The Anonymous Widower

What Are Greater Anglia Going To Do With A Problem Like The Crouch Valley Line?

This post is effectively a series of sub-posts describing the problems of the Crouch Valley Line.

Platform 1 At Wickford Station

These pictures show Platform  1 at Wickford station, where services on the Crouch Valley Line terminate.

The train in the platform is a four-car Class 321 train, which is almost exactly eighty metres long.

After Greater Anglia has renewed the fleet, the shortest electric train they will have will be a five-car Class 720 train, which is over one hundred and twenty metres long.

I don’t think one of these shiny new trains will fit into the current platform.

Electrification

These pictures show the electrification at Burnham-on-Crouch station.

And these show Southminster station.

The overhead electrification on the Shenfield to Southend Line is being renewed and this section is supposedly finished. But it does look very similar to pictures I took in 2016, that are posted in Wickford Station. As the 25 KVAC overhead electrification was installed in 1979, when the line was converted from 6.25 KVAC, I do wonder about the age of some of the gantries.

On the trip, where I took these pictures staff were still complaining about the unreliability of the wires, as they have done before.

There doesn’t appear to have been any work done on the Crouch Valley Line, although the conductor did say that the route was being closed at times for work in the near future.

I do question, whether the overhead wires on the Crouch Valley Line are of a sufficient high and modern standard to be both reliable and easy and affordable to maintain.

Can the electrification handle regenerative braking?

The Timetable

The timetable East of Shenfield is as follows.

  • Three trains per hour (tph) between Liverpool Street and Southend Victoria stations.
  • A train every forty minutes between Wickford and Southminster stations.
  • There are also some direct services between Southminster and Liverpool Street in the Peak.

Every time, I go use the line it seems, I always have a long wait at Wickford station.

Current services take thirty minutes between the two end stations with generous turnround times of about ten minutes at each end of the route.

Two trains are needed for the service, which are single-manned with a conductor checking and selling tickets appearing to float between the trains.

A New Nuclear Power Station At Bradwell

There is a possibility of building.of a new nuclear power station at Bradwell.

This Google Map shows the area.

Note.

  1. Burnham-on-Crouch is the large village on the North Bank of the River Crouch.
  2. Southminster is a couple of miles to the North of Burnham on Crouch.
  3. Bradwell is in the North-East corner of the map alongside the River Blackwater.
  4. You can just see the World War 2 airfield, which was the site of the original Bradwell nuclear power station.

If a new power station is built at Bradwell, I doubt that it will require rail freight access at Southminster, as did the original station.

Transport technology has moved on and heavy goods will surely be taken in and out by barge from the River Blackwater.

But a new station or more likely ; a cluster of small modular reactors will require transport for staff, contractors and visitors.

Although, on balance, with the growth of renewable energy, I don’t think that many more nuclear power stations will be built.

A Battery Storage Power Station At Bradwell

I also wouldn’t rule out the use of Bradwell for a battery storage power station for the electricity generated by wind farms like Gunfleet in the Northern section of the Thames Estuary.

The number and size of these wind farms will certainly increase in the coming years.

Battery storage power stations are ideal partners for wind farms, as they help turn the intermittent wind power into a constant flow of electricity.

Currently, the largest battery storage power station is a 300 MWh facility that was built in 2016,  at Buzen in Japan.

Energy storage technology is moving on fast and I would not be surprised to see 2000 MWh units by the mid-2020s.

Bradwell could be an ideal place to put a battery storage power station.

Passenger Numbers

Passenger numbers on the line over the last few years seem to have been fairly level although there appears to have been a drop in the last year or so. But this drop has happened in lots of places!

Various factors will effect the passenger numbers on the Crouch Valley Line in the future.

  • New housing along the route.
  • A large energy-based development at Bradwell will atract passengers.
  • New trains will attract passengers.
  • Will the Internet and new working practices affect passenger numbers?
  • A two tph clock-face service will attract passengers.
  • Faster and more frequent services between Liverpool Street and Wickford will make the line easier to access.

There is also the possibility of more visitors and tourists to the area. The RSPB have spent a lot of money developing Wallasea Wetlands, which is opposite Burnham-on-Crouch.

In future years, how many people will reach Wallasea, by ferry from Burnham-on-Crouch?

Adding up all these factors, I come to two conclusions.

Predicting the number of passengers will be difficult..

There will always be passengers who need this rail service.

It looks to me that Greater Anglia will have to plan for all eventualities from very low numbers of passengers to a substantial increase.

New Trains

Shenfield-Southend services and those on the Crouch Valley Line will be run using new Class 720 trains.

Bettween Liverpool Street And Southend Victoria

Currently, this service on the route is as follows.

Trains have a frequency of three tph.

  • Each train takes an hour for the journey.
  • All trains stop at the seven stations between Shenfield and Southend Victotria, Shenfield and Stratford.
  • One train in three has an extra stop at Romford.

The new trains have a faster acceleration of 1 metre per second², as opposed to the current trains which can only manage 0.55 metre per second².

This property and their modern design, probably means that the new trains, can do a complete round trip between Liverpool Street and Southend Victoria stations in under two hours.

  • The journey time between the two stations will be around fifty minutes.
  • A three tph frequency will need a fleet of six trains.
  • A four tph frequency will need a fleet of eight trains.

This service will be faster than the fastest services between Fenchurch Street and Southend Central stations.

I can certainly see a time, when the frequency between Liverpool Street and Southend Victoria stations is increased to four tph.

Passenger numbers are rising strongly at Southend Victoria station.

Southend Airport have big expansion plans and would welcome a better rail service, to and from their very convenient station.

At present times to their London termini from various airports are as follows.

  • Gatwick Airport – 31 minutes (Express)
  • Luton Airport – 28 minutes
  • Southend Airport – 53 minutes
  • Stansted Airport – 46 minutes

I think that Southend Airport times with the new trains could be about 43 minutes or less, which because of the closeness of the station to the terminal building could allow Southend Airport to claim faster times to Liverpool Street than Stansted Airport.

If the service does go to four tph, there will be a massive increase in capacity.

There will be 1145 seats in the new trains, as opposed to 927 in the current Class 321 trains.

With four tph. this would mean an increase in capacity of 40%.

I don’t think anybody in Southend will be complaining.

Between Wickford And Southminster

As I said earlier, the new longer Class 720 trains will have difficulty running the current service, as they don’t fit into Platform 1 at Wickford station.

Working the same timetable the new trains with their 544 seats will offer a 76% increase in train capacity.

Trains take thirty minutes with five intermediate stations.

Given the better acceleration and modern nature of the new trains, I wonder, if they will be able to do a round trip in an hour.

If they can do this, then it would be possible to run a two tph service on the route.

But it will be a tough ask!

That still leaves the problem of turning back the trains at Wickford.

Currently, trains between Liverpool Street and Southend Victoria going in opposite directions, pass at Wickford station.

If this could be arranged with four tph, then there would be up to fifteen minute windows, where no train was passing through Wickford station.

Suppose the Liverpool Street and Southend services passes through at XX:00, XX:15. XX:30 and XX:45.

Would it be possible for the Southminster trains to leave Wickford at XX:10 and XX:40 and arrive back at XX:05 and XX:35, thus giving five minutes for the driver to get to the other end.

As I said, it would be a tough ask!

But I suspect there is a plan to get two tph between Wickford and Southminster.

  • The track could be improved.
  • Some level crossings could be closed.
  • Operating speed could be faster.
  • Better step-free access could probably be arranged at the intermediate stations.
  • A step-free bridge could be built at Wickford.

If two tph can be achieved, then this would increase capacity on the route by 134 %.

The Passing Loop At North Fambridge Station

This Google Map shows the station and passing loop at North Fambridge station.

Measuring from the map, I estimate the following.

  • The length of the platforms are 160 metres.
  • The length of the passing loop is in around 400 metres.

I also suspect that to save money was the line was singled in the 1960s, British Rail made the passing loop as short as possible to cut costs.

The current loop can handle eight-car Class 321 trains, so it can certainly handle a five-car Class 720 trains.

I do wonder if the passing loop were to be lengthened, this would ease operation on the line.

There might even be a length, that enable a two tph service with the current four-car Class 321 trains.

Thoughts On Speed Limits

The speed limit on the line is 60 mph between Battlesbridge and North Fambridge stations and 50 mph at both ends of the line.

Summarising sections of the line, their length and speed limits give.

  • Wickford and Battlesbridge – 2 miles 38 chains = 4356 yards = 3983 metres – 50 mph
  • Battlesbridge and North Fambridge – – 5 miles 67 chains = 10274 yards = 9395 metres – 60 mph
  • North Fambridge and Southminster – 8 miles 15 chains = 14410 yards = 13177 metres – 50 mph

This gives totals of 17160 metres with a 50 mph limit and 9395 metres with a 60 mph limit.

  • At 50 mph, the train would cover the 17160 metres in 12.8 minutes
  • At 60 mph, the train would cover the 17160 metres in 10.7 minutes
  • At 75 mph, the train would cover the 17160 metres in 8.5 minutes

Increasing the speed limit to 60 mph would save two minutes.

Network Rail must have all the figures and costs, but this could be a cost-effective way to save a couple of minutes.

But it does seem if the operating speed of the line were to be increased, time saving could be achieved, that would make a two tph timetable a reality.,

Could Electrification Be Removed From The Crouch Valley Line?

If the track is going to be improved with respect to line speed, level crossings and passing loops, then there will have to be changes to the layout of the overhead electrification.

Most of the serious changes that could be carried out, would be to the East of North Fambridge station.

Would it be sensible if the Class 720 trains have a battery capability, to remove the electrification to the East of North Fambridge station?

  • 13.2 km. of single-track would have the electrification removed.
  • Some of this electrification will need replacing soon.
  • Trains could swap between power sources in North Fambridge station.
  • The batteries would be charged between Wickford and North Fambridge stations.
  • Only 16 miles in each round trip would be on batteries.

Removing some electrification would cut the cost of any works.

Conclusion

I’m sure Greater Anglia have a solution and it’s probably better than my rambling.

 

 

 

 

 

August 30, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Crossrail Tests Its Trains In Southend

The title of this post is the same as that of this article in the Southend Echo.

This is the first paragraph.

Crossrail trains are being tested from Southend to London – raising hopes that in future they could run to and from the town on a regular basis.

As the title of the article indicates, it could be that Bombardier and Crossrail are seeing how a Class 345 train performs on the route, prior to the delivery of Greater Anglia’s similar Class 720 trains, which are another train in Bombardier’s Aventra family.

Southend Victoria Station

Southend Victoria station could be a destination for Crossrail in the future, but consider these facts.

  • Southend Victoria station is 41.5 miles from London Liverpool Street station and the fastest services take about an hour.
  • Southend Victoria has a frequency of three trains per hour (tph) to London Liverpool Street.
  • Southend Victoria station has four terminal platforms and is a short walk to the Town Centre.
  • Reading station is 36 miles from London Paddington station and the fastest services take just over half-an-hour.
  • Fast-growing Southend Airport with its station is on the Shenfield to Southend Line and the Airport would surely welcome a direct link to Central London and Heathrow.
  • The three tph on the Shenfield to Southend Line doesn’t have a good interchange with the one train every forty minute service on the Crouch Valley Line.

If there is a major problem, it is that Greater Anglia is losing passengers to c2c with its station at Southend Central.

Between 2013/14 and 2015/16 Southend Victoria has lost 2.79 million passengers, whereas in the same period Southend Central has gained  1.14 million.

From what I have seen Greater Anglia intend to speed up the Liverpool Street to Norwich services to ninety minutes and run at a frequency of 3 tph. They are also going to add a fourth train that goes to Ipswich. So again, the three tph service to Southend, isn’t the best fit to services on the Great Eastern Main Line for passengers travelling between say Southend and the County Town of Chelmsford.

There are probably not too many reasons for Crossrail to be extended to Southend for its own sake, but if Greater Anglia and Crossrail decide that an integrated service is to be provided between Shenfield and Southend, then everything is up for discussion.

Fast Trains Between London And Southend Victoria

The current Southend to London trains stop seven times to the East of Shenfield.

They would probably need to stop at Southend Airport and perhaps two of the busiest stations, but cutting out five stations would probably bring the journey time down to fifty minutes, which would attract passengers and make it easier for Greater Anglia to run the service, as trains could do the round trip in comfortably under two hours.

Running three tph, as now, would need just six trains and running a desirable four tph would need eight trains.

I’d be very interested to see what time a one of the new Stadler Class  745 trains, could achieve on the route, with just four stops at Stratford, Shenfield, Billericay and Southend Airport.

Slow Crossrail Trains Between Shenfield And Southend Victoria

Paired with the fast trains could be a number of extended Crossrail services.

Based on Crossrail’s projected timings between Liverpool Street and Shenfield of 41 minutes and the current 35 minutes between Shenfield and Southend, a timing of 76 minutes is estimated.

  • Crossrail’s trains could save as much as two minutes at each of the seven stops, East of Shenfield.
  • The Shenfield to Southend Line has an 80 mph speed limit, which I suspect could be improved.

So could we see Slow Crossrail trains achieving the times that Fast Greater Anglia trains do now?

I think the answer is yes and it shows how trains have improved in the last few decades.

How Many Trains Could Use The Shenfield To Southend Line?

The capacity must be quite high, as the only complication is the totally independent Crouch Valley Line.

Southend Victoria station has four platforms, so the station could probably handle sixteen tph, which is more than enough.

I feel that it would be possible to run four Fast expresses and four Slow Crossrail trains in an hour.

Whether that would be an acceptable timetable is another matter.

Interchange With The Crouch Valley Line

The Crouch Valley Line’s one train every forty minutes must be a nightmare for Greater Anglia and passengers alike, and I suspect that Greater Anglia have a cunning plan to run a two tph service on the line.

It appears that the track layout can achieve this, with the two trains passing at North Fambridge station. But as they don’t run two tph on this branch there must be other limitations.

Foremost of these could be the three tph service on the Shenfield to Southend Line.

So sorting out the Shenfield to Southend Line might improve the service on the Crouch Valley Line.

Conclusion

I have come to these conclusions about services between Liverpool Street and Southend Victoria stations..

  • A Fast Greater Anglia express service could probably achieve a sub-fifty minute time.
  • A Slow Crossrail service, could probably do the trip in an hour.
  • Better interchange with Crouch Valley Line and Great Easstern Main Line services would be achieved.
  • Four Fast and four Slow services in each hour is possible.

My choice for the Liverpool Street to Southend Victoria service would be as follows.

  • Four tph – Crossrail Class 345 trains – Stopping at all stations.
  • Four tph – Greater Anglia Class 745 trains – Stopping at Southend Airport, Billericay, Shenfield and Stratford.

Or the simple option of just running the four Crossrail trains.

Crossrail to Southend, isn’t a ridiculous aspiration.

August 11, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Up And Down The Crouch Valley Line

The Crouch Valley Line runs from Wickford station on the Liverpool Street to Southend Victoria Line and Southminster in deepest Essex via the sailing town of Burnham-on-Crouch.

This Google Map shows the route of the line.

The Crouch Valley Line

The Crouch Valley Line

Stations on the line are at Wickford, Battlesbridge, South Woodham Ferrers, North Fambridge, Althorne, Burnham-on-Crouch and Southminster.

I took these pictures as I went from Wickford station to Southminster station on the Crouch Valley Line. On the way back, I stopped off at Burnham-on-Crouch station and found an excellent snack lunch at Cafe-Dairy in the town.

It certainly isn’t your average rural railway line.

  • The six stations on the line are in pretty good condition.
  • All except North Fambridge station are single platform stations, so are effectively step-free.
  • The line goes through marshes and country with a lot of birds. Very Snow Goose!
  • Most of the stations, seem to have adequate car parking.
  • The electrification doesn’t appear to be in the best of health, but then that could be said for much of East Anglia’s railways.

If it has one major problem, it is that trains seem to run every forty minutes.

Growth In Passenger Numbers

Two factors will see the number of passengers using this line grow in the future.

Someone in Burnham told me, that they were building a lot of new housing along the line, which surely will generate traffic.

Also, the RSPB’s flagship reserve at Wallasea, that has been built with tunnel spoil from Crossrail, is just across the river at Burnham-on-Crouch.

This Google Map shows the area.

Burnham-on-Crouch, the River Crouch And Wallasea Island

Burnham-on-Crouch, the River Crouch And Wallasea Island

The Crouch Valley Railway goes across the top of the map and stops at Burnham-on-Crouch station.

I walked down to the River, going past the cinema.

Will a proper route from the station to Wallasea Island on the other side of the River Crouch be created using a bus and a ferry?

There is also a very low possibility of a new nuclear power station at Bradwell, which could increase traffic to Southminster.

A Two Trains Per Hour Service

The current schedule meant I had a forty minute wait for a train after my lunch. I made a mistake calculating when the train would leave and I arrived back at the station a few minutes after the train had left.

Forty minutes is a long time to wait for a train in a station with few facilities on a sunny day.

If traffic does grow on the line, as I indicated in the previous section, two trains an hour will be a necessity.

The reason for the current weird interval is that if you look at the time-table, trains take thirty-one minutes to do the Journey.

If you add in the turn-round time, when train staff do what they have to do and that to run the service, the two trains must pass at the only passing loop at North Fambridge station, it becomes obvious, that the fastest sensible time for the journey adding in all the extras is forty minutes.

So it would seem that in order to get two trains per hour, you would need to get the time for the journey down to thirty minutes.

It would seem that it might be possible by using four trains to get a three trains per hour service, but this would probably need extra passing loops or full redoubling of the track with extra platforms in places.

So because of cost this will probably not be an option.

In other words, the only way to get two trains per hour on the branch, would be to speed up the time each journey takes.

New Trains On The Line

New trains on the line could be the key to achieving a thirty minute total journey time.

If something like a new Aventra train replaced the current Class 321 train, there would be certain features that would save time.

  • The higher speed and better performance of the modern train would save some time.
  • Modern trains are designed to stop, unload and pick up passengers and get back to line speed in a shorter time.
  • Level access to platforms could be arranged to cut out loading delays of buggies, wheelchairs and bicycles.
  • Helpful automation for the driver in the turn-round at each end of the line could save a few precious minutes.
  • The precision driving needed would be easier in a modern train.

It might even be possible to do a faster speed in a Class 360 train.

Improving The track

I do wonder, if Network Rail have ideas to improve the line speed, which would mean more minutes saved.

I suspect Network Rail engineers wish that the conversion of this line to single-track in the 1960s shouldn’t have been carried out.

Conclusion

I think that within a couple of years, we’ll see new trains on this line providing a two trains per hour service.

 

 

 

July 18, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

Wickford Station

I took these pictures at Wickford station.

Note.

  • There is a disused Platform 4  at the London End.
  • The Crouch Valley Line service to Southminster station uses Platform 1 at the Southend End.
  • The service between London and Southend is generally three trains per hour.
  • The service on the Crouch Valley Line is for a lot of the time, one train evrry forty minutes.
  • The station is not step-free.

As one of the station staff says, the station needs a drastic makeover.

But as the station handles over two million passengers a year, I think that it must be a fair way up the list of stations to be improved.

London To Southend Services

Wickford station is on the line route between London Liverpool Street and Southend Victoria station, which is run by Abellio Greater Anglia (AGA).

There is also a line between London Fenchurch Street and Southend Central station, which is run by c2c.

Comparing the two services gives the following.

  • The c2c service has six trains per hour, whereas the AGA service has three.
  • The c2c service is a few minutes faster.
  • The trains on the c2c service are Class 357 trains, a couple of decades younger than AGA’s Class 321 trains.
  • c2c are intending to bring in new trains in a few years.
  • c2c’s stations seem to be in better state than AGA’s.

To add to the problems of the AGA service, in a couple of years time, Crossrail will be running new trains between Liverpool Street and Shenfield.

I also believe that slower trains like the Class 321 trains, are an operational problem to increase capacity and speed on the Great Eastern Main Line South of Shenfield.

Because of the competition from c2c and the problems with running alongside Crossrail into London, I suspect that the new East Anglia Franchise will have to invest in new trains on the Liverpool Street to Southend Victoria route.

As Crossrail will be running Class 345 trains based on the Aventra, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Aventras running to Southend Victoria.

But these will not be designed with a Metro interior, but probably with an interior like a Class 387 train, with lots of space and tables.

Southend will certainly have a much improved train service to London.

If the service on the AGA route through Wickford were to be four or six trains per hour, then this would interchange much better with a two trains per hour service on the Crouch Valley Line.

 

 

July 18, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , | 1 Comment