hellifield South Junction at the south end of the station.  Approximately 19 sets of points and a large amount of trackwork were renewed at Hellifield a few years ago.

They also said, that there is one small addition, they would make at Hellifield, but if services to Hellifield get a lot more numerous, I’m sure Network Rail would do what is necessary.

As the line is double-track from Blackburn to Hellifield, this would mean that running more trains on the line is determined by the number of passengers and the revenue and profit generated, rather than some quirky passing loop by a level crossing or some of British Rail’s pitiful attempts to save money.

Blackburn to Hellifield is a real railway.

Platform Lengths

The e-mail from Ribble Valley Rail, also said this about platform lengths.

All Ribble Valley intermediate stations were lengthened a few years ago and can now accommodate 4-car class 150s which now operate quite regularly, especially on Sundays.    4-car class 156 do overhang and involve locking some doors out-of-use until Blackburn or Clitheroe.

So how long is a four-car formation of the various trains?

I included the Class 172, as it’s a typical modern diesel multiple unit.

So Porterbrook’s new train has an advantage in that British Rail made the Bedpan Specials, a little bit shorter, to save steel and other materials.

I’ve just received another e-mail where this is said.

Despite the lengthening of the Ribble Valley line intermediate stations, because of various constraints with adjacent bridges they have finished up different lengths.  The shortest is the Down platform at Ramsgreave & Wilpshire which I am told is79 m.  However a 4-car class 150  does fit on with careful stopping, all doors on the platform and only a slight overhang of the train at each end.

Look at this picture of a Class 319 train.

The end passenger doors would appear to be several metres back, so the train fits a platform, that is a few metres shorter than the train. Was this British Rail’s solution to the non-invention of selective door opening?

Health and safety might want a little fence on the platform, but it looks like the Class 319 trains were designed so that British Rail could get away without lengthening platforms on Thameslink.

Current Timings On The Route

These are timings of the various sections of the whole route from Buxton to Hellifield.

  • Buxton to Hazel Grove (up) – 37 minutes
  • Hazel Grove to Buxton (down) – 33 minutes
  • Hazel Grove to Stockport – 9 minutes
  • Stockport to Bolton – 48 minutes
  • Stockport to Manchester Piccadilly – 22 minutes for a Hazel Grove to Blackpool North train via Bolton
  • Stockport to Manchester Piccadilly (fastest) – 9 minutes
  • Bolton to Manchester Piccadilly (fastest) – 22 minutes
  • Bolton to Blackburn (up) – 29 minutes
  • Blackburn to Bolton (down) – 26 minutes.
  • Blackburn to Clitheroe (up) – 26 minutes
  • Clitheroe to Blackburn (down) – 23 minutes
  • Clitheroe to Hellifield (up) – 25 minutes
  • Hellifield to Clitheroe (down) – 11 minutes

Note the differences between up and down times.

Based on these timings, I reckon that these timings are possible now with a Class 150 or Class 156 train.

  • Buxton to Blackburn – 102 minutes
  • Blackburn to Buxton – 103 minutes
  • Buxton to Clitheroe – 128 minutes
  • Clitheroe to Buxton – 126 minutes
  • Buxton to Hellifield – 153 minutes
  • Hellifield to Buxton – 137 minutes

This would give round trip times something like these.

  • Buxton to Hellifield – 290 minutes
  • Buxton to Clitheroe – 254 minutes
  • Buxton to Blackburn – 205 minutes

Obviously, the two turnround times would have to be added.

But various factors would reduce the times, if a Class 319 Flex were to be used from December 2017.

  • The route will be fully electrified between Bolton and Hazel Grove stations.
  • Two trains per hour will be possible between Bolton and Blackburn from December 2017.
  • The Class 319 Flex is a 100 mph train.
  • As the Class 319 Flex has been optimised to climb the hills, it must be faster on the uphill sections.
  • Drivers have told me, that the Class 319 train has excellent brakes, so they may be faster coming down.

The Bolton to Hazel Grove route is currently timetabled at 48 minutes. But surely a 100 mph electric train can knock quite a few minutes off that, when the route is fully electrified.

If this section could be done in thirty minutes, which I suspect is possible, this brings the round trip times down as follows.

  • Buxton to Hellifield – 254 minutes
  • Buxton to Clitheroe – 218 minutes
  • Buxton to Blackburn – 169 minutes

In some ways the interesting one is the round trip from Buxton to Clitheroe, which allowing ten minutes for each turnround at Clitheroe and Buxton means that the round trip is under four hours.

This means that an hourly Buxton to Clitheroe service would need four trains and two trains per hour would need eight trains.

The Blackburn Service From December 11th 2017

On this day Northern  introduced two trains per hour between Manchester Victoria and Blackburn along the Ribble Valley Line, with one train per hour exytending to Clitheroe.

If the service went to Buxton instead of Manchester Victoria, I think this service would require seven trains. If the Clitheroe service was extended to Hellifield, that would need another two trains.

Conclusion

I wonder when the real timings are obtained using Class 319 Flex trains, what cunning plan Northern Rail will come up with, to satisfy their passengers, staff and profits.

Marketing says that running between Hellifield and Buxton on a 24/7 basis, even at one train every two hours could be a very popular route.

March 14, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 3 Comments

Thoughts And Facts About Class 319 Flex Trains From Manchester And Blackburn Into The Hills

On Thursday and Friday last week, I spent two days in the Premier Inn at Blackburn and explored the rail lines around the town with journeys all over the area that should by now have been fully electrified.

Class 319 Flex Trains

The main reasons to go was to see some Friends In The North and to see Ipswich play at Barnsley, but I also wanted to explore some of the hilly routes in Lancashire.

Porterbrook in their brochure for the Class 319 Flex trains says that the objective for the train is that it can run from Manchester Piccadilly to Buxton on the Buxton Line, under the power that is available, which is electrification only as far as Hazel Grove station.

The Routes With Hills

There are three routes from Manchester and Blackburn that climb into the hills.

The lines are not for low-powered trains and the  current Class 150 or Class 156 trains struggled on the three climbs I did.

  • Hazel Grove to Buxton in the afternoon.
  • Blackburn to Clitheroe early in the morning.
  • Bolton to Blackburn, crush-loaded in the rush hour.

Someone told me, that leaf fall can be a problem in the Autumn.

In no particular, these are my thoughts and some facts from other sources and my observations.

Blackburn Depot

A conductor told me that Northern Rail will be creating a depot and basing train crew at Blackburn.

This article in the Lancashire Telegraph is entitled Multi-million pound train depot set for Blackburn.

This is said.

Blackburn is to get a new multi-million pound train depot as the latest stage of East Lancashire’s rail revolution.

The stabling, maintenance and cleaning centre will include an office block and new connection to the existing Bolton junction where the tracks to Preston and Darwen divide.

If as I believe the Class 319 Flex trains could serve Clitheroe/Hellifield and Colne, then it could be an ideal location. Especially, if the Clitheroe/Hellifield and Buxton services were run back-to-back across Manchester.

Double Track Most Of The Way

The three lines have the following track layouts.

  • The Ribble Valley Line has a large proportion of double track, which stretches to Hellifield.
  • The Buxton Line is double-track.
  • The East Lancashire Line is single-track from Rose Grove station to Colne station.

So hopefully, if two trains per hour (tph) were to be run on these three branches, passing would be possible.

Hellifield

Hellifield station is where the Ribble Valley Line connects to the Settle-Carlisle Line.

A conductor told me that he’d heard that Northern would like to serve Hellifield more regularly.

Since I first wrote this, I’ve heard that the tracki at Hellifield has been recently replaced and is in good condition.

Housing And Other Property Development

As I travelled along the lines to Clitheroe and Buxton, there was a lot of housing development along the line, at places like Clitheroe, Hazel Grove, Whalley to name just three.

The crowded trains I used in the Peak to Blackburn are going to carry even more passengers and the need for capacity with power on these lines will increase.

Tourism Issues

Buxton, Clitheroe Colne and Hellifield all have reasons for tourists and especially those that enjoy visiting the hills.

I have no figures to back it up, but I suspect leisure passengers often go loaded with children in buggies, bicycles and heavy rucksacks and cases. They certainly do in the Summer on the trains of East Anglia and that is flat.

Add in the weather forecast and the effects of new trains and at times, there could be a large increase in leisure and tourism-related travel.

If the trains connected the Settle and Carlisle Line at Hellifield to Blackburn, Manchester and perhaps Buxton, this would surely open up a tourist train route, that Doctor Beeching wouldn’t have thought was the least bit feasible.

Future Train Frequencies

Train frequencies to Manchester could possibly grow to the following.

  • Blackburn – 2 tph to Manchester Piccadilly
  • Blackburn – 2 tph to Manchester Victoria
  • Buxton – 2 tph
  • Clitheroe – 2 tph
  • Hazel Grove – 4 tph

In addition, the intersecting route from Blackpool South to Colne via Preston and Blackburn, could be running 2 tph.

I do suspect though, that 1 tph to and from Hellifield will be enough. But who knows? I could just be as wrong as Beeching.

The lines probably have a Peak problem, that is fairly unusual in the UK, but probably is common in countries with real mountains like Austria, Japan and Switzerland. One direction of Peak travel is downhill, but the other is up a very steep railway.

On train frequencies, this is said in the Wikipedia entry for the Ribble Valley Line.

A six-week engineering blockade saw the existing passing loop there extended by 1 mile (1.6 km) at each end and signalling improvements made to add capacity on the line and allow for service frequencies between Bolton & Blackburn to be doubled to two trains per hour each way throughout the day from December 2017.

Could this be why, Porterbrook are planning to deliver four refurbished Class 319 Flex trains by the end of 2017, according to their brochure?

Some powerful extra trains will probably be needed to achieve the objective of 2 tph to Blackburn and four Class 319 Flex will help.

Future Train Capacity

I did two journeys in the Peak to Blackburn; in the first I took the slower service via Todmorden and Burnley in a two-car train and in the second, I took the direct route via Bromley Cross, in a four-car formation.

The second was the most crowded, but it was Friday. It also struggled up the hill from Bolton to Blackburn.

Northern’s decision to go for a four-car Class 319 Flex train which could be used on some of these routes, is understandable.

Blackburn To Huddersfield

I travelled to Huddersfield station from Manchester Victoria and didn’t see any signs of electrification on this important route.

Returning to Blackburn from Huddersfield, my train was a direct service which travelled via Manchester Victoria, Bolton and Bromley Cross.

This would be an ideal service to run using a Class 319 Flex train, until Network Rail get their act together and electrify Manchester Victoria to Huddersfield. Even if they only get the wires as far as Stalybridge, the Class 319 Flex would be an enormous improvement compared to the asthmatic Class 156, that struggled with its full load of passengers to Blackburn.

The Calder Valley Line

The Calder Valley Line goes through very picturesque countryside between Preston and Leeds.

I think that full electrification of this line could never happen.

  • The line has large numbers of stone and brick viaducts and bridges, which would be very expensive to modify for electrification.
  • The station at Hebden Bridge is Grade II Listed.
  • There is electrification between Leeds and Bradford, which could probably be extended as far as Halifax.
  • Preston is fully electrified and affordable electrification to Blackburn or perhaps Rose Grove or Burnley Manchester Road stations should be possible.
  • Electrification to Rose Grove would mean that the service between Blackpool South and Colne could be run using electricity between Rose Grove and Kirkham and Wesham stations.

But the biggest problem would be the opposition to overhead gantries in the hills.

The distances are revealing.

  • Burnley to Halifax is just over twenty miles
  • Blackburn to Halifax is just over thirty miles.

If Halifax to Bradford wasn’t electrified then that adds another ten miles.

All distances would be within range of a modern bi-mode train, including a Class 319 Flex.

Other Destinations

From Hazel Grove, it is possible for diesel trains to access the Hope Valley Line towards Sheffield.

There must be stations on this line that are possible destinations for a Class 319 Flex train.

Chester and Windermere have also been mentioned as future destinations for the train.

Electrification

Electrification has been painfully slow in the North-West, as it has in most places in the UK.

It looks like that by the end of 2017, Manchester to Preston via Bolton and the Blackpool Branch to Blackpool North station will be electrified.

The advantage of the Class 319 Flex is that it can use this electrified set of lines to run services to stations like Barrow, Blackburn, Blackpool South, Burnley, Chester, Hebden Bridge, Sellafield and Windermere, that are off the electrified network in conjunction with the Class 319 trains.

The Need For A Train To Climb The Hills

From this brief analysis and my observations, it would seem that Northern need a few four-car trains with adequate power to get up the hills at a speed, that enables an efficient timetable. As some of the routes from Manchester Piccadilly and Victoria are electrified, the ideal train would need the capability to use the wires.

If ever, there was a series of routes that need a bi-mode train, then it is these routes.

The Class 319 Flex And The CAF Civity

The Class 319 Flex has according to the brochure I’ve seen been designed to run from Manchester to Buxton with a full load of passengers in the Peak or perhaps after a City-United Derby.

But Northern have ordered new CAF Civity trains in the following versions.

This is said in the Wikipedia entry for the Class 331 trains.

