There have been calls from local authorities and the local rail user group to reopen both curves at Burscough to allow the reinstatement of through trains from here to Southport, as well as to reinstate through services between Preston & Liverpool via Ormskirk and to rebuild & reopen the Skelmersdale branch. Merseytravel’s 2014 ‘Liverpool City Region Long Term Rail Strategy’ does not back plans for an Ormskirk to Skelmersdale route (instead proposing that the link be provided from the Kirkby to Wigan Wallgate line), though it does suggest that a new bi-level interchange at Burscough Bridge could be built to provide improved interchange facilities between the Ormskirk branch and the Wigan to Southport line in addition to reopening the curves and extending electrification through to Preston & Southport.
, To connect the two stations would mean doing at least the following.
- Reinstate the South Burscough Curve as a single track
- The South Burscough Curve would have bi-directional signalling and third rail electrification.
- Remodel Ormskirk station.
This picture shows what remains of the second platform at Ormskirk station.
The second platform could probably be reinstated reasonably easily, but I wonder if a clever station designer and train scheduler could organise Liverpool, Preston and Southport services around a single long platform?
The current layout could be actually considered to be two platforms, as one end serves Liverpool trains and other Preston trains.
So in this explanation, I’ll refer to them as the Liverpool Platform and the Preston Platform.
- The Liverpool platform would be long enough to take two new Stadler trains.
- The Preston platform would be long enough for the longest train likely to work an Ormskirk to Preston service.
- An electrified passing loop starting from between the two platforms and extending towards Burcough Junction station would be installed.
- Trains arriving and returning to Liverpool would operate as they do now using the Liverpool platform.
- Trains arriving and returning to Preston would operate as they do now using the Preston platform, but stop within the passing loop.
- Passengers changing between Liverpool and Preston services would change trains as they do now, by walking along the platform.
- Liverpool to Southport and Liverpool to Preston services would use the Liverpool platform and would either go through the Preston platform or use the passing loop as appropriate.
Two parallel platform stations are so nineteenth century!
These modifications between Ormskirk and Southport would improve train services in the following ways.
- Create more capacity between Liverpool and Southport.
- Allow travellers to go between Southport and the Ormskirk Branch of the Northern Line , without going via Sandhills station.
- Allow access to Manchester services at Burscough Bridge station
- Add direct Liverpool services to those to Manchester and Southport to all the new housing that seems to be under construction around the Southport to Manchester Line.
- Enable the construction of one or more new stations, like Kew Gardens in Southport, which is close to the hospital.
You can certainly understand why Merseyrail appears to be keen.
There are lots of ways to organise services.
I suspect one of the most efficient ways will be to run the trains in a loop going to and starting from Hunts Croos and going to Liverpool Central via Liverpool Central, Southport, Burscough Bridge, Burscough Junction and Ormskirk. Four trains per hour (tph) would go in one direction and four tph in the other.
Timing with the current trains are as follows.
- Hunts Cross to Southport – 64 minutes
- Southport to Burscough Bridge – 22 minutes
- Burscough Bridge to Ormskirk – 9 minutes – estimated
- Ormskirk to Liverpool Central – 34 minutes
- Kirkby to Liverpool Central – 18 minutes.
These timings are not the easiest to put together to make a four tph schedule.
As an example, if you want a current Class 508 train to go from Hunts Cross to Southport and back again, it will take 128 minutes plus whatever it takes to turn the train at each end. Allowing eleven minutes at each end gives a time of two and a half hours, which means ten trains are needed for a full four tph.
Ormskirk to Liverpool central will also need trains. If they could do Liverpool Central to Ormskirk and back in under an hour, that would need four tph..
The new Stadler trains have been designed to do the journey nine minutes quicker, which means that if the turnrounds are a bit quicker, it could be possible to do the round trip in two hours, which would mean only eight trains would be needed for a full four tph.
Ormskirk to Liverpool central will also need trains. If they could do Liverpool Central to Ormskirk and back in under an hour, that would need four tph..
If you look at the full loop with the current trains, this takes 258 minutes plus perhaps 30 minutes for the two reverses at Southport and the one at Liverpool Central. So we get a time of probably three hours and a requirement of 12 trains to run 4 tph to both Ormskirk and Southport and provide a four tph service between the two current termini.
As the current services need ten trains for Hunts Cross-Southport and four for Liverpool Central-Ormskirk, the loop saves two trains.
With the new Stadler trains, I suspect they could do the loop diagram in under two hours, which would mean just eight trains for a full four tph.
Thus, extra services can be provided between Ormskirk and Southport with a requirement of four less trains than running the lines individually.
Services to Southport and Ormskirk from Liverpool would be as follows.
- Southport to Hunts Cross via Formby – 4 tph
- Southport to Liverpool Central via Ormskirk – 4 tph
But the big difference is most stations on the Northern Line are served by four tph from Hunts Cross and Southport and all the other stations need a single change and a wait of a few minutes.
To operate the loop service, it would need Ormskirk to Southport to be fully electrified.
Southport To Manchester
You then have the situation if a Class 319 Flex train were to work Southport to Manchester, that it would work as follows.
- Southport to Burscough Bridge – using third-rail electrification when installed.
- Burscough Bridge to Bolton – using diesel power.
- Bolton to Manchester – using overhead electrification.
Southport would become an all electric station.
To get a full electric service to Manchester, it would only be necessary to electrify between Manchester and Burscough Bridge, where the chsngeover would take place.
I have followed this line in my helicopter and there are only three small bridges and a level crossing between Burscough Bridge and Wigan Wallgate stations.
So I suspect electrifying from Wigan to Burscough Bridge could be an easier electrification than most.
I have come to the following main conclusion.
Combining Southport and Ormskirk services in a loop via a reinstated South Burscough Curve, means the following.
- Southport gets eight trains per hour (tph) to and from Liverpool.
- Ormskirk gets four tph to and from Liverpool.
- All stations on the Northern Line get four direct or single-change tph from Hunts Cross, Southport and Liverpool Central.
- Ormskirk to Southport and all intermediate stations get 4 tph in both directions.
- The service can be run by less trains than needed for independent operation to Southport and Otmskirk.
Southport to Ormskirk needs third-rail electrification.
There were a some subsidiary conclusions.
- Ormskirk station can be based on a single platform with a passing loop, which could allow Liverpool-Preston services.
- Ormskirk station could still run the current Ormskirk to Preston service.
- The third-rail electrification between Southport and Burscough Bridge stations could be used by Class 319 Flex trains working services between Southport and Manchester.
- Southport could become an all electric station.
I suspect that others could do much better.
On Thursday and Friday last week, I spent two days in the Premier Inn at Blackburn and explored the rail lines around the town with journeys all over the area that should by now have been fully electrified.
Class 319 Flex Trains
The main reasons to go was to see some Friends In The North and to see Ipswich play at Barnsley, but I also wanted to explore some of the hilly routes in Lancashire.
Porterbrook in their brochure for the Class 319 Flex trains says that the objective for the train is that it can run from Manchester Piccadilly to Buxton on the Buxton Line, under the power that is available, which is electrification only as far as Hazel Grove station.
The Routes With Hills
There are three routes from Manchester and Blackburn that climb into the hills.
- The Ribble Valley Line to Blackburn via Bromley Cross and then on to Clitheroe and Hellifield stations.
- The East Lancashire Line Line to Colne station
- The Buxton Line to Buxton station.
- Hazel Grove to Buxton in the afternoon.
- Blackburn to Clitheroe early in the morning.
- Bolton to Blackburn, crush-loaded in the rush hour.
Someone told me, that leaf fall can be a problem in the Autumn.
In no particular, these are my thoughts and some facts from other sources and my observations.
A conductor told me that Northern Rail will be creating a depot and basing train crew at Blackburn.
This article in the Lancashire Telegraph is entitled Multi-million pound train depot set for Blackburn.
This is said.
Blackburn is to get a new multi-million pound train depot as the latest stage of East Lancashire’s rail revolution.
The stabling, maintenance and cleaning centre will include an office block and new connection to the existing Bolton junction where the tracks to Preston and Darwen divide.
If as I believe the Class 319 Flex trains could serve Clitheroe/Hellifield and Colne, then it could be an ideal location. Especially, if the Clitheroe/Hellifield and Buxton services were run back-to-back across Manchester.
Double Track Most Of The Way
The three lines have the following track layouts.
- The Ribble Valley Line has a large proportion of double track, which stretches to Hellifield.
- The Buxton Line is double-track.
- The East Lancashire Line is single-track from Rose Grove station to Colne station.
So hopefully, if two trains per hour (tph) were to be run on these three branches, passing would be possible.
A conductor told me that he’d heard that Northern would like to serve Hellifield more regularly.
Since I first wrote this, I’ve heard that the tracki at Hellifield has been recently replaced and is in good condition.
Housing And Other Property Development
As I travelled along the lines to Clitheroe and Buxton, there was a lot of housing development along the line, at places like Clitheroe, Hazel Grove, Whalley to name just three.
The crowded trains I used in the Peak to Blackburn are going to carry even more passengers and the need for capacity with power on these lines will increase.
Buxton, Clitheroe Colne and Hellifield all have reasons for tourists and especially those that enjoy visiting the hills.
I have no figures to back it up, but I suspect leisure passengers often go loaded with children in buggies, bicycles and heavy rucksacks and cases. They certainly do in the Summer on the trains of East Anglia and that is flat.
Add in the weather forecast and the effects of new trains and at times, there could be a large increase in leisure and tourism-related travel.
If the trains connected the Settle and Carlisle Line at Hellifield to Blackburn, Manchester and perhaps Buxton, this would surely open up a tourist train route, that Doctor Beeching wouldn’t have thought was the least bit feasible.
Future Train Frequencies
Train frequencies to Manchester could possibly grow to the following.
- Blackburn – 2 tph to Manchester Piccadilly
- Blackburn – 2 tph to Manchester Victoria
- Buxton – 2 tph
- Clitheroe – 2 tph
- Hazel Grove – 4 tph
In addition, the intersecting route from Blackpool South to Colne via Preston and Blackburn, could be running 2 tph.
I do suspect though, that 1 tph to and from Hellifield will be enough. But who knows? I could just be as wrong as Beeching.
The lines probably have a Peak problem, that is fairly unusual in the UK, but probably is common in countries with real mountains like Austria, Japan and Switzerland. One direction of Peak travel is downhill, but the other is up a very steep railway.
On train frequencies, this is said in the Wikipedia entry for the Ribble Valley Line.
A six-week engineering blockade saw the existing passing loop there extended by 1 mile (1.6 km) at each end and signalling improvements made to add capacity on the line and allow for service frequencies between Bolton & Blackburn to be doubled to two trains per hour each way throughout the day from December 2017.
Could this be why, Porterbrook are planning to deliver four refurbished Class 319 Flex trains by the end of 2017, according to their brochure?
Some powerful extra trains will probably be needed to achieve the objective of 2 tph to Blackburn and four Class 319 Flex will help.
Future Train Capacity
I did two journeys in the Peak to Blackburn; in the first I took the slower service via Todmorden and Burnley in a two-car train and in the second, I took the direct route via Bromley Cross, in a four-car formation.
The second was the most crowded, but it was Friday. It also struggled up the hill from Bolton to Blackburn.
Northern’s decision to go for a four-car Class 319 Flex train which could be used on some of these routes, is understandable.
Blackburn To Huddersfield
I travelled to Huddersfield station from Manchester Victoria and didn’t see any signs of electrification on this important route.
Returning to Blackburn from Huddersfield, my train was a direct service which travelled via Manchester Victoria, Bolton and Bromley Cross.
This would be an ideal service to run using a Class 319 Flex train, until Network Rail get their act together and electrify Manchester Victoria to Huddersfield. Even if they only get the wires as far as Stalybridge, the Class 319 Flex would be an enormous improvement compared to the asthmatic Class 156, that struggled with its full load of passengers to Blackburn.
The Calder Valley Line
The Calder Valley Line goes through very picturesque countryside between Preston and Leeds.
I think that full electrification of this line could never happen.
- The line has large numbers of stone and brick viaducts and bridges, which would be very expensive to modify for electrification.
- The station at Hebden Bridge is Grade II Listed.
- There is electrification between Leeds and Bradford, which could probably be extended as far as Halifax.
- Preston is fully electrified and affordable electrification to Blackburn or perhaps Rose Grove or Burnley Manchester Road stations should be possible.
- Electrification to Rose Grove would mean that the service between Blackpool South and Colne could be run using electricity between Rose Grove and Kirkham and Wesham stations.
But the biggest problem would be the opposition to overhead gantries in the hills.
The distances are revealing.
- Burnley to Halifax is just over twenty miles
- Blackburn to Halifax is just over thirty miles.
If Halifax to Bradford wasn’t electrified then that adds another ten miles.
All distances would be within range of a modern bi-mode train, including a Class 319 Flex.
From Hazel Grove, it is possible for diesel trains to access the Hope Valley Line towards Sheffield.
There must be stations on this line that are possible destinations for a Class 319 Flex train.
Chester and Windermere have also been mentioned as future destinations for the train.
Electrification has been painfully slow in the North-West, as it has in most places in the UK.
It looks like that by the end of 2017, Manchester to Preston via Bolton and the Blackpool Branch to Blackpool North station will be electrified.
The advantage of the Class 319 Flex is that it can use this electrified set of lines to run services to stations like Barrow, Blackburn, Blackpool South, Burnley, Chester, Hebden Bridge, Sellafield and Windermere, that are off the electrified network in conjunction with the Class 319 trains.
The Need For A Train To Climb The Hills
From this brief analysis and my observations, it would seem that Northern need a few four-car trains with adequate power to get up the hills at a speed, that enables an efficient timetable. As some of the routes from Manchester Piccadilly and Victoria are electrified, the ideal train would need the capability to use the wires.
If ever, there was a series of routes that need a bi-mode train, then it is these routes.
The Class 319 Flex And The CAF Civity
The Class 319 Flex has according to the brochure I’ve seen been designed to run from Manchester to Buxton with a full load of passengers in the Peak or perhaps after a City-United Derby.
But Northern have ordered new CAF Civity trains in the following versions.
- 25 two-car Class 195 diesel trains
- 30 three-car Class 195 diesel trains
- 31 three-car Class 331 electric trains
- 12 four-car Class 331 electric trains.
This is said in the Wikipedia entry for the Class 331 trains.
In early 2016 it was confirmed that Spanish rolling stock manufacturer CAF would construct the new electric powered trains which are planned to operate in West Yorkshire to replace Class 321 and Class 322 trains and work alongside the current fleet of Class 333 units. The four-car Class 331 units will be deployed on electrified services from Manchester Piccadilly to replace the Class 323 units which are due to return to Porterbrook at the end of their current lease in 2018.
So it would appear that the Class 319 trains will continue to operate for a few years yet! Hopefully with better seats, wi-fi and a few other smaller improvements.
I think that Northern have decided that until the Class 195 trains arrive that the Class 319 Flex trains are the best short-term solution. But given the overcrowding on the routes will the future three-car trains have enough capacity?
So I suspect, if Northern go the CAF Civity route, I feel that Northern will acquire some longer diesel trains or even some dual-power Civitys.
But at least running Class 319 Flex trains on the route will effectively produce the specification for these hilly routes.
I have just seen a an early copy of Porterbrook’s brochure for their new Class 319 Flex train.
On the summary page, the following is said.
4 units in service by December 2017
On the North-West Electrification page of the Network Rail web site, these electrification milestones are given.
- December 2017 – Preston to Manchester and Manchester Victoria to Stalybridge
- Early 2018 – Preston to Blackpool
It would appear that the delivery of the trains and the availability of electrified lines are not a bad fit.
I estimate that three Class 319 Flex trains will be needed to provide an hourly service to Blackpool from either Liverpool or Manchester, before Preston to Blackpool is electrified.
But once Blackpool to Preston is electrified, Blackpool, Liverpool, Manchester and Preston would be linked by standard Class 319 trains, releasing the Class 319 Flex trains to develop other routes from the core electrified network.
