Shipley station is one of the few triangular stations in the UK, as this Google Map shows.
As I passed through, I took these pictures.
It certainly, is a station, that needs more information and better sign[posting.
But mainly, it shows how building a station in a triangular junction is a complicated affair.
I arrived at Low Moor station on a direct service from Kings Cross.
As with several other new stations, it has been fairly very well-constructed, but the design has a few failings.
There Are Not Enough Trains
I was at Low Moor station for an hour taking pictures. In that time several local services went throiugh, but then only one train per hour stops in each direction.
At least two and possibly four trains per hour, as at Halifax, should stop.
Passengers on a wet, cold day will soon get fed up with waiting an hour for another train.
Trains to and from Manchester Airport should also stop.
It Is A Very One-Sided Station
The car park and the main access to the station appear to be on the Bradford-bound side of the station.
Lea Bridge station, that I use regularly near where I live, was built like this and you have to leave extra time to catch a train, as you have to cross the tracks on the footbridge, to go in one direction.
However at Ilkeston station, which I wrote about in Ilkeston Station Opens, the station footbridge replaces one that existed before the station was built. Passengers arrive on top of the station and then descend to the appropriate platform. Or they can walk-in at ground level from the car-drop-off areas or car parking on either side of the tracks!
What makes it worse at Lea Bridge station, is that they could have designed the station to have walk-in access from the road bridge over the lines, as the station does not have ticket gates.
There Should Be Ticket Machines On Both Platforms
I didn’t see the ticket machine, when I arrived, but one is not enough.
Imagine, you are in a hurry and have booked on-line for the 07:01 Grand Central train to Kings Cross and need to retrieve a ticket.
Will you be able to park your car, retrieve the ticket and cross the line before the train comes, especially if there is a queue for the sole ticket machine?
Surely too, ticket machines on the platforms are less likely to be vandalised, as CCTV will be expected.
Why Is There No Direct Access Between The Car Park And The Bradford-Bound Platform?
Both Lea Bridge and Ilkeston stations allow walk-in access to the one or both platforms. Why isn’t there a short flight of steps between the car park and the Bradford-bound platform?
I hope it’s not different rules being applied by different councils? It has been allowed at Kirkstall Forge station.
There Should Be Drop-Off/Pick-Up Areas On Both Sides Of The Station
Obviously, this can’t be arranged at all platforms at all stations, but many stations manage it for at least one, with a step-free bridge across the tracks.
Low Moor station doesn’t score well in this.
Poor Access With Bicycles To The Platforms
Cyclists come in all shapes and sizes, but many will find the steps unacceptably steep and will not use this station.
Or put their muddy bikes in the lifts!
It is a well-built, but rather poorly designed station.
I don’t think, it will attract the number of passengers it should!
The Class 319 Flex concept is designed to create a bi-mode train by fitting two diesel powered alternators, one under each of the driving trailer cars. The diesel alternators provide power to the existing traction and auxiliary equipment to allow the EMU to operate without an overhead or 3rd rail supply. The systems will provide power through the train’s DC bus, avoiding any significant changes to the existing equipment and creating a unit capable of operating from a number of different power sources whilst maintaining its full capabilities on electrified routes.
As an electrical engineer, it looks to me, that British Rail’s original design of the dual-voltage Class 319 train with a DC bus has actually helped in creating an easy-to-design and build interface between the new diesel powered alternators and the train’s current systems.
I have seen an early copy of the brochure for the Class 319 Flex train and can add the following statements.
- The train is powered by two MAN D2876 LUE631 diesel engines, which each generate 390kW of power. This page on the MAN web site shows MAN’s range of engines for rail applications. This page shows the data sheet for the engine.
- The engines are Stage IIIB compliant with respect to emissions and use Selective Catalytic Reduction technology to achieve this.
- The proposed alternator is from ABB. This page on the ABB web site, shows their wide range of alternators.
- A new negative return bus line will be added throughout the unit to prevent return current flowing through the vehicles or rails.
- The design uses a power-pack raft. This should ease maintenance and replacement.
- Obviously various modules and controls are added to enhance the uses of the system and allow the driver to control the new systems.
- Great care seems to have been taken that the Class 319 Flex train will perform well on third rail lines.
I do have a feeling that the direction of technology over the last few years has certainly helped to enable a better design.
- The major components have probably got smaller and more reliable.
- Control system technology has moved on substantially.
- Adding batteries to the train should be relatively easy, given the DC bus and the large amounts of experience from hybrid road vehicles.
- 3D CAD systems must help in a space-critical installation.
Combined with all the statements about design and testing in the brochure, I have no reason to suspect that the train designers are doing anything other than a comprehensive and professional job. Their choice of engines and alternators is certainly picking some of the best available and the brochure states that long-lead components have already been ordered.
I’m always putting in the same picture of Zwickau Zentrum station on the Vogtlandbahn in Germany into posts, so I thought I should give the picture a post of its own.
The station is one of the simplest I’ve ever seen and it has been designed very much like a tram stop.
- There is no footbridge, as if travellers need to cross the line, they just walk round.
- The access is as step-free as it gets in Germany.
- The other side of the platform is a stop for Zwickau’s trams.
- There is no electrification, which must improve safety.
- The station could be made long enough for any train that might call.
- The station has been landscaped into the local environment.
But we’re starting to see simple stations like this in the UK.
Galashiels is an interesting solution, as there is a single-platform step-free railway station on one side of the road and a comprehensive bus interchange on the other with seats, cafes, shops and warm shelter.
Both Zwickau Zentrum and Galashiels are served exclusively by diesel trains and as electrification can be a hazard to some passengers and is expensive, I would feel that most stations like this, would be better served by trains that are self-powered.
We shall be seeing more simple station designs like these, as architects and designers get very innovative.
That long title appeared in The Times today above a picture of a stylish single-carriage lightweight train.
This page on the Warwick University web site is entitled Revolution Very Light Rail Project, describes the project on which the Times article is based.
This is said.
The main objective of the project is to reduce the weight and cost of a railcar by half in order to facilitate low cost connectivity of suburban and rural areas. The Radical Train will demonstrate unique self-powered bogies (with integral hybrid propulsion and kinetic energy recovery system) combined with a modular, lightweight body-shell utilising advanced materials. WMG will be transferring expertise in lightweighting technology from the automotive sector into this project. Automotive lightweighting solutions are already employing advanced materials including ultra-high strength steels and fibre-reinforced polymer composites.
Other points from The Times include.
- 18m. long, but could be 12m. or 9m.
- 3.8 litre Cummins diesel hybrid engines. Routemaster buses have 4.5 litre Cummins engines
- Speed of up to 70 mph.
- Lithium-titanate battery similar to a Routemaster bus.
- Target price of £500,000
The Times also says that the prototype could be running in 18 months.
So how feasible is what the article says?
The Short Branch Or Connecting Line
The most obvious application is the short branch or connecting line, which is worked by either a single train or perhaps a small number of small trains.
You have to admire the group in picking a station of character for their web site.
But it would also make a good test site for the train.
- St. Erth station has two platforms.
- The line is single track throughout.
- There is a two trains per hour (tph) service run by a single Class 150 train.
- The route has a high level of baggage.
- The Class 150 train takes 14-15 minutes for each journey.
- A well-designed modern train could save a few minutes.
But above all Cornwall has better weather than many places.
This line probably gets very busy in the Summer and I also suspect that Great Western Railway would like to run four tph on the branch.
They could probably do this with a passing loop around halfway and two trains with a better station calling performance than the Class 150 train. ERTMS, which would probably be fitted to the trains, would ease the problems of signalling on the line.
There are several branch lines in the UK, which are currently run by a single train and perhaps 1-2 tph, that could benefit with a 4 tph service, which these trains could provide.
In A Look At New Station Projects and also in The Times article, there are some branch line projects that may be suitable.
- The reopened Anglesey Central Railway.
- The reopened Brentford Branch Line.
- The reopened Cheadle Branch Line.
- The reopened Fawley Branch Line.
- The reopened Cockermouth, Keswick and Penrith Line.
- The reopened Bramley Line.
- The reopened Aldeburgh Branch Line.
Most of these lines are reopened lines that were closed in the Beeching era.
Are The Trains Big Enough?
At eighteen metres long, I reckon that the capacity of a single unit is slightly less than a twenty-three metre long Class 153 train. An estimate gives somewhere between 50-55 passengers.
But pictures in The Times and on the Warwick University web site show a standard railway coupling, which can be used for the following.
- Creating longer trains of two or more units working together.
- Allowing one train to rescue another.
- Allowing a train to be rescued by a compatible train.
So it would seem that creation of a train with a capacity of around 100 passengers by linking two units together is probably in the specification.
Working With Other Trains
The Times article says that the lightweight design means they can probably only run on captive lines with no other heavy trains.
But it also says that this will change with ultra-safe digital signalling, that enforced separation between trains.
By the time, these trains enter service, ERTMS will have been proven to be safe on UK railways.
I also suspect that the trains will use the most modern automotive industry structures. Pacers they are not!
The Longer Distance Service
- Most if not all of the track is intact.
- Stations would need to be rebuilt or built from scratch.
- To work the desired frequency of two tph would probably need two units.
- Digital signalling would be needed, as there are freight trains on the same lines.
More details of the route are given on the South East Northumberland Rail User Group web site.
Running Under The Zwickau Model Into A Town Centre
The picture shows one of the trains at the terminus of Zwickau Zentrum, after arriving at the town centre terminus from the Hauptbahnhof over a tram-style track under tram tram-style rules.
- Note the tram-style infrastucture with a simple stop and track laid into the roadway.
- The driver has large windows to keep a good look-out.
- Horns and other warning devices are fitted.
- Note the orange warning lights.
- The train travels at a slow safe speed.
- The stations or are they stops have no footbridges. Pedestrians and cyclists can cross the track, as they need.
I think that Warwick’s vehicles could travel like this to provide route extensions into a city or town centre of perhaps to an attraction like a theme park.
Have track! Will travel!
I think that Warwick have come up with a fresh design, that shows a lot of innovation and flexibility.
Not only is it affordable to build, but also probably can work with lower-cost infrastructure.
I look forward to seeing the prototype in action.
This article in the Hackney Gazette is entitled Dalston Kingsland: Four in hospital after sparks and smoke cause stampede off train.
As the problem was sorted by the London Fire Brigade using a bucket of sand to extinguish a fire in the battery pack of a workman’s drill, it doesn’t appear to have been very serious.
The injuries seem to have been caused by panic, as passengers tried to get away fro the problem.
I know Dalston Kingsland station well and although the entrance, ticket hall and gateline has been updated, the stairs are not the best.
So did everybody try to get out of the station on these stairs and it was this that caused the injuries?
I think there are questions that have to be asked about the design of the station and its operating procedures.
If you look at the passenger numbers for 2015-16 on the North London Line, you get the following.
- Canonbury – 2.86million
- Dalston Kingsland – 5.93million
- Hackney Central – 5.98million
- Homerton – 4.65 million
- Hackney Wick – 2.10million
So the station has a fairly high usage.
At the moment, the Gospel Oak to Barking Line is closed, so is the station getting more passengers, who need to get across London?
It looks to me, that the incident could have been a lot worse.
Luckily it wasn’t, but I do believe that something must be done to improve the stairs at Dalston Kingland station.
Obviously, I’ve not seen a new Class 385 train in the metal yet, but I despair at this picture.
As I wrote in A Design Crime – Class 395 Train Platform Interface, which is about another Hitachi product; the Class 395 train, it appears that the train-platform interface is no better.
It could be that the train was not in one of the platforms that it will actually serve, but if the Overground and its Class 378 trains were able to get it substantially right in 2010, then surely new trains and a rebuilt railway should be tip-top.
I visited the Design Museum yesterday.
It is an interesting concept and I think as it settles down it will be worth visiting again.
One problem, I had with the Museum is getting to and from the site in Holland Park.
I went by the Underground to High Street Kensington station and took about ten minutes to walk along to the museum.
Coming back, I thought I’d go a different way after a walk.
But after emerging from the Museum, there were none of London’s excellent Legible London maps and signs to be seen.
Eventually, I walked through Holland Park, but it was the same story on the other side of the Park; no maps or signs to the Underground. There were several fingerposts in the Park, but none pointed to the Underground.
I suppose if you’re in a Chelsea Tractor, many of which were rushing around the area, you’re not interested in walking maps and are against your Council spending monry on them, as it might attract more visitors.
In some ways I was surprised, as with the possible takeover of tye Borderlands Line to Wrexham in Wales, I thought that Bombardier, may have had a good chance with Aventras with an onboard energy storage or IPEMU-capability.
Reports On The Internet
These are some useful articles that give more details.
- Article in the Liverpool Echo, entitled Merseytravel reveals new £460m train fleet plans – with no train guards
- Article in Railway Gazette, entitled Stadler selected to supply bespoke Merseyrail train fleet
- Article in Rail News entitled Stadler wins contract to build new Merseyrail trains
- Article in Focus Transport entitled New Stadler Trains Announced for Merseyrail
These are my thoughts on the new trains.
The Wirral Line trains run in a single-track circular loop tunnel under Liverpool (The Loop), which is a fairly unusual railway formation. But it works well and means that the three stations on The Loop can be single-platform.
The track in the Loop is being relaid in the first half of 2017 and this article on the Merseyrail web site describes the work.
This is a video of the rebuilding.
- The tunnel has a diameter of 4.7 metres.
- By comparison, the Crossrail tunnels have a diameter of 6.2 metres.
- If you are relaying the track, you will make sure, that the track and platforms fit your current trains, which could run for another five years or more.
- The tunnels and platforms will probably be sized, so that there is only a small gap between the train and platform.
- The slab track chosen looks to be of the highest quality and similar to that which Transport for London are using on the Sub Surface lines, as described in this article in Rail Engineer.
So Liverpool is getting a world-class railway track on The Loop, which will fit its current rolling stock, like a glove.
It will also be very safe, as the gap between the trains and the platform could be very narrow.
They don’t say in the video, but will the tracks be arranged so that the trains align for step-across at the stations on The Loop?
The Tunnel Size Issue
If you have just rebuilt the track in the Loop, then this will have implications for the new trains needed for the lines.
The small size of the tunnel and the precision fit, mean that any new trains must be a similar height and width, as the current Class 507/508 trains.
The height of the Class 508 train is 3.58 metres and for comparison the height of a Class 378 train is 3.78 metres.
I don’t have a figure for a Bombardier Aventra, but I suspect that they are just too fat.
So it looks like that a small number of non-standard size trains need to be built to fit the slightly smaller size tunnels under Liverpool.
The Railway Gazette article says this about the trains ordered from Stadler.
There will be a mix of airline and facing seats, with more space for bicycles, pushchairs and persons with reduced mobility. The train body will be designed specifically for the Merseyrail network, with lower floors and a sliding step to provide near-level access.
As it looks like they will be specially built to fit the tunnels and the platforms, this has various implications.
- Passengers in wheelchairs, pushing buggies or dragging large suitcases should be able to just wheel themselves into the train, which is described as lower floor.
- All platforms, that the trains call at, must have the same critical dimensions.
- Safety could be increased as the gap between train and platform could be very narrow.
- Incidentally, the trains are reported to be fitted with automatic gap fillers, to make sure nothing drops through the gap.
- Will the tracks in the Northern Line tunnel through Liverpool be renewed?
The trains had better be well-built as they’re going to have to last a long time. But if say extra trains were to be needed to increase frequency, capacity or routes, Merseyrail would probably just send an e-mail to Switzerland.
Platforms And Stations
Most new trains need modifications to platforms, to match the trains.
As it appears that the new trains are designed to fit the current platforms, I suspect that very little will need to be done before they arrive.
On my travels, I did notice on-going work at some stations, but this would fit either fleet of trains.
From the specification of the trains, it would appear that all of the driver-only-operation equipment is on the trains, rather than the platform, so station improvement money can be spent on passenger facilities like lifts and weather protection.
Any new stations that may be required could possibly be built to an affordable but very passenger-focused design.
Special trains don’t come cheap and these 52 trains roll in at a total of £450million or about nine millions a train.
Compare this with the price of £260million, that Transport for London paid for 45 similar-capacity Class 710 trains for the London Overground, which works out at just under six million a train.
The trains are apparently not leased, but paid for directly. The Rail News article, says this.
The 52 four-car trains will be publicly owned rather than leased from a ROSCo, and the finance needed will be raised in various ways, including by using a rail reserve that has already been established for this purpose, plus loans at ‘favourable interest rates’. Merseytravel said ‘such opportunities are currently being explored, such as a loan from the European Investment Bank’.
London financed the first London Overground trains in a similar way.
The Railway Gazette article, says this on capacity.
The 65 m long four-car EMUs will have the same number of seats as the existing three-car sets, but will be 4 m longer with wide through gangways to provide an increase in standing space. This will increase total capacity per EMU from 303 to 486 passengers.
Some of my observations.
- It looks like each train is 64 metres long, with a car length of 16 metres, as opposed to 60 and 20 for the current trains.
- I suspect that there is some interesting behavioural software out there, that is used to design people systems. So the interiors will work!
- The current trains pack in five passengers in every metre of length, whereas the new trains pack in 7.6
- Will it be a lot more packed in there? I don’t know, but the space between carriages is now available for passengers.
- The same trains will be able to run on both the Northern and Wirral Lines.
- Will the extra capacity in a single train, mean that most services will be run by a single four-car unit?
In the Peak, I suspect two trains could be coupled together, as they are now. However, they will couple together and uncouple much quicker and probably automatically.
On the other hand the trains themselves could increase capacity.
I’ll look at the Northern Line first.
In London, Thameslink, Crossrail and the East London Line, run similar services to those on Liverpool’s Northern Line, where services fan out from a central core.
I believe that if the Northern Line ran twelve trains per hour (tph) between Sandhills and Hunts Cross stations, that this would increase the capacity on that route. Twelve tph running all day, would need just 24 trains.
If in the Peak more trains were needed, extra services would be added to an appropriate route.
The Wirral Line is unique, in that trains from four destinations slot together to go under the Mersey, go round The Loop, before going back to Birkenhead and fanning out to where they started.
Currently, twelve tph run in The Loop and I suspect to provide this service all day needs just 24 trains.
Merseyrail have ordered 52 trains, which means there are just four trains to cover maintenance issues and increase services in the Peak.
London Overground Syndrome
All new and upgraded lines seem to suffer from London Overground Syndrome, where passengers see what they like and the original passenger forecasts prove to have been pessimistic.
On the East London Line, three-car trains were forecast to be the right size, but they had been designed to be lengthened and now after two upgrades, the trains are now five-cars long.
As this syndrome has been seen on the Borders Railway, the Nottingham Express Transit and other places, I would not be surprised to see it on Merseyrail’s Northern and Wirral Lines.
But the design of the trains, future-proofs the lines, should there need to be more capacity.
Provided, the signalling can accept the increased frequencies, more identical trains would be added to the fleet.
Or trains could be lengthened, by adding another car, so that the busiest routes perhaps ran five-car trains.
As it would only be a problem of success, I suspect, that the financing wouldn’t be a problem.
Extras In The Contract
The Railway Gazette article, says this on extra items included in the contract.
This headline figure also covers upgrades to the power supply, platforms and track, as well as refurbishment of the depots at Kirkdale and Birkenhead North and future maintenance of the new trains.
I’ve heard that Merseyrail’s power supply is a bit dodgy and probably needs updating. I’ve always wondered, if the trains would handle regenerative braking by the use of onboard energy storage.
Nothing is said except this in the Railway Gazette article.
At 99 tonnes, the EMUs will be lighter than the current 105 tonne trains, and energy consumption is expected to be 20% lower, including regenerative braking; options for energy storage are to be studied.
It will be interesting to see the specification of the new train.
The Railway Gazette article, says this on performance.
A new timetable will be introduced in 2021 once the existing Class 507 and 508 units dating from the 1970s have been withdrawn; the new trains’ better acceleration and braking is expected to enable Hunt’s Cross – Southport journey times to be reduced by 9 min.
The interesting thing, is that being nine minutes quicker between Southport and Hunts Cross, will bring the journey under the hour and mean that the service can be achieved using less trains.
It would also mean that all trains could go through the core to Hunts Cross, without having to turn trains at Liverpool Central.
The trains will be fitted with regenerative braking, where the traction motors, act as generators to slow the train, turning the train’s energy into electricity.
There are three common ways of handling the electricity generated.
- Feed it back into the power network for other trains to use, as is done on the London Underground and on the extensive third-rail network in the South East.
- Store the energy on the train and reuse it, as has been demonstrated by Bombardier and is common in vehicles as diverse as high-performance cars, hybrid buses and trams in Seville.
- Feed the electricity into resistors on the roof of the train and turn it into heat.
I believe that option 3 is totally unacceptable and is akin to burning money.
Option 1 will probably require extensive modification to the power supply of the Merseyrail network, as the supply is not known to be of the best and there is no need to handle regenerative braking with the current Class 507/508 trains.
So will we see some form of energy storage on the trains? Birmingham’s trams will have on board energy storage in a few years, so the technology is on its way.
The Railway Gazette article, says that options for energy storage are to be studied.
As an Electrical and Control Engineer, I strongly believe that the cost cost-effective way to handle the regenerative braking energy is to store the energy on the trains.
On European gauge trains, equipment is often mounted on the roof, where there is plenty of space in the generous loading gauge.
But Merseyrail has the problem of the small tunnels.
Look at this picture of a Class 507/508 train entering a tunnel at James Street station.
Note how there is some space above the train in the tunnel entrance.
Imagine a train specifically-designed for these tracks, platforms and tunnels, with the bottom of the doors level with the platforms. Would this release more space for putting energy storage on the roof, as has been done with Seville’s trams?
If I am right with this speculation, onboard energy storage also enables the following.
- Regenerative braking on the whole of the Merseyrail third-rail network.
- Next station recovery of the trains, in case of power failure.
- The ability to extend routes using stored energy.
In addition, trains with onboard energy storage have other maintenance and operational advantages.
The Railway Gazette article, says this on more destinations.
The 750 V DC third-rail EMUs will be capable of conversion to dual-voltage operation for use on 25 kV 50 Hz lines with a view to serving Skelmersdale, Warrington and Wrexham in the longer term.
If onboard energy storage is fitted with sufficient range, this would open up other possibilities and also make destinations like Preston much more affordable to implement.
Note that I said train-tram and not tram-train.
In Riding The Vogtlandbahn, I talked about riding a unique German railway in Zwickau, where the trains go walkabout from the main line station and travel through the city just like trams to a stop in the centre. This picture shows a train-tram at that stop.
You don’t need to guess, who made the train! It was of course Stadler and is not electric, but a diesel-multiple unit.
It is worth comparing weight and capacity of Liverpool’s new trains with Manchester’s trams.
The Railway Gazette article, says that the trains will weigh 99 tonnes and have a capacity of 486 passengers. This compares with the M5000 on the Manchester Metrolink, which weighs in at 80 tonnes for a double unit and carries 400 passengers.
So weight and capacity is not out of line with a typical large tram.
Trams need to have a door sill height, that gives level access between the tram and platform.
Not all trams and trains match the platform, as well as this example on the London Tramlink.
But, Liverpool’s new trains will be built to fit the current track and platforms, which after updating, will all be to the same height and designed to give step-free access..
Without doubt, the new trains could call at correctly-dimensioned tram-style stops, just as the train-trams do in Zwickau.
Tram-style sections of the route could be designed to the following principles.
- Tram-style flush slab track, so passengers can just walk across the track.
- Segregated tracks.
- No electrification
- Trains would run using onboard energy storage.
- Low speed limit.
- Rail-style signalling, whether trackside or in-cab.
- Charging station, like a Railbaar if required.
Train-Tram To Liverpool Airport
Could we see Merseyrail’s new trains leaving the rail lines at Liverpool South Parkway station, switch to onboard energy storage and continue to the Airport on a dedicated track without electrification?
This Google Map shows the station and the Airport.
- The station is at the top of the map in a triangle of lines.
- There must be various possibilities for a route between the station and the airport.
- The train could call at the New Mersey Shopping Park.
From my knowledge of both areas, the Liverpool Airport route is no more difficult, than what was done in Zwickau.
Journey times to and from Liverpool Airport would be something like.
- Liverpool South Parkway station – 5 minutes
- Liverpool Central station – 18 minutes
- Southport station – 54 minutes
If they followed Northern Line principles, the frequency would be four tph.
I may be wrong, but it looks like Merseyrail have acquired trains, that running as train-trams can fulfil the link to Liverpool Airport.
More Train-Tram Routes
The proposed Liverpool Airport link is a classic route extension using onboard energy storage, which is very similar to the extension of the Midland Metro through Birmingham City Centre.
So could any of the routes to current terminals, be extended using onboard energy storage and running as a tram.
Chester could possibly benefit, but I suspect this could be one very much for the future.
Skelmersdale could be a distinct possibility, as the scars of the rail routes to the old Skelmersdale station, from the two Northern Line termini of Ormskirk and Kirkby, which are still visible on Google maps. This map from Wikipedia shows the old Skelmersdale Branch.
A new railway could be built simply, as it was in Zwickau.
- No electrification
- Trains would run using onboard energy storage.
- Tram-style stops.
The train could even go walkabout in Skelmersdale to serve important places.
As Kirkby station needs demolition and rebuilding, unless it gets Listed status, as a monument to the British Rail School Of Crap Design, there must be opportunities to give Kirkby and Skelmersdale a modern transport system to be envied.
If you think all of this speculation is outrageous fantasy, I suggest you visit Zwickau and ride the Vogtlandbahn.
The Ultimate Train-Tram Route
A lot of people, that I’ve met from Liverpool, mourn the passing of the Liverpool Overhead Railway or the Docker’s Umbrella.
Because of this, it has been suggested that a tram should run along the Mersey, past the main attractions of the Waterfront, connecting to the Northern Line at perhaps Sandhills and Brunswick stations.
This is one of those projects thast gets speculated about for years and then it gets implemented because it is integral to another project, like a massive development or a City getting the Olympic Games. Or in Liverpool’s case the Commonwealth Games, which is a distinct possibility in either 2022 or 2026!
As it runs through a World Heritage Site, it will have to be built without overhead wires and run on stored energy.
Canada Dock Branch
The Canada Dock Branch runs in an arc to the North and East of Liverpool city centre.
- It is a freight route linking Liverpool Docks to routes out of the city.
- The capacity of the route is being upgraded to 48 freight trains per day.
- It is not electrified.
- There are no passenger services.
- The line runs close to both Liverpool’s main football grounds.
- Are there any large developments, that would benefit from a train service along the route of the line?
With the development of the massive new dock at Liverpool2 and the pressure for more electrified freight trains, I think it is likely that the Canada Dock Branch will be electrified.
So could passenger services be reinstated on the line?
This Google Map shows the section of the Canada Dock Branch, where it curves round the two football grounds.
The station at the bottom left is Sandhills station, with Merseyrail’s Kirkdale depot to the North.
I don’t know whether there is a connection, but the lines cross in the region of the depot and if required one could probably be built.
I think it is likely, that if the Canada Dock Branch is electrified for freight reasons, then Merseyrail will look at running a service along the line.
- It might terminate at Sandhills in the North.
- It might terminate at Broad Green, Edge Hill or even Lime Street in the South.
- Stations could be simple affairs, much like the one in the picture at Zwickau.
Whether they did propose a service would depend on traffic forecasts and possible costs.
The Commonwealth Games Line
Liverpool do spectaculars well and if they get the Commonwealth Games in either 2022 or 2026, I can see that the city could use the new Stadler trains to create a line for the Games, thaqt would be a legacy, that the city needs and wants.
Starting in the South by the Albert Dock and the Echo Arena, the line would go past the Three Graces at the Pierhead and then North to Everton’s new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock, which is being proposed as the main venue of the Games. From there it could continue to Liverpool’s Anfield Stadium, which will probably play some part in the Games.
The line would also connect or go close to the following.
- Mersey Ferry
- The Wirral Line at James Street station.
- The Northern Line at the new Vauxhall station.
- The museums and galleries at the Albert Dock.
- Liverpool Cruise Terminal
- Liverpool One
- The Liverpool Waters development
I’m sure Liverpudlians will give it a suitable nickname.
- Much of the Southern part of the route is within the Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City World Heritage Site.
- I think it would be possible to run the route using onboard storage.
- Charging would be at each end of the route.
- Catenary running could be used between the two football grounds, some of which could be on an electrified Cansada Dock Branch.
- The Southern end could use on-street running with catenary to go up the hill to Hope Street , to serve both cathedrals.
- After the Games, both Liverpool football grounds would have a tram connection to the Pierhead.
Designed properly, it could become one of the world’s most iconic tram lines.
Merseyside will be getting one of the best commuter railways in the world!
I also think, that these innovative trains will make other cities and train operators, think hard about the design of their railways and the trains.
To take some of the pictures for A Look At Stockley Junction, I took Heathrow Connect to the Airport..
My return ticket from Hayes and Harlington station, cost me £8.20 with a Senior Railcard, which must be one of the most expensive journeys per mile in the UK. Especially, as there are only two trains per hour (tph). Considering that I could have done the journey quicker yesterday, using a 140 bus, as the train was ten minutes late.
But it would be difficult to take the pictures I wanted from the bus.
Arriving at Heathrow, I thought that a hot chocolate would be in order, so I set off for Terminal 2.
Passenger friendly the journey is not, so as I wanted to get back, I returned to the station to catch the next train.
I did not see a single sign to Heathrow Connect, with this one being typical.
I knew where to go, as I’d walked it.
Incidentally, it is easy enough to find the overpriced Heathrow Express, but how many passengers with a brain want to go to the disconnected Paddington?
Some like me might actually want to go to Hayes and Harlington or perhaps Maidenhead.
I didn’t ask, but I wonbder if the advice to go to Maidenhead, is to take Heathrow Express to Paddington and then get a train to Maidenhead. The Oracle (Nation Rail’s Journey Planner) recommends taking Heathrow Connect to Hayes and Harlington, but will all the staff.
Current Services To The Airport
There are four ways to get to Heathrow by public transport.
Heathrow Express – 4 tph to and from Paddington. – Overpriced
Heathrow Connect – 2 tph to and from a series of stations along the route to Paddington – Infrequent and overpriced.
Piccadilly Line – Slow, frequent, usually reliable and the most affordable.
Bus – For a lot of those living near the Airport, this is the preferred route.
This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the layout of the rail and Underground lines.
Simple it isn’t!
But that is what you get if you dither over the next runway in the South-East for forty years.
Heathrow’s rail links are so very Topsy, unlike those at Birmingham, Edinburgh, Gatwick, London City, Luton, Manchester, Southend and Stansted.
Not all the others are perfect, but they’re getting better.
Crossrail will be the new wayto get to Heathrow and in some ways it is a replacement for Heathrow Connect. This is said under Future in the Wikipedia entry for Heathrow Connect.
From May 2018, Crossrail trains will replace all Heathrow Connect trains between London Paddington and Heathrow terminals 2, 3 and 4. Furthermore, as of December 2019 all services will run through the new tunnels at Paddington to central London destinations including Bond Street, Liverpool Street and Canary Wharf
So, it would appear that there will no substantial improvement until December 2019.
This is a detailed timetable, with particular reference to going between Heathrow and the City of London and Canary Wharf.
- May 2018 – Heathrow Connect will be taken over by Crossrail. We’ll certainly see better signage and service under Transport for London’s management.
- May 2018 – The Crossrail start schedule on Wikipedia, also shows that the shuttle between Heathrow Central (Terminals 1,2 and 3) and Terminal 4, will be transferred to Crossrail. Terminal 5 will be reached by using Heathrow Express from Heathrow Central.
- May 2018 – Heathrow Connect in the guise of Crossrail will be serving erminals 1,2, 3 and 4, but not Terminal 5. Will we be seeing new Class 345 trains and a higher frequency to Heathrow? I woulden’t be surprised if Heathrow Airport, try every trick to keep Crossrail out of the Airport, to protect the revenue on Heathrow Express.
- December 2018 – Crossrail services between Paddington and Abbey Wood will start, thus linking Paddington to the City of London and Canary Wharf. There will probably be a longish walk between the two parts of Crossrail at Pasddington, but the tunnel across London, will give Paddington the much need-connectivity, it’s needed since the Second World.
- May 2019 – Crossrail services between Paddington and Shenfield via Whitechapel will begin, thus meaning that many travellers East of Paddington, will use a single change there to get to and from Heathrow.
- December 2019 – The full Crossrail should open, meaning that there will be direct trains between Abbey Wood and Heathrow Terminal 4 calling at Canary Wharf, Liverpool St-Moorgate, Farringdon, Tottenham Court Road, Bond Street, Paddington, Heathrow Central and all the stations in between.
Trains into the Airport will be.
- 4 tph – Heathrow Express for Paddington, where many passengers will change to and from Crossrail.
- 4 tph – Crossrail to Abbey Wood.
One will be expensive and the other will be affordable and much more convenient, as it reaches the places passengers want to start or finish their journey.
It looks good, but there are a some questions to answer.
Is eight tph enough trains to and from the Airport?
If you compare Heathrow with Gatwick, Luton and Stansted, eight tph seems good.
However, I found this article in TravelWeekly, which is entitled Gatwick outlines plans for a train departure to London every three minutes.
It gives a very good summary of the train services that will run to Gatwick after Thameslink is completed.
- Four tph dedicated Gatwick Express trains to Victoria
- Six tph to Victoria – originating from East and West Coastway, Horsham/Littlehampton, and Three Bridges/Haywards Heath
- Four tph to Bedford via London Bridge – originating from Gatwick and Brighton
- Two tph to Cambridge via London Bridge – originating from Brighton
- Two tph to Peterborough via London Bridge – originating from Horsham
- Two tph to London Bridge – originating from Littlehampton/West Coastway, and Haywards Heath/Three Bridges.
That is a total of twenty trains to and from London and beyond and most of the South Coast from Southampton to Hastings.
How many better rail-connected airports are there anywhere in the world?
Luton and Stansted are also have aspirations to improve their rail links.
I think that passengers will press for increase in the frequency of services to the Airport and they’ll want more destinations.
After all Shenfield and Abbey Wood are planned to have 8 tph all day to and from Central London, with at least twice as many in the Peak.
How do passengers get to and from Iver, Langley, Maidenhead, Reading and all staions to the West of Hayes and Harlington?
A rail link into Terminal 5 from the West is planned, but something needs to be done before that is completed probably in the mid-2020s.
After December 2019, their will be four routes.
- Go to Paddington and use Heathrow Express – Expensive
- Go to Hayes and Harlington and take Crossrail into Heathrow Central – Requires two step-free changes of train.
- Take a coach from Reading.
- Go to Hayes and Harlington or West Drayton stations and use a local bus.
I can see something innovative being done at Hayes and Harlington station.
There is probably capacity between Heathrow Terminal 5 and Hayes and Harlington stations for a 4 tph shuttle in both directions, that would also solve the Terminal 5 connectivity problem.
Southall could even be an interesting alternative, as there is lots of space.
What Would Be My Solution?
I would use Hayes and Harlington station, as the interchange for Heathrow Airport.
In an ideal layout there would be three slow lines through Hayes and Harlington station, with two island platforms separating the lines. From the South, they would be.
- The Reading-bound (Up Slow) line.
- The Heathrow shuttle line, which would also be used by Crossrail trains going to and from Heathrow Terminal 4. This liine would be bi-directional.
- The London-bound (Down Slow) line.
Between the platforms would be two welcoming island platforms to give passengers a step-across interchange, between trains.
It would need a major rethink of the station.
- Passengers from the West for Heathrow would just walk across the platform to get their train.
- Passengers for Heathrow Central could take any train.
- Passengers for Terminal 4 or Terminal 5 might need to wait a few minutes for an appropriate train.
- Crossrail passengers for Terminal 5, would change at Hayes and Harlington.
- Passengers from Heathrow for the West would just walk across the platform to get the train.
- No passenger would need to change platforms using the step-free bridge.
What is being provided at Hayes and Harlington station is very much a poor design.
Will the current Heathrow Connect service between Paddington and Heathrow Central and Terminal 4 be dropped?
I can’t see any point to it, after Crossrail has an all-stations service to the Airport from Paddington.
How do passengers get to and from Terminal 5?
I proposed the shuttle to do this, with passengers changing at either Hayes and Harlington or Heathrow Central stations, to a train going to either Terminal 4 or Terminal 5.
Will passengers be able to use contactless cards to the Airport?
I think if the decision was down to the Mayor, Transport for London or the people of London, Oyster and contactless bank cards would be a way of paying a fare to Heathrow, as it is to Gatwick.
Will passengers like me with Freedom Passes, be able to use Crossrail to Heathrow?
Boris said Yes and I suppose the current Mayor, Transport for London and card holders, will expect it to be possible, as it is on the Piccadilly Line.
The Heathrow spur of Crossrail has not been thought out too well!