The Anonymous Widower

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 | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Soham Station Aims For December 2021 Opening

This article on Rail Technology Magazine is entitled Soham Set To Benefit From New Station After 56 years Without.

Work only started on Soham station earlier this year, so this paragraph is a bit of a surprise.

The completion of the work means that from December, Greater Anglia’s Ipswich to Peterborough service will finally be able to stop at Soham once more, better connecting the population.

The work referred to is changes to the signalling to allow services to call at the new Soham station.

It certainly appears that the station is being built at a canter!

I have some thoughts on the station.

Station Location

This Google Map shows the town of Soham.

Note.

  1. The railway between Ely and Ipswich running North-South at the Western edge of the map.
  2. Station Road connecting the town centre to the railway.
  3. Looking at the map to a large scale, it certainly appears that construction has started, as dark green portacabins and red and white barriers ae visible.

This Network Rail visualisation shows the proposed station.

Note.

  1. The visualisation is looking to the East.
  2. Ely and Peterborough are to the left.
  3. Bury St. Edmunds and Ipswich are to the right.
  4. The footbridge is wide enough to cross a double-track, although the route is currently only single-track at this point.
  5. There is just a single platform on the town side of the track.

It appears to be a simple design, that possibly could speed the construction.

Station Design

This Network Rail visualisation is a closer view of the proposed station.

Note.

  1. The turning circle and the carpark on the town (Eastern) side of the station can be clearly seen.
  2. The single platform will be 100 metres long and will be able to accommodate a four-car Class 755 train, which is 80.7 metres long.
  3. It appears that there is a concrete wall at the back of the platform. Is this to protect passengers from the sometimes-biting winds of the Fens or the swirling air currents generated by passing freight trains.

The station and footbridge are future proofed for a possible second platform and lifts.

Services

Currently, Greater Anglia runs a train between Ipswich and Peterborough every two hours, although this was promised to be doubled in frequency at some time in the future.

Times to various stations are as follows.

  • Ipswich – 48 minutes
  • Bury St. Edmunds – 19 minutes
  • Ely – 9 minutes
  • Peterborough – 50 minutes

These times are from Real Time Trains, which already acknowledges the station.

Note that to get to the important city of Cambridge passengers will need to change at either Bury St. Edmunds or Ely.

In the future there are two ways that the connection between Soham and Cambridge can be improved.

Reinstatement Of The Warren Hill Junction and Snailwell Junction Chord

This Google Map shows the layout, where the Ely and Ipswich Line and the Cambridge Branch Line join to the North of Newmarket in a triangular junction.

Note.

  1. The A14 runs across the top of the map.
  2. The Ely and Ipswich Line runs in a curve to the South of the A14 and the British Racing School.
  3. The former Snailwell junction was to the South of the British Racing School and was the Northern point of the triangular junction.
  4. Chippenham junction is the Eastern point of the triangular junction and is where the Ely and Cambridge lines join.
  5. The former Warren Hill junction was at the South close to the stables of Godolphin and John Gosden and was the Southern point of the triangular junction. From Warren Hill junction the railway runs through the Warren Hill tunnel to Newmarket station and ultimately to Cambridge.

If the chord were to be reinstated between Snailwell and Warren Hill junctions, it would be possible to run an hourly service between Soham and Cambridge via Dullingham and Newmarket.

The A14 Parkway Station

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.

Two Trains Per Hour Between Newmarket and Cambridge

An hourly service between Soham and Cambridge would add an invaluable second hourly service between Newmarket and Cambridge.

It would also fit in with the regular proposals to reopen stations at Six Mile Bottom, Fulbourn and Cherry Hinton.

 

August 31, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

March Station – 4th August 2021

March station is to be rebuilt. So I went yesterday and took these pictures.

Note that the last two pictures show the triangular junction, that leads to Whitemoor Yard and Wisbech

From what I saw, when it is finished it will be a delightful station.

Does March Station Need More Services?

It appears to me, that at present the station gets around two trains per hour (tph)

These trains run through the station.

  • Greater Anglia – Ipswich and Peterborough – two-hourly – Will go hourly in the future
  • CrossCountry – Birmingham and Cambridge/Stansted Airport – hourly
  • East Midlands Railway – Norwich and Liverpool Lime Street – hourly, stops occasionally

The service certainly needs improvement.

I would do the following as soon as possible.

  • Introduce the promised hourly Greater Anglia service.
  • Arrange that all East Midland Railway services stopped at March station.
  • Introduce the Cambridge and Wisbech service, when the work at Ely is complete.

This would mean that March had the following local services.

  • Cambridge – 2 tph
  • Ely – 4 tph
  • Ipswich – 1 tph
  • Peterborough – 3 tph
  • Wisbech – 1 tph

Other services would be available with a change at Ely.

 

 

 

 

August 5, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | 2 Comments

Comings And Goings At Ely Station

On my meander around the Fens yesterday, I spent twenty minutes or so at Ely station, as the variety of trains came through the station, whilst I waited for a train to March.

Ely and the surrounding lines are to be remodelled, so that more trains can pass through the complicated junctions.

I had hoped to see a freight train pass through, which would have used the avoiding lines to pass the station.

In some ways, Ely sums up the problems of some of our major railway junctions.

  • Several important passenger services needing to pass through.
  • Several long freight trains a day.
  • Level crossings everywhere.
  • More passenger services are needed.

And on top of it all, there is a need to decarbonise.

British Rail and Network Rail have been trying to sort Ely for decades and it should be noted that the Fen Line to King’s Lynn station was electrified in 1992, which was probably an early phase of their master-plan.

Ely And Battery-Electric Trains

These are the distances without electrification on the various routes from Ely.

  • Ipswich – 39 miles
  • Norwich – 52 miles
  • Peterborough – 30.5 miles
  • Wisbech – 25 miles

Routes to King’s Cross, King’s Lynn, Liverpool Street, Stansted Airport and Stevenage are all fully electrified.

It does appear to me, that the new generation of battery-electric should be able to handle services from Ely on battery power.

For many of these services, which are or will be run by Greater Anglia, the required battery range can be achieved by swapping some of the diesel engines in the Class 755 trains for batteries.

Freight And Hydrogen Power

In Was This The Most Significant Statement On Freight Locomotives Last Week?, I referred to this press release from Freightliner, which is entitled Freightliner Secures Government Funding For Dual-Fuel Project.

This sixth paragraph from the press release is very significant.

This sustainable solution will support a programme to decarbonise freight operating companies’ diesel fleets in a cost-efficient manner that does not require significant short-term investment and facilitates operational learning in support of a longer-term fleet replacement programme, potentially using 100% hydrogen fuel.

I believe the paragraph indicates, that Freightliner and possibly the other companies involved in the building and operation of heavy freight locomotives have concluded, that the technology is now such, that a zero-carbon rail locomotive powered by 100 % hydrogen is now possible.

Hydrogen offers several advantages.

  • Large amounts of power.
  • Range comparable with diesel locomotives.
  • Depots and freight terminals can be without electrification.
  • As hydrogen-powered locomotive will most likely have an electric transmission, this opens the possibilities of using electrification where it exists and regenerative braking to an onboard battery.

My unreliable crystal ball says that we’ll see hydrogen-powered locomotives by 2026.

 

August 5, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Cambridge Re-signalling, Relock and Recontrol Project

This project is Network Rail’s big signalling project in the Cambridge area and it is fully described in this document on the Network Rail web site.

The project is called the C3R Project for short and its scope is described in this Network Rail infographic.

Note.

  1. 125 miles of track are to be resignalled.
  2. Seventeen stations are likely to be resignalled.
  3. Eight level-crossings are to be upgraded.

Network Rail’s document splits the project into five sections.

  • Cambridge Power Signal Box – This will be upgraded.
  • Safety Interlocking Equipment – This will be upgraded with a computer-based system.
  • Closure Of Three Signal Boxes – Control will be relocated to Cambridge Power Signal Box.
  • Seven Level Crossing Upgrades – These will be upgraded to full barrier crossings.
  • Land Acquisition – As necessary to complete the works.

Upon completion the project will have replaced around 690 signalling assets.

Network Rail also say that the outline design contract to Alstom and it is expected to be completed in the last quarter of 2021.

Network Rail also says this about completion.

Subject to obtaining the necessary consents and design approvals, the detailed design and delivery of the signalling upgrade could begin by end of 2021 and be complete around the end of 2024.

My experience of project management and the railways of East Anglia, says that subject to one caveat, that this is a reasonable timescale.

The Level Crossing Problem

The problem could be the level crossings, as local interests are very protective of their supposed right to cross unhindered.

I particularly remember the Little Cornard Derailment, because a solicitor, who regularly instructed my late wife, was seriously injured in the derailment.

This is the first paragraph of the Wikipedia entry.

The Little Cornard derailment occurred on 17 August 2010 when a passenger train collided with a road vehicle on a level crossing on the Gainsborough Line near Little Cornard, Suffolk, and partly derailed. The vehicle, a tanker lorry, had begun crossing over the track when the Class 156 train from Sudbury destined for Marks Tey struck it whilst travelling at a speed of approximately 40 miles per hour (64 km/h)

Note.

Although, my late wife had died in 2007, one of her barrister colleagues told me of the link.

East Anglia and other rural parts of the UK suffer regularly from this type of accident.

This Google Map shows a 3D visualization of the site of the derailment.

It appears to be rather remote.

I am totally appalled that there was such primitive safety equipment on this crossing.

  • I have worked in seriously dangerous chemical plants, where Health and Safety rules forbade anyone entering the plant without full training.
  • As a sixteen-year-old in 1963, I was designing and installing systems on industrial guillotines, so that workers didn’t lose their hands.
  • A proportion of work, I did whilst working for ICI was about Health and Safety.
  • I have travelled extensively in tour buses in Eastern Europe and seen some appealing driving at level crossings.
  • According to a Hungarian friend, if you want to see bad driving at level crossings try Russia. He put it down to the local firewater.

This experience leeds me to believe that one of two things should be done with all level crossings on the railway.

  1. There should be a strong safety system on the crossing.
  2. The level crossing should be closed.

Will Network Rail be allowed by local interests to upgrade all the crossings they need?

The Level Crossings Network Rail Propose To Upgrade

These are the crossings Network Rail propose to upgrade.

Meldreth Road Level Crossing

This Google Map shows the Meldreth Road level crossing.

Note.

  1. Meldreth Road is the A10 between Cambridge and Royston.
  2. The double-track rail is the Cambridge Line between Cambridge and the East Coast Main Line.
  3. The line has a maximum speed of 90 mph.
  4. In every hour there are up to 10-12 passenger trains per hour (tph) through the level crossing.
  5. There are perhaps ten other trains per day, or less than one tph.

The ABC Railway Guide gives a line speed of 90 mph and adds these risk factors.

  • Sun Glare
  • Frequent Trains

It is very much a classic case of a busy railway crossing a busy road.

I also think that Network Rail has another problem here.

Pressure from train operators and passengers, could lead to more and faster trains through this level crossing.

In my view, the best solution to that problem would be to drop the railway into a cutting and put the road on a bridge over the top.

But this would be a very expensive and disruptive solution, which might mean that the road and/or railway were to be closed for several months.

The only other solution would be to run all trains between Royston and Cambridge under the control of digital signalling and Automatic Train Operation.

Trains would be timed so, that trains in opposite directions crossed on the level crossing, when the full barriers were down to stop traffic.

If this could be done, it could have various effects.

  • This would halve the number of level crossing closures in every hour.
  • The timekeeping might even impress drivers.
  • It might even train drivers to expect two trains, so if one was a minute or so late, they might be more prepared to wait.

This technique would give whole new meaning to a double cross.

This page on the My Councillor web site, gives details of opposition to the project by Councillor Susan van der Ven.

Six Mile Bottom Level Crossing

This Google Map shows the Six Mile Bottom level crossing.

Note.

  1. The road is the A1304 which is the main link between Newmarket and the South.
  2. The road can get very busy, when there is a big race meeting.
  3. The rail track is only single track.
  4. The line has a maximum speed of up to 75 mph.
  5. In every hour there are no more than one passenger tph in both directions.
  6. There are some occasional freight trains over the crossing.

The ABC Railway Guide gives a line speed of 60 mph and adds these risk factors.

  • Large Numbers Of Users
  • Sun Glare

I used to drive across this level crossing regularly, when I lived in the area and the trouble is that it is on a straight road, that encourages high speed.

Legend has it, that this was one of public roads used by Vincent to test their high performance motorcycles.

In the time I lived near the crossing, I can remember a serious accident between a car and a train, at the crossing.

It would appear that a partial solution has been applied.

This video shows how much brighter LED lights have been fitted to the crossing.

 

Let’s hope this encourages drivers to slow down, when the crossing is closed.

How many other level crossings would be improved with bright LED lights like these?

Dullingham Level Crossing

This Google Map shows the Dullingham level crossing.

Note.

  1. The current barriers are operated manually by the signalman in Dullingham signal box.
  2. The road is a local road and the small amount of traffic could probably be easily handled by an automatic crossing with full barriers.
  3. The rail line is the same at that at Six Mile Bottom, but is double-track.

The ABC Railway Guide gives a line speed of 60 mph and adds these risk factors.

  • Poor Visibility for Approaching Road Vehicles
  • Crossing is Near a Station
  • Crossing Approach
  • Sun Glare

From my local experience, I suspect that an automatic crossing with full barriers might even cause less delay to road traffic.

Milton Fen Level Crossing

This Google Map shows the Milton Fen level crossing.

Note.

  1. The road is a local road and the small amount of traffic could probably be easily handled by an automatic crossing with full barriers.
  2. The railway is the Fen Line between Cambridge and Ely.
  3. It looks like there are three passenger tph and the occasional freight trains through this crossing.
  4. The line speed of the rail line is 75 mph.

The ABC Railway Guide gives a line speed of 75 mph and adds these risk factors.

  • Sun Glare
  • Frequent Trains

It should also be noted that I can find reports of serious accidents and deaths on this crossing.

It looks to me, that an automatic crossing with full barriers could work well on this level crossing.

Waterbeach Level Crossing

This Google Map shows the Waterbeach level crossing.

Note.

  1. The road is a local road, but could the traffic be easily handled by an automatic crossing with full barriers?
  2. The railway is the Fen Line between Cambridge and Ely.
  3. It looks like there are three passenger tph and the occasional freight trains through this crossing.
  4. The line speed of the rail line is 75 mph.
  5. Waterbeach station is split with one platform either side of the level crossing, which is used by passengers to cross the line.

The ABC Railway Guide gives a line speed of 75 mph and adds these risk factors.

  • Poor Visibility for Approaching Road Vehicles
  • Crossing is Near a Station
  • Crossing Approach
  • Large Numbers of Users
  • Blocking Back
  • Frequent Trains

It should also be noted that Network Rail rate this crossing as high risk.

There is probably a long-term solution for this level crossing

Under Future Plans in the Wikipedia entry for Waterbeach station, this is said.

Plans to develop a New Town of 8,000 to 9,000 homes on the former Waterbeach Barracks site have been outlined by South Cambridgeshire District Council. As part of the proposal, there are plans to relocate the station to a new site and extend the platforms to accommodate 12 car trains.

Surely, a well-designed transport network to serve all these houses would see the level crossing closed and a new station built at a convenient location.

Dimmocks Cote Level Crossing

This Google Map shows the Dimmocks Cote level crossing.

Note.

  1. The road is the A1123, so could the traffic be easily handled by an automatic crossing with full barriers?
  2. The railway is the Fen Line between Cambridge and Ely.
  3. It looks like there are three passenger tph and the occasional freight trains through this crossing.
  4. The line speed of the rail line is 75 mph.

The ABC Railway Guide gives a line speed of 75 mph and adds these risk factors.

  • Infrequent Trains
  • Deliberate Misuse or User Error

It should also be noted that Network Rail rate this crossing as high risk.

Croxton Level Crossing

This Google Map shows the Croxton level crossing.

Note.

  1. The road is the A1075, so could the traffic be easily handled by an automatic crossing with full barriers?
  2. The railway is the Breckland Line between Norwich and Ely.
  3. It looks like there are two passenger tph and the occasional freight trains through this crossing.
  4. The line speed of the rail line is 75-90 mph.

It should also be noted that Network Rail rate this crossing as high risk.

The ABC Railway Guide gives the line speed as 40 mph and adds these risk factors.

  • Poor Visibility for Approaching Road Vehicles
  • Crossing Approach
  • Large Numbers of Users
  • Sun Glare
  • Deliberate Misuse or User Error

This crossing sounds like it could be an accident waiting to happen.

Although, I would feel that installing similar lights to those at Six Mile Bottom could be a big help!

Summarising The Proposed Level Crossing Upgrades

I can split these by topic.

Full Barrier installation

It would appear that all barriers can probably be replaced with the latest full barrier technology.

Improved Lighting

The video from Six Mile Bottom was impressive and probably shows how fairly simple improvements can increase safety.

Local Opposition

On this brief summary of all the level crossings, that Network Rail propose to upgrade to automatic crossing with full barriers, it would appear that only the Meldreth Road crossing is seeing opposition from local interests. Although, I do have doubts, that the development of all those houses at Waterbeach will ever happen because of local opposition.

Major Construction Works

It would appear that only two upgrades could require major works.

Meldreth Road – But only if it was felt that a substantial solution was needed.

Waterbeach – If a new station were to be built to cater for future housing development.

The others would only need barrier replacement and other appropriate improvements.

I would also feel that most of the work could be carried out without major disruption to train services or road traffic.

Modern Digital Signalling With Automatic Train Operation

Modern digital signalling with in-cab displays and a measure of automatic train operation offers three main gains to train operators and passengers.

  • More services can be squeezed safely into the existing network, without building controversial and expensive new lines.
  • Trains can run at higher average speeds.
  • Trains can run to timetable easier.

It should be noted that South of Doncaster the East Coast Main Line is being converted to this type of signalling and this will allow the Azumas and other trains to run at 140 mph, where the track allows, to speed up services between King’s Cross and the North.

Services Between King’s Cross and Cambridge

South of Hitchin, some services between King’s Cross and Cambridge share the lines with the expresses to and from the North.

For that reason the 100 mph Class 700 trains and the 110 mph Class 387 trains, would be out of their speed range like Morris Minors on the M1.

In 2018, I wrote Call For ETCS On King’s Lynn Route, based on an article in Rail Magazine, which called for 125 mph trains to Cambridge and King’s Lynn, so they wouldn’t slow the expresses.

It does appear to me that the digital signalling part of the C3R Project will enable 125 mph trains to run between King’s Cross and King’s Lynn via Cambridge.

  • Oxford has 125 mph non-stop local trains to London, so why not Cambridge?
  • A nine-car Class 800 train has a similar seating capacity to a twelve-car Class 700 train, but the seats are better and the train can travel at 125 mph.
  • These trains would significantly reduce the fifty minute journey time between King’s Cross and Cambridge.

This would be a real Cambridge Express.

Developing Services Around Cambridge

Just as full digital signalling is helping London to expand its railways with Crossrail and Thameslink. I believe that the C3R Project will help to squeeze more trains through Cambridge.

In a few years time, I believe Cambridge will have a core route consisting of Cambridge North, Cambridge and Cambridge South stations with much expanded services to Bury St. Edmunds, Ely, Ipswich, Kings Lynn, London, Norwich, Peterborough, Stansted Airport, Stevenage and Wisbech.

Ten years ago, I was told by one of Cambridge’s eminent thinkers, that Cambridge needed the connectivity to bring in the people that the economy needs.

The pandemic has changed things, but not Cambridge’s desire to create more businesses expand.

A Connection To Peterborough

Peterborough is the other half of Cambridgeshire’s area and shares the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority with Cambridge.

Peterborough station is well connected to the North and Midlands.

  • LNER’s connect the station to most stations  on the East Coast Main Line.
  • It has hourly services to Birmingham, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester and Nottingham.

But the connection between Cambridge and Peterborough is not of the quality and frequency that the two cities need.

A Connection To Stevenage

Stevenage is an important manufacturing and technology centre, with a strong presence in aerospace.

Stevenage station is well connected to the North and South.

  • LNER and other services connect the station to most stations South of Leeds and York on the East Coast Main Line.
  • The new service from East Coast Trains will provide a direct service to Newcastle and Edinburgh with a frequency of seven trains per day (tpd).
  • It has a direct suburban line to King’s Cross.
  • It has a direct suburban line to Moorgate.

Stevenage seems to be acquiring more long distance services as time progresses.

But the connection between Cambridge and Stevenage is currently poor, at just two tph, which stop everywhere.

Improve the connection between Cambridge and Stevenage and have more calls of services to and from the North at Stevenage and Cambridge and \stevenage would benefit.

Currently, the fast Cambridge services take 27 minutes to do the 30.3 miles between Cambridge and Stevenage, which is an average speed of 67.3 mph.

A Connection To Wisbech

Progress seems to be being made on a service between Cambridge and Wisbech, which I wrote about in Hope For Wisbech Line Revival.

This was the conclusion of that post.

I very much feel that the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority and Network Rail can create a very useful branch line to Wisbech.

There is not much infrastructure to be built and upgraded.

    • A new station will be built at Wisbech, which I feel is likely to be a Park-and-Ride on the A47.
    • A bay platform will probably need to be reopened at March station.
    • March station will need to be step-free.
    • There may be a station and a passing loop at Coldham.
    • Track and signalling will need to be replaced.

But the big project needed is the remodelling at Ely, which will have to be done to increase capacity, through the bottleneck.

Greater Anglia’s Class 755 trains would appear to be ideal for the branch and could operate on battery power.

This connection could be a very valuable connection.

It certainly looks like there are better plans to connect Wisbech to Cambridge, than there are to improve the connections between Cambridge and Peterborough and Stevenage.

Conclusion

The C3R Project will give the Cambridge compatible signalling with the East Coast Main Line and I feel increasingly Cambridge could be treated as a series of stations just off the East Coast Main Line and we might see some services develop, that seem strange to today’s travellers.

A simple example could be a Regional Metro running between Peterborough and Stevenage.

  • It would call at March, Ely, Waterbeach, Cambridge North, Cambridge, Cambridge South, Royston and Hitchin.
  • It would run at a frequency upwards of two tph.
  • It could even connect to Lincoln.

Other North-South services through Cambridge like Thameslink and Norwich and Stansted would combine to give perhaps six tph through the three main Cambridge stations.

The C3R Project will open up lots of possibilities.

 

 

 

 

 

June 3, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Hope For Wisbech Line Revival

The title of this post, is the same as that of an article in the April 2021 Edition of Modern Railways.

This is the introductory paragraph.

A partnership with Network Rail will speed up plans to re-introduce passenger services to Wisbech, according to James Palmer, Mayor of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough.

These are my thoughts.

Current Plan And Status

The current plan is as follows.

  • The Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority has been developing plans on its own.
  • It will now work with Network Rail.
  • The initial service will be between March and Wisbech.
  • Hopefully, a viable plan will emerge.

A direct Wisbech and Cambridge service is an objective, once capacity has been improved at Ely.

Long Term Objectives

These longer term objectives are indicated in the article.

  • A direct Wisbech and Cambridge service.
  • A two trains per hour (tph) service between Wisbech and Cambridge.

These objectives will probably need capacity to be improved at Ely.

I used to play real tennis with one of Cambridge’s foremost thinkers about the long-term future of the city and the surrounding area.

He believed that Peterborough would increasing become a satellite city to Cambridge to provide housing and manufacturing capacity.

Based on my discussions with him, I believe that there should be at least two tph connecting Cambridge South, Cambridge, Cambridge North, Ely, March and Peterborough stations.

Services Through March Station

These services go through March station.

  • Greater Anglia – 1 train per two hours (tp2h) – Ipswich and Peterborough
  • CrossCountry – 1 tph – Cambridge and Birmingham New Street
  • East Midlands Railway – 1 tph – Norwich and Liverpool Lime Street.

Note.

  1. All trains stop at Ely.
  2. The Greater Anglia service also stops at Manea and Whittlesea.
  3. Greater Anglia promised to increase the frequency of the Ipswich and Peterborough service to hourly, in the new franchise agreement.
  4. The East Midlands Railway service does not stop at March.

In addition there are often around a succession of freight trains going to and from Whitemoor Yard and the Port of Felixstowe.

Even without major improvements at Ely, I suspect, that there could be three or even gour tph between Ely and Peterborough that stop at March, with Manea and Whittlesea served by at least one tph.

This frequency would do the following..

Improve services between Cambridge and Peterborough, if you were prepared to change at Ely, as there could be up to four tph between Ely and the three Cambridge stations.

Make it possible for a simple shuttle train to run between March and Wisbech and have good connections with services at March to both Peterborough and Cambridge.

Track Layout At March

This Google Map shows the track layout at March.

Note.

  1. March station is in the South-East corner of the map.
  2. Ely is to the East.
  3. Peterborough is to the West.
  4. Whitemoor marshalling Yard is to North.

This second Google Map shows the Northern part of the map to a larger scale.

Note.

Whitemoor yard is to the North of the map.

There is a single track railway running North East  from Whitemoor junction  South of Whitemoor yard to the North East corner of the map. This is the disused Bramley Line between March and Wisbech, which will be reopened.

Between March And Wisbech

I have flown my virtual helicopter along the remains of the track between Whitemoor junction and Wisbech.

This Google Map shows a typical section of the line, just to the North of March.

Note.

Whitemoor Yard is to the West side of the map.

The Bramley Line shows as a green scar running diagonally across the map to the North-East cornet.

The blue dot marks a bus stop on the B1101.

The next three images were taken from Google Streetview.

This one shows the Bramley Line crossing the B1101.

In this one, the Bramley Line is crossing Long Drove.

And here it’s crossing Redmoor Lane.

I wouldn’t have thought, that turning the Bramley Line into a railway that would be safe for one of Greater Anglia’s three-car Class 755 trains would be a challenging project.

Approaching Wisbech

This Google Map shows how the railway approaches Wisbech.

Note.

At the Northern end of the map, there are the square white roofs of the Purina dog food factory, which appears to have been built on the site of the former Wisbech East station.

At the Southern end of the map, the railway crosses the A47.

This Google Map on a larger scale shows the Purina factory.

I don’t think it will be very easy to site a station in this area, without a great deal of friendly co-operation of Nestle, who own Purina.

This Google Map on a larger scale shows where the Bramley Line crosses the A47.

This image looking to the North from the A47, was taken from Google Streetview.

It definitely says that the Railway woz here!

This Google Map shows the A47 and what lies to the South of the road.

Note.

  1. The two-way A47 road across the map.
  2. The development to the South of the A47.
  3. The green scar of the former railway to the West of the development.

Looking at the route of the former railway and the A47, I must come to the conclusion that using the former route to access Wisbech would be extremely difficult and would require an expensive crossing of the A47.

A New Station At Wisbech

I think there are two solutions to providing a station for Wisbech; a Park-and-Ride station, where the former railay crossed the A 47 or find another site.

As a bridge over the A47 would be expensive, I would feel that the Park-and-Ride station could be the best option.

It could have a single platform like Felixstowe, which is shown in this image.

The train is one of Greater Anglia’s new Class 755 trains which would probably be used for services to Wisbech.

  • Adequate car parking could be provided at the station.
  • Secure bicycle parking would be provided.
  • There could be an electric shuttle bus to the town centre and the the North Cambridgeshire Hospital.

The only simple alternative, would be if it were possible to dig or bore a short single-track tunnel under the A47, so that the station could be put on the town side of the A47, where a lot of the land seems to be used for parking cars that are ready for the scrapyard.

Digging it should be possible given some of the traditionally dug tunnels, that have recently been built in the UK.

Would The Bramley Line Be Single Or Double Track?

The Felixstowe Branch Line is about the same length as the Bramley Line and is effectively a single-track line with a long passing loop to support a one tph passenger service.

So to support the desired two tph between March and Wisbech, I suspect that a mainly single-track route with a passing place in the middle will be needed.

Would There Be Any Intermediate Stations?

There used to be a station at Coldham, which is about halfway. Te Wikipedia entry for the station says this.

A plan by the Bramley Line to restore the line between Wisbech and March may see trains return to Coldham in some form.

This Google Map shows the village.

Note.

The road going to the West is called Station Road.

The green scar of the former railway can be seen passing North-South to the West of the houses.

This view from Google Streetview shows the former railway looking North from Station Road.

Could a double-track section be squeezed in here?

The Wikipedia entry for the Bramley Line shows two other stations, that were planned for a proposed heritage railway; March Elm Road and Waldersea.

This Google Map shows the area between March and Wisbech.

Note.

  1. March is in the South-West corner of the map.
  2. Wisbech is in the North-East corner of the map.
  3. Waldersea is indicated by the red arrow.
  4. Coldham is South of the red arrow.

Although March Elm Road and Waldersea might be ideal for a heritage railway, I suspect that the old British Rail layout of just a station, where trains can pass at Coldham would be the best layout.

What Trains Would Be Used?

I have assumed that Greater Anglia will use their three-car Class 755 trains.

  • They are new comfortable trains.
  • They are designed to carry bicycles.
  • When the route is extended to Cambridge, they would be able to use the electrification South of Ely.

I also feel that Greater Anglia planned their fleet size to include enough trains for a Wisbech service.

Could Battery Electric Trains Be Used?

The Class 755 trains are designed as modular bi-mode trains with a PowerPack in the middle, which contains diesel engines.

Stadler are building Class 756  tri-mode versions of these trains for Transport for Wales, which will have batteries and two diesel engines in the PowerPack.

In Thoughts On The Actual Battery Size In Class 756 Trains And Class 398 Tram-Trains, I stated that a three-car Class 756 train would have a 480 kWh battery capacity and the four-car would have 600 kWh. These figures came from a Freedom of Information Request. Not by me, I should add!

Batteries of these sizes would I feel give the Class 755 trains a range of up to fifty miles.

The various distances in the area are.

  • March and Ely – 15 miles
  • March and Peterborough – 15 miles
  • March and Wisbech – 12 miles

I think that Stadler’s and Network Rail’s engineers can come up with a very affordable plan, that will enable tri-mode Class 755 trains to run the following routes.

  • Cambridge and Wisbech and return.
  • Ely and Peterborough

As part of the works to improve capacity at Ely, I suspect there will be some renewal and extension of the electrification in the complicated junction.

So would the electrification be extended a few miles towards March, to remove any need for charging at Wisbech station?

What would certainly ensure battery-electric services to Wisbech would be the electrification of Ely and Peterborough via March.

I feel this is an important electrification infill, that should be done sooner rather than later.

  • It would be needed if it were decided, that all freight trains to and from Felixstowe were to be electric-hauled.
  • It would enable direct electric passenger services between Cambridge and the North.
  • It would help enable battery-electric operation between Peterborough and Norwich.
  • It would allow trains from the North to use Liverpool Street as an alternative terminal during engineering works or other blockades.

It might even make it easier to widen or replace the Digswell Viaduct, as it would offer a fully-electrified diversion route via Cambridge, during the inevitable long closure of the route.

Improvements At March Station

March station will need to be improved, if it is going to be used as an interchange station.

It will probably need a bay platform to turn the Wisbech trains.

I also think that step-free access will be needed for passengers, who need to cross the tracks and can’t manage the stairs.

Conclusion

I very much feel that the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority and Network Rail can create a very useful branch line to Wisbech.

There is not much infrastructure to be built and upgraded.

  • A new station will be built at Wisbech, which I feel is likely to be a Park-and-Ride on the A47.
  • A bay platform will probably need to be reopened at March station.
  • March station will need to be step-free.
  • There may be a station and a passing loop at Coldham.
  • Track and signalling will need to be replaced.

But the big project needed is the remodelling at Ely, which will have to be done to increase capacity, through the bottleneck.

Greater Anglia’s Class 755 trains would appear to be ideal for the branch and could operate on battery power.

 

 

 

 

April 11, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , | 9 Comments

Beeching Reversal – Reopening Sawston Station

This is one of the Round 3 bids of Beeching Reversal projects that the Government and Network Rail are proposing to reverse some of the Beeching cuts.

Sawston is a village in South Cambridgeshire, which is shown in this Google Map.

Note.

The West Anglia Main Line and the A1301 road both run North-South to the West of the village.

The railway calls at Whittlesford Parkway station at the bottom of the map.

The A505, which is a main route between West Suffolk and the M11 and the A1 (M) runs across the bottom of the map.

The new Sawston station is proposed to be in Mill Lane close to the old Spicers factory.

This second Google Map shows the area of the proposed station.

Note.

  1. There would appear to be space for a station.
  2. The site is not far from the Western edge of the village.
  3. There is already a comprehensive road junction, that would serve the station.

This third Google Map shows the area of the Whittlesford Parkway station.

Note.

  1. The station running North-South towards the West of the map.
  2. The large car-park to the East of the station.
  3. The smaller car-park to the West of the station.
  4. The station has a Holiday Inn hotel.

I have used the station hundreds of times and I believe that it could be made into a first class transport hub for commuters and visitors to Cambridge.

  • It has good road connections to North Hertfordshire, West Suffolk and North West Essex.
  • It has large amounts of car parking, that ten years ago was rarely full.
  • A step-free footbridge with lifts, needs to be added.
  •  There needs to be better bus connections to local villages.
  • There needs to be a bus connection to the Imperial War Museum Duxford.

I don’t believe massive amounts of money would be needed to realise the full potential of this station.

Services through Whittlesford Station And The Proposed Site Of Sawston Station

Currently, the following services run through Whittlesford station in the Off Peak.

  • Greater Anglia – 2 tph – Liverpool Street and Cambridge North
  • Greater Anglia – 1 tph – Stansted Airport and Norwich
  • CrossCountry – 3 tpd – Stansted Airport and Birmingham New Street

Note.

  1. tph is an abbreviation for trains per hour.
  2. tpd is an abbreviation for trains per day
  3. All Greater Anglia services call at Whittlesford Parkway,  Cambridge and Cambridge North stations and will probably call at Cambridge South station, when it opens.
  4. The CrossCountry service only calls at Audley End station between Stansted Airport and Cambridge.

I believe that the minimum services should be as follows to provide an adequate service, after the opening of Cambridge South station.

  • 4tph – Whittlesford Parkway and Cambridge North stopping at Cambridge South and Cambridge.
  • 2 tph – Liverpool Street and Cambridge North stopping at Whittlesford Parkway, Cambridge South and Cambridge.
  • 1 tph – Stansted Airport and Norwich stopping at Whittlesford Parkway, Cambridge South, Cambridge and Cambridge North.
  • 1 tph – Stansted Airport and Birmingham New Street stopping at Whittlesford Parkway, Cambridge South, Cambridge and Cambridge North.

There could even be a Cambridgeshire Metro serving all stations between Stansted Airport and Ely.

  • All services could be run by electric or bi-mode trains.
  • Possible stops would be Elsenham, Newport, Audley End, Great Chesterford, Whittlesford Parkway, Shelford, Cambridge South, Cambridge, Cambridge North and Waterbeach.
  • As they do now some fast services would skip smaller stations.
  • More important stations like Audley End, Whittlesford Parkway, Cambridge South and Cambridge North would get a 4 tph service to Cambridge
  • Other stations would get an appropriate service.
  • I would also like to see two fast tph between Cambridge and King’s Lynn, Liverpool Street, Norwich, Peterborough and Stansted.

I think that such a timetable would be possible, if the performance of Greater Anglia’s new trains were to be used to the full.

Could An Extra Stop Be Added At The Proposed Site Sawston Station?

Each extra stop adds extra time to the timetable.

Consider.

  • The faster Liverpool Street and Whittlesford Parkway takes sixty minutes with six stops.
  • The slower Liverpool Street and Whittlesford Parkway takes seventy-four minutes with twelve stops.
  • Greater Anglia’s trains through Whittlesford Parkway and the proposed Sawston station will probably be 100 mph Class 720 trains.

I think it would be reasonable to assume that every extra stop would add 120-150 seconds to the journey time.

As Cambridge South station will be added anyway, will passengers mind up to five minutes added to the timetable?

I doubt with the faster accelerating trains, that there would be a problem about an extra stop at Sawston, but the lengthening of journey times between Cambridge and London may be a problem.

A Possible Alternative Solution

Could there be a possible alternative solution based on improving facilities and services at Whittlesford Parkway station?

  • The service at Whittlesford Parkway station would be increased to 4 tph to Cambridge North, with stops at Shelford, Cambridge South and Cambridge.
  • The service at Whittlesford Parkway station would be increased to 2 tph to Stansted Airport, with stops at Audley End.
  • A step-free bridge with lifts must be installed.
  • An improved bus-service between Sawston and Whittlesford Parkway is needed.
  • An improved bus-service between the Imperial War Museum Duxford and Whittlesford Parkway is needed.
  • Both bus services could be back-to-back and probably should be run every fifteen minutes.
  • As it serves a museum, why not run some heritage buses in the Summer?
  • There should be good cycling provision between Whittlesford Parkway station and Sawston and other surrounding villages.

I very much feel, that improving Whittlesford Parkway station, may be a better value solution, than building a new station at Sawston!

Conclusion

Building a new station at Sawston may not be the best way to improve public transport in the area.

 

March 22, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ipswich And Peterborough In A Battery Train

Greater Anglia have a fleet of bi-mode electro-diesel Class 755 trains, that could be converted into tri-mode electro-diesel-battery trains. I reported on this in Battery Power Lined Up For ‘755s’.

If when fitted with batteries these trains had a range of say 55-65 miles on battery power, these Greater Anglia routes could be handled using battery and electric power.

  • Ipswich and Cambridge
  • Ipswich and Felixstowe
  • Ipswich and Lowestoft
  • London and Lowestoft
  • Marks Tey and Sudbury
  • Norwich and Cambridge
  • Norwich and Great Yarmouth
  • Norwich and Lowestoft
  • Norwich and Sheringham

Note.

  1. Marks Tey and Sudbury is planned to be extended to Colchester Town. Is this to allow a Class 755 train with a battery capability to charge the batteries on the Great Eastern Main Line? No charging facilities would then be needed on the branch.
  2. I have left out the current Ipswich and Peterborough service.
  3. There is speculation that Greater Anglia want to run a Cambridge and Wisbech service via Ely and March.

It is also reported that some or all Peterborough and Ipswich services will continue to Colchester.

  • There is a convenient bay platform at Colchester to reverse the trains.
  • A Colchester and Peterborough service, would give travellers in North Essex easier access to LNER services at Peterborough.
  • Frequencies from Colchester and Ipswich across Suffolk would be improved.

If the trains were to run on battery power between Stowmarket and Ely, the batteries could be charged between Colchester and Stowmarket. Note that Stowmarket and Ely is about forty miles, which should be within battery range.

Ely and Peterborough is thirty miles, which again is within battery range. So would the train top up the batteries at Ely in perhaps a five minute stop?

Extra Electrification At Ely

There could be three battery-electric services needing to charge batteries as they pass through Ely.

  • Colchester/Ipswich and Peterborough
  • Norwich and Stansted Airport
  • Cambridge and Wisbech

So would it be sensible to extend the electrification for a few miles towards Peterborough and Norwich to give the battery a quick top-up? It should be noted that the notorious Ely Junction is to be remodelled.

 

April 1, 2020 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lorry Bashes Into The Notorious Ely Railway Bridge – Again

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the Ely Standard.

This picture was clipped from the article.

To describe the driver as an idiot, is an insult to all those with a low IQ.

The driver should be banned for a very long time and only allowed to drive again, after he has leaned to read.

To further illustrate his stupidity, I took these pictures at Ely last month, before they re-opened the bridge.

This must be one of the worst cases of stupid driving, I’ve ever seen.

March 5, 2019 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | 1 Comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Benefits Would There Be From Electrifying Peterborough To Ely?

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

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

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

Direct Electric Trains Between Peterborough And Cambridge

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

Peterborough has the space that Cambridge lacks.

But the transport links between the two cities are abysmal.

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

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

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

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

An Electric Diversion Route For The East Coast Main Line

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

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

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

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

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

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

Extending Greater Anglia’s Network

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

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

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

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

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

The new Werrington Grade Separation will make a difference.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The new trains would certainly offer what passengers want.

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

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

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

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

Adding these up you get.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Electro-Diesel and Battery-Electric Freight Locomotives

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Fens are flat.

There is no history of mining.

The track is fairly straight and simple.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With

 

 

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