The Anonymous Widower

‘Compelling Case’ Put Forward For £4bn Metro Network For Cambridgeshire

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Rail Technology Magazine.

This is the first two paragraphs.

There is a “compelling case” for a metro scheme for Greater Cambridge after a feasibility report has claimed it could create 100,000 jobs and 60,000 new homes, but could cost £4bn.

The feasibility study was commissioned by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA), and mayor James Palmer declared there was a compelling case for the new regional transport network covering 88 miles.

Other details of the Cambridge Autonomous Metro include.

  • Turn-Up-and-Go service.
  • It would use trackless electric vehicles.
  • Across Cambridge in twelve minutes.
  • 7.5 miles of underground corridors under the City.
  • Cambourne, Haverhill, Huntingdon, Mildenhall, St. Ives, St. Neots and Waterbeach would be served.

I think that the route network is feasible and if any City in England can fund such a scheme it is Cambridge.

I can see the point about trackless electric vehicles, as illustrated by this picture.

It looks to me, that the track is just a road with a cycle track alongside.

But would it be better to use tram-trains and the Karlsruhe model?

  • This would enable the system to use the heavy rail tracks to Bury St. Edmunds, Ely, March, Newmarket and Wisbech.
  • Bury St. Edmunds certainly needs a frequent service to Cambridge.
  • East West Rail Consortium has a plan for a Parkway station on the A14, which needs a frequent connection to Cambridge.
  • The technology is proven.

Hopefully, tram-trains have been rejected for good reasons.

But does the proposed system fit well with the East-West Rail Link.

 

 

March 20, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 5 Comments

Roaming Around East Anglia – Coldhams Common

I took the spacious three-car Class 170 train from Cambridge to Newmarket.

This Google Map shows the area, where the Cambridge to Ipswich Line via Newmarket leaves the main Cambridge to Ely route.

The Cambrifge-Ipswich line is the loop at the bottom of the map crossing the green space of Coldhams Common.

These are pictures, I took as my train passed.

The East West Rail Consortium have plans for this rail line.

In this document on their web site, this is said.

Note that doubling of Warren Hill Tunnel at Newmarket and
redoubling between Coldham Lane Junction and Chippenham Junction is included
in the infrastructure requirements. It is assumed that most freight would operate
via Newmarket, with a new north chord at Coldham Lane Junction, rather than
pursuing further doubling of the route via Soham.

So would it be possible to fit, the required chord between the two railway lines?

I suspect that a double-track chord would be preferred and there might be some extra tracks between Cambridge and Ely.

This Google Map shows the area in more detail.

Note the level crossing shown in my pictures.

The main problems in the way of a double-track chord that would allow trains to pass between the routes to Ely and Newmarket, would appear to be the industrial Buildings and the level crossing that gives access across the rail line.

But I don’t think that this will be the major problem, as industrial premises can always be relocated, especially if the compensation is good.

I estimate that it is likely, that two heavy freight trains in every hour in both directions should be passing across the quiet green space of Coldhams Common.

Would this be acceptable to the nearby residents and the users of the Common?

  • The East West Rail Consortium are well funded and I suspect they have a cunning plan here, that could put a double track railway through this sensitive area.
  • If the landowner of these industrial buildings happened to be Network Rail, that would surely help, as they would co-operate.
  • There also appears to be very little housing alongside the Cambridge-Ipswich rail line.

I could see a solution, where more of the industrial buildings than needed were removed and some of the land given over to extend Coldhams Common.

March 3, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

DfT Keen To Encourage Rail Travel For Football Fans

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in Issue 873 of Rail Magazine.

I was moved to send this letter to the magazine.

Was this title on page 17 of Issue 873 serious or an ironic joke?

I am a seventy-one-year-old Ipswich fan and Season Ticket holder, who lives in London, within walking distance of Liverpool Street station on a fine day.

Over the last six or seven years, I have been unable to see Home matches as often, as I would like, as on perhaps half of weekend match days, there have been no trains running on the Great Eastern Main Line, due to the constant maintenance. Or is it a complete rebuilding for 140 mph trains?

To be fair, I have occasionally used the replacement buses, but the problem is that they make the journey well over an hour longer. So on a match day, there is no time left for anything else!

I had to watch the two Ipswich-Norwich matches on television, as on both these Sundays to get to the match by mid-day was impossible and probably needed an overnight stay!

I accumulated my very adequate pension pot, by writing software to schedule resources on complicated projects. Surely, Network Rail, Greater Anglia, the Premier League and the EFL can agree a plan that is better than the current shambles.

Greater Anglia surely have the means to improve the situation arriving in their depots.

Pairs of  four-car Class 755 trains could run reduced services via Cambridge.

  • If the line is blockaded between Ipswich and London, then a direct service could be run between Norwich and London via Ipswich and Cambridge.
  • If the line is blockaded between Ipswich and Norwich, then a direct service could be run between Norwich and London via Cambridge.

Although, this has nothing to do with football, pairs of Class 755 trains would also be useful for running a service between Peterborough and London, when the Southern section of the East Coast Main Line is closed.

I shall add a few extra notes to this on-line version of the letter.

Class 755 Trains

Points about Class 755 trains.

  • They are 100 mph trains on both electric and diesel, and probably have similar performance to the current Class 90 locomotive/Mark 3 coaches that run between Liverpool Street and Norwich.,
  • Capacity of a pair of Class 755 trains is 458 seats, as against the 514 seats of the current stock.
  • The interior will be suitable for services between London and Norwich.
  • The trains and their crews will probably be certified for all of Greater Anglia’s Network.
  • A single train is eighty metres long and a pair would be 160 metres.
  • The trains should fit all important main-line stations on the Greater Anglia Network.

I also suspect that these trains could run into Kings Cross station, either using the East Coast Main Line or the Hertford Loop Line.

They are blockade-busters par excellence.

February 26, 2019 Posted by | Sport, Transport | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nervous Operators Force Network Rail To Defer King’s Cross Plan

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Rail Magazine.

King’s Cross station has to be closed for three months, so that tracks, electrification and signalling can be replaced and modernised for about 1.5 miles from the buffer stops at the station.

The original dates of the closure were to have been between December 2019 and March 2020, but now it looks like it could be delayed by up to a year.

The article on the web site, is a shortened version of the article in the magazine, where this is said.

Closure dates have yet to be announced, and NR is still developing a passenger handling strategy which could include long-distance services at Finsbury Park or some services terminating at Peterborough. Some trains could even be rerouted into London Liverpool Street.

I wonder, if Network Rail’s planners are cursing that the around thirty miles between Peterborough and Ely is not electrified.

If it were electrified, it would allow electric trains as well as diesel and bi-mode trains to access Liverpool Street station via the West Anglia Main Line.

What Benefits Would There Be From Electrifying Peterborough To Ely?

I can imagine Oxford-educated civil servants in the Department of Transport and The Treasury dismissing calls for more electrification in the backwater of East Anglia, after the successful electrification to Norwich in the 1980s.

But now Cambridge is powering ahead and East Anglia is on the rise, with the massive Port of Felixstowe needing large numbers of freight trains to other parts of mainland UK.

This East Anglian success gives reasons for the electrification of the Peterborough-Ely Line.

Direct Electric Trains Between Peterborough And Cambridge

I have met Cambridge thinkers, who believe that Peterborough is the ideal place for businesses, who need to expand from Cambridge.

Peterborough has the space that Cambridge lacks.

But the transport links between the two cities are abysmal.

  • The A14 is only a two-lane dual-carriageway, although a motorway-standard section is being added around Huntingdon.
  • Peterborough station has been improved in recent years.
  • The direct train service is an hourly three-car diesel service between Birmingham and Stansted Airport, which doesn’t stop at the increasingly-important Cambridge North station.

The road will get better, but the rail service needs improvement.

  • There needs to be at least two direct trains per hour (tph) between Cambridge and Peterborough.
  • They would stop at Cambridge North, Waterbeach, Ely and March.
  • End-to-end timing would be under an hour.
  • Greater Anglia will have the four-car bi-mode Class 755 trains, which would be ideal for the route from next year.

If the Peterborough- Ely Line was electrified, Greater Anglia could use five-car Class 720 trains.

An Electric Diversion Route For The East Coast Main Line

The works at Kings Cross station, and the possible proposal to run some trains into Liverpool Street station, show that an electric diversion route would be useful, when there are closures or problems on the East Coast Main Line.

In the case of the Kings Cross closure, if Peterborough were to be used as the terminal for some trains from the North, then I suspect some high-capacity Class 800 trains could shuttle passengers to Liverpool Street.

If the date of the Kings Cross closure is 2020, then certain things may help.

  • Crossrail will be running.
  • Extra trains will be running from Finsbury Park to Moorgate.
  • Hull Trains will be running bi-mode Class 802 trains.
  • There could be more capacity on the West Anglia Main Line.
  • There could be more capacity and some longer platforms at Liverpool Street.

What would really help, is the proposed four-tracking of the West Anglia Main Line.

The latter could prove extremely useful, when Network Rail decide to bite the bullet and four-track the Digswell Viaduct.

Extending Greater Anglia’s Network

Greater Anglia have bought new bi-mode Class 755 trains.

This would appear to be more than enough to covering the current services, as they are replacing twenty-six trains with a total of fifty-eight coaches with thirty-eight trains with a total of one hundred and thirty-eight coaches.

That is 46 % more trains and 137 % more coaches.

The new trains are also genuine 100 mph trains on both electricity and diesel.

Obviously, Greater Anglia will be running extra services, but with the explosive growth around Cambridge, coupled with the new Cambridge North station, I feel they will be running extra services on the Peterborough to Cambridge route and perhaps further.

The new Werrington Grade Separation will make a difference.

  • It will open in a couple of years.
  • Trains between Peterborough and Lincoln won’t block the East Coast Main Line.
  • The Leicester route could also be improved.

So services to and from Lincoln and Leicester would probably be easier to run from Cambridge and Stansted Airport.

CrossCountry run a service between Birmingham New Street and Stansted Airport stations.

  • The service stops at Coleshill Parlway, Nuneaton, Leicester, Melton Mowbray, Oakham, Stamford, Peterborough, March, Ely and.Cambridge and Audley End stations.
  • The service doesn’t stop at Cambridge North station.
  • The service is run by an inadequate Class 170 train, which sometimes is only two coaches and totally full.
  • Trains take just over three hours ten minutes for the journey.

Will Greater Anglia take over this route? Or possibly run a second train as far as Leicester?

Their Class 755 trains with better performance and specification would offer the following.

  • Electric running between Ely and Stansted Airport stations.
  • Greater passenger capacity.
  • wi-fi, plugs and USB sockets.
  • A three hour journey both ways.
  • The extra performance would probably allow an extra important stop at Cambridge North station.

The new trains would certainly offer what passengers want.

CrossCountry run an extra train between Birmingham New Street and Leicester, so perhaps at the Western end, the Greater Anglia service need only go as far as Leicester.

At the Stansted end of the route, there will be an hourly train between Stansted Airport and Norwich, so there could be scope for perhaps cutting one the services back to Cambridge.

Obviously, time-tabling would sort it out to the benefit of the train operators and passengers, but I can envisage a set of services like this.

  • Norwich and Stansted Airport – Greater Anglia – 1 tph
  • Birmingham New Street and Stansted Airport – CrossCountry – 1 tph
  • Leicester and Cambridge – Greater Anglia – 1 tph
  • Colchester and Peterborough – 1 tph
  • Norwich and Nottingham (Currently Liverpool Lime Street) – 1 tph

Adding these up you get.

  • Stansted Airport and Cambridge – 2 tph – As now!
  • Stansted Airport and Cambridge North – 2 tph – New service!
  • Cambridge and Ely – 4 tph – At least!
  • Ely and Peterborough – 4 tph – At least!
  • Cambridge and Peterborough – 2 tph – Up from 1 tph
  • Stansted Airport and Peterbough – 1 tph – As now!
  • Cambridge and Leicester – 2 tph = Up from 1 tph.

This pattern or something like it would be much better for all.

If the Ely-Peterborough section of the were to be electrified then it would enable the following.

  • A reduced journey time for electric or bi-mode trains.
  • If required Greater Anglia could run an extra electric service using Class 720 trains between Stansted Airport and Peterbough.

I said earlier that the Werrington Grade Separation will make it easier to run services between Peterborough and Lincoln.

So why not add an hourly service between Cambridge and Lincoln?

I can envisage, when the West Anglia Main Line is four-tracked at the southern end, that there might be enough capacity for a Liverpool Street to Lincoln service via Cambridge, Cambridge North, Ely, Peterborough, Spalding and Sleaford.

But whatever happens Greater Anglia’s choice of bi-mode Class 755 trains, seems to give them the flexibility to match services to passengers needs.

Electro-Diesel and Battery-Electric Freight Locomotives

The Class 88 locomotive is an electro-diesel freight locomotive, that can use either power from overhead electrification or an pnboard diesel engine.

I believe that locomotives like this will become more common and that eventually, we’ll see a battery-electric heavy freight locomotive.

I wrote about the latter in Thoughts On A Battery/Electric Replacement For A Class 66 Locomotive.

The Peterborough-Ely Line will see increasing numbers of trains hauled by these powerful electric locomotives, with either diesel or battery power to propel them over the gaps in the electrification.

Electrifying the line would speed these hybrid trains through and increase the capacity of the route.

Conclusion

Network Rail have annoyed the train operators with their planning and timing of the upgrade at Kings Cross station.

It looks to me, that the part of the problem, is that there is no viable electrified secondary route to London.

Bi-mode trains can use the Peterborough-Ely Line to go to Liverpool Street via Cambridge.

This line is one of those routes that sits in a sea of electrification, which carries a lot of traffic, that would bring several benefits if it were to be electrified.

  • Direct electric trains between Cambridge and Peterborough, would greatly improve the spasmodic service between the two cities, with large economic benefits to the county.
  • An electric diversion route would be created from Peterborough to Liverpool Street via Ely and Cambridge.
  • It would allow Greater Anglia to develop routes West of Cambridge to places like Lincoln and Leicester using their future fleet of Class 755 trains.
  • It would also make it easier for battery-electric freight locomotives to cover the busy freight route between Felixstowe and Peterborough.

I also feel that it wouldn’t be the most difficult route to electrify.

The Fens are flat.

There is no history of mining.

The track is fairly straight and simple.

I suspect that it could become a high-quality 90-100 mph, electrified line.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With

 

 

December 8, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Are Greater Anglia Buying So Many Class 755 Trains, So They Can Run A Better Service During Constant Works On The Great Eastern?

Yet again, they were rebuilding the Great Eastern Main Line, so I didn’t get to football at Ipswich yesterday.

It’s not that I mind the buses, but it means two things.

  • I have to leave so early, that I can’t do my weekly shop before I go.
  • I also get back so late that I will miss Strictly on the television.

There is also the problem, that Ipswich is one of the worst places to find a gluten-free meal, unless you go to Pizza Express.

I often have my lunch before I travel or take it on the train from Leon or M & S.

For some time now, I’ve suspected that Greater Anglia have ordered a lot more Class 755 trains, than they need, based on a train-for-train replacement basis

It now becomes obvious why!

At weekends, they will link four-car trains together and run four trains per hour on the following routes.

  • Norwich to Cambridge
  • Ipswich to Cambridge

One train in four will continue to and from London after Cambridge.

On the other hand, it could be a plot by Norwich fans in Greater Anglia’s headquarters in Norwich to annoy Ipswich fans!

 

 

September 23, 2018 Posted by | Sport, Transport | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Oxford’s Nimbys Are Getting Angry!

I keep finding articles on the web, like this article on the Oxford Times, which is entitled First Person: The Campaign To Keep Oxfordshire As It Is Now.

The title says it all.

It is all about opposition to the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway, which everybody wants in someone else’s back-yard.

My feelings are as follows.

  • A fully-electrified freight route should be built between Southampton and the West Coast Main Line, preferably with 25 KVAC overhead wiring.
  • The East West Railway should provide at least two fast trains per hour between Heathrow and Cambridge, via Reading, Oxford, Milton Keynes and Bedford.
  • I would accelerate the construction of the East West Railway.

Only as a last project, would I build the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway.

April 27, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

More Thameslink Trains Serving The East Coast Main Line From May 20th 2018

The National Rail timetable is now showing the following new Thameslink trains serving the East Coast Main Line.

There will be two trains per hour (tph) between Peterborough and Horsham.

  • XX:26 and XX:56 – Peterborough
  • XX:08 and XX;38 – Finsbury Park
  • XX:00 and XX:30 – London Bridge
  • XX:08 and XX:38 – Horsham

Note.

  1. Trains take two hours and 45 minutes.
  2. Stops include Huntingdon, St. Neots, Hitchin, Steveange and Finsbury Park, to the North of the Thames.
  3. The trains call at St. Pancras Thameslink, Farringdon, City Thameslink and London Bridge in the core.
  4. Stops include East Croydon, Gatwick Airport, Three Bridges and Crawley to the South of the Thames.
  5. The first train is 05:24 from Peterborough.

Trains generally leave Horsham at XX:25 and XX:55.

There will be one tph  between Cambridge and Brighton.

  • XX:54 at Cambridge
  • XX:52 – Finsbury Park
  • XX:15 – London Bridge
  • XX:19 – Brighton

Note.

  1. Trains take two hours and 25 minutes.
  2. Stops include Royston, Hitchin, Steveange and Finsbury Park, to the North of the Thames.
  3. The trains call at St. Pancras Thameslink, Farringdon, City Thameslink and London Bridge in the core.
  4. Stops include East Croydon, Gatwick Airport, Three Bridges and Haywards Heath to the South of the Thames.
  5. The first train is 05:54 from Cambridge.

Trains generally leave Horsham at XX:07.

But going to Gatwick, I might go to Finsbury Park, where I can now get three trains per hour to the Airport.

  • XX:08 taking around 70 minutes
  • XX:38 taking around 70 minutes
  • XX:52 taking around 52 minutes

But coming back, I would take the first train to London Bridge, from where I’d get a 141 bus to just outside my door.

Are The Trains Acceptable?

For my journey of an hour to Gatwick, the trains are just about acceptable.

But, in some ways, I think that passengers from Cambridge and Peterborough will only use Thameslink to South of East Croydon occasionally, as over two hours in a Class 700 train, is an experience, passengers will be reluctant to repeat.

I would do the following.

  • Add wi-fi and power sockets.
  • Add a few tables to make some groups of four seats, suitable for families.
  • Add seat-back tables.
  • Make the seats more comfortable.

I’d love to have five minutes with the idiot who signed off the order for these trains, which must be the worst new trains on the UK network. Perhaps, that’s not being harsh enough. I suspect they could be the worst new trains in the world!

I’ve had better passenger comfort in a Pacer, that I wrote about in Is This Really A Pacer In A New Outfit?.

But that journey was only between Rotherham and Sheffield, not say Cambridge and Gatwick.

April 12, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 2 Comments

London Has A New Underground Line

On Friday, I went between Brighton and Cambridge stations on one of the first Thameslink services on the route.

I wrote about it in Observations On Thameslink Between Brighton And Cambridge.

That journey took me on London’s new Underground Line between London Bridge and Finsbury Park stations.

The following trains are going North from London Bridge to Finsbury Park.

  • 11:29 – Horsham to Peterborough – Arrives at Finsbury Park at 11:52
  • 12:49 – Brighton to Cambridge – Arrives at Finsbury Park at 13:13
  • 15:04 – Horsham to Peterborough – Arrives at Finsbury Park at 15:27
  • 15:34 – Brighton to Cambridge – Arrives at Finsbury Park at 15:57

And the following trains are going South from Finsbury Park to London Bridge.

  • 10:59 – Peterborough to Horsham – Arrives at London Bridge at 11:24
  • 12:09 -Cambridge to Brighton – Arrives at London Bridge at 12:37
  • 14:29 – Peterborough to Horsham – Arrives at London Bridge at 14:55
  • 15:11 – Cambridge to Brighton – Arrives at London Bridge at 15:37

All journeys take around 23-25 minutes, with stops at Blackfriars, City Thameslink, Farringdon and St. Pancras International stations.

It may officially be part of Thameslink, but it will function like a convewntional Underground Line, but with bigger trains.

The Underground Alternative

If you look at Transport for London’s Journey Planner, this give a time of twenty minutes for a journey between London Bridge and Finsbury Park, using the Northern and Victoria lines with a change at Euston.

That is also not a step-free or wheel-chair friendly route.

Obviously, at the moment, most passengers have no choice, as there is only four trains per day in each direction on the new Thameslink route.

But when a Full Service is running, with a train every ten minutes, things will be very different.

My Access To Thameslink

Timings to Thameslink stations from my house are as follows.

  • Finsbury Park – 15 mins by 141 Bus and Piccadilly Line
  • London Bridge – 25 mins by 21 or 141 Bus
  • London Bridge – 31 mins  using Transport for London’s Journey Planner’s recommended route via Dalston Junction and Canada Water.

The latter probably explains why Londoners are generally Grade 1 Duckers-And-Divers!

I suspect, when I go to Gatwick Airport, I’ll go via Finsbury Park, using the mini-cab from around the corner or a black cab, as both will be quicker.

I suspected right. Returning from Finsbury Park station to home this evening, took ten minutes and cost a tenner.

A Preview Service

Thameslink are only running a preview service between London Bridge and Finsbury Park at the current time.

On my Friday trip, it was particularly noticeable, that passengers were thin on the ground between the two stations.

  • But then passengers probably didn’t know about the service and may have been confused seeing a train going to Cambridge.
  • It’s also not shown on the Tube Map.
  • I didn’t notice any advertising for the new route.

So how do you use something that you don’t know about?

The Full Service

This route will have the following characteristics, when Thameslink open it fully.

The Route Will Serve The City of London Well

These factors will help this section of Thameslink serve the City of London.

  • Step-free stations at Farringdon, City Thameslink and London Bridge ring the South and West of the City of London.
  • Crossrail with an interchange with Thameslink at Farringdon also gives a quick route to the East of the City of London and Canary Wharf.
  • The City of London is also planning a lot of pedestrianisation.

Other developments like Crossrail and the expansion of Bank station and the Docklands Light Railway, will make London’s financial district, one of the best connected by public transport in the World.

The Route Will Have Tourist Attractions

The route could have been designed for tourists.

  • London Bridge station has London and Tower Bridges, Southwark Cathedral, Borough Market, HMS Belfast and the Shard.
  • But the most spectacular modern architecture at London Bridge, is the station itself, with its lifts, escalators, fifteen platforms and a shopping centre.
  • Blackfriars is a unique station, as it spans the Thames with entrances on both banks, and it is the world’s largest solar-powered bridge.
  • Blackfriars station is a short walk along the river from the Tate Modern and the Millennium Bridge.
  • Many good walks along the river start from Blackfriars.
  • City Thameslink station dates from 1990 and it shows, but it is close to St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Old Bailey, so it attracts visitors at both ends of the moral spectrum.
  • Farringdon station will be a major interchange, where Crossrail and Thameslink connect, so don’t let unsuitable organisations build all the hotels this area will attract.
  • Farringdon is close to two of London’s iconic markets; Smithfield meat market and the attached wife market.
  • Saint Pancras International station is a fur coat and no knickers station, as although it looks good, it’s practicality is suspect.
  • If they’d given the job to the architect, who updated Kings Cross station next door, they would have got a a more practical station.
  • Finsbury Park station is a place, where you go and explore the local area, which is vibrant and full of history.
  • You may even get as far as Alexandra Palace or Manor House, where I saw John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers with a very drunk Eric Clapton in the 1960s.

It is a line to explore London.

Six Trains Per Hour

There will be six trains per hour (tph), which will run All Day.

  • Two tph – Peterborough to Horsham – twelve-car
  • Two tph – Cambridge to Brighton – twelve-car
  • Two tph – Cambridge to Maidstone East – eight-car

This gives a six tph service between Finsbury Park and London Bridge and also a four tph service to East Croydon and Gatwick Airport.

Two Additional Trains Per Hour In The Peak

In the Peak, there will be two tph, that run from Welwyn Garden City to Sevenoaks.

But they will go via Elephant and Castle rather than London Bridge.

Thameslink must have their reasoning behind this service, but I have some questions.

  • Would commuters in the Peak prefer to go to London Bridge?
  • Would passengers from Sevenoaks and Welwyn Garden City like an All Day service?

These questions and others will be answered in the next few years, as hameslink develops.

Full Step-Free Access At London Bridge Station

London Bridge station has full step-free access for all the following services.

  • Thameslink
  • Services to and from Cannon Street station
  • Services to and from Waterloo East and Charing Cross stations.
  • Jubilee and Northern Lines of the Underground
  • Terminating services at London Bridge
  • Several bus routes, including my bus home!

Note.

  1. Passengers will use the escalators to get to the right destination.
  2. Thameslink passengers will use the island platform to reverse direction.
  3. It took me just two minutes to change from Platforms 2/3 to Platforms 8/9.
  4. Going from Platform 6/7 to the bus station was under three minutes and a 141 Bus was just getting ready to leave.
  5. Passengers can walk across London Bridge to the City of London.

There are few stations better than London Bridge anywhere in the world!

Full Step-Free Access at Finsbury Park Station

Finsbury Park station is being updated to have full step-free access for the following services.

  • Thameslink
  • Great Northern Services to Cambridge, Kings Lynn and Peterborough
  • Northern City Line services to and from Moorgate station
  • Piccadilly and Victoria Lines. of the Underground.

There will also be same-platform interchange between Thameslink and Northern City Line services.

The Improved Northern City Line At Finsbury Park Station

The Northern City Line will be substantially improved.

  • New Class 717 trains have been ordered.
  • This could mean an increased All Day service of perhaps 10-12 tph.
  • Moorgate station will be on Crossrail.
  • There will be a same-platform interchange with Thameslink at Finsbury Park station.
  • Hopefully, the terrible stations on the route will be improved.

This line will change from being a crowded, outdated backwater of the UK rail system to an important modern link to the City of London and Crossrail from large parts of North and North-East London.

The Link To Crossrail

The link between Thameslink and Crossrail at Farringdon station will probably be heavily used, if it is well-designed and fully-step free. Which I suspect it will be, until proven otherwise!

Don’t forget too, the link to the Metropolitan and Circle Lines at this key station, which is much better than the link at St. Pancras

Step-Free Access At All The Intermediate Stations Between London Bridge and Finsbury Park

Access at Blackfriars, City Thameslink, Farringdon and St. Pancras stations are all fully step-free.

The Fastest Way To Gatwick Airport And Brighton From North London

My friend lives in Walthamstow and always goes to Gatwick Airport by using the Victoria Line and Gatwick Express.

  • This takes twenty-three minutes for the Victoria Line and thirty minutes for the train.
  • The Thameslink route via Finsbury Park, takes nine minutes for the Victoria Line and an hour for the train.

Note.

  1. Both trains will run every fifteen minutes, when the full Thameslink service is running.
  2. The Thameslink timing is only the time of the Preview Service. Will the Full Service be faster?
  3. Finsbury Park and Victoria will both be fully step-free within a year or so.
  4. The trains on Gatwick Express will be more comfortable.
  5. The walk at Finsbury Park is shorter than at Victoria.
  6. The Thameslink route will be more affordable.

Everybody will have their own preference.

The biggest winners will be.

  • Those living on the Northern reaches of the Piccadilly Line, who will have a full step-free interchange to Thameslink at Finsbury Park
  • Those living on the Northern City Line, who will have a same-platform interchange to Thameslink at Finsbury Park.
  • Those who walk, cycle or take a bus or cab to Finsbury Park.

Gatwick Airport could be a big winner, as a whole area of North London and Hertfordshire now has a new excellent direct connection to the Airport.

What Still Needs To Be Done?

It is a well-thought out route, but some things still need to be done.

Is Six Tph Enough Trains Between London Bridge And Finsbury Park?

I ask this question, with my scheduling hat on!

At the moment of the 24 tph through the Snow Hill Tunnel, two-thirds of the trains go up the Midland Main Line, with just a third on the East Coast Main Line.

I think that, when Thameslink increase the frequency through the central core, that they will increase the frequency through Finsbury Park.

Could Two Tph From The Sutton Loop Go To Welwyn Garden City?

Curremtly, four tph start at St. Albans City station, go through London, then round the Sutton Loop, before returning to St. Albans City.

Would it be desirable to start two of these services from Welwyn Garden City station?

It will all depend on operational issues and the routes passengers take.

City Thameslink And St. Paul’s Stations Need A Connection

I believe this is possible and I wrote about it in A Pedestrian Connection Between City Thameslink Station And St. Paul’s Tube Station.

 

Should The Docklands Light Railway Be Extended To City Thameslink, Euston And St. Pancras?

I wrote about this extension in detail in A Connection Between City Thameslink Station And The Docklands Light Railway.

Could Thameslink Connect To The Waterloo And City Line?

I wrote about this connection in Could The Waterloo And City Line Have An Intermediate Station At Blackfriars?

Development of new trains for the Underground, will make this link possible.

 

Should Thameslink Be On The Tube Map

I wrote about this in Thameslink Should Be On The Tube Map.

All Of Thameslink Should Be In The Oystercard Area

Gatwick Airport is already in the Oystercard area, but it is silly that Oyster cards and contsctless cards can’t be used on all Thameslink services.

Conclusion

The possibilities for Thameslink and the effects it will have will be enormous.

 

March 11, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Observations On Thameslink Between Brighton And Cambridge

Yesterday, Thameslink opened the first of their services up the East Coast Main Line.

I gave more details in Thameslink Is Now Serving Peterborough And Cambridge.

Today, I did the following trips.

  • Dalston Junction to Brighton, by Overground, tram and Thameslink.
  • Brighton to Cambridge, leaving at 11:32 and arriving at 14:14, which was a journey time of two hours, forty-two minutes.
  • Cambridge to Finsbury Park, leaving at 14:24 and arriving at 15:10, which was a journey time of forty-six minutes.

These are pictures, I took along the Brighton to Cambridge part of the route.

These are some of my observations.

Are The Class 700 Trains Fast Enough?

There didn’t seem to be any problems today, but usually, when an electric train runs with the 125 mph trains on a High Speed Line like the East Coast, West Coast and Great Western Main Lines, they are a little bit faster than the hundred mph of the Class 700 trains.

Both, Class 350 trains and Class 387 trains are 110 mph trains and they have run successfully on High Speed Lines with 125 mph trains.

Interestingly, TransPennine Express has bought Class 397 trains, to work the West Coast Main Line. These are 125 mph trains, but they will have to work with uprated trains at 140mph, when in-cab signalling is installed.

In-Cab Signalling On The Main Lines

When modern in-cab signalling is installed on the Brighton, Midland and East Coast Main Lines will the current in-cab signalling of the Class 700 trains be able to be quickly updated?

I suspect it will not be a difficult project.

The Updating Of The Midland Main Line

In OLE Changes To Boost Midland Main Line Speeds, I said this.

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in Issue 840 of Rail Magazine.

Currently, the overhead line equipment (OLE) between St. Pancras and Bedford is rated at 100 mph.

But the new OLE between Bedford and Corby via Kettering is going to be built to a standard that will allow 125 mph running.

The article goes on to say that to make the best use of  125 mph bi-mode trains, the possibility of upgrading the St. Pancras to Bedford electrification to the 125 mph standard.

This must give advantages.

Are the Class 700 trains able to to take full advantage?

And are they fast enough to work with 125 mph bi-mode trains?

Are The Class 700 Trains Powerful Enough?

I ask this question, as surely changing from a slow line to a fast line, needs some acceleration and acceleration needs power.

The power available divided by the number of cars for the three trains is as follows.

  • Class 387 train – 420 kW/car
  • Class 350 train – 375 kW/car
  • Class 700 train – 417 kW/car

These figures are not that different.

By comparison, the Class 319 trains, which worked Thameslink for many years had just 247.5 kW/car.

The Class 700 Trains Aren’t Passenger Friendly For Long Distances

I regularly use Class 700 trains for short journeys on Thameslink around London. But going between say West Hampstead Thameslink and Blackfriars, is more of the sort of journey you would take on an Underground train.

  • They are perfectly adequate for short journeys in Central London.
  • The trains are generally lightly loaded, with seats often available.
  • There are plenty of hand-holds for safe standing.
  • The on train information is good.
  • I’ve even used the trains for their toilets.

On the other hand, taking an hour’s journey around London, there are several journeys, where you get a train with much better seats and a higher level of comfort.

  • Aldgate to Uxbridge on the Metropolitan Line, riding on a S8 Stock train.
  • Highbury and Islington to West Croydon on the London Overground, riding on a Class 378 train.
  • Liverpool Street to Shenfield, riding on a Class 345 train.
  • Liverpool Street to Bishops Stortford on a Class 317 train.
  • Paddington to Reading, riding on a Class 387 train.
  • Waterloo to Windsor, riding in a Class 455 train.

Note the presence of two seriously-old trains; Classes 317 and 455, and a train designed for the Underground.

Some of these journeys will get better, as new trains are introduced.

If you look at your new car, passenger features are much better than what you had twenty years ago.

The same can be said for some of London’s commuter trains, but can it be said for the Class 700 trains, when compared with the previous Class 319 trains.

  • Standing is a better experience on a Class 700 train.
  • Sitting is a better experience on a Class 319 train.
  • Entry and exit is better on a Class 700 train.
  • The toilets are better on a Class 700 train.
  • There is no wi-fi or power sockets on either train.
  • The Class 700 train is a better train to serve an Airport.
  • The Class 700 train uses the colours of a nuclear submarine, to calm passengers down!

After my trip of two hours forty-two minutes yesterday, between Brighton and Cambridge, I’m convinced the Class 700 train is unsuitable for this length of journey.

  • The seats are not comfortable enough for this distance.
  • By Cambridge, my phone was in desperate need of a re-charge.
  • At least I don’t generally use wi-fi.

The train was not very crowded, so with a more comfortable seat and a power-socket I’d have been a lot happier.

Passenger Loading Of The Train

For most of the journey, the train was virtually empty and I had four seats to myself.

Incidentally, I suspect that a lot of groups travelling all the way, will put their feet on the seats opposite for comfort.

The only time, the train had more than a few passengers was between Gatwick Airport and London Bridge stations, when it was almost completely full.

Various factors probably contribute.

  • Between London and Brighton, you can take one of Southern’s comfortable Class 377 trains.
  • Between London and Bedford, you can still take one of East Midland’s comfortable trains.
  • Between London and Cambridge, you can take one of Great Northern’s comfortable Class 387 trains.
  • Between London and Cambridge, you can take one of Greater Anglia’s comfortable Class 379 trains.

Competition may work in the Off Peak, but surely commuters have no choice.

But it was interesting, that the only crowded part of the route was the section, where there is no competition.

Take the standard grandparents living in Cambridge wanting to go to see their grandchildren in Brighton.

Will they take a two hours forty-two minutes journey in an uncomfortable train, when you can break the journey in a pleasant cafe in Central London?

Regular travellers on long Thameslink routes will work out their best strategies.

I’d love to analyse Thameslink’s passenger statistics.

But then Thameslink didn’t specify the trains.

Summing Up Brighton To Cambridge

These thoughts can probably be applied to Bedford to Brighton as well.

On the plus side, there is the following.

  • The journey time.
  • Entry and exit to the train.
  • Standing space, which makes it an excellent extra Underground Line in Central London.
  • Toilets

On the negative side, there is the following.

  • The seats.
  • The lack of passenger-friendly features like tables, power sockets and wi-fi.

But, I suspect that for Thameslink, these trains will not be welcoming to Off Peak travellers, where the competition is other operators and the car.

Is Thameslink An Extended Underground Line?

Crossrail has been designed as an extended Underground Line from Reading and Heathrow in the West to Abbey Wood and Shenfield in the East.

  • Between Whitechapel and Paddington, the line functions as a high-capacity Underground Line.
  • Crossrail will appear on the Tube Map.
  • Crossrail stations will have excellent connections to the Undeground.
  • By linking services from Paddington and Liverpool Street together back-to-back, platform space is released at two major stations, which can be used to increase capacity on other routes.
  • Crossrail’s stations are seen as locations to create commercial and residential developments.
  • All stations on the route are being improved and made step-free.
  • Crossrail’s trains appear to have been designed to function as both Underground trains and commuter trains, borrowing heavily from the successful S8 Stock of the Metropolitan Line.

So how does Thameslink compare?

  • Thameslink seems to have been designed as a series of main routes across London, that go through a Central Tunnel.
  • Between London Bridge and Finsbury Park/West Hapstead Thameslink, Londonders will use the line as a high-capacity Underground Line.
  • Thameslink will not appear on the Tube Map.
  • Thameslink stations have mixed connections to the Underground, that were designed by that useless designer called Topsy.
  • Platform space has been released at St. Pancras and London Bridge and the latest remodelling has improved matters.
  • Are Thameslink’s stations seen as development hubs?
  • Are Thameslink’s stations being given the right level of improvement and step-free access?
  • Thameslink’s trains were not designed for the job they are doing.

Thameslink is most certainly not an extended Underground Line!

A Comparison With The Great Eastern Main Line

The Great Eastern Main Line is a line I know well.

  • It has a long-distance service from Liverpool Street to Norwich via Colchester and Ipswich.
  • It has an extensive commuter network from Liverpool Street.
  • Crossrail will increase capacity at Liverpool Street.

When Greater Anglia decided to replace the fleet, they could have gone for a unified fleet.

But they decided on a split fleet.

Note.

  1. It was a pragmatic decision, that provided the right train for each service.
  2. Particular attention has been paid to the interior design.
  3. The interior design has been shown to passengers, before any trains have been built.
  4. All trains will have toilets.
  5. First Class will be eliminated on the Class 720 trains.
  6. The Class 720 trains could share tracks and platforms with Crossrail’s Class 345 trains.

It looks like Greater Anglia took a lot of care.

Did the Department for Transport take a similar amount of care to get the design for the Thameslink trains?

Obviously not!

What Needs To Be Done

These are my ideas.

Split The Train Fleet

Greater Anglia’s decision to split their fleet is a telling one.

  • Express services between London and Norwich and Stansted Airport services will be run by twelve-car Class 745 trains with First Class seats.
  • London commuter services will be run by five- and ten-car high-capacity Class 720 trains with no First Class.
  • Both trains have 100 mph operating speeds.
  • Both trains appear to have well-designed interiors.
  • Both trains will be compatible with respect to station, track and signalling.

Additionally, their Class 755 trains for secondary routes will have similar performance, opening up the possibility of other direct services to London.

I believe that eventually, Thameslink services will be run by two sets of compatible trains.

If they borrowed from Greater Anglia’s logic, this could see.

  • A sub-fleet suitable for long-distance services with twelve-car trains, First Class, tables and better seats for steerage.
  • A sub-fleet suitable for London commuter services with eight-car trains and no First Class.

Note.

  1. The current seats may be acceptable for eight-car trains running short commuter routes.
  2. All trains would be fitted with wi-fi, power-sockets, cup holders, seat-back tables and other passenger-friendly equipment where appropriate.
  3. Of the long-distance routes, only Cambridge to Maidstone East is proposed to be run by an eight-car train.
  4. The long-distance trains would have the ability to run at 110 mph, where possible and needed.

I believe with a bit of sorting and remanufacturing, the current fleet could do a much better job.

  • Passengers would get better seats and other facilities.
  • Thameslink would get faster services on long routes.
  • Would a more passenger-friendly train attract more passengers, especially in the Off Peak?
  • Services on the Brighton, East Coast and Midland Main Lines would allow faster running of other services.

I don’t think I’m talking about anything that is too difficult.

Would It Be Advantageous To Allow Some Twelve-Car Trains To Split And Join?

In Has Thameslink Got The Wrong Length Of Train?, I showed how if the trains were twelve- and six-car units and the latter had the ability to split and join automatically, this would lead to the following.

  • More efficient use of trains.
  • Better operation on the Sutton Loop Line.
  • The creation of extra services by splitting at the ends of a route.

I also showed how it may be possible to adjust the lengths of the current fleet into twelve- and six-car units.

 

 

Put Thameslink On The Tube Map

I know it was an initial service, but passenger numbers on my journey from Brighton to Cambridge , must have been well below Thameslink’s forecast for the route.

I doubt more than a handfull did the whole route, like I did.

It was particularly noticeable, that passengers were thin on the ground between London Bridge and Finsbury Park stations.

And yet this route will have the following characteristics, when Thameslink is fully open.

  • Six trains per hour (tph). Running all day.
  • Two extra tph in the Peak.
  • Full step-free access at London Bridge station.
  • Full step-free access at Finsbury Park station, including to the Piccadilly and Victoria Lines.
  • Same platform interchange with services to and from Moorgate on the Northern City Line at Finsbury Park.
  • Step-free access at all the intermediate stations between London Bridge and Finsbury Park.

I think that Finsbury Park could become a well-used interchange for Thameslink passengers.

But like other interchanges, it needs to be shown on the Tube map, so passengers know it’s there.

On the other hand, if you ask National Rail’s timetable, the best route from Brighton to Oakliegh Park at 11:30 on a Monday, it advises using Thameslink to Finsbury Park and then a local train on the Northern City Line.

More And Better Interchanges on Thameslink

Thameslink doesn’t have many interchanges with the Underground.

  • West Hampstead Thameslink
  • Kentish Town
  • Finsbury Park
  • Kings Cross St. Pancras
  • Farringdon
  • London Blackfriars
  • London Bridge
  • Elephant and Castle

Some are fairly rudimentary and involve some walking, that is not easy.

There is also two interchanges with the Overground.

  • Peckham Rye
  • Denmark Hill

But the Thameslink frequency at these stations, is only four tph, with two extra in the Peak.

Various plans have been floated in the last few years.

  • New stations at Camberwell and Loughborough Junction have been proposed.
  • A  new transport hub linking Catford and Catford Bridge stations has been proposed.
  • A pedestrian link between City Tameslink and St. Paul’s stations.
  • An extension to the Docklands Light Railway to City Thameslink and on to Charing Cross, Euston and Victoria.

Thameslink will only get bigger and better.

 

 

 

March 9, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 2 Comments

Thameslink Is Now Serving Peterborough And Cambridge

This article in the Standard is entitled First Direct Trains From Cambridge To Brighton Via Central London Launch.

This is said about the initial service.

There will be one return service from Brighton to Cambridge, departing at 11.32am from Brighton and 2.14pm from Cambridge, and two between Horsham and Peterborough. These will depart at 10am and 1.30pm from Horsham and 9.46am and 1.17pm from Peterborough.

Do it looks like things are getting started.

Unfortunately, they’re not running on Saturday, when Greater Anglia is employing the dreaded buses.

March 8, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , | 3 Comments