In early 2016 it was confirmed that Spanish rolling stock manufacturer CAF would construct the new electric powered trains which are planned to operate in West Yorkshire to replace Class 321 and Class 322 trains and work alongside the current fleet of Class 333 units. The four-car Class 331 units will be deployed on electrified services from Manchester Piccadilly to replace the Class 323 units which are due to return to Porterbrook at the end of their current lease in 2018.

So it would appear that the Class 319 trains will continue to operate for a few years yet! Hopefully with better seats, wi-fi and a few other smaller improvements.

I think that Northern have decided that until the Class 195 trains arrive that the Class 319 Flex trains are the best short-term solution. But given the overcrowding on the routes will the future three-car trains have enough capacity?

So I suspect, if Northern go the CAF Civity route, I feel that Northern will acquire some longer diesel trains or even some dual-power Civitys.

But at least running Class 319 Flex trains on the route will effectively produce the specification for these hilly routes.

 

 

March 13, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hazel Grove Station

Hazel Grove station is an important station on the Buxton Line.

Just to the South of the station, there is a large housing development, which probably helps to explain the what looks to be new expansion to the car parking at the station.

This Google Map shows the area around Hazel Grove station.

There are two main railways on the map.

  • The Buxton Line runs North-West to South-East, connecting Stockport and Manchester in the North-West to Buxton in the South-East.
  • The Buxton Line goes through Hazel Grove station, where some trains stop and under Chester Road.
  • The rail line running East-West connects the Hope Valley Line in the East to a freight-only going West.

There is also a single-track bi-directional chord that connects the Hope Valley Line with Stockport.

The East Midlands Trains service between Norwich and Liverpool uses this chord, but doesn’t stop in Hazel Grove station.

Current Services At Hazel Grove Station

Under Services in the Wikipedia entry for Hazel Grove station, this is said.

Today Hazel Grove is served by two trains per hour to/from Manchester Piccadilly – the hourly Manchester Piccadilly to Buxton and the hourly Preston to Hazel Grove DMU services. Only a few of the local DMU services between Manchester and Sheffield go via Hazel Grove – most travel via New Mills Central. Few services from Buxton now continue past Manchester Piccadilly and those that do (currently seven services in total) operate in the early morning and evening business peak periods.

So Hazel Grove has a just two diesel multiple units per hour to Manchester Piccadilly..

The Class 319 Flex Train

If the building, testing and delivery of the Class 319 Flex train goes according to the Porterbrook/Northern plan, then the following will happen before the December 2017 Timetable Change..

  • Four Class 319 Flex trains will be in service.
  • Four more Class 319 trains will be in progress of being converted to Class 319 Flex trains.
  • Class 319 Flex trains will be running between Manchester Piccadilly and Buxton.
  • Class 319 Flex trains must be running to Blackpool and Windermere, if the sub-leased Class 185 trains have to go back to TransPennine.

Without any extra electrification, the Class 319 Flex trains will be able to run from Hazel Grove to  to Barrow-in-Furness, Blackpool North, Buxton, Manchester Piccadill, Preston, Wigan North Western and Windermere

New Track/Electrification Before December 2017 Timetable Change

These changes and upgrades, should happen before the December 2017 Timetable Change.

  • Manchester to Preston via Bolton should be electrified.
  • The Blackpool Branch Lines to Blackpool North should be electrified.
  • Manchester Victoria to Stalybridge could be electrified.
  • According to Network Rail, the Ordsall Chord should be in operation.

They could make a lot of difference to services from Hazel Grove station.

  • Class 319 electric trains could run to Blackpool North, Bolton, Liverpool, Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Victoria, Preston and Wigan North Western.
  • Class 319 Flex bi-mode trains could run to Barrow-in-Furness, Blackburn, Blackpool South, Buxton, Clitheroe, Stalybridge and Windermere

Northern Rail have an awful lot of sensible possibilities for electric or bi-mode services.

 

March 9, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , | 1 Comment

Lunch In Buxton

These pictures show my time in Buxton.

The lunch in the Hydro Cafe was excellent.

Onward From Buxton

There are lines that branch off to the left as you reach Buxton. This the closed Ashbourne Line, which still carries stone and other quarried products from Hindley.

I wouldn’t be surprised that some of this route and others in the area, were reopened to passenger traffic.

March 9, 2017 Posted by | Food, Transport | , , , | 2 Comments

Down The Buxton Line

On the return from Buxton, I took these pictures.

I sat on the wrong side of the train, as the views are better on the left-side going up and the right-side going down.

March 9, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , | 2 Comments