The Anonymous Widower

What A Fine Mess Thameslink And The Midland Main Line Is In

This article is prompted by an article in the May 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, which is entitled Crunch Time Nearing For MML Thameslink Timetable.

The author of the report; the respected Roger Ford, explains the problems of getting a timetable that is acceptable to a number of parties.

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) want to do the following.

  • Run 20 trains per hour (tph) through the central core of Thameslink by May 2018.
  • Run 24 trains per hour (tph) through the central core of Thameslink by December 2018.
  • Run eight, four and four tph respectively to Bedford, Luton and St. Albans.

East Midlands Trains (EMT) and/or their successor, want to do the following.

  • Run their current diesel services.
  • EMT want to run new new electric services to Kettering and Corby.
  • EMT want to run 6 tph at 125 mph into St. Pancras.

And both companies will have to satisfy the politicians.

Network Rail’s original plan is described under Political Developments in the Thameslink entry in Wikipedia. This is said.

Network Rail had planned to terminate Sutton Loop Thameslink trains at Blackfriars station, rather than have them continue through central London as at present. This would increase the capacity of the central core as the Sutton Loop could only accommodate shorter trains. This upset many residents in South London and their local politicians, who saw it as a reduction in services rather than an improvement. In response to pressure, government has ordered Network Rail to reverse the decision.

It is an awful lot of trains to squeeze into the Midland Main Line.

Some improvements were planned to help with the capacity North of Bedford.

  • A fourth track between Bedford and Kettering/Corby.
  • !25 mph electrification.

Both these should happen, but the electrification South of Bedford will only be 100 mph capable and there is no date for its upgrade.

So it looks like we have the classic pint pot and everybody is trying to put a quart in it.

Roger points out that the knock-on delays for a late train, could be horrendous and felt all over the North, with several minute increases in journey times to Sheffield and Nottingham.

Roger does highlight a couple of solutions.

Turning Thameslink Services At Kentish Town

The first Roger Ford outlines is to turn some services from the South at Kentish Town.

  • ,There is stabling capacity.
  • EMT might take over some of the fast outer-suburban commuter services.
  • There is a good connection to the Northern Line, which will have an increased capacity in a couple of years.

Perhaps too, a connection could be made with the Gospel Oak to Barking Line at West Hampstead Thameslink and Tufnell Park to improve connectivity.

But would the politicians accept a solution like this?

Has Thameslink Got The Wrong Length Of Trains?

If you look at some recent train orders, they seem to suggest a train and a half-train philosophy.

  • GWR’s order for Class 80x trains.
  • VTEC’s order for Class 80x trains.
  • Greater Anglia’s order for Aventras.
  • SWT’s order for Class 707 trains.

In all these orders, it would appear that two half-trains are used to create a full train, when needed. This coupling and uncoupling is done throughout the day and often on an automatic basis.

But Thameslink’s Class 700 trains only come in lengths of eight and twelve cars.

The eight-car train is needed for short platforms on the Sutton Loop Line.

But eight-car trains have disadvantages compared to say a six-car train.

  • two trains can’t be joined together to make a long train.
  • An eight-car train uses one of the valuable twenty-four hourly paths through the central core of Thameslink, just as a twelve-car train does.

The train length is patently inefficient.

The Sutton Loop Line could be run by using six-car trains that split and join at Streatham station.

Splitting Regional Services With A Change Of Train

This diagram from the Wikipedia entry for East Midlands Trains shows the company’s routes.

I can’t see that expecting passengers to change trains on a journey say between London and Sheffield  would be welcomed by everyone.

Electrification To Leicester, Derby And Nottingham

This section is an aside, but I think that it could be the key to solving the capacity problem.

Electrification to these three cities, shouldn’t be a problem other than the usual one of Network Rail’s competence and it could be completed by 2023, which would include Sheffield.

However, there is a serious problem with electrification between Derby and Sheffield, in that the line goes through the World Heritage Site of the Derwent Valley Mills.

But there is an alternative plan, which is to electrify the Erewash Valley Line, which avoids the World Heritage Site and provides a more direct and possibly faster  route between London and Sheffield.

Under Future in the Wikipedia entry for the Erewash Valley Line, this is said.

Network Rail as part of a £250 million investment in the regions railways has proposed improvements to the junctions at each end, resignalling throughout, and a new East Midlands Control Centre.[1]

As well as renewing the signalling, three junctions at Trowell, Ironville and Codnor Park will be redesigned and rebuilt. Since the existing Midland Main Line from Derby through the Derwent Valley has a number of tunnels and cuttings which are listed buildings and it is a World Heritage Area, it seems that the Erewash line is ripe for expansion. As the new signalling is rolled out, train detection is moving away from the traditional Track circuit detection of trains to Axle counting.

I hope all of the work done on the Erewash Valley Line has made sure that whenh they do electrify the line, the bridges are high enough and the signalling cables are well out of the way.

As the East Midlands Hub station for HS2 will be close to Toton TMD on the Erewash Valley Line and would open in 2032/3, it strikes me that it would be sensible to plan electrification of the Midland Main Line and HS2 together.

Bring On The Bi-Modes

Roger Ford dismisses the bi-modes in strong words.

A bi-mode doesn’t really work on the high-speed main line.

Under the wires it is a very heavy EMU, while under diesel power it is an underpowered DEMU. Just consider the roles on the MML. From London to Bedford it would need to run as a 125 mph diesel. From Bedford to Kettering the pantograph would go up for some 125 mph running. And after that it would go back to diesel. So why bother with the electric traction?

I would agree with that, but the Class 80x bi-modes may have other characteristics, that could get the timetable out of trouble.

The current hourly timetable out of St. Pancras  is as follows.

  • XX:00 – Corby, stopping at Luton, Bedford, Wellingborough and Kettering.
  • XX:15 – Nottingham, stopping at Market Harborough, Leicester and East Midlands Parkway
  • XX:26 – Sheffield, stopping at Leicester, Loughborough, East Midlands Parkway, Long Eaton, Derby, Chesterfield
  • XX:29 – Nottingham, stopping at Luton Airport Parkway, Bedford, Wellingborough, Kettering, Market Harborough, Leicester, Loughborough, Beeston
  • XX:58 – Sheffield, stopping at Leicester, Derby, Chesterfield

When Bedford to Corby is electrified, there will be another path.

Note that all the paths except those to Corby go through Leicester.

Currently the services are run by a mixture of 27 x Class 222 trains of 4, 5 and 7 cars and 12 x InterCity 125s of a 2×8 formation.

I said that the Class 80x trains may have other characteristics, that could get the timetable out of trouble.

One is that, two closely-related Class 395 trains can automatically couple and uncouple in under a minute, so I suspect that the Class 80x trains will have the same capability.

So supposing a pair of Class 80x trains ran from St. Pancras to either Bedford, Kettering or Leicester, where they would divide, with each train going to a separate destination.

This would mean that six paths would give twelve services to each of three destinations, Corby, Nottingham and Sheffield via Derby and Chesterfield.

EMT could balance the number of trains with their passenger statistics and could extend services from Corby, Nottingham and Sheffield, as they felt appropriate.

Modern trains would also be able to execute stops quicker than the current Class 222 trains and Inter\City125s.

So could extra stops be introduced South of Bedford to enable Thameslink services to be simplified and thinned out?


These may be consequences.

  • Four tph might be able to call at Luton Airport Parkway and East Midlands Parkway.
  • Sheffield and Nottingham might get marginally slower services, but they could get four tph.
  • All EMT might stop at Bedford, to enable Thameslink services to Bedford to be reduced from 8 tph to 4 tph.
  • Two tph between Sheffield and London might use the Erewash Valley Line and stop at Alfreton and Ilkeston.

There’s an optimal solution in there somewhere.


May 14, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Plans For East Midlands Hub Station For HS2 Are Beginning To Emerge

East Midlands Hub (Toton) station depending on who’s writing the words is beginning to emerge from HS2’s plans. (I shall use Toton HS2 in this post, to emphasise I mean the HS2 station.) Wikipedia says this about the station.

It is intended to be located on the existing railway sidings in Toton, situated between Nottingham and Derby. A connection to the Nottingham tram system and new connections to existing rail services are proposed, to link the station to Nottingham, Derby and Leicester railway stations. The station would be located adjacent to the M1 motorway in Nottinghamshire, close to the border with Derbyshire.

This Google Map shows the location.


The red arrow marks Toton Lane Tram Stop, which is a Psrk-and-Ride terminus of the Nottingham Express Transit. Between the tram stop and the M1, the Erewash Valley Line passes through in a North-South alignment. South of the East-West A52 is the site of Toton Sidings, which is proposed for the new Toton HS2 station.

I think that HS2 have made a good start in the planning of the connections at this station.

Link To Nottingham Express Transit

Extension of route 1 to serve HS2 at Toton and Derby is a section in the Wikipedia entry for the Nottingham Express Transit.

This is said.

News that a station for the proposed HS2 line (the East Midlands Hub) is likely to be built on the site of Toton sidings, only a short distance from the Toton Lane terminus has fuelled speculation that the line could be extended to the new station. In November 2015 there was a proposal for the tram network to be extended from Toton to Derby. Two routes were later proposed by the D2N2 local enterprise partnership for the route to Derby. The first route would be via the A52 while the second would be via Borrowash and Spondon.

This is not a cheapskate extension to connect Nottingham to HS2, but a proper solution, that creates a high-capacity link running from Nottingham to Derby via the new Toton HS2 station.

  • The A52 is the East-West road connecting Derby and Nottingham, which is clearly shown on the Google Map.
  • Borrowash is a village at the Western edge of the Google Map, with Spondon, which has a station on the Midland Main Line to Derby, just off the map to the West.

I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of extending the trams from Toton HS2 using tram-trains to go via Long Eaton and Spondon to Derby.

  • Tram-trains could use existing track between Toton HS2 and Derby, provided it was electrified.
  • Daul-voltage tram-trains would be needed to work on main line and tramway electrification.
  • Journey time from Derby to Toton HS2 could be around 20 minutes.
  • Network Rail’s plan to move Long Eaton station should make this easier.
  • A high frequency service could be run.
  • Extra stops could be introduced.
  • There are tram-train versions of the Alstom Citadis trams used in Nottingham.

Tram-trains would need 25 KVAC electrification along the route between Toton HS2 and Derby stations. But surely the Midland Main Line electrification will have got to these two stations by 2026 or so!

Nottingham To Derby Via Toton HS2

Nottingham and Derby are two very different cities, but both are successful in their own ways.

Currently, there are about three direct trains per hour (tph) between the two cities.

  • Birmingham-Coventry has 7 tph
  • Birmingham-Wolverhampton has 9 tph and the Midland Metro.
  • Manchester-Leeds has 8 tph
  • Leeds-Bradord has 6 tph

Nottingham and Derby get a very raw deal and working on the London Overground/Merseyrail principle of Turn-Up-And-Go , Derby and Nottingham need a four tph connecting service to give passengers something that is acceptable.

As with Birmingham-Woverhampton, a mix of heavy rail, tram and perhaps tram-train might give the two cities the service to Toton HS2 and between themselves, that they need.

Bssed on good practice in London, Birmingham and Liverpool, I would provide the following minimum service.

  • 4 tph – Express heavy rail stopping at Beeston, Toton HS2, Long Easton and Spondon.
  • 4 tph – Tram-train stopping everywhere between Hucknall and Derby via Beeston, Toton HS2, Long Eaton and Spondon.
  • 3 tph – Extra long distance trains calling at both, which would probably also stop at Toton HS2.

It would be a darn site better than what is currently provided.

A Notts/Derbys Crossrail

There might even be a case for a Newark to Burton-on-Trent service via Nottingham, Toton HS2, Long Eaton and Derby. It would be Notts/Derbys version of Crossrail, feeding passengers from all over the area to HS2.

Nottingham City Centre To London In Under 90 Minutes

Currently Nottingham to London takes one hour forty minutes by the fastest trains. But after HS2 opens, it would take 30 minutes from Nottingham to Toton HS and the 52 minutes by HS2 to London.

So even if the classic service to St. Pancras gets faster and more frequent, will passengers opt for the quicker HS2 from Toton HS2?

If say Toton HS2 to London was four tph and run on almost a Turn-Up-And-Go basis, and the connections to Derby and Nottingham were upwards of six tph, the classic trains will have to work hard to maintain market share.

Derby to London wouldn’t show the same improvement as Nottingham to London, but the service could be more frequent and probably well under ninety ,minutes.

The big winners would be the passengers from the Far West of Derby to the Far East of Nottingham.

Using The Erewash Valley Line

Network Rail is improving the Erewash Valley Line. Under Future  is a section in the Wikipedia entry for the line.

This is said.

Network Rail as part of a £250 million investment in the regions railways has proposed improvements to the junctions at each end, resignalling throughout, and a new East Midlands Control Centre.

As well as renewing the signalling, three junctions at Trowell, Ironville and Codnor Park will be redesigned and rebuilt. Since the existing Midland Main Line from Derby through the Derwent Valley has a number of tunnels and cuttings which are listed buildings and it is a World Heritage Area, it seems that the Erewash line is ripe for expansion.

It would seem that Network Rail are creating a 125 mph-plus line between East Midlands Parkway and Chesterfield stations. Is this part of a pragmatic philosophy to improve services from London to Chesterfield and Sheffield.

  • Derby to Chesterfield along the Derwent Valley will not be electrified because of heritage and engineering reasons.
  • Derby to Sheffield via Chesterfield will be served by bi-mode or other independently-powered trains.
  • The Erewash Valley Line will be electrified and could even be cleared to allow 140 mph running.
  • London to Sheffield trains would go via East Midlands Parkway, Long Eaton, Toton HS2 and Chesterfield.

Even if HS2 isn’t built, Chesterfield and Sheffield would get a vastly improved service to London.

When HS2 is built to Toton HS2,  HS2 can take advantage of the Erewash Valley Line to create faster services to the North.

Extending HS2 To Sheffield

If HS2 can get to Toton HS2 in 52 minutes, surely this could mean a London-Sheffield time of well under two hours once the Erewash Valley Line is electrified, even if passengers had to change trains.

But I think we know enough about the dynamics of High Speed Trains, that can run at 225 mph on High Speed Lines to get them to run at 125 or even 140 mph on high standard main lines, like the Midland Main Line.

After HS2 opens to Toton HS2, Chesterfield and Sheffield would get a better service from London in three ways.

  • Direct from London on the Midland Main Line.
  • By HS2 with a change at Toton HS2 to a classic service.
  • By HS2 direct.

All services would use the electrified Erewash Valley Line to get to Chesterfield.

It should be noted that from 2020, London-Norwich will be on a frequency of 3 tph. Surely, the much larger Sheffield needs 4 tph to and from London.

Using The Robin Hood Line

The Robin Hood Line goes between Nottingham in the South to Mansfield Woodhouse and Worksop in the North.

  • It is an underdeveloped line with diesel multiple units running to a frequency of 2 tph.
  • The Southern end of the line connects to the tracks through Toton HS2, so it wouldn’t be difficult to use the new station as an additional terminus for the Robin Hood Line.
  • At the Northern end, there is scope to develop new branches.

I can envisage Nottingham developing the Robin Hood Line into a suburban network feeding passengers to both the City Centre and Toton HS2.

Extending HS2 to North Nottinghamshire And Lincoln

In  After The Robin Hood Line Will Nottingham See The Maid Marian Line?, I wrote about an article in the Nottingham Post is entitled Hopes HS2 could see ‘Maid Marian Line’ opened to passengers.

There is a freight only line, that if reopened to passenger traffic would allow trains to connect from Toton HS2, through Ilkeston and Langley Mill to North Nottinghamshire and all the way across Lincolnshire to Lincoln, thus giving a large area direct access to HS2.

Lincoln to London would be under two hours with a change at Toton HS2.

Will All Sorts Of Towns And Cities Get The Benefit Of Direct HS2 Trains?

I have mentioned a lot of stations at various town and cities in this post.

To take Langley Mill station as an example, currently this gets at least one fast train a day to and from St. Pancras.

When the new HS2 trains are running between London, Chesterfield and Sheffield via Toton HS2, will they do the same thing?

If they do, then stations like Ilkeston, Langley Mill and Alfreton could get a direct HS2 service to and from Birmingham and London.

One of the things to note, is that the new trains will be much faster at stopping and getting on their way again, than the current generation of trains, so adding stops between Toton HS and Sheffield. won’t delay the service like it does today.

As I said earlier, I believe there could be a similar connecting service from Toton HS2 to Lincoln, calling at Kirkby-in-Ashfield, Mansfield, Gainsborough, Lincoln and Cleethorpes.

The train to Lincoln would probably be a short five can train and it would couple and uncouple with a similar train at Toton for the express journey South.

Other destinations from Toton HS, might include Doncaster, Doncaster Airport and Hull.

It’s one thing for a short train to trundle round Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire at 100 mph, but when on HS2, you probably need two trains coupled together to maximise the use of a limited number of train paths.

Connections could also be created using slower trains! But they wouldn’t be so sexy!

A New City At Toton

The Sunday Times has an article this week, which was entitled Next Arrival On The HS2 Line: A Brand New City.

It is an interesting proposition.

  • There’s certainly space between Derby and Nottingham.
  • Birmingham will be 19 minutes away by HS2.
  • London will be within the hour.
  • The M1 will pass right through the city.

But above all we need more housing.


The HS2 station at East Midlands Hub or Toton HS2, is a lot more than a HS2 station for Nottingham and Derby.

I would do the following.

  • Electrify to Sheffield on the Erewash Valley Line and between Derby and Nottingham.
  • Extend the Nottingham Express Transit to Derby via Toton HS2 using tram-train technology.
  • Run a 4 tph express local service between Derby and Nottingham via Toton HS2.
  • Make sure that HS2  reaches Toton HS2 as soon as possible.
  • Build the new city at Toton.

Surely because the Nottingham-Derby area has a lot to gain from HS2, it would probably be very beneficial for HS2’s revenue.




February 13, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment