The Anonymous Widower

RSC Urges GWR To Provide Stratford Improvements

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in Issue 860 of Rail Magazine.

This is the first paragraph.

The Royal Shakespeare Company and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust have written a joint letter to Great Western Railway Managing Director Mark Hopwood, urging him to improve services between London and Stratford-upon-Avon should GWR retain the Great Western franchise.

Stratford-upon-Avon station may have step-free access, but the services are not of a level for such an important tourist destination.

  • 2 trains per hour (tph) to Birmingham Snow Hill and Stourbridge Junction.
  • 1 train every two hours to Leamington Spa with some continuing to London Marylebone.

It really isn’t enough trains.

Coventry And Stratford-upon-Avon

In 2021 Coventry will be the UK City Of Culture, so surely there should be a direct rail link between one of the most important cities of the West Midlands and one of its biggest cultural attractions.

But no there isn’t a direct link, despite the rail lines being in place.

You have to change at Leamington Spa. But the journey only takes a reasonable 70 minutes.

I have read somewhere, that West Midlands Trains are going to link up these two services.

  • Nuneaton and Coventry
  • Coventry and Leamington Spa

This would create a single service between Nuneaton and Leamington Spa stations..

Could this service be extended to Stratford-upon-Avon?

  • They are acquiring eight Class 172 trains from London Overground, to run services in Warwickshire.
  • All the tracks are in place.
  • The service would connect the West Coast Main Line and the Chiltern Main Line to Stratford-upon-Avon.

How long would it take?

These are current average times for the three legs

  • Nuneaton to Coventry – 22 minutes
  • Coventry to Leamington Spa – 12 minutes
  • Leamington Spa to Stratford – 35 minutes

This totals to 69 minutes.

  • There are thirteen stations stops, one of which is a reverse at Leamington Spa station.
  • There will be a need to add a few minutes for turnround at Nuneaton and Stratford-upon-Avon stations.
  • The Class 172 trains are 100 mph trains, whereas the current Class 153 trains are only 75 mph trains.
  • Much of the track has an operating speed of 100 mph.

If a round trip can be done in under three hours, the following number of trains would be needed.

  • One tph would need three trains.
  • Two tph would need six trains.

The number of trains are actually the same that would be needed, if the routes were run as three separate sections. But by joining them together passengers don’t need to change trains.

With the faster trains, I do wonder if a round trip of two hours is possible, which would mean that just four trains would be needed for a two tph service.

Hopefully, a better service will be in place before Coventry is UK City of Culture.

An Improved Chiltern Service

Chiltern Railways don’t have the capacity on the Chiltern Main Line to run more direct services to Stratford, but I feel they could improve the current service.

If you are going to Stratford from Marylebone, most of Chiltern’s Birmingham services offer a one-change route to Stratford. But it is not always the same interchange station and I have found routes with changes at Birmingham Moor Street, Dorridge and Leamington Spa.

The Chiltern service to Stratford could be improved by just ensuring that to go between Marylebone and Stratford, you always changed at the same station and waited just a few minutes.

This map from Wikipedia, shows the rail connections around Leamington Spa.

Note the lines to Stratford and Coventry.

The direct service to Stratford is one train every two hours, whereas the service to Coventry is two trains per hour running fifteen minutes apart.

As I said earlier, perhaps what is needed is a unified Nuneaton to Stratford service, which ideally should do the following.

  • Run every thirty minutes.
  • Be timed to connect with Chiltern’s London trains at Leamington Spa.
  • Run a bit quicker than the current Class 153 trains.

The problem would be that a Chiltern service would be replaced with one run by West Midlands Trains.

Avon Rail Link

Under Possible Future Development in the Wikipedia entry for Stratford-upon-Avon station, this is said.

The Shakespeare Line Promotion Group is promoting a scheme to reopen the 9 miles (14 km) of line south of Stratford to Honeybourne where it would link to the Cotswold Line. Called the “Avon Rail Link”, the scheme (supported as a freight diversionary route by DB Schenker) would make Stratford-upon-Avon station a through station once again with improved connections to the South, and would open up the possibility of direct services to Oxford and Worcester via Evesham. The scheme faces local opposition. There is, however, a good business case for Stratford-Cotswolds link.

This is the scheme, that has prompted, the letter from the RSC and SBT to GWR.

The link would connect Stratford to Oxford, Reading and Paddington.

I suspect that you could argue that it would create a useful railway in an arc connecting the Thames Valley to the West Midlands.

A lot of things said about the East West Rail Link, would probably apply to this railway.

Honeybourne station on the Cotswold Line between Worcester and Oxford, would be the Southern end of the Avon Rail Link, where a connection to the privately-owned herotage raily; the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway, has been allowed for by Network Rail.

This section entitled North From Honeybourne on the Wikipedia entry for the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway, says this about building the extension.

The section between Stratford and Stratford Racecourse has been utilised to improve road access around the town, especially the A4390, making reinstatement of rail to the main station at Stratford extremely difficult.

Given the local opposition, it looks like it will be a struggle to get this line built.

Conclusion

There are three ways to improve rail access to Stratford-upon-Avon.

  • The relatively easy and quick, enhancement of the rail services in Warwickshire.
  • Provide better one-change routes using Chiltern Railways.
  • The more difficult re-connection of Stratford to the Cotswold Line at Honeybourne.

As the last project will take years to implement, I feel, it is important that services to Stratford from Birmingham, Coventry, Leamington Spa and the West Midlands are substantially increased.

I also believe that the responsibility of providing a local service between Leamigton Spa and Stratford should be given to West Midlands Trains.

 

August 31, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 7 Comments

Vivarail D-Trains Are Being Sent To Coventry

In A Video About The Vivarail D-Train, I said this.

I am sceptical about the Vivarail D-Train, but I do admire companies and organisations that think out of the box.

So after this report on Global Rail News, which is entitled Recycled Tube trains to re-enter passenger service this year, I am beginning to think that the Vivarail D-Train or the Class 230 train, might prove that engineering is the science of the possible. This is said.

Vivarail’s D-Train has its first customer and will enter passenger service between Coventry and Nuneaton later this year.

A Class 230 prototype, which started life as a London Underground D-Stock unit, is to be leased by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) for London Midland for an initial 12-month period.

The three-car train will act as a demonstrator, gathering feedback from passengers to inform the production of future trains.

I suppose there’s no better way to shut up the critics of a vehicle or transport system, than allow them to ride in it!

I don’t believe that the straight-talking inhabitants of the West Midlands will hold their tongue, if the train has shortcomings.

 

July 23, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Arena Specials Make Loss

This is the headline in a news item in the May 2015 Edition of Modern Railways.

It describes how the locomotive-hauled services to  Coventry Arena station to serve rugby matches at the nearby stadium have not been a success.

Reading the item in the magazine, makes me think that building this station and providing a match-day service, might not have been properly thought through.

It now looks like an expensive special train hired at a cost of tens of thousands of pounds isn’t the answer.

I don’t think that this station will see reasonable levels of use, until the Coventry to Nuneaton Line is electrified and the shuttle is run by a four-car electrical multiple unit.

Electrification is at least likely to happen, to allow electrically-hauled freight trains to use the route.

April 21, 2016 Posted by | Sport, Transport | , | Leave a comment

A Ride From Nuneaton To Coventry In A London Midland Class 306 Train

I went to Nuneaton station and then took the Coventry to Nuneaton Line to see the new stations at Bermuda Park and Coventry Arena before changing at Coventry for Birmingham. I took these pictures from the train.

Both new stations have two similar platforms, so I only photographed one at each station.

All platforms seem to be able to take at least a three car train, but the Coventry-facing platform at Coventry Arena station can take six card to handle events. I also suspect that selective door opening on modern trains like Electrostars can allow longer trains to call.

The train was actually two Class 153 trains, which explains the Class 306 train.

The line may be electrified in future, as it is used by freight trains, but if Network Rail get their act together, I can see the passenger service on this line using IPEMUs. Especially, when Kenilworth station is reopened on the Coventry to Leamington Line.

Unless the two lines are electrified, freight would still be diesel-hauled. A Class 88 locomotive could be used, so that where there is electrification.freight trains could be electric-hauled. But they seem to be taking a long time to arrive!

April 2, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Rail’s Forgotten City In The West Midlands

Whilst I was looking at the problems at Coventry Arena station, I came across this document entitled Coventry Rail Story – A Rail Investment Strategy for Coventry.

The report starts like this.

Coventry is the 13th largest City in the UK, with a population of 317,000. Following the loss of its primary manufacturing role in the 1970s, the City has significantly developed its service, health, technology and knowledge economy and 2 universities. However, Coventry has higher unemployment and lower economic output than the UK average.

By 2021 Coventry’s population will grow by 15%, nearly 50,000 people, faster than any other part of the West Midlands, with 33,000 new jobs required by 2028. Its key strategy is growth via employment rather than housing, avoiding becoming an unsustainable dormitory city.

It then goes on to describes the problems and opportunities in various areas.

  • How will HS2 affect the City
  • It’s lack of connectivity on Cross-Country rail routes, especially to the North East
  • Getting To And From Birmingham
  • Better Local and Regional Connectivity
  • The Tired Coventry Station

It is well researched document and should be read.

Welcome To Coventry

It is interesting to compare the developments that have happened in Nottingham to what should happen in Coventry.

Arriving by train in the two cities couldn’t be more different.

Nottingham welcomes you with a rebuilt station with style and character and in minutes you can be on a tram to the city centre or other parts of the city. You can also get several local trains to suburbs and the surrounding area.

Coventry welcomes you with a tired (the report’s word!) 1960s box station, where the onward connections to the city centre are either walking or a taxi. A sadist built the bus station on the opposite side of the city centre to the rail station. Hadn’t they heard of designing a proper Interchange? This Google Map shows the location of Coventry station with respect to the city centre and its surrounding ring-road.

Coventry Station And City Centre

Coventry Station And City Centre

When you consider the new station at Birmingham, Coventry station doesn’t match up to the opposition and probably contributes negatively to visitors view of the city.

How many jobs does the station cost Coventry?

NUCKLE

NUCKLE is a project to improve the rail services between Coventry and Nuneaton and Leamington.

Phase 1 is described on this page of the Warwickshire County Council website. This is said.

The Coventry to Nuneaton rail upgrade, known locally as NUCKLE Phase 1, will improve the existing rail line between Coventry and Nuneaton. It will deliver two new stations – one at Coventry (Ricoh) Arena and one at Bermuda Park in Warwickshire. It will also see the extensions of the existing platforms at Bedworth station and a new bay platform at Coventry station.

The related phase 2 includes the new station at Kenilworth.

As part of the Electric Spine, the Coventry to Leamington Line is going to be electrified and doubled. The Coventry Rail Story says that Coventry to Nuneaton Line will also be electrified.

I suspect this will happen, as NUCKLE is in the West Midlands and they seem to get electrification done. So there will be approximately twenty miles of electrified line passing North-South through Coventry.

So would this open up the possibility of an electric service from Oxford to Leicester via Kenilworth, using Aventra IPEMUs, which could bridge the gaps in the electrification between Leamington Spa and Oxford and Nuneaton to Leicester.

This would fit the aspiration in the Coventry Rail Story of an improved train service between Coventry and Leicester via Nuneaton.

The Coventry to Nuneaton Line used to have other stations. So the question has to be asked if other stations can be built between Leamington Spa and Nuneaton to improve commuting into Coventry,

Extending The Midland Metro To Coventry

Extending the Midland Metro to Coventry is being considered in the Line Two Eastside Extension.

This may happen, but I have a feeling that new technology might offer better solutions to improving connections between Birmingham, the Airport, HS2 and Coventry

 

 

September 14, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , | 4 Comments

From Coventry To Nuneaton

The Coventry To Nuneaton Line is in the process of being upgraded, as this paragraph from Wikipedia details.

The line runs near to the Ricoh Arena football stadium on the northern edge of Coventry. Funding for two new stations, Coventry Arena and Bermuda Park, was approved in December 2011. New plans will also see the number of carriages increased from 1 to 3 and the service upgraded to half hourly, a new platform built at Coventry station and also future extensions of the line to Kenilworth and Leamington Spa.

After coffee with an old friend in Coventry, I decided to hop to Nuneaton using this line , from where I could get a train back to London.

The pictures show the character of the route and some of the building work at the new Coventry Arena station. I caught a glimpse of work at Bermuda Park station, but was unable to get a picture.

There is a third station being built in the area and that is Kenilworth station on the related Coventry to Leamington Line.

I think that the ambitious team that run Chiltern Railways will be looking to at least get a feeder service running from Nuneaton to Leamington, via Coventry and Kenilworth.

If HS2 goes ahead and Euston station is rebuilt, this could be an invaluable route to take pressure off the West Coast Main Line

March 24, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Improving Rail Transport In Warwickshire

Warwickshire doesn’t often feature in rail infrastructure, but I was pleased to see that work is poised to start on a new station at Kenilworth, according to an article in Modern Railways. This will be served by new services on the Coventry and Leamington Line.

The council has even put up a blog. From which I clipped this plan of the new station.

New Kenilworth Station Plan

New Kenilworth Station Plan

Compare this with the area now from Google Earth.

Kenilworth Now

Kenilworth Now

 

Note that the current pedestrian bridge is retained. It also appears that the line through the station is going to be double-tracked.

Plans are also in place to upgrade the Coventry to Nuneaton Line, with better services and new stations at Coventry Arena and Bermuda Park, for which work has started in October 2014. Does this Google Eart image of the Coventry Arena, show the work site?

Coventry Arena Station Site

Coventry Arena Station Site

There’s an on-line leaflet describing the station improvements on the Nuckle on the Warwickshire County Council web site. The fenced-off com pound, would appear to be in the fright place for the station.

Fom this leaflet, I think that Bermuda Park station is north of the Griff Roundabout, where the B4113 joins the A444. The leaflet shows the station at some point on St. George’s Way, where the rail line goes close.

Bermuda Park Station

Bermuda Park Station

These three new stations and the upgraded lines are the sort of improvements  to be welcomed.

As the Coventry to Nuneaton Line connects two electrified main lines, I wonder how long it is before the line gets wired? Or would this be a classic place to use a battery electric multiple unit?

February 25, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

Developments At Cheltenham

Cheltenham is a town, I’ve been to several times.  Usually, it has been to go to the races, although I did go there on my 92 Club trip. I went by train to Cheltenham Spa station.

This month’s Modern Railways describes a substantial proposed development at the station, which adds extra platforms and capacity. Given that there is a large development being started at Cheltenham Racecourse and getting to the racecourse by road is a nightmare, I think it would be a good idea to expand the station, so that racegoers could at least get to Cheltenham by train. Provision is made in the station scheme for perhaps a light rail system to link to the racecourse station.

But obviously, a heavy rail scheme would be better, so that luxury special trains could run from Paddington direct to the racecourse.  First Great Western are now running Pullman Dining services on InterCity 125 trains to Plymouth, so perhaps the soon-to-be redundant trains could be refurbished as luxury go-virtually-anywhere trains to take visitors to special events in style.

There’s a lot to think about!

But the proposed reworking of Cheltenham Spa station, does show how if you think properly, you can improve a mundane station for the benefit of the rail companies and passengers alike.

Here’s a personal example.

With the simplification of movements at Ipswich, due to the new Bacon Factory Curve, will this make possible, some small improvements? It would be much easier for a train from say Cambridge to come in to Ipswich station and then reverse out to either Lowestoft or Felixstowe, as there won’t be freight trains reversing in the yard outside the station.

I hope Network Rail has got their thinking cap on!

They certainly seem to have got it right with new stations at Cambridge Science Park and Lea Bridge, but they seem to have been unlucky with building a Coventry Arena station, and then have Coventry City move away.

But as I indicated in this post, are Network Rail expanding the railway, by doing lots of small high return projects.

August 25, 2013 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Manchester In The Slow Lane

An article published in The Times today says that a survey has shown that Coventry is the speediest city in the UK.

It also says Manchester is the slowest!

Could it be that Manchester has a terrible bus system, with little information and single door buses, that take forever to load and unload passengers? So buses waiting at stops, slow everybody down. I commented on the public transport system in Manchester here.

June 1, 2013 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 8 Comments

The Correct Term is a Light Engine

When you have just a railway engine travelling by itself, it is called a light engine!

One has caused chaos on the West Coast Main Line by getting itself derailed at Bletchley, as reported here on the BBC. But few reports have called it a light engine, most have called it a freight train, as it is owned by a company called Freightliner, although it is at present leased to Virgin Trains. So at least they can read, even if they don’t know the correct railway term.

The BBC report says this.

A spokesman for Network Rail said the Freightliner locomotive appeared to have approached a set of points at Bletchley south junction too fast.

This caused the tracks to buckle, damaged wooden sleepers and brought down some overhead cables.

There is as yet “no estimate for the completion of repairs and therefore it is not yet known whether services will continue to be affected on Sunday”, according to the National Rail Enquiries website.

As no-one seems to have been seriously hurt, but many have been seriously delayed and inconvenienced, this will turn out to be one of those stories that will run and run all the way to the Supreme Court. After all the engine wasn’t owned by Virgin Trains, but it was being run on their behalf.

So will Virgin Trains be suing themselves for all the compensation, they’ve paid out to passengers?

Incidentally, I usually go to see Ipswich at Coventry, but won’t be going today. I was going to go and get in by buying a ticket on the gate.  But because of this light engine crash, I wouldn’t have been able to get to Coventry.

So should I add my case for compensation to the rest?

No! But, if I’d bought a ticket you could be rest ensured, I wouldn’t be a happy bunny, aif I’d been unable to get to Coventry!

February 4, 2012 Posted by | Sport, Transport | , , , | 3 Comments