The Anonymous Widower

Rochdale Still Doesn’t Have A Direct Link To Manchester Airport

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Richdale Online.

I recently went to Rochdale to see Ipswich play and what surprised me about the town, was how far it was from my hotel close to Manchester Victoria station.

I went on a tram and it took over an hour and it was also very crowded.

I then walked about a mile to the football ground.  Luckily a friendly Rochdale supporter showed me the way.

But is Rochdale’s link to Manchester Airport, any worse than say Walthamstow’s link to Heathrow or Gatwick.

  • Rochdale Town Centre to Manchester Airport by train – 1:05
  • Rochdale Town Centre to Manchester Airport by tram – 2:02
  • Rochdale Station to Manchester Airport by train – 0,:55
  • Rochdale to Manchester Airport by taxi- 0:27
  • Walthamstow Central to Heathrow Airport by Underground and Heathrow Express – 1:05
  • Walthamstow Central to Heathrow Airport by Underground – 1:27
  • Walthamstow to Heathrow Airport by taxi – 1:27
  • Walthamstow Central to Gatwick Airport by train – 1:22

Note.

  1. All journeys, except the taxis, need at least one change.
  2. My lawyer son lives in Walthamstow and always flies from Heathrow.
  3. He gets there by Underground, with one cross-platform change at Finsbury Park.
  4. Crossrail won’t help the man on the Walthamstow Underground.
  5. In Manchester the taxi is quicker, but it isn’t in London.

These are my thoughts.

Mancunians Are More Impatient

Not my view, but the view of a Northern station guy, who has worked on Platforms 13 and 14 at Manchester Piccadilly and busy stations on the London Overground.

He thought that they were sometimes in such a hurry to get on a train, that the train is delayed.

He also said, if you ask Londoners to stand behind the yellow line, they do. Mancunians don’t!

Access To Northern And TransPennine Trains Is Bad

Consider.

  • There is often a step up into the train in Manchester.
  • Manchester Metrolink is generally step-free into the tram.
  • Parts of London Underground/Overground are step-free.
  • The new TransPennine trains have pathetic and slow end-door access.

The two train companies have bought fleets of trains that are not fit for purpose.

The Manchester Airport Rail Link Is At Full Capacity

Manchester Airport station, does not have the best rail line from the City Centre.

Wikipedia says this.

Any future additional services to the Airport are in doubt without further infrastructure works; unresolved issues surround the lack of new ‘through’ platforms at Manchester Piccadilly which have been shelved by the government and the Styal Line to Manchester Airport operating at full capacity with little resilience to absorb delays.

The Rochdale Online article blames the stations in Manchester, but the Styal Line is equally to blame.

The Long Term Solution Is High Speed Two

In the 2030s, High Speed Two will solve the problem by using a tunnel between Manchester Airport and the City Centre.

It will also do the following.

  • Provide direct access between Manchester Airport and the Midlands, the South and London.
  • Provide direct access to Liverpool and Warrington in the West.
  • Provide direct access to Huddersfield, Bradford, Leeds, Hull and the North East, in the East.
  • All services will probably be at least five trains per hour (tph).

But High Speed Two won’t provide a direct link to Richdale.

Passengers between Rochdale and Manchester Airport will still have to change in the City Centre.

Unless of course, some TransPennine services to Manchester Airport are discontinued, as they can be done by High Speed Two.

This would free up paths to add extra services to Manchester Airport.

An Interim Solution

Not only Rochdale, but other towns and cities across the North like Bradford moan about lack of a direct service to and from Manchester Airport.

So what would I do?

Ban Freight Trains Through The Castlefield Corridor

This may not be possible, but it should be a long term objective.

It will cost money, but it would release capacity through the Castlefield Corridor.

Ban Trains Without Level Access At Stations In The Castlefield Corridor

I know that Northern and TransPennine have just bought a load of new trains, but they make matters worse in the stations through the Castlefield Corridor.

All Trains To The Airport Must Be Eight Cars

This makes sense as it increases the capacity, but use the same number of paths.

  • Eight-car Class 379 trains – Stansted Express – 160 metres and 418 passengers
  • Five-car Class 802 trains – TransPennine Express – 130 metres and 342 passengers
  • Eight-car Class 331 trains – Northern – 190 metres and 568 passengers

It does appear that the new trains are also setting new standards for train length.

ERTMS Signalling Should Be Installed Between Manchester Victoria And Manchester Airport

ERTMS signalling would give more flexibility on the route.

Create A Manchester Airport Express

This has been suggested and would have the following characteristics.

  • Running between Manchester Airport and Manchester Victoria via Deansgate, Manchester Oxford Road and Manchester Piccadilly.
  • Eight cars
  • Airport-style interiors
  • Step-free access at all stations.
  • Four tph
  • Running twenty-four hours a day.
  • It would have step-free access to the Metrolink at Manchester Victoria, Deansgate and Manchester Piccadilly.

Ideally it would use dedicated platforms at Manchester Airport and Manchester Victoria. The platform at Victoria would hopefully have cross-platform interchange with services going through the station from East to West.

Reduce TransPennine Services To The Airport

TransPennine Express runs the following hourly services to the Airport

  • Cleethorpes via a reverse at Manchester Piccadilly.
  • Edinburgh or Glasgow via the Castlefield Corridor
  • Middlesborough via the Castlefield Corridor
  • Newcastle via the Castlefield Corridor

Why not cut-back either the Newcastle or Middlesborough service to Manchester Victoria and make sure it has good cross-platform access to the Manchester Airport Express?

These services are regularly cut-back anyway due to the congestion.

Demolish Manchester Oxford Road Station And Build A Station That’s Fit For Purpose

Manchester Oxford Road is one of ultimate design crimes on the UK Rail network.

  • The new or refurbished station would be step-free.
  • Platforms would be able to accept two hundred metre long trains.
  • A well-designed bay platform would be provided to turn trains from the North efficiently.
  • Up to four tph could probably be turned back.

Network Rail do station and track layout design generally very well and I’m sure that a redesigned Oxford Road station could improve capacity through the Castlefield Corridor.

Improve Deansgate And Manchester Piccadilly Stations

If longer trains are to be run through the Castlefield Corridor, then the platforms at these two stations will need lengthening and passenger access will need to be improved.

Is There A Place For Tram-Trains?

Manchester are keen on using tram-trains to improve the Metrolink network.

This map clipped from Wikipedia shows the layout of the Metrolink in the City Centre.

Note.

  1. Manchester Piccadilly, Deansgate and Manchester Victoria all have step-free connections to the trains to and from Manchester Airport.
  2. The new Trafford Line will branch off at Pomona.

I think it is likely, that any new lines run by tram-trains will pass through at least one of the connecting stations.

This will increase the list of places that will have good access with a single change to and from Manchester Airport.

Conclusion

There would appear to be a lot of scope to create a high-capacity link between Manchester and the Airport.

But it does appear that the current timetable leaves little or no room to expand the service.

That is why, I believe a simpler but higher capacity service, based on a Manchester Airport Express could be developed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 5, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Still Going For A Quart In A Pint Pot

The title of this post is the same as that of an artticle in the November 2019 Edition of Modern Railways.

The article describes the problems of running trains through the Castlefield Corridor through Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Oxford Road and Deansgate stations.

It is a comprehensive article, that gets to the heart of the problem of the route.

It comes to the conclusion, that there is a need for either more infrastructure or less trains, than the current fifteen trains per hour (tph).

Under more infrastructure, the author lists these projects.

  1. Grade separated junctions at Castlefield and other junctions.
  2. A centre turnback at Manchester Oxford Road station.
  3. A West-facing bay platform at Manchester Victoria
  4. Four through platforms at Manchester Oxford Road and Manchester Piccadilly.
  5. Improvement at Manchester Airport station.

These points should be noted.

  • Options One and Four will be expensive and will probably cause massive disruption during construction for both rail and road traffic.
  • The author suspects Option Four would cost almost a billion pounds and would need the grade-separated junctions to get best value.

I shall deal with options Two, Three and Five later.

Trains Through The Castlefield Corridor

Current passenger trains through the Castlefield Corridor are as follows.

  • East Midlands Railway – One tph – Liverpool Lime Street and Norwich
  • Northern – One tph – Hazel Grove and Blackpool
  • Northern – One tph – Liverpool Lime Street and Crewe
  • Northern – Two tph – Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Oxford Road
  • Northern – One tph – Manchester Airport and Blackpool
  • Northern – One tph – Manchester Airport and Cumbria
  • Northern – One tph – Manchester Airport and Liverpool Lime Street
  • Northern – One tph – Wigan North Western and Alderly Edge
  • Trains for Wales – One tph – Manchester Airport and Llandudno
  • TransPennine Express – One tph – Manchester Airport and Middlesbrough
  • TransPennine Express – One tph – Manchester Airport and Newcastle
  • TransPennine Express – One tph – Manchester Airport and Glasgow Central or Edinburgh

This gives the following totals.

  • Eleven tph – Deansgate and Manchester Piccadilly
  • Two tph – Deansgate and Manchester Oxford Road

Add in a couple of freight trains and that gives 15 tph, which according to the author is the design limit.

These are frequencies from Manchester Airport.

  • There are seven tph between Manchester Airport and Oxford Road via Piccadilly.
  • There are three tph between Manchester Airport and Preston via Piccadilly and Oxford Road.
  • There are two tph between Manchester Airport and Leeds via Piccadilly, Oxford Road and Victoria.

The author of the article also points out that Bradford is pushing for a direct service to Manchester Airport.

Frequency is important, but so is train length.

  • Transpennine Express services will generally be five cars in the future.
  • East Midlands Railway, Northern and Trains for Wales services will be between two and four cars.

Nothing too taxing to handle here, although Northern might decide to double trains of eight cars at times.

Comparison Of The Castlefield Corridor And The East London Line

Consider these facts about the Castlefield Corridor

  • Four Southern routings; Crewe, Hazel Grove, Stockport and Manchester Airport.
  • Five Northern routings; Bolton, Liverpool, Manchester Victoria, Trafford Park and Wigan North Western
  • Fifteen tph of which thirteen tph are passenger trains.
  • Three stations designed by Topsy, two of which are step-free.
  • Not step-free between train and platform.
  • Three interchange stations.
  • Conventional signalling.
  • Fully electrified with 25 KVAC overhead.
  • Four train companies, with at least four types of passenger train.
  • Bad timekeeping.
  • Low customer satisfaction.

For comparison, consider these facts about the East London Line between Shoreditch High Street and Surrey Quays stations.

  • Four Southern routings; Clapham Junction, Crystal Palace, New Cross and West Croydon.
  • Two Northern routings; Dalston Junction and Highbury & Islington
  • Sixteen tph of which all are passenger trains. Soon to be raised to twenty tph.
  • Seven stations designed by various architects, two of which are step-free, with Whitechapel to soon make this three step-free.
  • Some stations are step-free between train and platform.
  • Two interchange stations.
  • More bespoke signalling.
  • Fully electrified with 750 VDC third rail.
  • One train company and one type of passenger train.
  • Good timekeeping.
  • High customer satisfaction.

The route complexity and frequencies are fairly similar, so what are the big differences?

  • Is the East London Line’s signalling better?
  • The East london Line doesn’t have freight trains.
  • Does one type of train with wide doors and walk-through interiors, work wonders?
  • Does London’s step-free between train and platform make a difference?

I think the following actions should be looked at for the Castlefield Corridor.

  • Modern digital signalling.
  • All Northern services to be run using Class 195 or Class 331 trains, which look the same to passengers, despite one being electric and the other diesel.
  • TransPennine Express will be running three different type of train all with single doors, through the Castlefield Corridor. Ways of reducing the number of types must be found.

What idiot decided to buy three incompatible fleets? Surely, an order for a larger number of Hitachi trains would have been better?

My Behaviour In Manchester

I know Manchester’s trams and trains, but I haven’t a clue about the City’s buses, which seem to be reserved for the locals.

I regularly find myself using stations in the Castlefield Corridor and I have developed certain rules.

  • Never use Oxford Road, unless you’re lost and end up there by chance. It must be the worst designed modern station in Europe.
  • Never use the route unless you’ve already bought the ticket some time before.
  • Use Deansgate if possible, as it has a good connection to Manchester Metrolink.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to catch a train from platforms 13 and 14 at Piccadilly.
  • Make sure you know what platform your train is using at Piccadilly.

I also tend to avoid catching any train from platform 13 or 14 at Piccadilly.

Passenger Problems On Platforms 13 and 14 At Manchester Piccadilly

One of the reasons, I avoid these platforms, is that they are always crowded and at weekends, there seems to be a lot of occasional travellers, often with heavy cases and babies in buggies.

I remember having a chat with a station guy there in a quiet time and it turned out that he’d also worked on platforms on the London Underground.

One point he made was that Londoners get back from the platform edge, when told, but Mancunians are slower to act.

He said trains were often delayed because of passengers struggling to get on.

Could Other Actions Be Taken To Ease The Overcrowding?

These are various ideas suggested in the article or some of my own.

Run Less Trains Through The Castlefield Corridor

This would ease the problem, but it would make it more difficult for passengers to travel where they wanted and needed.

Build A Centre Turnback At Manchester Oxford Road

Consider

  • It would mean that trains turning back at Oxford Road, wouldn’t have to cross tracks, entering or leaving the turnback.
  • It could probably turn up to four tph.
  • It might also help in service recovery.

The author obviously likes this idea and I suspect it is possible, because he mentions it more than once.

Completely Rebuild Manchester Oxford Road Station

Manchester Oxford Road is certainly not fit for purpose.

This is an extract from the Wikipedia entry.

The station, a Grade II listed structure, requires frequent maintenance. In 2004, the station roof was partially refurbished to prevent leaking. In 2011, the platform shelters, seats and toilets were refurbished at a cost of £500,000.[36] In 2013, the station received a £1.8 million renovation to improve access, including lifts and an emergency exit.

In my view, the station needs the following.

  • Step-free access.
  • Longer platforms.
  • Higher capacity platforms.
  • Much better signage and maps.
  • The turnback described earlier.

No wonder I avoid it like the plague.

A completely rebuilt station with excellent step-free access might encourage more passengers to use the station, rather than the overcrowded Piccadilly.

Improve Deansgate Station

Deansgate station is not bad, but it could be improved to encourage more passengers.

Over the next few years, as the Metroilink expands, It could become a better interchange.

Step-Free Access Between Train And Platform Must Be Achieved

This picture shows access to a new Class 195 train at Manchester Airport.

With new trains, there is no excuse for not having level access, where someone in a wheelchair can just wheel themselves across.

Level access should reduce loading delays, as it eases loading of buggies, wheelchairs and wheeled cases.

If Merseyrail, Greater Anglia and some parts of the London Overground can arrange it, then surely Manchester can?

Nova Problem

The author also talks about possible problems with TransPennine’s new Nova trains, which have single end doors, which could prove inadequate in busy times.

Build A West-Facing Bay Platform At Manchester Victoria Station

The author suggests this could be used to run a frequent shuttle service between Manchester Victoria and Manchester Airport via Deansgate, Oxford Road and Piccadilly.

It might mean that TransPennine services stopped short in Manchester and passengers would change for the Airport.

But it would solve the problems of the capacity in the Castlefield Corridor and platform availability at Manchester Airport

Could Passengers Be Nudged Towards The Metrolink?

I have watched the sheer number of passengers delay trains at Manchester Piccadilly, several times.

Would it ease delays if passengers used the Metrolink to Manchester Airport?

Perhaps, the journey by Metrolink could be made more affordable?

Conclusion

It’s a mess and as the author says in his title, quarts don’t fit into pint pots.

At least though, if High Speed Two is built to link up with Northern Powerhouse Rail and together they run London, Birmingham or Liverpool to Hull via Manchester Airport, Manchester City Centre, Huddersfield, Bradford and Leeds, this would solve the problem of the Castlefield Corridor by bypassing it for long-distance trains.

 

 

 

October 27, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Piccadilly Capacity Study Commissioned

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in the October 2018 Edition of Modern Railways.

This is the first paragraph.

New NR Chief Executive Andrew Haines has commissioned work to understand options for capacity through platforms 13 and 14 at Manchester Piccadilly.

It was originally planned to build two extra tracks, with additional platforms  between Manchester Piccadilly and Deansgate stations, to improve the capacity over the Ordsall Chord.

But various engineers and politicians have suggested that Digital Signalling may be an alternative solution.

Speaking to the House of Commons Transport Committee, Mr. Haines said.

We might be better off replacing some of those fleets of trains with trains which have more doors.

Boarding is slow all across the North and I suspect Mr. Haines has studied the problem.

He also added.

He had commissioned work to understand if 15 trains per hour could be delivered through platforms 13 and 14 without major infrastructure works.

I don’t think that Network Rail would waste money on a study, if they didn’t think that 15 trains per hour (tph) were not possible.

Consider.

  • Thameslink and Crossrail will soon be running 24 tph through Central London in four directions.
  • The East London Line currently runs 16 tph in a tunnel that was opened only thirteen years after the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.
  • Trains designed for short dwell times and easy boarding and unloading, as suggested by Mr. Haines would obviously help.

Platforms and the related access at Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Oxford Road and Deansgate stations would need to be improved.

But that would be a smaller number of affordable projects.

Conclusion

I do think Andrew Haines has a mind that doesn’t believe in boxes, so his ideas won’t go down well with those with big-spending conservative ideas like most rail union leaders, some rail company bosses and the Mayor of Manchester.

 

September 27, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Deansgate Station

I took these pictures of Deansgate station  as I passed through.

Deansgate station needs a lot of improvement.

This Google Map shows the area.

Around Deansgate Station

Around Deansgate Station

I don’t think, I’ve seen an area of a UK city, with so many parked cars. Why aren’t people coming into the City by using the trains and the trams?

All that wasted land could be used for something useful like housing or commecial developments.

I walked to the station and I used the lift to get to the platform, but even so, I still had to climb quite a few steps. I wonder that it is station that many avoid because, the access is better at other stations.

On the other hand it is an interchange to the Manchester Metrolink at Deansgate-Castlefield.

Also when the Ordsall Chord is completed and when a full timetable is implemented, surely there will be many more services through the station.

So hopefully, improvements are planned.

December 16, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , | 1 Comment