The Anonymous Widower

railfuture On The Castlefield Problem

This report on the railfuture web site is entitled The Castlefield Problem – A Great Opportunity For Freight.

This is the introduction to the report.

Railfuture believes that railways should be the transport mode of choice if we are to balance the needs of the economy with those of tackling the Climate Emergency and campaigns for a bigger and better railway capable of carrying more freight as well as providing for ever increasing passenger demand.

Manchester’s Castlefield corridor is a bottleneck and has become a byword for unreliability. It is expected to carry 12 passenger services and one freight train in each direction every hour. This report recommends some medium to long term interventions aimed in particular at expanding the freight offering, since movement of goods by road is the most difficult to decarbonise.

It then goes on to describe the problem in detail. This is an important paragraph.

Meanwhile, the increase in intermodal freight traffic between Trafford Park and the southern ports has seen all the available freight capacity (known as signalling paths) taken up, with each freight train using the equivalent of two passenger paths.

The report then makes these points about the freight services to and from Trafford Park Rail Freight Terminal.

  • Freight has no choice but to use the Castlefield route.
  • There is no access to Trafford Park is from the West Coast Main Line (WCML) other than via Castlefield.
  • As freight doesn’t complain on social media when it is late or cancelled, it is a popular target for politicians looking for a solution.

The report says that the ideal solution would be to access Trafford Park from the western end.

The report then asks, the fundamental question, as to whether the Trafford Park terminal is fit for purpose and details these points.

Operation is not very efficient.

It only has a limited number of sidings with gantries.

Can Trafford Park handle the growth of rail freight to and from Manchester?

This map shows the Trafford Park terminal.

There doesn’t appear to be much space to expand.

railfuture’s Solution

railfuture are proposing that a second rail freight terminal be built in the Borough of Trafford at Carrington Park, which is described by this paragraph in the report.

This brownfield site, once the Shell chemical works, lies to the south west of Manchester but still within Trafford Borough. Until its closure it enjoyed rail access via the former line between Stockport and the Warrington Central (CLC) line at Glazebrook. It is currently a Business Park, although the lorry parking facility in the area we are interested in could easily be relocated to another part of this vast and mostly empty site.

This Google Map shows the site.

Note.

  1. The blue arrow indicating the centre of Carrington Business Park.
  2. Irlam station on the route between Liverpool and Manchester line via Warrington is in the North West corner of the map.
  3. The Manchester Ship Canal running across the North-West corner of the map.
  4. The route of the former Glazebrook East Junction–Skelton Junction line, runs diagonally across the bottom of the map.
  5. Another railway used to run up the middle of the site.

railfuture’s plan for Carrington Park is as follows.

  • Build a Rail Freight Terminal North-South along the route of the disused railway indicated in 5.
  • Reinstate the Glazebrook East Junction–Skelton Junction line, so that freight trains can go between Carrington Park and the East.
  • I doubt, it’s possible to connect to the Liverpool and Manchester line via Warrington, as there is Carrington power station in the way.
  • But it would link Carrington Park and Trafford Park.

Once at Skelton Junction, trains can go East to connect with the Manchester branch of the  West Coast Main Line between Stockport and Cheadle Hulme stations.

I have followed the line to the East in my helicopter.

It is double track until it splits from the route to Stockport and Manchester under Junction 4 of the M60.

It continues as single-track under the Styal Line, before turning South.

It then passes under the Manchester branch of the West Coast Main Line.

This Google Map shows where we have arrived.

Note.

  1. The Manchester branch of the West Coast Main Line going diagonally North-South across the map.
  2. Stockport and Manchester are to the North.
  3. Cheadle Hulme station is just off the map to the South.
  4. The line, I’ve been following crossing the Manchester branch in an East-West direction.

Conveniently, the large block of land lying to the South-East of where the two rail lines cross, is a landfill site that closed in 1985.

railfuture’s plan is to use this space to create a new Adswood junction between the two lines.

They recommend building a double-track junction.

  • Trains could go between Manchester and the South via Wilmslow or Stoke.
  • Trains via Stoke would avoid the busy lines through Crewe.

The report, then goes on to list a load of other benefits that could be built into the scheme.

  • Adswood junction could be built, so that stone trains between the Peak District and the South could use a simpler route.
  • The route through Carrington Park could be extended to Trafford Park.
  • Passenger services could be run on the new route.
  • There could be possibilities to combine parts of the scheme with High Speed Two.
  • A new route to the North East is thought possible.

The report says this about the costs and benefit cost ratio of the proposed scheme.

Benchmarking against the outturn prices of similar projects undertaken elsewhere and allowing for inflation, we expect the costs to come in under £300m. This does not include potential third party investment or assume any release value of eventual redevelopment at Trafford Park. Adding the connection at Flixton would probably add a further £100m, still giving an overall BCR of over 2:1.

This scheme needs serious consideration.

 

 

 

May 15, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 3 Comments

Manchester Piccadilly, Liverpool Lime Street And Some Other Stations Compared

I am doing this exercise to get a handle on the scale of the problem at Platforms 13 and 14 at Manchester Piccadilly station.

In 2018/19, these were some passenger statistics for the two stations and some others.

  • Birmingham New Street station handled 47.928 million passengers on its thirteen platforms or 3.62 million per platform per year.
  • Brighton station handled 17.385 million passengers on its eight platforms or 2.17 million per platform per year.
  • Bristol Temple Meads station handled 11.368 million passengers on its thirteen platforms or 0.87 million per platform per year.
  • Cardiff station handled 14.205 million passengers on its eight platforms or 1.78 million per platform per year.
  • Chelmsford station handled 8.927 million passengers on two platforms of 4.46 million per platform per year.
  • Crewe station handled 3.318 million passengers on its twelve platforms or 0.28 million per platform per year.
  • Deansgate station handled 0.458 million passengers on its two platforms or 0.23 million per platform per year.
  • Doncaster station handled 3,918 million passengers on its nine platforms or 0.44 million per platform per year.
  • East Croydon station handled 24.770 million passengers on its six platforms or 4.12 million per platform per year.
  • Exeter St. Davids station handled 2.620 million passengers on its six platforms or 0.44 million per platform per year.
  • Gatwick Airport station handled 21.225 million passengers on its seven platforms or 3.03 million per platform per year.
  • Leeds station handled 30.839 million passengers on its seventeen train platforms or 1.81 million per platform per year.
  • Leicester station handled 5.582 million passengers on its four platforms or 1.40 million per platform per year.
  • Liverpool Lime Street station handled 14.221 million passengers on its eleven platforms or 1.29 million per platform per year.
  • London Bridge station handled 61.308 million passengers on its fifteen platforms or 4.08 million per platform per year.
  • London Fenchurch Street station handled 18.508 million passengers on its four platforms or 4.63 million per platform per year.
  • London Paddington station handled 38.18 million passengers on its thirteen platforms or 2,94 million per platform per year.
  • Manchester Oxford Road station handled 9.338 million passengers on its five platforms or 1.87 million per platform per year.
  • Manchester Piccadilly station handled 30.252 million passengers on its fourteen platforms and two tram platforms or 1.89 million per platform per year.
  • Manchester Victoria station handled 8.950 million passengers on its eight platforms or 1.12 million per platform per year.
  • Newcastle station handled 8,914 million passengers on its twelve platforms or 0.74 million per platform per year.
  • Nottingham station handled 8.005 million passengers on its nine platforms or 0.89 million per platform per year.
  • Peterborough station handled 5.060 million passengers on its seven platforms or 0.72 million per platform per year.
  • Preston station handled 4.646 million passengers on its nine platforms or 0.52 million per platform per year.
  • Reading station handled 17.081 million passengers on its fifteen platforms or 1.14 million per platform per year.
  • York station handled 9.991 million passengers on its eleven platforms or 0.90 million per platform per year.

These figures have given rise to a few thoughts.

Brighton

Brighton station is an eight platform terminal station, that handles a lot of passengers, considering that the City doesn’t have any mass transit system and passengers rely on walking, bicycles, buses and private cars for onward travel.

  • There are upwards of eight trains per hour (tph) at the station to and from London, all of which can be up to twelve cars.
  • The West Coastway and East Coastway Lines have at least six tph in the Off Peak.
  • Arriving passengers can walk straight through the wide gate line and out to walking routes and the buses, with leaving passengers walking the other way.

I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Brighton station is at capacity.

Chelmsford

It is truly remarkable that Chelmsford station is the second busiest station in terms of passengers per platform per year on my list.

  • The station has two separate platforms on either side of the tracks.
  • Access is via wide stairs and lifts.
  • The station appears to handle five tph in both directions in the Off Peak, with up to twice that number in the Peak.
  • Most trains calling at the station are between eight and twelve cars.
  • Chelmsford station could get even busier in terms of passengers when the new longer Class 720 trains and Class 745 trains are brought into service in the next twelve months, as these trains have higher capacities, than the current trains.
  • It is aimed, that the new trains though will have level access between train and platform, at some point in the future.

I very much feel, that Chelmsford shows what can be done at an ordinary two platform station with the application of good simple design.

London Fenchurch Street

London Fenchurch Street is the busiest station on my list.

  • The limited number of platforms will increase the number of passengers per platform per year.
  • The station has two entrances to each platform.
  • Arriving passengers can walk straight through the wide gate line at the main entrance and down escalators to walking routes at street level, with leaving passengers walking the other way.
  • Many trains in the Peak are twelve cars.
  • Adding extra platforms would be difficult.

It does appear, that work has been done to maximise the station’s capacity.

Crewe, Doncaster, Exeter St. Davids, Newcastle, Peterborough, Preston and York

All these stations are interchange stations on the main lines, that may have been improved, but have not been substantially rebuilt.

They all manage to handle between 0.5 million and 1 million passengers per platform per year.

Leeds

Leeds station has been improved over the last few years.

  • There are six through platforms and eleven where trains can terminate.
  • After passing through the gate line, passengers are in a concourse from where long distance services to London and the North and local services to Bradford, Harrogate, Ilkley and Skipton can be boarded.
  • A new wide bridge with escalators, a lift and steps leads from this concourse across the through lines and platforms to the other side of the station.
  • There are lifts and escalators from the bridge to some of the through platforms and the terminating platforms beyond them.
  • At the far side of the bridge, a new Southern entrance has been added.

<The bridge works well and shows how a wide bridge over or a wide concourse under the tracks, can improve circulation in a station.

If you compare the bridge at Leeds, with the bridge at Reading, which was designed at around the same time, the Reading one is better in that it is wider and has more escalators, with one up and one down escalator to each pair of platforms.

Was a certain amount of design at Leeds station performed by accountants?

London Bridge

London Bridge station shows what can be done by applying good design in a new or rebuilt station.

  • There are nine through and six terminal platforms.
  • All platforms can take full-length twelve-car trains.
  • There is a massive concourse underneath all fifteen platforms.
  • There are lots of escalators and lifts between the concourse and the platforms.
  • Steps provide additional and reserve capacity.
  • Passengers changing between routes can take an escalator or lift to the concourse and another one to their new route.
  • Arriving passengers can walk straight through the wide gate lines and out to walking routes, the Underground and the buses, with leaving passengers walking the other way.
  • London Bridge station was designed by Grimshaw Architects

It is a design with a wow factor that works very well.

Reading

Reading station is another good design applied to a rebuilt station.

  • There are nine through platforms,  three East-facing bay platforms and three West-facing bay platforms.
  • All through platforms can take full-length trains.
  • All bay platforms are a level walk from the Southernmost through platform and the main entrance gate line to the station.
  • There is a massive bridge over all nine through platforms.
  • There are lots of escalators and lifts between the bridge and the through platforms.
  • Steps provide additional and reserve capacity.
  • Passengers changing between routes can take an escalator or lift to the bridge and another one to their new route.
  • Arriving passengers can walk straight through the wide gate lines and out to walking routes, the car-parks and the buses, with leaving passengers walking the other way.
  • Reading station was designed by Grimshaw architects.

It is a design with a wow factor that works very well.

Redesigning Manchester Piccadilly

Could some of the principles of these stations be applied to rebuilding Manchester Piccadilly station?

There are currently twelve terminal platforms numbered 1-12 in the main part of the station.

  • Platforms 1 to 4 are used for services to Marple, New Mills, Rose Hill and Sheffield via the Hope Valley Line, and services on the Glossop Line.
  • Platforms 5 to 9 are the longest and used by Avanti West Coast and CrossCountry services.
  • Platforms 10 to 12 are shorter than the others and are usually used to accommodate local trains to Crewe and Manchester Airport, plus Mid-Cheshire line, Buxton Line and South Wales services.

The two through platforms 13 and 14 are on the Southern side of the station.

These ideas might be possible.

A Wide Bridge Or Concourse Connecting The Platforms At The London End

Currently, there is a bridge over the platforms 1 to 12 at the London end, but compared to the bridges at Leeds or Reading stations, it is a rather feeble affair.

  • It is narrow.
  • It doesn’t have any kiosks or shops.
  • It is only connected to the platforms by steps.

Could this be replaced by a wide bridge, like say the one at Reading?

It would certainly give advantages if it could!

  • Passengers arriving in Manchester Piccadilly needing to change to another service, might find it more convenient to use the bridge, rather than exit on to the main concourse.
  • The bridge could be designed as a waiting area, with kiosks, shops, cafes and other facilities.
  • The bridge would be connected to all platforms by escalators and lifts.
  • Steps would provide additional and reserve capacity.

Note that if you buy a ticket to Manchester stations, that allows you to go to either Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Oxford Road, Deansgate or Manchester Victoria stations, So a quick route up and down an escalator at the London end of Piccadilly station to Platform 14 would be very convenient.

Access To Platforms 13 And 14

Compared to the wide island platforms at Leeds and Reading, platform 13 and 14 are a bit narrow, but I’m fairly sure, that a good layout for escalators and lifts could be designed, so that access to these two platforms can be improved.

Trains Through Platforms 13 and 14

These must be arranged, so that they are all similar with wide double doors and step-free access between platform and train.

Improvement Along The Castlefield Corridor

Various improvements need to be done on the Castlefield Corridor.

  • Deansgate can be improved to provide better access to the Metrolink at Castlefield.
  • Manchester Oxford Road station needs a complete rebuilt and a better track layout.
  • The Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Airport service via Warrington and Manchester Oxford Road needs a strong rethink.

It appears that it has already been decided to reduce the number of trains, as I wrote about in Castlefield Corridor Trade-Off Plan For Fewer Trains.

Wide Gate Lines

Passengers arriving at Manchester Piccadilly station in the main part of the station should be able to walk forward to a gate line stretching right across all the platforms.

  • The present gate line isn’t continuous.
  • There is still a lot of manual checking of tickets.

The current layout can certainly be improved.

Access To Metrolink

I also wonder if better access to the Metrolink could be provided, so that passengers access the Metrolink station from inside the gate line. Now that the Metrolink allows contactless ticketing, this might be easier.

Conclusion

I believe there’s a solution in there somewhere!

March 21, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Castlefield Corridor Trade-Off Plan For Fewer Trains

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

The article says that to solve the problems through the Castlefield Corridor, the number of trains will be reduced from 15 trains per hour (tph) to thirteen tph.

This arrangement applied until May 2018 and meant that two tph between Manchester Airport and East of the Pennines reversed in Manchester Piccadilly station to go East, rather than using the Castlefield Corridor through Deansgate and Manchester Victoria stations.

The arrangement worked well before May 2018 and I doubt there’s no reason, why it won’t work in the short-term.

The long-term solution is Northern Powerhouse Rail and/or High Speed Two, which looks like will be in tunnel between the Airport and Manchester City Centre and could carry as many as six tph between Manchester and Liverpool via the Airport.

Perhaps, this should be the first piece of High Speed Two to be built in the North.

  • It connects the three most important economic areas in the North West of England; Liverpool, Manchester and Manchester Airport.
  • It would greatly increase capacity.
  • It would probably have good connections to Crewe, Warrington, Wigan and the West Coast Main Line.
  • Liverpool has an extensive local rail network, which is being expanded.
  • Manchester is expanding the Metrolink network.

Some of the Castlefield Corridor services would have been replaced by better and faster services.

February 19, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Rochdale Still Doesn’t Have A Direct Link To Manchester Airport

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Richdale Online.

I recently went to Rochdale to see Ipswich play and what surprised me about the town, was how far it was from my hotel close to Manchester Victoria station.

I went on a tram and it took over an hour and it was also very crowded.

I then walked about a mile to the football ground.  Luckily a friendly Rochdale supporter showed me the way.

But is Rochdale’s link to Manchester Airport, any worse than say Walthamstow’s link to Heathrow or Gatwick.

  • Rochdale Town Centre to Manchester Airport by train – 1:05
  • Rochdale Town Centre to Manchester Airport by tram – 2:02
  • Rochdale Station to Manchester Airport by train – 0,:55
  • Rochdale to Manchester Airport by taxi- 0:27
  • Walthamstow Central to Heathrow Airport by Underground and Heathrow Express – 1:05
  • Walthamstow Central to Heathrow Airport by Underground – 1:27
  • Walthamstow to Heathrow Airport by taxi – 1:27
  • Walthamstow Central to Gatwick Airport by train – 1:22

Note.

  1. All journeys, except the taxis, need at least one change.
  2. My lawyer son lives in Walthamstow and always flies from Heathrow.
  3. He gets there by Underground, with one cross-platform change at Finsbury Park.
  4. Crossrail won’t help the man on the Walthamstow Underground.
  5. In Manchester the taxi is quicker, but it isn’t in London.

These are my thoughts.

Mancunians Are More Impatient

Not my view, but the view of a Northern station guy, who has worked on Platforms 13 and 14 at Manchester Piccadilly and busy stations on the London Overground.

He thought that they were sometimes in such a hurry to get on a train, that the train is delayed.

He also said, if you ask Londoners to stand behind the yellow line, they do. Mancunians don’t!

Access To Northern And TransPennine Trains Is Bad

Consider.

  • There is often a step up into the train in Manchester.
  • Manchester Metrolink is generally step-free into the tram.
  • Parts of London Underground/Overground are step-free.
  • The new TransPennine trains have pathetic and slow end-door access.

The two train companies have bought fleets of trains that are not fit for purpose.

The Manchester Airport Rail Link Is At Full Capacity

Manchester Airport station, does not have the best rail line from the City Centre.

Wikipedia says this.

Any future additional services to the Airport are in doubt without further infrastructure works; unresolved issues surround the lack of new ‘through’ platforms at Manchester Piccadilly which have been shelved by the government and the Styal Line to Manchester Airport operating at full capacity with little resilience to absorb delays.

The Rochdale Online article blames the stations in Manchester, but the Styal Line is equally to blame.

The Long Term Solution Is High Speed Two

In the 2030s, High Speed Two will solve the problem by using a tunnel between Manchester Airport and the City Centre.

It will also do the following.

  • Provide direct access between Manchester Airport and the Midlands, the South and London.
  • Provide direct access to Liverpool and Warrington in the West.
  • Provide direct access to Huddersfield, Bradford, Leeds, Hull and the North East, in the East.
  • All services will probably be at least five trains per hour (tph).

But High Speed Two won’t provide a direct link to Richdale.

Passengers between Rochdale and Manchester Airport will still have to change in the City Centre.

Unless of course, some TransPennine services to Manchester Airport are discontinued, as they can be done by High Speed Two.

This would free up paths to add extra services to Manchester Airport.

An Interim Solution

Not only Rochdale, but other towns and cities across the North like Bradford moan about lack of a direct service to and from Manchester Airport.

So what would I do?

Ban Freight Trains Through The Castlefield Corridor

This may not be possible, but it should be a long term objective.

It will cost money, but it would release capacity through the Castlefield Corridor.

Ban Trains Without Level Access At Stations In The Castlefield Corridor

I know that Northern and TransPennine have just bought a load of new trains, but they make matters worse in the stations through the Castlefield Corridor.

All Trains To The Airport Must Be Eight Cars

This makes sense as it increases the capacity, but use the same number of paths.

  • Eight-car Class 379 trains – Stansted Express – 160 metres and 418 passengers
  • Five-car Class 802 trains – TransPennine Express – 130 metres and 342 passengers
  • Eight-car Class 331 trains – Northern – 190 metres and 568 passengers

It does appear that the new trains are also setting new standards for train length.

ERTMS Signalling Should Be Installed Between Manchester Victoria And Manchester Airport

ERTMS signalling would give more flexibility on the route.

Create A Manchester Airport Express

This has been suggested and would have the following characteristics.

  • Running between Manchester Airport and Manchester Victoria via Deansgate, Manchester Oxford Road and Manchester Piccadilly.
  • Eight cars
  • Airport-style interiors
  • Step-free access at all stations.
  • Four tph
  • Running twenty-four hours a day.
  • It would have step-free access to the Metrolink at Manchester Victoria, Deansgate and Manchester Piccadilly.

Ideally it would use dedicated platforms at Manchester Airport and Manchester Victoria. The platform at Victoria would hopefully have cross-platform interchange with services going through the station from East to West.

Reduce TransPennine Services To The Airport

TransPennine Express runs the following hourly services to the Airport

  • Cleethorpes via a reverse at Manchester Piccadilly.
  • Edinburgh or Glasgow via the Castlefield Corridor
  • Middlesborough via the Castlefield Corridor
  • Newcastle via the Castlefield Corridor

Why not cut-back either the Newcastle or Middlesborough service to Manchester Victoria and make sure it has good cross-platform access to the Manchester Airport Express?

These services are regularly cut-back anyway due to the congestion.

Demolish Manchester Oxford Road Station And Build A Station That’s Fit For Purpose

Manchester Oxford Road is one of ultimate design crimes on the UK Rail network.

  • The new or refurbished station would be step-free.
  • Platforms would be able to accept two hundred metre long trains.
  • A well-designed bay platform would be provided to turn trains from the North efficiently.
  • Up to four tph could probably be turned back.

Network Rail do station and track layout design generally very well and I’m sure that a redesigned Oxford Road station could improve capacity through the Castlefield Corridor.

Improve Deansgate And Manchester Piccadilly Stations

If longer trains are to be run through the Castlefield Corridor, then the platforms at these two stations will need lengthening and passenger access will need to be improved.

Is There A Place For Tram-Trains?

Manchester are keen on using tram-trains to improve the Metrolink network.

This map clipped from Wikipedia shows the layout of the Metrolink in the City Centre.

Note.

  1. Manchester Piccadilly, Deansgate and Manchester Victoria all have step-free connections to the trains to and from Manchester Airport.
  2. The new Trafford Line will branch off at Pomona.

I think it is likely, that any new lines run by tram-trains will pass through at least one of the connecting stations.

This will increase the list of places that will have good access with a single change to and from Manchester Airport.

Conclusion

There would appear to be a lot of scope to create a high-capacity link between Manchester and the Airport.

But it does appear that the current timetable leaves little or no room to expand the service.

That is why, I believe a simpler but higher capacity service, based on a Manchester Airport Express could be developed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 5, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Chaotic Morning Peak Across The Pennines

I had intended to ride in one of TransPennine Express’s new trains that are formed of a rake of Mark 5A coaches hauled by a Class 68 locomotive.

As they run between Liverpool Lime Street and Scarbough, I thought it best to buy a return ticket between Manchester Victoria and Leeds.

Problem Number 1 – Northern’s Ticket Machine

Northern’s new ticket machines are fine when they work, but for some reason they wouldn’t respond to my fingers.

I find this with some touch screens, which are mainly in Sweden or IKEA in the UK.

So I bought a ticket from the ticket office intending to catch the next Scarborough train.

This had also happened the day before at Leeds.

Problem Number 2 – The Scarborough Train Didn’t Arrive

As the Scarborough train didn’t arrive, I gave up and took the Newcastle train towards Leeds.

Problem Number 3 – Overcrowding At Huddersfield

I took this picture of the crowds at Huddersfield.

My phone was telling me that the Scarborough train was behind my Newcastle train, so I decided to change at Huddersfield.

But I made a mistake and got on a very crowded train, that was going to Hull via Leeds.

I had to stand to Leeds, but at least I got a roomy and safe standing space.

Problem Number 4 – Class 185 Trains

.The Class 185 trains are just three-cars and totally inadequate for the route.

The  trains were ordered in 2003 and were delivered in 2006-2007.

If you read the section entitled Overcrowding And Passenger Feedback, in the Wikipedia entry for the trains., you’ll see from the early days, these trains did not have enough capacity for the route.

I blame the Treasury under Gordon Brown, who specified the trains and as with Class 700 trains, which were also specified by the Treasury, there are serious shortcomings.

Considering that among other routes at this time, the London and Norwich route was being run by eight car trains, what in heaven were they thinking about.

But it was only the North of England! And not London or Scotland!

Problem Number 5 – Crowded Leeds Station

Leeds station was crowded as ever, but it wasn’t helped by an escalator being broken down.

I had hoped, that I would have enough time to go to Harrogate, but I felt as it was all so slow, that it was best to go back to Manchester Victoria station, grab something to eat and then go on to Liverpool Lime Street station, which was my intended destination.

Problem Number 6 – Ticket Machine At Leeds Station

I needed a Single from Leeds to Liverpool Lime Street and try as I might, I couldn’t find it on the machine, so I resorted to the Ticket Office again.

Problem Number 7 – Train Failure At Manchester Victoria Station

The train from Leeds to Manchester Victoria was another Class 185 train and I did get a seat.

But where was the new five-car rake of Mark 5A coaches and a Class 68 locomotive?

I did successfully split my journey at Manchester Victoria station, but there seemed to be problems, so I thought I’d go on immediately to Liverpool and arrive in the city with an hour to spare for my meeting.

As if things could be so simple!

A Class 185 train had failed in the platform and it was nearly an hour, before I got away to Liverpool in a train, that arrived in the bay platform 2, which to get to the West, had to come out of the station and reverse. I suspect TransPennine Express were using a driver in both cabs or driving it from the Liverpool-facing cab at all time.

Problem Number 8 – Late Arrival Into Liverpool Lime Street

I arrived in Liverpool about fifteen minutes late for my meeting, with the rain chucking it down, after it being dry in Manchester.

The weather in itself must be unusual!

My Observations

I was having a text conversation with a friend in London and these were my observations to him, with a few other points added by hindsight.

1. Northern’s Ticket Machines

These need reeducation and the dry-finger problem that I suffer with the screens must be fixed.

2. Northern’s Ticket Offices

Northern needs to open more ticket office windows.

