The Anonymous Widower

Grayling Gives Green Light To Double Track On Part Of Felixstowe Line

The title of this post is the same as that of this article in the East Anglian Daily Times.

This page on the Network Rail web site gives more details.

This is said.

Building the additional track will help increase the capacity of the Felixstowe branch line and take lorries off the road. It will also mean more reliable journeys for passengers traveling between Ipswich and Felixstowe.

There is also this map, which shows where a second track is being added to the Felixstowe Branch Line between Trimley station and Grimston Lane level crossing.

Note that six level crossings are also being removed, with the one at Gun Lane being replaced with a bridge, which seems to be a bit controversial.

Freight Traffic On The Line

The East Anglian Article says this.

This will allow up to 47 freight trains to run per day, 14 more trains than can currently run on the single line. Each train can carry the equivalent of 60 lorry loads, meaning fewer lorries on busy roads such as the A14.

That is quite a lot of freight and a forty-two percent increase in the number of trains.

Trimley Station

Trimley station will be the Southern end of the new track.

This Google Map shows Trimley station.

Note.

  • Cordy’s Lane crossing the line at Trimley station.
  • The line to Flelixstowe Port (North) going South.
  • The line to Felixstowe station going straight on.

Judging by the number of houses on the South side of the track, I would assume that an automatic level crossing is being installed there.

Noise, Smell And Vibration

The Felixstowe Branch Line illustrates one of the problems of the various freight locomotives and especially the ubiquitous Class 66 locomotive. The locomotives are not particularly environmentally-friendly, especially when they are hauling up to forty truck with containers.

I think that some parts of the branch need to have noise mitigation measures installed, otherwise there will be serious levels of complaint.

New Locomotives Are Needed

This article in Rail Magazine is entitled GB Railfreight In ‘Locomotive Acquisition’ Talks, so at least one company thinks so!

In Jumbo Trains Are Arriving, I mused about the type of train required.

I came to this conclusion.

Some more powerful freight locomotives are needed, but the designs should be available.

I would add to that now. The locomotives would need to be dual-mode and a lot more environmentally-friendly/

October 2, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

A New Gateway To China: Europe Prepares For The Launch Of Baku–Tbilisi–Kars Railway

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Global Rail News. This is the first two paragraphs.

A new rail corridor linking Azerbaijan and Turkey via Georgia is set to launch in September, establishing a new freight and passenger link between Europe and China.

Every year, millions of tonnes of cargo is expected to be transported on the 825km line.

Baku, which is the Eastern terminus of the Baku–Tbilisi–Kars Railway,  is the capital of Azerbaijan and is a port on the Caspian Sea. It is connected to Turkmenbashi on the other side of the sea, which is the Western terminus of the Trans-Caspian Railway, which leads to Kazakhstan, Afghanistan and China.

At the other end of the line Kars in Turkey is connected to the European rail network.

Freight forecasts for the route in the Global Rail News article are bullish.

According to estimates, by the third year the annual turnover of cargo on BTK will be three to five million tonnes, rising to six to eight million by its fifth year and more than 10 million tonnes in its 10th. By 2034 this figure is anticipated to reach 17 million tonnes of annual freight.

Wikipedia also says this.

The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars project is intended to complete a transport corridor linking Azerbaijan to Turkey (and therefore Central Asia and China to Europe) by rail. (In late 2015, a goods train took only 15 days to travel from South Korea to Istanbul via China, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Georgia—considerably less time than a journey by sea.)

The sea journey takes between four and six weeks.

This article on the BBC is entitled All aboard the China-to-London freight train. This is an except from the article describing why Tesco use trains to get goods from China to the UK.

The UK’s biggest supermarket, Tesco, doesn’t have any goods on this particular train but does use rail to carry toys, electrical goods, homeware and clothing from China to European rail hubs such as Bratislava in Slovakia and Krasnaje in Belarus.

Alistair Lindsay, Tesco’s head of global logistics, says the supermarket prefers shipping its goods because this is the most environmentally friendly way, as well as offering the best value for money, but that “where we need to move products quicker we have that option to do it by rail”.

This decision would normally be driven by customer demand for particular products, he says.

So it’s all about value-for-money and customer demand.

Conclusion

I am drawn to the conclusion, that the Baku–Tbilisi–Kars Railway will meet the forecasts.

It has the great advantage over some of the other routes, that it avoids Putin’s Russia, which must be a good thing.

 

September 30, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Cargo Hub Is Latest Plan To Get Manston Airfield Off Ground

The title of this post is the same as a news item in the business section of The Times today.

This is the first paragraph.

It is the airport that refuses to take off. But the latest attempt to turn the Battle of Britain airfield if Manston into a sstainable commercial proposition could take wing this autumn.

The Plan

The plan for Manston Airport is roughly on the following lines.

  • The airport becomes a passenger and freight airport.
  • Help create employment in a depressed area.
  • Talk of a £300 million investment.
  • A potential to take air cargo out of Gatwick and Heathrow.

But I’m fairly sceptical given that so many attempts have failed in the past.

This Google Map shows the position of the airport.

Note how the airport is ringed by the Thanet towns.

This Google Map is a close-up of the Airport.

Note

These are my observations.

Local Residents

The runway is roughly East-West on an alignment of 10-28.

Most take-offs and landings will probably we towards the West using Eunway 28.

I don’t know the area well, but I did get this image from Google Maps.

Note this housing just to the South of the final approach to Runway 28.

This Google Map shows the housing, the runway and the A299.

The residents can’t be too pleased of the plans.

Especially, as Google StreetView shows some of these houses to be newly-built sizeable bungalows.

Road Access

Road access to the airport would need to be substantially improved.

I can’t expect that the residents of Thanet will be pleased if a motorway is built across the countryside from the A2 South of Canterbury.

Rail Access

London’s newest airport is Southend Airport on the North bank of the Thames. The airport is growing as a base for easyJet and other low-cost airlines.

Southend Airport has several advantages, one of which is that the terminal is only a hundred metres from Southend Airport railway station, which is fifty minutes from Liverpool Street station.

In this day and age, I don’t believe that planning permission will be given for Manston Airport, unless a large proportion of freight, travellers and airport workers travel to and from the airport by rail.

Consider the current situation.

  • As the Ashford to Ramsgate Line passes just to the South of Manston Airport, I would expect that the development would involve diverting this rail line, so it passed close to the airport.
  • Current passenger services on the line, link to Ashford, Canterbury, Dover,  Margate and Ramsgate, so at least it would be ideal for local airport workers.
  • There are also a couple of trains per hour (tph) to and from London Victoria.
  • Class 395 trains or Javelins also run using HS1 into St. Pancras. Currently, the fastest trains from |St. Pancras to Ramsgate take 79 minutes, so I suspect that to Manston Airport will take about 75 minutes.

The new Southeastern Franchise, which is currently being bid for will see improved access to this area of Kent, which could include.

  • A second HighSpeed route opened into either Victoria or Waterloo using the route that used to be taken by Eurostar to Waterloo.
  • Increase in HighSpeed services to Kent.
  • Replacement of all the slow trains to speed up faster services.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see that Ramsgate gets the following HighSpeed services to London in every hour, that would call at Manston Airport.

  1. Two fast trains to St. Pancras.
  2. Two fast trains to Victoria
  3. Two fast trains to St. Pancras via the Medway towns.

Certainly, the frequency will be good.

Getting Passengers To And From The Airport

It is 2026 and these will be the times from Oxford Circus to the various London airports.

  • Birmingham – 45 minutes – via HS2
  • Gatwick – 68 minutes
  • Heathrow – 27 minutes
  • London City – 20 minutes
  • Luton – 43 minutes
  • Manston – 75 minutes
  • Southend – 60 minutes
  • Stansted – 43 minutes

Access from London might be by HighSpeed train, but people complain about the time it gets to Stansted now, so a time of 75 minutes may be a discouragement, when there are so many alternatives.

I believe that coupled with road access, which will be difficult to improve, that Manston Airport, will never be a significant player in the passenger market.

Getting Cargo To And From The Airport

The local residents are not going to want large numbers of trucks taking cargo to the airport.

But I believe that a lot of parcel and pallet transport, can go by train.

Doncaster-Sheffield Airport, which is also serious about cargo, is proposing to divert the East Coast Main Line, so that cargo trains can call at the airport. Manston Airport would have equally good rail access.

The interesting concept is what I call a HSPT or High Speed Parcel/Pallet train. The idea was first proposed in the June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways there is an article entitled Freight, Not All Doom And Gloom, which talks about high-value parcel carriers.

I have developed the concept, as I’m inclined to do in The Go-Anywhere Express Parcel And Pallet Carrier (HSPT).

I would use some of the soon-to-be redundant Class 321 trains and convert them into parcel and pallet carriers.

  • They are four-car 100 mph dual voltage electric multiple units.
  • They can run in lengths of twelve-cars if required.
  • There are over a hundred of them of which the large proportion will need new caring owners.
  • The trains may be thirty-five years old, but they are reliable and built out of steel to take punishment.
  • They can easily be converted to bi-mode units, by adding underfloor diesel engines, so they can go anywhere in the UK.
  • They could even go through the Channel Tunnel and run on the the French 25 KVAC network.

How many trucks would be taken from the UK’s crowded roads.

An Integrated Cargo Airport

An integrated cargo airport may have appeal.

Consider.

  • Air cargo is increasingly  containerised.
  • Gatwick and Heathrow Airports are short of slots for passenger aircraft.
  • Manston has a long runway, that could handle the largest cargo planes.
  • The airport could easily have rail access to the |Channel Tunnel.
  • The proposed HSPTs could use the Channel Tunnel with the correct signalling.

I worry that the poor road access would be a problem.

The Competition

Doncaster Sheffield Airport could be a serious competitor with equally good train and much better road access.

Conclusion

As in the past, it will be a difficult project to get working well

I also think the road access problems might kill it.

 

 

August 31, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 5 Comments

Georgia, Azerbaijan and Iran Discuss New Freight Corridor To link India And Europe

The title of this post is the same as that of an article on Global Rail News.

The article doesn’t say much, except that currently it takes between thirty and forty days for freight to get between India and Europe.

The New Silk Road

In How To Move 100,000 Containers A Year Between Germany And China, I talked about a plan by Deutsche Bahn and Georgian Railways to create a  New Silk Road. This map shows the route.

Note how the route of the New Silk Road could go South of the Caspian Sea, which means it would pass through Iran.

In the earlier post, I said this about the New Silk Road.

If you read the Wikipedia entry for Georgian Railways, it does list a few problems, but it would appear that the route across Georgia is being upgraded to Standard Gauge all the way from the Turkish border to Almaty in Kazakhstan.

With Germany, Turkey and Europe at the Western end and China at the Eastern end both predominately Standard Gauge, I think that this route will be all the same gauge.

A new route between Azerbaijan and Kazahkstan would avoid using a ferry across the Caspian Sea for the New Silk Road.

Ideally it would be a Standard Gauge Line.

Iran

So will Iranian Railways be able to create a Standard Gauge route to the South of the Caspian Sea?

The good news is as follows.

Iran’s railways are built using Standard Gauge.

Much of the route appears to be already built.

The route could serve Tehran and link it to Tbilisi and Baku, the capitals of Georgia and Axerbaijan.

But the bad news is given in a section in the Wikipedia entry for Iranian Railways called Challenging Construction, where this is said.

The Trans-Iranian railway traverses many mountain ranges, and is full of spirals and 1 in 36 ruling grades. Much of the terrain was unmapped when construction took place, and its geology unknown. Several stretches of line, including tunnels, were built through unsuitable geology, and had to be replaced even before the line opened. Nevertheless, the line was completed ahead of schedule.

In recent years the railways have undergone significant extensions including the 1977 linking to the western railway system at the Turkish border, the 1993 opening of the Bandar Abbas line providing better access to the sea, and the 1996 opening of the Mashad–Sarakhs extension as part of the Silk Road railway to link to the landlocked Central Asian Countries.

Add in the earthquake-prone nature of the area, and it might not be a piece of cake.

Liuk Between Iran And Turkey

There is a section in the Wikipedia entry for Iranian Railways called Link to Turkey, and International Standard Gauge route to Europe, where this is said.

In 1977, the Iranian railways linked to the western railway system at the Turkish border.

The route to the west into Turkey terminates at Van with a 90 km (56 mi) train ferry for both freight wagons and international passenger traffic (baggage car only) across Lake Van, which is at an altitude of 1,650 m (5,413 ft), to Tatvan where it joins the Turkish standard-gauge network.

Looking at the map, it would appear that it could be easier to go between Iran and Turkey via Georgia and Azerbaijan. The rail link to Azerbaijan appears to have seen lots of use between Iran and the formerSoviet Union, but it needs a gauge change on the border.

But driven by the Germans and the Georgians, it would appear that Standard Gauge trains can or will soon be able to go from Turkey to Iran.

Link To Pakistan

There is also a section  in the Wikipedia entry for Iranian Railways called Link to Pakistan, where this is said.

The construction of the railway from Bam to Zahedan was completed in early 2009 connecting Tehran to Pakistan border with an opening ceremony on 19 July 2009. However international container traffic commenced operations on 14 August 2009 with transshipment (or transloading) between 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) Indian gauge and 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge wagons in the new Zahedan Exchange Yard on the bypass line. The freight traffic was discontinued however after the initial trial trains and was only revived in 2015.

Iranian Railways have been trying to persuade Pakistan Railways to convert its route to Quetta to standard gauge, in order to facilitate the flow of international traffic to Europe. Pakistan responded in 2006 with a statement that it is to convert its network to standard gauge, and would plan a link with the standard gauge system of China.

A through passenger service is being considered to supplement the occasional Quetta-Zahedan service, itself a poor shadow of the former Pakistan-Iran ‘Taftan Express’.

It’s such a pity, that Indian Railways were not built to Standard Gauge. But then we built Irish Railways to a different gauge too!

Iran’s Leadership

It does appear from the last two sections with their extracts from Wikipedia, that Iran is very much taking the lead in facilitating the movement of freight between Europe and the Indian sub-continent.

Quetta

It looks like if the Iranians have their way, Quetta will be the place, where the changeover takes place between Standard and Indian Gauges. This is the first two paragraphs of the Wikipedia entry for the city.

Quetta is the provincial capital of Balochistan, Pakistan and the ninth-largest city of the country. The city is known as the fruit garden of Pakistan, due to the numerous fruit orchards in and around it, and the large variety of fruits and dry fruits produced there. The immediate area has long been one of pastures and mountains, with varied plants and animals relative to the dry plains to the west. Quetta is at an average elevation of 1,680 meters (5,510 feet) above sea level, making it Pakistan’s only high-altitude major city. The population of the city is estimated to be approximately 1,140,000.

Located in north western Balochistan near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, Quetta is a trade and communication centre between the two countries. The city lies on the Bolan Pass route which was once the only gateway from Central Asia to South Asia. Quetta played an important role militarily for the Pakistani Armed Forces in the intermittent Afghanistan conflict.

Placing the main rail gauge change in Quetta, must improve the economic prospects for the area.

The altitude of the city could be a problem, but Wikipedia also says trains are attacked.

Conclusion

This project would appear to be a very feasible way to create a rail route between Europe and India, which from Europe to Quetta will be Standard Gauge and from Quetta Eastwards will be Indian Gauge.

 

 

June 8, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Connecting The Powerhouses

This is the title of an article in the June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, written by Colin Boocock.

It talks about a proposal to reopen the Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midland Junction Railway or Peak Main Line, which formed part of the Midland Railway route from London to Manchester.

The three main objectives of the reopening are probably as follows.

  • Decrease journey times between Manchester and Derby/Nottingham
  • Provide a better route for limestone trains from around Millers Dale to Derby and the South.
  • Provide better access to the Peak District with its natural and man-made attractions

I would add better connectivity to both Manchester Airport and HS2.

From Derby To Manchester By Rail Today

There are two current routes via Stoke or Sheffield.

The route via Sheffield is the busier and decreasing journey times would be difficult, but the Stoke route is electrified from Stoke and bi-mode trains could probably do Derby to Manchester in an hour and fifteen minutes.

Reopening The Peak Main Line

The next three sections describe the current states of the three sections of the Peak Main Line, as it goes directly across the Peak District from Chinley on the Hope Valley Line to Derby.

From Derby To Matlock

This Southern section of the Peak Main Line is the Derwent Valley Line and it is served by an hourly passenger service.

From Chinley to Millers Dale

The Northern section of the Peak Main Line runs from Chinley station on the Hope Valley Line to the site of Millers Dale station, which is a few miles east of Buxton.

The main use of this section is to get stone and quarry products out of the Peak District to markets in the Midlands and the South.

The stone trains go North to the Hope Valley Line, before turning East to Sheffield and then South down the Midland Main Line.

The Missing Link From Millers Dale To Matlock

This important fourteen mile section of Peak Main Line was closed in 1968, by the non-driving Transport Minister Barbara Castle. She obviously didn’t like trains either!

The Author’s Thoughts On The Link

The track bed of the Peak Main Line is still intact and the author of the article suggests that there could be two ways of rebuilding the railway.

  • As a 75 mph single-track railway sharing the track-bed with the Monsai Trail.
  • As a 90 mph double-track railway, after moving the Monsai Trail to a more picturesque route.

Four or five, reopened or new stations could be built with passing loops to enable the minimum service frequency to be achieved, which the author suggests should be the following in both directions in every hour.

  • One fast passenger train
  • One stopping passenger train.
  • One freight train; full or empty.

But there are possible problems.

  • The A6 has to be crossed.
  • One local landowner didn’t allow consultants access to the line for an inspection.
  • Severn Trent Water are digging a large pipe into the track-bed.
  • Peak Rail have plans to extend their heritage line to Bakewell. Could both groups co-exist?

It sounds to me that everybody should find a good hostelry and thrash out a comprehensive co-operation agreement on the backs of engineering envelopes, fuelled by some excellent real ale.

A Connection To Buxton

The author says this.

A future connection over the existing railway from North of Millers Dale to Buxton would add a tourist town with 10,000 inhabitants to the market mix.

I feel Buxton may become more important in the next few years.

The Cost Of Building The Link

The author suggests that the cost of rebuilding the Peak Main Line could be between £137million and £170million, based on a consultants’ report and the cost of reinstating the Borders Railway.

Would Building The Link Be Value For Money?

The author finishes a section called Value For Money like this.

These figures suggest the Peak main line reopening may be at least as cost-effective, perhaps considerably more so, than the Borders Railway. And that ignores any benefits to the economy of the local community around that 14 miles of railway, which comprises almost 30,000 people (excluding Buxton’s 10,000).

I’ll go along with that for now!

Factors Driving The Traffic

The author suggests that three factors will drive the traffic on a rebuilt Peak Main Line.

  • General connectivity between the East Midlands and Stockport/Manchester.
  • Stone trains to the Midlands and the South.
  • A combination of local travel and tourism.

The author also suggests that the hourly service on the Derwent Valley Line linking Matlock to Derby and Nottingham is inadequate.

The Buxton Affect

I would add a fourth factor; the Class 319 Flex trains providing an improved service between Manchester and Buxton.

  • Four-car trains
  • A frequency of two trains per hour.
  • Acceptable timings, even when crush loaded.

Northern have said they are likely to run back-to-back services across Manchester using the Ordsall Chord, which would be more efficient and save platform space in Manchester.

Because Manchester to Clitheroe is another uphill slog, I would link Clitheroe and Buxton services, thus creating a commuter railway that linked two major tourism areas. Certain services would continue at the Northern end to Hellifield for the recently rebuilt, Settle and Carlisle Railway.

In Why Not Buxton To Hellifield?, I wrote about this cross-Manchester link.

Whatever Northern do between Manchester and Buxton, it will be better than at present and traffic on a reopened Peak Main Line to Matlock must feel the benefit.

Stone Traffic

This Google Map shows the area between Buxton and Millers Dale.

Note Buxton in the South-West corner of the map and all the white areas to the North-East of the town, with Millers Dale at The East of the map.

The white areas are not snow in winter, but massive limestone quarries.

The Peak Main Line passes between and around the quarries, so stone trains could take the most efficient route, to either the North or South.

In the same Edition of Modern Railways as the article, is another article about rail freight, this is said.

Aggregates traffic, negligible in 1970, is now a quarter of the total, as sand and gravel supplies in London and the South East have been exhausted  and the capital satisfies ite voracious demand for building materials from further afield.

Things have changed since 1968.

I don’t think it likely that the number of stone trains from Derbyshire to the South will decrease..

Perhaps, the big aggregate and quarrying companies would like to make a contribution to the reinstatement of the Peak Main Line.

The Derwent Valley Line

This is taken from Colin Boocock’s article.

There is already the hourly commuter service linking Matlock with Derby and Nottingham, which is buoyant at certain times of the working day, and the two car trains are busy in the tourist season. The Peak District National Park is a very popular area for walkers and tourists in general.

A picture in the article shows a single-car Class 153 train working the line. If this is typical it is totally inadequate.

From the point of view of balance on the existing line, with Buxton getting spacious four-car Class 319 Flex trains from Manchester, surely Matlock needs something bigger from Derby and Nottingham.

Given the excellent cycling and walking route between Matlock and Buxton, a four-car train should have plenty of space for bicycles and rucksacks.

Perhaps, Porterbrook could come up with a special four-car Flex tourist train, based on a Class 455 train.

With good trains at both ends of the line, the tourism potential of the route could be better assessed.

Exploring The Derwent Valley Line, gives pictures and more details on my thoughts about the Derwent Valley Line.

HS2

You may think that HS2 is irrelevant to a reopened railway across the Peak District. But when it opens HS2 will be a fast alternative route between the East Midlands and Manchester.

This document on the HS2 web site gives the following HS2 times.

  • East Midlands Hub to Birmingham  – 19 minutes
  • Birmingham to Manchester – 41 minutes.

Admittedly, these times will not be available until HS2 to the East Midlands and Manchester is fully open

But from 2032, East Midlands Hub to Birmingham will be open and a couple of years before that HS2 will reach Crewe, thus giving a Birmingham to Manchester time somewhere around fifty minutes, by using HS2 to Crewe and then running at 200 kph into Manchester.

So will this make the need for the Peak Main Line unnecessary?

I very much doubt it.

Suppose a family who lived in Nottingham were going to Manchester to see their favourite band, football team or just for a day out.

How many would be tempted to take the fast route one way and the slow scenic route without a change on the other?

Colin Boocock calculates that Nottingham to Manchester will take one hour forty-three minutes via the Peak Main Line from when it is opened.

HS2 may be faster than that at around an hour with a change, so it will be a case of paying the money and making the choice.

But if the Peak Main Line is reopened, this will mean that Matlock, Buxton and all the intermediate places will be given a faster route to London as East Midlands Hub to Euston will be just sixty-eight minutes.

The Peak Main Line will become a valuable feeder line for HS2.

HS2 could also open up more paths on the Midland Main Line for freight, so could we see more stone trains going South.

Manchester Airport

Manchester Airport is an ambitious player in the transport game.

  • The Ordsall Chord will give is much better connections to the North, Yorkshire and the North East of England and Scotland.
  • Rail improvements around Chester and Liverpool will give it better access to Cheshire, Shropshire and North Wales.
  • HS2 will give improve its connections to the West Midlands and the South.

I believe that just as Gatwick Airport has become an important rail hub, that the same thing will happen to Maanchester Airport.

The main connections that Manchester Airport lacks are decent links to Sheffield and the East Midlands.

This diagram shows the rail lines between Manchester and the Airport.

The Hope Valley Line from Sheffield, feeds into Stockport to go to Central Manchester.

The Peak Main Line can join the Hope Valley Line either via the Buxton Line at Hazel Grove or as the stone trains currently do at Chinley.

At the present time, there is no direct connection from the Hope Valley Line to Manchester Airport.

But if one were needed, I’m certain that it could be arranged.

I believe it is possible to connect the Mid-Cheshire Line that goes from Stockport to Navigation Road and Altrincham, to the Styal Line, which is the main route to the Airport. This would be done at a new junction North of Gatley station.

This Google Map shows the area where the railway lines cross.

Gatley station is at the South-West corner of the map and the Styal Line runs Northwards past the motorway junction between the M60 and the A34.

The Mid-Cheshire Line runs across the map South of the motorway junction and the Alexandra Hospital.

This connection could be done in one of several ways.

  • Trains could reverse at Stockport station.
  • Trains could stop at Stockport station and travellers would simply walk across the platform to connect to trains to and from the Airport.
  • It might even be possible to connect the Hope Valley Line directly to the Mid Cheshire Line.

The last option would be my preferred one, as if it could be built, it would give Sheffield very good access to Manchester Airport.

This Google Map shows the junction South of Stockport, where three lines divide.

The Mid-Cheshire Line goes to the West, the West Coast Main Line goes to the South and the Hope Valley Line  goes to the East.

It would be tight and probably require some demolition to get a direct connection across the junction from East to West, but it would give superb access between Sheffield and the East Midlands and Manchester Airport.

There would be two routes to Manchester from the Hope Valley Line

  • Direct via Stockport
  • Indirect via Manchester Airport, where the train would reverse.

Services could even be arranged to call simultaneously at an enlarged Hazel Grove station, to give travellers the maximum flexibility.

A reopened Peak Main Line will surely be on Manchester Airport’s wish list.

Chatsworth House

Chatsworth House is one of the UK’s favourite country houses and it lies under four miles from the sites of the former stations;Hassop and Rowsley on the Peak Main Line.

Reading the excellent How To Find Us page on the Chatsworth website, I get the impression they make it easy to get to the house, by all sorts of routes.

So , I would suspect they would welcome one or both of the stations, if they reopened.

Recently, I visited Hassop station and found they had lots of bicycles for hire.

Peak Rail

I can’t leave this post without mentioning Peak Rail, the heritage rail company with ambitions to connect Matlock to Buxton via Bakewell.

In Travelling Along Peak Rail, I describe my trip between Matlock and Rowsley South stations.

What impressed me was their professionalism, in both the route and the way they ran the trains.

I suspect that given time and enough money they will achieve their ambitions.

But what if the big beasts of Derbyshire County Council, Northern, East Midlands Trains, Network Rail and possibly Manchester Airport want the route for themselves?

My view is that this is a tourist area and if co-operation could enable a heritage service between Matlock and Buxton, this would bring visitors and their money to the area.

I think too, that some of the engineering challenges will need the money that some big beasts might bring!

I can envisage a time, when passengers will have two trains per hour to and from Derby.

  • One train might terminate at Matlock and allow passengers to connect to a heritage service going North.
  • The other train would continue through as a stopping train to Manchester.

This is just one of a long list of endless possibilities.

 

Conclusion

It’s very difficult to find a reason not to reopen the Peak Main Line

 

 

 

 

 

May 30, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 3 Comments

The Go-Anywhere Express Parcel And Pallet Carrier (HSPT)

In the June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways there is an article entitled Freight, Not All Doom And Gloom, which talks about high-value parcel carriers. The article says this.

Think about all those 1980s units that are soon to be made redundant, especially the ones with wide doorways. You could forklift in pallets and move them by hand trolley inside the vehicle (forklift tines would not fit an HST’s doors).

A Class 150 parcels unit, anyone?

There are other reasons for not using a High Speed Train.

  • ScotRail and Great Western Railway have better uses for the trains moving passengers around in style.
  • Their 125 mph capability and large windows might come in handy for heritage tourism.
  • They are diesel trains and some might not like to hear them thundering through the countryside in the middle of the night.

As to the Class 150 train, it has a few disadvantages.

  • It is only two-cars.
  • It has a 75 mph operating speed.
  • It is diesel-powered, which probably means regular refuelling.

But also like all Mark 3-based stock it scrubs up well as I wrote in What Train Is This?

I would refurbish the whole fleet and use them on short branch lines to provide a quality service, where a two or four-car train was all that was needed.

So what would be the specification of an ideal Go-Anywhere Express Parcel and Pallet Carrier?

I was going to call it a GAEPPC in this post, but that’s rather a mouthful, so I’ll call it a High Speed Parcel Train or High Speed Pallet Train, which in recognition of its more famous big brother will be called a HSPT.

For the specification, it might be a good idea to start with the Class 325 train. This is the first paragraph of the train’s Wikipedia entry.

The British Rail Class 325 is a 4-car dual-voltage 25 kV alternating current (AC) or 750 V direct current (DC) electric multiple unit (EMU) train used for postal train services. While the Class 325 bears a resemblance to the Networker series of DMUs and EMUs, they are based on the Class 319 EMU. The Class 325 was British Rail’s newest unit to take over parcels workings on electrified lines.

The requirement might have changed since the 1990s, but the basic specification would be similar.

  • Four-cars
  • 100 mph operating speed.
  • 25 KVAC overhead or 750 VDC third rail operation.
  • The ability to run as four-, eight- and twelve-car trains.
  • It would be available in a range of colours and not just red!

In addition, it would need wide doors for pallets.

It would also be nice, if the HSPT could run on lines without electrification.

Look at this picture of a Class 321 train.

Would a standard size 1200 x 1000 pallet go through this door?

This morning, I measured the door on a Class 378 train and it was about 1700 mm. wide. So yes!

Once inside the systems used in cargo aircraft could be used to arrange the pallets.

Consider, these facts about Class 321 trains.

  • They are four-car electric multiple units, that can also run as eight and twelve car units.
  • They can operate at 100 mph.
  • They are dual voltage units, if required.
  • There are 117 of the trains, of which over a hundred will be released by Greater Anglia and will need a new caring owner.
  • The interior may be wide enough to put two standard pallets side-by-side.
  • They are based on Mark 3 steel carriages, so are built to take punishment.

In Could There Be A Class 321 Flex Train?, I speculated as to whether these trains could be fitted with underfloor diesel engines as in the Class 319 Flex train. After the news reports in the June 2017 Edition of Modern railways, which I reported on in The Class 319 Flex Units To Be Class 769, I’m now convinced that converting other types of train like Class 455 and Class 321 trains is feasible and that the train refurbishing companies are going to be extremely busy.

I have a feeling that Class 319 trains will not be converted to HSPTs, as they seem to be very much in demand to carry more valuable cargo – Namely fare-paying passengers!

But fit diesel engines under a Class 321 train and I think it would make a HSPT, that could travel on nearly every mile of the UK rail network and quite a few miles on heritage railways too!

A Freight Terminal For An HSPT

As the Class 321 train has been designed for passengers, it lines up reasonably well with most of the station platforms in the UK.

So at its simplest a freight terminal for a HSPT could just be a station platform, where a fork lift truck could lift pallets in and out.The freight handling facilities would be designed appropriately.

Supermarket Deliveries

I also think, that if a HSPT were available, it could attract the attention of the big supermarket groups.

In The LaMiLo Project, I described how goods were brought into Euston station in the middle of the night for onward delivery.

If it cuts costs, the supermarket groups will use this method to get goods from their central warehouses to perhaps the centres of our largest cities.

Get the design right and I suspect the supermarkets’ large delivery trolley will just roll between the train and the last-mile truck, which ideally would be a zero-emission vehicle.

In some of the larger out-of-town superstores, the train could even stop alongside the store and goods and trolleys could be wheeled in and out.

This Google Map shows Morrisons at Ipswich.

The store lies alongside the Great Eastern Main Line.

Surely, the ultimate would be if the goods were to be transported on the trains in driverless electric trolleys, which when the doors were opened, automatically came out of the trains and into the store.

Supermarket groups like to emphasise their green credentials.

Surely, doing daily deliveries to major stores by train, wouldn’t annoy anybody. |Except perhaps Donald Trump, but he’s an aberration on the upward march of scientifically-correct living.

Just-In-Time Deliveries

To take Toyota as an example, in the UK, cars are built near Derby, and the engines are built near Shotton in North Wales.

Reasons for the two separate sites are probably down to availability of the right workforce and Government subsidy.

I’m not sure, but I suspect currently in Toyota’s case, engines are moved across the country by truck, but if there was a HSPT, with a capacity of around a hundred and fifty standard pallets would manufacturing companies use them to move goods from one factory to another?

It should be said in Toyota’s case the rail lines at both Derby and Shotton are not electrified, but if the train could run on its own diesel power, it wouldn’t matter.

Refrigerated Deliveries

There probably wouldn’t be much demand now, but in the future bringing Scottish meat and seafood to London might make a refrigerated HSPT viable.

Deliveries To And From Remote Parts Of The UK

It is very difficult to get freight between certain parts of the UK and say Birmingham, London and the South-Eastern half of England.

Perishable products from Cornwall are now sent to London in the large space in the locomotives of the High Speed Trains. Plymouth, which is in Devon, to London takes nearly four hours and I suspect that a HSPT could do it in perhaps an hour longer.

But it would go between specialist terminals at both ends of the journey, so it would be a much easier service to use for both sender and receiver.

Another article in the same June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways is entitled Caithness Sleeper Plan Set Out.

This is said in the article.

Another possibility would be to convey freight on the sleeper trains with HiTrans suggesting the ability to carry four 40-foot and two 20-foot boxes on twin wagons could provide welcome products and parcels northwards and locally-produced food southwards.

A disadvantage of this idea would be that passengers would be required to vacate sleeping berths immediately on arrival at Edinburgh, so that containers could continue to a freight terminal.

The HSPT would go direct to a suitable terminal. In remote  places like Caithness, this would probably be the local station, which had been suitably modified, so that fork lift trucks could move pallets into and out of the train.

One-Off Deliveries

Provided a load can be put on a pallet, the train can move it, if there is a fork lift available at both ends of the route.

It would be wrong to speculate what sort of one-off deliveries are performed, as some will be truly unusual.

Disaster Relief

On the worldwide scale we don’t get serious natural disasters in the UK, but every year there are storms, floods, bridge collapses and other emergencies, where it is necessary to get supplies quickly to places that are difficult to reach by road, but easy by rail. If the supplies were to be put on pallets and loaded onto a HSPT, it might be easier to get them to where they are needed for unloading using a fork lift or even by hand.

International Deliveries

I am sure that Class 319 and Class 321 trains can be made compatible with Continental railway networks. In fact two Class 319 trains, were the first to pass through the Channel Tunnel.

Post-Brexit will we see high value cargoes transported by the trainload, as this would surely simplify the paperwork?

What value of Scotch whisky could you get in a four-car train?

Expect Amazon to be first in the queue for International Deliveries!

Imagine a corgo aircraft coming into the UK, at either Doncaster Sheffield or Manston Airports, with cargo containers or pallets for all over the UK, that were designed for quick loading onto an HSPT.

Conclusion

There is definitely a market for a HSPT.

If it does come about, it will be yet another tribute to the magnificent Mark 3 design!

 

 

 

 

May 27, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

What Should We Do With Old Coal-Fired Power Station Sites?

As I indicated in The Beginning Of A New Era, the way we generate electricity is changing.

Wikipedia has a list of all the active coal-fired power stations in the UK. The section starts like this.

There are currently 9 active coal fired power stations operating in the United Kingdom which have a total generating capacity of 14.4GW. In 2016 three power stations closed at Rugeley, Ferrybridge and Longannet. In November 2015 it was announced by the UK Government that all coal fired power stations would be closed by 2025.

So what should we do with the sites?

This picture shows the power station site at Eugeley

This is a Google Map of the area.

The two stations shown on the map are Rugeley Trent Valley, which is on the the Trent Valley section of the West Coast Main Line and Rugeley Town, which is on the Chase Line.

Many of these large coal-fired  power station sites sites are rail connected, so that the coal could be brought in efficiently.

In the June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways there is an article entitled Freight, Not All Doom And Gloom, which makes this plea.

Old coal-fired power stations and Ministry of Fefence sites with ready-made rail links, could make ideal distribution parks, if they are in the right part of the country.

The author is so right, when they say elsewhere in the article,  that these rail links must be kept.

Even, if a site was given over to housing, developers will say, that a good rail link to a development, improves their profits.

The article is an interesting read about moving goods by rail and contains a few surprises.

  • Moving coal and steel is well down, but to a certain extend, these bulk loads have been replaced by the moving of aggregates.
  • The article states forty percent of the materials used in London buildings, are now brought in by rail.
  • The supermarket groups and in particular Asda and Tesco are increasingly using rail for long-distance transport.
  • Short term Treasury policy sometimes works against long term aims of moving freight from the roads and cutting carbon emissions.
  • Quality 1980s passenger stock with wide doors might make excellent parcels carriers.

The last one is an interesting point, as HSTs have only got narrow doors, whereas pallets could be fork-lifted through the wide doors of something like a Class 319 or Class 321 train.

I discuss the small parcel train in detail in The Go-Anywhere Express Parcels And Pallet Carrier.

 

May 27, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Network Rail Go Diving Again

After the Acton Dive-Under and the Bermondsey Dive-Under, in the April 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an article entitled Dive-Under To Radlett SRFI (trategic Rail Freight Interchange).

This Google Map shows the location of the controversial Radlett SRFI.

It is sited on the old Handley-Page aerodrome at Radlett to the East of Park Street station on the Abbey Line and the West of the Midland Main Line.

The dive-under will go under the Midland Main Line to provide access to the slow lines on the East side of the Midland Main Line.

 

March 23, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Class 88 Locomotives To Start Testing

This article in Rail Magazine is entitled Testing programme in place for first Class 88.

The Class 88 locomotive could revolutionise locomotive haulage on some routes in the UK.

It is a go anywhere locomotive with the ability to use 25 KVAC electric or onboard diesel power. Wikipedia says this.

The UK version will be able to run either on electrified lines using the pantograph, which will be the UK’s standard OHLE current at 25kV AC, or away from electrified lines with the Caterpillar C27 950 hp (710 kW) engine.

The diesel engine is not as powerful the  2.8 MW (3,800 hp) C175-16 engine fitted to its cousin the Class 68 locomotive, which is used by Chiltern on their Main Line services to Birmingham.

The Class 88 has a powerful dual-mode capability, with the locomotive being able to haul a train on diesel power, despite having only twenty percent of the power on electricity.

It will be interesting to see which routes these locomotives serve.

With the completion of the electrification of the Gospel Oak to Barking Line, the two major freight routes across North London will be electrified on much of their length, but some of the secondary routes like the Dudding Hill Line will not be electrified. Also, as many ports in the UK  are not electrified, could we see Class 88 locomotives replacing Class 66 locomotives on some of the cross-London freights.

If Sadiq Khan is serious about pollution and noise, then he should push Network Rail and the rail freight companies to go for electric haulage on all routes across London.

I also wonder, if the diesel power of the Class 88, is enough to take a heavy freight train out of the Port of Felixstowe to join the Great Eastern Main Line for London,

The Class 88 is also capable of hauling passenger trains, so could we see them hauling rakes of coaches on long routes, which are only partially electrified.

  • London to Holyhead
  • London to Aberdeen
  • London to Inverness
  • London to Sunderland

It could be a suitable locomotive for sleeper services, especially if the Class 88 can work North of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

I suspect though initially, as there are only ten of the locomotives, they will be used in high-profile services with an ecological dimension.

  • Services through sensitive areas for noise and pollution, where the line is electrified like North London are an obvious application.
  • Direct Rail Services provide motive power for Tesco’s delivery from Daventry to Inverness, which is electrified a lot of the way. This would surely generate headlines if hauled by a Class 88 instead of a Class 66.
  • It would be an ideal locomotive for a Whisky-Liner from Scotland to the South,
  • Would BMW like it to haul their miniLiners from Oxford to the Channel Tunnel?

The last two applications ask if the locomotive could use the Channel Tunnel. I doubt that using the locomotive to take Minis all the way to Germany though, would be an efficient use of the locomotive, so at some point the locomotive would change. Being able to use the tunnel though, would enable the locomotive change to be made in either England or France.

I think that Stadler will see an order for more Class 88 locomotives before the end of the year. After all, the Class 68 locomotive fleet has continually grown since its introduction in 2013 and not stands at 25 in service and seven on order.

 

February 7, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 2 Comments

Are The Trains In Ely Finally To Be Sorted?

Railways in Ely must be a bit of a problem as they have their own section in Wikipedia.

This map shows the lines in the area.

Ely Lines

Ely Lines

This is a Google Map of the area.

ely

The current Ely station is towards the South-West corner, with the iconic cathedral to the North. The main line goes South-West to North-East across the map with Ely North Junction alongside the white chalky area in the North-East corner.

What suggested that I write this post was this article in the Eastern Daily Press, which is entitled Talks in Downham Market hear work to end East Anglia’s rail bottleneck at Ely could begin in three years’ time.

Reading the title, is a good summary of the article.

So what are the problems at Ely?

Ely Station

Ely station was not designed for efficient operation.

The following services call at the station.

  • Ipswich and Peterborough.
  • Cambridge and Norwich.
  • London, Cambridge and King Lynn.
  • Stansted Airport and Birmingham.
  • Norwich and Liverpool.

To make matters worse. the Norwich-Liverpool service has to reverse in the station.

Connectivity between services can be bad and I have read that passengers between Kings Lynn and Ipswich may have to wait up to nearly an hour for a connection.

Because the station has only three platforms, organising the trains into a sensible pattern, for train operators and passengers. must be a difficult process.

The station is not step-free and relies on long ramps to cross the lines.

The Low Road Bridge On The A142 At Ely Station

This is said in Wikipedia about the low bridge just to the North of the station.

The height available for road traffic passing beneath the bridge is only 9.0 feet (2.7 m) which is unusually low for a bridge over an A-road. Despite the various warnings, the limited headroom is a frequent cause of accidents.[12] High vehicles must use a level crossing next to the bridge.

East Anglia’s legendary bad drivers, who seem to find new ways to cause chaos on the railways, must have real fun with this crossing.

According to this article on the BBC web site, the bridge was hit twelve times in 2015/16.

This Google Map shows Ely station.

elystation

Note that the level crossing is closed.

The Large Number Of Freight Trains Between Felixstowe And Peterborough

In Along The Felixstowe Branch, I said that the number of trains on the Felixstowe Branch could rise to 47. Not all will come through Ely station, but there could be a couple of long container trains in both direction every hour.

Note.

  1. The number of freight trains will increase.
  2. These freight trains can be up to 775 metres long and the average length will grow.
  3. Hawk Bridge over the  Great Ouse on the Ipswich-Ely Line is only single-track, as is several miles of the line to Kennett station, where the Cambridge and Peterborough branches join.

All of these trains have to pass over the low bridge and through the level crossing.

Ely North Junction

Ely North Junction is a busy junction, where services to Kings Lynn, Norwich and Peterborough split.

This Google Map shows the junction.

elynorthjunction

 

Note the tracks come from Ely station to the South-West and split into three separate lines.

There is also.

  • A single-track loop line called the West Curve, that allows traius to go between Peterborough and Norwich.
  • A distribution depot by the junction.

One of the problems is that freight trains between Peterborough and Felixstowe pass on the Southern side of Ely station and need to cross the lines to connect to Peterborough.

Footpaths

Footpaths and where they cross the railway  are a sensitive issue in the Ely area. This document on the Network Rail web site, illustrates some of the problems.

This is said in the document.

The railway at this level crossing carries passenger and freight trains with a line speed of 60 mph. There are generally 194 trains passing throughthis level crossing per day.

That sounds like a recipe for a serious accident to me.

The Opening Of Cambridge North Station

The new Cambridge North station is scheduled to open on the 21st May, 2017 and will initially be just a stop on all services passing through.

The Cambridge Effect

Cambridge is successful and overflowing.

Towns and cities like Bury St. Edmunds, Ely, Haverhill, Huntington, Newmarket and Peterborough will increasingly find that they become satellites of the East Anglian Mega-Powerhouse.

These towns and cities will need good transport links to Cambridge.

Rail links to both Cambridge and Cambridge North stations will be important.

The New Greater Anglia Franchise

Greater Anglia have published plans that will affect Ely.

  • They will run an hourly service between Peterborough and Colchester via Bury St. Edmunds and Ipswich to replace the current less frequent service between Peterborough and Ipswich.
  • They will run an hourly service between Norwich and Stansted Airport  to replace the current less frequent service between Norwich and Cambridge.
  • I have also read somewhere, that Greater Anglia would like to run a direct service between Cambridge North and Ipswich via Bury St. Edmunds.
  • Fordham and Soham stations could be reopened.

Some of these changes will put more pressure on Ely, but they will have two very beneficial effects.

  • A North-facing bay platform will be released at Cambridge station.
  • There will be two trains per hour (tph) between Kennett and Ipswich via Bury St. Edmunds.

I suspect that Greater Anglia will bring in other changes.

The Reopening Of March To Spalding Via Wisbech

Network Rail has spent £330million on upgrading the Great Northern Great Eastern Joint Railway into a freight link between Peterborough and Doncaster, which I wrote about in Project Managers Having Fun In The East.

It might never happen, but why shouldn’t the route be extended from Spalding to March on the Peterbough-Ely Line via Wisbech?

This would open up two main possibilities.

  • Freight trains between Felixstowe and Doncaster would avoid the East Coast Main Line to the South of Doncaster.
  • A passenger service from Cambridge to Wisbech could be opened.

Other longer distance passenger services might be viable.

The East West Rail Link

The East West Rail Link will provide a new route from Cambridge to the West, via a new Cambridge South station.

It will add to the numbers of passenger trains through Ely, as services will probably go from Oxford to Norwich and Ipswich via all three Cambridge stations.

But will the East West Rail Link be used to route freight trains between Felixstowe and Wales and the West?

A Proposed Ely North Station

I have found this article on the Ely Standard web site, which is entitled Could railway revolution see new station built at Ely North?.

The article says a new four-platform station would allow.

  • Two tph on the Fen Line
  • Connections reduced to no more than eight minutes.
  • The introduction of a Kings Cross to Norwich service.

The new station would probably have the following.

  • More passenger-friendly features.
  • A lot more car parking.
  • Good walking access to the City Centre.
  • Trains between Norwich and Liverpool would stop in the station and would use the West Curve to avoid reversing in the station.

With all the water in the area, there must be scope for an architecturally excellent station.

From a project management view, this station is a good idea.

  • It could probably be built fairly easily without causing too much interruption to current services, as Cambridge North station seems to have been.
  • Once open, the current Ely station could be demolished or simplified.
  • The low bridge and the level crossing could then be replaced with a modern traffic underpass capable of handling trucks.
  • Ely Dock Junction and the lines South of the City could be remodelled to speed the freight trains through the area.

There might even be a dive-under to simplify operations.

I have no idea if the good people of Ely will like the idea of a new station.

Conclusion

The extra freight traffic and the published plans of the Greater Anglia franchise will mean, that substantial work will have to be done at Ely.

  • Network Rail have a long term ambition of dualling the whole route between Ely and Kennett including Hawk Bridge over the Great Ouse, which would certainly ease the problems of the freight trains.
  • A new Ely North station may be created.
  • Closing the level crossing and creating an underpass for traffic at Ely station, would be an obvious thing to do, but could this be done without closing the railway for several months? Construction companies could always use the technique they did at Silver Street station in the 1990s, to get the North Circular Road under that station.
  • Eventually, there will be a need for a chord at Ely Dock Junction, so that trains can go direct from Cambridge to the Ipswich to Ely Line without a reverse in Ely station.

I’ll be interested to see what Network Rail propose.

 

January 28, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 1 Comment