The Anonymous Widower

Should Some Thameslink Routes Be Transferred To Transport for London?

Some commentators and politicians advocate the transfer of some Thameslink services to Transport for London (TfL).

Thameslink has been designed as a single solution to multiple needs, with too much input from politicians worried about losing elections.

Split Fleets And Franchises

If you look at Greater Anglia, Great Western Railway and South Western Railway, who have a similar mix of services as do Thameslink, they have opted for split fleets with short-medium and long distance trains,designed for their tasks.

In the North of England, the short-medium routes are run by Northern and the long distance routes by TransPennine.

Transport for Wales has now split their fleet into three; South Wales Metro, North Wales Metro and long distance.

The Consequences Of Thameslink’s Single Fleet

Services with different needs are using one fleet of Class 700 trains.

Effectively, Thameslink are using a train more suitable for services between St. Albans and Wimbledon stations, on long distance services between Bedford, Cambridge and Peterborough, and destinations along the South Coast.

Going between Brighton and Cambridge stations on an ironing-board seat is not a pleasant experience, as I noted in Observations On Thameslink Between Brighton And Cambridge.

I believe that Thameslink could be split into two; short-medium and long distance routes.

Short-Medium Thameslink Routes

Currently of the twenty-four services planned in the Provisional Timetable, just four are short medium services that run all day.

If we apply the London Overground principle of four tph stopping at all stations, then the Sutton Loop services, are already working  to a version of this principle.

Could other services work to the Overground principle?

East Coast Main Line

On the East Coast Main Line, a terminal to the North of Welwyn Garden City station is probably impossible, due to the limited capacity of the Digswell Viaduct.

Welwyn Garden City also has a flyover, so that four tph services to London can reverse in a single platform.

Welwyn Garden City with small modifications should be able to handle four tph on both Moorgate and Thameslink services.

Hertford Loop Line

The Hertford Loop Line services have or could have excellent cross-platform interchanges with Thameslink services at Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace stations, although they could be improved.

The weak interchange is coming South at Alexandra Palace, which means using a bridge, but it is easy to use Finsbury Park instead.

The Hertford Loop Line also gives access to three terminal stations; Gordon Hill, Hertford North and Stevenage, which could handle four tph.

So could we see Thameslink services using the route?

It would probably need some new six-car trains, which could be shortened from Thameslink’s dreadful Class 700 trains.

Finsbury Park Station

These pictures were taken at Finsbury Park station.

Could a bay platform for Thameslink services by added here?

I suspect that one could, but would it be worthwhile?

Midland Main Line

On the Midland Main Line, in addition to St.Albans City, currently, short-medium distance services terminate at Kentish Town and Luton.

It is a pity, that the Midland Main Line doesn’t have a handy branch!

A Balanced Northern Service

I think for balance that both Northern branches will take an equal number of short-medium distance trains. Perhaps, four tph to two destinations on each branch.

I might choose.

  • St. Albans City on the Midland Main Line.
  • Luton on the Midland Main Line.
  • Welwyn Garden City on the East Coast Main Line.
  • Stevenage on the East Coast Main Line via the Hertford Loop.

All services would be four tph.

Southern Destinations

In the South, there are several stations, that could handle four tph.

Traffic will determine which, but I like the claims of Dartford, East Croydon, Orpington and Sutton on the Wimbledon Loop.

Transfer To London Overground

These short-medium distance routes should be transferred to the London Overground.

It should be noted how if the Moorgate services are also transferred to the London Overground, as I outlined in Should The Moorgate Lines Be Transferred To Transport for London?, then the following frequencies would apply.

  • 8 tph – Alexandra Palace to Welwyn Garden City
  • 12 tph – Alexandra Palace to Gordon Hill
  • 8 tph – Gordon Hill to Hertford North
  • 4 tph – Hertford North to Stevenage.

There would be 20 tph between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace.

With ETCS, I don’t think that last frequency would be unrealistic, as there are two separate lines in each direction between the two stations.

Long Thameslink Routes

Class 700 Trains

These are currently, a disaster for passengers, as travelling between say Brighton and Cambridge in the dreadful Class 700 trains, is possibly the worst train journey in the UK in new train. In some ways Pacers are better!

This article in the Express is entitled ‘One Is Not Amused’ The Queen Is Not Happy With Changes To Trains, Claims Rail Boss.

If the Royal Posterior finds them hard in First Class, the seats must be dreadful there too!

But it’s not just the passengers who don’t like them.

I came back to London recently with a group of East Midlands Trains drivers. Their professional view of the Class 700 trains, is that they are not fast enough with an operating speed of 100 mph, as against the 125 mph of the trains run by East Midlands Trains.

It should be noted that on the East and West Coast Main Lines, the semi-fast medium-distance services are generally run by 110 mph trains.

So I feel very strongly, that the Class 700 trains are not only bad from the customers point-of-view, but totally unsuitable to run services on the Midland and East Coast Main Lines, where all other trains can cruise happily at 125 mph.

They must be assigned to more suitable duties!

The Routes

Get some new trains on these routes designed by people with sense and style and the routes would be transformed.

I also think, that the destinations served South of the Thames should be simplified. Thameslink is trying to serve too main destinations in the South, compared to the North, where long distance routes only serve Bedford, Cambridge, Peterborough and the intermediate stations.

Perhaps, there should be more services linking from all along the South Coast to an improved rail station at Gatwick Airport.

An Airport Route

I have travelled to and from Gatwick Airport several times, since Thameslink reopened through London Bridge a few months ago.

Outside of the Peak, these trains may be busy between London Bridge and Gatwick stations, but in the Central Core, passengers are fairly thin on the uncomfortable seats.

Luton Airport have been campaigning for more services and I suspect Gatwick would like more too.

So why not run a four tph service between the two airports, using well-designed airport trains?

An Increased Frequency Through The Core

Thameslink is currently planning twenty-four tph through the core tunnel, but there are statements that thirty tph could be handled.

The destinations to handle the extra trains exist in the South, especially, if routes out of London Bridge are replaced by Thameslink services, but accommodating more services on the East Coast and Midland Main Lines could be tricky.

Conclusion

I believe it is possible to split Thameslink into two sections.

Long distance services with new trains would stay with National Rail, but short-medium services would go to the London Overground and probably be run by six and eight-car versions of the existing trains.

 

July 15, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Should The Moorgate Lines Be Transferred To Transport for London?

This article in Rail Magazine, is entitled TfL Targets Transfer Of Govia Thameslink Services.

One of the services, targeted by Transport for London (TfL) are the Great Northern services into Moorgate station from Hertford North, Stevenage and Welwyn Garden City stations.

I know the line into Moorgate and the various branches well, as I’ve used them in different forms, since I was about eleven.

The section between Moorgate and Finsbury Park stations is often referred to as the Northern City Line.

I wrote about these lines in a series of posts linked to A North London Metro.

The biggest problem, I find with the lines, is the quality of the trains and the stations. But there are other issues that will also effect these services, which I detail in the following sections.

Trains

The current Class 313 trains are some of the oldest on the UK rail network, as they were built around 1976, which makes them only a couple of years older than London Overground’s Class 315 trains.

I ride in both fleets regularly and although both show their age, those on the Overground appear to have had a lot more TLC.

It’s almost as if GTR doesn’t care about the Northern reaches of their Network.

In some ways, when the Lea Valley Lines were managed by Greater Anglia from Norwich, it was the same Out-Of-Site-Out-Of Mind attitude.

Both operators are changing these elderly fleets by the end of next year.

My worry about moving the Moorgate services to the London Overground would be about the transfer of the new trains, although TfL do have some cards in their favour.

  • The Class 717 trains are designed for the rather unusual operating conditions of the Northern City Line.
  • Siemens have a contract to build and maintain the Class 717 trains.
  • TfL have recently signed a big deal with Siemens, for the New Tube for London.
  • The current Class 313 trains are single-manned.

I would hope that the trains and their crews would not be too difficult to transfer to the London Overground.

Stations

Many of the stations like Essex Road are tired and need serious work, which would start with a good deep clean. Is it the same Out-Of-Site-Out-Of Mind attitude?

Highbury & Islington Station

These pictures show Highbury & Islington station.

The decor needs a serious refresh.

If I want to go to say Hertford North or Welwyn Garden City, the easiest way is to go via Highbury & Islington station and get a direct train.

Until a few months ago, there used to be no way to buy a ticket at the station.

  • The destination is outside my Freedom Pass area.
  • I can’t use Oyster or contactless card at the destination.
  • There is no ticket machine to buy a ticket.
  • There is no ticket office.

However, the latest Underground ticket machines have solved the problem

When you consider that Highbury & Islington station is the fourteenth busiest station in the UK and that it handles more passengers in a year, than Cannon Street, Charing Cross, Edinburgh Waverley and Manchester Piccadilly, the station is a disgrace.

Are other stations as passenger unfriendly?

Crossrail

Crossrail will seriously affect the services into Moorgate station.

Consider the following.

  • Changing to and from Crossrail at Moorgate will become a preferred route for many passengers.
  • Moorgate is a short walk to much of the City of London.
  • Moorgate and Liverpool Street will be one massive interconnected station.
  • The new Class 717 trains will attract passengers, if they are better than Thameslink’s terrible Class 700 trains.
  • Between Moorgate and Alexandra Palace stations could have a frequency as high as twelve trains per hour (tph), that runs all day.
  • The Victoria Line doesn’t connect to Crossrail, but it does have a cross-platform interchange at Highbury & Islington station with the Northern City Line.
  • The Piccadilly Line doesn’t connect to Crossrail or serve the City of London, but it will soon have a much-improved connection to the Northern City Line at Finsbury Park station.

Predicting the number of passengers on the services into Moorgate will become one of those classic extremely-difficult multi-variable problems.

Journeys Will Change

As an example of a changed journey take the case of someone living in Walthamstow wanting to go to Heathrow.

Currently, the easy route is.

  • Victoria Line to Finsbury Park – 9 minutes
  • Piccadilly Line to Heathrow Central – 64 minutes.

This is a total time of 73 minutes.

After Crossrail opens the high-frequency route will be.

  • Victoria Line to Highbury & Islington – 12 minutes.
  • Northern City Line to Moorgate – 10 minutes.
  • Crossrail to Heathrow Central – 33 minutes

This is a total time of 55 minutes.

Thameslink

Thameslink hasn’t been designed with improving the local services on the East Coast Main Line in mind and GTR are hoping that the new trains to and from Moorgate, will provide enough capacity.

As it might be hoped that the new trains on the Moorgate services will be an improvement on the dreadful Thameslink Class 700 trains, with ironing board seats and no wifi, power sockets or tables, will passengers be swapping their London terminal to Moorgate with its better trains and connections?

Hertfordshire

Thirteen of the thirty-one stations served from Moorgate are in Hertsfordshire.

What will that County Council’s reaction be to a transfer of the Moorgate routes to the London Overground?

Relationship With The Underground And Overground

The route between Finsbury Park and Mootgate stations used to be part of the Underground and there are several interchanges between the route and the Underground and Overground.

  • Bowes Park station is an out-of-station interchange with Bounds Green station on the Piccadilly Line.
  • Harringay station is an out-of-station interchange with with Harringay Green Lanes station on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.
  • Finsbury Park station is an interchange with the Piccadilly and Victoria Lines.
  • Highbury & Islington station is an interchange  with East London, North London and Victoria Lines.
  • Old Street is an interchange with the Northern Line.
  • Moorgate is an interchange with the Circle, Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan and Northern Lines, in addition to Crossrail from the end of this year.

When the new Class 717 trains, with their increased frequency of at least four tph,  start running, it will be a new high frequency Metro for the London boroughs of Barnet, Enfield, Haringey and Islington.

Future

I can see various changes adn additions to this line in the future.

ETCS On The East Coast Main Line

ETCS is being installed on the East Coast Main Line to increase capacity. It would appear that trains running to Welwyn Garden City station, will need to have ETCS installed.

As the new Class 717 trains are similar to the Class 700 trains, which use ETCS in the Thameslink core between St. Pancras and Blackfriars stations, fitting the system to the trains, shouldn’t be a problem.

But fitting ETCS to all the Class 717 trains, would mean that installing and using ETCS on the routes into Moorgate station would not be a difficult enterprise.

If this were to be done, would trains between Moorgate and Finsbury Park stations be able to attain the Thameslink frequency of twenty-four tph?

I can’t see why not!

Faster Running On The East Coast Main Line

In Call For ETCS On King’s Lynn Route, I talked about an article in Edition 849 of Rail Magazine, with the same title, where I said this.

In addition to ETCS, which could improve capacity on the East Coast Main Line, they would also like to see journey time reductions using trains capable of running at 125 mph or faster on the King’s Lynn to Kings Cross route.

Faster limited-stop 125 mph trains from Cambridge, Kings Lynn and perhaps, Peterborough to King Cross would surely increase capacity and might even help with the double-track bottleneck of the Digswell Viaduct.

One of the problems is that Thameslink’s Class 700 trains are only capable of 100 mph.

They are just not fast enough.

With 125 mph running limited stop into Kings Cross or Thameslink, will this free up capacity on the slow line and perhaps allow extra services from London to Welwyn Garden City station. They can’t go further North because of the Digswell Viaduct, unless the trains use the Hertford Loop Line.

I’m pretty certain that introducing 125 mph trains to Cambridge, Kings Lynn and Peterborough could open up more csapacity for services on the Great Northern route.

Increased Capacity At Moorgate

Crossrail will connect to the routes into and through a rebuilt Moorgate station.

  • This connection will attract more passengers.
  • Crossrail provides connection to Canary Wharf, the West End, Paddington station and Heathrow.
  • The rebuilt station will also provide high-capacity step-free connections to the Central, Circle, Hammersith & City and Northern Lines.
  • There will hopefully be better access to walking routes through the City of London.

Looking at the plans for the massive double-ended Liverpool Street-Moorgate station on Crossrail, it would appear that, the station complex is being rebuilt for a large increase in passengers.

Currently, the frequency to and from Moorgate station is around ten tph, which is handled on two platforms.

Consider.

  • Brixton and Walthamstow Central stations on the Victoria Line, handle 36 tph with two platforms and Automatic Train Operation (ATO).
  • The East London Line will be handling twenty tph Between Dalston Junction and Surrey Quays stations, by the end of next year.
  • The Class 717 trains will have a better performance than the current Class 313 trains.
  • The signalling could probably be updated and ATO added as I indicated earlier

I would suspect that a frequency upwards of at least sixteen tph to and from Moorgate could be possible.

I’d like to know, what capacity was assumed in the design of the rebuilt Moorgate station, to make sure, the station was future-proofed for all possible services.

Increased Frequencies

All stations between Liverpool Street and Shenfield have had a frequency of ten tph, as long as I can remember and this frequency will be increased to twelve tph, when Crossrail opens.

Alongside this, the frequencies of four tph to and from Hertford North and Welwyn Garden City look measly!

The Hertford Loop Line has three possible terminals; Gordon Hill, Hertford North and Stevenage, all of which could handle four tph. If all were used, this would give these frequencies.

  • 12 tph – Finsbury Park to Gordon Hill
  • 8 tph – Gordon Hill to Hertford North
  • 4 tph – Hertford North to Stevenage.

If what I said earlier is correct and that sixteen tph is possible into Moorgate, then this would still allow the current frequency of four tph to Welwyn Garden City.

Twenty tph into Moorgate would allow an increased frequency of eight tph to Welwyn Garden City, which would match the frequency to Hertford North.

Park-And-Ride

There is a need for at least one parkway station on the Great Northern route.

GNER were intending to provide one at Hadley Wood station.

Parliament held a debate in January 2000 about this and you can read the debate here on the Parliament web site. Generally, MPs were not in favour.

Stevenage has also been proposed for a parkway station and I think this is much more likely.

Incorporation Into The Tube Map

There will soon be calls for the Southern part of the route to be shown on the Tube Map.

Conclusion

I can see serious investment will be needed at stations on the Great Northern route and especially on the deep-level Northern City Line.

It is also likely, that more trains could be needed. Especially, if twenty tph were run through to moorgate.

Do GTR have the will and the resources to invest in this line?

I doubt it, as it is probably seen as an irrelevant backwater, by GTR’s so-called management.

Given the close connection of this route to Crossrail and the Underground and that fifty-eight percent of the stations are in Greater London, then Transport for London would seem to be an ideal owner for this route.

July 14, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Some Class 700 Trains Now Have Tables

I took this picture yesterday, on a Class 700 train.

But they still have hard seats, no wi-fi and no power sockets.

May 24, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , | 2 Comments

More Thameslink Trains Serving The East Coast Main Line From May 20th 2018

The National Rail timetable is now showing the following new Thameslink trains serving the East Coast Main Line.

There will be two trains per hour (tph) between Peterborough and Horsham.

  • XX:26 and XX:56 – Peterborough
  • XX:08 and XX;38 – Finsbury Park
  • XX:00 and XX:30 – London Bridge
  • XX:08 and XX:38 – Horsham

Note.

  1. Trains take two hours and 45 minutes.
  2. Stops include Huntingdon, St. Neots, Hitchin, Steveange and Finsbury Park, to the North of the Thames.
  3. The trains call at St. Pancras Thameslink, Farringdon, City Thameslink and London Bridge in the core.
  4. Stops include East Croydon, Gatwick Airport, Three Bridges and Crawley to the South of the Thames.
  5. The first train is 05:24 from Peterborough.

Trains generally leave Horsham at XX:25 and XX:55.

There will be one tph  between Cambridge and Brighton.

  • XX:54 at Cambridge
  • XX:52 – Finsbury Park
  • XX:15 – London Bridge
  • XX:19 – Brighton

Note.

  1. Trains take two hours and 25 minutes.
  2. Stops include Royston, Hitchin, Steveange and Finsbury Park, to the North of the Thames.
  3. The trains call at St. Pancras Thameslink, Farringdon, City Thameslink and London Bridge in the core.
  4. Stops include East Croydon, Gatwick Airport, Three Bridges and Haywards Heath to the South of the Thames.
  5. The first train is 05:54 from Cambridge.

Trains generally leave Horsham at XX:07.

But going to Gatwick, I might go to Finsbury Park, where I can now get three trains per hour to the Airport.

  • XX:08 taking around 70 minutes
  • XX:38 taking around 70 minutes
  • XX:52 taking around 52 minutes

But coming back, I would take the first train to London Bridge, from where I’d get a 141 bus to just outside my door.

Are The Trains Acceptable?

For my journey of an hour to Gatwick, the trains are just about acceptable.

But, in some ways, I think that passengers from Cambridge and Peterborough will only use Thameslink to South of East Croydon occasionally, as over two hours in a Class 700 train, is an experience, passengers will be reluctant to repeat.

I would do the following.

  • Add wi-fi and power sockets.
  • Add a few tables to make some groups of four seats, suitable for families.
  • Add seat-back tables.
  • Make the seats more comfortable.

I’d love to have five minutes with the idiot who signed off the order for these trains, which must be the worst new trains on the UK network. Perhaps, that’s not being harsh enough. I suspect they could be the worst new trains in the world!

I’ve had better passenger comfort in a Pacer, that I wrote about in Is This Really A Pacer In A New Outfit?.

But that journey was only between Rotherham and Sheffield, not say Cambridge and Gatwick.

April 12, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 2 Comments

Noise From Trains Revisited

Nearly, two years ago, I wrote a post entitled Are You Annoyed By Noisy Trains At The Bottom Of Your Garden?.

A few days ago, the post had a comment from a lady saying this.

we live on top of thames link between st pancras and farringdon stations. We are used to the trains having lived here for nearly 30 years. But recently in the last 6 months 2017/2018 the noise and vibration from the trains has increased also the frequency. From before 6am until after 1am in the morning. These new trains make the house rattle and you can feel the vibration through the floor. You have to turn up the radio or TV and visitors always comment on how do you manage to live with it.

No one seems to know anything when I made enquiries to thameslink. Spoke to me as if i was completely mad.

I contacted the lady and the problem seems to be that the eight-car Class 700 trains are the problem.

Now if the twelve-car trains are quieter, it sounds to me, that there must be a peculiar resonance between eight-car trains and the track.

According to Wikipedia, the train formations are.

  • Eight-car – Bo’Bo’+2’2’+Bo’Bo’+2’2’+2’2’+Bo’Bo’+2’2’+Bo’Bo’
  • Twelve-car – Bo’Bo’+2’2’+Bo’Bo’+Bo’Bo’+2’2’+2’2’+ 2’2’+2’2’+Bo’Bo’+Bo’Bo’+2’2’+Bo’Bo’

Note.

  1. Bo’Bo’ is a powered-car.
  2. 2’2′ is a trailer car.
  3. The plus sign separates each car.

From my engineering knowledge, could it be something to do with the fact that the twelve-car train has four trailer cars in the middle of the train, whereas the eight-car train has only two.

I suspect that these trains were designed as twelve-car units and because of the problems of lengthening some platforms, Siemens were asked if they could build an eight-car version as well.

With the dynamics tuned to the twelve-car train, I’m not surprised that the eight-car trains create an annoying resonance.

I shall be using my Freedom Pass to investigate this phenomenon, by riding in the middle sections of these trains.

April 6, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , | 3 Comments

Observations On Thameslink Between Brighton And Cambridge

Yesterday, Thameslink opened the first of their services up the East Coast Main Line.

I gave more details in Thameslink Is Now Serving Peterborough And Cambridge.

Today, I did the following trips.

  • Dalston Junction to Brighton, by Overground, tram and Thameslink.
  • Brighton to Cambridge, leaving at 11:32 and arriving at 14:14, which was a journey time of two hours, forty-two minutes.
  • Cambridge to Finsbury Park, leaving at 14:24 and arriving at 15:10, which was a journey time of forty-six minutes.

These are pictures, I took along the Brighton to Cambridge part of the route.

These are some of my observations.

Are The Class 700 Trains Fast Enough?

There didn’t seem to be any problems today, but usually, when an electric train runs with the 125 mph trains on a High Speed Line like the East Coast, West Coast and Great Western Main Lines, they are a little bit faster than the hundred mph of the Class 700 trains.

Both, Class 350 trains and Class 387 trains are 110 mph trains and they have run successfully on High Speed Lines with 125 mph trains.

Interestingly, TransPennine Express has bought Class 397 trains, to work the West Coast Main Line. These are 125 mph trains, but they will have to work with uprated trains at 140mph, when in-cab signalling is installed.

In-Cab Signalling On The Main Lines

When modern in-cab signalling is installed on the Brighton, Midland and East Coast Main Lines will the current in-cab signalling of the Class 700 trains be able to be quickly updated?

I suspect it will not be a difficult project.

The Updating Of The Midland Main Line

In OLE Changes To Boost Midland Main Line Speeds, I said this.

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in Issue 840 of Rail Magazine.

Currently, the overhead line equipment (OLE) between St. Pancras and Bedford is rated at 100 mph.

But the new OLE between Bedford and Corby via Kettering is going to be built to a standard that will allow 125 mph running.

The article goes on to say that to make the best use of  125 mph bi-mode trains, the possibility of upgrading the St. Pancras to Bedford electrification to the 125 mph standard.

This must give advantages.

Are the Class 700 trains able to to take full advantage?

And are they fast enough to work with 125 mph bi-mode trains?

Are The Class 700 Trains Powerful Enough?

I ask this question, as surely changing from a slow line to a fast line, needs some acceleration and acceleration needs power.

The power available divided by the number of cars for the three trains is as follows.

  • Class 387 train – 420 kW/car
  • Class 350 train – 375 kW/car
  • Class 700 train – 417 kW/car

These figures are not that different.

By comparison, the Class 319 trains, which worked Thameslink for many years had just 247.5 kW/car.

The Class 700 Trains Aren’t Passenger Friendly For Long Distances

I regularly use Class 700 trains for short journeys on Thameslink around London. But going between say West Hampstead Thameslink and Blackfriars, is more of the sort of journey you would take on an Underground train.

  • They are perfectly adequate for short journeys in Central London.
  • The trains are generally lightly loaded, with seats often available.
  • There are plenty of hand-holds for safe standing.
  • The on train information is good.
  • I’ve even used the trains for their toilets.

On the other hand, taking an hour’s journey around London, there are several journeys, where you get a train with much better seats and a higher level of comfort.

  • Aldgate to Uxbridge on the Metropolitan Line, riding on a S8 Stock train.
  • Highbury and Islington to West Croydon on the London Overground, riding on a Class 378 train.
  • Liverpool Street to Shenfield, riding on a Class 345 train.
  • Liverpool Street to Bishops Stortford on a Class 317 train.
  • Paddington to Reading, riding on a Class 387 train.
  • Waterloo to Windsor, riding in a Class 455 train.

Note the presence of two seriously-old trains; Classes 317 and 455, and a train designed for the Underground.

Some of these journeys will get better, as new trains are introduced.

If you look at your new car, passenger features are much better than what you had twenty years ago.

The same can be said for some of London’s commuter trains, but can it be said for the Class 700 trains, when compared with the previous Class 319 trains.

  • Standing is a better experience on a Class 700 train.
  • Sitting is a better experience on a Class 319 train.
  • Entry and exit is better on a Class 700 train.
  • The toilets are better on a Class 700 train.
  • There is no wi-fi or power sockets on either train.
  • The Class 700 train is a better train to serve an Airport.
  • The Class 700 train uses the colours of a nuclear submarine, to calm passengers down!

After my trip of two hours forty-two minutes yesterday, between Brighton and Cambridge, I’m convinced the Class 700 train is unsuitable for this length of journey.

  • The seats are not comfortable enough for this distance.
  • By Cambridge, my phone was in desperate need of a re-charge.
  • At least I don’t generally use wi-fi.

The train was not very crowded, so with a more comfortable seat and a power-socket I’d have been a lot happier.

Passenger Loading Of The Train

For most of the journey, the train was virtually empty and I had four seats to myself.

Incidentally, I suspect that a lot of groups travelling all the way, will put their feet on the seats opposite for comfort.

The only time, the train had more than a few passengers was between Gatwick Airport and London Bridge stations, when it was almost completely full.

Various factors probably contribute.

  • Between London and Brighton, you can take one of Southern’s comfortable Class 377 trains.
  • Between London and Bedford, you can still take one of East Midland’s comfortable trains.
  • Between London and Cambridge, you can take one of Great Northern’s comfortable Class 387 trains.
  • Between London and Cambridge, you can take one of Greater Anglia’s comfortable Class 379 trains.

Competition may work in the Off Peak, but surely commuters have no choice.

But it was interesting, that the only crowded part of the route was the section, where there is no competition.

Take the standard grandparents living in Cambridge wanting to go to see their grandchildren in Brighton.

Will they take a two hours forty-two minutes journey in an uncomfortable train, when you can break the journey in a pleasant cafe in Central London?

Regular travellers on long Thameslink routes will work out their best strategies.

I’d love to analyse Thameslink’s passenger statistics.

But then Thameslink didn’t specify the trains.

Summing Up Brighton To Cambridge

These thoughts can probably be applied to Bedford to Brighton as well.

On the plus side, there is the following.

  • The journey time.
  • Entry and exit to the train.
  • Standing space, which makes it an excellent extra Underground Line in Central London.
  • Toilets

On the negative side, there is the following.

  • The seats.
  • The lack of passenger-friendly features like tables, power sockets and wi-fi.

But, I suspect that for Thameslink, these trains will not be welcoming to Off Peak travellers, where the competition is other operators and the car.

Is Thameslink An Extended Underground Line?

Crossrail has been designed as an extended Underground Line from Reading and Heathrow in the West to Abbey Wood and Shenfield in the East.

  • Between Whitechapel and Paddington, the line functions as a high-capacity Underground Line.
  • Crossrail will appear on the Tube Map.
  • Crossrail stations will have excellent connections to the Undeground.
  • By linking services from Paddington and Liverpool Street together back-to-back, platform space is released at two major stations, which can be used to increase capacity on other routes.
  • Crossrail’s stations are seen as locations to create commercial and residential developments.
  • All stations on the route are being improved and made step-free.
  • Crossrail’s trains appear to have been designed to function as both Underground trains and commuter trains, borrowing heavily from the successful S8 Stock of the Metropolitan Line.

So how does Thameslink compare?

  • Thameslink seems to have been designed as a series of main routes across London, that go through a Central Tunnel.
  • Between London Bridge and Finsbury Park/West Hapstead Thameslink, Londonders will use the line as a high-capacity Underground Line.
  • Thameslink will not appear on the Tube Map.
  • Thameslink stations have mixed connections to the Underground, that were designed by that useless designer called Topsy.
  • Platform space has been released at St. Pancras and London Bridge and the latest remodelling has improved matters.
  • Are Thameslink’s stations seen as development hubs?
  • Are Thameslink’s stations being given the right level of improvement and step-free access?
  • Thameslink’s trains were not designed for the job they are doing.

Thameslink is most certainly not an extended Underground Line!

A Comparison With The Great Eastern Main Line

The Great Eastern Main Line is a line I know well.

  • It has a long-distance service from Liverpool Street to Norwich via Colchester and Ipswich.
  • It has an extensive commuter network from Liverpool Street.
  • Crossrail will increase capacity at Liverpool Street.

When Greater Anglia decided to replace the fleet, they could have gone for a unified fleet.

But they decided on a split fleet.

Note.

  1. It was a pragmatic decision, that provided the right train for each service.
  2. Particular attention has been paid to the interior design.
  3. The interior design has been shown to passengers, before any trains have been built.
  4. All trains will have toilets.
  5. First Class will be eliminated on the Class 720 trains.
  6. The Class 720 trains could share tracks and platforms with Crossrail’s Class 345 trains.

It looks like Greater Anglia took a lot of care.

Did the Department for Transport take a similar amount of care to get the design for the Thameslink trains?

Obviously not!

What Needs To Be Done

These are my ideas.

Split The Train Fleet

Greater Anglia’s decision to split their fleet is a telling one.

  • Express services between London and Norwich and Stansted Airport services will be run by twelve-car Class 745 trains with First Class seats.
  • London commuter services will be run by five- and ten-car high-capacity Class 720 trains with no First Class.
  • Both trains have 100 mph operating speeds.
  • Both trains appear to have well-designed interiors.
  • Both trains will be compatible with respect to station, track and signalling.

Additionally, their Class 755 trains for secondary routes will have similar performance, opening up the possibility of other direct services to London.

I believe that eventually, Thameslink services will be run by two sets of compatible trains.

If they borrowed from Greater Anglia’s logic, this could see.

  • A sub-fleet suitable for long-distance services with twelve-car trains, First Class, tables and better seats for steerage.
  • A sub-fleet suitable for London commuter services with eight-car trains and no First Class.

Note.

  1. The current seats may be acceptable for eight-car trains running short commuter routes.
  2. All trains would be fitted with wi-fi, power-sockets, cup holders, seat-back tables and other passenger-friendly equipment where appropriate.
  3. Of the long-distance routes, only Cambridge to Maidstone East is proposed to be run by an eight-car train.
  4. The long-distance trains would have the ability to run at 110 mph, where possible and needed.

I believe with a bit of sorting and remanufacturing, the current fleet could do a much better job.

  • Passengers would get better seats and other facilities.
  • Thameslink would get faster services on long routes.
  • Would a more passenger-friendly train attract more passengers, especially in the Off Peak?
  • Services on the Brighton, East Coast and Midland Main Lines would allow faster running of other services.

I don’t think I’m talking about anything that is too difficult.

Would It Be Advantageous To Allow Some Twelve-Car Trains To Split And Join?

In Has Thameslink Got The Wrong Length Of Train?, I showed how if the trains were twelve- and six-car units and the latter had the ability to split and join automatically, this would lead to the following.

  • More efficient use of trains.
  • Better operation on the Sutton Loop Line.
  • The creation of extra services by splitting at the ends of a route.

I also showed how it may be possible to adjust the lengths of the current fleet into twelve- and six-car units.

Put Thameslink On The Tube Map

I know it was an initial service, but passenger numbers on my journey from Brighton to Cambridge , must have been well below Thameslink’s forecast for the route.

I doubt more than a handfull did the whole route, like I did.

It was particularly noticeable, that passengers were thin on the ground between London Bridge and Finsbury Park stations.

And yet this route will have the following characteristics, when Thameslink is fully open.

  • Six trains per hour (tph). Running all day.
  • Two extra tph in the Peak.
  • Full step-free access at London Bridge station.
  • Full step-free access at Finsbury Park station, including to the Piccadilly and Victoria Lines.
  • Same platform interchange with services to and from Moorgate on the Northern City Line at Finsbury Park.
  • Step-free access at all the intermediate stations between London Bridge and Finsbury Park.

I think that Finsbury Park could become a well-used interchange for Thameslink passengers.

But like other interchanges, it needs to be shown on the Tube map, so passengers know it’s there.

On the other hand, if you ask National Rail’s timetable, the best route from Brighton to Oakliegh Park at 11:30 on a Monday, it advises using Thameslink to Finsbury Park and then a local train on the Northern City Line.

More And Better Interchanges on Thameslink

Thameslink doesn’t have many interchanges with the Underground.

  • West Hampstead Thameslink
  • Kentish Town
  • Finsbury Park
  • Kings Cross St. Pancras
  • Farringdon
  • London Blackfriars
  • London Bridge
  • Elephant and Castle

Some are fairly rudimentary and involve some walking, that is not easy.

There is also two interchanges with the Overground.

  • Peckham Rye
  • Denmark Hill

But the Thameslink frequency at these stations, is only four tph, with two extra in the Peak.

Various plans have been floated in the last few years.

  • New stations at Camberwell and Loughborough Junction have been proposed.
  • A  new transport hub linking Catford and Catford Bridge stations has been proposed.
  • A pedestrian link between City Thameslink and St. Paul’s stations.
  • An extension to the Docklands Light Railway to City Thameslink and on to Charing Cross, Euston and Victoria.

Thameslink will only get bigger and better.

 

 

 

March 9, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 2 Comments

A Class 700 Train In Platform 5 At London Bridge Station

I took these pictures of a Class 700 train in Platform 5 at London Bridge station.

I assume it was there for driver training and was waiting to pass through the central section of Thameslink.

According to the March 2018 Edition of Modern Railways services through the Central London core will be.

May 2018: 18 Thameslink trains per hour (tph) through central London core (12 tph via London Bridge and six via Elephant & Castle)

At least drivers and other staff seem to be getting trained.

Distilling the report in Modern Railways, gives the following service from May 2018.

Via London Bridge

  • 2 tph – Bedford – Brighton – semi-fast/fast – 12-car – All Day
  • 2 tph – Bedford – Gatwick Airport- semi-fast/semi-fast – 12-car – All Day
  • 2 tph – Peterborough – Horsham – semi-fast/semi-fast – 12-car – All Day
  • 1 tph – Cambridge – Brighton – semi-fast-fast – 12-car – All Day
  • 2 tph – Bedford – East Grinstead – fast/stopping – 12-car – Peak Only
  • 1 tph – Bedford – Littlehampton – fast/fast – 12-car Peak Only
  • 2 tph – Luton – Rainham – all stations/all stations – 12-car – All Day

Note.

  1. This means seven tph all day between central London and Gatwick.
  2. semi-fast/fast means semi-fast North of the Thames and fast South of the Thames etc.

Via Elephant & Castle

  • 4 tph – St. Albans – Sutton – all stations/all stations – 8-car – All Day
  • 2 tph – Luton/Kentish Town – Orpington – 8 car – All Day

Note.

  1. The four tph St. Albans – Sutton go round the Sutton Loop, with two tph in each direction.

 

 

 

March 6, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Could Thameslink Connect To Heathrow?

This may seem an outrageous idea.

But I think it could be possible.

Can Class 345 Trains And Class 700 Trains Use The Same Tracks And Platforms?

Crossrail may use Class 345 trains and Thameslink may use Class 700 trains, but can the two trains use the same tracks and platforms?

Recently, Cambridge North station has opened and it will certainly be compatible with Class 700 trains and Greater Anglia’s Class 720 trains, which are closely related to the Crossrail trains.

Heathrow’s platforms do not have platform-edge doors.

Both trains are designed to work at high frequencies using ERTMS.

So I think the answer to my question is a solid yes!

How Would Thameslink Trains Get To Heathrow?

The original plan for Heathrow Express envisaged using both Paddington and St. Pancras as terminals in Central London.

It would have used the Dudding Hill Line as a connection between the Great Western Main Line and the Midland Main Line.

This Google Map shows the tracks to the East of Acton Main Line station.

Note.

  • The four tracks of the Great Western Main Line run through Acton Main Line station.
  • The most Southerly pair of tracks are the fast lines, whilst the next pair are the slow lines as used by Crossrail.
  • The tracks shown in orange are the North London Line.
  • The two extra lines to the North of Acton Main Line station are the Goods Lines, connect at Acton Wells Junction to the North London Line, so freight trains can go across London between the Great Western Main Line and Stratford.

After crossing over the Central Line, the route splits with the North London Line going East to Stratford and the Dudding Hill Line going North through Acton Canal Wharf Junction.

To get to and from Heathrow, the services would take the same route as Crossrail to the West of Acton Main Line station.

The services would use the existing Cricklewood Curve Junction to connect with the Thameslink route to the North of Cricklewood station.

What New Infrastructure Would Be Required?

The infrastructure needed would not be of the sort of scale needed for Crossrail or Thameslink.

  • The Dudding Hill Line is would need to be electrified.
  • The Dudding Hill Line is double-track throughout.
  • The 30 mph speed limit of the Dudding Hill Line would need to be increased.
  • Would Harlesden and Dudding Hill stations be reopened or other new ones built?
  • The stations at Heathrow could probably handle Class 700 trains without too much difficulty.
  • There might be a need for a flyover to sort out the tangle of lines between Cricklewood and St. Pancras.

But nothing is too complicated or difficult.

What Frequency Of Thameslink Trains Would Serve Heathrow?

Currently, the following services are provided

  • Heathrow Express has four tph to Terminal 5 via Heathrow Central
  • There is a shuttle between Heathrow Central and Terminal 4, run by Heathrow Express.
  • Heathrow Connect run two tph to Heathrow Central.

When Crossrail opens in December 2019, the service to Heathrow will be four trains per hour (tph) to Terminal 5 and two tph to Terminal 4.

Crossrail will also provide the shuttle between Heathrow Central and Terminal 4.

It is certainly not a system designed by any individual or committee with any sense of good design.

At least, both Terminal 4 and Terminal 5 stations have two terminal platforms, so the two stations should each be able to handle up to eight tph.

If they did this would mean up to sixteen tph on the Heathrow spur, which would be well within the capability of the route and trains running using ERTMS, which will handle up to 24 tph on both Crossrail and Thameslink in the few years.

Under current plans, it appears that when Crossrail opens, the stations will get the following services.

  • Heathrow Central – 10 tph
  • Heathrow Terminal 4 – 2 tph plus shuttles
  • Heathrow Terminal 5 – 8 tph

I’m assuming that Heathrow Connect will quietly fade away.

With a bit of reorganisation of the services, it should be possible to squeeze another six tph into the airport, without building any new terminal platforms.

So I feel that say four tph Thameslink trains to Heathrow would be possible.

Could Crossrail Handle The Extra Trains?

The Thameslink trains would have to run on the Crossrail tracks between Acton Main Line station and Heathrow Airport Junction.

Currently Crossrail are proposing running 12 tph on this section, so as ERTMS can handle double this, I suspect there shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

Could Thameslink Handle The Extra Trains?

This article on Rail Engineer, which is entitled Thameslink Signalling Update, says this about possible Thameslink frequencies.

To meet the specification of 24 tph through the Thameslink core section, it is necessary to deploy Automatic Train Operation (ATO). This will provide a peak theoretical capacity of 30 tph, thereby creating a reliable 24 tph service with acceptable recovery margins.

So an extra six tph could be possible.

Would A Service Between Heathrow and Gatwick Airports Be Possible?

In my view it would be the logical service.

It would certainly be possible!

And it could also be a journey without any change of train!

Would There Be Any Other Useful Connections?

These are a few thoughts and ideas.

Same Platform Interchanges

Cross-city lines like Crossrail, Merseyrail’s Northern Line and Thameslink, have the advantage, that if you are going in the right direction, but are on a train to the wrong destination, you can just get off the train and wait for the correct train.

So if you leave Heathrow on a Gatwick train and you need to go to Maidstone East, you would get off at any of the stations in the central core and wait until the next Maidstone East train arrives.

Everybody will have their own favourite interchanges. Mine would probably be Blackfriars station, as it is above the Thames, has lots of seats and there is a large coffee shop on both platforms.

The ability to do this will mean that all stations South of West Hampstead  Thameslink station will have a very easy link to and from Heathrow.

Reversing Stations

Crossrail has several stations where you can reverse your direction of travel by just walking across the platform. Whitechapel station will allow passengers to go between Abbey Wood and Shenfield stations without going up or down any steps or escalators.

Thameslink only has one reversing station at London Bridge station, although St. Pancras Thamslink has escalators and lifts to allow passengers to change direction in a short time.

West Hampstead Interchange

If plans for a West Hampstead Interchange materialise, this will link the following lines.

  • Chiltern Railways
  • Jubilee Line
  • Metropolitan Line
  • Midland Main L:ine
  • North London Line

Note.

  1. This could be a very good interchange to be connected to Heathrow.
  2. West Hampstead Interchange would be a good alternative until Old Oak Common station is built.
  3. Passengers going between Heathrow and stations on the Midland Main Line to the North could change here.

Those like me living along the North London Line would find it a convenient way to get to and from Heathrow.

Kings Cross And St. Pancras Stations

The massive complex at Kings Cross and St. Pancras stations currently links the following lines.

  • Eurostar
  • Midland Main Line
  • East Coast Main Line
  • Southeastern Highspeed services
  • Circle Line
  • Hammersmith and City Line
  • Metropolitan Line
  • Northern Line
  • Piccadilly Line
  • Victoria Line

But the only way to get directly to Heathrow is a nearly hour long journey on the Piccadilly Line. Thameslink could be just over half that time, in a less cramped train.

Blackfriars Station

I use Blackfriars station a lot, as it is my the Tate Modern.

But others will use it as a same platform interchage for reasons I outlined erlier.

London Bridge Station

London Bridge station is another important interchange, with links to the following lines.

  • Southeastern services to Kent
  • Southern services to Surrey and Sussex.
  • Jubilee Line
  • Northern Line

Note.

  • This new station is well-equipped and interchange is totally step-free.
  • It is also a short walk to the city across London Bridge.
  • This station will be a very good same platform interchange.
  • The station allows passengers to reverse direction by just walking across the platform.

As with West Hampstead, this could be a very good interchange to be connected to Heathrow.

East Croydon, Orpington and Wimbledon Stations

East Croydon, Orpington and Wimbledon stations, which are important local hubs, would all be well-connected to Heathrow.

Collateral Benefits

Crossrail 2

Crossrail 2 is planning to have a Euston St. Pancras station, which is described like this in Wikipedia.

It would be a “mega station” serving the existing Euston, King’s Cross and St. Pancras main line stations. If funded and completed, it will be one of two such stations on the Crossrail 2 route (the other being Dalston).

If this station is designed properly, I am sure it will have the following.

  • A step-free and convenient link to both Thameslink and Eurostar.
  • Some form of high-capacity hi-tech people-mover, stretching under Euston Road, linking Kings Cross, St. Pancras and Euston stations.

I believe a station design is possible that makes the connection between HS1 and HS2 a no-hassle transfer for all passengers in less than ten minutes.

The people-mover should be in place when HS2 opens in December 2026, so that a credible HS1 to HS2 link opens at the same time.

Gatwick, Heathrow, HS1 And HS2 Will Be On One Rail Line

This could be of tremendous benefit to Londoners, travellers, tourists, rail companies and airlines, but Heathrow might not like it, as it could undermine their dominant position.

If Crossrail 2 opens around 2030, this will bring Stansted into the hub.

The Most Important Railway Station In The World

Eventually, Euston St. Pancras station will become the busiest and most important railway station in the world.

How Will Terminal Development At Heathrow Affect Crossrail And Thameslink?

Heathrow are disclosing a master-plan, for rebuilding a lot of the airport to make it more efficient and up with the best.

  • There will be two main terminals; Heathrow West and Heathrow East with satellites in between handling the actual planes.
  • These two terminals and the satellites will be between the two existing runways, with a passenger and baggage transport system beneath.
  • Terminal Five will become Heathrow West.
  • An extended Terminal Two will become Heathrow East.
  • Crossrail, Heathrow Express and the Underground will serve both main terminals.

I believe that this rebuilding could start in the next few years.

Heathrow will make sure they future-proof rail access, so we could see.

  • More terminal platforms at both Heathrow East and Heathrow West
  • Through platforms at Heathrow West to allow trains to go West from both terminals.
  • Freight shuttles bringing in provisions for the airport, the airlines and the aircraft.

This will allow Crossrail, Thameslink, Heathrow Express and other operators to have as many services as is thought necessary.

The biggest constraint will be the capacity of the Great Western Railway and the two tracks used by Crossrail.

Will Other Operastors Be Allowed Use Heathrow?

This probably depends more on politics than anything else, but technically these facts apply.

Bombardier Aventras

Bombardier have hinted that the design of an Aventra can provide commuter trains like Crossrail’s Class 345 trains and 125 mph expresses.

So it would be likely that a 125 mph Aventra of appropriate length would be able to serve Heathrow, if that were thought necessary!

All Trains Would Be Electric

I suspect that regulations would mean all trains would be electric, as you don’t want diesel or hydrogen fuels in the tunnels under Heathrow.

ERTMS

I also suspect that all trains using the eathrow stations would need to be equipped with ERTMS.

Possible Routes

Who knows what routes will become possible, but as the list of trains grows that are acceptable to Heathrow, various possibilities will arise.

  • Great Western Railway to Bristol
  • Great Western Railway to Cardiff
  • London Overground to Clapham Junction station
  • London Overground to Stratford
  • South Western Railway to Southampton
  • East Midlands Trains to Bedford/Kettering/Corby
  • West Midlands Trains to Watford/Milton Keynes/Birmingham

After Heathrow terminals are updated to East and West, there would be scope for cross country routes going vaguely South-West to North-East calling at both terminals in Heathrow.

 

Will Thameslink And Crossrail Strangle Heathrow Express?

I wonder if a ink to Thameslink will be more valuable to Heathrow, than Heathrow Express.

  • Abandoning Heathrow Express would release valuable platform space at Heathrow and Paddington.
  • Crossrail and Thameslink together would have connections all over London, rather than just Paddington.
  • Crossrail to and from Paddington would only take about five or six minutes longer.
  • Heathrow Express will have to update their trains with ERTMS and to compete with Crossrail.
  • Heathrow Express usually means a taxi to your hotel to and from Paddington.
  • Crossrail will connect the West End, The City and Canary Wharf to Heathrow.

Convenience and cost will eventually strangle Heathrow Express.

Conclusion

The following statements would appear to be true.

  • Class 345 and Class 700 trains can use the same infrastructure.
  • Crossrail and Thameslink both use ERTMS.
  • The stations at Heathrow,the Western section of Crossrail and the Thameslink core have spare capacity.

This means it should be possible to extend Thameslink services to Heathrow with a frequency of at least four tph, using an electrified Dudding Hill Line.

Some new infrastructure would be required, but nothing as comprehensive, as that for Crossrail and Thameslink.

 

 

September 8, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Why Do UK Train Operating Companies Dislike Siemens Trains?

This post was suggested by this article on Global Rail News, which is entitled TransPennine Express Class 397 Fleet Taking Shape.

The following sections describe how the various train companies are replacing their trains built by Siemens.

TransPennine Express

TransPennine Express (TPE) currently have two fleets of Siemens trains; Class 350 and Class 185 trains.

Class 350 trains

TPE currently has a fleet of ten four-car Class 350 trains, which were built by Siemens and are used on electrified services between Manchester Airport and Scotland. They are being replaced by twelve five-car Class 397 trains.

The comparison between the two trains gives clues as to why the fleet is being replaced.

  • The Class 397 trains are 125 mph capable, which means they can mix it with the Virgin’s Class 390 Pendelinos of a similar performance.
  • The Class 350 trains are only capable of 110 mph.
  • The fleet needed to be increased in number to handle services between Liverpool and Scotland.
  • The five-car Class 397 trains fit the capacity needed for the Scottish routes better than the four-car Class 350 trains.
  • The Class 350 trains don’t have wi-fi/4G and power-points to the current standard on some of the latest trains, like the Aventra.

I’ve not ridden in these trains, so I can’t comment on their quality.

I suspect it’s that the Class 397 trains have the 125 mph capability and adding another 110 mph train from Liverpool to Scotland would be too much for the West Coast Main Line to handle.

If you look at the current scheduled times of Virgin and TPE between Wigan North Western and Glasgow and Scotland, you get the following.

  • Virgin – Wigan North Western to Glasgow – 2 hours 31 minutes
  • TPE – Wigan North Western to Glasgow – 2 hours 46 minutes
  • Virgin – Wigan North Western to Edinburgh – 2 hours 39 minutes
  • TPE – Wigan North Western to Edinburgh – 2 hours 53 minutes

So it looks like the new 125 mph trains could save around fifteen minutes on a journey between North West England and Scotland. In addition to the quicker journey time for passengers, it might mean that TPE can use their trains more efficiently.

Nothing has been said, but I suspect that the new Class 397 trains can couple and uncouple automatically, as the Class 395 trains do regularly.

This would allow TPE to run a service like this.

  • Two five-car trains start independently from Liverpool and Manchester Airport.
  • The trains would couple together at Wigan North Western or Preston.
  • They would then run to Carstairs at 125 mph.
  • The trains would then split.
  • One train would go to Glasgow and the other would go to Edinburgh.

The Southbound service would reverse the process.

In the 1960s, I travelled from Glasgow to Manchester on a service like this. T remember, that I was very late into Manchester, as we were delayed at Carstairs by the late arrival of the train from Edinburgh.

It looks to me, that TPE have decided to replace their Class 350 trains, with a faster and more flexible fleet, that can be run according to passenger demand.

Class 185 Trains

TPE also have a fleet of fifty-one three-car Class 185 trains, that were built by Siemens in 2005-2006.

These trains were in some ways very badly-specified for the route and have some deficiencies.

  • There are not enough of them and they suffer badly from overcrowding.
  • They are 100 mph trains, which means they are inadequate on the West Coast and East Coast Main Lines.
  • They lack wi-fi and power sockets.
  • They are diesel trains, that sometimes work on electrified lines, like Liverpool to Manchester and Leeds to Newxastle.

It is no surprise that TPE have decided to replace twenty-two of the Class 185 trains with Class 68 locomotive-hauled Mark 5 coaches and Class 802 trains.

  • This gives a twenty-seven percent increase in the number of carriages.
  • The Class 802 trains are 125 mph capable, so will be very handy for Liverpool to Newcastle and in a few years time to Edinburgh.
  • The coaches are also built to be capable of 125 mph, but they would need faster locomotives to run at that speed.
  • The new fleet will have the wi-fi and power sockets that passengers require.

This new fleet will certainly be better suited to TPE’s needs.

Greater Anglia

Greater Anglia are replacing all their trains, including their fleet of twenty-one four-car Class 360 trains, that were built by Siemens in 2002-2003.

However, in the August 30th Edition of Rail Magazine, there is an article entitled Trio Of Class 360 Desiros Reach Norwich For GA Timing Test.

It appears that, as the fastest trains in Greater Anglia’s fleet, they are being tested in case the new Class 745 trains are not ready before January 1st, 2020, when the Mark 3 coaches have to be retired.

South Western Railway

South Western Railway have a mixed fleet, which includes a lot of trains built by Siemens.

Class 707 Trains

South Western Railway (SWR) are still taking deliveries from Siemens of a fleet of thirty five-car Class 707 trains, that they inherited from South West Trains.

However, they have decided to replace the trains and their Class 455 trains with new Aventras.

I think that the main reason for having a fleet of 100 mph suburban trains, is that they get lots of advantages when it comes to creating passenger-friendly timetables.

 

But there are other reasons.

  • SWR have said that all their trains will have toilets. The Class 707 trains don’t.
  • The new fleet contains a lot of ten-car trains, whereas the Class 707 trains are all five cars.
  • If all the trains are identical, this must give advantages with respect to management of trains and staff.

It looks to me, that South West Trains choice of fleet wasn’t in tune with SWR’s philosophy.

The Return Of The Class 442 Trains

Surprisingly, SWR are bringing back thirty-year-old Class 442 trains for the London to Portsmouth routes.

SWR probably need more trains to augment their forty-five Class 444 trains and a hundred plus Class 450 trains, which were all built by Siemens around the turn of the millennium.

Refurbishing the Class 442 trains is probably more affordable than ordering more trains from Siemens.

They can also be fitted with wi-fi, which the Class 444 and Class 450 trains lack.

West Midlands Trains

West Midlands Trains will takeover from London Midland in December 2017.

Currently, London Midland operate seventy-seven four-car Class 350 trains, built by Siemens in 2004-2014.

West Midlands Trains have promised to introduce 225 new carriages on Euston services.

As these trains work on the West Coast Main Line will they be 125 mph units like the Class 397 trains, so they can mix it with the Pendelinos?

Whatever happens, it does seem that the 100-110 mph Class 350 trains without wi-fi, may be living on borrowed time.

Thameslink

Thameslink is now a rail line run exclusively by Class 700 trains, built by Siemens in the last few years.

The trains were ordered without wi-fi and passengers are often critical of the trains.

In my opinion, the trains are inferior to Crossrail’s Class 345 trains, which have both wi-fi and 4G connectivity.

Conclusions

When I travel in a train that Siemens have built for the UK network, I often feel disappointed and think that they could have done better.

Perhaps the exceptions are South Western Railway’s Class 444 and Class 450 trains, but they lack wi-fi. These trains were built some years ago before it had been invented.

Wi-Fi

The Department for Transport now insists that passengers get free wi-fi and Crossrail is throwing in 4G connectivity as well.

I’m not sure, if there’s a Siemens train in the UK with wi-fi.

But then most trains in Germany have very poor wi-fi in my experience.

Could the design of Siemens trains make fitting of wi-fi and UK-sized power sockets difficult?

Contracts

Most trains these days are leased on long-term contracts, which includes maintenance. Could this cause problems with updating trains?

With the old BR-era trains, there are several depots and factories where trains can be updated and Bombardier seem to update their old tranis regularly at Derby. So is Siemens unprepared to update its older trains on the UK network?

The Aventras Are Coming

The first Class 345 trains are appearing with a quiet and smooth ride, excellent performance and wi-fi and 4G connectivity.

Siemens will have to raise their game to compete.

 

September 6, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gibb Report – Depot Issues

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

The section on depots starts like this.

The way in which the train fleet has expanded in recent years has resulted in a shortage of stabling facilities. New facilities have been located away from train crew depots (e.g. Hove from Brighton) and are less efficient, involving driver time in taxis. Siemens new depot at Three Bridges is now the main centre for the Thameslink fleet, and overall the depot capacity on Southern is just about sufficient from what I have seen, although it is inflexible and inefficient.

It then goes on to list problems at specific locations.

Ashford

Perhaps the late choice of Maidstone East station, as a terminus, has meant that a site hasn’t really been found for a depot at Ashford.

Bedford

The depot is unsuitable for 12-car fixed formation Class 700 trains, which block the entrance.

Cambridge

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

North Kent

The original plan was to increase stabling facilities at Slade Green, but this has now been established to cost £72m and too expensive. An alternative is urgently needed.

The report sums up the depot issues like this.

All of the above issues need to be finalised before the driver recruitment plans can be commenced, as the driver recruitment strategy must be decided around the stabling locations of the trains, and driver depot facilities, including parking, must be included in the scheme
implementation.

It also goes on to say, that more trains may need to be ordered to increase capacity on the Brighton Main Line and that a new depot will be needed.

Bombardier’s Class 345 Trains For Crossrail

Before I add my fourpennyworth on depot issues, I will look at some of the features of Bombardier’s Class 345 trains.

All Trains Are The Same Length

It is intended that all trains will be the same nine-car length, although at the present time, the trains under test in East London are a couple of cars short of a full train.

This is mainly because the platforms in Liverpool Street, are not long enough for a full train and won’t be lengthened until a year or so.

I suspect too, it enables Bombardier to build the trains in a more efficient manner and test out each type of coach fully.

One of the advantages in having all trains of the same length, is that you maximise the capacity in a depot and as on both routes, the manufacturer pays for the main depots, a correctly-sized depot will reduce costs.

Note that Thameslink’s main depots don’t seem to have issues, so can we assume they were well-designed?

The Class 345 Trains Have No Toilets

There was a bit of a fuss, when this was announced, as I wrote about  in Do Crossrail Trains Need Toilets?.

But given that many Crossrail stations have toilets on the platforms and trains are every ten minutes, no toilets on the train gives advantages.

  • There is no toilet on the train that needs regular cleaning and fails occasionally.
  • Overnight servicing of the train does not need the toilet to be emptied.

I also suspect that the modular nature of the Class 345 train would allow one to be fitted if required.

Class 345 Trains Are Designed For Remote Wake-Up

Remote wake-up is discussed in Do Bombardier Aventras Have Remote Wake-Up?.

So imagine a Class 345 train finishes its last journey of the day in a platform at Shenfield station or a convenient stabling siding.

  • The driver checks the train for sleeping bankers, locks up and goes home.
  • The train reports to Ilford, that a couple of light bulbs have failed.
  • The servicing and cleaning team arrive and get the train pristine for the morning.
  • The train shuts down fully and all power is switched off to the overhead wires, so trespassers won’t be electrocuted.
  • At an appropriate time, the train is signalled to come to life and warms up ready for the day, using battery power.
  • The driver arrives and when signalled joins the main line, raises the pantograph and takes the train on its way.

When I once described this process to a driver from Northern going to pick up a Class 156 train in Halifax, he had a big smile.

In some ways, it’s a bit like parking your car out on the street.

  • Except that for trains, you need a convenient piece of track.
  • As power will be needed to warm the train up in the morning and you don’t want 25 KVAC  live wires about, the only source of power possible is a battery.
  • If the train had a toilet, it would be a more complicated process.

What will the devious Derbians think of next?

Solving GTR’s Depot Problems

In my view there is one big difference between Thameslink and Crossrail.

With Crossrail, which was in part a new railway line, every component was designed so it fitted together like a giant three-dimensional jigsaw.

But Thameslink was designed by different teams over a series of decades.

As we can’t go back to square one on Thameslink we have to make the best of what we’ve been left with.

Bombardier’s remote wake-up concept is a straight steal from some upmarket road vehicles, so why haven’t Siemens stolen it? Especially, as the Derby Telegraph article dates from June 2011. Perhaps, their press cuttings agency doesn’t read that newspaper?

If they had developed the technology, it would certainly help with remote stabling of trains, as you can have a much simpler facility.

The Problem Of Cambridge

I discuss this in Cambridge Depot

The Problem Of North Kent

Chris Gibb suggest creating a new depot at Hoo Junction, which I discuss in Hoo Junction Depot

Thameslink’s Mixed Length Fleet

Thameslink also have a curious mix of eight-car and twelve-car trains, whereas Crossrail have sensibly opted for a common length, which as I said, must be much easier to store.

Intriguingly, both Greater Anglia and South Western Railway have ordered mixed fleets of five and ten-car Aventras. But most six-year-olds can tell you that 5+5=10.

The decision to buy a mixed length fleet of twelve and eight-car trains for Thameslink has caused a lot of these depot and a few other problems.

I wrote more about the problem in Has Thameslink Got The Wrong Length Of Train?.

I think in the end, Thameslink will lengthen the eight-car trains to twelve-cars and then lengthen the short platforms on the Sutton loop Line and a few other places.

This would create sixteen per-cent more capacity through the central tunnel, by making all trains twelve-cars.

But that is an expensive way to solve the problem created by not designing Thameslink as a continuous twelve-car railway.

Conclusion

It’s a bloody-great mess.

If you compare depot philosophies at  Crossrail, Greater Anglia and Thameslink, the first two companies seem to have developed a comprehensive purchase and maintenance solution for all their new trains, whereas Thameslink have worked on the basis that it will be alright in the end.

These factors don’t help Thameslink.

  • The choice of a mix of eight- and twelve-car trains.
  • The inability to join two short trains together to make a long train.
  • The design of a Class 700 train, which appears to be geared more towards a traditional depot.

I will be accused of being patriotic, but having ridden in both Class 700 and Class 345 trains, I’m coming to the conclusion, that Thameslink should have bought Aventras.

I would also have to ask, if Krefeld in Germany is a better place than Derby, for decision makers to visit.

July 8, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment