The Anonymous Widower

ORR Authorises Merseyrail ‘777s’

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

This is the first paragraph.

Merseyrail’s 52 Class 777 trains have been authorised for passenger use by the Office of Rail and Road.

I can’t wait to get up to Liverpool to have a ride.

But it will be a few weeks yet!

On the other hand, these trains will be as valuable to Merseyside as Crossrail will be to London.

July 26, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , | 1 Comment

Liverpool’s Vision For Rail

This document on the Liverpool City Region web site is entitled Metro Mayor’s Vision Of A Merseyrail for All Takes Vital Step Forward With Successful Trial Of New Battery-Powered Trains.

It makes these points in the first part of the document.

  • Game-changing technology paves way for Merseyrail network expansion across the Liverpool City Region and beyond
  • Merseyrail services could reach as far as Wrexham and Preston
  • City Region is at the forefront of the introduction of pioneering energy efficient technology.

The new battery-powered trains would certainly go a long way to  enable, these objectives.

Battery-powered trains would need a range of 26.9 miles to go between Bidston and Wrexham stations.

Battery-powered trains would need a range of 15.3 miles to go between Ormskirk and Preston stations.

This link is to the North Cheshire Rail User Group’s Newsletter for Spring 2021.

This is said about battery range of the new Class 777 trains.

Later model Class 777’s have the ability to leave the 3rd rail and operate under battery power for 20 miles or more with a full load thus
permitting expansion of the Merseyrail network beyond its current limits.

I suspect they will also have regenerative braking to batteries, which will increase the range and allow Bidston and Wrexham stations to be achieved without charge.

It certainly sounds like Preston and Wrexham and all the intermediate stations,  will be added to the Merseyrail network.

As to the third point above about the introduction of pioneering energy efficient technology, I suspect this is mainly regenerative braking to batteries and replacement of elderly worn-out power supply equipment.

There is more in the Liverpool City Region document.

Expanding Merseyrail

This is said.

The game-changing technology could allow the Merseyrail network to extend across all six city region boroughs to places like Rainhill in St Helens, Woodchurch on the Wirral and Widnes in Halton.

It could also allow the new fleet to operate as far afield as Skelmersdale, Wrexham, Warrington and Runcorn.

Note.

  1. A 25 KVAC capability could well be needed.
  2. Chargers could be needed at some of these stations. I suspect Stadler have a Swiss manufacturer in mind.

In the run-up to May’s elections, the Mayor pledged to deliver ‘Merseyrail for All, a commitment to connecting under-served communities to the Merseyrail network.

New Stations

Initially the battery-powered trains, which are considerably greener, using up to 30% less energy than the existing fleet, are set to run on services to a planned new station at Headbolt Lane, Kirkby.

The wider Merseyrail for All programme could ensure every community is well served by an integrated public transport network and new and refurbished train stations are also high on the agenda.

They could include:

  • The Baltic Triangle in Liverpool
  • Carr Mill in St Helens
  • Woodchurch on the Wirral

Note.

Tram-Trains And Trackless Trams

The document says this.

Tram-Train technology and trackless trams will also be looked at as potential means of extending the Merseyrail network into hard-to-reach places. The technology could benefit areas such as Liverpool John Lennon Airport and Speke, Kirkby Town Centre, Southport Town Centre, Wirral Waters and the Knowledge Quarter.

Tram-trains built by Stadler in Valencia are already running in Sheffield and in the next few years they should be deployed on the South Wales Metro.

They were built by Stadler, who are building Merseyrail’s new Class 777 trains, so I suspect they’ll go together like peaches and cream.

The Belgian firm; Van Hool have a product called Exquicity. This video shows them working in Pau in France.

These tram buses run on rubber types and are powered by hydrogen.

Similar buses running in Belfast are diesel-electric.

Could these be what the document refers to as trackless trams?

Battery Train Trials

The article finishes with this summary of the battery train trials. This is said.

Under the battery trials, financed by the Transforming Cities Fund, one of the new class 777 trains fitted with the battery technology was tested on the Northern line.

The batteries exceeded expectations with the trains travelling up to 20 miles per run without the need for re-charging.

The battery trains would remove the need for the third ‘electric’ rail, enabling the trains to travel beyond the existing network without major track investment.

The units passed all tests during four weeks of trials on the City Region’s rail network in May and June.

The Combined Authority and partners are still assessing the full impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the programme and will provide more information regarding the roll out as soon as it has been agreed.

It looks to me, if all these plans get implemented successfully, Liverpool City Region will have one of the best public transport systems of any similar-sized cities in the world.

The Full Plan As A Map

This article on the BBC is entitled Battery-Powered Trains Part Of Merseyrail Expansion Plan.

The article contains this map.

There is no key or explanation, but it appears that the pink lines are new routes, where Merseyrail will run trains.

Before I discuss each of the possible routes, I will discuss two big factors, that will affect a lot of my thinking.

The West Coast Main Line

Avanti West Coast have the following stops in trains per hour (tph)  at these stations on the West Coast Main Line as its trains pass the East of Merseyside.

  • Crewe – At least 5 tph
  • Warrington Bank Quay – At least 2 tph
  • Preston – At least 1 tph

These frequencies are in addition to these direct trains.

  • 1 tph to Liverpool Lime Street, which will rise to 2 tph in the December 2022, with a call at Liverpool South Parkway station.
  • Occasional services to Chester throughout the day.

Passengers do not have to go via Liverpool Lime Street to travel to London.

In addition. there are useful services run by TransPennine Express to Scotland, that call at Preston.

In Future; High Speed Two

This will call at Crewe, Liverpool Lime Street, Liverpool South Parkway, Preston and Warrington.

Northern Trains

Northern Trains were in all sorts of troubles and the service is now run directly by the Government’s Operator of Last Resort. I suspect that any reasonable offer to takeover over a service will be looked at favourably.

I will now look at Merseyrail’s new routes.

Ormskirk And Southport Via The Burscough Curve

Consider.

  • This has been a long term aspiration of Merseyrail.
  • A curve between Burscough Bridge and Burscough Junction will have to be rebuilt on a former alignment.
  • Southport and Ormskirk are about 13 miles apart.
  • Southport and Ormskirk have third-rail electrified lines to Liverpool and the South.

It would be an ideal route for battery-electric trains with a range of 20 miles.

What would it do for passengers?

  • It gives those living near five stations a direct link to Liverpool.
  • It gives Southport a town of over 91,000 people more capacity to the city of Liverpool for jobs, leisure and shopping.
  • Will it open up more opportunities for new housing in villages like Burscough?

It will certainly give Merseyrail operational advantages to Southport.

Ormskirk And Preston

Consider.

  • This has been a long term aspiration of Merseyrail.
  • This would be a takeover by Merseyrail of the existing Northern Trains service.
  • Preston and Ormskirk are about 15.3 miles and 32 minutes apart.
  • Omskirk has 750 VDC third-rail electrification and Preston has 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The Class 777 trains have been built so they can be updated to dual voltage.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • It gives those living near the Ormskirk and Preston Line a direct link to Liverpool.
  • It creates a direct link in modern electric trains between North Liverpool and Preston, for onward travel on West Coast Main Line services and High Speed 2 in the future.
  • The journey time could be reduced to under thirty minutes.

As football is so important to the Liverpool economy, would a time around forty-five minutes between Preston and Sandhills station tempt football supporters going to Anfield and Goodison Park to use the train and then perhaps a trackless tram to the stadium?

This Google map shows the location of Anfield, Goodison Park and Sandhills station.

Note.

  1. Anfield is in the bottom-right corner of the map and is marked by a red arrow.
  2. Goodison is in the top-right corner of the map, slightly to the West of Anfield.
  3. Sandhills station is in the bottom-left corner of the map.

Both stadia are around a mile and a half from the station.

Ormskirk And Preston

Once the Ormskirk and Southport and Ormskirk and Preston services are up and running, it would surely be possible to run a Southport and Preston service.

  • There would be a reverse at Ormskirk.
  • The two sections of Ormskirk and Southport and Ormskirk and Preston would both need battery power.
  • Whilst the driver changed ends at Ormskirk, the train would be recharged using a fast and efficient charger.
  • Times between Southport and Preston would be under an hour.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • It gives those living in Southport, a direct link to Preston.
  • It creates a direct link in modern electric trains between Southport and Preston, for onward travel on West Coast Main Line services and High Speed 2 in the future.

This service could be very valuable for passengers, but I suspect the route could be implemented with minimal infrastructure changes at Ormskirk station.

Ormskirk Station

This picture shows Ormskirk’s single platform from the Merseyrail end.

Note.

  1. The Liverpool train in the foreground.
  2. The Preston train in the background.
  3. The solid barrier between the trains.

 

I wonder if the following would be possible with the barrier removed.

  • The long platform would be treated as one platform divided into two.
  • Perhaps they will be the Liverpool and Preston/Southport platform,
  • Trains that will leave the station for Liverpool will stop in the Liverpool platform.
  • Trains that will leave the station for Preston or Southport will stop in the Preston/Southport platform.
  • Through trains between Liverpool and Preston or Southport would be possible.
  • A train between Preston and Southport could reverse in the Preston/Southport platform, whilst trains for Liverpool used the Liverpool platform.

It looks like it’s an efficient layout borrowed from somewhere else. and Stadler have probably seen it before.

Headbolt Lane Station

In Headbolt Lane Station Fly-Through, I described the new Headbolt Lane station.

This screen capture is from the video in that post,

Note.

  1. Two platforms going away from the camera and one platform and what looks to be a siding going towards the camera.
  2. There appears to be no direct connection between the two different sets of tracks.

Until proven wrong, I believe that the camera is looking towards Liverpool, as it would mean that Liverpool services had two platforms. But they currently make do with one at Kirkby.

There is a walk through between the tracks, which

  • Enables passengers to access the second platform.
  • Allows passengers to enter the station from the other side.
  • Allows non-passengers to cross the tracks on the level.
  • Avoids the need to build a bridge.

It is certainly an innovative design.

If occasional trains need to go through, could there be a lift-out section of the walk-through?

But as there are buffer stops on the tracks in the three platforms, that are either side of the walk-through, I suspect it will never happen, as it’s too much hassle.

In the Wikipedia entry for Headbolt Lane station this is said.

The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority announced in July 2021 that a trial of a battery electric multiple unit (BEMU) version of the new Class 777 will serve the new station, when it opens. This will not require all of the line extension to Headbolt Lane to be electrified.

Merseyrail would appear to have neatly side-stepped, the Office of Road and Rail’s policy of no more third-rail electrification.

But I’m sure Merseyrail could put an approved train-charging system in the station.

  • They would need one if a Class 777 train arrived with a flat battery.
  • They would need one to charge trains on the Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale service, if the service were to be run by battery-electric trains.
  • They would need one to charge trains on the Headbolt Lane and Wigan Wallgate service, if the service were to be run by battery-electric trains.

The system could be based on a short length of overhead wire and a slim pantograph or a system like Railbaar from Furrer and Frey.

But does it give any clues as to the orientation of the station in the video?

  • As there are three platforms and a siding, that meet at Headbolt Lane station, all could be fitted with chargers. to make sure the services are reliable.
  • Liverpool services could be handled at either end, as it only needs one platform.
  • Skelmersdale and Wigan services could probably share a platform, but they would be better surely using two platforms.
  • The siding could be created into a platform for extra services to be added to the Merseyrail network

So there is no pressing reason, why the station cannot be North or South of the railway.

I suspect road layout and land use issues will eventually decide, the orientation of the station.

Headbolt Lane And Skelmersdale

Consider.

  • This has been a long term aspiration of Merseyrail and Lancashire County Council.
  • Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale are just a few miles apart.
  • Direct running between Liverpool and Skelmersdale will not be possible, but it will be step-free change between trains.

The Wikipedia entry for Headbolt Lane station seems to indicate a proposed extension of the Northern Line with the next stop being the existing Rainford station. This would surely not add greatly to costs and bring Merseyrail to more fare-paying customers.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • Skelmersdale is a town of nearly 39,000 and is said to be one of the largest towns in England without a rail connection.
  • At Headbolt Lane passengers will be able to change for Liverpool or Manchester.

A lot of passengers will have received a modern train service.

Headbolt Lane And Wigan

Consider.

  • This service is currently run by Northern trains.
  • Kirkby and Wigan Wallgate stations are just over twelve miles apart.
  • Someone, who should know told me that by the time High Speed Two starts running through Wigan at a frequency of two tph, the two Wigan stations will have been combined.
  • Headbolt Lane station could be the drop-off point for those needing to go to Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London on both the current West Coast Main Line and the future High Speed Two.

What better way to start that journey than on one of Merseyrail’s battery-electric Class 777 trains.

What would it do for passengers?

With modern battery-electric trains linking Headbolt Lane station to the combined Wigan station complex, this route could be the zero-carbon route between large parts of Liverpool and cantres of tourism and employment along and to the East of the M6 and the West Coast Main Line.

Liverpool South Parkway And Warrington Central

Consider.

  • This would be takeover of part of the current Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Oxford Road service.
  • The map shows the service going at least as far as Warrington Central station.
  • Stations between Hunts Cross and Warrington Central include Halewood, Hough Green, Widnes, Sankey and the new Warrington West stations.

Distances are as follows.

  • Liverpool South Parkway and Liverpool Lime Street – 5.5 miles
  • Liverpool South Parkway and Warrington Central – 12.7 miles
  • Liverpool South Parkway and Trafford Park – 25.4 miles
  • Liverpool South Parkway and Manchester Oxford Road – 28.7 miles

The following sections of the route have 25 KVAC overhead electrification.

  • Liverpool South Parkway and Liverpool Lime Street
  • East of Trafford Park.

With a bit more electrification at either end, the whole route should be in range of a battery-electric Class 777 train.

Or the Class 777 trains could be fitted with bigger batteries!

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • This is a route that has needed decent trains for years and has finally got new Class 195 trains.
  • But, in addition, the battery-electric Class 555 trains would decarbonise the route.

The major problem, though is not infrastructure or trains, but surely Andy Burnham, who is the outspoken Mayor of Greater Manchester could object to Merseyrail invading his patch.

Merseyrail’s Cheshire Ambitions

This is a section of the map shown on the BBC article, showing Cheshire.

It looks like there could be as many as three routes.

  • Chester and Crewe
  • Chester and Runcorn East
  • Ellesmere Port and Runcorn East

I’ll now cover the routes in detail.

Chester And Crewe

Consider.

  • This would be a takeover by Merseyrail of the existing Trains for Wales service.
  • Chester And Crewe are about 21,2 miles and 25 minutes apart.
  • Chester has 750 VDC third-rail electrification and Crewe has 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The Class 777 trains have been built so they can be updated to dual voltage.
  • There are proposals, that Beeston Castle and Tarporley station be re-opened.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • If trains will run between Crewe and Liverpool, this creates a second route between the two major stations.
  • It creates a direct link in modern electric trains between The Wirral and Crewe, for onward travel on West Coast Main Line services and High Speed 2 in the future.
  • The journey time could be reduced by enough to increase service frequency on the route.

I This would be a very useful extension of the Merseyrail network.

Chester And Runcorn East

Consider.

  • This would be a takeover by Merseyrail of the existing Trains for Wales service.
  • Chester And Runcorn East are about 13.1 miles apart.
  • Two stations and five miles further on is Warrington Bank Quay station.
  • Chester has 750 VDC third-rail electrification and Warrington Bank Quay has 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The Class 777 trains have been built so they can be updated to dual voltage.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • It would enable a Merseyrail circular route from Liverpool Lime Street to Chester via Edge Hill, Wavertree Technology Park, Broad Green, Roby, Huyton, Whiston, Rainhill, Lea Green, St Helens Junction, Warrington Bank Quay, Frodsham, Runcorn East and Helsby.
  • After Chester, it could take the Wirral Line back to Liverpool to make it a true Mersey Circular service.

Would a Mersey Circular service be a good idea?

Ellesmere Port And Runcorn East

Consider.

  • This been a long term aspiration of Merseyrail.
  • This would be a takeover by Merseyrail of the infrequent Northern Rail service.
  • Ellesmere Port And Runcorn East are about 10.8 miles apart.
  • Two stations and five miles further on is Warrington Bank Quay station.
  • Ellesmere Port has 750 VDC third-rail electrification and Warrington Bank Quay has 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The Class 777 trains have been built so they can be updated to dual voltage.

It certainly looks to be a route that could be handled by a battery-electric Class 777 train.

What would it do for passengers?

  • It would certainly improve rail transport along the South Bank of the Mersey from Ellesmere Port to Warrington Bank Quay or Runcorn East depending on the Eastern terminus.
  • If the terminal were to be Warrington Bank Quay that would sort out the charging.
  • It could create a direct link in modern electric trains between Ellesmere Port and Warrington Bank Quay, for onward travel on West Coast Main Line services and High Speed 2 in the future.

I feel that an Ellesmere Port and Warrington Bank Quay service would be good for the area.

The Borderlands Line

I’ve left the Borderlands Line to last, as I feel it will be a lot more than commuter and leisure line between Liverpool and Wrexham.

  • It crosses the border between England and Wales
  • The line is 26.9 miles of double track, with a single-track extension of under two miles between the two Wrexham stations.
  • It has over twenty stations with more planned in both countries
  • It crosses a couple of rivers on long steel bridges.
  • It brings commuters to Liverpool and takes workers to the high-tech factories of companies like Airbus and Toyota on Deeside.
  • It connects to a lot of golf courses, one of which is the Open Championship course  at Royal Liverpool.
  • Once in Wales it has two connections to the North Wales Coast Line, which runs between Chester and holyhead.

It is no ordinary railway and is ripe for improvement to bridge passengers to employment sites and leisure areas along its route.

The line has one big problem in that passengers need to change trains at Bidston between Liverpool and Wrexham stations.

  • Between Bidston and Liverpool the Merseyrail electric trains to and from  Hoylake are used and they turn in the Liverpool Loop under Liverpool City Centre calling at four stations before returning.
  • Between Bidston and Wrexham, diesel multiple units are useds.

It is a route design straight out of the 1970s of men with minds without imagination. Even British Rail were designing battery-electric trains in the 1950s, which I wrote about in Did The Queen Ever Ride In This Train?.

Merseyrail intend to right the wrongs of the past using battery-electric Class 777 trains.

  • As electric versions of these trains will be used on the Liverpool and Hoylake service, there would be no need to change trains at Bidston if the Liverpool and Wrexham trains were just a battery-electric version of the same train.
  • The Wrexham trains would drive round the Liverpool Loop tunnel as hundreds of trains do every day.
  • The trains would be charged on the existing third-rail electrification at the Liverpool end.
  • I’m fairly certain that a frequency of two tph would be possible on the route, if the Liverpool Loop tunnel signalling could cope,
  • Trains would need to be charged at the Wexham end of the route and I’m sure Stadler have a solution.

It would be an efficient and cost effective way to decarbonise a tricky but useful branch line.

Conclusion

Stadler are playing their full orchestra of ideas on Merseyrail.

When completed, it will be one of the best metros of any urban areas up to a million people in the world.

This metro could do for Liverpool, what the Beatles did for the city in the 1960s.

July 15, 2021 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

Will Hitachi ABB Power Grids Technology Be Used At Headbolt Lane Station?

Today, I was sent a link to the North Cheshire Rail User Group’s Newsletter for Spring 2021.

Current Progress on Merseyrail’s Class 777 Trains

This is said in the newsletter about the progress of the new Class 777 trains.

At a recent meeting of the Liverpool City Region rail user groups hosted by Liam Robinson, Chair of
Merseytravel, a short presentation was given detailing progress in bringing the new Class 777 Stadler fleet into
operation. NCRUG has been keeping a keen watch on the introduction of this new fleet; later model Class 777’s
have the ability to leave the 3rd rail and operate under battery power for 20 miles or more with a full load thus
permitting expansion of the Merseyrail network beyond its current limits.

Particularly of interest in our patch is the Ellesmere Port to Helsby line, although at one point in the meeting I
did raise the concept of ultimately having a complete Merseyrail service circling the Mersey Estuary on a metro
styled basis Ambitious certainly, but unrealistic as a long-term goal? There would be considerable work required
at Liverpool south Parkway to connect the Merseyrail line to the network, however the terrain is suitably flat and
the trains will be capable. This obvious evolution of the network did seem to take the meeting by surprise.

Unfortunately the much anticipated introduction of the Class 777’s has been delayed for a number of factors,
not least of all the pandemic but border issues and storage also play a part. Trails are taking place on the Kirby
and Ormskirk lines, and full introduction might not be until as late as next year. The Liverpool City Region has a
clearly defined set of (deliverable) objectives for development of the rail network and the expansion has been
prioritised with a line to Skelmersdale being top of the list and the first step of that being a new station at Headbolt
Lane, Kirby – plans are already well developed for this. It is expected to be this line where proof of concept trails
will be conducted for the battery powered 777’s, although Merseyrail does have authorisation to use Ellesmere
Port–Helsby on account of the low traffic movements on that line! Network expansion is being considered to
Widnes via Hunts Cross and possibly as far as Warrington, but when the question of Ellesmere Port–Helsby
was raised, the route, although under consideration, was not high on the priority list. I suspect it will be at least
several years away and I’m sure the delayed introduction of the type will not only come as a disappointment for
NCRUG but also the Community Rail Partnership and CWaC Council, who have funded a basic feasibility study
into possible demand. Therefore we are left with the Northern Trains service for the foreseeable future – 3 return
trains daily on the current schedule.

After reading this extract, I am puzzled. The original priority was to use the battery capabilities of the new Class 777 trains to extend the Ellesmere Port service to Helsby.

  • Ellesmere Port and Helsby stations are 5.2 miles apart.
  • Ellesmere Port has a two trains per hour (tph) service to Birkenhead and Liverpool.
  • Ellesmere Port and Helsby stations are linked by a three trains per day (tpd) service.

Helsby station has comprehensive connections to Chester, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Warrington Bank Quay station.

Two tph between Ellesmere Port and Helsby stations would certainly improve train services in the area and probably explains the disappointment shown by the writer of the newsletter.

So why have Merseyrail switched the emphasis to battery trains to Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale from Ellesmere Port and Helsby?

Headbolt Lane Station

Headbolt Lane station is a station of an unusual design, which I wrote about in Headbolt Lane Station Fly-Through.

  • Two platforms appear to face West towards Liverpool.
  • One platform appears to face East towards Wigan and Manchester.
  • The platforms meet head-on and a walkway runs between them to allow passengers to access all platforms.
  • There appears to be provision for a fourth platform to serve Skelmersdale. which is to the East of Headbolt Lane.

I think the design means that access to all platforms is level, passengers can enter from both sides of the railway and the station doesn’t need an expensive bridge.

Between Kirkby And Headbolt Lane Stations

Headbolt Lane and Kirkby stations are a couple of miles apart at most. So were Merseyrail hoping to extend the third-rail electrification to Headbolt Lane station, but the Office of Rail and Road has more or less said that no more third-rail electrification is allowed. See ORR’s Policy On Third Rail DC Electrification Systems.

So are Merseyrail having to use battery power between Kirkby and Headbolt Lane stations?

If they are then they have the trains.

As according to the extract from the Cheshire Rail User Group’s Newsletter, the Class 777 trains have a range of twenty miles on battery power, then this should be no problem.

The Skelmersdale Shuttle

The design of Headbolt Lane station does mean that there will be no through running between Liverpool and Skelmersdale.

So it looks to me, that to allow full step-free access to all platforms, the Skelmersdale service will be a battery-electric shuttle train.

  • It could also be the only train on a single-track between Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale, which would simplify signalling and operation.
  • Two tph could be possible with a single train.
  • The train would be charged in either termini using an appropriate charging system.

How many other simple branch lines could be run that way or built new?

Headbolt Lane And Manchester Victoria Via Wigan Wallgate

Consider.

  • The distance between Headbolt Lane and Manchester Victoria stations is just under thirty miles, which is well within range of the average battery-electric trains currently under development.
  • As the current Kirkby and Manchester Victoria stations is run by Northern Trains and they are likely to be acquiring some Class 331 trains with a battery capability, these will surely be an ideal train.
  • The train would be charged in the East-facing platform at Headbolt Lane station using an appropriate charging system.

Headbolt Lane station would be a diesel-free station. As incidentally, so would Kirkby and Skelmersdale stations.

Charging Trains At Headbolt Lane Station

It would appear that both East-facing platforms at Headbolt Lane station will need to charge these trains.

  • A Class 777 train with a third-rail capability and the ability in the future to access overhead electrification.
  • A Class 331 train with no third-rail capability and the ability to access overhead electrification.

Class 777 trains from Liverpool would hopefully have enough power in their batteries to return to Kirkby.

It would appear that a short length of 25 KVAC overhead electrification in both platforms would be ideal for charging trains to and from Manchester and Skelmersdale.

If one of Hitachi ABB Power Grids’s containerised overhead electrification power systems could handle both platforms, it would surely be ideal.

A crossover to allow Manchester and Skelmersdale trains to use either East-facing platform, might be desirable, as it could improve reliability.

Conclusion

It looks like Hitachi ABB Power Grids can provide a sensible solution to handling battery-electric trains at Headbolt Lane station. Or for that matter at any station, where battery-electric trains interface with the UK rail network.

July 10, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Headbolt Lane Station Fly-Through

I had to show this Merseytravel YouTube video, as I feel the new Headbolt Lane station uses some interesting ideas.

This Google Map shows Headbolt Lane and the railway.

Note.

  1. The footbridge over the railway. I took the pictures from and around this bridge in Merseyrail To Skelmersdale – Headbolt Lane Station.
  2. The footbridge can’t be seen in the YouTube video.

Liverpool is to the West and Wigan is to the East.

These are my thoughts.

Is The Station North Or South Of The Railway?

As it is called Headbolt Lane, the station must have good access from that road, otherwise travellers will get rather confused.

So until proven otherwise, I will assume that the station must be to the North of the railway.

Which Way Is Liverpool In the Video?

If the station is North of the railway, then in the first part of the video, the visualisation approaches the station from the North and Liverpool is to the right and Wigan is to the left.

If that is right, then the yellow bus always points towards Liverpool.

How Many Platforms?

Wikipedia says that Headbolt Lane station will have three platforms.

From the video there will be two platforms for trains to and from Liverpool, although the current layout at Kirkby station makes do with just one platform.

There would also appear to be a single platform for trains to and from Wigan, Bolton and Manchester.

But there is a second Eastern track shown in the video, which possibly indicates provision has been made for a second platform for services in that direction.

Wot No Bridge?

It would appear that there is no bridge over or subway under the railway.

But it does appear that the platform layout shown allows passengers to walk between the ends of the tracks on the level to the platform or platforms on the side of the station away from the station building.

Will There Be A Second Entrance To The Station On The Other Side Of The Tracks?

The layout would allow this and it could be useful for those passengers living or working on that side of the railway.

Is The Platform Layout Unique?

I have travelled widely looked at railway stations all over the world.

But I can’t remember seeing a layout like this.

The layout does have advantages.

  • An expensive bridge with lifts will not be needed.
  • There is nothing mechanical or electrical to go wrong.
  • Extra platforms can be added if required.
  • It can also be used as a simple step-free way to cross the railway.

I suspect that the layout could be used in other places.

Train Frequencies To Liverpool

The current service between Kirkby station and Liverpool is four trains per hour (tph), which is handled on a single platform.

One platform at Headbolt Lane would surely be sufficient, but a second platform must surely allow extra services and provide more resilience in case of train failure.

Train Frequencies To Wigan, Bolton And Manchester

The current service between Kirkby station and Manchester is one tph, which is handled on a single platform.

One platform at Headbolt Lane would surely be sufficient and could easily handle two tph.

Are two platforms provided for Liverpool services, so that extra services could be run in the Peak or to provide more resilience, should a train fail in the station.

A Service To Skelmersdale

Consider.

  • Skelmersdale is about five miles North of the line between Headbolt Lane and Wigan.
  • One of Merseyrail’s current Class 507 trains covers the 5.5 miles between Kirkby and Sandhills station in twelve minutes.
  • The proposed layout of Headbolt Lane station does not allow direct services between Liverpool and Skelmersdale.

These distances and timing would mean the following.

  • A single shuttle train between Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale could run a two tph service.
  • A pair of shuttle trains between Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale could run a four tph service.

Passengers would need to change trains at Headbolt Lane station.

This may seem less passenger-friendly than a direct service, but it could be the most affordable option.

And it could always be improved with modifications at Headbolt Lane station.

Is There A Role For Battery-Electric Trains?

Consider.

  • For Health and Safety reasons, it is very unlikely that any new third-rail track will be laid in the UK.
  • The distance between the current Kirkby station and the new Headbolt Lane station is about 1.5 miles.
  • The distance between Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale stations is less than eight miles.
  • I suspect Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale stations would both have good power supplies.
  • Merseyrail’s new Class 777 trains have a battery capability.

Would this allow the following?

  • Liverpool and Headbolt Lane services to use battery power between Kirkby and Headbolt Lane station. All charging would be done between Liverpool and Kirkby.
  • The shuttle train between Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale would work on battery power, with batteries charged at both ends of the route.

There is also the possibility, that the Headbolt Lane and Manchester Victoria service could be run using battery-electric Class 331 trains.

  • Headbolt Lane and Manchester Victoria will be a 28.5 mile service with a couple of miles of electrification at the Manchester end.
  • I estimate that the battery-electric Class 331 trains will have sufficient range to handle this route with charging at Headbolt Lane station.
  • Currently, trains from Manchester Victoria take over ten minutes to turnround at Kirkby station.
  • Provision for a charger could be built into Headbolt Lane station.

It would be a simple way to electrify the Kirkby and Manchester Victoria service.

In addition, battery-electric Class 331 trains are likely to have longer battery range than the Class 777 trains.

So might it be better if the Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale shuttle was worked by battery-electric Class 331 trains.

If the two East-facing platforms at Headbolt Lane station were to be fitted with charging facilities, this would give an increased level of reliability.

Could Northern’s Manchester Victoria Service Terminate At Skelmersdale?

If both services were to be run by Northern’s battery-electric Class 331 trains, this could be a possibility.

  • A reverse would be needed at Headbolt Lane station.
  • I estimate that 2tph on the route would fit together well.
  • Trains would be charged at Skelmersdale station.
  • Chargers might not be needed at Headbolt Lane station.

In addition, a two tph service would fit in well with four or six tph to Liverpool.

Conclusion

It’s almost as if Headbolt Lane station could consist of three elements.

  • The station facilities, bus interchange and car parking.
  • A two-platform station for Merseyrail services to Liverpool
  • A two-platform station with charging facilities for Northern services to Blackburn, Bolton, Manchester Victoria, Skelmersdale and Wigan.

All services from Headbolt Lane station will be run by battery-electric reains.

Costs have been saved by the following.

  • Not having a bridge over the tracks.
  • Maintaining the separation between Northern and Merseyrail services.
  • Not electrifying between Kirkby and Headbolt Lane stations.
  • Not electrifying the Skelmersdale Branch.

The whole station appears to have been designed on a single level.

 

 

 

May 24, 2021 Posted by | Design, Transport | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Air-Conditioned Piccadilly Line Train Designs Presented

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Railway Gazette.

The article has four pictures of the final design of the new trains for the Piccadilly Line and the pictures don’t seem to be the same as those I took of the mock-up in October 2013 and can be seen in Siemens’ View Of The Future Of The Underground.

  • The design has a less dramatic nose compared to the mock-up.
  • It also appears to be taller.
  • Judging by the external profile, the design has a clerestory to perhaps add a couple of inches.
  • The seats appear to have a chunky profile. Is the air-conditioning partly behind the seats.

The interior seems to borrow heavily on the design for the London Overground’s Class 710 train.

Note.

  1. The air-conditioning outlets in front of or underneath the seats.
  2. No grilles behind the seats.
  3. The Class 710 train has a clerestory for extra height, but it is not visible on the outside. Does the one on the Siemens’ design have grilles from air entry or exit?

These are some views of seats in current Underground stock.

Note.

  1. The Piccadilly Line trains were fully refurbished in 2001.
  2. The Northern Line trains were fully refurbished in 2013.
  3. The grilles behind the seats on the Northern Line trains.

You can see a progression through the various designs, with the Class 710 trains

It looks like Siemens are using a similar interior layout to current trains on the Underground and the Overground.

A few thoughts.

Heated Floors

Some Bombardier Aventras like Greater Anglia’s Class 720 trains have heated floors. Will Siemens copy this idea?

These trains will go to some of the coldest parts of the Underground around Cockfosters.

USB Charging

This screen-capture from one of the Siemens’ pictures shows the front of the seats.

I thought for a moment, that there was a USB charge point in the front of the seat, but on second thoughts, that is just a fitting to enable extra vertical grab rails.

Siemens should put USB charge points in the arm rests, as Vivarail have done.

Good design is often simple.

Walk-Through Cars

The Railway Gazette article says this about walk-through cars.

The longer cars and walk-through interior of the articulated design would maximise the usable interior space, increasing capacity by 10%.

They say nothing about what I think is there biggest advantage – Passengers can freely circulate in the train, to perhaps get a better seat or be better placed for a quick exit.

Do women feel less vulnerable in wall-through trains?

Step-Free Entry

One of the good points of the mock-up in 2013 was that entrance into the train was step-free, as this picture shows.

But look at this screen-capture for the detailed design.

The doors now seem a couple of inches above the platform.

Have the designers removed a must-have feature?

German trains have a terrible reputation for not being step-free between train and platform, but if Stadler and Merseyrail can do it with the new Class 777 trains, then surely it can be done on the London Underground.

Front End

The previous two pictures do show the front end of the mock-up and final design well.

I do wonder, if the original design with the bar across didn’t go down to well with drivers.

  • The driver on most trains sits to the left.
  • Trains in the UK generally run on the left.
  • Signals on the Underground are usually placed on the left.

So did the bar across get in the way of looking across at passengers, as a train entered a station?

Driver’s Doors

The previous two pictures also show that the original mock-up is without a door for the driver, but that these have been added to the final design.

Perhaps drivers feel a separate door is necessary, as it can’t be blocked by baggage, bicycles or buggies.

Train Length

In Thoughts On The New Tube For London, I speculated about train length and feel that with clever cab design, that the trains can be a bit longer than the platform with the walk-through design.

After all on the East London Line at a few stations, the platforms aren’t long enough for the five-car trains and passengers in the last car are just asked to walk forward.

This picture shows what happens on the Overground at Canada Water station.

Those travelling in the last car of the train have to walk forward to the front doors of the car to exit. I suspect that with Siemens new trains, this will be the case on the Piccadilly Line.

The big advantage is that it avoids lengthening the platforms, which would be extremely tricky and very expensive.

So will the new Siemens trains be made longer, by allowing overhang into the tunnel at the rear and messaging to inform passengers?

I think they might!

Wikipedia gives the length of the new Siemens 2024 Stock as 113.7 metres, which compares with the 106.8 metres of the current 1973 Stock.

So the new trains are 6.9 metres longer.

Does that mean that if the front of the train is at the same position it is now, the rear end of the train will be overhanging the platform, by almost seven metres?

Judging by what happens on the East London Line, I think it would be feasible. It could even be a few metres longer, in which case the first set of double-doors would be outside the platform and wouldn’t open.

Seats Per Car

I believe this screen-capture from one of Siemens pictures shows the view of one of the end cars looking towards the driver’s cab.

Note.

  1. The red and green labels on the door to the driver’s compartment at the far end.
  2. The two pairs of passenger doors and the lobbies with the black floors.
  3. The six banks of seats, each of which have six individual seats.

This means that the driver cars each have thirty-six seats.

According to Wikipedia, each new Siemens train has nine cars and a total of 268 seats.

So that means that the middle seven cars have a total of 196 seats or twenty-eight in each car. What convenient numbers!

Could that mean that the seven intermediate cars have four banks of seven seats arranged around a lobby with a pair of double-doors on both sides?

Could the intermediate cars have just one set of wide doors? I shall be taking a tape measure and my camera to a Class 710 train, to see what Bombardier have done.

So a new Siemens train might look something like this.

  • Car 1 – driver cab – six seats – double-door/lobby – six seats – double-door/lobby – six seats
  • Car 2 – seven seats – double-door/lobby – seven seats
  • Car 3 – seven seats – double-door/lobby – seven seats
  • Car 4 – seven seats – double-door/lobby – seven seats
  • Car 5 – seven seats – double-door/lobby – seven seats
  • Car 6 – seven seats – double-door/lobby – seven seats
  • Car 7 – seven seats – double-door/lobby – seven seats
  • Car 8 – seven seats – double-door/lobby – seven seats
  • Car 9 – six seats – double-door/lobby – six seats – double-door/lobby – six seats- driver cab

Note.

  1. There will be a maximum of fourteen seats between any two entrance and exit lobbies.
  2. The train will have eleven sets of doors on either side.
  3. Trains of different lengths can be made for the Waterloo and City Line, where trains are shorter, and the Jubilee, where trains are longer, by just removing or adding intermediate cars.

For the Piccadilly Line, so long as the distance between the front of the train and the first set of doors is greater than 6.9 metres, these trains can be run using the overhanging into the tunnel method used on the East London Line of the London Overground.

Observations From The Underground And Overground

I went for a look and can say this.

  • The seats on Overground Class 710 trains and Underground S Stock trains have a width of 0.5 metres. So is this a Transport for London standard?
  • Double doors on both trains are around 1.5 metres wide.

On Class 710 trains, some cars have a run of fourteen seats. Is it a design clue for Transport for London train interiors?

There must be some proof somewhere that fourteen 0.5 metre seats and two 1.5 metre lobbies can handle large numbers of passengers.

The new Siemens trains will have an articulated join in the middle.

Could The Trains Be Lengthened?

The only things we know about the lengths of the cars of the new Siemens trains are.

  • The average length of cars is 12.6 metres.
  • The two driving cars are probably identical.
  • The seven intermediate cars are probably identical.
  • The distance between the end of the train and the first set of doors must be long enough to allow the first set of doors to open on the platform, with nearly seven metres of the train in the tunnel.

If we assume that the length of the intermediate car is X metres and it has two banks of seats and one lobby, then the driving car with three banks of seats, two lobbies and a driving cab could be almost twice as long.

I can do a little calculation.

How long would the driver cars be for various lengths of intermediate car?

As the driver car is effectively an intermediate car with an extra pair of doors/lobbie and an overhang containing another set of sets and the driving cab, I can also estimate the between the end of the train and the first set of doors, by subtracting the intermediate car length and two metres for the lobby from the driver car length

  • 9 metres – 25.35 metres – 14.35 metres
  • 9.5 metres – 23.6 metres – 12.1 metres
  • 10 metres – 21.85 metres – 9.85 metres
  • 10.5 metres – 20.1 metres – 7.6 metres
  • 11 metres – 18.35 metres – 5.35 metres
  • 12 metres – 14.85 metres – 0.85 metres

Note.

  1. The three figures are intermediate car length, driver car length and an estimate of the distance between the end of the train and the first set of doors.
  2. I shall improve this table, when I get the measurements from a Class 710 train.
  3. As there is a need for at least an overhang into the tunnel of at least 6.9 metres, it looks like intermediate cars can’t be longer than 10.5 metres.

Suppose that the intermediate car length  is 10.5 metres.

Adding an extra car would mean that the new train length would be 124.2 metres, which would be 17.4 metres longer than the current Piccadilly Line 1973 Stock train.

This would be an overhang of 8.7 metres at both ends of the train, which would probably mean that the train wouldn’t fit the route, as the overhang is not long enough to accommodate it.

But with a length of ten metres, the overhang would be only 8.45 metres, which would appear to be feasible.

I wonder, if it would be possible with appropropriate modifications to the tunnel mouths and by using in-cab signalling to run ten car trains, if the intermediate cars were limited to ten metres.

  • It looks to be possible mathematically.
  • There would need to be no modifications to the platforms.
  • There would be a ten percent increase in capacity.

It will hopefully come clear, when Siemens release the length of the driver and intermediate cars.

I believe that it is possible, that Siemens have designed these trains, so they can be extended without having to lengthen the platforms.

 

March 13, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Class 777 Train Update

This news story on the MerseyTravel web site is entitled New Trains Programme Update.

This is the first paragraph.

Merseytravel has confirmed that the phased introduction into service of the new fleet of trains for the Merseyrail network will not begin this year due to ongoing challenges as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.

As the story is dated the 17th December 2020, the news isn’t as bad as it first appears.

January 4, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , | 2 Comments

Boost for Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle Area As A Further £1.5m Invested By Combined Authority In New Railway Station Scheme

The title of this post, is the same as that of this story on the Liverpool City Region web site.

These three opening paragraphs give most of the details of the story.

Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle area has been given a big boost as plans to build a new station have moved to the next stage thanks to a £1.5m investment by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority

Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram has pledged to build a new station on the site of the former St James station, which closed in 1917, which would be located in one of the fastest growing areas of the city, near to the former Cains Brewery.

Those proposals for the station on the Merseyrail network are a step closer thanks to two new developments – an agreement with Network Rail, worth £1.2m, to start the next stage of the design process, and the purchase of a plot of land adjacent to the railway cutting off Stanhope Street for £300k, protecting a potential future site for the new station ticket office building.

As Liverpool St. James station, closed over a hundred years ago, this must be one of the longest times to reopen a station, anywhere in the world.

This Google Map shows the location of the proposed station.

Note.

  1. The deep dark cutting going under the major road junction, where Upper Parliament Street and the A571 cross.
  2. The square of roads formed mainly by Ashwell Street, with Stanhope Street in the South, above the cutting.
  3. Contained in the cutting is Merseyrail’s Northern Line on which the station will be built.
  4. I also suspect, that the triangular plot of land on the East side of the tracks, is the one mentioned in the extract. It could easily be the place for a ticket office with lifts to the platforms.

Only Liverpudlians would choose to build a station at the bottom of a deep hole.

But then they don’t think like others!

I have a few thoughts and questions.

Will It Be Dark On The Platforms?

This was one of my first thoughts, as there’s nothing worse than a dark station. I also wonder, if one of the reasons the station closed was lack of passengers caused by the darkness.

This picture taken from the story, shows the cutting from the bottom.

Note.

  • Aligning this picture with the map, Liverpool Central is behind us and Hunts Cross is through the tunnel.
  • Perhaps on a good day more light gets into the cutting.

I suspect that modern lighting on the platforms could solve the problem.

It appears that the station opened in 1874 and closed in 1917, but the lines through the station were not electrified until 1983.

So as the station must have been served by steam-hauled trains, during its brief opening at the turn of the Nineteenth Century, it must have had a terrible atmosphere on the platforms.

Hopefully, the only smell, that will emanate from the new Class 777 trains, will be one of newness.

What Is On The Triangular Plot?

This Google Map shows the triangular plot of land, that could be used for the ticket office.

Note.

  1. It looks very much to be a builder’s yard or a store for building materials, as I can definitely make out packs of bricks and bags of aggregate.
  2. As there appears to be a steel staircase down to the tracks at the top of the image, it might even be something to do with Network Rail.
  3. The steel staircase is visible in the picture of the tracks.
  4. The plot certainly doesn’t contain any buildings of architectural merit.
  5. I also can’t see a pond, which might contain newts or other protected wildlife.

It would appear to be an ideal site for a station building, with all the necessary facilities.

More Information And Pictures Of The Former Station

This page on the Disused Stations web site, gives extra information to Wikipedia about the station and has some interesting pictures.

How Will The Platforms Be Accessed?

It is a long way for steps, as especially as new stations are generally built step-free.

Merseyrail already have a pair of almost identical stations; Kirkdale and Wavertree Technology Park, which both opened in 2000.

These pictures show Kirkdale station.

I suspect, platform access at Liverpool St. James station of a similar design could be devised.

  • The simplest design would surely be to put a bridge across the tracks from the ticket office, which had a large lift on both sides of the tracks direct to the platforms.
  • Stairs from such a bridge could probably be added, but they would be long and complicated.
  • It might need a two-stage process with lifts taking passengers down to a bridge over the trains and then stairs and more lifts or ramps to the platforms.

At least, as the line is electrified for third-rail, I doubt clearance will be needed for overhead wires.

Could The Station Have An Island Platform?

One of the comments suggested this. In addition, one picture on the Disused Stations web site appears to show three tracks through the station site.

So this could be an interesting possibility.

Conclusion

I think that we might see a very innovative design here, given Merseyrail’s past record.

November 1, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 7 Comments

A First Visualisation Of Headbolt Lane Station

This visualisation of the proposed Headbolt Lane station in Kirkby has appeared on several web sites.

Wikipedia also says that the station will have one platform and as there is a Class 777 train on the left hand side of what I take to be the station building, I would assume that is the platform.

It looks an interesting station layout with a wide concourse with trains on one side and buses on the other.

I can’t work out from the image, if there is a long shelter alongside the train, as one sees on some tram stops. But if it was felt necessary one could surely be fitted to give passengers some covering in inclement weather.

As the station also features five-hundred parking spaces, these must be arranged around the station on this side of the railway, which is currently just a single track.

The Plans On Rail Future

This page on the Rail Future web site is entitled A Station Back In Skelmersdale and it indicates the following.

  • A map shows a spur, which is connected to the Kirkby and Wigan Line, by a large triangular junction between Rainford and Upholland stations, running North to Skelmersdale.
  • Services of two tph between Liverpool and Skelmersdale and an hourly service between Manchester and Skelmersdale are proposed.
  • Rainford station would appear to exchange a direct link to Manchester for a direct link to Liverpool. But then Rainford is in Merseyside and Upholland and Skelmersdale are in Lancashire.

With these proposals the junction and the spur would only need to be single-track, with Skelmersdale station only needing a single-platform.

Could the following simplifications also be done?

  • Upholland and Rainford stations become single platform stations
  • The track between the two stations is mothballed or even removed.
  • There would only be a single track between both stations and Skelmersdale station.

There’s certainly scope to save money on construction and maintenance.

Could this single track and platform design be the reason, why Headbolt Lane station only has a single platform?

Consider.

  • The current Kirkby station, handles four tph to and from Liverpool City Centre on a single platform.
  • The line becomes double-track to the East of Fazakerley station.
  • I suspect double-track is needed to allow 4 tph

I suspect Headbolt Lane station could handle four tph to and from Liverpool, but there may need to be some double-track between Kirkby and Headbolt Lane stations.

I also estimate that to travel the return journey on the approximately eight miles between Headbolt Land and Skelmersdale station will take about thirty minutes.

Would this mean that it were possible to create a timetable, which allowed four tph between Liverpool and Headbolt Lane stations and two tph between Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale stations?

  • The single platform would be bi-directional.
  • Two tph out of four arriving at Headbolt Lane station would reverse and go back to Liverpool.
  • The other two tph would continue to Skelmersdale.
  • The two tph returning from Skelmersdale would continue to Liverpool.

It would be one for the Busby Berkeley of train time-tabling.

The alternative of running four tph between Liverpool and Skelmersdale would need the following.

  • Full double-tracking between Fazakerley and Skelmersdale stations.
  • Two platform stations at Kirkby, Headbolt Lane and Rainford, which would need step-free bridges.

It would be a much more expensive scheme.

How Much New Electrification Would Be Needed?

Given the politics of third-rail electrification, I suspect the scheme will use as little as possible.

If the battery-equipped Class 777 trains can run the return journey between Kirkby and Skelmersdale stations, then all track to the East of Kirkby station could be without electrification.

This would probably also mean that the current power supply wouldn’t need to be upgraded to cope with additional electrification.

Could There Be A Two tph Service Between Skelmersdale And Manchester?

I don’t think a single-track line between Upholland and Skelmersdale would rule this out, but having two two tph services might need a second platform at Skelmersdale station.

On the other hand, the Manchester and Liverpool services could be timed to allow a cross-platform interchange at Skelmersdale.

This would mean that someone wanting to go between say Sandhills and Bolton would go direct with a quick change at Skelmersdale.

Could There Be Through Running Between Manchester And Kirkby?

Four tph between Liverpool and Headbolt Lane station with two tph extending to Skelmersdale, running through the single-platform stations at Kirkby, Headbolt Lane and Rainford, would probably make the current Manchester and Kirkby service difficult, if not impossible.

But as the change at Kirkby will be replaced with one at Skelmersdale, it would be more of an inconvenience than a disaster.

In addition, if two tph were to be run between Manchester and Skelmersdale and the trains were timetabled to meet at Skelmersdale, this would effectively be a pseudo-through service.

A single track could be left between Upholland and Rainford for engineering trains and possibly the occasional freight train.

Strategic Car Parking

Consider.

  • The new Headbolt Lane station, is going to be provided with five hundred car-parking spaces.
  • The new Skelmersdale station will probably have adequate provision.
  • At the present time, Rainford and Upholland stations don’t appear to have any parking.

I would suggest, that a good look is taken at car and bicycle parking at all stations to the East of Headbolt Lane station.

Conclusion

It appears to be a scheme, that has been designed to keep costs to a minimum.

But that probably means, it is more likely to get built!

I also like the concept of a large station concourse alongside a single platform and track, which will probably be without electrification. It should be very safe too!

It is strange, that I’ve not seen that layout before either in the UK or on the many railways, that I’ve used abroad.

 

 

August 23, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 11 Comments

New MerseyRail ‘Connected’ Trains

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

It is an article that should be read, by anybody with an interest in either Merseyrail’s trains or modern urban rail networks in general. As Stadler, will be providing a fleet of trains for the Tyne and Wear Metro, I suspect a lot of the points made in the article can be expected to have parallels on that network as well.

What About The Signalling?

The article talks about the management of the signalling, but it says little about signalling in the future, although it does say that Merseyrail will be covered by a very high capacity digital network.

London’s Digital Signalling Revolution

In London, there are four tunnelled routes, that in a few years time will be running under full digital signalling.

  • Crossrail
  • East London Line
  • Northern and City Line
  • Thameslink

Note.

  1. Thameslink is already running upwards of twenty trains per hour (tph) using digital ERTMS signalling.
  2. Crossrail will be running 24 tph using digital ERTMS signalling.
  3. The East London Line currently handles 16 tph and will soon be handling 20 tph.
  4. The Northern and City Line will be going to digital ERTMS signalling, when it is applied to the Southern end of the East Coast Main Line.
  5. , In addition to the Circle, District, Jubilee, Metropolitan, Northern and Victoria Lines of the London Underground have digital signalling.
  6. Dear old Vicky is actually running 36 tph between two-platform stations at Brixton and Walthamstow Central.
  7. I wouldn’t bet against Vicky running the magic 40 tph, to become the most frequency line in the world.

All of these London systems, have one great advantage. In the tunnelled sections of the routes, there is generally only one class of fully digitally-equipped train, which must make system design and implementation easier.

Liverpool’s Digital Signalling Revolution

Consider.

  • As the article says, Merseyrail now has a world-class high-capacity digital network, that is accessible by all of its trains.
  • It has ordered 52 new Class 777 trains and has options for another sixty.
  • There are proposals to extend the Merseyrail network to Manchester, Preston, Skelmersdale, Warrington, Wigan and Wrexham.
  • The Northern Line runs at a frequency of 12 tph.
  • The Wirral Line runs at a frequency of 14 tph.
  • The loop Line has recently been relaid, so is probably high-quality track.

Compared to London’s tunnelled routes, the Northern and Wirral Lines are not handling a large number of trains.

But Liverpool now has a digital network to support the signalling and trains that could be upgraded to use it are arriving.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the maximum train frequency on Merseyrail is at least twenty tph or one train every three minutes.

What Would Twenty tph Do For The Wirral Line?

Currently, the following destinations are served by the Wirral Line and the services use the Loop under Liverpool City Centre.

Note.

  1. The current frequency around the Loop is 14 tph.
  2. Merseyrail is proposing to extend the Ellesmere Port service to Helsby, using battery-equipped Class 777 trains
  3. There is also an hourly service from Bidston to Wrexham Central in the Borderlands Line.
  4. I can see no technical reason why, the Bidston and Wrexham service could not be run using battery-equipped Class 777 trains and terminating in the Loop.

Surely, the ultimate twenty tph service on the Wirral Line would be as follows.

  • Chester – Four tph
  • Helsby via Ellesmere Port – Four tph
  • New Brighton – Four tph
  • West Kirby – Four tph
  • Wrexham Central – Four tph

All twenty tph would terminate in the Loop under Liverpool City Centre.

What Would Twenty tph Do For The Northern Line?

Currently, the following Northern destinations are served by the Northern Line.

And these Southern destinations are served.

Note.

  1. The current frequency, through the central section is 12 tph.
  2. There is a proposal, that I wrote about in Liverpool’s Forgotten Tunnel for the trains terminating at Liverpool Central station to use the Wapping Tunnel to connect to the City Line.
  3. There is a proposal to extend the Ormskirk service to Preston, using battery-equipped Class 777 trains.
  4. There is a proposal to extend the Kirkby service to Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale, using battery-equipped Class 777 trains.
  5. There must also be a possibility of a service that extends the Kirkby service to Wigan Wallgate, using battery-equipped Class 777 trains.

The service des appear to be biased towards the Northern end, with more possibilities there for extra trains than in the South.

This is why the plan to expand to the East through the Wapping Tunnel has evolved, as it gives the following possible destinations.

  • Manchester Oxford Road
  • Warrington Bank Quay
  • Warrington Central
  • Wigan North Western

Note.

  1. All destinations are currently served from Liverpool Lime Street by Northern.
  2. There must also be the possibility of a direct service to Liverpool Airport.
  3. There must also be the possibility of a service on the Canada Dock Branch to Bootle.

I can envisage between 12 and 16 tph through the Wapping Tunnel, which with the four tph to Hunts Cross could mean 16 to 20 tph on the Northern Line.

Conclusion

It would appear that a very frequent system can be developed on Merseyside, if frequencies common in London can be achieved.

 

August 23, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Big Metro Fleet Upgrade That Could Make It ‘Easy’ To Finally Extend Train Services To New Areas

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the Newcastle Chronicle.

This is the first paragraph.

Every train in Metro’s new fleet will be capable of running via an on-board battery, reducing the chance of major shutdowns and making it much cheaper to extend the network.

The fact that it is technically possible, is not a surprise as Stadler’s Class 777 trains for Merseyrail will be using battery power to extend routes. I would be very surprised if the new Tyne and Wear Metro trains and those for Merseyrail, didn’t have a lot of design in common.

But what is surprising, is that the Tyne and Wear Metro’s whole fleet will be fitted with batteries. This must be the first time in the UK, that a whole fleet of trains has been said to have batteries.

The Merseyrail trains will also have a dual voltage capability and will be able to be modified for running on 25 KVAC overhead electrification, as well as 750 VDC third-rail electrification.

Will the Tyne and Wear trains be able to use 25 KVAC electrification? It could be useful in some places on the network and I’m sure, if there was a financial case for a service using existing 25 KVAC electrification, then some trains would be modified accordingly.

A Quick Comparison

This is a quick comparison between Merseyrail’s Class 777 trains and the Tyne and Wear Metro’s new trains.

  • Cars – 777 – 4 – T&W – 5
  • Operating Speed – 777 – 75 mph – T&W – 50 mph
  • Capacity – 484 – T&W – 600
  • Capacity Per Car – 121 – T&W – 125
  • In Service – 2022 (?) – T&W – 2024

They are not that different and it looks like the Tyne and Wear trains will be built after the Merseyrail trains.

Battery Running

The article says this about running on battery power.

He said the 16km off-wire running would allow for a new loop extending out from South Hylton, through Washington, connecting back to Pelaw.

He added that it would be “easy” to create new connections between existing Metro lines – potentially allowing for a new route through Silverlink and the Cobalt business park in North Tyneside, or a link-up from South Shields towards Sunderland.

Battery power would also solve the problem of running Metro trains on Network Rail lines, which is currently impossible because they operate at different voltages.

Mr Blagburn said: “You could remove the electrification from the complex parts of the route, say over historic structures or through tunnels.

Note.

  1. The range of sixteen kilometres or ten miles could be very useful.
  2. The trains appear to be designed to run on Network Rail tracks, as the current trains already do.
  3. The current trains use the Karlsruhe model to effectively work as tram-trains on shared tracks.

I actually believe that the new Tyne and Wear trains could be modified to run on both 25 KVAC and 750 VDC overhead electrification, as Stadler’s Class 399 tram-trains do in Sheffield.

Conclusion

These trains are using all Stadler’s experience of trains and tram-trains from all over the world.

  • They will normally operate using 750 VDC overhead electrification.
  • But Stadler have the technology to enable the trains for 25 KVAC overhead electrification, if required.
  • They have a range of ten miles on batteries.
  • Are the batteries charged by using the energy created by the regenerative braking?

These are not bog-standard trains!

But then neither are the trains built for Greater Anglia by Stadler!

 

 

June 25, 2020 Posted by | Design, Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment