The Anonymous Widower

Promoting The Highland Main Line

On Wednesday, the Highland Main Line Community Rail Partnership were in Kings Cross station promoting the Highland Main Line as a tourism destination.

I very much agree with the Partnership’s objective of encouraging more visitorsto the Scottish Highlands.

The Highland Main Line Community Rail Partnership Web Site

The Partnership were giving out an excellent brochure brochure which documents the wide range of attractions along the line between Perth and Inverness.

The Highland Main Line Community Rail Partnership web site has an on-line copy of the brochure.

The web site is also a valuable resource about the line and the area.

An Improving Domestic Rail Service

There is an approximately two-hourly service between Perth and Inverness and it is planned that this will be improved in the next couple of years.

  • Reducing journey times is an objective.
  • An hourly service is also an objective.
  • Inter7City trains, which are shortened, refurbished and modernised InterCity 125 trains will be introduced.

This service will enable visitors to base themselves close to one of the stations along the line and use the trains to visit other places.

Azumas To Inverness

LNER currently run InterCity 125 trains between London and Inverness

  • There is a single service each day in both directions.
  • The Northbound train leaves London at midday.
  • The Southbound train leaves Inverness just before eight in the morning.
  • The journey currently takes around eight hours.
  • The trains stop at all stations between Perth and Inverness.

The service needs two trains to run one train per day in both directions.

LNER have just launched the new Class 800 trains, which they are marketing as Azumas.

My observations show that Azumas could save between thirty and sixty minutes on the trip.

The following improvements will all help.

  • Improvements to the Highland Main Line.
  • Steo-free access between train and platform at all stations.
  • Faster acceleration and deceleration at all stops.
  • Electrification to Stirling and possibly as far as Perth.
  • As digital signalling is introduced South of Edinburgh, speeds of up to 140 mph could be possible.

Many of these improvements are currently planned and most will be completed by 2024.

This video was one I made travelling in the cab of an InterCity 125.

Will LNER invite to take one from an Azuma?

The Possibility Of Extra Services

The journey time between London and Inverness will surely get shorter in the next few years.

If say it was seven hours, then allowing an hour for cleaning, loading supplies and refuelling in Inverness would mean that a round trip from London would take fifteen hours.

  • A train leaving Kings Cross station at 07:00 would arrive in Inverness at 14:00.
  • The return journey would leave at 15:00 and be in London by 22:00.
  • A second service could start in Inverness and mirror the service starting in London.

The service would need two trains.

So it appears that by saving time on the journey, the possibility of extra services is opened up.

The Improved Sleeper Service

I have taken the current Caledonian Sleeper to Inverness and it is a spectacular ride through the Highlands in the early morning.

But the elderly trains are being replaced and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot more passengers decide to  use the sleeper to the Highlands.

Over the last few years, the Austrians, the Swedes and the Scots have all ordered new rolling stock for their sleeper trains and I believe that we’ll see a revival in this form of transport, throughout Europe.

A Caithness To Edinburgh Sleeper

This has been proposed and I wrote about it in Rail Sleeper Plan Between Caithness And Edinburgh.

This was my conclusion.

I feel that not next year, but once Scotland’s rail system is fully developed, with the shortened Inter-City 125s serving the longer routes and electric trains all over the Central Belt, that a Sleeper Train between Edinburgh and Thurso will be viable.

The proposed increase in capacity between London and Edinburgh, probably adds to the viability.

Sleeper One Way And Azuma The Other

I can see this becoming a popular way to visit Scotland.

  • It will be new trains both ways.
  • Both trains stop at all stations between Perth and Inverness.
  • The price of a sleeper ticket compares well with the cost of a reasonable hotel.

The combinations are many and varied.

Cycling

Cycling holidays seem to be increasing everywhere and Scotland is no exception.

On the West Highland Line between Gl;asgow and Oban, passengers with cycles are increasing in number, so Scotrail are converting redundant Class 153 trains into multi-purpose carriages to add capacity to the trains.

On the Highland Main Line, for those, who want to explore the area on their bicycles, the Inter7City trains should be able to provide enough space for bicycles in the back of the two Class 43 locomotives.

Conclusion

The more I look at the Highland Main Line, the more I think it has a rosy future.

All it needs to seal its future is a visit from Michael Portillo and his camera crew.

 

May 18, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 2 Comments

New GWR IETs Under Fire Over Lack Of Buffets

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

This is the first paragraph.

The RMT has been holding demonstrations today at London, Swansea and Plymouth about the lack of buffets on GWR’s new Intercity Express Trains. Surfers have also been protesting about the simultaneous withdrawal of space to carry their boards.

As I don’t even swim, the latter doesn’t bother me and I can’t remember going to the buffet on a GWR train since, I regularly used to go to Reading to see Foster Wheeler in the 1980s. I must admit, that I’ve availed myself of the trolley service.

I have flagged up for some time, that the Class 800, 801 and 802 trains are a bit lacking in the bulky luggage department.

The picture shows an InterCity 125 about to make luggage disappear.

Also in Bicycles And Class 800 Trains, I said this.

I also noticed from the information displays, that all bicycles needed to be booked. That is a bit different from the days of the InterCity 125s, which had lots of space in the back of the locomotive.

On one trip to Plymouth, I saw several surfboards swallowed by the locomotive.

I got in a conversation with a station guy about bicycles and surfboards and from the knowing look on his face, I suspect it is a bit of a pain.

With the growing popularity of cycling, surely a turn up and go regime is needed.

Given that cyclists and surfers may look at the weather and decide, it’s a good time to go cycling or surfing, I suspect that GWR need to come up with a solution to this problem.

In the 1960s, I remember working with a manic surfer; John Baxendale, at ICI in Runcorn. Regularly, at the weekend in the winter, he’d strap his surfboard to the roof of his trusty Morris Minor and drive to the very North of Scotland to go surfing.

Rather him than me!

But if all surfers are like John in the 1960s, they are devoted to their sport and grab all opportunities.

The simplest solution is probably to provide a hire service in Cornwall for bicycles and surfboards.

But the design of the Class 800 trains allows up to twelve cars in a single train.

Could this lead to GWR and/or other operators, adding a tenth car to the trains to handle large luggage and perhaps bring specialist cargo like flowers and seafood up to London? GWR have done this in the past.

 

 

 

 

May 13, 2019 Posted by | Sport, Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Grand Union Seeks ’91s’ To Cardiff

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in the May 2019 Edition Of Modern Railways.

These are points fro the article.

  • Grand Union Railway is a new open access operator.
  • Trains will be formed of a Class 91 locomotive, nine Mark 4 coaches and a driving van trailer.
  • Trains will go between London and Cardiff, stopping at Bristol Parkway, Severn Tunnel Junction and Newport
  • Trains will leave Paddington hourly from 07:35 to 21:35
  • Trains will leave Cardiff hourly from 06:35 to 19:35
  • The journey time will be one hour and forty-five minutes.
  • To run this timetable would appear to need four trains. Grand Union will probably have a fifth train, to allow for one in maintenance.

The service is subject to regulatory approval.

Note that the company has been formed by Ian Yeowart, who was previously Managing Director of Grand Central.

Currently, Great Western Railway (GWR) runs the following trains to South Wales

  • Paddington and Cardiff via Reading, Didcot Parkway, Swindon, Bristol Parkway and Newport
  • Paddington and Swansea via Reading, Swindon, Bristol Parkway, Newport, Cardiff, Bridgend, Port Talbot Parkway and Neath

Services will soon be run exclusively by Class 800 or Class 802 trains.

Note.

  1. Some of the Swansea services are extended to Carmarthen and Pembroke Dock.
  2. Paddington to Cardiff takes two hours and eight minutes.
  3. Paddington to Swansea takes just under three hours.
  4. These times will be improved when the the electrification is completed between Paddington and Cardiff

Paddington and Cardiff will be getting three trains per hour (tph) and two operators

Great Western Railway And Grand Union Services Compared

It is interesting to compare the two services.

Journey Times

Consider.

  • The Grand Union service at one hour forty-five minutes appears to be quicker than the GWR service at two hours eight minutes.
  • But are we comparing times after full electrification of the route to Cardiff, which the Class 91 locomotives will need to operate?
  • There is also the possibility of digital signalling being fitted to both sets of trains.
  • Both trains can run at 140 mph with in-cab signalling
  • The Grand Union service has less stops than the GWR service.

Will the trains settle for a draw and have the same journey times?

Capacity

The seating capacity of the two trains are as follows.

  • GWR Class 800/802 train – 655 seats
  • Grand Union – InterCity 225 – 535 seats

My only thought, is that is there enough space in the GWR train or all luggage.

Bicycles And Bulky Luggage

Tourists with cycles are increasing in number and Wales will become a destination.

Hitachi Class 800 trains do not have much space for bicycles and  bulky luggage.

On the other hand, the driving van trailer of an InterCoty225 can swallow a lot.

Will There Be Sufficient Demand For An Extra Service between London and Cardiff?

A friend asked.

Is there actually a market/capacity for an extra hourly service?

I made these points in reply.

  • The South Wales Metro will be one of the best City metros in the world and will improve feeder services to Cardiff Central dramatically.
  • The M4 is getting busier between Bristol and Cardiff, partly due to the abolition of tolls on the Severn Bridge.
  • The Principality Stadium
  • Tourism to South Wales is growing.
  • Business and finance in Wales is finally looking up.
  • All trains will be at 140 mph for long stretches, so journey times will be one hour forty-five minutes.
  • Paddngton is not an attractive place to arrive at in London, but after Crossrail opens, all should  be different.
  • City of London to City of Cardiff in two hours.
  • Cardiff will be closer to the City of London, than Brussels, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester or Paris!
  • Heathrow’s Third Runway.
  • Four wheels bad, rails good
  • Kids are getting to like trains, just as  we did.
  • The next generation of on-train Internet will be much faster for working and keeping kids of all ages amused.
  • GWR, Grand Union and the Welsh Government could market the route as High Speed Wales!

Will three tph be enough?

My Prediction In October 2013

In October 2013, I wrote Will We Get HSW Before HS2?

This was the conclusion of that post.

So I believe that even if it still goes slower on opening, trains to Bristol and Wales will be doing 225 kph before the end of this decade.

If that isn’t a high speed railway like HS1, I don’t know what is?

But whatever we call it, it’ll be here several years before HS2!

I think we need to call for three cheers for Brunel, who got the route right in the first place.

I felt the biggest problem would be the Severn Tunnel! I got that wrong, as that difficult job is now done.

Conclusion

I like this proposal.

  • The important Paddington and Cardiff route gets a fifty percent increase in train frequency.
  • There could be genuine competition on the route.
  • Grand Union would be using five of the thirty InterCity225 sets, which are in good condition, judging by my recent journeys.
  • Could we see a customer service and catering war between the two operators?

If Grand Union Railway runs to Cardiff, I’ll give it a go.

 

 

April 25, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Can You Fit These Cases In A Class 800 Train?

I took this picture at Edinburgh station, after arriving there on an Aberdeen to London train.

Could these cases be fitted into a new Class 800 train?

I’ve seen surfboards and heavily-loaded bikes being swallowed by a Class 43 locomotive in an InterCity 125.

Perhaps, passengers with loads like this, will fly to Edinburgh and then use ScotRail’s Inter7City trains around Scotland.

April 15, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Bicycles And Class 800 Trains

I was at Paddington station this morning, having breakfast in Leon.

Afterwards, I noticed that Great Western Railway were using a nine-car Class 800 train on the 10:52 to Oxford.

I also noticed from the information displays, that all bicycles needed to be booked. That is a bit different from the days of the InterCity 125s, which had lots of space in the back of the locomotive.

On one trip to Plymouth, I saw several surfboards swallowed by the locomotive.

I got in a conversation with a station guy about bicycles and surfboards and from the knowing look on his face, I suspect it is a bit of a pain.

With the growing popularity of cycling, surely a turn up and go regime is needed.

March 16, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , | 1 Comment

Integration Of High-Speed And Commuter Services Out Of Paddington Station

The following appears to be happening to the Great Western Main Line (GWML)

  • All srvices to Oxford and Bedwyn, which have been run by slow diesels for years, will soon be run by 125 mph Class 800 trains, so they can join the herds of high-speed services on the dash using the fast lines between Reading and Paddington stations.
  • All slower passenger trains between Paddington and Reading, will use the slow lines. Most will be Crossrail services and freight trains.
  • ,Heathrow Express services, which will be four tph and run by upgraded 110 mph Class 387 trains, will use the fast lines between Paddington and Stockley Junction.

Some Class 800 trains achieve the thirty-six miles between Paddinghton and Reading in twenty-five minutes. This is a start-stop average speed of nearly ninety mph.

Frequency Between Reading And Paddington

I wonder what frequency of Class 800 trains can be achieved between Paddington and Reading.,

  • Most will run non-stop.
  • Up to 125 mph running could be possible between Stockley Junction (for Heathrow) and Reading, as all trains will be 125 mph Class 800 trains.
  • Up to 110 mph running xould be possible between Paddington and Stockley Junction, as some trains will be 100 mph Class 387 trains.
  • Digital signalling and possible automatic train control, could run the all trains to a precise timetable.
  • Class 800 trains that stop at Slough, could do this in a very fast time.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least sixteen tph. Currently, the frequency is under ten tph.

If this frequency is achievable or even bettered, then this would be an impressive high-capacity service.

Class 387 Trains

Currently,, Great Western Railway has forty-five Class 387 trains.

Twelve are being modified, so they can run the Heathrow Express services.

But what happens to the other thirty-three trains?

Currently, some run a stopping service between Paddington and Didcot Parkway station, which stops West of Reading at Tilehurst, Pangbourne, Goring & Streatley and Cholsey stations, to give these stations a two tph service to Paddington.

The service between Reading and Paddington may be replaced by Crossrail in the near future offering four tph in the Peak and two tph in the Off Peak.

It strikes me that the following ways could be

Appleford, Culham and Radley.

 

 

Conclusion

It looks like the dropping of electrification to Oxford and Bedwyn, which resulted in Great Western Railway ordering more Class 802 trains to replace the slower Class 387 trains has resulted in a simpler and faster operating philosophy for the trains between Reading and Paddington.

  • All GWR services will be Class 800/801/802 trains, using the fast lines.
  • All Crossrail services will be Class 345 trains, using the slow lines.
  • All freight services will use the slow lines.
  • Heathrow Express services will use the fast lines, which they will leave ande join at Stockley Junction.
  • All fast line services will be non-stop.
  • All passenger trains will be using the electrification on the route.

It appears to be an efficient system, that keeps high-speed and stopping commuter services separate, whilst allowing 125 mph commuter services to be handled as high-speed services.

If I’m right, that there may be extra capacity for more high-speed services into Paddington, it will allow GWR to run extra services.

I like what’s happening.

March 14, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 2 Comments

Huge Increase In Capacity On GWR As Final Class 800 Enters Traffic

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

This is the first two paragraphs.

More than 10,000 extra seats will be available to Great Western Railway passengers on January 2, compared with the same number last year.

This follows the delivery of the final Class 800 Intercity Express Train.

This means that Great Western Railway (GWR) ‘s fleet is now

  • 21 x nine-car Class 800 trains
  • 36 x five-car Class 800 trains.
  • 21 x Class 802 trains

With still another 15 Class 802 trains to come of the 32 x five-car and 14 x nine-car order.

They are certainly ready to increase services in 2019.

January 2, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , | 1 Comment

Will Crossrail Open To Reading in 2019?

The latest rather dodgy date for the opening of Crossrail’s Core Tunnel is Autumn 2019.

In the January 2019 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article, which is entitled Crossrail Can’t Commit To Autumn Opening.

This a paragraph from the article.

TfL also says that it is exploring with DfT the possibility of beginning to operate Reading to Paddington services ahead of the completion of the Elizabeth Line to help provide a boost in revenue.

This is a very interesting possibility.

How Much Work Is Still To Be Done To The West of Hayes & Harlington?

This is the key factor as to whether Western Branch of Crossrail can be opened.

  • The biggest problem is that Class 345 trains can’t run to Heathrow as there are signalling issues to eradicate.
  • There are also several stations, that need to be completed.

There is no work-round to the first problem, but trains seem to be able to call at the unfinished stations.

It would appear, that for TfL’s proposal to be taken fully forward, the signalling issues to and from Heathrow, must be dealt with.

The stations can be finished later.

The Current Proposed Crossrail Service To Reading And Maidenhead

These are the proposed services shown on Wikipedia, so they could have been updated.

Reading To Paddington – Limited Stop

This service will be run at two trains per hour (tph) in the Peak with no trains in the Off-Peak.

Stops are Twyford, Maidenhead, Slough, West Drayton and Ealing Broadway.

Reading To Paddington – All Stations

This service will be run at two tph all day.

The service will call at all stations except Hanwell and Acton Main Line.

Maidenhead To Paddington

This service will be run at two tph all day.

The service will call at all stations except Hanwell and Acton Main Line.

A Summary Of Peak/Off Peak Calls

Adding these service up, gives the following numbers for Peak and Off Peak calls in trains per hour (tph)

  • Reading – 4,2
  • Twyford – 4,2
  • Maidenhead – 6,4
  • Taplow – 4.4
  • Burnham 4,4
  • Slough – 6,4
  • Langley – 4,4
  • Iver – 4,4
  • West Drayton – 6,4
  • Hayes & Harlington – 4.4
  • Southall – 4,4
  • Hanwell – None to Reading/Maidenhead
  • West Ealing – 4.4
  • Ealing Broadway – 6,4
  • Acton Main Line – None to Reading/Maidenhead
  • Paddington – 6,4

Note.

  1. 4,2 means 4 tph in the Peak and 2 tph in the Off Peak.
  2. It would appear that all stations except Reading and Twyford have at least four tph all day.
  3. Stations between Hayes & Harlington and Ealing Broadway will get another six tph all day going to Heathrow.
  4. Acton Main Line station will get another four tph all day going to Heathrow.

This gives the following frequencies.

  • Reading – 4,2
  • Twyford – 4,2
  • Maidenhead – 6,4
  • Taplow – 4.4
  • Burnham 4,4
  • Slough – 6,4
  • Langley – 4,4
  • Iver – 4,4
  • West Drayton – 6,4
  • Hayes & Harlington – 10,10
  • Southall – 10,10
  • Hanwell – 6,6
  • West Ealing – 10,10
  • Ealing Broadway – 12,10
  • Acton Main Line – 4,4
  • Paddington – 12,10

I can draw these conclusions from the figures.

  • Every station has a good service from Crossrail.
  • But could Reading and Twyford have another two tph in the Off-Peak to make the services four tph all day?
  • Paddington station would need perhaps two or three platforms dedicated to Crossrail to handle twelve tph.
  • The maximum frequency of 12 tph should be easily handled with conventional signalling and could be increased with modern digital signalling.

It looks like running the Western services of Crossrail from Paddington could be a possibility.

Consider.

  • The Reading and Maidenhead services will be run on routes with mainly conventional signalling.
  • The Class 345 trains, which each can hold 1,500 passengers would give a massive capacity boost to the outer Crossrail stations.
  • Heathrow services can be run with Class 345 trains, when the signalling problems are solved.
  • Higher frequencies to and from Paddington may enable trains to provide a better interchange with branch line services, at West Ealing, Slough, Maidenhead and Twyford.

But I think that separating these services initially from Crossrail will have substantial operational and development  benefits.

  • Paddington to Reading is essentially a self-contained railway, with a major branch to Heathrow and four small branch lines worked by diesel shuttle trains.
  • The route, with the exception of the Heathrow branch, has conventional signalling.
  • The signalling problems of the Heathrow branch can be solved independently.
  • The Western branches of Crossrail could be fully debugged before trains start running through the Core Tunnel.

I also wonder, if the route could be useful for mileage accumulation, driver training  and certification of newly-delivered trains.

Is It Just About The Money?

The original Modern Railways extract said that the proposal was to help provide TfL with extra revenue.

It must bring in revenue and especially when the Heathrow Branch is working reliably to plan.

Faster Journeys

Modern Class 345 trains have the following advantages over the current British Rail-era Class 156 trains.

  • They are slightly faster.
  • They have better acceleration.
  • They are modern trains designed for short dwell times at stations.

It would be very likely, that journey times between Paddington and Reading, will improve..

Passenger Behaviour

But passengers may change their behaviour .

  • Will passengers use Crossrail as a lower-cost alternative to Heathrow Express?
  • Will passengers use Crossrail as a faster alternative to the Piccadilly Line?
  • Will passengers,  going between Heathrow and the West and Wales, use Crossrail to and from Reading, with a change at Hayes & Harlingon?
  • Will passengers on branch lines find the extra capacity helpful, when travelling to London or Reading?

In addition, as I said earlier, I think opening Paddington to Reading early,, could make finishing the Crossrail project easier.

If nothing else, it shortens the to-do list!

GWR Might Object

Will GWR object to losing their local services between Reading and London to Crossrail?

Consider the following issues.

Heathrow Express

GWR have taken over the lucrative Heathrow Express.

  • Heathrow Express will be run using 110 mph Class 387 trains in an Airport Express configuration.
  • Will these trains be less of a block on the line, than the 100 mph Class 332 trains currently running the service?
  • Currently both Class 332 and Class 800 trains take nine 9½ minutes to go between Paddington and Heathrow Airport Junction.

Perhaps GWR could squeeze in extra trains, by replacing the Class 332 trains with faster Class 387 trains?

The more trains they could squeeze into Paddington, the larger their revenue.

Reading, Bedwyn and Oxford Services

I am not sure, but it does appear that GWR services to places like Bedwyn and Oxford will in future be run using the new five-car Class 802 trains.

  • The trains will surely use electric traction on the fast lines to Paddington.
  • Will passengers going between Bedwyn/Oxford and stations between Reading and Paddington, be happy to change at Reading?

As it appears that Bedwyn/Oxford services might not need to use the slow lines, these will be used  exclusively by  Crossrail and the occasional freight.

Could Bedwyn And Oxford Services Be Combined?

There is also the possibility that to save paths on the fast lines between Reading and Paddington, that hourly Bedwyn and Oxford services could be combined and split at Reading.

  • GWR already splits and joins Class 387 trains at Reading.
  • Class 800/802 trains are designed to be split and joined quickly.
  • Timings to the two destinations are about the same, being around 75 minutes.