3. Where Is The London-Style Contactless Ticketing?

London has proven, that contactless ticketing based on bank cards increases passenger numbers and revenue and has a high level of passenger satisfaction.

\The area of the North between Liverpool and Blackpool in the West and Leeds and Sheffield in the East is in terms of passenger numbers smaller than London’s contactless ticketing area.

I think there are two reasons, why it doesn’t exist now or in the near future.

  • The trains are not big enough to cope with the increased traffic.
  • It will result in a reduction of ticket offices and their staff and those in charge are frightened of the RMT.

So visitors like me have to suffer an inadequate ticketing system because of timid management.

4. Buying Tickets In The North In The Future

In future, when I go to the North, I’ll plan my journey in detail and buy my tickets from the intelligent and extremely customer-friendly ticket machines in Dalston Junction station.

It’s strange that both Northern and the London Overground are run by Arriva. How can one get it so right and the other so wrong?

Perhaps it’s because the London Overground only deals with one organisation; Transport for London and Northern deals with a myriad rabble of councillors, MPs, pressure groups, all fighting their own corners.

5. All Trains Must Be At Least Six Cars

More capacity is needed and as there is a lack of train paths across the Pennines, because of lack of investment in the tracks for decades, starting with that enemy of the train; Harold Wilson.The simplest way to increase to increase capacity is to make all trains at least six cars.

But I would go father than that.

  • Trains running across the Pennines should all be identical.
  • Capable of at least 100 mph.
  • Capable of 125 mph, when the route includes the West or East Coast Main Lines.
  • Fast acceleration away from stops.
  • Identical door configuration with wide double doors on all trains.
  • Level access between train and platform.
  • Short dwell times in stopping stations.

Identical trains improve timekeeping and give a better service to passengers.

If you look at the Paddington and Oxford service it is now run virtually exclusively using Class 800 or 802 trains. I feel as an occasional passenger that it has improved dramatically, in terms of capacity, comfort and reliability for passengers.

6. What Idiot Decided To Buy Three Different Fleets For TransPennine Express?

The sister company of TransPennine Express is Great Western Railway.

Great Western Railway’s main line services are run by two fleets of trains.

As some of the Class 387 trains are being converted for Heathrow Express and Crossrail are taking over London and Reading services, I can see a time, when all fast services that go to and from Paddington through Reading will be run by the Hitachi trains.

Consider.

  • West of Heathrow, the fast lines are reserved for the 125 mph Hitachi trains.
  • The 110 mph Class 387 trains to and from Heathrow, don’t get in the way of the faster Hitachi trains.
  • Applying digital signalling to increase paths on the fast lines is easier with identical trains.
  • Driver training and rostering must be simpler.

It’s not perfect, but it’s an arrangement that can be made to work well.

If a unified fleet is so good, why did TransPennine Express buy three separate fleets?

Class 802 Trains

Nineteen Class 802 trains will be used for these services.

  • Liverpool Lime Street to Edinburgh Waverley via Newcastle (from December 2019)
  • Liverpool Lime Street to Newcastle (until December 2019)
  • Manchester Airport to Newcastle

This seems to be a sensible and obvious choice.

  • A five-car Class 802 train has eighty percent more seats than a three-car Class 185 train.
  • A five-car Class 802 train is shorter than a pair of Class 185 trains.
  • The trains are 125 mph trains, that can be upgraded to 140 mph with digital in-cab signalling.
  • FirstGroup must have a large amount of experience of running Class 802 trains.
  • Class 802 trains have an automatic split and join facility.
  • East Coast Trains, Hull Trains and LNER will be running similar Hitachi trains on the East Coast Main Line.

In addition the fleet is future-proofed in two important ways.

  • If the TransPennine route is ever electrified, their diesel engines can be removed.
  • Extra cars can be added to Class 802 trains to increase capacity

Using Class 802 trains is an excellent choice.

Class 68 Locomotive And Mark 5A Coaches

Twelve rakes of four Mark 5A coaches between a Class 68 locomotive and a driving van trailer, will run these routes.

  • Liverpool Lime Street to Scarborough via Manchester Victoria.
  • Manchester Airport to Redcar Central (In 2019).

I wonder why these services aren’t going to be run by another twelve Class 802 trains.

Consider.

  • Pollution would be reduced and the air improved in the electrified Liverpool Lime Street, Manchester Airport and Manchester Airport stations,  if TransPennine used Class 802 trains on all services from the station.
  • Drivers on the routes across the Pennines would more often be driving the same trains.
  • The Class 802  trains are in service on the East Coast Main Line, which must make timekeeping better.
  • The Class 802 trains can be upgraded to work at 140 mph on the East Coast Main Line.

It’s rather strange!

Class 397 Trains

Twelve Class 397 trains will be replacing ten Class 350 trains.

  • The extra two trains are to provide a Liverpool and Glasgow service.
  • The Class 397 trains have an extra car over the Class 350 trains.
  • The seating capacity of both trains is 296.
  • The Class 397 trains are 125 mph trains, which can mix it with Virgin’s Pendelinos.
  • The Class 350 trains are only 110 mph trains, which must get in the way of the Pendelionos.
  • I suspect that the Class 397 trains can be upgraded to 140 mph in the future.

The Class 350 trains needed to be increased and replaced with a 125 mph train.

But why aren’t they being replaced with more Class 802 trains?

  • The Class 802 train is already in service.
  • The Class 802 train has 326 seats as against the 296 of the Class 397 train.
  • TransPennineExpress are already buying nineteen Class 802 trains.
  • If required, an all-electric version could be ordered.
  • West Coast Rail plan to run Hitachi trains on the West Coast Main Line.

It’s rather a puzzle, why TransPennine Express has ordered Class 397 trains, as everything suggests that Class 802 trains could run West Coast services.

All Three Fleets Use The Castlefield Corridor

Believe it or not, but TransPennine Express plan to run these services through the Castlefield Corridor.

  • Manchester Airport and Glasgow/Edinburgh – Class 397 trains.
  • Manchester Airport and Newcastle – Class 802 trains
  • Manchester Airport to Redcar Central – Mark 5A coaches.

Three routes and three different trains!

Was this timetable chosen to confuse staff and passengers?

Possible Reasons For Three Fleets

The only valid reason is that the Hitachi trains can’t work in Scotland.

But it is more likely to do with production schedules at Hitachi or that the fleets were bought by accountants, with very little brain!

I did notice this statement in the Wikipedia entry for the Class 397 trains.

An option for up to 22 extra units was available to TransPennine Express, but it was not exercised.

As 22 trains is close to the nineteen Class 802 trains that were ordered, were TransPennine Express trying to buy a totally-CAF fleet?

7. Track Speed Should Be Improved

Track speeds are slow compared to say the the Great Eastern Main Line,

Improving the track to allow faster speeds may be one of the best decisions to take.

8. There Should Be Better Platform Access At Manchester Victoria And Leeds Stations

These two stations don’t have the best access to the platforms..

They should be improved with more escalators, so that passengers changing trains don’t miss their connections.

Conclusion

Money needs to be spent to remove some of the chaos and constipation in the North.

 

 

 

 

I

 

November 6, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Still Going For A Quart In A Pint Pot

The title of this post is the same as that of an artticle in the November 2019 Edition of Modern Railways.

The article describes the problems of running trains through the Castlefield Corridor through Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Oxford Road and Deansgate stations.

It is a comprehensive article, that gets to the heart of the problem of the route.

It comes to the conclusion, that there is a need for either more infrastructure or less trains, than the current fifteen trains per hour (tph).

Under more infrastructure, the author lists these projects.

  1. Grade separated junctions at Castlefield and other junctions.
  2. A centre turnback at Manchester Oxford Road station.
  3. A West-facing bay platform at Manchester Victoria
  4. Four through platforms at Manchester Oxford Road and Manchester Piccadilly.
  5. Improvement at Manchester Airport station.

These points should be noted.

  • Options One and Four will be expensive and will probably cause massive disruption during construction for both rail and road traffic.
  • The author suspects Option Four would cost almost a billion pounds and would need the grade-separated junctions to get best value.

I shall deal with options Two, Three and Five later.

Trains Through The Castlefield Corridor

Current passenger trains through the Castlefield Corridor are as follows.

  • East Midlands Railway – One tph – Liverpool Lime Street and Norwich
  • Northern – One tph – Hazel Grove and Blackpool
  • Northern – One tph – Liverpool Lime Street and Crewe
  • Northern – Two tph – Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Oxford Road
  • Northern – One tph – Manchester Airport and Blackpool
  • Northern – One tph – Manchester Airport and Cumbria
  • Northern – One tph – Manchester Airport and Liverpool Lime Street
  • Northern – One tph – Wigan North Western and Alderly Edge
  • Trains for Wales – One tph – Manchester Airport and Llandudno
  • TransPennine Express – One tph – Manchester Airport and Middlesbrough
  • TransPennine Express – One tph – Manchester Airport and Newcastle
  • TransPennine Express – One tph – Manchester Airport and Glasgow Central or Edinburgh

This gives the following totals.

  • Eleven tph – Deansgate and Manchester Piccadilly
  • Two tph – Deansgate and Manchester Oxford Road

Add in a couple of freight trains and that gives 15 tph, which according to the author is the design limit.

These are frequencies from Manchester Airport.

  • There are seven tph between Manchester Airport and Oxford Road via Piccadilly.
  • There are three tph between Manchester Airport and Preston via Piccadilly and Oxford Road.
  • There are two tph between Manchester Airport and Leeds via Piccadilly, Oxford Road and Victoria.

The author of the article also points out that Bradford is pushing for a direct service to Manchester Airport.

Frequency is important, but so is train length.

  • Transpennine Express services will generally be five cars in the future.
  • East Midlands Railway, Northern and Trains for Wales services will be between two and four cars.

Nothing too taxing to handle here, although Northern might decide to double trains of eight cars at times.

Comparison Of The Castlefield Corridor And The East London Line

Consider these facts about the Castlefield Corridor

  • Four Southern routings; Crewe, Hazel Grove, Stockport and Manchester Airport.
  • Five Northern routings; Bolton, Liverpool, Manchester Victoria, Trafford Park and Wigan North Western
  • Fifteen tph of which thirteen tph are passenger trains.
  • Three stations designed by Topsy, two of which are step-free.
  • Not step-free between train and platform.
  • Three interchange stations.
  • Conventional signalling.
  • Fully electrified with 25 KVAC overhead.
  • Four train companies, with at least four types of passenger train.
  • Bad timekeeping.
  • Low customer satisfaction.

For comparison, consider these facts about the East London Line between Shoreditch High Street and Surrey Quays stations.

  • Four Southern routings; Clapham Junction, Crystal Palace, New Cross and West Croydon.
  • Two Northern routings; Dalston Junction and Highbury & Islington
  • Sixteen tph of which all are passenger trains. Soon to be raised to twenty tph.
  • Seven stations designed by various architects, two of which are step-free, with Whitechapel to soon make this three step-free.
  • Some stations are step-free between train and platform.
  • Two interchange stations.
  • More bespoke signalling.
  • Fully electrified with 750 VDC third rail.
  • One train company and one type of passenger train.
  • Good timekeeping.
  • High customer satisfaction.

The route complexity and frequencies are fairly similar, so what are the big differences?

  • Is the East London Line’s signalling better?
  • The East london Line doesn’t have freight trains.
  • Does one type of train with wide doors and walk-through interiors, work wonders?
  • Does London’s step-free between train and platform make a difference?

I think the following actions should be looked at for the Castlefield Corridor.

  • Modern digital signalling.
  • All Northern services to be run using Class 195 or Class 331 trains, which look the same to passengers, despite one being electric and the other diesel.
  • TransPennine Express will be running three different type of train all with single doors, through the Castlefield Corridor. Ways of reducing the number of types must be found.

What idiot decided to buy three incompatible fleets? Surely, an order for a larger number of Hitachi trains would have been better?

My Behaviour In Manchester

I know Manchester’s trams and trains, but I haven’t a clue about the City’s buses, which seem to be reserved for the locals.

I regularly find myself using stations in the Castlefield Corridor and I have developed certain rules.

  • Never use Oxford Road, unless you’re lost and end up there by chance. It must be the worst designed modern station in Europe.
  • Never use the route unless you’ve already bought the ticket some time before.
  • Use Deansgate if possible, as it has a good connection to Manchester Metrolink.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to catch a train from platforms 13 and 14 at Piccadilly.
  • Make sure you know what platform your train is using at Piccadilly.

I also tend to avoid catching any train from platform 13 or 14 at Piccadilly.

Passenger Problems On Platforms 13 and 14 At Manchester Piccadilly

One of the reasons, I avoid these platforms, is that they are always crowded and at weekends, there seems to be a lot of occasional travellers, often with heavy cases and babies in buggies.

I remember having a chat with a station guy there in a quiet time and it turned out that he’d also worked on platforms on the London Underground.

One point he made was that Londoners get back from the platform edge, when told, but Mancunians are slower to act.

He said trains were often delayed because of passengers struggling to get on.

Could Other Actions Be Taken To Ease The Overcrowding?

These are various ideas suggested in the article or some of my own.

Run Less Trains Through The Castlefield Corridor

This would ease the problem, but it would make it more difficult for passengers to travel where they wanted and needed.

Build A Centre Turnback At Manchester Oxford Road

Consider

  • It would mean that trains turning back at Oxford Road, wouldn’t have to cross tracks, entering or leaving the turnback.
  • It could probably turn up to four tph.
  • It might also help in service recovery.

The author obviously likes this idea and I suspect it is possible, because he mentions it more than once.

Completely Rebuild Manchester Oxford Road Station

Manchester Oxford Road is certainly not fit for purpose.

This is an extract from the Wikipedia entry.

The station, a Grade II listed structure, requires frequent maintenance. In 2004, the station roof was partially refurbished to prevent leaking. In 2011, the platform shelters, seats and toilets were refurbished at a cost of £500,000.[36] In 2013, the station received a £1.8 million renovation to improve access, including lifts and an emergency exit.

In my view, the station needs the following.

  • Step-free access.
  • Longer platforms.
  • Higher capacity platforms.
  • Much better signage and maps.
  • The turnback described earlier.

No wonder I avoid it like the plague.

A completely rebuilt station with excellent step-free access might encourage more passengers to use the station, rather than the overcrowded Piccadilly.

Improve Deansgate Station

Deansgate station is not bad, but it could be improved to encourage more passengers.

Over the next few years, as the Metroilink expands, It could become a better interchange.

Step-Free Access Between Train And Platform Must Be Achieved

This picture shows access to a new Class 195 train at Manchester Airport.

With new trains, there is no excuse for not having level access, where someone in a wheelchair can just wheel themselves across.

Level access should reduce loading delays, as it eases loading of buggies, wheelchairs and wheeled cases.

If Merseyrail, Greater Anglia and some parts of the London Overground can arrange it, then surely Manchester can?

Nova Problem

The author also talks about possible problems with TransPennine’s new Nova trains, which have single end doors, which could prove inadequate in busy times.

Build A West-Facing Bay Platform At Manchester Victoria Station

The author suggests this could be used to run a frequent shuttle service between Manchester Victoria and Manchester Airport via Deansgate, Oxford Road and Piccadilly.

It might mean that TransPennine services stopped short in Manchester and passengers would change for the Airport.

But it would solve the problems of the capacity in the Castlefield Corridor and platform availability at Manchester Airport

Could Passengers Be Nudged Towards The Metrolink?

I have watched the sheer number of passengers delay trains at Manchester Piccadilly, several times.

Would it ease delays if passengers used the Metrolink to Manchester Airport?

Perhaps, the journey by Metrolink could be made more affordable?

Conclusion

It’s a mess and as the author says in his title, quarts don’t fit into pint pots.

At least though, if High Speed Two is built to link up with Northern Powerhouse Rail and together they run London, Birmingham or Liverpool to Hull via Manchester Airport, Manchester City Centre, Huddersfield, Bradford and Leeds, this would solve the problem of the Castlefield Corridor by bypassing it for long-distance trains.

 

 

 

October 27, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments