The Anonymous Widower

Werrington Dive-Under – 8th November 2018

In Issue 865 of Rail Magazine, there is an article, which is entitled NR Primed To Start Work On £200m ECML Dive-Under.

This is said about construction of the dive-under.

Devegetation has already commenced in the area, while work compounds and access roads are due to be constructed before the end of the year (when the main construction sequence is expected to begin).

The dive-under is expected to enter service in 2021.

The article also says that the Cock Lane footbridge will be replaced with a longer truss bridge to span the widened alignment.

These pictures show the current Cock Lane footbridge.

Whilst I took the pictures there was a lot of noise from chain saws and other machinery, as the vegetation was cleared.

The Track Layout

Note how the tracks are divided into a set of two on the Western side and three on the Eastern.

The Western pair are the so-called Stamford lines, which go off to the West through Stamford station.

A diagram in Rail Magazine shows how they will be moved apart and twenty-five metres to the West. This will enable the two new tracks to be laid between them, which will then dive under the East Coast Main Line and connect to the Great Northern Great Eastern Joint Line towards Spalding, Sleaford and Doncaster.

This Google Map shows the Cock Lane Bridge as it crosses the tracks.

The Cock Lane Bridge is at the bottom of the map.

Doing The Work

It looks a simple plan, that NR believes could be executed with a nine-day closure of the East Coast Main Line. This would be needed to tunnel under the three tracks of the main line.

But I suspect that Network Rail could have a series of cunning plans to keep a limited service going.

  • There will probably be a number of bi-mode Class 800 trains available.
  • Some of the sixteen InterCity 125 trains could be retained.

The diesels and bi-modes could be able to use the Great Northern Great Eastern Joint Line and other routes without electrification to sneak through.

They might also use an interim layout of lines at Werrington to keep the service going.

Extra Electrification

It appears to me that not all tracks are electrified.

The Northbound Stamford Line certainly has electrification, but it appears that the Southbound doesn’t.

Given that in the next decade, it is likely that battery/electric or electro-diesel trains or locomotives will use the route throughStamford station to Leicester and Nuneaton, would it be worthwhile to fully electrify the Stamford Lines.

This image captured from a Network Rail video, clearly shows the new Cock Lane footbridge and that the following lines are electrified.

  • The Northbound Stamford Line on the left.
  • The three tracks of the East Coast Main Line on the right.

The actual dive-under and the Southbound Stamford Line appear not to have electrification.

Retention Of Diesel Trains

But surely, if there are a few extra diesel trains around for a couple of years or at least until the end of 2019, would it help to sort out some of the other problems on the East Coast Main Line.

 

November 8, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Grayling Gives Green Light To Network Rail ECML Improvements

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

This Google Map shows the Werrington area, just North of Peterborough on the East Coast Main Line.

 

Network Rail have a web page, which describes the Werrington Grade Separation in detail.

This is said.

We will build a new two-track railway line, just over 3km in length, under the East Coast Main Line at Werrington Junction that will enable high-speed trains to pass over the Great Northern Great Eastern Line. North of the Cock Lane footbridge the Stamford Lines would be widened to the west to create four tracks. The central pair of tracks would then dive into a new underpass, below the ECML, and rise to meet the GNGE line approximately 600m after Lincoln Road.

This Google Map shows the Cock Lane footbridge over the East Coast Main Line.

Note the large number of tracks on the East Coast Main line. Those on the |Western side are the Stamford Lines.

This Google Map shows Northern end of the route, where it joins the Great Northern Great Eastern Joint Line.

From the video below, it looks like the new double-track railway crosses the Werrington Parkway and Lincoln Road under new bridges.

Note that video is good, but you will end up on the Network Rail web site, when it finishes. Why can’t they use YouTube like everyone else?

It is certainly a comprehensive scheme, which will stop freight trains slowing the expresses on the East Coast Main Line.

Line Speed And Gauge

The Great Northern Great Eastern Joint Railway has an operating speed of 75 mph and a loading gauge of W10.

From watching the video, the gauge appears to be at least W10 and it appears that the train is not going slowly.

Certainly, it will accommodate the largest freight trains, but will we see passenger services between Peterborough and Lincoln saving time?

Peterborough And Lincoln Passenger Services

Currently, these services are timed for a Class 153 train and it takes 78-80 minutes with five stops.

Building The New Track

I suspect that  the scheme has been designed so that it can be built without causing major disruption to the trains on the East Coast Main Line.

The single-track Acton Dive Under was successfully built with only minor disruption to Great Western Main Line services, so Network Rail have good form in this area. I talked about this in The Acton Dive-Under From The Noel Road Bridge.

August 15, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

Should Some Thameslink Routes Be Transferred To Transport for London?

Some commentators and politicians advocate the transfer of some Thameslink services to Transport for London (TfL).

Thameslink has been designed as a single solution to multiple needs, with too much input from politicians worried about losing elections.

Split Fleets And Franchises

If you look at Greater Anglia, Great Western Railway and South Western Railway, who have a similar mix of services as do Thameslink, they have opted for split fleets with short-medium and long distance trains,designed for their tasks.

In the North of England, the short-medium routes are run by Northern and the long distance routes by TransPennine.

Transport for Wales has now split their fleet into three; South Wales Metro, North Wales Metro and long distance.

The Consequences Of Thameslink’s Single Fleet

Services with different needs are using one fleet of Class 700 trains.

Effectively, Thameslink are using a train more suitable for services between St. Albans and Wimbledon stations, on long distance services between Bedford, Cambridge and Peterborough, and destinations along the South Coast.

Going between Brighton and Cambridge stations on an ironing-board seat is not a pleasant experience, as I noted in Observations On Thameslink Between Brighton And Cambridge.

I believe that Thameslink could be split into two; short-medium and long distance routes.

Short-Medium Thameslink Routes

Currently of the twenty-four services planned in the Provisional Timetable, just four are short medium services that run all day.

If we apply the London Overground principle of four tph stopping at all stations, then the Sutton Loop services, are already working  to a version of this principle.

Could other services work to the Overground principle?

East Coast Main Line

On the East Coast Main Line, a terminal to the North of Welwyn Garden City station is probably impossible, due to the limited capacity of the Digswell Viaduct.

Welwyn Garden City also has a flyover, so that four tph services to London can reverse in a single platform.

Welwyn Garden City with small modifications should be able to handle four tph on both Moorgate and Thameslink services.

Hertford Loop Line

The Hertford Loop Line services have or could have excellent cross-platform interchanges with Thameslink services at Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace stations, although they could be improved.

The weak interchange is coming South at Alexandra Palace, which means using a bridge, but it is easy to use Finsbury Park instead.

The Hertford Loop Line also gives access to three terminal stations; Gordon Hill, Hertford North and Stevenage, which could handle four tph.

So could we see Thameslink services using the route?

It would probably need some new six-car trains, which could be shortened from Thameslink’s dreadful Class 700 trains.

Finsbury Park Station

These pictures were taken at Finsbury Park station.

Could a bay platform for Thameslink services by added here?

I suspect that one could, but would it be worthwhile?

Midland Main Line

On the Midland Main Line, in addition to St.Albans City, currently, short-medium distance services terminate at Kentish Town and Luton.

It is a pity, that the Midland Main Line doesn’t have a handy branch!

A Balanced Northern Service

I think for balance that both Northern branches will take an equal number of short-medium distance trains. Perhaps, four tph to two destinations on each branch.

I might choose.

  • St. Albans City on the Midland Main Line.
  • Luton on the Midland Main Line.
  • Welwyn Garden City on the East Coast Main Line.
  • Stevenage on the East Coast Main Line via the Hertford Loop.

All services would be four tph.

Southern Destinations

In the South, there are several stations, that could handle four tph.

Traffic will determine which, but I like the claims of Dartford, East Croydon, Orpington and Sutton on the Wimbledon Loop.

Transfer To London Overground

These short-medium distance routes should be transferred to the London Overground.

It should be noted how if the Moorgate services are also transferred to the London Overground, as I outlined in Should The Moorgate Lines Be Transferred To Transport for London?, then the following frequencies would apply.

  • 8 tph – Alexandra Palace to Welwyn Garden City
  • 12 tph – Alexandra Palace to Gordon Hill
  • 8 tph – Gordon Hill to Hertford North
  • 4 tph – Hertford North to Stevenage.

There would be 20 tph between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace.

With ETCS, I don’t think that last frequency would be unrealistic, as there are two separate lines in each direction between the two stations.

Long Thameslink Routes

Class 700 Trains

These are currently, a disaster for passengers, as travelling between say Brighton and Cambridge in the dreadful Class 700 trains, is possibly the worst train journey in the UK in new train. In some ways Pacers are better!

This article in the Express is entitled ‘One Is Not Amused’ The Queen Is Not Happy With Changes To Trains, Claims Rail Boss.

If the Royal Posterior finds them hard in First Class, the seats must be dreadful there too!

But it’s not just the passengers who don’t like them.

I came back to London recently with a group of East Midlands Trains drivers. Their professional view of the Class 700 trains, is that they are not fast enough with an operating speed of 100 mph, as against the 125 mph of the trains run by East Midlands Trains.

It should be noted that on the East and West Coast Main Lines, the semi-fast medium-distance services are generally run by 110 mph trains.

So I feel very strongly, that the Class 700 trains are not only bad from the customers point-of-view, but totally unsuitable to run services on the Midland and East Coast Main Lines, where all other trains can cruise happily at 125 mph.

They must be assigned to more suitable duties!

The Routes

Get some new trains on these routes designed by people with sense and style and the routes would be transformed.

I also think, that the destinations served South of the Thames should be simplified. Thameslink is trying to serve too main destinations in the South, compared to the North, where long distance routes only serve Bedford, Cambridge, Peterborough and the intermediate stations.

Perhaps, there should be more services linking from all along the South Coast to an improved rail station at Gatwick Airport.

An Airport Route

I have travelled to and from Gatwick Airport several times, since Thameslink reopened through London Bridge a few months ago.

Outside of the Peak, these trains may be busy between London Bridge and Gatwick stations, but in the Central Core, passengers are fairly thin on the uncomfortable seats.

Luton Airport have been campaigning for more services and I suspect Gatwick would like more too.

So why not run a four tph service between the two airports, using well-designed airport trains?

An Increased Frequency Through The Core

Thameslink is currently planning twenty-four tph through the core tunnel, but there are statements that thirty tph could be handled.

The destinations to handle the extra trains exist in the South, especially, if routes out of London Bridge are replaced by Thameslink services, but accommodating more services on the East Coast and Midland Main Lines could be tricky.

Conclusion

I believe it is possible to split Thameslink into two sections.

Long distance services with new trains would stay with National Rail, but short-medium services would go to the London Overground and probably be run by six and eight-car versions of the existing trains.

 

July 15, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 2 Comments

LO ‘710s’ To Be Tested On ECML

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in Issue 851 of Rail Magazine.

After a period testing at the Old Dalby test track, the first Class 710 train will move to the East Coast Main Line.

I think this could be a pragmatic decision.

  • On the slow lines of the Southern part of the East Coast Main Line, there are typically four trains per hour (tph), which might be a low enough frequency for extra paths to be found for train testing.
  • Trains can access the East Coast Main Line from both the Gospel Oak to Barking and the North London Lines.
  • These lines give access to Willesden TMD, where some of the trains will be stabled.
  • The trains could be turned back at the sidings at Welwyn Garden City station.
  • The Class 710 trains are probably 90 mph units, which is faster than some of the older trains using the slow lines.

It will be interesting to see, where the testing is actually performed.

May 8, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

First ‘717’ In UK In June

The title of this post is the same as that of a short article in the May 2018 Edition of Modern Railways.

This is the first paragraph.

The first Class 717 EMU, built by Siemens for Govia Thameslink Railway’s Great Northern suburban services into Moorgate, is due to arrive in the UK in June.

The article also makes these statements, about the new Class 717 trains.

  • The first unit is planned to enter service in September.
  • The full fleet of 25 x 6-car units will be deployed in Winter 2018.
  • The current Class 313 trains will be replaced.
  • The new trains will have no toilets or First Class.
  • The new trains will have power points and wi-fi.

By virtue of the cross-platform connection between the Northern City Line and Victoria Line, these trains will improve a valuable link between North East London and the City of London.

When Crossrail opens in December 2018 at Moorgate station, the Northern City Line will have a step-free below-ground connection to Liverpool Street station and all the Underground lines serving the two stations.

Ducking and diving will move to a whole new level.

What Will The New Trains Do For Me?

For my own part, if the frequency on the Northern City Line is increased, I shall use the line from Essex Road station to get to Moorgate for Crossrail and the Central Line.

I suspect my house will go up in value!

How Will The New Trains Affect The Service?

The New Trains Are Faster

The current Class 313 trains are 75 mph trains, whereas the new Class 717 trains are 100 mph trains.

This increased operating speed will have two effects, when running on the East Coast Main Line and to Letchworth Garden City.

  • Time might be saved.
  • As their operating speed is the same as Thameslink’s closely-related Class 700 trains, they might make keeping to time easier.

Time savings on the Hertford Loop Line, will be more difficult, as the line only has a 75 mph operating speed.

However, speed improvements on the Hertford Loop Line would surely result in faster trains to Hertford, Letchworth Garden City and Stevenage.

The New Trains Could Change Voltage Faster

Trains on the Northern City Line need to change voltage at Drayton Park station. I have observed Class 700 trains, do this on Thameslink and they do it without fuss and very reliably.

The Class 717 trains will probably use the same pantograph, so we could be seeing a smoother and faster changeover.

The New Trains Will Probably Be Ready For ERTMS

The Class 700 trains are fitted for ERTMS, so they can work the Thameslink tunnel under Automatic Train Operation.

As this method of signalling and control will be fitted to the East Coast Main Line to improve caacity, the new Class 717 trains will probably be ERTMS-ready.

It should be noted that the Hertford Loop Line has been used as an ERTMS test track and I suspect engineers know the performance improvement ERTMS would bring to the line.

I suspect in a few years, the Northern City Line and services out of Moorgate will be run automatically, with the driver monitoring the system.

The New Trains Will Stop In A Shorter Time At Stations

The new Class 717 trains will have the these advantages of modern trains over the current ones.

  • They will be able to accelerate to line speed in a shorter time.
  • They will be able to brake faster.
  • Wider doors and larger lobbies will enable shorter loading and unloading times.
  • The trains will have better systems to help the driver.

These will all result in time savings at each stops.

Currently, the four destinations have the number of stops to Moorgate.

  • Hertford North –  49-53 minutes – 12 stops
  • Letchworth Garden City – 75 minutes – 19 stops
  • Stevenage – 68-72 minutes – 14 stops
  • Welwyn Garden City – 47-48 minutes – 16 stops

Because of the high number of stops, saving a minute at each stop would speed up the train service.

Less Trains Could Be Needed For The Current Service

As an example, take the Moorgate to Letchworth service.

The current service is one train per hour (tph), which takes 75 minutes. In its simplest form, allowing for turnround at both ends, trains take up to three hours for the round trip, so three trains are needed for the service.

But if the faster Class 717 trains can save a minute at each stop and run faster on the East Coast Main Line, it might be possible to reduce the round trip to several minutes under two hours. If that is possible, then only two trains would be needed for the route.

Improve The Hertford Loop Line

With its low operating speed of 75 mph, the new Class 717 trains can’t take full sadvantage of their increased speed.

There are already plans for new bay platforms at Gordon Hill and Stevenage stations, so what other plans are being progressed to improve the Hertford Loop Line?

The New Trains Could Have Less Seats And More Capacity

I can only give a rough estimate for this as I can’t find the capacity of a Class 717 train.

These are cars, car length and capacity for various trains.

  • Class 707 trains -five x 20 m. – 275 seats + 533 standing
  • Class 717 trains – six x 20.2 m. – No figures.
  • Class 313 trains – three x 20.2 m. – 232 seats
  • 2 x Class 313 trains – six x 20.2 m. 464 seats

A rough calculation for the Class 717 train using the figures for a similar Class 707 train and adjusting for another ytailer carriage gives the following.

339 seats + 657 standing = 996 total

Incidemtally, I’ve stood on a crowded Class 707 train, and it was not an unpleasant experience, as there were plenty of handholds.

This picture shows handholds on the seats and between carriages.

I hope the Class 717 trains have 2 + 2 seating, like the Class 707 trains.

Improved Services To And From Moorgate

Current services to and from Moorgate station are as follows.

  • Three tph to Welwyn Garden City
  • Three tph to Hertford North, with one tph extended to Letchworth Gsrden City.

This means that there are six tph between Alexandra Palace and Moorgate stations.

From the May 2018 timetable change, the service levels will become.

  • Four tph to Welwyn Garden City
  • Five tph to Hertford North, with two tph extended to Stevenage or Watton-at-Stone.
  • No direct services will run to Letchworth Garden City. Change seems to be a cross-platform interchange at Finsbury Park.

The service termination at Watton-at-Stone station is only temporary until Network Rail build a new bay platform at Stevenage station.

These changes mean  that there will be nine tph between Alexandra Palace and Moorgate stations.

This frequency is already achieved in the Peak, from Monday to Friday. But it now appears, it will be running all day from the May 2018 timetable change.

I found this document on the Rail Delivery Group web site, which is entitled 6,400 Extra Trains A Week To Run To More Places, More Often.

It says these services will be added in 2019.

  • An increase of 2 Hertford Loop trains per hour, Moorgate-Hertford
  • An increase of 1 Hertford Loop train per hour, Moorgate-Stevenage
  • An increase of 1 train per hour, Moorgate-Welwyn Garden City

In the May 2018 edition of Modern Railways, this is said.

New Class 717 EMUs will eplace the current Class 313s on these services from the autumn, with a further frequency boost planned in May 2019.

Adding this all together gives the following.

  • Five tph to Welwyn Garden City
  • Seven tph to Hertford North, with three tph extended to Stevenage.

This means that there will be twelve tph between Alexandra Palace and Moorgate stations. Or a train every five minutes.

It would appear that the overall effect of what Govia Thameslink Railway is doing is as follows.

  • Restricting the running of Moorgate services on the East Coast Main Line.
  • Provide a five tph Turn-Up-And-Go service from Welwyn Garden City.
  • Provide a seven tph Turn-Up-And-Go service from  Hertford North.
  • Provide a six tph Turn-Up-And-Go Thameslink service from Stevenage.
  • Provide a three tph service to Moorgate from Stevenage and Watton-at-Stone. Could it be expanded to a Turn-Up-And-Go four tph.
  • Stations North of Stevenage will be served by Thameslink services to Cambridge and Peterborough.
  • Thameslink services will stop at Stevenage and Finsbury Park for interchange with Moorgate services.

Will all of of this, downgrade Welwyn North station, by offering better services at Knebworth, Stevenage, Watton-at-Stone and Welwyn Garden City stations?

Consider.

  • Welwyn North station handles about 600.000 passengers a year.
  • Welwyn North station only has a service of two tph.
  • Welwyn North station lies on the double-track section of the East Coast Main Line over the Digswell Viaduct.
  • Knebworth station handles 600,000 passengers a year, but is on a four-track section of the line.
  • Watton-at-Stone station, which is perhaps four kilometres to the East handles 100,000 passengers a year, but appears to be short of car parking.

I’m pretty certain, that if Welwyn North station could be closed, then the notorious bottleneck of the Digswell Viaduct could be eased.

So are Network Rail and Govia Thameslink Railway working towards a situation, where this will be able to happen.

They could do the following.

  • Provide more car parking at Knebworth, Stevenage, Watton-at-Stone and Welwyn Garden City stations.
  • Build a new Park-And-Ride station in South Stevenage on the Hertford Loop Line.
  • Improve timings between Stevenage and Moorgate.
  • Extend more Hertford North services to Stevenage. Six tph would probably be the limit for a single bay platform at Stevenage.

Shutting Welwyn North station would be controversial and heavily resisted.

How Many Trains Will Be Needed?

In May 2019, I think the service will be as follows.

  • Five tph to Moorgate to Welwyn Garden City
  • Four tph to Moorgate to Hertford North,
  • Three tph Moorgate to Stevenage.

I’ll now look at each separately.

Moorgate To Welwyn Garden City

Trains take just under around 47-48 minutes and there are sixteen intermediate stops.

Currently, I suspect a train takes two hours to do a round trip, which would allow up to 12-13 minutes to turn round at each end.

  • Three tph would need six trains.
  • Four tph would need eight trains.
  • Five tph would need ten trains.

But supposing the Class 717 trains, with faster running on the East Coast Main Line and faster stops could reduce this to under thirty minutes with a round trip of an hour.

  • Four tph would need four trains.
  • Five tph would need five trains.

Note.

  1. Currently, all trains are turned in Platform 4.
  2. Will Platform 4 be able to handle four tph after the May 2018 timetable change?
  3. Will Platform 4 be able to handle five tph after the May 2019 timetable change?
  4. There are sidings easily accessible to the North of Platform 4.
  5. Trains leaving Welwyn Garden City for Moorgate use a flyover to cross to the Up Slow line.

If five tph with just five trains is possible, it’s well worth achieving. But it could be a hard ask!

Moorgate To Hertford North

Trains take around 49-53 minutes and there are twelve intermediate stops.

This service would be another two hour round trip.

  • Three tph would need six trains.
  • Four tph would need eight trains.
  • Five tph would need ten trains.

The new Class 717 trains couldn’t probably do the trip in thirty minutes, but a ninety minute round-trip would surely be possible.

  • The proposed four tph would need six trains.

Note.

  1. Four tph is the frequency that will be running from May 2019.
  2. Four tph could also be easily handled in the bay platform at Hertford North station.

Any track improvement would help.

Moorgate To Stevenage

Trains take around 68-72 minutes and there are fourteen intermediate stops.

The new Class 717 trains with their faster running  and faster stops, should be able to do this trip under the hour, with a possible two-hour round trip.

If this could be achieved the service would need the following trains.

  • The proposed three tph would need six trains.
  • Four tph would need eight trains.

Improving the Hertford Loop Line, so that the Class 717 trains could fully use their 100 mph operating speed could be key.

Summarising The Trains Needed

Summarising gives.

  • Three tph between Moorgate and Stevenage would need six trains.
  • Four tph between Moorgate and Hertford North would need eight trains with a two hour round trip.
  • Cut that to a ninety-minute round trip and six trains could be needed.
  • Five tph between Moorgate and Welwyn Garden City could possibly be run with five trains or need as many as ten.

A pessimistic answer for the number of trains could be as high as 24, which fits well with a fleet of twenty five trains.

But an optimistic solution might need.

  • Six trains for Stevenage
  • Six trains for Hertford North
  • Five trains for Welwyn Garden City

This would leave several trains for increasing frequency.

Increasing The Service After May 2019

Improving The Hertford Loop Line

If the Class 717 trains could use their speed, this would enable faster journeys and could allow extra paths for more trains.

ERTMS On The Moorgate Lines

It is already used by Thameslink and is scheduled to be used on the East Coast Main Line.

Will it be added to the Hertford Loop Line and on the Northern City Line?

ERTMS and a degree of Automatic Train Control, could be a game changer.

Fitting the necessary equipment to the Class 717 trains, shouldn’t be the most difficult of jobs, as the system is already fitted to Thameslink’s Class 700 trains.

Increased Frequency Into Moorgate

Consider.

  • Currently, in the Peak, the Class 313 trains running under control of conventional signalling manage 11 tph at times.
  • From May 2019, Gover Thameslink Railway will be running 12 tph into Moorgate all day.
  • Thameslink and Crossrail should be handling 24 tph, by the end of 2019.
  • Brixton station on the Victoria Line handles upwards of thirty tph with two platforms.
  • Transport for London and Londoners have a lot of experience about loading and unloading trains.

Look at this schematic of the vast Crossrail complex linking Liverpool Street and Moorgate stations.

Note the Northern City Line in dark blue at the left, with a new pedestrian tunnel linking to Crossrail. This will help handle the passenger flows between Crossrail and the Northern City Line.

With ERTMS and Automatic Train Control, I wonder what, is the maximum number of trains that can be handled at Moorgate?

Twelve is obviously possible with the current infrastructure, as it is only one more than what is currently achieved in the Peak.

My experience says that with good electronic and organisational systems, that fifteen tph should be possible in both directions between Moorgate and Finsbury Park stations.

An Extra Train To Stevenage

Current plans envisage three tph between Moorgate and Stevenage.

The new bay platform at Stevenage would easily handle four tph and if the sufficient trains are available, I could see this extra service implemented.

The following frequencies would be achieved.

  • Four tph – Stevenage and Watton-at-Stone.
  • Eight tph – Hertford North.

The Northern City Line would obviously need to be able to handle the extra train.

Gordon Hill Station As An Extra Terminus

Gordon Hill station is sometimes used as an extra terminus to turn trains from Moorgate in the Peak.

I can see this continuing, as surely it increases the capacity at the Moorgate end of the line.

Conclusion

It will be interesting to swee how this line develops in the future.

 

April 27, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Call For ETCS On King’s Lynn Route

The title of this post, is the same as that on an article in Edition 849 of Rail Magazine.

The article is based on this document on the Fen Line Users Aoociation web site, which is entitled Joint Response To Draft East Coast Main Line Route Study.

In addition to ETCS, which could improve capacity on the East Coast Main Line, they would also like to see journey time reductions using trains capable of running at 125 mph or faster on the King’s Lynn to Kings Cross route.

The Fen Line

The Fen Line runs between Ely and King’s Lynn stations.

  • It is mainly single -track with a double-track section at Downham Market station.
  • The line has an operating speed of 90 mph.
  • The line is electrified.
  • All stations have two platforms.
  • Looking at the line from my virtual helicopter, I suspect that redoubling would be possible.
  • Passenger numbers are increasing at stations on the line.
  • There are several level crossings.

It also would appear that because of the complicated nature of timetabling trains on the East Coast Main Line to the South of Hitvhin, that there are often delays on the Fen Line, as there is only one passing place at Downham Market.

I therefore agree with the opinions expressed on the Fen Line Users Association, that restoring double-track could help reduce delays on the Fen Line.

The Cambridge Line

The Cambridge Line connects Cambridge to the East Coast Main Line at Hitchin.

  • It is double-track throughout.
  • It is fully electrified.
  • It has a 90 mph operating speed.
  • Kking’s Lynn to Kings Cross services use the line.
  • Currently four trains per hour (tph) run between Cambridge and Kings Cross.
  • This will be increased by two tph, when Thameslink is fully operational.

King’s Lynn to Kings Cross services use this line.

The Current Timetable

Trains seem to take around an hour and forty minutes to go from Kings Cross to King’s Lynn, where they take under ten minutes to turnround and then they take around an hour and forty minutes to return to Kings Cross. I suspect, it isn’t the easiest service for an operator to mrun, as a train could be sitting in Kings Cross for thirty minutes.

How Could The Service Between King’s Lynn and Kings Cross Be Improved?

From the Rail Magazine article, the views of the Fen Line Users Association and the details of the route, the following could help.

ERTMS And ETCS

ERTMS and the closely related;  ETCS sre digital systems that enable trains to run faster and closer together, which could increase the capacity of the line and reduce journey times.

The Wikipedia entry for the East Coast Main Line says this about recent and future development of the signalling.

A new Rail Operating Centre (ROC), with training facilities, opened in early 2014 at the “Engineer’s Triangle” in York. The ROC will enable signalling and day-to-day operations of the route to be undertaken in a single location. Signalling control/traffic management using ERTMS is scheduled to be introduced from 2020 on the ECML between London King’s Cross and Doncaster – managed from the York ROC.

I would think it likely that if the whole route from King’s Lynn and Kings Cross were digitally signalled, there would be advantages.

  • It would help the merging of trains at Hitchin.
  • It would help in managing trains on the single-track sections of the Fen Line.

The Rail Magazine article mentions flighting trains on the single-track sections, where two or more trains in the same direction, went though in succession.

It would also allow closer spacing and higher frequencies on the East Coast Main Line.

All trains using the route, including freight trains, would need to be fully equpped for digital signalling.

Improving The Fen Line

The biggest improvement would come by redoubling the line between Littleport and King’s Lynn.

  • Trains could pass anywhere on the Fen Line.
  • It might also be possible to avoid complicated operating procedures.
  • Timetabling should be easier.
  • Extra services would be possible.
  • Delays should be reduced, as there would be less knock-on effects from problems on the East Coast Main Line.

But on the flat lands of the fens, it might also be possible to increase the operating speed.

Improving Ely

Ely is a mess, where trains always seem to be waiting for something.

Hopefully, improvements are on the way, as I wrote in Are The Trains In Ely Finally To Be Sorted?

According to an e-mail and comments on this post, Ely North Junction needs improvement.

This Google Map shows the junction.

Note.

  1. Ely station is to the South West.
  2. starting at the top-left and going clockwise, lines go to Peterborough, Ely and Norwich.
  3. The last set of lines are sidings.

There would appear to be two solutions.

  • Extra lines and flat junctions can be added. Flat junctions mean that trains have to cross each other.
  • From what I’ve read digital signalling is very good at handling junctions, by making sure trains present themselves correctly, so this may be a better solution.

Either solution could be make to work very well!

Improving The Cambridge Line

There don’t appear to be any projects on the Cambridge Line, but I suspect that Network Rail are looking for small things, that will save minutes here and there.

125 Mph Trains

Who’d have thought forty or fifty years ago, that someone would seriously suggest running trains capable of 125 mph to King’s Lynn?

The Class 387 trains are 110 mph trains and I have recorded one at that speed on the East Coast Main Line.

Would a 125 mph train, be able to use that speed South of Hitchin?

If it could then.

  • It could cruise on the fast lines with all the fast trains to and from the North.
  • It would cut a couple of minutes  from the journey time.

Once digital signalling is operational, the trains could be closer together, which would increase line capacity.

There are several fast electric multiple units, that have been built in recent years or are on order.

  • Bombardier Class 387 – 110 mph – In service.
  • Bombardier Aventra – 110 mph -In development for West Midlands Trains.
  • CAF Class 397 – 125 mph – In development for TransPennine Express.
  • Hitachi Class 801 – 125 mph On test for service entry this year.
  • Siemens Class 350 – 110 mph – In service.

Bombardier are also showing ideas for a 125 mph bi-mode Aventra to various train operating companies, which I wrote about in Bombardier Bi-Mode Aventra To Feature Battery Power.

To build a 125 mph bi-mode train, you probably start with a 125 mph electric train.

So have Bombardier designed a 125 mph version of the Aventra?

It would appear, that Bombardier, Hitachi and possibly CAF and Stadler will be offering 125 mph electric multiple units, with a bi-mode version if needed, for lines without electrification.

But there are several routes in addition to Kings Cross to King’s Lynn

  • St. Pancras to Corby
  • Euston to the West Midlands
  • Liverpool/Manchester to Edinburgh/Glasgow
  • Leeds/York to Edinburgh/Glasgow.
  • Waterloo to Bournemouth/Southampton/Weymouth

Train travel could be getting faster?

Conclusion

The ultimate benefit would come if trains could do a round trip in under three hours.

This would probably need a journey time of perhaps an hour and twenty-four minutes between Kings Cross and King’s Lynn. It is certainly not possible now, but it might be with the following.

  • 125 mph-capable trains.
  • Digital signalling on the East Coast Main Line and on the Cambridge and Fen Lines.
  • 125 mph running, where possible on the East Coast Main Line.
  • Improvements at Ely.
  • Full double-tracking of the Fen Line.
  • If possible, 100 mph running on the Cambridge and Fen Lines.

A three-hour round trip would allow the current service of one tph to be run with just three trains.

If both of the twice-hourly fast services between Kings Cross and Cambridge were extended to King’s Lynn, instead of the current one, this would mean that the following service could be possible with just six trains.

  • Two tph
  • Stops at Cambridge, Cambridge North, Waterbeach, Ely, Littleport, Doenham Market and Watlington.
  • Ten x 23 metre cars or Twelve x 20 metre cars.
  • Possibly a bistro.

There is improvement to come between Kings Cross, Cambridge and King’s Lynn, if the financial case stacks up.

 

 

 

April 8, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 5 Comments

Grand Central Opts For Split And Join

An article in the April 2018 Edition of Modern Railways is entitled Grand Central Appies For Extra Services.

Grand Central wants to run the following services.

  • An extra daily round trip between Sunderland and Kings Cross.
  • An extra service from Bradford to Kings Cross.
  • An early morning service from Wakefield Kirkgate to Kings Cross.
  • A late evening service of two trains; one for Wakefield and one for York, whicj would split at Doncaster.

Cleethorpes would also be served by running West Riding services as two trains, which would split and join at Dncaster.

All this can be done with the current fleet of ten Class 180 trains, supplemented by four extra released by Hull Trains, on delivery of new Class 802 trains.

By running as pairs between Kings Cross and Doncaster, the operator cuts the number of paths needed, on a crowded East Coast Main Line.

Joining and splitting is not without problems.

  • Train timings need to be accurate.
  • Joining and splitting hasn’t been done on the East Coast Main Line before, so would need permission.
  • I suspect that, the process won’t be automatic, as on Hitachi’s trains.

But get it right and this would surely open up the possibility of extra destinations in the North, provided like Bradford, Cleethorpes, Sunderland, Wakefield and York, they are on railway routes North of Doncaster.

The Class 180 trains are 125 mph diesel trains, that are about fifteen years old.

All other operators on the East Coast Main Line in a few years will be running variants of Class 800 trains, which will be capable of running at 140 mph on large parts of the route, when in-cab signalling is up and running.

As these trains can split and join with ease, surely Grand Central will be looking for some suitable new trains.

Currently, the fastest trains take about around a hundred minutes between London and Doncaster.

A rough estimate says that savings of around ten minutes could result from all trains being 140 mph capable, which would benefit all services.

But all operators on the line would have joining and splitting, so expect some new destinations from Kings Cross.

i

March 23, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Midland Mark 4

The title of this post is the same as an article by Ian Walmsley in the March 2018 Edition of Modern Railways.

Ian builds on what he said in an article in the August 2017 Edition of the same magazine. I wrote about that article in We Should All Think Radically!

He proposes using Mark 4 coaches with two Class 43 power cars to create trains that meet the PRM-TSI regulations deadline, which will mean the replacement of the East Midland Franchise’s twelve InterCity 125s.

He suspects various technical solutions can be borrowed to make it all possible and because of the extra weight of the Mark 4 coaches, the trains may become 2+7 sets instead of the current 2+8.

The trains could be rather nice.

  • The Mark 4 coaches have been extensively refurbished in the last two decades and have full wi-fi and power socket fitment.
  • The Mark 4 coaches meet all the PRM-TSI regulations.
  • 125 mph running would be possible, where the track allowed.
  • The East Midland Franchise already has the Class 43 power-cars.
  • If the electrification of the Midland Main Line is ever electrified, then the Class 43 power cars could be swapped for electric locomotives.

I would assume that three extra sets, that the franchise is acquiring from Grand Central could also be converted., giving the East Midlands Franchise, fifteen sets with a life of at least ten years.

A quick calculation would indicate that this reorganisation could see the current 132 Mark 3 coaches replaced by perhaps 120 Mark 4 coaches. I’ve just applied 7/8 to the Mark 3 coach total after the Grand Central trains have been added to the fleet.

What Will Happen To The Remaining Mark 4 Coaches?

Currently, there are 302 Mark 4 coaches in service on the East Coast Main Line with Virgin Trains East Coast.

In the Wikipedia entry for the Mark 4 coach, there is a section named Future.

This is said.

The Mark 4s are scheduled to be replaced on the East Coast Main Line by Class 801s in 2018. Some may be redeployed to Midland Main Line services.[19] Virgin Trains East Coast will retain seven or eight nine-carriage sets to operate extra services to Edinburgh.

In 2017, Alliance Rail Holdings announced that, owing to it being unable to source new build Class 390 EMUs for its intended service between London and Blackpool, it was revising its proposal to use the Class 91/Mark 4 combination instead

So it looks like seventy-two coaches will be retained for the East Coast Main Line.

As to how many trains will be needed between London and Blackpool, that’s the old question of how long is a piece of string.

Consider.

  • I don’t think that the platforms at Blackpool will accept full-length sets.
  • Class 180 trains used by various operators are five cars in length.
  • There are fourteen Class 180 trains, running to Bradford, Hull and Sunderland.
  • TransPennine Express has ordered several multiple units and rakes of coaches, that are five-cars long.

So perhaps three sets of five carriages, which seem adequate for Sunderland, would be a rough estimate.

This gives the following  totals.

  • East Midlands Franchise – 120
  • East Coast Main Line – 72
  • Euston-Blackpool – 15

Which gives a total of 207.

This leaves ninety-five coaches for other purposes. Or dare I say it, nineteen sets of five coaches?

Motive Power

The rakes of coaches will need to be powered.

These are a few possibilities.

Class 91 Locomotive And A Mark 4 Driving Van Trailer

Currently, Mark 4 coaches are powered and driven by a Class 91 locomotive with a Mark 4 Driving Van Trailer, at the other end of the train.

Total numbers available are

  • 31 – Class 91 Locomotive
  • 32 – Mark 4 Driving Van Trailer

If eight sets are retained for the East Coast Main Line, this means that a maximum of twenty-three trains could be created.

But except for limited use by Open Access Operators from London on fully-electrified lines, I can’t see all Class 91 locomotives being required.

Mark 4 Coaches Topped And Tailed With Class 43 Locomotives

This is Ian Walmsley’s plan for the Midland Main Line, as he outlined in the March 2018 Edition of Modern Railways.

Consider.

  • There are quite a few Class 43 locomotives available. There are thirty-two on the East Coast Main line for a start.
  • Ian feels that creating 2+7 sets is possible, but many needed would be shorter.
  • According to the article, Mark 4 coaches would be more affordable than making Mark 3 coaches PRM-TSI compliant.

The trains would share the iconic appearance of the InterCity 125, which passengers seem to love so much!

Class 68 Locomotive And A Mark 4 Driving Van Trailer

Chiltern use Class 68 locomotives and Mark 3 Driving Van Trailers, with Mark 3 coaches, so it is likely perhaps after some modification, these locomotives could be used with Mark 4 coaches and an appropriate Driving Van Trailer.

If a Class 68 locomotive would work, surely the closely-related Class 88 locomotive could also be used.

Mark 4 Coaches Topped And Tailed With Class 68 Locomotives

This arrangement has been used between Norwich, Lowestoft and Yarmouth with an elderly rake of Mark 2 coaches for some time.

It is a method that could be surely be used with Mark 4 coaches after a few modifications.

A New Class Of Electro-Diesel Locomotive And A Mark 4 Driving Van Trailer

I very much feel we need a new electro-diesel locomotive for both freight and passenger purposes.

Mark 4 Coaches Topped And Tailed With A Class 68 And A Class 88 Locomotive

I have often wondered, if instead of using two Class 68 locomotives, whether a Class 68 and a Class 88 locomotive could be used at opposite ends, to create the ultimate hybrid train, with a powerful diesel locomotive on one end and a powerful electric locomotive on the other.

Summing Up Motive Power

With a bit of ingenuity, I’m sure that uses could be found for most of the Mark 4 coaches.

Possible Routes

These routes need good quality rolling stock and innovatively-hauled Mark 4 coaches could be a solution.

Wales

Scotland has decided that the best way of serving some of its long routes, is to use shortened InterCity 125s.

Surely, if the concept works in Scotland, it is likely to work in Wales.

These could use Mark 4 coaches or more likely updated Mark 3 coaches.

Liverpool and Manchester To Holyhead

Once the Halton Curve is open, the possibility of a Liverpool to Holyhead service must exist.

A quality service along the North Wales Coast, must surely be beneficial to residents, business and tourism.

London Waterloo To Exeter Via Basingstoke

This service is currently served by Class 158 or Class 159 trains.

  • Trains generally work as six-car units.
  • The route is electrified between London Waterloo and Basingstoke.
  • Time could be saved by partial electric haulage.

The problem of this route might be solved by converting the Class 158/159 trains in bi-modes, as I wrote about in Class 158/159 Bi-Modes?

Cross-Country Routes

Cross Country routes and I don’t just mean those run by the company of the same name are often very-well pastronised, as often these routes are the only way to get between two provincial cities.

Take Norwich to Liverpool, which has a route, that definitely needs more coaches than those offered by a two-car Class 158 train.

Scenic Routes

Scotland is to run short-formation InterCity 125s between major cities.

IMany of these routes also fall into the category of scenic routes.

If this Scottish innovation is successful, will we see pressure for similar trains to work routes like Settle-Carlisle in England?

Summing Up Possible Routes

I don’t think there will be a shortage of routes to run Mark 4 coach-based services.

Conclusion

Don’t underestimate how the retired Mark 4 coaches will be used.

February 27, 2018 Posted by | Travel, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Is Existing UK Electrification Up To Scratch?

I ask this question after a very delayed rail journey from Leeds to London after the football yesterday.

I left Leeds on the 19:15 and all went well until between Grantham and Peterborough the train ground to a halt.

The driver informed us, that the previous train had had a pantograph failure and had brought the overhead wires down.

So we were stuck.

Free water was offered and I took a carrier bag to the buffet and looted half-a-dozen bottles for myself and a few fellow travellers.

But we waited and waited as the the train awaited a tow from a diesel locomotive.

Eventually, one arrived and it towed us to Peterborough, where the train started on its own power to London on the unaffected electrification.

We finally arrived at 02:10 at Kings Cross or four and a half hours behind schedule.

Virgin were rounding up taxis for everyone at Kings |Cross. But the length of queue was such, I came home using that lady of the night;Victoria and a 277 bus.

But consider other facts from last night.

  • At least four Southbound trains were delayed upwards of four hours.
  • Some Northbound trains, got no further than Peterborough.
  • Virgin probably had to make arrangements for large number of disgruntled passengers.
  • Taxis appeared to be in short supply.
  • The train ran out of snacks.

I also think from comments from friends, that problems with the overhead wires are not uncommon.

This article in Rail Magazine is entitled MPs Debate Reliability Of ECML Wiring. This is a paragraph.

Maskell had asked: “We already know that there is six times higher spend in the South than in the North on rail and transport infrastructure, but we also seem to have an east-west divide in rail – the East Coast route has received £3 billion less than that of the West. Will the Government bring forward their funding to upgrade the East Coast Main Line infrastructure, since the passenger performance measure is now at 25.1% because of overhead line failure?”

Rachel Maskell is MP for York Central.

It would appear that the electrification needs to be made more robust and improved in reliability.

East Coast Main Line Power Supply Upgrade

This page on the VolkerRail web site describes a project called East Coast the Main Line Power Supply Upgrade, which has the following project scope.

The Rail Electrification Alliance (REAL) is responsible for the delivery of Network Rail’s East Coast Main Line Power Supply Upgrade Project. The alliance, comprising of Network Rail, VolkerRail, Siemens, J Murphy and Sons, Jacobs and TSP, will construct new substations, install over 600km of new cabling and renew overhead line equipment (OLE) and structures over 246km of the ECML, from Wood Green in London to Bawtry near Doncaster.

The new power supply upgrade (PSU) is in direct support of the InterCity Express Programme, providing an enhanced traction power supply to enable the introduction of the new faster, more environmentally friendly Class 800 and 801 trains at the end of 2018, providing an improved service for passengers. The improvements will also reduce the amount of maintenance required for OLE.

Hopefully, this will reduce the likelihood of incidents like yesterday’s!

How Will The Class 800 and Class 801 Trains Deal With Line Problems?

In Do Class 800/801/802 Trains Use Batteries For Regenerative Braking?, I looked at the electrical systems of how Class 800 and Class 801 trains and how they would cope with various problems, based on  this document on the Hitachi Rail web site, which is entitled Development of Class 800/801 High-speed Rolling Stock for UK Intercity Express Programme.

I found the following.

All Class 801 Trains Have At Least One Generator Unit

All Class 801 trains have at least one generator unit, so it can obviously provide hotel power and probably enough power to limp to the next station, in case of overhead line failure.

So if yesterday’s problem hit and the line was not physically blocked the electric Class 801 train could move to the next station or perhaps cross to an unaffected line.

The Class 800 train would just continue on its onbopard diesel power.

Locomotive Haulage Is Possible

So a rescue similar to yesteday’s is possible.

Automatic Coupling And Uncoupling

This is definitely in line with Class 395 train performance.

Automatic Train Identification Function

This is said in the Hitachi document.

To simplify the rearrangement and management of train configurations, functions are provided for identifying the train (Class 800/801), for automatically determining the cars in the trainset and its total length, and for coupling and uncoupling up to 12 cars in
normal and 24 cars in rescue or emergency mode.

I suspect most modern trains can do this.

One Twelve-Car Train Can Rescue Another

That would have been very useful yesterday.

Conclusion

The design of the new Class 800 and Class 801 trains will probably help in the coping with some of the problems on the East Coast Main Line and any other routes on which they operate.

I suspect there is already a lot of provision of crossovers for trains to cross between slow and fast lines and also to allow trains to run bi-directionally to get around various problems.

 

 

September 23, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

The Halton Curve: Small Piece Of Track, Big Rail Ambitions

The title of this post is the same as that of an article on the Rail Technology Magazine web site.

The Halton Curve will create a link between Liverpool and North Wales. This page on the Network Rail web site gives more details.

Work has started on the 1.5 miles of rail track, known as the ‘Halton Curve,’ that will unlock leisure and business opportunities between the Liverpool City Region, its airport, Cheshire and North Wales.

Vital upgrades to signalling and track will enable new services between Liverpool and Chester, serving Liverpool Lime Street, Liverpool South Parkway (for Liverpool John Lennon Airport) Runcorn, Frodsham and Helsby.

The existing line, which currently only runs a one-way passenger service once a week in the summer, will be upgraded to provide an hourly service in each direction from December 2018 with the potential for connections to North Wales in the future.

Restoring the Halton Curve is similar to a number of smaller projects that have been executed in the last few years, to improve connectivity and efficiency in the UK rail network.

Most seem to have been worthwhile. But look back a couple of decades and it was unlikely that some of these projects would ever be needed.

As the economy grows, freight moves from road to rail and more people travel a lot more by rail, it is very difficult to predict what will happen in the future. I feel we should address the following.

If we remove a railway line, we should not destroy the ability to reinstate the line. Rebuilding the Waverley Route and the Varsity Line would be a lot easier, if this rule had been followed.

Network Rail appear to have a tendency to kick smaller projects into the future. A simple example is the creation of a bay platform at Stevenage station to turn back services on the Hertford Loop Line which seems to have been pushed back until after the new Class 717 trains arrive.

September 10, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment