The Anonymous Widower

Around The Fife Circle Line

Although, I’ve been to Scotland many times, I’d never knowingly been over the Forth Bridge in good light.

So I went all the way round the Fife Circle Line and took these pictures.

The route was fairly busy and I very much feel that the three-car Class 170 train could at times be rather small for the route.

The Fife Circle Line

This map from Wikipedia shows the stations on the Fife Circle Line.

Consider.

The route is double-track.

  • The distance from Dalmeny to Glenrothes with Thornton station via Comdenbeath is 22.3 miles
  • The distance from Dalmeny to Glenrothes with Thornton station via Kirkcaldy is 21.4 miles
  • The train I was on waited a couple of minutes at Glenrothes with Thornton station before turning to Edinburgh.

In addition my pictures show the following.

  • Many of the bridges are high- enough to allow electrification.
  • On the East side of the Circle, there are some old stone bridges that would need to be raised for electrification.
  • Some of the stations are step-free with ramps.

Overall, it is a typically-Scottish neat-and-tidy line, that needs some improvement, like longer electric trains and some improved stations with step-free access.

Electrification Of The Fife Circle Line

In my view, there are two major obstacles to full-electrification of the Fife Circle Line.

The Forth Rail Bridge

I feel that engineers could electrify the Forth Rail Bridge without too much difficulty.

But that is not the problem.

  • The bridge is on the main route between Edinburgh and Aberdeen and North East Scotland and electrification would cause major disruption during the installation.
  • There is also the Heritage Lobby, who would probably be totally against major changes to a World Heritage Site.

For these reasons, I don’t think that the Forth Bridge will be electrified.

The Stone Bridges On The Eastern Side Of The Circle

There are nearly a dozen stone arch bridges on the route through Kirkcaldy and raising these for electrification would cause major disruption to one of Scorland’s main rail routes.

Third-Rail Electrification Of The Fife Circle Line

In my view, this would be an option to get round the problems of disruption and the Forth Rail Bridge.

But, third-rail electrifrication is still-considered a method non-grata, despite being used successfully for over a hundred years in Merseyside and South of London.

I do wonder, if Brexit will make it easier to install third-rail systems.

Certainly, Hitachi who would probably make most of the electric trains that would use the Forth Rail Bridge and the Fife Circle Line have the technology for third-rail trains, which they used on the Class 395 trains for HighSpeed commuter services to Kent.

I do wonder, if Brexit will make it easier to install third-rail systems.

Battery-Electric Trains On The Fife Circle Line

In Hitachi Plans To Run ScotRail Class 385 EMUs Beyond The Wires, I discussed Hitachi’s plan to fit batteries to Class 385 trains, so they could run on unelectrified lines.

The Fife Circle Line would be an ideal route for battery-electric trains.

This map shows the rail lines to the South of the Forth Rail Bridge.

Note.

  1. An unelectrified line, through South Gyle and Edinburgh Gateway stations, connects the Forth Bridge to the main electrifield Edinburgh and Glasgow Line through Edinburgh Park station.
  2. There is also another unelectrified line, that connects the Forth Rail Bridge to Linlithgow, Falkirk and Glasgow.
  3. Shown in yellow is a proposed chord, which would create another route between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Electrification as far as Dalmeny station, which is between the Forth Bridge and the proposed chord would enable LNER’s bi-mode Class 800 trains to use electric power for a few extra miles.

As I said earlier, the distance between Dalmeny and Glenrothes with Thorntonh station is under twenty-five miles using either the Western or Eastern side of the Fife Circle Line.

  • Twenty-five miles is well within range of a battery-electric train, that has charged the battery using the electrification between Edinburgh and Dalmeny.
  • Most quoted ranges for battery-electric trains are in the order of sixty miles, so a well-designed train could probably do a complete round trip from Dalmeny station.
  • A charging point could be provided at Glenrothes with Thorton station to top up the batteries, whilst the train waits to return, if that were deemed necessary.

In my view, the Fife Circle Line is an ideal route for battery-electric trains. Especially, as the only new infrastructure required is as follows.

  • Electrification to Dalmeny station, which may be under consideration anyway.
  • Provision of a charging station at Glenrothes with Thornton station.

It is undoubtedly, the lowest cost way to provide new electric trains on the Fife Circle Line.

How Big Would The Batteries Need To Be?

I use a figure of three kWh per vehicle mile for the energy consumption of an electric multiple unit running on a typical route. My reasoning for this figure is given in How Much Power Is Needed To Run A Train At 125 mph?.

On that basis a three-car Class 385 train would need a battery capacity of 3x3x50 or 450 kWh to do a complete trip around the Fife Circle Line.

Note that Vivarail are talking about putting 424 kWh in a three-car Class 230 train.

This page on the Vivarail web site is entitled Battery Train Update.

This is a paragraph.

Battery trains are not new but battery technology is – and Vivarail is leading the way in new and innovative ways to bring them into service. 230002 has a total of 4 battery rafts each with a capacity of 106 kWh and requires an 8 minute charge at each end of the journey. With a 10 minute charge this range is extended to 50 miles and battery technology is developing all the time so these distances will increase.

So it looks like Vivarail manage to put 212 kWh under each car of their two-car train.

Surely, Hitachi have the technology to put 450 kWh in a three-car Class 385 train.

Trains On The Levenmouth Rail Link

In Scottish Government Approve £75m Levenmouth Rail Link, I talked about using Class 385 trains with batteries on the Levenmouth Rail Link.

The same Class 385 trains with batteies could do both routes.

Extension To The Borders Railway

There has been suggestions, that Borders Railway and Fife Circle Line trains run back-to-back across Edinburgh.

It is just over thirty miles between Newcraighall, where the electrification from Edinburgh ends, and Tweedbank.

With a charging station at Tweedbank, Class 385 trains with batteries could run both routes.

Conclusion

It appears that running battery-electric Class 385 trains on the Fife Circle Line and the Levenmouth Rail Link is a feasible option.

It would also be superb publicity for the company, who supplied the trains, if videos were shown of the trains on the Forth Rail Bridge.

August 21, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Scottish Government Approve £75m Levenmouth Rail Link

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

The plan seems to have been well-received by politicians and the media.

I’ve always thought this line to be a good candidate for reopening.

  • It is only five miles long.
  • It would serve Scotland’s largest town without a rail station.
  • There must be freight opportunities for freight, as the line could serve Scotland’s largest distillery.

There is more here on the Wikipedia entry for the Levenmouth Rail Link under Cost, Feasibility And Services.

Could The Levenmouth Rail Link Be Part Of A Bigger Picture?

The Fife Circle Line is an important route into Edinburgh for commuters, shoppers and visitors.

This map from Wikipedia shows the stations on the Fife Circle Line.

Consider.

  • The route is not electrified.
  • A train starting in Edinburgh and going rund the loop would cover about sixty miles.
  • Trains have a frequency of four trains per hour (tph)

It would appear that it would be the sort of service that would be ideal for electric trains, like ScotRail’s Class 385 trains, where a fleet of perhaps eight trains could provide the current service.

But there is a big obstacle to electrification; the Forth Rail Bridge.

It would be a difficult engineering project, that would cause massive disruption and one that would probably be strongly opposed by the Heritage lobby.

This map from Wikipedia shows the proposed Levenmouth Rail Link.

Note how it connects to the Fife Circle Line at Glenrothes with Thorton and Kirkcaldy stations.

I estimate that the distance between Leven and Edinburgh stations would be about 31 miles.

Could Battery-Electric Trains Work To Glenrothes with Thorton And Leven?

Consider these  facts abut battery-electric trains.

  • Bombardier ran a battery-electric train on the 11.5 mile Mayflower Line in public service for three months, without a hitch in 2015.
  • Hitachi, Siemens, Stadler and Vivarail have sold battery-electric trains.
  • Hitachi are running battery-electric trains in Japan.
  • Ranges of upwards of fifty miles are being claimed.
  • Battery-electric trains are a quality experience for passengers.

.As the Edinburgh and Leven and dinburgh and Glenrothes with Thorton routes  are about thirty miles, I believe it is now possible to run battery-electric trains on these two routes.

  • They would be charged at the Edinburgh end using the existing electrification.
  • Charging stations would be needed at Leven and Glenrothes with Thornton.
  • Electrification could also be erected as far as Dalmeny station at the Edinburgh end, which would reduce the range on batteries by about seven miles.

There would be no difficult engineering and the Forth Rail Bridge would look the same as the day it was built!

Hitachi Plans To Run ScotRail Class 385 EMUs Beyond The Wires

I covered this in more detail in Hitachi Plans To Run ScotRail Class 385 EMUs Beyond The Wires.

Hitachi appear to be serious according to this article of the same name on Rail Engineer.

The article concludes with this paragraph.

Hitachi’s proposal to operate battery trains in Scotland is at an early stage. However, with their use being recommended by the rail decarbonisation task force and the Scottish Government about to pass new climate change legislation, it may not be long before battery trains are operating in Scotland.

Hitachi aren’t stupid and I doubt they could want for a better portfolio of launch routes, than some of those in Scotland.

  • Edinburgh and Leven over the Forth Rail Bridge.
  • Edinburgh and Grenrothes with Thornton over the Forth Rail Bridge.
  • The Borders Railway.

I also show in the related article, that Glasgow to Oban and Mallaig may be possible.

The Rail Network And Electrification To The West Of Edinburgh

This map shows the rail system to the West of Edinburgh.

All lines except for the route through South Gyle and Edinburgh Gateway stations are electrified.

Electrification as far as Dalmeny station, the addition of the new chord (shown in yellow) and fill in electrification to join the chord to the Glosgow wires would open up the possibilities of more routes between Edinburgh and Glasgow and a connection between Glasgow and the Fife Circle.

But battery-electric trains would be needed.

ScotRail has Options For More Class 385 Trains

This is said in the Wikipedia entry for the Class 385 trains.

10 unit optional follow up order after 2020.

So ScotRail seem to have a gateway to the future.

Will Battery-Electric Trains Be Good For Tourism?

I very much doubt, that they’ll be bad for it!

Conclusion

The announcement of the reinstatement of the Levenmouth Rail Link, could be be a collateral benefit of a decision to trial or even order some battery-electric Hitachi Class 385 trains.

August 9, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Boost For Borders In New Report

This report on the Scottish Government web site is entitled Borders Transport Corridors – Pre-Appraisal.

It is a comprehensive report with a helpful pag of recommendations.

Recommendations that apply to rail include.

Develop Forestry Route Network

Improve network of internal forestry tracks as well as its connections to roads and railway, including ‘low-tech’ timber
pickup facilities.

This seems sensible, as some of the forests on both sides of the Scottish order are mature and need to be cut down and replanted.

Increase Park and Ride Provision

Increase capacity of existing Park-and-Ride sites and implement new Park-and-Ride schemes for all modes at strategic locations [e.g. Interchanges and Key Employment Areas]

Every part of the UK seems to need more Park-and-Ride. The Borders is no exception.

Borders Railway Extension – South/West

Extend the Borders Railway to Hawick and/or Carlisle

Will it go all the way to Carlisle?

Consider.

  • The West Coast Main Line will need a capacity increase through Carlisle because of High Speed Two. These works could be combined with those on the Southern part of the Borders Railway.
  • Plans exist for a large freight interchange at Longtown on the former MoD site.
  • Linking the Tourist areas North and South of the Scottish Border by rail must be a good thing.
  • Extension to Carlisle would give those in the Scottish Borders access to High Speed Two at Carlisle, without a long trip via Glasgow.

For these reasons, I think that the Borders Railway will go to Carlisle.

Borders Railway Extension – South/East

Extend the Borders Railway towards East Coast Main Line (ECML) via Berwick-upon-Tweed

This surprised me, but it does complete the jigsaw.

Does it offer a freight route for moving the timber out of the area?

It woulde certainly offer a scenic route between Edinburgh and Newcastle.

New Rail Stations

New rail stations on the existing Borders Railway

This is surely building on the success of the current Borders Railway.

Extension of Borders Railway Services

Link Borders Railway and Fife Circle, providing interchange at Edinburgh Gateway; West Edinburgh; and potential future link to Glasgow.

Back-to-back services across a city are always a good idea, as they cut the need for terminal platforms

  • The Borders Railway and Fife Circle are both half-hourly services, so could be connected together, once suitable rolling stock is available.
  • This service would also connect the Borders to the Edinburgh Airport tram at Edinburgh Gateway.
  • With extra services, would the capacity of the Borders Railway will probably need to be increased?

Does the South East extension enable better services for the Borders beyond Edinburgh?

Conclusion

There are a lot of projects needing to be developed, but they will create a lot of economic activity in the Borders.

The two railway extensions to Hawick and/or Carlisle and Berwick-on-Tweed are the two most expensive projects, but both have English implications, so I don’t think Westminster will mind paying some of the cost.

March 12, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Catenary Masts Erected On Alloa Branch

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in Issue 851 of Rail Magazine.

Alloa is one of the many Scottish towns and cities, that I only know through the results of Alloa Athletic FC, at around 17:00 on a Saturday afternoon.

Alloa station has a chequered history with growth through the Victorian era and total closure in October 1968.

The station was demolished to make way for a leisure centre.

But then in 2008, the line to Stirling station was reopened and a new station was built.

Wikipedia says this about the reopening.

Passenger use of the new railway station has greatly exceeded forecasts and since re-opening the service has been improved by increasing evening and Sunday frequencies from two-hourly to hourly and by adding the peak hour service to Edinburgh in 2009. In its first year the station was used by 400,000 passengers, against a forecast of 155,000.

Now the branch to Alloa is getting the ultimate upgrade – It is being electrified.

This could provide a lot of useful data on the financial returns of electrification.

Use Of Battery Trains

When I first saw a map of this line which clings to the North shore of the Forth of Firth, I was surprised that Strling to Alloa should be electrified.

It is only eight miles and if it is a level coastal railway, it could surely be handled by battery-powered trains.

So why electrify now, rather than wait for Hitachi to bring their technology to the UK and save costs?

But digging deeper, there are two large industrial sites further to the East.

The railway from Alloa extends to Dunfermline Town station on the Fife Circle Line and could play a part in the development of both sites.

An electrified line to Alloa, leaves all options open.

The Wikipedia entry for the Stirling–Alloa–Kincardine Rail Link says more.

This is the first paragraph.

The Stirling–Alloa–Kincardine rail link was a project to re-open 21 kilometres (13 mi) of railway line between Stirling, Alloa and Kincardine in Scotland. The route opened to rail traffic in March 2008.

The rail link effectively had two purposes.

  • To allow passenger trains to run as far as Alloa station.
  • To allow coal trains to run to Longannet power station, without using the Forth Bridge.

The Wikipedia entry says this under Future Expansion.

The retention of the coastal route offers the possibility of providing passenger services to Dunfermline via Clackmannan, Kincardine, Culross, Valleyfield and Cairneyhill. The former direct main line from Alloa to Dunfermline (which was not proposed for closure by Dr. Beeching) is now partly obstructed by developments on the site of the old Dunfermline Upper station. There would appear to be no prospect of access to the existing Dunfermline Town (formerly Dunfermline Lower) station by this route, unless a new stretch of line were built west of Dunfermline. However, the coastal Kincardine line does give direct access to Dunfermline Town.

There has been some discussion of the possibility of providing a service to Rosyth Ferry Terminal.

The Scottish Government have a lot of options to provide the best rail system for the current rail travellers and future developments in the area.

 

 

May 8, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Running Electric Trains Across The Forth Bridge

Search for something like Electrification of the Forth Bridge and you find a lot of speculation and no one who.believes it can be done easily.

A ScotRail conductor said very firmly that it wouldn’t be done.

I think that in addition to the engineering problems of electrifying the Forth railway bridge, there will probably be a lot of opposition from the heritage lobby!

I also think, that if you could solve the engineering oroblems, they will.cost a lot and mean closing the bridge for at least several.months.

Bi-Mode Trains

Virgin are proposing to use Class 800 trains, which are bi-mode and will use diesel power on the bridge. These trains will have no problems crossing the bridge.

They will probably even be quieter than the current InterCity 125s, that will be continued to be used by ScotRail.

Trains With Energy Storage

The bridge is not very long at 2.5 km. and an electric train with onboard energy storage could prossibly cross the bridge, if the tracks were electrified as far as the approaches.

So do I think it is possible that a train with onboard energy storage could cross the Forth Bridge?

The Energy Storage Could Be Full Before Crossing

If the overhead electrification reached to perhaps five hundred metres from the bridge, then the onboard storage would be full.

The train would lower the pantograph and then raise it again, when under the wires on the other side.

The Maximum Speed On The Bridge Is 50 mph

This must help.

The Bridge Deck Appears Level

This must help.

Any Train Manufacturer Who Creates A Train With Onboard Energy Storage Will Gain A Worldwide Reputation

There is a lot of scepticism about trains with onboard energy storage or batteries and this would dismiss it for ever, once the crossing was shown on world-wide television with headlines like.

Battery Train Crosses Forth Rail Bridge Carrying Three Hundred Passengers

I believe that any train manufacturer, who felt they could achieve this feat would be willing to have a go, as the rewards would be immense!

Scotland Would Have A Unique Tourist Attraction

Although, I wouldn’t think it would be unique for long, as other countries would do the same to solve transport problems.

But nothing would ever be as iconic as the Forth Bridge!

I also doubt Scotland and ScoRail would say No!

Could A Class 385 Train Cross The Bridge On Stored Power?

In Hitachi Class 385 Trains, Batteries And Charging Stations, I discussed whether batteries or energy storage could be put into a Class 385 train.

I said this after giving details of Hitachi’s battery trains in Japan.

So will Scotrail’s new Class 385 trains have a battery capability?

Probably not initially!

But Hitachi have obviously been doing a lot of research into battery trains and the JR Kyushu is the first practical application.

Scotland’s rail system outside Edinburgh and Glasgow is not electrified, but it is well-known that Scotland’s Government would like more electrified services and also links to places like Leven and St. Andrews.

Both of these places, and there are probably others as well, are a few miles from a main line, that is very likely to be electrified.

So could we see a battery train charged as the JR Kyushu train on a main line, serving these branch lines on battery power?

I feel that the chance of this happening is very high.

So I feel it is highly likely, that if some form of stored power was fitted to Class 385 trains, that they would be able to bridge the gap between electrification systems North and South of the Forth Bridge.

Electrification Of The Fife Circle Line

Electrification of the Fife Circle Line would be the simplest way to improve the local rail service from North of the Forth Bridge to Edinburgh.

This shows a map of the line North from Edinburgh Gateway station.

It would need the electrification from Haymarket station through Edinburgh Gateway station to be completed South of the Bridge to an appropriate point on the bridge approach.

North of the Bridge, the circle could be electrified from an appropriate point on the bridge approach, all round the circle to Markinch station.

Running The Fife Circle Service With Class 385 Trains With Onboard Energy Storage

A belt and braces approach might see North Queensferry and Dalmeny stations being the changeover point from overhead to onboard power, so that with any problems, the train is safely in a station, rather than stuck on the bridge.

Currently, the two routes between Glenrothes With Thornton and Edinburgh stations take the following times.

  • Via Kirkaldy – 59 minutes with ten stops.
  • Via Dunfermline – 62 minutes with eleven stops.

This means a train doing a round trip from Edinburgh takes just over two hours with twenty-one stops.

The Class 385 trains will have the following characteristics compared to the current diesel trains on the route.

  • They will be faster.
  • They will accelerate better and have smoother regenerative braking.
  • They  will  have a much shorter dwell time at stations.

It would not be unreasonable to assume that the new electric trains could be several minutes under two hours for the round trip.

Trains that didn’t reverse could also go straight round the circle with the driver only changing ends at Edinburgh.

Currently, the route has three trains per hour (tph), so to run this level of service would require six trains.

Running four tph would need an extra two trains and if two tph used each direction, all stations would have a two tph service.

The trains would only need the ability to run between Dalmeny and North Queensferry stations on onboard storage.

Bi-Mode Trains Between Edinburgh And Aberdeen

Virgin Trains East Coast and possibly other operators wlll  be running bi-mode Class 800 trains between Edinburgh and Markinch stations.

They will have to use diesel power where there is no electrification, but if the Fife Circle Line were to be electrified, they could use it, to run the trains more efficiently.

Onward From The Fife Circle

The Fife Circle Line could be a bridgehead to extend electrified services to the North.

Consider these distances.

  • Markinch to St. Andrews  – 20.7 miles
  • Markinch to Dundee – 25.1 miles
  • Markinch to Perth – 22.7 miles
  • Glenrothes to Leven – 7.1 miles

All of these destinations could be reached by a combination of short lengths of electrification and trains with onboard energy storage.

Scotrail’s Extra Ten Class 385 Trains

Scotrail have an extra ten Class 385 trains on option, if the franchise is extended by 7 to 10 years and the trains would enter service in 2023.

Could these trains be to run an electrified Fife Circle Line service and perhaps running to Leven?

Conclusion

Scotrail have some ambitious plans for Scotland’s railways and I wonder, if they include using Class 385 trains with onboard energy storage to get electric trains across the Forth Bridge.

September 12, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 7 Comments

A Branch To Penicuik From The Borders Railway

I started this post as part of Extending The Borders Railway To Carlisle, but as I research it more and talk to my correspondent in the Borders, I feel it needs to be a separate post.

There is an article in the Scotsman from 2013, which is entitled Borders rail link: £150m plan for Penicuik spur. This is the first paragraph.

A vital £150 million rail line connecting Penicuik to central Edinburgh could be reopened for the first time in half a century.

The article then gives a lot of favourable comments about the possibility of the link. My correspondent, grew up in the town and feels that a rail link is needed, especially, as when he was a boy, the town had three rail lines.

In the Wikipedia entry for the Borders Railway, this is a paragraph about a future branch to Penicuik.

In May 2013, it was reported that Heriot-Watt University had been asked by Midlothian Council to carry out a feasibility study on a 10-mile (16 km) rail link connecting Penicuik with the Borders Railway. At least 6 miles (9.7 km) of the new line would follow the Edinburgh, Loanhead and Roslin Railway, the alignment of which is generally intact between Millerhill and Straiton.

This proposal is not mentioned in the recent CBR report, which is entitled A Summary Case For A New Cross-Border Rail Link, that can be downloaded in PDF form from this location.

Newcraighall Station And Park-And-Ride

Newcraighall station will be North of where the proposed branch to Penicuik joins the Borders Railway.

This Google Map shows the station and the surrounding area.

Note the A1 and the convenient Park-and-Ride.

Wikipedia says this about Services from Newcraighall station.

Monday to Saturday daytimes there is a half-hourly service to Edinburgh and to Tweedbank, and an hourly evening and Sunday service. Four weekday morning peak services run beyond Edinburgh to Glenrothes with Thornton via Kirkcaldy and a similar number run in the opposite direction in the evening. When the station was a terminus, many services ran through to/from the Fife Circle Line but this practice ended prior to the reopening of the full route to Tweedbank.

I believe that a Park-and-Ride of this size, location and probable importance needs at least four trains per hour (tph) all day.

Currently, two tph between Edinburgh and Tweedbank call at Newcraighall. As it takes two hours for a train to do the round trip, this means that four trains are needed to provide a two tph service.

Four tph all the way to Tweedbank would need eight trains, but due to limitations in the design of the Borders Railway would probably be very difficult to operate.

Terminating them at Newcraighall and perhaps running beyond Edinburgh to Fife is obviously a possibility, but Newcraighall station only has one bi-directional platform.

Two Trains Per Hour To Penicuik

Opening a branch to Penicuik and running two tph would give Newcraighall station and the Park-and-Ride the four tph train service it needs, when combined with the two tph along the Borders Railway.

The Edinburgh, Loanhead and Roslin Railway

Wikipedia says the route would probably follow the route of the Edinburgh, Loanhead and Roslin Railway.

  • Much of the route is visible on Google Maps.
  • The original line closed in the 1960s.
  • There were stations at Gilmerton, Loanhead, Roslin and Glencourse.
  • The major engineering feature of the line was a visduct over Bilston Glen.

Penicuik was served by a freight-only line.

Shawfair Station

It would appear that the Northbound and Southbound trains on the Borders Railway seem to call at Shawfair station around the same time.

This must make operation of the line much simpler and it probably meant that Newcraighall station only needed one platform.

This Google Map shows the Borders Railway passing through Shawfair station.

Note the disused track of the Edinburgh, Loanhead and Roslin Railway crossing the Borders Railway at right-angles and then curving Northwards to the freight yard at Millerhill.

Trains could go via Millerhill, to join the Borders Railway South of Newcraighall station, but surely, it would be better if the branch to Penicuik, joined  the Borders Railway South of Shawfair station.

This would allow trains to and from Penicuik to pass at Shawfair station.

As trains to and from Tweedbank station seem to call between

  • XX:08 to XX:10
  • and XX 38 to XX:40

So  Penicuik trains could use times of perhaps .

  • XX:23 to XX:25
  • and XX 53 to XX:55

Which would mean a train would have thirty minutes to go from Shawfair to and from Penicuik.

The way Shawfair station is used also means the following for the Borders Railway.

  • A convenient spacing is imposed for trains to call at the single platform at Newcraighall station, as that is just four minutes towards Edinburgh.
  • Effectively, the Borders Railway to Tweedbank station runs a two tph service with two widely-seperated trains South of Shawfair station at any one time.
  • Two widely-separated  trains, South of Shawfair station enables the use of single-platform stations at all stations except Stow and Tweedbank.
  • Shawfair station is the only station with an expensive footbridge.

I also suspect that four tph is possible, with trains passing at Shawfair and Stow stations, perhaps with faster trains and improvements to the signalling.

By clever design and selective use of two-platform stations and double-track, it would appear that the engineers have designed an efficient affordable railway, that is mainly single track and has only one footbridge.

The Junction Of The Borders Railway And The Penicuik Branch

This Google Map shows where the track-bed of the Edinburgh, Loanhead and Roslin Railway passes under the Borders Railway to the South of Shawfair station.

Note the old track-bed of the Edinburgh, Loanhead and Roslin Railway running East-West across the bottom of the map.

The roads in the area don’t appear to have been built with a suitable space for a chord to connect.

But even so, I suspect it would be a practical proposition for a single-track chord to be built between the Borders Railway and the Edinburgh, Loanhead and Roslin Railway.

The only difficult construction would be crossing the A6106 road to the South-East of the roundabout.

A cross-over would be needed South of Shawfair station to allow Southbound trains to access the branch to Penicuik. But as there would only be no more than four tph South of Shawfair station, this wouldn’t be a large operational problem.

Single-Track To Penicuik

Wikipedia says that the proposed Penicuik branch is ten miles in length.

Surely, if it were a single-track branch, trains could go from Shawfair to Penicuik station and return within thirty minutes.

Consider.

  • It would take five minutes for the driver to change ends at Penicuik
  • Two stops each way with a modern train could take a total of just five minutes.
  • The train would be the only one on the branch.
  • A well-designed line could have an operating speed of at least 75 mph and possibly 90 mph.

All this would mean that there would be ten minutes for each leg of the journey between Shawfair and Penicuik.

Should A Future Penicuik Branch Be Electrified?

Electrification of a future Penicuik Branch would not be difficult.

  • Electrification would need to be extended from Newcraighall station.
  • Electrification would be easier, if the branch were single-track with single-platform stations.
  • Electrification of a new railway must be easier than electrifying an existing line.

Electrifying between Newcraighall and Penicuik may give advantages.

  • There will be a fairly plentiful supply of cascaded electric trains, that could be suitable for the route.
  • Electrifying may allow electric trains to access the Millerhill TMD.
  • Electrifying would help in running bi-mode trains on the Borders Railway, if that were thought necessary.
  • Electrifying may save a few minutes between Shawfair and Penicuik.

Obviously, electrification would allow politicians to boast about their green credentials.

The only disadvantage of electrification is that some bridges may need to be raised.

Surely, if the ten-mile branch was well-designed as mostly single-track, perhaps with electrification, and run by modern trains, two tph would be possible, even with one or more intermediate stops.

Could A Future Penicuik Branch Be Worked By Bi-Mode Trains?

A bi-mode train like a Class 319 Flex train could certainly work the route and as they have lots of power, they could probably achieve the Shawfair to Penicuik and return time of thirty minutes.

Could A Future Penicuik Branch Be Worked By Battery Trains?

As it is only ten miles between Shawfair and Penicuik, I suspect that in the future,, trains with onboard energy storage will be able to work the branch.

Single-Platform Stations

If the future Penicuik Branch could be a single-track railway, where only  one train was on the branch at any one time, all stations could be built with a single-platform and no expensive footbridge, as most stations were built on the existing Borders Railway.

As five-cars seems to be becoming the new standard train length, I would build all platforms to accept five-car trains.,

A North-South Service Across Edinbugh

Peak Hour services link Tweedbank and Newcraighall  beyond Edinburgh to Glenrothes with Thornton via Kirkcaldy.

There is obviously a need for a service in the Peak, but if there was a second Southern terminus at Penicuik would it be sensible that if a total of four tph were running from Newcraighall to Edinburgh, that a proportion cross the Forth.

Note that Cross-Forth services.

There are certainly lots of possibilities.

Could A Future Penicuik Branch Be Worked By Tram-Trains?

The Germans would probably use tram-trains in a city the size of Edinburgh.

Compared to the tram networks in Nottingham and Birmingham, Edinburgh trams always strike me that it was a network designed without ambition and that doesn’t provide the maximum benefit to the largest number of residents and visitors.

If you look at Edinburgh Gateway station, it could have been modified to allow tram-trains like the Class 399 tram-train to come from the Airport and then go straight onto the Fife Circle Line to South Gyle, Haymarket and Edinburgh stations.

At present this line is not electrified, but doing that is probably in Scotrail’s wish-list.

Once at Edinburgh station, the tram-trains could take any of the electrified routes to North Berwick, Dunbar or perhaps Penicuik.

Passengers would finally get a proper interchange between trains on the East Coast Main Line and the Edinburgh tram.

I also think that the Germans would run tram-trains on the Fife Circle Line and its proposed extension to Leven.

Currently, the frequency of trains on the Fife Circle Line is low and tram-trains could probably give a four tph service to all stations, if electrification was put in place.

Conclusion

I believe that it would be possible to open a single-track branch to Penicuik with single-platform stations and these objectives.

  • Provide a two tph service between Penicuik and Edinburgh.
  • Boost the service between the Park-and-Ride at Newcraighall and Edinburgh to four tph.
  • Provide an alternative Southern terminal for a North-South service across Edinburgh.

Electrification of the line might give operational advantages to Millerhill TMD, the Borders Railway and the branch itself.

June 13, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Reopened Levenmouth Rail Link

This article in Global Rail News has a title a title of Levenmouth – Scotland’s next railway?.

According to the article, the figures look good, for the reopening of the Levenouth Rail Link,  with a Benefit Cost Ration of 1.3, which compares well with  a figure of 0.96 for the successful Borders Railway.

It would be a five mile extension from the Fife Circle Line and would serve a station at Leven and a large Disgeo distillery.

 

February 7, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , | 1 Comment

Is The Levenmouth Rail Link Going To Be Scotland’s Next New Railway?

I ask this question as this article in Global Rail News was asking the same question, with a title of Levenmouth – Scotland’s next railway?.

According to the article, the figures look good, for the reopening of the Levenouth Rail Link,  with a Benefit Cost Ration of 1.3, which compares well with the figure of 0.96 for the successful Borders Railway.

This is also said in the Wikipedia entry for the Fife Circle Line under Future Services.

A Leven rail link would provide better services to support major industrial sites at Fife Energy Park, Methil Docks, the Low Carbon Park (under construction), Diageo, the businesses along the Leven Valley (including Donaldsons) and major retailers in Leven located close to the line (Sainsbury, B&Q, Argos, etc.). Levenmouth is an area of high deprivation and Fife Council estimates that an hourly train link (using the Fife Circle services)to Edinburgh would increase job vacancies by 500% since commuting for work would become possible.

There is one big difference between the Borders Railway and the Levenmouth Rail Link.

On a journey to Scotland’s capital from Leven, the travellers have to cross the large water.barrier of the Firth of Forth.

Is The Firth Of Forth A Psychological Barrier?

Does the Forth act as both a psychological batter, as well as a physical barrier to travel?

I don’t know for sure, but I hear the same sort of comments from my friends in Edinburgh about Fife, as North Londoners make about South London and probably South Londoners make about the North.

The much larger Thameslink project may get all the publicity and criticism, but London’s most modern cross-river link just keeps on giving.

The East London Line  And The Levenmouth Rail Link

You might argue, what has the East London Line  got to do with the Levenmouth Rail Link?

I believe that because of the geography of the two areas, with a major waterway between two centres of population, that the massive underestimation of passenger numbers, that occurred in East London could also happen across the Forth.

Luckily, that just as Marc Brunel provided a high-quality crossing under the Thames, the Victorians did this for the Firth of Forth.

Although, it could be argued that the Scottish crossing is more iconic and you get a better view.

As an aside, if the Forth Bridge, which opened in 1890 is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, surely Marc Brunel’s much older Thames Tunnel, should be similarly acknowledged.

Local Rail Services Across The Firth Of Forth

At present the local services across the bridge are four trains per hour on the Fife Circle Line.

That is not a high capacity service, given the line is not electrified.

If the Levenmouth Rail Link were to be rebuilt, it would connect to the Fife Circle  and surely, it would mean that more trains could be timetabled to and from Edinburgh, via the new station at Edinburgh Gateway, which gives access to Edinburgh’s trams, the Airport and services to Glasgow and the West of Scotland.

Would those along the Levenmouth Rail Link respond to a new railway, as those who live in Hackney did to the East London Line?

I would be very surprised if they didn’t!

Rebuilding The Levenmouth Rail Link

The Levenmouth Rail Link is a classic branch line, with not much complication. Published plans show the following.

This Google Map shows the junction with the main line.

glenrothrsthornton

Glenrothes with Thornton station is in the South-West corner of the map on the Fife Circle Line.

  • Trains go West from the station to Edinburgh on the Fife Circle Line via Cowdenbeath and Dunfermline.
  • There is a triangular junction to the East of the station.
  • Trains go South from this junction to Edinburgh via Kirkcaldy.
  • Trains go North from this junction to Perth, Dundee and Aberdeen.

To the North of this junction, the line splits, with trains for Leven, branching off to the East.

This map from Wikipedia shows the stations on the Fife Circle Line

Note that the junction where the Fife Circle Line splits South of Markinch station, is the one shown in the Google Map.

Electrification

The Fife Circle and the Edinburgh to Aberdeen Line are not electrified and there are no scheduled plans to do so, other than the aspiration of having more lines with electric services.

But various factors will effect the types of trains between Edinburgh and Perth, Dundee and Aberdeen.

  • Distances are not hundreds of miles.
  • Virgin’s electro-diesel Class 800 trains will be working between Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
  • Could Hitachi build electro-diesel versions of their Class 385 trains, as they share design features with the Class 800 trains?
  • Will Hitachi add energy storage to Class 385 trains?
  • Abellio are rumoured to be introducing trains with energy storage in East Anglia. Would this expertise be used by Abellio ScotRail?

I think we could see a cost-effective strategy implemented, that included electric trains, but a limited amount of overhead wiring.

  • Edinburgh to Dalmeny – Electrified
  • The Forth Bridge could be left without wires, if it were thought too sensitive for the Heritage Taliban.
  • North Queensferry to Perth – Electrified
  • Ladybank to Dundee – Not electrified
  • Fife Circle via Cowdenbeath and Dunfermline – Electrified
  • Levenmouth Rail Link – Not electrified

Note.

  1. As Stirling and/or Dunblane will be electrified, will Stirling to Perth be electrified?
  2. Between Dalmeny and North Queensferry, diesel or battery power would be used on local services.
  3. I have flown my virtual helicopter round the Fife Circle and it doesn’t look that electrification would be a nightmare.
  4. The Levenmouth Rail Link could be run by battery trains, with a charging station, like a Railbaar, at Leven station.

Appropriate trains would provide all services.

Services

Obviously, what services are introduced depends on passenger traffic.

But after a quick look at the lines, I suspect that the Levenmouth Rail Link fits well with current services on the Fife Circle.

Bear in mind too, that reopening the St. Andrews Rail Link , could be a possibility.

Conclusion

The railways North from the Forth Bridge in the East and Stirling and Dunblane in the West to Perth and Dundee could be much improved. I would do the following.

  • Some short lengths of electrification.
  • Bi-mode or battery versions of Class 385 trains.

All trains going over the Forth Bridge, should have large windows. The Bridge Visitor Centre must also have easy access with perhaps a free shuttle bus from Dalmeny station.

One of Scotland’s major assets, must be made to work for its living.

 

 

November 18, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

Could Tram-Trains Be Used To Advantage In Edinburgh?

This might be design by hindsight but after viewing the tram-trains of Kassel, Karlsruhe and Mulhouse, I do wonder if tram-trains could be used to advantage in Edinburgh, alongside the new tram system.

To the west of Haymarket station, the trams and rail lines share a corridor, with the tram tracks to the north. So as the Edinburgh trams run on standard gauge tracks, any tram-trains coming or going to the west could just cross over between the two sets of tracks. This Google Earth image shows the tram stop and the train station at Haymarket.

Trams And Trains At Haymarket

Trams And Trains At Haymarket

Unfortunately, I think the image pre-dates the operation of the trams, but compared to some of the complicated layouts and tunnels in Germany, it should be very simple. As was shown in Paris, tram-trains can be built that run on both the 750 V DC used by Edinburgh trams and the 25 kV AC used on the electrified main line to both Glasgow and London from Edinburgh.

The Edinburgh trams run every 8-10 minutes during the week, so there should be capacity to run some train-trains through the city centre section, without much modification.

But where would they go at the eastern end?

The obvious place would be to go straight on past Waverley station and the Balmoral Hotel and then return to the rail lines to the east of the station, if that was possible. This is a Google Earth image of the area.

Edinburgh Waverley

Edinburgh Waverley

If they ever extend the tram to Leith and Newhaven, that may or may not be a possibility. The Edinburgh trams are built to a very tight specification, which is designed to go round sharp corners and not make too much noise. Running straight between Haymarket and Waverley may be an easier task, than turning sharply on and off Princes Street.

As with Crossrail and Thameslink in London, where tunnels link two railways lines together, thus saving terminal platforms in the city centre, an east-west tram-train across Edinburgh, would reduce the needed platform capacity in both Waverley and Haymarket stations.

I have been looking at Google Earth images of Edinburgh and there are more railways than those that run passenger trains. I would assume they take freight from up the East Coast Main Line through the city. So could some of these lines be used by tram-trains to create much needed public transport routes in the city?

There is one interesting possibility. The Edinburgh Suburban and Southside Junction Railway, runs across the south of the city and is used by freight trains, but no passenger services. According to Wikipedia there is a campaign to reopen the line to Passenger services and also a proposal by Network Rail to electrify the line. Tram-trains could be a possibility for providing the service, as the line links to the main railway across Edinburgh at both ends.

It would probably be more affordable to provide the passenger services using tram-train technology, as the stops would be simpler and you could use an off-the-shelf Class 399 tram-train, if they have been proven to work in Sheffield.

In the Wikipedia for Edinburgh trams, they also talk about a new stop called Edinburgh Gateway, which would link to trains on the Fife Circle Line.

It has been proposed that the Fife Circle Line be extended to Leven by creating the Levenmouth Rail Link.

I’m pretty certain that in Karlsruhe or Kassel, the Germans, would run tram-trains on the Fife Circle and the extension to Leven, probably using 750 DC electrification all the way.

1. The station at Edinburgh Gateway could be a simpler affair, which would only need to accommodate compatible tram-trains and trams which could share platforms. Obviously, if longer distance trains to Glasgow or Aberdeen were stopping at the station, these would probably need their own platforms.

2. Creating a 750 DC tram line between Thornton and Leven, even if parts of the line carried freight trains, must be more affordable, than heavy rail.

3. Edinburgh would have the iconic images of tram-trains going over the Forth Rail bridge, which could be electrified to either system, as the tram-trains won’t care.

4. Operation of the tram-train would be a bit like the proposed tram-train test in Sheffield, where both ends of the line operate as trams, with a section of heavy rail in the middle.

5. Battery technology could also be used between Edinburgh Gateway and Thornton.

I’ve seen everything, I’m proposing here, in the last few weeks.

This musing of a Saasenach, does illustrate the importance of the tram-train trial between Sheffield and Rotherham.

February 26, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment