The Anonymous Widower

New Station Proposed For National Arboretum

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

This is the first two paragraphs.

It has been revealed that a new station is being proposed at Alrewas between Lichfield Trent Valley high level and Wichnor Junction, which is on the line linking Tamworth and Burton-on-Trent. The original station serving the village of Alrewas was closed in 1965, although the line remained open.

A new Alrewas station would serve the National Memorial Arboretum, which is visited by more than 300,000 people a year and stages 250 events, including services of remembrance. It includes a Railway Industry Memorial, which was unveiled in May 2012, and also a memorial commemorating the thousands of prisoners of war who were forced to work on the infamous Burma Railway in the Second World War.

I first wrote about this proposed station in Everybody Could Do Better For Rail In South Staffordshire.

Two totally unrelated events had happened.

  • I heard the exchange during Prime Minister’s Questions and Michael Fabricant was passionate about creating the rail service on the freight-only line to give passenger train access to the National Memorial Arboretum and Alrewas.
  • Burton were playing Manchester City in the League Cup, so the Police thought it would be a good idea to shut the M6. Nothing moved for hours and many Burton supporters missed the match.

Note.

  1. Quite frankly, it is a disgrace, that the National Memorial Arboretum, has been designed for most visitors to come by car.
  2. The M6 incident was caused by illegal immigrants stuffed into the back of a truck, but surely the Police reaction to shut the motorway for so long was over the top?
  3. I have been to Burton by train a couple of times and it is one of those places, you wouldn’t go to by train, unless it was absolutely essential.

It would appear that after a quick glance, Michael Fabricant’s proposal could be one of those ideas, that would benefit a lot of travellers.

These are a few thoughts on the new service.

Services To And From Burton-on-Trent Station

I said this about services to and from Burton-on-Trent in Everybody Could Do Better For Rail In South Staffordshire.

If you look at the train services from the town, you can go to faraway places like Glasgow and Plymouth, but services to practical local places like Lichfield, Stoke and Derby are rare. There used to be a service to London, but that was discontinued in 2008.

A regular service between Burton and Lichfield, running at a frequency of two trains per hour (tph) could connect at Lichfield to the following services.

  • Hourly services on the West Coast Main Line
  • Half-hourly services across Birmingham on the Cross-City Line.

If a decent service via Lichfield had existed, how many fans on that League Cup night, would have used the trains to get to Manchester?

Not many probably, as there would not have been a late train home, as is particularly common in The Midlands. Try getting back to London from Derby, Nottingham or Sheffield, after 21:30 for example!

I am certain, that with a station at Alrewas and a well-designed train service between Burton-on-Trent and Birmingham stations via Alrewas for the National Memorial Arboretum and Lichfield would be a positive addition to the transport system of the area.

Electrification Between Litchfield Tent Valley And Burton-on-Trent Stations

This map from Open Railway Map shows the track between Litchfield Tent Valley and Burton-on-Trent stations.

Note.

  1. Burton-on-Trent station is in the North-East corner of the map.
  2. Lichfield Trent Valley station is in the South-West corner of the map.
  3. Burton-on-Trent and Lichfield Trent Valley stations are probably less than fifteen miles apart.
  4. The orange line is the Burton-upon-Trent and Birmingham line via Tamworth.
  5. The yellow line is the Burton-upon-Trent and Birmingham line via Lichfield.

The National Memorial Arboretum is just South of the junction between the orange and yellow lines.

This second map from Open Railway Map shows this junction to a larger scale.

Note.

  1. The National Memorial Arboretum can be seen between the two tracks.
  2. The village of Alrewas and the site of the proposed Alrewas station are to the West of the arboretum.
  3. Central Rivers depot, where CrossCountry trains are serviced, is in the North-East corner of the map.
  4. I have found a twelve car formation of Class 220 trains running between Birmingham New Street station and Central Rivers depot.

There is electrification at Lichfield Trent Valley station as this picture shows.

This electrification could be extended as far as required.

I would extend the electrification all the way to Burton-on-Trent.

  • This would mean that the Class 730 trains used on the Cross-City Line could terminate at Burton-on-Trent station, rather than Lichfield Trent Valley station, after extra stops at Alrewas for the National Memorial Arboretum and possibly another new station at Barton-under-Needwood.
  • Excursion trains for the National Memorial Arboretum could be electric-hauled.
  • It would also mean that electric trains could reach Central Rivers depot under their own power.
  • It would probably require less than fifteen miles of double-track electrification.
  • I suspect that the West Coast Main Line electrification could provide enough power for the branch electrification to Burton-upon-Trent.

I doubt that this would be considered a major electrification scheme.

Electric Services Between Birmingham New Street And Leicester Stations Via Burton-on-Trent

Consider.

  • Leicester and Burton-on-Trent stations are under thirty miles apart on the Ivanhoe Line.
  • The Ivanhoe Line is an existing freight line, that could be opened to passenger trains.
  • Leicester is to be electrified in the Midland Main Line electrification.

A battery-electric service could be run between Birmingham New Street and Leicester stations via Burton-on-Trent, Alrewas and Lichfield Trent Valley stations.

It should also be noted that East Midlands Railway run a service between Lincoln and Leicester.

  • Nottingham and Leicester will probably electrified with the rest of the Midland Main Line.
  • Only thirty-four miles of the route between Leicester and Lincoln is not electrified.

If it were felt to be needed, a battery-electric service could be run between Birmingham New Street and Lincoln stations.

Heritage Rail Excursions To The National Memorial Arboretum

Type “Coach Trips To The National Memorial Arboretum” and you get a good selection of trips from all over the UK.

I believe that the National Memorial Arboretum, would make the ideal destination for steam- or diesel-hauled heritage rail excursions with all the trimmings.

  • They could even be hauled by a Class 90 electric locomotive, dating from the late 1980s, if the route between Alrewas and Lichfield were to be electrified.
  • Rakes of comfortable Mark III coaches could be used.
  • A long platform at Alrewas station would be needed, so that the maximum size of heritage train could be handled.
  • For steam locomotives, there may need to be a runround loop.

Track improvements at Lichfield Trent Valley station, may allow direct services from London.

This page on the West Midlands Rail Executive web site is entitled Steam Engine Rolls Into Moor Street Station To Launch New Vintage Trains Partnership.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Historic steam engines are set to play a greater role in the region’s rail network following the signing of a ground-breaking new partnership.

The West Midlands Rail Executive (WMRE) has teamed up with Tyseley-based Vintage Trains in a bid to establish the Shakespeare Line as Britain’s premier mainline heritage railway.

Perhaps, it would be possible to run a heritage train like a short-formation InterCity 125 between Stratford-om-Avon and the National Memorial Arboretum.

Conclusion

Opening up of the Lichfield Trent Valley and Burton route to passenger trains opens up a lot of possibilities.

 

 

 

January 21, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Alstom Hydrogen Aventras And Extension Of The Birmingham Cross-City Line

In Alstom And Eversholt Rail Sign An Agreement For The UK’s First Ever Brand-New Hydrogen Train Fleet, I give my thoughts on Alstom’s new hydrogen train, which I have called the Alstom Hydrogen Aventra.

In that post, decide that the proposed Alstom Hydrogen Aventras are based on the three-car Class 730/0 trains that have been ordered by West Midlands Trains for Birmingham’s electrified Cross-City Line.

I then go on to say.

There are plans to expand the line in the future and I do wonder if the proposed Alstom Hydrogen Aventras could be the ideal trains for extending the network.

Expansion plans are detailed a section called Future, in the Wikipedia entry for the Cross-City Line, where these plans are indicated.

In addition, the Walsall and Wolverhampton Line is being reopened to passenger trains.

These new and possibly other services will need no new tracks, but more electrification and extra new trains.

In 2015, I wrote Electrification May Be In Trouble Elsewhere, But The Brummies Keep Marching On, which looked at electrification progress in the UK and the Birmingham in particular, where the electrification of the Chase Line seemed to be going well. So unlike in some places, where electrification seems to be accident-prone, Birmingham seems to avoid the sort of problems, that happened in the Preston and Blackpool and GOBlin electrifications.

But the Alstom Hydrogen Aventra gives Birmingham and the West Midlands a unique advantage compared to say Leeds or Manchester.

Birmingham can obtain a unified fleet, which to the passengers and the drivers looks the same, but in fact are two separate classes of three-car trains;  the Class 730/0 electric train and the Alstom Hydrogen Aventra.

  • Where electrification exists, the Class 730/0 trains will be used and where there is no electrification, the Alstom Hydrogen Aventra will work the route on hydrogen.
  • All that is needed is to provide good tracks and signalling and the Alstom Hydrogen Aventras will take you where you want to go.
  • Through the centre of Birmingham, these trains will use the existing electrification.
  • It would be a network, that would be simple to expand.

The only other English city to use a similar technique will be Liverpool, where Merseyrail’s new Class 777 trains will use battery power outside of the electrified core.

Conclusion

If Birmingham uses their disused but still existing railway lines and adds new trains as required, they can create a world-class suburban network, with the Cross-City Line at its centre

 

November 13, 2021 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Alstom And Eversholt Rail Sign An Agreement For The UK’s First Ever Brand-New Hydrogen Train Fleet

The title of this post, is the same as that of this press release from Alstom.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Alstom, Britain’s leading train manufacturer and maintenance provider, and Eversholt Rail, leading British train owner and financier, have today announced a Memorandum of Understanding aimed at delivering the UK’s first ever brand-new hydrogen train fleet.

The two companies have agreed to work together, sharing technical and commercial information necessary for Alstom to design, build, commission and support a fleet of ten three-car hydrogen multiple units (HMUs). These will be built by Alstom in Britain. The new HMU fleet will be based on the latest evolution of the Alstom Aventra platform and the intention is that final contracts for the fleet will be signed in early 2022.

This is an Alstom visualisation of the train.

The first thing I notice is that the train doesn’t have the same aerodynamic nose as this current Class 710 train, which is one of the London Overground’s Aventras.

 

Note how the lights, coupler position and the front-end structure are all different.

These are my further thoughts on the design.

The Aventra’s Traction System

In this article in Global Rail News from 2011, which is entitled Bombardier’s AVENTRA – A new era in train performance, gives some details of the Aventra’s electrical systems. This is said.

AVENTRA can run on both 25kV AC and 750V DC power – the high-efficiency transformers being another area where a heavier component was chosen because, in the long term, it’s cheaper to run. Pairs of cars will run off a common power bus with a converter on one car powering both. The other car can be fitted with power storage devices such as super-capacitors or Lithium-ion batteries if required. The intention is that every car will be powered although trailer cars will be available.

Unlike today’s commuter trains, AVENTRA will also shut down fully at night. It will be ‘woken up’ by remote control before the driver arrives for the first shift

This was published over ten years ago, so I suspect Bombardier (or now Alstom) have refined the concept.

Bombardier have not announced that any of their trains have energy storage, but I have my suspicions, that both the Class 345 and Class 710 Aventra trains use super-capacitors or lithium-ion batteries, as part of their traction system design.

  • I was told by a Bombardier driver-trainer that the Class 345 trains have an emergency power supply. When I said “Batteries?”, He gave a knowing smile.
  • From the feel of riding on Class 710 trains, as a Control Engineer, I suspect there is a battery or supercapacitor in the drive system to give a smoother ride.

I also feel that the Aventra has been designed, so that it can accept power from a large variety of sources, which charge the battery, that ultimately drives the train.

The Formation Of A Three-Car Aventra

The only three-car Aventra is the Class 730/0 train.

I have not seen one of one of these trains in the metal and the formation can’t be found on the Internet. But Wikipedia does show the pantograph on the middle car.

In The Formation Of A Class 710 Train, I said this.

Here is the formation of the train.

DMS+PMS(W)+MS1+DMS

The plates on the individual cars are as follows.

DMS – Driving Motored Standard

    • Weight – 43.5 tonnes
    • Length – 21.45 metres
    • Width 2.78 metres
    • Seats – 43

The two DMS cars would appear to be identical.

PMS (W) -Pantograph Motored Standard

    • Weight – 38.5 tonnes
    • Length – 19.99 metres
    • Width 2.78 metres
    • Seats – 51

The (W) signifies a wheelchair space.

MS1 – Motored Standard

    • Weight – 32.3 tonnes
    • Length – 19.99 metres
    • Width 2.78 metres
    • Seats – 52

It is similar in size to the PMS car, but has an extra seat.

So could the formation of a three-car Aventra be?

DMS+PMS(W)+DMS

I have just removed the MS1 car.

This would mean that a three-car Aventra has the following dimensions and capacity.

  • Weight – 125.5 tonnes
  • Length – 62.89 metres
  • Seats – 137

There will probably be a difference between these figures and those of a three-car Class 730 train, as those trains have end-gangways.

Could All The Hydrogen Gubbins Fit Underneath The Train?

These pictures show the space underneath a Class 710 train.

If you also look at Alstom’s visualisation of their Hydrogen Aventra on this post, there would appear to be lots of space under the train.

It should also be noted  that Birmingham University’s engineers have managed to put all of the hydrogen gubbins underneath the floor of Porterbrook’s Class 799 train.

Looking at my pictures, you can see the following.

  • The two DMS (Driving Motored Standard) cars have large boxes underneath
  • The MS1(Motored Standard) car is fairly clear underneath. But this will probably not be there in a three-car train.
  • The PMS (Pantograph Motored Standard) car has some space underneath.

If more space needs to be created, I suspect that the cars can be lengthened, between the bogies. The Class 710 trains have twenty metre intermediate cars, whereas some versions have twenty-four metre cars.

I believe that Aventras have been designed, so that various power sources could be installed under the floor.

When the Aventra was designed, over ten years ago, these could have included.

  • A diesel generator and all the fuel tanks and cooling systems.
  • A battery or other energy storage system.

Since then two other suitable power sources have been developed.

  • Rolls-Royce, Honeywell and others have developed small and powerful gas-turbine generators.
  • Ballard Power Systems and others have developed hydrogen fuel cell generators.

If you look at the proportions of the Alstom hydrogen train and the pictures of Class 710 trains, I feel that the Alstom train could have the longer twenty-four metre cars.

It may be a tight fit compared to creating the Alstom Coradia iLint hydrogen train, but I would feel it is possible to install a fuel cell or cells, the required cooling and the hydrogen tanks, having seen cutaway drawings of hydrogen-powered double-deck buses on the Wrightbus web site.

Interestingly, the Alstom press release doesn’t mention fuel cells, so could the train be powered by a small gas turbine?

I think it is unlikely, but it is technically feasible.

Does The Alstom Hydrogen Aventra Have Longer Cars?

I have been looking at pictures of Aventras on Wikipedia and in my own archive.

It appears that only Aventras with twenty-four metre carriages have five windows between the pair of double-doors in the intermediate carriages.

This picture shows the PMS car from a Class 710 train.

The PMS car is to the right and has four windows between the doors.

This is the side view of one of Greater Anglia’s Class 720 trains.

It has twenty-four metre intermediate cars and five windows.

It looks to me that the Alstom Hydrogen Aventra will have twenty-four metre cars.

This will give an extra four x 2.78 metres space under the train compared to a Class 710 train.

It would also appear that the Aventras with twenty-four metre cars also have an extra window in the driving cars, between the doors.

Does the four metre stretch make it possible to position tubular hydrogen tanks across the train to store a practical amount of hydrogen?

Is The Alstom Hydrogen Train Based On A Three-Car Class 730/0 Train?

I have just found this video of a three-car Class 730/0 under test.

And guess what! It has five windows between the doors.

But then it is a train with twenty-four metre cars.

It looks to me, that Alstom have looked at the current Aventra range and decided that the three-car Class 730/0 could be the one to convert into a useful train powered by hydrogen.

So if it is a Class 730/0 train with hydrogen gubbins under the floor, what other characteristics would carry over.

  • I suspect Aventras are agnostic about power and so long as they get the right quantity of volts, amps and watts, the train will roll along happily.
  • But it means that the train can probably use 25 KVAC overhead electrification, 750 VDC third-rail electrification, hydrogen or battery power.
  • I wouldn’t be surprised if if could use 15 KVAC and 3KVDC overhead electrification for operation in other countries, with perhaps a change of power electronics or transformer.
  • The interior layout of the trains can probably be the same as that of the Class 730/0 trains.
  • The Class 730/0 trains have an operating speed of 90 mph and this could be good enough for hydrogen.

This could be a very capable train, that could find a lot of applications.

Could The Proposed Alstom Hydrogen Aventra Be Considered To Be A Class 730/0 Train With A Hydrogen Extender?

It appears that the only difference between the two trains is that the proposed Alstom Hydrogen Aventra has a hydrogen propulsion system, that can be used when the electrification runs out.

The hydrogen fuel cell will convert hydrogen into electricity, which will either be used immediately or stored in a battery on the train.

The Class 730/0 trains have already been ordered to run services on Birmingham’s electrified Cross-City Line.

There are plans to expand the line in the future and I do wonder if the proposed Alstom Hydrogen Aventras could be the ideal trains for extending the network.

How Does The Alstom Hydrogen Aventra Compare With The Class 600 Breeze Train?

The Class 600 train, which is based on the British Rail-era Class 321 train seems to have gone cold.

If it was a boxing match, it would have been stopped after the fourth round, if not before.

This Alstom visualisation shows the Class 600 train, which is also known as the Breeze.

I have a feeling that Alstom have done their marketing and everybody has said that the Class 600 train wouldn’t stand up to a modern train.

  • When you consider that each end of the train is a hydrogen tank, I wonder if possible passenger and driver reaction has not been overwhelmingly positive.
  • The project was announced in January 2021 and in the intervening time, hydrogen technology has improved at a fast pace.
  • There could even be a battery-electric version of the proposed Alstom Hydrogen Aventra.
  • The modern train could possibly be lengthened to a four or five car train.

It does strike me, that if Alstom are going to succeed with hydrogen trains, that to carry on with the Class 600 train without an order into the future is not a good idea.

How Does The Alstom Hydrogen Aventra Compare With The Alstom Coradia iLint?

The Alstom Coradia iLint is the world’s first hydrogen train.

It is successfully in service in Germany.

These are some characteristics of the Coradia iLint from the Internet.

  • Seats – 180
  • Length – 54.27 metres
  • Width – 2.75 metres
  • Height – 4.31 metres
  • Operating Speed – 87 mph
  • Range – 370-500 miles
  • Electrification Use – No

The same figures for the Alstom Hydrogen Aventra are as follows.

  • Seats – 164
  • Length – 72 metres
  • Width – 2.78 metres
  • Height – 3.76 metres
  • Operating Speed – 90 mph
  • Range – Unknown
  • Electrification Use – Unknown, but I would expect it is possible.

Note.

  1. I have taken figures for the Alstom Hydrogen Aventra from the Class 730/0 train and other Aventras.
  2. The number of seats is my best estimate from using the seat density of a Class 710 train in a 24 metre long car.
  3. The width and height seem to be standard for most Aventras.
  4. Alstom have said nothing about the range on hydrogen.
  5. I am surprised that the Aventra is the wider train.

But what surprises me most, is how similar the two specifications are. Had the designer of the original Lint hoped to sell some in the UK?

What Is The Range Of The Alstom Hydrogen Aventra?

When they launched the Breeze, Alstom were talking about a range of a thousand kilometres or just over 620 miles.

I have talked to someone, who manages a large bus fleet and they feel with a hydrogen bus, you need a long range, as you might have to position the bus before it does a full day’s work.

Would similar positioning mean a hydrogen train needs a long range?

I suspect it would in some applications, but if the train could use electrification, as I suspect the Alstom Hydrogen Aventra can, this must help with positioning and reduce the range needed and the amount of hydrogen used.

Would Alstom aim to make the range similar to the Coradia iLint? It’s probably a fair assumption.

Could the Alstom Hydrogen Aventra Be Extended To Four Or Five Cars?

I don’t see why not, as Aventras are designed to be lengthened or shortened, by just adding or removing cars, just like their predecessors the Electrostars were.

I can certainly see routes, where a longer Alstom Hydrogen Aventra could be needed and if Alstom have also decided that such a train could be needed, they will surely have investigated how to lengthen the train.

Applications In The UK

These are links to a few thoughts on applications of the trains in the UK.

There are probably a lot more and I will add to this list.

Applications Elsewhere

If the Coradia iLint has problems, they are these.

  • It can’t use overhead electrification, where it exists
  • It has a noisy mechanical transmission, as it is a converted diesel multiple unit design.

The Alstom Hydrogen Aventra can probably be modified to use electrification of any flavour and I can’t see why the train would be more noisy that say a Class 710 train.

I suspect Alstom will be putting the train forward for partially-electrified networks in countries other than the UK.

Conclusion

This modern hydrogen train from Alstom is what is needed.

It might also gain an initial order for Birmingham’s Cross-City Line, as it is a hydrogen version of the line’s Class 730/0 trains.

But having a hydrogen and an electric version, that are identical except for the hydrogen extender, could mean that the trains would be ideal for a partially-electrified network.

There could even be a compatible battery-electric version.

All trains would be identical to the passenger and probably the driver too. This would mean that mixed fleets could be run by an operator, with hydrogen or battery versions used on lines without electrification as appropriate.

 

 

 

 

November 11, 2021 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

The New Bromsgrove Station

This is the new Bromsgrove station, which opened this week.

It is not what you’d call a spectacular station, but it certainly fulfils the objectives of the design.

  • Act as a second Southern terminus for three trains per hour on Birmingham’s Cross-City Line.
  • Be able to accept trains up to nine cars on the Cross-Country route from Gloucester, Worcester and Hereford through Birmingham and onto the East Midlands and Yorkshire.
  • Provide a step-free interchange, between trains, buses, cars and cycles.
  • Provide a Park-and-Ride station for Birmingham.

But as it has four platforms, will soon be electrified and have connections across the City, will it after the timetable has settled, become an important interchange that takes the pressure from Birmingham New Street? I think it will, as Reading does for Paddington, Stratford does for Liverpool Street and Clapham Junction, does for ictoria and Waterloo, in London.

It is also not finished and needs a shop and coffee stalls. In some ways it has a similar aura to the new Lea Bridge station in East London. Both stations shout that they are open for business, so please send us some trains and we’ll make the passengers happy.

It could turn out to be a masterstroke.

The electric trains on the line that will work the electrified service are Class 323 trains. There are forty-three, three-car units of which London Midland have twenty-six units, or just thirteen six-car trains, which is the train-length, the line obviously needs.

Will they get the other seventeen units from Northern, as that company gets new rolling stock, to create a fleet that could serve the line adequately?

They could also be looking at new trains. Something like four-car Class 710 trains, which are being built for similar urban routes on the London Overground, would be ideal. And in these Brexit times, they are built in Derby.

If Class 710 trains were to be used, they open up the intriguing possibility of fitting some or all of them with on-board energy storage.

This would enable the following routes.

  • Bromsgrove to Worcester is only a dozen miles, and doesn’t include the notorious Lickey Incline, which will soon be electrified. So it would be possible to run a frequent Birmingham to Worcester service using onboard energy, which would also serve Droitwich Spa and the new Worcestershire Parkway station.
  • The Camp Hill Line provides an alternative route across Birmingham City Centre. It is not electrified, but as it is short, it would be well within onboard energy storage range.
  • On the other side of Birmingham, it is only about twenty-five miles or so from the electrified Cross-City Line to the electrified West Coast Main Line at Nuneaton.

So could we see a second Cross-City Line in Birmingham from Worcester to Nuneaton via Bromsgrove, Camp Hill, Water Orton and Coleshill Parkway?

It would need no new electrification and just appropriate track and station improvements.

 

July 14, 2016 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Redditch Station

Redditch station is a small station, at the end of the mainly single-track Redditch Branch of the Cross-City Line in Birmingham.

I had hoped to find a cafe close, but there was nothing obvious, so I got back on the Class 323 Train and returned to Birmingham.

Redditch doesn’t quite get the service of say West Croydon on the Overground of four five-car trains an hour, but it does get three three-car trains every hour, which is better than many places in the UK and the wider world.

I would think that service levels greater than this would need another platform and complete doubling of the branch to Barnt Green. This Google Map shows that there is little space for another platform.

Redditch Station

Redditch Station

As the post about Bromsgrove station showed, the Cross-City Line is adding four much-needed platforms at Bromsrove, just a few miles away.

So could we be seeing three trains an hour to each destination?

But I just get the feeling that some four-car trains might be needed after one trip in the peak.

August 6, 2015 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Alvechurch Station

The Redditch Branch of the Cross-City Line in Birmingham has recently been upgraded, with a major rebuild at Alvechurch station. Wikipedia says this about the upgrade.

The section of the Cross-City Line between Barnt Green and Redditch was single track. Network Rail planned to increase capacity by adding a passing loop and second platform at Alvechurch. This was also to include a footbridge and lifts to reach the new platform. This was to allow the service to be increased from two to three trains per hour.

These are a few pictures of the new station.

The improvements at Alvechurch very much show how one thing can lead to another.

But as I can testify, the result gives three trains an hour to Reddith and although I didn’t alight there a full step-free station at Alvechurch.

 

August 6, 2015 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Bromsgrove Station

Bromsgrove station is unusual in that it is at the bottom of the historic Lickey Incline, which for in railway terms is a very steep hill. Wikipedia says this about the station.

Bromsgrove is only one of four stations in the UK which get annual usage of over half a million journeys with just an hourly service (Blackrod, Hartlepool and Inverurie being the other 3 stations).

So Network Rail are rebuilding the station and electrifying the Lickey Incline to add Bromsgrove to Birmingham’s Cross-City Line as described in this section in Wikipedia. These pictures show the current station and the works for the new one.

There will be four platforms and a large car-park, so obviously they are expecting an increase in passenger numbers. This Google Map shows the station and its relationship to the town.

Bromsgrove Station

Bromsgrove Station

I can’t visit Bromsgrove station without commenting on the Lickey Incline, which I talked about in Up And Down The Lickey Incline. The views are pretty good as you look out over the Worcestershire countryside.

Going down, I felt that the train was very quiet, as the driver was relying on Newton’s friend, but going back to Birmingham, the underfloor diesel engines on my fully-loaded Class 172 train, were working very hard.

My train had taken the Lickey Incline from a standing start at Bromsgrove station, unlike the trains going straight through, which seemed to use the extra momentum of higher speed to climb the slope as easily as possible.

Sadly, I wasn’t treated to a show, as a banking engine pushed a heavy freight train up the hill.

 

August 6, 2015 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Along The Cross-City Line

The Cross-City Line stretches across Birmingham between Lichfield Trent Valley and Redditch stations, calling in the city centre at New Street. There pictures are from Wednesday’s trip from Lichfield into the centre.

And these are some images from between New Street and Redditch.

The line has the feel and in some cases look of the London Overground, except that a lot of the stations were obviously built using a kit of standard parts.

The Cross-City Line has an advantage that a lot of the London Overground would like – Space and platforms long enough for more than six carriages.

If I have a criticism of the Cross-City Line, it is that it doesn’t have enough stations in the city centre, with too much reliance on the busy New Street. As the line passes underneath Moor Street and through important areas east and west of the major station, surely a couple of extra stations would make the line much more customer-friendly. Especially, if it could link up better with the Midland Metro.

, The frequency is higher than the London Overground’s four trains an hour, which is becoming the accepted lower limit for a Metro service.

Camp Hill Line

There are aspirations to incorporate the Camp Hill Line into the system, to effectively give another East-West route, south of the city centre. With the West Midlands getting responsibility for transport in the next few years, this will happen. But if you look at Birmingham’s rail lines, history says, it might not be done in the obvious way, but in something much better.

According to Wikipedia, the Council is talking about a three trains per hour service between reopened platforms at Kings Norton and Moor Street.

Without doubt in Germany, this service would be operated by tram-trains, which on arriving at Moor Street would join the Midland Metro. This Google Map shows Moor Street station.

Could The Metro Squeeze Through Here?

Could The Metro Squeeze Through Here?

It is a tight area, but then so it was at Snow Hill and they have got the Midland Metro through that concrete jungle.

Sutton Park Line

The Sutton Park Line is another aspiration of the authorities for opening as a passenger route between Rugeley and Water Orton. At its northern end, it will connect to the route between Rugeley and Walsall, which is currently being electrified and at the southern, it will connect to the route between New Street and Nuneaton.

The line also crosses the Cross-City Line at Sutton Coldfield. This map show the two-level crossing.

Sutton Park And Cross-City Lines

Sutton Park And Cross-City Lines

So is there scope for a new interchange station here. Only traffic statistics will know.

But above all the future for the Cross-City Line must be very bright, even if the direction of expansion has yet to be decided.

August 6, 2015 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Lichfield Trent Valley Station

I went to Birmingham via Lichfield Trent Valley station using London Midland, paying just £13.20 for the First Class ticket to Lichfield.

It is an unusual station with two platforms on the West Coast Main Line and a third at right-angles on the Cross-City Line. This Google Map shows the station layout.

Lichfield Trent Valley Station

Lichfield Trent Valley Station

These are some pictures of the station.

My only problem with the station was that there were no staff to ask about buying the West Midlands Ranger ticket, I needed to continue my journey.

Lichfield Trent Valley station is on the South Staffordshire Line, and is on one the few sections of the line that still has a passenger service. On investigating further I found this description of the line’s state today on Wikipedia. This is the first two paragraphs.

Very little of the South Staffordshire line is used today, although Lichfield City and the connection to Lichfield Trent Valley high-level remain as part of London Midland’s Cross-City Service to Redditch via Birmingham New Street. Freight usage on the OW&WR portion of the route has once again become more common thanks to the Round Oak Steel Terminal.

In terms of infrastructure, nearly all of the trackbed still remains, and indeed so does much of the track. The closed section South Staffordshire line has gradually fallen into disrepair over the last decade or so, with much of the trackbed heavily overgrown – in some areas almost totally concealed by vegetation.

So we have a railway across the West Midlands from Lichfield to Stourbridge, that has been mothballed and left in a state to be rebuilt, if the need should arise.

As to the future of the South Staffordshire Line, Wikipedia has a long section on its Future.

It would appear that Westfield, who own the Merry Hills Shopping Centre, even offered funds to help with some reopening. As two of their centres in London have excellent rail and Underground connections, they must know the value of such a link.

The line is also part of plans to build an extension of the Midland Metro from Wednesbury to Merry Hill. This could use tram-trains, as Network Rail would like to use the line for freight. As with many rail lines in the country, freight is often there to provide reasons for rebuilding or reopening.

I also found a report on the BBC, which led to this post about a Very Light Rail Innovation Centre at Dudley.

The line also goes through Walsall, where it links to the Chase Line to Rugeley Trent Valley, that is being electrified, and to the Sutton Park Line, that the Local Authorities want to reopen.

So many diverse plans!

Isn’t it a pity, that the Varsity Line from Oxford to Cambridge or the Waverley Route from Carlisle to Edinburgh, weren’t closed in a similar way to the South Staffordshire Line. Removing the track and turning the line into a long-distance walking or cycling path, is surely another alternative and much more beneficial to the community, than digging it up to build housing or a new road.

I think the only certainty about the South Staffordshire Line is that those enterprising Brummies, will find a better use for the line than growing weeds.

 

 

August 5, 2015 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , | Leave a comment