- Barrow-in-Furness – Electrified to Carnforth
- Buxton – Electrified to Hazel Grove
- Huddersfield – Electrified to Stalybridge
- Kirkby – Electrified to Bolton
- Southport – Electrified to Bolton
- Windermere – Electrified to Oxenholme Lake District
Places like Blackburn, Burnley, Clitheroe and even Hebden Bridge and Todmorden could be reached from the electrification at Bolton, Manchester or Preston.
The electrified network will be grown, by the selective addition of electrification and/or trains.
I was drawn to write this post, by this article in Construction News, which is entitled Network Rail and Moorside nuclear power plant developer Nugen are putting together a business case for rail investment in Cumbria that could be worth as much as £400m.
four hundred million pounds could buy a lot of rail infrastructure.
But where exactly is Moorside?
This map was taken from the Our Site page on the NuGen web site, showsthe Moorside site outlined in red.
Note the development with the yellow-shaded areas to the South-East of the red-lined area. This is Sellafield.
And this is a Google Map of the coast around the nuclear reprocessing complex.
All three stations are on the Cumbrian Coast Line, which in addition to the passenger service, is used to transport freight, including nuclear waste to and from Sellafield.
Overlaying the NuGen map on the Coogle Map shows that Moorside will be to the North-West of Sellafield.
The Cumbrian Coast Line and the related Furness Line curve around Cumbria from Carlisle to Carnforth via Workington, Whitehaven, Sellafield and Barrow-in-Furness.
- The line is mainly double track, but with sections of single-track.
- The line is not electrified.
- Most of the trains are elderly diesels.
- The train service is vaguely hourly, but patchy in places.
The nuclear power complex is a ten billion pound project and will require large amounts of heavy equipment and construction materials to be transported the site. Also on a daily basis, large numbers of engineers and construction workers wilol need to get to one of the largest construction sites in the North of England.
Is Network Rail’s £400 million proposed vdevelopment, a reconstruction of the Cumbrian Coast and Furness Lines to the following standard.
- Double track.
- 100 mph line speed where possible.
- Build a new station at Moorside and any other places, where they are needed.
- Step-free stations
- At least two trains per hour in both directions.
- Full wi-fi and 4G on all trains and in stations.
Upgraded to a high standard, it might do more than help construction at Moorside and Sellafield and those that work in the two complexes.
- It might increase quality tourism.
- It could be a diversion route for the West Coast Main Line.
- It might make a London service to Barrow-in-Firness via HS2 a possibility.
Network Rail’s project could do a lot more than service the twin nuclear sites.
I explored the Cumbrian Coast Line in April 2015.
South Wales might not have the reputation of beautiful mountains, of say Snowdonian, the Cairngorms or Switzerland, but some of the Valley Lines that go up to places like Merthyr Tydfil and Ebbw Vale Town stations have spectacular views.
I was looking for a possible station at a village called Nelson and found a single-track railway passing to the North of the village.
I followed the track with my helicopter up the mountain and this is a Google Map of what I found.
The station on the left is Merthyr Tydfil and on the right is the massive Ffos-y-fran Land Reclamation Scheme. This is opening paragraph in the Wikipedia entry.
The Ffos-y-fran Land Reclamation Scheme is a major opencast coaling operation to the north-east of Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales. Miller Argent is owned by Gwent Investments Limited, which is based in South Wales and is a privately owned family business. The scheme development is the last part of the East Merthyr Reclamation scheme, and will extract 10 million tonnes of coal over 15 years, the revenues from which will redevelop the current former industrial workings into residential and recreational use.
It is a controversial scheme and I am usually against using coal for combustion purposes, but some of these Welsh landscapes are dotted with dangerous mine workings and slag heaps, so they certainly need cleaning up.
There is a Transport section in the Wikipedia entry for the scheme. This is said.
Under agreed planning rules, the site is not allowed to transport coal from the site via road. All extract is therefore moved to the rear (East) of the site where the coal is separated and washed at the Cwmbargoed Washery. Built in 1959 on land to the north and east of the railway connection to Fochriw Colliery, the coal washery was refurbished by Celtic Energy in 1992. DB Schenker trains then move the washed coal from site to Aberthaw Power Station, along the former route of the Rhymney Railway. Joining the modern Rhymney Line just south of Ystrad Mynach railway station, the trains then travel onwards via Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan Line to Aberthaw, enabling Ffos-y-fran to supply 40% of the coal to Aberthaw power station.
It must be challenging driving a Class 66 locomotive with a train of full coal wagons down the mountain.
It was this railway I had followed up the mountain.
Before I leave Merthyr Tydfil, look at this Google Map of the town.
The East Merthyr Reclamation Scheme is in the middle, flanked by Merthyr Tydfil in the West and Rhymney in the East.
So if the Authorities in South Wales are thinking of building a station on this line at Nelson, are they thinking of reopening this line after the scheme has finished extracting coal, as a second rail route to Merthyr Tydfil?
Coming back down the mountain from Merthyr, the first possible station from my list of possible stations is Bedlinog.
This Google Map shows the rail line going through the village.
Note that Bedlinog already has a Railway Inn.
After Bedlinog, the next one on the list is Trelewis. This is the Google Map
The railway goes between the Primary School and the Kigdom Hall.
And then it’s back to where I started this quest at Nelson, of which this is the Google Map.
Trains For The Route
The task of hauling empty wagons up the mountain is not to much for a Class 66 locomotive, so I suspect that a multiple unit could be designed to handle a route like this, of which there are several in the Cardiff Valley Lines.
Either electric or diesel multiple units could probably manage the climbs, if they were designed for it, but would electreifying these routes be a feasible undertaking, given the difficulties of working on these busy lines.
But train technology is moving on and with the Class 319 Flex, we are getting close to having a true tri-mode train, with diesel, electric and battery power.
The Welsh Government have said they want new trains for these routes and I suspect engineers are working on a product tailored to run these routes efficiently.
So could we see a quad-mode train for the Valleys?
- Four-car electrical multiple unit.
- Onboard energy storage.
- Perhaps even a small diesel generator for the difficult bits.
- Gravity power, which the lines have in abundance, to use with regenerative braking to charge the batteries on the descent.
- As modern trains can deploy pantographs automatically, some selective electrification could be added as the project develops.
I would also commit the ultimate heresy and use third-rail electrification on the steep parts at the heads of the valleys.
- Bombardier, Siemens and others make reliable dual-voltage trains.
- Both electrification systems have their good and bad points.
- It must be less intrusive and disruptive to install third-rail electrification.
- Is overhead electrification more prone to weather damage?
- Network Rail seem to be terribly accident-prone when it comes to overhead electrification.
In the end costs and overall reliability will decide.
But I do think sometimes, that Network Rail always chooses overhead electrification, even if third rail will be more reliable, less intrusive and more affordable.
But I’m sure that all the technology has now been proven to create a very efficient modern electric train to work the Valley Lines, which have been electrified using a great deal of innovation and common sense.
The title of this post is taken from this article in Global Rail News.
This is said.
In an announcement earlier today, Network Rail said it had been unable to install some of the OLE structures because they had been “incorrectly designed”. It also blamed the late delivery of materials.
But the line will reopen with the Class 172 trains on the 27th February.
In June 2016, I wrote The Signs Of Bad Planning On The Gospel Oak To Barking Line Were There.
In the post, I talk about the rebuilding of three bridges on the line at Wightman Road, Palmerston Road and Holloway Road, which although Palmerston Road was done early and successfully, Holloway Road was going well at the time of writing, but Wightman Road had almost been forgotten.
The closure of Wightman Road for rebuilding certainly caught a lot of people by surprise.
There was also the late rebuilding of Holloway Road bridge, which certainly caught Islington Council on the hop.
If you read a News Release from the Barking – Gospel Oak Rail User Group dated the 6th February 2017, this is said.
Other problems have been accidental breaches of sewers in Walthamstow by pile drivers and the discovery that there will be insufficient clearance for the overhead wires under the road bridge at Crouch Hill station.
It is believed that Network Rail has received a temporary dispensation to run electric trains under the bridge pending a later closure to raise the height of the bridge.
As the guy said, when he breached the sewer – “Shit Happens!”
This article in Rail Technology Magazine is entitled Network Rail awards Carillion £49m Shotts electrification contract.
This is the first two paragraphs.
Network Rail has agreed a contract with Carillion Powerlines Ltd to deliver the electrification of the Shotts Line between Holytown Junction and Midcalder Junction.
The £49m contract will see the delivery of 74km of electrified railway as part of the Scottish government’s wider £169m investment in the line between Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Electrification of The Schotts Line will provide a fourth electrified line between Edinburgh and Glasgow.
From hundreds of miles to the South, it looks a good choice.
- The route is effectively in three sections, with only the central section between Holytown Junction and Midcalder Junction, needing to be wired.
- The bridges that need to be raised are already being worked on.
- The route goes to Glasgow Central rather than Glasgow Queen Street.
- The Class 385 trains needed are already being built in Newtown Aycliffe.
It certainly seems that the planning of electrification in the Scottish Lowlands is being better managed that that on the Great Western Railway.
I found this article from The Enquirer, which is entitled Essex set for faster trains after summer speed restriction is finally lifted.
This is said.
A LONG-STANDING speed restriction in place on the railway between Shenfield and Seven Kings, London, during the summer has been lifted by Network Rail.
The decision was made after the completion of important railway improvement works over Christmas. Network Rail engineers worked around-the-clock for 10 days to replace 12.5km of overhead wires at Gidea Park, untangling the complex web of crossovers, and replacing it with more durable and heat-resistant wires.
Passengers will not see any dramatic physical difference, but if the sun ever beats down again, the trains will still stick to the timetable.
I took these pictures of the station and the nearby bridge, this morning.
- The station is a tidy station, with shelters and information.
- There are gentle steps up and down from the nearby road bridge to access the two platforms.
- The station fits the current two-car Class 156 train, that works the branch.
I’ve seen far worse stations on my travels around the UK.
The Current Service
Two trains could provide a four tph service.
In an ideal world, the branch would be electrified.
- There is occasional freight traffic.
- It might serve as a diversion route.
- It might be a way of serving Old Oak Common station and the nearby depots.
- Crossrail will increase the number of passengers on the branch.
But to electrify the area around Drayton Green station could be expensive.
I’m no expert, but it does strike me, that not only is the bridge rather low, but also the parapets of the bridge certainly are.
So I suspect that electrification of the branch meeting all the regulations, would need an expensive new bridge, which would need several months of closure, with the resulting inconvenience to passengers.
But there is an alternative for passengers and that is to use electric trains with onboard energy storage to work the line.
- Greenford station is electrified with 750 VDC third-rail electrification.
- West Ealing station is electrified with 25 KVAC electrification.
- Out and back is only 5.4 miles.
Or the current Class 156 train could continue until it fell to pieces.
As the branch is not busy, two two-car trains delivering a 4 tph service could be sufficient for some years.
But I very much feel that the operator and the passengers would prefer an modern electric train.
This is the title of another article in the January 2017 Edition of Modern Railways.
I wasn’t sure where Aberthaw was, so I looked it up on the Internet and this Google Map shows Aberthaw Cement Works, Cardiff International Airport and the Vale of Glamorgan Railway, that links Cardiff Central station in the East to Bridgend in the West.
- The red arrow indicates the cement works.
- The Airport terminal is on the North side of the long runway,.
- Rhoose Cardiff International Airport railway station is on the other side of the runway and connected to the Airport by a sguttle bus.
- The line was closed by Beeching to passenger traffic in 1964, but was reopened in 2005.
Could Cardiff Airport benefit from the same sort of train-train link, that has been proposed for Glasgow that I wrote about in The Glasgow Airport Rail Link Will Be A Tram-Train?
But the map does illustrate the benefit of rail access to the cement works.
- The works is close the Vale of Glamorgan Line.
- Trains from the cement works can go East to places that need the product, including surprisingly, the South West of England.
- The rail link could cut the number of truck movements by 25%.
This would seem to be an ideal use for rail freight.
Are we doing enough to develop similar links, from other large factories all over the UK?
As the line is supposed to be electrified in a few years, could it be that a proper review of the line should be done first, to see whether any other projects should be done at the same time.
The reason I say this, is that the history of the line is much the same as that of the Grand Old Duke of York and his soldiers.