The Anonymous Widower

Why GA Uses Locomotive-Hauled Trains And Why The Class 755 Trains Are Coming

The first part of the title of this post is the same as that of an article in Rail Magazine, which is well worth a read.

Some interesting points.

  •  Norwich-Sheringham had 200,000 passengers per year in 1996; it is 600,000 now.
  • Competition between Yarmouth and Norwich is the X1 bus with wi-fi and charging sockets and a fifteen minute frequency.
  • Level crossing accidents are a problem.
  • Locomotive-hauled stock is not a cheap option.
  • When Norwich City are at home, extra capacity is needed.

I suspect that they would like to not have to use it.

Class 755 Trains

The article certainly shows why they chose the fleet of Class 755 trains with 24 x four-car and 14 x three-car units.

  • A three-car or four-car train can be rostered accordingly.
  • The trains are bi-mode, being able to work electrified and non-electrified routes.
  • The trains are 100 mph trains and probably have a much shorter station dwell time, which must reduce some journey times.
  • The trains will probably have charging sockets, 4G and wi-fi.
  • There appear to be enough trains for increased frequencies on all services.
  • I suspect that, as the trains will probably carry a high-proportion of leisure passengers, there will be adequate space for buggies, bicycles, large cases and wheel-chairs.

I’ll look at the routes where Class 755 trains will be used.

Some general points apply.

  • Several proposed routes like Norwich to Stansted Airport are partially-electrified.
  • Most timetables away from the electrified lines are written for a 75 mph Class 150 train.
  • Some routes need more capacity and more frequent services.

Norwich To Yarmouth

Currently, this is a two train per hour (tph) service, which takes 33-37 minutes with four or five stops. Three trains are probably needed to run the service, although Greater Anglia do combine it with the Lowestoft services.

Note the following.

  • Norwich to Yarmouth is not an easy drive in a car.
  • There are generous turnround times at Norwich and Yarmouth.
  • The Wherry Lines are being resignalled, according to this article in Rail Engineer, which is entitled Atkins Awarded £29m Resignalling Contract In Anglia.

I would not be surprised to see the Norwich to Yarmouth service speeded up such that a Class 755 train could do a complete round trip in an hour.

  • This would allow a four tph service to be run by just four trains.
  • The trains could alternate between the two possible routes to give all stations at least a two tph service to both Norwich and Yarmouth
  • Four tph would be a true Turn-Up-And-Go service.
  • The trains could be three-car or four-car units, according to need.

How would such a service rejuvenate Yarmouth?

Norwich To Cromer And Sheringham

Currently, this is an hourly service, that takes just under an hour with seven stops. This service needs two trains.

Note the following.

I am fairly certain that the extra performance of the Class 755 trains, will allow a two tph service between Norwich and Sheringham.

This two tph service would need four trains.

Norwich To Lowestoft

Currently, this is an hourly service, that takes 35-47 minutes with either one or six stops.

Note the following.

  • The line is double-track.
  • As  with Norwich to Yarmouth, the current timings are such, that they can be achieved by a 75 mph Class 150 train.
  • All the Wherry Lines will be resignalled.

I suspect that two tph may be possible with Class 755 trains, by means of some innovative timetabling.

It might be possible that if a train went fast one way with just one stop and slow the other with six stops, that it could do a round trip to Norwich in an hour.

A two tph service run like this could need just two trains, with the fast trip in probably something under twenty-five minutes.

Four tph might even be possible, if passenger numbers could support this frequency.

Four Tph Between Lowestoft And Norwich

Note that four tph to both Yarmouth and Lowestoft could mean six tph to Norwich stopping at Brundall Gardens and Brundall.

Norwich station can use platform 4, 5 and 6 for services to Lowestoft, Sheringham and Yarmouth, so there is no capacity problem, as three platforms can surely handle ten tph with modern signalling.

Lowestoft To Yarmouth

There must be lots of good reasons concerning commerce, tourism, leisure and families to connect the two biggest towns in the East of England by rail. Great Yarmouth is slightly larger with a population of 70,000 to Lowestoft’s 60,000.

Because no connection exists, I’d always thought that to provide one was difficult, as it would perhaps envisage building a large bridge across the water in the area. But I have just read a section entitled Direct Yarmouth Services in the Wikipedia entry for Lowestoft station. This is said.

In January 2015, a Network Rail study proposed the reintroduction of direct services between Lowestoft and Yarmouth by reinstating a spur at Reedham. Services could once again travel between two East Coast towns, with an estimated journey time of 33 minutes, via a reconstructed 34-chain (680 m) north-to-south arm of the former triangular junction at Reedham, which had been removed in c. 1880.The plans also involve relocating Reedham station nearer the junction, an idea which attracted criticism.

Surely if Network Rail has suggested this link in this study on their web site, it must be fairly easy to reinstate, as they don’t want to start any more fiascos.

There are several possible reasons.

  1. Has the Todmorden Curve shown that these links generate traffic and revenue for Network Rail? Perhaps, they’ve even got the maps out and looked for similar curves to Todmorden.
  2. Does this link give an extra route between Norwich and Ipswich, that makes it easier for passengers to do certain journeys without changing trains?
  3. There is a significant number of journeys betwen Lowestoft and Yarmouth by rail and road.
  4. Does it make it easier for trains to serve Lowestoft and Yarmouth?
  5. Perhaps reorganising the rail lines and station at Reedham realises a sizable piece of land for development.
  6. Do Network Rail want to create a record for reopening the oldest closed railway line? 135 years has probably not been beaten.

This map shows the area of the proposed junction.

Reedham Station And JunctionNorwich is to the West, Yarmouth to the North East and Lowestoft is to the South.

Despite being removed in 1880, the line of the third side of the junction is still visible.

But there is opposition as this article in the Great Yarmouth Mercury details. Perhaps, the locals don’t want any more housing?

The article mentions a cost of a billion pounds, which would make it a no-no!  However the Todmorden scheme cost less than ten million pounds for a similarly-sized curve.

Currently, the fastest Lowestoft to Yarmouth journey takes about eighty minutes with a change at Norwich.

But these timings are also possible.

  • Reedham to Yarmouth – 16 minutes
  • Reedham to Lowestoft – 26 minutes

I suspect canny locals know that some trains connect well, so do the trip in under an hour.

It would appear though that if the Reedham chord was relaid, that Yarmouth to Lowestoft could be achieved in about fifty minutes.

I suspect that even if the Reedham Chord is not relaid, Greater Anglia may have plans to incorporate this service into the pattern of trains on the Wherry Lines.

They’ve certainly even got enough trains to run a shuttle using a three-car Class 755 train between Lowestoft and Yarmouth with a reverse at Reedham station. An hourly service would need only one train.

Norwich To Stansted Airport

Greater Anglia have said that this new hourly service will replace the current service from Norwich to Cambridge on the Breckland Line.


  • Norwich to Cambridge takes 70 minutes, which is probably timed for 75 mph trains.
  • Cambridge to Stansted Airport takes 30 minutes
  • Trowse bridge at Norwich, is a major bottleneck on all trains connecting Norwich to the South and it may be improved or replaced. I wrote about Trowse Bridge in Is This The Worst Bottleneck On The UK Rail Network?
  • Some sections of the line are electrified.

Would a  round trip be possible in three hours?

This would need three trains for an hourly service and six trains for a two tph service.

Ipswich To Lowestoft

Currently, this is an hourly service, that takes a few minutes under an hour and a half with nine stops.

Looking at the timetable for the 11:17 from Ipswich, the various sections of the journey take.

  • Ipswich to Lowestoft – 86 minutes
  • Turnround at Lowestoft – 24 minutes
  • Lowestoft to  Ipswich – 89 minutes
  • Turnround at Ipswich – 41 minutes

Which gives a round trip time of four hours.

This is from the Wikipedia entry for the East Suffolk Line and describes the infrastructure.

The line is double-track from Ipswich to Woodbridge and from Saxmundham to Halesworth with the rest of the route being single track, apart from a short passing loop at Beccles. The line is not electrified, has a loading gauge of W10 between Ipswich and Westerfield and W6 for all other sections, and a line speed of between 40-55 mph.

Also note the following.

  • The current four hour round trip means that four trains are needed for the service.
  • Up and down trains pass at XX:25 at Beccles station and at XX:54-57 at Saxmundham station.
  • The turnround times at Ipswich and Lowestoft are long, so that the timetable works and the trains can pass at Beccles and Saxmundham.

Given some track improvements, removal of a couple of level crossings and some clever  timetabling, I suspect that the Class 755 trains could probably travel between Ipswich and Lowestoft in around an hour.

Turning these trains in thirty minutes would give a three hour round trip and reduce the number of trains required to three.

The real benefit comes if the line could be upgraded such that the Class 755 trains could do the round trip in two hours, which would reduce the number of trains required to two.

I suspect that there is extensive work being done to find a method to get a time of under an hour between Ipswich and Lowestoft.

When they’ve cracked that problem, they’ll probably move on to increasing the services on the line to two tph.

If they can crack both problems, two tph between Ipswich and Lowestoft running in around an hour, would need just four trains.

Ipswich To Felixstowe

Currently, the service is hourly and a single train does a round trip in an hour.

The track is being improved and I’m fairly sure that two tph are possible, which would need two trains.

Ipswich to Cambridge

Currently, the service is hourly and a single train does a round trip in three hours.

Note the following.

  • Three trains are needed to run the hourly service.
  • The current three-car trains can get very crowded.
  • Some sections of the line are electrified.
  • Haughley Junction is going to be improved.

I feel that the Ipswich to Cambridge time can be reduced to under an hour by the new trains.

This would have the following effects.

  • Reduce the number of trains required for an hourly service to two.
  • It would probably be possible to run a two tph service with four trains.

The reduced journey time, may also allow the service to start at Cambridge North station and reverse at Cambridge to give a much needed connection from Cambridge North station to the East.

Improvements At Ipswich Station

Ipswich station will need extra platform capacity to handle extra services to Cambridge, Felixstowe and Lowestoft.

Colchester Town To Sudbury

Greater Anglia have said that this new route will replace the current service on the Gainsborough Line.

Current timings on this route are.

  • Colchester Town to Marks Tey – 14 minutes
  • Marks Tey to Sudbury – 20 minutes
  • Turnround at Sudbury – 5 minutes
  • Audbury to Marks Tey -19 minutes
  • Marks Tey to Colchester Town – 16 minutes.
  • Turnround at Colchester Town – 5 minutes

This gives a round trip of 79 minutes, with a Marks Tey to Marks Tey time of 44 minutes.

Note the following.

  • One train would be needed to run an hourly service, if the round trip could be reduced between an hour.
  • Some sections of the line are electrified.
  • The Gainsborough Line has an operating speed of 50 mph.
  • A new platform will be needed at Colchester Town station.

I think is is highly likely that the Class 755 train will be able to do the round trip in under an hour.

If the time spent on the branch could be reduced to under thirty minutes, then two tph on the route are possible, which would need two trains.

Colchester To Peterborough

Greater Anglia have said that this new hourly service will replace the current service from Ipswich to Peterborough.

Current timings on this route are.

  • Colchester to Ipswich – 20 minutes
  • Ipswich to Peterborough – 99 minutes

A round trip should be possible in four hours.

Note the following.

  • Four train would be needed to run an hourly service, if the round trip could be under four hours.
  • Some sections of the line are electrified.

If this service could be run at two tph, this would need eight trains.

Summary Of Class 755 Train Services

This is a summary of the routes, their frequencies and trains needed

  • Norwich to Yarmouth – Four tph needs four trains.
  • Norwich to Sheringham – Two tph needs four trains.
  • Norwich to Lowestoft – Four tph needs four trains.
  • Lowestoft to Yarmouth – Hourly needs one train.
  • Ipswich to Lowestoft – Two tph needs four trains.
  • Ipswich to Felixstowe – Two tph needs two trains.
  • Ipswich to Cambridge – Two tph needs four trains.
  • Colchester Town to Sudbury – Two tph needs two trains.
  • Colchester to Peterborough – Hourly needs four trains.
  • Norwich to Stansted Airport – Hourly needs four trains.

The two routes that required large numbers of trains are Colchester to Peterborough and Norwich to Stansted Airport, which are the longest.

Because of the number of four-car trains ordered, I think the following routes will be run by four-car trains.

  • Norwich to Yarmouth
  • Norwich to Lowestoft
  • Ipswich to Lowestoft
  • Ipswich to Cambridge
  • Colchester to Peterborough
  • Norwich to Stansted Airport

These six routes would each need four trains or a total of twenty-four trains. How many have Greater Anglia ordered?

The other routes would need nine three-car trains.

Infrastructure Required

The infrastructure required to run all these trains includes

  • The Wherry Lines are being resignalled, This may not be needed, but it will certainly make things easier.
  • Some platforms may need to be lengthened.
  • Ideally, all the station platforms will be adjusted so that their height fits the Class 755 trains.
  • The Reedham Chord may be reinstated to allow direct Lowestoft to Yarmouth services.
  • Track improvements might night be needed on the Esst Suffolk Line.
  • Ipswich station will need extra platform capacity to handle extra services to Cambridge, Felixstowe and Lowestoft.
  • Colchester Town will need a second platform for the service to Sudbury.

No electrification is required, although to perhaps extend the wires for a few hundred metres in a few places might ease operation.

  • From Norwich to where the Bittern and Wherry Lines divide.
  • From Ipswich to where the East Suffolk and Felixstowe Lines divide.
  • At Marks Tey along the Gainsborough Line.

This will allow the Class 755 trains to run on electricity for longer.


I’m probably very wide of mark, but iI do feel there is scope with the large number of Class 755 trains ordered by Greater Anglia to improve trains in East Anglia by a large amount.


September 5, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

An Affordable Reinstatement Of The Stour Valley Railway

The Stour Valley Railway used to link Cambridge to Colchester. The section between Sudbury and Shelford stations was closed in 1967. The only portion remaining is the Gainsborough Line between Sudbury and Marks Tey stations.

So could the line be reopened in an affordable way using modern technology?

In Sudbury To Cambridge – D-Train, IPEMU Or Tram-Train?, I basked what would be the ideal rolling stock on a reopened Stour Valley Railway.

My conclusion was.

It is very much a case of who pays the money makes the choice.

Purists will want a double-track railway with fully manned stations, served by at least two-trains per hour. But they’re probably not paying!

There are plenty enough single-track, single-platform stations in the UK, that work safely and well. The Gainsborough Line, which would connect a restored Stour Valley Railway to the Great Eastern Main Line has the following characteristics, history and aspirations.

So why not extend a  railway across Suffolk, with these features.

  • Single-track throughout.
  • No traditional electrification
  • Single-platform stations.
  • Passing loops at Sudbury or Great Cornard and Haverhill.
  • In-cab wireless signalling, using ERTMS, as piloted on the Cambrian Line in Wales.
  • No level crossings.
  • No freight, except engineering trains.
  • Run under tramway rules.
  • Double-manned trains.
  • Services would be run by Aventras running on stored power.

It would be the ultimate modern railway connecting to one of the world’s most high-tech cities.

A Few Questions

These questions come to mind. If you have any others, let me know and I’ll answer them.

Could an Aventra Travel Between Marks Tey And Shelford Stations On Battery Power?

Both ends of the Stour Valley Railway connect to double-track main lines, which use 25 KVAC overhead electrification.

Current practice, always extends the electrification for a few hundred metres down a branch line and I would assume this would be done, so that a train running on stored energy, which was running short of power, could pull out onto the main line using the electrification.

Estimates of the distances of the sections of the line are as follows.

  • Marks Tey to Sudbury – 12 miles – From Gainborough Line details in Wikipedia.
  • Sudbury to Haverhill – 17 miles – From road distances
  • Haverhill to West Anglia Main Line – 14 miles – From road distances.

Which gives a total of forty-three miles.

These factors will help.

  • The terrain is not challenging.
  • The trains will be using regenerative braking at stops.
  • The trains have been optimised for low energy use.
  • The trains will enter the line with full batteries.

In An Exciting New Aventra, Bombardier are quoted as saying.

So plans were made for an Aventra that could run away from the wires, using batteries or other forms of energy storage. “We call it an independently powered EMU, but it’s effectively an EMU that you could put the pantograph down and it will run on the energy storage to a point say 50 miles away. There it can recharge by putting the pantograph back up briefly in a terminus before it comes back.

The prototype, which was based on a Class 379 train, that I rode in public service in January 2015, could happily travel along the eleven miles of the Mayflower Line. Even then the on-board engineer, that I spoke to, reckoned that longer distances were possible.

Two years on, I can’t believe that Bombardier have not achieved their objective of a train with on-board storage, that can reliably achieve a fifty mile range away from the wires.

In fact for reliable operation over fifty miles, they’d probably need a range of around seventy miles, just to make sure.

Could Charging Be Provided En Route?

Seville’s MetroCentro trams, which I described in Seville’s Elegant Trams, charge themselves at each stop.

I believe that there may be a very simple system, that could be used with Aventra trains.

The Aventras are dual-voltage trains, so could a short length of 750 VDC third rail be provided in some or all stations, which at most times is electrically dead. As is normal practice the rail would be on the side of the track away from the platform.

The sequence of operation would be as follows.

  • The train arrives in the station.
  • The second crew member gets out to supervise the passengers, as is normal practice.
  • The presence of the train, allows the third rail to be switched on.
  • The train connects using a third-rail shoe and charges the batteries.
  • When charging is complete, the third rail is switched off.
  • The second crew member checks all is ready and boards the train.
  • The train goes on its way with a full battery.

I’m sure that by careful design, a very safe system of charging the batteries can be developed.

  • The third rail can’t be switched on unless a train is in the platform.
  • The train would act as a massive safety guard for the third-rail.
  • The shoe could be on the middle car of a five-car train.
  • CCTV could monitor the third-rail at all times it is switched on.

I don’t think that all stations would have charging facilities, but just enough to ensure reliable operation of the trains.

How Would You Rescue A Failed Battery Train?

There are generally two ways, that failed trains are rescued.

  • In most cases, a second train attaches itself to the failed train and drags it out of moves it to a suitable siding out of the way.
  • Alternatively, a locomotive, often nicknamed a Thunderbird moves the train.

Would a battery train be able to shift the dead weight of a failed train?

It has been suggested to me, that Greater Anglia’s Class 755 trains, which are bi-mode will be able to rescue a Class 720 train, which are Aventras.

Now that is probably the ideal solution.

If you are using battery trains on a route, you make sure that you have some bi-mode trains working a route nearby.

How Long Would Colchester To Cambridge Take With A Battery Train?

Currently, the fastest journey by train between Colchester and Cambridge, that I can find takes two hours twenty minutes with a change at Ipswich. The Internet gives a driving time of one hour twenty-two minutes.

So how long would a journey take on the Stour Valley Railway?

The following timings are achieved by electric trains on the part of the route that is electrified.

  • Marks Tey to Colchester – 7-8 minutes
  • Shelford to Cambridge – 7 minutes

With Marks Tey to Sudbury taking twenty minutes. I will assume that a modern train like an Aventra would save a couple of minutes per stop, but then there could be an extra station at Great Cornard.

So let’s leave the timing at twenty minutes.

Scaling this time up for the forty-three miles between Marks Tey and the West Anglia Main Line from the twelve miles between Msrks Tey and Sudbury gives a time of one hour twelve minutes for the centre section of the route without electrification.

Adding everything together gives one hour twenty-seven minutes for the complete  Colchester to Cambridge journey.

I suspect a few minutes could be saved by good driving and some extra electrification at the junctions.

This all adds up to a comfortable three-hour round trip between Colchester and Cambridge.

How Many Trains Would Be Needed To Work A Colchester To Cambridge Service?

The previous section would mean that to provide an hourly service between Cambridge and Colchester would require just three trains. A half-hourly service would require six trains.

Why Not Use Bi-Mode Trains?

It could be argued that everything a Class 720 Aventra train running on battery power could be done by a Stadler Class 755 bi-mode train.


  • The track access charges and leasing costs may favour one train or the other.
  • Tha Class 720 train is probably better suited to gliding silently through the Suffolk countryside.
  • The Class 755 train would run on diesel for most of the journey. Not very green!
  • The five-car Class 720 train may be too big.

Abellio’s accountants and the Marketing Department will decide.

Costs And Benefits

The cost of building the railway between the West Anglia Main Line and Sudbury, is a bit like the old question, as to how long is a piece of string.

Much of the route is still visible in Google Maps and it could be rebuilt as single track with single platform stations, which is the style of the Gainsborough Line.

The picture shows Newcourt station on the Avocet Line in Devon.

There were originally stations between Shelford and Sudbury at the following places.

I don’t suspect all would be needed, but none except perhaps Haverhill and a rebuilt and/or moved Sufbury would be anything more than basic.

To show the level of costs, Newcourt station cost £4 million, when it opened in 2015.

I would estimate that a total cost of the single track and the required stations would be around £100-120 million.

At least, it would be unlikely, if new trains had to be purchased.

Putting value to the benefits is more difficult, but at least they can be listed.

  • Fast growing Haverhill will gain a high-capacity public transport link to Cambridge.
  • It would give Cambridge access to the housing and industrial sites, the |City needs.
  • An efficient route would be built between Cambridge and Colchester via Sudbury and Haverhill.
  • Haverhill and Sudbury get good direct links to Colchester and Ipswich.
  • Most of the locals would be pleased, as house prices would rise!!
  • All areas along the line get links to Addenbrook’s Hospital.
  • If you can’t drive in South Suffolk, it is a beautiful prison.

As to the last point, why do you think I moved to London?


Reinstatement of the Stour Valley Railway  would be the ultimate modern railway for one of the world’s most high-tech cities.








August 13, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

An Addenbrooke’s Train Station Has Got The Thumbs-Up From The Transport Secretary

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in the Cambridge News.

These are my thoughts.


Cambridge South station, if they follow the convention of the name of the newly-opened Cambridge North station, has the ideal location.

  • It is South of the City of Cambridge in a similar position to how Cambridge North station is North of the City.
  • The Cambridgeshire Guided Busway could be diverted to serve the station.
  • Addenbrooke’s Hospital and the Cambridge Biomedical Campus could be a short walk or a travelator ride away.
  • Addenbrooke’s bus station could be moved to be adjacent to the new train station.
  • Services between both Liverpool Street and Kings Cross stations and Cambridge would call.
  • There is space for a large car park for both train passengers and hospital patients and visitors.
  • In the future, trains on the East West Rail Link will be able to call.

The location would also allow trains or guided buses on a reopened Stour Valley Railway to call.


When Thameslink opens fully, it looks like the trains going through Cambridge South station could include.

  • 1 tph – CrossCountry – Birmingham New Street to Stansted Airport.
  • 1 tph – Greater Anglia – Norwich to Stansted Airport.
  • 2 tph – Greater Anglia – Liverpool Street to Cambridge/Cambridge North/Ely
  • 3 tph – Great Northern – Kings Cross to Cambridge/Cambridge North
  • 1 tph – Great Northern – Kings Cross to Kings Lynn
  • 2 tph – Thameslink – Brighton to Cambridge/Caambridge North
  • 2 tph – Thameslink – Maidstone East to Cambridge/Caambridge North

Note tph is trains per hour.

This totals to twelve tph. And that’s only for starters.

  • The East West Rail Link will surely add 2 tph to Oxford.
  • All these services to Kings Cross and St. Pancras must surely hit Greater Anglia’s Liverpool Street services. Will this mean they use some of their massive fleet of new trains to provide extra services to Liverpool Street and Stansted.

It should also be noted that Greater Anglia serves the City, Stratford and connects to Crossrail, whereas Great Northern doesn’t!

The Stour Valley Railway

If Cambridge continues to be one of the most successful cities in the world, I can’t believe that the Stour Valley Railway won’t be reinstated as another route across East Anglia.

I discuss this proposal in detail in An Affordable Reinstatement Of The Stour Valley Railway.

I came to this conclusion.

Reinstatement of the Stour Valley Railway  would be the ultimate modern railway for one of the world’s most high-tech cities.

I think it will be built at some time.


The usual suspects will complain about Cambridge South station being another station in a city near London, that already has two stations.

This is said about the cost of Cambridge North station in Wikipedia.

On 19 August 2015, Cambridge City Council approved Network Rail’s new plans for the station, which were not substantially different from the original plans put forward by Cambridgeshire County Council in 2013. Following Network Rail’s intervention, the cost of the station was revised upwards to £44 million.

When first proposed by Cambridgeshire County Council in around 2007, at the cost was £15 million, with a benefit-cost ratio of 3.09.

So much for Network Rail’s costing systems.

Incidentally, Kirkstall |Forge station in Leeds, which is a two-platform station on an electrified line with full step-free access cost £16 million. So as Cambridge South will probably have an extra platform and lots of parking, I would reckon £25 million would cover the cost of building the station.

To put this sum in context, two Cambridge companies have recently been sold.

These two deals must have generated a lot of tax revenue.


A start on Cambridge South station should be made next week.


August 12, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Gibb Report – Cambridge Depot

The Gibb Report, looks in detail at GTR’s depot capacity and especially the stabling for Thameslink.

The report indicates particular problems at Cambridge.

The facility is currently unsuitable for 12 car fixed formation trains and the current trains have to be uncoupled to be accommodated.

Greater Anglia will have the following trains at Cambridge in their open-air depot.

All trains are fixed-formation and I suspect that Greater Anglia have a well-planned train parking philosophy, which could include.

  • Parking two five-car Aventras in a long ten/twelve-car siding.
  • Remote wake-up for the Class 720 and Class 745 trains as I discussed in Do Bombardier Aventras Have Remote Wake-Up?
  • Parking the odd Class 755 train, that will work services to Ipswich in one of the bay platforms.
  • Parking the Class 755 trains, that will work Norwich to Stansted, at the ends of the route.
  • Having a remote toilet servicing team for their trains.

But it would be difficult to fit in the following two trains per hour (tph) Thameslink services.

  • Cambridge to Brighton – Twelve-car Class 700 train
  • Cambridge to Maidstone East – Eight-car Class 700 train

Both services would be run all day, with journey times in excess of two hours, which probably means each service would need nine or ten trains.

GTR will have a need for their own depot as mixing eight and twelve car trains will just fill up Greater Anglia’s depot and I doubt they will be pleased.

The problem can’t be eased by running twelve-car trains to Maidstone East, as the Thameslink platform at that station is too short.

Although Maidstone East station may be redeveloped in the future and a twelve-car platform 3 could be incorporated.

This Google Map shows the layout of Maidstone East station.

Could a twelve-car pltform be squeezed in?

Six-car as opposed to eight-car trains may offer an alternative solution here.

Cambridge would be served by a twelve-car train, that was formed of two six-car units coupled together.

At Bromley South or Swanley station, the two trains would split, with one portion going to Maidstone East station and the other to another convenient station.

Returning North the trains would join up again and travel to Cambridge as a twelve-car train.

The advantages of this are as follows.

  • Two eight-car tph in the core are replaced by twelve-car trains.
  • Two eight-car Cambridge to London tph are replaced by twelve-car trains.
  • Another destination South of London gets awo six-car tph to Cambridge.

The only loser is Maidstone East station, which sees the train length of its two trains per hour to Cambridge reduced from eight-cars to six.

July 9, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Changing Face Of Cambridge

I took these pictures, as my train to Cambridge North station, made a stop at Cambridge station.

There’s certainly been a lot of new building.

Over the years, I’ve seen Cambridge station change from a simple station, where staff had to work hard to juggle terminating and through trains to maintain a decent service into a major rail interchange with the following platforms.

  • Two very long through platforms; 1 and 7, capable of taking the longest trains on the UK rail network.
  • Platform 1 is actually bi-directional and can be used as two shorter platforms; 1 and 4.
  • Two London-facing bay platforms; 2 and 3 capable of taking eight-car trains.
  • Two North-facing bay platforms; 5 and 6, capable of taking six-car trains from Ipswich, Norwich, Peterborough and the North.
  • A twelve-car platform; 8, that can be used as either a through or a bay platform.

Is there another regional station in the UK with such a comprehensive layout?

Cambridge station and its new sibling a few miles to the North are certainly ready for all the rail developments planned to happen in the next few years.

  • Thameslink arrives in 2018
  • Greater Anglia’s new trains arrive in 2019.
  • The East-West Rail Link could arrive in the mid-2020s.

I would not be surprised if Cambridge created the Trinity by starting the proposed new Cambridge South station at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in the next couple of years.

After all, a third station, will give Cambridge one more station than Oxford.




May 21, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Cambridge Thinks About More Stations

This article in the Cambridge News has a headline of Support for re-opening South Cambridgeshire railway station is gathering pace.

It talks mainly about the reopening of Fulbourn station between Newmarket and Cambridge.

This is said.

The Reopen Fulbourn Railway Station group is calling for the station to be reinstated as part of a drive to boost rail connectivity in the area.

Later in the article it says that the Council also wants to open a new station at Addenbrooke’s Hospital and reopen the closed station at Cherry Hinton.

A station at Addenbrooke’s Hospital is pencilled in for the East West Rail Link and the other two stations are on the Ipswich to Cambridge Line.

Wikipedia says this about a previous attempt to reopen the station at Cherry Hinton.

Reopening of the station was proposed by Cambridgeshire County Council in May 2013 as part of an infrastructure plan to deal with projected population growth up to 2050. A proposal to reopen the station had previously been made in 1996 but 70% of residents who responded to a Council questionnaire were against it; in any event, a new station was not considered viable at that time.

There are some cynical comments to the article as well.

But circumstances have changed since 1996.

  • Cambridgeshire County Council has more responsibility for this type of spending.
  • As I said in Will We Be Seeing More Railway Stations?, it looks like design, technology, new trains and costs are making it easier to make a good case for a new station.
  • Greater Anglia will be running new high-performance trains through Fulbourn and Cherry Hinton in a couple of years.
  • Network Rail are removing level crossings in East Anglia and there are several in the area, including one at the site of Cherry Hinton station.

The level crossings could be the clincher, as there is a lot of opposition in some places to their removal.

Would Network Rail duck the problems and leave everything as it is?

December 29, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Crossrail 2 ‘Cannot Go Ahead’ Without Four-Tracking Of West Anglia Line

This is the title of an article in Rail Technology Magazine.

This is the first paragraph.

MPs for constituencies along the West Anglia line called for the route to be four-tracked in order to accommodate new rolling stock and Crossrail 2 at a Westminster Hall debate yesterday.

I know the West Anglia Main Line very well, as for perhaps fifteen years, I used to travel on it, regularly to get between Cambridge and London.

The Problems Of The West Anglia Main Line

Summarising its shortcomings, I would include.

  1. Trains are too slow.
  2. Capacity on the line is too small.
  3. There are lots of level crossings, which cause problems.
  4. With the development of the port at London Gateway, there could be pressure to put more freight trains on this line, to go to and from the North.
  5. Services from London, should be better integrated with Peterborough and Norwich services.
  6. Ipswich and Bury St. Edmunds to Stansted Airport, is not easy by train.

This Infrastructure section in Wikipedia describes the West Anglia Main Line.

The line was initially 5 ft (1,524 mm) gauge, but between 5 September and 7 October 1844 it was converted to 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge.

In 2013 the line was double track for most of its length, with small sections of single track on the Stansted branch and at Ware and quadruple track between Hackney Downs and Liverpool Street. The line is electrified at 25 kV AC and has a loading gauge of W8 except for the Stansted branch, which is W6.

The line is very much inferior to the Great Eastern Main Line.

The New Greater Anglia Franchise

The new Greater Anglia Franchise, will go a long way to sorting points 5 and 6, by introducing hourly services on the following routes.

  • Norwich to Stansred Airport via Ely, Cambridge North and Cambridge stations.
  • Colchester to Peterborough via Ipswich, Bury St. Edmunds, and Ely.

With improved services from London to Stansted, this will help sort out a lot of the problems on the line.

But these changes will only put more pressure on capacity on the West Anglia Main Line.


The West Anglia Main Line doesn’t carry large numbers of freight trains, but there could be pressure to increase freight on the line in the future.

Once the Gospel Oak to Barking Line is electrified, there will be another electrified route from London Gateway to Peteborough.

It might be decided to reinstate the rail line from March to Spalding and the Great Northern Great Eastern Joint Line, to take freight away from the East Coast Main Line.

If thiese routes get to be used for freight, it will put extra pressure for more capacity on the West Anglia Main Line.

More Capacity On The West Anglia Main Line

With demand for more capacity on the West Anglia Main Line, I think it is inevitable that the line will be improved.

This Future Developments section in Wikipedia, outlines what might happen.

If Stansted Airport’s expansion is authorised it is planned that the line will see many further changes. Long term proposals include four-tracking between Coppermill Junction and Broxbourne junction; an additional tunnel and platform edge on the Stansted Airport branch; one additional train per hour serving Stansted and up to six further trains per hour at peak times, including four into Stratford as a terminus. More stations, such as Broxbourne, will also have platform extensions to accommodate 12-car trains.

It seems likely that two tracks will be built alongside the line to Cheshunt as part of Crossrail 2. Intermediate stations from Tottenham Hale will transfer to Crossrail 2 releasing capacity on the main line for additional trains

Stansted Airport have certainly been a forceful advocate of four-tracking the West Anglia  Main Line.

Four-tracking of the twelve or so miles between Coppermill and Broxbourne Junctions would allow the following.

  • The possibility of at least 100 mph running on the fast lines.
  • Separation of slow and fast services.
  • Stansted and Cambridge Express services, that would be worthy of the name.
  • The possibility of more freight trains.


Four-tracking would certainly do the following.

  • Get the line ready to connect to Crossrail 2.
  • Probably make all stations between Tottenham Hale and Broxbourne step-free.
  • Add the station at Meridian Water to the line.
  • Improve the freight gauge from W8 to W10, where needed.

I suspect that four-tracking will also remove some of the notorious level crossings on the line.

I have this feeling that the four-tracking of this line could be one of those projects, where the existing infrastructure works normally, whilst the new tracks are built alongside.

Fast Services To Stansted, Cambridge And Norwich

South of Broxbourne station, fast services to and from Cambridge, only stop at Cheshunt and Tottenham Hale.

Given that the Flirts, that will be running Cambridge and Stansted services in a few years will be 125 mph trains, would it be worth it to save a few minutes building the new fast lines to allow running at this speed?

But should the four-track section of railway stop at Broxbourne Junction?

Between Broxbourne and Bishops Strtford, the West Anglia Main Line, has wide margins and I think that there are possibilities of extending the four-track section further North, perhaps even to Bishops Stortford station.

As an example, this Google Map shows Roydon station.

Roydon Station

Roydon Station

The biggest problem at Roydon is the level crossing, but on a quick look, it would appear that four-tracking would be possible.

From my memories of driving past and going through Bishops Stortford station, I thought this station would be a major problem to four-tracking.

But look at this Google Map of the station.

Bishops Stortford Station

Bishops Stortford Station

It would appear that space is not the premium I expected.

I think it would be possible to expand the station, to take advantage of two slow and two fast lines South of the station.

Surely, the fast lines, even if a good proportion of trains stopped at the station could accommodate twelve or more trains per hour (tph) to Stansted Airport, Cambridge and the North.

North of Bishops Stortford, all of the trains would be modern trains with the following characteristics.

  • The ability to cruise at 100 mph or more.
  • The ability to stop and start extremely fast.

So I suspect, that if the current infrastructure was improved, consistent 100 mph running would be possible to Cambridge.

Cambridge could be a problem with all the work going on.

  • The expansion of the existing Cambridge station
  • The building of the new Cambridge North station
  • The reorganisation of services to cope with the new Greater Anglia franchise.
  • The arrival of the East West Rail Link in the mid-2020s.

But I suspect Network Rail and Greater Anglia are working together on the solutions, to raise speeds all the way to Ely.

North of Ely, the Breckland Line has a lower speed limit of 75-90 mph, but if it were to be upgraded for 100 mph running, this would mean that the new Norwich to Stansted service via Cambridge using bi-mode Flirt trains, would be considerably faster, than the ten minutes short of two hours now possible with a change at Cambridge.

One thing, that I suspect will happen is that the following services will arrive and leave in a convenient pattern at Cambridge.

  • Cambridge to/from Ipswich
  • Stansted Airport to/from Norwich
  • Cambridge to/from Kings Lynn
  • Kings Cross to/from Cambridge
  • Liverpool Street to/from Cambridge
  • Peterborough to/from Cambridge
  • Thameslink to/from Cambridge

Cambridge will become an increasingly busy interchange.

As an example, I think we could see a Norwich to Kings Cross time of under two hours, with a change at Cambridge. Perhaps not ninety minutes, but with an upgraded Breckland Line running 100 mph plus bi-mode Flirts, it wouldn’t be far off.

Coppermill Junction

Four-tracking is proposed to start at Coppermill Junction, just South of Tottenham Hale station.

This map from shows Coppermill Junction.

Coppermill Junction

Coppermill Junction


  • The tunnels for Crossrail 2 will emerge to the North-West of this junction.
  • Rail access to the Crossrail 2 worksite would be a necessity.
  • I talked about plans to reinstate the Coppermill and Hall Farm Curves in Rumours Of Curves In Walthamstow.
  • The only inhabitants of the area are probably foxes, great crested newts and other sundry wildlife.

Surely, the creation of an upgraded track layout at Coppermill Junction, that allows Crossrail 2 to be built without disrupting services on the West Anglia Main Line and the Chingford Branch is important.

The reinstated Hall Farm Curve would also allow Chingford Branch services to run to Stratford for Crossrail and alternative Underground services.

The work to this junction, further emphasises that four-tracking of the West Anglia Main Line must be done before Crossrail 2 is built.

Crossrail 2

Politics, public relations and good project management all probably say, that when Crossrail 2 gets the go-ahead, four-tracking of the West Anglia Main Line, should be done first.

In a related and parallel project, the branch lines in South West London, should also be upgraded as early as possible to bring visible benefits.

  • Longer platforms at stations where needed.
  • Step-free access at all stations.
  • Sorting of level crossings and bottle-necks.

These improvements are needed, even if Crossrail 2 is not built.

If I have a criticism of the current Crossrail and Thameslink projects, it is that they are big-bang projects, where nothing appears to have happened except disruption for years and then it will all come together in a great splurge in 2018-2019.

With Crossrail 2, there is possibly a chance to build the line, so that the benefits come in a steady stream.








November 19, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

An Understated Headline

This article on Business Insider is entitled A rail link between Oxford and Cambridge could help create a massive tech hub in the UK.

Could is not the word I’d use!

This page on the Government web site, contains a summary of the report, on which the article is based.

This is the second paragraph of the report.

The Commission’s central finding is that a lack of sufficient and suitable housing presents a fundamental risk to the success of this area. Without a joined-up plan for housing, jobs and infrastructure across the corridor, it will be left behind its international competitors. By providing the foundations for such a strategy, new east-west transport links present a once in a generation opportunity to secure the area’s future success.

As housing is so important to any development, this is crucial. The interim report makes a series of recommendations. This is the first.

  • Government should go ahead with East West Rail’s initial phase, a new link cutting journey times by more than half on the route from Oxford to Bedford and Milton Keynes, ensuring it is delivered before 2024; and it should invest in developing as soon as possible detailed plans for both the next phase of East West Rail (which would complete the link to Cambridge) and for a new Oxford-Cambridge Expressway.

So why is the Government farting about?

I blame the following.

  • The route via Bedford, contains lots of great-crested newts, in all the disused brick works.
  • The name; East West Rail Link, doesn’t have North in it.
  • Oxford doesn’t want a railway, that might encourage more visitors who would interfere with academic life.
  • The Sir Humphries of this world went to one of two universities; Oxford or Cambridge. They believe the two academic cities shouldn’t be connected and certainly not via Milton Keynes.
  • Addenbrooke’s hospital has objected, as it will bring lots of patients from the route to their world-class facilities.
  • It doesn’t go near Islington for the Labour Party or Edinburgh for the SNP.
  • Democracy

The Chinese would have built it last week or possibly yesterday, as it calls at Bicester Village!




November 19, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Something Must Be Done About Cambridge Station

Cambridge station used to be an easy station to use, in that, when you arrived, you either got a taxi from outside the station or walked across the road to get a bus to the centre.

Since the dreaded busway has been built, the buses are about as well-organised as the Labour Party, with information designed to confuse visitors.

Yesterday, it was particularly bad, when I decided to pop in to the City to have a coffee with a friend, on my way to football at Ipswich. There wasn’t a bus in sight and the queue for the taxis was totally blocking pedestrians wanting to get out of the station.

In fact, I took about five minutes to actually get off the platform as it was so busy.

In the end, I walked into the City Centre.

Getting back, I was running late, so I decided to take a bus. But could I find one? No!

So in the end, I took a taxi, which had to take a very roundabout route. Getting into the station was just as bad as getting out had been, but I caught my train with a couple of minutes to spare.

The train is the big improvement on the line between Cambridge and Ipswich.

In 2010, this was a typical train on the route.

Gerald Fiennes and Delia Smith at Dullingham

Gerald Fiennes and Delia Smith at Dullingham

At least that day, it was two Class 153 trains, when often it was just one crowded carriage.

Yesterday, the train was a comfortable three-car Class 170 train.

The First Ipswich-Cambridge Class 170 at Cambridge

The First Ipswich-Cambridge Class 170 at Cambridge

This is a lot better and with the new franchise in October, I think it could be signalled, as getting better again.

But all of this increase in capacity, is straining Cambridge station even further.

At present, the problems at Cambridge seem to be caused by too many people going in different directions, whose routes seem to conflict with each other. Many of these are first time visitors and foreign topurists, who just wander aimlessly around, causing even more conflict.

Cambridge North station, when it eventually opens, might help, as many will cycle and drive to the new station. It will also make it a lot easy to get to the North of the City.

I think, that if most Cambridge trains serve both stations in the future, I’ll go to Cambridge North and get a bus into the City Centre to avoid the scrum at Cambridge station, which I’m sure will get worse, as more and more trains are scheduled between London and Cambridge. At least Thameslink have decided to go to Cambridge North.

One of the problems is that Cambridge station is on a cramped site, which is not an easy walk to the City Centre for the average visitor.

Cambridge Station

Cambridge Station

The walking route to the centre is along Station Road and then Hills Road, where the payments are crowded and not very wide.

It is my view that something radical needs to be done.

But Cambridge’s problem is not unique and getting from the station to the town or city centre is a problem in many places like Bristol, Leicester, Norwich and Oxford to name just four. Nottinghamd Sheffield have used trams to solve the problem, but I don’t think that woiuld work for everyone, as the disruption of building would be just too much.


So what would I do at Cambridge?


It must be a nightmare living on the South-East side of the station opposite to the main station buildings. An entrance on the other side of the station would surely help.

If you take Euston, Kings Cross, Liverpool Lime Street, Sheffield and a few other stations, the area in front of the station has been turned into a public space, so that people can gather their thoughts and plan their next move. It would appear from the amount of building at Cambridge station, that this is now impossible.

I decent walking and cycling route to the centre must be created.


In the future, I feel that Cambridge probably needs an innovative Street Tram, as do many other places.

It would have the following characteristics.

  • It would be battery-powered and charged at each end of the route.
  • It would be double-ended, so it would just reverse at the end of the route.
  • It could be on rails or rubber tyres on a single-line segregated track.
  • The vehicle would have three or four segments to give a high capacity.
  • It doesn’t have to be single-deck vehicles.
  • Why not double-deck vehicles with panoramic windows for tourists?
  • It would be free.

If a passing loop could be built at half-way then the route could be run by two vehicles. Or in Cambridge’s case perhaps a different route could be used in each direction.

The nearest thing to what I have described is the 1.4 km long MetroCentro in Seville.

I would feel that a track-less solution based on bus-technology might be better, as in a congested City Centre ;like Cambridge the route could be flexible.

August 7, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Will The Hertford Loop Line Be Upgraded?

In All Change On Thameslink, I said this about the Hertford Loop Line.

In the future, don’t discount improvements to the Hertford Loop Line, to get more trains through the area.

The Current Hertford Loop Line

So what are the characteristics of the Hertford Loop Line? Wikipedia introduces it like this.

The Hertford Line (also known colloquially as the Hertford Loop) is a branch of the East Coast Main Line, providing a commuter route to London for Hertford and other Hertfordshire towns and an occasional diversion route for the main line. The line is part of the Network Rail Strategic Route 8, SRS 08.03 and is classified as a London and South East Commuter line.

Riding on the line is an experience like many of the commuter lines in North London, that were electrified in the thirty years after the Second World War.

  • It is double track throughout.
  • It is electrified at 25 KVAC using overhead wires.
  • It has a speed limit of 121 kph.
  • It has eleven intermediate stations, most of which have two platforms.
  • Hertford North station has two through platforms and a bay platform.
  • The trains are elderly Class 313 trains, which usually run in six-car formations along the Northern City Line into Moorgate.
  • It is connected to the East Coast Main Line using grade-separated junctions at both ends.
  • According to the History in the Wikipedia entry for the Line, it was built to relieve pressure on the Digswell Viaduct.

I don’t know the condition of the line, the electrification and the signalling, but the line was used for the testing of ERTMS, so it can’t be too bad.

New Class 717 Trains

But changes are happening in that the Class 313 trains are being replaced with new six-car Class 717 trains, which are cousins of the Class 700 trains used by Thameslink.

Yesterday I was at Stevenage station and there were problems on the fast line North of the station, which meant that my train directly into Kings Cross was swapped from the slow to the fast line to get it out of the way and into Kings Cross as soon as possible

Obviously, this is probably not an unusual action, but you wouldn’t be wanting to put 121 kph trains like the Class 313 trains onto the fast lines, as they’d slow everything down.

The speeds of the various local and Cambridge trains that use the East Coast Main Line are.

I would suspect that because of the need to occasionally run on the fast lines, that the Class 717 trains may well be 160 kph units. This would also mean that all the trains running on the Cambridge Line would be 160 kph trains or faster.

There is a factor about the order for the Class 717 trains, that doesn’t seem to have been noticed. At present there are effectively twenty-two six-car elderly Class 313 trains working the suburban services. These are being replaced with a fleet of  twenty-five six-car modern Class 717 trains.


  • The Class 717 trains could be substantially faster, than the Class 313 trains.
  • The Class 717 trains will handle stops faster.
  • The Class 717 trains will be more passenger-friendly, probably like the Class 700 train, I wrote about in A First Ride In A Class 700 train.
  • The Class 717 trains will have lots of gizmos and automation to aid staff and to inform and entertain passengers.
  • Wi-fi could even be fast and free on the Class 717 trains.

Add all of these factors together and I believe that there is going to be a massive increase in capacity on the services out of Moorgate. Unless of course, they park some of the extra new trains in sidings.

I suspect too, that Govia Thameslink Railway are hoping thast new trains on the Northern City and Hertford Loop ines will increase ridership and poach customers from rival services.

Voltage Changeover At Drayton Park

In the previous section, I noted that automation on the new Class 717 trains will assist staff.

One problem is the AC/DC changeover at Drayton Park. This may not be exactly the same as the similar voltage changeover at Farringdon on Thameslink, that will be performed hundreds of times a day by Class 700 trains. But it surely won’t be much different.

As a Control Engineer, who has experience in industrial automation, I can’t believe that a modern train won’t change power pick-up automatically, much faster and in a more reliable way, than a forty year old train.

As the electrical systems on the two trains must be virtually identical, by the time the Class 717 trains enter service, any power change on the Class 700 trains, will surely be fully debugged.

I’m sure Siemens will get this changeover to work smoothly, but on the Northern City Line, I’ve felt since I rode the of Bombardier’s Class 379 IPEMU prototype at Manningtree, that the line should be run using onboard energy storage, so that the tunnels are electrically dead.

The other alternative would be to use an overhead rail at 25 KVAC, which is what the Germans or Swiss would do.

Local And Cambridge Branch Trains On The East Coast Main Line

What local and Cambridge Branch trains will be running on the East Coast Main Line, between Hitchin and Kings Cross?

  • Thameslink – 2 tph Peterborough to Horsham – |Stopping Pattern Unknown
  • Thameslink – 2 tph Cambridge North to Brighton – Stopping Pattern Unknown
  • Thameslink – 2 tph Cambridge to Maidstone East – Stopping Pattern Unknown
  • Great Northern – 1 tph Peterborough to Kings Cross – Semi-Fast including stop at Welwyn North
  • Great Northern – 1 tph Peterborough to Kings Cross – Stopping including stop at Welwyn North
  • Great Northern – 2 tph Cambridge to Kings Cross – Non-Stop
  • Great Northern – 1 tph Cambridge to Kings Cross – Semi-Fast
  • Great Northern – 1 tph Cambridge to Kings Cross – Stopping
  • Northern City – 3 tph Moorgate to Welwyn Garden City – Stopping
  • Northern City – 2 tph Moorgate to Hertford North – Stopping via Hertford Loop
  • Northern City – 1 tph Moorgate to Letchworth Garden City – Stopping via Hertford Loop

So we get the following totals.

  • 6 tph between St. Pancras and Finsbury Park
  • 6 tph between Kings Cross and Finsbury Park
  • 6 tph between Moorgate and Finsbury Park
  • 18 tph between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace
  • 3 tph between Alexandra Palace and Hertford North via Hertford Loop
  • 15 tph between Alexandra Palace and Welwyn Garden City
  • 12 tph between Welwyn Garden City and Stevenage – 2 stop at Welwyn North
  • 1 tph between Hertford North and Stevenage via Hertfood Loop
  • 13 tph between Stevenage and Hitchin
  • 4 tph bertween Hitchin and Peterborough
  • 9 tph bertween Hitchin and Letchworth Garden City
  • 8 tph between Letchworth Garden City and Cambridge

Obviously on the East Coast Main Line, there is a mixture of fast, semi-fast and stopping trains, but as the whole route is quadruple track between Finsbury Park and Hitchin, this service pattern could probably be easily handled.

Simple Cross-Platform And Same-Platform interchanges

There are three different London end destinations for local services on the Southern section the East Coast Main Line.

  • St. Pancras and the South, through the Canal Tunnels.
  • Kings Cross, using the East Coast Main Line.
  • Moorgate using the Northern City Line.

Passengers to and from these stations, will need to get to and from any station on the following routes.

  • The East Coast Main Line to Peterborough.
  • The Cambridge Line to Cambridge
  • The Hertford Loop Line

Quite a number of stations will be ideal places to change if you can’t get a direct train. These stations and some others might become recommended interchanges.

  • Finsbury Park
  • Alexandra Palace
  • Potters Bar
  • Welwyn Garden City
  • Stevenage
  • Hitchin

Will these stations be given a platform layout, where interchange between different services entails just getting off one train and then getting another train from the same platform face or one at the other side of the platform?

Some stations like Finsbury Park, Alexandra Palace and Stevenage already have this layout or it has been substantially implemented.

But I think it essential, that all recommended interchange stations have simple step-free changes.

Passengers Will Duck And Dive

In a few years time, passengers will be very savvy and armed to the teeth with apps, cards and electronic devices to use the network in the fastest and most cost efficient way possible.

So the passenger wanting to go from say Ashwell and Morden to say Gillingham will be guided through the Thameslink network according to how the trains are running, by their large number of intelligent friends.

I do this now, often using National Rail’s information web site from my phone, to check routes and make sure, I don’t get stuck in Croydon, Scunthorpe or Manchester.

This passenger freedom and flexibility, will not be bad for train companies, as how long before an app is developed, that sends passengers on less crowded routes.

looking at the Hertford Loop Line, no passenger is going to mind being recommended to take a Hertford Loop Line train one day and a main line train another, provided the cost is acceptable for both journeys.

Could More Trains Run On The Hertford Loop Line?

It is interesting to compare the 15 tph between Alexandra Palace and Welwyn Garden City and the 3 tph between Alexandra Palace and Hertford North on the Hertford Loop.

As the line is self-contained with grade-separated junctions at both ends and a bay platform at Hertford North and Gordon Hill stations, running 3 tph on the line, must be way under the maximum capacity, when there are double track electrified lines with lots of stations, like the East London Line that can handle 16-20 tph.

I think we’ll see the line improved in the following way.

  • An upgraded speed limit of perhaps 120 kph.
  • Longer platforms if needed
  • Perhaps a couple of reopened or new stations.
  • Better interchange at Alexandra Palace and Stevenage stations.

I am certain, this would enable some extra trains to serve the line to perhaps Stevenage, Peterborough or Cambridge.

Before I look at the train services on the Hertford Loop Line in detail, I’ll look at other issues for local and Cambridge Line trains on the two Northern branches of the Thameslink Great Northern network.

Upgrade Of The Slow Lines Between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace Stations

I found this statement in a Network Rail document posted on the web.

The section is entitled Upgrade to down slow 2 and creation of up slow 2 line between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace.

This is said.

Up slow 2 and down slow 2 lines available for passenger use with increased linespeeds with a new platform provided at Finsbury Park in the up direction. No platform faces are provided at Harringay and Hornsey. The scheme allows some Hertford North/Gordon Hill to Moorgate inner suburban services to operate independently of outer suburban services and long distance high speed (LDHS) services, which removes a timetable constraint.

I would assume it means that there are two slow lines in both directions, one of which leads directly to the Hertford Loop Line. This is also said.

Due to the focus on the off peak timetable, the line upgrades between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace have a smaller impact, as the majority of services call at intermediate stations on this section. However, provision of platform faces on the upgraded lines has the potential to ease timetabling constraints on the busy Alexandra Palace – Welwyn section.

The only stations without platform faces on the upgraded lines in this section are Harringay and Hornsey.

It would appear to me, that this could be a half-finished job.

The ability to separate Hertford Loop Line services from those on the East Coast Main Line has been enabled, but no provision has been made to allow separated Hertford Loop Line services at Harringay and Hornsey stations. It’s not that the two intermediate stations are lightly used, as these are the usage statistics for 2014-2015.

  • Bowes Park – 0.96 million
  • New Southgate – 0.69 million
  • Alexandra Palace – 1.42 million
  • Hornsey – 1.35 million
  • Harringay – 1.26 million
  • Finsbury Park – 6.26 million

It’s not as though Hornsey and Harringay hardly see any passengers.

So for the present time, all passenger services must share the same slow lines between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace.

Have Network Rail got the planning of this section right?

Finsbury Park Station

Three routes come together at Finsbury Park station.

  • Thameslink – 6 tph between St. Pancras  and Finsbury Park
  • Great Northern – 6 tph between Kings Cross and Finsbury Park
  • Northern City – 6 tph between Moorgate and Finsbury Park

I wonder if we’ll see a simple cross- and same-platform interchange, so that Northbound passengers can get off their train from Kings Cross, Moorgate or St. Pancras at Finsbury Park and without changing platforms get a train to any station towards Cambridge or Peterborough, either up the East Coast Main Line or the Hertford Loop Line. Obviously going South, passengers will need to reverse the process.

To complicate matters, Finsbury Park station will be one of the main interchanges between the Thameslink Great Northern network and the Piccadilly and Victoria Lines.

This map from, shows the lines at Finsbury Park station.

Lines At Finsbury Park Station

Lines At Finsbury Park Station

Finsbury Park station certainly has a lot of platforms and crossovers and it strikes me that given the current work at the station, that Network Rail has an acceptable solution.

I took these pictures at the station.

There is plenty of work to do and questions to answer before the station is ready for Thameslink.

  • Will Northern City Line services to use platforms 1 and 8?
  • Will Kings Cross services continue to use platforms 2 and 7?
  • Platforms 2 and 3 and Platforms 6 and 7 are either side of a single track, although Platforms 3 and 6 don’t seem to be currently used.
  • Is the work outside of platform 8, creating two new platforms 9 and 10?
  • Will the spiral staircases to the Underground be adequate?

There has been no indication as to which platforms Thameslink will use, although all platforms at the stations are probably long enough for the two-hundred metre long Thameslink trains.

But our French friends at have a map, which shows the routes between the Canal Tunnels, that take Thameslink trains between St. Pancras and the East Coast Main Line.

It would appear that the lines through the Canal Tunnels connect directly to the slow lines, that go through Finsbury Park.

  • The Canal Tunnel lines are shown at the bottom left of the map.
  • There is even a convenient flyover taking the up slow lines to the correct side of the main lines for Thameslink.

So it would appear that the Thameslink lines South of Finsbury Park will take the same route as local services out of Kings Cross do now.

Remember that between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace stations, there are two slow lines both ways, which will have to accommodate 18 tph, empty stock movements and some freight trains.

I feel this means that at Finsbury Park, there is sufficient capacity to adopt a logical strategy, that will be easily understood and remembered by passengers.

I suspect that the platform allocations will be as follows.

  • Platform 1 – Services to Moorgate – 6 tph
  • Platform 2 – Services to Kings Cross and Thameslink – 12 tph
  • Platform 7 – Services up the East Coast Main Line – 15 tph
  • Platform 8 – Services on the Hertford Loop Line – 3 tph

Given all the advanced signalling in the area and on the trains, I don’t think these frequencies are unreasonable.

Could we also see Thameslink trains on Platforms 2 and 7 opening doors on both sides?

Possibly, as there may be advantages in this!

Whilst at Finsbury Park this morning, I saw an outer suburban train stop in Platform 4 and quite a few passengers got off to continue their journey on the Underground. After Thameslink opens, would there be any value in having a cross platform interchange to Platform 3, where Thameslink trains would open their doors on both sides, so giving extra connections?

Obviously, if it would work going into London, it would work going out of the capital.

But these are only my speculation.

Moorgate Station

Moorgate station is one of those outposts of the UK rail network, that has had a sorry and tragic history.

At Moorgate, the Northern City Line tunnels are above those of the Northern Line, in an unusual double-decker station design.

This map from shows the two lines.

Lines At Moorgate Station

Lines At Moorgate Station

The caption says this.

Northern Underground and Northern City Line tunnels and stations are superimposed between Old Street and Moorgate.

These are pictures that I took of the Northern City Line station.


  • The two platforms are not spacious by modern standards.
  • Two escalators connect the Northern City Line platforms to the ticket hall.
  • Two fairly long escalators lead between the Northern City Line and Northern Line platforms.
  • The platforms could do with a well-designed makeover.

In addition, the two Northern Line platforms have a pair of escalators connecting them to the booking hall.

The four platforms are certainly well connected to each other and to the surface by escalators. The only thing lacking is a lift for step-free access to connect the booking hall to both levels of platforms.

The current Underground ticket hall will be extended and become the new Western ticket hall for the double-ended Liverpool Street Crossrail station.

On this page of the Crossrail web site, this is said.

The Moorgate worksite also incorporates a 42m deep shaft that provides ventilation and emergency access to the new ticket hall.  The Moorgate shaft is currently being used by our station tunnelling contractor to build an access passage linking the Crossrail platforms to the Northern line.  Later this year our Eastern Running Tunnels contractor will use the shaft to carry out out concrete works to form the foundation slab that will support the trackwork in the tunnels.

I have to ask if this access passage linking the Crossrail platforms to the Northern Line, will link to the Northern City Line as well. If it does it will probably be step-free and have a high-capacity as well.

But even if it doesn’t, access to and from the Northern City Line, will still be by two escalators from the ticket hall and two from the Northern Line platforms.

I suspect that as the Northern City and Northern Lines are superimposed on each other, I do wonder if a large enough corner has been identified, where a lift can serve all levels of the station.

If we have Crossrail going through a short distance away, where forty-eight (2 x 24) massive trains per hour will be stopping, even if only a small proportion of passengers, wanted to use the Northern City services out of Moorgate to explore the delights of North London and Hertfordshire, the current 6 tph out of Moorgate will be seriously inadequate.

But the Northern City Line is getting new Class 717 trains and as I said earlier, these trains will bring in a large increase in capacity.

So how many trains per hour could work the lines into the two-platform terminus at Moorgate?

At present Moorgate handles 6 tph most of the day, but during the peaks the line handles at least 9 tph.

But even 9 tph is very small compared to the upwards of thirty tph handled at both the two-platform Brixton and Walthamstow Central termini on the Victoria Line.

Given that the Class 717 trains are versions of the Class 700 Thameslink trains, that are planned to run at 24 tph under London, with a voltage change at Farringdon, I suspect that the theoretical limit for the number of trains per hour into Moorgate is higher than the 9 tph achieved by the scrapyard specials in the peak.

So is London going to get a new high-capacity route from the City to North London and Hertfordshire, that links to both Crossrail and Thameslink?

You bet it is!


  • Moorgate can probably handle up to fifteen to twenty Class 717 trains per hour, with signalling and operational improvements.
  • The Class 717 trains will hold more passengers than the Class 313 trains.
  • The greater performance of the Class 717 trains will probably speed up the services.
  • Finsbury Park station should be ready to accept the higher frequency and give same platform interchange to Thameslink.
  • The doubling and improvement to the slow lines between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace will allow the increased frequency to be handled.

If twelve trains per hour ran into Moorgate and they split equally between Welwyn Garden City and the Hertford Loop Line as they do now, that would give a ten minute interval on both routes, which is twice as many trains as the current time.

I think the biggest problem will be to persuade the RMT, that running say twelve trains or more per hour into Moorgate, is safe.

Harringay Station

Harringay station has two platforms, with one for each direction.

This Google Map shows Harringay station.

Harringay Station

Harringay Station


  • The bridge across the tracks with steps leading down to the two platforms.
  • The station is not step-free, with steep staircases.
  • There is no platform faces on the newly-created second pair of slow lines.

To be fair, Harringay is a dump and one of the worst stations on the line, but an architect with flair could make it work, with cross platform interchange between trains on both pairs of slow lines.

These pictures show Haringay station.


  • The station certainly is a dump.
  • The two down slow lines lie between platform 2 and the retaining wall.
  • In a couple of pictures, you can see the Harringay Curve that connects the Gospel Oak to Barking and East Coast Main Lines.
  • Platform 1 actually lies between the two slow lines.

The station obviously needs a rebuild.

  • This would incorporate acceptable passenger access and customer services.
  • There appears to be space to create a double-sided up platform 1.
  • Platform 2 is probably easier to move between the two slow lines.

But rebuilding would probably mean complete closure of the lines through the station and a large degree of inconvenience.

I doubt we’ll see little more than a general tidying up in the near future, with the station handling all of the stopping traffic and all other services, like freight and empty stock movements using the two lines without platform faces.

One advantage of the current layout, is that non-passenger services are kept away from the platforms.

Hornsey Station

Hornsey station has two platforms, with one for each direction.

This Google Map shows Hornsey station.

Hornsey Station

Hornsey Station

These pictures show Hornsey station.


  • The two fast lines go between the two platforms.
  • The current down platform is on the inner of the two slow lines and is actually between the two slow lines.

Like Harringay, Hornsey can be improved with respect to passenger access and customer services.

Building an island down platform looks possible, but as at Harringay, the current layout works safely.

Alexandra Palace Station

Alexandra Palace station has four platforms, but the station has the air of a work-in-progress as although there is some easy interchange between services, it’s not perfect or step-free.

This Google Map shows the station.

Alexandra Palace Station

Alexandra Palace Station


  • The Hertford Loop Line curves across the East Coast Main Line.
  • Train stabling for the East Coast Main Line sits to the North of the station.
  • Hertford Loop Line services have to stop at the two outer platforms in the station.
  • Crossrail 2 might serve this station.

Knowing the station well, I feel that a good  station can be created here, where Thameslink, Great Northern to Cambridge and Peterborough,  and Hertford Loop Line services have a simple cross- or same-platform interchange in the Northerly direction.

These are pictures of the station.


  • If you are going North and you’re on the wrong train, you have a cross-platform interchange on Platforms 2 and 4 at Alexandra Palace station.
  • Trains for the South can stop at either platforms 1 or 2.
  • The station is not step-free, but lifts could probably be added to the existing bridge.
  • The Yard cafe at the station is excellent and I had a very good gluten-free frittata.

I never would have thought when I used to use the station in the 1950s and 1960s, that it would grow up to be a very capable station.

Other Stations Between Alexandra Palace And Welwyn Garden City

The stations on the Main Line are a bit of a mixed bunch.

  • Some have four platforms and some have just two.
  • Some are step-free and some are not.
  • Some are modern and some are fairly old and need updating.

These pictures give a flavour of the stations.

Welwyn Garden City station is unique, as it is one corner of a shopping centre, called the Howard Centre

Is it the only station in the UK, with a Boots, a large proper Marks and Spencer, a Next and a Monsoon, with John Lewis not far away?

Trains terminating at Welwyn Grden City seem to use platforms 3 and 4 by the Howard Centre, using the sidings to the North of the station if required. On leaving the station, the trains cross the main lines and get to the up slow line using a flyover.

Welwyn Garden City is certainly a well-designed station to return trains to London.

Gordon Hill Station

Gordon Hill station must be the only station with the same name as a footballer.

I’d never been until I visited a few days ago and I’d rather expected a typical bog-standard, rather poor two-platform suburban station.

This Google Map of the station gives a few clues about the station.


Note that it appears that the station could have once had four platform faces and these could easily be long enough for eight car trains.

What I did find was a charming early twentieth-century station as these pictures show.


  • The station has three working platform faces; two through and a bay one on the Eastern side.
  • There would appear to be space on the Western side to create a fourth platform.
  • The bridge is of no architectural merit and probably should be replaced by one giving full step free access.

I believe that the station could play a major port in an upgraded Hertford Loop Line, in that if the station was to be converted to a full four-through platform station, then it would create a passing loop that the line needs to increase capacity.

In some ways Gordon Hill station, shows how truly bad our planning was in the first half of the twentieth century. The station opened in 1910, so was well established when Chase Farm Hospital opened just after the Second World War, just a short distance to the North. Hopefully, these days, it would be hoped that when a new hospital is built, that it is connected properly to the local transport network. Since it was built the hospital has had a chequered history and with the way healthcare is changing and perhaps requiring smaller and more specialised hospitals, I can see a time, when the hospital site becomes housing, which to increase its green credentials could be connected by a footpath and cycleway to Gordon Hill station.

If the hospital stays operational, it should surely have a sensible modern connection to the station and not just the odd bus every hour or so.

This Google Map shows the hospital and the station.

Chase Farm Hospital And Gordon Hill Station

Chase Farm Hospital And Gordon Hill Station

We should think more holistically and not assume that everybody has a car.

Hertford North Station

Hertford North station is one of the busiest stations on the Hertford Loop Line and one of only two stations with more than two platforms.

This Google Map shows the station.

Hertford North Station

Hertford North Station

These are some pictures of the station.

I feel that with some clever engineering that Hertford North station can be upgraded into a four-platform station with two passing loops.

Other Stations On The Hertford Loop Line

All the other stations seem to be two platform stations, with minimal facilities and little or no parking.

With more and better trains, increased links to the stations and perhaps some better parking, I wouldn’t think it unfeasible to increase the passengers using the stations on the loop.

There might possibly be a case for reopening Stapleford station.

The Digswell Viaduct And Welwyn North Station

The two-track section over the Digswell Viaduct and through Welwyn North station is a major bottleneck on the East Coast Main Line.

The Wikipedia entry for the viaduct says this.

The viaduct carries the East Coast Main Line, which has to narrow from four tracks to two to cross the viaduct, making it a bottleneck restraining capacity over this strategic transport route.. This problem is exacerbated by Welwyn North railway station situated at the northern end of the viaduct, which blocks the line while trains are stationary and two tunnels to the north. Several ideas to overcome the limitations of the viaduct and station without damaging the viaduct’s essential historic character and rhythmic design are periodically discussed.

In some ways, the station is more of a problem than the viaduct. Every stop at the station and there are just two trains per hour in both directions, effectively blocks the main line for a few minutes. It’s a bit like having a level crossing on a motorway.

If the viaduct were to be rebuilt to four tracks, which these days with modern construction methods is probably a very expensive possibility, this would still leave the problem of the station, which is on a very restricted site. Wikipedia also says this about the station.

The station is a rare survival of architecture from the early days of the GNR and this is now recognised with listed building status. The main station building, the footbridge, the tunnel portal to the north and Digswell Viaduct to the south are all Grade 2 listed.

This leads me to a very extreme solution to the problem.

Welwyn North station should lose most or all of its train services.

This Google Map shows the station and the viaduct.

Digswell Viaduct And Welwyn North Station

Digswell Viaduct And Welwyn North Station

Perhaps, a better solution would be a mixture of road and rail improvements .

  • Improve the traffic routes from the area to other stations at Knebworth and Welwyn Garden City.
  • Provide more car parking at Welwyn Garden City and Stevenage stations.
  • Provide a free and frequent shuttle bus between Stevenage and Welwyn Garden City stations calling at Welwyn North and Knebworth stations.
  • Build a new station at Stapleford on the Hertford Loop Line.

Perhaps a parkway station could be built in the South of Stevenage on the Hertford Loop Line.

Elimination of the stopping of trains at Welwyn North would lead to the following.

  • Extra paths in both directions through the station.
  • Services like Thameslink and the Great Northern services to Cambridge would save a few minutes.
  • The expresses to and from the North would be able to provide a faster and more reliable service.

In my view, we should go the whole way and close Welwyn North station.

A South Stevenage Parkway Station

This Google Map shows the area between Stevenage and Watton-At-Stone stations.

South Stevenage

South Stevenage

If Stevenage expands southwards, I wonder if a South Stevenage Parkway station could be built on the Hertford Loop Line with good connections to the A1M and lots of parking.

I would estimate the station would be around six kilometres from Welwyn North station.

It would be another carrot for the closure of Welwyn North station.

Stevenage Station

Stevenage station is a modern station, but it could probably be extended and improved.

  • The station has four platforms and is step-free.
  • Some long-distance services to the North and Scotland stop at the station.
  • The station is the only one between Kings Cross and Peterborough, where long distance trains stop.
  • It is first station, North of where the Northern end of the Hertford Loop Line joins the East Coast Main Line in grade-separated junction.
  • There are also plans to upgrade the station with extra platforms.

I think it is true to say, that the station is not a bottleneck on the East Coast Main Line, but that an improved Stevenage station could do the following.

  • Improve the flow of fast expresses, by ending the practice of trains stopping on the fast lines.
  • Give better services to the North and Scotland for passengers living between Stevenage and Kings Cross.
  • The station will probably be served by six Thameslink trains per hour.
  • Provide a better interchange for those coming South needing to go on the Hertford Loop Line.
  • The station could turnback some trains on the Hertford Loop Line.
  • Note that Hertford North to Stevenage takes just 13 minutes in the current Class 313 trains.

The question has to be asked if  Stevenage would be a better terminus for the Hertford Loop line, than Hertford North?

Operationally, this would probably be easier than turning the trains at Hertford North, especially, if other fast services were to be diverted to the Hertford Loop Line.

Assuming 12 trains per hour, were going into Moorgate and these split equally between the main line and Hertford Loop routes, turning trains at Stevenage wsould give a service with a ten minute interval to Moorgate.

As this is the same as the Thameslink frequency I believe a pattern of trains could be developed

At present one-in-three trains on the Hertford Loop Line, go on to Letchworth Garden City, so if the current policy prevailed Letchworth would get 2 tph to Moorgate.

There are certainly lots of ways to use an upgraded Stevenage station.

Hitchin To Peterborough

This is a line with capacity problems as there is sections of twin and triple track  in the mainly quadruple track, between Huntingdon and Peterborough.

The trains on this section are.

  • Thameslink – 2 tph Peterborough to Horsham – Stopping Pattern Unknown
  • Great Northern – 1 tph Peterborough to Kings Cross – Semi-Fast – London King’s Cross and Peterborough calling at Finsbury Park, Stevenage and then all stations.
  • Great Northern – 1 tph Peterborough to Kings Cross – Stopping – London King’s Cross and Peterborough calling at Finsbury Park, Potters Bar, Hatfield, Welwyn Garden City and then all stations.

If there were continuous slow lines, then you could have an optimised stopping pattern, but as trains have to use the fast lines to progress in places, you can’t interfere with speeding Virgins.

I suspect that there’s a very unusual pattern of trains, as they sneak through.

The line definitely needs quadrupling where there are only two and three tracks.

You could probably argue that between Stevenage and Peterborough, there needs to be a service with a pattern like this.

  • 2-4 tph stopping at all stations.
  • 2-4 tph stopping at important stations with four platforms.

I wouldn’t be surprised that Network Rail and Thameslink have a plan to remove this bottleneck.

Htchin To Cambridge

The trains on this section are.

  • Thameslink – 2 tph Cambridge North to Brighton – Stopping Pattern Unknown
  • Thameslink – 2 tph Cambridge to Maidstone East – Stopping Pattern Unknown
  • Great Northern – 2 tph Cambridge to Kings Cross – Non-Stop
  • Great Northern – 1 tph Cambridge to Kings Cross – Semi-Fast -London King’s Cross and Cambridge calling at Finsbury Park, Stevenage, Hitchin, Letchworth, Baldock and Royston.
  • Great Northern – 1 tph Cambridge to Kings Cross – Stopping – London King’s Cross and Cambridge calling at Finsbury Park, Potters Bar, Hatfield, Welwyn Garden City and then all stations
  • Northern City – 1 tph Moorgate to Letchworth Garden City – Stopping via Hertford Loop

So this gives  8 tph to Cambridge and an extra one to Letchworth Garden City. All are currently run by various parts of Govia Thameslink Railway.

Wikipedia says this about the infrastructure of the Cambridge Line.

The line is double track throughout. Traction current is supplied at 25 kV AC using overhead line equipment overseen by York Electrical Control Room, with Neutral Sections at Cambridge junction, Litlington and Shepreth Branch junction. It has a loading gauge of W8 and a maximum line speed of 90 mph


  • If after all the new 160 kph trains are delivered, it could be an efficient line to run, possibly even at a slightly higher speed.
  • At present, stations like Shepreth and Meldreth often only get an hourly service.
  • In a few years time, a new station will possibly be built for the East West Rail Link near Addenbrookes Hospital.

The big problem on the Cambridge Line was solved by the Hitchin Flyover, which allowed trains for Cambridge to leave the East Coast Main Line without delaying fast trains.

I think extending the Letchworth Garden City service to Cambridge North would give a lot of benefits.

  • Cambridge would now have three destinations in London; Kings Cross, Liverpool Street and Moorgate.
  • It would connect with the Kings Cross stopping train,  a 2 tph, high class local service into both Cambridge stations.
  • A Cambridge North to Moorgate service would connect the Cambridge Science Park to Silicon Rundabout.
  • If the service connected to a 2 tph service across Suffolk to Bury St. Edmunds, it would greatly improve Suffolk’s links to London.

I suspect there are other factors and they will lead to an improved service pattern on this line and the other ones radiating from Cambridge.

The Kings Cross To Peterborough Fast Lines

If as I believe, you can do the following.

  • Eliminate stopping at Welwyn North station, by enticing passengers to use other means.
  • Remodel Stevenage station, so that trains do not stop on the fast lines.
  • Create a four-track railway between Huntingdon and Peterborough.

You would then create an unbroken pair of fast lines from between Kings Cross and Peterborough, with slow lines on either side and two slow lines as far as Alexandra Palace.

The limiting factor of the number of trains on the line would probably be determined, by the number of platforms at Kings Cross.

It would be some railway for one mostly built in the mid-nineteenth century.

The Thameslink Trains To Cambridge And Peterborough

There are of four of these to Cambridge and two to Peterborough in each hour.

The stopping pattern has not been announced, except that they will be semi-fast.

So could they have a pattern similar to the current semi-fast trains of only stops at Finsbury Park, Stevenage and Hitchin, South of where the Cambridge Line joins at Hitchin?

The other major stations, where they might stop are Alexandra Palace, Potters Bar, Hstfield and Welwyn Garden City.

They would probably swap between fast and slow lines as they progressed, as there are restrictions, due to the platform and track layout.

  • The trains would be on the slow lines at Finsbury Park to access the Canal Tunnels.
  • Alexandra Palace station has no fast line platform.
  • Over the Digswell Viaduct and through Welwyn North station, trains would be on the fast lines.
  • Hitchin station has no fast line platform.
  • Trains need to be on the slow line through Hitchin, to access the Cambridge Line.

If it was desired, that there was no fast line stopping, this would mean trains would be on the slow lines, except through Digswell and Welwyn North.

Surely, that would be one preferred scenario, as it has advantages.

  • Stopping trains fit in well and would deliver extra passengers to Finsbury Park, Welwyn Garden City and Stevenage.
  • Stops at other stations with slow line platforms could be easily added.

It should be noted, that step-free access at some of the important stations isn’t perfect.

The Non-Stop Kings Cross To Cambridge Trains

If they continue after Thameslink starts, these would probably be run by 175 kph Class 387 trains, so they would be totally capable of running with the expresses, which would use the fast lines between Kings Cross and Hitchin.

As the new trains are generally faster than those currently on the line past Hitchin, we may even see a few seconds off the current forty-five minutes.

So it looks like these services would require two paths in every hour on the fast lines.

The Semi-Fast Trains To Cambridge And Peterborough

These trains, which would probably be run using 175 kph Class 387 trains, seem to stop at only Finsbury Park, Stevenage and Hitchin, South of where the Cambridge Line joins at Hitchin.

Although the Cambridge Line is only double-track, as all trains will be capable of at least 160 kmh, if the line was upgraded to run at this speed, with perhaps the removal of the level crossings, I suspect an efficient and fast service could be run to Cambridge.

On the route to Peterborough, it would be much better, if the line were to be four-tracked.

Again, it looks like these services would require two paths in every hour on the fast lines.

But after Thameslink opens, would these services be needed?

The Stopping Trains To Cambridge And Peterborough

Both services have similar patterns calling at Finsbury Park, Potters Bar, Hatfield, Welwyn Garden City and then all stations.

These trains are the two troublemakers that currently call at Welwyn North.

If the decision is made to stop most services at Welwyn North, then there are various possibilities.

  • The stopping train could just use the fast lines between the Southern end of the Digswell Viaduct and Knebworth station.
  • The stopping trains go via the Hertford Loop and rejoin their current route at Stevenage.
  • The stopping trains are replaced by another semi-fast service.
  • The stopping trains are discontinued South of Stevenage.

There might even be a case to put these stopping trains into Moorgate rather than Kings Cross, thus separating Thameslink, fast and slow services.

It should also be born in mind that there will be six Thameslink services on the route, which will probably stop at Finsbury Park, Potters Bar, Hatfield, Welwyn Garden City, Stevenage and Hitchin, so the stopping train won’t be as important as it is now, unless you want to go to an intermediate station.

How Would Times On The Hertford Loop Line Compare With The Main Line?

Currently the fastest Finsbury Park to Stevenage trains take eighteen minutes without a stop on the main line and fifty minutes on the Hertford Loop Line.

That is quite a difference.

I wouldn’t speculate on how much a Class 717 train would knock off the current time, but.

  • They are faster than the Class 313 trains.
  • There are eleven stations on the loop and modern trains are good at stopping and getting going again.
  • We must assume the line is improved.

I also think that increasing the number of trains on the Hertford Loop Line, would not be a bad thing, for passengers, the areas served by the line and train operators.


As I write this I’m getting more and more convinced, that the best solution to the problem of the two track section of the East Coast Main Line over the Digswell Viaduct and through Welwyn North station, is the following.

  • Close Welwyn North station to nost if not all trains.
  • Improve road connections in the Welwyn North area, as a more affordable and easier alternative to rebuilding the viaduct and station.
  • Improve the Hertford Loop Line with higher speeds and passing loops at Gordon Hill and Hertford North.
  • Possibly build a parkway station on the Hertford Loop Line, South of Stevenage.

Other improvements are also likely and would help services.

  • Improvements to Stevenage station.
  • Four-tracking between Hitchin and Peterborough.
  • Upgrading the Cambridge Line to a 160 kph line.
  • Full step-free access at all stations. Or at least where Thameslink calls.

This would give the operator a railway that could provide the services passengers want.

I can see a Thameslink Great Northern network that looks like this.

  • Thameslink services from St. Pancras and the South serving destinations of Cambridge, Peterborough and possibly Welwyn Garden City.
  • A possible fast Kings Cross to Cambridge/Kings Lynn service.
  • Suburban services from Moorgate serving the Hertford Loop Line and Welwyn Garden City, with possible extensions to Cambridge, Peterborough and Stevenage.

This would certainly free up platforms at Kings Cross and high speed paths on the fast line.




July 28, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 4 Comments