Two five-car Class 802 trains with one running to Bedwyn and one to Oxford might be a good idea. Especially, as it saves one high-speed path between Paddington and Reading  and possibly a few trains.

It does look, that Oxford and Bedwyn services could be moved out of the way of Crossrail services.

Will There Be Enough Class 800/802 Trains?

In Huge Increase In Capacity On GWR As Final Class 800 Enters Traffic, I wrote that there are now only fifteen trains of a total fleet of 93 trains to be delivered.

I suspect that GWR can find enough trains to run Bedwyn/Oxford services to London.

Too Many Class 387 Trains!

But it does strike me that GWR will have too many Class 387 trains, if Crossrail takes over local services to Reading and Class 802 trains take over services to Bedwyn and Oxford.

Twelve Class 387 trains are being converted to take over Heathrow Express services, but that still leaves GWR with 33 trains to find a use for.

It seems like Greater Anglia’s twenty Class 379 trains, they could become homeless orphans.

Will The Class 769 Trains Get In The Way?

Original plans talked about using 100 mph Class 769 trains to back up the Class 387 trains, whilst twelve of these were updated to Heathrow Express standard.

But it appears now from Wikipedia and other sources on the Internet, that these trains will concentrate on the following services.

  • Reading To Gatwick Airport
  • Reading to Oxford

I can’t find any reference of them continuing to serve Paddington, so it looks like they should keep out of the way.

Serving The Henley And Marlow Branches

Henley-on-THames station on the Henley Branch Line and Bourne End station on the Marlow Branch Line are having their Peak services to London gradually withdrawn.

If Crossrail took over services between Reading and Paddington, the frequencies in the Peak at the interchange stations would be.

  • Maindenhead for the Marlow Branch Line – 6 tph,
  • Twyford for the Henley Branch Line – 4 tph

Two tph at each interchange station run limited stop to and from Paddington.

The trains will each hold 1,500 passengers.

Could it be that GWR feel that the increased frequencies and reduced journey times to and from Paddington mean that there is a lesser need to run a direct diesel service.

But I could see the following.

  • A four-car shuttle train, which could be a Class 769 bi-mode, at two tph on the Henley Branch Line.
  • Two tph on the Marlow Branch Line.

At least GWR have the trains to provide a service to match customer demand.

I also wouldn’t be surprised to see a radical plan for these branches.

No Diesel Running Into Paddington

Every train run by GWR and Crossrail, between Paddington and Reading, would use electric traction.

  • Now that large numbers of Class 800/802 trains have been delivered, it can’t be long before the last InterCity 125 runs into Paddington on a regular service.
  • Class 165 and Class 166 diesel trains will be refurbished and sent to the West Country.
  • Bedwyn and Oxford services will be run by Class 800/802 trains.

In addition all GWR trains running into Paddington will be 125 mph units running on electricity.

What is that worth as a marketing hook?

Conclusion

It looks to me, that running a full Western Branch service for Crossrail could be a good move.

So will it happen in 2019?

I think it all depends on solving the signalling issues on the Heathrow Branch!

But I feel, it should be possible, otherwise TfL wouldn’t have suggested it!

December 30, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Axed Rail Routes May Be Reopened Under New Department for Transport Plans

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

This is the first two paragraphs.

The Department for Transport has confirmed it is actively working with a number of groups to explore the possibility of reopening old rail routes, axed under the so-called Beeching cuts of the 1960s.

It follows a call by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling a year ago, encouraging those in the public and private sector to submit proposals for potential projects to regenerate old lines.

It also quotes a Department of Transport spokesman.

This is on top of exploring reopening the Northumberland Line for passenger use, supporting the reinstatement of stations on the Camp Hill Line, developing new rail links to Heathrow and a new station at Cambridge South

He apparently, didn’t say more because of confidentiality.

The article then talks about the success of the Borders Railway in Scotland.

So is this just a good news story for Christmas or is there a plan to reopen old railway lines?

I feel that a several factors are coming together, that make the reopening of railway lines and the creation of new ones more likely.

Digital Signalling

Signalling is expensive, but where you have rolling stock to a high modern standard, with digital in-cab signalling, does this mean that new or reopened rail lines can be built without conventional signalling?

In addition, installing digital signalling on some routes, would probably make it easier to add a new station. Surely, it must just be a reprogramming of the route!

It could be a problem that, I would expect that on a digitally-signalled line, all trains must be capable of using it. But in many areas of the country, like East Anglia, these routes will be run by new trains.

Digital signalling must also make it easier to design more efficient single-track railways, with perhaps a passing loop to allow higher frequencies.

More Efficient Track Construction

Network Rail and their contractors and suppliers are getting better and more efficient at building track and bridges through difficult terrain and places, judging by some of their construction in recent years, such as the Acton Dive-Under and the Ordsall Chord. They have also overseen some notable successes in the refurbishment of viaducts and tunnels.

It should also be noted that the reopening of the Borders Railway was a successful project in terms of the engineering and was completed on budget and on time.

According to Wikipedia, though there was criticism of the infrastructure.

This is said.

The line’s construction has been described as resembling a “basic railway” built to a tight budget and incorporating a number of cost-saving features, such as using elderly two-carriage diesel trains and running the line as single track.

But looking back on the line from over three years since it opened, it has certainly been judged by many to be an undoubted success.

Would it have had the same level of success, if it had been built as a double-track electrified railway?

Single-Track Lines

The Borders Railway is a good example of an efficient single-track railway, that runs a half-hourly service.

Other routes like the East Suffolk Line and the Felixstowe Branch Line, show how good design can handle more than the most basic levels of traffic, with perhaps selective double track or a well-placed passing loop.

They may be dismissed by rail purists as basic railways, but when well-designed, they are able to provide the service that is needed along the route, for a construction cost that is affordable.

I would though advocate, that if a new single-track railway is built, that provision is made where possible to be able to add the second track. But not at too great an expense or to provide a service level that will never be needed.

I believe that good design of a new railway can cut the construction cost by a fair amount.

Single-Platform Stations

Several of the new stations built in recent years have been stations with only a single-platform.

  • Cranbrook – A station in Devon on the West of England Main Line to serve a new housing development.
  • Ebbw Vale Parkway – A parkway station in Ebbw Vale.
  • Galashiels – A station, that handled 356,000 passengers last year. It is a unique station on a narrow site, that shares facilities with a large bus station on the other side of the road. It is a very functional transport interchange.
  • James Cook – A basic but practical station, that serves the hospital in Middlesbrough. – It cost just over £2million in 2014.
  • Newcourt – A £4million station handling over 100,000 passengers per year.
  • Pye Corner – A basic station in Newport handling nearly 100,000 passengers per year.

The stations have several common characteristics.

  • They can all handle at least a four-car train.
  • The single-platform is used for services in both directions.
  • Disabled access is either level or by a gently-sloping ramp.

Only James Cook station has a footbridge over the track.

These single-platform stations must cost less, as for instance a footbridge with lifts costs upwards of a million pounds.

Note that of the nine stations on the Borders Railway only three have two platforms.

Single-Platform Terminal Stations

There are also several terminal stations in the UK with only one platform.

  • Aberdare – Handling over 500,000 passengers per year.
  • Aberystwyth – Handling around 300,000 passengers per year.
  • Alloa – Handling around 400,000 passengers per year.
  • Aylesbury Vale Parkway – Handling over 100,000 passengers per year.
  • Blackpool South – Handling over 100,000 passengers per year.
  • Exmouth – Handling nearly a million passengers per year.
  • Felixstowe – Handling around 200,000 passengers per year.
  • Henley-on-Thames – Handling around 800,000 passengers per year.
  • Marlow – Handling nearly 300,000 passengers per year.
  • Merthyr Tydfil – Handling around 500,000 passengers per year.
  • North Berwick – Handling around 600,000 passengers per year.
  • Redditch– Handling over a million passengers per year.
  • Seaford – Handling over 500,000 passengers per year.
  • Shepperton – Handling around 400,000 passengers per year.
  • Sheringham – Handling around 200,000 passengers per year.
  • Walton-on-the-Naze – Handing around 130,000 passengers per year
  • Windsor & Eton Central – Handling nearly two million passengers per year.

Many of these stations have only a single hourly train. whereas Redditch and Windsor & Eton Central stations have three trains per hour (tph).

As a single terminal platform can probably handle four tph, I suspect that most terminals for branch lines could be built with just a single platform.

No Electrification

Chris Grayling has said that the East West Rail Link will be built without electrification.

I wasn’t surprised.

  • Network Rail has a very poor performance in installing electrification.
  • There have been complaints about the visual intrusion of the overhead gantries.
  • Electrification can cause major disruption to road traffic during installation, as bridges over the railway have to be raised.

In addition, I’ve been following alternative forms of low- or zero-carbon forms of train and feel they could offer a viable alternative

Bi-Mode, Hydrogen And Battery-Electric Trains

When the Borders Railway was reopened, unless the line had been electrified, it had to be run using diesel trains.

But in the intervening three years, rolling stock has developed and now a new or reopened railway doesn’t have to be electrified to be substantially served by electric trains.

  • Bi-Mode trains are able to run on both diesel and electric power and Hitachi’s Class 800 trains are successfully in service. They will be shortly joined by Porterbrook’s innovative Class 769 trains.
  • Hydrogen-powered trains have already entered service in Germany and they are being developed for the UK.
  • Battery-electric trains have already been successfully demonstrated in the UK and will enter service in the next few years.

All of these types of train, will be able to run on a new railway line without electrification.

Bi-mode trains are only low-carbon on non-electrified lines, whereas the other trains are zero-carbon.

The trains on the Borders Railway must be prime candidates for replacement with hydrogen-powered or battery-electric trains.

Adding It All Up

Adding up the factors I have covered in this section leads me to conclude that rail developments over the last few years have made it possible to create a new railway line with the following characteristics.

  • An efficient mainly single-track layout.
  • Single-platform stations.
  • A single-platform terminal station capable of handling well upwards of a million passengers per year.
  • Service levels of up to four trains per hour.
  • Zero-carbon operation without electrification.
  • Low levels of visual and noise intrusion.

The new railway will also be delivered at a lower cost and without major disruption to surrounding road and rail routes.

The Need For More Housing And Other Developments

There is a very large demand for new housing and other developments all over the UK.

Several proposed rail projects are about connecting new developments with the rail network.

In London Overground Extension To Barking Riverside Gets Go Ahead, I listed a few developments in London, where developers and their financial backers, were prepared to put up around £20,000 for each house to fund decent rail-based transport links.

Obviously, developments in London are expensive, but with all the new developments, that have been built close to stations in the last few years, I suspect that infrastructure financiers. like Legal and General and Aviva, know how much being by a rail station is worth.

Conclusion

Both public and private infrastructure financiers will take advantage of the good railway and rolling stock engineering, which will mean the necessary rail links to new developments will be more affordable and zero-carbon.

December 27, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Werrington Dive-Under – 8th November 2018

In Issue 865 of Rail Magazine, there is an article, which is entitled NR Primed To Start Work On £200m ECML Dive-Under.

This is said about construction of the dive-under.

Devegetation has already commenced in the area, while work compounds and access roads are due to be constructed before the end of the year (when the main construction sequence is expected to begin).

The dive-under is expected to enter service in 2021.

The article also says that the Cock Lane footbridge will be replaced with a longer truss bridge to span the widened alignment.

These pictures show the current Cock Lane footbridge.

Whilst I took the pictures there was a lot of noise from chain saws and other machinery, as the vegetation was cleared.

The Track Layout

Note how the tracks are divided into a set of two on the Western side and three on the Eastern.

The Western pair are the so-called Stamford lines, which go off to the West through Stamford station.

A diagram in Rail Magazine shows how they will be moved apart and twenty-five metres to the West. This will enable the two new tracks to be laid between them, which will then dive under the East Coast Main Line and connect to the Great Northern Great Eastern Joint Line towards Spalding, Sleaford and Doncaster.

This Google Map shows the Cock Lane Bridge as it crosses the tracks.

The Cock Lane Bridge is at the bottom of the map.

Doing The Work

It looks a simple plan, that NR believes could be executed with a nine-day closure of the East Coast Main Line. This would be needed to tunnel under the three tracks of the main line.

But I suspect that Network Rail could have a series of cunning plans to keep a limited service going.

  • There will probably be a number of bi-mode Class 800 trains available.
  • Some of the sixteen InterCity 125 trains could be retained.

The diesels and bi-modes could be able to use the Great Northern Great Eastern Joint Line and other routes without electrification to sneak through.

They might also use an interim layout of lines at Werrington to keep the service going.

Extra Electrification

It appears to me that not all tracks are electrified.

The Northbound Stamford Line certainly has electrification, but it appears that the Southbound doesn’t.

Given that in the next decade, it is likely that battery/electric or electro-diesel trains or locomotives will use the route throughStamford station to Leicester and Nuneaton, would it be worthwhile to fully electrify the Stamford Lines.

This image captured from a Network Rail video, clearly shows the new Cock Lane footbridge and that the following lines are electrified.

  • The Northbound Stamford Line on the left.
  • The three tracks of the East Coast Main Line on the right.

The actual dive-under and the Southbound Stamford Line appear not to have electrification.

Retention Of Diesel Trains

But surely, if there are a few extra diesel trains around for a couple of years or at least until the end of 2019, would it help to sort out some of the other problems on the East Coast Main Line.

 

November 8, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment