The Anonymous Widower

Soham Station’s Inaugural Year A Soaring Success

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

This is the first paragraph.

Soham station has seen healthy and consistent passenger usage over its first year since opening to the public, seeing almost 50,000 journeys starting or finishing there, according to Greater Anglia’s figures.

I took these pictures, when the station opened.

I think Soham station is a good design of a single-platform station.

  • It’s a short walk from car park or drop-off point to the platform.
  • There is adequate car parking.
  • There is a shelter.

The station has also been built, so that it can be expanded.

These are my thoughts.

A Service To Cambridge

Soham station probably needs a train service to Newmarket and Cambridge, as it already has a two-hourly service to Bury St. Edmund’s, Ely and Ipswich and Peterborough.

Wikipedia says this.

There are no current plans for direct services to Cambridge, but the CPCA has expressed support for the idea in a future phase of the project. Mayor James Palmer said “the delivery of Soham station gives us a much stronger case to go to Government and Network Rail and lobby for the reinstating of the Snailwell loop which will provide a direct service between Ely, Soham, Newmarket and Cambridge”

This map from OpenRailwayMap shows the Snailwell Loop.

Note.

  1. The triangular junction in the middle of the map,
  2. The line from the junction leading East goes to Bury St. Edmunds and Ipswich.
  3. The line from the junction leading North goes to Soham, Ely and Peterborough.
  4. The line from the junction leading South goes to Newmarket and Cambridge.
  5. The Western side of the junction was removed by British Rail.

It would appear that by reinstating the Western side of the junction, a service between Ely and Cambridge via Soham and Newmarket could be run.

There are proposals for new stations in this area and given the need for comprehensive commuter services into Cambridge this Ely and Cambridge service could develop considerably.

The simplest service pattern would be

  • Peterborough via Ely, Manea, March and Whittlesea.
  • Ely non-stop.
  • Ipswich via Bury St. Edmunds and Stowmarket.
  • Cambridge via Newmarket and Dullingham.

All trains would be one train per two hours (tp2h).

Snailwell Junction And Cambridge

There could be problems between Snailwell junction and Cambridge, as the line is mainly single-track and it would need to handle the following trains.

Ipswich and Cambridge – 1 train per hour (tph)

Ely and Cambridge – 1 tp2h

Sundry freight trains.

In Roaming Around East Anglia – Newmarket Station, I wrote this about the plans of the East West Rail Consortium in the area.

In this document on the East-West Rail Consortium web site, this is said.

Note that doubling of Warren Hill Tunnel at Newmarket and
redoubling between Coldham Lane Junction and Chippenham Junction is included
in the infrastructure requirements. It is assumed that most freight would operate
via Newmarket, with a new north chord at Coldham Lane Junction, rather than
pursuing further doubling of the route via Soham.

So would it be possible to create a double-track railway through Newmarket station?

In the related post, I came to this conclusion.

Newmarket can benefit from East West Rail, but the two parties must agree objectives that don’t cause problems for the other.

But I do think, that Newmarket will not welcome the building of a double-track railway through the town.

The Proposed A14 Parkway Station

December 9, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grand Union Sets Out Stirling Ambitions

The title of this post, is the same as that of an article in the December 2022 Edition of Modern Railways.

This is the first paragraph.

Grand Union Trains has updated its plans to operate services between Stirling and London Euston. It is targeting a 10-year track access agreement with services starting in May 2025.

I have a few thoughts.

The Route

The route between Stirling and Euston is as follows.

  • Trains will call at Larbert, Greenfauds, Whifflet, Motherwell, Lockerbie, Carlisle, Preston, Nuneaton and Milton Keynes.
  • Station upgrades are proposed for Larbert, Greenfauds, Whifflet and Lockerbie.
  • The route is fully-electrified.
  • There will be four trains per day in both directions, with a slightly reduced service on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings.

This sentence from the article sums up the philosophy of Grand Union Trains.

The company says the aim is to link towns which have no or limited long-distance services and to improve connectivity for some station pairs on the West Coast Main Line.

Note.

Currently Larbert, Greenfauds and Whifflet don’t have services running past Stirling or Motherwell.

  1. Currently, Nuneaton and Milton Keynes have no Scottish services.
  2. Nuneaton is well connected to Peterborough and the East.
  3. Milton Keynes will be on the East-West Railway to Oxford and Cambridge.

It looks to be a service that has been well-planned and offers good possibilities for travel.

The Trains

The article says this about the trains.

New bi-mode rolling stock would be used and GUT says discussions with potential suppliers and manufacturers are ongoing.

Why Are Bi-Mode Trains Needed?

I can think of these reasons.

  • Grand Union Trains want to run their South Wales services with the same trains.
  • They might want to extend Scottish services from Stirling to perhaps Perth or Dundee.
  • They want to offer a reliable service, when the electrification is damaged.

Bi-mode trains will certainly offer flexibility and reliability.

How Long Will The Trains Be?

Consider.

I suspect a train has a maximum length of 260 metres and these can be run between London Euston and Stirling.

Could it be that station upgrades are needed for Larbert, Greenfauds, Whifflet and Lockerbie, is that these stations have short platforms?

Could the trains and platforms start short and grow with the business?

 

The Trains Will Have Three Classes

These classes will be offered.

  • First Class in compartments
  • Standard in a 2+1 arrangement
  • Standard Economy in a 2+2 arrangement

You pays your money and you make your choice.

Vanload Freight May Be Carried

Consider.

  • There has been a lot of speculation and some serious train conversions, looking at the possibilities of high speed freight.
  • Imagine a train of perhaps five passenger cars and one freight car for containerised freight.
  • I suggested earlier, that the trains might grow with the business.
  • As business develops, extra cars can be added as appropriate.
  • If business booms, then it might be best to run separate passenger and  freight services.

Modern trains and refurbished older ones, offer a multitude of solutions.

The Finance

The article says this about finance.

Grand Union Trains has linked with European independent investment firm Serena Industrial Partners to support its ambitions for its new Great Western service, and the project is supported by Spanish operator RENFE.

Serena Industrial Partners are Spanish, so does that mean, that the trains could be Spanish too?

November 24, 2022 Posted by | Finance, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Could An Oxford And Cambridge Service Be Run Via The Lizzie Line?

This article on the BBC is entitled East-West Rail: Part Of £5bn Scheme ‘Appears To Be Unachievable’.

These are the first four paragraphs.

A £5bn rail project “appears to be unachievable” in parts, a government report said.

The East-West Rail scheme will create a link from Oxford to Cambridge, with services being introduced in stages.

Stage two, between Oxford and Bedford, and stage three, between Bedford and Cambridge, have “major issues”, the Infrastructure and Projects Authority said.

A spokesman for East-West Rail said the delivery programme was “under review”.

As someone, who used to live near Cambridge, I have seen the transport routes improve in East Anglia, but not the area’s connections to the rest of the country.

The article describes Stage 2 and 3 of the East West Railway like this.

Stage two involves predominantly upgrading existing infrastructure, between Bletchley and Bedford, to allow services between Oxford and Bedford.

Stage three involves building a new line, between Bedford and Cambridge, to extend the railway and facilitate services from Oxford to Cambridge.

So if the Government feel that the major issues and opposition should lead to cancellation of the scheme to the East of Bedford or even Bletchley, what are the problems and alternatives?

Freight

The Port of Felixstowe is the UK’s busiest container port and it handles 48% of Britain’s containerised trade.

Having lived as a teenager in Felixstowe and in Suffolk for probably half my life, there is only one certainty about the port in my mind. It will get bigger and will generate more rail and road traffic in East Anglia.

  • The roads have improved greatly, since the 1960s, when I used to cycle between Ipswich and Felixstowe, along a two-lane single carriageway road.
  • The renamed A14 has replaced the A45 and now connects the port to the M1 and the M6.
  • Tens of long freight trains every day now connect Felixstowe with the rest of the country.
  • The East West Railway will be a very useful link between Felixstowe and South Wales and the West of England.
  • Global warming will mean the decarbonisation of heavy freight, with more traffic on an electrified railway.

Felixstowe’s connections to the North and Midlands may have improved greatly, but they will need to be improved a lot more.

The Port of Southampton is the UK’s second busiest container port.

  • Most freight trains from Southampton go North via Basingstoke, Reading and Oxford.
  • A plan some years ago was for an Electric Spine, that would have connected the Port of Southampton to the Northern cities.
  • The Electric Spine would have envisaged electrification of the East West Railway to the West of Bedford and electrified connections with the West Coast Main Line and the Midland Main Line.
  • The Midland Main Line is now planned to be fully electrified, under the the Integrated Rail Plan for the North and Midlands.

Southampton, like Felixstowe will be in need of improved transport connections.

In an ideal world, an electrified East West Railway, would improve freight connections between the UK’s two busiest container ports and major cities in the UK.

Problems With Freight

Could this be the major problem East of Bletchley, where the residents living along the route, don’t want to see large numbers of freight trains running close by?

In this document on the East-West Rail Consortium web site, this is said.

Note that doubling of Warren Hill Tunnel at Newmarket and
redoubling between Coldham Lane Junction and Chippenham Junction is included
in the infrastructure requirements. It is assumed that most freight would operate
via Newmarket, with a new north chord at Coldham Lane Junction, rather than
pursuing further doubling of the route via Soham.

Will the residents of Newmarket object to a double-track freight railway through the town? Freight trains and horses are not a good mix.

I do wonder, if freight trains hauled by noisy and unfriendly diesel locomotives are one of the reasons a full Oxford and Cambridge railway is losing its appeal and becoming a vote loser for the Government.

Cambridge Has An Accommodation And Commuting Problem

There is a shortage of accommodation in Cambridge for offices, laboratories, workshop and above all workers.

So it looks to the surrounding towns and cities to provide help.

London and Ely have good links, but the city needs better links to Bedford, Bury St. Edmunds, Haverhill, Ipswich, Norwich, Kings Lynn, Peterborough, Soham, Stansted Airport, Stevenage, Sudbury and Thetford.

Cambridge may be the place in the South East with the largest numbers of commuters from London.

Cambridge Needs A Decent Rail Network

In my view Cambridge needs at least the following services in trains per hour (tph)

  • Colchester via Haverhill, Sudbury and Marks Tey – 2 tph
  • Ipswich via Newmarket, A14 Parkway, Bury St. Edmunds, Stowmarket and Needham Market – 2 tph
  • King’s Lynn via Cambridge North, Ely and Downham Market – 2 tph
  • Oxford via Bedford, Milton Keynes/Bletchley and Bicester – 2 tph
  • London King’s Cross via Cambridge South – 2 tph
  • Norwich via Cambridge North, Ely, Thetford, Attleborough  and Wymondham – 2 tph
  • Peterborough via Cambridge North, Ely and March – 2 tph
  • Stansted Airport via Cambridge South and Audley End – 2 tph
  • Stevenage via Royston and Hitchin – 2 tph
  • Wisbech via Cambridge North, Ely and March – 2 tph

Note.

  1. Some services already exist.
  2. Some of these services duplicate each other to give 4 tph or even 6 tph on certain routes.
  3. Some services could be back-to-back through Cambridge.
  4. A 14 Parkway station is a new station proposed by the East West Railway. I wrote about it in detail in Soham Station – 14th December 2021.
  5. Haverhill would be served by a rebuilt Stour Valley Railway.
  6. Wisbech would be served by restoring the railway to March.

To complete the network there would be a two tph service between Peterborough and Ipswich, which would go via March, Ely, Soham, A 14 Parkway, Bury St. Edmunds, Stowmarket and Needham Market.

Oxford Could Probably Argue that It Needs A Decent Rail Network Like Cambridge

Oxford would argue this and they have a point.

The East West Railway Is The Odd Line Out

Looking at the rail networks at Cambridge and Oxford, it appears, that with the exception of Cotswold services at Oxford and a few CrossCountry services, it appears that the East West Railway is a bit of an odd line out, as everything else is a local service.

The Effects Of Not Building The Bedford And Cambridge Section Of The East-West Railway

What will it mean, if the Bedford and Cambridge Section of The East-West Railway is not built?

  • Cambourne will not get the promised station.
  • Bedford and Cambridge journeys will be by bus, train via London or private car.
  • Commuting into Cambridge from the West will be difficult.
  • Milton Keynes and Cambridge journeys will be by bus, train via London or private car.
  • Oxford and Cambridge journeys will be by bus, train via London or private car.
  • Train journeys between Cambridge and much of the rest of the UK, will need to go via London.

It would appear that by not building the third section of the East West Railway, a lot of potential passengers will be denied a rail service.

Could Services Be Run Using Existing Infrastructure Through London?

The Elizabeth Line will eventually be able to handle a lot more services than it does at present.

Would Extending The Elizabeth Line To Oxford Be A Good Start?

Consider.

  • Oxford has two services to London; Chiltern to Marylebone and Great Western Railway (GWR) to Paddington.
  • The GWR service to Paddington stops only at Reading and Slough, has a frequency of two tph and takes under an hour.
  • The fastest journey between Oxford and Liverpool Street using a fast GWR train and the Elizabeth Line takes one hour and 20 minutes.
  • Only 10.6 miles of the route between Oxford and Paddington is without electrification.
  • There is also a two tph stopping shuttle train between Oxford and Didcot Parkway stations and a two tph stopping train between Paddington and Didcot Parkway.

I feel that combining the two Didcot Parkway services and moving them to the Elizabeth Line would be an experiment worth trying.

This would give 2 tph direct to the following stations.

  • Bond Street for the West End
  • Canary Wharf for finance.
  • Farringdon for Cambridge, Gatwick and Brighton.
  • Hayes & Harlington for Heathrow.
  • Liverpool Street for the City of London, Cambridge and Stansted
  • Reading for Wales and the West.

Note.

  1. No-one would have a worse service than currently, but many passengers would avoid a change on their journey.
  2. Services could terminate at either Abbey Wood or Shenfield stations.
  3. Services could be an extension of the two tph to Reading or additional services.
  4. Between Didcot Parkway and Oxford is shown on OpenRailwayMap, as proposed for electrification.
  5. There may need to be some new platforms at Didcot Parkway station.
  6. I estimate that between Oxford and Liverpool Street would take one hour and fifty minutes.

It certainly looks, that it would be possible to replace the current GWR service between Oxford and Paddington, with an all-electric Elizabeth Line service.

The direct stopping service between Oxford and Liverpool Street would be thirty minutes slower, than the current fastest train.

The current fastest train between Liverpool Street and Cambridge takes 71 minutes, so with a change at Liverpool Street Oxford and Cambridge  would probably be just over three hours.

Google Maps estimate a driving time of two hours between the two University Cities.

Could The Elizabeth Line Be Extended To Cambridge?

There is no train connection between the Elizabeth Line and the West Anglia Main Line at Liverpool Street station, although the walk for passengers is not that long.

In Extending The Elizabeth Line – Connecting West Anglia Main Line Services To The Central Tunnel, I describe how it could be possible to connect the West Anglia Main Line to the Elizabeth Line at Stratford station.

This connection would allow services from Cambridge, Harlow and Stansted to anywhere on the Elizabeth Line to the West of Stratford.

Oxford and Cambridge and Heathrow and Stansted would be distinct possibilities.

Could A High Speed Limited Stop Service Run Between Oxford And Cambridge?

In Extending The Elizabeth Line – High Speed Trains On The Elizabeth Line, I proposed running faster long-distance trains through the Central Tunnel of the Elizabeth Line.

  • They would have to be dimensionally identical to the Class 345 trains to fit the platform edge doors.
  • They would have a long-distance interiors.
  • In the Central Tunnel, they would behave like 345 trains. with Paddington to Stratford taking 19 minutes.
  • But on main lines like the Great Western Main Line, they could rattle along at 125 mph.

If the trains could keep up with Class 802 train performance between Oxford and Paddington and enter the Central Tunnel quickly, these times could be possible.

  • Oxford and Paddington – 55 minutes
  • Paddington and Stratford – 19 minutes
  • Stratford and Tottenham Hale – 14 minutes
  • Tottenham Hale and Cambridge – 65 minutes

Just over two-and-a-half hours, without a change of train, sounds fine to me.

What About The Trains From Great Malvern?

The fast services between Paddington and Oxford, run twice an hour, with the service formed of one hourly Paddington and Oxford service and another hourly Paddington and Great Malvern service.

  • If Oxford gets electrified soon, this will mean that the Oxford and Paddington service would be all-electric.
  • But the Great Malvern service would need to be able to handle 65.5 miles of line without electrification each way.
  • The speed limits between Oxford and Great Malvern vary between 70 and 100 mph.

I’m certain that Stadler could design and build a train, with the following characteristics.

  • Class 345 dimensions.
  • 125 mph performance.
  • Ninety miles range on battery power.

The trains would be charged between Paddington and Oxford and by a charger at Great Malvern.

Conclusion

Would an Oxford and Cambridge service through Central London be an alternative to the East-West Railway?

Perhaps not an alternative, but an addition?

 

 

 

 

 

August 3, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

TransPennine Express Explores Further Fleet And Capacity Expansion Options

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Railway Gazette.

This is the first paragraph.

First TransPennine Express is hopeful that it will be able to issue a call for expressions of interest in the provision of additional bi-mode trains before the end of March. This follows ‘a healthy level of interest’ in its existing call for expressions of interest in the supply of bi-mode locomotives to replace the Class 68s which work with its MkVa coaches.

I wrote about the expressions of interest to replace the Class 68 locomotives with new bi-mode locomotives in Suppliers Sought For New Bi-Mode Locomotives For TransPennine Express And Great Western Railway.

This was my conclusion in the related post.

When I saw First Group’s proposals, I thought that they were over ambitious.

But after doing a few simple calculations, I think they can decarbonise some, but not all of the TransPennine Express services and the Night Riviera.

So do First Group want to complete the decarbonisation of  TransPennine Express services?

These are my thoughts.

The Train Fleet Specification

The Railway Gazette article makes these points about the new bi-mode trains.

  • The trains could be existing or new bi-modes.
  • It would be desirable for the trains to have a long-term electric-only option.
  • Options for this would include removing the diesel engines or converting the trains to battery-electric operation.
  • Hydrogen is not mentioned.
  • A fleet size of twenty-five trains is mentioned.
  • The possibility of electric-only trains in the future is mentioned..
  • Five-cars, with the ability to lengthen to six- or seven-cars.
  • 200 km/h operation.

There is nothing unusual in the specification.

Will They Be Existing Or New Trains?

I doubt that there are any existing 200 km/h bi-modes in the UK, that are not wanted by their current operators.

I am very certain they will be new trains.

Could The Trains Be Hitachi Class 802 Trains?

The trains sound very much like Hitachi Class 802 trains, that are in service with TransPennine Express, Great Western Railway and Hull Trains, all of whom are First Group companies.

  • Long-term, the diesel engines can be removed or replaced with batteries.
  • The battery option is under development and should be on test this year.
  • The trains can be lengthened to as long as twelve cars, so six- and seven-car trains would be possible.

Hitachi will obviously show interest in this possible order.

Will These Trains Replace the Class 185 Trains?

Consider.

  • TransPennine Express have 51 three-car Class 185 trains.
  • This is a total of 153 cars.
  • On some routes they work singly and on others they work in pairs.
  • A three-car Class 185 train has 167 Standard Class and 15 First Class seats or 60.7 seats per car.
  • A pair of Class 185 trains have 334 Standard Class and 30 First Class seats.
  • A five-car TransPennine Express Class 802 train has 318 Standard Class and 24 First Class seats or 68.4 seats per car.
  • It would appear that a Class 802 train is not that far short of the capacity of a pair of Class 185 trains.
  • Some of the TransPennine services are very crowded.

I suspect that twenty-five five-car trains be able to handle the the workload of the Class 185 trains.

If a small amount of extra capacity were needed, some of the new trains could be six-cars.

In this section, I have assumed the new trains will be Class 802 trains, but any train manufacturer pitching for this order would adjust the capacity to the needs of TransPennine Express.

The Railway Gazette article says this.

TPE continues to explore opportunities for new services in the north of England, and the move could also feed into government plans for the removal of older and more costly to operate diesel trains elsewhere on the network, should any rolling stock become surplus to requirements at TPE.

So where could the Class 185 trains be used in the future?

Recently, MTU Hybrid PowerPacks have replaced the transmission on a Class 168 train, which reduces carbon emissions and fuel consumption and makes the train quieter and more passenger-friendly, as it doesn’t use diesel in stations.

The Class 185 trains are only fifteen years old and I suspect that MTU have designed the Hybrid PowerPack, so that it can replace the Cummins engine in trains like these.

The conversion could be done as a rolling program, so that any future operator would start with diesel and go hybrid a train at a time.

There has been speculation, that the trains may end up on the East West Railway and I wrote about this in East West Railway Company To Start Second Phase Of Rolling Stock Procurement.

But the East West Railway may prefer to use zero-carbon trains on a route, where there is electrification in places on the route.

Alternatively, South Western Railway run 10 two-car Class 158 trains and 30 three-car Class 159 trains between London Waterloo and Exeter.

  • South Western Railway is another First Group company.
  • The Class 185 trains could provide a capacity increase.
  • The Class 185 trains are 100 mph trains, whereas the Class 158/159 trains are only capable of 90 mph.

The London Waterloo and Exeter Route could be electrified in the future and I am pretty sure, that the Class 185 trains with a hybrid transmission could be a good stand-in until this happens.

Other Train Manufacturers

I believe that Hitachi are in pole position for this order, just because they are an established supplier to both TransPennine Express and First Group.

But twenty-five five-car trains would be a very worthwhile order, so I suspect that companies like Alstom, CAF, Siemens, Stadler and Talgo will also express interest.

Conclusion

Buying extra bi-mode trains will take TransPennine Express further along the route to full decarbonisation.

 

 

 

 

March 15, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Bletchley Viaduct – 15th March 2022

The Bletchley Viaduct is now complete and the extra platforms of Bletchley station are under construction.

This visualisation from East West Rail shows an idea for the new station.

It would appear the visualisation was taken from somewhere near the roundabout on the East side of the viaduct.

March 15, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | 1 Comment

The New Winslow Station Site

This Google Map shows the site of the new Winslow station, on the East West Railway.

Note.

  1. The line from north of Wolvercote Tunnel (just north of Oxford) through Bicester to Bletchley would be enabled for 100 mph (160 km/h) double-track running.
  2. There will be two platforms at Winslow station.
  3. The station is planned to open in 2024.

Services at the station are likely to be.

  • Two tph – Oxford and Milton Keynes via Oxford Parkway, Bicester Village, Winslow and Bletchley
  • One tph – Oxford and Bedford via Oxford Parkway, Bicester Village, Winslow, Bletchley, Woburn Sands and Ridgmont

Note.

  1. tph is trains per hour.
  2. It appears the current Bedford and Bletchley service will continue.

It looks like the one tph service between Aylesbury and Milton Keynes via Aylesbury Vale Parkway, Winslow, Bletchley has been deferred indefinitely.

Consider.

  • Building a single track railway between Aylesbury Vale Parkway station and Claydon Junction on the East West Railway can’t be that challenging or expensive.
  • A single track railway should be able to handle the required train service of up to two tph at Aylesbury Vale Parkway station and occasional freight trains.

It doesn’t look too difficult or costly. So why? The only valid reason I can think of is that High Speed Two doesn’t want it for some reason.

March 3, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Platform Construction Underway At Winslow On New East West Railway

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

This picture from Network Rail shows the Winslow station construction site.

This paragraph from the Rail Advent article describes the operation.

A 250 tonne crawler crane is being used to lift over 500 pre-cast concrete platform units into position within new railway cutting. As there is limited space available on site, a smartphone app has been developed to allow the platform units to be called for delivery in the exact construction sequence. The crane’ ‘lattice boom’ is 62-metres long , which is taller than Nelson’s Column.

That all sounds like good project management to me.

December 26, 2021 Posted by | Computing, Transport/Travel | , , , | 2 Comments

Soham Station – 14th December 2021

I visited the new Soham station today.

I took four trains in total.

  • The 11:12 from King’s Cross, which arrived at  Ely at 12:23
  • The 12:31 from Ely, which arrived at  Soham at 12:39
  • The 12:51 from Soham, which arrived at  Ely at 12:59
  • The 13:18 from Ely, which arrived at King’s Cross at 14:33

The outward journey took  87 minutes, with the return taking 102 minutes.

I took these pictures at Soham station.

Note.

  1. The train is a three-car Class 755 train.
  2. There is only a single platform.
  3. There are dropped kerbs everywhere on the walking routes.
  4. There is plenty of car parking.
  5. There are disabled car parking spaces.
  6. There is a circular turning area in front of the station, which forms a high-capacity Kiss-and-Ride, with space for a couple of buses.
  7. The track towards Ely is single-track
  8. The track towards Bury St. Edmunds and Ipswich is double-track.
  9. The bridge is ready for a second platform, should it be needed and/or installed.
  10. The station is unmanned.

These are some further thoughts.

Is Soham The Ultimate Step-Free Station?

Consider

  • Greater Anglia’s Class 755 trains are level with the platform, as they have gap fillers.
  • Walking from the car parking to the train is step-free.
  • There are lots of dropped kerbs and tactile pavements.

I suspect it is one of the few stations in the UK, where if you arrive on foot or by car or bus, that there is no step to the train.

This document on Network Rail says this about the footbridge.

A stepped footbridge across the railway to connect to an existing public right of way, designed for future installation of lifts if a second platform is constructed.

It looks like Network Rail have all eventualities covered.

The Station Has Adequate Parking

This picture from the gallery shows the parking to the South of the station.

The Network Rail document says that the car park can accommodate 50 vehicles and has four spaces for blue badge holders.

But looking at this picture, there could be space for more parking.

The Station Is Well-Connected To The Road System

This Google Map shows the town of Soham.

Note.

  1. Soham has a by-pass around the Eastern side of the town.
  2. The railway passes to the West side of the town.
  3. The station is marked by the small blue dot to the left of the word Soham in the middle.
  4. The old road goes through the centre of the town.
  5. Soham is a town of nearly eleven thousand people.
  6. I suspect the town is fairly flat and many will walk or cycle to the station.

Hopefully, the station will attract a lot of passengers.

Does The Station Need A Second Platform?

Network Rail have shown with the Borders Railway and the Avocet Line, that two trains per hour (tph) can be run reliably on a line with sections of single-track and some stations with only one platform.

One of the problems with a second platform at Soham, would be that lifts would be needed for many to cross the track.

It is not the cost that is the problem, but lifts do not have a hundred percent reliability.

Would installing lifts mean providing staff at the station?

I think, that unless the station attracts a lot of passengers, the second platform will never be built.

Would A Second Track Be Provided At Soham Station?

This is a different question, with possibly a different answer.

A large number of freight trains pass through Soham station each day and to increase their number Network Rail have proposed double-tracking the route between Soham and Ely.

As Soham and Ely are just over five miles apart, I wonder if Network Rail are thinking of putting a freight loop through Soham station, that continues to Ely.

These pictures show a long freight train waiting in the freight loop at Ely station before proceeding to Peterborough and the West.

I think that this loop is bi-directional.

Could the new freight loop be built, so that the following happens?

  • The freight loop starts to the South of Soham station.
  • The freight loop connects to the freight loop at Ely station.
  • All passenger trains use the current single-track.
  • All freight trains use the freight loop.
  • Both tracks would be bi-directional.
  • Freight trains don’t pass through the current platform at Soham station.

It stood be noted that passenger  and freight trains take less than ten minutes between Ely and Soham stations.

As both freight and passenger trains would have their own tracks, I suspect that a total of at least four passenger tph and four freight tph would be able to pass between Soham and Ely.

The A14 Parkway Station

I wrote this section originally in Soham Station Aims For December 2021 Opening, but it still applies.

The A14 Parkway station is a proposal from the East West Railway.

  • It would be just to the East of Chippenham junction and would be served by both Greater Anglia’s services between Ipswich and Cambridge and Ipswich and Peterborough.
  • It would also be close to the major road junction, where the A11 and the A14 meet.
  • It would be a Park-and-Ride station.

I believe it could be a major factor in cutting road mileage in East Anglia, as drivers going to Cambridge from Ipswich, Norwich, a large area of North-East East Anglia and North Essex could find that using the A14 Parkway station an easier and faster route. But the A14 Parkway would need a frequent service to the soon-to-be-three main Cambridge stations.

A Soham and Cambridge service could reverse at the A14 Parkway station or by careful timetabling, passengers would be able to change trains in a minute or two.

A Cambridge And Soham Service

I do wonder, if Cambridge could benefit from a triangular metro.

The three points of the triangle would be A14 Parkway, Cambridge South and Ely stations.

The three legs would have the following stations.

  • A14 Parkway and Cambridge South – Newmarket, Dullingham, Six Mile Bottom *, Fulbourne *, Cherry Hinton * and Cambridge
  • Cambridge South and Ely – Cambridge, Cambridge North and Waterbeach
  • Ely and A14 Parkway – Soham and Fordham *

Note.

  1. Stations marked with an asterisk (*) are possible new stations.
  2. The basic frequency would be one tph.
  3. Trains would reverse at A14 Parkway, Cambridge South and Ely stations.

The triangular nature of the service may mean that to avoid the driver constantly changing ends, that automation and video technology may allow driving from either end of the train.

These existing services would fit in with the triangular service.

  • Norwich and Stansted Airport via Cambridge South, Cambridge, Cambridge North, Waterbeach and Ely.
  • Ipswich and Peterborough via A14 Parkway, Soham and Ely
  • Ipswich and Cambridge via A14 Parkway, Newmarket and Dullingham
  • Wisbech and Cambridge via Cambridge North, Waterbeach and Ely.
  • King’s Cross and King’s Lynn via Cambridge South, Cambridge, Cambridge North, Waterbeach and Ely.
  • Birmingham and Stansted Airport via Cambridge South, Cambridge, Cambridge North, Waterbeach and Ely.

Note.

  1. All services would probably be one tph.
  2. Some services currently terminating at Cambridge, may be extended to Cambridge South.
  3. There will be other services from East West Railway.

The frequencies on the various legs would be as follows.

  • A14 Parkway and Cambridge South – 2 tph plus one tph from East West Railway
  • Cambridge South and Ely – 5 tph plus one tph from East West Railway
  • Ely and A14 Parkway – 2 tph

The route between A14 Parkway and Cambridge would need to be improved, but this is planned by East West Railway.

Would It Be Possible To Commute From Soham To London?

My timings of around ninety minutes are probably well within the endurance of the average commuter.

Conclusion

Soham station is not your run-of-the-mill rural station.

 

December 14, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Then And Now: Winslow’s Transformation Over The Years As New Train Station Construction Continues

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Buckinghamshire Live.

Very little has been heard about progress at Winslow station on East West Rail and the article fills in a lot of gaps.

  • Interesting to see, that the board at the station still shows the link to Aylesbury.
  • The article says that the station should be finished by 2023.
  • Work has definitely started on the station.

It does seem that this important rail link is well and truly underway.

November 20, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | Leave a comment

‘Box Structure’ Flyover Saves £70m And Six Months For East West Rail

The title of this post, is the same as that of this press release on Network Rail.

This is the first paragraph.

Engineers have saved £70m of taxpayers’ money by using creative new methods to build a railway flyover as part of the East West Rail project.

This Network Rail picture shows how the new flyover rests on a concrete box, that spans the West Coast Main Line (WCML).

Note that the press release contains a video that explains how the flyover was replaced and why the method of construction saved all the money and time.

The main cost savings came about because of the following.

  • Construction could go on above the WCML without having to stop the trains.
  • Components for the flyover were made in a factory, with subsequent cost reductions and quality increases.

Anybody, who’s ever poured a concrete slab in typical British weather will understand the second point.

According to the press release, the method of construction gives a hundred and twenty year life span for the structure.

For comparison, this 3D Google Map visualisation shows the Hitchin flyover, which was opened in 2013.

Note the columns supporting the single-track railway.

If this was being built today, would a box be used as at Bletchley?

November 16, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , | 1 Comment