The Anonymous Widower

The Terrace At Blackfriars Station

I took these pictures at Blackfriars station.

It looks like a terrace overlooking the Thames.

This Google Map shows the area of the station from above.

The terrace seems to be under construction on the East side of the station.

It does seem rather a wasted space.

September 5, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

Coastal Communities Among Worst Off In UK, Report Finds

The title of this post is the same as an article on the BBC web site, which they are covering on BBC Breakfast.

When I was fifteen my parents partially-retired to Felixstowe and I remember a very boring couple of summers in the town. In summer 1963, I spent most of it reading Nelkon and Parker in preparation for my A Level Physics course.

In those days, public transport to Ipswich was dire with nothing back after working hours and I can remember that I only ever went to the cinema in Felixstowe once!

Today, the last train from Ipswich is 22:28, but in those days it was about 19:00.

So one factor that applied, was you needed a car to have any social life outside of the dreary town. The few people of my age, I knew in the town couldn’t wait to leave school, so they could earn money to buy a car.

If you look around the country, the coastal areas that are vibrant and successful like say Bournemouth, Brighton, Liverpool, Southend and Swansea, tend to be larger, with excellent external and internal public transport links.

Other non-successful coastal towns like Felixstowe, Hastings, Hull, Lowestoft, Redcar, Skegness and Ysrmouth don’t have the same quality of external transport links, although some like Hull have good bus networks.

I may be being selective, but I believe it would make a big difference to a lot of coastal towns, if they had a first class rail service to the nearby inland larger towns and cities.

If there is no rail route, then a first class bus connection is needed.

Felixstowe

I’ll take Felixstowe as an example.

  • The train service is one train per hour and it finishes around ten in the evening.
  • The length of the line is such, that one train can do the return trip in an hour.
  • Most of the rolling stock used on the line are past it, although I’ve done the trip in a passenger-friendly Class 170 train.
  • If it is a sunny Saturday or Sunday, the train can get overloaded at times.

Hopefully, the train service will get better.

  1. Greater Anglia have ordered new three-car Class 755 bi-mode trains.
  2. Network Rail are improving the Felixstowe Branch Line.
  3. Ipswich station is to be upgraded with an extra bay platform for Felixstowe and Lowestoft services.

Point 1 would probably attract more passengers and points 2 and 3 would allow a half-hourly service at selected times of the day.

The increase in capacity and quality, should be enough, so that on a glorious day if people in Ipswich decide to go to the coast, the trains can make it a good experience.

It will be interesting to see how the number of rail passengers to Felixstowe change in the next few years.

Incidentally, Felixstowe station shows how you can create a quality station for a town of 24,000 people.

  • The Grade II Listed station buildings have become a Shopping Centre with a cafe and bar.
  • There is just a single platform that can take a four-car train.
  • There is a ticket machine and a basic shelter.
  • The station is on the High Street.
  • The car park is shared with the local Co-op supermarket.
  • The station is unstaffed, but the trains are double-manned.

How many coastal stations could be Felixstowed?

Felixstowe used to have a second station at Felixstowe Beach, which is near to the Port of Felixstowe and Landguard Fort.

Some might argue that reopening the station would be a good idea, especially as it could be a modern single platform station.

But surely, it would be better to improve the bus services in the town or provide quality bike hire at the station.

Greater Anglia’s Class 755 Trains

Greater Anglia have ordered 24 x four-car and 14 x three-car Class 755 trains.

  • The trains are bi-mode.
  • In terms of carriages, the new bi-mode fleet will be at more than twice the size of the current diesel fleet.
  • Greater Anglia have said, that they will use electric power from overhead wires, even if it’s only available for short distances.
  • The trains are probably large enough for an on-board full function ticket machine and lots of buggies, bicycles and wheel-chairs.
  • They will probably carry their own wheelchair ramp, as I saw in What Train Is This?

This article in RailNews is entitled Greater Anglia unveils the future with Stadler mock-up and says this.

The bi-mode Class 755s will offer three or four passenger vehicles, but will also include a short ‘power pack’ car to generate electricity when the trains are not under the wires. This vehicle will include a central aisle so that the cars on either side are not isolated. Greater Anglia said there are no plans to include batteries as a secondary back-up.

So Stadler are using their well-proven design, which I saw in Germany.

What surprises me is the ruling out of batteries by Greater Anglia.

The central powercar would surely be the ideal place to put energy storage, for the following reasons.

  • It could be easily integrated with the diesel power-pack.
  • The weight of the battery is probably in the best place.
  • It could be part of an energy saving regenerative braking system, which would work under electric or diesel power.
  • In Battery EMUs For Merseyrail, I wrote how Stadler were fitting batteries in Merseyrail’s new fleet.

When the trains arrive, it’ll all be explained. Perhaps, Greater Anglia’s words were carefully chosen.

How will these trains change the coastal towns of Cromer, Felixstowe, Lowestoft, Sheringham and Yarmouth?

If it’s positive, Greater Anglia will be setting a strong precedent.

What Needs To Be Done To Railways To And Along The Coast

In no particular order, there are various topics.

A Coastal-Friendly Train Fleet

From personal experience on East Anglian trains, I feel that the passenger profile is different with always several bicycles on a train. Greater Anglia will have researched their passengers’ journeys and this has resulted in their choice of three- and four-car bi-mode Class 755 trains.

  • One- and two-car diesel multiple units are being replaced with three-car bi-modes
  • The Class 170 trains appear to be being replaced by four-car bi-modes.

So it would appear that Greater Anglia are expecting more passengers on the coastal routes to Cromer, Felixstowe, Lowestoft and Yarmouth, as they are always running at least three-car trains.

I also suspect they will be allowing for more bicycles and buggies, with higher traffic at weekends with good weather.

Their fleet choice will also allow them to use a four-car train instead of a three-car.

Looking at the fleet choices of other train operators like Northern working over a wide area with a large proportion of leisure traffic, they seem to have a degree of flexibility.

Stations In Coastal Towns

Many  stations in coastal towns were built in the grand manner. This is St. Leonard’s Warrior Square station.

Felixstowe station was built in this way and the station buildings are Grade II Listed. This is the single platform.

But it also shows how you can create a quality station for a town of 24,000 people.

  • The station buildings have become a Shopping Centre with a cafe and bar.
  • There is just a single platform that can take a six-car train.
  • There is a ticket machine and a basic shelter, underneath an ornate 1898 canopy.
  • The station is on the High Street.
  • The car park is shared with the local Co-op supermarket.
  • The station is unstaffed, but the trains are double-manned.

How many coastal stations could be Felixstowed?

These are a few pictures of other stations in coastal towns.

Some are grand, some are simple and some need a lot of improvement.

But if you want to improve the fortunes of a coastal town, or any town for that matter, you must give it a decent station, which will be one of main entry points for visitors.

The larger stations must have the following characteristics.

  • A certain style.
  • Good understandable information and perhaps a proper Tourist Office.
  • A cafe or a bar.
  • Decent bus connections to the rest of the town.
  • Bicycle hire
  • A shop for a paper and some chocolate.
  • A cash machine with no extra charges.

Hopefully, the station needs a central location in the town.

But Felixstowe station shows what can be created, with its Victorian canopy and a single platform, tucked away behind a shopping centre, built around the original Listed station building.

These days with modern signalling and double-ended multiple units, single-platform stations like Felixstowe, could probably handle four trains per hour.

New Stations

In DfT Names Five Winners Of Fresh £16m Stations Fund, I talked about new stations funded by the Government’s New Stations Fund. Two of the five stations are near the coast; Bow Street and Horden Peterlee.

So does the Government realise the value of good rail links to coastal areas?

The Walkers’ Halt

Some of the coastal lines go along some of the most spectacular coast-lines in the UK.

This Google Map shows the Durham Coast Line just South of Seaham station.

A modern train like a bi-mode Class 755 train could have the following characteristics.

  • The ability to execute station stops with a short dwell time.
  • In-cab radio signalling.
  • CCTV to aid the driver at a station stop.
  • On-board ticketing machine.
  • On-board wheelchair ramp.
  • Two crew members.

So would it be able to stop to pick up and set down at an old-fashioned halt with perhaps a single platform?

The England Coast Path

The England Coast Path will be 4,500 kilometres long and go round the whole coast of England.

In places, it must go near to railway lines, so will we see simple walkers’ halts, as I described in the previous section?

It strikes me, that we need a large helping of careful design to make sure that the England Coast Path and our costal rail routes would well together.

I used England as an example, but I suspect, the same logic applies in the rest of the UK.

Conclusion

This post isn’t complete yet!

I do feel though based on my East Anglian experience, that improving the train service to coastal towns could be the first step in improving their prosperity.

Too often going to the coast by train is a second-rate experience. Greater Anglia with its train fleet renewal seem to be creating a new era of getting to the coast in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Other companies should be made to follow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 4, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Improving The Wisley Interchange

It is probably nearly ten years since I drove through the Wisley interchange where the M25 and A3 meet.

The BBC this morning is discussing a proposal to improve this junction by taking some land from the RHS Wisley Garden.

This Google Map shows the area.

Note how close Wisley Garden is to the A3, which all proposals say should be widened from three lanes to four.

Two proposals have been put forward by Highways England.

This is Option 9, which is a four-level flyover.

And this is Option 14.

I suspect as far as Wisley Garden is concerned it’s a choice between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea!

Just out of curiosity, I looked up on the RHS Wisley Garden site, how I could get there easily by public transport.

Effectively, it means taking a train to Woking and a taxi!

Wisley Garden can’t have it both ways, as they encourage people to drive to the Garden and yet are objecting to widening of the A3.

A Wider Problem

Wisley Garden illustrates the wider problem, of how so many attractions are only easily accessible by car.

Some attractions like Brighton and Hove Albion’s new Falmer Stadium, have been built with decent public tyransport access, but others assume everybody comes by car.

Surely, in this age, where the environment matters, no development should be allowed without due consideration of well-thought out public transport.

 

August 25, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 2 Comments

Crossrail Funding Contributions From Developers Forecast To Hit £600m Target A Year Ahead Of Schedule

The title of this post is the same as that of this article in City AM.

The funding has come from the mayoral community infrastructure levy (MCIL) and Section 106 contributions.

The two biggest contributions came from |Tower Hamlets at £40m and Westminster at £34m.

What the author doesn’t point out is the collateral benefit from all this extra development. Transport for London must be getting more far revenue from more passengers going to and from the developments.

It’s certainly good news.

Are areas like Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle seening similar cast flow increases?

August 18, 2017 Posted by | Finance, Travel | , | 1 Comment

How To Build A Short Railway Branch Line

This article in Global Rail News is entitled London Overground’s Barking Riverside extension given green light.

The Barking Riverside Extension to the Gospel Oak to Barking Line is a 4.5 km. extension to serve a housing development of 10,800 houses at a derelict site by the Thames in Barking.

The article says this.

The Secretary of State, Chris Grayling, has now given his support to the project – approving the Transport and Works Act Order (TWAO) for the extension.

It puzzles me, why Chris Grayling is in the loop, as the £263million project for the extension is funded by Transport for London, with a £172million contribution from the developers of the houses.

TfL’s contribution works out at just over ten pounds for every man woman and child in Greater London.

By comparison, this article in Rail TRechnology Magazine is entitled MPT wins £350m contract to build Metrolink’s Trafford Park extension. Was a TWAO signed by the Minister for that?

This country is far to centralised!

August 4, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 2 Comments

All Change At South Kensington Station

The title of this post is the same as that of this article in Rail Engineer, which describes the plan for developing South Kensington station.

The article gives a lot of insight into the expanding of the station and how it will be funded.

It is a busy station that in 2016 handled nearly thirty-four million passengers.

It was certainly busy today with visitors today, when I passed through as I went to and from the Victoria and Albert Museum, which has now been expanded.

Expanding the station will certainly test the skills of those managing the project. Especially, now that the V & A will be drawing more people to the area.

Funding Station Expansion

I said earlier that South Kensington station has a yearly traffic of just under 34 miilion.

These are figures for 2015/2016 for some important provincial stations in England.

  • Bank – 94 million
  • Birmingham New Street – 39 million
  • Blackpool North – 2 million
  • Brighton – 17 million
  • Bristol Temple Meads – 11 million
  • Camden Town – 23 million
  • Dalston Junction – 5 million
  • Dalston Kingsland – 6 million
  • Euston – 42 million
  • Liverpool Lime Street – 15 million
  • Manchester Piccadilly – 26 million
  • Newcastle – 8 million
  • Nottingham – 7 million
  • Peterbirough – 5 million
  • Sheffield – 9 million
  • Waterloo – 39 million

These stations were chosen pretty much at random, but I do think they show that London Underground stations seem to attract a lot of traffic near tourist attractions.

So perhaps we should built more stations near to major tourist attractions.

Are these the sort of projects that can be funded privately by property development?

It is proposed to use this model at South Kensington station.

I deliberately put in my two local stations of Dalston Junction and Dalston Kingsland.

Dalston Junction, is the bigger station, with twice as many platforms as Dalston ingsland.

It is also step-free with blocks of flats on top.

So is it surprising that it is not the busier station of the two?

I think it just goes to show, that predicting passenger numbers, is not an easy task.

 

 

June 30, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

What Should We Do With Old Coal-Fired Power Station Sites?

As I indicated in The Beginning Of A New Era, the way we generate electricity is changing.

Wikipedia has a list of all the active coal-fired power stations in the UK. The section starts like this.

There are currently 9 active coal fired power stations operating in the United Kingdom which have a total generating capacity of 14.4GW. In 2016 three power stations closed at Rugeley, Ferrybridge and Longannet. In November 2015 it was announced by the UK Government that all coal fired power stations would be closed by 2025.

So what should we do with the sites?

This picture shows the power station site at Eugeley

This is a Google Map of the area.

The two stations shown on the map are Rugeley Trent Valley, which is on the the Trent Valley section of the West Coast Main Line and Rugeley Town, which is on the Chase Line.

Many of these large coal-fired  power station sites sites are rail connected, so that the coal could be brought in efficiently.

In the June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways there is an article entitled Freight, Not All Doom And Gloom, which makes this plea.

Old coal-fired power stations and Ministry of Fefence sites with ready-made rail links, could make ideal distribution parks, if they are in the right part of the country.

The author is so right, when they say elsewhere in the article,  that these rail links must be kept.

Even, if a site was given over to housing, developers will say, that a good rail link to a development, improves their profits.

The article is an interesting read about moving goods by rail and contains a few surprises.

  • Moving coal and steel is well down, but to a certain extend, these bulk loads have been replaced by the moving of aggregates.
  • The article states forty percent of the materials used in London buildings, are now brought in by rail.
  • The supermarket groups and in particular Asda and Tesco are increasingly using rail for long-distance transport.
  • Short term Treasury policy sometimes works against long term aims of moving freight from the roads and cutting carbon emissions.
  • Quality 1980s passenger stock with wide doors might make excellent parcels carriers.

The last one is an interesting point, as HSTs have only got narrow doors, whereas pallets could be fork-lifted through the wide doors of something like a Class 319 or Class 321 train.

I discuss the small parcel train in detail in The Go-Anywhere Express Parcels And Pallet Carrier.

 

May 27, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Changing Face Of Cambridge

I took these pictures, as my train to Cambridge North station, made a stop at Cambridge station.

There’s certainly been a lot of new building.

Over the years, I’ve seen Cambridge station change from a simple station, where staff had to work hard to juggle terminating and through trains to maintain a decent service into a major rail interchange with the following platforms.

  • Two very long through platforms; 1 and 7, capable of taking the longest trains on the UK rail network.
  • Platform 1 is actually bi-directional and can be used as two shorter platforms; 1 and 4.
  • Two London-facing bay platforms; 2 and 3 capable of taking eight-car trains.
  • Two North-facing bay platforms; 5 and 6, capable of taking six-car trains from Ipswich, Norwich, Peterborough and the North.
  • A twelve-car platform; 8, that can be used as either a through or a bay platform.

Is there another regional station in the UK with such a comprehensive layout?

Cambridge station and its new sibling a few miles to the North are certainly ready for all the rail developments planned to happen in the next few years.

  • Thameslink arrives in 2018
  • Greater Anglia’s new trains arrive in 2019.
  • The East-West Rail Link could arrive in the mid-2020s.

I would not be surprised if Cambridge created the Trinity by starting the proposed new Cambridge South station at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in the next couple of years.

After all, a third station, will give Cambridge one more station than Oxford.

 

 

 

May 21, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Metropolitan Reversible Line

When you read some of Network Rail’s published documents, you sometimes get snippets of information that point to their thinking.

This page on the Network Rail web site, allows you to download the Kent Route Study.

The study talks about the Metropolitan Reversible Line, which allows trains to access Cnnon Street station from the West.

Network Rail want to replace the line with a 12-car siding, to support operations at Peak times. This is what they say.

Replace the Metropolitan Reversible line with a single 12-car siding to serve
London Cannon Street.

The line currently allows empty coaching stock movements between
London Cannon Street and London Blackfriars, but will become redundant
following implementation of the revised Thameslink service in 2018. It is
therefore proposed that the Metropolitan Reversible line be modified into
a single 12-car siding to facilitate peak services into London Cannon Street station.

 

They even supply a nice map in the document.

Hopefully, they aim to get this work completed by 2024 at a cost of up to £10million.

This is a Google Map of the area.

I don’t know what the land around the Metropolitan Reversible Line is used for, but it does strike me that the location of the line could be a lucrative development site.

So perhaps a sympathetic developer could build a new housing or office complex and put the required siding in the basment as a sweetener for Network Rail.

Development of this simple siding, could be a win for a lot of stakeholders.

I took these pictures as I walked from the Market Porter public house to Southwark Street.

I don’t know what development is happening in this particular area, but it can certainly be improved.

If money was no object, which of course it never is, I would do the following.

  • Replace the rather plain bridge over Park Street with something better.
  • The arches must be filled in so they can have a valid commercial purpose or opened up, so they can be used for cafes or just walking through to Borough Market.
  • The massive girder bridge over Southwark Street is not a beautiful object and it was built to carry a lot more weight than it will, when the Metropolitan Reversible Line is converted into a siding. So perhaps the bridge can be remodelled to improve its dreadful looks.

It is worth looking at this Google Map of the Southern part of the Metrolitan Reversible Line.

The Metrolitan Reversible Line starts at the top of the map, curves to the West and goes out the South-West corner.

Note, how only a small space on the viaduct and the bridges is used for track. The siding will use no more space than now!

The rest has the distinctive greenish tinge of grass.

I believe that this piece of free land in the sky, should be used for a positive purpose.

I said about putting the siding in the basement. But really, I meant putting the siding in a garage on the ground floor under the building, which if it was designed correctly, it wouldn’t interfere with the views of London’s disgrace; the Shard. You usually only get buildings as bad as that built with friends in the right places!

But seriously, if the design of the siding development was right and it was only a few storeys high, it would be hidden from view by the railway lines crossing all over the place.

The space could even become a spectacular cycling superhighway or walkway stretching along the side of the railway from Waterloo to the South Bank or even across Cannon Street railway bridge to the City.

Network Rail are converting the Metropolitan Reversible Line into a siding to increase the capacity of services into Cannon Street station.

I believe that if this creation of a siding is done with imagination, then other developments can be enabled, that would be to the benefit of all those living, working anf enjoying themselves in the area.

 

March 19, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 3 Comments

Could Charing Cross Station Be Rebuilt With South Bank Entrance?

This question was asked in an article in SE1.

It points to this page on the Network Rail web site, where you can download the Kent Route Study.

This is said in the study.

5.11.2. Charing Cross has just six 12-car platforms and Platforms 4, 5 and 6 are very narrow, leading to operational restrictions. Class 465 units cannot operate in 12-car into these platforms and selective door operation is used on Class 375 units. A major rebuild of the station could allow it to be extended south over the river, like Blackfriars, providing compliant platforms and greater passenger circulation. At concept level, a new link to Waterloo from a southern entrance to Charing Cross may supersede Waterloo East allowing the station area to be used for additional track capacity, but there are likely to be many issues with a project on this scale.

5.11.3. The relieving of terminal capacity constraints at Cannon Street and Charing Cross will then move the bottleneck to other locations on the route, including North Kent East Junction, Lewisham, Parks Bridge Junction and the two track section between Orpington and Sevenoaks.

It could be an interesting idea.

My big issue, is that increasingly, I am using London’s latest high capacity link, from London Bridge to Charing Cross via Waterloo East as a cross-London link.

It is now my preferred way to get to where I live from Waterloo station or Trafalgar Square, as I just get a convenient 141 bus from the forecourt of London Bridge station. Often after buying my supper or a few supplies in the convenient M & S in the entrance of the station under the Shard.

March 19, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment