The Anonymous Widower

Integration Of High-Speed And Commuter Services Out Of Kings Cross Station

The East Coast Main Line ECML) has the following services on the Southern section between Kings Cross and Peterborough.

  • Express services capable of at least 125 mph running from LNER , Grand Central, Hull Trains and other Open Access operators.
  • Great Northern services capable of 110 mph running between Kings Cross and Cambridge and Ely.
  • Great Northern services to Peterborough appear to have been discontinued.
  • Thameslink services capable of 100 mph running between Kings Cross and Cambridge and Peterborough.

It would appear that the slower  Great Northern and Thameslink services will get in the way of the faster trains, if they need to use the fast lines.

The Digswell Viaduct

A particular problem will be the double-track section of line through Welwyn North station and over the Digswell Viaduct.

There are two Great Northern and  six Thameslink services in each hour, that are not capable of operating at 125 mph on the double-track section.

Following the logic of Oxford and Bedwyn services out of Paddington, which are now run by 125 mph Class 802 trains, I feel that timetabling would be easier on the ECML, if there were 125 mph trains running Great Northern and Thameslink services to Cambridge, Ely and Peterborough.

I explored 125 mph services to Kings Lynn in Call For ETCS On King’s Lynn Route, after reading about a proposal in Rail Magazine. They certainly look like they’d give advantages.

Some idiot decided that Thameslink services were fine with a 100 mph top speed. They should have been 110 mph or even faster trains, so that they could cross the Digswell Viaduct without slowing high speed services.

Digital Signalling

Digital signalling will be installed on the Southern section of the East Coast Main Line

This could ease the problem of the double-track section, as all trains should eventually be timed more precisely.

More Use Of The Hertford Loop

Perhaps some or all of the six 100 mph Thameslink services, could use an upgraded Hertford Loop Line, which will be fitted with digital signalling.

125 mph Trains

In a last resort, it would surely be more affordable to run 125 mph commuter trains to Cambridge, Ely and Peterborough, than put put two extra tracks on the Digswell Viaduct.

March 20, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 5 Comments

Nervous Operators Force Network Rail To Defer King’s Cross Plan

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Rail Magazine.

King’s Cross station has to be closed for three months, so that tracks, electrification and signalling can be replaced and modernised for about 1.5 miles from the buffer stops at the station.

The original dates of the closure were to have been between December 2019 and March 2020, but now it looks like it could be delayed by up to a year.

The article on the web site, is a shortened version of the article in the magazine, where this is said.

Closure dates have yet to be announced, and NR is still developing a passenger handling strategy which could include long-distance services at Finsbury Park or some services terminating at Peterborough. Some trains could even be rerouted into London Liverpool Street.

I wonder, if Network Rail’s planners are cursing that the around thirty miles between Peterborough and Ely is not electrified.

If it were electrified, it would allow electric trains as well as diesel and bi-mode trains to access Liverpool Street station via the West Anglia Main Line.

What Benefits Would There Be From Electrifying Peterborough To Ely?

I can imagine Oxford-educated civil servants in the Department of Transport and The Treasury dismissing calls for more electrification in the backwater of East Anglia, after the successful electrification to Norwich in the 1980s.

But now Cambridge is powering ahead and East Anglia is on the rise, with the massive Port of Felixstowe needing large numbers of freight trains to other parts of mainland UK.

This East Anglian success gives reasons for the electrification of the Peterborough-Ely Line.

Direct Electric Trains Between Peterborough And Cambridge

I have met Cambridge thinkers, who believe that Peterborough is the ideal place for businesses, who need to expand from Cambridge.

Peterborough has the space that Cambridge lacks.

But the transport links between the two cities are abysmal.

  • The A14 is only a two-lane dual-carriageway, although a motorway-standard section is being added around Huntingdon.
  • Peterborough station has been improved in recent years.
  • The direct train service is an hourly three-car diesel service between Birmingham and Stansted Airport, which doesn’t stop at the increasingly-important Cambridge North station.

The road will get better, but the rail service needs improvement.

  • There needs to be at least two direct trains per hour (tph) between Cambridge and Peterborough.
  • They would stop at Cambridge North, Waterbeach, Ely and March.
  • End-to-end timing would be under an hour.
  • Greater Anglia will have the four-car bi-mode Class 755 trains, which would be ideal for the route from next year.

If the Peterborough- Ely Line was electrified, Greater Anglia could use five-car Class 720 trains.

An Electric Diversion Route For The East Coast Main Line

The works at Kings Cross station, and the possible proposal to run some trains into Liverpool Street station, show that an electric diversion route would be useful, when there are closures or problems on the East Coast Main Line.

In the case of the Kings Cross closure, if Peterborough were to be used as the terminal for some trains from the North, then I suspect some high-capacity Class 800 trains could shuttle passengers to Liverpool Street.

If the date of the Kings Cross closure is 2020, then certain things may help.

  • Crossrail will be running.
  • Extra trains will be running from Finsbury Park to Moorgate.
  • Hull Trains will be running bi-mode Class 802 trains.
  • There could be more capacity on the West Anglia Main Line.
  • There could be more capacity and some longer platforms at Liverpool Street.

What would really help, is the proposed four-tracking of the West Anglia Main Line.

The latter could prove extremely useful, when Network Rail decide to bite the bullet and four-track the Digswell Viaduct.

Extending Greater Anglia’s Network

Greater Anglia have bought new bi-mode Class 755 trains.

This would appear to be more than enough to covering the current services, as they are replacing twenty-six trains with a total of fifty-eight coaches with thirty-eight trains with a total of one hundred and thirty-eight coaches.

That is 46 % more trains and 137 % more coaches.

The new trains are also genuine 100 mph trains on both electricity and diesel.

Obviously, Greater Anglia will be running extra services, but with the explosive growth around Cambridge, coupled with the new Cambridge North station, I feel they will be running extra services on the Peterborough to Cambridge route and perhaps further.

The new Werrington Grade Separation will make a difference.

  • It will open in a couple of years.
  • Trains between Peterborough and Lincoln won’t block the East Coast Main Line.
  • The Leicester route could also be improved.

So services to and from Lincoln and Leicester would probably be easier to run from Cambridge and Stansted Airport.

CrossCountry run a service between Birmingham New Street and Stansted Airport stations.

  • The service stops at Coleshill Parlway, Nuneaton, Leicester, Melton Mowbray, Oakham, Stamford, Peterborough, March, Ely and.Cambridge and Audley End stations.
  • The service doesn’t stop at Cambridge North station.
  • The service is run by an inadequate Class 170 train, which sometimes is only two coaches and totally full.
  • Trains take just over three hours ten minutes for the journey.

Will Greater Anglia take over this route? Or possibly run a second train as far as Leicester?

Their Class 755 trains with better performance and specification would offer the following.

  • Electric running between Ely and Stansted Airport stations.
  • Greater passenger capacity.
  • wi-fi, plugs and USB sockets.
  • A three hour journey both ways.
  • The extra performance would probably allow an extra important stop at Cambridge North station.

The new trains would certainly offer what passengers want.

CrossCountry run an extra train between Birmingham New Street and Leicester, so perhaps at the Western end, the Greater Anglia service need only go as far as Leicester.

At the Stansted end of the route, there will be an hourly train between Stansted Airport and Norwich, so there could be scope for perhaps cutting one the services back to Cambridge.

Obviously, time-tabling would sort it out to the benefit of the train operators and passengers, but I can envisage a set of services like this.

  • Norwich and Stansted Airport – Greater Anglia – 1 tph
  • Birmingham New Street and Stansted Airport – CrossCountry – 1 tph
  • Leicester and Cambridge – Greater Anglia – 1 tph
  • Colchester and Peterborough – 1 tph
  • Norwich and Nottingham (Currently Liverpool Lime Street) – 1 tph

Adding these up you get.

  • Stansted Airport and Cambridge – 2 tph – As now!
  • Stansted Airport and Cambridge North – 2 tph – New service!
  • Cambridge and Ely – 4 tph – At least!
  • Ely and Peterborough – 4 tph – At least!
  • Cambridge and Peterborough – 2 tph – Up from 1 tph
  • Stansted Airport and Peterbough – 1 tph – As now!
  • Cambridge and Leicester – 2 tph = Up from 1 tph.

This pattern or something like it would be much better for all.

If the Ely-Peterborough section of the were to be electrified then it would enable the following.

  • A reduced journey time for electric or bi-mode trains.
  • If required Greater Anglia could run an extra electric service using Class 720 trains between Stansted Airport and Peterbough.

I said earlier that the Werrington Grade Separation will make it easier to run services between Peterborough and Lincoln.

So why not add an hourly service between Cambridge and Lincoln?

I can envisage, when the West Anglia Main Line is four-tracked at the southern end, that there might be enough capacity for a Liverpool Street to Lincoln service via Cambridge, Cambridge North, Ely, Peterborough, Spalding and Sleaford.

But whatever happens Greater Anglia’s choice of bi-mode Class 755 trains, seems to give them the flexibility to match services to passengers needs.

Electro-Diesel and Battery-Electric Freight Locomotives

The Class 88 locomotive is an electro-diesel freight locomotive, that can use either power from overhead electrification or an pnboard diesel engine.

I believe that locomotives like this will become more common and that eventually, we’ll see a battery-electric heavy freight locomotive.

I wrote about the latter in Thoughts On A Battery/Electric Replacement For A Class 66 Locomotive.

The Peterborough-Ely Line will see increasing numbers of trains hauled by these powerful electric locomotives, with either diesel or battery power to propel them over the gaps in the electrification.

Electrifying the line would speed these hybrid trains through and increase the capacity of the route.

Conclusion

Network Rail have annoyed the train operators with their planning and timing of the upgrade at Kings Cross station.

It looks to me, that the part of the problem, is that there is no viable electrified secondary route to London.

Bi-mode trains can use the Peterborough-Ely Line to go to Liverpool Street via Cambridge.

This line is one of those routes that sits in a sea of electrification, which carries a lot of traffic, that would bring several benefits if it were to be electrified.

  • Direct electric trains between Cambridge and Peterborough, would greatly improve the spasmodic service between the two cities, with large economic benefits to the county.
  • An electric diversion route would be created from Peterborough to Liverpool Street via Ely and Cambridge.
  • It would allow Greater Anglia to develop routes West of Cambridge to places like Lincoln and Leicester using their future fleet of Class 755 trains.
  • It would also make it easier for battery-electric freight locomotives to cover the busy freight route between Felixstowe and Peterborough.

I also feel that it wouldn’t be the most difficult route to electrify.

The Fens are flat.

There is no history of mining.

The track is fairly straight and simple.

I suspect that it could become a high-quality 90-100 mph, electrified line.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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December 8, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Could We Just Double The Width Of The Digswell Viaduct?

The Digswell Viaduct and the associated double-track railway through Welwyn North station at its northern end, on the East Coast Main Line is probably one of the biggest bottlenecks on railways in the UK. Wikipedia says this about the Grade II* Listed viaduct.

The viaduct carries the East Coast Main Line, which has to narrow from four tracks to two to cross the viaduct, making it a bottleneck restraining capacity over this strategic transport route. This problem is exacerbated by Welwyn North railway station situated at the northern end of the viaduct, which blocks the line while trains are stationary and two tunnels to the north. Several ideas to overcome the limitations of the viaduct and station without damaging the viaduct’s essential historic character and rhythmic design are periodically discussed. The line was electrified in the 1970s.

Various plans have been put forward to remove the bottleneck cause by this masterpiece of Victorian engineering.

The Current Capacity

Network Rail have published this report, which is entitled The Capacity Of The Welwyn Viaduct. This is said about the capacity of the twin-track section.

The two track section between Woolmer Green Junction and Digswell contains both Welwyn Viaduct and Welwyn Tunnel and is approximately 2.5 miles in length.

In pure theoretical terms the capacity of the viaduct is dictated by the headway over the section.

There is a planning headway of 3 minutes over the two track section which therefore results in a theoretical maximum capacity of 20 trains per hour. To achieve this capacity would require a fully homogeneous service (for example same rolling stock and calling patterns) and 100% use of planning capacity.

The usable capacity is below the theoretical and is determined by the service specification which needs to use the capacity. The current and future specifications for the section require calls at Welwyn North Station which is on the two track section. This reduces the number of paths that can be achieved in a single hour over the viaduct. The usable capacity is also determined by the fast line capacity between Finsbury Park and Digswell and the difference in speed of rolling stock approaching the two track section which will determine whether trains can be flighted over the viaduct at 3 minute slots to achieve the theoretical capacity.

There is no defined permitted number of paths on the viaduct as the capacity available is a function of demand and therefore the type and number of services which need to use it.

Network Rail concludes that eighteen trains per hour is a theoretical maximum on the current track layout.

Reason For Removal Of The Bottleneck

Whether or not HS2 is built, the East Coast Main Line must be improved to handle the large and ever growing traffic between London and Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh.

If more of the line was four-track, it would make the train companies aim of a frequent four-hour service to Edinburgh achievable. It could be even faster, if a lot of the line could handle trains at one hundred and forty mph, rather than the current one hundred and twenty-five.

Proposed developments are detailed in Wikpedia.

One of the most important is removing the bottleneck at Welwyn.

One Problem Or Two?

I think that when outsiders look at this bottleneck, they see one problem, but I think it is fair to describe it as two.

  • Welwyn North station and the tunnels to the North.
  • The Digswell Viaduct itself

In my view both problems need their own solutions.

We shouldn’t also forget other smaller changes, that can take the pressure of the area.

  • More and better use of an upgraded Hertford Loop Line.
  • More precise and better timetabling of trains.
  • As Thameslink beds down, we’ll see other improvements.

I also wonder, if a fully-electrified freight route could be created between Peterborough and London, through March, Ely and Cambridge, that used the extra capacity of a four-tracked West Anglia Main Line.

Welwyn North Station

In some ways the station is as big a bottleneck as the viaduct, as the two trains an hour that stop in the station, effectively block the line for a few minutes.

It is also one of those heritage problems, that Network Rail love so much. This is said in the Wikipedia entry for the station.

The station is a rare survival of architecture from the early days of the GNR and this is now recognised with listed building status. The main station building, the footbridge, the tunnel portal to the north and Welwyn Viaduct to the south are all Grade 2 listed.

So I doubt that modifying the station will be easy.

This Google Map shows the lines through the station.

Welwyn North Station

Welwyn North Station

These are some pictures of Welwyn North station taken on another day.

The images,  probably shows another problem in that four-tracking the line through Welwyn North station would probably close the car parks.

The Digswell Viaduct

The Digswell Viaduct is an iconic structure and if the views of the viaduct and the valley it crosses were to be altered in any negative way, there would be a battle that would make the protests over HS2 look like a child’s tea party.

Around 1890, they had a similar capacity problem at the Stockport Viaduct, which was successfully widened from two tracks to four.

It is my view, that with major advances in structural engineering and construction methods, that widening the viaduct would be one of the better methods to improving the capacity through the area, without changing the look of the viaduct.

Intriguingly, if the East Coast Main Line was not already electrified, with the recent development of IPEMU-technology, I suspect now that Network Rail would think seriously about not electrifying the viaduct.

Trains would cross using their on-board energy storage, raising and lowering their pantographs appropriately.

Knebworth Station

This Google Map shows Knebworth station, a few miles to the North of Welwyn North.

KnebworthStation

This station has four platforms arranged on two islands.

For comparison, this is an image of Welwyn North station to the same scale.

A1

I think that four-tracking Welwyn North station will be a tight fit.

Comclusion

At some point, I feel that Network Rail will bite the bullet on four-tracking this section of line and the fight will be a big one.

 

March 14, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , | 1 Comment