The Anonymous Widower

The Cambridge Re-signalling, Relock and Recontrol Project

This project is Network Rail’s big signalling project in the Cambridge area and it is fully described in this document on the Network Rail web site.

The project is called the C3R Project for short and its scope is described in this Network Rail infographic.

Note.

  1. 125 miles of track are to be resignalled.
  2. Seventeen stations are likely to be resignalled.
  3. Eight level-crossings are to be upgraded.

Network Rail’s document splits the project into five sections.

  • Cambridge Power Signal Box – This will be upgraded.
  • Safety Interlocking Equipment – This will be upgraded with a computer-based system.
  • Closure Of Three Signal Boxes – Control will be relocated to Cambridge Power Signal Box.
  • Seven Level Crossing Upgrades – These will be upgraded to full barrier crossings.
  • Land Acquisition – As necessary to complete the works.

Upon completion the project will have replaced around 690 signalling assets.

Network Rail also say that the outline design contract to Alstom and it is expected to be completed in the last quarter of 2021.

Network Rail also says this about completion.

Subject to obtaining the necessary consents and design approvals, the detailed design and delivery of the signalling upgrade could begin by end of 2021 and be complete around the end of 2024.

My experience of project management and the railways of East Anglia, says that subject to one caveat, that this is a reasonable timescale.

The Level Crossing Problem

The problem could be the level crossings, as local interests are very protective of their supposed right to cross unhindered.

I particularly remember the Little Cornard Derailment, because a solicitor, who regularly instructed my late wife, was seriously injured in the derailment.

This is the first paragraph of the Wikipedia entry.

The Little Cornard derailment occurred on 17 August 2010 when a passenger train collided with a road vehicle on a level crossing on the Gainsborough Line near Little Cornard, Suffolk, and partly derailed. The vehicle, a tanker lorry, had begun crossing over the track when the Class 156 train from Sudbury destined for Marks Tey struck it whilst travelling at a speed of approximately 40 miles per hour (64 km/h)

Note.

Although, my late wife had died in 2007, one of her barrister colleagues told me of the link.

East Anglia and other rural parts of the UK suffer regularly from this type of accident.

This Google Map shows a 3D visualization of the site of the derailment.

It appears to be rather remote.

I am totally appalled that there was such primitive safety equipment on this crossing.

  • I have worked in seriously dangerous chemical plants, where Health and Safety rules forbade anyone entering the plant without full training.
  • As a sixteen-year-old in 1963, I was designing and installing systems on industrial guillotines, so that workers didn’t lose their hands.
  • A proportion of work, I did whilst working for ICI was about Health and Safety.
  • I have travelled extensively in tour buses in Eastern Europe and seen some appealing driving at level crossings.
  • According to a Hungarian friend, if you want to see bad driving at level crossings try Russia. He put it down to the local firewater.

This experience leeds me to believe that one of two things should be done with all level crossings on the railway.

  1. There should be a strong safety system on the crossing.
  2. The level crossing should be closed.

Will Network Rail be allowed by local interests to upgrade all the crossings they need?

The Level Crossings Network Rail Propose To Upgrade

These are the crossings Network Rail propose to upgrade.

Meldreth Road Level Crossing

This Google Map shows the Meldreth Road level crossing.

Note.

  1. Meldreth Road is the A10 between Cambridge and Royston.
  2. The double-track rail is the Cambridge Line between Cambridge and the East Coast Main Line.
  3. The line has a maximum speed of 90 mph.
  4. In every hour there are up to 10-12 passenger trains per hour (tph) through the level crossing.
  5. There are perhaps ten other trains per day, or less than one tph.

The ABC Railway Guide gives a line speed of 90 mph and adds these risk factors.

  • Sun Glare
  • Frequent Trains

It is very much a classic case of a busy railway crossing a busy road.

I also think that Network Rail has another problem here.

Pressure from train operators and passengers, could lead to more and faster trains through this level crossing.

In my view, the best solution to that problem would be to drop the railway into a cutting and put the road on a bridge over the top.

But this would be a very expensive and disruptive solution, which might mean that the road and/or railway were to be closed for several months.

The only other solution would be to run all trains between Royston and Cambridge under the control of digital signalling and Automatic Train Operation.

Trains would be timed so, that trains in opposite directions crossed on the level crossing, when the full barriers were down to stop traffic.

If this could be done, it could have various effects.

  • This would halve the number of level crossing closures in every hour.
  • The timekeeping might even impress drivers.
  • It might even train drivers to expect two trains, so if one was a minute or so late, they might be more prepared to wait.

This technique would give whole new meaning to a double cross.

This page on the My Councillor web site, gives details of opposition to the project by Councillor Susan van der Ven.

Six Mile Bottom Level Crossing

This Google Map shows the Six Mile Bottom level crossing.

Note.

  1. The road is the A1304 which is the main link between Newmarket and the South.
  2. The road can get very busy, when there is a big race meeting.
  3. The rail track is only single track.
  4. The line has a maximum speed of up to 75 mph.
  5. In every hour there are no more than one passenger tph in both directions.
  6. There are some occasional freight trains over the crossing.

The ABC Railway Guide gives a line speed of 60 mph and adds these risk factors.

  • Large Numbers Of Users
  • Sun Glare

I used to drive across this level crossing regularly, when I lived in the area and the trouble is that it is on a straight road, that encourages high speed.

Legend has it, that this was one of public roads used by Vincent to test their high performance motorcycles.

In the time I lived near the crossing, I can remember a serious accident between a car and a train, at the crossing.

It would appear that a partial solution has been applied.

This video shows how much brighter LED lights have been fitted to the crossing.

 

Let’s hope this encourages drivers to slow down, when the crossing is closed.

How many other level crossings would be improved with bright LED lights like these?

Dullingham Level Crossing

This Google Map shows the Dullingham level crossing.

Note.

  1. The current barriers are operated manually by the signalman in Dullingham signal box.
  2. The road is a local road and the small amount of traffic could probably be easily handled by an automatic crossing with full barriers.
  3. The rail line is the same at that at Six Mile Bottom, but is double-track.

The ABC Railway Guide gives a line speed of 60 mph and adds these risk factors.

  • Poor Visibility for Approaching Road Vehicles
  • Crossing is Near a Station
  • Crossing Approach
  • Sun Glare

From my local experience, I suspect that an automatic crossing with full barriers might even cause less delay to road traffic.

Milton Fen Level Crossing

This Google Map shows the Milton Fen level crossing.

Note.

  1. The road is a local road and the small amount of traffic could probably be easily handled by an automatic crossing with full barriers.
  2. The railway is the Fen Line between Cambridge and Ely.
  3. It looks like there are three passenger tph and the occasional freight trains through this crossing.
  4. The line speed of the rail line is 75 mph.

The ABC Railway Guide gives a line speed of 75 mph and adds these risk factors.

  • Sun Glare
  • Frequent Trains

It should also be noted that I can find reports of serious accidents and deaths on this crossing.

It looks to me, that an automatic crossing with full barriers could work well on this level crossing.

Waterbeach Level Crossing

This Google Map shows the Waterbeach level crossing.

Note.

  1. The road is a local road, but could the traffic be easily handled by an automatic crossing with full barriers?
  2. The railway is the Fen Line between Cambridge and Ely.
  3. It looks like there are three passenger tph and the occasional freight trains through this crossing.
  4. The line speed of the rail line is 75 mph.
  5. Waterbeach station is split with one platform either side of the level crossing, which is used by passengers to cross the line.

The ABC Railway Guide gives a line speed of 75 mph and adds these risk factors.

  • Poor Visibility for Approaching Road Vehicles
  • Crossing is Near a Station
  • Crossing Approach
  • Large Numbers of Users
  • Blocking Back
  • Frequent Trains

It should also be noted that Network Rail rate this crossing as high risk.

There is probably a long-term solution for this level crossing

Under Future Plans in the Wikipedia entry for Waterbeach station, this is said.

Plans to develop a New Town of 8,000 to 9,000 homes on the former Waterbeach Barracks site have been outlined by South Cambridgeshire District Council. As part of the proposal, there are plans to relocate the station to a new site and extend the platforms to accommodate 12 car trains.

Surely, a well-designed transport network to serve all these houses would see the level crossing closed and a new station built at a convenient location.

Dimmocks Cote Level Crossing

This Google Map shows the Dimmocks Cote level crossing.

Note.

  1. The road is the A1123, so could the traffic be easily handled by an automatic crossing with full barriers?
  2. The railway is the Fen Line between Cambridge and Ely.
  3. It looks like there are three passenger tph and the occasional freight trains through this crossing.
  4. The line speed of the rail line is 75 mph.

The ABC Railway Guide gives a line speed of 75 mph and adds these risk factors.

  • Infrequent Trains
  • Deliberate Misuse or User Error

It should also be noted that Network Rail rate this crossing as high risk.

Croxton Level Crossing

This Google Map shows the Croxton level crossing.

Note.

  1. The road is the A1075, so could the traffic be easily handled by an automatic crossing with full barriers?
  2. The railway is the Breckland Line between Norwich and Ely.
  3. It looks like there are two passenger tph and the occasional freight trains through this crossing.
  4. The line speed of the rail line is 75-90 mph.

It should also be noted that Network Rail rate this crossing as high risk.

The ABC Railway Guide gives the line speed as 40 mph and adds these risk factors.

  • Poor Visibility for Approaching Road Vehicles
  • Crossing Approach
  • Large Numbers of Users
  • Sun Glare
  • Deliberate Misuse or User Error

This crossing sounds like it could be an accident waiting to happen.

Although, I would feel that installing similar lights to those at Six Mile Bottom could be a big help!

Summarising The Proposed Level Crossing Upgrades

I can split these by topic.

Full Barrier installation

It would appear that all barriers can probably be replaced with the latest full barrier technology.

Improved Lighting

The video from Six Mile Bottom was impressive and probably shows how fairly simple improvements can increase safety.

Local Opposition

On this brief summary of all the level crossings, that Network Rail propose to upgrade to automatic crossing with full barriers, it would appear that only the Meldreth Road crossing is seeing opposition from local interests. Although, I do have doubts, that the development of all those houses at Waterbeach will ever happen because of local opposition.

Major Construction Works

It would appear that only two upgrades could require major works.

Meldreth Road – But only if it was felt that a substantial solution was needed.

Waterbeach – If a new station were to be built to cater for future housing development.

The others would only need barrier replacement and other appropriate improvements.

I would also feel that most of the work could be carried out without major disruption to train services or road traffic.

Modern Digital Signalling With Automatic Train Operation

Modern digital signalling with in-cab displays and a measure of automatic train operation offers three main gains to train operators and passengers.

  • More services can be squeezed safely into the existing network, without building controversial and expensive new lines.
  • Trains can run at higher average speeds.
  • Trains can run to timetable easier.

It should be noted that South of Doncaster the East Coast Main Line is being converted to this type of signalling and this will allow the Azumas and other trains to run at 140 mph, where the track allows, to speed up services between King’s Cross and the North.

Services Between King’s Cross and Cambridge

South of Hitchin, some services between King’s Cross and Cambridge share the lines with the expresses to and from the North.

For that reason the 100 mph Class 700 trains and the 110 mph Class 387 trains, would be out of their speed range like Morris Minors on the M1.

In 2018, I wrote Call For ETCS On King’s Lynn Route, based on an article in Rail Magazine, which called for 125 mph trains to Cambridge and King’s Lynn, so they wouldn’t slow the expresses.

It does appear to me that the digital signalling part of the C3R Project will enable 125 mph trains to run between King’s Cross and King’s Lynn via Cambridge.

  • Oxford has 125 mph non-stop local trains to London, so why not Cambridge?
  • A nine-car Class 800 train has a similar seating capacity to a twelve-car Class 700 train, but the seats are better and the train can travel at 125 mph.
  • These trains would significantly reduce the fifty minute journey time between King’s Cross and Cambridge.

This would be a real Cambridge Express.

Developing Services Around Cambridge

Just as full digital signalling is helping London to expand its railways with Crossrail and Thameslink. I believe that the C3R Project will help to squeeze more trains through Cambridge.

In a few years time, I believe Cambridge will have a core route consisting of Cambridge North, Cambridge and Cambridge South stations with much expanded services to Bury St. Edmunds, Ely, Ipswich, Kings Lynn, London, Norwich, Peterborough, Stansted Airport, Stevenage and Wisbech.

Ten years ago, I was told by one of Cambridge’s eminent thinkers, that Cambridge needed the connectivity to bring in the people that the economy needs.

The pandemic has changed things, but not Cambridge’s desire to create more businesses expand.

A Connection To Peterborough

Peterborough is the other half of Cambridgeshire’s area and shares the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority with Cambridge.

Peterborough station is well connected to the North and Midlands.

  • LNER’s connect the station to most stations  on the East Coast Main Line.
  • It has hourly services to Birmingham, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester and Nottingham.

But the connection between Cambridge and Peterborough is not of the quality and frequency that the two cities need.

A Connection To Stevenage

Stevenage is an important manufacturing and technology centre, with a strong presence in aerospace.

Stevenage station is well connected to the North and South.

  • LNER and other services connect the station to most stations South of Leeds and York on the East Coast Main Line.
  • The new service from East Coast Trains will provide a direct service to Newcastle and Edinburgh with a frequency of seven trains per day (tpd).
  • It has a direct suburban line to King’s Cross.
  • It has a direct suburban line to Moorgate.

Stevenage seems to be acquiring more long distance services as time progresses.

But the connection between Cambridge and Stevenage is currently poor, at just two tph, which stop everywhere.

Improve the connection between Cambridge and Stevenage and have more calls of services to and from the North at Stevenage and Cambridge and \stevenage would benefit.

Currently, the fast Cambridge services take 27 minutes to do the 30.3 miles between Cambridge and Stevenage, which is an average speed of 67.3 mph.

A Connection To Wisbech

Progress seems to be being made on a service between Cambridge and Wisbech, which I wrote about in Hope For Wisbech Line Revival.

This was the conclusion of that post.

I very much feel that the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority and Network Rail can create a very useful branch line to Wisbech.

There is not much infrastructure to be built and upgraded.

    • A new station will be built at Wisbech, which I feel is likely to be a Park-and-Ride on the A47.
    • A bay platform will probably need to be reopened at March station.
    • March station will need to be step-free.
    • There may be a station and a passing loop at Coldham.
    • Track and signalling will need to be replaced.

But the big project needed is the remodelling at Ely, which will have to be done to increase capacity, through the bottleneck.

Greater Anglia’s Class 755 trains would appear to be ideal for the branch and could operate on battery power.

This connection could be a very valuable connection.

It certainly looks like there are better plans to connect Wisbech to Cambridge, than there are to improve the connections between Cambridge and Peterborough and Stevenage.

Conclusion

The C3R Project will give the Cambridge compatible signalling with the East Coast Main Line and I feel increasingly Cambridge could be treated as a series of stations just off the East Coast Main Line and we might see some services develop, that seem strange to today’s travellers.

A simple example could be a Regional Metro running between Peterborough and Stevenage.

  • It would call at March, Ely, Waterbeach, Cambridge North, Cambridge, Cambridge South, Royston and Hitchin.
  • It would run at a frequency upwards of two tph.
  • It could even connect to Lincoln.

Other North-South services through Cambridge like Thameslink and Norwich and Stansted would combine to give perhaps six tph through the three main Cambridge stations.

The C3R Project will open up lots of possibilities.

 

 

 

 

 

June 3, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Beeching Reversal – Reopening Harston Station

This is one of the Round 3 bids of Beeching Reversal projects that the Government and Network Rail are proposing to reverse some of the Beeching cuts.

Harston is a Cambridgeshire village, which is shown in this Google Map.

Note.

  1. The A10 winding its way North and South through the village.
  2. Cambridge is five miles to the North.
  3. The triangular road junction in the middle of the village with Station Road leading off to the South East.
  4. The Cambridge Line crosses the South-East corner of the map, at a right angle to Station Road.

This Google Map shows the former station site at an enlarged scale..

Note.

  1. There is plenty of space.
  2. There is a level crossing.
  3. The railway is double-track.

There’s even a Harston History page for the station, so if the architect’s decide to go retro, they can visit it for design inspiration.

My initial thoughts are that compared to some of the proposals for Beeching Reversal this one is practical and not over ambitious.

These are some of my thoughts.

Car Parking

Currently, there are the following stations between Cambridge and Hitchin.

Note.

Only Royston station has more than minimal parking provision.

The addition of Harston and Cambridge South stations will probably mean, that a lot of thought will be given to parking at all the stations between Cambridge and Hitchin.

Cambridge South like Cambridge North will probably have extensive parking to also serve Addenbrooke’s Hospital and Cambridge Bio-Medical Campus.

Whittlesford Parkway station on the line between Cambridge and Liverpool Street has very adequate parking provision.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Harston station having a couple of hundred parking spaces.

East West Railway

In Looking At The East West Railway Between Bedford And Cambridge, I looked at the route of the East West Railway as it approaches Cambridge.

I very much doubt that this new railway will go through Harston station.

But Harston station will beef up the capacity on the Cambridge Line to bring more workers to one of the science and engineering capitals of the world.

Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro

There are also plans for the Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro.

This map shows the proposed layout of the Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro.

Note that the green section will be in tunnel.

I doubt that the Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro will run to Harston, as it most likely will run on rubber-tyred wheels and probably wouldn’t mix well with heavy rail.

Train Service

Currently, the current trains run through the station in the Off Peak.

  • Thameslink – 2 tph – Cambridge and Brighton
  • Thameslink – 2 tph – Cambridge and King’s Cross
  • Great Northern – 1 tph – King’s Cross and Ely
  • Great Northern – 1 tph – King’s Cross and King’s Lynn

Note.

  1. tph is an abbreviation for trains per hour.
  2. All trains are fast services, except for the Cambridge and King’s Cross service, which stops at all stations.
  3. When Cambridge South station opens, I suspect nearly all services will stop at that station.
  4. The Great Northern services also stop at Cambridge North station.
  5. In Call For ETCS On King’s Lynn Route, I talked of the possibility of running 125 mph trains on Great Northern services between King’s Cross, Cambridge, Cambridge North, Ely and King’s Lynn.

I suspect that it will be likely only the Thameslink stopping train will call at Harston station, just as it is the only service that calls at Foxton, Shepreth and Meldreth stations.

  • But is two tph enough for a Park-and-Ride station?
  • Whittlesford Parkway station already has three tph to and from Cambridge.
  • I suspect there will be a second Stansted and Cambridge service which mean Whittlesford Parkway station gets four tph to Cambridge,

I suspect Hartston station needs four tph to give a Turn-Up-And-Go service.

Barrington Quarry And Landfill

This Google map shows the location of the Barrington Quarry and Landfill, with respect to Harston.

Note.

  1. Barrington Quarry and Landfill is in the North-West corner of the map.
  2. Harston is in the North-East corner of the map.
  3. The A10 road runs South-West from Harston to Foxton station, where there is a level crossing, where the Cambridge Line crosses the road.
  4. Foxton station has a freight-only line linking it to the quarry.

This second Google Map shows Foxton station in detail.

Note the rail line to Barrington curving away to the North West.

This document from CEMEX is entitled Barrington Quarry – Restoration Project.

It appears that the quarry will be restored and some of the land will be used for new homes.

As all the track is already in place, would it be possible to run a 2tph service between Barrington and Cambridge North station?

  • It could call at  Harston, Cambridge North and Cambridge stations.
  • Harston station would get a four tph service.
  • Cambridge gets more much-needed housing connected to the city.

It could also be run using battery-electric trains that would be charged using the electrification between Foxton and Cambridge North stations.

Conclusion

Taking everything together, it appears to me, that Harston station could improve the rail network to the South West of Cambridge.

March 21, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Transport Secretary Urged Not To Derail Aylesbury Spur Plans

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on The Bucks Herald.

This is the sub-heading of the article.

Leader of Buckinghamshire Council, Martin Tett has written to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps urging him to confirm Government support and funding for the much needed Aylesbury link section of East-West rail.

I think this Aylesbury link needs very careful thinking.

There are certainly a lot of issues to consider.

The Aylesbury Link

The Great Central Main Line used to run from London Marylebone station to the East Midlands and North.

Much of the route closed in the 1960s and the only section with a regular passenger service is that that run by Chiltern Railways, between Marylebone and Aylesbury Vale Parkway station.

North of Aylesbury Vale Parkway this rail link connects to the East-West Rail Link.

It was originally proposed to run a service between Aylesbury and Milton Keynes.

High Speed Two

High Speed Two is the herd of elephants in the room and it could have multiple effects all over the country.

Is High Speed Two For London, The Midlands, The North And Scotland Or For The Whole UK?

The answer surely, is that High Speed Two is for the whole UK.

Train Services Between Wales and the West Of England And The North Of England And Scotland

Consider.

  • North Wales is well served by a change at Crewe for passengers from the North and Scotland.
  • Mid Wales is served by a change at Crewe or in Birmingham.
  • South Wales, Bristol and the West and South-West of England are well-served by high speed trains from London Paddington and Reading.

Could South Wales, Bristol and the West and South-West of England, be better connected to the North and Scotland?

One of the ways to improve these services could be with a connection between High Speed Two and East-West Rail Link to allow trains to connect to the Great Western Railway at Didcot Junction.

Train Services Between East Anglia And The North Of England And Scotland

One of the ways to improve these services could be with a connection between High Speed Two and East-West Rail Link to allow trains to connect to and from Cambridge and East Anglia.

A High Speed Two Station At Calvert

Calvert is a village surrounded by landfill and wildlife sites to the South of where High Speed Two and East-West Rail Link cross to the North of Aylesbury.

This Google Map shows the area.

Note.

  1. Calvert is the village in the middle of the map.
  2. The light-coloured area to the South-East of the village is one of London’s biggest landfill sites.
  3. The single-track railway to Aylesbury runs along the North-East side of the landfill.
  4. To the North of the village, this railway connects to the East-West Rail Link.

This Google Map shows the junction between the two railways in greater detail.

Note.

  1. The Northern part of Calvert is in the South-East corner of the map.
  2. The East-West Rail Link crossing across the North of the map
  3. The railway to Aylesbury running SE-NW across the map, to the East of the village of Calvert.
  4. The chord connecting the two railways, which allows trains to and from the South to connect to the East.

This map from High Speed Two shows the route of the new railway through the area.

Note.

  1. High Speed Two is shown in yellow (cutting) and embankment (red).
  2. High Speed Two appears to run either on the same route or alongside the route to Aylesbury.

The Oakervee Review into High Speed Two, says this on Page 53, about a new station at Calvert in Buckinghamshire.

The Review also heard evidence from a number of informed stakeholders suggesting there should be a new station near Calvert, where HS2 would cross East-West Rail proposals to improve connectivity along the OxfordCambridge corridor. Previously, due to the impact on speed, no interim station had been planned between London and Birmingham Interchange.

The Review concluded that the DfT should consider making passive provision for a future HS2 station near to Calvert. If it is decided that a HS2 station should be built near to Calvert, passive provision will help prevent any disruption to HS2 services. There could be merit in developing an HS2 station in the future here if local plans support a significant residential and commercial development in this region, and if there is passenger demand to justify the cost of developing a station here. Without this coordinated planning, the experience of HS1 stations risks being repeated. The Review notes that the cost of developing a future station near Calvert could be shared with others including potentially the East West Rail Company.

I must admit, that I like the concept of a new station at Calvert.

  • The double-track High Speed Two and the single-track Aylesbury Link run alongside each other and a station wouldn’t be a very expensive one.
  • High Speed Two Trains will be very powerful and should be able to do a quick stop perhaps losing about two minutes.
  • The important Milton Keynes Central station would get a good High Speed Two service, with a change at Calvert.
  • Trains between Oxford and Cambridge could serve Calvert station.

It might also be possible for one of High Speed Two’s Classic Compatible trains to join High Speed Two at the station with a reverse.

This could enable a service between say Cardiff and Edinburgh.

  • Intermediate stops could be Newport, Bristol Parkway, Swindon, Oxford, Bicester Village, Calvert, Birmingham Interchange, Crewe, Preston and Carlisle.
  • It might even join and split at Swindon and Carlisle, with a second Classic Compatible train going between Penzance and Glasgow, which stopped at Plymouth, Exeter, Bristol Temple Meads, Bath, Swindon, Oxford, Bicester Village, Calvert, Birmingham Interchange, Crewe, Preston and Carlisle.
  • It would need extra two-hundred metre long platforms at Swindon, Oxford, Bicester Village and Calvert.

If this train ran hourly, there would certainly be a need for an hourly feeder train between Aylesbury and Milton Keynes.

But as yet, it hasn’t been decided to provide provision at Calvert for a possible High Speed Two station.

Rolling Stock For The East-West Rail Link

In July 2019, I wrote Tender Set To Be Issued For East West Rail Rolling Stock.

I analysed if battery electric trains could run services on the East West Rail Link.

I said this.

Consider.

    • All the major stations except Oxford have electrification.
    • Sections of the route are electrified.
    • The route is not very challenging.
    • The longest section without electrification is around forty miles.

All this leads me to believe that a battery-electric train with a range of forty miles could handle the route, if there was the means to charge the train at Oxford.

Possibly the easiest way to achieve the charging station at Oxford station, would be to electrify between Didcot Junction and Oxford stations.

Since then Hitachi have released the Hitachi Regional Battery Train, whose specification is shown in this infographic.

I believe this train could work the East-West Rail Link and also between Aylesbury and Milton Keynes.

I also believe, that other manufacturers could provide battery electric trains for the route.

These or similar trains would also be suitable for the decarbonisation of Chiltern’s diesel multiple units, that run the suburban services.

Conclusion

High Speed Two could have a station at Calvert.

If it does, there will certainly be a need between Aylesbury and Milton Keynes.

To be continued…

February 16, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 5 Comments

Thoughts On COVID-19 On Merseyside

Merseyside is in trouble with the covids.

These are the number of lab confirmed cases per 100,000 population for local authorities in the area, as of the 1st October 2020.

  • Halton – 1108.1
  • Knowsley – 1388
  • Liverpool – 1244.5
  • Sefton – 1037.6
  • St. Helens – 1230.4
  • Wirral – 1185.5

My London Borough of Hackney, which is demographically, a bit like poorer parts of Liverpool, has a rate of 524.3.

But the gold standard to my mind is Cambridge, which has a rate of only 380.6.

Oxford, which is a very similar city to Cambridge has a much higher rate of 799.5,

Why Is Cambridge Doing So Well?

I was diagnosed as a coeliac at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, twenty-three years ago.

According to my consultant in the City at the time, Cambridge has a VERY high level of diagnosed coeliacs.

He told me, that he had more coeliac  patients, than any other gastroenterologist in the UK.

So why is the number of coeliacs so high in Cambridge?

I feel it is because Cambridge had a Whack-a-Coeliac policy in the 1990s, where they attempted to diagnose as many coeliacs as they could find.

I was certainly diagnosed at that time and judging by the speed they did the initial diagnosis, I suspect, they were using one of the first genetic tests. They were also doing endoscopies without anaesthetic to increase throughput!

Coeliacs, Cancer And The Covids

Diagnosed coeliacs on a gluten-free diet have a strong immune system, which helps protect them from cancer, as has been shown by Joe West at Nottingham University.

I should also add, that none of my coeliac acquaintances have had a severe dose of the covids.

So does our stronger immune systems give us protection from the covids?

This could explain, why an area like Cambridge has a lower level of the covids than Oxford.

Why Is Merseyside In Trouble?

The Irish, because of historic famine, have higher levels of coeliac disease.

Comedians from the City have joked about Liverpool being the capital of Ireland for decades.

Could it be that there is a high percentage of undiagnosed coeliacs on Merseyside?

If this is true, could these undiagnosed coeliacs, with poorer immune systems, be easy pickings for the covids?

Conclusion

These actions should be taken.

  • Merseyside needs a Whack-a-Coeliac policy, if it doesn’t have one! It would certainly, improve cancer rates!
  • Every in-patient with the covids, should be given a quick blood test for coeliac disease.
  • Other research needs to be done to find out the any link between coeliac disease and the covids!

Not for nothing is coeliac disease regularly called the Many-Headed Hydra by some doctors and researchers.

 

 

 

October 1, 2020 Posted by | Health | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Route Selected For Cambridge Metro Link Between New A1307 Travel Hub And Biomedical Campus

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on the Haverhill Echo.

This Google Map shows the Fourwentways intersection between the A1307 and A11 roads, where the travel hub will be created.

The travel hub will be South-West of the roundabout, which I know well, as it was only a few miles from where I lived.

It will improve the bus connection between Haverhill and the Biomedical Campus and the City of Cambridge.

It would appear that the Stour Valley Railway, is being recreated by extending the Cambridgeshire Busway.

The closure of the Stour Valley Railway in 1967, was one of the most ill-judged of the Beeching closures, that were solidly backed by the government of Harold Wilson, who believed that everyone should have their own car and that railways wouldn’t be needed. They also believed that all goods should go by truck. Is that what you get, when your Transport Secretary is an ex-lorry driver and a former boss of the lorry-drivers trade union?

We now have a Government backing these two projects.

  • The rebuilding of the Varsity Line between Oxford and Cambridge, which Beeching recommended for retention, but Wilson still closed.
  • The extension of the Cambridgeshire Busway to Haverhill.

As with so many projects around the country, all these totally unjustified cuts are being reversed.

But these railways should never been closed in the first place.

 

July 9, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Should The NHS Adopt A Whack-A-Coeliac Policy?

The Wikipedia entry for Whac-a-Mole, says this about the colloquial use of the name of an arcade game.

In late June 2020, Boris Johnson based the UK’s COVID-19 strategy on the game.

Because of the high number of diagnosed coeliacs in the Cambridge area, I believe that I was diagnosed to be coeliac, by possible use of a Whack-a-Coeliac policy at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge, in the last years of the Twentieth Century.

  • I was suffering from low B12 levels and my GP sent me to the hospital to see a consultant.
  • It was only a quick visit and all I remember, is the speed with which the nurse took my blood.
  • A couple of days later, I received a letter from the hospital, saying it was likely I was a coeliac and it would be confirmed by an endoscopy.
  • A point to note, is that I had my endoscopy with just a throat spray and this must have increased the efficiency and throughput and reduced the  cost of the procedure.

The only way, I could have been diagnosed so quickly would have been through an analysis of my genes and blood. But I was never told, what method was used.

I have a few further thoughts.

My Health Since Diagnosis

It has undoubtedly improved.

Cancer And Diagnosed Coeliacs On A Gluten-Free Diet

Joe West of Nottingham University has shown, that diagnosed coeliacs on a gluten-free diet have a 25% lower risk of cancer compared to the general population.

That is certainly a collateral benefit of being a coeliac. But is it being a coeliac or the diet?

I’m no medic, but could the reason be, that diagnosed coeliacs on a gluten-free diet have a strong immune system?

Coeliac Disease Is A Many-Headed Hydra

I have heard a doctor describe coeliac disease or gluten-sensitivity as a many-headed hydra, as it can turn up in so many other illnesses.

Type “coeliac disease many-headed hydra” into Google and this article on the NCBI , which is entitled Gluten Sensitivity: A Many Headed Hydra, is the first of many.

This is the sub-title of the article.

Heightened responsiveness to gluten is not confined to the gut

My son; George was an undiagnosed coeliac, who had a poor diet consisting mostly of Subways, cigarettes and high-strength cannabis. He died at just thirty-seven of pancreatic cancer.

Did George have a poor immune system, which was useless at fighting the cancer?

Undiagnosed Coeliac Disease In The Over-Sixty-Fives

In A Thought On Deaths Of The Elderly From Covid-19, I used data from Age UK and Coeliac UK to estimate the number of coeliacs in the UK over the age of sixty-five. I said this.

Age UK has a figure of twelve million who are over 65 in the UK. If 1-in-100 in the UK are coeliac, that is 120,000 coeliacs over 65.

But some research shows that the number of coeliacs can be as high as 1-in-50.

If that 120,000 were all diagnosed, I would have several coeliacs amongst my over-65 friends. I have just one and she is self-diagnosed.

Are all these undiagnosed coeliacs out there, easy targets for diseases like cancer and COVID-19?

The Ease Of Testing For Coeliac Disease

I was worried that my granddaughter was coeliac and I asked my GP, how difficult a test is to perform.

He said, that a genetic test is usually quick and correct and only a few borderline cases need to be referred to a consultant.

Diagnosis has moved on a lot in twenty years.

Cambridge, Oxford and Covid-19

Six weeks ago I wrote Oxford And Cambridge Compared On COVID-19, to try to find out why the number of Covid-19 cases are so much lower in Cambridge than Oxford.

Checking today, the rate of lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents is as follows.

  • Cambridge 336.6
  • Oxford 449

So why the difference?

In the related post, this was my explanation.

Is the large number of diagnosed coeliacs around Cambridge, the reason the area has a lower COVID-19 rate than Oxford?

It sounds a long shot, but it could be a vindication of a possible Whack-a-Coeliac policy at Addenbrooke’s in the last years of the Twentieth Century.

Conclusion

I think the NHS should seriously look at a Whack-a-Coeliac problem!

  • The health of a large number of people would improve.
  • There would be less cancer in the UK.
  • A better combined National Immune System might help in our fight against the next virus to follow COVID-19.

It would be a very simple testing program, that would be mainly in the hands of the GPs.

 

 

July 6, 2020 Posted by | Health | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Oxford And Cambridge Compared On COVID-19

In Is There A Link Between Historic Coal Mining And COVID-19?, I mentioned this article in The Times, which is entitled Pressure To Free London From Lockdown As Cases Fall.

The article gives an interactive table, which is entitled Number Of Cases By Area.

Three figures are given.

  1. Registered cases
  2. Cases per 100,000 of the population.
  3. Cases in the last two weeks.

These figures are for areas around Oxford.

  • Oxford – 615, 399, 90
  • South Oxfordshire – 358, 255, 36
  • West Oxfordshire – 324, 295, 50

And these figures are for areas around Cambridge

  • Cambridge – 222, 177, 20
  • South Cambridgeshire – 206, 131, 10
  • East Cambridgeshire – 111, 124, 12
  • West Suffolk – 205, 115, 18

So why are COVID-19  cases in Cambridge so much lower than Oxford?

Consider.

  • Both cities and surrounding counties have a similar character.
  • Both have well-respected hospitals, medical schools and medical research.
  • Air pollution appears to be low in both areas.
  • Both cities probably have a similar ethnic mix and large student populations.

As I used to live near Cambridge, I have my own mad personal theory.

Addenbrooke’s Hospital

I have used several hospitals in my life, but only two changed my life totally.

  • I had my vasectomy in the old Hackney Hospital.
  • Addenbrooke’s, who with a simple blood test decided I was probably coeliac.

So perhaps, I’m biased.

But consider these possible facts.

  • My coeliac consultant at Addenbrooke’s told me, that he had more patients with the disease than any other in the UK.
  • The manager at Carluccio’s in Cambridge, told me that they sold more gluten-free food, than any other restaurant in the group.
  • In 1997, I was diagnosed fast, because Addenbrooke’s were using a new genetic test. I was later checked using an endoscopy.

Could it be that someone at Addenbrooke’s had decided they wanted to find all the coeliacs in and around Cambridge?

What would be the effects of diagnosing as many coeliacs as you could find in an area?

  • A doctor of my acquaintance talked of coeliac disease as the many-headed hydra, as it led to so many other medical problems. So extra diagnosed coeliacs might improve health statistics in an area.
  • Personally, I have said good-bye to migraines, nail-biting and lots of joint pains, after going gluten-free.
  • I also haven’t had a serious dose of flu since diagnosis. Since 2005, I’ve probably had the flu jab.
  • Joe West at Nottingham University, has shown that coeliacs on a gluten-free diet have lower cancer rates than the general population.

Consider.

  • Immunotherapy is a medical technique, where the patient’s immune system is activated or suppressed to help them fight a disease.
  • Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease, where gluten causes damage to the gut.

So could coeliacs on a gluten-free diet have a more powerful immune system?

Undiagnosed Coeliacs

Coeliac disease is genetic, with mine coming from an Ashkenazi Jewish ancestor from Konigsberg in the Baltic.

  • Other roots of coeliac disease are Irish, Italian and black people, who have slaves as ancestors.
  • There was no test for coeliac disease in children until 1960.
  • There was no genetic test for coeliac disease until the late 1990s.
  • Research has shown that coeliacs are at least 1-in-100 of the UK population, but could be higher.

If coeliacs on a gluten-free diet have a good immune system, do undiagnosed coeliacs have a poorer one?

Oxford And Cambridge Compared

Is the large number of diagnosed coeliacs around Cambridge, the reason the area has a lower COVID-19 rate than Oxford?

Conclusion

What do I know?

I’m just a mad engineer and mathematician with coeliac disease.

 

 

May 23, 2020 Posted by | Health | , , , , | 1 Comment

Thoughts On Coeliacs And Covid-19 In Cambridgeshire

I was diagnosed as a coeliac by Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.

  • One of the consultants there told me, that they had a very high number of coeliacs on the books and the number was one of the highest in the country.
  • I also used to eat in Carluccios in the centre of Cambridge and the manager once told me that they did an Annual Dinner for the local branch of Coeliac UK.
  • He also told me, that they had the highest gluten-free sales in the group.

I think it is fairly likely that Cambridge has a lot of diagnosed coeliacs.

But it is not a place with health problems, that jump out of the pages of the tabloids.

My theory is that because Cambridge does a lot of gastroenterology research, they have a good rate in finding coeliacs.

So how is Cambridgeshire doing in the COVID-19 pandemic?

In Five Eastern Counties, I said this about COVID-19 in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, where a lot of patients go to Addenbrooke’s.

  • Cambridgeshire – 673 of 852,523 or 0.08%
  • Suffolk – 936 of 768,556 or 0.12%

Both seem to be low. How do they compare to Oxfordshire?

  • Oxfordshire – 1515 of 887, 564 or 0.17%

I wouldn’t have thought that Oxfordshire would have a rate twice that of Cambridgeshire!

  • The counties are similar in population.
  • Both have proportions of industry, farming and academia
  • The cities of Oxford and Cambridge are similar in character

Could it be that Addenbrooke’s has diagnosed most of the coeliacs in Cambridgeshire?

I’m no medical expert, but someone should look at it!

 

April 30, 2020 Posted by | Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

Consultation On The Cambridge Autonomous Metro

Issue 900 of Rail Magazine has an article called Have Your Say On Plans For Cambridge Metro Network.

These are the introductory paragraphs.

The Cambridge and Peterborough Combined Authority has launched a public consultation into outline plans for the Cambridge Autonomous Metro (CAM)

Under current proposals the CAM network would comprise a tunnelled section beneath Cambridge city centre, and four regional routes, radiating out towards St. Neots, Alconbury, Mildenhall and Haverhill.

This is a map clipped from the proposals.

Note.

Sections shown in green are tunnelled.

Sections shown in blue are on the surface.

Some sections would appear to reuse parts of the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway.

These are a few of my thoughts.

Rolling Stock

This picture from the consultation, shows possible rolling stock.

It could be a version of Van Hool’s ExquiCity BRT tram-bus, which is used is Belfast, Geneva, Metz and Parma – To name just four!

A hydrogen-powered version has also recently been introduced in Pau in France.

Could this be the version, that will be preferred for Cambridge?

  • It would be carbon and pollution free.
  • It could use exclusively green hydrogen, created from renewable electricity. Pau uses a hydrogen-generation system from ITM Power.
  • Would hydrogen-power encourage passengers to use the system?
  • It might borrow ideas from the Glider system in Belfast, which is diesel-electric powered.
  • Each Belfast Glider vehicle can hold 105 passengers.

A hydrogen-powered system would surely be ideal for working in the tunnels under Cambridge.

Tunnels

This article on the BBC is entitled Cambridge Metro: Engineer Says Underground Will Work.

In the article, Professor John Miles of Cambridge University says.

Britain was a world leader in boring small tunnels

It will be tight in the cramped city, but it should be possible.

Conclusion

Oxford will want one!

 

 

 

March 9, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Are Train Services Around Norfolk And Suffolk Unbalanced?

Consider the following services in trains per hour (tph) after Greater Anglia’s proposed changes in their franchise.

  • Cambridge and Bury St. Edmunds- 1 tph
  • Cambridge and Ipswich – 1 tph
  • Cambridge and Norwich – 1 tph
  • Cambridge and Peterborough – 1 tph
  • Cambridge and Stansted Airport – 2 tph
  • Ipswich and Bury St. Edmund’s – 2 tph
  • Ipswich and Colchester – 4 tph
  • Ipswich and Lowestoft – 1 tph
  • Ipswich and Norwich – 3 tph
  • Ipswich and Peterborough – 1 tph
  • Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth – 0 tph
  • Norwich and Great Yarmouth – 2 tph
  • Norwich and Lowestoft – 1 tph
  • Norwich and Peterborough – 1 tph

Note.

  1. Most services are a measly 1 tph. Especially, if you’ve walked or cycled to a bleak station and just missed a train.
  2. Norwich and Ipswich get 3 tph, whereas Norwich and Cambridge and Ipswich and Cambridge get just 1 tph.
  3. East West Rail will add an extra 1 train per two hours on the Norwich and Cambridge and Ipswich and Cambridge routes, but improvements are needed now.

I would recommend.

  • Two tph between Cambridge and Ipswich, Norwich and Peterborough.
  • A direct Norwich service to Kings Cross, via Ely and Cambridge.
  • Building Cambridge South station tomorrow!
  • Terminate the Ipswich and Cambridge service at Cambridge South.
  • All passing services would stop at Cambridge South.
  • Add a second Ipswich and Cambridge service that terminated at Stansted Airport.
  • Run a high-frequency local shuttle between Ely and Cambridge South stations.
  • Improve the frequency on as many of the other routes as possible.

The could also be some new stations.

East-West Eail Link

This report on the East-West Rail web site is entitled Eastern Section Prospectus and gives full details of their proposals for the train services along the East-West Rail Link, to the East of Cambridge.

These are the main proposals as regards passengers.

  • A new A14 Parkway station will be built to the North of Newmarket, where the railways and the A14 and A11 cross.
  • Passenger services between Ipswich and Felixstowe will be replaced by a four tph tram-train running on the Felixstowe Branch Line and through the streets of Ipswich. Read all about it in Could There Be A Tram-Train Between Ipswich And Felixstowe?.
  • The current hourly Ipswich and Cambridge service will be replaced or more likely augmented by an hourly Manningtree and Oxford via A14 Parkway, Cambridge and the East-West Rail Link.
  • Combined with the Colchester and Peterborough service, there will be two tph between Ipswich and A14 Parkway via Needham Market, Stowmarket and Bury St. Edmunds.
  • The current hourly Norwich and Standsted via Cambridsge service will be replaced or more likely augmented by a Reading and Great Yarmouth service via Cambridge and Norwich.

The two new East-West Rail Link services, which could be run by a train similar in design and performance to one of the new Hitachi expresses would act as both local and long distance trains to and from Cambridge and the West.

A Cambridge Crossrail?

Cambridge dominates the whole of the East of England and has a voracious appetite for more people to work in the high-tech businesses.

  • Travel to Cambridge by train in the morning from London and there are large numbers of commuters going North.
  • A large quantity of housing is being built at places like Bury St. Edmuds, Cambourne, Haverhill, Huntingdon, Lakenheath, Newmarket, Peterborough, Royston, Soham, Thetford and Wisbech.

Some places, where large developments are happening, have poor or no rail access to the City.

I believe the solution is a  high-frequency local shuttle across the City.

  • The core stations would be Ely, Waterbeach, Cambridge North, Cambridge and Cambridge South.
  • The core frequency would be up to twelve tph  between Cambridge South and Ely.
  • Cambridge South station would turnback most Cambridge Crossrail services in the South.
  • There could be additional Southern terminals at Haverhill, Royston and Stansted Airport
  • Ely station would turnback most Cambridge Crossrail services. in the North.
  • There could be additional Northern terminals at A14 Parkway, Bury St. Edmunds, Thetford and Wisbech.

Most of the infrastructure is already in place, but the following would be needed.

  • Improvement of Ely station.
  • Building of a junction, so that trains and passengers could go between Cambridge North and Bury St. Edminds stations without a change of train nor a reverse.
  • Reinstate the Wisbech Branch with a new station in the town.
  • Build the new Cambridge South station.
  • Connect Haverhill to the West Anglia Main Line with a simple single-track branch.

The core section would use the same platforms as other trains on the route, to make interchange between services easier and stations more affordable.

A14 Parkway Station

Rereading this article, I believe that this station should be built as soon as possible.

Conclusion

Services in Cambridgeshire, Notfolk and Suffolk can be improved greatly and they need to be to allow, the UK’s premier Powerhouse to grow.

November 27, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment