The Anonymous Widower

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 | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Thoughts On Faster Trains On Thameslink

The Class 700 trains used by Thameslink only have an operating speed of 100 mph.

I do wonder, if that is a fast enough operating speed for all Thameslink routes.

Sharing The Midland Main Line With 125 mph Trains

A couple of years ago, I travelled back into St. Pancras with a group of East Midlands drivers in a Class 222 train.

They told me several things about the route including that the bridge at the South of Leicester station would be difficult to electrify, as it was low and the track couldn’t be lowered as one of Leicester’s main sewers was under the tracks at the bridge. Perhaps, this is one place, where discontinuous electrification could be used on the Midland Main Line.

They also told me, that sometimes the Thameslink trains were a nuisance, as because of their 100 mph operating speed, the 125 mph Class 222 trains had to slow to 100 mph.

Upgrading Of The Midland Main Line South Of Bedford

The electrification of the Midland Main Line South of Bedford is being updated, so that it is suitable for 125 mph running.

An Analysis Of Services On The Midland Main Line South Of Bedford

The current Class 222 trains are capable of 125 mph and will be replaced by Class 810 trains capable of the same speed on both diesel and electricity.

Currently, a Class 222 train is capable of doing the following on a typical non-stop run between St. Pancras and Leicester.

  • Covering the 30 miles between St. Albans and Bedford in 17 minutes at an average speed of 106 mph.
  • Covering the 50.3 miles between Bedford and Leicester in 30 minutes at an average speed of 100.6 mph.
  • Maintaining 125 mph for long stretches of the route, once the trains is North of London commuter traffic at St. Albans

I can estimate the timings on the 79.2 miles between Leicester and St. Albans, by assuming the train runs at a constant speed.

  • 100 mph – 47.5 minutes
  • 110 mph – 43.2 minutes
  • 125 mph – 38 minutes
  • 140 mph – 34 minutes

Note.

  1. I have done the calculation for 140 mph, as that is the maximum operating speed of the Class 810 train with full in-cab digital signalling.
  2. Trains have been running at 125 mph for a couple of decades on the Midland Main Line.
  3. To get a St. Pancras and Leicester time add another 14 minutes, which is the current time between St. Pancras and St. Albans of a Class 222 train.
  4. Some Off Peak trains are timed at 62-63 minutes between St. Pancras and Leicester.
  5. A time of under an hour between St. Pancras and Leicester might be possible and the Marketing Department would like it.
  6. As Thameslink trains between Bedford and St. Albans stop regularly, they are on the slow lines of the four-track railway, to the North of St. Albans.
  7. South of St. Albans, Thameslink trains often run on the fast lines.

I can expect that East Midlands Railway will want to be running their new Class 810 trains as far as far South as they can at 125 mph, to speed up their services. When the signalling allows it, they’ll want to run at 140 mph.

So they won’t want to see Thameslink’s slow trains on the fast lines.

  • But if you look at the Thameslink trains that do run on the fast lines between St. Albans and St. Pancras, they appear to be the four trains per hour (tph) that run to and from Bedford.
  • Of these trains, two tph terminate at Brighton and two tph terminate at Gatwick Airport.
  • The average speed of a Class 222 train between St. Albans and St. Pancras assuming 14 minutes for the 19.7 miles is 84.4 mph.

So it looks to me that a 100 mph Thameslink train could be able to get away without slowing the East Midland Railway expresses.

But then that is not surprising, as for many years, the Class 222 trains worked happily with 100 mph Class 319 trains.

Is There Scope For Extra And Faster Services Into St. Pancras?

I have only done a simple calculation, but I do wonder if there is scope for the following.

  • Increasing the frequency of trains for both Thameslink and East Midlands Railway.
  • Saving a few minutes on East Midlands Railway services.

Consider.

  • The new Class 810 electric trains will probably have better acceleration and deceleration than the current Class 222 diesel trains, when working using electric power.
  • East Midlands Railway is introducing Class 360 trains that were built as 100 mph trains by Siemens, who are now upgrading them to 110 mph trains.
  • Can Siemens do the same for the Class 700 trains and create a sub-fleet capable of 110 mph running?
  • All trains will be running under full in-cab digital signalling with a large degree of automatic train control.

I feel that if the Class 700 trains had the extra speed, they would make the planning of services South of St. Albans easier and allow the Class 810 trains to both run faster and provide more services.

Sharing The East Coast Main Line With 125 mph Trains

The following Thameslink services run up the East Coast Main Line past Stevenage.

  • Cambridge And Brighton – Two tph – Stops at Royston, Ashwell and Morden (1 tph), Baldock, Letchworth Garden City, Hitchin, Stevenage, Finsbury Park, London St Pancras International, Farringdon, City Thameslink, London Blackfriars, London Bridge, East Croydon, Gatwick Airport, Three Bridges, Balcombe, Haywards Heath and Burgess Hill
  • Cambridge and Kings Cross – Two tph – Stops at Foxton, Shepreth, Meldreth, Royston, Ashwell and Morden, Baldock, Letchworth Garden City, Hitchin, Stevenage, Knebworth, Welwyn North, Welwyn Garden City, Hatfield, Potters Bar and Finsbury Park
  • Peterborough and Horsham – Two tph – Stops at Huntingdon, St Neots, Sandy, Biggleswade, Arlesey, Hitchin, Stevenage, Finsbury Park, London St Pancras International, Farringdon, City Thameslink, London Blackfriars, London Bridge, East Croydon, Coulsdon South, Merstham, Redhill, Horley, Gatwick Airport, Three Bridges, Crawley, Ifield, Faygate (limited) and Littlehaven

Note.

  1. Services are generally run by Class 700 trains, although lately the Kings Cross service seems to use Class 387 trains, which have a maximum speed of 110 mph and a more comfortable interior with tables.
  2. It is intended that the Cambridge and Kings Cross service will be extended to Maidstone East by 2021.

In addition there are two Cambridge Express and Fen Line services.

  • Kings Cross and Ely – One tph – Stops at Cambridge and Cambridge North.
  • Kings Cross and King’s Lynn – One tph – Stops at Cambridge, Cambridge North, Waterbeach, Ely, Littleport, Downham Market and Watlington

Note.

  1. These services are generally run by Class 387 trains.
  2. Cambridge and King’s Cross is timetabled at around fifty minutes.

Adding all of this together means that slower services on the East Coast Main Line are comprised of the following in both directions.

  • Three tph – 110 mph – Class 387 trains
  • Four tph – 100 mph – Class 700 trains

These seven trains will have to be fitted in with the 125 mph trains running services on the East Coast Main Line, for LNER, Grand Central, Hull Trains and East Coast Trains.

There are also the following problems.

  • All trains must navigate the double-track section of the East Coast Main Line over the Digswell Viaduct and through Welwyn North station.
  • The King’s Cross and Cambridge service stops in Welwyn North station.
  • Full in-cab digital signalling is being installed on the East Coast Main Line, which could increase the speed of the expresses through the double-track section.

Could the introduction of the Class 387 trains on the Cambridge and King’s Cross service have been made, as it easier to fit in all the services if this one is run by a 110 mph train?

However, the full in-cab digital signalling with a degree of automatic train control could be the solution to this bottleneck on the East Coast Main Line.

  • Trains could be controlled automatically and with great precision between perhaps Hatfield and Stevenage.
  • Some expresses might be slowed to create gaps for the Cambridge and Peterborough services.
  • The Hertford Loop Line is also getting full in-cab digital signalling, so will some services be sent that way?

In Call For ETCS On King’s Lynn Route, I talked about a proposal to improve services on the Fen Line. This was my first three paragraphs.

The title of this post, is the same as that on an article in Edition 849 of Rail Magazine.

The article is based on this document on the Fen Line Users Aoociation web site, which is entitled Joint Response To Draft East Coast Main Line Route Study.

In addition to ETCS, which could improve capacity on the East Coast Main Line, they would also like to see journey time reductions using trains capable of running at 125 mph or faster on the King’s Lynn to Kings Cross route.

My scheduling experience tells me that a better solution will be found, if all resources are similar.

Hence the proposal to run 125 mph trains between King’s Cross and King’s Lynn and probably Ely as well, could be a very good and logical idea.

If the Class 700 trains were increased in speed to 110 mph, the trains through the double-track section of the East Coast Main Line would be.

  • One tph – 110 mph – Class 387 trains
  • Four tph – 110 mph – Class 700 trains
  • Two tph – 125 mph – New trains

Note.

  1. This would probably be an easier mix of trains to digest with the high speed services, through the double-track section.
  2. I like the idea of extending the Ely service to Norwich to give Thetford, Attleborough and Wymondham an improved service to London, Cambridge and Norwich.

The new trains would probably be a version of Hitachi’s Regional Battery Train.

  • It would need to be capable of 125 mph on the East Coast Main Line.
  • If the Ely service were to be extended to Norwich, this section would be on battery power.

There are certainly a lot of possibilities.

But as with on the Midland Main Line, it looks like for efficient operation, the operating speed of the Class 700 trains on the route needs to be increased to at least 110 mph.

Could Faster Class 700 trains Improve Services To Brighton?

These are the Thameslink services that serve Bedford, Cambridge and Peterborough, that I believe could be run more efficiently with trains capable of at running at speeds of at least 110 mph.

  • Bedford and Brighton – Two tph
  • Bedford and Gatwick Airport – Two tph
  • Cambridge and Brighton – Two tph
  • Cambridge and Maidstone East – Two tph
  • Peterborough and Horsham – Two tph

Note.

  1. I have assumed that the Cambridge and King’s Cross service has been extended to Maidstone East as planned.
  2. Eight tph serve Gatwick Airport.
  3. Four tph serve Brighton.

The Gatwick Express services have a frequency of two tph between London Victoria and Brighton calling at Gatwick Airport is already run by 110 mph Class 387 trains.

It would appear that if the Bedford, Cambridge and Peterborough were run by uprated 110 mph Class 700 trains, then this would mean that more 110 mph trains would be running to Gatwick and Brighton and this must surely improve the service to the South Coast.

But it’s not quite as simple as that, as the Cambridge and Maidstone East services will be run by eight-car trains and all the other services by twelve-car trains.

Conclusion

There would appear to be advantages in uprating some or possibly all of the Class 700 trains, so that they can run at 110 mph, as it will increase capacity on the Brighton Main Line, East Coast Main Line and Midland Main Line.

 

 

April 6, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

King’s Lynn Station

These pictures show King’s Lynn Station, which is Grade II Listed.

Note.

  1. It is not the normal design for a station in the UK.
  2. The station has two platforms, but could have add another.
  3. The facilities are at a high level for a station of this size, with a booking office, toilets and a cafe.
  4. The station was reopened by Michael Portillo. Who else?

Perhaps we should see more station designs, not in a standard corporate mould. Others include Birmingham Moor Street, Hanwell and Hebden Bridge.

The only problems with the station are that there aren’t enough trains and the information and signage for visitors could be better.

In an ideal world this would be the train service

  • At least two trains per hour in both directions.
  • Running between King’s Lynn and Cambridge, stopping at Watlington, Downham Market, Littleport, Ely, Waterbeach and Cambridge North.
  • Good interchange with services to Bury St. Edmunds, Ipswich, Peterborough and Stansted Airport at either Ely or Cambridge.

King’s Lynn station certainly has the capacity for more frequent trains.

 

April 11, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 2 Comments

Greater Anglia, The Fen Line And Class 755 Trains

Greater Anglia currently operates two trains per day between King’s Lynn and Liverpool Street stations, in the Morning Peak

  • 05:17 – 07:25 – 2 hr. 8 min.
  • 06:17 – 08:25 – 2 hr. 8 min.

This is matched by three trains a day between Liverpool Street and King’s Lynn, in the Evening Peak.

  • 17:07 – 19:08 – 2 hr. 1 min.
  • 18:-07 – 20:10 – 2 hr. 3 min.
  • 19:07 – 21:05 – 1 hr 58 min.

Note.

  1. The two Morning Peak trains stop at Watlington, Downham Market, Littleport, Ely, Cambridge North, Cambridge, Whittesford Parkway, Audley End, Bishops Stortford and Tottenham Hale.
  2. The three Evening Peak trains call similarly, but miss out Cambridge North.
  3. Services are run by Class 317  or Class 379 trains.

All the passenger trains on the Fen Line including Great Northern’s Class 387 trains, are four x twenty metre cars, which can run as four, eight or twelve cars.

Maximum Length Of Trains On The Fen Line

This article in the Eastern Daily Press is entitled Plans For Longer Trains Between King’s Lynn And London Could Be Delayed.

Reading it, I get the following impressions.

  • The Fen Line can currently accept four-car trains.
  • Eight-car trains are needed.
  • Plans have been or are being developed to lengthen all platforms to accept eight car trains.
  • Network Rail are quoted as saying “The King’s Lynn eight car scheme is amongst the CP5 projects that have funding.”

Extending further might well be out of the question, on grounds of cost and inconvenience to passengers, whilst the work is carried out.

Greater Anglia’s Trains And The Fen Line

There is a problem for Greater Anglia, as both the Class 317 and Class 379 trains are being moved on.

Class 745 Trains

The thirty x four-car Class 379 trains, that work the express West Anglia Main Line services are being replaced with ten x twelve-car Stadler Class 745 trains.

These trains will be too long for the Fen Line.

Class 720 Trains

Five-car Class 720 trains would fit the Fen line and as they are 100 mph trains, like the Class 317 and Class 379 trains, they could handle the current service.

Class 755 Trains

Greater Anglia currently have the equivalent of twenty-eight assorted diesel trains in different lengths, which they are replacing with thirty-eight bi-mode Class 755 trains.

These are.

  • 100 mph trains.
  • Bi-mode trains with the ability to run on electric or diesel.
  • Compatible with the Class 745 trains.

Fourteen will be three-car trains and twenty-four will be four-car trains.

Greater Anglia, have already said they will run services to and from Liverpool Street from Lowestoft, so will they use the extra trains to run services to and from Liverpool Street to important East Anglian towns?

It is worth looking at the capacity of the various trains.

  • Class 379 train – four-car – 189 2nd/20 1st
  • Class 755 train – three-car  – 166 2nd
  • Class 755 train – four-car  – 224 2nd
  • Class 720 train – five-car – 430 2nd

Would a four-car Class 755 train have sufficient capacity for a service between  Kings Lynn and Liverpool Street?

I think the answer is probably in the affirmative, but a six or seven car train couple be created, by joining two trains together, if required.

So if the Class 755 trains can provide direct Liverpool Street services for Kings Lynn and Lowestoft, what other towns could get a direct service to London?

  • Bury St. Edmunds – Either via Newmarket and Cambridge or Stowmarket and Ipswich
  • Cromer/Sheringham via Norwich and Ipswich
  • Norwich via Wymondham, Attleborough, Thetford, Ely and Cambridge
  • Peterborough via March and Cambridge
  • Yarmouth via Via Norwich and either Ipswich or Cambridge.

I can remember, when some of these towns had services to Liverpool Street.

Trains could also split and join at Cambridge and Ipswich to save paths on the main lines to London.

Could trains go up to London in the Morning Peak and return in the Evening Peak?

If there was sufficient demand, they could return in mid-morning and come back to Liverpool Street in mid-afternoon, in time for the Evening Peak.

If so, how many trains would be needed?

  • Bury St. Edmunds (35k) – 1
  • Cromer (7k)/Sheringham (7k) – 1
  • King’s Lynn (43k) – 3
  • Lowestoft (70k) – 1
  • Norwich via Cambridge – 2
  • Peterborough – 1
  • Yarmouth (47k)  – 1

The figures in brackets are the population

Considering, that my rough calculation, showed there were ten spare trains, these numbers seem feasible.

I have some questions.

  • How many Class 755 trains will be able to link together?
  • Will platforms needed to be extended at Liverpool Street
  • Could Lincoln be reached from London, via a reopened March to Spalding Line via Wisbech?
  • Could a Yarmouth and Lowestoft service to London be created by reopening the chord at Reedham?
  • Would it be a good idea to have a dozen First Class seats in the Class 755 trains doing the London commute.

I feel that Greater Anglia have ambitious plans.

Conclusion

From this rather crude analysis, it appears that Greater Anglia will be using the Class 755 trains as three and four car electric trains on the electrified lines to Cambridge, Ipswich and Norwich and then using their diesel power to create new direct routes to the capital.

I also suspect, trains will split and join at Cambridge, Ipswich and Norwich to reduce the number of paths needed to and from London. After all one twelve-car  train is cheaper to run than three four-car trains!

Could Greater Anglia be bringing forward a timetable, where any town in East Anglia, with a population of over say 10,000, gets at least one fast train to London in the morning and back in the evening?

As the tracks, signals and stations are already there, away from the main lines, there may be little that needs doing.

If not, Greater Anglia have bought too many trains.

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 10, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Call For ETCS On King’s Lynn Route

The title of this post, is the same as that on an article in Edition 849 of Rail Magazine.

The article is based on this document on the Fen Line Users Aoociation web site, which is entitled Joint Response To Draft East Coast Main Line Route Study.

In addition to ETCS, which could improve capacity on the East Coast Main Line, they would also like to see journey time reductions using trains capable of running at 125 mph or faster on the King’s Lynn to Kings Cross route.

The Fen Line

The Fen Line runs between Ely and King’s Lynn stations.

  • It is mainly single -track with a double-track section at Downham Market station.
  • The line has an operating speed of 90 mph.
  • The line is electrified.
  • All stations have two platforms.
  • Looking at the line from my virtual helicopter, I suspect that redoubling would be possible.
  • Passenger numbers are increasing at stations on the line.
  • There are several level crossings.

It also would appear that because of the complicated nature of timetabling trains on the East Coast Main Line to the South of Hitvhin, that there are often delays on the Fen Line, as there is only one passing place at Downham Market.

I therefore agree with the opinions expressed on the Fen Line Users Association, that restoring double-track could help reduce delays on the Fen Line.

The Cambridge Line

The Cambridge Line connects Cambridge to the East Coast Main Line at Hitchin.

  • It is double-track throughout.
  • It is fully electrified.
  • It has a 90 mph operating speed.
  • Kking’s Lynn to Kings Cross services use the line.
  • Currently four trains per hour (tph) run between Cambridge and Kings Cross.
  • This will be increased by two tph, when Thameslink is fully operational.

King’s Lynn to Kings Cross services use this line.

The Current Timetable

Trains seem to take around an hour and forty minutes to go from Kings Cross to King’s Lynn, where they take under ten minutes to turnround and then they take around an hour and forty minutes to return to Kings Cross. I suspect, it isn’t the easiest service for an operator to mrun, as a train could be sitting in Kings Cross for thirty minutes.

How Could The Service Between King’s Lynn and Kings Cross Be Improved?

From the Rail Magazine article, the views of the Fen Line Users Association and the details of the route, the following could help.

ERTMS And ETCS

ERTMS and the closely related;  ETCS sre digital systems that enable trains to run faster and closer together, which could increase the capacity of the line and reduce journey times.

The Wikipedia entry for the East Coast Main Line says this about recent and future development of the 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.

I would think it likely that if the whole route from King’s Lynn and Kings Cross were digitally signalled, there would be advantages.

  • It would help the merging of trains at Hitchin.
  • It would help in managing trains on the single-track sections of the Fen Line.

The Rail Magazine article mentions flighting trains on the single-track sections, where two or more trains in the same direction, went though in succession.

It would also allow closer spacing and higher frequencies on the East Coast Main Line.

All trains using the route, including freight trains, would need to be fully equpped for digital signalling.

Improving The Fen Line

The biggest improvement would come by redoubling the line between Littleport and King’s Lynn.

  • Trains could pass anywhere on the Fen Line.
  • It might also be possible to avoid complicated operating procedures.
  • Timetabling should be easier.
  • Extra services would be possible.
  • Delays should be reduced, as there would be less knock-on effects from problems on the East Coast Main Line.

But on the flat lands of the fens, it might also be possible to increase the operating speed.

Improving Ely

Ely is a mess, where trains always seem to be waiting for something.

Hopefully, improvements are on the way, as I wrote in Are The Trains In Ely Finally To Be Sorted?

According to an e-mail and comments on this post, Ely North Junction needs improvement.

This Google Map shows the junction.

Note.

  1. Ely station is to the South West.
  2. starting at the top-left and going clockwise, lines go to Peterborough, Ely and Norwich.
  3. The last set of lines are sidings.

There would appear to be two solutions.

  • Extra lines and flat junctions can be added. Flat junctions mean that trains have to cross each other.
  • From what I’ve read digital signalling is very good at handling junctions, by making sure trains present themselves correctly, so this may be a better solution.

Either solution could be make to work very well!

Improving The Cambridge Line

There don’t appear to be any projects on the Cambridge Line, but I suspect that Network Rail are looking for small things, that will save minutes here and there.

125 Mph Trains

Who’d have thought forty or fifty years ago, that someone would seriously suggest running trains capable of 125 mph to King’s Lynn?

The Class 387 trains are 110 mph trains and I have recorded one at that speed on the East Coast Main Line.

Would a 125 mph train, be able to use that speed South of Hitchin?

If it could then.

  • It could cruise on the fast lines with all the fast trains to and from the North.
  • It would cut a couple of minutes  from the journey time.

Once digital signalling is operational, the trains could be closer together, which would increase line capacity.

There are several fast electric multiple units, that have been built in recent years or are on order.

  • Bombardier Class 387 – 110 mph – In service.
  • Bombardier Aventra – 110 mph -In development for West Midlands Trains.
  • CAF Class 397 – 125 mph – In development for TransPennine Express.
  • Hitachi Class 801 – 125 mph On test for service entry this year.
  • Siemens Class 350 – 110 mph – In service.

Bombardier are also showing ideas for a 125 mph bi-mode Aventra to various train operating companies, which I wrote about in Bombardier Bi-Mode Aventra To Feature Battery Power.

To build a 125 mph bi-mode train, you probably start with a 125 mph electric train.

So have Bombardier designed a 125 mph version of the Aventra?

It would appear, that Bombardier, Hitachi and possibly CAF and Stadler will be offering 125 mph electric multiple units, with a bi-mode version if needed, for lines without electrification.

But there are several routes in addition to Kings Cross to King’s Lynn

  • St. Pancras to Corby
  • Euston to the West Midlands
  • Liverpool/Manchester to Edinburgh/Glasgow
  • Leeds/York to Edinburgh/Glasgow.
  • Waterloo to Bournemouth/Southampton/Weymouth

Train travel could be getting faster?

Conclusion

The ultimate benefit would come if trains could do a round trip in under three hours.

This would probably need a journey time of perhaps an hour and twenty-four minutes between Kings Cross and King’s Lynn. It is certainly not possible now, but it might be with the following.

  • 125 mph-capable trains.
  • Digital signalling on the East Coast Main Line and on the Cambridge and Fen Lines.
  • 125 mph running, where possible on the East Coast Main Line.
  • Improvements at Ely.
  • Full double-tracking of the Fen Line.
  • If possible, 100 mph running on the Cambridge and Fen Lines.

A three-hour round trip would allow the current service of one tph to be run with just three trains.

If both of the twice-hourly fast services between Kings Cross and Cambridge were extended to King’s Lynn, instead of the current one, this would mean that the following service could be possible with just six trains.

  • Two tph
  • Stops at Cambridge, Cambridge North, Waterbeach, Ely, Littleport, Doenham Market and Watlington.
  • Ten x 23 metre cars or Twelve x 20 metre cars.
  • Possibly a bistro.

There is improvement to come between Kings Cross, Cambridge and King’s Lynn, if the financial case stacks up.

 

 

 

April 8, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 15 Comments