The Anonymous Widower

£100m Station Revamp Could Double Local Train Services

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the Northern Echo.

This is the opening paragraph.

Officials behind plans for a £100m-plus transformation of Darlington’s Bank Top Station have confirmed it will remain the only one on the East Coast Mainline without a platform specifically for the London to Scotland service.

Darlington station has made various appearances in my life, all of which have been pleasurable ones.

I went several times to ICI’s Wilton site on Teesside in the 1970s, when the route to London was worked by the iconic Class 55 locomotives or Deltics.

I wrote about one memorable trip home from Darlington in The Thunder of Three-Thousand Three-Hundred Horses.

Over the years, I also seem to have had several clients for my computing skills in the area, including the use of my data analysis software; Daisy at Cummins Engines in the town.

And lately, it’s been for football at Middlesbrough to see Ipswich play, where I’ve changed trains. Sometimes, Town even won.

The improvements planned for the station are two-fold.

Improvement Of Local Services

This paragraph from Wikipedia, sums up the local train services on the Tees Valley Line between Saltburn and Bishop Auckland via Darlington, Middlesbrough and Redcar.

Northern run their Tees Valley line trains twice hourly to Middlesbrough, Redcar and Saltburn (hourly on Sundays), whilst the Bishop Auckland branch has a service every hour (including Sundays). The company also operates two Sundays-only direct trains to/from Stockton and Hartlepool.

If ever a route needed improvement it is this one.

This paragraph from the Northern Echo article, outlines the plans for Darlington station.

The meeting was also told the overhaul, which will see new platforms, a new station building, parking and an interchange for passengers, alongside other improvements, would also double capacity on Tees Valley and Bishop Auckland lines, meaning four trains an hour on the former and two trains an hour on the latter.

I also believe that the route is a shoe-in for zero-carbon services; hydrogen or battery electric.

Hydrogen Trains On Teesside

In Fuelling The Change On Teesside Rails, I discuss using hydrogen powered trains for the lines in the area and they could certainly provide services on more than just the Tees Valley Line.

The hydrogen powered trains would probably be this Alstom Breeze.

They would appear to be in pole position to change the image of Teesside’s trains.

Battery Electric Trains On Teesside

But I suspect. that an Anglo-Japanese partnership, based in the North-East could have other ideas.

  • Hitachi have a train factory at Newton Aycliffe on the Tees Valley Line.
  • Hyperdrive Innovation design and produce battery packs for transport and mobile applications in Sunderland.

The two companies have launched the Regional Battery Train, which is described in this Hitachi infographic.

Note than 90 kilometres is 56 miles, so the train has a very useful range.

Hitachi have talked about fitting batteries to their express trains to serve places like Middlesbrough, Redcar and Sunderland with zero-carbon electric services.

But their technology can also be fitted to their Class 385 trains and I’m sure that Scotland will order some battery-equipped Class 385 trains to expand their vigorous electric train network.

Both Scotland and Teesside will need to charge their battery trains.

Example distances on Teesside include.

  • Darlington and Saltburn – 28 miles
  • Darlington and Whitby – 47 miles
  • Darlington and Bishop Auckland – 12 miles

The last route would be possible on a full battery, but the first two would need a quick battery top-up before return.

So there will need to be strategically-placed battery chargers around the North-East of England. These could include.

  • Hexham
  • Nunthorpe
  • Redcar or Saltburn – This would also be used by TransPennine Express’s Class 802 trains, if they were to be fitted with batteries.
  • Whitby

If Grand Central did the right thing and ran battery electric between London and Sunderland, there would probably be a need for a battery charger at Sunderland.

It appears that Adrian Shooter of Vivarail has just announced a One-Size-Fits-All Fast Charge system, that has been given interim approval by Network Rail.

I discuss this charger in Vivarail’s Plans For Zero-Emission Trains, which is based on a video on the Modern Railways web site.

There is more about Vivarail’s plans in the November 2020 Print Edition of the magazine, where this is said on page 69.

‘Network Rail has granted interim approval for the fast charge system and wants it to be the UK’s standard battery charging system’ says Mr. Shooter. ‘We believe it could have worldwide implications.’

I believe that Hitachi and Hyperdrive Innovation, with a little bit of help from friends in Seaham, can build a battery-electric train network in the North-East.

The Choice Between Hydrogen And Battery Electric

Consider.

  • The hydrogen trains would need a refuelling system.
  • The battery electric trains would need a charging structure, which could also be used by other battery electric services to and from the North-East.
  • No new electrification or other infrastructure would be needed.
  • If a depot is needed for the battery electric trains, they could probably use the site at Lackenby, that has been identified as a base for the hydrogen trains.

Which train would I choose?

I think the decision will come down to politics, money and to a certain extent design, capacity and fuel.

  • The Japanese have just signed a post-Brexit trade deal and France or rather the EU hasn’t.
  • The best leasing deal might count for a lot.
  • Vivarail have stated that batteries for a battery electric train, could be leased on a per mile basis.
  • The Hitachi train will be a new one and the Alstom train will be a conversion of a thirty year old British Rail train.
  • The Hitachi train may well have a higher passenger capacity, as there is no need for the large hydrogen tank.
  • Some people will worry about sharing the train with a large hydrogen tank.
  • The green credentials of both trains is not a deal-breaker, but will provoke discussion.

I feel that as this is a passenger train, that I’m leaning towards a battery electric train built on the route.

An Avoiding Line Through Darlington

The Northern Echo also says this about track changes at the station.

A meeting of Darlington Borough Council’s communities and local services scrutiny committee was told a bus lane-style route off the mainline at the station would enable operators to run more high-speed services.

Councillors heard that the proposed track changes would enable very fast approaches to Darlington and allow other trains to pass as East Coast Mainline passengers boarded.

Some councillors seem to be unhappy about some trains passing through the station without stopping.

Are their fears justified?

This Google Map shows Darlington station.

Note.

  1. The station has two long platforms and two South-facing bay platforms.
  2. There is plenty of space.
  3. There already appear to be a pair of electrified avoiding lines on the Eastern side of the station.

Wikipedia also says this about how Darlington station will be changed by High Speed Two.

The new high speed rail project in the UK, High Speed 2, is planned to run through Darlington once Phase 2b is complete and will run on the existing East Coast Main Line from York and Newcastle. Darlington Station will have two new platforms built for the HS2 trains on the Main Line, as the station is built just off the ECML to allow for freight services to pass through.

This would appear to suggest that the two current avoiding lines will be turned into high speed platforms.

Current High Speed Services At Darlington

The current high speed services at Darlington are as follows.

  • LNER – two trains per hour (tph) – London Kings Cross and Edinburgh
  • Cross Country – one tph – Plymouth and Edinburgh or Glasgow
  • Cross Country – one tph – Southampton and Newcastle
  • TransPennine Express – one tph – Liverpool and Edinburgh
  • TransPennine Express – one tph – Manchester Airport and Newcastle

Northbound, this gives eight tph to Newcastle and four tph to Edinburgh

East Coast Trains

East Coast Trains‘s services are not planned to stop at Darlington.

High Speed Two Trains

Darlington is planned to be served by these High Speed Two trains.

  • 1 tph – Birmingham Curzon Street and Newcastle via East Midlands Hub, York and Durham
  • 1 tph – London Euston and Newcastle via Old Oak Common and York.

Both will be 200 metre High Speed Two Classic-Compatible trains

Northbound, this gives ten tph to Newcastle and four tph to Edinburgh.

As the Eastern Leg of High Speed Two has some spare capacity, I suspect there could be other services through Darlington.

Improvements To The East Coast Main Line

If you look at the East Coast Main Line between Doncaster and Newcastle, the route is a mixture of two and four-track railway.

  • Between Doncaster and York, there are two tracks
  • Between York and Northallerton, there are four tracks
  • Between Northallerton and Darlington, there are two tracks
  • North of Darlington, the route is mainly two tracks.

I have flown my virtual helicopter along much of the route and I can say this about it.

  • Much of the route is through agricultural land, and where absolutely necessary extra tracks could possibly be added.
  • The track is more-or-less straight for large sections of the route.
  • Routes through some towns and cities, are tightly hemmed in by houses.

I also believe that the following developments will happen to the whole of the East Coast Main Line before High Speed Two opens.

  • Full ERTMS in-cab digital signalling will be used on all trains on the route.
  • The trains will be driven automatically, with the driver watching everything. Just like a pilot in an airliner!
  • All the Hitachi Class 80x trains used by operators on the route, will be able to operate at up to 140 mph, once this signalling and some other improvements have been completed.
  • All level crossings will have been removed.
  • High Speed Two is being built using slab track, as I stated in HS2 Slab Track Contract Awarded. I suspect some sections of the East Coast Main Line, that are used by High Speed Two services, will be upgraded with slab track to increase performance and reduce lifetime costs.

Much of the East Coast Main Line could become a 140 mph high speed line.

This will mean that all high speed trains will approach Darlington and most other stations on the route, at 140 mph.

Trains will take around a minute to decelerate from or accelerate to 140 mph and if the station stop took a minute, the trains will be up to speed again in just three minutes. In this time, the train would have travelled two-and-a-half miles.

Conclusion

I think that this will happen.

  • The Tees Valley Line trains will be greatly improved by this project.
  • There will be two high speed platforms to the East of the current station, where most if not all of the High Speed Two, LNER and other fast services will stop.
  • There could be up to 15 tph on the high speed lines.

With full step-free access between the high speed and the local platforms in the current station, this will be a great improvement.

October 25, 2020 Posted by | Computing, Hydrogen, Sport, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

!40 mph Electric Trains At Kings Cross Station

This picture shows LNER’s old and new 140 mph electric trains at Kings Cross station.

On the left is a nine-car Class 801 train.

  • Introduced into service in 2019
  • 234 metres long
  • Capacity – 510 Standard and 101 First
  • One diesel engine for emergency power.

On the right is an InterCity 225.

Both trains are designed for 140 mph and will be able to attain this speed, when in-cab digital signalling is available.

It looks like LNER will have the following full-size electric fleet.

  • Thirty Class 801 trains
  • Seven InterCity 225 trains and spare coaches, driving van trailers and locomotives.

Both trains will be able to work any route with full electrification.

Changes In The Future To LNER Services

I predict that the following will happen.

140 mph Running Between Woolmer Green And Doncaster

This will happen and the following trains will take advantage.

The odd ones out will be Grand Central’s Class 180 trains, which are diesel and only capable of 125 mph.

How long will the other train operating companies accept slow trains on the 140 mph railway?

Digital In-Cab Signalling And 140 mph Running Will Speed Up Services

In Thoughts On Digital Signalling On The East Coast Main Line, I said that following train times would be possible., in addition to a London Kings Cross and Leeds time of two hours.

  • London Kings Cross and Bradford Forster Square – two hours and thirty minutes
  • London Kings Cross and Harrogate – two hours and thirty minutes
  • London Kings Cross and Huddersfield – two hours and twenty minutes
  • London Kings Cross and Hull – two hours and thirty minutes
  • London Kings Cross and Middlesbrough – two hours and thirty minutes
  • London Kings Cross and Scarborough – two hours and thirty minutes
  • London Kings Cross and Skipton – two hours and thirty minutes
  • London Kings Cross and York – two hours

Note.

  1. All timings would be possible with Hitachi Class 80x trains.
  2. Timings on Fully-electrified routes would be possible with InterCity 225 trains.

It appears that Grand Central will be stuck in the slow lane.

Grand Central Will Acquire Hitachi Trains Or Give Up

Grand Central‘s destinations of Bradford Interchange and Sunderland can’t be reached by all-electric trains, so will either have to follow Hull Trains and purchase Hitachi bi-mode trains or give up their routes.

The Diesel Engines In The Class 801 Trains Will Be Replaced By Batteries

East Coast Trains’ Class 803 trains have a slightly different powertrain to LNER’s Class 801 trains, which is explained like this in Wikipedia.

Unlike the Class 801, another non-bi-mode AT300 variant which despite being designed only for electrified routes carries a diesel engine per unit for emergency use, the new units will not be fitted with any, and so would not be able to propel themselves in the event of a power failure. They will however be fitted with batteries to enable the train’s on-board services to be maintained, in case the primary electrical supplies would face a failure.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar battery system fitted to the Class 801 trains.

The Diesel Engines In Hull Trains Class 802 Trains Will Be Replaced By Batteries

In Hull Issues New Plea For Electrification, I showed how Hitachi’s Class 802 trains with batteries instead of diesel engines could work long-distance services to and from Hull.

This will happen, as electric trains to London, would be a dream for a marketing man or woman.

Will The InterCity 225 Trains Lose Some First Class Seats?

This may happen, so that the seating layout in both trains is almost identical.

I’m certain, that it could be arranged, that seat numbers in both trains could have a similar position.

This would mean that if an InterCity 225 train replaced a Class 801 train, there wouldn’t need to be a seat reallocation.

Could InterCity 225 Trains Be Fitted With Emergency Batteries?

If LNER thought they were needed, I’m sure that this would be possible and Hyperdrive Innovation would oblige!

Conclusion

British Rail last hurrah, is giving Hitachi’s latest trains, a run for their money!

 

September 17, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Thoughts On Digital Signalling On The East Coast Main Line

I came up to Doncaster yesterday on a new Hull Trains Class 802 train.

According t9o my pocket dynamometer car, the train seemed to be at or nearly at 125 mph, most of the time I looked from possibly around Stevenage to just South of Doncaster.

I came back today on an LNER Class 801 train and the train’s performance seemed very similar.

I also noted the following.

  • The two stops at Newark and Peterborough, took seven and nine minutes respectively from the start of slowing for the station until back up to speed.
  • Between Peterborough and Stevenage the train kept below a maximum of 110 mph.
  • The train went through the two tunnels before Welwyn North station and the station itself at 75 mph.
  • I timed the train at 100 mph over the Digswell Viaduct, when it reached the South side after accelerating on the viaduct.
  • 90 mph was maintained between Potters Bar and New Southgate stations.
  • Speed gradually reduced from New Southgate into Kings Cross.

Note.

  1. 125 mph is the maximum allowable speed of the train.
  2. The 110 mph running was probably to be compatible with the Class 387 trains.
  3. I will do the trip again and get some accurate figures.

It appears to me, that the driver was obeying a simple but fast plan.

The Wikipedia entry for the East Coast Main Line, says this about the opiating speed of the line, with the new trains.

Increasing maximum speeds on the fast lines between Woolmer Green and Dalton-on-Tees up to 140 mph (225 km/h) in conjunction with the introduction of the Intercity Express Programme, level crossing closures, ETRMS fitments, OLE rewiring and the OLE PSU – est. to cost £1.3 billion (2014). This project is referred to as “L2E4” or London to Edinburgh (in) 4 Hours. L2E4 examined the operation of the IEP at 140 mph on the ECML and the sections of track which can be upgraded to permit this, together with the engineering and operational costs

It also says this about the implementation of digital signalling.

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

The signalling could probably work in one of two ways.

  • The signalling tells the driver the required speed and he drives the train accordingly.
  • The signalling drives the train and the driver monitors what is happening.

Both methods are used in the UK.

A Possible London Kings Cross and Leeds Service

The combined affect of both track and signalling improvements is illustrated by this simple calculation.

  • As Dalton-on-Tees is North of Doncaster, the route between Woolmer Green and Doncaster should be possible to be run at 140 mph
  • Woolmer Green and Doncaster stations are 132.1 miles apart.
  • Non-stop York and London Kings Cross trains are currently timed at 70 minutes between Doncaster and Woolmer Green stations.
  • This is an average speed of 113.2 mph.

If 140 mph could be maintained between Doncaster and Woolmer Green, the section of the journey would take 56.6 minutes, which is a saving of 13.4 minutes.

Consider.

  • The fastest current trains between London Kings Cross and Leeds take between two hours and twelve minutes and two hours and fifteen minutes.
  • I suspect that the extra tracks into Kings Cross, that are currently being built will save a few minutes.
  • There must be some savings to be made between Doncaster and Leeds
  • There must be some savings to be made between London Kings Cross and Woolmer Green.
  • There could be a rearrangement of stops.

I think it is highly likely that there be at least one train per hour (tph) between London Kings Cross and Leeds, that does the trip in two hours.

  • There is no reason why all London Kings Cross and Leeds trains could take two hours.
  • High Speed Two is predicting one hour and twenty-one minutes for their future service, which is a saving of 38 minutes.
  • London and Leeds in two hours will attract passengers.

There will be serious competition between London and Leeds.

Other Timing Improvements

I also think these times would be possible

  • London Kings Cross and Bradford Forster Square – two hours and thirty minutes
  • London Kings Cross and Harrogate – two hours and thirty minutes
  • London Kings Cross and Huddersfield – two hours and twenty minutes
  • London Kings Cross and Hull – two hours and thirty minutes
  • London Kings Cross and Middlesbrough – two hours and thirty minutes
  • London Kings Cross and Scarborough – two hours and thirty minutes
  • London Kings Cross and Skipton – two hours and thirty minutes
  • London Kings Cross and York – two hours

I would be fairly certain that London Kings Cross and Huddersfield could be slowed by ten minutes, which would give the London Kings Cross and Yorkshire a certain symmetry.

  • London Kings Cross and Leeds and York would take two hours.
  • London Kings Cross and all the others would take two hours and thirty minutes.

It would probably make arrangement of a fast timetable easier.

 

 

September 15, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

New MerseyRail ‘Connected’ Trains

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

It is an article that should be read, by anybody with an interest in either Merseyrail’s trains or modern urban rail networks in general. As Stadler, will be providing a fleet of trains for the Tyne and Wear Metro, I suspect a lot of the points made in the article can be expected to have parallels on that network as well.

What About The Signalling?

The article talks about the management of the signalling, but it says little about signalling in the future, although it does say that Merseyrail will be covered by a very high capacity digital network.

London’s Digital Signalling Revolution

In London, there are four tunnelled routes, that in a few years time will be running under full digital signalling.

  • Crossrail
  • East London Line
  • Northern and City Line
  • Thameslink

Note.

  1. Thameslink is already running upwards of twenty trains per hour (tph) using digital ERTMS signalling.
  2. Crossrail will be running 24 tph using digital ERTMS signalling.
  3. The East London Line currently handles 16 tph and will soon be handling 20 tph.
  4. The Northern and City Line will be going to digital ERTMS signalling, when it is applied to the Southern end of the East Coast Main Line.
  5. , In addition to the Circle, District, Jubilee, Metropolitan, Northern and Victoria Lines of the London Underground have digital signalling.
  6. Dear old Vicky is actually running 36 tph between two-platform stations at Brixton and Walthamstow Central.
  7. I wouldn’t bet against Vicky running the magic 40 tph, to become the most frequency line in the world.

All of these London systems, have one great advantage. In the tunnelled sections of the routes, there is generally only one class of fully digitally-equipped train, which must make system design and implementation easier.

Liverpool’s Digital Signalling Revolution

Consider.

  • As the article says, Merseyrail now has a world-class high-capacity digital network, that is accessible by all of its trains.
  • It has ordered 52 new Class 777 trains and has options for another sixty.
  • There are proposals to extend the Merseyrail network to Manchester, Preston, Skelmersdale, Warrington, Wigan and Wrexham.
  • The Northern Line runs at a frequency of 12 tph.
  • The Wirral Line runs at a frequency of 14 tph.
  • The loop Line has recently been relaid, so is probably high-quality track.

Compared to London’s tunnelled routes, the Northern and Wirral Lines are not handling a large number of trains.

But Liverpool now has a digital network to support the signalling and trains that could be upgraded to use it are arriving.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the maximum train frequency on Merseyrail is at least twenty tph or one train every three minutes.

What Would Twenty tph Do For The Wirral Line?

Currently, the following destinations are served by the Wirral Line and the services use the Loop under Liverpool City Centre.

Note.

  1. The current frequency around the Loop is 14 tph.
  2. Merseyrail is proposing to extend the Ellesmere Port service to Helsby, using battery-equipped Class 777 trains
  3. There is also an hourly service from Bidston to Wrexham Central in the Borderlands Line.
  4. I can see no technical reason why, the Bidston and Wrexham service could not be run using battery-equipped Class 777 trains and terminating in the Loop.

Surely, the ultimate twenty tph service on the Wirral Line would be as follows.

  • Chester – Four tph
  • Helsby via Ellesmere Port – Four tph
  • New Brighton – Four tph
  • West Kirby – Four tph
  • Wrexham Central – Four tph

All twenty tph would terminate in the Loop under Liverpool City Centre.

What Would Twenty tph Do For The Northern Line?

Currently, the following Northern destinations are served by the Northern Line.

And these Southern destinations are served.

Note.

  1. The current frequency, through the central section is 12 tph.
  2. There is a proposal, that I wrote about in Liverpool’s Forgotten Tunnel for the trains terminating at Liverpool Central station to use the Wapping Tunnel to connect to the City Line.
  3. There is a proposal to extend the Ormskirk service to Preston, using battery-equipped Class 777 trains.
  4. There is a proposal to extend the Kirkby service to Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale, using battery-equipped Class 777 trains.
  5. There must also be a possibility of a service that extends the Kirkby service to Wigan Wallgate, using battery-equipped Class 777 trains.

The service des appear to be biased towards the Northern end, with more possibilities there for extra trains than in the South.

This is why the plan to expand to the East through the Wapping Tunnel has evolved, as it gives the following possible destinations.

  • Manchester Oxford Road
  • Warrington Bank Quay
  • Warrington Central
  • Wigan North Western

Note.

  1. All destinations are currently served from Liverpool Lime Street by Northern.
  2. There must also be the possibility of a direct service to Liverpool Airport.
  3. There must also be the possibility of a service on the Canada Dock Branch to Bootle.

I can envisage between 12 and 16 tph through the Wapping Tunnel, which with the four tph to Hunts Cross could mean 16 to 20 tph on the Northern Line.

Conclusion

It would appear that a very frequent system can be developed on Merseyside, if frequencies common in London can be achieved.

 

August 23, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Visit To Stevenage Station’s New Fifth Platform

These pictures show the new fifth platform at Stevenage station.

These are a few thoughts.

The New Spacious Platform

As the pictures show, the platform is spacious with plenty of shelter, which probably indicates that it has been designed to handle more than the current two trains per hour (tph).

Why Is Train-and-Platform Not Step-Free?

Look at this picture.

Surely, with a new platform and trains specifically-designed for the route, passengers in wheelchairs, pushing buggies or trailing heavy cases should be able to just stroll in?

If as is likely this route goes to Transport for London because of their policy of allowing those needing assistance to just turn up, this could become a problem in the future. Especially, if a more intensive service was run on this route between Moorgate and Stevenage, where turnround times have been reduced!

Track Layout

It looks like the new Platform 5 at Stevenage station is directly connected to the Down Line of the Hertford Loop, so that trains from London come straight in from the Down Platform  2 at Watton-at-Stone station. My return train appeared to run the other way until crossing over to the Up Line before it arrived back at Watton-at-Stone station.

Google Maps have not been updated in the area, so I’m not sure of the full track layout.

Following freight trains through Watton-at-Stone, it would appear that they use these platforms at Stevenage station.

  • Platform 1 – Going South
  • Platform 4 – Going North

As would be expected, it looks like it is possible for a freight train to pass through Stevenage to and from the Hertford Loop, with a train in Platform 5.

How Many Trains Per Hour Can Run Between Moorgate And Stevenage?

The timetable has appeared to have been setup, so that a very relaxed two tph can run very reliably between Moorgate and Stevenage stations.

Currently, there are four tph from Moorgate on the Hertford Loop, which alternate between terminating at Hertford North station or the new platform in Stevenage station.

So, if a commuter going home to Stevenage missed his train, they’d be thirty minutes late for supper.

Perhaps not a disaster, but as I indicated in Stevenage Station’s New Fifth Platform Opened A Year Early, Stevenage has an important hospital and increasingly trains for the North are calling at the station.

I suspect, that Network Rail and Great Northern will be investigating, if the two tph to Hertford North station can be extended to Stevenage.

Certain things must be in their favour.

  • It is generally accepted, that a well-designed single platform can turn back up to four, and in some cases, six tph.
  • The new Class 717 trains have better performance than the former Class 313 trains.
  • The route is now run exclusively by the new fleet of trains.
  • There are turn-back platforms at Hertford North and Gordon Hill stations.

But the biggest factor, must be that the Hertford Loop along with the rest of the Southern part of the East Coast Main Line, is going to be equipped with ERTMS digital signalling.

I can certainly see a day in the not-to-distant future, when at certain times in the day four tph run between Moorgate and the new fifth platform at Stevenage.

Freight Trains Through The Hertford Loop

According to Real Time Trains, during yesterday about ten freight trains ran through the Hertford Loop.

In addition, there appear to be up to two-three paths in some hours, which were not used.

In the future, after ERTMS digital signalling has been added to the route and more freight services are equipped, I can see increasing numbers of freight services on the Hertford Loop.

More Passenger Services On The Hertford Loop

In the past, whilst returning from the North to London, during periods of disruption caused by track and catenary problems, engineering works or other incidents, the train has taken some unusual routes. In one instance, the InterCity 125 used the Hertford Loop.

These are timings of trains between Finsbury Park and Stevenage stations.

  • Moorgate services – 51 minutes
  • Thameslink – Cambridge and Brighton – 19 minutes
  • Great Northern – Cambridge Express – 16 minutes

To help with the bottleneck of the Digswell Viaduct, it is likely that the Cambridge Expresses will be 140 mph trains, so they can mix it with all the LNER, East Coast Trains, Hull Trains and the other high speed trains between Kings Cross and Hitchin, as I wrote in Call For ETCS On King’s Lynn Route.

Perhaps, other tricks can be employed using Stevenage station and the Hertford Loop Line.

  • Could some services go non-stop on the Hertford Loop Line instead of over Digswell?
  • Could some services split and join in the long platforms at Stevenage?
  • Could some services from the North turnback at Stevenage?

I obviously don’t know all the technicalities, but it does seem that the recent works at Stevenage and the upcoming ERTMS signalling may open up possibilities.

Conclusion

This looks to be a major improvement at Stevenage!

Except for the lack of step-free access!

I

 

 

August 5, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Could ERTMS And ETCS Solve The Newark Crossing Problem?

This is an updated version of what, I originally published the following in Will The East Coast Main Line Give High Speed Two A Run For Its Money To The North East Of England?

The Newark Crossing is the railway equivalent of a light-controlled pedestrian crossing in the middle of a motorway.

This Google Map shows the crossing.

Note.

  1. The East Coast Main Line (ECML) running roughly North-South
  2. The A 46 road crossing the line.
  3. The Nottingham-Lincoln Line running parallel to the road.
  4. A chord allowing trains to go between the Nottingham-Lincoln Line and Newark North Gate station, which is to the South.
  5. The River Trent.

Complicated it certainly is!

I wrote about the problems in The Newark Crossing and felt something radical needed to be done.

Looking at the numbers of trains at the Newark Crossing.

  • The number of trains crossing the ECML is typically about three trains per hour (tph) and they block the ECML for about two minutes.
  • But then there could be a fast train around every four minutes on the ECML, with eight tph in both directions.

Would a Control Engineer’s solution, where all trains are computer controlled through the junction, be possible?

ERTMS,  which is digital in-cab signalling is being installed on the ECML and will allow the following.

  • Trains to be able to run at up to 140 mph.
  • Trains to be precisely controlled from a central signalling system called ETCS.

ERTMS and ETCS are already working successfully on Thameslink.

Suppose all trains going through the Junction on both the ECML  or the Nottingham-Lincoln Line, were running using ERTMS and ETCS.

  • Currently, there are three tph crossing from East to West and three tph crossing from West to East. Which means that the junction is blocked six times per hour for say two minutes.
  • Suppose the signalling could control the crossing trains, so that an East to West and a West to East train crossed at the same time.
  • To cater for contingencies like late and diverted trains, you might allow the trains to cross at up to for tph.

Instead of six tph, the frequency across the junction would be no more than four tph.

A similar paired crossing procedure can be applied to trains on the ECML.

The outcome is that you are scheduling a smaller number of double events, which must be easier.

I suspect there are other tricks they can do to increase capacity.

There’s also the problem of what happens if a crossing train fails, as it goes over the East Coast Main Line. But that must be a problem now!

Whatever happens here will be a well-thought through solution and it will add to the capacity of the East Coast Main Line and increase the line-speed from the current 100 mph.

 

July 8, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

£350m Investment For Britain’s First Mainline Digital Railway

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

The East Coast Main Line will become Britain’s first mainline digital rail link with £350m of new investment to install state-of-the-art electronic signalling designed to cut journey times and prevent delays.

We’re finally going digital!

June 22, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , | 1 Comment

Will The East Coast Main Line Give High Speed Two A Run For Its Money To The North East Of England?

I have looked up High Speed Two timings on their Journey Time Calculator and compared them with current LNER timetables.

  • London-Leeds – Current – 136 minutes – HS2 – 81 minutes
  • London-York – Current – 111 minutes – HS2 – 84 minutes
  • London – Darlington – Current – 141 minutes – HS2 – 112 minutes
  • York- Darlington – Current – 27 minutes – HS2 – 26 minutes
  • London – Durham – Current – 170 minutes – HS2 – 138 minutes
  • York – Durham – Current – 45 minutes – HS2 – 44 minutes
  • London – Newcastle – Current – 170 minutes – HS2 – 137 minutes
  • York – Newcastle – Current – 55 minutes – HS2 – 51 minutes
  • London – Edinburgh – Current – 259 minutes – HS2 – 220 minutes
  • Newcastle – Edinburgh – Current – 83 minutes – HS2 – 83 minutes
  • York – Edinburgh – Current – 138 minutes – HS2 – 134 minutes

Note.

  1. I have assumed that Newcastle and Edinburgh takes 83 minutes, which is the current timing.
  2. The time savings possible to the North of Leeds are only a few minutes.
  3. As an example, the straight route between York and Darlington is 34 miles, which means an average speed of only 75 mph.

Serious work needs to be done North of York to improve timings.

Improvements To The East Coast Main Line

Various improvements to the East Coast Main Line are in process of building designed or built.

Extra Tracks

These example of more tracks are from the Wikipedia entry for the East Coast Main Line.

  • Four tracks are being restored between Huntington and Woodwalton.
  • Freight loops between York and Darlington.

There are probably other places, which will see extra tracks in the next few years.

Power Supply And Electrification

Wikipedia identified places where the power supply and the electrification could be better.

This sentence indicates the comprehensive nature of the planned work.

Power supply upgrades (PSU) between Wood Green and Bawtry (Phase 1 – completed in September 2017) and Bawtry to Edinburgh (Phase 2), including some overhead lines (OLE) support improvements, rewiring of the contact and catenary wires, and headspan to portal conversions (HS2P) which were installed at Conington in January 2018.

The Hertford Loop Line is also due to have some power supply upgrades.

Station Improvements

Darlington, Kings Cross, Stevenage and York will have track improvements, which will improve the capacity of the tracks through the stations.

Werrington Dive Under

The Werrington Dive Under will be a big improvement. This is an extract from the Wikipedia entry.

The project will see the construction of 1.9 miles (3 km) of new line that will run underneath the fast lines, culverting works on Marholm Brook and the movement of the Stamford lines 82 feet (25 m) westwards over the culverted brook. This will mean that trains for the GN/GE line no longer need to cross the fast lines on the level, nor use the Up Fast line between Peterborough station and the junction. The project, coupled with other ECML improvement schemes (such as the four tracking from Huntingdon to Woodwalton) will improve capacity on the line through Peterborough by 33% according to Network Rail. This equates to two extra train paths an hour by 2021, when the work is scheduled to be completed. In turn, this will remove 21 minutes from the fastest King’s Cross to Edinburgh Waverley service, and 13 minutes from the fastest King’s Cross to Leeds service. It will also see an increase of 1,050 ‘intercity’ seats per hour on express trains through Peterborough.

The upgrade will add two more train paths to the route and knock 21 and 13 minutes off the faster Edinburgh and Leeds services respectively.

The Newark Flat Crossing

This is the railway equivalent of a light-controlled pedestrian crossing in the middle of a motorway.

This Google Map shows the crossing.

Note.

  1. The East Coast Main Line running roughly North-South
  2. The A 46 road crossing the line.
  3. The Nottingham-Lincoln Line running parallel to the railway.
  4. A chord allowing trains to go between the Nottingham-Lincoln Line and Newark North Gate station, which is to the South.
  5. The River Trent.

Complicated it certainly is!

I wrote about the problems in The Newark Crossing and felt something radical needed to be done.

Looking at the numbers of trains at the Newark Crossing.

  • The number of trains crossing the East Coast Main Line, is typically about three to five trains per hour (tph) and they block the East Coast Main Line for about two minutes.
  • But then there could be a fast train around every four minutes on the East Coast Main Line, with eight tph in both directions.

The numbers of trains and their speeds would probably cut out a Control Engineer’s solution, where all trains are computer controlled through the junction.

Although, it might be possible to reduce the number of conflicting trains on the East Coast Main Line dramatically, by arranging a Northbound and a Southbound express passed each other at the flat junction.

There’s also the problem of what happens if a crossing train fails, as it goes over the East Coast Main Line. But that must be a problem now!

Whatever happens here will be a well-thought through solution and it will add to the capacity of the East Coast Main Line and increase the line-speed from the current 100 mph.

Level Crossings

Wikipedia says this about level crossings.

Level crossing closures between King’s Cross and Doncaster: As of July 2015 this will no longer be conducted as a single closure of 73 level crossings but will be conducted on a case-by case basis (for example, Abbots Ripton Level Crossing will close as part of the HW4T scheme).

It is my personal view that all should be removed.

ERTMS Signalling

Wikipedia says this about the installation of ERTMS digital in-cab signalling.

The line between London King’s Cross and Bawtry, on the approach to Doncaster, will be signalled with Level 2 ERTMS. The target date for operational ERTMS services is December 2018 with completion in 2020.

Note that, ERTMS is needed for 140 mph running.

140 mpg Running

Wkipedia says this about 140 mph running.

Increasing maximum speeds on the fast lines between Woolmer Green and Dalton-on-Tees up to 140 mph (225 km/h) in conjunction with the introduction of the Intercity Express Programme, level crossing closures, ERTMS fitments, OLE rewiring and the OLE PSU – est. to cost £1.3 billion (2014). This project is referred to as “L2E4” or London to Edinburgh (in) 4 Hours. L2E4 examined the operation of the IEP at 140 mph on the ECML and the sections of track which can be upgraded to permit this, together with the engineering and operational costs.

A rough calculation indicates that up to eleven minutes could be saved by this upgrade, between London and Darlington.

Prospective Timings On The East Coast Main Line

Consider.

  • The package of new trains level crossing closures, ERTMS, OLE rewiring and the OLE PSU, which is collectively known as L2E4 should deliver Edinburgh in four hours.
  • Nineteen minutes need to be saved on current times.
  • I believe that if the train takes four hours or less, travellers will switch from the airlines.
  • High Speed Two are aiming for a time of 220 minutes, but is this by the West or East Coast routes?
  • As their proposed Glasgow service has a similar time, I assume it is by the West Coast route.
  • Wikipedia states that an Open Access Operator was thinking of running Class 390 trains or Pendelinos between London Kings Cross and Edinburgh in 223 minutes.

If the managers of LNER are the least bit ambitious, I can see them wanting to run a service between London and Edinburgh, in a time that is several minutes under four hours.

It should always be remembered that the East Coast Main Line was built for speed, as these true stories illustrate.

  • Mallard set the world speed record for steam locomotives in 1938 of 126 mph, on the line.
  • The record time between London and Edinburgh was set in 1991 by an InterCity 225 train at a minute under three-and-a-half hours.

I even have my own special memory of the line, which I wrote about in The Thunder of Three-Thousand Three-Hundred Horses. Behind a Deltic or Class 55 locomotive, I went from Darlington to London in two hours and fifteen minutes, which is faster than today’s fastest trains. Not bad for a 1960s design, but the train was a coach short and had a clear run. And was probably extremely-well driven.

Is the East Coast Main Line and especially the section South of Darlington, a route, where a knowledgeable driver can coax the maximum out of a high speed train?

Possible savings over the next few years include.

Werrington Junction

When this is completed, it could knock twenty-one minutes off the timings to Edinburgh.

Newark Crossing

How much time could be saved here?

There must be some time savings if the line speed can be increased from 100 mph.

140 mph Running

The various improvements in L2E4 are intended to enable services to run between London and Edinburgh in under four hours.

  • Does L2E4 include any possible time savings from the Werrington Dive Under?
  • Does L2E4 include any possible time savings from improvements at Newark?
  • What is the completion date for L2E4?
  • Most of the time savings for L2E4 will be South of Darlington as the track is straighter.

As I said earlier a rough calculation indicates that L2E4 will save about eleven minutes to the South of Darlington.

Conclusion

There must be over thirty minutes of savings to be accumulated on the East Coast Main Line. Much of it because of the Werrington and Newark improvements will be South of Darlington.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see timings like these.

  • London-Leeds – Current – 136 minutes – HS2 – 81 minutes – Possible ECML – 120 minutes
  • London-York – Current – 111 minutes – HS2 – 84 minutes – Possible ECML – 90 minutes
  • London – Darlington – Current – 141 minutes – HS2 – 112 minutes – Possible ECML – 115 minutes
  • London – Durham – Current – 170 minutes – HS2 – 138 minutes – Possible ECML – 130 minutes
  • London – Newcastle – Current – 170 minutes – HS2 – 137 minutes – Possible ECML – 130 minutes
  • London – Edinburgh – Current – 259 minutes – HS2 – 220 minutes – Possible ECML – 210 minutes

It looks to me, that the East Coast Main Line could be fulfilling the aspirations of British Rail’s engineers of the 1980s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 1, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Could High Speed Two Be A One-Nation Project?

As currently envisioned, High Speed Two is very much an English project, with the following routes

  • London and Birmingham
  • London and Liverpool via Birmingham
  • London and Manchester Airport/Manchester via Birmingham and Crewe
  • London and Sheffield via Birmingham and the East Midlands Hub
  • London and Leeds via Birmingham and the East Midlands Hub

There are large numbers of mid-sized towns and cities that it won’t serve directly.

The West Coast Main Line

The West Coast Main Line serves the following routes.

  • London and Birmingham
  • London and Liverpool via Crewe
  • London and Manchester via Crewe
  • London and Glasgow via Crewe, Wigan, Preston and Carlisle
  • London and Blackpool via Crewe, Wigan, Preston
  • London and North Wales via Crewe and Chester.

It could probably be considered a two or two-and-a-half nation line, as it serves the Western half of Scotland and the Northern half of Wales.

Add the West Coast Main Line and High Speed Two together and you get a line, that serves a lot more places like Blackpool, Carlisle, Chester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Preston, Stafford, Stoke and Wigan.

  • The current plan for both routes envisage them both being run by Avanti West Coast, so it looks like High Speed Two is being designed to work with the West Coast Main Line.
  • Destinations like Carlisle, Glasgow and Preston will be served using the West Coast Main Line.
  • Compatible trains will be built that can be run on both lines.
  • Some stations will be shared.

It does seem that there are advantages, if the two routes are considered as one system.

The East Coast Main Line

The East Coast Main Line serves the following routes.

  • London and Cambridge
  • London and Kings Lynn via Cambridge
  • London and Lincoln via Newark.
  • London and Leeds via Doncaster
  • London and Hull
  • London and Edinburgh via Doncaster, York and Newcastle

The East Coast Main Line could become another high speed line.

Extra services could be added.

  • London and Norwich via Cambridge
  • London and Nottingham
  • London and Grimsby and Cleethorpes via Lincoln.
  • London and Sheffield via Doncaster.

Add the East Coast Main Line and High Speed Two together and there could be a wider range of towns and cities served.

  • Peterborough and Doncaster could play the same role in the East as Birmingham and Crewe will play in the West.
  • The East Coast Main Line between London and Doncaster will be upgraded to in-cab ERTMS signalling in a few years time, which will allow 140 mph running on several sections of the route.
  • Improvements are either under way or being planned to reduce bottlenecks on the East Coast Main Line.
  • If High Speed Two can handle eighteen trains per hour (tph), then surely the East Coast Main Line, which has a lot of quadruple track, can handle upwards of twelve 140 mph trains per hour between London and Doncaster, after the improvements to track and signalling.
  • I estimate that 140 mph running between London and Doncaster could save as much as twenty minutes.
  • I feel that Barnsley, Doncaster, Hull, Leeds, Sheffield and York could all be reached in under two hours from London using the existing Azuma trains.
  • This morning the 0700 from Kings Cross is timetabled to reach York at 0852. Would it be possible for London and York to be around just ninety minutes?
  • Savings would also apply to trains between London and Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Scotland and Sunderland.
  • Sub-four hour journeys between London and Edinburgh would be commonplace.

Note that the Internet gives a driving time of nearly three and a half hours between London and Leeds. Surely, two hours or less on High Speed Yorkshire would be much preferable.

I would add this infrastructure.

  • There might be a good case to create electrified routes to Hull and Sheffield and between Sheffield and Leeds, but they wouldn’t be needed to start the service or obtain the time savings. But they would ease operation, cut carbon emissions and save a few more minutes.
  • A station at Doncaster-Sheffield Airport.
  • A parkway station at Barnsley on the Dearne Valley Line with direct services to Doncaster, Leeds, London and Sheffield.

The two latter improvements have been proposed in Sheffield Region’s transport plans.

High Speed Yorkshire should be finished as soon as possible. A completion date of 2024 is not unreasonable.

Northern Powerhouse Rail

Northern Powerhouse Rail is a plan to build an East-West high speed line or at least a much faster one, than the overcrowded joke, that presently exists.

I discussed the latest thinking in Changes Signalled For HS2 Route In North and the latest thinking and my views can best be summarised as follows.

  • Northern Powerhouse Rail will be an improved line with some new sections, between Liverpool and Hull via Manchester Airport, Manchester and Leeds.
  • Northern Powerhouse Rail and High Speed Two will connect at High Legh.
  • Northern Powerhouse Rail and High Speed Two will share infrastructure.
  • The High Speed Two route to Manchester would be via Birmingham, Crewe, High Legh and Manchester Airport.
  • The High Speed Two route to Liverpool would be via Birmingham, Crewe, High Legh and Warrington
  • Hull will get a London service from High Speed Two via Birmingham, Crewe, High Legh and Manchester Airport, Manchester and Leeds

The Oakervee review of High Speed Two is also underway and leaks are suggesting, that the report is recommending that High Speed Two be built in full, but differently.

One important thing, that is happening, is that Network Rail have started the procurement process to improve the current line between Leeds and Huddersfield, as I reported in Network Rail Reveals Detailed £2.9bn Upgrade Plans For TransPennine Route.

  • Extra tracks will be built.
  • There will be some extra electrification.

I very much feel, that this is one of the most difficult TransPennine sections to improve.

The other sections are summarised as follows.

  • Liverpool and Manchester Airport via Warrington and High Legh is across the flat lands of North Cheshire and could follow the M56.
  • Manchester Airport and Manchester will probably be a high speed tunnel.
  • Manchester and Huddersfield section could possibly be improved in the short term
  • Leeds and Hull and the required connections to the East Coast Main Line are in the flat lands of East Yorkshire.

It looks to me, that Network Rail have a plan in there to perhaps deliver improved services East of Huddersfield and radiating from Leeds in the next few years.

It certainly needs improvement, as the TransPennine route must be the worst main line in the UK.

A One-Nation Railway

I think these lines can be connected to create an integrated high speed network.

  • High Speed Two
  • West Coast Main Line
  • East Coast Main Line
  • Northern Powerhouse Rail

But.

  • It doesn’t connect to the whole country and needs to be extended.
  • It won’t be fully developed until at least 2035.
  • Improvements are needed now!

So what could be substantially delivered of the core network, by say 2024, which is around the date of the next General Election?

  • Faster and more frequent services on the East Coast Main Line.
  • An electrified higher capacity and faster line between Leeds and Huddersfield and possibly between Leeds and Hull.
  • New East Coast Main Line services from London to Barnsley Dearne Valley, Bradford, Cleethorpes, Doncaster Sheffield Airport, Grimsby, Harrogate, Huddersfield, Middlesbrough, Norwich, Nottingham, Scarborough and Sheffield and Sunderland.
  • Sub-four hour services between London and Edinburgh.
  • New local services to connect Blyth and Ashington to the East Coast Main Line at Newcastle.
  • A Tees Valley Metro  connecting Bishop Auckland, Whitby and all in between to the East Coast Main Line at Darlington.
  • Improved local services between York and Leeds via Harrogate, Sheffield and Leeds via the Dearne Valley and on other lines in Yorkshire.

Effectively, the recommendations of this report on the Transport for the North web site, which is entitled At A Glance – Northern Powerhouse Rail, which apply to Leeds and Sheffield would have been implemented to connect to high speed services at Doncaster, Leeds, Sheffield and Yprk.

Technology used would include.

  • Some more electrification using the power from the electrified East Coast Main Line.
  • Conventional electric trains and compatible battery trains.
  • Tram-trains feeding into the Sheffield Supertram.
  • ERTMS digital signalling on the East Coast Main Line and the major branches to Hull, Leeds and Middlesbrough.

There would also need to be an increase in LNER’s Azuma fleet. But that is already rumoured as I wrote in More New Trains On LNER Wish List.

Could we see as many as twelve Axumas per hour between London and Doncaster? Yes!

Could it all be delivered by the 2024 General Election? Yes!

High Speed Scotland

The Scottish Nationalist Party is pushing for High Speed Two to be extended to Scotland.

I think that this will eventually be a feasible project, but it will be a very expensive and perhaps built around 2040.

These are my thoughts for the next few years up to 2024.

High Speed To Edinburgh

Consider.

  • Edinburgh currently supports a half-hourly service to and from London.
  • East Coast Trains are proposing to add five trains per day to this route.
  • TransPennine Express will run an hourly service between Edinburgh and Liverpool, via Manchester, Leeds, York and Newcastle, which starts at the December 2019 timetable change..
  • CrossCountry run an hourly service between Aberdeen and Plymouth.
  • It looks like Edinburgh and Newcastle have a four tph service.

All services, except the CrossCountry  are planned to be run by Hitachi’s Class 800, 802 or 803 trains.

  • Currently, services take ninety minutes for the 125 miles between Newcastle and Edinburgh.
  • The Hitachi trains are all capable of 140 mph with digital signalling.
  • The Hitachi trains have better acceleration.
  • The route is fully electrified. Although, there are reports it needs enhancing to be able to handle the current number of trains.

How many minutes can be taken off thjs route, with a new timetable on a line running only Hitachi high speed trains?

Probably not that many, but it would ensure all London and Edinburgh trains were under four hours.

But it will all happen by 2024?

High Speed To Glasgow

So Edinburgh is alright, but what about Glasgow?

Consider.

  • Glasgow currently supports an hourly service to and from London.
  • TransPennine Express run an hourly service to and from Manchester Airport
  • TransPennine Express will run a three trains per day service to and from Liverpool.

Glasgow has a much lower frequency service to and from England than Edinburgh.

Currently, London and Glasgow takes over four-and-a half hours and there is going to be no serious improvement, until High Speed Two opens to Crewe, when the time could drop to perhaps just over three-and-a half hours.

But that won’t happen until possibly 2030.

In Does One Of Baldrick’s Descendents Work For Avanti West Coast?, I detail a cunning plan, that might allow London and Glasgow in four hours.

This was my conclusion in the other article.

To improve services between London and Birmingham, Blackpool, Liverpool and Scotland, appears to need the following.

  • Ten new Hitachi trains.
  • Full digital signalling on the West Coast Main Line.
  • Track improvements on the West Coast Main Line
  • Upgrading of the Pendelinos to allow 140 mph running.

This should reduce London and Glasgow to around four hours and London and Liverpool to around two hours.

There may be advantages in replacing the Pendelinos with the Classic-compatible High Speed Two trains on the London and Glasgow service as early as possible.

  • There would be a large increase of capacity between London and Glasgow.
  • What would be the possible speed of the Classic-compatible trains on updated track North of Crewe? I will assume 140 mph, but it could be more! That’s called engineering!
  • London and Glasgow timings would be improved, as soon as digital signalling is installed.
  • The trains would get a thorough testing before the opening of High Speed Two to Birmingham.

At least one platform at Glasgow Central would need to be extended to take a four-hundred metre long train.

According to Wikipedia, the Classic-compatible trains will be introduced from 2026.

I think by the December 2026 timetable change Glasgow could see a four-hour service to and from London.

But could it be 2024, if the Pendelinos can pick up time North of Crewe with digital signalling?

The Borders Railway

If High Speed Two is going to be a One Nation project, the Borders Railway must be extended from Tweedbank to Carlisle via Hawick.

Could this be done by 2024?

It would be a close-run thing! But possible!

The Glasgow South Western Line

The Glasgow South Western Line, is a secondary route between Glasgow and Carlisle.

It should be electrified early, so that during the upgrading of the West Coast Main Line North of Carlisle it can be used as a diversionary route.

Scotland Could Have Two Four-Hour Fully-Electrified Routes To And From London

But it’s not just London that gets good connectivity to and from Scotland!

  • Birmingham
  • Bradford
  • Carlisle
  • Leeds
  • Liverpool
  • Manchester
  • Newcastle
  • Peterborough
  • Preston
  • Wolverhampton
  • York

All these cities will have direct connections to Edinburgh and/or Glasgow.

High Speed Midlands

Almost unnoticed and with little fuss, the Midland Main Line is being upgraded to provide 125 mph services between London and Chesterfield, Derby, Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield.

  • New Hitachi bi-mode Class 804 trains will improve speeds and increase capacity
  • Over the last decade or so, the track has been upgraded for 125 mph running.
  • Electrification will reach between London and Market Harborough.
  • Market Harborough station has been remodelled to remove a bottleneck.
  • The Corby branch will be electrified with the trains running half-hourly.

I also think, that the Midland Main Line will link into all the improvements between Barnsley, Doncaster, Leeds and Sheffield and provide the following.

  • A high speed route between Leeds and the East Midlands.
  • A route for a Barnsley and London service.
  • A second route for Leeds and London services..

It also seems that rail planners are getting innovative with the design of the Midland Main Line.

  • It appears that the Midland Main Line and High Speed Two’s spur to Sheffield will be combined into an electrified line between Clay Cross and Sheffield via Chesterfield.
  • An improved link to the East-West Rail link at Bedford could improve links between the North-East and the South of England.
  • The disused rail line between Market Harborough and Northampton could be reopened.

The line is a lot more than a connection between London and the East Midlands.

The upgrade should be complete by 2024.

East West Rail

East West Rail is still in a long planning stage, but it now looks likely to provide more than a passenger link between Oxford and Cambridge.

  • New freight routes for Felixstowe and Southampton.
  • Extra passenger services between Oxford and Reading in the West and Cambridge, Ipswich and Norwich in the East.
  • Connections to the Great Western Main Line, the Chiltern Line, West Coast Main Line, Midland Main Line, East Coast Main Line and the Great Eastern Main Line.

It has also been suggested that East West Rail should be connected to High Speed Two at a new station at Calvert. This could give Bristol, Cardiff and Southampton good links to and from High Speed Two.

Great Western Main Line

At the December 2019 timetable change, there has finally been some good news in the saga of the electrification of the Great Western Main Line.

  • Services between London and Bristol have been improved.
  • The timetable has been improved.

Whether it will stand up is another matter.

Certainly by 2024, it will be a much better main line.

It could have full digital in-can signalling, which could result in 140 mph running and journey time savings.

Who knows?

But what excites me is the possibility of a connection between High Speed Two and East West Rail at Calvert, which will allow trains to run between Bristol, Cardiff and Swansea, in Wales and the West and the North on a mainly electrified high speed railway.

High Speed North Wales

Avanti West Coast is purchasing thirteen new Hitachi bi-mode trains to run services to Chester and North Wales.

I can’t see much speed improvement in the services, although if the West Coast Main Line gets digital signalling, this could save a few minutes between London and Crewe.

High Speed Ireland

The technology is now available to build a rail bridge between Scotland and the island of Ireland.

I laid out the arguments in A Solution To The Northern Irish Problem!.

The Lincoln Solution

Lincoln is a city, that has been ignored by UK railways for decades.

But not any more as LNER now run six return trips a day to the city on Mondays to Saturdays and five on Sundays.

I wrote about the improvements in The Shape Of Train Services To Come.

How many other cities and large towns would benefit from a Lincoln solution?

LNER have already launched a similar service to Harrogate at the December 2019 timetable change and I’m sure that more will follow.

Disability And Access Issues

A true one-nation railway wouldn’t exclude anybody from using the trains.

Strides have been made to put up step-free bridges, but some of the access between platform and train is truly dreadful.

This picture shows what can be achieved by good design on a Class 755 train.

And this is the step on one of Hitachi’s new trains.

Note that all doors on these Hitachi trains are also far too narrow.

Some train manufacturers can do much better.

Recurring Themes

In this analysis, there are factors that keep cropping up.

Digital Signalling Or ERTMS

This is the key to squeezing more trains into our overcrowded railway.

Between London and Doncaster on the East Coast Main Line, should be operational in a few years and I believe the following lines should follow as soon as possible.

  • East Coast Main Line between Doncaster and York and possibly Newcastle.
  • East Coast Main Line North Of Newcastle
  • West Coast Main Line North Of Crewe
  • West Coast Main Line South Of Crewe
  • Midland Main Line
  • Great Western Main Line

As a time-expired Control Engineer, I believe that in-cab digital signalling is a major key to increasing capacity.

Faster Line Speeds

Some routes like TransPennine, have Victorian line speeds

Network Rail showed how it could improve line speed with the remodelling at Market Harborough station.

Bottlenecks, like the Trowse Swing Bridge at Norwich need immediate removal, no matter what the Heritage Taliban and other Luddites say.

New Hitachi Trains

There will be several more orders for the next generation of Hitachi’s high speed trains.

I have been critical of Hitachi’s manufacturing processes for these trains in the past, but they seem now to be running well in fleet service.

A standard UK train on 125 mph lines, that can also handle 140 mph with digital signalling must be a good thing for all sorts of reasons.

New Feeder Services

Several new feeder services have been indicated and there should be a lot more of these to bring the benefit of the high speed network to more of the UK population.

Delivering The Improvements

Geographically, the places where improvements are needed are spread thinly around the country and vary from projects with a cost of tens of millions to those with costs of tens of billions.

In the UK, we tend to go for the big hit, when perhaps several smaller ones might give a better short-term improvement.

We also duck projects, which would annoy the noisy local interests.

We need to have fundamental rethink about how we deliver and pay for rail improvements.

Conclusion

I am fairly pleased overall in that I think by 2024, many places in the UK, will have a much better train service than they do now!

Delivery of High Speed Two, East West Rail and Northern Powerhouse Rail as soon as possible after 2024, will be the icing on the cake.

Will It Be A One-Nation Project?

I think it can be!

 

December 16, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Rochdale Still Doesn’t Have A Direct Link To Manchester Airport

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Richdale Online.

I recently went to Rochdale to see Ipswich play and what surprised me about the town, was how far it was from my hotel close to Manchester Victoria station.

I went on a tram and it took over an hour and it was also very crowded.

I then walked about a mile to the football ground.  Luckily a friendly Rochdale supporter showed me the way.

But is Rochdale’s link to Manchester Airport, any worse than say Walthamstow’s link to Heathrow or Gatwick.

  • Rochdale Town Centre to Manchester Airport by train – 1:05
  • Rochdale Town Centre to Manchester Airport by tram – 2:02
  • Rochdale Station to Manchester Airport by train – 0,:55
  • Rochdale to Manchester Airport by taxi- 0:27
  • Walthamstow Central to Heathrow Airport by Underground and Heathrow Express – 1:05
  • Walthamstow Central to Heathrow Airport by Underground – 1:27
  • Walthamstow to Heathrow Airport by taxi – 1:27
  • Walthamstow Central to Gatwick Airport by train – 1:22

Note.

  1. All journeys, except the taxis, need at least one change.
  2. My lawyer son lives in Walthamstow and always flies from Heathrow.
  3. He gets there by Underground, with one cross-platform change at Finsbury Park.
  4. Crossrail won’t help the man on the Walthamstow Underground.
  5. In Manchester the taxi is quicker, but it isn’t in London.

These are my thoughts.

Mancunians Are More Impatient

Not my view, but the view of a Northern station guy, who has worked on Platforms 13 and 14 at Manchester Piccadilly and busy stations on the London Overground.

He thought that they were sometimes in such a hurry to get on a train, that the train is delayed.

He also said, if you ask Londoners to stand behind the yellow line, they do. Mancunians don’t!

Access To Northern And TransPennine Trains Is Bad

Consider.

  • There is often a step up into the train in Manchester.
  • Manchester Metrolink is generally step-free into the tram.
  • Parts of London Underground/Overground are step-free.
  • The new TransPennine trains have pathetic and slow end-door access.

The two train companies have bought fleets of trains that are not fit for purpose.

The Manchester Airport Rail Link Is At Full Capacity

Manchester Airport station, does not have the best rail line from the City Centre.

Wikipedia says this.

Any future additional services to the Airport are in doubt without further infrastructure works; unresolved issues surround the lack of new ‘through’ platforms at Manchester Piccadilly which have been shelved by the government and the Styal Line to Manchester Airport operating at full capacity with little resilience to absorb delays.

The Rochdale Online article blames the stations in Manchester, but the Styal Line is equally to blame.

The Long Term Solution Is High Speed Two

In the 2030s, High Speed Two will solve the problem by using a tunnel between Manchester Airport and the City Centre.

It will also do the following.

  • Provide direct access between Manchester Airport and the Midlands, the South and London.
  • Provide direct access to Liverpool and Warrington in the West.
  • Provide direct access to Huddersfield, Bradford, Leeds, Hull and the North East, in the East.
  • All services will probably be at least five trains per hour (tph).

But High Speed Two won’t provide a direct link to Richdale.

Passengers between Rochdale and Manchester Airport will still have to change in the City Centre.

Unless of course, some TransPennine services to Manchester Airport are discontinued, as they can be done by High Speed Two.

This would free up paths to add extra services to Manchester Airport.

An Interim Solution

Not only Rochdale, but other towns and cities across the North like Bradford moan about lack of a direct service to and from Manchester Airport.

So what would I do?

Ban Freight Trains Through The Castlefield Corridor

This may not be possible, but it should be a long term objective.

It will cost money, but it would release capacity through the Castlefield Corridor.

Ban Trains Without Level Access At Stations In The Castlefield Corridor

I know that Northern and TransPennine have just bought a load of new trains, but they make matters worse in the stations through the Castlefield Corridor.

All Trains To The Airport Must Be Eight Cars

This makes sense as it increases the capacity, but use the same number of paths.

  • Eight-car Class 379 trains – Stansted Express – 160 metres and 418 passengers
  • Five-car Class 802 trains – TransPennine Express – 130 metres and 342 passengers
  • Eight-car Class 331 trains – Northern – 190 metres and 568 passengers

It does appear that the new trains are also setting new standards for train length.

ERTMS Signalling Should Be Installed Between Manchester Victoria And Manchester Airport

ERTMS signalling would give more flexibility on the route.

Create A Manchester Airport Express

This has been suggested and would have the following characteristics.

  • Running between Manchester Airport and Manchester Victoria via Deansgate, Manchester Oxford Road and Manchester Piccadilly.
  • Eight cars
  • Airport-style interiors
  • Step-free access at all stations.
  • Four tph
  • Running twenty-four hours a day.
  • It would have step-free access to the Metrolink at Manchester Victoria, Deansgate and Manchester Piccadilly.

Ideally it would use dedicated platforms at Manchester Airport and Manchester Victoria. The platform at Victoria would hopefully have cross-platform interchange with services going through the station from East to West.

Reduce TransPennine Services To The Airport

TransPennine Express runs the following hourly services to the Airport

  • Cleethorpes via a reverse at Manchester Piccadilly.
  • Edinburgh or Glasgow via the Castlefield Corridor
  • Middlesborough via the Castlefield Corridor
  • Newcastle via the Castlefield Corridor

Why not cut-back either the Newcastle or Middlesborough service to Manchester Victoria and make sure it has good cross-platform access to the Manchester Airport Express?

These services are regularly cut-back anyway due to the congestion.

Demolish Manchester Oxford Road Station And Build A Station That’s Fit For Purpose

Manchester Oxford Road is one of ultimate design crimes on the UK Rail network.

  • The new or refurbished station would be step-free.
  • Platforms would be able to accept two hundred metre long trains.
  • A well-designed bay platform would be provided to turn trains from the North efficiently.
  • Up to four tph could probably be turned back.

Network Rail do station and track layout design generally very well and I’m sure that a redesigned Oxford Road station could improve capacity through the Castlefield Corridor.

Improve Deansgate And Manchester Piccadilly Stations

If longer trains are to be run through the Castlefield Corridor, then the platforms at these two stations will need lengthening and passenger access will need to be improved.

Is There A Place For Tram-Trains?

Manchester are keen on using tram-trains to improve the Metrolink network.

This map clipped from Wikipedia shows the layout of the Metrolink in the City Centre.

Note.

  1. Manchester Piccadilly, Deansgate and Manchester Victoria all have step-free connections to the trains to and from Manchester Airport.
  2. The new Trafford Line will branch off at Pomona.

I think it is likely, that any new lines run by tram-trains will pass through at least one of the connecting stations.

This will increase the list of places that will have good access with a single change to and from Manchester Airport.

Conclusion

There would appear to be a lot of scope to create a high-capacity link between Manchester and the Airport.

But it does appear that the current timetable leaves little or no room to expand the service.

That is why, I believe a simpler but higher capacity service, based on a Manchester Airport Express could be developed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 5, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment