The Anonymous Widower

Do Network Rail Have A Cunning Plan To Run Battery Electric Trains To Wigan Wallgate And Blackburn?

This news story, which is entitled £72 million Boost For Train Services In Manchester And The North, was released by the government today.

This is the sub-heading.

This package will improve the passenger experience by having more reliable trains and fewer delays.

These two paragraphs describe the work.

The funding will deliver a third platform at Salford Crescent station and track improvement work across north Manchester to help reduce delays, bottlenecks and station overcrowding, meaning passengers will enjoy more comfortable and reliable journeys.

Manchester Victoria Station will also benefit from extra entry and exit points to platforms, making it easier for passengers to travel through the station during busier periods.

These are my thoughts.

Battery-Electric Trains

New Merseyrail Train Runs 135km On Battery says a lot about the capabilities of modern battery-electric multiple units.

135 km is 84 miles and if you look at services in the Wigan and Blackburn area, these are the services, currently run by diesel trains on lines without electrification.

  • Blackburn and Bolton – 13.9 miles
  • Blackburn and Manchester Victoria – 39.4 miles
  • Hindley and Salford Crescent – 16.2 miles
  • Southport and Wigan Wallgate – 17.4 miles
  • Kirkby and Wigan Wallgate – 12 miles
  • Clitheroe and Bolton – 23.7 miles
  • Manchester Piccadilly and Buxton – 19 miles

I believe that a modern battery-electric train would be able to handle all these routes, with assistance from regenerative braking and Newton’s friend.

I also believe that CAF, Hitachi, Siemens and Stadler would be capable of building a battery-electric train for these routes.

This OpenRailwayMap shows the electrification between Wigan and Lostock Junction.


  1. Wigan is in the South-West corner of the map.
  2. Lostock Junction is in the North-East corner of the map.
  3. The black and red line between Wigan and Lostock Junction indicates the track is being electrified with 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  4. The black line going East to the South-East corner of the map is the unelectrified line to Salford Crescent via Atherton.
  5. At Lostock Junction the line joins the electrified Manchester and Preston Line via Bolton.

Network Rail’s layout means that trains to Kirkby, Southport and Salford Crescent via Atherton can all charge their batteries in a convenient station before embarking to their destination without electrification.

The Third Platform At Salford Crescent Station

Three platforms at Salford Crescent will give capacity advantages.

But it will also mean, that if all battery-electric trains for Wigan Wallgate via Atherton can have a dedicated platform, that if necessary, they can use to top up the batteries.

Northern’s Trans-Pennine Services

Northern Trains run four hourly trains across the Pennines.

  • York and Blackpool North via Church Fenton, Garforth, Leeds, New Pudsey, Bradford Interchange, Halifax, Sowerby Bridge, Hebden Bridge, Burnley Manchester Road, Accrington, Blackburn, Preston, Kirkham & Wesham and Poulton-le-Fylde.
  • Leeds and Manchester Victoria via Bramley, New Pudsey, Bradford Interchange, Halifax, Hebden Bridge, Todmorden and Rochdale.
  • Leeds and Wigan Wallgate via Morley, Batley, Dewsbury, Ravensthorpe, Mirfield, Brighouse, Sowerby Bridge, Mytholmroyd, Hebden Bridge, Todmorden, Walsden, Littleborough, Smithy Bridge, Rochdale, Manchester Victoria, Salford Central, Salford Crescent, Swinton, Moorside, Walkden, Atherton, Hag Fold, Daisy Hill, Hindley and Ince.
  • Leeds and Chester via Bramley, New Pudsey, Bradford Interchange, Low Moor, Halifax, Sowerby Bridge, Mytholmroyd, Hebden Bridge, Todmorden, Rochdale, Manchester Victoria, Newton-le-Willows, Earlestown and Warrington Bank Quay.


  1. All routes are partly electrified.
  2. Hebden Bridge gets four trains per hour (tph).
  3. Bradford Interchange, Halifax, New Pudsey Rochdale, Sowerby Bridge, Todmorden and Manchester Victoria get three tph.
  4. It is a comprehensive set of routes serving nearly fifty stations in the North.

Stretches of line without electrification include.

  • Chester and Earlstown – 23 miles
  • Leeds and Manchester Victoria – 49.8 miles
  • Leeds and Blackburn – 50.2 miles
  • Hindley and Salford Crescent – 16.2 miles

There may be a need to electrify Blackburn and Preston or some other short sections.


I have a feeling that most of the diesel services in Manchester could be replaced by battery-electric trains.


May 25, 2023 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Adding Buxton And Manchester Piccadilly To The Bee Network

This article on the Railway Gazette has a list of the lines, that will be transferred between Northern Rail and the Bee Network.

Included in the list is this line.

Buxton And Manchester Piccadilly

I think this route would be the following.

  • The Southern terminus would be Buxton.
  • The Northern terminus would be Manchester Piccadilly.
  • Intermediate stations would be Dove Holes, Chapel-en-le-Frith, Whaley Bridge, Furness Vale, New Mills Newtown, Disley, Middlewood, Hazel Grove, Woodsmoor, Davenport, Stockport, Heaton Chapel and Levenshulme.
  • he route is fully electrified with 25 KVAC overhead between Hazel Grove and Manchester Piccadilly.
  • Most of the route has a range of operating speeds. up to 90 mph.
  • The distance is 19 miles
  • Trains take 62 minutes
  • Trains are often two-car Class 150 trains working as a pair.
  • The Buxton Line is one of the stiffest routes on the UK rail network.

The route is the same as the current Northern Trains service.

This is my thought.


I think there are three choices.

  • Electrify the line fully and use 100 mph electric trains like Class 331 trains.
  • Use 100 mph battery-electric trains, with large enough batteries to climb to Buxton.
  • Use 100 mph hydrogen-electric trains, with enough power on hydrogen to climb to Buxton.


  1. The current diesel trains could be used until a zero-carbon solution is delivered.
  2. 100 mph trains would be needed because of the 90 mph section around Stockport.
  3. The stiffness of the line makes the choice difficult.
  4. Regenerative braking would allow trains to coast down the hill.
  5. Battery-electric trains would not need charging at Buxton.

I’m sure that the deal that will be setting up the Bee Network, would have a plan for the Buxton Line.

March 31, 2023 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

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


  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/Travel | , , , | 2 Comments

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.


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.


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.


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/Travel | , , , | 2 Comments