The Anonymous Widower

Is It Back To The Future In Manchester?

In the 1970s British Rail, proposed three tunnel projects in the North

  • A Loop and Link  in Liverpool that linked railways from North, South and the Wirral underneath the City Centre.
  • A tunnel under Newcastle.
  • The Picc-Vic Tunnel,  under Manchester.

All three tunnels were designed to connect the railways on both sides of the cities.

  • Liverpool got the much-loved and successful Northern and Wirral Lines of Merseyrail in 1977.
  • Newcastle got the much-loved and successful Tyne and Wear Metro in 1980.
  • Manchester got nothing, as Harold Wilson cancelled it, like Maplin Airport and the Channel Tunnel.

Am I right in thinking that the Channel Tunnel was resurrected later and opened in 1994? It is now much-loved and successful!

Finally, the Government and a lot of opposition MPs and unions have decided that Maplin be replaced by a third runway at Heathrow.

Will that be cancelled by Boris, David, Jeremy, Ruth or Vince?

Today, this article has been published on Rail Magazine, which is entitled Option For Underground Station At Manchester Piccadilly.

Apparently, to integrate Northern Powerhouse Rail into the HS2 station at Manchester Piccadiily station, one option is to go underground.

So are those ideas and surveys of the 1970s being looked at for a solution?


July 9, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Getlink Pushes Budget Train Service Between London And Paris To Rival Eurostar

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on I-News.

Getlink is the infrastructure company, who actually own the tunnel and they have commissioned research into the idea, as this paragraph indicates.

Currently, Eurostar trips take around 2.2o hours and depart from St Pancras. The new link between Stratford and Paris would take just over three hours, but 25-30 per cent lower operating costs would mean lower fares for passengers. The numbers come from consultancy firm Roland Berger, and was commissioned by Getlink.

Elsewhere, the article says that the service will go to Roissy, which would be convenient for Charles de Gaulle Airport.

I do wonder, if someone has their eye on a couple of Eurostar’s retired Class 373 trains.

In 2011, I posted  about an idea for a Trans Manche Metro.


July 7, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Eurostar Platforms At Waterloo Station Are Being Brought Back Into Use

When travelling to Shepperton, I walked from Waterloo East station to the balcony at Waterloo station.

You get a good view of the disused Eurostar plaforms, which are being brought back into use.

I also took a few as my train left the station.

At least this monument to bad planning of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, is being put to a laudable use of providing more capacity at Waterloo.

There’s some more pictures from before the work started in Waterloo’s Blue Elephant.

October 31, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 2 Comments

Is This French Punishment For Brexiters?

This article on the BBC web site is entitled Dover ferry port passengers hit by traffic chaos. This is said.

Holidaymakers have been hit by delays of up to 12 hours through Kent to get to the Port of Dover, with many being stuck in traffic overnight.
Port authorities said delays built up due to French border checkpoints being understaffed overnight during heightened security levels.

There’s always some problem with the French and the Channel every summer.

But this summer it appears to be worse!

Could it be that the French are showing Brexiters, that they control the border?

After all, we never seem to get a problem with the Belgians!

The strange thing last night, as I came in from Brussels on Eurostar, was that there was some form of overcrowding in the terminal at St. Pancras.


July 23, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 2 Comments

Crossrail Extension To Gravesend

A possible Crossrail Extension to Gravesend has been safeguarded, although  because Crossrail doesn’t call at St. Pancras for Eurostar, I feel that extending Crossrail to Ebbsfleet International station to catch Continental trains there, would be part of any extension to Gravesend.

This Google Map shows both Ebbsfleet International and Gravesend stations.

Ebbsfleet International And Gravesend Stations

Ebbsfleet International And Gravesend Stations

Ebbsfleet International is to the West and Gravesend is to the East.

There would have to be some major construction work, but it would probably be feasible.

However this Google Map of Gravesend Station shows a serious problem.

Gravesend Station

Gravesend Station

As can be seen, it is a very cramped site. These pictures show the station.

I doubt any extension to Gravesend will terminate at Gravesend station.

There is a page on the Crossrail web site, which is entitled Safeguarding. This is said.

An additional extension from Abbey Wood to Gravesend and Hoo Junction, has been safeguarded however there are no current plans to extend the railway beyond the route currently identified.

This is a Google Map of the Hoo Junction area to the East of Gravesend.

Hoo Junction

Hoo Junction

Currently, it is occupied by a freight yard. It certainly could be used as the terminus, but it is about ten kilometres East of Ebbsfleet International station.

So could a train on the North Kent Line that runs from the current Crossrail terminus at Abbey Wood to Gravesend, do a detour to Ebbsfleet International?

This Google Map shows the lines in the Ebbsfleet International area.

Lines Around Ebbsfleet

Lines Around Ebbsfleet

The North Kent Line starts in the top left at Swanscombe station, crosses over the lines into Ebbsfleet International. It then goes through Northfleet station, before going off in a South-Easterly direction to Gravesend.

A connection could surely be built so that after passing Swanscombe station, the trains on the North Kent Line could pass through Ebbsfleet International, rather than through Northfleet station.

An alternative would be to provide a proper connection perhaps using a travelator between Northfleet and Ebbsfleet International stations.

One problem to sort out would be the level of services through Abbey Wood, that continue on to Ebbsfleet International and Gravesend.



December 1, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 5 Comments

Should We Increase Rail Freight To Avoid Calais And The Migrants?

The BBC has quoted the French Police Chief at Calais as saying that the number of trucks trying to use the ferries and Eurotunnel has dropped.

Is this because it’s now the Summer holidays and the drivers have flown to their holidays or could it be that at last the needs of freight transport between the UK and Europe are being increasingly fulfilled by the obvious alternative, that hopefully would be totally useless to the migrants? – Direct freight trains between UK and Europe.

I wrote on this in December 2014 calling the post, Would Reorganising Cross-Channel Freight Cut Illegal Migration?

I stand by what I said then.

You have to remember, that a lot of freight flows between the UK and Europe are large and predicable. This is a few freight categories that I know go by rail over the channel.

  1. Car components including complete engines for Ford and BMW.
  2. Complete vehicles. Four years ago, you didn’t see car trains on the Gospel Oak to Barking and North London Lines, but now they are quite common.
  3. Fresh fruit from Spain to the UK.
  4. Steel products for Tata Group between Wales and The Netherlands

Are cargoes like Scottish fish and meat from all parts of the UK something that will be going on that list? These would only need refrigerated containers, that you see all over the railways. With meat too, there are no welfare issues and as a beef farmer once told me, dead carcasses pack three times better in a refrigerated truck, than livestock.


I have also found this informative article on the DB Schenker web site. It isn’t dated unfortunately, but it makes a lot of general points. This is the first two paragraphs.

When the Channel Tunnel between Calais in northern France and Folkstone on the southeastern coast of England opened in 1995, many forecasted a bright future for rail freight transport between Great Britain and continental Europe. An enormous amount of effort and money went into the construction of the two-track rail tunnel. The high hopes for the groundbreaking project have not yet been met, however. In fact, only 1.1 million metric tons of freight was transported by rail via the tunnel under the English Channel in 2010, less than before the 50-km tunnel opened.

High prices in particular have prevented rail freight transport from making greater use of the tunnel. Competition between freight forwarders that use the truck shuttle has kept prices in check. Eurotunnel charges a higher, constant price for block trains, however, and as a result, only a few providers can afford the transfer.

The last part in particular blames the high charges and the charging method  of Eurotunnel. Governments should apply pressure here.

The article does talk about problems with the UK loading gauge, which hopefully are being fully addressed now.

At least thought freight trains between the UK and Europe can now get from Barking in East London to virtually anywhere in Europe.

Perhaps, the UK Government should use taxation and tax relief to encourage more freight flows across the Channel to go on freight trains.

The losers would be UK haulage firms and drivers, but they can’t find Cross-Channel trade very profitable and stress-free at the moment.

August 1, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Should We Link HS2 And HS1?

According to this article on the Global Rail News web site, there has been speculation over the weekend in the Press that there will be a direct link between HS1 and HS2.

There are two main reasons why the HS1 and HS2 should be directly linked.

Obviously, in a decade or so, it would be very nice to get on a train in Birmingham and then be in Paris or Brussels without changing trains in under three hours.

Within a decade, the amount of freight going between the Midlands, North and Scotland, and the Channel Tunnel and the ports in the Thames Estuary is going to have grown substantially! So if HS1 was connected to HS2 and the West Coast Main Line by a full-size tunnel, the freight trains could be diverted deep under London. This would free-up the North London and the Gospel Oak to Barking Lines for much-needed passenger services.

A few years ago, digging a full size tunnel between HS1 under Islington to say Old Oak Common would have been an immensely difficult project, but Crossrail and other tunnelling projects around the world have changed all that.

My insight into the minds of those who create these big projects, makes me think, that if HS1 and HS2 are linked directly, it will be used for other purposes.

But above all we must boldly go!

July 13, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Crossrail And The Channel Tunnel Rail Link Compared

The differences between the ventilation and access shafts in Crossrail and the Channel Tunnel Rail Link seem to be more than you would think.

Those in the newer tunnel appear to be smaller and possibly lesser in number. Certainly after a redesigned Crossrail abandoned eight further shafts, which must have been a substantial saving.

Perhaps too, as Crossrail has stations in its tunnels under London, the number of shafts can be reduced.

If you look at the pictures of the five Channel Tunnel ventilation shafts, you will see a series of brutal brick towers more equivalent to Napoleonic War defence installations, than anything built in this century. None of those for Crossrail have yet been built, but they seem to be innovative structures that enhance rather than confront their environment. This page on the Fereday-Pollard web site shows a few concepts. I particularly like this visualisation of the concept for the ventilation shaft in Mile End Park.

Mile End Park Ventilation Shaft

Mile End Park Ventilation Shaft

This is another almost cheeky concept from this page on the Acanthus Architects web site.

Crossrail Ventilation Shaft By Acanthus

Crossrail Ventilation Shaft By Acanthus

This Google Earth image may show the location of this ventilation shaft.

Ranelagh And Westbourne Bridges

Ranelagh And Westbourne Bridges

The shaft is above the Royal Oak portal by the elevated A40 Westway between Ranelagh and Westbourne Bridges over the Great Western Main Line into Paddington station.

I think it all points to Crossrail 2 being simpler still! But then with my experience of watching projects for many years, as each version of a series of similar projects gets implemented, the engineers and managers ratchet up the design quality, speed of construction and efficiency.

April 12, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

The Ventilation Shafts For The Channel Tunnel Rail Link


This post is being developed together with a related one of the ventilation shafts for Crossrail, to show the sort of buildings we can expect to be created to provide access to new rail tunnels under London and other cities.

As I travel around the city, I will be adding more pictures and when I think the details are complete, I’ll add a summary.

The Channel Tunnel Rail Link goes from Ebbsfleet to St. Pancras in two twin tunnels, which both surface on either side of Stratford International station.

The twin tunnels have to have ventilation and emergency access shafts and there are five of them for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. From East to West approaching London they are as follows.

1. Wayside Ventilation Shaft

This shaft is in Barking and can be seen on this Google Earth image.

Wayside Ventilation Shaft

Wayside Ventilation Shaft

The shaft is nestled in the angle of where the A13 crosses the London Tilbury and Southend Line.

This page on the Bell Johnson web site, gives an interesting insight into the design of the shaft. There is also an image taken during construction.

Waysite Ventilation Shaft Under Construction

Waysite Ventilation Shaft Under Construction

The picture was taken from the east and clearly shows the road and the railway. These images were taken from a train.

The ventilation shaft is to the west of Dagenham Dock station, which is where I turned round to come back into London. As the station is in Zone 5, it is Freedom Pass territory.

2. Barrington Road Ventilation Shaft

This shaft is to the west of Barking station and is shown in this Google Earth image.

Barrington Road Ventilation Shaft

Note that the shaft is to the north of the train lines going into Barking station and to the west of the A406 road. I took these pictures from trains passing through the area.

I reckon that you possibly get the best view of the building on top of the ventilation shaft from a eastbound, District or Metropolitan Line train with clean windows. Unless of course, you walk to the Barrington Playing Field from East Ham station.

3. Woodgrange Road Ventilation Shaft

This shaft is located south of Forest Gate station and is shown on this Google Earth image.

Woodgrange Road Ventilation Shaft

Woodgrange Road Ventilation Shaft

Forest Gate station is on the Great Eastern Main Line out of Liverpool Street and later next month, it will be taken over by Crossrail.

The shaft is directly underneath the station, but would appear to be more tucked away in buildings than the shafts at Wayside and Barrington Road.

It is also the only ventilation shaft for the tunnel, that doesn’t have a full elliptical building on top.

I tried to take a decent picture of the building, but you can only see one side between the houses.

The only point to note, is that in a previous building on the site, Jimmi Hendrix wrote Purple Haze.

4. Graham Road Ventilation Shaft

This shaft is east of Dalston and just to the west of Hackney Central station, close to the North London Line, under which the Channel Tunnel Rail Link was bored.

It is shown on this Google Earth image.

Graham Road Ventilation Shaft


Note how it lies close to the curve that links the North London and Lea Valley Lines, just to the south-west of where the two lines cross, which in turn is to the west of Hackney Central station.

I was able to take these pictures from a train on the North London Line.

I shall attempt to take a few more.

5. Corsica Street Ventilation Shaft

This shaft is just east of Highbury and Islington station and is shown on this Google Earth image.

Corsica Street Ventilation Shaft

Corsica Street Ventilation Shaft

It is another shaft with an elliptical building on top, which you can see in the top-right corner of the image.

I was able to take these pictures.

Some were taken from Corsica Street looking through the gate and the others from passing trains.

These structures have more than a touch of the Martello Tower about them! Ironic really, as these ventilation shafts are there to help encourage the French to visit, whereas the Towers were built to repel Napoleon.





April 12, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , | 5 Comments

Should We Create A Northern Playground In Addition To A Northern Powerhouse?

George Osborne and other politicians, thinkers, academics and businessmen talk about creating a Northern Powerhouse.

I am very much in agreement to these aims, but from my London-based viewpoint, I tend to think that the North has a lot more to offer.

Two of the bigger successes of the North in recent years have been the reinvigoration of Liverpool as one of the best tourist destinations in the world and the Tour de France in Yorkshire in 2014.

So should any Northern Powerhouse plans, take more than a large nod to emphasising the leisure and tourism opportunities in the area?

The government’s plan for transport in the North released yesterday and discussed in this post, is fifty years too late and if it’s implemented, it will be some years, before High Speed Trains touch 140 mph on the way between Liverpool and Hull and Newcastle.

The high speed railway should remain an end objective, but in the mean time, we should do various things to make the wait bearable.

1. Electrification In The North

The Electrification in the North study recommended that virtually all lines north of a line drawn between Chester and Lincoln be electrified. A rolling program should be planned that virtually eliminates diesel-powered passenger and freight trains.

This would speed up services between all the major cities and also connect all of the wonderful rural lines that cross the Pennines and hug the coastline to major centres of population.

So this electrification program is just as much Northern Playground as Northern Powerhouse.

2. Contactless Ticketing

Plans for the North talk about an Oyster Card for the North. As so many Londoners will tell you, Oyster is old superseded technology and so last decade.

We need a universal contactless ticketing system based on bank cards that works all over the UK!

This would mean that you just turned up at any station, bus or tram stop in the UK, touched in and you’re off on your journey.

Those who doubt this is possible, should spend a week using their bank card as a ticket in Greater London. They will find a system totally devoid or hassle and cash, well-liked by both passengers and staff. It also automatically gives you the cheapest price for the collection of journeys you take over a day, week or month.

Leisure passengers by their more spasmodic and impulsive nature will benefit tremendously from simple contactless ticketing.

3. Maps And Information Everybody Can Understand

As London was first in the world with decent maps and also because it is so large, that no resident knows the whole city, London needs  comprehensive maps and travel information displayed everywhere in a common easily-understood and learned format.

As the combined population of the North of England is upwards of eleven million as against the eight of Greater London in a wider area, I suspect those in the North find themselves in an unknown area more often than those in Greater London.

So one thing that the North needs for both Playground and Powerhouse is a universal mapping and information system, which is the same all across the various parts of the North.

I feel that the North should use London’s system, which includes.

1, A detailed local walking map on every bus stop, tram stop and station.

2. Comprehensive bus information at every station.

3, A detailed bus spider map on every bus stop, tram stop and station.

4. A five digit number on every bus stop, which if sent as an SMS message to a short SMS number, gives details of the next few buses.

,I doubt that this will ever happen, as no council in the North would ever allow something to be used in exactly the same way as it is in London. Or if it was one of the larger cities, in the same format as another.

If the system relied on passengers having and using smart phones, then it should be prohibited.

But quite frankly, at the moment the information systems in the North are truly dreadful.

4. Two Hours From London

This is a list of the major cities of the North and typical fastest journey times by train to and from London.

Barnsley – 2:34 to 2:45 – Change at Sheffield

Blackburn – 2:56 – Change at Preston

Blackpool – 2:45 – Change at Preston

Bolton – 2:45 – Change at Manchester

Bradford – 2:49 to 2:52 – Change at Leeds

Burnley – 3:41 – Change at Preston

Darlington – 2:20 – Direct

Doncaster – 1:34 to 1:38 – Direct

Halifax – 2:48 – Direct/3:08 – Change at Leeds

Harrogate – 2:43 – Change at York or Leeds

Huddersfield- 2:52 to 2~:54 – Change at Manchester or Leeds

Hull – 2:33 – Direct

Leeds – 2:11 to 2:13 – Direct

Liverpool – 2:12 to 2:14 – Direct

Manchester – 2:07 to 2:09 – Direct

Middlesbrough – 2:57 to 2:59 – Change at Darlington

Newcastle – 2:50 – Direct

Preston – 2:08 – Direct

Rotherham – 2:16 to 2:28 – Change at Doncaster or Sheffield

Sheffield – 2:01 – Direct

Stockport – 1:55 to 1:56 – Direct

Warrington – 1:44 – Direct

Wigan – 1:55 – Direct

York – 1:50 to 2:02 – Direct

This list shows several things.

1. Many of the direct journeys between London and the North could be brought consistently under two hours, once ERTMS allows 140 mph running on the East Coast Main Line and the West Coast Main Line in a few years time.

2. Electrification of the Midland Main Line to Sheffield will bring that city consistently under two hours from London, which will speed up the journey to Barnsley, Rotherham and other places.

3. Some destinations like Blackpool, Bradford, Huddersfield, Hull and Middlesbrough would get a significantly faster service to and from London, if there was no need to change.

If we get the expected speed up on the East and West Coast Main Lines, what sort of times will we get to the major cities in the North.

Adjusting for the probable speed increase from 125 to 140 mph. gives these estimates for the following journeys.

Darlington – 2:05

Doncaster -1:26

Hull – 2:17

Leeds – 1:57

Liverpool – 1:59

Manchester – 1:55

Newcastle – 2:32

Preston – 1:54

York 1:47

I think we can say that in a few years time, many more towns and cities in the North will be within two hours from London, which can only be beneficial to those places for both Powerhouse and Playground purposes.

I regularly go to the North for the day by train to see football. Some places like Middlesbrough and Blackburn are tiring journeys, but get them under two hours and leisure traffic can’t help but increase, especially, if there were more affordable good hotels and better late train services back to London..

5. Better Connectivity

More places could be brought under the important two hour ideal, if perhaps the east-west routes interfaced better with the north-south ones at places like Darlington, Doncaster, Leeds, Preston and York.

In an ideal world, a passenger from say London to Hull, should be able to step off a northbound train at Doncaster and just by walking across the platform to step on to a train for Hull. At the same time passengers from Sheffield and Rotherham going to Newcastle would just step across the platform the other way.

This may seem rather utopian, but precise timing of trains is what ERTMS is supposed to enable.

The easier it is to get between any two points in the North, the more things will be improved.

6. High Speed Lines Across The Country

When the upgrade and electrification of the Midland Main Line is completed in 2020, there will be three major 140 mph railways between London and the North.

To complement these there needs to be High Speed Lines across the country from say Liverpool to Hull and Newcastle.

Any east-west lines will connect with the north-south lines at places like Darlington, Doncaster, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Preston, Sheffield and York.

As I said in the previous section, there needs to be good interfaces between the two sets of lines to speed up journeys to stations that are a change away from the north-south lines.

At some point in the future, there will be a need for purpose-built High Speed Lines across the county.

But by the time this is done, I think tunnelling techniques will have improved to such a degree that instead of building a surface railway with all the planning and other difficulties that entails, a tunnel will be bored under the Pennines to connect Hull and Doncaster with Liverpool. The tunnel would be arranged to pass under major stations like Sheffield and Manchester Piccadilly and could connect to them by lifts and escalators.

Such a tunnel could be bored to a W10 loading gauge, so that it could transfer freight containers  under the Pennines to link Liverpool and the West Coast Main Line with the Electric Spine to Southampton and the East Coast Main Line to London Gateway and Felixstowe. I believe a high-capacity freight railway between east and west through the Pennines, will have the same effect as theFelixstowe-Nuneaton freight corridor has had on the A14.

This Google Earth image shows the towns and cities between Liverpool and Hull.

Liverpool To Hull

Liverpool To Hull

It may seem a long way to bore a tunnel even if it didn’t go all the distance, but we’re probably talking about 2030 and the machines then, will make today’s machines look like toys. The tunnel would probably start west of Manchester and go to east of Sheffield, which would be under fifty kilometres, connecting to Liverpool and Hull by means of surface lines.

Also if any new route could handle freight and link the Port of Liverpool to the east side of England this could have interesting possibilities.

For instance, would it be quicker for containerised freight from the United States and Canada to reach Germany and Central Europe if it went via Liverpool and a freight train through the Channel Tunnel?

Plans of this nature have existed for years, but none has ever been implemented. Some proposals for the Great Central Railway are given here.

It all goes to show that modern technology will create lots of options for putting a High Speed Line across the country.

Both Powerhouse and Playground will benefit.

March 21, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment