The Anonymous Widower

Capacity Crunch At Chester – Borderlands Line

The Capacity Crunch At Chester article in the July 2017 Edition of Modern Railways talked about the Borderlands Line.

The article says this about the line and the passenger service.

The line is currently worked by two ATW Class 150/2 Sprinter units, which do their best to maintain the clockface hourly frequency. The Wrexham-Bidston Rail Users Association told the Wales & Borders franchise inquiry performance is far from ideal, highlighting late running frequently leads to trains being turned back at Shotton, meaning they do not reach Bidston to connect with Merseyrail services to Liverpool and leaving lengthy gaps at intermediate stations in England.

The article then talks about electrifying the line, but Network Rail have indicated that this would cost £207million. Apparently, third-rail electriication now needs palisade fencing along the track.

Enter The Class 455 Flex Train

In The Class 319 Flex Units To Be Class 769, I commented on the report, that Porterbrook were also looking at converting Class 455 trains to bi-modes.

Consider.

  • These trains could probably work Merseyrail’s tunnels, as they are closely related to the current trains.
  • They have quality 2 x 2 interiors.
  • They meet all regulations.
  • Performance is similar to the current trains.
  • They are four-cars.
  • Porterbrook will have ninety-one trains to place, when South Western Railway replaces them with Aventras.

The only problem is that the interiors are very red, which might upset half of Merseyside.

But I think it is possible that we could see Class 455 Flex trains working the Borderlands Line.

  • From Wrexham to Bidston, they would use their on-board diesel engines.
  • At Bidston, they would change from diesel to third-rail electric power.
  • From Bidston to Liverpool, they would join the queue of trains from the Wirral and go round the newly-rebuilt Loop Line.

I’m pretty sure, that if Merseyrail have signalled the Loop appropriately, that there would be enough capacity in the Loop to run two trains per hour (tph) between Wrexham and Liverpool.

Based on the following current timings.

  • Liverpool Lime Street -to Bidston – 17 minutes
  • Bidston to Wrexham – 1 hour

With a few performance tweaks, I suspect that a Class 455 Flex train could do the round trip in well under three hours.

So three trains could easily handle the current hourly service, but would give the following advantages.

  • Direct access to Liverpool City Centre.
  • Four-cars instead of two.
  • A much better interior.

The only problem would be checking that the Class 455 trains would fit the tunnels in the Loop Line. But seeing, that  the Class 455 trains, were built as a successor to the Class 508 trains used by Merseyrail, I suspect they fit.

Could Class 319 Flex Trains Be Used?

The reason I looked at Class 455 Flex trains first is that in a article in the June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, which is entitled ‘319 Flex’ Units To Be Class 769, this is said.

The company reports considerable interest in the concept and expects further orders soon, while it is also considering transferring the concept to other rolling stock, such as Class 455 EMUs.

As Porterbrook will soon receiving around ninety of these trains from South Western Railway, these struck me as possibilities for the Borderlands Line.

If you look at Merseyrail’s current Class 507 and Class 508 trains, Class 455 trains and Class 319 trains, they all appear to have a similar 2.82 metre width and a 3.58 metre height.

So if Class 319 Flex trains could work the tunnels under Liverpool, what would this do to service on the Borderlands Line.

  • Their 90 mph as opposed to 75 mph operating speed could bring the round trip under two and a half hours.
  • Five trains would be needed for a 2 tph service.
  • Wrexham to Liverpool times of under an hour and fifteen minutes should be possible.
  • The better performance of the trains would allow extra stops to be made with ease.
  • The trains can have First Class seats and fully-accessible toilets.

In Wales Orders Some Golden Oldies, I noted how Arriva Trains Wales are acquiring five Class 319 Flex trains as cover for the refurbishment of Class 150 and Class 158 trains on the Cardiff Valley Lines.

So once all of these diesel trains have been refurbished, will we be seeing the Class 319 Flex trains moved to the Borderlands Line?

July 27, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Capacity Crunch At Chester – HS2

The Capacity Crunch At Chester article in the July 2017 Edition of Modern Railways didn’t say much about HS2.

This is said about HS2 services and North Wales.

There are aspirations in North Wales for additional services to Crewe by 2027, when HS2 is due to begin operating between London and Crewe.

This is said about Liverpool and Chester and HS2.

Liverpool City Region’s rail strategy envisages Chester-Crewe electrification enabling Merseyrail services to Crewe, connecting East Wirral and Ellesmere Port to HS2.

And then there is The Constellation Partnership.

This is a massive project to take advantage of the opportunities of Crewe being just 55 minutes away from London.

This is their mission statement.

This is a boundary breaking partnership between two Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP) and seven Local Authorities, with strong Ministerial backing from Government, and a unified fast-track approach to plan-led economic development, making it all the more powerful an investment proposition.

These partners share a single vision – a single economic footprint creating a coherent investment market boosted by the international investment magnet of High Speed Rail connectivity. This is an unbeatable growth opportunity for investors.

With powerful Government backing, the partnership’s ambition is to deliver 100,000 new homes and 120,000 new jobs by 2040.

The partners range from Stafford in the South to Warrington in the North and from Stoke-on-Trent in the East to Chester in the West.

Liverpool To Crewe Via Chester

Merseyrail’s new Stadler FLIRTs are being designed, so that they can eventually run on both 750 VDC third-rail and 25 KVAC overhead electrification, so if Crewe to Chester is electrified, Liverpool will get its wish of direct services from East Wirral and Ellesmere Port to Crewe.

Chester To Crewe

If the line is electrified, which I feel will happen, Chester to Crewe probably needs a service of four trains per hour (tph), to take passengers to HS2.

Two of these services will probably go to Liverpool and the other two to North Wales.

But because of the connectivity at Chester, services could also come from Shrewsbury or Wrexham.

Conclusion

Don’t underestimate the effects HS2 will have on trains in the Mersey Dee area.

July 17, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 1 Comment

Capacity Crunch At Chester

This is the title of an article by Rhodri Clark in the July 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, which discusses the various rail issues that will be tackled around the City of Chester.

This is the sub-title to the article.

Pressure is mounting for rail infrastructure and service enhancements to alleviate road congestion in the thriving Mersey Dee region.

The Modern Railways article discusses the following.

Halton Curve

HS2

Mid-Cheshire Line

Sandbach To Northwich

Each is discussed in separate posts.

July 16, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

Capacity Crunch At Chester – Mid-Cheshire Line

The Capacity Crunch At Chester article in the July 2017 Edition of Modern Railways has a section about the Mid-Cheshire Line.

The section opens with this paragraph.

Trains on the Mid-Cheshire Line, from Chester to Manchester via Stockport and Altrincham, provide interchange with Manchester Metrolink at Altrincham, but the average speed from Chester to Altrincham is 30 mph, which again is uncompetitive with car journey times.

Despite this and only an hourly service, Knutford station has in a footfall in excess of 500,000.

There are other problems.

  • The train timetable is not commuter-friendly to Chester.
  • Connections to and from London are bad at Chester.
  • Sunday services are two-hourly.

But Network Rail are on the case and are lengthening platforms, so frequencies can be increased.

Manchester Airport Western Link

The Wikipedia entry for the Mid-Cheshire Line talks about a western link to Manchjester Airport, which would start from near Mobberley.

Conclusion

Upgrading the Mid-Cheshire Line and Sandbach To Northwich must have possibilities.

July 16, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 2 Comments

Capacity Crunch At Chester – Sandbach To Northwich

The Capacity Crunch At Chester article in the July 2017 Edition of Modern Railways talks about reopening passenger services between Sandbach and Northwich stations on an existing freight-only line to serve Middlewich.

This is said.

The principal demand would be for travel to Manchester, but campaigners say an additional service from Middlewich to Chester would relieve the A556 of peak traffic congestion and serve tourists, including people who hire canal boats in Middlewich.

The proposal would also involve a new station at Gadbrook Park, a Business Improvement District near Northwich, where increasing numbers of people are employed.

In Looking For Holmes Chapel Road Station, I talked about a proposed Middlewich station.

Three factors will increase the chances of this route being reopened.

  • Class 769 trains (formerly Class 319 Flex trains) would be ideal for this route.
  • Track and signalling appear to be ready.
  • If the Mid-Cheshire Line is improved, this route could join it to Crewe.
  • The arrival of HS2 at Crewe in 2027.

This short route has a lot going for it.

Conclusion

I think this will be opened before 2027.

 

July 16, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 2 Comments

A Little Chord Goes A Long Way

This article in Rail Magazine is entitled Halton Curve Gets The Green Light.

I wrote about the Halton Curve in Could Tram-Trains Be Used To Advantage In Liverpool?  I said this in a section entitled Upgrading The Halton Curve

Funds have been made available to upgrade the Halton Curve, so that trains can reach Chester from Liverpool South Parkway via Runcorn.

The Halton Curve

The two blue squares indicate the two ends of the current single-track curve. The top one is where the curve leaves the Liverpool branch of the West Coast Main Line south of Runcorn station and the bottom one is where it joins the Chester to Manchester Line east of Frodsham.

The main reason for doing this would be to allow trains from Chester and North Wales better access to Liverpool Lime Street and South Parkway stations, and the John Lennon Airport.

As the Tier Two and Three electrification plans for the North as they effect Merseyside, includes full electrification of the lines around Chester, this would mean that an upgraded curve would be electrified.

There are probably good reasons to add an extra track to the curve, which would make it possible for Chester to be a new southern destination of the Northern Line.

The Rail Magazine article says this.

The Liverpool City Combined Authority has approved a range of projects aimed at improving travel across Merseyside, including reinstatement of the Halton Curve.

Also endorsed by the Welsh Government and by Cheshire West and Chester Council, bringing the line back into full use will entail an hourly direct service between Liverpool and Chester, and the extension of some services into Wales.

So just as the Todmorden Curve helped with the rail system around Burnley and the Ipswich Chord helped in Suffolk, will the Halton Curve help to develop the railways on Merseyside?

What is interesting about this decision, is that this appears to be a Liverpool decision, not one from Central Government.

Should more infrastructure decisions be devolved?

I think it’s very much a big yes!

April 27, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

A Good Trip to Crewe and Chester

It was a good trip, not only because Ipswich won and I was able to renew old memories in Chester, but also because of the little things that happened and that I discovered.

  • Virgin’s First Class lounges made travel in my condition a bit easier.
  • The Crewe Arms offered a comfortable bed and good coffee in the morning close to the station and the football.
  • I had a very good curry in Passage to India in Crewe.
  • The staff and stewards at Crewe Alexandra were pleasant and welcoming.
  • Real pubs still exist in the most unlikely places.
  • I got a nice complimentary gluten-free salad on the way back.  So Virgin can do gluten-free, despite what I said earlier

I shall definitely go to Crewe again, if Ipswich play there!

August 26, 2010 Posted by | Food, Sport, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Albion, Chester

I was walking the Chester city walls with the intention of going back to a nice restaurant in Bridge Street, when I saw this pub called the Albion.

The Albion, Chester

What had caught my eye was the various chalked boards on the outside of the building. This one which was readable from the walls, said that this could be pub that was to my taste.

Perfect Advertising for a Pub

So did the Albion live up to what it said on the outside.  I just had a half of cider to drink.  This could have been better, but then I come from Suffolk, where they make the best;Aspalls.  As they do sometimes have Adnams on draught, it shows how much the county of my conception is influencing the taste of discerning drinkers, all over these Isles.

As I said, I was ready for lunch, so I chose a cottage pie from the menu. 

Cottage Pie at the Albion

I suspect it was wrongly named as it is more of an individual house pie. It was of course gluten-free. It was certified by the pleasant barmaid, who said that her mother was a coeliac like me!

I should say that the Albion also does bed and breakfast, which if their beds are as well-proprtioned as the pies, might well be something.

August 26, 2010 Posted by | Food, Travel, World | , , , | 7 Comments

Chester Racecourse

Chester is one of the British Isles oldest racecourses and it is unique in that it is only a short circular track, just outside of the city walls.

Chester Racecourse from the Walls

C and myself had one of our biggest successes in racing at Chester when our horse, Debach Delight was second in the Cheshire Oaks. But that was over thirty years ago.

In those days to get to the racecourse was a long slog across to and then up the M6.  There was no A14 and it was stop-start all the way through Birmingham.

After this trip though on Virgin Trains, I wouldn’t drive, but would go to Milton Keynes and pick up a train direct to Chester.  There is plenty of parking at Milton Keynes, trains are every hour and they take about ninety minutes.

August 26, 2010 Posted by | Sport, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Chester’s Hydro-Electric Power Station

Ever since I first went to Chester and saw it on the Dee, I’ve always wondered about the hydro-electric power station by the bridge.

As you can see from these pictures it is not in use to gnerate power anymore,m but there is still the weir to funnel water through the sluices and turbines.

The weir which was built in the eleventh century isa Grade 1 Listed building and it might appear according to Wikipedia that they may be using the river to generate power again. The site certainly needs some restoration as the photos show.

August 26, 2010 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment